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16-31 MAY, 2016


DEVELOPMENT, ENVIRONMENT AND HEALTH Subscriber copy, not for resale `45.00

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Why everybody failed

to put out the fire in
Uttarakhand's forests

01Cover.indd 1 09/05/16 3:38 PM

A Down To Earth ANNUAL

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than 30 years of research and
reportage, equips you with incisive
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This year it is bigger, better
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Science and religion | Mining | Green
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02DTE Annual 2016 Ad.indd 59 06/05/16 2:44 PM


E KNOW that we have a serious garbage problem. through the already well-organised informal waste-recycling sec-
But the problem is not about finding the right tor. The municipality has ended up saving a huge capital cost it
technology for waste disposal. The problem is how would have otherwise incurred for collection and transportation.
to integrate the technology with a system of house- But this is one part of the waste solution. The other is to make
hold-level segregation so that waste does not end sure there is no place for the unsegregated waste to go. This means
up in landfills, but is processed and reused. It is clear that there will taking tough steps to manage landfills in cities. In fact, the msw
be no value from waste, as energy or material, if it is not segregated. (draft) Rules, 2015, accept that landfills should only be used for re-
But this is where our waste management system stops short. sidual waste that is non-usable, non-recyclable, non-biodegrada-
It is the responsibility of the urban local body to ensure segre- ble, non-combustible and non-reactive. It goes on to state that eve-
gation of waste at source as per the Municipal Solid Waste (msw) ry effort will be made to recycle or reuse the rejects to achieve the
Rules, 2015. This means the body must get citizens to segregate desired objective of zero waste to landfill. This is an important de-
waste at the household level and then ensure that this segregated parture from previous policies, which ended up emphasising the
wastewet and dry, compostable and recyclableis collected sep- need for sanitary landfills.
arately and transported separately for processing. The question is how to enforce this policy. Currently, all con-
The easier solution is to collect and dump. Or to believe that un- tracts for waste management awarded by city governments to pri-
segregated waste can be sorted out mechanical- vate concessionaires have a perverse incentive
ly at the processing plant itself and burnt. to bring larger quantities of waste to the dump-
Officials of urban local bodies have been given site. Under these contracts the contractor is
to believe this is the magic bullet: collect, sort paid against the volume of waste deposited on
and burn. But as experience across Indiaand the site. This tipping fee as it is known means
from the rest of the worldshows, if waste is that the higher the volume brought the greater
not segregated then it will make poor quality the financial reward. City municipalities also
fuel. This will not work. find that the collection, transport and dump-
Segregation at source should therefore be ing of waste is an easier proposition than pro-
at the heart of municipalities solid waste man- cessing it for reuse.
agement system. The only city that has truly To change this, it is necessary to impose a
adopted segregation is Panaji. Municipal offi- landfill tax. The contracts need to be rede-
cials have ensured a citywide system that is de- signed so that instead of the municipality pay-
signed to collect household waste on different ing for the waste brought to the landfill, the
days for different waste streams. This ensures contractor should be made to pay a tipping fee
separation. It is combined with penalties for for the waste. In this way, instead of being paid
non-segregated waste and has promoted colo- to bring waste to the landfill, the contractor or
ny-level processing as well. Most importantly, for the bulk of com- city municipality would have to pay a fee to dispose of the waste. This
mercial establishments such as hotels it has a bag-marking system will provide financial viability to the waste-processing industry and
so that any non-compliance can be caught and fined. also ensure that as little as possible waste reaches the landfill.
In Keralas Alappuzha segregation happens differently. Here We need to turn the system of garbage management on its head.
the municipality does not collect waste because it has no place to Only then will we really clean our citiesnot just sweep the dirt un-
take it to for disposal. The citys only landfill has been sealed by vil- der the carpet.
lagers who live in its vicinity. This withdrawal of the municipality
from waste management has meant that the people have to man-
age their waste, or be drowned in it. They segregate and compost
what they can. The compost is used for growing vegetables and
plants in their homesteads. The problem is how to handle all the
non-biodegradable wastepaper, plastic, aluminum tins, etc. This
is where the government has stepped in. It promotes collection @sunitanar

16-31 MAY 2016 3

03Editors.indd 3 10/05/16 10:34 AM

Down To Earth
EDITOR Sunita Narain
Richard Mahapatra
`Water birds are declining in
Vibha Varshney, Archana Yadav,
S S Jeevan
MULTIMEDIA EDITOR Arnab Pratim Dutta Kate Brandis is joint research fellow at the
Centre for Ecosystem Science, University of New
South Wales and Australian Nuclear Science
Technology Organisation. She speaks to Down To
Anupam Chakravartty, Jitendra Choubey, Earth about her recent study on the decline in
Kundan Pandey, Rajeshwari Ganesan, water birds in Australia. Brandis says that the
Shreeshan Venkatesh, Karnika Bahuguna. decline is due to a number of reasons, chief
Jigyasa Watwani
among them being the damming of rivers,
alterations to natural water flow, reduced
Snigdha Das, Rajat Ghai, Jemima Rohekar,
Aditya Misra, Rajit Sengupta, Deepanwita wetland habitats and opportunities for water
Niyogi, Aakriti Shrivastava, Priya Talwar bird breeding.
Chaitanya Chandan, Shri Krishan,
Raj Kumar Singh, Tarique Aziz, Ritika Bohra
PHOTOGRAPHER Vikas Choudhary
`Indigenous cattle breeds are being revived' A record 175 nations
signing the Paris
Agreement is a
Rajendra Rawat, Jaidev Sharma
welcome step, but
Rakesh Shrivastava, Gundhar Das tough work lies
ahead, says Vijeta

Kiran Pandey team
Chandra Bhushan, Anumita Roychowdhury cities denounce a
Vol 25, No 1; Total No of Pages 80
loophole in diesel
Editorial, subscriptions and advertisements: Society for cars' pollution
Environmental Communications,
41, Tughlakabad Institutional Area, Union Minister for a number of schemes to limits. Are diesel
New Delhi 110 062, Agriculture, Radha Mohan improve such breeds, cars dying, asks
Phone: 91-11- 29955124,
29956110, 29956394, 29956399 Singh speaks to Down To which are better able to Anumita Roychowdhury
Fax: 91-11-29955879. Earth on a number of issues survive drought and thus
2005 Society for Environmental Communications. including indigenous Indian support the livelihoods of POPULAR
All rights reserved throughout the world. Reproduction cattle breeds. According their owners. Singh said
in any manner is prohibited. Printed and published by
Richard Mahapatra on behalf of Society for Environmental to Singh, the National the schemes launched for On web
Communications. Printed at International Print-o-Pac Democratic Alliance the breeds would soon Even 0.5oC more global
Limited, B-204, 205, Okhla Industrial Area, Phase I, New
Delhi-110020 india and published at 41, Tughlakabad government has launched begin to yield results. warming can have big
Institutional Area, New Delhi 110 062.
To subscribe, sms 'dte Subscribe' to 56070 climate impacts
or visit No cock-and-bull story this
tribal-dominated district On Facebook

Jyoti Ghosh in the western corner of India and Germany sign
Madhya Pradesh, and finds agreement for cleaning
K C R Raja out how a local breed of the Ganga poultry, the legendary
COVER DESIGN Ajit Bajaj Kadaknath, is resurrecting On Twitter
COVER PHOTO Vikas Chowdhary the livelihoods of farmers `Environment is not a
Down To Earth travels to affected by successive matter of luxury; it is one
the interiors of Jhabua, a rounds of drought. of survival'
Down To Earth editorial does not
endorse the content of advertisements
printed in the magazine @down2earthindia

4 DOWN TO EARTH 16-31 MAY 2016

04Web & Credits.indd 4 06/05/16 5:25 PM



The challenge of forecasting fog
This refers to the article Walking deep into the fog (1-15 February, 2016). Fog
is a complex micro-climate event, which needs precise monitoring of weather
and data analysis for a good prognosis. Historical data about its intensity,
onset, withdrawal as well as diurnal variation is equally important for a better
forecasting model.
Every winter, fog causes adverse conditions over large parts of north India,
disrupting trains and flights and causing huge revenue losses. Crores of rupees
are being spent on modernising airports across north India but unfortunately
there is a lack of modern equipment to precisely record fog data and the
parameters responsible for its formation.
As a weather scientist, I think that India has a long way to go in the field of
complex micro-meteorological events like fog, haze, mist, dew and frost which
are annual in nature. However, creating a good network of precise instruments for
monitoring fog, data collection and analysis can help in its accurate forecasting.
Nothing is impossible for the dedicated scientists of India, who can surely achieve
this goal.

divisions and that most Jat miserable and they are

To affirm or not
(and other landed castes) not finding brides for their
to affirm
families are quitting farming sons due to poor financial
Down To Earth welcomes
The story of the Jat agitation and looking for jobs, appears conditions. This also does
letters, responses and
for reservation in government to be incorrect. If that were not hold water. No Jat can be
other contributions from
jobs as presented in Going the case, how is our food grain seen working as a labourer.
readers. Send to Sunita
backwards (16-31 March, production increasing every Instead, they are present
Narain, Editor, Down To
2016) is full of paradoxes. year with minor variations? in the highest echelons of
Earth, 41, Tughlakabad
Saying that farming is no Ditto for our fruit, vegetables society. The bride scarcity
Institutional Area,
more a sustainable vocation and dairy products. Further, is due to falling sex ratio,
New Delhi - 110062. Email:
because of shrinking land the narrative says that the which is of the Jats' own doing
holdings due to family Jats are down and out and on account of their strong

16-31 MAY 2016 5

05-07Letters.indd 5 06/05/16 3:10 PM



preference for male children. I agree with the views produce remain a ticklish issue
In shrinking land holdings too, expressed by the authors while farmers are forced to
we can adopt micro-farming that the happenings in sell their produce as these
techniques to raise cash crops. Haryana and other parts of are mostly perishable due to
The Jats know this very well. the country boil down to one inadequate storage facilities.
The Jats are agitating for the reason: an agrarian crisis. D B N MURTHY
reservation in government The agriculture sector, the BENGALURU

jobs because their peers in backbone of our economy, is

other states have got it. It is a in dire straits. Many reforms What happened in
ploy to assert themselves in are needed to bring back the Haryana was shameful. More
Haryana's political scene. In sector into good shape while shockingly, in spite of what
fact, the entire reservation creating jobs relevant to it. happened, the Centre still
structure has been badly Private companies too should has not made up its mind to
messed up by politicians to the show interest in this much- put an end to the off-and-on
detriment of our national unity neglected sector to usher in reservation crisis. The prime
and harmony. management expertise as minister has to clear the air
NEERA J well as technology in solving by taking into confidence
KISHORE SHARMA agriculture-related problems. all political parties and
Remunerative prices for farm emphasising that reservations
Disagree. It is just that science graduates are science graduate with the task of protecting
taking the Indian Forest Service (IFS) exam and forests when s/he may not at all be interested
clearing it. If forestry students are losing out on in the welfare of nature? It is simple logic.
their own turf, it is their problem. They should BIPENDRA SINGH
study harder and better.
Do you agree with the ANKIT SAHAY I agree. The very fact that our forests are faring
poorly shows that those in charge of them are
charge that forestry I agree. This could be happening. Our country not well-trained in the principles of forestry.
graduates are being is well-known for such oddities. And if it is GHAFFAR AHMED
happening, then, what is the use of imparting
sidelined in favour of special forestry education to students? Disagree. It is very easy to form an assumption.
the science ones for the RITA ANAND Do we have concrete proof that this is really
Indian Forest Service? I agree. How can you select and entrust a S D DANIEL

6 DOWN TO EARTH 16-31 MAY 2016

05-07Letters.indd 6 06/05/16 3:10 PM


are not the panacea to all ills plaguing the hard. The last two years have seen poor
nation. He also needs to lay down clear-cut monsoons due to the El Nio effect and
policies on reservations. Otherwise, such all this is very vividly brought out in great
conflagrations will keep on recurring. detail in the article. My respect for Indian
K R SRINIVASAN women, especially in rural India, has
SECUNDERABAD grown enormously after going through the
article. Thank you for creating awareness.
By bowing to the demands of the
Jat protesters, the Haryana and Central VIA EMAIL
governments have only left the field
open for more such tragic incidents to
recur. Violent protest tactics are the
act of enemies of the nation. There is
no second opinion that the demand given the alarming levels of poverty in Pathashaala
Palar Centre For Learning
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NEW DELHI should look at problems like Khandadhar
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This refers to the article Fight for that we do not strike a judicious balance. an environmentally sustainable way of
When we think of development, we forget living while working towards a CIE
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evacuation or degradation, open pit This refers to the article Long Walk (16- APPLY AT
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any pre-existing habitation, forest or parts of India. The stark reality is that teacher-application/
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05-07Letters.indd 7 06/05/16 3:10 PM

Lethal malaise
Ovine rinderpest, a deadly disease
which affects sheep and goats, is
spreading across the globe
Not worth its salt
Desalination is neither an economic
nor environment-friendly solution to
solve Chennai's water woes



Magic of Kadaknath
Jhabua's indigenous chicken, which had
almost become extinct, is now providing
employment to drought-ridden farmers

Undermining authority Fresh and
State governments frame their own rules vis-a- calorie-
vis forests, overriding the Forest Rights Act
New start-ups, which deliver
fresh food that is also calorie- 24
proper, are entering the Indian
16 market


8 DOWN TO EARTH 16-31 MAY 2016

08-09Contents.indd 8 09/05/16 2:08 PM

There she beaches
Scientists are still struggling to find out
what causes whales to beach

Deadly particles
A new study says prolonged
exposure to PM2.5 could
increase cancer risk by 22
per cent 56
Europa's fall
The European Union has
consistently been vacating
44 its leadership space to the
US in successive
48 INTERVIEW climate negotiations

Ganga not
Union Water Minister
Uma Bharati on
cleaning India's
holiest river
Waiting to happen?
The forest fires that struck parts of One is
the Indian Himalayas could have company
been prevented, had authorities How did humans evolve
not been apathetic and forest into monogamous beings?
dwellers, alienated

d Drought
ng Understanding Musical
s emotion Pirates Inc. lessons
Where does A normal
A new book delves into the complex one draw the monsoon this
field of neuroscience to understand line between year won't help
what causes positive and genuine musical India unless we
negative feelings inspiration and harvest water
plain plagiarism? properly

Far-reaching changes 54
ANALYSIS A year after a devastating quake
Mission modernisation struck Nepal, scientists are unearthing 58
Modernising India's coal plants to comply changes in the country's geology
with the new rules that come into force next
year would be an uphill task



The other P L A N E T P E O P L E P O L I T I C S

side of
Silk cotton has
culinary uses too,
in addition to
serving as fuel Supplement Editor: Souparno Banerjee
and fodder Copy: Diksha Chopra and Arif Ayaz Parrey
Design: Ajit Bajaj, Ritika Bohra and Surender Singh
Illustration: Sorit Gupto, Tarique Aziz and Ritika Bohra

16-31 MAY 2016 9

08-09Contents.indd 9 09/05/16 2:08 PM



A Good Addiction


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10DTEsubscribe ad.indd 10 06/05/16 12:48 PM



Rinderpest spreading across globe POINT

O V I N E R I N D E R P E S T known Maldives. The outbreaks came on the
scientifically as Peste Des Petits heels of similar episodes in western The amount German
Ruminants (ppr), a livestock disease Turkey and mainland China. In the nuclear firms should
which severely affects goats and past 20 years, ppr has spread rapidly, pay for financing the
sheep, is spreading across the world mostly in Africa, Central and South country's nuclear
phase-out by 2022
and has already hit 76 countries.
Georgia recently reported its
Asia and the Middle East. ppr, which
was first detected in Cote d'Ivoire in
first-ever case of ppr, while a new 1942, causes more than $ 2 billion of
outbreak has occurred in the losses each year. Source: German government panel

16-31 MAY 2016 11

11-15The Fortnight.indd 11 06/05/16 3:12 PM



THE HEAT IS ON A boy cools himself with water from a borewell on the floodplain of the Yamuna river in Delhi's Mayur Vihar neighbourhood.
Temperatures had been steadily rising across India from March this year and have peaked in May. Sri Ganganagar in Rajasthan (46.3C) and
Titlagarh in Odisha (48.5C) have recorded the highest temperatures till now this summer. More than 300 people have died across India due to the
heat wave, especially in Telangana, Andhra Pradesh and Odisha.

Ocean oxygen levels Only four states collect funds for

dropping due to mining-impacted areas
climate change A Y E A R since the Centre
amended the Mines and Minerals
Development and Regulation Act to
A N E W study has found that increasing global mandate the creation of the District
temperatures are decreasing the levels of Mineral Foundation (dmf), only four
dissolved oxygen in the world's oceans, which of 12 major mineral-rich states
would be evident between 2030 and 2040. The have been able to collect funds for
study, conducted by the US National Centre for it. As per the amendment, mining
Atmospheric Research (NCAR), was published in companies are to pay a certain
the journal Global Biogeochemical Cycles. The percentage of their royalties to
research team simulated the impact of climate the dmf, which would use them for
change on deoxygenation on the Yellowstone the welfare of the people affected

supercomputer, which is operated by NCAR's by mining. Official data shows

Community Earth System Model. The team found that Odisha topped the list by
that deoxygenation in the southern Indian Ocean collecting ` 274 crore. Chhattisgarh
and parts of the eastern tropical Pacific and was second, followed by Madhya
Atlantic basins was widespread and by 2030 and Pradesh and Goa. But Andhra
2040, the regions would go without oxygen, which Pradesh, Gujarat, Jharkhand, and Telangana are yet to collect
would make it harder for marine life to breathe. Karnataka, Maharashtra, Rajasthan any amount for dmf.

12 DOWN TO EARTH 16-31 MAY 2016

11-15The Fortnight.indd 12 09/05/16 11:24 AM


On April 27, the NGT expressed concern

I N FO C U S I N CO U RT over the grave situation created by
dumping of municipal solid waste in the
Avicenna's vision On April 19, the National Green
Tribunal (NGT) dismissed the appeal
vicinity of Srinagar's Anchar Lake and
admonished municipal authorities for
in the case of Rajesh Kumar vs
not making any effort to install a
Ministry of Environment which
Waste-to-Energy plant.
assailed the environmental
clearance granted to M/s R S Joint On April 19, the Himachal Pradesh
Venture for stone mining in Rajawas High Court issued notice to the
village of Mahendragarh district on Central and state governments on
July 3, 2015. the issue of declaring monkeys
On April 28, the Ministry of Jammu & Kashmir vermin within the Shimla Municipal
Environment, Forest and Corporation's jurisdiction.
Climate Change and Delhi Himachal Pradesh
Metro Rail Corporation Haryana On April 22, the ngt
informed the NGT that Metro ordered re-inspection of

Delhi Uttar Pradesh the premises of Coca-

rail projects were not
required to seek Bihar Cola's Hapur plant to
environmental clearance. investigate whether it was
discharging effluents into
a nearby pond.
On April 18, the Supreme
On April 20, the Patna High Court
German researchers have uncovered evidence Court said in its order that
Tamil Nadu directed the state Public Health
of the Persian polymath Ibn Sina's (known as the NGT's order imposing
Engineering Department to
Avicenna in Europe) sighting of Supernova hefty fines on polluters
submit a status report and action
1006 (SN 1006). including state agencies
plan to meet the acute water
and industries of the
SN 1006 appeared without warning in April crisis in Patna city.
Ulhas and Waldhuni rivers
of the year 1006 AD (397 of the Islamic Hijri would remain effective.
calendar) and then gradually faded from view a
few months later. On April 28, the Supreme Court dismissed
At its peak, the celestial wonder was reportedly a fresh review petition filed against its
brighter than the planet Venus, even though it order permitting the Gas Authority of
was blazing at a distance of about 7,200 India to lay pipelines through farmlands in
light-years. western Tamil Nadu.

In their research paper, Ralph Neuhaeuser, Carl SO FAR...

Total cases on
Ehrig-Eggert and Paul Kunitzsch have stated SUPREME HIGH NATIONAL GREEN
environment and
that Avicenna had described seeing SN COURT COURTS TRIBUNAL
development tracked
1006 in his text, Kitab al-Shifa, that was
about subjects like physics, meteorology, and
since January 1, 2016, 33 47 338
till April 29, 2016
especially astronomy.
According to the Germans' translation, Ibn
Sina wrote that the object was tailless Gujarat HC issues notices to Centre,
which distinguished it from the more common
transient objects, comets with tails. state on power to frame forest policy
At the beginning it was towards a darkness and THE GUJARAT High Court has issued notices to the Centre and Gujarat on a petition
greenness, then it began to throw out sparks challenging the power of the state government to frame forest policy. The division
and then it became more and more whitish. The bench, led by Chief Justice R Subhash Reddy, issued the notices, seeking a response by
new star was getting fainter and fainter June 14. The petitioner, the owner of Saavaj Resorts in the Gir forest, filed the petition
until it disappeared, wrote Ibn Sina. through lawyer Hemang Shah. He has contended that according to Rule-5 of Section 3
SN 1006 was noted and described by of the Environment (Protection) Act, policy pertaining to environmental law is a Central
others around the world, from places subject. In July, 2015, the Gujarat government had submitted the draft of a uniform policy
as far-flung as Morocco, Japan, Yemen and on commercial establishments in the Gir forest before the court on a suo motu petition
China, but none of those descriptions included against illegal constructions in and around the reserved forest area.
information about the object changing colours. Compiled by DTE-CSE Data Centre. For detailed verdicts, visit

16-31 MAY 2016 13

11-15The Fortnight.indd 13 06/05/16 3:12 PM


Deadly wheat fungus appears in Asia

B A N G L A D E S H I A U T H O R I T I E S and farmers are struggling was first discovered in 1985 in Brazil's Parana state. Scientists at
to contain the first Asian outbreak of wheat blast, a fungal disease the Bangladesh Agricultural Research Institute (bari) in Nashipur
that periodically destroys wheat crops in South America. The have warned that the disease could spread through Bangladesh
disease was first detected in Bangladesh in February 2016 and has to northern India and eastern Pakistan. Bangladeshi officials are
already caused the loss of more than 15,000 hectares of crops in burning government-owned wheat fields to contain it. The reason
the country. It is caused by the fungus Magnaporthe oryzae and for the disease's appearance in Bangladesh is unknown.

W H Y : Efficient growth requires

2 years
Imprisonment a village inhabitant will be awarded
that the employment content of a
rupee of output falls. The same inputs
must produce more output. So, the
employment elasticity of output is
in Bihar if s/he cooks in the summer between 9 low. A one per cent increase in output
am and 6 pm. The government has ordered this may lead to, say, a fifth of one per
because of the scorching summer heat in Bihar. cent increase in employment. But
this effect can be counterbalanced if
66 The number of people who died in Bihar in output growth is high. If GDP growth
April due to the heat wave that has swept the
state, prompting the government decision. Low growth rate to blame is 2 per cent, employment growth
will be 0.4 per cent in the earlier
W H O : Yoginder K Alagh
example. That is less than work force
300 The number of huts burnt in Begusarai Chancellor, Central University of
growth so unemployment will rise.
district on April 26 allegedly due to cooking fires Gujarat, Gandhinagar
and scorching summer heat. But if GDP grows by 10 per cent,
W H A T : The Labour Bureau has
released fresh data, according to which employment will rise by 2 per cent.
300 The number of deaths that have occurred no new jobs were created but there was Our challenge is to encourage labour
across India due to the heat wave of early actually a decline of 20,000 jobs across saving technologies, but we also have
summer, especially in Telangana, Andhra eight labour-intensive sectors in the a low rate of growth which makes the
Pradesh and Odisha. December quarter of 2015. unemployment story grim.

Myanmar bans lucrative logging to preserve forests

T H E N E W LY- E L E C T E D Resources and Environmental
government of Myanmar has Conservation, told Reuters.
banned logging in the country Myanmar's rich forests were
to preserve its rich forests. plundered by the former military
We have been reducing junta that ruled the country till
timber extraction, and now we reforms began in 2011. Despite
have decided to stop logging a ban on export of raw timber in
completely. This measure will 2014, illegal logging has thrived
cover teak and other hardwoods in northeast Myanmar, where
all across the country,John valuable teak and rosewood are
Swe Ba, a managing director at smuggled over the border to
HTOO TAY ZAR Myanmar's Ministry of Natural neighbouring China.

14 DOWN TO EARTH 16-31 MAY 2016

11-15The Fortnight.indd 14 06/05/16 3:12 PM


India spends
very little
on health
T H E C E N T R E recently informed
Parliament that the total expenditure
on health as percentage to Gross
Domestic Product (gdp) for India in

2012 was merely 3.8 per cent. This was
less than the share poorest countries
were devoting to health. As per world
health statistics 2015 published by the
World Health Organization, the total
expenditure on health as percentage
Hydro output in 2015-16 low
of GDP in 2012 for India is 3.8 per cent I N D I A ' S H Y D R O power generation said the generation from hydro power
as compared to Burundi's 8.2 per cent, during 2015-2016 was lower than the stations depended on inflow due to
Central African Republic 3.8 per cent, expected target due to less rainfall. rainfall in the catchment area, snow-
Democratic Republic of Congo 3.6 per Hydroelectric power produced in melt in the case of Himalayan rivers
cent, Malawi 9.2 per cent and Niger 6.1 2015-16 was 121.34 billion units (BU) and available storage. "The generation
per cent, Union Minister for Health J against the target of 128 BU mainly will be generally less if there is
P Nadda said in a written reply to the due to lesser rainfall experienced in shortfall in rainfall in catchment
Rajya Sabha. Nadda said the per capita some regions of the country, Union area. Any shortage in hydro power
government expenditure on health Minister of State with Independent generation is tackled on the basis
in India was $18 in 2012 as compared Charge for Power, Coal, New and of increased generation from other
to $3,618 for developed European Renewable Energy Piyush Goyal said in sources, depending on transmission
countries like Germany. a written reply to the Lok Sabha. Goyal availability, he said.

A new study has shown that

there has been significant

greening (increase in leaves of
plants and trees) on Earth over
the past 33 years. The
researchers attribute it to
increased carbon dioxide in the
atmosphere due to
industrialisation. This increase
in leaves is equivalent to an
area about twice the size of the
continental US. This could
fundamentally change the
cycling of water and carbon in "I believe that
the climate system. But the
climate change
denial is a form of
researchers say that this does
mental illness"
not mean steps should not be Alec Baldwin,
A map showing the change in leaf area across the globe from 1982-2015. Green colour depicts taken to curb carbon emissions.
increase while red depicts decrease in green cover
Hollywood Actor

16-31 MAY 2016 15

11-15The Fortnight.indd 15 06/05/16 3:12 PM



New rules are undermining
the authority given to
gram sabhas by the Forest

Rights overruled
Rights Act

States are making their

HEN JUAL Oram, Union trib- conflict with the provisions of fra. Activists
al affairs minister, wrote to agree, saying that state governments are
own rules to reclaim the Odisha Chief Minister Nav-
een Patnaik earlier this ye-
setting up parallel structures to circumvent
fra and reinforce the authority of the for-
authority over forests ar, he fanned a simmering controversy. In a est department.
letter dated February 23, Oram protested a The Scheduled Tribes and Other Tradi-
from tribes, derailing new forest management scheme launched tional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of
community forest rights by the Odisha government.
The Ama Jangal Yojana (ajy) or My
Forest Rights) Act, 2006, or fra, was the
first law to enable tribal communities to
ANUPAM CHAKRAVARTTY Forest Scheme, implemented in 2015, em- claim rights over forest lands on which they
| new delhi powers nearly 5,000 forest protection com-
mittees to manage forests. But Oram reit-
were traditionally dependent. It recognised
their community rights over common
erated that gram sabhas were central to property resources and the right to regen-
decision-making on matters related to erate forest produce for their own use. But
community forest resources, and not the activists say that by reintroducing the for-
forest protection committees formed under est department in the management of for-
ajy. As the nodal implementing agency for est resources, schemes like ajy ensure that
the Forest Rights Act (fra), 2006, the control over non-timber forest products
Union Ministry of Tribal Affairs (mota) (ntfp) remains with the department.
was concerned that ajy provisions were in Even as mota opposes Odisha, it has

16 DOWN TO EARTH 16-31 MAY 2016

16-18Forests.indd 16 09/05/16 10:26 AM


maintained a stoic silence over similar de-

velopments in Maharashtra and Madhya Claims in progress
Pradesh, especially after facing heat from States perform poorly when it comes to granting of Community Forest Rights
within the Union government. The tussle
over forests is not likely to be resolved any- Madhya Pradesh How to read graphic
time soon, with the tribal welfare wing of 40,913 XXXX (Number of community claims
made till Jan 31, 2016)
the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (rss) 21,909
speaking out against bjp governments in N/A XXXX (Number of community titles
distributed till Jan 31, 2016)
the two states. N/A XXXX (Number of community claims
pending till Jan 31, 2016)
Claim over forests XXXX (Number of claims rejected till
Over the past two years, attempts to dilute Jan 31, 2016)
fra have become more blatant (see Un-
dermining forest rights p18). On May 13,
2014, Maharashtra invoked a largely for-
gotten provision of the Indian Forest Act,
1927, and notified the Maharashtra Village
Forest Rules, 2014, without consulting
mota. Village Forest Rules (vfr) enable the
Maharashtra Chhattisgarh Odisha
state government to extend the manage-
7,152 NIL 12,872
ment and collection of forest produce to (The state has not yet initiated
gram sabhas for protected and reserved for- 3,436 the process of Community
ests. At the time, the Prithviraj Chavan-led 1,873 Forest Rights) 7,517
government had said the move would help 1,843 319
improve the forest cover of the state. Since *Source: Union Ministry of Tribal Affairs
then, 67 villages in Maharashtra have been
given village forest rights.
But vfr seems to erode the empower- Fine print
ing character of fra (see Fine print). The How states are trying to wrest control from communities
new rules require the creation of a Van
FRA provisions Violations by new rules
Vyavsthapan Samiti or joint forest manage-
ment committee (jfmc) with a forest offic- The gram sabha is solely empowered to pass MAHARASHTRA: According to Village Forest
er as member-technical. This officer, con- resolutions to manage forests. The National Rules, a forest officer is assigned to the
sidered equivalent to the secretary of the Forest Rights Act Committee (NFRAC) states that panchayat after the gram sabhas send
panchayat, can advise the committee on wherever community forest rights are resolutions to manage forests. The
recognised, joint forest management committees management of forests is carried out by JFMCs
matters relating to extraction and manage-
(JFMC) will be scrapped
ment of forest produce. The ownership of
all harvested products remains with the No forest committee can charge a fee for MADHYA PRADESH: Under Protected
forest department. Under fra, however, grazing or any other activity once community Forest Rules, residents may be asked to
decisions about forest produce are made by forest rights have been settled for a village pay the village forest committee for forest
the gram sabha. produce required for their consumption
Similarly, vfr does not allow a gram and livelihood
sabha to reject a plan or suggest modifica-
FRA allows gram sabhas to make all decisions ODISHA: State government empowers forest
tions. Suitable changes are suggested by related to the usage of forests protection committees to manage forests
the Assistant Conservator of Forests based
on the broader working plan of the forest de-
partment. Under fra, such powers lie exclu- seek recourse to the Indian Forest Act, can, with the approval of the government,
sively with the gram sabha, and the forest 1927, to dilute fra provisions. Madhya share any produce from the attached forest
department is expected to integrate the Pradesh used Section 32 of this colonial era with any public or private company
gram sabhas plans into its own. fra doesnt legislation, which allows states to make developing that forest. The rules also allow
have provisions like in vfr, confirms rules for protected forests. Accor-dingly, district and forest authorities to charge
Mohan Hirabai Hiralal, a Nagpur-based the state enforced Protected Forest Rules village residents for timber and fuel wood
forest rights activist. The gram sabha has (pfr) in June 2015, giving district collectors extracted for consumption and livelihood.
powers to make decisions about manage- the power to attach a protected forest to any The rules place significant powers in the
ment of community forest resources. village. The Gram Van Samiti (village forest hands of forest officers who can specify the
Maharashtra is not the only state to committee) constituted under these rules areas from which such produce is to be

16-31 MAY 2016 17

16-18Forests.indd 17 09/05/16 10:26 AM


Undermining forest rights | A timeline of attempts made to derail community forest rights
July 2009 | Centre scuttles department on the lines of JFMC. opposes VFR on several occasions, November 2015 | MoTA does a
attempt by Andhra Pradesh to May 2014 | Maharashtra notifies stating that it violates provisions U-turn on Maharashtra and
grant community forest rights Village Forest Rules (VFR), of FRA. withdraws opposition.
(CFR) to joint forest management 2014, empowering forest officers June 2015 | Madhya Pradesh December 2015 | MoTA skips
committees (JFMC). to advise on management of notifies Protected Forest Rules, Madhya Pradesh and writes
January 2014 | Odisha launches forest produce. 2015, with the provision to to Odisha government,
Ama Jangal Yojana, a scheme to August 2014 - May 2015 | charge village residents for protesting the Ama Jangal
be implemented by its forest Ministry of Tribal Affairs (MoTA) forest produce. Yojana (AJY).

obtained each year. Tacit support sell timber. According to Upadhyay, since
Chhattisgarh, on its part, set a danger- mota had opposed Maharashtras vfr on the Korku families did not have any records
ous precedent. On January 8, 2016, the state several occasions. But Union ministers Pra- to prove their occupancy, they were not el-
cancelled the Community Forest Rights al- kash Javadekar and Nitin Gadkari wrote to igible for community forest rights under
lotted to tribals of Ghatbarra village in Oram, asking him to stop opposing the fra. Many other villages around the Mel-
Surguja district. The state government rules. Finally, on November 27, 2015, the ghat region do not qualify to get rights un-
claimed that village residents were using tribal affairs ministry did a U-turn, stating der fra or pesa, she says.
their rights to oppose mining in coal blocks that the overlapping provisions of vfr and Hiralal disagrees. He says fra does not
outside the forest compartments allotted to fra must be harmoniously construed, and insist on evidence of occupancy in the form
them. But activists term the move as a clear withdrew its opposition. Three months lat- of records. The Act states that any member
violation of fra as there is no provision for er, Oram renewed his opposition to dilution of a Scheduled Tribe who has been cultivat-
the cancellation of rights once recognised of fra, but wrote a letter only to the Odisha ing forest land as of December 13, 2005, is
under the Act. state government. eligible to get rights. Korku tribal families
Forest department officials reason that Meanwhile, a motley crew has emerged were cultivating land in Kumbhwaghol
introducing state-specific schemes like vfr to support forest management structures well before this date.
was necessary since fra and Panchayat outside of fra. Maharashtras vfr found
(Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act (pesa), support in land rights and anti-corruption RSS red flag
1996, apply only to those areas that are un- activist Anna Hazare, whose village The new forest management rules are driv-
derdeveloped and have a dominant tribal Ralegan Siddhi in Ahmednagar district is ing a wedge between the ideologically like-
population. vfr doesnt work at cross-pur- considered a model for sustainable devel- minded in Maharashtra, with rss Vanvasi
poses with cfr under fra and pesa, says T opment. Hazare wrote to Congress Presi- Kalyan Ashram (vka) opposing vfr.
S K Reddy, chief conservator of forests, dent Sonia Gandhi on January 26, 2016, According to Thamatai Pawar, regional
Nagpur division. It offers another option to asking her not to oppose vfr. He stated that president of Raigad vka, there was no need
villages that cant claim rights under either his village would benefit immensely from to introduce a similar but diluted version of
Act to manage their own forest. vfr as it would give them access to substan- fra. Asserting that vfr is against constitu-
However, forest rights activists say that tial fodder from the forest. tional provisions, Pawar adds, Before
with these schemes, the government wants In Kumbhwaghol village of Amravati bringing in any new legislation regarding
the forest department to become the arbiter district in Maharashtra, a non-profit called tribals, a consultation with the National
for forest resources. Most of these changes Khoj worked with the forest department to Council for Scheduled Tribes and State
have happened in states which are rich in implement vfr. Khoj coordinator Pur- Tribal Advisory Council has been made
minerals and where communities claims nima Upadhyay tells Down To Earth that mandatory according to Article 338-A(9) of
over forests are yet to be settled, adds vfr has enabled village residentsthe 50- the Constitution. But no such consultation
Shankar Gopalakrishnan of Campaign for odd Korku tribal families who had migrat- has been done before bringing in the rules.
Survival and Dignity, a non-profit working ed from Madhya Pradesh in the late When Pawar met Maharashtra Chief
on forest rights. 1990sto regenerate their own forests and Minister Devendra Fadnavis in February
The progress of cfr claims in all four this year, he was told the state would not
states is dismal. Not only were more than Most of these changes make laws that impact forest dwellers and
half of all community claims in Odisha have happened in states adivasis. But there has been no move to
pending until January 31, 2016, Chhat- withdraw these rules so far. With states
tisgarh had not initiated the cfr process
which are rich in minerals making their own version of vfr, and mota
until then. Also, the number of rejected
and where communities' standing by, activists fear dilution of fra
claims is high in Maharashtra (see Claims claims over forests are yet will turn into the proverbial juggernaut.
in progress p17) . to be settled @down2earthindia

18 DOWN TO EARTH 16-31 MAY 2016

16-18Forests.indd 18 09/05/16 10:26 AM

19may31, 2016
19AMway ad.indd 19 06/05/16 12:48 PM


Fishermen in Sureli Kattakuppam, 4km from a desalination plant, complain that the discharge is dumped directly onto the beach, contaminating groundwater

A salty resort
Is desalination the panacea for solving Chennai's water problems?

S SHORTAGE of water continues creased many times above the permissible of laws to monitor desalination plants, and
across the country, coastal states limits, show studies (see Desalination im- the effluents discharged are some of the fac-
are eyeing sea water. In January, pacts). The question is whether making sea tors which have raised concerns whether
Chennais fourth desalination water potable is a feasible solution to secure Chennai should resort to desalination with-
plant at Perur along the East Coast Road the water future of a city which receives out first utilising and managing its own wa-
was announced to solve its drinking water plenty of rainfall anually. ter resources.
woes. The government of Gujarat, too, is In the budget of 2014-15 the state gov- Across the world, desalination plants
creating a new policy to promote desalina- ernment announced two desalination pla- were constructed in areas where rain is
tion plants at the coasts of Saurashtra and nts with the capacity of 60 million litres per scarce, such as the Gulf countries, Israel or
Kutch regions. Andhra Pradesh and Maha- day (mld) each in the coastal districts of drier parts of Europe like Spain, Malta,
rashtra are also exploring the option of de- Ramanathapuram and Tuticorin. The pla- Gibraltar, Cape Verde, Portugal, and Greece.
salination plants at a municipal level. nts will supply drinking water to a popula- But Tamil Nadu receives 1,200 mm of rain-
As of now, Tamil Nadu is the only state tion of 1.1 million. fall annually, which is sufficient to feed wa-
in India where desalinated water is used for A desalination plant produces potable ter sources like rivers, channels, wetlands
drinking purpose at a municipal level. In water from sea water or inland sources by re- and groundwater aquifers in and around the
Chennai, the salinity of groundwater, one of verse osmosis. In the process, highly saline city. These are not only a source of irrigation
the major sources of drinking water, has in- rejects are discharged into the sea. The lack and domestic water, but also act as sponges

20 DOWN TO EARTH 16-31 MAY 2016

20-21Water.indd 20 09/05/16 11:09 AM


to prevent floods.
The brine discharge produced from a
desalination plant can also damage the en-
vironment if disposed of improperly. For in-
stance, in Sureli Kattakuppam village, 4 km
from the Nemmeli desalination plant, the
brine discharge has been dumped directly
onto the beach, contaminating groundwa-
ter. The residents sent petitions to the chief
minister, their mla and to Chennai Metro-
politan Water Supply and Sewerage Board
(cmwssb), the body which is running the
plant. Also, during the construction of the At full capacity, the 100 MLD Nemmeli plant in Chennai discharges about 2,000 litres of effluents per second
plant, a pathway was built to bring heavy
machines. This reduced the width of the
beach, bringing the sea closer to habitation,
verse effects of brine discharge, if not pre-
vent them.
Desalination impacts
says Nitya-nand Jayaram, a Chennai-based Desalination plants are also energy-in-

The salinity of groundwater, or
environmentalist. tensive. Using coal to heat saline water me-
total dissolved solids (TDS),
S Janakarajan, Professor, Madras Insti- ans thousands of tonnes of carbon dioxide is
along Chennai's coast was
tute of Development Studies, Chennai, says produced in a 100 mld plant. almost 26 times the
that brine discharge can increase the tds Building and maintaining these plants permissible limit, says a 2014
(total dissolved solid), a measure of salinity is also an expensive affair. According to an study in Research Journal of
of water, threatening fauna like turtles, analysis done by the Centre for Science and Chemical Sciences
shrimp and fish. This can affect the availa- Environment (cse), a Delhi-based non-
bility of fish, and thus the livelihood of fish- profit, in 2012, the average cost of produc-

erfolk, he adds. tion of the conventional piped supply of wa- At least 12 localities near the
A 2011 study by Pilar Palmolar, Univer- ter is almost one fourth of the cost of eastern part of Chennai showed
TDS of 6,000 to 10,000 ppm, at
sidad de Cantabria, Spain, states that extinc- production in desalination plants. Also, sea
tion of fish larvae has been observed near water is the most expensive source of water
least 12 times the permissible
limit, said a 2015 study by Anna
brine discharges in Ashkelon, a coastal city as compared to other sources. Vikram Ka-
University, Chennai
in the southern district of Israel. pur, managing director, cmwssb, says that
they buy water from the Minjur desalination
Lack of regulatory laws plant at 54 per kilolitre (Kl). On the other The cost at which CMWSSB buys a
India does not have standards for the brine
concentration entering the sea. Janakarajan
hand, conventional sources cost 13/Kl.
K54 kilolitre (Kl) of water from a
desalination plant in Minjur.
says the lack of standards allows companies Mobilising natural resources Conventional sources cost 13/Kl
which run and/or build desalination plants This is not the first time Chennai is grap-
to escape responsibility. pling with water scarcity problems. Hit by
Although an environmental impact as-
sessment of the Nemmeli project was done
in 2008, the quality of brine entering the sea
a severe drought, in 2003 bye-laws made
rainwater harvesting mandatory for all buil-
dings, throughout the state. Over a period of
Tonnes of carbon dioxide will be produced
has not been monitored periodically. time, not only the groundwater table but the
from a 100 MLD desalination plant
There are ways to cushion the adverse salinity of groundwater improved as well.
effects of brine. In Kuwait, two desalination According to a study conducted by cm-
plants, Subiya and Shoaiba, blend brine wssb in 2007, the groundwater table in the ter option than desalination. These wet-
with cooling water to lower its salinity. city increased by almost 50 per cent in three lands will also save the city from urban
According to a 2009 study, done by Ahmad years and tds of water in Chintadripet floods. An analysis by cse showed that post
E. Al-Dousari and published in the Ame- dropped from 5,000 parts per million 2000, Chennai lost 50 per cent of its water
rican Journal of Environmental Sciences, (ppm) in 2004 to 300 ppm in 2007. bodies due to urbanisation. This resulted in
there was no serious impact of the brine dis- Currently, only 26 per cent of Chennais seven major floods in the last 15 years.
charge from the two plants in the Kuwait sea drinking water comes from the two desali- Janakrajan suggests that the need of the
because the increase in the salinity was well nation plants, with a total capacity of 200 hour, thus, is for the Tamil Nadu govern-
within the limits set by the Kuwait Envi- mld. To meet the citys drinking water needs, ment to consider natural recharge systems
ronment Public Authority. If implemented conserving and protecting lakes and wet- as an option to replace desalination plants.
stringently, such limits can reduce the ad- lands is a cheaper and environmentally bet- @down2earthindia

16-31 MAY 2016 21

20-21Water.indd 21 09/05/16 11:11 AM


Counting calories
Start-ups that not just deliver healthy food, but also count calories for
you are fast gaining ground in big cities

INE YEARS ago, when Sai Gunde- According to a 2015 report by Nielsen, a women is 1,900 kcal. The company also of-
war came to India to become an New York-based global information com- fers grilled meals consisting of paneer and
actor, little did he know that his pany, the Indian health and wellness food tofu steaks for those wanting to eat high pro-
love for fitness and food will lead market is worth R33,000 crore and grew six tein food throughout the week.
to a full-fledged business. I lived in Austra- per cent between 2014 and 2015. The market is lucrative but the chal-
lia for many years. When I came back, I Boasting a clientele that includes corpo- lenge is to deliver quality meals at an afford-
found that the quality of food delivered on rate honchos and Bollywood stars, Foodizm able price, says Gundewar. Though he did
film sets was quite bad. Being an actor, I un- operates only in Mumbai. It offers four types not share Foodizms profit margin, Gunde-
derstand the importance of eating right, of plans, with a minimum of five meals war says that companies in the health and
says Gundewar, who is set to act in a Marathi which are to be utilised within seven work- food business make 20-30 per cent profit
film, Dot Com Mom, scheduled to release in ing days , while the maximum includes 20 annually. Foodizm is also in talks with inves-
June. Gundewar co-founded his start-up meals to be used over 22 working days. The tors to expand its business. We plan to
Foodizmin 2011 with Maxood Patel. The price ranges from R99275 per meal de- launch our brand of health and wellness
company says it delivers fresh, healthy pending on the category and portion. For in- products through an e-commerce site. The
meals. Most importantly, it ensures that the stance, there are Indian and international products will include health supplements
calorie intake of their customers is right. meals which come in large and medium por- and protein bars, he adds.
While awareness about eating healthy tions. The large meal provides 600-650 kcal Similar to Foodizm is Tandurust, a
has increased among working profession- while the medium one has 350-400 kcal Bengaluru-based start-up. The company,
als, many do not have the time or patience to (see High on nutrition). For a 60 kg Indian whose name means healthy in Hindi, was
prepare a low-fat, high nutrient diet. Heres man with a sedentary lifestyle, 2,320 kcal started by two working professionals who
where start-ups like Foodizm come in. per day are required. The figure for a 55 kg craved good food while they were staying

Sai Gundewar
foodizm in
2011. His
around 200
meals a day

22-23New Business.indd 22 10/05/16 1:01 PM


away from home for their corporate jobs. (Gurgaon), cities with a thriving IT industry Customised diets
Both of us are fitness enthusiasts. When we and a large working migratory population.
moved to Bengaluru, we used to manage our What seems to be working for Tandu-
Average Indian men require 2,320 kcal
food as per diet requirements. In the pro- rust is that their menu mainly consists of a day while women need 1,900 kcal
cess, we read up a lot on nutrition and real- Indian recipes, which are prepared with mi-
ised that normal meals can be tweaked to nor variations. For instance, they offer oats
fulfil health goals, says Sudhanshu Sharma, upma, multigrain poha, wheat pasta and
co-founder, Tandurust. Sharma and his flaxseed raita. The meals range from R60 to
business partner, Pushpesh Dutt, are man- R140 and come in both vegetarian and non-
Foodizm (Founded-2011)
agement graduates from the Institute of vegetarian categories. The start-up also Profit Margin not shared
Management Technology, Ghaziabad. The makes its own creams, sauces and mayon- Orders/day 150-200
two started with a group of 20-25 friends as naise, focusing on the low-fat requirement. Cost/meal K99-275
clients in early 2014 on a pilot basis. No processed food from outside is used,
We started preparing meals with very claims Sharma.
Calorie/meal 350-650 kcal
low quantity of oil and without any pro- Sharma says the target audience is the
cessed food. We used nutritious ingredients working population in the age group of 25-
CalorieSmart (Founded-2011)
Profit Margin 15%
Orders/day 750
Cost/meal K89-350
Calorie/meal 300-700 kcal

The Indian
food and
Profit Margin 25-28%
health product
market is worth
Orders/day 150-200
R33,000 crore
and is growing
Cost/meal K60-140
at six per cent Calorie/meal 280-650 kcal

like flaxseeds and healthy fats like olive oil, 40. There is a big market for health foods. and counted calories. The companys most
Sharma says. Having received a good re- We deliver 150-200 orders a day but aim to popular meals are the 500 kcal premium
sponse, the duo started Tandurust in tap the market further. We also plan to meals which cost R139 for vegetarian and
December 2014 after quitting their full-time launch over-the-counter products, he adds. R169 for non-vegetarian options. Its gour-
jobs. The initial capital was R12 lakh. The met boxes, which are designed for weight-
potential in the business is evident from the The common trigger watchers, provide only 300 kcal, says
fact that they were able to attract more in- Most such start-ups began because there are Manek. The cost of gourmet box is R300-
vestment within nine months of starting op- very few options to get healthy meals deliv- 350. The contents change daily and include
erations. Tandurusts profit margins are be- ered at offices in big cities. Ashima Manek, salads, wraps and sandwiches. These are
tween 2528 per cent, says Sharma, which director-food planning and menu design of prepared with ingredients like quinoa, bar-
are mainly due to a very efficient delivery Gurugram-based CalorieSmart, says that ley, chickpea and fish.People who under-
service. Our delivery boys deliver up to 20 when they started the business five years ago stand the concept of healthy food love our
meals a day and plan it in such a way that the Subway was the only healthy option. service. The proof of this is our growth
resources are optimally utilised. The deliv- CalorieSmart was launched by four young which we have attained without spending
ery cost is just R18-20 per meal, he says. food enthusiasts from their relatives base- anything on advertising, says Manek.
Currently, Tandurust delivers in select ment. Today, it delivers 750 meals a day in The Nielsen report says that peace of
locations in Bengaluru. We are in talks with Gurugram and plans presence across the mind is an important attribute for health
investors to expand our operations to the en- National Capital Region very soon. Manek and wellness for many Indians. This is quite
tire city. That should happen in the next six says their venture has received fantastic re- evident from the kind of traction these ven-
months, says Sharma. They also want to sponse and they make 15 per cent profit. tures have got in a short span.
launch the business in Pune and Gurugram CalorieSmart offers controlled-portions @_karnika

16-31 MAY 2016 23

22-23New Business.indd 23 10/05/16 10:43 AM


Black magic
An almost extinct HEN SHRUTI Bai Parmar was
elected sarpanch of Saad
indigenous breed of village last year, she had an
unusual ally to thank: black
poultry is improving chickens called Kadaknath. She says she
the lives of farmers in could bear the election expense because of
the profit from selling the almost extinct
drought-hit Jhabua poultry breed endemic to Jhabua district of
Madhya Pradesh. A few years earlier,
KUNDAN PANDEY Parmar had been struggling to sustain her
| jhabua , madhya pradesh family of five. With little irrigation and fre-
quent droughts, crop losses had made sur-
vival harder for the majority in Jahbua, one
of the poorest districts in the state.
In the same village, Ditu Devi has had
to borrow money at high interest rates for
basic needs such as her daughters educa-
tion fee and medicines. Today, both Parmar
and Ditu Devi are better off thanks to Ka-
daknath, or kali mans. One bird can fetch
them ~800.
The idea of rearing and selling Kadak- ers, kvk, Jhabua, is playing a pivotal role by
nath as a livelihood, Parmar says, emerged supplying 5,000 chicks every month to lo-
from a meeting organised by Krishi Vigyan cal farmers and poultry farm owners outside
Kendra (kvk), Jhabua. A Central govern- the state.
ment initiative to improve the lives of farm- Reared by tribal communities of Bhil

24 DOWN TO EARTH 16-31 MAY 2016

24-25Economy.indd 24 06/05/16 5:25 PM


and Bhilala, Kadaknath, a black chicken Indian Council of Agricultural Research

The unique bird with black flesh and bone, was on the verge saw the results, they were impressed. They
of extinction. In 1998, Down To Earth re- sanctioned 50 lakh for setting up a hatch-
ported that due to over-consumption and a ing facility in Jhabua.
generally black, it can be
very low reproduction Today there is a huge demand for Kada-
seen occasionally in two
more colours, pencil and rate, the breed (see knath chicks from Maharashtra, Hydera-
golden. It has a poor The unique bird) bad, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and especial-
reproduction rate, with could disappear (Ro- ly states from South India, says I S Tomar,
only 70 to 100 eggs a oster calls no more, programme coordinator, kvk, Jhabua.
year. A Kadaknath cock dte, 15 May 1998).
weighs about 2.5 to 3 kg Today there are Community intervention
in six to eight months, more than 300 poul- Other than selling Kadaknath, other liveli-
while a hen weighs try sheds in Jhabua, hoods have also emerged since the revival
about 2 kg in the same and farmers are trai- of Kadaknath. In Saad, there are more than
period. Kadaknath is a ned in rearing and set- 335 families in the poultry business. Ditu
very delicate bird, ting up their own in- Devi, president of Gram Sangathan Samiti
vulnerable to changes frastructure. Under the of Saad, says she earns around 4,000-
in climate. The Central National Agriculture In- 5,000 from guiding farmers on how to take
Food and Research novation Project, the kvk of- care of poultry and vaccinating chicks, not
Institute, Mysore, found it fers help in constructing low just Kadaknath.
suitable for cardiac patients. cost poultry sheds; training on Many like Ditu Devi who supplement
It has high iron content and advanced technologies of pou- their income by providing veterinary servic-
less fat, says I S Tomar, ltry production; optimum feed es are called murgi sakhi and pashu mitra in
and balanced diet; vaccination and their villages. Nilesh Desai from Sampark, a
exploring markets. local non-profit says there is one or more
KVK, Jhabua.
Last year, Parmar earned 1.8 murgi sakhis for each village and 140 mitras
lakh from selling Kadaknath. She who vaccinate at least 0.1 million chickens
purchased 400 chicks for 60 each and in a month.
sold 350 chickens at 800 each within Trained by Sampark, the mitras or

five months. guides are responsible for providing vacci-

In 1983, the Madhya Pradesh govern- nations, deworming, and motivating other
ment had set up a Kadaknath breeding poultry rearers to adopt improved practic-
farm in Jhabua to save Kadaknath but had es. This community intervention is sup-
failed. In 2009, the kvk conducted a study ported by South Asia Pro-Poor Livestock
and established slow growth on natural Policy programme for strengthening indig-
feeding and more than 50 per cent mortal- enous poultry-based livelihoods in a select-
ity rate as the reasons for the crisis. The kvk ed village cluster in Rama block of Jhabua.
then engaged 10 farmers and proved that About 22 km from Saad, in Padalghati,
mortality could be reduced with optimum farmers response to the business of Kadak-
feed and balanced diet along with proper nath is changing. Moonsingh Sehlot, a
vaccination. When two experts from the farmer who got a shed from kvk says that on
a yearly investment of around 45,000, he
earns more than 1,00,000.
Sehlot has been in the business for three
years and leased 4 hectares of land from the
money he earned from selling Kadaknath.
Seeing Sehlots success, many farmers are
planning to venture into the business.
Who would have thought that the re-
Rearing and selling vival of an indigenous poultry breed would
Kadaknath has
supplemented Shruti be mirrored in a districts economy?
Bai Parmar's income @kundanpandey158
and cushioned her from
severe effects of drought
For a video story on this, visit

16-31 MAY 2016 25

24-25Economy.indd 25 06/05/16 5:25 PM


The Uttarakhand forest
fires that lasted for
over 100 days should
come as a warning to
the rest of India since
half of its forests are
vulnerable to fire

from Uttarakhand,
from Odisha,
from Delhi

government has
already spent over
`85 lakh on water used
by choppers to control
forest fires in the state

26-36Cover story.indd 26 10/05/16 12:17 PM


n the evening of April 27, Digamber was startled by his mothers
panic-stricken voice at his home in Saru village of Pauri
Garhwal district of Uttarakhand. There is a fire in our forest,
she screamed. Digamber and his wife, Urmila, came out of the
house and saw the entire pine forest burning. Within minutes,
the fire reached their hay stacks, kept since November last year
for feeding their three cows. We ran to save the hay stacks from
fire. I had asked Urmila not to go towards the fire but she did not listen.
Seconds later, her clothes were in flames. I could do nothing to save her,
says Digamber, his voice almost inaudible.
Urmila was rushed to the district hospital at Pauri Garhwal where,
looking at the seriousness of the burns, she was referred to the base
hospital of the district. At the emergency ward of base hospital, Digamber
was told his wife had suffered nearly 90 per cent burn injuries. A day
later, he took Urmila to the Safdarjung Hospital in New Delhi, where the
doctors declared her dead.
Urmila is one of the seven people who have died so far in the
Uttarakhand forest fires, which have been burning for more than
100 days. The fire that was first reported on February 2 has already
engulfed all the 13 districts of the state. The worst-hit districts are Pauri,
Nainital, Rudraprayag, Chamoli, Almora and Uttarkashi where forests
neighbouring 1,500 villages are under fire. Forest fires are a regular
feature at this time of the year in the state, but this year, say village

26-36Cover story.indd 27 10/05/16 12:33 PM


residents, the trees are burning as if apocalypse

On April 27, Digamber the number of firefighters in the state to 6,000
lost his wife to a forest
is near. Till May 7, over 1,828 incidents of forest
fire in his village in on the direction of the state Governor. A total of
fire in the state had affected 4,015 hectares (ha),
Pauri Garhwal district 11,773 people including firewatchers, forest de-
of Uttarakhand. The
of which 102 ha are plantations. State forest
charred slipper and partment staff, police, ndrf (National Disaster
department puts the monetary loss at a little over
a photograph are the Relief Force), fire officers and sdrf (State Disaster
only memories of his
of `35 lakh.
wife now Relief Force) team were employed to douse the
Environmentalists say the real loss of the fires enormous forest fire that has nearly ravaged the
will be the damage done to the ecology, something state. Two Indian Air Force choppers, each with a
that the forest department does not track. capacity of 3,000 litres of water, were also pressed
Uttarakhand forests are home to a significant into service in Garhwal and Kumaon regions. He
population of insects and mammals such as tiger, adds that till May 4, the state had spent `50 lakh
sambar, muntjac, leopard, common langur and on the water that the two choppers dropped.
the yellow-throated marten. This is the breeding But 61-year-old Kundan Singh, a resident of
season of birds. Thousands of birds eggs were Hariyal village in Nainital district, says the state
destroyed in the fire. It is not possible to measure is wasting money because the firefighting teams
the loss of such diverse fauna, but for certain, some do not know how to control fires. Despite having
species of birds, insects, butterflies, could be wiped forest fires every year, Uttarakhand does not have
out from the jungles, says Diwan Nagarkoti, an a uniform plan. Each district decides its own fire
environmental educationist from Almora. plan on the basis of common guidelines stated by
Bhawani Prakash Gupta, chief conservator of the department. The district fire plan is decided in
forest, Uttarakhand, says the forest departments a meeting held between December and February
priority is to save the forests and every year. The meeting is headed by the district
human habitation areas. As far as magistrate and attended by state and district
Over 20,667 forest
wildlife is concerned, the four-leg- forest officials, police, fire officers and disaster
fire incidents have ged animals run towards habitation management officers.
been reported in to escape the forest fire. Birds too Forest officials say the guidelines are hardly
the first four months find their safety spots. But for nests ever met because of paucity of funds. Whether
of 2016, which is and other kinds of fauna, we have no district-level fire plans work or not depends on
both a drought and method or policy to save them. He funds. If there are insufficient funds, we are una-
El Nio year adds that they have recently doubled ble to put the plan into action, says Prem Kumar,

28 DOWN TO EARTH 16-31 MAY 2016

26-36Cover story.indd 28 10/05/16 12:58 PM


conservator of forests, North Kumaon. The budg- guards often do not receive payment because of the
et is decided according to the fire plan. The funds delaya reason village residents are not interest-
are released in two parts: once in November- ed in getting involved in fire prevention activities.
December for preparation, and then in April-May Firewatchers receive promotion when they near
when forest fires peak in the state. The state gov- retirement, unlike other officials who are promot-
ernment has released `21.75 crore between April ed regularly. Instead of hiring conservators, more
and May this year. forest guards and watchers should be employed,
Officials say delays in the release of funds are says environmentalist Chandi Prasad Bhatt, who
a regular feature, which hampers fire-control. For pioneered the Chipko movement in 1970s.
example, a delay in the releasing of funds during In fact, environmentalists say that though for-
November-December means sufficient number of est fires are a natural process, acute ones are often
fire lines are not set up. Fire lines are wide clearings, triggered by people, intentionally or due to negli-
ranging from 20 to 300 m, made in a forest to stop gence. Even a burning matchstick can start a for-
the spread of fire. Delays mean these lines are filled est fire. In Uttarakhand, illegal timber trade and
with dry leaves and twigs, and as a result help in the intentional and negligent lighting of fire are ma-
spreading of fire. jor reasons for fires, says Bhatt. He adds that vil-
While admitting to the delays, Gupta says it lage residents often set fire to the forest floor of
does not hamper the execution of the plan. Yes, pine needles to get a good cover of grass the next
there is a delay in the release of funds from the year and to get rid of the slippery chir pine needles.
government. But the department continues the He also points out that village residents, fire offi-
work according to the plan. The payment is com- cials and traders often burn forest portions and
pensated later. Guptas explanation has few tak- smuggle wood. Between April 27 and May 7, 2016,
ers. Environmentalists say firewatchers and forest 49 police cases have been lodged throughout the

Intense politicking is choking forestry of funds

Severe damage may not be repairable, but can be avoided
Though an annual spectacle, forest fires has no seriousness about utilising funds
can't be ignored. This year, the fires are from sources such as the Compensatory
severe because of multiple factors. Other Afforestation Fund Management and
than the scorching heat, there was neg- Planning Authority (campa). Due to in-
ligence on the part of government agen- tense politicking in the Union Ministry
cies and apathy on the part of the local of Environment, Forest and Climate
people. Fires are lit by people for a varie- Change, the forestry sector is choked of
ty of reasons, but fires become rampant funds. On the other hand, campa has funds
when the fuel load is not removed and fire in excess of `40,000 crore. Joint Forests
lines are not cleaned. Management Committees (jfmcs) have an
The focus should be on prevent- important role in controlling these fires. It
ing the fire from spreading. Local peo- is essential to sign a memorandum of un-
ple should be involved. A long-term meas- derstanding with jfmcs and pay them 50 per
ure can be an annual fire management cent of the expenses to control fire lines
plan prepared with maps of vulnerable before the start of the fire season and the
areas and an early warning system in tan- protection scheme with emphasis on Joint remaining at the end. District forest offic-
dem with the Forest Survey of India. The Forest Management (jfm) engagement. ers should be made responsible.
plan should be ready by December. A con- During my last visit to Uttarakhand, I
trol room should also be established by was told by the state president of the van The writer was part of India's first com-
December, through June. Incidentally, I panchayat, N S Tomar, that funds from the mittee on forest fire management and is
suggested these provisions in the 2001 state were not made available to main- retired Director General, Indian Council of
guidelines and in the integrated forest tain the fire lines. Even the top brass Forestry Research and Education

16-31 MAY 2016 29

26-36Cover story.indd 29 10/05/16 10:40 AM


Jammu and Kashmir


Forests on Himachal Pradesh


FIRE Punjab
Over 10,634 incidents of forest fire Haryana
have been reported between April 33 Delhi
1 and May 2, 2016. This is five times 2
more than what was reported during Rajasthan
the same period last year 15 Uttar Pradesh
475 Bihar
Number of forest fires between April 1 132
and May 2, 2016
Forest areas in India
Madhya Pradesh 394

50 per cent
of forests in India are

vulnerable to fire
Telangana Odisha
142 1,346

K440 cr
is India's annual loss due
129 Andhra Pradesh
to forest fires
Tamil Nadu
Very low winter
Burning red 87,553 rainfall in the
Cases of forest fires over the years El Nio, months of
drought year January and
63,257 72,689 February
El Nio, 61,799 63,287 El Nio 69,197
55,142 drought year El Nio El Nio
25,056 El Nio 70,207
El Nio,
drought year


2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011
Source: Wildlife Institute of India and India Meteorological Department

30 DOWN TO EARTH 16-31 MAY 2016

26-36Cover story.indd 30 10/05/16 10:40 AM


state for intentionally lighting a forest fire.

The weather also played its part in this years
forest fire. The official forest fire season in the
state is between February 15 and June 15, when
the air is dry and warm. But this year, first for-
est fire incidents were registered on February 2.
Arunachal Pradesh
30 This year, Uttarakhand received scanty rains in
December and January making it an abnormally
warm winter. Due to lack of rainfall in the win-
ter months, there was no moisture in the air and
soil, so the fires started early, says P Soni, senior
Assam forest ecologist and former head of the division of
732 Nagaland Ecology and Environment at the Forest Research
144 Institute (fri), Dehradun.
Meghalaya The state had been registering deficit rainfall
227 502 since May 2015, but the forest department failed
to act on the warning. Government data suggests
Tripura Mizoram that except for June, all the months between May
297 352 2015 and February 2016 registered defecit rainfall.
In January 2016, Uttarakhand re-
West Bengal ceived just 5.4mm of rain instead of
14 the expected 52.1mm. In February, India does not have
there was just 29.2mm of rain a unified forest fire
against the expected 54.1mm. policy or national
We have to understand that plan. Forest fire is
we cannot stop forest fires, but we covered in bits and
can successfully control the fire so pieces under Acts,
that it does not wreck havoc. What policies, forest
we are seeing today is the result of
working plans and
years of negligence on the part of
the (forest) department and village
various government
residents, says Soni.
Andaman and
Large-scale migration from schemes
Nicobar Islands
Uttarakhand hills in the last dec-
ade is also responsible for the magnitude of for-
Source: Forest Survey of India est fires this year. Arvind Bijalwan from the
Infographic: RAKU Indian Institute of Forest management, Bhopal,
and Manmohan J R Dobriyal from Navsari
Agricultural University, Gujarat, say that earli-
88,189 er village residents used to collect the litter, in-
Drought year,
cluding inflammable chir pine needle and oak,
dry year
for bedding purpose of their domestic animals.
69,121 This used to reduce fire hazardous material in
68,721 Drought year forest areas. It was also easier to douse fires as
there were more people in the area, they say. But
15,937 most hill districts in the state have seen a reduc-
El Nio, tion in population growth rates. For example,
drought year Pauri Gawhal has witnessed a 136 per cent de-
cline in decadal population growth rates between
1991-2001 and 2001-2011.
Tree varieties in the forest aided the fire. The
pine trees in the forests have resin and are high-
2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 ly flammable. Chir pine and banj oak trees domi-

16-31 MAY 2016 31

26-36Cover story.indd 31 10/05/16 10:40 AM


Tech no help nate 24,240 sq km of forest in the state. Chir pine

trees make up 16 per cent of the states total forest
Despite regular monitoring and pre-warnings, area, according to Uttarakhand Forest Statistics
Uttarakhand failed to control forest fires 2012-13. Environmentalist Radha Bhatt says that
the British promoted the tree because the wood

could be used to make train berths. The trees are
The National Remote Sensing Centre, still a big revenue generator for the state. In 2016,
Hyderabad, receives data from two
Uttarakhand sold 16.5 million kg of resin in a
US satellitesTERA and AQUAthat
track all the countries in the world nationwide auction and earned over `90 crore,
every six hours. The satellites are which is close to five times what the state has so
fitted with heat-sensitive sensors far spent on forest fires.
that detect fire and capture the Gupta says that his department has floated an
exact locations idea of cutting down pine trees that are found on al-
titudes above 1,000 metres. The felling of tress at
high altitudes was banned by the Centre in 1980s.
We will approach the Supreme Court with our
proposal, once it is approved by the Union Ministry

of Environment, Forest and Climate Change
Data is emailed to the
Forest Survey of India (FSI) (moef&cc), says Gupta. Environmentalists, how-
within 25 minutes. FSI then ever, warn that the move will further damage the
filters the data using forest states ecology. When India is fighting climate
cover maps to identify change, it is not wise to bring down thousands of
forest fires. Further chir pine trees. It is more advisable to introduce
filtration is done using broad-leaved trees, says Diwan Nagarkoti, an en-
specific data such as state, vironmental educationist from Almora.
district names, longitudinal Removal of pine will further degrade the eco-
and latitudinal details logical capacity of the forest to prevent loss of soil
water, says Niyati Naudiyal, a PhD student work-

Besides monitoring, FSI ing on forest fires at the department of natural re-
also has a pre-warning sources, teri University, New Delhi. Naudiyal says
alert system, which has pine is a hardy tree variety that normally survives
over 90 per cent accuracy. forest fires. So, she suggests, if the state effectively
The warning data is based
controls forest fires, other tree varieties will grow
on several parameters,
in due time.
including forest cover,
forest type, current
temperature in the forest, Playing with fire
and recent fires signals. While Uttarkhand is burning, several other states
The data gives forest are merely waiting for a similar fate. An analy-
officials information at sis of forest fires across India between April 1 and

least 48 hours before the The monitoring data is notified May 5, 2016 shows that Uttarakhand, with 1,395
fire. FSI had sent at least through emails and SMSes in a KML forest fire incidents, is leading. But a close sec-
two such warnings to format (which supports Google ond is Odisha with 1,346 firesjust 49 less in-
Uttarakhand in the last maps) to the state forest fire nodal cidentsfollowed by Chhattisgarh with 1,309
week of April, when forest officer. The notifications are sent
fires. Both Odisha and Chhattisgarh have a huge
fires peaked in the state everyday at about 3 am, 12 pm,
5 pm and 11 pm dense forest cover. In fact, Pauri Garhwal, which
is the worst-hit Uttarakhand district, is in news
with 419 incidents of fires, but it is Bastar district
in Chhattisgarh that has reported the maximum
number of forest fire incidents this year with 555
fires. Bastar, which has 60 per cent of reserved for-
ests, is twice the size of Pauri Garwhal.
Union government data on May 2 suggests
Source: As told by Sunil Chandra, that over 20,667 incidents of forest fire have been
scientist Forest Research Institute

32 DOWN TO EARTH 16-31 MAY 2016

26-36Cover story.indd 32 10/05/16 10:40 AM


Forest fires and climate change

Black carbon released from forest fires can speed up melting of glaciers
The little known story of the raging for- 1990 to 2010, the snow/ice cover over the
est fire in Uttarakhand hills, home to many Himalayas decreased by about 0.9 per
Himalayan glaciers, is how it fouls up both cent due to aerosols. Indian black carbon
lungs and climate. When forests burn, from a variety of sources is responsible
stored carbon is freed from these ecosys- for 30 per cent of this decline.
tems which worsens warming. Forest fires In 2009, the Union Ministry of
emit a mix of organic material as well black Environment and Forest and Climate
carbon, or soot. Organic material scatters Change in its report on black carbon re-
light and cools and black carbon absorbs viewed studies which found significant
light and heats up. But on snow and gla- impacts of South Asia's Before Christ
ciers, both can absorb heat and speed up emissions in the Mt Everest region. A sig-
melting. In the air, black and brown carbon nificant increasing trend in the Before
absorbs solar radiation and warms up the Christ radiative forcing was noted since
atmosphere, worsening snow melting and ANUMITA ROYCHOWDHURY 1990. The report states that Before Christ
interfering with cloud and rainfall. concentrations over the Himalayas and
This is bad news when Himalayan for- to the CO2 led global warming, high solar on glaciers cannot be neglected and has
ests are prone to wild fires. Though the heating by black carbon at an elevation asked for its systematic investigation.
numbers are uncertain, studies in the of 2 to 5 km is as much as 25-50 per cent
Himalayas show two-thirds of the Hindu of the background solar heating. A 2010 The author is Deputy Director General
Kush Himalayan and Tibetan glaciers are study by Lawrence Berkeley National - Research and Advocacy, Centre for
melting rapidly since 1950s. In addition Laboratory with others shows that from Science and Environment, Delhi

reported in the first four months of 2016 (see tection division is entrusted with the Chhattisgarh's
`Forests on fire p32). The Forest Survey of India job of forest fire management work
Bastar district
(fsi) says over 50 per cent of the forest areas in the along with ndma, National Institute
country are fire-prone. It also pegs the annual for- of Disaster Management (nidm), in-
has reported the
est loss because of fires at `440 crore. This esti- ternational organisations, fsi, fri
maximum number
mate only accounts for the replacement cost of the and six regional offices of moef&cc of forest fire
seedlings and does not include the losses to biodi- in the country. The regional offic- incidents (555)
versity, timber, carbon sequestration capacity, soil es are then expected to act as coor- this year
moisture and nutrient loss. dinating offices with the state forest
The country should have been especially departments to look after forest fire.
prepared this year. There were enough indications There is again no uniform process to control for-
for the impeding forest fires this year. Both 2015 est fires at the state level and most state forest de-
and 2016 are El Nio years, which is widely known partments are understaffed. There is a complete
as a trigger for forest fires. In fact, dry El Nio apathy in fighting forest fires in states. In many
conditions in 1997-98 had resulted in forest fires instances, forest range offices have failed to act to
across the globe. There are also models that show control fires that have happened in their vicinity,
that simple rainfall data, generated regularly by says Alok Shukla, a forest rights campaigner with
the India Meteorological Department (imd), can Chhattisgarh Bachao Andolan.
be used to indicate the dry spell and therefore the What is equally startling is that the country
likelihood of fires. already has the technology to monitor and warn
But India does not even have a unified forest fire against forest fires. fsi researchers say that they
policy or national plan. Forest fire is covered in bits send daily forest fire alerts to forest departments
and pieces under Acts, policies, forest working plans in all the states on the basis of data collected by
and various government forest/wildlife schemes. satellites (see `Tech no help p34). With the help
The overall management of forest fires is the respon- of satellites, we are able to know how the fire is
sibility of the forest department. But the forest pro- spreading with details like speed and area, says fri

16-31 MAY 2016 33

26-36Cover story.indd 33 10/05/16 10:40 AM


scientist Sunil Chandra. The institute has also de- People problem
veloped an advance warning system which is cor- We never ask village communities to participate
rect in 95 per cent of cases. in managing forest resources, but expect their sup-
But the technology is of little help because of a port at times of crisis. If the present situation of
more fundamental problem that has long plagued estranging communities from forests continues,
Indias foreststhe growing distrust between for- there will be fewer forests and more forest offi-
est officials and forest communities. In India, pol- cials, says Bhatt.
icy dictates that the forest department should sup- Forest officials normally hold communities
press fires. This is against what communities across responsible for the fires , which highlights their
the world have been doing for generations. It is now distrust in the people. Anurag Srivastava, district
considered more prudent to actively manage avail- forest officer of Bastar, says most fires are caused
able fuel in the forest by controlled burning of litter by mahua flower collectors (normally tribal
and dead wood in the region so that even if there is communities) as the season of collection begins
an accidental fire in the area, it is small and man- in February and lasts through April. In order to
ageable. Savita, the first woman director of fri, says collect mahua flowers and initiate coppicing in the
regular clearing up of fire lines and engaging fire- stumps, the forest floor is set on fire which on many
watchers in sufficient numbers is the best way to occasions goes out of control, he adds. Shukla says
prevent forest fires in the country. And this can only this is not true as most tribal communities know
be done by engaging local forest communities. how to control fire. He, instead, says commercial
Village residents play a critical role in detect- activities such as mining and plucking tendu leaves
ing fire and limiting its spread. The forest depart- are responsible for the fires. In order to clear large
ment neither has enough manpower nor robust swathes of forest lands quickly, mining companies
planning. The government must recognise villag- in connivance with the contractors often set forests
ers efforts, says Subrat Nayak, a development ex- on fire, which no one talks about. He adds that
pert from Bhubaneswar. earlier village residents would help forest officials

Way ahead
Migration in many districts of Uttarakhand has impacted the way forest fires are monitored
In Uttarakhand, forest fire is a common Modern fire fighting techniques
phenomenon. Earlier, villagers used to should be adopted such as the radio-
collect the hazardous litter, especially chir acoustic sound system for early fire detec-
pine needle and oak, for animal bedding. tion and Doppler radar. There should be
Due to migration, there are few people left stronger collaboration between the forest
to monitor these fires. Most of the districts department and villagers. A proper fire
in the state have seen a reduction in pop- forecasting and warning system should
ulation growth rates too. For example, in be implemented. A separate wing for fire-
Pauri, there was a 136 per cent decline in ARVIND BIJALWAN M J R DOBRIYAL fighting should be created in the forest de-
population growth rates between 1991- partment. A fire danger rating system for
2001 and 2001-2011. 2,000 hectares each. Most of the beats in different types of forests should be fol-
The fires in other parts of the coun- states are without beat guards and man- lowed. The government can also look at a
try are different from the Himalayan re- power is shared with two-three beats. forest insurance policy for at least valua-
gion where the steep and undulated ter- There are many ways in which the ble forests.
rain and high wind velocity spreads the impact of a forest fire can be mitigat-
fire within few hours. ed. Trees like Banj oak, Myrica, Alder, Bijalwan is with the Indian Institute of
Due to the lack of manpower in the for- Rhododendron should be included in chir Forest Management, Bhopal, and Dobriyal
est department, fire lines are not cleaned. pine forest. Forest litter and humus can be is with the Department of Silviculture
Forest and beat guards have to look af- converted into bio bricks and vermi com- and Agroforestry, Navsari Agricultural
ter impossibly huge areas, around 1,500- post. Migration should be checked. University, Gujarat

34 DOWN TO EARTH 16-31 MAY 2016

26-36Cover story.indd 34 10/05/16 10:40 AM


in fire fighting but now they fear they might be says Danu. Left to themselves, 40 members of the Vikram Chetri is one of
persecuted for entering reserve forests. two van panchayats have formed groups to douse the many people from
the Northeast who
Communities that have managed to re- the fires. The intensity of the fire increased every travel to Uttarakhand
ceive forest rights under the Forest Rights Act day. We single-handedly fought for seven straight every year to extract
resin from pine forests.
(fra), 2006, allege officials are unwilling to help days after the fire broke out in our forests, but He normally earns
them fight fire. Down To Earth spoke to two could not even manage to save half of our forests. `25,000 per season,
but has earned nothing
Uttarakhand communities that have forest rights Sometimes, we feel helpless, she says. this year due to the fire
under fra, and both complained of gross govern-
ment apathy to save their forests. Tulsi Devi, sar- Sparks of hope
panch of Rasiyabgarh van panchayat (forest com- There are several examples within India where
mittee), says, Forest officials refuse to help us by empowered communities have successfully saved
saying the forest is ours and we have to save it. forests from fires. One such example is of Bilapaka
Every year, during forest fires, we try to contain village in Odishas Mayurbhanj district where the
it with tree branches and by removing dry vege- community started to keep a check on the forests
tation. We burn our feet, hands, ears, but the fire the moment they realised the summer is going to
does not stop. Highlighting the apathy of local be warmer and drier this year. The 54 tribal fam-
officials, Devi says the village residents recently ilies, who received rights over 1,200 ha of forest-
caught a man who was trying to set the forest on land last year, have devised a simple and effective
fire. We pressured the police at Nachni village to
lodge a complaint. But the police set the man free
after a meagre fine of `250. Forest officials' apathy and distrust
Chandrakala Danu, gram pradhan of towards forest communities can be seen
Bhainskal gram panchayat in Pithoragarh dis- at two levels. Firstly, they blame local
trict, too, says that the forest department has failed communities for most fires. Secondly, they
them. We have asked the forest department to ap-
refuse to extend help to communities that
point a fire-watcher. We are even willing to pay
the salary. But they have not done anything yet,
have rights of forest management

16-31 MAY 2016 35

26-36Cover story.indd 35 10/05/16 10:40 AM


Uncontrollable destruction
Human-made fires and changes in the climate are the double whammy
Traditionally, natural forest fires or wild the people and forest more destructive.
fires were a way to ensure that the forests Of late, there has been the issue of dry
were functioning normally. Wild fires in climatic conditions due to the El Nio and
earlier days played an evolutionary role in consecutive droughts. The forests and the
shaping eco-systems and its component soil that hold them have a very low-mois-
species. Humans used it as a tool to re- ture content, making it easier to catch fire
shape and dominate their world. and to spread it. The water bodies which
Then there were controlled forest act as natural barriers for fire are all dry
fires which were human-made, but people now. Therefore, while the natural causes
residing in the forests knew exactly when that started the fire have not changed, the
and how much to burn. climatic conditions are just right for the
However, the reasons today are large- fire to spread. And once the fire spreads,
ly human-made. People burn forests for it is very cost-ineffective and unsustaina-
collecting forest produce, for pastureland ble to put it out.
to graze cattle, and timber. Accidental
fires are caused due to campfires and cig- Earlier, the population density was low Qureshi is a scientist in Landscape
arette butts. Even when the fire is started and extent of forest was vast in compari- Ecology and Geographical Information
due to natural causes, the spread is more son. The increasing thrust of population Systems and Remote Sensing, Wildlife
rapid due to an increase in the fuel load. pressure makes the relationship between Institute of India, Dehradun

mechanism to check small fires in their forest.

They first passed a resolution and set up
the Bilapaka Jangal Surakshya Parichalana
Committee (bjspc). They then chalked out an ef-
fective warning mechanism and a process to im-
mediately stop fire incidents before they become
unmanageable. Two members of the village are
assigned the duty of patrolling our forests and
alerting village residents in case of a fire. And as
per the village resolution, we do not wait for the
forest department officers to bring fire under con-
trol. We ourselves curb the fire spread in the par-
ticular area, says proud resident Kurbeli Nayak.
In March this year, bjspc submitted the manage-
ment plan for forest with Sub-Divisional Level
Committee and District Level Committee.
Neighbouring Kohla village has also been able
to keep forest fires at bay by adopting a similar
mechanism. In the Similipal National Park area, Similipal National Park. Their efforts are directly Burnt forest near
43 villages have been awarded community forest helping the cause of tiger conservation. Pangot village in
Nainital district
rights. Seventeen of these villages have already Similar stories of forest dwellers coming for-
submitted forest management plans to the admin- ward to tackle forest fires are found in Madikhol,
istration. I have been regularly visiting these vil- Sapangi, Nedipaju and Sunamai villages under
lages. I have hardly seen fire continuing for more Jamjhari gram panchayat in Kandhamal district.
than an hour in the forest surrounding them, says So the solution is simple, communities will have to
Tanuja Mishra, a researcher who has been work- be empowered to manage forests. Till then, forest
ing with the tribals. Now more than 40,500 ha fires will continue, says Shukla. n
of forest are controlled by several communities in (With inputs from Ajay Kumar Saxena)

36 DOWN TO EARTH 16-31 MAY 2016

26-36Cover story.indd 36 10/05/16 10:40 AM



Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment (ATREE), an applied environmental research
institute in Bangalore, invites applications for endowed faculty positions in its research programmes on

1. Climate Change Mitigation and Development: PhD plus 2 years research experience in Energy Studies,
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interest in carrying out interdisciplinary research on renewable energy and energy access, urbanization
and environment, co-benefits of GHG mitigation, drivers of consumption and efficiency, governance and
behavioural change.

2. Forests and Governance: PhD plus 2 years research experience in Political Science, Development
Studies, Economics, Sociology, Anthropology, Geography, Forest Management or related fields. Strong
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37 may31 2016
37Auroville +Atree.indd 37 10/05/16 11:08 AM

Delayed by design
Retrofitting India's
IX MONTHS after the government of While some of them hope the regulations
India issued a set of strict regula- will be watered down, others are pushing to
coal-based power tions for coal-based power plants have the implementation date postponed.
and 18 months before they come The impact of coal-based thermal pow-
plants as per the new into force, there is no clarity on how, or if, er industry on air is disproportionately
standards that will be they will get implemented in time. The reg-
ulations, published on December 7, 2015,
high. In India it is responsible for over 60
per cent of PM, 45 per cent of SO2, 30 per
in force from become effective from December 7, 2017. cent of NOx and more than 80 per cent of

2017 remains an They aim to drastically cut air pollutants

such as particulate matter (PM), sulphur di-
mercury emissions of the industrial sector.
But as per the current regulations, the
uphill task oxide (SO2) and oxides of nitrogen (NOx),
and reduce extraction and use of fresh wa-
plants need to keep only the PM levels un-
der check (see Overdue reforms). There are
PRIYAVRAT BHATI ter. But the operators, who would need to no national emission standards for SO2,
upgrade plants and install new pollution NOx and mercury. A 2015 study, Heat on
| new delhi control technologies, do not appear to be Power, by Delhi-based think tank Centre
taking steps to comply with the new norms. for Science and Environment (cse), found


38-40Analysis.indd 38 06/05/16 5:26 PM


that almost two-thirds of thermal power

plants in India were not complying with
Overdue reforms
PM emission standards, which are much The new emission standards for coal-based power plants are the first tightening
more lenient than the norms in the of norms in two decades and will come into force from December 7, 2017
European Union, China and the US.
Impact on air| Of all emissions from the industrial sector In India, coal-based power plants
New norms account for:
The new standards categorise power plants Currently,
power plants have
into three groupsunits that have been in
operation before 2003, those installed be- 60% 45% 30% 80% only PM norms (50-
tween 2004 and 2016, and the ones that 350 mg/Nm3). There
will be commissioned after 2016. The are no standards for
Particulate Sulphur Oxides of Mercury SO2, NOx and Hg
standards are based on a range of factors, Matter (PM) dioxide (SO2) nitrogen (NOx) (Hg)
including the age of plant, technology used
(which determines what upgradation and
retrofitting is appropriate) and the regula- New regulations | The new regulations divide coal-run power plants into three categories
tions and environmental clearances that on the basis of their date of commissioning and have different emission standards for them
were in force when the plant was commis- Commissioned before December 31, 2003 Commissioned between January 1, 2004, and December 31, 2016
sioned. The categorisation was basically Commissioned after January 1, 2017 (Emissions in mg/Nm3)
done considering all aspects, including Particulate Matter Sulphur dioxide (SO2)
availability of technology and achievabili- 100 600 (for units
200 (for units > 500 MW)
ty, says S K Palliwal, senior scientist at the 50 600 < 500 MW)
Central Pollution Control Board (cpcb), 200 (for units > 500 MW)
30 100
who was instrumental in developing the
new standards.
Oxides of nitrogen (NOx) Mercury (Hg)
But the signs so far are not encourag-
600 0.03 (for units > 500 MW)
ing. An informal survey by cse shows that
many companies have little idea about the 300 0.03
equipment needed by their plants to meet 100 0.03
the new standards and are in early stages of
hiring consultants or asking manufactur- Industry excuses | Most operators have not started upgrading their plants because they
ers for clarifications on how to undertake believe the guidelines will change or the deadline for their implementation will be extended

1 2 3 4
the process. Moreover, some projects are
Not enough New norms don't take into New technology Modification
still moving ahead as per old plans and will
space to install account Indian coal's high unproven for costs are
require expensive modification later.
new equipment ash content/emissions Indian coal too high
Mahesh Kumar Agarwal, chief engineer,
Suratgarh thermal power plant, Rajas-
than Rajya Vidyut Utpadan Nigam Ltd Industry objections Electricals Ltd). We are awaiting bhels
(rrvunl), says, We are confident that we A major technical hurdle, argued Asso- report to take further action. Same is the
will get relaxation and after the installation ciation of Power Producers, the industry case with Haryana Power Generation
we will take up the modifications, if neces- trade body, in a March 16 letter to the power Corporation Ltd (hpgcl). Ashok Garj,
sary. Currently, it is very difficult to make ministry, is the lack of space in the old units deputy secretary-generation, hpgcl, says,
modifications as erection and construction for installing pollution control equipment In all our units, space is a major constraint.
is under process. The truth, however, is such as fgd or electrostatic precipitator We are planning to call our equipment
that it is easier to make changes now be- (esp), which is used to capture particulate supplier sepco Electric Power Construc-
cause the plant is still under construction. matter. M K Sunder Singh, director- tion Corporation from China to understand
M K Mishra, chief engineer-in-charge of thermal, Andhra Pradesh Power Gener- the feasibility.
installation, Chhabra supercritical station, ation Corporation, says, We feel we have However, there are ways to solve this
rrvunl, also says, No modifications have space constraints as fgd will have to be problem. Within the existing esp, more
been made to the design; fgds (flue gas des- placed between the chimney and the boiler, collecting area can be provided by replac-
ulfurisation equipment, which curbs SO2 but we arent sure. We have consulted cea ing the esp internals with taller collecting
emissions) are not being installed. We will (Central Electricity Authority) and ntpc system or replacing the existing esp fields
commission the plant in September 2016; (National Thermal Power Corporation) with bag filters, says Kamatchi Rajavel,
the modifications for pollution control will who advised us to approach our equipment corporate adviser-Mitsubishi Hitachi
be undertaken later if needed. supplier, which is bhel (Bharat Heavy Power Systems (mhps), Japan, which advis-

16-31 MAY 2016 39

38-40Analysis.indd 39 06/05/16 5:26 PM


es ntpc on pollution control equipment. "The [new] ter of power, coal and renewable energy, has
Moreover, cpcb officials say that environ- asked senior officials to examine options to
mental clearances required all units larger
categorisation shut old units or replace them with efficient
than 500 MW and set up after 2003 to was done supercritical plants. For the remaining
leave enough space to install fgd. This considering plants commissioned before 2003 (around
should have been followed. all aspects, 25 GW, estimates cse), improvements in esp
Another criticism levelled by the indus- including and modifications in boiler should enable
try is that the new regulations have been availability of technology and them to meet the new standards.
framed disregarding the high ash content
and low calorific value of Indian coal. The Silver lining
high emissions by power plants are due to S K Palliwal, senior scientist, CPCB But not all is lost. A few operators are of the
the use of this coal, they say. They also argue view that they will be ready for the new
that the technology used in pollution con- "Pollution norms in time. U S Hota, chief engineer,
trol devices is unproven for Indian coal. Uttar Pradesh Rajya Vidyut Utpadan Nig-
There isnt sufficient data on performance am Ltd, says, All of our plants in pipeline
of advanced pollution control technologies
technologies at Hardurganj, Panki, Obra, Parichha,
using Indian coal, said Sanjay Sagar, ceo, are mature which will come up in next three-four years,
jsw Energy at a conference on coal held in and have will be 100 per cent complaint with the new
New Delhi on March 18. Manufacturers of been shown environmental standard. We recently mod-
these devices, however, have a different to achieve these [emission] ified the Hardurganj plants contracts with
view. Pollution control technologies are levels in various operating the vendors as it is in the foundation stage.
mature and have been shown to achieve ntpc too, in a written response to cse, said,
conditions. Manufacturing
these levels in various operating condi- All new units are installed with high effi-
tions, counters Alok Jha, general manag-
capacity will quickly scale as ciency esps which are capable of meeting
er, GE Power. Manufacturers are also in demand rises" the new norms for PM. In view of this, we
discussions to set up pilot plants to demon- Alok Jha, GM, GE Power are confident of complying with the stipu-
strate the success of these technologies. For lated new norms on PM.
instance, use of catalytic selective catalytic "There isn't However, a comprehensive strategy is
reduction (scr) can help in meeting NOx required to make the transition a success.
emission standards even with Indian coal.
sufficient First, the government needs to restructure
Another major hurdle, say operators, is data on the the state-owned distribution companies
the huge investment required to upgrade performance that are distressed. Power generators will be
the plants. Association of Power Producers of advanced able to finance the investments only if their
contends the costs could range between pollution customersthe discomsare viable. Sec-
R1.25-1.5 crore per MW. We need to install control technologies using ond, the government should also consider
fgd and scr to meet SOx and NOx standard using the coal cess of R400 per tonne levied
Indian coal"
in the new Ennore 660 MW units, which on all coal buyers to support the investment
will be commissioned in 2017-18. However, Sanjay Sagar, CEO, JSW Energy through soft loans or other financing mech-
the additional investment needs to be ap- anisms. Third, the tariff regulators need to
proved by the board. The process is time Officials at the coal-based power work with power companies to expedite ap-
consuming and tenders have to be finalised. plants, which have been commissioned be- proval of these investments and build it into
So at this juncture it would be difficult, says fore 2003, say that the units need costly tariff changes. cea and Power Grid Corp-
T Balasubramanian, superintending engi- upgradation to meet new standards and oration of India need to draw a plan for stag-
neer, Tamil Nadu Generation and Dis- there is little time left to recoup the invest- gered plant shut downs that would be re-
tribution Corporation. But manufacturers ment. According to a 2015 report by cea, quired during upgradations to avoid
of pollution control devices are of a differ- approximately 36 GW of Indias 185 GW disruptions to electricity supply.
ent view in this regard as well. They say the coal-based power capacity is contributed by China retrofitted over 65 per cent of its
costs will be much lessfor older units plants that are over 25 years old and are 800 GW capacity with devices to curb NOx
upgradation costs would be between R0.25 considered to have reached the end of their in five years and over 60 per cent of the ca-
-0.7 crore per MW while the for the new design life. These plants are both polluting pacity with fgd in four years. India too can
plants the figure would be around and inefficient and should be shut since up- achieve its goals of cleaning the coal-based
R1 crore per MW. cse estimates, based on grading them and installing expensive pol- power sector, but it would need a concert-
discussions with industry experts, that to- lution control equipment may be uneco- ed and aggressive action plan. Indias loom-
tal cost for upgrading all existing coal plants nomical, says Chandra Bhushan, deputy ing health and environment problems de-
may be in the range of R65,000 crore. director general, cse. Piyush Goyal, minis- mand nothing less. @down2earthindia

40 DOWN TO EARTH 16-31 MAY 2016

38-40Analysis.indd 40 06/05/16 5:26 PM


Complexities of climate change

CLIMATE CHANGE is usually thought of as a
single environmental threat from increases

Particulate matters in atmospheric CO2. But researchers found

that as far as marine life goes, there are triple
threatsrising temperatures, decreased
Long-term exposure to PM 2.5 could oxygen levels and pH or acidificationand
their impacts are not uniform across oceans.
increase cancer risk by 22 per cent Organisms from each ocean basin have their
own unique threshold for the level and type
of stressor it could tolerate. For instance,
diversity of marine life in the eastern Pacific
Ocean is highly sensitive to declining oxygen
levels, while CO2 levels were of importance to
biodiversity in the Indian Ocean. Proceedings
of the Royal Society B, April 27


Mapping female
HIV transmission
FOR THE first time, researchers have found
that the HIV virus enters cells throughout the
entire female reproductive tractfrom the
labia to the ovaryand not just the cervix,
as previously thought. The finding could help
map which areas are vulnerable to HIV and
further research could investigate why the
virus enters these areas, and not everywhere
else. The medical insight could help scientists
design a more effective vaccine to protect
women from HIV. Cell Host & Microbe, April 13


STUDY quantifies cancer risk levels due to prolonged
exposure to PM 2.5ambient fine particulate matter
Disease resistance
of less than 2.5 micrometres of diameter. For every R E S E A R C H E R S H AV E isolated
novel disease resistance genes and could
10 microgram per cubic metre of increased exposure to
successfully transfer resistance into soybean,
PM 2.5, the risk of dying from any cancer rose by 22 per
wheat and potato. Three research studies have
cent. PM 2.5 is largely produced by the transportation focused on wheat stem rust, Asian soybean
and power sectors, among other sources. The researchers rust, and potato late blight, which are difficult
studied 66,280 people aged 65 or older between 1998 and to control and each is capable of causing yield
2001 in Hong Kong, and followed the subjects until 2011, losses over 80 per cent. The researchers
ascertaining causes of death from registerations. Annual simply restored the ability of the plants to `see'
concentrations of PM 2.5 at their homes were estimated the pathogen. Once that's done, the plant does
using data from satellite and fixed-site monitors. Cancer the rest. Nature Biotechnology, April 25
Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, May 1

16-31 MAY 2016 41

41S&T Bytes.indd 41 06/05/16 4:04 PM


Geo jolt A
YEAR AFTER the 7.8 earthquake not move. But why did south Nepal not ex-
struck Nepal on April 25, a num- perience any slip, given that the country is
ber of studies have mapped the part of one fault plane?
impacts of the quake, and found C P Rajendran of the Jawaharlal Nehru
that the country is today vulnerable to a Centre for Advanced Scientific Research,
The earthquake that range of long-term threats. The findings are Bengaluru, says this is indicative of some sort
struck Nepal a year stunning: some parts of Nepal have shrunk,
while several mountains such as Mount
of heterogeneity in the region. There could
be differences in the rheology, geology and
ago has exposed Everest have receded in height. The quake geometry, he adds. For instance, there could

multiple windows of has also left a lateral movement of about

4.8 metres in the Himalayan region towards
be more rocks blocking the propagation of a
rupture in the south (geological differenc-
vulnerability the Indian subcontinent, indicating that the es) or a perpendicular hindrance to the rup-
region is highly seismic. Researchers have ture (geometrical differences). There could
JIGYASA WATWANI found new rupture points and accumula- also be differences in the frictional proper-
tion of stress in areas south of Kathmandu. ties (rheological differences) that restricted
the rupture to Kathmandu and the region
Physical changes north of it (see Marking the aftermath).
Geodesy (measuring geometric space, orien- Though many seismologists could not
tation in space and gravity field) assessment find ruptures on the surface, Revathy Para-
has confirmed that there was a movement of meswaran of the Indian Institute of Science
physical landforms in all three dimensions: (iisc), Bengaluru, and her team observed so-
while land around central Kathmandu ele- me breaks and fissures on the ground. People
vated by up to 1.4 metres, land north of Ka- in this region say that when the cracks were
Some parts of Kathmandu have elevated, thmandu dropped by about 1.2 metres. In- formed, they were more than one metre in
while others have shrunk terestingly, areas south of Kathmandu did depth. These fissures have now been filled

42-43Earth Science.indd 42 06/05/16 4:02 PM

due to ploughing or rains. We consider
these to be potential surface ruptures, says
Marking the aftermath
Parameswaran. The quake has left several physical changes which throw new light
Some seismologists, on the other hand, on our understanding of the geology of the region
attribute the absence of a surface rupture Quake prone areas
to the fact that the rupture slowed down EURASIAN Ruptures
Landslide risk areas
under Kathmandu. Supriyo Mitra of the PLATE While some studies have
Liquefaction of soil
Indian Institute of Science Education and found breaks and fissures on Glacial Lake Outburst Flood
Research (iiser), Kolkata, believes that this the ground, others say the The outlet ponds of many lakes have
coould be due to the fact that there is a grad- absence of raptures is due to widened and deepened, which could
a gradual 6ramp on the Main release a catastrophic flood
ual 60 ramp on the Main Himalayan Thrust. Himalayan Thrust
If true, this is a new insight on the seismo- Receding mountains
tonics of the region. Other seismologists say Mount Everest has receded in
height by a few millimetres
the slowing down of the rupture happened Fault line
because there isnt enough stress driving it. The quake has left a
Another significant physical change lateral movement of
about 4.8 metres Imja lake
that resulted from the quake is the lique-
towards the Indian Tsho Rolpa lake
faction of soil. Liquefaction means that the subcontinent Kathmandu
soil particles become loose and tend to flow
like a liquid. This spells doom for structures
as well as for the people. The Himalayan Liquefaction of soil Changing Geology
Monitoring and Assessment Programme INDIAN PLATE Soil particles become loose While land around central Kathmandu
(himap) of the International Centre for In- and tend to flow like a liquid, elevated by up to 1.4 metres, land
which could spell doom for north of Kathmandu dropped by
tegrated Mountain Development, Kath- structures as well as people about 1.2 metres
mandu, has predicted an increase in the GRAPHIC: RAKU / CSE
number and frequency of glacial lake out-
burst flood. An assessment of Imja, Tsho torical and paleoseismic record might be tre potential slip, which can result in a mag-
Rolpa and Thulagi glacial lakes revealed misleading about the magnitude, frequen- nitude nine quake.
there has been a loss of morainal material cy, and recurrence interval for Himalayan Scientists have also tried to inch closer to
mass of rocks or sediments brought down quakes. Also, the characteristics of shaking better prediction of the cyclicity (recurrence
by a glacier. This means heightened risk of in the Nepal quake were unusual, with lit- interval) of earthquakes. For instance, the
rockfall and avalanches. himap also noticed tle high frequency energy that may have re- recurrence interval for Himalayan quakes,
that the outlet pond of these lakes had wid- duced the amount of destruction. This was such as the one in Nepal, is about 100-200
ened and deepened after the quake. If this very lucky for the people affected. But we do years. Similarly, the recurrence interval
trend continues, the moraine will continue not know if future earthquakes will behave for quakes in the Hindukush Himalayas is
to subside underneath and the hydrostatic the same way, says Rebecca Bendeck of the about 50-100 years, says Mitra.
pressure against the terminal moraine will University of Montana, usa. As there was no apparent surface rup-
increase, so much so that it could, one day, ture, physical damage from the Nepal earth-
release a catastrophic flood. Quake radar quake was observed largely in the form of
The earthquake tells us that Himalayan Areas south of Kathmandu were crumpled secondary effects like landslides. In fact,
events can occur over a very wide range of by the quake. So, in essence, there is a stress landslides are compounded by the lique-
sizes. Not all Himalayan earthquakes will in the zone towards the Terai region and less faction of the soil. A number of organisa-
break the whole fault interface between stress north of Kathmandu. Based on our tions have mapped the landslide risk areas,
India and Tibet. If residual strain can be past experience, we expect earthquakes in the most recent being the Yale Himalayan
stored in sections of the fault interface, then the areas northwest and southeast of the Initiative, an initiative of the Yale School of
observations of displacement from the his- rupture zone, says Mitra. In areas south- Forestry and Environment Studies.
east of Kathmandu, there hasnt been a qu- Some experts believe changes in phys-
ake since 1934. The region has accumulat- ical landforms arent permanent. Seismic
The quake has left a ed 1.5 metres of slip, which can result in a stress will be relieved and Kathmandu will
lateral movement of seven magnitude earthquake. Areas north- once again come back to its original posi-
about 4.8 metres in the west of Kathmandu seem more vulnerable: tion, says Parameswaran. But Mitra says
Himalayan region towards no earthquake has occurred in the region in post-seismic relaxation hasnt happened as
the Indian subcontinent the last 500 years. It has acquired a nine me- yet in Nepal. @ jigyasawatwani

16-31 MAY 2016 43

42-43Earth Science.indd 43 06/05/16 5:16 PM



The genesis of a knot

If our early ancestors were polygamous,
then how did we become monogamous?

ONOGAMY HAS amused and bemused think- In 2013, a team of British researchers concluded that the
ers in equal measure ever since we acquired threat of infants being killed by unrelated males is the
the faculty to reflect on ourselves as a species. key driver of monogamy in humans and other primates.
Friedrich Engels, Marxs collaborator, theo- A year earlier, Harvard Universitys Joseph Henrich had
rised that ancient men and women lived and loved freely postulated that monogamy became the norm because it
in a communistic Garden of Eden until they were conned paid rich social and economic dividends. By not endors-
into the monogamy trap by the apple of patriarchy. In a ing polygamy and thereby enlarging the pool of eligible
lighter vein, Oscar Wilde has quipped: Bigamy is having bachelors, he argued, such societies were able to not only
one wife too many. Monogamy is the same. reduce crime rates, but also lessen the age gap between
In recent times, however, it is the evolutionary biolo- spouses, and decrease gender inequality.
gists who have had a field day untangling the complicated Notice that all attempts to explain the origins of mo-
knots of monogamy. According to the first and perhaps nogamy assume that our ancestors were polygamous, just
the most well-known proposition, like our closest primate cousins, the
monogamy became widespread as it chimpanzees and bonobos. This then
ensured some guarantee to the male raises a fundamental question about
(assuming the female was not philan- us: if our early ancestors were polyg-
dering) that he was not being cuck- amous then why, how and when did
olded, which in turn, improved the we become monogamous? Husband-
survival rates of the offspring. wife team of David P Barash and
In the latest scientific aperu Judith Eve Lipton, both academics at
on the subject, researchers from the the University of Washington, discuss
University of Waterloo in Canada and this question in great detail in their
the Max Planck Institute for Evolu- book The Myth of Monogamy. They
tionary Anthropology in Leipzig, argue that even though as a species
Germany, propose that the threat TARIQUE AZIZ / CSE we show the characteristic evolution-
from Sexually Transmitted Infections ary imprint of polygamy, not lifelong
(stis) and the punishing of polygamists may have been a fidelity to one sexual partner, we embraced monogamy
major catalyst of monogamy. because it is part of our egalitarian ethos; indeed, it may
The study is based on a mathematical model of how have set the stage for social equality.
different mating behaviours evolve in response to the Evolutionary biologists will keep amusing us with
changing pattern of stis in large societies. The model as- their colourful tales about the evolutionary origins of mo-
sumes that in large groups polygamous men are more nogamy. However, we must see ourselves predominant-
prone to stis, which may render them infertile. Hence, it ly as products of a long cultural evolution, rather than as
would make sense for the entire community to switch to prisoners of our genetic past. As the psychologist Adam
monogamy as a means of preserving itself, and therefore Phillips, the ever-perceptive parser of human nature, has
to create incentives and disincentives that would make observed: We are the only animals that think of ourselves
polygamy unviable. The researchers, however, emphasise as being like animals. And yet the mating habits of swans,
that stis were probably only one among the many other the courting rituals of hyenas, the ants extended family
drivers. Such is the explanatory zeal of evolutionary biol- tells us nothing about our erotic lives; nothing we can use.
ogists that this is probably the third account in as many Monogamy is just one of the wonders of nature; nothing
years of how and why humans came to be monogamous. in nature is more natural than anything else.

44 DOWN TO EARTH 16-31 MAY 2016

44Column.indd 44 05/05/16 12:26 PM

45 MAY31 2016
45EFRAC ad.indd 45 06/05/16 12:49 PM

Taste the bud

Used across many cultures for fuel and fodder,
the medicinal-rich semal has a culinary angle too


46-47Food.indd 46 06/05/16 4:42 PM

HEN A plant is used across cul- out semal. I learnt that the silk cotton and
tures and geographical bound- even the tough thorns on the bark are used RECIPE
aries as ethno-medicine and fo- to treat migraine.
od, it indicates that the people In fact, various parts of semal are used to Semal ki subzi
found the properties of the plant after gen- treat gastrointestinal, skin, gynecological INGREDIENTS

erations of trial and error with their own lo- and urogenital diseases. Many studies have 250 g of tender semal buds
cal produce, seasons and natural instincts. proved the plant to have antimicrobial, anti- One potato cubed
1/2 cup onion paste
Semal, also called kapuk or silk cotton tree inflammatory, antioxidant, analgesic and
1 tbsp ginger-garlic paste
(Bombyx cieba), is one such tree that flowers oxytocic properties. The roots, stem bark
1/2 cup fresh tomato paste
spectacularly in spring and becomes a bird and seeds of semal have the ability to prevent 1 tbsp red chilli powder
magnet. Birds definitely know what to eat. liver damage. Alcoholic extract of the bark 1 tbsp turmeric powder
Many tribal communities consume se- and thorns are used to treat acne. Being an 1 tbsp garam masala powder
mal because of its medicinal properties. Ot- antioxidant, semal helps reduce blood pre- Salt to taste
hers worship and protect the tree. A clan of ssure and is good for the heart. 3 tbsp mustard oil
the Bhil tribe in Rajasthan, for instance, pro- 1 tbsp methi seeds
tects the tree because they considers it a tree Ecologically serene
totem. The Khuman clan of the Meetie com- When grown as natural bunds, this tree at- METHOD

munity in Manipur also protects and con- tracts several pollinators and provides fod- You need to first separate the fleshy
green sepals from the red petals
serves the tree and uses the tree produce. der for farm animals, apart from providing
forming inside. Chop the sepals (the
Many folk songs are dedicated to the semal the occasional firewood. Semal is a fire-resis-
green covering of the bud) into four
tree in the tribal regions across India. tant tree and is also known for its cooling parts lengthwise
Long ago, when we moved to the earst- properties. If one plants semal trees around Heat 2 tbsp mustard oil and add
while Central Institute of Fuel Research in housing colonies, the environmental cost of the chopped semal sepals. Fry for 3-4
Dhanbad, we inherited a huge semal tree. air-conditioning can be minimised. minutes. Add the cubed potatoes and
We used to make soft pillows using the silk The tree acts as a soil binder and pro- fry for 5 minutes more. Keep aside.
cotton from the tree. Every season I noticed vides huge amounts of fallen foliage and flo- Heat the remaining 1 tbsp
that many local tribal women came to collect wers that are an excellent medium for vermi- mustard oil and tip in the methi
the fallen flower buds to my surprise. I got composting. It is considered a pioneer tree seeds. Wait till they turn light brown
curious and asked what they do with it and that generates a rich biomass every season, and then pour the onion paste. Fry
the paste till it becomes pinkish
then they told me hesitantly that they make and has been used to reclaim wastelands. Its
brown. Add the ginger-garlic and
subzi (vegetable dish) with it. leaves and flowers are large and leathery, and
tomato paste and salt. Cook till
Later, I tried the subzi myself, but did return huge amount of carbon to the soil. the mixture gets glossy. Add the
not like it much. But it triggered my interest This ecologically active tree fixes carbon and powdered spices and mix well. Stir
and thus began my quest to know more ab- helps carbon sequestration by shedding all and cook for a couple of minutes.
leaves before flowering. Many researchers Add the partly fried semal sepals and
believe the semal to be a bio indicatora late potatoes to the cooked spice mixture.
flowering could mean a hot summer or a Add water, mix well and cover the
delayed monsoon. lid. Cook for about 15 minutes on low
Though widely known as a great source flame. Serve with chapatis.
for fodder and fuel, semal has a culinary
utility too. A few months ago, we were wal-
king around the markets of Moradabad and okra. It tastes like any other green plant with
a cart loaded with semal buds caught my a faint fragrance. Sun dried semals need to
attention. I asked the lady on the cart about be rehydrated and they taste a little more in-
how she cooks it and she told me the right tense. But heres the sweet irony: some rural
way (see recipe). I asked her if the buds wou- communities believe semal is inauspicious.
ld survive four days in the car trunk, and she This myth may have originated because the
said we could peel and chop them, and also spiny outgrowths on the stem bark have so-
sun dry them to preserve. me endophytic pathogenic bacteria, which
Once home, I made a subzione with act as a biological defence, protecting the
fresh semal and another with the sun dried tree from animals.
ones. The subzi made with fresh buds is a The author is a food and
little slippery in texture, almost like steamed nutrition consultant

16-31 MAY 2016 47

46-47Food.indd 47 06/05/16 4:42 PM

`Industries easily
find political
whenever we
are strict'
UMA BHARATI, Union minister of water
resources, river development and Ganga
rejuvenation, speaks to SUSHMITA SENGUPTA on
the challenges of cleaning the Ganga. Excerpts
People call you India's first Ganga minis- that industries easily find political protec- How is your plan different from that of
ter. What do you plan to do? tion, and escape whenever we are strict the previous governments? Can we bring
Water is the key to life. But there has been with them on monitoring and compli- back the Ganga to her past glory?
mismanagement of water, not only in In- ance. We have asked various state govern- I personally feel there was no proper plan-
dia, but also across the world. In India, the mentswhere the Ganga flowsto be ning to clean up the Ganga before the
reason for this is the huge population. Ev- very strict with industries. Domestic sew- National Democratic Alliance (nda) came
ery Indian respects water. They only need age, on the other hand, can be treated and to power. The previous government de-
to be made aware of the problems in order reused. The ministry of urban develop- pended entirely on bureaucrats to devise
to fix them. It is a challenge, but not an im- ment is in charge of treating wastewater river clean-up programmes. And the bu-
possible task. from the cities. Now it is flowing into the reaucrats only pushed for setting up sew-
river and its tributaries. Treating waste- age treatment plants (stps) and effluent
How will you prioritise the problems to water from the citiesbe it industrial or treatment plants (etps).
search for viable solutions? domesticis the most challenging part of But they underestimated the pollu-
There can be no prioritisation, but there Ganga cleaning. Tackling pollution from tion load to be treated in the stps and etps.
can be timeline to tackle different sources the rural areas is comparatively easy. We During power cuts, untreated sewage
of pollution. I can certainly say that the are confident of getting the support of vil- went directly into the river.
most challenging one is the wastewater lagers, where small-scale wastewater The construction and maintenance of
being dumped by industries. Some units treatment plants can be constructed. At stps and etps are very expensive. More-
release poisonous chemicals. Therefore, other places, we are innovating with local over, since it used to take 10-12 years to
industrial effluents need proper manage- solutions to treat wastewater. Planting make them operational, these technolo-
ment and the industries themselves need trees on the river plain, for instance, can gies were completely outdated. They are
to come up with solutions. The problem is be a solution in some areas. not the most important part of our plan.

48 DOWN TO EARTH 16-31 MAY 2016

48-49Interview.indd 48 05/05/16 12:27 PM

new infrastructure mindlessly, we are de-
stroying our traditional water wealth. We
have to be very strict about the ecological
flow of a river. It takes millions of years for
a river to regenerate, but it can be killed in-
stantly by constructing just one dam.
Everybody thinks I am against dams.
It is not true. I have only advised that we
should not construct a dam mindlessly in
the middle of a river, but construct it in
such a way that we leave enough water to
maintain the ecological flow. We need to
maintain the various properties of a river
across all its length. The National Environ-
mental Engineering Institute, which is
working on this, will complete its research
in two years.

Cleaning the Ganga and the project to in-

terlink India's rivers are the top priorities
of your ministry. Which one do you think
is more difficult and why?
Both are different projects. The first river
interlinking project is coming up at Ken-
Betwa in Madhya Pradesh. The project has
been delayed by three to four months as
environmentalists did not clear the pro-
ject. The country needs such projects as the
countrys gdp is agro-based.
Can we see a clean Ganga by the end of
Now for the first time, we are making greater emphasis on desilting.
this year?
a holistic plan and this methodology will We have also brought together experts
The cleaning of the Ganga is being done in
be applied to other rivers as well. We are fo- from across the country. I was able to get
phases. The first phase of change will be
cussing on four to five important aspects. help from the seven Indian Institutes of
visible in October this year. In this phase,
For instance, we are researching plant spe- Technology. I have personally tried to br-
we are focussing on surface cleaning and
cies that can be grown on the banks of the ing the various stakeholdersfishing co-
solid waste management. Plastics, polyes-
Ganga so that the catchment area increas- mmunities, leather industries, pulp and
ter, polythene, bottles, bodies, which float
es. We are also exploring options to store paper industries, wine industries, Forest
on the river, will be removed completely.
monsoon water near the river, so that it can The ghats will also be cleaned. Solid waste
Research Institute and the Central Inland
be released into the river during dry peri- entering the river through the drains will
Fisheries Research Instituteon the same
ods, or during drought. also be checked.
platform to enable us to plan better.
To maintain a healthy river flow, the The construction of etps and stps will
most important role is played by the flora,
The concept of ecological flow is still tak- take some time. There will be a proper bid-
fauna and human settlements near the riv-
ing roots. Can the Ganga set an example? ding process for setting up these plants.
This concept is very new to India. Indians This bidding process will take about 12-18
er. We are trying to revive such aquatic fau-
have begun to realise that by developing months. The construction will take place
na and flora in the Ganga. We are laying a
one year later, and we will follow the guide-
lines of the Central Pollution Control Bo-
We should not construct a dam mindlessly in the ard for this.
middle of a river, but construct it in such a way @lakewarriors
that we leave enough water to maintain the For full interview, log on to
ecological flow of the river www.

16-31 MAY 2016 49

48-49Interview.indd 49 06/05/16 2:43 PM


Anatomy of
Stefan Klein explores the complex interplay
between positive and negative emotions


Speaking Tiger | 2 96 pages | `450

N OUR fast-paced lives, we are constantly looking for things and ount of the human brain. While doing so, he has quoted numerous
situations that will make us feel happy. While chasing the philosophers, gurus, writers and poets (including Tagore) and
mirage of a stress-free life, people often try out different sol- demolished some popular myths about the human brain. Without
utionsmeditation, yoga, physical exercise, chanting, herbal sounding preachy or technical, the author has conveyed the complex
concoctions, self-help camps, motivational talks and so on. All this scientific ideas and concepts in an easy-to-grasp narrative.
has given rise to a happiness or feel good industry in recent years.
But we seldom peep into ourselves, our body and the brainwhich Emotional circuits
is the seat of all feelings and emotions, including happiness. In Many of the new discoveries about the brain seem to
recent years, scientists have done phenomenal research in under- confirm the age-old wisdom of the Greeks and the
standing the biological basis of human feelings like happiness, anger Romans, as well as eastern cultures. Happiness and
and sadness. Advances in molecular biology are providing scientists unhappiness have their own brain circuits and
new ways of exploring different mechanisms and circuits in the chemistry. But this does not mean that they are
human brain and how they control our behaviour. It is now possible independent of one another. The brain sys-
to see changes occurring in the brain circuitry as people experience tem for positive and negative feelings is en-
emotions. We read about the results of new studies on various twined in such a way that a good feeling
aspects of the human brain, but often miss out on the bigger picture. can prevent a bad one and vice versa. The
German physicist and science writer, Stefan Klein, has tried to author explains the interplay between
fill this gap. And the bigger picture that emerges is quite fascinating. negative and positive emotions this
Two recent and significant discoveries explain the human urge for way: Every neuron is in contact wi-
happiness. The first reveals that the human brain has a kind of a th other nerve cells, some of which
special circuitry for joy, pleasure and euphoria, and the other shows
that our brain continues to change even after we grow up. This me-
ans the brain can reprogram itself using external experiences as well
as learning on its own. Citing innumerable research findings, on-
going experiments, interviews with scientists as well as real exam-
ples from everyday life, Klein has pieced together an absorbing acc-


50-51Book Review.indd 50 05/05/16 12:29 PM

provide signals that stimulate activity in the neuron. From others
come inhibiting impulses, and the result is a contest of strength
between the stimuli. Like a small computer, the neuron draws its
conclusion from the contradictory signals and communicates it, in RECENT DISCOVERIES in enabling pleasure and
turn, to other cells. neuroscience, especially on enjoyment to thwart negative
The author details the role and mechanisms that brain chem- the insight that the brain emotions such as sadness
icals or neurotransmitters like dopamine, opioids, oxytocin, beta- is malleable and that it can and fear, much as wind drives
endorphin and luliberin play in the manifestation of different change in adulthoodwhich away fog.
is what enables us to train Our ability to make our lives
our relationship with our happier rests on these two
emotions. And neuroscience basic principles: we can
has shown something else: strengthen the circuits for
happiness is more than simply the positive feelings with
the absence of unhappiness. conscious practice, and we can
We have dedicated circuits in seek out situations that give us
our heads for positive feelings, pleasure and enjoyment.

forms of happiness such as love, desire, sexual attraction,

passion and friendship. While dealing with the dark side
of desire such as drug addiction, the author explains:
Like many things that have multiple applications, the
brain circuits for pleasure are vulnerable to misuse. This

is significant because the human brain has a single, all-

purpose system for desire and its gratificationand not
separate circuits for controlling our desire to eat, another
for love and a third one for social recognition. Thats why,
he says, Deadly sins can be seen as an overshooting of our
natural desire for happiness. The experience of addiction
permanently transforms the functioning of certain nerve
cells in the brain, altering the way in which genetic infor-
mation is read and changed into proteins.
The brain has a survival mechanism that helps us to
deal with dangers or negative thoughts. More impor-
tantly, it has the ability not just to recognise threats, but
also to imagine them. This system can sometimes result
in problems like depression, which is nothing but chronic
sadness. Depression, Klein says, is: The price we pay for
our imagination and intelligence. More than pills, it se-
ems small activities can bring a feeling of success that can
help overcome sadness. Physical activity too helps a great
dealit stimulates neuron growth and works against de-
pression and overall health of the brain.
The book drives home the point that there is no for-
mula to achieve happiness, yet it gives some general tips
about the well-being of the brain. At the beginning of the
book, the author promises that after you have read this
book, your brain will look different than it did when you
started. Not sure about the changes that have occurred
in the reviewers brain, but the book is certainly a treatise

for anyone even slightly curious about this vital function

of human body.
The author is a science journalist
@dineshcsharma 51

50-51Book Review.indd 51 05/05/16 12:29 PM


Whale of A
STRING OF whale beaching incidents and deaths
in India has shocked marine scientists, more
so because they dont know the cause. Of the
100-odd, short-finned pilot whales that bea-

a problem ched in Tuticorin, Tamil Nadu, on January 12, 45 died. Bar-

ely two weeks later, a nine-metre dead whale washed ashore
on Mumbais Juhu beach. A week later, a 10-metre-long
sperm whale beached on the coastline of Ganjam district,
Odisha, and two days later, a 20-metre-long whale washed
Incidents of whale beaching and ashore on an uninhabited island in Kendrapara district,

deaths are increasing by the day. also in Odisha.

These incidents only mirror the global pattern. Between
Yet, scientists are only fishing for January and February this year, nearly 300 whales have

the exact cause of the phenomenon been found stranded across the world. Many theories are in
circulationfrom increasing global temperatures, disrup-
RAJESHWARI GANESAN tion of underwater environment by natural causes or
human-made noise to water pollution, including oil spills
and eutrophication (enriching of an ecosystem with
chemical nutrients leading to an algal bloom). But while
marine biologists agree that stranding is a natural pheno-
menon, they are unable to understand the cause of the
increased frequency of eventsthe primary cause remains
unknown and it could be more than one factor.

52 DOWN TO EARTH 16-31 MAY 2016

52-53Wild life.indd 52 05/05/16 12:29 PM

peril themselves, adds Murugan. sonar) or from exploration surveys at sea for
This was the reason cited when nearly oil and gas could also cause whales and
200 pilot whales were stranded in New dolphins to be stranded on the shoreline as
Zealand on February 12, of which 140 died. they live in a world of soundusing it to
Scientists believe that a pod typically gets communicate, find food and navigate. Sci-
stranded after one animal gets stuckoften entists add that the cause could be as natural
an older or sick individual weakened by as heavy underwater activity like earth-
disease, hunger or pollution. The rest get quakes or volcanoes on the ocean floor that
caught up in tide fluctuations and they get could disturb whales, leading to a distress
lost, because they focus on being with the movement towards the shores.
sick individual, says Trevor Spradlin, a A probable factor could be red tides
marine mammal biologist with the US Na- caused by algal blooms that not only
tional Oceanic and Atmospheric Adminis- discolour coastal waters, but deplete oxygen
tration. In fact, scientists do not know the and release harmful toxins. This was the
exact reasons for their deaths even though reason cited by conservationists when they
New Zealand has one of the highest rates of found 337 cetaceans305 carcasses and 32
whale stranding in the world (with an aver- skeletonsfrom a section of the Gulf of
age of 300 cetaceans stranding every year). Penas and Puerto Natales in Aysn region in
Another cause could be pollution. In southern Chile in June 2015.
Germanys North Sea coast, 13 sperm whales Red tides can be caused or exacerbated
were washed ashore up near the state of by nutrients from sewage and fertiliser,
Schleswig-Holstein in early-February this although its often very difficult to find one
year and died due to heart failure. Necropsy person or corporation culpable, says
of four of the beached whales revealed that Carolina Simon Gutstein, an evolutionary
A nine-metre
dead whale
there was garbage, including a nearly biologist at the Universidad de Chile and
found washed 13-metre-long shrimp fishing net, a plastic Consejo de Monumentos Nacionales in
ashore on
car engine cover and the remains of a plastic Santiago, who is about to publish a scientific
Juhu beach on bucket. However, according Whale and paper on whale deaths.
January 28
Dolphin Conservation (wdc), a non-profit, A theory often overlooked is changes in
the link between plastic ingestion and heart their food supply due to climate change.
Probability axis failure is ambiguous. Instead, they flout Whales are intelligent air-breathing mam-
Whale stranding is a grey area and there isnt another theory. Sperm whales are used to mals and adaptable to a wide range of water
enough research to pin down the exact cau- very deep waters. The whales might have parameterstemperature, salinity and ch-
se. Whales have very strong social bonds. A entered the North Sea chasing squid and emical composition. Changes in tempera-
group of whales may be drawn to the shore with the sea floor not being deep enough, ture could influence the location of prey spe-
by the distress signals of one member which they might have got disoriented and lost cies for the whales long before it affects the
may have got stranded. It could also be po- their way, says Danny Groves of wdc. whales directly. This means that foraging
ssible that the pilot or the leader whale whales could stray into unfamiliar waters
could be sick, injured or disoriented, and by Direct and indirect causes where the danger of mass stranding increa-
following the leader, the entire group could One of the most possible direct causes is the ses, says Paul Sieswerda of Gotham Whale,
be beached, says A Murugan, head of de- disruption of the underwater environment an organisation tracking marine life.
partment of marine ecology and conser- by human-made noise. It could include Theres also a strong belief that some of
vation at V O Chidambaram College in Tuti- active sonar and sonic discharge for seismic the dead whales belong to the bigger Azo-
corin, Tamil Nadu. The disoriented leader testing. We have found correlated occur- rean population of sperm whales and per-
may make one error in navigational judg- rences, says Iain Kerr of Ocean Alliance, a haps, as their populations recovered, they
ment and lead the group to be beached. research organisation working to conserve have lost the knowledge on how to get to the
Another speculation is that they could whales. Says Groves, Noise from military winter feeding grounds. The importance of
be trying to rescue their leader and end in exercises (using loud explosions or powerful getting to the animals as soon as possible to
conduct post-mortems cannot be under-
stated. Only further research and analysis
Whales have strong social bonds. A group of whales will help us to find out the cause of their
may be drawn to the shore by the distress signals of a deaths, adds Groves.
sick member or follow a disoriented leader to the beach @ rajeshwariyer

16-31 MAY 2016 53

52-53Wild life.indd 53 05/05/16 12:29 PM



Stairway to Heaven...and court

As cases of music plagiarism abound, we need to ask
how original is original?

OR FANS of Led Zeppelin, there was heart- dustry. The most celebrated is the 2008 case against the
break last month. A US district court decided in high profile Roshans for copyright violations in their film
April that the biggest name in 20th century rock Krazzy 4. They had lifted part of Ram Sampaths mu-
should face trial on charges of having filched the sic which he had created for a TV commercial for Sony
tune for its most popular Stairway to Heaven from a lit- Ericsson. The judge said that even to his untrained ear,
tle known bands song Taurus. For the generations that some tracks of Krazzy 4 were similar to the TV jingle
grew up with that song, released in 1971, it was discon- and awarded Sampath the `2 crore compensation he
certing to think that guitarist Jimmy Page and singer had sought.
Robert Plant, who were credited as writers of the British It was a rare order in the Hindi film industry which
bands most iconic song had ripped them off. And the is known for its blatant lifts, not just from regional films,
original composer. folk songs but also from a host of international com-
Last month, a judge ruled that Stairway to Heaven positions. The fine line between plagiarism and inspi-
had enough similarities to the previously composed song ration is hard to define and the benefit of doubt has al-
Taurus by the lesser-known band, ways been in favour of the copier.
Spirit, with whom Led Zep had trav- How does one categorise subcon-
elled in the 1960s. But the question scious copying? Can it be termed
many people are asking about the copyright infringement? Theres the
lawsuit is why now, some 45 years case of Harrisons My Sweet Lord
after it was released. In the US, the which a band called The Chiffons
statute of limitations for copyright thought was a copy of its Hes so
infringement lays down that action fine. Harrison, however, claimed to
has to be within three years after have used a Christian hymn as his
the claim accrued. Besides, Spirit inspiration and the judge hearing
guitarist and Taurus author Randy the suit believed that the ex-Beatles
California is no more. member did not copy intentional-
The case has been facilitated, say TARIQUE AZIZ / CSE
ly and had only been inspired by it
copyright lawyers, by the reissue of subconsciously.
the Led Zeppelin IV album which includes Stairway to Lawrence Liang, a legal researcher and lawyer who
Heaven in October 2014. Since a new master recording has written extensively on popular culture and piracy, ar-
was created, it helped to get around the statute of limita- gues that the act of copying is central to the ways in which
tions. So, a lawyer acting on behalf of the estate of Randy culture flows through the world, transcending the limi-
California has filed the lawsuit, hoping to set the record tations set by space and time. Liang who has a passion
straight. There is also the question of the estimated half for tracing the origins of some of the most memorable
a billion dollars that Stairway to Heaven has earned for compositions in Hindi cinema discovered that the lilting
the band. Curious, indeed. Dil Tadap Tadap Ke number from the Bimal Roy classic
In the US, music copyright cases have involved some Madhumati was based on a Polish folk song. That song
big names and big money. Shakira, Beyonce and in earli- has become part of Indian popular consciousness through
er times, George Harrison of the Beatles have all been ac- Salil Chowdhurys adaptation. Was it conscious or sub-
cused of ripping off the original composer. In India, con- conscious copying? The creation of music has always re-
versely, few such cases come to court although plagiarism lied on adaptation, influence and inspiration. So who is to
is the leitmotif of song compositions in the Hindi film in- say how original is original?

54 DOWN TO EARTH 16-31 MAY 2016

54Patently Absurd.indd 54 09/05/16 3:01 PM



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55Triveni ad.indd 55 15, 2011 Down

Janmay31,16 To
To Earth
Earth 55

The European Union has consistently
been vacating its leadership space
to the US in successive climate
negotiations. Will it continue to
remain an exclusive and unfair actor?


56-57Opinion.indd 56 05/05/16 12:29 PM

HE PARIS Summit was a watershed in the history of glob- and formed the High Ambition Coalition, which was endorsed by
al climate politics where the world adopted a new climate countries including the US and Brazil. Its indc talked of a 40 per
agreement in its supposed quest to save our planet from cent emission reduction by 2030 against 1990 levels, the highest
the hazardous impacts of climate change. The European pledge in the developed world. Before the summit, the EU released
Union (EU), whose performance has been highly disparate in past its negotiating position for the creation of the new Paris Protocol: a
climate summits, managed, in some ways, to get its act together in five-year cycle for strengthening mitigation commitments; a tem-
Paris, more so to gain from the new climate order than on norma- perature goal; linking of carbon markets and transfers of mitiga-
tive considerations. tion commitments between countries; robust review and transpar-
This is contrary to its earlier position. On numerous occasions, ency system to track governments performance on their targets;
the EU has claimed its normative leadership on the issue of cli- and, the financial provisions reflecting the parties evolving capa-
mate change. It played a crucial role in bilities and responsibilities.
getting the Kyoto Protocol ratified after
the US suddenly opted out. However, its Throughout the summit, Playing second fiddle
role has steadily declined subsequent- the EU had to give in many But many of its significant goals such as
ly, and at the Copenhagen Summit in times to USA's demands, review and transparency, temperature
2009, it actually collapsed and was mar- which meant no targets on goals and ambition cycle got material-
ginalised by other actors, including Chi-
reductions, no serious financial ised in the final agreement. Throughout
na and India. Since Copenhagen, there
has been a partial recovery. While at the
commitments and no ambitious the summit, the EU had to give in many
times to usas demands, which meant
Durban Summit, it was more flexible in
mechanism for ratcheting up no targets on reductions, no serious fi-
its negotiating stance and had modest targets. It failed to push for an nancial commitments and no ambitious
goals, it wasnt efficient in Doha and lat- equitable agreement mechanisms for ratcheting up targets.
er meetings. Several factors explain this In the absence of non-quantified miti-
inconsistency, prime among them being the EUs incoherence ow- gation targets, it is highly questionable as to how much this agree-
ing to its vast heterogeneity, lack of flexibility in decision-making ment will actually be able to address climate change. Moreover, the
and financial crises. EU has also failed to push for an equitable agreementhistorical
responsibility for past emissions of industrialised countries stands
Between norms and expectations deleted from the agreement text.
Analyses also reveal that the EU has fallen drastically short of its Nevertheless, given the time crunch, urgency of a new agree-
normative claims of being an inclusive actor in climate negotia- ment and external circumstances involving multiple players with
tions. It has deliberatively ignored the demands of the developing their respective passionate and rather stubborn stances, the EU was
worldissues of equity and differentiation have been highly dilut- a visible and largely coherent actor. To a large extent, it was success-
ed much to the dismay of the developing countries. Promises of fi- ful in using its diplomatic capabilities, forging consensus in push-
nancial contributions have mostly remained unmet and nothing ing for many of its goals in the final Paris text. In that context, as
substantial has been attained in terms of technology transfer. Thus, compared to past summits, EUs performance was relatively bet-
issues central to the developing world discourse have not been ad- ter. However, given that the US was the undisputed dictator of most
dressed till date. of the crucial elements in the Paris Agreement text, the EU was left
Nevertheless, though inconsistent and often not inclusive, EUs without much of a leadership role to play.
role has been remarkable in setting the agendawhether pushing It would now be interesting to watch and analyse the role of the
for the polluter pays principle in the Kyoto Protocol, setting up EUhow soon it ratifies the Paris Agreement and pushes others
the first global carbon market under the Emission Trading Scheme to do the same; whether it formulates its interim targets by 2025,
or domestic initiatives such as the European Climate Change Prog- how it engages on the US $100 billion financial commitment; and,
ramme. Its Vision 2020 includes a 20 per cent emission cut by its role in creating an ambitious mechanism for review, transpar-
2020 and it was the first to come up with the Intended Nationally ency and carbon markets. Will it regain its leadership position or
Determined Contributions (indc). will it slide down further, given its inconsistent performances in cli-
To prove its mettle in cracking a deal, in the days preceding the mate negotiations?
summit, it forged alliances with two of the current pivotal players The author works with the Climate Change Division at
the US and Chinaurging them to push for a legally binding, am- the Centre for Science and Environment, New Delhi
bitious climate agreement. It also engaged with small island states @ vijeta88

16-31 MAY 2016 57

56-57Opinion.indd 57 05/05/16 12:29 PM



What would happen now?

A normal monsoon will be useful only if we
learn lessons from the current drought

Y THE time you read this edition, the monsoon the governments best ever innovation in drought man-
might have entered mainland India. This is go- agement even if India has sent such trains during past
ing to the first normal monsoon in three years, droughts as well.
says the India Meteorological Department. The This is where the benefits of a normal monsoon will
severity of water crisis and the drought that has 13 states not be availed again. It is clear that the millions of wa-
under its grip, have made us wait desperately for a nor- ter harvesting structures created under the Mahatma
mal monsoon. But will a normal monsoon wash away the Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act
drought that has impacted 330 million people? Would it (mgnrega) in the last one decade have failed to show
ensure there would be no drought in the future? results. It is because the government took a short-term
At a time when hope is the only commodity one view of the problem: just focus on employment-gener-
would love to trade, the answers to ation, while the structures should
the above questions could be inhu- just be by-products treated as waste.
manly negative. The current drought Many villages that gave importance
or those in the past have not hap- to such structures are reaping a good
pened just because of a deficit mon- harvest. They get more employment
soon. Less rainfall creates water stress out of agriculture than mgnrega by
situations but our policies make them using it for creating rural assets.
persist. During a recent consultation Everything is not lost. Despite
on drought, organised by the Swaraj rampant technical problems, there
Abhiyan in Delhi, many farmers from are still millions of water harvest-
drought-impacted states argued that ing structures that can be revived. To
lack of rain per se didnt result in the drought-proof the country, the gov-
situations we witness now. While ernment should focus mgnrega la-
they demanded drought relief, the bour exclusively on reviving these
consensus was more on how to get structures. Starting immediate-
relief from drought, which is a long- ly, this exercise should continue till
term goal. But the definition of long-term is subjective. July by when the monsoon would have covered most of
In the 1950s, when famine was frequent in India, similar India. This will not only provide employment but also
demands were made. It means, in the last five decades, we ready these structures to harvest water from a normal
have not taken a call on that long-term goal. In between, monsoon. Down To Earths August 15,2001, edition had
there have been many droughts, impacting more people. a cover story on how people reaped the many benefits of
During the recent Budget session, Parliament did rainwater harvesting. It evaluated how states took up ex-
discuss drought, although just 80 parilamentarians at- tensive rainwater conservation in face of the 1998-2000
tended the discussion, and without the the nodal minis- drought and later benefitted from a normal monsoon.
ter in charge of drought management. The debate was a These villages are considered prosperous now and have
senseless repeat of the water crisis that had already been not been affected by the current drought.
reported and debated widely. No solutions were offered. That is the potential of rainwater harvesting. A nor-
The message was clear: drought is a direct result of defi- mal monsoon can be beneficial only if we are prepared to
cit monsoon, which is beyond anybodys control. Sending hold rainwater. Otherwise, it will continue to be the same
a water train to the nearest railway station seems to be old story of drought in India.

58 DOWN TO EARTH 16-31 MAY 2016

58Last word.indd 58 10/05/16 11:58 AM

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