Press on Environment and Wildlife
Another Yamuna? (Issue of the week, August Week 3 (2005)) The Gomti is under threat. And the 28 lakh Lucknowites — who consume 460 liters of water everyday — are looking at the frightening possibility of a severe outbreak of water-borne diseases. Reason: The River might soon have more toxic untreated waste from sugar mills, paper mills and liquor distillaries that dot its banks. Moreover, it also has tonnes of household garbage and sewage that flows down the 495 nullahs everyday. The worst news of all — neither the Lucknow Jal Sansthan, nor the mills, are ready to incur the huge costs required to treat the water which would make it fit for drinking. The Lucknow Jal Sansthan has already written a series of letters to the Sugar Cane Department, the Pollution Control Board and the district administration, drawing their attention to the high density of molasses and other wastes dumped into the river. Most of these untreated wastes are being dumped at Sitapur and Lakhimpurkheri. One such letter specifically mentioned a chemical test, which showed that the Sugar Mills in Hargaon, Biswa, Ramgarh, Ajwanai, Kamlapur and Mahmoodpur were releasing their solid waste in the river. The Sansthan quoted a report of the Industrial Toxicology Research Centre, which talks about the increasing anoxic condition of the Gomti water. Translated, this means a fall in the oxygen levels in the water, resulting in native flora and fauna of the river perishing. ‘‘The wastes from sugar mills are polluting the water of Gomti. The water turns red when they release the molasses. Please do the needful immediately to stop this flow of molasses in the river,’’ the letter said. The district administration forwarded the letters to concerned departments as a routine matter. But all the industries junked the report, saying it did not hold water. The Sitapur District Sugarcane Department politely rejected the laboratory tests and said that nothing alarming was found on physical verification. Sources say none of the mills have a treatment plant — a mandatory requirement. ‘‘A treatment plant needs to spend a huge amount of money on to convert the solid waste to liquid and then tonnes of chlorine is required per week to purify it before flushing it out. But a tonne of chlorine costs Rs 12,500. Bleaching powder is equally costly. Obviously, their profit margin would slide if they incur this recurring cost,’’ reasoned an officer. But the Sansthan is also complaining about the costs it has to bear to treat the water. ‘‘Since all the waste flows down to Lucknow, the Jal Sansthan’s budget goes up, as we need more chlorine and bleaching powder to clean the water’’ the letter said. So far as residential wastes are concerned, the Pollution Control Board holds that it is due to the poor sewerage system. Rajiv Kumar Bajpai, Executive Engineer, Lucknow Jal Sansthan, said: ‘‘We need money for sewerage treatment. Earlier, there were sewage pumping stations to pump wastes in Gomti sewage farm. But with the development of the Gomtinagar area, it has stopped functioning’’ (The Indian Express, Tuesday, August 09, 2005).
Sariska closed down for the monsoons (August Week 3 (2005)) For the first time since it was declared a wildlife sanctuary in 1955, the Sariska Tiger Reserve has been closed till September end. Officially, the reason cited is the onset of monsoons, but forest department officials admit the real reason is their inability to prevent poachers who step up activity come the rains. According to a communiqué received from the state government, the reserve has been closed for effective enforcement against poachers. Another reason given is to ensure tiger breeding and identification of tiger habitats in the reserve. The state government says it wants to ensure effective patrolling as poachers are said to be very active during rains, as during monsoon spotting and catching a tiger is very easy as they can be seen near waterholes. Besides closing the sanctuary, a strong force of 100 home guards and 30 personnel of Rajasthan Armed Constabulary have been deployed in addition to local staff. The state government’s action is part of the monsoon patrolling scheme of the ministry. In all, 11 tiger reserves have been allocated Rs. 75.74 lakh for patrolling purpose. But Sariska is the only sanctuary that has been closed down.
Natural dyes and colors developed (August Week 3 (2005)) To reduce the use of chemical-based cosmetic materials, the Centre for Documentation, Research and Training on Natural Dyes, a unit of Gandhigram Trust, Dindigul, has developed cosmetic items including hair dye, which will hit the market shortly. Disclosing this at a consultative seminar-cum-workshop on natural dyes, sources, applications and future vision, held at the centre in Gandhigram last week, the Trust secretary, M. R. Rajagopalan said (The Hindu, August 09, 2005) experiments and trials were successful for manufacturing natural hair dye. Having standardised natural dyes for textile yarn, the centre has explored possibilities of making natural colors meant for art paints used by children and artists. It has also made considerable improvement in developing natural colors for wax and food items. Besides, research was intensified to make natural dyes in powder form. In his special address, Bharathan, natural dyes expert and in charge of the centre, said that natural dyes, non-toxic and non-hazardous, can be used for various applications such as coloring food, cosmetic things, art and crafts, painting and coating medium, writing and painting inks and even for household decorations. He added that even children can play with these colors and another good feature is that natural dyes, taken from fruits and used as food colors, are a great source of nutritive supplements. Even effluents and wastes generated after natural dyeing are best organic manure rich in nitrogen, potash and micronutrients and can be directly poured into land without treatment.
Photography competition! (August Week 3 (2005)) A state-level photography competition is being organized by the Malappuram-based cultural collective, ‘Rivertern’, in connection with the World Photography Day on August 19. The competition, in memory of the late environmental and social activist Monsoon Chandran, is being held under the aegis of the Malappuram District Information Bureau. The award comprises prize money and a citation. The first prize carries Rs 2,500, while the second and third prizes carry Rs 1,500 and Rs 1,000 respectively. The topic of the contest is ‘Vedana-Prakritiyude, Manushyante, Jeeva-jalangaludeyum’ (Pain - of nature, man and other living beings). A person is allowed a maximum of three entries. The entries in 12 x 18 CM size may be sent to the Secretary, Rivertern, Cultural Collective, Kalappadam Building, Down Hill, Malappuram. ( 9447314112). (The New Indian Express, Tuesday, August 09, 2005)
Tiger Task Force report submitted (August Week 3 (2005)) The report of the Tiger Task Force, submitted to the Prime Minister last Friday, has opened up a debate on whether tigers and humans can co-exist, with conservationists debunking the panel's recommendation that strategies for coexistence should be developed wherever people living close to tiger habitats cannot be relocated. Task Force Chairperson Sunita Narain stoutly defends the recommendation, arguing that one must 'make peace' with the impoverished people who feel that tigers are being protected at the cost of their rights and interests. In Sariska, one of the reasons for the tiger reserve facing an unprecedented crisis is the fact that relations with the local community 'broke down' and they became 'hostile' towards the tiger, she says. The report contains a dissenting note by Valmik Thapar, who reflects the view that such coexistence is impossible and that the Task Force should not be recommending measures that go against the spirit of conservation. 'We have recommended that large areas should remain inviolate for the tigers, and we don't oppose relocation programmes, but there is no way that all the villages in tiger reserves can be relocated,' Ms. Narain is reported to have said.
Discovery spots pollution over Africa (August Week 3 (2005)) Astronauts normally wax poetic when talking about the wondrous view from outer space of their blue-green-and-white home planet. But Discovery Commander Eileen Collins, who landed with her six crewmates last week in California after a 14-day historic mission, said she was sobered by signs of pollution over Africa. "One of the things I saw was in Africa, the massive burning taking place in the central part of Africa," Collins told a news conference in California. "I'm not sure why they do that." In Africa, Madagascar, and elsewhere, she said, "You can see deforestation taking place you can see it in the rivers and streams". Collins said that the rivers were brown instead of blue and you can see the erosion flowing out into the ocean. Many residents of rural Africa cut down sparse tree stands for fuel. In northern Kenya, for example, even the few trees remaining in barren stretches of the Rift Valley around lake Turkana region are harvested and turned into charcoal for shipment into urban areas.
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