Published: Sunday 15 July 2007

Biofuel frenzy

This is in response to your editorial 'Biofuel: Good idea, bad practice' (May 15, 2007). The idea that the use of biofuel will benefit the environment is one with severe assumptions. The editorial does not take into account the possible loss of animal habitat and biodiversity in this mad rush for biofuel. There will be more pressure on agricultural lands to grow non-edible crops when they are already under stress to grow food crops. Wastelands are already being diverted for human use like in the case of special economic zones (sez).


The biofuel rush is posing a threat to food security. But why blame usa, look at Brazil. The pity is, those responsible for this live a lavish life and make much noise when food prices rise. In fact, a higher food grain price should be an incentive to increase productivity and should be born by consumers rather than farmers.


In India, where the consumption of diesel is about 5-6 times more as compared to petrol and other fuels like natural gas or lpg, the promotion of biodiesel and that too from a non-edible source may prove fruitful. Moreover, to grow these types of plants one needs a specific kind of land and climate. Thus, it should not hinder the production of our staple foods.


The editorial is sceptical. A 12 per cent reduction in use of fossil fuel in the us is no mean achievement. One should not always doubt the intention of the corporate world since profit making is not the only motive always.

In India our focus is not on sugarcane, soya, corn or rapseed but on jatropha. What is needed is a government-industry alignment on how to expedite the biofuel era in India and do it in a planned manner rather than in an ad hoc manner.


Primate relocation

With reference to 'Relocation dilemma' (March 31, 2007), I sincerely hope we can force the government to take the right decision.

The Asola Bhatti sanctuary in its present condition cannot become a home for monkeys. The primate estate must be 75 per cent wilderness with almost 100 species of plants, which form an integral part of healthy wild rhesus-habitat of arid regions like Delhi. The built area for a quarantine centre and hospital has to be 3 per cent of the estate. These are needed because it has been proven that commensal monkeys acquire diseases from their human neighbours. And the existing concrete wall surrounding the sanctuary can never keep monkeys inside. A monkey-proof fence is needed for that.

I have worked for banning experiments on animals and am one of the three founder members of cpcsea (Committee for the Purpose of Control and Supervision of Experiments on Animals, which was constituted under an act of Parliament), and have taken out the only report on 'experiments on animals'. Thus, I know that experiments cannot be stopped just by raising slogans. After the government of India's recent decision that registered establishments can undertake 'contract research', cpcsea decided that commensal monkeys could be used for research. Put them together and all would know the fate of all the monkeys. If, however, it can be regulated we can at least save the majority.

Iqbal Malik

Puducherry usury

Apropos the article 'Deep waters' (May 15, 2007), about the proposed port at Puducherry, this is not the end. A lot more will follow as a result of perverted 'dreams' and irresponsible planning that are happening round the globe.

Resistance to such projects are termed either irrational or anti-national. With the public becoming more environment conscious, it will be difficult to move forward with such projects without taking them into confidence. Unfortunately, this is not being done at present.

Moreover, the quantitative reach of benefits from huge projects to the common man has to be seen in the light of the loss of income from his job, the loss of attachment he had with his environment, and his social break-up due to displacement because of the project. Also, has anyone as yet assessed the impact of such projects on the ecosystem? Are governments all over the world not learning from experience?


Puducherry is only a dot on the map of India and nobody will ever know or care about what happens here unless a magazine like Down To Earth writes about the exploitation there.

Apart from the disaster on an ecological plane there is an equally terrifying disaster on a moral plane when we see that the whole country is up for sale.


The article was comprehensive and exhaustive. It leaves very little space for the port builders to come up with something original and convincing to support the construction of the port.


As a resident of Puducherry, I feel sad every time I see the gradual erosion of the coastline caused by these badly thought-out schemes. These are designed only to make a fast buck for the developers and are of no benefit to the local people.

Earlier, the beach in front of Puducherry would often be 500m wide, but now the sea splashes against the sea road itself.


We should have been alerted of this at least 5-10 years ago. But better late than never. Puducherry should get its beach back. I have grown up there and fondly recall going for a swim to the beach.

We can reclaim the beaches if we stop this atrocious port plan and the jetty that's already there. We, as part of a group of people who have grown up in Puducherry, are already working towards this.



Coerced land

This is in response to the article 'sezs cleared' (April 30, 2007). Since policies aimed at large acquisition of lands have been formulated keeping in mind the interests of the business czars, the owners of these lands feel betrayed. It is surprising that the central government, supported by the so-called saviours of workers, decided to go ahead with the creation of residing sezs even though it weighed heavily against those who would be marred by it.

The violent protests in Nandigram should make it clear to everybody associated with such projects that when acquiring large pieces of land, the owners will have to be made part and parcel of such projects. How can their interests be dismissed without making substantial arrangements for their bread and butter? Also, the government should eye barren lands instead of offering cultivable land to the capitalists.


Nandigram massacre

This is in response to 'Party Poopers' (April 15, 2007) on the Nandigram massacre. Governments cutting across party lines are keen to bring development in the form of industries, ports, dams and power plants to their state.

However, there is a cost associated with these projects in terms of the natural resources required and the real question is who should pay? Invariably, it is the land and livelihood of the rural poor that these projects impinge on and it is these sections that are being called to sacrifice for the greater good of their state or the nation.

Governments do not assume responsibility for complete rehabilitation of affected people. Instead, what is usually on offer is a 'compensation' for land acquired, which does not address the question of livelihood of the displaced people.

Is it any surprise then that there is strong local opposition to such projects?

Kannan Kasturi

Pune's water troubles

I wish to draw attention to the problem of water shortage faced by Pune residents. I stay in a housing society on the outskirts of the city. Every year, during summers, the heat becomes unbearable. Together with this we have to face acute water shortage. My housing society (mostly middle class and lower middle class residents) is the worst affected with the municipal corporation unaware of our troubles. The only visible development in the area is the multi-storey big budget buildings sanctioned by the corporation.

Indrani dasgupta

Glacial initiative

This is in response to the article 'Melting fast' (March 31, 2007) on glacier melting. The Gangotri glacier has receded over the past few decades. But there is no clear evidence that man-made activities like trekking or human habitation residing nearby, has led to the warming of these glaciers. Experts and environmentalists need to study it better and take precautionary steps soon. Human habitation needs to be relocated from there. Regular monitoring of the change in the glaciers is imperative.

D B N Murthy

Green cars

The small car industry is booming in India on account of the vast size of the market amongst the middle class and the cost advantages on export. With new units coming up in different states it will soon reach great heights. Like the controversial Tata Motors project in West Bengal.

Second generation gas-driven cars have not gained much popularity with the masses. And third generation electric cars, preferred in developed countries, will soon be taken over by fourth generation fuel cell or hydrogen-powered cars.

Hydrogen is the fuel of the 21st century and hydrogen-powered commercial vehicles are expected within 10 years. Thus, a switchover to gas and electric-driven cars at present would benefit the consumers as well as the nation. This will further pave the way for the arrival of hydrogen vehicles within a decade.


Riverbank encroachment

The Khan river flows across the city of Indore, where I live. The width of the river is reducing day by day due to encroachments. The Indore Municipal Corporation and the Indore Development Authority are responsible for these encroachments. They are filling up the riverside to create space for shops and commercial complexes. The river has almost been converted into a nala . I would like to know how I could legally protest against the laxity of the municipal corporation and development authority. Please guide me.


Illegal mining in Sunhera village near Mathura district recently claimed the lives of four innocent villagers and injured many others. They fell victim to a dynamite blast used for mining in the region. Angry villagers protested in the streets and demanded a complete ban on mining activity that threatened heritage sites and also hurts people's religious sentiments. The villagers also dug deep pits on roads to block the passage of trucks ferrying stone. They claimed mining activity in the region was illegal and against the norms set up by the Central Pollution Control Board. The use of dynamite is also banned in the Taj Trepezium Zone under a Supreme Court order.

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