Published: Thursday 30 November 2006

Reinventing existing structures

This is in response to the editorial 'Urban growth model needs reality check' (Down To Earth, October 15, 2006).

The article argues that for sustainable urban growth in India we need to stress "new and inventive thinking", so that we can derive "out-of-the-box" solutions. But I believe we cannot re-invent the wheel.

It would be better to adapt and modify the existing solutions and models of development. An analysis of the condition of the us city of Los Angeles in the 1940s and 1950s shows how closely it matched the state of some of our own cities at present, with similar constraints on resources and capital.

The path for sustainable growth chalked out by the us government at that time in collaboration with environmental agencies like the United States Environmental Protection Agency could teach us valuable lessons.

Though we cannot completely imitate their model and will need to keep other key figures like gdp and the average population density in mind, the model could act as a guideline for policy making and further improvisation in the process of urban development.

bhaskar RAy

You have accurately analysed the situation as far as large cities are concerned.

Similar conditions exist in thousands of small and medium sized towns. These towns are neglected despite provisions for their development having been made under the 74th Amendment Act to the Indian Constitution in 1992.

The World Bank and the Asian Development Bank reach bigger towns with huge investments while other towns are left in the lurch. Is there anybody to guard the interests and aspirations of citizens living in smaller towns?


Safe food?

I have a few queries regarding the Food Safety and Standards Bill, 2005.

Who has framed the Food Safety and Standards Bill, 2005 -- the government or the industry?

Who shall be the food regulators-- a graduate of science/commerce/arts/ food science and technology/food and nutrition/food biotechnologist/food microbiologist or bureaucrats?

Is the Union health ministry capable of implementing the Prevention of Food Adulteration Act, 1954?

Does India have the capacity to enforce various acts, orders and regulations regarding food standards in the country?

What is the significance of food safety in the food chain and agribusiness scenario in the country?

Why have the Indian Council of Agricultural Research and allied institutions failed to give proper education to farmers through extension programmes?

At present, how much of the workforce is employed at the lower and the middle levels in the so-called organised food-processing industry?

Has any advocacy been done to promote the mandatory use of regional languages for labelling of food articles? Is it necessary?

Should food science be included as a subject in school curriculums in India?

Is there any plan for effective implementation of food safety in villages?

Are professionals working in the food industry undermining public health? Do better salary packages and fast growth in the corporate sector prevail over ethics?

What ethics should apply to food operators, food professionals and food policy makers?

sanjay goyal

Profitable zones?

I entirely agree with the arguments regarding special economic zones (sezs) in the editorial 'Another India is [not] ours' (Down To Earth, October 31, 2006). It is rightly said that the government is abdicating its responsibilities by launching these gigantic sezs. They are only strengthening big business houses, sole purpose of which is making profit and this will be done at the cost of the government and the citizens. Why can't they compete through cost-reduction techniques like appropriate technology, innovation, research and development? sez s will only provide another platform for the corrupt government and politicians to make money by bartering away agricultural land to big business houses. Ramesh Ramanathan of the ngo Janaagraha, an advocacy group in Bangalore, has rightly said that these sez s are runaway trains and must be stopped immediately before they cause irreversible damage to our economy.

R Chandra Prakash

Slack hygiene

This is in response to 'Death by dengue' (Down To Earth, October 31, 2006). It should be noted that the outbreak of dengue is not limited to Delhi alone but has spread to other states too. The civic authorities and the people are equally responsible for the pitiable civic state. Residents' welfare associations, on their part, do precious little in ensuring hygienic conditions in most localities. The civic authorities must launch an awareness drive immediately to guarantee a healthy Delhi. Being the National Capital Region, Delhi and its satellite townships must serve as an example for the rest of the country.

mahesh kumar

Left to rags

I was aghast to read about the misadventure of Santraj Maurya in 'Outrageous' (Down To Earth, October 15, 2006). Alitalia's action was preposterous. It is indeed amazing that such a thing can happen in the 21st century! But besides this, I believe, the ngo Chintan, which had played a stellar role in making it possible for Maurya to be selected for assignment in Brazil, could have foreseen the very many difficulties he was likely to face on such a trip, like language and the unfamiliar cultural ambience of foreign travel.

It seems that he was more or less left to his own devices in making travel arrangements, including ticketing. A wee bit more of prudence in assessing his needs could have prevented his humiliation.


Name game

In 'Private fief' (Down To Earth, October 15, 2006) your strap under the heading says "Andhra cm faithful buck pet uranium project". I would like to point out that there is a difference between Andhra Pradesh and Andhra. Andhra Pradesh includes the Telangana, Andhra and Rayalaseema regions. I hope you will take note of the mistake.

pavan.v@ge.com ...

Abuse of antibiotics

This is in response to 'Broad Spectrum' (Down To Earth, September 15, 2006). The reporter has done well in exposing the abuse of broad-spectrum antibiotics. Another aspect that should have been mentioned is the contra-indications to antibiotics. Ciprofloxacin is one 4-quinolone derivatives and is used in many infections. 4-quinolone needs to be taken with caution by people suffering from diseases like epilepsy, hepatic or renal impairment or during pregnancy. Majority of child diarrhoea is of viral origin and antibiotics like ciprofloxacin should not be used in children and growing adolescents. But we have many anti-diarrhoeals in syrup form (indicated for children) containing ciprofloxacin and metronidazole derivatives. This is a dangerous abuse of ciprofloxacin.

wishvas rane

Viable solutions

It was with great interest that I read the report on the post-tsunami farming aid to the Nicobar group of islands 'Thrown into high relief' and the plight of cotton farmers in 'Bt retreat in China' (Down To Earth, August 31, 2006). The cotton farmers who have planted Bt cotton and are now facing the threat of attack by whiteflies, mirids and bollworms would do well to prepare and spray an easy-to-make liquid organic manure called sasyagavya in their fields.

Sasyagavya is based on the 1,000-year-old Vriksayurveda treatise of Surapala. It takes just 10-15 days to prepare and has been used successfully in Assam, Arunachal and the northeast. It has three ingredients: green biomass, fresh cowdung and water. All three are taken in equal quantities, mixed together and left to ferment in a drum or tank. The resulting liquid is sasyagavya. When used in fields as a 10 per cent solution it acts as a soil booster, insect repellent and growth promoter.

Nothing could be simpler or cheaper. The planting of diverse crops alongside cotton or at least the encouragement of a little wildness along the bunds and the roadside would provide the necessary green biomass to the farmers for the preparation of sasyagavya. All is not lost for cotton farmers.

Similarly, the Nicobarese could have been taught to prepare sasyagavya. The liquid manure requires only drums or buckets which the government could have procured and distributed to the farmers of the Nicobar islands and thus saved expenses on power tillers and neem cake, which have proved to be an utter waste of resources. It is time that our planners, scientists and central government woke up to the bio diversity of this country and stopped trying to impose the agricultural practices of the Ganga-Yamuna doab on far flung areas.


Sad state

This is in response to 'The political economy of defecation' (Down To Earth, April 30, 2006). The story was thought provoking and informative. I am a student of business management at the College of Business Studies and for the past two and a half years I have been travelling everyday across the Yamuna to my college and everyday my heart is filled with shame and embarrassment at what we have done to the river that runs through our city as our lifeline.

ishwinder KAUR


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 ...


Support needed I am a resident of the Konkan region of Maharashtra. We are resisting the establishment of a thermal power plant at Jaigad in the Ratnagiri district for which land has already been procured.

The alphonso mango is the main crop of our region. The proposed plant will destroy mango plantations affecting the livelihoods of many farmers and create environmental problems in the region.

So, I request Down To Earth to publicise this issue and generate support for our cause.

Paresh bhave


Energy expansion
This is in response to the article 'Powering South Asia' (Down To Earth, October 31, 2006).I attended an energy summit in June organised by the Indian School of Mines at Kolkata titled India's Energy Security: Coal and Alternative Resources. I would like to highlight some of the key ideas discussed in the summit.

The summit noted that India imported nearly 75 per cent of its oil requirements and it's known that crude oil reserves would last for the next 20 years. A vision statement 2025 prepared by the ministries of power, coal and steel warned that we have to tap all possible resources to bridge the potential energy gap between consumption and availability.

Coal and lignite account for nearly 59 per cent of our energy consumption while nuclear power is 2.5 per cent. Experts also felt the need to relate the per capita energy consumption of our country with its growth. For India, it is 520 kg of oil equivalent (kgoe), while for us -7,835 kgoe, uk-3,906 kgoe, Japan-4,052 kgoe, and China-1,090 kgoe. To eradicate poverty and improve the standard of living of its people, a higher gdp rate of 8-10 per cent is projected. However, in a developing country like ours, a higher energy- gdp elasticity ratio would be achievable with a complementary expansion of the energy sector. It was also stated that according to a study done by the International Energy Agency, Paris, fossil-based fuels would account for almost 90 per cent of the total energy demand by 2010.


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