Published: Wednesday 15 February 2006

Counter view

The United Nations Climate Change Conference was held recently in Montreal. But scientists often forget that climate change is very complicated , and a multidisciplinary subject in which predictions can't still be made with much accuracy. After all, even with a panoply of sophisticated gadgets, we make errors in predicting day-to-day weather. But almost every natural calamity is ascribed to climate change. But do we have accurate data on climate change? This is not to say that we must continue to pollute. We should continue to strive for sustainable development. But at the same time, we must be vigilant against various nefarious businesses that make global warming a convenient alibi.

K D Bhardwaj

Blinkered forest departments

The editorial, "The tiger re-appears," (Down To Earth, January 15, 2006) rightly points out that the real fight today is against entrenched mindsets. There are many talented forest officers both in the field, as well as in policy-making circles. But there is a general disdain for forestry and wildlife. Issues related to these sectors are dealt with in an ad-hoc manner. And beyond a point, even legislations and institutions do not play a significant role.

The crucial question then is how to save the tiger from this malaise? Today, the price each tiger fetches has made poaching a lucrative business. Thus mere management of tiger reserves as "safe deposit vaults" can no longer help. Apart from minimising local hostility towards the tiger, issues related to illicit trade in tiger parts needs to be addressed in international fora.

Bharat H Desai
Centre for International Legal Studies
Jawaharlal Nehru University
New Delhi

Where's the land?

Conserving the tiger and its habitat is necessary as this would lead to the protection of many species. I agree that in certain cases, it's important to relocate villagers. However, even if the government allocates funds and goes about relocation in a proper manner, the job is easier said than done. The forest department does profess that there is land for relocation, but in reality, this is far from the case. Forest officials in Bandhavgarh National Park have informed the difficulties related to relocation. Though land was abundant on paper, in reality it wasn't there at all.

Pooja Sawhney

Check the poachers

The Union government has to step in and prevent wildlife poaching that's quite rampant in the wildlife sanctuaries. The reserves are poorly equipped to prevent organised poaching as seen in Sariska National Park, Rajasthan. We need a committed park staff, well equipped with arms and communication gear. More stringent punishment should be meted out to those out to who make a fast buck from wildlife.

D B N Murthy

Is the oil there?

You have suggested that jatropha could be a source of biodiesel, particularly under projects financed by Kyoto's Clean Development Mechanism (cdm). Unfortunately, the plant does not measure up to the expectations of those who want to make quick profits out of jatropha plantations. Its maturation does not conform to schedules. In jatropha plantations plants with flowers co-exist with those bearing fruits. Its poisonous fruits render it unsuitable for an oil press feedstock additive. Jatropha does produce grinding oils, similar to mineral oil -- and this oil is biodegradable. But Jatropha doesn't perform as a cdm dollar earner.

Richard Harkinson

Vidisha's example

The people of Vidisha have set an example in checking river pollution. They venerate their rivers, but also take care to ensure that their religious activities do not pollute water bodies. The flowers offered to the deity Kajalia, as well as several other religious items, which were earlier disposed in rivers are now kept aside in a separate counter, where they are converted to manure.

Vipin Sharma

Faulty address

The Union ministry of environment and forest's attention has been drawn to the article, "E-governance, moef style" (Down To Earth, December 31, 2005). According to the article, the organisations named in it had mailed their responses at the address secy@menf.delhi.nic.in. and their mail had bounced back. Obviously the mailswould bounce back for they should have been sent to secymenf@nic.in.

As far as the reference in the article to a communication by this ministry to some organisations, requesting them to send an electronic copy of their responses by post, it may be clarified that this was only to facilitate easy compilation as large number of responses had been received via e-mail. Its difficult to comprehend how all this can be construed as an attempt to stall people's participation in the environmental planning process.

R Chandramohan
Joint secretary,
Government of India
Union ministry of environment and forests, Pariyavaran Bhavan,
New Delhi

Lots in a litre

The article, "Why only Jatropha," (Down To Earth, November 30, 2005). It mentions that 3,000-4,000 million tonnes (mt)of jatropha will produce 0.25-1 mt of oil. This is too huge a range. Moreover, it is highly improbable that 3,000-4,000 mt of jatropha produces the oil the article mentions.

Sanat Kapadia

Down To Earth replies

We inadvertently wrote 0.25 million tonne (mt) to I mt, when the actual range should be 0.25-1 million litre. The error is regretted. ...

Nothing new

This refers to the article, "When to flower" (Down To Earth, December 15, 2005). The study by a team of uk- based scientists on the effect of sunlight on flowering pattern of the barley plant is nothing new, except they have isolated the Ppd-H 1 gene, which is found to control the flowering.

The Sugarcane Breeding and Research Station at Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu also used light and darkness to control the flowering of sugarcane in the 1950s. The only two stations where the climate was congenial for propagating the new variety thro' seeds were Karnal and Coimbatore. Sugarcane flowers which wither and fall off within a few days of flowering were found to hold on to their stalks in these places. Late flowering varieties were given artificial lighting at night, while early flowering varieties were kept in darkness during the day with tar coated thatches around them. Thus the flowering of different varieties was controlled so they flowered within a week to 10 days of each other. I am sure these research centres at these places have continued the good work

S V Jayabal
64th Cross Street, Raja Amalaipuram

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...

Pick of the Postbag

Check them at the outset
Recently, municipal authorities in the country's capital raised many buildings to the ground. These structures were constructed with the help of material manufactured at the cost of the environment. And then the destruction of the buildings and the rubble that ensues causes enormous pollution. All this could have been averted if local authorities were vigilant enough to prevent the construction right at the outset.

Construction activity disturbs ecology right from its inception. Material used for construction -- granite, iron-ore, limestone, clay and sand -- are mined. This disturbs the ecology of areas in the vicinity of the mines. And then factories producing finished construction material such as steel and cement also harm the environment.

And that is not all. The wood for joineries comes from scarce forests. In fact diligent calculations also show that about a hectare of forest is destroyed to make a structure of about 10 sq m.

A large amount of water and energy is also consumed during construction. Let us not forget that India is both energy and water deficient.

S N Mahalingam

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