Published: Friday 15 December 2006

Pitfalls of democracy

This is in response to the article 'Subverting the demos' (Down To Earth, October 15, 2006). You have reported one side of the story. I invite all to visit the seven city municipal councils and one town municipal council in and around Bangalore to witness the way in which democracy, led by popular political leaders, functions.

In the past 15 years, hundreds of private projects have been sanctioned and approved by leaders in connivance with political parties. All the plots under these councils , which you have mentioned in the article, have already been sold. In fact one can see new-era silicon slums in areas like G M Palya, Kaggadasa Pura, Hulimavu, Bannerughatta Road, Hosur Road, Whitefield, K R Puram, which come under the city municipal councils.

This is a blot on Bangalore, which is yet to get roads, public transport facilities, schools and other basic facilities of life. The city is a hub for multinational corporations, top-notch Indian companies and the intelligentsia. It does not need the present variety of leaders. Instead, it needs leaders who can synchronise their mind with the pace with which the city is progressing.

B G Subhash

Surveys carried out in metros show that 60 per cent of people commute by buses. At least 20-30 per cent walk or bike, while the rest of the 10-20 per cent commute by car. This means, cars have failed to replace the bus or the bicycle, even in big cities. However, cars occupy almost 75 per cent of road space on average, crowding out buses and bicycles. Buses use only 7 per cent of road space. If the problem of increasingly unmanageable traffic congestion is to be solved, mass rapid transport systems must be expanded, which is eminently possible given that the construction cost of bus systems is roughly between 10-20 per cent of building conventional urban rail transit systems.

A bus-based system can also maximise environmental benefits of clean fuel like cng. Under a properly regulated transport sector, including tight restrictions on the number of transport operators, major urban roadway corridors can be redesigned to re-allocate scarce road space to buses. This can help reversing the trend of private motorisation. With the right political will, I believe, this approach could go a long way in ensuring sustainability in urban transport.

Robert Desbiens

I have a few concerns regarding the kind of development that Bangalore is currently experiencing.

Almost the entire road space of this software hub is crowded by private cars, most of them occupied by single passengers. Office-goers rarely use company vehicles, let alone opting for the public transport system. This results in heavy traffic load on routes like Hosur road, which connects most of the software companies. Can we educate our software companies and their employees to use company-sponsored mass transport systems?

Areas in the heart of the city, like the Town Hall and City Corporation, have a heavy traffic load during peak hours and one can easily get stuck for an hour or two. But the state government has no plans to construct flyovers or bridges in these areas. It fears that construction work will disrupt traffic for a year or two. But if this is not done, the areas will have to handle unsustainable traffic loads in the forthcoming years.

Transparent India

This is in response to the editorial 'Another India is [not] ours' (Down To Earth, October 31, 2006).I fear that corruption and bribery will continue to be part of our systems, unless we take unprecedented steps to weed them out. We need to adopt total transparency and accountability. I believe the total implementation of the Right to Information Act, 2005, and its strict enforcement at all levels holds the key. A step towards this can be to put transactions (both by individuals and organisations) on the web and put in place biometric smart cards for unique identification of every citizen and every transaction. Besides, politics and the bureaucracy must take a back seat. Instead administration by local communities through panchayati raj institutions should be given due recognition.

Kris dev

Climate factors

This is in response to the editorial 'Climate change denial must stop' (Down To Earth, September 30, 2006). Last week I saw two good approaches (you may not know them).

Stuart Hart, professor of Cornell University--who is promoting the "base of the pyramid" business model for sometime already--introduced a synonym for "leapfrogging" that makes the intention more concrete: the world needs "disruptive innovations". Braungart and McDonough are building new cities in China, which pretend to be impact-neutral by the materials used, etc. It is a shame, that the main climate ngos have neglected the issue of fair emission trade, i.e. equal per capita allocations, as the only way to make the Kyoto Protocol attractive for all developing countries and many poor in developed countries, due to their inability to cooperate with development ngos.

Paul E Metz


In a recent presentation, I had stated that arid zones like Rajasthan would soon receive heavy rainfall and wet areas like Assam would experience drought. Just after two days, Rajasthan was inundated. The problem with the state is that underneath its sand layers, there lies a layer of gypsum (with almost zero porosity), which does not allow water to pass through it.

This clogging of water converted the whole of Rajasthan into a lake. But, very few acknowledge that such sudden floods in India are the effects of climate change. Let us consider few factors. One, inclination of the earth has changed from 21.8 to 24.4, thereby shifting water from the Indian Ocean towards the Pacific. Two, the size of the sun too has increased by 25 per cent, resulting in a rise in temperatures. Greenhouse gases further compound the problem. Jointly, these explain why there is an overall decrease in water and increase in temperature, thereby resulting in more precipitation.

Khalidbinswaleedn11@yahoo.co.in ...

Forest conservation

This is in response to the article 'Hubli-Ankola train line' (Down to Earth, October 31, 2006). During 1946-56, I was mapping the forest in Karnataka, through which the proposed railway line is to pass, to help prepare forest working plans. During World War II, forests were worked for war supplies of timber regardless of plan prescriptions. So, a quick system for enumeration of trees was developed to arrive at precise growing stock to prescribe sustainable felling. From experience, I can say the area's ecology, which has received the attention of conservationists, houses a rich life system. I request all to stop construction of the proposed railway line.

S s Chitwadgi (Retd )
Indian Forest Service


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 ...


Aedes concern This is in response to your reportage on chikungunya. The Aedes aegypti mosquito lives indoors in dark moist corners and does not fly long distances. This makes it vulnerable to indoor spraying of ddt, particularly in places where the insects rest at night. who recommends indoor use of ddt. Since a long time has elapsed after the insects had been exposed to the insecticide, hopefully they will not be resistant to it now.

There is another promising line of attack. If we overwhelm the virile males by releasing large numbers of males sterilised by relatively mild radiation, the number of viable eggs laid by the females will be seriously affected. Bhabha Atomic Research Centre has the necessary expertise. There had been a pilot project targeting the mosquito in Delhi in the mid-1960s in collaboration with us scientists. However, following an uproar in parliament, the project was hurriedly wound up. Since Aedes also transmits dengue and several other dangerous diseases, it was a pity that the lead was not followed up.

Chittaranjan Ray (R etired scientist)
Central Drug Research Institute, Lucknow

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