Published: Thursday 15 June 2006

Pesticide use

Pesticides are often projected as 'killers' in your write-ups. But is there any alternative? Without pesticides, the pest problem will persist and result in more diseases and destruction. Pesticides are definitely harmful, but farmers should be taught how to use them. In my view, if multinationals come together and instruct farmers on their correct usage, problems can be solved to a certain extent. It is incorrect to just target industry for any/all woes.


What's going on?

I don't seem to comprehend why the Supreme Court has given the go-ahead for raising the height of the Sardar Sarovar dam when the rehabilitation of those affected is not over yet. It appears that after animals, people with limited financial resources are being deliberately made to fade away from spaces.


Well done, SC

The Supreme Court deserves applause for its verdict on Maharashtra's ex-environment minister Surup Singh Naik and his principal secretary Ashok Khot. The order for their immediate arrest, for allowing six saw mills to operate within 10 km of the Tansa wildlife sanctuary in Maharashtra in 2004, makes sense. The minister's action was in gross violation of the Bombay forest rules.

This should, hopefully, send out a strong message to every minister and others as well that to get away with illegal activities is not as easy as they may like to think.

G R Vora
Gope Nivas, Mumbai...

Educating society

Down To Earth is diverse, has variety and the range of issues covered makes it an interesting and informative magazine. The editorials, cover stories, such as 'No Pesticides' (Down To Earth, May 31, 2006), and other pieces written on different aspects of environment offer a wealth of information for the common man. It also reflects on the impact these issues can have on our future, especially when people are becoming more and more insensitive each day and are not concerned about depleting natural resources. However, there is hope. There are schools that have environmental education on their curriculum. Such steps are important and definitely a positive step ahead.

Permit Chand Jain

I have been following Down To Earth regularly. I truly admire your guts to come out in the open with issues that all of us should be aware of. However, I have certain views contrary to the ones expressed in your magazine earlier:

Wastelands are degraded due to excessive use. Which means there are people who de facto subsist on this land. Does that mean we let these people live as they do on degraded land, rather than allowing corporations to grow paper and pulp?

You are assuming that private forests would not employ any labour. This, in my view, is incorrect. Less labour would be employed, but they would earn better.

Your previous arguments that villagers and reserves and parks can co-exist is populist in nature and leaves the gate open for further degradation of forests. To say that a theoretically good but complex concept like this would work is closing our eyes to the present disarray.

We should sooner rather than later open our doors to the multinational paper and pulp industry. Under competition, no one gets to make fat profits. Justifying high raw material cost by citing the principle of the greatest good of the greatest number will leave the paper industry with inefficient processes.

With the arrival of multinationals, our industry would inevitably have to reduce costs. Multinationals may bring in finished products at lower prices, courtesy infrastructure. The so-called degraded lands should be given at a rate arrived upon by studying the economics of operations and what the land is worth to the industry. The revenue from sale of land should help the inhabitants relocate and learn other skills related to a forest economy. The solution does not lie in trying hard to maintain the status quo.

Avi Pratap Singh


Aggro practices

This is in reference to 'Chinese aggro' and 'Sowing the seeds of revival' (Down To Earth, May 15, 2006). The articles have raised certain basic points with regard to agricultural operations. 'Chinese aggro' points to a deficient policy and lack of implementation measures which need the prompt attention of states, as well as people in general. Moreover, in this age of growing organic food demand, organic agricultural practices in Cambodia also need to be studied in greater detail.

The case may be different in Cambodia, but in India we are tied to scientific practices. It seems we are still not prepared to incorporate traditional knowledge into the present system.

D P Agarwal

Purani Gubri Road, Muzzafarpur

The illustration shown in the article 'Chinese aggro' is impressive. It resembles the attitude of Indian farmers against their Chinese counterparts. Agriculture has become fully dependent on various agro-chemicals and farm machineries in several parts of India. This has led to farmers leading a lethargic and sedentary lifestyle. As a result, there has been a definite shift in their attitude.

Growing dependence on pesticides, insecticides, herbicides and fungicides and other chemical inputs has vastly increased costs and credit demand. No wonder the suicide rate among farmers has gone up.

Sacchidananda Mukherjee


In the article 'Minding the mining' (Down To Earth, May 31, 2006), we reported that there are 30 non-fatal but disabling accidents per tonne of mineral extracted from the ground, and one death per 2.5 tonnes. We were mistaken, the actual figure is one death per 2.5 million tonnes....

Fish burn out

People found dead fish floating in wells in a village near Thiruchengodu few days ago. Authorities tested samples of water, but found there was nothing present in it that could have been fatal for the fish. Moreover, such fish have always always been found in wells. What has actually happened is that due to high temperatures the water has heated up considerably and caused the deaths. Climate change,it now seems has incontrovertibly come to stay.

A Arivalagan

Pick of the Postbag

Media power
I am an avid reader of Down To Earth and this is in reference to the editorial 'Old-style corruption better?' (Down To Earth, May 15, 2006). I refer to it as "legalisation of corruption" and it is going on in all democratic countries that I know of.

In Canada, subtle changes in obscure laws and regulations such as the "financial administration act" or the "government contract regulations" make it legal for governments to award large share of contracts without any bidding at all. It sometimes allows a minister to award contract to a company of his choice. Other changes have ensured that civil servants who carry out these practices are effectively gagged.

The only ray of hope I see is the active involvement of media. Previously, the only medium that power structure found difficult to control was word of mouth and smuggled pamphlets, and in authoritarian countries they set up extensive counter-espionage administrations to deal with these. The first manifestation of the new media that I know of was the overthrow of the Shah in Iran, when cassettes (of the Ayatollah Khomeini's speeches) were smuggled, duplicated and then widely distributed in the country.

These, of course, have been replaced with the Internet and a magazine of your stature. The quality and thoughtfulness of your editorials is superior to the ones written in even the best of Canadian newspapers. Well thought-out and articulated editorials can be a powerful tool to bring about effective changes.

Frans Koch


I found the editorial 'Old-style corruption better?' extremely interesting. I belong to Bulgaria and must say the same thing is happening here as well. In fact, such things are happening all over the world.

The business world has developed its own vocabulary, mannerisms and action to give it a plush look. And all in the garb of doing social good -- taking care of people, environment, contributing to development and other such noble causes. The true colours, however, never come to light. Transparency is the casualty, courtesy company secrets, non-disclosure clauses and other judicial tricks.

In Bulgaria, we have a saying, "Come what may, there is always money involved. No matter what, money plays a key factor in every decision-maker's role. But it is also true that every action has an equal and opposite reaction. So, while greedy corporates may try to do things in a hush-hush manner, the fear of public disclosure will always be there. Moreover, articles such as yours help maintain a true balance.

Ivaylo Avramov

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