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1-15 SEPTEMBER, 2018


DEVELOPMENT, ENVIRONMENT AND HEALTH Subscriber copy, not for resale `45.00
Bangladesh: Taka 58.00 / Pakistan: Rs 58.00 / Nepal: Rs 38.00 / Sri Lanka: Rs 117.00 / Maldives: Rf 28.00 Bhutan: Ngultrum 24 / Rest of the World (South): US $2.70 / Rest of the World (North): US $3.40

Kerala's worst flood in 100 years exposes
several climatic and human fault lines

01Cover Kerala flood.indd 1 23/08/18 4:25 PM

Towards citywide water and
sanitation management
Date: October 09-12, 2018
Venue: Anil Agarwal Environment Training
Institute (AAETI), Nimli, Rajasthan


Sanitation measures across most developing countries tend to
incline towards the provision of services and infrastructure for Mr. Darryl Jackson
achieving citywide water and sanitation management. Although Independent Consultant, WHO
public health is a key outcome for most national policies and
initiatives, approaches specifically streamlined to address this
critical component of sanitation are often left out at city level.
Day 1
Understanding this gap, the School of Water and Waste, AAETI, Sanitation Planning: Tools, Approaches and
Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), is collaborating relevance of SSP (including field visit)
with the World Health Organisation (WHO)
for a four day training programme on Day 2
Sanitation Safety Planning (SSP). Describe the sanitation system
This training envisages to establish HOW TO
a pool of national and international APPLY? Day 3
sanitation players who will have For filling the Hazards, exposure risks and incremental
in-depth understanding of SSP key application form for improvement plans for SSP
concepts and principles. registration and scholarship,
please visit Day 4
[https://tinyurl.com/ Control measures and review plans for
yaqy7pt9] citywide water and sanitation management
Dr. Saakshi Joshi
Email: saakshi.joshi@cseindia.org, FELLOWSHIP AVAILABLE!
+91-11-40616000 (Ext. 321)
Full fellowship includes travel, boarding &
Mr. Rudresh Kumar Sugam lodging costs and training fees & kit.
Email: rudresh.sugam@cseindia.org AND WASTE Part fellowship includes boarding & lodging
costs and training fees & kit.
Dr. Suresh Kumar Rohilla
Academic Director, Only short-listed candidates will be
Email: srohilla@cseindia.org AAETI informed

02Training on Sanitation Safety Planning.indd 2 24/08/18 12:22 PM



HINK OF God’s own country: bountiful and beautiful. gate global emissions, which is leading to such weird weath-
It is a land of mountains, rivers, paddy fields and er events. It is also the result of our mismanagement of
oceans. Now, think of the same country in a world resources. For example, Kerala has decimated its drainage
that is malignantly unsustainable, and menacingly systems, from forests to paddy fields to ponds and streams,
climate-risked. In August swollen rivers drowned that would carry excess water or store and recharge it. It is also
Kerala. The cost of recovery would be so enormous that it is the result of the sheer incompetence of our technical agencies
like re-building the entire state from scratch. And all this has to plan for flood control and dam management. It is, there-
happened because people who live in this land have not cared fore, “human made”. It is “human made” because we refuse
to protect the environment, aggravating the situation in the to accept that this is the new normal. We want to believe that
time of changing climate. this is just another freak event; another one in a 100-year
Kerala was a sitting duck waiting for the disaster to hap- event that we cannot plan for or do anything about.
pen. It has some 44 rivers that gush down the Western Ghats This is where the reality must sink in—not just in words,
traversing short distances—less than 100 kilometres in most but in practice. Kerala is going to be literally re-constructed.
cases—before they reach the ocean. It is also located in a high It cannot make the same mistake again. It must rebuild keep-
rainfall region. The state is thus one big drainage system. ing in mind the new normal, where rainfall would be variable
The 61 dams, located in the forested and extreme. It must therefore, plan delib-
Western Ghats, are one part of this drain- erately for drainage—every river, stream,
age system. The dams, largely meant for pond and paddy field should be mapped
generating electricity, also impound the and protected at all costs. Every home,
rainwater. But this time, it rained so inces- institution, village and city must harvest
santly that the term “extreme” has to be rainwater so that rain can be channelised
re-defined. Kerala received some 771 mm and recharged. The forest ecosystem must
of rainfall just in 20 days; 75 per cent of it be managed through deliberate policies
was received in eight days. Worse, rainfall that benefit people. Plantation areas must
was highest in the forested regions of the be managed to conserve soil.
state; not in the coasts where high rainfall TARIQUE AZIZ / CSE Above all, it must recognise that all
is usually recorded. As a result, the mountains collapsed trig- these measures may not be enough in this age of climate
gering landslides and claiming lives. But much worse, gates change. So, the governments must plan for variability. This
of 29 dams, filled to the brim and threatening to break, were will require improving technical capacities to predict and
opened. After 26 years and only the third time ever, the gates inform. Kerala could have averted this deluge if prior to July
of one of the largest dams, the Idukki dam, were opened. it had better information of the rainfall expected in the
The fact is by the end of July, or the middle of the monsoon coming months. The dams could then have released water
season, the reservoirs were almost full. Because of the varia- intermittently and make space for storing excess water
bility in rainfall, dam managers store as much water as they during the extreme rain events.
can. They don’t release water intermittently and rather wait The question is what it will take in future for avoiding
for the absolute end of the season for the same. This is because such a deluge. Our technical agencies— from weather scien-
they don’t have information and the confidence that it would tists to water and flood management institutions—must
rain enough to store water needed to generate electricity. This answer this question. It is no longer business as usual. That
compounded the disaster many times over. And this makes time is over. Let’s get this straight. 
one clear that the Kerala flood is “human made”.
What has happened in Kerala is also happening across
the world. It is an uncomfortable fact that we do not have a
semblance of the plan to deal with this changing weather
system. We are totally unprepared for what is today under-
stood to be the extreme and variable nature of the monsoon. @sunitanar
It is a result of our combined and abject inability to miti-

1-15 SEPETEMBER 2018 www.downtoearth.org.in 3

03Editors.indd 3 27/08/18 3:07 PM

Down To Earth MORE FROM US
Founded in 1992 to arm you with knowledge DTE YOUTUBE
critical to shaping a better world.

FOUNDER EDITOR Anil Agarwal Waste warriors Pushed to a corner

EDITOR Sunita Narain
Watch how four How is cow vigilantism affecting
environmental the rural economy? Down To
Richard Mahapatra
engineers are helping Earth travels across Haryana,
Vibha Varshney, S S Jeevan, Deepan Joshi, Mumbaikers deal Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan
Snigdha Das (Copy), Arnab Pratim Dutta with municipal solid to find that traditional cattle
(Multimedia) waste sustainably and rearers are abandoing their
CREATIVE DIRECTOR Ajit Bajaj cows due to threats from
affordably through a
startup, Sanjeevani S3. vigilante groups.
Jitendra Choubey, Kundan Pandey, Shreeshan goo.gl/JCnM1U
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Meenakshisushma, Banjot Kaur
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MULTIMEDIA severe doctor shortage. Over the past nine if carbon pollution continues to increase,
Srikant Chaudhary, Sunny Gautam, years, dearth of professionals has claimed urban daytime temperatures will rise by
P C Adithyan, Ishani Kasera
72,000 infants in Madhya Pradesh. more than 50F in most parts of the world.
Kiran Pandey www.downtoearth.org.in/infographics
www.indiaenvironmentportal.org.in team
Chandra Bhushan, Anumita Roychowdhury

Vol 27, No 8; Total No of Pages 80 Voicing worry Hydro projects in focus Eating right
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Kerala deluge
Institutional Area, New Delhi 110 062. state's ability to deal with
To subscribe, sms `dte Subscribe' to 56070
or visit www.downtoearth.org.in/subscribe floods. In Deluge Despite
FOR ADVERTISEMENT CONTACT Total disregard for the Deficit (1-15 September,
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environment has amplified 2016), Down to Earth noted,
FOR SUBSCRIPTION CONTACT the scale of destruction "Even 40 years after India's
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04Web & credits 1.indd 4 23/08/18 11:58 AM

Myopic view
The Participatory Guarantee System (PGS)-India was promoted by the civil society
since 2009 as PGS Organic Council (PGSOC). The latter consists of 21 non-profits
across the country, to encourage organic farming among small- and medium-
size, and tribal farming communities. Around 10,000 farmers are part of this body
and get certification through trust and peer review by farming families. Using the
same principle, the government introduced PGS-India as the low-cost alternative
certification system to support small farming, but the online data entry makes
it cumbersome. The move is well appreciated, however, the Food Safety and
Standards Authority of India's mandatory notification, apropos "Organic glitch"
(16-31 July, 2018), does not recognise the PGSOC system at all. Some of the
PGSOC members are running social enterprises with fair trade principles and are
remarkably supported by the consumer community. These consumers fear that
private bodies will have a large control and that they may end up paying more.

Down To Earth welcomes GM good or bad? shortage. So, wake up and wonder that Indian law
letters, responses and Apropos "Who is serving us accept that genetically enforcement agencies are not
other contributions from GM food" (1-15 August, 2018). engineered food is not a able to implement policies in
readers. Send to Sunita Genetically modified (GM) monster as claimed by some almost all walks of life: the
Narain, Editor, Down To food is being consumed in the activists. The choice of executors are bad. But, why
Earth, 41, Tughlakabad US since 1992, and 26 years is consuming non-GM products does India need to import
Institutional Area, a long time to ascertain if should be best left to the food if it produces enough? It
New Delhi - 110062 there are any issues with it. As consumer by using something needs to first address the inef-
human life expectancy and similar to the red and green ficient supply system due to
population have dramatically dot labeling of the products. which a large number of
increased, it is evident that AYAN BANERJEE people do not have access to
GM food is not a threat to life food. The amount of food
or fertility. Any food that we wasted is staggering—67
consume today may not be  Great effort by the Centre million tonnes every year—as
genetically engineered, but is for Science and Environment per a government study. This
definitely GM, else we would to generate awareness on GM is equivalent to the national
have faced severe food food through research. No output of countries like the UK

1-15 SEPTEMBER 2018 www.downtoearth.org.in 5

05-07 Letters.indd 5 20/08/18 10:35 AM


and enough to feed the whole can match human greed is able to biotic setbacks. Hence,
of Bihar. It would not be out of human stupidity. The story the recent advocacy of using
place here to suggest a ban on says illegal use of this pest- or weed-resistant GM
the import of GM food products carcinogenic and poisonous cultivars of crops needs a
as they cause serious health herbicide is due to illegal critical appraisal.
hazards. Much research is growing of GM crop cultivars, Experts' fears on risks of
required to improve the output especially BG-III cotton. contamination of non-GM
and nutritional value of food I am for a total ban of GM cultivars through escape of
produced indigenously. cultivars of crops. A cultivar transgenes into natural
VINAYAK KIBE cannot be grown solely for ecosystems by pollen and seed
being resistant to a particular dispersal are genuine. Despite
pest or disease or weed. The no GM soyabean cultivar, there
Genuine concerns need for higher yields and/or are already reports of traces of
"The real weed" (16-31 July, reduction in cost of cultivation Bt in traditional soyabean
2018) is a good cover story. It lead to their replacement by cultivars in India. Terminator
tempts one to say, in an new varieties, which are more technology takes care of such
Einstein-like manner, that what often than not highly vulner- danger through seed dispersal.

facebook.com/down2earthindia twitter.com/down2earthindia
Maharashtra's ambitious We all eat GM food, uninformed
plastic ban continues to and illegally (tweeted on 30 July, 2018)
confuse (posted on 21 July, 2018)
Let us not undermine the political will to ban plastic, Usually cotton seed is also a fodder for cows. Does this mean milk in
though it might not be yielding the desired results. It takes India may also have GM ingredients in it?
time to normalise new changes. @Iyer wall
PARASHAR KUMAR Editor's reply: No tests done so difficult to say.

Banning a material is not allowed in the Constitution. This is

a lame effort by the government. If you are worried about Which is better: GM food or pesticide food
plastic, throw your phone, TV, soap, brush, etc. Everything @doc tor_c sr
today is dependent on plastics. So, we will have to manage Editor's reply: Depends. Can't compare, but both have to be below
it. See the 2016 notification by the environment ministry; it safe limits.
is more rational.


05-07 Letters.indd 6 20/08/18 10:35 AM

However, pollen of GM cultivars have been life out of gear and leaving behind a trail
found at distances several times greater of destruction. Trees are elixir of life—a
than the prescribed barren zones. Risks must for good environment so that people
are greater for crops with cross compat- live a healthy and hearty life. Simultane-
ibility with their wild ancestors and for ously, there are laws to protect them but
crops with greater genetic diversity. For they need amendments so as to allow the


example, species diversity is more removal of weak and dangerous trees. One
pronounced for cotton in India than in way is to check their strength at regular
China. Thus, the adverse ecological effects intervals to see how much velocity-speed
of Bt Cotton will be more severe in India. of air they can withstand and corrective
None of the GM cultivars have been action taken for weak ones to minimise
shown to outyield their non-GM ones. any loss of life or property. Long-term
What mars GM technology the most is the measures are needed due to an increas-
farmers' inability to reproduce the seeds, known for long for its recycled paper, ingly unpredictable weather. Changes to
retaining their originality, for sowing their plastics, metal and glass. However, there is the Indian Forest Act are essential too.
next crop. They are, thus, at the mercy of no civic sense when it comes to littering. MAHE SH KAPASI
seed companies and touts. If this cost of Yet plastic is being blamed for the massive NE W DELHI
seed procurement is taken into consider- pollution of land and water. It would be
ation, the net income from cultivation of much easier if the waste is segregated at Stitch in time
GM cultivars will be much less than those source. Waste management needs more Mortality rates have been steadily rising
involving normal cultivars. There is no emphasis so that urban waste is handled due to stray dog bites, which in turn are
broad-spectrum weedicide, and overuse of properly, causing minimum pollution. Only also multiplying at a faster pace in every
weedicides for a long time is likely to lead the waste that cannot be recycled should city and town. Hence, it is absolutely
to chemo-resistance in weeds. India's be dumped in scientifically managed essential that civic authorities set up a
trade interest in export of agricultural landfills or burnt under controlled separate cell to undertake special drives
produce remains in GM-free cropping. The conditions. More efforts are required by on a regular basis to round up stray dogs.
nation would do well by sticking to genetic every city and town to manage waste They should sterilise these dogs and also
improvement of crop production by the better. Only then will Swachh Bharat administer them anti-rabies vaccines
conventional means. campaign have any meaning. before setting them free. As a mark of
S VENKATARAMAN D B N MURTHY identification, a metal strap can be tied
VIA E-MAIL BENGALURU, KARNATAKA around the dog's neck after sterilisation.
The authorities should supplement the
No civic sense Elixir of life efforts of animal welfare organisations like
In "Sweeping verdict" (16-31 July, 2018), I This is regarding "Speaking Trees" (16-31 the Blue Cross to contain the growth in
agree with Chandra Bhushan that judging July, 2018). Sadly, a large number of canine population besides reducing any
a city by merely its visible cleanliness is people were killed, and several others health hazard due to dog bites.
not fair to those that have better waste injured across the country as rain and K R SRINIVASAN
management practices. Our country is thunderstorms hit various states, throwing SECUNDERABAD, TELANGANA


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1-15 SEPTEMBER 2018 www.downtoearth.org.in 7

05-07 Letters.indd 7 20/08/18 10:36 AM

contents What about
Is the Centre's
decision to restrict
the use of oxytocin
only to protect
the cow?

11 waters
Textile dyeing units in
THE FORTNIGHT Rajasthan's Pali district
Payback time are polluting the
Agrochemical giant Monsanto asked Bandi river
to pay for damages for its
cancer-causing weed killer Roundup

Losing spice
Once the largest
Uncommon logic producer of large
The Odisha government is cardamoms, Sikkim's
grabbing common land for farmers are battling
the industry 16 numerous hurdles
Food for
22 thought
Several companies are
helping city dwellers to
grow their own food


08-09Contents.indd 8 23/08/18 4:43 PM

own country
The deluge in Kerala is a grim
reminder of extreme weather
events that have become common
across the world

Cat peril
The Fishing Cat is facing
multiple threats

In public Politicking
interest tool
Rich nations are using In India, political
compulsory licences to parties use
ensure cheaper GDP to seek
life-saving drugs electoral gains

Tales from
the wild
Janaki Lenin captures the
animal (and human) world
in all its mystique
and charm

utopia P L A N E T P E O P L E P O L I T I C S
An analysis of how
an ideal State should
be like
Supplement Editor: Sorit Gupto
Copy: Shrutikantha Kandali, Aditya Misra
Design: Ajit Bajaj, Ritika Bohra and Surender Singh
Illustration: Sorit Gupto, Tarique Aziz and Ritika Bohra

1-15 SEPTEMBER 2018 www.downtoearth.org.in 9

08-09Contents.indd 9 23/08/18 2:31 PM



A Good Addiction

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For more dose of wit, check out www.downtoearth.org.in/cartoon

Monsanto to pay $289m in damages POINT

IN A landmark ruling, agrochemical

giant Monsanto will have to cough
up a staggering US $289 million in
damages in the first trial over claims
that its glyphosate-based weed-killer,
failed to warn DeWayne Johnson, a
46-year-old groundskeeper who got
non-Hodgkin lymphoma—a blood
cancer—from Roundup, and other
consumers of the associated risk.
of the 26 million newborns in India are not
breastfed in the first hour even as 80% of
Roundup, has caused cancer (see "The Last year, contradicting a WHO panel, deliveries take place in healthcare facilities.
real weed", Down To Earth, 16-31 July, the US Environmental Protection This makes the children prone to diseases
Source: Arrested Development: the 5th Report of Assessment of
2018.) San Francisco's Superior Court Agency said glyphosate is not likely to India's Policy and Programmes on Breastfeeding and Infant and
of California ruled that Monsanto had be carcinogenic.  Young Child Feeding 2018

1-15 SEPTEMBER 2018 www.downtoearth.org.in 11

11-15 The fortnight.indd 11 20/08/18 10:36 AM



BIRDS OF SAME FEATHER This year again, fewer Greater flamingos visited the Sambhar Lake, India's largest inland salt lake located 75 km from Jaipur. Pollution
due to illegal salt making units and overextraction of subsurface brine have significantly reduced the number of these birds visiting the lake over the past few
decades. Abhishek Vaishnav, a local and bird-watcher, says there has been no breeding of the famous pink birds here since 1992 due to less water level and
erratic rainfall. These birds favour estuaries and saline or alkaline lakes, and thrive on the extensive mudflats where they can feed and breed.
For more photos, check out @dtemagazine on Instagram

FSSAI in denial mode Earth on tipping point

D AY S A F T E R Centre for Science and Environment EARTH COULD be just 10 to of a hothouse Earth pathway on
(CSE) warned that genetically modified (GM) food 20 years away from irretrievably human societies would likely be
items are being sold in India flouting all food safety tipping into a hellish "hothouse" massive, sometimes abrupt, and
norms, the chief executive officer of Food Safety and state even if we meet the Paris undoubtedly disruptive," the
Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) Pawan Agarwal Agreement goal of limiting researchers write in the study
said the government body cannot do anything about a temperature rise to 2ÊC above the published in the Proceedings of
report given by a "private organisation". A delegation pre-industrial levels, top scientists the National Academy of Sciences.
of 10 civil society organisations, that protested outside have warned. A 2ÊC warming They have identified 10 changes, the
FSSAI's office and also met Agarwal, quoted him as could activate important tipping biggest being the loss of Arctic sea-
saying this. "We (then) requested him to test those elements, which could trigger a ice, the melting of the permafrost
samples in the government labs, but he (Agarwal) domino-like cascade that could zone, dieback in both boreal and
refused. He put the onus on us to produce evidence take the Earth to witness a higher the Amazon forests and weakening
that GM food is not fit for human consumption. He global temperature than at any land and ocean carbon sinks.
ignored a large body of scientific work that suggests time in the past 1.2 million years. In Another study by Oxford University
so," says Ajay Etikala, a member of the delegation. a hothouse Earth, global average found that climate change has
Reacting to CSE's findings, in which 32 per cent of the temperatures would rise by 4-5ÊC more than doubled the likelihood
processed food samples, including cooking oil, had GM while sea levels will witness an of the European heatwave. It said
ingredients, the food safety regulator just said it was in increase of 10-60 m above pre- an "unusually warm weather will
the process of framing a law to regulate GM food.  industrial levels. "The impacts become commonplace". 


11-15 The fortnight.indd 12 20/08/18 10:36 AM


NGT has asked the Director General

I N FO C U S I N CO U RT of Civil Aviation to ensure that
On July 31, the National Green Tribunal airlines stopped emptying poop
Not a lonely planet (NGT) observed that 50 per cent of the or toilet tanks midair and warned
that his salary will be stopped if it
cases being filed at the green panel
were "cases of blackmailers" and not fails to do so. NGT said if there is
related to the environment. "Earlier, we "continued defiance" it may have to
used to issue notices. But now we are consider prosecuting the director
not issuing notices and disposing of the general on September 17, the next
cases," it said. date of the hearing.

The Gujarat high court has

In a new twist to the imposition of
cancelled all clearances related to
safeguard duty on imported solar
the environment as well as
panels and modules from July 30,
coastal regulation zone granted to
the Madras high court
a company in Olpad near Surat Delhi permitted Shapoorji Pallonji
over felling mangroves. The court
Infrastructure to get its
Scientists have identified a set of planets has asked the authorities to Gujarat
consignment of panels from
outside our solar system where life could conduct detailed inquiries into Maharashtra
overseas released by customs
have begun just like it did on Earth. damages caused to the
officials at Chennai port without
environment before considering
paying the duty.
If a host star is giving off enough fresh clearances.
ultraviolet (UV) light to power a series
of crucial chemical reactions, it could Tamil Nadu
On August 9, NGT allowed mining firm
kickstart the beginnings of life itself. Multiplexes are compelling families and Vedanta access to its administrative
The planets lie within the habitable children to eat junk food by not allowing unit in the Sterlite Copper plant in
range where liquid water can exist on the outside food, said the Bombay high court Tuticorin, Tamil Nadu, but said the
planet's surface, says the study conducted on August 8. "If people can be permitted company cannot have access to its
by researchers from the University of to carry home food inside an aircraft then production unit. The Tamil Nadu
Cambridge and the Medical Research why not to theatres?" the court asked the government—which had ordered
Council Laboratory of Molecular state government. It also sought an permanent closure of the plant following
Biology (MRC LMB). explanation how bringing food could pose violent protests—has moved the
a security threat. Supreme Court challenging the order.
The study published in Science Advances
brings together organic chemistry and
exoplanet research and builds on the work SO FAR...
of British academic John Sutherland, an expert Total cases on
on the chemical origin of life on Earth. environment and SUPREME HIGH NATIONAL GREEN
development tracked
Researchers believe that carbon in meteorites
slamming into a planet's early atmosphere
since January 1, 2018 till 150 127 142
August 9, 2018
can react with nitrogen to form hydrogen
cyanide, which rains down on the surface,
collecting in pools of water. Hydrogen cyanide,
when mixed with the likes of hydrogen sulfite,
Bihar shelter home rapes: SC pulls up
can be baked by UV light into sugars,
polymers and phosphates—the building
govt, bans victims' photos
blocks of RNA. Like DNA, RNA can carry T A K I N G S U O motu cognisance of the horrific rapes of more than 30 minor girls at a
evolutionary information. DNA just "shelter home" for destitute girls in Bihar's Muzaffarpur district, the Supreme Court on
carries twice as much. August 2 issued a notice to the state and the Central governments. Noting that the victims
of sexual abuse anywhere cannot be compelled to "relive the trauma", the three-judge
These planets could offer an important
place to search for alien life. "This work Bench also ordered the electronic, print and social media to ensure that their photographs
allows us to narrow down the best places should not be displayed either in morphed or blurred form for the safety, mental and
to search for life," says Paul Rimmer, lead physical health of the victims and in public interest". The court also noted that girls and
author of the paper. "It brings us just a little bit women are being raped "left, right, and centre".
closer to addressing the question of whether
we are alone in the universe," he adds.
Compiled by DTE-CSE Data Centre. For detailed
verdicts, visit www.indiaenvironmentportal.org.in

1-15 SEPTEMBER 2018 www.downtoearth.org.in 13

11-15 The fortnight.indd 13 20/08/18 10:36 AM


Carbon markets recover after slow growth

A S G O V E R N M E N T S , industries and individuals worldover are The growing demand resulted in the purchase of 42.8-MtCO2e-
seeking to curb their carbon footprint, the use of voluntary carbon worth of offsets in the first quarter of 2018—also a record. Since
markets is starting to accelerate after years of slow growth. A trading of carbon offsets first took off in the late 2000s, voluntary
report by Ecosystem Marketplace, an initiative of non-profit Forest carbon projects have helped reduce, sequester 437.1 MtCO2e.
Trends, says in 2017 the supply of carbon credits hit an all-time- This is more than Australia's energy-related emissions in 2016 or
high of 62.7 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (MtCO2e). equivalent to not consuming 1 billion barrels of oil.


6 years
WHY: There has been a paradigm shift
from people "programming" computers to
perform something to creating machines
longer will people in Delhi live if air quality meets that "learn" how to do it through data. This
the national standards, says a study titled A has all kinds of interesting implications,
Roadmap Towards Cleaning India's Air by the for how machines will improve our lives
University of Chicago and Harvard Kennedy School or how they will displace us. In supervised
learning, data can be divided into <X Y>
660 million Indians live in areas that exceed pairs where X is a situation and Y the
the country's standard for what is considered safe response. The machine learns the implicit
exposure to fine particulate pollution (PM 2.5) relationship in the X-Y pairs, which is then
used to predict new cases where the Y is
1 year longer will Indians live if the country ªRight regulation is keyº unknown. But machines make mistakes.
achieves its air quality standards. This would WHO: Vasant Dhar, Professor, Stern What matters is the cost of mistakes.
increase to four years if India meets the World School of Business and the Center for While driverless cars have a very high cost
Health Organization (WHO) norms
Data Science at New York University, at a of error, for online marketing it is very
Brookings India lecture low. Over time, machines will improve.
13% reduction in PM 2.5 concentrations was
WHAT: Artificial Intelligence has reached But in cases like the driverless cars, the
found during the first half of January 2016 due to
the odd-even scheme a point where machines are learning right regulation will be key in determining
autonomously and making decisions. the costs of mistakes, and hence, the
$500 billion per year could be the cost of When do we trust them? emergence of insurance markets.
ambient air pollution for India

151 Odisha villages linked to mainland after 46 yrs

T H A N K S T O the newly- after inaugurating it. The
inaugurated Gurupriya Bridge, villages were severed after
as many as 30,000 people the Machkund reservoir was
living in 151 villages in Odisha constructed in 1960 on the
are once again connected Sileru river and Balimela Hydro
to the mainland after nearly Power Project came up in 1972.
five decades of isolation. "It Though the 910-metre bridge
is not just a bridge, it will be was planned in the early 1980s,
the identity and swabhiman it took 36 years to turn it into
(self-respect) of Malkangiri a reality due to Maoist threats
(district)..." Chief Minister and technical challenges posed
Naveen Patnaik tweeted by the deep channel zone. 


11-15 The fortnight.indd 14 20/08/18 10:36 AM


COV E R AG E : M O N S O O N S E S S I O N 2 0 1 8

New Ebola Misplaced priorities

drug in Congo The government hailed the three-week monsoon session that ended on August 10
as one of the most successful ones since 2000, with productivity of the Lok Sabha at
HE ALTHCARE WORKER S in 118%. But were the discussions on the right track? An analysis of the time Parliament
the Democratic Republic of Congo are spent on discussions shows agriculture is at the bottom of the government agenda.
pinning hopes on an experimental
Ebola drug to halt the latest outbreak
in the restive east, near the Ugandan
border. The outbreak "will get worse
before it gets better", WHO's deputy Misuse of social media Final draft of the Recent flood and No-Confidence
Minimum Support
director Peter Salama tweeted. The Prices for kharif platforms to spread National Register of drought situation in Motion was 
mAb114 treatment, which was 100 crops and challenges rumours and fake Citizens in Assam, various parts of the moved against 
in agricultural sector news leading to rising a discussion on country the government, 
per cent effective when tested on incidences of violence which also triggered the 27th such 
was an inconclusive
monkeys, is being deployed against an discussion and lynching in the protests motion, but was
active outbreak for the first time. It was country eventually defeated
developed in the US using antibodies of 8 minutes 1 hour 1 hour 5 hours 11 hours
the survivor of an Ebola outbreak in the 24 min 34 min 46 minutes
western Congolese city of Kikwit in 1995.
Till August 14, the total number of cases
stood at 57, including 30 confirmed and
27 that are considered probable. The


country's health ministry said other
experimental treatments have also
arrived but await approval from an
ethics committee. WHO says the current
outbreak poses a high regional risk
given its proximity to borders. 

Drought grips Australia
·T he entire New South
Wales (NSW) is affected by
drought, one of its worst
on record
·A lmost a quarter of the
most populous state is
classified as being in
"intense drought"
· L ess than 10 mm of rain "Certainly, these trade
has been recorded in July issues are scary in that if
in the western, north-west you get people turning
and central areas of NSW inwards, raising up tariffs,
the global economy is not
· T he NSW government going to do as well. There
has increased drought
are huge benefits to trade"
assistance to over  —Microsoft founder Bill Gates on
US $1 billion the current global trade tensions
By Saira Aslam

1-15 SEPTEMBER 2018 www.downtoearth.org.in 15

11-15 The fortnight.indd 15 20/08/18 10:36 AM


Commons no more
Odisha government is setting up land banks to lure industries and investments. In the
rush, it is alienating people from the commons. ISHAN KUKRETI travels to some of
the areas worst hit by the government-sponsored land grab

IFE HAS never been easy for the and karanja to access the village. So tion,” recounts Arun Shamal. “It was
residents of Gurjanga village last year, when forest officials offered a difficult decision because most of us
in Odisha’s Dhenkanal dis- to build the road, residents of the depend on forest produce for a living.
trict. The only motorable 70-household village were overwhe- Our livestock also graze here,” says
road to the village ends five kilome- lmed. “In return, they wanted us to Kirtan Pradhan, another resident.
tres from it. After that, a muddy trail give up our village forest so that the Last year, he earned `15,000 selling
along a thick forest of kendu, mahua department can set up a teak planta- mahua flowers and kendu leaf plates.


16-21Governance.indd 16 24/08/18 9:13 AM


The promised road was nowhere in from the “user agency”, which can
sight. When enquired, Rinki Kumari, then be used for afforestation and
divisional forest officer of Dhenka- creating protected forests. As 37 per
nal, told dte the plantation has been cent of the state is under forests, any
set up under the Compensatory diversion of that land to create an
Afforestation Fund (caf) Act, 2016. industry is not possible without com-
It has not been established by felling pensatory afforestation. In fact, in
the village forest but is on a reserve October last year, the state’s Chief
forest, she said. While Kumari’s Secretary AP Padhi admitted that
claim of afforesting a reserve forest projects have been stuck in the pipe-
defies all logic, the fact is Odisha gov- line as areas are yet to be identified
ernment is alienating people from for compensatory afforestation.
the commons in its drive to make the However, dte analysis shows that
state one of the best investment des- in its rush to attract investments the
tinations in the country. government is acquiring the com-
Even though the state has slipped mons ignoring people’s dependency
three places, from 11th to 14th, in the on them and undermining commu-
Union government’s “Ease of Doing nity rights (more on this later).
Business” rankings this year, it has
seen a significant rise in attracting A bank to hit livelihood
manufacturing projects with over 118 Data with e-Green Watch, a portal
large projects approved in last four maintained by the Union environ-
years. A recent Invest India-World ment ministry for monitoring com-
Bank survey on investment promo- pensatory afforestation activities,
tion preparedness ranks Odisha as an shows since 2009, about 598 ha of
“aspiring leader” among 21 states. revenue forest land in the state has
Analysts say the government has been converted into protected forest
Till a few months ago, achieved this by eliminating the big- for compensatory afforestation. Data
this teak plantation of the
Odisha forest department
gest hurdle in setting up projects— available on the website of the Odisha
was a thick forest on which land. For this, it has set up two land forest department suggests 33 per
residents of Gurjanga village,
Dhenkanal, had traditionally banks. In 2015, it created an indus- cent of the communal land declared
depended for living trial land bank under the Industrial protected forest since 2010 fall under
Development Corporation of Odisha patita (fallow land) or gramya jungle
(idco) for making land immediately (village forest) categories, while the
The officials, claim the residents, available to industries. The second remaining is pahad land (hillock).
particularly persuaded Shamal and one is being set up for establishing While people have traditionally
Pradhan whose 0.3 ha of private land protected forests under the caf Act, depended on gramya jungle and
was surrounded by the forest. “They also to facilitate industries. Let’s pahad land for sustenance, fallow
felled the entire forest and trees on elaborate this point. land is usually meant for future use
our plots soon after receiving our Forests are routinely felled, or when the population swells.
consent and have planted 6,000 teak diverted as it is known in official lan- But once they are converted into
and 400 gambhiri saplings,” says guage, for developmental or indus- protected forests, people’s access to
Shamal, adding they have not recei- trial requirements. In such cases, the forest resources would be limited.
ved any written document or com- Forest (Conservation) Act of 1980 They would also be out of bounds for
pensation for forgoing their land. requires that non-forest land, equal livestock. This would seriously affect
When Down To Earth (dte) vis- to the size of the “diverted” forest, is the livelihood of those dependent on
ited the village in August, barb wires afforested. Since afforested land does forests. According to the Socio-Eco-
and pillars were lying along the road. not become a forest overnight the law nomic and Caste Census of 2011, some
Gurjanga residents said the depart- requires that the Net Present Value of 55 per cent of the population is land-
ment was fencing the plantation and the diverted forest is calculated for a less in the state. "Forests not only help
converting it into a protected forest. period of 50 years, and recovered these households economically by

1-15 SEPTEMBER 2018 www.downtoearth.org.in 17

16-21Governance.indd 17 24/08/18 12:19 PM


Rusi Majhi of Dukrigura village

of Kalahandi shows title deeds
granted under the Forest
Rights Act. The government
has earmarked his 0.46 ha for
industrial land bank

providing minor forest produce, they Worse, at places, people are being will be barred from using the land as
also serve as grazing areas, which alienated from private land and the soon as a company is allowed to set up
reduces the burden of buying feed," ones settled under the Forest Rights its shop there.
says Sricharan Behra of Campaign for Act (fra), 2006 to fill the land banks. Interestingly, the village crema-
Survival and Dignity, non-profit in tion ground has also been included in
Bhubaneswar. A 2012 study by the Another bank to evict people the land bank. In several other dis-
Foundation for Ecological Security Half-way across the state in Kalaha- tricts places of worship, also consid-
based in Anand, Gujarat, shows the ndi’s Lanjigarh block, idco has identi- ered the property of sarva sadharan
contribution of commons to house- fied 40 ha in the tribal village of Dukr- (the commons), have been earmarked
hold income was as high as 30 per cent igura for industries. Residents were for land bank. In Puri district, 3.2 ha
for the landless, 25 per cent for mar- shell-shocked when dte told them of cremation ground in Aragar village
ginal farmers and 23 per cent for about the status of their land. “No one and 5 ha debasthali in Goriputmati-
small farmers. The contribution is has come to survey the land or inform apara village are part of the land bank.
highest in Odisha, shows the National us about land bank,” says Rusi Majhi. “The government cannot alienate
Sample Survey Office (nsso) data on An analysis of the data on idco’s people from the commons,” says
commons released in 1998. website shows all the earmarked land Hrusikesh Panda, former secretary
In Khheto village of Sundargarh in Dukrigura fall under categories of with the Ministry of Tribal Affairs
district, the forest department has pahad, dungari and dangar. These during whose tenure fra was imple-
afforested a hill slope, where the resi- are hillside land and include 31 ha of mented. “Villages have historical
dents had been traditionally growing revenue forest and the land on which rights over commons as they have
crops. These people belong to a prim- people’s rights have been settled under been using those for centuries. In
itive tribe, Paudi Bhuyan, who prac- fra. In 2007 Rusi and his neighbours Punjab and Haryana, laws are in place
tise multi-cropping by scattering Sunna and Dana received 0.46 ha, 0.4 for protecting such lands,” he explains.
seeds. “This year they have no land to ha and 0.73 ha under fra. The trio idco officials, however, claim that
grow food. Since their rights have not have since been depending on the the village residents do not have rights
been settled, they are not able to oppo- land for forest produce and grazing over the commons. “The land belongs
se the plantation,” says Kedar Mandal, their livestock. These are now part of to the government and we don’t need
a land rights activist in Bonai block. the land bank. In other words, the trio to pay anything to people,” a highly


16-21Governance.indd 18 24/08/18 12:23 PM



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19Triveni ad.indd 19 24/08/18 11:23 AM


Who's land less? Odisha government has identified 0.63 million ha for land banks, most of which is
the commons. These are a major source of living for the state's 55% landless
Jharsuguda Sundargarh Keonjhar Deogarh
97 16 50 62 0 40 1,553 3 35 565 3 46

Area identified for
Bargah 50 28 51
land bank (in ha) 990 30 51
Share of commons
in the land bank
Balangir Balasore
(in %) 426 82 54
2,740 40 53
Landless people
(in %) Dhenkanal
880 32 64

Kalahandi Bhadrak
16,882 6 60 1,177 41 46
124 0 62
NA NA 65
Jagatsinghpur Kendrapada
Koraput 1,083 10 41 373 0 49
18,377 4 64
Nayagarh Puri
Rayagada 205 49 61.73 431 49 47
742 2 76
Ganjam Khurda Cuttack
1,371 59 69 1,155 34 71 3,729 23 63
Sources: Socio-Economic and Caste Census of 2011; www.idco.in

placed land acquisition official at sheer callousness. orsac officials have Lanjigarh refinery. The hills report-
idco told dte on condition of ano- prepared the land bank digitally based edly contain 80 million tonnes of
nymity. When asked about the ratio- on land records of the Odisha govern- bauxite. But Vedanta faced a stiff
nale behind including land over which ment. But it seems land records have resistance from the Dongria Kondh
individual forest rights (ifr) have not been updated to include all land tribe, who traditionally inhabit the
been settled and cremation grounds, use changes. The officials never visited hills, and backed off after all the 12
he says it is due to administrative over- villages to identify the land’s nature of gram sabhas voted against mining.
sight but heaps the blame on the occupation. They just demarcated Their decision also prompted the
district administration. “They should non-private land and put it in the Union environment ministry to ban
have surveyed the land before its bank, he says, requesting anonymity. mining in Niyamgiri.
inclusion in the land bank.” When Similar protests against land
contacted, district collector of But why the land banks acquisition prompted South Korean
Kalahandi P H Gavali said he is unaw- As uncertainty weighs heavy on Rusi’s steel giant Pohang Steel Company
are of the issue as he is a recent recruit. mind, he stares at the Niyamgiri hills, (posco) to shift its US $12 billion
A former official with the Odisha revered by tribal communities in the project, the single largest fdi in India
Space Applications Centre (orsac), a region. Located just a few kilometres to date, from Odisha’s Jagatsinghpur
state government body instrumental from his village, the hills hit the head- district to Karnataka in 2017.
in identifying areas for the land bank lines a few years ago when London- The idco official says the idea of
using satellite technology, however, based Vedanta Resources wanted setting up a land bank was conceived
says the inadvertent inclusion of ifr to mine Niyamgiri’s rich seams of to avoid such incidences that make
lands in the bank has happened due to bauxite (aluminium ore) for its arranging land for industries “next


16-21Governance.indd 20 24/08/18 12:20 PM


to impossible.” Small wonder, most

Dukrigura village of
lands in the industrial land bank are Kalahandi district falls
from bauxite bearing areas of in the bauxite-rich
region of Odisha. Most
Kalahandi and Koraput. To speed up land in the industrial
land bank belongs to
the process, the revenue department this region
through a notification dated January
20 this year, has entrusted district
collectors with the power to take
advance possession of the land. So far,
the government has identified 0.2
million ha for the industrial land bank
and 0.43 million ha for land bank
under caf, as per orsac.

Faulting in desperation
Activists are worried because the
government is demarcating land for
the land banks by flouting laws and a
Supreme Court order.
Some 44 per cent of Odisha is
under Fifth Schedule Areas, which are
governed under the Provisions of the
Panchayats (Extension to Scheduled
Areas) Act, 1996. Here, the consent of
the gram sabha is required before
taking up any activity. But this was not
followed in any Fifth Schedule Area
dte visited. In Dukrigura, the sar-
panch was clueless about land bank.
Historically, these were the places purpose whatsoever.” But experts say lenging land banks. In Dhenkanal,
where most projects had been set up, the government is reading the law the residents of Balrampur village
says Panda. “These are large stretches from a narrow perspective. “It is alien- have approached the National Green
of land and sparsely populated. The ating land for industries, while the law Tribunal and the high court opposing
government thought the tribals will also talks about reserving land for the diversion of 64 ha of village forest
not resist. What we are seeing now is home-sites and other communal first to the land bank and then to a
the extension of the same logic,” he purposes,” says Sricharan Behra of bottling and brewing company. “In
says, adding that what the govern- Campaign for Survival and Dignity. 2015, when we came to know that the
ment is doing is against the Supreme An assessment by non-profit Com- land has been reserved for industry,
Court order of 2011. munity Forest Rights-Learning and we sent a letter of objection to both the
In the order, the apex court noted Advocacy shows that communities in tehsildar and the district collector,”
how commons have helped sustain the state have cfr rights over poten- says Sushant Dhala, a resident. “We
populations across the country, and tially 2.5 million ha. Titles have been never received any communication
ordered states to clear encroachment settled for 6 per cent of the land. from them. And in 2016, the land was
on such land. However, Odisha is Panda says the concept of land given to a bottling company,” he says.
doing otherwise. The Odisha Govern- bank introduces a layer of non-trans- Saray Pradhan, who lives adjacent to
ment Land Settlement Act, 1962 parency. “Lands are being acquired the forest, says people from 12 villages
grants the state the power “to reserve for ghost companies that will come up are dependent on it. In 2016-17, 30
such portion of the lands as they deem in the future. No one knows about families earned `1.2 lakh by selling
proper for the purpose of being used their impact and whether they would just kendu leaves.
as house-sites or for any communal or generate employment.” “What will we do if the company
industrial purpose or for any other People have already started chal- destroys the forest?” he asks.n

1-15 SEPTEMBER 2018 www.downtoearth.org.in 21

16-21Governance.indd 21 27/08/18 3:06 PM


Rise after the fall

Sikkim, once the world's T 92, Til Bahadur Chhetri is a
living witness of the rise and
Hee Patal village in West Sikkim dis-
trict. “Though it has improved in
largest producer of large fall of large cardamom in recent years, all I get now is a measly
cardamom, is trying to Sikkim. Prized for its com-
plex aroma, the exotic spice Amomum
300 kg,” he laments. In neighbouring
Hee Martam village, Ganesh Chhetri,
regain its lost glory. Can it subulatum is grown across the eastern a young farmer, recounts a similar
achieve the feat in the face Himalayan region, including Sikkim
and the Darjeeling hills in India. “Till
tale. “Just 10 years ago, my 2 ha land
used to yield 300 kg of cardamom. It
of a changing climate? the late 1990s, I used to get 40 sacks is now down to 100 kg,” says Ganesh,
(about 2,000 kg) of dry large carda- adding that the decline has forced
NIDHI JAMWAL | west sikkim
mom a year from my 7.2-hectare (ha) farmers to shift to less lucrative crops
land. After that production started to like corn, vegetables and fodder.
decline,” says Bahadur, a resident of The trend is evident across the

Anitha Chhetri, a
cardamom farmer
in Sikkim's Hee Patal
village. The exotic
spice is a source
of cash income
to farmers in the
mountainous state

22-24Agriculture.indd 22 23/08/18 11:58 AM


Northeastern state, which till 2003-

2004 was regarded as the world’s
Falling out of favour Since the plantations require a high
level of humidity (over 90 per cent)
largest producer of large cardamom. After reaching the pinnacle of and soil moisture of more than 70 per
Though it continues to be the largest yield in 2003-04, large cardamom cent, they are best suited to areas that
producer of large cardamom in India, receive annual rainfall of 2,000-
the title of the world’s leading pro-
has slipped into a decline in Sikkim 4,000 mm and an ambient air tem-
ducer now rests with neighbouring Declining acreage (in ha) perature of 10-22ºC.
Himalayan country, Nepal, which 24,000 Ghanashyam Sharma, co-author
caters to about 68 per cent of the of the icimod’s 2014 working paper
global market share of the spice. who heads non-profit The Mountain
A 2014 working paper by the 16,000 Institute India in Gangtok, says win-
International Centre for Integrated 12,000 ter rains are important for the crop as
Mountain Development (icimod), an 8,000 that’s the time the perennial plant
intergovernmental learning and produces new shoots. Rains are also
knowledge sharing centre based in required during March and April
Nepal, shows that the area under large 0 when the base of their stems becomes







cardamom in Sikkim increased from adorned with yellow flowers. “But, our
19,912 ha to 22,714 ha between 1999 winters have become extremely dry
and 2004. That year, the state saw a Dwindling yields (in tonnes) and warmer. A lack of irrigation sys-
record production of 5,152 tonnes of 6,000 tem adds to the farmers’ woes,” he
cardamom, up from 3,710 tonnes five 5,000 says, adding that long dry spells and
years ago (see ‘Falling out of favour’). disease infestations in recent years are
But since 2004-2005, the area largely responsible for the dwindling
under large cardamom has registered 3,000 yields of the crop.
a decline, says Bharat Gudade, a sci- 2,000 Two decades ago, several areas in
entist at the Gangtok-based regional the state, such as Namchi in South
research station of the Indian Carda- Sikkim district, had huge cardamom
mom Research Institute that func- 0 plantations at just 1,200 metres above








tions under the Ministry of Commerce the sea level, says Kailash S Gaira, sci-
and Industry. Though production has entist with the G B Pant National
Source: Ghanashyam Sharma et al 2016, Declining
shown signs of improvement follow- Large-Cardamom Production Systems in the Sikkim Institute of Himalayan Environme-
ing 2011-2012, only 17,735 ha was Himalayas: Climate Change Impacts, Agroeconomic ntal and Sustainable Development,
Potential, and Revival Strategies
under cultivation in 2017-2018 pro- Gangtok. Due to the rise in tempera-
ducing over 4,385 tonnes of large car- tures in recent years and reduced win-
damom. “We are working closely with ter precipitation, farmers are finding
agricultural extension agencies and ties. “Viral diseases, such as chirke higher altitude lands to grow large
farmers to reverse the declining (mosaic streak) and foorkey (bushy cardamom, Gaira says.
trend,” says Gudade, adding that the dwarf), are major threats to the crop. These climatic changes have been
perennial crop is an important source Once infected by chirke, the leaves well documented in the state govern-
of cash income to Sikkim farmers. ici- turn yellow and the plant withers. In ment’s 2012 report, “Climate Change
mod study shows that the spice con- foorkey disease, the flowers do not in Sikkim: Patterns, Impacts and
tributed US $500-1,700 to a house- grow into capsules,” informs Bahadur, Initiatives”. Over the last two decades
hold’s annual income in 2014. adding that the diseases were unheard (from 1991-2000 to 2001-2010),
of in the region some 15 years ago. annual rainfall at the Tadong meteo-
But why the decline But several scientists say the state rological station has decreased at the
Farmers and agriculture experts attri- is losing the spice to climate change. rate of 17.77 mm a year; mean mini-
bute the decline to several factors, Large cardamom thrives in cold- mum temperature has increased by
including diseases and pests, old plan- humid conditions under shades of 1.95oC between 1981 and 2010, the
tations, poor management, unavail- trees, preferably the Himalayan alder report notes.
ability of good quality planting (Alnus nepalensis), between 600 and Farmers and scientists link the
material and lack of irrigation facili- 2,400 metres above the sea level. recent spurt in diseases, such as chirke

1-15 SEPTEMBER 2018 www.downtoearth.org.in 23

22-24Agriculture.indd 23 23/08/18 11:58 AM


and foorkey, to this rising tempera- February, March and April to aid in
ture and reduced rainfall. Gaira panicles initiation and forma-
cites another reason for the tion of fruits,” says Bhandari.
declining production of large He uses plastic pipes to bring
cardamom in Sikkim. Studies water from a nearby jhora
show that changes in local (perennial stream) to his
weather conditions affect plantation and has insta-
the population of bumble- lled sprinklers across his
bees, which is the primary farm to water the plants.
pollinator of the exotic spice, In several villages, farmers
he adds. have also dug pits to har-
vest rainwater. These pits
Striving for lost glory recharge the aquifers and
Ram Kumar Bhandari is a local springs, called khola, and
young farmer from Hee Bazar vil- help maintain soil moisture,
lage, located about 10 km from Hee which is important for the crop. If
Patal in West Sikkim. While most the rains give a miss to the region,
farmers in the state are abandoning farmers transfer the water to their
large cardamom, Bhandari says the Winter rains are important farms using poly pipes and sprinklers.
yield from his plantations is on the for large cardamom as Ganesh says farmers are also using
rise. And, the credit for this rests with that's the time the plant mulches—dry leaves or grass and cow
the traditional wisdom and scientific dung applied at the base of the plant—
produces new shoots. Rains
farming and irrigation practices he to maintain soil moisture and fertility.
are also required during
has adopted in his farm. To keep the plantations healthy
Bhandari grows the seremna vari-
March-April when the and disease-free, Bahadur suggests
ety of large cardamom which is native
flowers start appearing following the traditional practice of
to West Sikkim. Santabir Subba, an burning the stubble. Now, due to lack
octogenarian from neighbouring Hee and paddy for two years before of time and non-availability of farm
Gaon, says the variety was, in fact, dis- returning to seremna. “I also grow labourers, most leave the stubble in
covered in 1985-86 by a farmer from legumes and fruits along with large the farms that could be responsible for
the region, Sukram Limboo. Today, cardamom. All these ensure that the the spread of the diseases, he says.
the variety is grown across the north- land remains fertile and nature’s bal- Gudade says his institute is training
eastern Himalayan region for its big- ance is maintained,” he says, adding farmers to select healthy non-diseased
size capsules fetch a premium price in that one of the reasons production of plants and not to overcrowd the farm.
the market. Bhandari, whose family the spice has reduced in Sikkim is that “Most farmers grow 10,000-15,000
traditionally grew paddy and corn, most farmers have been growing it on plants in a hectare, which is an unhea-
started growing the variety on 2.8 ha the same land for several decades. lthy practice. We recommend grow-
of his farmland just a couple of years Ganesh says in his village Hee ing not more than 4,000 plants per
ago. “The variety grows well on virgin, Martam almost 90 per cent of the hectare for a good yield,” he says.
fertile soil. Since our land had never farmers are growing seremna for two But can Sikkim regain its number
been under cardamom before, we reasons. First, its not-so-thick cap- one position? “Cardamom has given
harvest an impressive 700 kg a year,” sules are easy to cure and fetch better us good economic backing and has
Bhandari informs. price; and second, the variety allows helped our children become engineers
Seremna’s short life cycle—unlike crop rotation, which is now being seen and doctors,” says Subba. “We will not
most perennial varieties, seremna as the only way to improve large car- give up on it so easily.” 
yields only for four years—also allows damom yields in West Sikkim. @down2earthindia
Bhandari to follow healthy farming To deal with erratic rainfall, farm-
practices like crop rotation. After ers have put in place decentralised The story is being published as
growing large cardamom for four systems of irrigation. “On an average, part of Indian Himalayas Climate
years, he plans to uproot the entire a large cardamom plant needs 64 Adaptation Programme-Centre for
plantation next year, and grow corn litres of water during the months of Media Studies fellowship programme


22-24Agriculture.indd 24 23/08/18 11:58 AM

Globally, one of the functions of regulatory authorities on environmental management is to
formulate plans for prevention, control and abatement of environmental pollution. To ensure better
environmental management system implementation, it is imperative to have comprehensive database
that indicates environmental quality. Collection of such database requires a good monitoring
network comprising well established infrastructure, comprehensive protocol of monitoring and
skilled manpower to oversee and ensure the reliability of data. Such monitoring network is cost
prohibitive, time extensive and has limitations in terms of functions of the organization. Thus it is
the need of the hour to streamline the process by the use of latest reliable technologies available
like sensor based and portable instruments.

Anil Agarwal Environment Training Institute (AAETI) recognizes this need to fill in the gaps of
the conventional method of monitoring, and offers a five-day extensive training programme on
“SMART and Affordable systems for Environmental Quality Monitoring”, with the aim to build the
capacity of the participants in the field of air and water quality monitoring, at a global level. The
sessions will include field visit and demonstration as well as methodology for the development of
protocols for calibration, certification and testing.

1. Policies pertaining to monitoring; LAST DATE
2. Concept of Smart monitoring; FOR APPLYING
3. Certification aspects of portable sensor based instruments; SEPTEMBER
4. Citizen monitoring; 15TH, 2018
5. Demonstrations;
6. Field visits for hands-on experience.

Course Fees: Rs 25,000/- per participant for Double Occupancy accommodation

Rs. 35,000/- per participant for Single Occupancy accommodation
(Fees Includes training material, boarding and lodging, travel from New Delhi to
AAETI and back)
Course Duration: September 24th to 28th, 2018
Course Venue: Anil Agarwal Environmental Training Institute (AAETI),
Nimli, Rajasthan.
Who Can Apply: Regulators, consultants, laboratory scientists and academicians.


Dr. Hetal Modi, Senior Research Associate
Centre for Science and Environment
41 Tughalakabad Institutional Area, New Delhi- 1100 62
Ph.no.: 011-29955124,29956394, Ext no. 251
Email- hetal.mandalaywala@cseindia.org, Mobile: 8860062334

25Smart and Affordable Systems for Environmental Quality Monitoring ad.indd 25 24/08/18 11:23 AM

There are about 800

textile dyeing units on
the banks of the Luni
river in Rajasthan that
discharge wastewater
into the river

Reluctant to upgrade
Zero liquid discharge technologies can help textile dyeing units recycle water and
reduce effluents released into rivers. Why are they resisting?

HE WATER in Rajasthan’s Bandi unfit for irrigation on the basis of an The problem is not limited to
river is strikingly blue in the inspection report submitted by the Rajasthan. “There are over 140 textile
stretch along the Pali district. tribunal’s monitoring committee. The clusters in India. Of these, dyeing
But the blue is not natural report said that the level of total dis- units are concentrated in Tamil Nadu,
and the water cannot be used. The solved solids in the groundwater in Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Punjab,
colour is due to the presence of the area was 9,000 mg/l, when the Gujarat and Maharashtra, and the
effluents discharged from over 500 levels in the surrounding areas were problem of river water pollution is
textile dyeing units on its banks. 400-1,600 mg/l, and blamed the tex- equally widespread,” says M Madhu-
In May 2018, while hearing a 2012 tile dyeing units for polluting the sudanan, additional director, Central
public interest petition filed by groundwater as well as the river. The Pollution Control Board.
Mahavir Singh Sukarlai of Pali non- contamination is taking place despite In 2015, the Union Ministry of
profit Kisan Paryavaran Sangharsh a 2012 Rajasthan High Court order Environment, Forest and Climate
Samiti, the National Green Tribunal that bans discharge of treated or Change (moef&cc) proposed a coun-
(ngt) declared the water of the river untreated water in the Bandi. trywide zero liquid discharge (zld)


26-27Water.indd 26 24/08/18 9:15 AM


regime for dyeing units that discharge Digvijay Singh Jasol, advocate at the
more than 25 kilolitres of wastewater Rajasthan High Court, who filed the
a day and all common effluent treat- petition against discharges in the
ment plants (cetps). Under this, all Luni river.
such units and cetps had to recycle ngt too is ensuring that the units
and reuse their wastewater instead of follow the rules on discharge by con-
releasing it into rivers. But the draft ducting regular inspection. The last
was never implemented due to oppo- inspection was conducted in May.
sition from the industry which said
that the technology was too expensive. Cohesive plan is key
zld system uses technologies, such “A national level policy is required for
as three-stage reverse osmosis, evap- large-scale implementation of zld,”
orators and crystallisers that recycle says Madhusudanan. “The primary
salts and over 95 per cent of water for reason the units are disinclined to opt
reuse. “The cost of zld wastewater zld is cost. But that can be offset by
treatment is more than R150/m3, framing right policies” says Hussain.
because the process of recovering salts “Currently, the difference in run-
is energy-intensive. In states like ning zld units and non-zld units is
Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh, Wastewater discharged from dyeing units just 15 per cent, which can be further
contains heavy metals that contaminate rivers
it is cheaper to just extract groundwa- and groundwater reduced ,” says S Nagarajan, president,
ter,” says Sajid Hussain, ceo of
Chennai-based Tamil Nadu Water In 2015, the Union environment ministry proposed a
Investment Company. In Ludhiana countrywide zero liquid discharge regime for textile dyeing
district of Punjab, for instance, units that discharge over 25 kilolitres of wastewater a day.
groundwater extraction costs just But the draft was never implemented
20 paise/m3.
cetps, while about 150 units adopted Dyers Association of Tiruppur. “Imp-
Forced to act zld technologies in their individual lementation of zld across the country
Though there is no nationwide policy treatment plants. would also level the playing field
on the implementation of zld, the “The units in Tiruppur have because currently zld adds about
technology is being used in two dis- strictly followed zld in the past seven R4 per garment. If everyone had to
tricts of the country due to court inter- years and no water is being dischar- use the technology, the cost difference
vention. The Madras High Court in ged into the Noyyal river. Moreover, would be negated,” Kumar explains.
2006 and the Rajasthan High Court the demand for freshwater has red- Moreover, when the court made
in 2012 banned discharge of treated uced remarkably in the district while zld compulsory in Tiruppur, many
or untreated effluents in the Noyyal the water table has swelled,” says T R units shifted to the neighbouring state
and Luni rivers. As a result, the units Vijaya Kumar, managing director of of Karnataka, where there was no
in Tiruppur and Barmer districts were cbc Fashions (Asia) Pvt Ltd, a textile such order. This would not have hap-
forced to adopt zld systems. dyeing company based in Tiruppur. pened had zld been compulsory
“Residents, especially farmers, had These results are also substantiated by across the country.
filed numerous petitions over the 2030 Water Scarcity Group, a public- “Currently, there is a lack of moni-
years due to which the courts inter- private-civil society collaboration, toring by regulatory authorities, the
vened in these districts,” says Hussain. which says that the municipal water price of water for industries is quite
But in both the districts the units and demand of the units has reduced by low in many states and industries are
cetps kept flouting the order till the over 0.87 million cubic metres a year free to exploit groundwater. This
courts threatened them with closure. since they adopted zld. needs to change,” says Hussain. “The
In 2011, the Madras High Court “Similarly, in Barmer, the units government should also encourage
ordered closure of 743 units and cetps have installed zld systems in all six adoption of cleaner technologies by
in Tiruppur unless they opted zld cetps. Since the drive to adopt zld providing financial assistance and
technologies. After the order, about started only about six years ago it is subsidies,” he adds. 
450 units set up zld system in their 20 too soon to gauge the results,” says @down2earthindia

1-15 SEPTEMBER 2018 www.downtoearth.org.in 27

26-27Water.indd 27 24/08/18 12:21 PM


Save the cow mother

Oxytocin is given to women during and after childbirth to save their lives from
blood loss. But the government is planning to restrict its use as it is illegally
given to cattle to increase milk production
VIBHA VARSHNEY | new delhi

XYTOCIN IS a hormone that women produce Affordable Medicines and Reliable Implants for
naturally during and after childbirth and is Treatment (amrit).
said to strengthen the bond between mother
and child. But many women have to be given Reason for restriction
the hormone after vaginal childbirth to treat blood In October 2014, the Union Minister of Women and
haemorrhage. Gynecologists often prescribe the hor- Child Development Maneka Gandhi wrote to the
mone to strengthen contractions during childbirth health ministry to flag the issue of “loss of livestock in
and control bleeding after childbirth. In fact, the drug the country” due to the illegal use of oxytocin. It is no
is part of India’s National List of Essential Medicines. secret that the dairy industry uses the drug to increase
Strangely, the Union Ministry of Health and milk production in cattle. On March 15, 2016, the
Family Welfare has decided to restrict the use of this Himachal Pradesh High Court asked if restricting the
drug. After September 1, 2018, only one public sector manufacture of oxytocin only in public sector compa-
manufacturer, the Karnataka Antibiotics & Pharma- nies was feasible. The Drugs Technical Advisory Board,
ceuticals Limited (kapl), would have the licence to a statutory body constituted under the Drugs and
produce this hormone and it can only sell this through Cosmetics Act, 1940, recommended that formulations
registered hospitals under the Pradhan Mantri for human use can be restricted to be supplied only to
Bhartiya Janaushadhi Pariyojana (pmbjp) and the registered hospitals in the public and the private sector


28-29Health.indd 28 23/08/18 4:33 PM


Activists too have filed a public interest petition

through the All India Drug Action Network (aidan) in
the Delhi High Court, asking for the order to be
quashed. On August 16, 2018, the court asked the gov-
ernment to respond before August 24.
As of now, there is no research to prove that misuse
of oxytocin by the dairy industry is impacting human
health. A study by the National Institute of Nutrition,
Hyderabad, and another by the National Dairy
Research Institute, Karnal, says that the presence of
oxytocin in milk for human consumption was undetect-
able due to degradation in the intestine. At the same
time, there are anecdotal reports about the ill-effects of
oxytocin on cattle. It is said that oxytocin leads to infer-
tility in cattle. It has also been linked to mastitis, a pain-
ful inflammation of the udder. Health activists say that
concerns about animal health should be dealt without
affecting the availability, accessibility and affordability
of oxytocin for women. The dairy industry is misusing
the drug, not the doctors, says Malhotra
who, which has been quiet on the issue so far,
recently pointed out that the benchmark for cervical
to prevent its misuse. At present, oxytocin used by the dilation rate at 1 cm/hr during the active first stage of
livestock industry is produced in unlicensed facilities. labour is unrealistic for some women and should not be
But health activists label the move as an effort used as an indicator for the use of oxytocin to hasten
towards gauraksha, disregarding woman’s health. The labour. This would reduce excess and irrational use of
president of the Federation of Obstetric and oxytocin. To take care of haemorrhage cases, who along
Gynaecological Societies of India (fogsi), Jaideep with Ferring Pharmaceuticals and msd for Mothers
Malhotra, says that the maternal mortality ratio (mmr) have tested a new drug carbetocin and have found it to
is likely to increase due to this illogical decision. She be as effective as oxytocin in controlling haemorrhage.
points out this will create a problem for small clinics An additional advantage is that the drug is heat stable,
that do just five to 10 deliveries a month as they would unlike oxytocin. Researchers say the drug would help
now have to set up cold storages to preserve them. reduce mmr due to haemorrhage in regions that don’t
“About 70 per cent of deliveries are done in private clin- have cold storage facilities. This is where 99 per cent of
ics, but they have not been kept in mind while taking the maternal deaths due to haemorrhage currently occur.
decision. What is the backup plan if a natural disaster However, it will take time before carbetocin reaches the
hits kapl and production has to be stopped?” she asks. markets, as Ferring is seeking registrations for its man-
Activists point out other issues with kapl. For one, ufacture. Other than oxytocin, the choices for women
it does not have any experience in making and supply- include Methergine which too requires cold storage and
ing the drug as they began production for the first time Misoprostol, an oral drug which has side-effects.
only on July 2 this year. It is estimated that around 60 It is difficult to understand what the government’s
million ampoules of oxytocin would be needed every plan is. On August 10, it released a draft notification
year. The price of the drug being quoted by kapl is that shifted oxytocin from Schedule H to Schedule H1
higher than what states are paying now and thus will of the Drugs and Cosmetics Rules, 1945. This would
put states under financial burden. kapl doesn’t even mean more documentation would be needed at the
have expertise in cold chain which is essential to prevent retailer level suggesting the government could be con-
degeneration of oxytocin. “Our experience with paedi- sidering sales through retail chemists. It must be noted
atric aids medicines show that the government’s cold that the government has not taken similar action in case
chain is plagued with supply chain issues,” says Leena of antibiotics which are being misused by the poultry
Menghany of Médecins Sans Frontières (msf), a non- industry. “The decision seems hasty for many reasons,”
profit. fogsi has sent its concerns to the health ministry. says Malini Aisola of aidan.  @down2earthindia

1-15 SEPTEMBER 2018 www.downtoearth.org.in 29

28-29Health.indd 29 23/08/18 11:59 AM


Live life farm style

Want to live in a city F YOU are a city dweller who wants
to practise farming on weekends
Edible Routes is owned by Kapil
Mandawewala, who launched the
and grow your own food for fun, or a health conscious company in 2010 in Delhi to help
in a village nearby? individual who wants to be sure
that the vegetable on the table has
people practise organic farming. In
June 2018, Mandawewala leased a
There are companies been grown without the use of pesti- little over 4 ha from a landowner in
that can help cides, this is just the initiative for you.
Three companies in Haryana are
Gurugram’s Garhi Harsaru village
and started subletting plots to sub-
MEENAKSHISUSHMA | offering land where you can grow scribers. As per the contract offered by
haryana what you want for a nominal price. Edible Routes, a subscriber has to
The companies—Edible Routes, lease at least 0.2 ha for six months.
Green Leaf India and Organic The cost for this comes to R29,992
Maati—take land on lease from farm- (see ‘Control what you eat’). The com-
ers in and around Gurugram and pany promotes its initiative through
Palwal districts and sublet it. Neha the social media and workshops it
Goyal, a lawyer based in Delhi, says holds for its other activities, and in
she leased 0.2 hectares (ha) from just two months, Edible Roots has
Edible Roots in July because she had over 42 subscribers for its “farm-
wanted to be close to nature and learn let” initiative. “I studied financial
about agriculture. “I plan to grow management in the US, worked there
tomatoes,” she says. for five years and returned to Gujarat

Meeta Talwar (in background), a Delhi-

based architect, has leased 0.2 ha from
Edible Routes in a village in Gurugram
and says that her entire family enjoys
the process of growing food

30-31New Business.indd 30 20/08/18 3:12 PM


Control what you eat

The cost of owning and
months is as low as R30,000
Farm location Farm location Farm location
in 2008 to practise organic farming Garhi Harsaru Geratpur Kishorepur and
on my farmland. I tried farmlets there village in village in Kiranj villages in
too, but the idea did not gain atten- Gurugram Gurugram Palwal
tion. In Gurugram, it has caught on,”
says Mandawewala. Minimum land Minimum land Minimum land
one can lease one can lease one can lease
Edible Routes has hired two farm-
ers at R10,000 a month. They live in 0.02 ha 0.04 ha 0.4 ha
an accommodation on the plot with
their families and are responsible for Lease period Lease period Lease period
the farm’s security and maintenance. 6 months 6 months 1 year
Mandawewala holds an orientation
programme at the plot every week to Cost Cost Cost
inform subscribers about the sea- �29,992 �31,974 �60,000
sonal vegetables that can be grown.
The subscribers are also given Subscriber's Subscriber's Subscriber's
information about the preparation of share in harvest share in harvest share in harvest
the field and sowing, and are encour- 100% 100% 50%
aged to visit at least once a week to
take part in the cultivation process.
“They can visit whenever they want,” Green Leaf India’s business model diversified to “farmlets” only in 2016,
says Mandawewala. “The subscrip- is the same as that of Edible Routes, says that he sells the produce to cafes
tion cost includes the money that the except for one difference. “Here the and retail shops to provide a monthly
company spends on buying seeds, farmers who own the land are also salary of R15,000 to the five farmers
fertilisers and providing irrigation. I employed to help the subscribers. For who look after the land. He also pro-
expect a profit of R50,000 per acre this I pay them R2,000 a month. So vides them lodging facility near the
(1 acre equals 0.4 ha), though it is too they earn from the lease as well as get plot. “The farmers from whom I
early to talk about profits,” he says. a monthly salary. On an average, the leased land were about to quit farm-
six farmers make R60,000 a year from ing,” says Gupta, who leased over 16 ha
Profit not a motive their lands,” explains Khan. in Kishorepur and Kiranj villages of
Unlike Edible Routes, Green Leaf Palwal in 2016. He claims that the
India does not have a profit motive. Putting land to use company made a profit of R50,000 in
Launched in 2016 by Deen Moh- The business model of Organic Maati, 2017-18 from this initiative. Rishabh
ammad Khan, district horticulture the third company, is slightly differ- Gupta, a Gurugram-based chartered
officer of Gurugram, the company has ent. The subscribers only get to keep accountant, who has sublet 0.4 ha
leased about 3 ha in Geratpur bas vil- 50 per cent of the produce, while 50 from Organic Maati in May, says the
lage of Gurugram from six farmers per cent goes to the company. But idea of “farmlet” is sustainable. “The
and has sublet it to 80 subscribers. since it offers 10 times more land than model provides financial security
Each subscriber owns 0.004 ha for six Green Leaf India or Edible Routes, at to farmers irrespective of drought,
months for R31,974. “I came to know the same cost, the output is more and flood or any other disaster. Moreover,
about the land in the village through subscribers happily part with the pro- as the farming is organic, whatever
some farmers and convinced them duce. Deepak Gupta, who launched we take from the earth, we return it
about the benefits of the business the company in 2012 to deliver organ- in the form of compost and natural
model,” says Khan. ically grown vegetables to homes, and fertilisers.”  @meenakshisushma

1-15 SEPTEMBER 2018 www.downtoearth.org.in 31

30-31New Business.indd 31 20/08/18 3:12 PM


CENTURY Kerala's worst flood since 1924 reinforces
how local environmental degradation and lack
of disaster preparedness can make
extreme weather events deadly



32-45Cover Story Kerala flood.indd 32 24/08/18 9:21 AM


August 19, 2018

People wait for aid next to a
makeshift raft at a flooded
area in Kerala


32-45Cover Story Kerala flood.indd 33 24/08/18 9:22 AM


E CAN'T understand which one is river and destruction started streaming out: hills
which one is road.” That is how Rajesh S, a crumbling down as debris, people being
resident of Chengannur town in Kerala, swept away by gushing streams, dams
described the ground zero situation to Down brimming with water and most of the towns
To Earth (dte) speaking over a mobile and villages filled with displaced people. This
phone. River Pamba swelled bringing was Kerala’s worst flood in almost 100 years.
Chengannur under water. “But we all On August 19, for the first time in the
expected this would happen,” he says. The preceding 11 days, satellite images of Kerala
day the state government decided to open all captured fractures in the cloud cover. The
the dams, Rajesh told dte, the devastating state government lifted the red alert
flood was just a matter of time. As the outside consequently. The fragmented clouds over
world tracked news of heavy rains for more the state unearthed the real devastation.
than a week after August 8, the response was Everybody had one question: was it normal?
just a habitual disclaimer. For a state living “It is abnormal but not unusual,” says D S
with two monsoons and fighting drought for Pai, the head of climate services division of
the last three years with a monsoon deficit the India Meteorological Department (imd).
ranging up to 34 per cent, it was a respite. Official response is always presented using
August 19, 2018 Day after day, over 11 days, floods gripped all the tact of terminology. Over 11 straight days
Volunteers work at an the state’s 14 districts with an unheard of of tempestuous rainfall, nearly 25 trillion
aid distribution centre
inside a stadium in Kochi ferocity. Amateur mobile videos of the litres of water fell on Kerala—an area of


32-45Cover Story Kerala flood.indd 34 24/08/18 9:22 AM


Week 1 "It is now found that the

increase in heavy rains
is relatively more during
the break phases than the
Palakkad active phases. This means
that there is a flattening of
Idukki the monsoon intraseasonal
Alapuzha oscillation in the recent years so there are few
July 26-August 1
Kollam well-defined breaks"
Excess rainfall 17% Thiruvananthapuram

38,800 square kilometres cramped with mm of rainfall against a normal of 1,649.5

mountain ranges; third-highest population mm since the beginning of June—an excess
density in the country; and, 44 rivers with 61 of 42 per cent.
dams—with apocalyptic fury. Typically, Kerala receives strong
monsoon showers in June and July as the
A ravaged landscape southwest monsoon gains strength, after
The state doesn’t have the experience of which there is a lull in the latter two months
coping with this scale of damage to life and of the monsoon. While the first two months
property—it claims that only 14.52 per cent saw slightly above normal rains this year, the
of its area is flood prone. At the time of normalcy did not extend into August.
writing, the government confirmed 387 Within the first three weeks of the month,
deaths. The state government has estimated the state received close to 500 mm of rain
the preliminary loss at R20,000 crore, over and above the normal rainfall of about
which is around 15 per cent of the state’s gdp 290 mm. Of the 760 mm rainfall received by
estimate for 2018-19. According to risk the state since the beginning of the month,
management agency, Care Ratings, floods close to 75 per cent was received in the eight
have affected more than four million people, days between August 9 and 17, representing
a significant percentage of them labourers. a departure from normal by around 300 per
In August alone, people would lose wages cent for the time period.
worth R4,000 crore. More than one million The distribution of the Indian monsoon
people are in relief camps that would take is directed by the location of the monsoon
around R300 crore a month to maintain. trough—a belt of low pressure caused by
More than 12,000 kilometres of roads have solar heating. The axis of this trough
been damaged hindering speedy relief and oscillates between the Himalayan foothills
rebuilding operation. In totality, the state’s and central India. In its normal position, the
growth rate would be down by one per cent. trough extends from northwest India to the
The current flood came after a strange east coast, close to Odisha and West Bengal.
phase of the monsoon that defied normal At this position, central India and the west
rainfall pattern. On an average, Kerala coast get good rains. When the trough moves
receives close to 3,000 mm of rains north the monsoon is said to be in “break”
annually. Of this, the monsoon is respo- phase and most of the subcontinent barring
nsible for slightly over 2,000 mm. But this the Himalayan states receive little or no rain.
year it surpassed this despite the fact that The “active” phase of the monsoon is when
around a third of the monsoon season is yet the trough moves south of its normal position
to come—by August 19 the state had causing heavy and intense showers in the
received close to 2,350 mm of rains. southern peninsula. Between August 8 and
According to imd, Kerala received 2,346.6 August 16, Kerala received two spells of

1-15 SEPTEMBER 2018 www.downtoearth.org.in 35

32-45Cover Story Kerala flood.indd 35 27/08/18 3:08 PM


widespread intense rains. The first spell of during the supposed break phase. While this
heavy rains prior to August 10 was heralded is not unheard of, it is not the typical
by just such a system and was anticipated by condition during monsoons,” says Pai. “The
monsoon trackers. feeble offshore trough, off the western coast,
is the reason for the high cumulative
Atypical cycle quantity of rain received by Kerala. While
What came as a surprise though was the the offshore trough stretching from
second spell of rainfall after August 14. The northern Kerala towards the rest of the west
western end of the trough at the time was coast is not unusual, the recent rains in
not stable and oscillated north-south of its Kerala indicate that the offshore trough did
normal position. The position of the not move. The strong monsoon winds
monsoon trough helped the formation of an converged over a single region and that is
offshore trough that is responsible for most why the cumulative rainfall in Kerala has
monsoon rains in the west coast. However, been so high,” says Akshay Deoras, an
the instability of the monsoon trough independent forecaster.
resulted in only a feeble offshore trough. While the offshore trough is the reason
This atypical second spell of rains from for the rainfall, it is not the only determining
August 13 onwards overwhelmed the state factor in the distribution of rains. How
by pounding the region with the highest monsoon winds move and bring rainfall is
concentration of reservoirs in the state. also heavily dependent on the formation of
Between August 8 and August 15, each of low pressure systems and depressions over
the 14 districts of the state recorded much the Bay of Bengal (BoB) and their movement
more than normal rainfall. The worst hit over the mainland. Typically, low pressure
were the districts of Idukki (679 mm), systems develop over northern BoB, near the
Wayanad (536.8 mm), Mallapuram West Bengal coast, and move west-
(447.7mm), Kozhikode (375.4 mm) and northwestwards. However, during the spate
Palakkad (350 mm), each of which received of rainfall in Kerala in mid-August, the
rains that were several times more than the low pressure system associated with the
normal. The situation further worsened in heavy rainfall formed closer to the
Palakkad and Kozhikode as heavy rains were Odisha coast. Subsequently, it moved west-
recorded until August 18. southwestwards towards Maharashtra
“This year the association of monsoon rather than the normal route that results in
rains with trough position is not as strong as rains in central India and the Indo-Gangetic
it is in most years. For one, the active-break plains. “Generally the depressions associated
cycle is not as stark as it is usually and we are with such floods occur over the north of BoB.
seeing more and more extreme events even But this time, it occurred over the south of

Week 2 "The rainfall over Kerala

Week 1
is not unusual but rather
abnormal. Since June, we
have received good rains all
Palakkad over the west coast including
Kerala. Dams were full by the
Ernakulam Idukki end of July but dam water
Pathanamthitta wasn't released at the time, which caused an
August 2-8 urgent release in August"
Excess rainfall 15% Thiruvananthapuram
D S PAI, senior scientist, IMD


32-45Cover Story Kerala flood.indd 36 27/08/18 3:08 PM

37Amway Corporate_magazine ad_19.75w x 27.3h cms.indd 37 24/08/18 11:23 AM

BoB. Initial analysis shows that this might

have anchored the monsoon westerlies over
Kerala. Normally with the depression over
the north BoB, the westerlies would have
been towards the north of Western Ghats,
with places like Mumbai receiving heavy
rains,” says Roxy Mathew Koll, a scientist
with the Indian Institute of Tropical
Meteorology, Pune.
The numbers of low pressure systems
that have developed into depressions that
influence the distribution of monsoon rains
are below average this season. The
climatologically average indicates the
development of six well-marked depressions
during the four monsoon months—one each
in June and September and two in the
months of July and August.
However this year, the first depression August 17, 2018
A sick man waits to be
was formed only in the end of July. With only airlifted by the Indian Navy
a little more than a month left, only three from a flooded area
depressions have formed so far in BoB
and moved into the Indian mainland.
The reduced number of depressions has The trigger
suppressed distribution of rainfall in the What made this “abnormal” climatic episode
subcontinent and has contributed to the deadly were the state’s faulty disaster
concentration of rainfall over four prolonged responses—both short- and long-term.
spells primarily in the west coast since the Shockingly, the Central Water Commission
onset of the monsoon. (cwc), India’s only flood forecasting agency,
Meanwhile, rainfall in the rest of the doesn’t have any flood forecasting system in
country so far does not inspire confidence Kerala. This deprives the people of the state
with only a fourth of the conventional any reliable way for flood preparedness.
monsoon remaining. Despite floods in nine Kerala is ecologically sensitive owing to
states, 41 per cent of India’s districts are still the geography and topography of the region.
facing a rainfall deficit (see ‘Excess rains Practically, the entire state is drainage
plague India’, p41). medium for run-off from the Western Ghats

Week 3 "Holding or releasing

water from dams, and
Wayanad understanding what level
of flooding it may cause,
Palakkad is complex. Holistic water
management that includes
Idukki appropriate release of water
Alapuzha Pathanamthitta from dams, impact forecasts and warning
August 9-15 Kollam dissemination could save lives"
Excess rainfall 30% Thiruvananthapuram
ANSHU SHARMA, disaster risk reduction expert


32-45Cover Story Kerala flood.indd 38 27/08/18 3:08 PM


Samaritans all
Even before government agencies could reach flood victims,
survivors started conducting relief operations in Kerala
THE FLOODS in Kerala are not just a story of poor planning or
nature's fury, it is also about Kerala's unique resilience that shone
through during trying time. The defining aspects of the rescue and
relief operations were undoubtedly the calm coordination between the
multitude of civil actors from government officials to fisherfolk, white
collar professionals to school children, all of whom turned up when
they were needed the most. Schools, churches, temples, universities,
commercial complexes were all converted to temporary relief camps in
almost no time.
Much before the Navy and the Coast Guard came to rescue people
from Kerala's sinking villages and towns, the locals, sensing the
ferociousness of the floodwaters, banded together to save their own.
People went from house-to-house, knocking on doors in the dead of night
to tell strangers, friends and family that it was not safe to stay at home.
Those in low-lying areas were swift in assessing the danger, grabbing
clothes and a few essential items and running out of their homes. Others,
who had the luxury of upper floors, sat nervously for hours before
listening to their villagers' appeals. They had the more ominous stories
to tell, escaping in a wobbling fishing boat or canoe as it danced left and
towards the Arabian Sea. As a result, the state right in the intense currents of the river. Together, the villagers who
has a dense network of rivers linking the hills probably didn't even know each other's names, showed extraordinary
to the sea. While rain is abundant across the courage in the face of adversity.
The first reaction within the state was a collation of information on
state, statistics over recent monsoons reveal
people who were missing or stranded that was circulated swiftly through
that it is, in fact, the coastal regions, especially social media networks. Along with names, location-based requirements
in northern Kerala, rather than the Western of essential items were quickly distributed on multiple platforms with
Ghats that receive the bulk of the rainfall social media proving to be the cornerstone of probably the world's
during the monsoons. Because of this, largest such citizen-led rescue and relief operation.
Kerala’s rivers are spared the flooding risks High education levels and comfort with technology helped in
associated with rivers swollen with heavy such efforts mushrooming all over the state. Before long, the state
government began centralising all efforts through a single website.
volumes of run-off. This year though has been
Vitally, the website enabled effective coordination and communication
extremely wet for the ghats of Kerala and this between the public, rescue volunteers and government authorities at
is precisely what submerged the state. different levels.
Between August 1 and August 15, Idukki— While Kerala's netizens ensured that social media's exponential
which is nestled deep in the Western Ghats reach was put to good use, coastal fisherfolk of the state emerged as the
and holds 17 reservoirs (the most for any heroes on the ground. Venturing inlands with their boats, the fisherfolk
district in the state)—received more than 800 were an invaluable link in Kerala's rescue efforts as they could reach
hopelessly cut off places to locate and save tens of thousands of people
mm of rain. Similarly, in Palakkad which has
across the state. The state offered fisherfolk involved in rescue efforts
the second highest concentration of R3,000 for each day of their help only to be refused by them.
reservoirs, the amount of rainfall recorded Meanwhile, volunteers poured in from all over the state and the
between August 1 and August 18 was close to country to help out with distribution of aid, provide medical assistance
700 mm. In both these places, the rainfall and help in rescue efforts. Yet by all accounts, relief camps were an
recorded exceeded 200 per cent above epitome of composed coordination. Devastating floods can seldom be
normal for the region and floodgates of at recalled among the finest hours of a society, yet this is exactly what the
least 29 dams in the districts had to be opened Kerala floods were described as by none other than UN Environment's
Disaster Risk Reduction Chief Muralee Thummarukudy. And it would
adding to the flood fury and landslides in be difficult not to agree with him. The strength shown by Kerala's
downstream areas. “The infrastructure communities in tiding over the deluge is the sole bright light in an
definitely added to the magnitude of the otherwise grave time.

1-15 SEPTEMBER 2018 www.downtoearth.org.in 39

32-45Cover Story Kerala flood.indd 39 24/08/18 12:21 PM


Week 4
"Opening dams earlier might
Kannur have bought some time. Dam
Wayanad storage has reduced because
of siltation. As a result, water
Palakkad is stored at dangerous levels.
Thrissur Further, development in the
Idukki last 20 years has changed
Alapuzha Pathanamthitta land-use and social relations and worsened
August 16-22 Kollam the inundation"
Excess rainfall 41% Thiruvananthapuram
ANIL GUPTA, environment and climatic disaster management division, NIDM

flood,” says Vishwas Kale, a former head of governments for action. According to a
geography department, University of Pune recent Comptroller and Auditor General
and a hydrology expert, adding that, “the report, out of 61 dams in Kerala, none had
situation cannot be compared to the 1924 eaps or operation and maintenance manuals.
floods because the level of infrastructure then But before the dam water made the state
wasn’t the same as today”. into a sea, the damage to local ecology done
It is clear by this time that while the state over the years had already caused much
was under a heavy spell of rain, the opening devastation. Scanning situation reports of
of all its dam gates aggravated an already the state’s disaster management control
out of control situation. At least 39 dams room, one pattern clearly emerges: damage
were full in the range of 85-100 per cent to life and property was more in certain
with water by July end. As the August deluge areas. These are areas earmarked as
was not expected, the dams were allowed to ecologically sensitive and have always been
fill water till the highest level. The rains in cautioned on landslides triggered by rains.
August raised safety issues. In the second and third week of August,
So, while the state was already flooded, mudslides and landslides were reported in
35 dams were discharging water, with all 211 places across the state, and this is
their gates opened at the last minute. “The attributed to increasing stone quarrying
flood damages could have been reduced by activity and large-scale deforestation.
20-40 per cent had the dams and reservoirs Idukki and Wayanad are considered
released the water slowly in the two week among the most heavily-forested districts in
period when the rains had subsided. The the state. However, both have seen a decline
state did not have an advanced warning in their forest cover between 2011 and 2017.
system in place and released water from the The total forest cover in Idukki came down
dams only once the danger levels (levels at from 3,930 sq km to 3,139 sq km, a decrease
which the dams structures can be damaged) of 20.13 per cent. In Wayanad, forests shrunk
were reached,” says Ashok Keshari of Indian from 1,775 sq km to 1,580 sq km, a decrease
Institute of Technology, New Delhi. of 11 per cent. This could be the reason these
As per the Crisis Management Plan for two districts reported the maximum
Dam Failures, prepared by the National damages due to flash floods and landslides.
Committee on Dam Safety, states are By August 22, the state government was
supposed to come out with their Emergency still assessing the impacts of the floods. But
Action Plans (eaps) for every large dam. the meteorological mayhem indicates a new
It’s also shocking that cwc had prepared normal fuelled by climate change. This year
the guidelines for “Development and there has not been a respite from extreme
Implementation of eaps for Dams” in May weather events. And it is one of many such
2006 and had circulated it to state episodes playing out across the world now.


32-45Cover Story Kerala flood.indd 40 27/08/18 3:09 PM



Excess rains Rainfall during monsoon is becoming more extreme

and frequent throughout the country. This is causing

plague India floods, claiming lives and damaging property

Rainfall during June 1, 2018 to August 21, 2018

At least 60% excess
Excess (20% to 59%)
Normal (-19% to 19%)
Deficient (-59% to -20%)
Large deficient (-99% to -60%)
GUJARAT UT TAR PRADESH Data not available
Deaths Deaths Districts affected
Very heavy rain day (124.5 mm to 244.5 mm
52 204 16 in 24 hours)
Extreme rain day (>244.5 mm in 24 hours)
Districts affected


Deaths Districts affected

46 23
Deaths Deaths Districts affected

170 195 23
Districts affected ODISHA
26 Deaths Districts affected

12 14

Deaths Districts affected Prepared by DTE/CSE Data Centre

387 14 Infographics: Raj Kumar Singh; Analysis: Shreeshan Venkatesh

Source: Agricultural Meteorology Division, IMD; Hydrometeorology
Division, IMD; and NDMA Flood Situation Reports
For more such infographics visit: www.downtoearth.org.in/infographics

1-15 SEPTEMBER 2018 www.downtoearth.org.in 41

32-45Cover Story Kerala flood.indd 41 24/08/18 9:22 AM


Wake up before
it is too late
From the US and Europe to Japan and Africa, extreme climate events have become an
everyday reality. Managing them is one of the biggest challenges of our times

VEN AS flood waters recede in Kerala nearly six months now, breaking records in
and the enormity of the task of rebuild- several places, including some in South
ing becomes evident, a similar exercise America. Before the mercury rose, the
is unfolding nearly 7,000 km away in Northern Hemisphere winter too was erratic
western Japan. Between June 28 and July 8, bringing rains to Europe and blizzards
a stationary rainy front, in addition to damp to North America. Expectedly, the
air remaining from the recently-dissipat- wildfire season has been quite active
ed Typhoon Prapiroon, caused extremely in both continents. The Australian summer
heavy rainfall in western Japan, according early this year too saw unprecedented
to the Japan Meteorological Agency. Total temperatures and wildfires. However, what
precipitation at many places reached up to has taken observers by surprise is that the
four times the mean monthly precipitation upper limit of forest fires and wildfires has
for July. now breached the Arctic Circle with around
The floods claimed over 200 lives and 50 wildfires being reported from the
eight million people were asked to evacuate. Scandinavian region during summer. Sea ice
However, the process of rebuilding was coverage around both poles have shrunk
hampered by another climate anomaly—an considerably as temperatures several
intense heat wave that has afflicted the degrees above average have been recorded
region. Southeast Asia too faced the brunt of over the year.
flooding with Myanmar, Cambodia, Laos The overarching source linking these
and Thailand recording intense rains and separate instances of extreme and unpre-
flooding over the past two months. dictable weather anomalies has been
Weather-wise, the situation has been just identified high up in the atmosphere. The jet
as alarming across the globe. 2018 is already stream—a ribbon of high velocity winds that
one of the hottest years ever recorded. And circulate around the Earth several kilometres
for this there is no dearth of evidence. As a above the surface—has been deviating from
scorching summer in Asia is followed by its beaten path. The jet stream in recent times
intense rainfall and heavy flooding, the other has been observed to be undulating in sharp
side of the Northern Hemisphere, including loops towards the poles and the equator,
North America, Europe and northern rather than its normal path which is nowhere
Africa, have been in the grip of intense and nearly as convoluted. The reason for the
prolonged heat waves. Temperatures have change in the jet stream paths is ostensibly
been soaring above the normal range for the increase in global temperatures and the
reduction in the gradient between polar and
equatorial temperatures which influence the
Long-term predictions, which give the direction of the jet streams. The dust storms
illusion of climate impact being several and intense convective activity across the
decades away and ameliorate the urgency Indo-Gangetic plains in April and May 2018
of climate action, are already reflecting in is, in part, attributed to this recent
extreme events across the world contortion in the jet stream path.


32-45Cover Story Kerala flood.indd 42 24/08/18 9:22 AM

Towards Water and Environment Sustainability
Date: 25 September to 28 September, 2018
Venue: Anil Agarwal Environment Training Institute (AAETI), Nimli, Rajasthan


In the wake of frequent recent floods in several urban Government and non-government officials working on wetlands
localities in India as well as international recognition of urban including lake development and management. Independent consultants,
wetlands significant role in water and sanitation management, representatives from NGOs and researchers working in relevant area.
IUCN has dedicated this year to Wetlands for Sustainable For filling the application form for registration and scholarship, visit :
Urban Future, the School of Water and Waste, AAETI, Centre https://www.cseindia.org/training-on-urban-wetlands-management-8852
for Science and Environment (CSE) is organizing a four days
training on Urban Wetlands Management. The participants Full fellowship includes travel, boarding & lodging costs and training
will have the opportunity to interact with resource persons kit & fees costs.
from both international and national institutions in this field Part fellowship includes boarding & lodging costs and training kit
such as IUCN, NEERI, Biome Environmental Solutions (BES), & fees costs.
Centre for Inland Waters in South Asia (CIWSA), Wetlands
Only the short-listed candidates will be informed and the selection decision
International South Asia and Indian National Trust for Art
of School Committee would be final.
and Cultural Heritage (INTACH).

The aim of the training is to develop capacity of various COURSE COORDINATOR
stakeholders on conservation, restoration, planning and Chhavi Sharda, Email: chhavi@cseindia.org, +91-11-40616000 (Ext: 244)
management of wetlands for water and environmental
sustainability in urban areas. Rudresh Kumar Sugam, Co-lead, Email: rudresh.sugam@cseindia.org
Dr. Suresh Kumar Rohilla, Academic Director,
OBJECTIVES Email: srohilla@cseindia.org
Improved knowledge on urban wetlands management -
the concepts, tools and techniques. Full and
Develop skills in mapping of wetlands AND WASTE part
Understanding of wetlands as a source of urban water scholarships
supply, groundwater recharge and wastewater treatment
Prepare Urban Wetland /Lake /Flood plain
Management Plan. AAETI

43Training on Urban Wetlands Management.indd 43 24/08/18 11:24 AM


April 2018 was the Heatwaves in Record- Hottest Longest heatwave since
coldest in two decades Canada in July breaking warm summer in 1976 in the UK
for continental USA leave 70 dead temperatures 100 years June, 2018
April, 2018 July, 2018 across the in Iceland Eastern Europe taken
eastern US July, 2018 aback by orange snow
February, 2018 March, 2018
Severe drought in parts
of seven states in Deadly winter storm
southwest USA brings chaos in Europe
Bomb cyclone March, 2018
April, 2018 hits new England
March, 2018 Europe colder than Hottest day in April
the North Pole in Earth's history
Uncontrollable wildfires recorded in Pakistan
rage in California in Torrential rains bring February, 2018
western USA epic flash floods in April, 2018
France sees worst
Maryland, USA
July-August, 2018 winter rains in 50 years Sahara desert,
July, 2018 the hottest in
January, 2018
First snow in the world, Unprecedented storm
Florida in almost Storm Elenor receives 40 cm season in India
30 years batters Europe of snow May, 2018
January, 2018 January, 2018 January, 2018 Rare tropical cyclone
makes landfall
Peru's glacial lake turns into

Extreme is the
in Somalia
a deadly flood time bomb
May, 2018
June, 2018

new normal
Annual incidence of climate-related
Disasters from January 1, 2018 to August 1, 2018
disasters has more than tripled since Drought Extreme temperature
1980. There have been over 100 since Flood Landslide
Storm Wildfire
the beginning of this year SOURCE: EM-DAT: THE EMERGENCY EVENTS DATABASE -

Already in the midst more than tripled to over 300 events every
The striking reality of climate change is that year. Both meteorological and hydrological
its impacts are already visible in every corner disasters such as storms, extreme
of the world. This is not some far-fetched precipitation and floods have increased by as
prediction but is already happening all much as four times in the 40-year period.
around us. The distribution of extreme As climate change impacts increase in
weather and climatological events since the frequency and intensity, the most worrying
beginning of the year is evidence of exactly thing is that Earth is only about 10 C warmer
this—not a single region of the world can than it was in the 1950s, and that it is firmly
claim to be insulated from the climate change on a trajectory that will be between 3-40 C
disturbances. According to the em-dat warmer by 2100. A recent paper published
disaster database based in Belgium, there in the journal pnas in August 2018 looked
have been over 100 climate-related disasters at historical glacial-interglacial cycles the
until the beginning of August this year in Earth has undergone, and compared it
which close to 3,000 people died (see with a theoretical estimation of future
‘Extreme is the new normal’). climatological cycles through a systems
A look at the trend of reported natural approach if global warming is not
disasters over the past four decades paints an contained. The paper suggests that “the
even starker picture. The incidence of Earth System may be approaching a
climate-related disasters since 1980 have planetary threshold that could lock in a


32-45Cover Story Kerala flood.indd 44 24/08/18 9:22 AM


Russia braves temperatures

of -67 C, colder than most
This report may well determine the urgency
thermometers can measure and efficacy of the post-Paris Agreement
January, 2018 climate action.
While the final version of the report will
only be published this month, a preliminary
draft was leaked earlier this year. Average
temperature rise globally has escalated year-
on-year, especially since the 1990s and is
currently close to 1.20 C above the pre-
Japan experiences worst
industrial average. Around the Arctic Circle,
rains in 50 years the increase is around 40 C above pre-
July, 2018 industrial levels. The leaked version of the
Special Report unsurprisingly suggests that
Western Japan faces its the Earth is on its way to breach the lower
coldest winter in 32 years
limit for warming of 1.50 C set under the Paris
February, 2018
Agreement. The report points out that
Japan faces one of its worst though limiting warming to 1.50 C is still
heat waves geophysically possible, but it would require
Australia drastic and rapid reductions in greenhouse
breaks heat August, 2018
records for
gas (ghg) emissions by governments which
April would include a sharp shift from fossil fuels
April, 2018 as well as removal of carbon dioxide (CO2)
New Zealand faces from the atmosphere.
hottest January in
According to the draft, humanity can
150 years
Sydney hits its highest emit just 580 billion tonnes of CO2 equivalent
January, 2018
temperature recorded of ghg to get a better than 50 per cent chance
since 1939— 47.3 C of limiting warming to 1.5 0C. At the current
January, 2018 rate of emissions, this is roughly 12-16 years
from now. In 2016 alone, 53.4 billion tonnes
of CO2 equivalent ghgs were emitted
globally. The draft has warned that adhering
continuing rapid pathway toward much to the limit would require a shift towards
hotter conditions—Hothouse Earth. This renewable as the dominant source of energy,
pathway would be propelled by strong, coupled with efforts to increase forest cover
intrinsic, biogeophysical feedbacks difficult and other carbon sinks to sequester ghgs.
to influence by human actions, a pathway According to the authors, any emission
that could not be reversed, steered, or pathway with greater-than-50 per cent
substantially slowed. Where such a threshold chance of limiting warming to under 1.50 C
might be uncertain, but it could be only until the end of the century would require the
decades ahead at a temperature rise of 2.0° world to reach net-zero emissions around
C above preindustrial, and thus, it could be mid-century.
within the range of the Paris Accord While the urgency of the situation is
temperature targets”. clear—both from the science of climate
The paper’s conclusion is undoubtedly change as well as from mounting climatic
scary, but there isn’t much evidence to experiences across the world—the emission
counter the inference that the resear- pathways currently underway will hardly
chers have reached. The pnas paper is a change the trajectory of global warming. One
timely publication; in some ways is an can only hope that the next rounds of climate
apt curtain raiser for the much-awaited change negotiations will include the urgency
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate of addressing the dawning realities of
Change’s (ipcc) 1.5 Degree Special Report. the Anthropocene.  @down2earthindia

1-15 SEPTEMBER 2018 www.downtoearth.org.in 45

32-45Cover Story Kerala flood.indd 45 24/08/18 12:22 PM


The search for utopia

The fool doth think he is wise, The real value and message
but the wise man knows
himself to be a fool… of utopia is this: shake off the
William Shakespeare, inertia and act!
As You Like It, Act V, Scene I

HIS JUNE, some people got
wind of an officially sanc-
tioned plot to butcher thou-
sands of trees, many over 50
years old, as part of an ambitious plan
to redesign some of the oldest govern-
ment housing colonies in New Delhi.
On their ruins would appear modern
complexes of high-rise apartments,
offices and shopping arcades. Official
apology for this arboreal carnage:
shortage of housing for public ser-
vants. And official indemnity: plant
10 times the number of axed trees in
another place.
As the news spread on the Whats-
app grapevine, it galvanised hundreds
of citizens who cared to come out and
protest. Activists dug up seedy details
about violations of various laws and
procedures. Among other embarrass-
ments, the project’s Environment
Impact Assessment (eia), a legal doc-
ument, had data copy-pasted from an
eia for a project in Tamil Nadu, a fact
that would be hilarious were it not so
banal. Alongside, the activists also
moved the courts, which stayed the
project till the proponents could
defend it as legally kosher.
Before long, what began as a pure
emotional backlash against the fortu-
itous slaughter of trees turned into a
full-fledged interrogation of the proj-
ect’s raison d’être. Indeed, unbe-
knownst to the campaigners, they had
opened a Pandora’s box of difficult, yet
inescapable conundrums about class
and power, democracy and gover-


46-50Essay.indd 46 23/08/18 4:23 PM


nance, freedom and equality, aesthet- third speaker argued that going verti- He wanted to know if an architect
ics and sustainability. cal is the only way to provide housing could design an urban utopia from
to rising numbers without straining scratch or whether it would emerge
Visions of perfection urban resources to the limit. A fourth organically from an interweaving of
At a symposium titled “Political speaker broached the question of economic and ecological yarns? One
Economy of Redevelopment”—held class, arguing that trees are important can see his unfinished quest in a place
recently in Delhi last month—one but much less than decent housing for called Arcosanti, near Phoenix,
speaker, a former head of the Urban all. He claimed that the present model Arizona. Built originally for about
Arts Commission of Delhi, bemoaned is flawed and that for cities to be sus- 5,000 artists/artisans, only 80 people
the brazen defiance of laws when it tainable, all of us will have to make do live in a close-knit complex designed
came to redesigning city spaces. A with modest-sized homes. to maximise energy efficiency. The
Evidently, people had different artisans grow their own food and sell
ideas about what an ideal city might cast bells to maintain the complex.
look like, but almost everybody The city is a just one motif in a
seemed to agree that the real chal- nation’s complex pattern. In the ever-
lenge lay in designing cities in dynamic complex web that a nation is,
which people live in harmony a city is inextricably enmeshed in the
not only with nature but socio-economic, political, and ecolog-
also with each other. ical life of other geographies. So an
This is precisely the urban utopia cannot but be subsumed
problem that Paolo Sol- by a national utopia.
eri, the well-known Ita- The recently published book
lian architect, grappled Alternative futures: India Unshackled
with in the 1960s and is a valiant attempt to imagine alter-
70s. For Soleri, archi- native futures for India in its totality.
tecture and nature Edited by Ashish Kothari and K J Joy,
were entwined in a the book is an anthology of about 30
harmonious braid. separate dreams (more being dreamt
of, we are told) about what India
should look like in 2100. Two threads
run through each individual dream:
justice—social, economic and politi-
cal, and ecological integrity. For imag-
ining their utopia, the editors asked
the chosen dreamers, majority of
them grassroots activists, to explore
wellsprings of utopian ideas other
than the much-mined ideologies of
Marxism and Gandhism. Kothari says
the book is a sort of answer to all those
who, tired of the carping criticism of
government policies, would often
retort: but what is your alternative?

Tapestry of landscape
For instance, in the dreams of Kartik
Shankar, editor of Current Conser-
vation, and others, India’s future con-
servation, contrary to the current
paradigm of divorcing people from
wildlife habitats, appear as a land-

1-15 SEPTEMBER 2018 www.downtoearth.org.in 47

46-50Essay.indd 47 23/08/18 4:23 PM


scape where myriad social and ecolog-

ical elements dance together to create
an ever-changing tapestry of biodiver-
sity. This would entail creating a much
greater pool of commons stewarded
by “nested democratic institutions,”
including local communities. Need-
less to say, current economic growth
models will have to go for the sake of a
more vibrant biodiversity.
Gladson Dungdung, a Kharia
Adivasi activist from Jharkhand,
dreams of Adivasi future in which
they have reclaimed their rights over
lands usurped by others as well as the
right to self-determination with
respect to their culture and language.
Arpitha Kodevari imagines India’s
future legal system where citizens are
active participants not only in making
laws but also in resolving disputes.
She would like to see the creation of
mediation centres where an enduring
conversation between law and society
will “bring out layers and complex
notions of identity”.
For Dunu Roy, who runs the
Hazards Centre in Delhi which sup-

Kothari says the book is a sort of answer to political reservations are abolished;
all those who, tired of the carping criticism of first-past-the-post electoral regime
is replaced with proportional repre-
government policies, would often retort: but
sentation; private property in farm-
what is your alternative?
lands is abolished; schools are
created where kids from across the
ports community struggles, the good the state. Das celebrates the example class spectrum can study; and, a uni-
dream for India’s future workers of Mendha Lekha, a tribal village in versal public healthcare system is put
where industrial work is neither pre- Gadchiroli district of Maharashtra, in place, among others.
carious nor does it cause social and which in 2013 decided to transfer all If Teltumbde’s Dalit dream is the
environment damage through eva- its individual farmlands to the Gram most radical, human rights activist
sion of hidden costs of undue capital Sabha. Both believe this is the future Arvind Narrain’s about the future of
accumulation, it is essential to do ideal model for achieving self-reliance love, dissent and empathy is the most
away with the twin fetish of competi- and resilience. eloquent and poignant. Through the
tion and profit. But of all the dreams in the book, benighted lives of two Bengali women
Activists Pallav Das and M P Dalit activist Anand Teltumbde’s lovers, Swapna and Sucheta, who,
Parmeswaran dream, separately, of a dream of Dalit future seems to be the unable to bear humiliation at the
future where village communities most radical. He imagines a time hands of bigots, commit suicide, and
have fashioned a robust self-rule when castes themselves, and not just of the US marine and queer Chelsea
through creating a common pool of caste-discrimination (which already Manning, who was sentenced to 35
private farmlands while maintaining is), are outlawed; reservations are years in prison because he had passed
a tenuous yet formal relationship with delinked from caste; caste-based on sensitive military data to wikileaks,


46-50Essay.indd 48 20/08/18 3:14 PM


Narrain builds a persuasive case for person considering they reflect per- Anthropocene while I might dream of
two kinds of love that imbue life with sonal dreams of the authors. This, remaking the world based on tradi-
meaning. “The first,” he writes, “is the unfortunately, renders them unin- tional wisdom. You may want to
notion of love for one person and sec- spiring, at least for yours truly. empty half the earth of humans in
ond is the notion of love in wider Nonetheless, the dreams in them- order to protect endangered species,
sense, which can be characterized as selves are useful windows, at least for while I might put my money on reviv-
the love of justice or empathy for the policymakers and activists, into the ing extinct species.
suffering other.” He argues and anxieties and flaws of the present as This is clearly frustrating. So what
believes that “utopia would surely be well as into possibilities for the future. does one do in the face of such ideolog-
a state where the human heart is The timing of the book is oppor- ical chaos, except perhaps escape into
moved by all forms of suffering”. tune as it reflects the zeitgeist of our a burrow of personal utopian fantasy?
times, which is fraught with an almost Maybe that’s one desperate way of
Little overlap universal feeling of gloom and doom preserving what one considers to be at
Ironically, however, the book, even and marked by multiple crises—nota- stake in the Anthropocene—a way of
though it touches upon most facets of bly, persistent joblessness, deepening life that enshrines certain political,
Indian society, leaves the reader feel- inequality, religious and racial funda- ethical and aesthetic values. As the
ing like the proverbial blind man who mentalism, not to mention the fore- American professor of law, Jedediah
describes an elephant by so many dif- bodings of a warming planet. Purdy, argues in After Nature, any
ferent names except the thing itself as Talking about the crisis of climate reworking of the Anthropocene “will
he touches different parts of its body. change, it is conspicuously absent in answer questions about what life is
This is partly because, unlike most
utopias, the utopia, or utopias, in
question is the imagination of not one
Climate change is conspicuously absent in the
but many minds with little or no over-
book. So is, oddly enough, science. Needless to
lap. The only thread running through say, both have a significant bearing on our lives,
most, if not all, pieces is that of justice, and hence should have been assigned a dreamer
social, economic, political, and eco-
logical integrity. the book. So is, oddly enough, science. worth, what people owe one another,
So willy-nilly the dream about Needless to say, both have a significant and what in the world is awesome or
India’s future ecology skirts around bearing on our lives, and hence should beautiful enough to preserve or (re)
the questions of economy or politics. have been assigned a dreamer. create. Either the answers will repro-
Likewise, the dream about India’s Climate change in particular poses duce and amplify existing inequality
future cities does not address the an unprecedented conundrum for any or they will set in motion a different
fraught relationship between city and dreamer. It’s possible, and is perhaps logic of power. Either the Anth-
countryside. The dream about or desirable too, to have dreams specific ropocene will be democratic or it will
Dalit futures doesn’t engage with the to particular nation-states, as we can be horrible”.
idea of cosmopolitanism. Therefore, at least fight in making them come
critical questions that any perplexed true. But climate change knows no Realistically speaking
observer might ask of contemporary national borders—the life of anyone Either way, utopia is about fears,
India are left hanging in mid-air. anywhere on the planet affects, posi- dreams and desires, and it can take
Questions like: should English be the tively or negatively, the lives of every- many forms, like fiction, philosophy,
medium of instruction in schools and one else on the planet. So it may not be cinema and political theory. It can also
colleges? What kind of technologies enough for an Indian, for instance, to be expressed as a lived experiment,
should one embrace, and who would dream the future of India’s climate if such as intentional communities (like
decide that? Who will decide how others are not part of her dream too. Auroville in Pudduchery or
much is enough? Put another way, in theory there Christiania in Copenhagen), or archi-
Most of the dreamers being grass- could be millions of dreams of a future tectural adventures (like Soleri’s
roots activists, the prose in all but a Anthropocene, the epoch where the Arcosanti), or even individuals living
couple of pieces tends to be plodding line between the natural and the a life inspired by utopian principles
and didactic. Curiously, besides, none human is now a blur. You may put (such as someone choosing to live in
of the essays are composed in the first faith in science to sculpt a new the forest).

1-15 SEPTEMBER 2018 www.downtoearth.org.in 49

46-50Essay.indd 49 20/08/18 3:14 PM


Plato’s The Republic, Thomas will be successful in the long run.” ical and/or experimental?”
More’s Utopia (1516), William Morris’ Some scholars, however, take a While utopias that seek perfection
News from Nowhere, are some earlier dim view of utopias, especially the and demand quick translation into
examples of utopias that imagined ones that offer a totalising vision. reality are probably dangerous, there
new possibilities based on a consid- British philosopher John Gray are other kinds that serve not just as
ered critique of the present. For believes the trouble is that all utopias guiding lights or mirrors that reflect
instance, Morris’ novel was an inter- seek harmony, which goes against the inconvenient truths about the pres-
rogation of how notions of work, grain of human nature, which thrives ent, but also as catalysts of radical
labour, capital, and technology on conflict. As he writes in Black change. Robinson’s prophetic words,
shaped society of his time. Mass: Apocalyptic Religion and the excerpted from his Science in the
Recent utopian fictions are often Death of Utopia: “If humans differ Capital trilogy, about capitalism and
speculative reflections on the existen- from other animals, it is partly in their climate change in the US can be
tial angst about capitalism, globalisa- conflicts of interests. They crave secu- viewed as a cautionary tale for any
tion and environment. For instance, rity, but they are easily bored; they are society trapped in the current eco-
Kim Stanley Robinson, arguably the peace-loving animals, but they have nomic paradigm.
most prolific living author of utopian an itch for violence; they are drawn to “They went too far in this admin-
fiction, in his Mars trilogy, explores thinking, but at the same time, they istration. Their line was that no one
the dangers of our blind faith in sci- hate and fear the unsettlement think- knew for sure [about global warm-
ence and capitalism. Dismayingly, he ing brings. There is no way of life in ing] and it would be much too expen-
portrays human nature as incorrigi-
bly morally ambivalent. As a warming
Earth causes the sea to bloat and eat
The timing of the book is opportune as it reflects
up large tracts of land, a group of sci-
the zeitgeist of our times, which is fraught with
entists are commissioned to set up a an almost universal feeling of gloom and doom
colony on Mars. One would imagine and marked by multiple crises
the supposedly wised-up humans
would create a better and saner new which all these needs can be satisfied.” sive to do anything about it even if
world in the light of what they did to This brings us to the question of they were certain it was coming—
the Earth, but, alas, they (mostly pol- what use utopias might be put to, everything would have to change, the
iticians, for Robinson has a benign especially the ones sketched out in power system, cars, a shift from
view of science and scientists) con- Kothari’s book that dream of a total hydrocarbons to helium or some-
tinue to be bedevilled by greed, cor- change, if it isn’t endorsed and spon- thing, they didn’t know, and they
ruption, and Machiavellian politics. sored by the State? As Kothari himself didn’t own patents or already existing
In her insightful Fool’s Gold?: admits in the book, “We are constantly infrastructures for that sort of thing,
Utopianism in the Twenty First made aware of how serious a situation so they were going to dodge the issue
Century, Lucy Sargisson observes that we are in, how difficult it is to make and let the next generation solve their
“most contemporary utopias avoid even small changes and sustain own problems in their own time. In
depicting a single solution; they them… and for those with historical other words, the hell with them.
decline to offer one complete and fin- knowledge, how many revolutions Easier to destroy the world bit by bit
ished vision of the good life”. Besides, have started with similar visions but than to change capitalism even one lit-
they tend to be a mix of utopias and failed to achieve them.” tle bit.” Therein lies the real value and
dystopias. Alternative Futures falls That, according to Sargisson “de- message of utopia—an urgent call to
somewhere in the middle—while it pends whether a utopia is the vision of shun inertia and act! To quote Samuel
doesn’t offer a single solution, it does one person or many, a leader or a Beckett from Westward Ho! “Ever
insist on a comprehensive unshack- group of people. The context matters tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try
ling. As Kothari said in an interview to too; is it hierarchical, consensual, co- again. Fail again. Fail better.” And
mongabay.com: “Its central thread is operative, collaborative, egalitarian, therein lies perhaps the real value and
that without a significant transforma- exploitative, capitalist or anarchistic? message of utopia, and hence of
tion along all the axes, no isolated And intent is crucial. Does this utopia Alternative Futures—an urgent call to
attempt at creating greater justice, seek realisation? Perfection? To shake off inertia and act. 
equality, and ecological sustainability explore ideas? Is it oppositional, crit- @down2earthindia


46-50Essay.indd 50 20/08/18 3:14 PM

Five day training
programme on

Rs 28,000 (Includes Tuition fee,
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September 24 - 28, 2018
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Anil Agarwal Environment Training
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51Five day training programme on Environmental Impact Assessment.indd 51 24/08/18 11:24 AM



Where India fears to tread

Even rich nations are using compulsory licences to ensure cheaper
life-saving drugs for public healthcare unlike India

IRST IT was Germany and now Russia. As Revlimid, lenalidomide is used to treat multiple
prices of life-saving medicines, especially myeloma, a type of blood cancer. Revlimid is a
those for treating cancer skyrocket, rich blockbuster drug that earned Celgene $8.2 billion
nations are now resorting to a measure in revenues in 2017. In March last year, Celgene
they once opposed strenuously: the use of com- filed a case against Nativa seeking a ban on the
pulsory licences (CLs). A CL is a legal way to production and sale of its analogue of Revlimid.
override patents to allow countries to produce Nativa then filed a counter claim for a CL from
cheaper versions of a product, usually medicines, the court to continue producing the drug for the
by paying a fixed royalty to the patent holder. All Russian market at significantly lower prices.
these years, developed countries have opposed the In Russia, unlike elsewhere, it is only the court
use of CLs by poor countries because they claimed that can grant a CL. In its decision, the court said
it undermined the rationale of intellectual the CL was being granted in national interest
property (IP) protection. and because public health is
But they were protecting the a socially significant issue.
profits of the powerful inno- The CL comes at a time when
vator drug companies. the Russian government is
Increasingly, as prices subject to tough economic
of new generation drugs sanctions imposed by the
become prohibitive, even US and the European Union
the most developed nations and could come under fur-
are finding it impossible ther restrictions. Russia is
to include such drugs in taking measures to tighten
their public healthcare pro- its IP protection laws that
grammes. Not even the SANJIT / CSE
will give the government’s
US, the UK or Germany anti-monopoly agency full
can afford to provide a drug that costs as much powers to grant CLs and is clearly backing its
as US $1,000 a pop or $84,000 for a 12-week pharmaceutical industry as long as it operates
treatment of hepatitis C. New cancer drugs are within the law. Nativa has been told to pay a
priced in the same range. In the 1990s, a clutch pretty high royalty rate of 30 per cent to Celgene.
of developing countries fighting the hiv/aids Expectedly, PhRMA, the powerful lobby of
epidemic had sought to use CLs to provide less US multinational drug makers, has started
expensive generic versions of costly patented a campaign against the proposed changes in
drugs but were vigorously opposed by the US and Russia’s IP law.
other developed countries. Now, the economics If Russia is showing that it’s determined to
of public healthcare is forcing them to follow suit. provide more affordable drugs to protect public
In June this year, Russia issued its first CL health, such a resolve is missing in India where
when the Arbitration Court of Moscow granted the Narendra Modi regime has given in to US
the request of Russian pharma company Nativa to pressure and rejected pleas for CLs. The first and
produce the generic version of US drug company only CL was issued in 2012. 
Celgene’s formulation lenalidomide. Marketed as @down2earthindia


52Column.indd 52 23/08/18 11:59 AM

DownToEarth BOOKS

Rs. 300/-
+ MONSOON (e-books)
Please place your order online immediately by visiting us at https://bit.ly/2IoBUJz or
mail your order to us along with a Cheque for the required amount, drawn in favour of
‘Society for Environmental Communications’ addressed to Society for Environmental
Communications, 41, Tughlakabad Institutional Area, New Delhi - 110062

Please write to Ramachandran if you have any queries at - rchandran@cseindia.org

We are updating our Mailing list of DTE readers. Please send an email confirming your
preferred emailing address to: cse@cseindia.org. Thanks a lot.

53SOE and monsoon ad.indd 53 24/08/18 11:25 AM


Prisoner of
ISHING CAT is a symbolic spe- stricted to the floodplains of Ganga,
India's only cies of floodplains, deltas Yamuna, Brahmaputra, Sundarbans
wetland cat is under and coastal wetlands of Delta and smaller coastal wetlands
South and Southeast Asia. along the Bay of Bengal formed by
multiple threats They have a patchy distribution from Mahanadi, Godavari and Krishna
TIASA ADHYA | kolkata Sind in Pakistan to Cambodia. The rivers. As these areas are biologically
South Asian countries of India, productive, they have attracted hu-
Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka man civilisation for colonisation and
hold the core of the global Fishing Cat food production and this has put the
population. In India, it is largely re- Fishing Cat under threat.

54-55Wildlife.indd 54 20/08/18 3:16 PM

Development: the biggest threat Bengal government officially declared habitats from development.
Habitat loss due to development ac- the Fishing Cat as the State Animal To curb ritualistic hunting of Fish-
tivities is the number one threat to the and the Calcutta Zoo has two big en- ing Cat, heal launched Zero Hunting
Fishing Cat. This is happening mainly closures dedicated to them. The gov- Alliance—a platform where civic vol-
due to contradictions in policies. India ernment also formed Fishing Cat unteers could work with enforcement
is a signatory to the Ramsar Conve- Protection Committees in all blocks of agencies to implement anti-hunting
ntion on Wetlands and considers Howrah district. All three tiers of the strategies. With the Calcutta High
“marshlands” (Fishing Cat habitat) as rural councils were involved in Fishing Court’s support, the group works with
wetlands. Even our Central Wetland Cat awareness generation. From 2016, the Forest, Railways and Police depart-
Rules, 2017 give it the same recogni- a programme called “Know Thy ments to curb hunting. The motto of
tion. However, the Wasteland Atlas of Neighbours” (a Fishing Cat monitor- the alliance is to convert tribal hunters
India, 2010, considers them as “waste- ing protocol by the community) was from being adversaries of conserva-
lands”. As a result, the Union Ministry initiated under which enthusiastic tionists to their allies.
of Water Resources has recommended residents were given a camera trap so In Odisha, Wild Orissa, a non-
that waterlogged areas should be re- that they could monitor their backyard profit, and Mahavir Pakshi Suraksha
claimed as per its Command Area cats. They were also trained on how to Samity (a group of erstwhile poachers)
Development and Water Management identify different individuals and then are involved in Fishing Cat research
Programme. Big pisciculture farms encouraged them to name them. work. The Godavari Fishing Cat
instead come up replacing natural ri- In a little village named Mahesh- Project and the Eastern Ghats Wildlife
parian vegetation. The Fishing Cat has pur, a group of students in the age Society is also doing commendable
disappeared from the East Kolkata group of 10-15, got really attached to grassroots conservation work.
Wetlands due to intensive aquacul-
ture—the last dead cat was found in The Fishing Cat faces threats from hunting for meat and
2012. Shrimp farming is another skin. Tribal hunters indulge in ritual hunting practices
growing threat to mangrove habitats throughout the year. These are serious problems as the
of the Fishing Cat. Between 1989 and cats are restricted to remnant patches and a single bout of
1999, shrimp farms increased by 10 hunting can wipe out a population from a patch locally
times in the Godavari region by eradi-
cating mangroves. two female cats they could identify and According to McKinsey Global
Private ownership of ponds and name—Rumki and Chumki. So when Institute’s report “India’s urban awak-
aquaculture leaves very little room for the reeds (where the cats stay and ening: Building inclusive cities, sus-
tolerance. Yet this intolerance was not which are cultivated annually) were taining economic growth”, 2010, a
always so. You can still see the Fishing cut, Rumki and Chumki could not be new Chicago city will be built each year
Cat engraved in the structure of Ang- traced and the kids became worried. in India and transport infrastructure
kor Wat on the floodplains of Mekong. After a month and a half, when the is set to increase by 20 times. Where
So they must have co-inhabited spaces reeds began to grown back, Rumki and will the land for this come from since it
from time immemorial. This unique Chumki were again detected and the is a finite resource?
cat also faces threats from hunting for children were full of joy. Despite multiple threats, the
meat and skin. Tribal hunters indulge The Fishing Cat Project provided Fishing Cat was recently downlisted to
in ritual hunting practices throughout scientific evidence of the cat’s presence “Vulnerable” from “Endangered” in the
the year. These are serious problems as repeatedly for legal battles taken up by iucn Red List species assessment.
the cats are restricted to remnant pat- public, a non-profit which works on Clearly, the assessors lack the foresight
ches and a single bout of hunting can environmental issues in and around of veteran ecologists. Wildlife scientist
wipe out a population from a patch. Kolkata, to safeguard wetlands. George Schaller says, “iucn downlists
Another non-profit Human & Envi- species merely on the basis of numbers
Conservation efforts ronment Alliance League (heal) is rather than also taking habitat frag-
The Fishing Cat Project, a part of The working on documenting the remain- mentation and immediate future
Fishing Cat Working Group (Small ing marshy patches in south Bengal threats into consideration.” 
Wild Cat Conservation Foundation), along with the Fishing Cat Project— The author is co-founder of The
that began in 2010 gave some recogni- the plan being to work with imple- Fishing Cat Project (Small Wild Cat
tion to the cat. In 2012, the West menting agencies to safeguard these Conservation Foundation)

1-15 SEPTEMBER 2018 www.downtoearth.org.in 55

54-55Wildlife.indd 55 20/08/18 3:16 PM


Bizarre, serious, jocular

Janaki Lenin captures the
ANKI LENIN describes her experiences of living with
veteran herpetologist, Romulus Whitaker, in this
animal (and human) world in sequel My husband and other animals 2: The wildlife
adventure continues. Through these 81 stories, we not
all its mystique and charm only learn about unknown facets about mammals, reptiles,
birds, amphibians and fish, but also about what it is to be
RAJAT GHAI human. Each story is peppered with astute observations,
logical inquiry and deduction, light-hearted humour, serious
insights and most of all, overarching curiosity about the world
around us and the secrets that it seemingly hides.
For instance, did you know that palm civets are crazy
MY HUSBAND AND OTHER about toddy and coffee? Or that humans can “unlearn” their
fear of snakes. One of the names of the King Cobra is the
Hamadryad, Greek for “nymph of the woods”, given to it by
Janaki Lenin
Westland | 32 9 pages | �2 99 Danish scientist Theodore Edward Cantor for its
extraordinary physical beauty. Donkeys can give humans

1-15 SEPTEMBER 2018

56-57Review.indd 56 20/08/18 10:38 AM

rabid bites. Bull crocodiles are caring fathers. As are male
tigers and leopards, contrary to conventional wisdom. `Urbanites have poor
Crocodilians can climb well, with the mugger or the marsh
crocodile of the Subcontinent leading the pack. Some carni- wildlife understanding'
vores are frugivorous too. And Leatherback turtles, the JANAKI LENIN speaks to Down To Earth
largest in the world, regularly cross oceans.
Some of these stories may sound bizarre, but are, in fact, How different is this book from the earlier one?
proof of the keen observational skills of the author. Take for It's similar to the extent that it's another collection of
example the two stories on poop. In one, Lenin writes how essays about animals, people, and
many animal species, ranging from lagomorphs like hares my husband. To a greater degree,
to dogs to iguanas and pigs eat their own and other species’ readers influenced the kind of topics
faeces since it gives them nutritional supplements or even I deal with in this second book, so it
gut flora. has a different feel and tone.
Lenin also writes on two topics about the human con-
dition. In “Why do Men Rape?” she examines corresponding Do you think more young people
examples from other animal species and shows that non- in India today think of wildlife
human males also rape; these include drakes, ganders, conservation as a career?
orangutans and bottle nose dolphins. She compares scien- I guess so. While it's nice to see their
tific literature on rape and deliberates on the age-old concern for conservation, there's
question: is rape about sex and innate behaviour or is it also another side. Conservation is
about power and learnt behaviour? She concludes that we not just about campaigning for
cannot take these two exclusively. Rather, rape is a product wildlife and habitats. There's a quote that goes some-
of both these two phenomena. thing like this: conservation is 95 per cent working with
In her two stories about homosexuality, Lenin is very people. And this is what we don't do well.
clear: homosexuality cannot be against the order of nature. Most of these young people live in cities where they
She concludes that there is no one single explanation yet as are not only insulated from the real world difficulties of
to why homosexual behaviour evolved in human and non- living with wildlife, but they are also unsympathetic
human species. towards those whose livelihoods and lives are on the line.
Some pieces are very dark. For instance, in “The High Much of their understanding of the issues is shallow. This
Price of Sex”, Lenin writes about a male King Cobra killing combination of lack of sympathy and ignorance can make
and nearly devouring his own mate. King Cobras are snake conservation policy and management difficult.
eaters is well-known. Their very scientific name is testament Urbanites, in our arrogance, think rural communities
to that: Ophiophagus Hannah, snake eater. But the fact that are ignorant at best or dangerous at worst to wildlife.
they can eat each other came as a dark surprise. They are the soft targets. Many of these rural communi-
There are essays that also show how dangerous working ties adjust to make space for various species at some
with animals is. Sample this: “One basking croc suddenly cost to themselves. We don't even recognise this, let
woke up to find a human (Rom) almost nose to nose, taking alone celebrate them. We have to make them equal
its picture. When it dove under the coracle (boat), the pointy partners in conservation.
scales on its back rubbed rat-a-tat against the bamboo ribs.” Conversely, we don't push hard enough when it
In the end though, the book is a homage to Rom Whita- comes to forces more powerful than us: politicians and
ker. The book reveals some hitherto unknown facts about corporate houses. The fight against them is led by local
his life. Like when he was bitten by a prairie rattlesnake in communities in places like Niyamgiri, Kutch, and
Texas in 1966, he had to become a lab rat for an experimental Arunachal Pradesh. So you can see who the real
treatment called cryotherapy involving ice. Whitaker con- conservationists are. This is not to tar all of them with the
sequently lost the use of his right index finger. A few years same brush. Some young conservationists fight these
later, cryotherapy was discredited. Or that he gave up his US difficult battles with deftness and sympathy and better
citizenship and took up Indian citizenship in 1975 to study than the earlier generations.
the fauna of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, which were
then off-limits to foreign nationals. The book is easy to read, What are your future projects?
jocular, serious, trivial as well as detailed. Go for it.  I am working with Rom on his memoir and writing a book
@down2earthindia on the Irulas and their traditional wildlife knowledge.

1-15 SEPTEMBER 2018

56-57Review.indd 57 20/08/18 10:38 AM



Again, stop talking about GDP

India missed another opportunity to shed its obsession
with a bad measure of economy

NDIA'S ONGOING bipolarity in political dis- gdp is not meant to indicate all these as it is not
course was on display in the past few weeks. A a measure of overall welfare. For example, Kerala’s
standard exercise to create a comparable data gdp would go up after the flood as there would be
set on gross domestic product (gdp) erupted fresh investments to rebuild the state. But this
into a meaningless Congress v bjp duel. In 2015, does not mean people’s lives will improve. For
India changed the methodology to measure gdp. that matter, an unhealthy country would add on
It was but inevitable for normal tracking of the to gdp due to people spending more on treatments.
economy to create a comparable data set for years Simon Kuznets, who invented gdp, cautioned the
preceding this year. The result showed that the US Congress in 1934 that it was an “inaccurate”
former United Progressive Alliance (upa) appar- calculation and was not meant to assess an econ-
ently performed better on economic growth than omy’s true welfare nature.
the current National Democratic Alliance (nda). So, why is this obsession with gdp? A higher
After intense debates from both economic growth has more
sides, the government withdrew political meaning than any wel-
the study. fare trickle to the poor. Parties
In July, the US also changed use gdp rate to whip up public
certain measures of the econo- passion and reap electoral
my that led to a change in both gains. Particularly, since gdp
the current and the past gdp and liberal economy became
growth. It showed that the global parameters, its political
second term of Barack Obama importance too has gone up.
registered a better growth than It is also being used to attract
the Trump regime. But there foreign investments.
was no senseless politicking The real danger is that
over it. Rather, there was a debate over whether obsession with just boosting gdp keeps policy-
gdp could be the only measure of economy. That is makers away from relevant economic investments
precisely what the current debate in India missed. needed to ensure welfare. For instance, investing
gdp as a measure of economy and state of wel- in a big export-oriented mobile phone factory
fare is increasingly being debated. In 2016, then drives gdp growth, but it cannot match human
chief statistician of India T C A Anant was quoted development in the same way as investment in
in this column saying that gdp was an imperfect schools and hospitals. But given the political
indicator. Then, the debate was over the new traction of gdp, a leader would tend to prefer the
methodology adopted for measuring India’s gdp. former. That could be the reason why agriculture
Worldwide, economists are questioning gdp more trade has gone up in India but we are importing
and more as it doesn’t show the state of welfare, or more without substantial domestic investment in
to put in simple language, doesn’t reflect wheth- the sector.
er a booming economy results in public welfare. So, there was an opportunity to turn gdp into
Like, many point out, if India was the fastest grow- a debate over its efficacy. That would have been a
ing economy, then why was poverty reduction not sign of a “New India”. But by defending first and
proportionately faster or why farmers across the then withdrawing the report, we just became the
country continue to be distressed? usual India for the sake of narrow politicking. 


58Last Word.indd 58 23/08/18 4:26 PM

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