Published: Tuesday 31 October 2006

Let forest, livestock coexist

This is in response to 'Once Green' (Down To Earth, July 31, 2006). In Uttaranchal, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, and other hilly states, mid-altitude pasturelands are the lifeline for local populace, livestock and organic agricultural produce. Forest departments believe that forests can prosper without livestock.

A number of case studies have shown that forests frequented by livestock (for grazing) prosper faster by getting dung/urine; certain plant seeds get the capacity to germinate only after passing through the alimentary canal of cows; and movement of cows (interaction of hooves with soil) helps 'culture' forestland.

Legislation thus must support both the growth and development of forests and continuity of livestock grazing, because each depends on the other for its own development. That is possible by judiciously opening land for pasture. Legislation at present is heavily tilted -- favouring forest people (not 'forests') and highly disfavouring grazing and producing clean/good/organic milk and wool for humans.

Nevertheless, two steps of immediate importance should be taken. First, government and ngos should provide support to pastoral people at the marketing level and provide them a commensurate price for livestock produce (ghee, milk, butter milk). Second, forestland should be demarcated for grazing in a periodic manner and panchayats should get grazing rights.

Forests and livestock together make and complete the agricultural-cycle -- grass in the forest for buffalo/sheep in return for dung/urine which make manure and bio-pesticide for forest plants.

sadana.dk@gmail.com ...

Appropriate structures

Construction of water-harvesting structures needs to be judged from the availability of water. Areas that go into factoring usually are: rainfall, topography, sub-surface geological features, type of soil and vegetative cover. The conditions in Rajasthan are different and hence the pattern of utilisation adopted in other states cannot be applied to Rajasthan. All rivers except Mahi and Chambal, run dry in summer. Even during monsoons, rivers flow only for a few days.

Rainwater either goes into ground or is stored for irrigation and drinking purposes. Two-thirds of Rajasthan faces this situation. If this procedure is not followed, structures constructed earlier will become redundant. Anicuts in the catchment of Ramgarh Bund located near Jaipur is a good example. In the catchment area of Ramgarh, anicuts were constructed which reduced inflows to the tank. Government had to dismantle anicuts -- a clear case of wasteful expenditure.

Thus, water-harvesting structures should be constructed accordingly.


Regulators essential for taps

This is in response to 'The large dam fix' (Down To Earth, August 31, 2006). There is an acute shortage of water in the country. What adds to the problem is we do not take care of the basics, such as keeping taps on while going about our daily cleansing activities. A good portion of water can be saved if water taps are controlled at different levels of output.

People do not have the tendency to keep taps at lower levels of water output, since there is no regulator. I wish some manufacturing company starts producing regulator for water taps, like there are for fans. This way, we may end up saving almost 30 per cent water.

Common man's fuel ...

Common man's fuel

The main purpose of biodiesel production is self-sufficiency, along with decreased pollution. India can produce millions of tonnes of biodiesel without utilising any public land.

Since the production of biodiesel is relatively a simpler process, any small investor can start it and one doesn't need to depend on multinational companies for purchasing seeds, producing oil, processing or marketing it. It will be the technology of common man.

Therefore, there is no question of having a monopoly over the fuel sector.

brahmajith02@yahoo.co.in ...

Bt cotton viable

This is in response to the letters 'Cottoning up to Bt' (Down To Earth, August 31, 2006). It is refreshing to hear from farmers who argue that Bt cotton is economically viable and they can make profits by growing it.

According to me, the issue of pricing Bt cotton or for that matter any seed, must be left to the market. Any state intervention will only make matters worse. Inept regulatory oversight resulted in the sale of Bt cotton by stealth and the country is now awash with illegal and spurious seeds. It also created a situation of a so-called market monopoly by just one company.

But that has been rectified to an extent, with about 40 other varieties already in the market and some twenty more in the pipeline. Prices have started declining as well. Forcing any company to fix prices is a nasty form of state intervention that will have telling impact on long-term technology development.

It sends wrong signals to potential investors and technology developers.


MNCs' dirty gameplan

The introduction of chemical fertilisers and pesticides in farming in place of bio-fertilisers such as manure made from gobar and compost, and now advocating organic farming at multi-fold costs, is typical of multinational companies.

It is their usual game plan to first destroy traditional, environment-friendly, easy and economic methods of farming and replacing them with their technologies that are monopolistic, hostile to environment, exorbitantly costly and difficult to operate.

Ultimately, they revert to traditional methods, but on their own terms. The aim is to exercise monopolies and increase costs multifold within a very short period. They end up satisfying their own vested interests.

The need of the hour is to identify such plans in other fields and not let it happen.

Amit Kumar Mittal

Wash that plate well

I would like to bring to your notice the harmful effects involved in the increasing use of soap cakes, especially those used for washing utensils.

Since water is scarce, utensils are not washed properly, leaving behind traces of harmful detergents. Most of these cakes use benzene, slurry and other chemicals that are carcinogenic.

It is necessary that the contents are analysed to educate people. Also, there are no standards for such cakes. Hence, it is imperative that such products undergo standardisation.



Groundwater vis--vis cola

Is Coca Cola really more dangerous than groundwater? I am working on groundwater pollution problem in northern India. The problem is that the local cola plants, say in Najibabad and Meerut in western Uttar Pradesh, use groundwater for manufacturing the soft drinks.

Groundwater has pesticide residues already. Indians consume, on an average, about 500 ml of soft drinks in a week and about 35-40 litre of water in the same period. So, which is more harmful? It is time ngos focus on this problem as well.

Pawan Kumar Bharti

Medicine, a slave to pharmaceuticals

This is in response to 'Broad spectrum' (Down To Earth, September 15, 2006). The latest opinion is that combination antibiotics are irrational and exist in the market.

Hospital and nursing home owners are given fantastic discounts and we doctors are given incentives and last but not the least the practice of medicine has become slave to the pharmaceutical industry.

K Suresh

Development distress

This is in response to 'Wetlands wasted' (Down To Earth, September 15, 2006). The West Bengal government's present proposal to build the eastern link highway disrupting the fragile ecosystem of the east Calcutta wetlands is alarming but not at all surprising.

Earlier, the government almost in the same fashion had killed the Adiganga river to make way for the metro rail. Now, the state is such that it cannot be distinguished from sewerage. In the name of 'develop-ment' the government is killing the environment.

A number of water bodies are illegally encroached and filled up. The sprawling lake, Bikramgarh jheel, is a good example. In spite of all the reports in favour of restoration of the lake, due to some 'unknown power' the water body cannot be saved.

It is reported that no environment impact assessment (eia) of the eastern highway has yet been done. Without doing a proper eia how can such a plan be proposed?

Most of the projects in Bengal are done either without proper eia or carrying out eia with spurious data. By constructing expressways, bridges and industrial hubs, the government can eyewash citizens in the name of development, but what it doesn't realise is, it is killing the natural lungs of the city.

kaustuv basu

Think farmers

We are a leading firm in the building material industry. We specialise in the laminate business. It's been over a year that we have been working on agro waste-based production.

Our aim is to do work that can establish a human chain of farmers throughout our region where cotton is growing in a massive way.

Farmers do not have specific utilisation pattern for cotton stalk or straw and they just burn them in their farms. For cotton growing farmers, inputs are a major issue to get high-yield output.

Considering the phenomenon of the declining natural wood resources from forests, we want to appraise this agro waste or farm waste or bio waste. Thousands of farmers should benefit by using millions of tonnes of cotton stalks every year.

We also have a deep interest in working with organisations interested for technical, informative, statistical and financial collaboration for establishing this socio-economic project for farming community.

Hardik Panchal

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Pick of the Postbag

Are you kidding?
I have been following the story of the red rain that fell in Kerala in 2001, or rather the curious explanation that it was caused by spores from space, which had been carried to Earth by a comet. This started with three papers by Godfrey Louis, one of which appeared in World Science and then received publicity in New Scientist and other places. Samples of the raindust were sent to Chandra Wickramasinghe at Cardiff University and Milton Wainwright at Sheffield University for 'independent analysis'. My understanding of the matter says the cause of the red rain was more prosaic. The red particles were the result of incomplete incineration of chemical waste at the industrial zone in Eloor. The pattern of fallout matches that of the prevailing winds. The chemical composition matches a mixture of burnt pesticide/insecticide/waste and clay. I assume microparticles of fly-ash or clay coalesced around an aerosol of burnt organics as the incinerator plume cooled. The clay may well have been the white china that is used in the agri-chemical industry to mop up spills. The reported 'reproduction' of the 'spores' is a simple physical process of replication that occurs with organics in the presence of clay, as researched, for example, by Jack Szostak at Harvard University. It bothers me that the silly 'alien spores' story have received so much coverage in western media while serious issues of pollution apparently go largely un-addressed and unnoticed.


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