Published: Tuesday 15 May 2007


This is in response to your story 'Lean year' (March 31, 2007). I want to make some additional points. Fund allocation for rural development is not the same as that for agro-sector. They are not linked and it does not mean that any increase in rural development allocation will help agriculture. Agro-sector is also a business and if treated so, it can generate more employment.

Only the capital formation for the sector is to be handled economically. Similarly, recharging of groundwater helps improve quality of life both in rural and urban areas. But not much data are available to prove that groundwater recharging helps agro-sector. While agro-sector development needs marketing, warehouses and good roads, what it doesn't need is rural credit. Agro-sector development also means more encouragement to the private sector, so that it can develop large chains of food-based industries and profit from the hard work of farmers. Basic economics explains this. The only problem that the sector is facing is that any plan involving large-scale investments will promptly trigger protests from the middlemen in rural areas and it will be acceded to.



Waste matters

This is in response to your article 'Pandora's garbage can' (March 15, 2007). I was disturbed to learn that urban India produces 120,000 tonnes of garbage a day. Do we have space to dump this huge amount of garbage?

I feel your story was lopsided. Since 40 to 50 per cent of Indian garbage can be composted, your story should have highlighted community efforts and local government initiative in this regard. A box on 'How you can build your own compost bin' could have inspired people to take up the challenge.

I have initiated vermicomposting within my housing complex in central Mumbai. Once every two months, we recycle 1.5 tonnes of garbage and leaf litter, which, I believe, saves the city about Rs 2,250 per cycle. The compost goes to local schools, gardens and household plants. Inspired by our initiative, a nearby school has raised funds to build its own compost pit. According to my understanding, we need to focus on three issues related to garbage recycling. One, we need to get the country's disinterested middle-class people involved in the process. Two, we should encourage schools, factories, offices and civic bodies to take up waste recycling seriously. Three, there is a need for creating market for compost, particularly in urban areas. What we don't need is public subsidies, which your article recommends. Vermicomposting pays for itself.

Emmanuel D'Silva

The report offers a good insight into the status of solid waste management in India. We conduct surveys for metros but ignore small towns. Being an environmental engineer, I sense a big problem ahead if we keep ignoring our small towns and cities. I think it's time to shift focus. Burning of solid waste in the open, though prohibited under the Municipal Solid Waste Rules 2000, is common in small towns. I doubt if officers in charge of solid waste management in small towns are aware about the rules.

As correctly pointed out in the article, medical officers are still heading solid waste management departments. This indicates how indifferent our government is towards the problem. Environmental engineers should be recruited to handle municipal solid waste. It is easier to handle small quantities of waste generated in small towns by adopting composting or other suitable methods. Chief officers of all municipalities should get special training to understand the collection and disposal of municipal waste in a scientific manner.


I want to make a few points regarding the waste-to-energy controversy. Biased media coverage, perhaps influenced by some large companies and well-meaning environmentalists, end up creating trouble for research and development (r&d) of new waste-to-energy technologies.

Take our case. The incineration-steam turbine route of selco is inherently suited for large plants. Hence, selco directly jumped from laboratory-level experiments to large-scale plants. But there were problems like waste handling, drying and segregation.

Scientists of the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, have been working on biomass gasification for more than 20 years now. They have a fully commercialised technology for producing heat or power from wastes. Though the technology is being implemented in several industries, certain upstream r&d is still required to modify the technology for proper utilisation of refuse-derived fuel (rdf).

If the technology becomes successful, it can be replicated in bigger cities as modular units and help reduce problems associated with waste collection and transportation. Besides, due to stringent requ.

Wheeling, dealing

The unbridled expansion of city life in Asian metros like New Delhi, Kolkata, Mumbai, Beijing, Hanoi, Dhaka, Ho Chi Minh City, Jakarta and Shanghai, is causing serious environmental pollution like brown haze.

A recent conference of the Asian Development Bank in Indonesia, too, pointed to the problem. Increasing pollution level in metros is due to excessive fossil fuel consumption and filling up of water reservoirs for multi-storeyed buildings, it concluded. Over the next 30 years, vehicular growth in India could rise by 13 per cent, thereby increasing carbon dioxide emissions 5.8 times. A recent report by the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics, too, supports this study.

Last fiscal saw greater sales of passenger cars than two-wheelers, thanks to easy financing schemes. The more cars become cheaper, the more congestion on the road will increase.

The problem will get further aggravated in India, particularly with West Bengal chief minister Buddhadev Bhattacharjee's dream project of a small car costing Rs 1 lakh. Common sense says a cheaper car will pollute more.

But neither the Tatas nor Bhattacharya is talking about the pollution aspect. The only point they are speaking of is generation of employment. Can we allow ourselves to be bitten by this automobile bug and forget the environment?

Santanu Basu

Give dryland farming its due

The view that when the need arises dryland can be acquired for special economic zones needs to be critiqued seriously. The reason being that dryland farming is sustainable, both ecologically and agronomically.

Dryland farmers mostly cultivate food crops and are more independent in deciding their cropping patterns. They are hardly affected by the vagaries of weather (this, of course, doesn't take into account the man-made climate change).

Dryland farmers still use landraces (seeds bred and saved by the farmers themselves) of varieties of food crops, which are getting extinct with the advent of the green revolution. Dry-land agriculture is yet to receive its due, both at the academic and policy levels in our country. One wonders if it is wise to sacrifice something that is time-tested and durable for the sake of gain that invariably comes at a great ecological cost as well as social and economic inequality.

Muniga Layout, M S Nagar, Bangalore

Accept fait accompli

This is with reference to your article 'Still unresolved' (February 28, 2007). The verdict of the Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal may have set the record straight, but problems could remain.

Karnataka feels letdown, since there is an emotive angle to the whole issue that has not been taken into consideration while arriving at the decision. I feel that Karnataka should not complicate the issue by challenging the award. By doing so, it will not only hurt the interest of the states involved but also add more years to the already wasted time in eliciting the final decision.


Biocontrol backfires

This is in response to your story 'Biocontrol backfires' (April 15, 2006). You have mentioned how South American cane toads (Bufo marinus) were introduced into Australia to check sugarcane pests and themselves became a menace. You have also published a similar report about the nopal moth (Cactoblastis cactorum), which was imported from Argentina to Australia, South Africa and the Caribbean in the 1920s to eradicate cacti occupying valuable farmland, but is now threatening to decimate Mexico's flat leaf cactus.

Recently I came across a similar report in India. The Himachal Pradesh government is contemplating the release of arctic char (Salvelinus alpinus), imported from Canada, into lakes in the upper reaches of the state. Currently, the lakes are devoid of any kind of aquatic fauna.

Could your publication highlight the issue and enlighten us as about how such decisions are being taken in our country and by whom?


Please update

This is in response to your report 'Private fief' (October 15, 2006). It was an accurate depiction of the situation in Tummalapalle village, Andhra Pradesh. The central government has now apparently allocated funds for the project. Please publish a report on the latest situation in the area.



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