Published: Saturday 15 December 2007

Going organic

The article 'Escaping the urea trap' (October 31, 2007) highlights the fact that soil fertility is declining because of excessive and imbalanced use of fertilizers. Everyone--right from policymakers to farmers--know this. The union minister for agriculture also admitted this in the Rajya Sabha.

Still the problem is addressed by giving more subsidies to chemical fertilizers, about Rs 48,000 crore, rather than eliminating them in a phased manner.

Time and again scientists have highlighted the fact that chemical fertilizers pollute soil, groundwater and are a source of greenhouse gases. But the government continues to encourage the fertilizer industry by providing financial support. Farmers are encouraged to use fertilizers because they are subsidized.

Why can't the industry be asked to produce matching quantities of organic manures for every unit of chemical fertilizer they produce? Instead of subsidizing nitrogenous fertilizers, the government can extend financial assistance to the production of organic manure. Units manufacturing organic manure can also be located around agricultural fields for easy procurement of biomass. This will generate employment.

Experiments have established that 50 per cent of recommended doses of chemical fertilizers and organic manures give the highest yield. While the productivity of fields in which only chemical fertilizers are applied started declining in the past six or seven years, yields from the fields using organic manure have gradually increased in the same period with no problems of pest and diseases.

Organic manure also helps rainfed agriculture by increasing production, building up soil fertility and improving the soil's moisture-retaining capacity.

G K Veeresh
Ganganagar, Bangalore

World Bank irrelevant

This is in reference to your article 'Hidden agenda' (October 31, 2007). Considering the loopholes in World Bank systems, it is difficult to endorse its relevance in present times.

A recent review of the bank's department of institutional integrity and its governance and anti-corruption strategy by an independent panel headed by Paul A Volcker has brought out the bank's dark and ugly side. According to the report, "serious operational issues and severe strains in relations with some operations units", have at times contributed "to counterproductive relations between the bank and borrowers and funding partners".

In India, the bank has given huge loans for beneficial projects such as the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan. It is surprising that the bank considers developing nations such as India suitable for sanctioning huge loans. Besides, it does not take any measure to stop the money being misappropraited. Does this serve the bank's vested interest?

The Volcker report is an eye-opener for all those who believe that foreign institutions such as the World Bank can play a big role in shaping nations' dreams and goals.

Arvind K Pandey

Imperfect act

Your argument that the wildlife lobby is against welfare of tribals, as expounded in the editorial 'Tigers and tribals' (November 15, 2007), is baseless. My arguments are as follows:

Down to Earth Wildlife ngos engaged in conservation of tigers, work for tribals in tiger reservation areas as well. Their contribution is more than tribal welfare groups, who are politically motivated

Down to Earth Relocation of tribals from the core zone of forests mooted by wildlife groups is not like regular displacements done by development projects

Down to Earth Tribal welfare groups largely believe that tribals should join the mainstream of civilization and should not struggle in jungles, which is not the case

Down to Earth Without healthy forest tribals will be the first ones to get affected

Why can't the tribal welfare lobby and the wildlife lobby agree that some fragments of forests should be left untouched for wildlife? The Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006, though looks attractive, will do less good than harm to tribals.


Down to Earth Your opinion on tiger conservation in tribal lands is quite right. But it leaves out many issues that need attention. If at all relocating people who live in tiger's territory is the only solution, then they should be given their due on the basis of the forest economy and forestland they occupied.

Besides, they should be relocated to nearby places so that they have a sense of familiarity and belonging to the land. They should be involved in all conservation programmes and tourism activities carried out in the area. Moreover, the government should introduce an award for conservation work to encourage local people.

Jaswinder Sandhu

Down to Earth Tiger conservation policies in India talk of taking care of tribals inhabiting the forests. But such proposals are far from practical.

A forest is a part of tribal people's daily life. This is the reason they do not want to move out of it even in foreseeable future. I have experienced this while working in Orissa's tribal-dominated district Koraput.


Down to Earth Tigers and tribals have coexisted for centuries in India. If the tiger lobby was interested in tigers and the tribal lobby interested in tribals, there would have been no problem.

Tribals never asked for land rights. What they value is the usufruct rights over forests. The Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act is conceptually flawed in this regard.


Down to Earth I work with an ngo that deals with forest issues in northern Andhra Pradesh. From our experience in the Nagarjunsagar tiger reserve, we have listed some issues that affect the tiger habitat.

Down to Earth There has been heavy anthropologic pressure on tiger habitats, mostly because of tribals and other nearby villagers who regularly herd their cattle to the sanctuary for grazing

Down to Earth Gaurs have already been wiped out in t.

Choked on the road

This is in reference to your article 'We don't smell the air' (September 30, 2007). Public transport systems are different for metros across the world, because they depend on various socio-economic and political conditions in those cities.

Take Hyderabad, for instance. The city still has infrastructure of pre-independence times. The infrastructure was then meant to meet the need of about 500,000 people, with parks and lakes all around to maintain the city's ecological balance. Hyderabad's population has since increased; in 2001, it was 6.4 million. There is an urgent need to upgrade the city's transport system.

The Hyderabad Urban Development Authority has long been planning to introduce a metro rail network across the city. But a master plan for this is yet to be prepared. Given the outdated infrastructure, roads are choked with private vehicles, causing air pollution and frequent accidents. The government started widening roads indiscriminately to ease congestion, but this created more problems. On the one hand, the government eased building regulations and on the other hand widened roads were indiscriminately used for parking vehicles.

S Jeevananda Reddy


Tax private vehicles

This refers to your cover story 'Wheels of Misfortune?' (October 15, 2007). The popular belief is that two-wheelers cause less pollution.

But it ignores the number of two-wheelers on the road, which is large in India when compared to the number of cars. Irrespective of types of vehicles, policymakers should discourage private vechicles and promote an efficiently managed public transport system. They should impose heavy taxes on industries to discourage production of cars.

Narendra M Apte

Sulphur value

The article 'Sulphur deficient' (August 15, 2007) brings out the need for systematic soil testing for sulphur in Madhya Pradesh.

The report also rightly talks about the need of supplying fertilizers containing sulphur to farmers to correct sulphur deficiency in the soil. The move will definitely boost production of oilseeds and pulses in the state.

A Subba Rao
Indian Institute of Soil Sciences
Berasia Road, Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh


Waste threat

Our village Leoj in Gujarat's Junagadh district is facing a mining threat. The district administration plans to allocate the only pasture nearby our village to a mining company. The region being arid, villagers depend on this land to graze their cattle. Besides, mining work will further deplete groundwater level in the area.

our article 'Court order miners to compensate Goa farmers' (September 30, 2007) reported a similar situation faced by the residents of North Goa's Surla village. The article said that the Panaji bench of the Bombay High Court directed six mining companies to compensate the villagers whose farms have been destroyed by mining. The court order can help us put pressure on the collector's office. Can anyone give us some legal guidance?

Dhimant Joshi

I want to know how to dispose of waste from electronic equipments, particularly dry battery cells.

Kishore V Mariwala

Nuclear power, unclear issues

Your article 'ABC of 123' (October 15, 2007) leaves much to be desired. It does not delve into the pros and cons of nuclear power.

We are aware of the dangers of nuclear power and its impact on the environment. But many of us know little about nuclear power's economic viability--in terms of long-term radioactive waste management, decommissioning of nuclear plants as well as commercially calculated risk insurance.

Besides, the country's energy and environmental scenario over the next 10-15 years, when all resources are completely used up to generate nuclear power, remains speculative. Is the government working towards alternative sustainable energy options? Please focus on these issues as well.

Ajit Koujalgi

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