Published: Sunday 15 October 2006

Think beyond immediacy

It is commendable that your organisation raises crucial discussions on things that affect everyone but get obscured because of our short-term focus.

We, as citizens, irrespective of where we belong to, must realise that 'cost' is not what we pay now. It has a bearing on future as well. For instance, buying a diesel car must not only consider the current costs, but also focus on costs that we eventually have to incur because of the damage it causes. It is important not to focus on immediate benefits because environment will continue to exist even when we don't.

California charges a fee for recycling when a consumer purchases, say a laptop, since there is a cost involved in disposing environmentally sensitive materials. The consumer is made to pay for that as well. We should make consumers pay for such costs, even in India. To begin with, research should be done on the overall cost and that should be added to the price of the product. We must think beyond immediate costs.


Indigenous salt tolerant variety

This is in response to 'Paddy reaches the shore' (Down To Earth, August 15, 2006). The rate at which gm technology is being pushed into our agriculture system is alarming. It is quite evident because farmers continue to commit suicide. Rice is an ecologically and culturally sensitive crop and is cultivated in various agro-ecosystems. The backwater rice cultivation system, practised in Kerala, is one such example. There are different salt-tolerant varieties like Orkaima, Pokkali, Kuttadan and others, cultivated in Kuttanad, Kole lands, Pokkali and Kaipad. But Kuttanad farmers lost their traditional varieties during the green revolution period.

It is ironical to see agricultural scientists doing genetic research to isolate genes from mangroves and spending serious resources to identify the salt-resistant gene. What is the point in claiming that they have found 'the salt-resistant gene' and taking ownership through patents, when farmers have been cultivating salt-tolerant varieties for generations?


Sustainable forest management the key

Almost 80 per cent of the area of Kodagu district in Karnataka has a high biodiversity. Thirty per cent of the area is covered by reserved forests and protected areas -- managed by the forest department. Another 30 per cent of the area comprises plantation crops like coffee, cardamom and pepper, grown under the shade of trees. There are about 2,000 groves widely scattered along the wetlands, to conserve water and soil and to harbour birds to control insect pests that invade agriculture crops. These forests are important catchments for rivers like Cauvery, which provide drinking water to Mysore and Bangalore and irrigation facilities to Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu.

The focus thus needs to be on sustainable forest management. To conserve, maintain and utilise forest resources of the district on a sustainable basis, few like-minded people, for the first time in India, have initiated necessary action by forming a trust called Kodagu Model Forest Trust, comprising experienced people related to the field. The trust has drawn a strategic plan and also joined the International Model Forest network.

There are about 40 model forest sites spread over 21 countries. Several projects are in progress.

kodira1@hotmail.com ...

Focus on solutions

This is in response to 'Truth is more slippery' (Down To Earth, May 15, 2005). Such stories about large dams and coal-fired power stations displacing people and submerging forests and agricultural lands will continue unabated as long as we do not change our thinking pattern on energy. What we need is a paradigm shift in how we look at the energy needs of the society. Old-fashioned thinking hasn't led us anywhere in the 58 years since independence. Magazines like yours should not only focus on the problems but also suggest alternatives and solutions.


Right not to inform

This is in response to 'Right to pollute' (Down To Earth, August 15, 2006). Where is this so-called transparency in government offices? Under the Right to Information Act, one is not allowed to know who is dealing with the file, what is causing the delay, objections -- legal or illegal, status of the file, or which officer is causing the delay. One can only see one's application or proposal to the authorities concerned and order passed by the official. By restricting internal matters of the government offices, it is no more the right to information but actually it's the right not to information. The very purpose of this act stands defeated.

maheshkapasi49@gmail.net ...

Towering problem

This is in response to 'Towering menace' (Down To Earth, June 15, 2004). I found the report on electromagnetic radiation caused by telecom towers and the resultant dangers to human health, quite interesting.

There are three towers that stand within 50 metres of my house. I have decided I will file a petition in the Bombay High Court to get them dismantled. I have also collected a lot of information from the Internet that prove that this is harmful. Telecom companies of course hoodwink authorities and public.

But the fact is, even if radiation is of low intensity at non-thermal levels, people who are subjected to continuous exposure are at grave risk of getting cancer and other ailments. Studies have shown several cases of cancer in Spain and the uk, among people living within a radius of 300 metres of such telecom towers.


Adivasi woes

This is in response to 'Ab aur waqt nahin' (Down To Earth, June 30, 2006). The picture of three adivasis labouring to go up to Pithoriya Ghat has brought out the plight of adivasis of this region well. I have seen the suffering of the adivasis who carry illegal coal from local mines and travel 50-55 km, which includes a 10-km bend up the ghat. Industrialisation in the region and neglect by policymakers add to the problems.


Education a must

This is in response to 'Doctor doctor' (Down To Earth, July 15, 2006). The state of medical education in the country is dismal. Trained doctors prefer not to work in rural areas and government hospitals due to inadequate infrastructure.

Many posts are lying vacant. Besides, those who are qualified go abroad. But what appears is this kind of situation is going to exist without much improvement. There has to be a greater stress on education.


Satellite failure no setback

Scientists at the Indian Space Research Organisation and Defence Research and Development Organisation must not allow setbacks such as failure of the geo-synchronous satellite vehicle and the Agni iii intermediate range ballistic missiles to demoralise them. They should instead take these as challenges. Agreed that the satellite would have given a boost to India's ambitious direct-to-home television services and news gathering capabilities for 10 years, but this is not something that is unusual. Their counterparts the world over also face similar experiences.

The scientists should now work on correcting the errors responsible for the satellite failure and re-launch insat 4 c at the earliest.

8, Yeshwant Nagar, Nagpur

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

CDM a good way out
This is in response to 'Newest, biggest deal' (Down To Earth, November 15, 2005). I agree that effecting real sustainable development is one of the most important criteria to determine the credit-worthiness of the project. Your research into the ground realities of cdm projects deserves more than an immediate thought and action. I have a few observations to make. First, cdm is a revolutionary tool and indeed the first of its kind that does more than just discuss the problems of the environment. It is the first and most important step that has been taken in the right direction, and is comprehensive. Business and environment have never seen eye to eye, though the latter has always borne the brunt of the former's impact, ever since man discovered the power of steam.

Environmental protocols for companies have always been viewed sceptically but Kyoto tools are quite positive. Environment and money will now be mentioned in the same breath and positively more often than otherwise.

CDM has a far better chance than mere strict policing (which is radically impossible due to the structure of our political system) of educating and achieving participation of people, say in rural districts. It has put in place a mechanism to inform and educate all of us -- media, project owners, consultants, politicians, regulatory authorities, third party inspectors, ngos and people -- that our climate is changing.

True, there are weaknesses that are exploited for monetary gains, which appear to contradict the real principle of sustainable development, but it still is an option among the not-too-many options that do not exist.

Amar Mody

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