Published: Thursday 15 November 2007


This is in response to the report 'Filtering arsenic out' (March 31, 2007). The report talks about a new three-pitcher filter, called sono filter. As the report says the filter helps remove arsenic from groundwater and has been developed by researchers from George Mason University, USA. I want to know the cost of the filter. I also want to know if the process ensures completely arsenic-free groundwater. If not, what percentage of arsenic does it remove?

Sharmila Chakraborty

>> We know that the biodiesel ethanol is produced from crops such as sugarcane, maize, bazra, rapeseed, soyabean and palm seed. But can we prepare ethanol from alcohol? We want to establish an ethanol industry based on alcohol derived from mahua flowers. Mahua trees (Madhuca indica) are abundant in the hilly areas of states like Jharkahnd, Orissa and Chhattisgarh. Can we have technical inputs and suggestions on the industry's economic viability?

Subhas Kumar
Hazaribahg Cold Storage
Kolghati, Hazaribag, Jharkhand

>> I am researching on e-waste. Can you help me to know the exact recycle process so that I can start working on a plant? arun choodamani


Wrong smells

In the editorial 'We don't smell the air' (September 30, 2007), you have suggested that the only option available today is to build a viable mass transit system. This is not, however, being followed as a policy objective everywhere. Take Maharashtra. Can one say that the government actually intends to support the public transport system?

In Maharashtra, the road tax levied on buses is four to five times higher than that on cars and other private vehicles, notwithstanding the fact that cars occupy about 90 per cent of flyover space and 60 per cent of road space. In other words, private vehicles in the state are being heavily subsidized.

Car users pay about two to three per cent of total ownership cost as road cess and registration fees. When calculated in terms of the investment in road infrastructure, it is also becomes clear that car users pay less than a third of the cost.

It is time that cars paid an additional tax in proportion to the road space they occupy, apart from charges for environmental damage. If steps are not taken immediately, cars will continue to eat into the space for pedestrians and bus commuters.

Ashok R Datar

>> If metro rail systems are indeed the solutions for urban transport problems, why are cities such as New York and Japan facing the perils of traffic congestions and air pollution?

I carried out research in the 1970s to quantify the impact of urbanization on environment. When I compare those figures with data available today, I find that the rate of environmental degradation (both in small and large cities) has accelerated over the years. This makes me wonder if urbanization is a solution at all. Should people from villages continue to flock to urban areas just to meet their basic needs? Or should we try to achieve a higher goal by providing urban amenities in rural areas?

Recently I came across a group of 'concerned culinary adventurers' in the us. The team advocates the concept of eating only foods grown or harvested within a 100-mile radius of habitation. Known as the New York 100 Mile Radius Group, its popularity has increased in the past three years with more and more people joining the group. I find a similarity between their approach and Gandhiji's call to 'go back to the village' as a self sustaining entity.

Jay Sulkar

Your editorial raises a valid question: Why have cities in India not drawn lessons from Delhi's experiences and acted upon them?

I doubt if we are a learning society at all. Has any city learnt from the experience of Surat and cleaned up its garbage collection system? Andhra Pradesh built viable storm shelters, but Orissa did not--even after being hit by the super cyclone. Kerala achieved full literacy, but not its neighbouring states.

Dilip ahuja

Nice article. But I think you forgot to mention the noisy auto rickshaws. They are the major contributors to air pollution as well. I wonder if the pollution control officials are keeping a tab on them.


As long as we continue to encourage the auto industry, the situation won't change. Recently, I had an opportunity to listen to Jeremy Harris, the former mayor of Honolulu, usa. In 2002, Harris won the us national planning award by the American Planning Association.

During his speech, Harris explained how town planning centred on the automobile has ruined the world's major cities. He cautioned developing countries not to follow the example se.

Vulnerable zone

This is in response to the report 'In lieu of Nandigram' (October 15, 2007). Nayachar is a mud-sandbank on the estuary of the river Hooghly in West Bengal and is located just opposite Nandigram. Situated on the northern coastal belt of the Bay of Bengal, the island is in a tropical meso-macro tidal setting of the ocean, which means the area experiences a tidal range between 2 and 5.5 metres. The area is nothing but tidal deposits that are just 60 years old.

West Bengal experiences about 15 per cent of cyclones that disturb the country's east coast, and is highly vulnerable to storm surges with heights ranging from 2 to 12 metres. In a media report, the former director of the Meteorological department at Calcutta, R N Goldar, had said that if thelast cyclone that hit Orissa in 1999 had hit West Bengal, it would have caused more devastation with a storm surge ranging between 8.5 and 12.5 metres as against the 2.5 to 9.5 metre surge recorded in Orissa.

Besides, Nayachar is in East Medinipur district, which has an earthquake epicentre at a depth of 26 km. It was active in 1968 with a magnitude of 5.5 on the Richter scale. East Medinipur is declared a 'multirisk hazard district' for storms, floods and earthquakes.

Arunabha das

Chinese economy

Your article on Chinese products and western hyprocrisy ('The China affair: what it means to us', September 15, 2007), talks about how the Chinese discount their environment while manufacturing cheap goods.

But I feel that the current problems related to Chinese exports, such as tainted pet food, toxic toothpaste, lead paint in toys, chemicals in textiles, has to do with global economic insecurity as well.

johan kuylenstierna

Price war over water

Major companies in the business of bottled drinking water have recently hiked the price for packaged water. But I fail to understand the reason behind it.

Initially, Bisleri International pegged higher prices for its bulk segments. But now, other players in the business such as Aquafina and Kinley, have also increased their prices for packaged water, both for the bulk and the retail segments.

Of late, Aqafina has started displaying the picture of a mountain on its label to suggest that the company sources its water from mountain springs. But I seriously doubt these claims.

Only a few companies mention their websites, helpline numbers, e-mail and postal addresses, and other necessary information on their labels. Given this situation, how can one ascertain whether the batch number and the date mentioned on the label are correct?

Shiv Shanker Almal

Concern over water

The ultimate ownership of water resources both in urban and rural areas should be vested in local self-government bodies. This will enable them to have the ultimate say in determining, approving or rejecting any project carried out in their areas.

After all, the need for water in a particular area can best be determined by its residents. If local bodies are given the authority, they can properly monitor the amount of water supplied to industries. On the other hand, for industries, interaction with these local bodies will be more immediate and effective than initiating communication with concerned ministries.

Centralized control of water resources is bound to result in wastes and ineffective use.

Pradeep Shrivastava


Decaying environment

This is in response to your cover story 'How green is your building' (August 31, 2007). I am an architect with 25 years of experience.

During my career, I have noticed a constant degradation in our 'physical environment'. This has been caused by our modern urban design and planning.

Now we live with unhygienic atmosphere, faulty roadway and transport planning, and improper water and sanitary facilities.

piyush hajela.



In the news report 'In lieu of Nandigram' (October 15, 2007), we had mistakenly said: "A flat, 21 km strip of land in the middle of the Haldi river, three metres above sea level and accessible only by motorised boats, is the West Bengal government's alternative to Nandigram for aq chemical hub." The river is actually Hooghly, not Haldi.

>> The report 'Made to pay' (September 30, 2007) mistakenly notes that "...with the Panaji bench of the Bombay High Court directing six mining companies to deposit in excess of Rs 36.5 crore as compensation for villagers, whose farms have been destroyed by large-scale mining." The compensation amount paid to the affected farmers is actually Rs 3.6 crore.

We regret the errors.

>> Due to a technical glitch the last line of the article 'No utility' (October 31, 2007) was not printed.

The sentence should read: "Londoners do need to augment their water supply but there is a need to reconsider whether emergency fixes like the desalination plant are required when the options of implementing sustainable solutions and encouraging behavioural change are available."

Meet on wastes Your reportage on municipal solid waste management in India ('Pandora's garbage can', March 15, 2007) was widely referred to at the R'07 (the World Congress on Recovery of Materials and Energy for Resource Efficiency) in Davos, Switzerland, which was held in the first week of September. A similar event 'First International Conference on Technologies and Strategic Management of Sustainable Biosystems' will be organised at Sydney, Australia, in July 2008. The conference will dicuss issues such as the reuse and recycling of organic solid and liquid wastes for horticulture, agriculture, forestry, land rehabilitation, aqaculture and hydroponics. The event is of interest to environmental engineers and professionals in biotechnology and bioengineering. For details on the conference one can visi the website at www.etc.murdoch.edu.au/IOBB2008 or mail to IOBB2008@gmail.com.

V Jagannatha

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