Published: Monday 31 January 2005

Decoding Dahanu

The story about Dahanu's unresolved battle ('Black attack' jobs , Down To Earth , Vol 13, No 14, December 15, 2004) highlights how a big corporate like Reliance Energy Limited ( rel) blatantly evades orders of the High Court and Supreme Court under the nose of the Union ministry of environment and forests ( m o ef) . Today rel seems to be getting away despite not installing pollution control devices it promised to do so four years ago. rel is, in fact, making a joke of the whole judicial system.

It is also disheartening that the m o ef and the pollution boards are not taking responsibility in protecting eco-sensitive areas, or initiating criminal procedures against non-compliance. Instead, these authorities have put the entire onus of implementing the court order on the Dahanu Authority. In addition, they are helping rel evade the law by creating committees and giving it time to reopen issues like fgd plant requirements. Should Reliance be allowed to run its business at the cost of Dahanu's people and its fragile eco-system?

Also, despite our efforts to spread awareness among chiku farmers on the dangers of endosulphan, they continue to use it for pests, convinced as they are by an agricultural "expert" at an rel sponsored workshop in late 2003.

Bhoopinder Singh Bali
Dahanu Taluka Environment
Welfare Association
Dahanu Road, Maharashtra...

Having been associeated

Having been associated with Dahanu and its struggle against industrialisation lobbies ('Black attack', Down To Earth , Vol 13, No 14, December 15, 2004), I record my strong discontent on deliberate misrepresentations in the article. This will only help the 'industry-government nexus and their delaying tactics'. I also don't see any reason to highlight Mohan Bari's argument that chiku decline is a universal phenomenon, nothing to do with Thermal Power Project (tpp). Arguments of rainfall change or pest attacks are perpetrated by the tpp authorities, though disproved by an environment impact assessment by sacon (Salim Ali Centre for Ornithology and Natural History). You have ignored this report's findings to save the industry's face. The article in fact is a counterproductive black attack, targetted on every environment-conscious citizen of Dahanu.

P R Arun

India Centre for Human Rights and Law Dongri, Mumbai

Down To Earth replies

It is surprising to hear that we are "saving the industry's face", given the article's focus on industry's collusion with the m o ef. As for Shri Bari, we include the remarks of all the experts we meet, regardless of conflicting views....

License to kill

Thank you for taking up the cause of the nilgai ('Go hunt 'em', Down To Earth , Vol 13, No 11, October 31, 2004). The Punjab government's proposal to legalise the hunting of blue bulls and wild boars, under the pretext of saving crops, is shocking. There are around 3,000-4,000 blue bulls in the state.

Contrary to their image as pests, they are shy creatures that come out of the forests only when they cannot find enough food and water. It is the farmers who have encroached aggressively into their habitat with massive cultivation.

The blue bull has already vanished from southern India due to mismanagement of forests. An animal lover in Nepal tells me that the blue bull is included in The Red Book (listing endangered species) of that country.

Hunters coming in will disturb forest life and giving shooting orders for these two species will, in fact, give free access to other wildlife like black buck, sambhar , cheetal and wild birds. Instead, the government should subsidise crop insurance. The community could also find ways to guard their crops like putting up fences around their fields.

The wildlife department of Punjab, short of equipment and qualified personnel, already finds it difficult to keep a check on poachers and hunters, who are usually well connected and equipped in every aspect from weapons and vehicles to communication. Under these circumstances, issuing hunting orders is definitely not the saner option.

Sandeep K Jain
President, People For Animals
Ludhiana, Punjab...

Water of life?

Plastic pots (Down To Earth, Vol 13, No 15, Dec 31, 2004) are made from recycled plastic of doubtful origins. The water stored in them for a few hours tastes very bad. My farm is near a pot-making factory and the smell is unbearable.

I am sure analysis of stored water will be an even bigger story than the one on soft drink contamination was. I look forward to some news coverage on this.

M Suryaprakash

Chitosan scores

The chitosan found suitable as protection against typhoid 'Drug from waste', (Down To Earth, Vol 13, No 14, Dec 15, 2004) is also a promising natural coagulant in water treatment. It can work in place of alum or pac (powdered activated carbon), which lead to an increase in dissolved aluminium concentration in treated water.

Research in this area suggests that this natural polymer gives good results after water filtration for both high and low turbidity surface water at very low dose.

Monika Mandloi
Indore, Madhya Pradesh...

Picks of the postabag

As a former resident of New Delhi (my family moved there in 1955) and a transportation planner (I lead the production of the first comprehensive plan for the Los Angeles Region, the car capital of the world), I can only agree that the automobile has become its own worst enemy ('Cars, more cars', Down To Earth , Vol 13, No 14, Dec 15, 2004). Automobile overuse is one of the leading causes of death and disease. In the us, about 19-20 per cent of the average family's income goes into owning and operating automobiles and the resulting traffic ups the cost of living through delays, accidents, pollution and economic inefficiency. We in the us are now learning that there is no such thing as a solution to automobile overuse. In China, planners acknowledge that a more viable approach to transportation and communication would be to set up subways, trains, buses, cellular phones and bicycles. Yet, their own plans -- one car per family by 2025 -- are dictated by their political masters' determination to produce cars.

While India is still far from the auto-dominated society that is the us, it is rapidly entering the same path, but with a vast difference: the us has approximately 300 million vehicles in 7.769 million square kilometres (sq km) for 280 million people. India, to achieve a comparable ownership rate would need over a billion vehicles in less than 2.589 million sq km. Parking all these vehicles alone would require the dedication of 15 million sq km. Measure this against the (land) need for food, housing, people and public health. I sincerely hope that India does not become so blinded by the shortsighted economics of the automobile industry that it cannot think of a more humane alternative.

David Stein

Bad public transport leads to more personal vehicles. Yet all political parties are a party to it. But we don't have to invent, just follow the Singapore model. More public transport will lead to less usage of private vehicles, more employment, less fuel usage, saving in foreign money, comfort for the public and more votes for politicians.

Ganesan R P
Harmony Foundation
Hosur, Karnataka

Congestion and pollution (noise and air) are the most evident outcomes of more cars. New roads, flyovers, parking spaces and clean fuels may bring respite but cannot be solutions. All these pave the way for 'induced traffic growth'. Is this an indicator of economic growth or human development? Newman and Kenworthy (Sustainability and Cities: Overcoming Automobile Dependence) cite that "cities highly dependent upon cars do not necessarily perform better than cities with good public transportation". The other side is the price being paid for this growth, in subsidies and social costs, also inequality. The need of the hour is for urban planning and transportation planning to work hand in hand, with a good understanding of the environmental, social and economic implications of any policy measures and actions.
Jyotiraj Patra
University of Helsinki, Finland

The benign neglect of public transport verges on the criminal. Instead of this common solution, our governments build futile flyovers. In Bangalore, a new one-way system makes a four year old flyover pointless, and introduces a conflicting stream of traffic. Necessitating, police say, traffic lights on the flyover! Metro rails are next on the anvil. Having lived through the 20-odd years it took to build Kolkata's Metro, we shudder to think of what will happen when they start in Bangalore!

Jake &.

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