Published: Tuesday 31 July 2007

The pesticide question

I am not surprised to read the fraudulent and dishonestly researched article 'Leaky norms' (March 15, 2003). It exposes your ignorance.

The article's essential source of information is A T Dudani, who had once made a presentation to ban chemical use and instead use duck and chicken litter to control pests and provide natural fertiliser. You have also quoted experts like P D Deshmukh and N G Waghle, who are ex (or axed?) pesticides people. But, there is no comment from other experts. This shows that either you are ignorant of the facts or you have wishfully manipulated them, or both, because there are sweeping statements saying that the pesticide legislation does not recognise environmental hazards before granting registration to a product.

Facts mentioned in the article's initial paragraph also reek of ignorance. Registrations are granted specifically on the premise that the active ingredients used are duly registered, and the formulation recipe is identical to the recipe approved of the first registrant u/s 9 (3). This is, incidentally, an international practice, both in the pharma and pesticide industries. Identical recipes clearly mean that the product would have the same efficacy and safety parameters as the originally registered product. No new product is granted registration without generating environment dependent data, which takes around three to four years. I wonder if the correspondent did care to determine this fact from the registering authorities.

It is bizarre that the article states that Central Insecticides Bureau officials admit to such a racket and at the same time deny any irregularity. As for post-registration activity mentioned in the article, here again I mention some facts: >> We have a regular All India Coordinated Pesticides Residues Monetary Programme (sic). The last three to four year results show a consistent steep downward trend

>> Since 1972, six molecules have been banned and 25 formulations phased out based on their safety review

>> Restricted usages have been prescribed and labels amended for several products

>> All registered molecules in India have gone through a review process by the regulatory authorities and five technical committees--the last one being in 2006

>> The pesticides industry has voluntarily surrendered seven molecules since (for a variety of reasons) they were not in a position to generate and supply the data.

So the statement "...virtually no tabs are kept" once the molecules are registered, is false and misleading. Besides, it seems as if no Down To Earth article is complete without referring to endosulfan and Kerala. While Waghle accuses the industry of perpetrating a major fraud, this article is equally fraudulent in quoting people and making statements, which are patently false. I also seriously question the validity of the quotes of Pradeep Dave in the article.

Our farmers continue to remain poor, and subject to the pressure of pests, diseases and weeds, resulting in a colossal loss of Rs 90,000 crore per year as estimated by the Government of India. In such a scenario, such reportage puts highly emotional, unscientific and unfair pressure on pesticides and creates a scare about them.

I do hope you will have the courage and integrity to publish this letter in your magazine.

Salil Singhal

Down To Earth Replies

Pesticide manufacturers in India, including Salil Singhal, are reluctant to accept the problems in our pesticide registration system and its corrupt practices. The system helps companies register and use harmful pesticides without any safety limits. The accepted practice is this: Whenever a pesticide is registered a safety tolerance--maximum<>

Protecting forests

This is in response to your cover story 'What is a forest' (June 15, 2007). The article nicely explores the intricacies of the laws and policies related to Indian forestry. We all know that our ever-increasing demand for forest produce is putting pressure on the bio-resource. As a result, forests have been depleted, denuded and encroached upon.

Between 1947 and 1971, we have lost vast tracts of forests to multipurpose development projects and expansion of agriculture. We would have lost even more, but for the Wildlife Protection Act and the Forest Conservation Act, which came into force in 1972 and 1980, respectively.

But now with the government's plan to introduce the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Rights) Act 2006, and with the proposed new definition of forests by the Bangalore-based ngo atree, there seems little hope.

The new definition is disastrous for Indian forests. A few virgin forests (which may not be notified as forests), will now be open for vandalism. The definition of forest provided by the Supreme Court should be retained in the best interests of forests, ecology and wildlife.

I often wonder why ngos and people think that the Union ministry of environment and forests is the 'landlord' of forest resources? The ministry is just a public administrative unit holding forestlands for the benefit of the people, besides safeguarding environmental and ecological interests.

ngos should find alternative rehabilitation measures for the tribals rather than driving them to remote forest areas and depriving them of the benefits of modern science and technology.

B M T Rajeev

It is unfortunate that we still do not have a legal definition for forests. The reason, I believe, is the reluctance of the government and the officials concerned. Our former prime minister Indira Gandhi, whose government had at least generated awareness of wildlife and forest management, needs to be lauded. It is correct to say we must protect the rights of tribals. But the move should only be meant for ensuring their sustenance--not for promoting business or illegal activities such as felling and poaching.

Ajai Kumar Singh
Udai Pratap Autonomous College,

Killing big cats

Apropos the article 'Well-bred cats' (May 15, 2007), I agree with Noman F Kadir, the tiger expert from Pakistan, who said: "...issues related to poaching, prey depletion and habitat loss should not be seen in isolation".

Though the institution of a legal market for tiger parts might help rescue the big cat from poachers, the actual way to ensure their survival is the total elimination of all poaching activities and the creation of a sustainable habitat for tigers.

What happened in the Gir forest should be an eye-opener. Incidents of brutal killing of Asiatic lions have actually highlighted the fact about the growing influence of poachers in our system. Forest officials compromising on fighting poachers have enabled the latter to thrive. It is now the turn of animal lovers to check poaching.

Arvind K Pandey

Green manure

This is in reference to your cover story 'Pandora's garbage can' (March 15, 2007). From my experience I can say waste from the kitchen is the best manure for plants. Everyday, I collect vegetable waste, fruit peels, dried-up flowers, fallen tree leaves and plant cuttings in a bin, and grind them into a mixture. I feed this mixture to the plants in my garden.

I have been practising this for the past few months and the result is amazing. The best part of it is that the manure comes free of cost.

Rajeev gupta

Gasifier crematorium

The Chennai corporation's recent decision to install gasifier crematoriums worries me. I live in Besant Nagar, which is close to one cremation ground where the corporation plans to install a gasifier crematorium. The corporation did not consult local residents. Doesn't this violate environmental norms?

We filed a case in the Madras High Court recently citing public health hazards and requested the court to issue directives to halt the installation. The court has sought details of the plan from the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board and the Chennai corporation.

There is already an electric crematorium at Besant Nagar cremation ground, which, the corporation says, operates satisfactorily. Then why this sudden change of view?

Besides, the corporation has never sought approval from the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board--either for the electric crematorium or for the gasifier crematorium.

Being a chemical engineer, I know a gasifier crematorium is no better than an electric crematorium.

N S Venkataraman

Thoughts on emissions

It is high time the developing world, particularly Asian and African nations, took up challenges related to greenhouse gas emissions. They should ban import of products from industrialised countries that do not follow emissions standards, to put pressure on industrialised countries to strictly adhere to emissions norms.

Besides, India should shift its focus to renewable energy sources. Eco-friendly chullahs, biogas plants and windmills should be promoted. And an absolute ban on two-stroke or inefficient diesel engines is needed.


Asiatic lions

In your article 'Transfer orders' (May 31, 2007), the experts' comments seem nothing but a simple theory that most of the ngos follow to oppose any move by the government. Why cannot they come out with some solution then?

I will suggest that the Madhya Pradesh government should declare Kuno Wildlife Sanctuary as a zoo as they did for Van Vihar National Park, and shift some lions to a free roaming zone in it. Size of the zoo can gradually be increased depending on the growth of the lions' population. The captive animals can be removed from the zoo once their cubs become independent.

Satyendra K Tiwari

Energy sans pollution

Coal-based power plants are necessary evils. The question is how to reduce pollution given the limited coal availability in our country.

Sophisticated coal-based power plants are highly efficient and seem to address the problem. But with power shortages looming large and the huge emphasis on high growth rates, smaller coal-based power plants are mostly in the offing.

The government should promote renewable energy, and give this sector incentives in terms of loans and liberal feed-in tariffs. Incentives should also be given to gas-fired plants.

C R Bhattacharjee



Apropos the cover story 'Undermined', (July 15, 2007), in the infographic 'The mining complex', the distance between Tel river and the alumina refinery was mistakenly written as 5 km. The distance between the two places is 65 km.
The error is regretted.

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