Published: Tuesday 31 January 2006

Core issues

The article on tourism in the Ranthambore Tiger Reserve is thought provoking but seems to target individuals, rather than the core issues ('Got it', Down To Earth, December 15, 2005). Valmik Thapar has been instrumental in mobilising resources to protect the park. It is unfair to doubt his commitment to conservation just because he has a farm and a relative of his has a hotel near the park.

I had served in Ranthambore from 1997 to 2003 and would like to point out some factual errors in your report. The police-firing incident did not occur in the year 2000, but in 2002. The police had fired in defence when attacked by a group of villagers.

The reserve has been facing the problem of illegal grazing for 25 years whereas the tourism problem is more recent. But the ills of tourism are being used to justify illegal grazing.

The World Bank-aided India ecodevelopment project spent from 1997 to 2004 around Rs 13 crore in the villages around Ranthambore to reduce the negative impacts of the park on the people. But it failed to bring about desired local support for conservation. Therefore, strict enforcement continues to be a real need.

I agree that the profits from tourism should come back to the locals. The first step needed is to give them a share of the ecodevelopment surcharge, collected along with the entry fee. Second, an ecodevelopment cess should be levied on hotels to share the profits with the local people. Third, tourism activities should be handed over to a local management committee. Fourth, the area around the park should be declared an eco-sensitive zone to curb further tourism infrastructure from coming up.

G V Reddy

As an activist of an advocacy group fighting powerful vested interests destroying wildlife, I found your article was more a personal attack against Valmik Thapar, rather than crusading journalism to secure a future for Ranthambore or its tigers.

The target should be not only corporate interests but also the wily bureaucrats of the Project Tiger Directorate who quietly slipped away from the Tiger Task Force after the Sariska fiasco. The "Consultant Coterie" which appears to be assisting the directorate in undermining conservationists by exposing Project Tiger's failures, must not be allowed to hijack valuable columns of Down To Earth.

Praveen Bhargav

The Ranathambore incident is a tragedy from which everyone should learn. With the global thrust on economic growth, every government wants to capitalise on eco-tourism or wildlife tourism. Several reserves in the country's southern states appear to be going the Ranthambore way. Bandipur, Periyar, Nagarhole, Mudumalai, Wayanad and other well known national parks and sanctuaries are also promoting wildlife tourism.

Several resorts and hotels are coming up inside the Bandipur National Park in Karnataka. In Bandipur and Mudumalai, a few resorts are also encouraging night safaris illegally. The government must act fast or we may lose more tigers.


Nature's fury

I am surprised about what is written in the article 'Nature's fury in Europe', (Down To Earth, September 30, 2005). I live in the Czech Republic and I really didn't notice anything serious here. This summer was quite rainy but did not cause any damage. I know of flooding in Austria, but not here.

Vasek Pouska

Clean policy

In my opinion, the Clean Development Mechanism must be essentially an instrument to combat climate change and thus contribute to mitigate the impact of greenhouse gas emissions ('Newest biggest deal', Down To Earth, November 15, 2005).

In order to prevent the adoption of fraudulent and corrupt practices, governments should establish a regulatory framework, which will benefit countries in both the developing South and the industrialised North.

Francisco Salles

Solar water heaters have become increasingly popular in homes, hotels and other buildings, to save electric power and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Government offers subsidy in initial cost and in some states, the power generating authority offers rebate on the electricity bill for such installations. This is a welcome trend.

However, Canara Bank (a public sector bank) has offered to provide cash subsidy for solar water heater installations by trading certified emission reduction with any one of 37 industrially advanced countries under the Kyoto Protocol. This means that individuals in India can sell their reduction of carbon emissions with the help of the government so that the developed countries can emit that much more pollution.

The installation of solar water heaters is to reduce (global) pollution. Therefore, selling this reduction so that another country can pollute the atmosphere by an equivalent amount is, to my mind, unethical.

S G Vombatkere

'No' to dam

We are disappointed with your coverage of the resistance to Polavaram dam. People's resistance to such large projects is necessarily complex and subtle. While the article 'Get out' (Down To Earth, November 30, 2005) makes a passing reference to the protests against the dam by Adivasi communities in Khammam, West Godavari and East Godavari, the coverage in the December 31, 2005 issue of dte, is a complete misrepresentation of the movement against the dam.

By saying that the Andhra Pradesh government has finally bowed to pressure from families to come up with a modified rehabilitation package for the project-affected families, thereby implying that this has fulfilled peoples demand, is a far cry from reality. Their demand is not for a better rehabilitation package but a strong "No" to the dam. The following points illustrate the vibrancy and strength of the movement:

l Strong grassroots mobilisation by youth groups in Khammam district has forced the Communist Party of India (Marxist) to reconsider its ambivalent position on the dam. Local leaders of the party are now completely opposed to the dam while state and national level leaders continue to play around with demands like height reduction and complete rehabilitation

People's committees in Khammam, East and West Godavari districts are raising larger questions about the purpose of the dam and its relationship to the growth corridors along the coast where massive domestic and foreign investments in industrial and tourism infrastructure are being made at the expense of fishing communities.

The Polavaram dam cannot be understood outside its geohistoric specificity. While Narmada Bachao Andolan raised many important issues, resistance to Polavaram is moving ahead very creatively and attempting to articulate a new sets of questions.

Anantha Krishna and Sagari R Ramdas

Down To Earth welcomes letters, responses and other contributions from readers. We particularly welcome you to join issues and share your opinion with others. Send to Sunita Narain, Editor, Down To Earth, 41, Tughlakabad Institutional Area, New Delhi - 110 062. Email: editor@downtoearth.org.in...

Wild discovery

During a trip to India in November 2005, I could follow the jungle patrol of Periyar, mentioned in your story
('Once poachers now guards', Down To Earth, August 15, 2005).

It was an adventurous journey. I discovered the jungle and the wildlife.

It was also a true human meeting with the poachers-turned-guards. They told me the story of their life which I found touching.

I would also like to say I learn much from your articles.

Jrme Fauconnet

Farm reforms

The interview of the grandfather of India's green revolution, M S Swaminathan ('Farmers income is more important than foodgrain production', Down To Earth, December 31, 2005), brings into relief the piecemeal approach adopted by the Indian government in reforming the entire farm sector -- from land tenures, to public investment in the farm sector, to technology transfer and other inputs to the final product price to benefit the farmer.

The National Commission for Farmers (ncf) is trying its best to bring relief to the families left behind by the "farmer suicides". But this is just a relief and not a structural reform of the farm sector, which is what is urgently required to prevent farmer suicides.

It is unfortunate that the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (icar) is still hanging on to its outdated farm technologies. At the All India Conference of Krishi Vigyan Kendras held in October, 2005, the head of icar presented many technologies developed by its scientists. But hardly 30 per cent of these technologies have been accepted by the farmers. Not one word was said in the conference on the emerging gm crop technologies, particularly gm cotton. The so-called illegal Bt cotton seeds sold like hot cakes in Gujarat and as many as 1.9 million acres (0.77 million hectares) have been sown in the current season with the so-called illegal Bt cotton seeds. What is it that icar or the state is doing to help the farmers to make choices on gm technologies? Farmers are hungry for the income-generating crop technologies.

In the absence of vibrant state agriculture departments, the seed and input sellers are having a field day. The outmoded agricultural produce market committees in the states do not allow the global markets to penetrate their turf to offer a better price to the farmers.

Let us hope ncf will be given more teeth to reform the entire farm sector to keep pace with the changing worldwide farm sector dimensions which include technologies, prices, trade and commerce.

Manu N Kulkarni

Crop failures resulting from bad agronomic advice can lead to farmers committing suicide. For example, many a times farmers are advised to rely on a certain pesticide or cultivar (to buy which they often have to take loans) and grow crops in areas where and seasons when major pests/diseases proliferate. When harvests do not come up to expectation, frustration sets in.

One cannot rule out the role of hybrid cultivars and tissue culture in boosting yield. But what mars the terminator seed technology and tissue culture is the inability of the farmers to produce their own seeds/planting material for the next season. This forces them to be at the mercy of seed companies. In such a scenario, it is gratifying to note that the M S Swaminathan Research Foundation is setting up Village Resource Centres in selected villages where farmers have committed suicide.

At such centres, the emphasis should be on a dialogue with families affected by suicides to ascertain the precise causes leading to such an act. It is also necessary to know as to why all farmers faced with the same problem do not take the extreme step. This will help find out the measures that should be taken to check suicides. The state governments, on their part, should arrange to
(i) educate the farmers on the pitfalls of hybrid seeds and tissue culture
(ii) encourage and guide farmers to set up cooperative seed farms in their areas
(iii) buy seeds from such cooperative seed farms and
(iv) supply, unde.

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