Published: Wednesday 31 October 2007


Capparis decidua (also called kaida in the local language) is a common plant found in Gujarat. Due to its better adaptability to arid climates, the plant is abundant in Kachchh district. Some dense patches of the plant are found in Abdasa --the western part of the district.

Natives of the district such as Jats, Rabaris and Pathans use kaida's fruit as an appetiser. They ferment it with salt, store it for about a week, and have it after meals.

Kaida flowers twice a year. In 2003, we observed its profuse flowering in the months of February and March throughout Kachchh district. That year, the plant flowered much earlier than its usual period. Moreover, they were darker in colour: more reddish than its usual red hue. The phenomenon followed a heavy rainfall in Kuchchh.

The rainfall, too, was unusual, with the area experiencing such rainfall after 24 years. This had led to heavy flooding in Kuchchh. Such unusual flowering of kaida in an arid ecosystem may be an indication of a heavy rainfall in the area.

Hiren SoniAshok & Rita Patel Institute of Integrated Study & Research in Biotechnology and Allied Sciences, New Vallabh Vidyanagar, Gujarat

Grow up

Apropos of the editorial 'The China affair: what it means to us' (September 15, 2007), I must mention that I was disappointed with the analysis and arguments made in the article.

I agree with the conclusion that India should not repeat the environmental mistakes of China, if the country needs to build its competitive advantage in economic growth and trade (not to mention health and wellbeing of our people). But what I do not agree with is bashing the West for everything that goes wrong. Why can't we take the responsibility for our errors? We must first take stock of our systems and institutions. Until then such hollow exercises will not fetch anything but a few brownie (read political) points.


I appreciate the shift in India's perspective towards environment. The country, while considering its environmental health as a valuable asset, has avoided the endless game of 'catch-up'. India will never win and will lose too much if it persists in following the 'development' path of industrialised countries. Because then, India will have no place to outsource its pollution as the West is doing now.

Mira Kamdar

Bottle business

This is in response to the editorial 'Bottled water costs us the earth' (August 31, 2007). This whole business of bottled drinking water is just a way of making easy money.

I arrive at this conclusion from my own observations. A few years back I was about to be fooled by business promoters of one such bottled drinking water company.

It was a weekend when a sales representative visited my house, promoting his company's products for water dispensers and refill bottles. I asked him: "What is the source of this water?" Without hesitation, he replied: "It is from a nearby well." He also claimed that the well was in the neighbourhood. I asked him for the laboratory analysis report of the water. I wanted to look at the papers as a hydrologist, having worked in the area as a water expert for almost 24 years. After checking the papers, I told him that the water was not groundwater and could not be from any well in my locality. To me it appeared that the water was collected either from a public water supply source or from a desalination plant. When I asked him for the truth and threatened to take the matter to authorities, the sales representative confessed that the bottled water was from the public supply system.

Similar practices are common in various countries, where public water supply systems have been intentionally paralysed to pave the way for bottling companies and other interest groups.

Said Al-hattaly

The article exposes the ills that plague the bottled water business. This will no doubt put your organisation in direct confrontation with the companies that manufacture Coke and Pepsi, and their ilk, but congratulations for all the same.

In developed countries where tap water is equally good, the bottled water business creates an unnecessary and criminal burden on the environment. In India, it results in water scarcity in water-starved villages with no compensation for the affected people.


Tap water in most Indian cities is no doubt high in toxins, phthalates, polychlorinated biphenyl, arsenic, e-coli and other pollutants.

This holds true for cities in Brazil, Mexico and China as well. Researchers from the University of Leeds, the uk, have recently linked plastic bottles to phthalates.

What is the option then? Do we need to stop using plastic bottles? Do you have some solution for this? Unless you do, by writing in this vein you will just end up spreading depression and despondence.


Apropos of the editorial, it is surprising that every year Americans spend us $11 billion to buy 31 billion litres of bottled drinking water. Thankfully, the San Francisco mayor has banned the sale of bottled water to government agencies. In the us, a litre of bottled drinking water is more than that of gasoline. In India, the situation is no better. A litre of bottled drinking water costs Rs 12, while a dairy farmer in Vidarbha gets only Rs 9 for a litre of milk. The price of bottled drinking water should never be more than that of petrol or milk.


Bottled drinking water is a gift of the western world. Following Uncle Sam's footprint is now the goal of all developing nations. In India, one can witness this at all public functions where speakers on the podium are offered bottled drinking water, even if they are filled with tap water supplied by municipality authorities. After all, bottled water is a status symbol. It is heartening to know that the us is going back to tap water. Will the Indians too switch over to tap?

Vikas Nagar, Luc.

Crime and punishment

Apropos of the cover story 'Offence' (September 30, 2007), the Wildlife Protection Act (wpa), 1972, certainly needs to be amended to make it relevant to current problems. But regulations alone will not make things better until and unless people ferociously deal with problems pertaining to wildlife.

Legal experts have rightly said that glaring loopholes in wpa allow to get away with crimes. Hence, the law need to incorporate new provisions that will calibrate the categorization of crimes and penalties.

To make it further effective, voluntary organisations or communities such as the Bishnoi should be allowed to intervene in the judicial proceedings as third parties. Considering the fact that it is hard to collect evidence in such cases, the scope of circumstantial evidences need to be increased.


The article rightly delves into our legal system and explores remedies through revision of laws and institutionalisation of oversight. In the call for the overhaul of the system, I would like to see a greater focus on local and regional bodies who can actually take on the protection and prosecution of offenders. Higher court appeals only delay the process. Moreover, it protects those with influence and money. Setting up local or regional jurisdictions for such crimes without appeal provision would serve the purpose.


Deluge of questions

This is in response to your cover story 'Deluge' (September 15, 2007), which brings out the apathy of the state as well as the central governments.

Since floods are a state subject, the centre feels that releasing funds for compensation and relief is all that it can do. The newly-formed National Disaster Management Authority (ndma) can play a major role not only in relief and rehabilitation but also in evolving a national policy to handle floods.

Unfortunately, ndma has been completely ineffective in handling the situation. The civil administration's requests for military aid did not help either. Four helicopters and nine army boats were made available for providing relief and food to almost 10 million stranded people in Bihar.

There is no shortage of resources in the country, so why have they not been deployed in larger numbers? When does a 'state-level disaster' become a 'national disaster'? What are the long-term measures being taken to reduce the effect of floods? These are some of the questions which still remain unanswered.


Small car, large revenue

The government earns huge revenues from every new vehicle introduced in the market. With car manufacturers vying to manufacture small and low-priced cars, the government is myopically giving a go-ahead to such industries. Even banks are showing too much of keenness to extend car loans at cheaper interest rates.

Can the government forgo this revenue in the larger interest of public, and manage car-manufacturing companies with tougher regulations? The current problem in West Bengal's Singur and Nandigram is nothing but the reflection of an increased consumerism in India, and the industry's sharpness to tap it.


Managing CFLs

The article 'Bulb of contention' (August 31, 2007) initiates a debate on the pollution caused by incandescent bulbs and cfl bulbs' mercury content. It is high time for the government to regularize the cfl industry and require the manufacturers of cfl to take back used or fused products from consumers.

Prashant jha

Methodology for estimation

I am studying at Madras Veterinary College. I am working on a project regarding fluorine estimation in soil, water and animals at low cost. Is there any low-cost method available to assess the fluorine content quantitatively? I also have a doubt whether spectrophotometry is used for detecting fluorine content quantitatively?


Subscribe to Daily Newsletter :

Comments are moderated and will be published only after the site moderator’s approval. Please use a genuine email ID and provide your name. Selected comments may also be used in the ‘Letters’ section of the Down To Earth print edition.