This is in response to the cover story 'How green is your building' (August 31, 2007). The article is quite informative.
But I was wondering how a 'five-star' hotel like itc Sonar Bangla, Kolkata, could be the world's first hotel to get carbon credits for its energy conservation initiatives. The hotel consumes electricity worth Rs 30 lakh a year. While the hotel can be declared 'green' and earn money through 'certified carbon emission reduction', our traditional houses do not have access to such certification and subsidy. This, despite the fact that such houses are made of mud, bamboo and thatch, and are not connected to power grids. These people actually need such subsidies more than the clients and management of the 'five-star' hotel.
The comparison does not intend to blame the architect or management of the mentioned hotel. But the facts indicate that there is an urgent need to come up with an ecological certification process in India, which should be based on indigenous values.
Pollution by fraud
I wish to make a few comments about the compact fluorescent light (cfl) bulbs. The cfl industry is not upfront about the mercury content in its bulbs, nor does it ensure that cfls, irrespective of its size, are recycled.
cfl bulb packets do not provide information about mercury content, which is compounded by the fact that there are no easily accessible collection centre for them--at least I haven't come across any. To the best of my knowledge, the price charged for a cfl bulb also involves that for recycling mercury, a toxic pollutant. The cfl industry does not release mercury directly into the environment, but it distributes the bulb among those who commit the mistake inadvertently. The user is hardly aware of the content of a cfl and its disposal method. We can very well call this 'pollution by fraud'.
Replacing one environmental disaster (caused by incandescent bulbs) with another is not my idea of a winning situation. We should buy cfl bulbs only when the industry takes up its designated responsibilities.
Opting for light-emitting diode (led) bulbs can be an alternative. The elements used in these bulbs remain in solid form, as they are neither volatile, nor subject to breakage and leakage such as mercury. Even if led bulbs are widely distributed, it will be easier to locate and recycle them, since the elements in leds remain largely inert.
A restricted view?
This is in response to the editorial 'Bottled water costs us the earth', (August 31, 2007). I disagree with the article. Packaged water, which costs Rs 12 per litre, is not a lucrative business.
The article acknowledges the costs involved in procuring raw water and treating it. The process of bottling also entails packaging costs and wastage. When added up, the production expenditure works out to Rs 6-6.50 per bottle. Taking the warehousing cost, primary and secondary freight cost, and distributor and retailer margins (retailers get high margins) into account, manufacturers are left with a margin of only 50 paise per bottle or even less. Thus, the manufacturer is forced to recover his overhead costs as well as the advertisement expenses from this small margin. Does the business still sound lucrative?
Take Bisleri, a brand of packaged water. Its sales have skyrocketed since the 1970s. The government's failure to ensure safe drinking water and increasing health awareness among people are responsible for this flourishing market. Manufacturers have at least ensured us the availability of water. It is an entirely different issue whether the poor can afford it or not. The price is justifiable.
The raw material cost is not always an indication of the ultimate consumer price or the maximum retail price. Many other costs, including taxes levied and the complex channel through which the product moves, also matter. The editorial has taken a 'restricted view' of the whole business.
Rajat K Baisya
Forget metros, one can find piles of discarded mineral water bottles in ecologically sensitive places like the Himalaya and its foothills. The government must impose a tax on mineral water units for generating this waste. This tax can be used by public utilities to improve basic infrastructure.
The article points out that the sales of bottled water has gone up from two million cases in 1990 to an estimated 68 million cases in 2006. At this rate, this figure could top 1 billion cases by 2008, or roughly 1 billion litres of water. If a cess of Rs 2 is charged per litre, collections would be Rs 2 billion a year.
The article shows how ill-informed many of us are as far as bottled drinking water is concerned. We have developed the habit of purchasing bottled water whenever we travel, especially in trains.
We are never sure of what we drink. But the water supplied by municipal authorities is no good as well. One of my relatives, who stayed in Delhi recently, told me that water from his tap was tested and not found potable.
The government must, therefore, clean up the public water supply. Then only it should inform the public about how clean its tap water is when compared to the packaged water. The New York and Salt Lake City mayors (as mentioned in your article) have followed this method. Besides, packaged drinking water will continue to be a lucrative business as long as there is no regulation on extracting groundwater.
Coincidentally, I received a questionnaire on bottled water from a public relation agency in Bangalore soon after I finished reading your editorial. I enjoyed answering them. I am sharing the amusing questionnaire.
Do you believe in the claims that packaged drinking water companies make? (Yes/No)
Would a familiarisation trip to the source (of water and its packaging/the 'mountain spring') change your perception and get rid of your apprehension? (Yes/No)
Do you think India is ready for an 'Indian' brand like Evian? (Yes/No)
Do you think 'baby-safe' packaged water is credible? (Yes/No)
This is in response to the cover story 'How green is your building' (August 31, 2007). I am in the construction business. The article demolishes the current myopic notion of 'green' buildings. Incisive analysis of such a topical and current issue is indeed useful.
Gujjars are not tribals. They are not even the traditional dwellers of the Rajaji National Park. During the partition of the subcontinent, they had rushed into the forests to escape the violence in the area. At that time, I was a student in the Forest College of Dehradun.
During our forest tours we had seen them with their buffalo herds. Now their population has increased and so as the number of their livestock. Hence they are seeking help to establish rights over the land. The Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition Forest Rights) Act, 2006, has come to their rescue.
But the point to be noted is that they are responsible for the desertification of the park. In winters, they move with their buffaloes to the southern parts of the Rajaji National Park, while in summers, they move higher up the Himalaya.
The Uttarakhand government should drive them out of the national par, and settle them elsewhere to save the forests and the wildlife that they shelter.
S S CHITWADGI (retd IFS)
This is in response to the report 'Mind expanding plan' (July 15, 2007). Do you think that poppy crops can be legalised and managed by setting up morphine factories and turning them into medicines like morphine? Will the process help eradicate illegal poppy cultivation while offering employment to poor tribal farmers?
A JACOB SAHAYAM
The e-mail address of K S Gopal in the article 'A paradigm shift' (August 31, 2007) was mistakenly written firstname.lastname@example.org. Gopal's e-mail id is email@example.com.
We regret the error.
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