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DownToEarth
SCIENCE AND ENVIRONMENT FORTNIGHTLY
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16-31 MARCH, 2015

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Why
must
people
die of
flu?
The swine flu outbreak
in India raises an
uncomfortable question

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EDITORS

PAGE

HOW POWER CAN


BE CLEANED
to generate energy is the key reason the world is looking at a catastrophic future because of climate change.
Recognising this, global civil society has given a rousing
call for coal divestment, asking companies, universities
and individuals to stop investment in coal thermal power plants.
They want coal to go, renewables to be in. And in the interim, clean
gas, also a fossil fuel, to be used as a bridge fuel. In this scenario
any talk of cleaning coal to make it less damaging is untenable.
This will not work for us in India. We have a huge energy deficit, with millions of households without power for basic lighting
or cooking. We have to address access to energy
as much as the environmental problems of unclean power. We need to push for renewable
not because we can afford to do without coal,
but because this source of energy provides us the
option to leapfrog to decentralised and off-grid
power. But equally, and perhaps even more important, is to clean coal power so that it does not
destroy the environment and take human lives.
This is what my colleagues at the Centre for
Science and Environment (cse) have done.They
have taken apartquite literallythe thermal
power sector in India and plant-by-plant looked
at what is the efficiency rate, the pollution load,
the management of waste and the compliance
with environmental standards. Their findings,
published in the report, Heat on Power: Green rating of coal-based
thermal power plants, concludes that our plants are way behind the
global best in terms of performance.
More importantly, it speaks of the dire crisis in the power sector in the country, where the obsession is to build more plants and
not fix what is clearly so completely brokensupply of affordable
power to all. Of the 47 plants surveyedaccounting for roughly
half the installed capacity in India in 2012only 12 had efficiency
higher than 36 per cent, which touches Chinas average.The Indian
average, pulled down by dated technology and poor resource management, was a low 33 per cent.
Worse, the plant load factor has been declining in the past few
years, going down to a low of 65 per cent in 2013-14, as compared
to 79 per cent in 2007-08. This clearly speaks of the mismatch between demand and supply, as state electricity companies struggle to
buy power, even cheap power.This then affects the CO2 emissions
from the plants. Indias average was 1.08 tonnes of CO2/MWh,

16-31 MARCH 2015

45 per cent higher than the global best and 14 per cent higher than
Chinas average. Clearly, a huge opportunity for India is to improve
efficiency and to replace its existing stock of plantsnot build new
oneswith best technology.
This is not the only challenge.The fact is that power plants pollute air, consume water and dump huge quantities of waste, namely fly ash. Indian plants have a long way to go to clean up this mess.
This is not a small matter. My colleagues have estimated that this
sector alone is responsible for 70 per cent of the total freshwater
withdrawal by all industries; over 60 per cent of the particulate matter emissions; 50 per cent of sulphur dioxide emissions and more
than 80 per cent of mercury emissions. So, if we
clean this sector, we make huge gains in cleaning pollution from Indias industrial sector.
Doing this requires first setting standards
that are stringent and usher in best technology
and management, and then ensuring that monitoring is rigorous and verifiable. cse has found
that most plants either contract out pollution
monitoring to third-party laboratories or have
set up online emission monitoring systems. But
in both cases data is poor and systems unaudited. This is particularly important because no
pollution board has the capacity (or authority)
to shut down a power plant for obvious reasons.
The biggest issue is gainful use of fly ash
since Indias coal is of poor quality. For every
tonne of coal burnt, 35-40 per cent is generated as waste. Just consider the scale of this problem: over 40 per cent land area of power
plants is used to dump ash. Over 1 billion tonnes of ash is lying unused today and to this over 160 million tonnes are added each year.
Everything we have done till date, including specifying the use of
ash in cement manufacturing and bricks, is not making a dent in
the gargantuan pile of muck.
So a clean-up is essential. But for this Indias power sector must
also come clean. The cse project requires companies to voluntarily
share data. It was Indias largest power generator, National Thermal
Power Corporation, which refused public scrutiny. This will not build
a cleaner future. Ultimately, this is the real agenda for reform.
TARIQUE / CSE

OAL IS an environmentalists bugbear. The use of coal

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The Ebola outbreak in West
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Return of scented wood


A senior minister's
suggestion that the rich
should be allowed to keep
tigers as pets in their
farmlands has led
to an uproar among
wildlife activists. The
minister cited the
domestication of the

big cat in Southeast


Asian countries as a
successful model for tiger
conservation. The minister
later defended her
decision, saying the tigers
could be released into
forests after being kept in
farms for a few years

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4 DOWN TO EARTH

On Facebook
Doctors pen a book
to expose medical
malpractices in India

On Twitter
Railway budget: How
bio-toilets in trains work

CARTOON

Budget par chaiwale


se charcha
What happens when Arun Jaitley
visits a chaiwala for pre-budget
inputs? Our graphic editor
visualises the interaction

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16-31 MARCH 2015

REUTERS

letters

Use sewage with caution


This is with regard to the article, "Is sewage farming safe?" (February 16-28, 2015).
Farmers are using untreated sewage water for farming because it is easily available and almost free. Since there have been no dedicated scientific studies on
the harmful effects of sewage on plants, it is not wise to use untreated water. We
have to keep the long-term health of citizens in mind. Every village or town where
waste water is being used for farming should have agencies to test the quality of
sewage. This would also help in developing expertise at the local level. Experts
should advise on easy ways to set up waste water treatment plants in each area.
This is necessary to keep harmful pollutants from reaching the food chain. It is a
fact that waste water can be treated and used, but it must be monitored. In cities
such as Singapore, fully treated waste water is even used for drinking.

MGNREGS needs change


Apropos the write-up, "In
defence of capitalism"
(December 16-31, 2014),
any social project will be
viewed as a wasteful handout
by the market unless it is
transformed into a selfsustaining programme that
benefits the intended
beneficiaries. In the past
nine years, the country
has indulged in profligate
spending on the Mahatma
Gandhi National Rural
16-31 MARCH 2015

D B N MURTHY

Employment Guarantee
Scheme (MGNREGS), the
rights-based, demanddriven and legally binding
employment guarantee
scheme. It was expected that
an increase in the economic
abilities and the consequent
improvement in the quality
of lives of the poor, as well as
the significant assets building
through the scheme would
eventually offset the effects
of this profligacy. But such an
expectation appears to be a

wistful thinking. MGNREGS,


as it currently exists, suffers
from a couple of major
drawbacks. First, the main
focus seems to be on the
creation of "man-days", but
not on creation of durable
www.downtoearth.org.in 5

SORIT / CSE

letters

assets for sustainable rural


development. It has diverted
labour from agricultural
production to the essentially
Keynesian enterprise of
digging ditches and filling
them. Rural infrastructure
created by unskilled
labourers barely survives
a single monsoon. Second,
the emphasis seems to be on
providing work opportunities
to unskilled workers and no
attempt is being made to
upgrade the skills of the rural
youth to enable, encourage
and empower them to stand
on their own feet. Why should
not teaching be brought
under the Act? MGNREGS, the
world's largest social security
programme, is only creating
millions of labourers. Indeed,
it seems to be yet another
subsidy programme, which is
always tempting, guaranteeing
instant pay-offs for political
parties, and running the risk
of becoming a burden on the
national exchequer.
The objectives of
transforming MGNREGS into
a self-sustaining programme
can only be achieved if it is
judicially devised, properly

targeted, transparent and


accompanied by official data
that can enable the intended
beneficiaries to claim the
welfare handouts as a matter
of right. Obviously, before
taking up the task of reforming
it in terms of economic
and social rationale, the
government should closely
examine whether its failure is
due to its design or due to poor
governance.
JAYDEV JANA

Let people choose food


The article "Meaty tales of
vegetarian India" (December
16-31, 2014) was good and
informative. But many a
time, those who support

meat-eating and debunk


vegetarianism, terming it an
upper caste religious slogan,
have been found covertly
working for commercial
interest of multinational
non-vegetarian food chains
that have started operating
in India. Such MNCs can
only flourish if India's
vegetarianism is attacked by
nutrition experts and medical
experts. But the so-called
benefits of non-vegetarian
foods have a flipside too.
People eating non-vegetarian
food are at a higher risk of
contracting diseases such as
the avian flu. Another threat
they face is of developing
resistance to antibiotics

http://www.facebook.com/down2earthindia

Do you agree with


Delhi government's
move to exempt
small industries
from green
clearance?
6 DOWN TO EARTH

Small industries have fewer checks and controls


and contribute significantly to environmental
damage. With no clearance required, these
industries will have no reason to implement
environment friendly technologies.
ASHUTOSH JOSHI

This is an idiotic decision. I research on issues


related to the environment and know the
ground situation. The small and medium
enterprises (SME) are the biggest source of air
and water pollution. I live in Lucknow, and here
we do not have any large industry. But the river
Gomti, which is the life line of the city, has been

badly contaminated by the effluents and wastes


discharged from small units. SMEs are the
biggest source of heavy metal contamination
in drinking water, especially mercury, arsenic
and chromium, and release polyaromatic
hydrocarbons by burning petroleum products.
This populist move of the Delhi government
will cause long-term and irreparable loss to the
Yamuna.
ASHUTOSH PATHAK

Delhi's air is the most polluted in the world... the


decision will result in more pollution
MAHE SH KUMAR BA JA J

16-31 MARCH 2015

L R SHARMA

NGT has delivered


This is with regard to "Tribune on trial"
(November 16-30, 2014). My analysis
of about 1,500 decisions and orders
delivered by the National Green Tribunal
(NGT) gave three simple insights:
One, there is no decision that can be
classified as truly irrational; two, there
is no decision that has failed to cure
some environmental ill somewhere
on the ground; and, three, there is no
decision that has not made pollution
control boards wake up and behave the
way they were designed to function. In
summary, NGT has indeed lived up to the
expectations that many of us had when we
advocated its creation in the interest of
environmental governance in India.
DEEP PANDEY

Ill-effects of intensive farming


Apropos the editorial "Straw in the wind"
(February 16-28, 2015), the practice of
high-response and resource intensive
agriculture, started during the Green

VIKAS CHOUDHARY / CSE

because poultry animals are often raised


on an overdose of antibiotics. Eating
meat is not a must for nutrition. There
are many items in the vegetarian menu,
such as soy, which provide enough protein
and nutrition. These are cheap and easily
available, too. Therefore, people should
be made aware of the nutritional values
of vegetarian and non-vegetarian food
items, but food selection should be left
entirely to individuals.
Revolution, continues to haunt us. While
the legislation preventing farmers
from transplanting before June 10 has
helped elevate the water table in the
short-and medium-term, this must be
accompanied by promotion of the system
of rice intensification (SRI method) so
that production of rice can be made more
sustainable. Reuse of the agricultural
residues by ploughing it back into the soil
is a much more sustainable option than
trying to harvest it for energy production.

The Bhoomi College


The Bhoomi college requires a
farm manager for their Organic
Farming Gurukul near Bengaluru.
Candidate must enjoy rural living
and community building and have
minimum 3 years of organic farming
experience. Must know
Telugu /Tamil / Kannada.
Contact: bhoomi.college@gmail.com

www.bhoomimagazine.org

P.O. Box 57, Kodaikanal 624 101

Apply for brochure and application form to:


Brian Jenkins BA (Hons.,) Sussex University.
Email:cloaat@yahoo.com Website:www.cloaat.com

16-31 MARCH 2015

"Sweet cruelty" (February 16-28,


2015) wrongly mentioned the year of
Christopher Columbus' departure for the
New World as 1943. The correct year is
1493. The error is regretted.

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discussions. Fresh lacto-vegetarian organic fare, no smoking.

Erratum

We are looking forward to working with


Qualified teachers having passion for teaching
and good communication skills in English.

CENTRE FOR LEARNING, ORGANIC AGRICULTURE AND APPROPRIATE TECHNOLOGY


(CLOAAT)

Inspired by the philosophy of J. Krishnamurti, CLOAAT is


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Students having a good knowledge of English of 18
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The former will augment soil fertility


by retaining the organic material in the
soil and also help conserve soil moisture
through a build up of organic material.

For trade enquiries


The United Nilgiri Tea Estates Co. Ltd.,

Chamraj Estate, The Nilgiris - 643 204, India


Ph: 91-423-2258737, Fax: + 91-423-2258837
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India - changes you would like to suggest

www.tejavidyalaya.blogspot.in, www.tejainstitutions.com
Email: tejavidyalaya@gmail.com

www.downtoearth.org.in 7

contents

24
COVER STORY

The enigmatic flu


It is yet not clear why so
many people continue to
die of swine flu

11

THE FORTNIGHT

White paper on
rare disorders

India's first white paper on rare


diseases highlights the dearth
of authentic data and medical
infrastructure

17
Short on
data
Absence of reliable
data on water demand
and supply in the
country makes its
management difficult

20
14

Recharge plan for lakes


Ahmedabad plans to arrest the decline
of groundwater by reviving its lakes. But
execution remains a challenge

Cattle go
hungry
Maharashtra shows no
urgency in dealing with
acute fodder shortage in
the state

8 DOWN TO EARTH

16-31 MARCH 2015

INTERVIEW

Battle
against
plagiarism
Kasturi Lal Chopra,
president of Society
for Scientific Values, is
fighting to rid scientific
institutions of academic
misconduct

44
WILDLIFE

Taming of
the rogues

56

Maharashtra and Karnataka


have employed elephants
to capture wild tuskers that
destroy crops

50
OPINION

Solar losing ground

40

Census reports show that use of


solar power has declined in urban
India between 2001 and 2011

SCIENCE

Plastic threat

Amount of plastic entering oceans


could be up to 2,000 times more than
previous estimates

Limiting
drug access

58

Using gross national


income to determine
a country's access to
expensive drugs is
problematic

Whose language is it?

Recent studies that locate the


origin of Sanskrit outside India
will ruffle quite a few feathers

Death knell for


panchayats

43
34

Government's new found


`cooperative federalism' will
destroy the institutions of
local governance

ANALYSIS

A change for worse

Reforms suggested by the


Subramanian committee would
make green laws more complicated

48
52
FOOD

Multigrain
delight

Multigrain foods have


been a part of Indian
diets since ages
16-31 MARCH 2015

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FORTNIGHT

CROSS HAIRS

THE

`Do more for patients of rare disorders '


white paper on rare
diseases recommends that the country
needs to put in place a funding mechanism
and adequate medical infrastructure to
ensure timely diagnosis and treatment
of patients suffering from rare diseases.
The paper, released by Delhi-based
Lysosomal Storage Disorder Support
Society (LSDSS), says patients are forced
I N D I A' S F I R S T

16-31 MARCH 2015

to rely on philanthropy and patient access


programmes due to lack of support from
the government. It also points to a dearth
of authentic data, including prevalence
of rare diseases in India. Lysosomal
Storage Disorders (LSDs) are a group of
approximately 50 rare genetic diseases in
which a particular enzyme is not formed in
the body.

POINT

1.1 bln
people are at
risk of hearing loss
in the world

Source: World Health Organization

www.downtoearth.org.in 11

FORTNIGHT

SAYANTONI PALCHOUDHURI / CSE

AG R A R I A N C R I S I S

THE

Farmers' suicide cases rise 26 % in 2014


of cases of suicide by farmers due to agrarian
reasons have increased by 26 per cent to 1,109 in 2014, with the
majority of deaths reported from Maharashtra, the government
told Parliament recently. Out of 1,109 cases, 986 were reported
from Maharashtra, 84 from Telangana and 29 from Jharkhand. In
2013, 879 farmers had committed suicide, and in 2012, the cases
THE NUMBER

of farmer suicides were 1,046, according to data shared by the


Minister of State for Agriculture Mohanbhai Kundaria, in a written
reply to Lok Sabha. "Reasons of suicide by farmers, as reported
by state governments, are manifold which include crop failure,
indebtedness, drought, socio-economic and personal reasons,"
Kundaria said.

Unemployment to rise over next five years


UNEMPLOYMENT WILL

continue to rise in the coming


years as the global economy has
entered a new period, combining
slower growth, widening
inequalities and turbulence,
warns a new International Labour
Organization (ilo) report. By 2019,
more than 212 million people
will be out of work, up from the
current 201 million, according to
12 DOWN TO EARTH

the World Employment and Social


Outlook Trends 2015. More than
61 million jobs have been lost
since the start of the global crisis
in 2008 and our projections show
that unemployment will continue
to rise until the end of the decade.
This means the job crisis is far
from over and so there is no place
for complacency, ILO DirectorGeneral Guy Ryder said.
16-31 MARCH 2015

THE

Madhya Pradesh law


and animal husbandry
minister Kusum Singh
Mahdele has made
a suggestion for
increasing the number
of tigers in India. In
a proposal to the
state forest minister,
Gaurishankar Shejwar,
Mahdele said, "Keeping
tigers as pets is legally
allowed in Southeast
Asian countries like
Thailand. The number
of these animals is
surprisingly high there."
The minister's letter was
recently accessed by
RTI activist, Ajay Dubey.
Mahdele's suggestion
has caused an uproar
among wildlife activists.
But she has defended
her stand.

Unseasonal rains damage Rabi crops


rains in the first
week of March caused heavy damage to
Rabi crops in north, west and central India,
particularly in the Bundelkhand region
of Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh,
the Vidarbha region of Maharastra, the
Saurashtra region of Gujarat and Punjab
and Haryana. The rains damaged crops like
U N U S U A L LY H E AV Y

conducted by the
Indian Institute of Science (IISc),
Bengaluru, has said that largescale deforestation, particularly in
high latitude regions, could cause
monsoon rains to shift south, cutting
rainfall in India by nearly a fifth.
Researchers from the IISc used
a model simulating atmosphere
circulation, as well as photosynthesis,
transpiration, warming of the ocean
surface and ice melt. "Our study is

16-31 MARCH 2015

V E R B AT I M

Pradesh government has launched its


first sand mining policy to make sand available easily and at
cheap rates. The new
policy has abrogated
mandatory
provisions of furnishing
a mining plan and
environment clearances.
The state has also
removed limitations that
any mine should not have
another mine within
a radius of 10 km. The
proposed policy would
create opportunities for
the state to generate
revenue of `880 crore
against the present `180
crore by auctioning 22.8
million cubic metres of
sand each year.
T H E M A D H YA

India's rainfall could fall by 18 %


A STUDY

wheat, mustard, pea and barley. According


to a senior government official involved in
the initial assessment of damage to crops,
up to 20 per cent of the total crop could have
been damaged. "Mostly, it is the wheat and
mustard crops that have been damaged. The
total cost of damage could be around
`10,000 crore," the official said.

Sand mining made easy

VIKAS CHOUDHARY / CSE

Tigers for pets?

FORTNIGHT

"Mahatma
Gandhi
National
Rural
Employment
Guarantee
Act is a living
monument to
the Congressled UPA
government's
failures"
Prime Minister

Narendra Modi

KUMAR SAMBHAV SHRIVASTAVA / CSE

showing that remote deforestation


in mid- and high-latitudes can have a
much larger effect on tropical rainfall
than local tropical deforestation,"
the researchers said. The South
Asian monsoon region would be
affected the most, with an 18 per cent
decline in precipitation over India,
the scientists wrote in the paper
published in the Proceedings of the
National Academy of Sciences (PNAS)
journal.

www.downtoearth.org.in 13

MAHARASHTRA

DROUGHT

Starved of fodder

APARNA PALLAVI

| nagpur

Maharashtra can take a cue from non-profit


Mann Deshi Foundation which ran a camp in
Satara from 2012 to 2014. Over 11,000 head
of cattle were provided fodder in the camp

N FEBRUARY 10, Maharashtras


revenue minister, Eknath
Khadse, made two announcements. He banned the sale of
fodder outside the district where it has been
produced and prohibited cattle herders from
the neighbouring state of Gujarat from
grazing their animals in Maharashtra. The
decisions were taken to tackle the fodder
shortage the state is facing.
Maharashtra has been struggling with
droughts for the past couple of years. One of
the many problems drought causes is fodder
shortage. As a relief measure, the state
government has been organising free fodder
camps from March end every year. But the
situation this year is so severe that farmers
need the camps immediately. However, the
newly elected Bharatiya Janata Party
government has not given any indication that

the camps will be held before the usual time.


According to the revenue department,
8,139 villages in the eight districts of
Marathwada have recorded less than
50 per cent yield this Kharif season and the
situation is not likely to change in the Rabi
season. Rainfall in 2014 was 40-50 per cent
of the normal levels.This is even less than the
levels seen in 2012, when the rainfall was
60 per cent of normal and caused a severe
drought. According to the Groundwater
Surveys and Development Agency, the drop
in ground water levels this year is a whopping
0.94 m more than the average decline in the
past five years.
With scarcity looming large (see Out of
fodder on p16), the cost of fodder is rising.
Two years ago the government banned the
sale of fodder outside the district it was
produced, says Bhumiputra Wagh of

MANN DESHI FOUNDATION

Marathwada has been


struggling with acute
fodder shortage, but the
state government has
not taken any step to
counter the problem

MAHARASHTRA

Usmanabad-based non-profit Samaj Vikas


Sanstha, which works on issues related to
farmers. This helped farmers because it kept
the prices lowat around `5-6 per pendi (a
2 kg bundle). But this year, the prices are
already `12 per pendi. At this rate, farmers
will have to spend `120 or more per day on
every adult cow or bullock, he says.
For farmers who are in the business of
milk production, the situation became even
more difficult after the government reduced
the rate at which it procures milk. Since it
came to power, the government has reduced
the price of milk procurement from `18-21
per litre to `10-14. This, coupled with the
high price of fodder, has made dairy a lossmaking prospect.The farmers are more keen
than ever to sell cattle, says Pramod
Jhinjhade of non-profit Mahatma Phule
Samaj Seva Mandal. As a result, the price of
cattle has fallen, he says. Earlier, a good
hybrid cow would fetch anything between
`40,000 and `50,000. Now the price is down
to around `25,000. But still the sale of cattle
is becoming increasingly common, says
Wagh. During the 2012-13 drought,
50,000-70,000 head of cattle were sold to
abattoirs in 13 drought-affected districts.
This year, fodder shortage has triggered the
process in March itself, he says.
Mahadeo Appa Tambde, a farmer from
village Dakshin Deoli in Usmanabad district,
says the fodder in his village will last only till
mid-March. We need the camps now, but
there has been no announcement from the
government and people are beginning to get
desperate. We will either have to take our
cattle to places that still have water and
fodder or sell them.

`Everything under control'

Ganesh Deshpande, deputy commissioner,


fodder development, animal husbandry
department, says that according to
government estimates, fodder situation in
the state is the same as it has been in previous
years. However, he also admits that there is
no agency in the state that carries out a survey
to determine the drought situation and the
government figures are based purely on
estimates. According to these figures, the
situation is under control till the end of
March, after which government will take a
16 DOWN TO EARTH

DROUGHT

Out of fodder
Maharashtra is facing a shortage of
both dry and green fodder
Cattle population in Maharashtra (cow,
bullock, buffalo, sheep, goat)

31,796,849
Dry fodder

Requirement

44.3 mln tonnes


Available

30.5 mln tonnes


Deficit

13.9 mln tonnes (31.3%)


Green fodder
Requirement

101.8 mln tonnes


Available

44.9 mln tonnes


Deficit

58.6 mln tonnes (59.4%)


Source: 19th livestock census, 2012

decision on starting fodder camps, he says.


T B Survase, deputy secretary for relief
and rehabilitation, revenue department, says
that the decisions announced by the revenue
minister had actually been taken by the
previous government. The minister has only
announced that these decisions will be
implemented. Detailed decisions regarding
their implementation are yet to be taken.
Even if the government does set up
fodder camps, the quality of fodder it
provides is not up to the mark, says Popatrao
Pawar, former sarpanch of Ahmednagars
Hiware Bazar village. The fodder they
provided is mostly sugarcane, which is not
just hard to chew but also detrimental to the
health of animals. Many animals die or
become ill from eating it.
Deshpande says cash crops, such as
sugarcane, and fruit orchards have aggravated
the problem of fodder shortage in the state
because they do not produce viable fodder.

Worse, packaging of fruits requires a lot of


grass that could have gone to animals, he
says. Deshpande says his department
provides 100 per cent subsidy on cultivation
of perennial fodder crops like napier grass
and African tall varieties of corn. But farmers
say these crops are water intensive and do not
grow in drought areas.
Parineeta Dandekar, a water expert
from non-profit South Asia Network of
Dams, Rivers and People, agrees that
sugarcane cultivation is a big drain on the
regions precious water resources. This water
can be used to boost fodder security. This
year, at a conservative estimate, 70 sugar
factories in Marathwada have used 23.1
million cubic metres of water to crush 15.43
million tonnes of sugarcane produced in the
region, she says, adding, This amount of
water is sufficient to irrigate 8,000 acres of
groundnut (one acre equals 0.4 hectare) and
even larger fields of jowar or cornand
these crops provide good quality fodder.
This is also corroborated by D M More,
former director general of Maharashtra State
Water Resources Department. The water
required for irrigating 0.4 hectare of
sugarcane is sufficient to irrigate 4.9 hectares
of jowar, says More. At present, the amount
of water being consumed by sugarcane is
equal to the entire storage capacity of all the
dams in the state.

Watersheds can help

Watersheds can be a great help in enhancing


fodder security, says Pawar. He has been
successfully developing watersheds in his
area and says that a major part of the fodder
requirement of the village is being met by the
greenery around the local streams.
Watershed development has great
potential in creating fodder security, but the
new government is yet to show any
enthusiasm in this area, he says, and adds
that barring his village and a few surrounding
ones where watershed development has been
carried out, the entire region is in the grip of
acute fodder crisis. Usually, migration due to
drought starts towards the end of March, but
this year people have already started moving.
Unless steps are taken now, the situation by
the end of March will be even more severe,
he says. n
16-31 MARCH 2015

WAT E R

D AY

SPECIAL

Figure it out yourself


A striking fact about water
in India is the lack of
reliable data about all its
aspects: total potential,
available supply
and demand
PRIYAVRAT BHATI AND
SANGEETHA SURESH

MOHD SHEFAR / CSE

India is the largest


consumer of groundwater
in the world

NDIA FACES serious challenges to


sustain its water resources as agriculture, industry and domestic sectors
compete with each other for the scarce
resource.The situation is exacerbated by poor
water management practices, over-extraction
of surface and groundwater and pollution.
Unfortunately, there is a lack of reliable data
about the total potential of water resources
and supply and demand of water.
Rainfall, Indias primary source of freshwater, is estimated to be 4,000 billion cubic
metre (bcm), but it varies widely across states,
seasons and years. The Planning Commissions Steering Committee on water resources for the 11th Five Year Plan reported that
Indias water resources potential is 1,869 bcm,
including groundwater. This is when utilisable water resources have been assessed at
1,123 bcm, of which 690 bcm are from surface water and 433 bcm from groundwater.
Besides, the surface water estimates have remained unchanged for several decadesthe
National Agricultural Commission report in
1976 and subsequent estimates by the
Central Water Commission in 1988 and
2001 have mentioned this number. But
Planning Commissions working group for

the 12th Plan said it failed to locate any document explaining the basis for the estimate.

Availability: signs of stress

Assuming the availability of 1,869 bcm to be


accurate, India will move from a water-adequate nation (per capita availability of over
1,700 cu m/year) to a water-scarce one (per
capita availability of less than 1,000 cu m/
year) by 2025 (see Every drop counts, p18).
Nine of 20 river basins, supporting 200 million people, are facing water shortage.
Groundwater is another area of crisis.
India is heavily dependent on groundwater
and is the largest consumer of groundwater
in the world. The Central Groundwater
Board in its 2012-13 yearbook reports that
India drew 243 bcm of groundwater in 2009,
which is 61 per cent of the countrys net available groundwater. With no dedicated national groundwater management programme, groundwater stores are being
depleted at rates faster than they can be replenished. Nationally, 27 per cent of the
blocks are classified as semi-critical or worse
(withdrawal in excess of 70 per cent of availability). Northwest states draw 127-170 per
cent of the available groundwater.

WAT E R

D AY

SPECIAL

Increased water consumption results in


higher water discharge, leading to degradation in water quality.Today, industries are the
main cause of water pollution.

Demand: growing pains

Lets first consider the story of evolving


water needs as India transforms from a country with vast rural population dependent on
agriculture to one that is relatively urban and
industrialised. About 70 per cent of Indians
live in rural areas. Agriculture needs account
for 88 per cent of total water consumption,
while industrial use and domestic water consumption by urban residents account for the
balance 12 per cent of usage.
The situation in rich industrialised countries is the reverse. However, as India
develops, it is unlikely to urbanise and industrialise to the same extent as the developed
world. Around half of Indias population is
expected to remain rural by 2050 for whom
agriculture will be the mainstay. Water for
irrigation will remain a significant contributor to the countrys total water needs.
Nevertheless, rising urbanisation will result
in increased domestic water consumption:
urban dwellers use far more water than rural
folks on a per capita basis. Industrial water
needs will also increase in line with gdp
increases. Indias current water policy rightly
accords priority to domestic water.
Agriculture needs will also remain important to feed the growing population and
support livelihoods of half the country. Given
significant water use by the agriculture sector,
improving irrigation efficiency will be critical to managing overall demand for
water. As water supply gets constrained, competing demand from various sectors may lead
to conflicts. Else, industry will be under tremendous pressure to improve water efficiency or risk facing serious obstacles to growth.
Information on water demandboth
current and projectedis unreliable. The
National Commission on Integrated Water
Resources Development (nciwrd) projected water requirement for various sectors in
1999. The Ministry of Water Resources
(mowr) produced another set of estimates
in 2000. nciwrds estimates of water use for
agriculture are lower than the ministrys estimates since it assumes improved irrigation
18 DOWN TO EARTH

Every drop counts


India is ill-prepared to meet the rising
water demand in the near future
Headed towards water scarcity
Per capita water availability (cubic metre/year)
Population (million)

1,816

1,800

1,545

1,600
1,200

1,210

1,000
800

1,640
1,394

1,340
1,140

1,029
2001

2011

2025

2050

Source: 2013, Water in India, Situation and Prospects, UNICEF

Urbanisation, industries to drive


water demand
Per capita water demand (cubic metre/year)
Domestic consumption,

Industrial consumption

62

46

31
42
2000

66

102

2025

2050

Source: Amarasinghe, U. A et al, 2007

Water-thirsty sectors
Water demand (in billion cubic metre)
Irrigation

Domestic

900*

833

Total

680*

2000

Industrial

605

675

637

34
42

66
92

101
161

2025

2050

* Rounded off; Note: Domestic withdrawals include livestock water


demand. Industrial withdrawals include cooling needs for power
generation; Source: Amarsinghe, U. A et al, 2007

efficiency. Conversely, nciwrds estimates of


other uses (such as industry and domestic)
are much higher than that of mowrs.
nciwrds projected combined water use by
industry and energy sectors stands at 56 bcm
for 2010, while mowr pegged it at only
17 bcm. Going forward, the difference
widens: nciwrd projected water consumption by industry and energy sectors to be
100 bcm by 2025 against only 38 bcm projected by the ministry.

The absence of a national water database


has been recognised as a serious shortcoming
by the government. The 12th Plan envisages
comprehensive aquifer mapping and development of a water database that includes
assessment of national water resources
potential and end users (by sector) of water.

Industrial water demand

Various research reports agree that the demand for water by the industrial sector will
show a sustained increase. However, the
underlying assumptions vary, resulting in
widely different projections. For instance,
nciwrd estimates were based on water use
of a small sample of companies. While the
total water usage by industry and energy appeared reasonable, the split between energy
and industry seemed wrong. On the other
hand, mowr had projected inexplicably small
water consumption (totalling 17 bcm in
2010) by the industry and energy sectors and
then went on to project an extraordinary
growth over 40 years. Recently, there have
been attempts to refine these numbers.
The International Water Management
Institute (iwmi), Colombo, has projected industrial water need based on elasticity of demand with respect to gdp. Domestic water
has been estimated based on increased urbanisation and increase in coverage of households. iwmi estimates show that the share of
consumption by the industrial and household sectors will continue to rise, accounting
for a massive 54 and 85 per cent of the incremental water demand by 2025 and 2050.
One curious feature of the Indian industry is that development has occurred without
considering water availability. In fact, some
of the densest industrial clusters are in waterstressed states. A natural consequence of
concentrated industrial activity has been significant pollution levels in both groundwater
and rivers around the industrial clusters. n
Exclusive extract from State of
Indias Environment 2015, an
annual publication of Down To
Earth and Centre for Science
and Environment. Log on to
http://csestore.cse.org.in/
for a copy of the book
16-31 MARCH 2015

Advertisement

URBAN

LAKES

SUSHMITA SENGUPTA / CSE

Left to dry

Encroachment of feeder channels and illegal excavation of lake bed are responsible for the decay of the Sarkhej Roza lake

Ahmedabad Municipal
Corporation hopes to
arrest the city's dipping
groundwater by reviving
its dying lakes. But in
the absence of strong
wetland rules and
intention, the efforts
will prove futile
SUSHMITA SENGUPTA

ahmedabad

20 DOWN TO EARTH

HE WATER table of Ahmedabad, like

opment around the lakes led to encroachin most cities in the country, is ment of the natural waterways, resulting in
dipping at an alarming rate, with the their death. One example is the Sarkhej Roza
levels in many regions plummeting lake, which is located 8 km southwest of the
to more than 100 metres below ground level. main city. This peri-urban area was turned
The reasons are the sameunfettered into an industrial hub in 1998 and brought
urbanisation and industrialisationand under the jurisdiction of the citys municipal
so is the citys proposed solutionrevive the corporation. The lake, built by Sultan
groundwater levels by
Mehmud Begda in the
restoring its lost lakes.
15th century, has monuThe solution may sound
ments of archaeological
simple but executing it on
importance, which are a
the ground is a daunting
popular tourist attraction.
A SERIES ON URBAN
task. An optimistic
Before 2004, migraINDIA'S WATER BODIES
Ahmedabad Municipal
tory birds, including corCorporation (amc) says it
morants and flamingos,
will identify the lakes
were often seen there beunder threat by March end and then draw a tween December and February, says
plan to revive them.
Bhavana
Ramrakhiani,
convenor,
Ahmedabad Community Foundation (acf ),
Lost lakes
a non-profit working on environmental
Associate professor at Gujarat University, issues. She adds that the construction of
Hitesh Solanki, who has documented the high-rise buildings on the Sarkhejstatus of several lakes in the city, says devel- Gandhinagar highway in 2004-05 led to the

Lakes

Urban

16-31 MARCH 2015

LAKES

2005

AHMEDABAD COMMUNITY FOUNDATION

URBAN

2012

In just seven years, the Sarkhej Roza lake has transformed from a lake to a dry patch of land

loss of greenery in the area.The human-made


lake was part of a network of lakes in the area.
It traditionally received water from the elevated Shingoda or Makarba talaav (lake),
which received water from lakes (in Prantij
and Santej villages) near Ahmedabad, says
Vasudevan Nair, deputy general manager of
amc, who looks after the heritage department of the civic body.
The problem began when the inflow of
water from the feeder Shingoda talaav
stopped because of encroachment of the
feeding drains connecting the two lakes.
Today the Sarkhej Roza lake has water for
just three months during rains. The high rate
of evaporation in the area does not allow the
water to stay for more than three months and
this period is too short to allow groundwater
recharge in the area, says Nair. Till 2005,
tourists would enjoy boat rides on the lake
throughout the year, says Shafi Ahmad, who
sells beads and metal rings in the area.
Abdul Gani, a frequent visitor to a dargah
in the area, says that groundwater was always
shallow in the area, but in the past seven to
eight years it has dipped to 15 metres. I used
to take bath in the lake during summers, but
it is now dry most of the year.

Uphill task

Talking about how difficult a task it will be to


revive the lake channel, Ramrakhiani says
Makarba talaav is not even notified as a lake
in the government records. The other major
issue is that the land mafia around the area
digs away the soil from the lake bed for the
22 DOWN TO EARTH

construction of buildings. The municipality


claims it has lodged complaints several times
against these builders to stop the excavation
but there was no positive outcome.
Nair explains that the high rate of
excavation from the lake has lowered the level
of Makarba talaav much below the level of
Sarkhej Roza and this has stopped the natural
flow into the lake. Non-profit acf says illegal
soil excavation from the lake started in
1998-99.The Archaeological Survey of India
(asi) was renovating the monuments around
the lake during this time, but they did not
stop the illegal excavation because they are
only supposed to take care of the monument
and not the water body adjacent to it, says an
asi official.
Encroachment of the natural drains between the two lakes, lowering of the lake bed
of Makarba talaav meant rainwater stopped
flowing between them, says Nair.
In 2009, with the help of Ahmedabad
Urban Development Authority (auda),
there was an attempt to fill up the Sarkhej
lake, says Arif Agharia, senior conservation
assistant, asi. Agharia said that asi protested
against this plan of bringing water into the
lake by artificial hume pipes.
In November 2012, amc started laying
stormwater drains in Sarkhej village and
connected the drains to the Makarba lake.
This brought some life to the Sarkhej lake in
the monsoon of 2013. Ramrakhiani says this
temporary solution is effective during the
monsoons only. Solanki adds that analysis of
the water collected in the Sarkhej lake after

the monsoons showed high concentration of


phosphate in the water which indicates that
domestic sewage was entering into the lake
through the stormwater drain.
The same story holds true for almost all
the other lakes in the city, including the
Chandola lake, the largest lake in the city. In
2000, Ahmedabad lawyer Shailesh Shah
filed a public interest petition to save the water bodies of Ahmedabad. In response, the
court ordered the authorities to preserve the
lakes and ponds of the state in 2002.The verdict also ordered the state to undertake urgent measures for checking pollution in the
lakes and rejuvenate the water bodies. But
more than a decade later, the municipal corporation is yet to identify the water bodies
that need to be protected. Nair says though
the commissioner has ordered immediate
identification of the threatened lakes of the
city, it is not clear whether Sarkhej Roza will
be one of them.
Experts say the fresh attempt to revive the
lakes will fail till the time effective wetland
rules are put in place. Tej Razdan, convener
of
Jheel
Sanrakshan
Society, a
non-profit based in Udaipur, says,
The present wetland rules are toothless.
Shashank Shekhar, a hydrologist working in
Delhi
University, says
immediate
programmes are needed to revive the water
bodies. Nair says that the programmes should
not only work on the lakes but also on the
feeder channels and catchment areas to make
them encroachment free. This can happen
only if the government is committed. n
16-31 MARCH 2015

When flu
turns fatal
In the past two months, as many as 1,198 people in
India have died of swine flu, a disease which is only as
threatening as seasonal flu. JYOTSNA SINGH travels to
the worst-affected state, Rajasthan, and talks to health
experts in Delhi to understand why flu viruses are
causing pandemics

UST AS spring was setting in and people were heaving a sigh of relief,

unseasonal rains lashed many parts of the country towards the end of
February, stirring a familiar fear. Most of the states, including Rajasthan,
Madhya Pradesh, Telangana, Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Delhi and
Gujarat that received heavy rainfall, have reported a high number of swine flu
cases this winter; cases of deaths in these states have touched triple digits. Low
temperature means that H1N1, the virus that causes swine flu, is likely to
thrive in the air for some more time.
Going by the wisdom of public health experts, swine flu is as benign as any other
seasonal flu, but people are wary of it as they fail to distinguish between the two. And
by the time they do, it might be too late for some. Take the case of Kailash Chand,
a 40-year-old daily wager from Guja village in Rajasthans Jaipur district. Despite
cold, cough and mild fever, he avoided going to a doctor for a week and continued
to work at a construction site. We thought he would recover in some time. But his
condition kept worsening. He became weaker and could not walk properly, says
Ramavtar, Chands nephew. They consulted the village health worker, called the
local auxiliary nurse and midwife (anm), but she did not know about the flu or its
treatment. So Ramavtar took Chand to Kotputli town where doctors took three long
days to diagnose the ailment. They said no hospital in Kotputli had the expertise
to treat him and referred him to Sawai Man Singh (sms) hospital, Ramavtar says.
sms hospital in Jaipur is a super-specialty government hospital in the state. By
the time Chand travelled 117 km to reach the hospital, he had developed infection in
both the lungs and breathlessness.The doctors at sms hospital had to immediately admit him in the intensive care unit (icu). Till the time the magazine went to the press,,

PHOTOGRAPHS: VIKAS CHOUDHARY / CSE

Large number of swine flu


deaths has created panic
in the national capital.
People are undergoing
flu tests even if they have
common cold

COVER

STORY

Kailash Chand
received
treatment for
swine flu a
week after he
experienced
symptoms.
He should
have received
medication
within two
days

Back after a lull


India has seen a spike in
swine flu after four years
Cases

Deaths

2009

27,236

981
2010

1,763

20,604

2011

603
75

2012

5,044
405

2013

Panic and pressure

5,253
699

2014

902
216

2015*

1,198

Chands condition was critical and he was on lifesupport system (see A long road to treatment, p28).
Chand is one of the 5,782 people in Rajasthan
affected by swine flu; the state has recorded 286 deaths.
Rajasthan is one of the poorest states in India, lagging
behind other states not only in economic growth, but
also in education and public health. Public health
experts blame lack of awareness and poor healthcare
infrastructure for the maximum number of swine
flu cases in Rajasthan. Similar excuses are also cited for states like Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh
that have equally bad health infrastructure; they have
witnessed 1,899 and 1,077 cases respectively.
But why are relatively developed states, which
have good infrastructure and literacy rates, witnessing such high number of swine flu cases?

22,240

Source: Ministry of Health & Family


Welfare; *as on March 4

26 DOWN TO EARTH

Take Gujarat. Prime Minister Narendra Modis


home state, whose model of development has been
adopted by many states in India, has witnessed the
highest number of swine flu deaths (292) this season
and recorded 4,904 cases. Delhi does not fare any better. The national capital has some of the best healthcare facilities and institutes in the country. But with
3,310 cases of swine flu in the past two months and
10 deaths, Delhi has become a panic zone. A sense of

fear and confusion is evident from conversations on


the street. Face masks have become the norm, worn
by weary Delhiites as a precautionary measure. An
advertisement by the Union Ministry of Health and
Family Welfare is being regularly aired on FM radio
channels to create awareness about swine flu.
A K Gadpayle, additional medical superintendent
and nodal officer, swine flu, in government-run Ram
Manohar Lohia (rml) hospital in Delhi, says people
are anxious about the disease. They are not willing
to believe us when we say they do not need medicine
or get themselves tested for swine flu. We are under a
lot of pressure to conduct unnecessary tests.
The panic is much more pronounced in private hospitals. Patients sometimes force us to admit them, leave alone testing, says Jasvinder Paintal,
doctor at Indraprastha Apollo Hospitals, a chain of
private hospitals. The management has earmarked
its Delhi hospitals first floor for swine flu treatment.
There are 35 beds in the ward and 10 in the icu.
Some are even bypassing the doctors and getting
themselves tested for the virus. Dr Lal Path Lab, a
leading chain of private laboratories in Delhi, has
pressed its workforce to collect throat swabs of suspected swine flu patients from home and send them
the test results via email. We do not want our premises to be infected, says a spokesperson of the laboratory chain. On an average, the lab was collecting nearly
50 samples a day. These are rarely being done on the
basis of prescription.
Those who cannot afford private labs go to
government hospitals to get tested. This creates unnecessary burden on the healthcare system, says
Puneet Bedi, senior consultant at Indraprastha
Apollo Hospitals. For example, at rml hospital, a
staff of 10 doctors and nurses have been assigned
to look after swine flu patients. Ideally, they should
not attend to more than 200 patients a day, but since
January, the out patient department has been flooded
with about 500 patients daily, eager to get tested and
treated for swine flu. As a result, the doctors have not
been able to attend to those patients who have tested
positive for H1N1.
This is precisely why after the swine flu pandemic in 2009 the government introduced protocols based on guidelines of who. Under this, patients
who have mild fever, cough, sore throat, body ache,
nausea and diarrhoea need to stay at home to avoid
spread of infection and be monitored for 48 hours.
High-risk groups-children, pregnant women, the elderly and those with low immunity-with the same
symptoms but higher fever need to be given medicine oseltamivir (Tamiflu) and confined to home.
16-31 MARCH 2015

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STORY

A long road to treatment


Medical aid in the first two days can treat swine flu, but many factors
together aggravate the condition, as in the case of Kailash Chand

Kailash Chand is a 40-year-old


labourer. He catches swine flu around
February 21, but mistakes it for seasonal
cold. Avoids doctor for 4-5 days thinking
he will recover. But his condition
weakens. He consults a village health
worker who does not know about flu

2 He then goes to Kotputli town on Feb


25 for treatment. There, doctors
diagnose him with swine flu on Feb 28,
a week after the onset of infection.

They do not have the


expertise to treat him and refer
him to SMS hospital in
Jaipur, 117 km away

4 Chand gets admitted to ICU on


March 1, almost 8 days after
catching swine flu. He is now in
critical condition

Those showing all the symptoms in higher


degree need immediate hospitalisation. Widespread
panic has led to blatant violation of these protocols
(see Cashing in on panic, p30).
This season, even though swine flu has not been
declared an epidemic in India, its spread has been
similar to that of an epidemic. In May 2009, when
swine flu first hit the country, the number of cases till December was 27,236, with 981 deaths.
The situation this year has been far more severe. In
just two months, 22,240 cases and 1,198 deaths have
been reported (see Back after a lull, p26).
The urgency to bring the situation under control was evident from the worried look on the faces of all MPs in Parliament on February 27. A day
before the new National Democratic Alliance government presented its first Union Budget, swine flu
was the most dominant issue during the question
28 DOWN TO EARTH

hour. Queries were usual: how does swine flu spread;


what is the governments plan of action; do we have
enough laboratories for diagnosis?
People are asking these questions not only in
India, but in other countries as well. Since January
this year, H1N1 has manifested itself globally,
particularly in northern Africa and West Asia,
including Jordan, Morocco and Tunisia.

Threat, even a century later

H1N1 is not new. The world first came to know


about it in 1918, when it killed over 50 million people worldwide and infected another 500 million
(see Worrying time, p30). But that was the pre-antiviral era. In the past century, medical science has made
tremendous progress. Following the swine flu pandemic in 2009, scientists developed medicines and
vaccines to fight the virus. Moreover, swine flu is not
an efficient killer. Though it poses death risk only to
high-risk groups and those suffering from chronic illnesses, such as diabetes and heart diseases, lives can
be saved with proper medical care.
What, then, could be the reason for the
exponential increase in the number of swine flu cases
and deaths in India?
Public health experts blame the current outbreak on decades of failure to invest adequately in basic health services and infrastructure.
Consider Rajasthan, the state with the secondhighest swine flu fatality in the country. Only
10 hospitals are equipped to treat swine flu patients and all of them are located in cities. In the
past two months, sms hospital alone received
1,260 cases of H1N1 flu from across the state and
recorded 85 deaths, out of which 46 were from outside Jaipur. Many had come from as far off as Bikaner
(338 km from Jaipur), Jhunjhunu (170 km), Alwar
(159 km) and Tonk (106 km).
Treatment is effective when provided within first
two days of onset of symptoms. But patients came to
us five to seven days later, says Ajit Singh, nodal officer, swine flu, sms Hospital. Unlike in 2009, this
time health authorities had enough stock of Tamiflu.
Singh says many patients who died at sms hospital
could have been treated in their home town as the
government has made Tamiflu available at primary
and community health centres.

Poor awareness

Not all health workers, like anms and ashas (accredited social and health activists), are trained to identify swine flu patients and monitor them, says Rajib
Dasgupta, faculty, Centre for Social Medicine and
16-31 MARCH 2015

COVER

STORY

Worrying time
In 1918, H1N1 was first detected in Spain and it led to the worst pandemic in recent history, killing
50 million people worldwide. In the next century, there have been 11 pandemics of new strains of
H1N1. Out of these, seven have been reported in the decade 2005-15

40 Years
1918-1958

10 Years
1959-69

34 Years
1970-2004

Pandemics
triggered by
new strains

Pandemics
triggered by
new strains

new strains or
pandemic

No

10 Years
2005-2015

Pandemics
triggered by
new strains
Source: National Institutes of Health, US

Community Health, Jawaharlal Nehru University


(jnu) in Delhi. Kiran Soni, an anm in Bagru village near Jaipur, did attend a training programme on
swine flu. But she did not realise she had contracted the disease until she was diagnosed with the virus. Till late January, even doctors in the state did
not know that there is a spike in swine flu cases, says
Singh. As doctors kept referring their patients to bigger hospitals or those in cities, it contributed to the
death toll. First, families with financial constraints do
not take patients out of their native place, increasing
the probability of deaths. Second, in case of contagious diseases like swine flu, high mobility of patients
can result in faster spread of the infection.
Proper protection to health workers is an important step to check the spread of infectious diseases,
which is also missing in the country. A doctor treating
patients suspected of swine flu at the emergency ward
of sms hospital says, I am working in a high-risk area,
but have been given the cheapest mask to cover my
face. This is true for other health workers on duty.

Limited knowledge

The current outbreak also points to crucial gaps


in the understanding of H1N1, even though it
has resurfaced in the country every year since
2009. Usually, following a pandemic, people develop resistance to the virus. Wan Yang, associate
research scientist, Department of Environmental
Health Sciences, Columbia University, US, explains
that going by that logic, those who were exposed to
H1N1 virus in 2009 should have become immune to
it and the virulence of H1N1 should have reduced to
that of a seasonal flu. But that does not seem to be the
case. The current fatality risk of swine flu epidemic in India appears much higher than seasonal flu in
the US, Yang says. He suggests conducting more
research to understand the disease-causing capacity
of the infecting strain.
30 DOWN TO EARTH

Rafi
Ahmed,
director
of
Emory
Vaccine Centre in Atlanta, US, and advisor to the Indian governments department of
biotechnology, warns in the media that if there is a
different H1N1 virus being circulated in India, it
may have global implications. Researchers Kannan
Tharakaraman and Ram Sasisekharan at the
Massachusetts Institute of Technology, US, compared proteins important for virulence and transmissibility in the 2009 and 2014 swine flu epidemics.
They found that the H1N1 flu virus that circulated in India in 2014 was distinct from the one that
caused the flu in 2009. The findings are published in
the March 11 issue of the journal Cell Host & Microbe.

Cashing in on panic
managed to avert a high death
toll caused by swine flu, but is grappling
with another problem. According to the
Government of India's clinical management
protocol of pandemic influenza H1N1, not
all patients need medical care. Those with
mild fever, cough, sore throat, body ache,
nausea and diarrhoea do not even require to
get themselves tested for the virus. But in a
blatant violation of the protocol, many private
hospitals recommend tests, medicines and
even hospitalisation, says Jasvinder Paintal,
doctor at Indraprastha Apollo. Physicians
charge at least `1,500 per visit. Visiting a
patient in ICU is costlier.
Private laboratories are also taking
advantage of the situation to make money. Till
the first week of February, Sequence Lab was
charging `3,500 for swine flu test, while Dr
Dang's Lab was charging `9,000. On February
18, Director General of Health Services Jagdish
Prasad wrote to the Delhi government, asking
it to ensure that government-authorised
DELHI HAS

16-31 MARCH 2015

COVER

STORY

Mutant menace
Unpredictable, prolific nature of flu virus is making it invincible

1N1 IS not the only virus that has taken the

world hostage. Every year, as the temperatures dip and the air becomes dry, new strains
of flu viruses emerge.
The viruses that emerge with slight changes only
cause seasonal flu. Since they have been circulating in
the air for quite some time, most people are immune
to them and medicines are readily available to tackle
outbreaks they cause. There are others that emerge as
novel strainsand can have the ability to spread more
quickly. They do not encounter the firewall of
protection from pre-existing immunity in a person.
Since no medicine is available to tackle them, a large
section of the population is susceptible to it, resulting
in pandemics.

Rise of novel viruses

According to who, 5-10 per cent of adults and 20-30


per cent of children are infected by one form of flu or
the other every year. Of late, more number of novel
strains are causing epidemics. Every year, these
epidemics result in three to five million cases of severe

private labs do not overcharge patients.


Following this, Delhi capped the cost of
swine flu test at `4,500. But pathologists say
the cost could have been much lower. Most
laboratories in Delhi have imported machines
from the US-based Applied Biosystems and
use its reagent kit; the cost of the test comes
to nearly `1,900, says a pathologist of Ram
Manohar Lohia hospital, nodal government
hospital for swine flu in Delhi.
Director of Genome Diagnostics Pradeep
Singhal says if indigenous technology is used,
the cost can be reduced further. "We produced
a kit in 2009, which worked on multiple
machines and the test would not cost over
`800," he says. Though the kit was validated
by the Sanjay Gandhi Post Graduate Institute
of Medical Sciences, Lucknow, in 2009, it is
yet to receive manufacturing licence from
the Drugs Controller General of India. Singhal
alleges that a lobby pushing the purchase
of imported machines and kits is the reason
indigenous kits are not being promoted.
16-31 MARCH 2015

illness, and 250,000-500,000 deaths worldwide. In a


report in February, who states that an influenza
pandemic is the most global of infectious disease
events currently known.
Although we know the general mechanism by
which new influenza viruses emerge, our basic
knowledge of how these viruses acquire pandemic
potential is rudimentary. So far, all we know is that at
least 18 HA (haemagluttinin) and 11 NA (neuraminidase) subtypes of viruses are circulating in the air,
which can constantly reinvent themselves by
exchanging genetic material.This process appears to
be happening at an accelerated pace. Most of these
novel strains are being churned out by animals and
birds. Since the start of 2014, the World Organization
for Animal Health, an inter-governmental body, has
been notified of 41 outbreaks in birds involving seven
different viruses in 20 countries in Africa, the
Americas, Asia, Australia, Europe and West Asia.
Climatic conditions are exacerbating the
problem. A study published in Proceedings of the
National Academy of Sciences in 2013 shows that the
four recent human influenza pandemicsreported
in 1918, 1957, 1968 and 2009were first identified
in boreal spring or summer and were preceded by La
Nia conditions in the equatorial Pacific. Changes in
the phase of the El Nio-Southern Oscillation have
been shown to alter the migration, fitness and mixing
of migratory birds with domestic animals. Thus,
La Nia conditions bring divergent subtypes of flu
virus together, leading to generation of novel strains.
Another study published in January 2013 issue
of plos Currents suggests that warmer-than-average
winters tend to lead to early and severe influenza
seasons. In 2012-13, the influenza season had an
unusually early and severe start in the US. An analysis
of climate and past US influenza epidemic seasons
indicated that warm winters tend to be followed by
severe epidemics. Fewer people are infected with
influenza during warm winters, thereby leaving an
unnaturally large fraction of individuals susceptible
to influenza in the next season. This can lead to early
and severe epidemics, say the researchers. In the
event of continued global warming, warm winters
such as that of 2011-12 are expected to occur more
frequently, they warn.
Global authorities are well aware of the situation
www.downtoearth.org.in 31

COVER

Due to the swine flu scare,


the out patient department at
Ram Manohar Lohia hospital
in Delhi has been flooded with
about 500 patients every day,
much more than what the
doctors can handle

STORY

but are far from tackling it. Vaccination is said to be


one of the first steps towards preparing for an
epidemic. To figure out which specific strains to
target, over 100 countries study influenza trends and
collaborate with who. Usually, they select three or
four out of hundreds. Then, based on forecasts and a
bit of luck, each country decides which strains to
include in the next vaccination.

Prevention, the real cure

But vaccines have a problem. Since the 2004-05 flu


season, US researchers estimate that the effectiveness
of vaccines has reduced to 10-60 per cent.This could
be because the genetic make-up and antigenic
properties (proteins that activate the immune system)
of viruses are changing. For example, since February
2014, the genetic make-up and antigenic properties
of the H3N2 virus circulating in North America and
Europe has changed. As a result, the effectiveness of
the current seasonal vaccine in reducing influenzarelated illnesses was only 23 per cent in the US.
In January this year, the Indian Medical
Association mentioned in a press release that current
seasonal influenza vaccines are not expected to
provide protection against human infection with
avian or swine influenza viruses. This calls for a need
to develop more potent vaccines and shorten the
production time. During a severe pandemic, many
lives are lost in the three to four months that are
needed to produce vaccines. Since current seasonal
vaccines are ineffective against novel pandemic
strains, recent efforts have focused on development
of broadly protective or universal influenza virus
vaccines that can provide immunity against seasonal
flu as well as potential pandemic virus.
So, the best way is to prevent major outbreaks of
influenza. And this requires understanding flu viruses
32 DOWN TO EARTH

better. For instance, in August 2014 who introduced


guidelines for prevention and control of influenzalike illnesses, suggesting that patients should be kept
in isolation. However, the specific duration of
infectious period for many types of flu, such as swine
flu, is unknown. So there is no consensus on how long
a patient should be kept in isolation.
Researchers of Columbia Universitys Mailman
School of Public health are working on the prediction
of influenza epidemics. We do real-time forecasts
for over 100 cities in the US. In the future, we would
like to expand this effort to other regions around the
world, including India, says Yang. Forecasts, if
reliable, would help public health sectors devise
effective intervention measures to prevent the spread
of the flu through efficient allocation of resources
such as vaccines and antivirals, and better education
of the public, he adds.
Rajib Dasgupta of jnu says effective
communication is an important tool for reducing the
impact of spread of infectious diseases, like the
current spread of swine flu. Only messages about the
spread of an infectious disease result in panic. So the
government needs to actively engage with the
affected population. This can be done by communication specialists who can design campaigns to tackle
the panic, and ensure that no critical case is ignored.
Unfortunately, Indias public health system does not
involve communication specialists, says Dasgupta.
Conditioned by a nervous watch over the lethal
H5N1 bird-flu virus in humans in 2003 and then the
appearance of H1N1 virus in 2009, scientists are now
alert and prepared. But they are more scared than
ever. As the virus keeps mutating and evolving, the
worst may still be out there. n
With inputs from Vibha Varshney
16-31 MARCH 2015

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ENVIRONMENTAL

GOVERNANCE

Chaos in
reforms
The TSR
Subramanian
Committee report,
meant to suggest
environmental
governance reforms,
creates more
confusion
SRESTHA BANERJEE |
new delhi

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34 DOWN TO EARTH

16-31 MARCH 2015

NVIRONMENTAL DEGRADATION in

the National Environment Management disputes emanate from inaccuracies in the


India is a runaway problem. There Authority (nema) and the State eia report. Given that most of Indias mineral
are plethora of laws and regulatory Environment Management Authority reserves are located in important forest
bodies, both at the Central and state (sema)to deal with clearance-related habitats, ecologically sensitive regions, which
levels, to safeguard the environment. Yet issues. Once in effect, nema and sema will are also inhabited by poor people, and the
the country continues to be burdened with replace the Central Pollution Control Board fact that many of Indias mining districts and
pollution, its natural resources continue to (cpcb) and state pollution control boards power hubs suffer from high pollution, fastbe exploited and peoples participation in (spcbs). Besides, it recommends retaining track clearances can also accelerate resource
environmental management remains grossly the existing Environment (Protection) or exploitation, worsen pollution and increase
inadequate. So in January 2015, when the EP Act, 1986, and proposes that the Water social alienation.
Union Ministry of Environment, Forest Act and the Air Act would be eventually
Instead of fast-tracking projects, cse
and Climate Change (moef&cc) released subsumed by the EP Act. However it is not researchers recommend that the government
its vision towards transparency and good clear how the EP Act and provisions of elma should take a look at the potential of projects
governance, it rekindled hope among will be integrated.
that have obtained green clearances. They
those demanding reforms in environment
The Subramanian committee further are adequate to sustain the countrys growth
governance. The ministrys vision assured suggests that the clearance procedure should vision. For instance, since the beginning
developing clear laws, firm rules and be single window, streamlined, purposeful of the 11th Five Year Plan in 2007 till
transparent processes to ensure a policy- and time-bound. It also recommends January 2015, thermal power projects
based predictable regime. An analysis of devolving more projects to sema by revising of more than 255,000 megawatt (MW)
the report, which will lay groundwork for category A and B projects (depending on the capacity have been cleared, which is much
this vision, shows that moef&cc may not spatial extent and potential impacts, category beyond the estimated capacity of 130,000
realise this vision.
A projects are cleared by the Centre while MW required till 2022 as per the Planning
Prepared by a High Level
Commission. Similarly, though the
Committee of moef&cc, chaired
de-allocation of coal blocks in 2014
Instead of dealing with the nuances
by former Cabinet secretary T S
put a question mark on the fate of
and complexities of environmental
R Subramanian, the report was to
many coal block clearances, more
governance, the Subramanian
review and suggest amendments
than 280 projects with cumulative
to six cornerstone laws: the Indian
production capacity of about 865
committee proposes a regulatory
Forest Act of 1927, the Wildlife
million tonnes per annum (mtpa)
framework that is centred around
(Protection) Act of 1972, the
have been cleared since April 2007.
clearances
Water (Prevention and Control
The Subramanian committee
of Pollution) Act of 1974, the
has also left out several issues that
Forest Conservation Act of 1980, the Air category B projects are cleared by the state need to be addressed to ensure a sustainable
(Prevention and Control of Pollution) authorities).
environment.
Act of 1981 and the Environment
In many instances the committee has
(Protection) Act of 1986. Submitted to suggested provisions that can further weaken Public opinion sidelined
the ministry in November 2014, the report the clearance process of projects. One such The Subramanian committee has
is being evaluated by stakeholders and the provision is developing a special fast-track recommended that public hearings must
Parliamentary Standing Committee on mechanism for clearing linear projects, such address only environmental, rehabilitation
Science and Technology, Environment and as transmission lines and irrigation canals, and resettlement issues and that a
Forests. Analysis of the report shows that power and mining sectors and strategic mechanism should be put in place to ensure
it has largely become a document about border projects. Such hasty measure can only genuine local participation. The
project clearances and approvals. Instead of dilute the environment impact assessment committee also suggests circumstances
dealing with nuances and complexities of (eia) of projects.
under which public hearing can be dispensed
environmental governance, the committee
Even in the present scenario, most eia with.These include cases where settlements
proposes a regulatory framework centred reports hardly reflect the cumulative impact are located away from the project sites or
around clearances. This is precisely the of projects, resulting in poor decision- when local conditions are not conducive
problem with the current regulatory making on part of the clearance authorities to conduct hearing or in locations
regimereducing environmental govern- and making projects contentious. An analysis where the cumulative pollution load is
ance to a sanctioning platform. For instance, of the cases before the National Green pre-determined.
the committee proposes a new law, the Tribunal by Delhi-based non-profit Centre
There is no dearth of evidence to
Environmental Laws (Management) for Science and Environment (cse) shows show that over the years community
Act (elma), and two new institutions that a large number of environment clearance opinion in the clearance process has been

16-31 MARCH 2015

www.downtoearth.org.in 35

ENVIRONMENTAL

sidelined. The committees suggestions, if


implemented, will further silence public
opinion. The committee suggests genuine
local participation in public hearings. But
how does one determine genuine local
participation? For example, a dam affects
people living in the immediate vicinity
of the river, as well as those living in the
downstream and the watershed areas.
In such cases, specifying genuine local
participation can exclude a lot of people who
will be significantly affected. Moreover, the
committees suggestion about cases where
public hearing can be dispensed with only
suggests that the process would be done away
with wherever there is a suspicion of dissent.
Public hearing is an important part of
the environmental clearance process as it
gives opportunity to the local communities
to voice their opinion or express concerns
about a proposed project. Therefore, under
no circumstance should this be
restricted, say cse researchers.

GOVERNANCE

This is despite the fact that many spcbs


have high number of vacancies. While 60 per
cent of posts in Bihar spcb is lying vacant,
for Karnataka and Meghalaya the figure is
50 per cent, and for Kerala, Punjab and Goa
30 per cent. Besides, the archaic recruitment
rules have made it difficult to hire competent
people. The entry level salary of Bihar spcb
is still `2,500. No spcb has a position for an
economist or a biologist or an ecologist or a
statistician or a public relation officer. Given
the diversity of projects that spcbs deal with,
they need experts who can understand the
other impacts of projects, not just pollution.
The situation is only a little better at cpcb,
which has been operating without a fulltime chairperson for the past few years and
the vacancy is being filled through ad-hoc
Institutional deficit
appointment.
Laws can be reformed and processes can be
A major problem that stems from
streamlined only if the institutions concerned weak institutions is poor monitoring of
environmental conditions and
ensuring compliance. For instance,
To safeguard the environment,
the six regional offices of moef&cc
the government must revise
Forests undermined
are supposed to monitor thousands
and synergise environmental
The Committee claims that the
of projects every year, but they
revisions it has proposed for forest
hardly monitor 100 projects.
laws; streamline, and not dilute,
clearance are intended to reduce
The entire compliance system is
procedures; strengthen regulatory
the time taken (for forest clearance
based on periodic submission of
institutions at all levels; and engage
projects), without compromising
compliance reports by the project
people in decision-making
the quality of examination. The
proponents. moef&cc does not
recommendations, however, seem
have the human power to even
to only focus on reducing time while quality with implementing them have adequate check these compliance reports. Most of
of examination is severely compromised.
resources, competence and infrastructure, the information provided goes unverified
While advocating clearance mechanism, and function in a transparent manner. and offenders are rarely penalised. Moreover,
the committee does not offer anything to However, most of spcbs, the countrys as these self-compliance reports are not put
ensure the protection of forests, ecosystems, largest environment regulators, lack man- in the public domain, there is little possibility
and forest-dependent communities. Its power, infrastructure and competence. They of public scrutiny. As far as projects cleared
suggestion that enumeration of trees, are also riddled with corruption.These issues by the state environment authorities are
required for physical verification of forest, can are well recognised within spcbs themselves. concerned, there is no clarity on whom they
be done after Stage I clearance, will further Increasing industrial activities in recent years are accountable to. The situation is equally
dilute the assessment of forestlands which and formulation of new legislation have bad when it comes to spcbs. It is estimated
already is very weak. At present, diversion is increased the workload of spcbs.
that spcbs monitor only 25 per cent of the
allowed without any detailed assessment of
However, there is not enough grossly air polluting factories every year; the
the ecological values of forestland.
human power to match the increased remaining submit self-monitored data.They
The most problematic recommendation administrative
responsibilities.
For monitor less than one per cent of hazardous
is regarding the consent of communities.The example, Odisha Pollution Control Board waste samples.
committee suggests that for the purpose of officials say that between 1996-97 and
However, the new institutions proposed
according first stage clearance, a certificate 2006- 07 the administrative responsibilities by the committeenema and sema
under the Forest Rights Act (fra) of 2006, of the board have increased three to four times. do not offer ways to resolve this crisis. The
may not be insisted upon. The certificate However, the technical human power to new environmental institutions should
under fra can be obtained during the handle such responsibilities has increased integrate the existing institutions and make
prescribed period for compliance with the only 1.5 times.
them strong and effective by increasing
36 DOWN TO EARTH

conditions of first stage clearance. For linear


projects, the committee further recommends
doing away with the requirement for gram
sabha consent under the pretext that these
projects benefit community at large.
The recommendation will only make
settlement of forest rights difficult. The
committee itself observed that a large
number of cases are pending in the moef&cc
as applications are not accompanied by a
certificate under the fra and information is
presented in an ambiguous manner which
needs verification. What is required is a
revamping of forest clearance process with
a strong focus on thorough assessment of
impacts of forestland diversion, considering
both ecological and social consequences.

16-31 MARCH 2015

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ENVIRONMENTAL

resources and manpower, infrastructure


and encouraging technological innovations,
integrating multidisciplinary expertise,
institutionalising systems for transparency
and accountability and putting into practice
an institutional assessment process.

Technology replaces monitoring

Though the committee has recognised


lack of monitoring and enforcement, it has
probably failed to understand the reasons and
offered technological solutions. Its report
specifies that while physical inspections
may be required, increasingly, measuring
instruments need to be inducted in the
monitoring process. The use of technology
needs to be accompanied by processes to
strengthen the regulatory agencies.
The committee has also proposed the
concept of utmost good faith, which is
essentially to hold applicants seeking
clearance legally responsible for their
statements, and penalise them for
any falsehood, misrepresentation or
suppression of facts. It argues that
the concept will curb inspector raj
by reducing dependency on regulators.
This is when regulatory agencies do not have
enough inspectors.
Besides, the idea of utmost good
faith will ensure that the burden of proof
regarding pollution lies with the industries
and not with the regulator as is the present
case. Provisions equivalent to utmost
good faith, already exist under the eia
Notification, 2006, the Water Act and
the Air Act. However, they have
never been enforced because
a system has not been
put in place to identify
non-compliance
and there is not

TARIQUE / CSE

GOVERNANCE

enough deterrence. Moreover, to use and


interpret information derived from using
scientific tools effectively, the capacity of the
concerned authorities must be developed in
the first place.
Given the complexity of issues, a reform
exercise to ensure better environmental
governance requires a multifaceted approach,
focusing on revising and synergising laws,
streamlining regulatory processes and
strengthening institutions. For this, cse
researchers suggest, the government needs to
move away from a clearance-centric vision.

The environmental problems that


India is burdened with are not because of
problems in project approval and clearance
processes. The problems persist because the
government has not addressed the issues
of planning, management, regulation,
monitoring and enforcement of regulatory
provisions. The potential of most laws, rules
and notifications have not been realised
because of weak regulatory institutions.
While the committee has focused on
some of the issues related to environmental
clearances, and management of industrial
and infrastructure projects, it has failed
to address critical issues, such as waste
generated from various sources in the cities.
For example, dealing with sewage, municipal
solid waste and hospital waste is a major
challenge across the country.The government
will need huge investments to upgrade and
develop infrastructure to effectively address
waste management. Moreover, climate
change that is now threatening lives and
livelihoods needs to be factored in.
To ensure environmental protection
in the long term, overall environmental
responsiveness needs to be improved. The
establishment of an exclusive National
Environment Research Institute through a
parliamentary Act, as the committee
has suggested, is not required.
Instead of creating one exclusive
institute, the government needs
to bring environmental research
into the mainstream and improve
capacities of existing institutes. All these
aspects must be considered to develop a
reform framework. The focus of the
regulatory system must move
towards environmental
planning
and
management. n

Advertisement

SCIENCE

COURTESY: TIMOTHY TOWNSEND

ECOLOGY

Marine debris and plastic pollution along Haiti's coastline

Plastic
peril
Waste management
is key to keeping the
oceans free of plastic
waste, new research
suggests
VIBHA VARSHNEY

40 DOWN TO EARTH

HE OCEAN is the final receptacle of a substantial amount of waste

generated on land. Plastic pollution in the ocean was first reported in the scientific literature of the early 1970s. In just four
decades, it has become a pressing environmental problem and
has been found even in the most remote corners of the earth. The amount
of plastic entering the oceans is up to 2,000 times more than earlier
estimates.
A study published in the February 13, 2015 issue of the journal,
Science, estimated the amount of plastic that could enter the oceans based
on the amount of unmanaged waste.The researchers found that anything
between 4.8 and 12.7 million tonnes (mt) of plastic enters the oceans
each year (see More data collection needed on p42).
The researchers estimated the quantity of plastic entering the oceans
by using 2010 data on solid waste produced, population density and economic status of 192 countries that have a coastline. They found that 275
mt of plastic waste was generated in these countries. They then used a
model to estimate the amount of plastic that is likely to enter the oceans
every year, depending on the countrys ability to manage waste.The team
found that the top 20 countries accounted for 83 per cent of the mismanaged plastic waste entering the ocean. China tops the list and throws
16-31 MARCH 2015

`More data
collection needed'

Tracking plastic waste


China is worst polluter, India is in 12th position while the US is at 20th place

enna Jambeck, assistant


professor in the College of
Engineering at the University
of Georgia and lead author of
the paper says more data collection
would be her next step
How reliable is the model you
developed? In India, substantial
plastic waste is recycled. Has this
been factored in to the model?
Our goal was to make a global
estimate of plastic entering the
ocean and we used the
best available global
dataset we could find,
which came from the
World Bank. Based upon
our work, we do feel this
global quantification is
robust. The paper states
that we could not include
imports/exports and informal waste
management. I have been to India,
visiting waste management facilities
and landfills and witnessed recycling
activity, which is not always reported
to the government or World Bank,
or quantified at the country level.
I think more data collection and
quantification for India would be a
great next step in this analysis.
You have developed the Marine
Debris Tracker app which can
track waste. Has this contributed
to this study?
The app did not contribute to this
work. But it is an action that people
can take once they hear about the
problem. Marine Debris Tracker is
a tool that people can use to report
litter anywhere in the world and it
will build a global database as more
people use it.
How are you planning to take your
study forward?
We are trying to add more data from
the materials flow standpoint.
42 DOWN TO EARTH

(in million tonnes)


> 5.00
1.00 - 5.00
0.25 - 1.00
0.01 - 0.25
< 0.01

1.32 mt to 3.53 mt of plastic waste in the


sea. India is 12th, contributing 0.09 mt to
0.24 mt plastic waste to oceans every year.
America is 20th, throwing 0.04 mt to 0.11
mt of plastic trash into the sea every year.
However, the amount of waste generated by
a person in India is very low compared to that
produced by a person in the US. In India, 0.34
kg of waste is produced per day by a person
compared to as much as 2.58 kg by a person in
the US. In India, only 3 per cent of the waste
produced per day by a person is plastic compared to 13 per cent in the US.
The findings are staggering, says Nick
Mallos, director, Trash Free Sea programme
of Ocean Conservancy, a US-based advocacy group. If things continue unchecked, in 10
years we could see one pound of plastic for
every three pounds of finfish, adds Mallos.
The concerns are justified considering that
global plastic resin production is growing at
a fast pace. It registered a 620 per cent increase between 1975 and 2012. Most of this
plastic resin is used for packaging, is quickly disposed of and could end up in the sea. In
December, 2014, a study published in plos
one revealed that there are 5.25 trillion plastic particles floating around in the sea.
As it would be difficult and expensive
to remove plastic from the sea, researchers
suggest it would be better to start managing
waste. They suggest reduction of waste, expanded recovery systems and extended producer responsibility.The researchers also sug-

Source: Science, February 13, 2015

gest that while infrastructure is being built


in developing nations, industrialised countries can take immediate action by reducing
waste and curbing the growth of disposable
plastic. If per capita waste generation were
reduced to the 2010 average (1.7 kg/day) in
the 91 coastal countries that exceed it, and
the per cent plastic in the waste streams were
capped at 11 per cent (the 192-country average in 2010), a 26 per cent decrease could be
achieved by 2025. This strategy would target
higher-income countries and might require
smaller global investments.
The study underscores the need to
shift the ocean conservation dialogue from
beach cleanup to waste management to ultimately preventing plastics from entering
our oceans. There is evidence that this waste
is detrimental to ocean wildlife. We know
that plastic is bad for ocean wildlife and habitats-animals ingest it or can get entangled
in it; it litters beaches and can degrade sensitive reef systems. In lab studies, we have
seen that plastic has negative impacts on animals that ingest it, and scientists have seen
plastics impact on more than 660 species of
ocean wildlife, including every type of sea
turtle, as well as the majority of other marine
species like whales, dolphins, seals, and seabirds, says Mallos. As far as human health
goes, we dont yet know the full extent of how
plastics affect the ocean food chain. However,
each new study makes us more, not less concerned, he adds. n
16-31 MARCH 2015

COLUMN
H E D G E H O G TA L E S

RAKESH KALSHIAN

History and its malcontents

Recent studies which say Sanskrit did not originate in India


are bound to evoke emotional responses from chauvinists

TAUNCH HINDU chauvinists never tire of reminding

us of Indias glorious past. So we are told that


ancient Hindus could make and fly aeroplanes;
that they were skilled plastic surgeons; that they
understood gravity much before Newtons famous apple
moment; or that they knew how to inoculate against
smallpox many centuries before Edward Jenner injected
the first vaccine.
This self-congratulatory we-were-there-first politics
of authenticity, however, rests on a more fundamental
belief, namely, that our wonderful ancestors were
indigenous, and not, as majority of scholars now contend,
immigrants who brought with them the intellectual
paraphernalia, including a precursor to Sanskrit, that
eventually gave rise to the
artistic, literary and scientific
exploits of the ancient Hindus.
The controversy over the
origins of the Aryan race is
enmeshed with the dispute
over the origins of Sanskrit.
It all started in 1786 when
Sir William Jones, a young
British orientalist serving as a
TARIQUE AZIZ / CSE
judge in Calcutta, claimed that
Sanskrit, Latin and Greek were long-lost cousins and had
sprung from some common source, which, perhaps, not
longer exists.
Ever since, researchers have been looking for the
elusive home of the proto-Indo-European (pie).
Currently, there are two leading models. The steppe
hypothesis suspects it is the steppe region north of Caspian
Sea, whence the pie diffused around 5,500-6,500 years
ago, whereas the Anatolia hypothesis prefers modern-day
Turkey, whence the pie began scattering around 9,500
8,000 years ago with the expansion of farming.
Two major studies released last month support the
steppe hypothesis and, by inference, the idea that Sanskrit
didnt evolve exclusively in India, and that ancient Hindus
were settlers from Central Asia.
In the first study, geneticists from Harvard Medical
School in the US compared the dna of individuals from

16-31 MARCH 2015

the Yamnaya culture of the steppe hypothesis with the dna


of people who lived in Central Europe 3,000 years ago.
Turns out almost 75 per cent of the latter could trace
their descent to the former, suggesting an exodus, and
hence spread of pie, from Ukraines steppes to Central
Europe around 4,500 years ago.
In the second study, published in the latest
issue of Language, linguists at the University of California,
Berkeley, US, used sophisticated statistical models to
find out the rate of change of 200 sets of words from
over 150 living and dead Indo-European languages.
Their calculations suggest that the changes taper off
around 6,000 years ago, which is again consistent with the
steppe hypothesis.
This is not the final word
on the subject though. Peers
have already punched a few holes
in both the studies. Indeed, most
agree that given the many gaps
in the available data, not to
mention its subjective interpretation, the debate is unlikely
to be clinched soon.
For academics, it might be a
case of intellectual jousting, but
for a large number of people, deeply ingrained as they are
in the identity politics of nation, race, culture and religion,
such research arouses strong emotions, as is evident from
the online response to the two studies.
The Armenians, for instance, will never accept the
Anatolia hypothesis precisely because of the genocide
perpetrated on them by the Ottoman Turks. Besides,
people havent forgotten how Hitler appropriated the
work of 19th century German scholars, who tried to prove
Germany as the original home of Aryans, to further his
Nazi ambitions.
So who cares then whether ancient Hindus came from
modern-day Turkey or Ukraine when one is convinced
that they have existed in India since time immemorial?
Indeed, if anything, it is the Europeans who have
descended from the original Aryans of India.
Such is the power and peril of dogma.
www.downtoearth.org 43

PHOTOGRAPHS: VIKAS CHOUDHARY / CSE

`Top scientists misuse power, funds'


It seems like a lost cause but KASTURI LAL CHOPRA
battles on. As president of the Society for Scientific
Values (SSV), he leads the charge to clean up science in
India which is plagued by rampant plagiarism and other
scientific misconduct. It's a task that he has undertaken
since the 1980s when, together with a small band of
scientists, he formed the society to end the unethical
practices. Chopra, 81, is an eminent physicist known for
his pioneering work on thin films for which he holds four
US patents. After stints at Defence Research Board of
Canada and the Fritz Haber Institute in Berlin, he taught
at IIT-Delhi. But the scientist is best known for reinventing
the decrepit IIT-Kharagpur to make it the premier institute
of its kind. In an interview to LATHA JISHNU, he says
the biggest hurdle to inculcating scientific values is
government indifference. Excerpts
44 DOWN TO EARTH

What are the cases of scientific


misconduct that have been brought
before Society for Scientific Values (SSV)?
Plagiarism, fabrication or falsification of data,
misuse of authority, conflict of interest,
manipulation of awards, promotions, etc are
within our purview. But, we are not able to
handle most of these cases since it requires
time and access to official records which no
institution is prepared to share. Therefore,
most of the cases ssv has dealt with so far
relate to plagiarism and self-plagiarism.
How serious is this problem?
Plagiarism by Indians is a matter of serious
concern, next only to that by China. About
100 journal papers by Indian authors are
being withdrawn or retracted due to
plagiarised content every year. ssv receives
many complaints from interested whistleblowers. We examine only those cases (about
15-20 a year) which are important and are
accompanied by credible supporting
evidence. We analyse the evidence, re-check
if it is possible, and then write to the author(s)
for their views. If we do not hear from the
16-31 MARCH 2015

Advertisement

INTERVIEW

authors, which is most likely the case,


we report to the heads of the
institutions. Most heads (close to 80 per
cent) do not respond despite reminders.
Those who do, seek our help or advice to
take some action, ranging from warning
to dismissal, as happened in the cases of
two faculty members of Pondicherry
University and two directors of national
research institutes.
SSV has no powers to impose
penalties so what effect do your
findings have?
If and when we are satisfied with our
analysis of the case, we post it on our
website with the hope that Name &
Shame strategy will deter others.

before the lecture, he called me to say he


could not speak on accountability but
would talk instead on spirituality from
the Bhagvad Gita. His message was: if
you are spiritual there would be no
problem of ethics!
There seems to be a perverse
incentive to reward scientists
involved in cheating and plagiarism.
This is almost a trend in public R&D
institutions.
Thats true but not always the case.
Many scientists have been penalised.
They have been demoted or removed for
misconduct.

But more scientists have been


Nobody wants to admit there is a rewarded than punished. There is
But is this name and shame policy
problem. We write to the heads of the well-known case of plant
really working? Even the top
the institutions where scientists developer K C Bansal who falsely
scientists of India indulge in
to have patents and was
have been involved in plagiarism claimed
plagiarism and get away with it.
given a prestigious award. He was
but usually they take no notice
Nobody wants to admit there is a
also rewarded with the directorship
because
it brings a bad name to
problem. We write to the heads of the
of National Bureau of Plant Genetic
their organisation
institutions where scientists have been
Resources thereafter.
involved in plagiarism but usually they
Yes, thats a bad case. I have written
take no notice because it brings a bad
several times to the director-general of
in the government. The chairperson of the
name to their organisation. Most heads
Indian Council of Agricultural Research
of academic and research and development Scientific Advisory Committee to the (icar) but have not got any response. icar is
(r&d) institutions behave the same way as Cabinet told me in the presence of his the worst in this regard.
government babus do. First ignore and then 80-member committee that ssv should be
defy. Nevertheless, our persistence is working concerned only with teaching and nurturing The most shocking example is of
to some extent. Our science academies have ethical values and not become police. We C N R Rao, for long the chairperson of the
now set up a joint committee on ethics. The have also suggested to the government that Scientific Advisory Council to the Prime
University Grants Commission has advised vigilance officers in all institutions could also Minister, who was involved in five cases
universities to initiate credit courses in the be given the responsibility for r&d ethics. of plagiarism. Yet, he was given the
Again, no response. But accountability has to Bharat Ratna last year. He is or was a
area of ethical conduct of research.
start with our education system, which is in a member of SSV.
Does the government or its institutions shambles.That and the lack of autonomy for Our executive council took a serious view of
institutions is a big problem.
care about such issues?
the cases of plagiarism by Rao. ssv said that
I have written to the Ministry of Human
supervisors must take the responsibility for
Resource Development and Department of But who do you believe should be such scientific misconduct and that they have
Science and Technology (dst) to set up an responsible?
the responsibility to nurture ethical values
autonomous body for Scientific Values with dst, as the funding agency, should be. There among their students and collaborators. Rao
quasi-judicial powers just as US President is so much misuse of power and funds by top is not an active member of ssv.
Bill Clinton set up the Office of Research scientists. But in its history not a single
Integrity. As usual, there was no response. scientist has been blacklisted by dst. Let me What is the outlook for our science?
The dst secretary told me his job is to only to tell you what happened some years ago. We If we want to survive as a nation, if we want
had invited the former secretary of dst to to become a knowledge power as the prime
provide funds to plant seeds of r&d.
give a memorial lecture on accountability minister talks of, we need to transform our
organised by ssv. He agreed and it was systems, starting with education. Otherwise
So, who is accountable?
Accountability is of no concern to anybody scheduled well in advance. But the night we cannot become an ethical society.
46 DOWN TO EARTH

16-31 MARCH 2015

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GOOD
MORNING
DELHI
CSE
ON

Beginning March 4
Every Wednesday, at 9 AM
A CSE and Radio One initiative to inform, involve and engage
Delhi on issues of environment, development and health

Tune in and
lets talk!

For details,
please visit
www.cseindia.org

COLUMN
PAT E N T LY A B S U R D

L AT H A J I S H N U

Pushing limits of drug access

Relying solely on gross national income to determine


priorities in global health is not working any more
intellectual property rights (iprs), none is more
contentious than pharmaceuticals, specially
those medicines that are categorised as life-saving.The high pricing of such drugs, ostensibly on account
of the huge cost of discovery and research and development, is the bone of contention. Most of these drugs,
which are viewed a public good and not just a commodity, are out of the reach of millions in developing countries
and, increasingly, of even the middle classes in rich nations
because new generation treatment is priced exorbitantly.
With the price of drugs accounting for an ever-increasing share of healthcare expenditure, the debate on access
has been getting more contentious and more complex.
At the fag end of February, two
crucial developments in global forums highlighted the increasing
concerns about access to medicines
across regions, countries and across
societies. One was a high-level expert
meeting in Geneva pushed by the
Global Fund for aids, Tuberculosis
and Malaria and referred to as the
Global Fund, and a host of convenors
from World Health Organization,
gavi, the Vaccine Alliance to World
Bank, Unicef and undp.
The outcome is the Equitable
Access Initiative (eai), which aims to build a new policy framework to better understand the health needs and
constraints countries experience as they move along the
development continuum. Underpinning this effort is the
realisation that relying solely on gross national income
(gni) to determine investment priorities in global health is
not working any more. What is happening is that as countries move up the categories, from low-income to middle-income and so forth, large swathes of the population
in these countries are being denied healthcare. These categories are based on World Bank definitions.
THe newly set up eai notes that countries classified as
middle-income are often in need of substantial resources

48 DOWN TO EARTH

to respond to disease burden, as a steadily larger percentage of those affected by the diseases live in middle-income
countries. A look at the gavi website shows that in 2015,
some 24 countries will lose its support as their national income rises beyond the eligibility threshold.
Middle-income countries are also affected by the new
tiered pricing and licensing policies followed by pharma companies to market their super expensive life-saving drugs. For instance, Gileads blockbuster Hepatitis C
drug, sofosbuvir, is licensed to be sold at a lower price in
a large number of developing countries but the terms exclude middle-income China which has the highest number of Hepatitis C cases.
THe developed world and the pharma industry prefer
the gni per capita yardstick because it
is simpler to use and widely accepted
despite concerns with World
Bank formulations. However, the
alternative metrics that are being
proposed, such as the available health
infrastructure, infection rates and
health outcomes could prove more
problematic.
But as eai gets down to its task
of ensuring more just access to drugs,
the least developed countries (ldcs)
are also pushing for related guarantees. Under wto rules, ldcs are exempt from the need to enforce iprs on pharma products
till 2016, a special waiver that took into account their dire
health indices and poor infrastructure. In addition, they
were also granted a general waiver in 2013 that freed them
from ipr obligations on all products.
In the last days of February, ldcs sought an indefinite
waiver at a wto meeting, stating that patent protection
contributes to high costs, placing many critical treatments
outside the reach of ldcs. Since ldcs are disproportionately exposed to the health risks associated with poverty,
they said the waiver should be indefinite for as long as a
member remains an ldc. Both developments underline
the huge concern over access to drugs.
SORIT / CSE

MONG THE goods that come within the ambit of

16-31 MARCH 2015

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PHOTOGRAPHS: ALKA DHUPKAR

WILDLIFE

Rogues
tamed

Three of the four trained elephants of the


Karnataka forest department on duty deep
inside the jungles of the Mangaon valley in
Sindhudurg

50 DOWN TO EARTH

In a unique operation, forest


departments of two states use
trained elephants to capture cropraiding tuskers in the forests of
southern Maharashtra
ALKA DHUPKAR | sindhudurg

N FEBRUARY 8, when Arjun,


Abhimanyu, Gajendra and
Harsha arrived at Amberi village
in Maharashtras Sindhudurg
district, they were greeted with joy by the
residents. Deputed by the Karnataka government, the four trained elephants were on a
mission: to capture the wild ones destroying
crops and giving the regions farmers sleepless nights. The Centre had granted
special permission for this first-of-its-kind
inter-state operation. The four elephants
were accompanied by 204 officials of the
Maharashtra and Karnataka forest departments, including 25 elephant caretakers,
called kavadi in Kannada, mahouts and two
veterinarians. All the team members were
covered under life insurance policies.
Twelve years ago, no one had the faintest
idea that the Maharashtra government

would have to undertake such an elaborate


exercise and sanction a budget of `69 lakh to
tackle elephants.
The forests of Sindhudurg are part of the
elephant corridor joining the Western Ghats
of Karnataka with Kolhapur. Although the
elephants sometimes stray out of the forest
and enter surrounding villages, no major conflict was reported till 2003. That year, elephants from Karnataka entered a private forest near Mangaon valley and destroyed
adjoining fields of paddy, coconut, banana
and jackfruit. Such incidents increased in the
following years as fragmentation of the corridor reportedly increased. In 2005, wild elephants killed a resident of Shirange village
near Mangaon valley. But the government
refused to compensate his family, saying that
there were no wild elephants in the district.
Now, the government has learnt its les16-31 MARCH 2015

A captured elephant in a
kraal or wooden enclosure.
All the three captured
elephants will be trained for
use in tourism

son the hard way. Eight people have been


killed in wild elephant attacks while 15 have
been injured in the past decade. Some, like
Vijaya Jadhav of Ghavanale village, have
been left paralysed. Between 2006 and 2015,
the government has spent `10.5 crore on
compensations for crop losses and deaths in
elephant attacks. Anupama Bandelkar of
Mangaon village describes the terror that the
elephants wreaked in the area. Wild elephants have destroyed her house four times.
We used to remain awake till late at night to
message forest guards about elephant movements, says Bandelkar. The guards would
then reach the spot and light up fire crackers
to scare them away. But this only offered a
temporary respite as elephants never left the
region, Bandelkar adds. In November last
year, residents of Vetal-Bambarde staged rasta roko to bring the issue on the political
agenda.
Ramesh Kumar, deputy conservator of
forests, Kolhapur, told Down To Earth that
after continuous crop losses and threat to human life, the government decided to capture
the three wild elephants that were known to
have become residents of the region.

The hunt

Arjun, Abhimanyu, Gajendra and Harsha


arrived at Naneli village following a tip off by
the residents about the movement of the
trouble-making tuskers in a nearby forest. At
10 am on February 10, the four elephants led
the capture team into the forest. But it was

not easy tracking down the wild elephants


in the vast dense forest, not even for the
jumbo sniffers. Without advanced instruments like walkie-talkies for communication, the forest officials relied on the assistance of local people who were familiar
with the terrain. A lot of time was spent
trying to locate the wild elephants.Two of
them were finally spotted at 5 pm. While one
fled upon seeing the approaching team, the
other charged at a trained elephant. A veterinarian promptly darted a tranquiliser at it,
after which it raced in a different direction.
At this point, the trained elephants role
becomes crucial, recalls Kumar. After being
tranquilised, an elephant runs amok for a few
minutes and it is difficult for humans to follow it. But a trained elephant can match its
speed and track down the animal even if it
tries to hide. It is important to find the sedated animal as it can harm other wild animals or human beings, says Kumar.The elephant team successfully chased the sedated
elephant and found it standing under a tree.
The next step was to bring it to the kraal, a
wooden enclosure kept ready at the Amberi
forest divisions office, 3 kilometres away. For
this, the capture team tied one end of a rope
to the sedated elephants legs and body and
the other end to the legs of the trained
elephant. The trained elephants also helped
the officials to tighten the knots. While
Arjun led the sedated elephant, Abhimanyu
pushed it from behind and Harsha and
Gajendra guarded it from both sides. After

After being tranquilised, an elephant runs amok for a few


minutes and it is difficult for humans to follow it. But a
trained elephant can match its speed and track down the
sedated animal even if it tries to hide
16-31 MARCH 2015

jostling for six hours, they could put the


40-year-old, four-tonne sedated elephant in
the kraal.
On February 12, the second elephant
was captured in the same forest, and on
February 15, the third was caught. Updates
of the captures were forwarded to the chief
ministers office in Mumbai all the time.
The Amberi forest divisions office has
now been flooded with people wanting to see
the captured animals. The elephants will
now be trained for use in tourism, which will
take two to six months, says Kumar.
While the forest departments might
have captured elephants successfully this
time, it has not always been the case. In the
past, a pregnant female elephant, which had
been tranquilised during capture, died. She
died of a tranquiliser overdose, says a forest
ministry source. A male elephant died due to
infection during training in captivity. The
post-mortem report was never made available so we do not have authentic information,
the source says.
The problem of human-elephant conflict
in Sindhudurg is likely to continue.
Population density is low in this district.
There are plenty of water bodies and food is
easily available. The Karnataka-SindudurgKolhapur triangle is safe for movements of
wild elephants, explains Kumar. A longterm solution to prevent clashes between
humans and elephants from occurring would
have to be found.
www.downtoearth.org.in 51

FOOD

Traditionally
sumptuous
Multigrain food is not new. It
has been part of the Indian diet
since ancient times and comes in
multitude of combinations
CHITRA BALASUBRAMANIAM

ULTIGRAIN FOOD items are the

latest fad and are available in the


market in innumerable avatars,
from flour and bread to noodles
and biscuits. This mix of grains, either just
cereals or a blend of cereals and pulses, is
touted as healthy, with high nutritional
value. Food companies are spending millions
of rupees to promote multigrain products.
But when one reads the history of Indian
food, it becomes evident that multigrain
food has been part of the Indian diet since
ancient times.
K T Achaya, an eminent food scientist,
nutritionist and food historian of the country, writes in his book, The Story of Our Food,
that the concept of blending different types

of proteins by mixing cereals and pulses was


known during the Aryan times in 1500 BC.
It is now well known that such food items
contain higher amount of proteins than
either of the cereals or pulses. In addition, the
mixture is fermented so that it becomes easily digestible and more nutritious, he writes.
One example of such blended food
is adai. Achaya describes adai as a shallow
fried circlet of the Tamil country. The
thickly ground batter consists of almost equal
parts of rice and as many as four pulses. It is
described in the Tamil Sangam literature
between the third and sixth centuries AD as
a snack served by vendors on the seashore,
he writes. The initial reference to adai can be
traced back to Silappadikaram (one of the
VIKAS CHOUDHARY / CSE

Adai with
coconut
chutney

first epics in Tamil written by Elangovan in


the 1st century AD), and Mathurai kanchi
(a collection of poems written in the Sangam
era, from 3rd century BC to 4th century
AD). Silappadikaram depicts a scene along
the beach where vendors are selling crisp
adais.This shows that street food in India has
a history.
Today, the shallow fried, thick adai is
made and eaten more in homes as a popular breakfast item. It does not find a place
of pride in restaurant offerings which favour
the ubiquitous dosa and uttappam. It could
possibly be because adai takes longer to cook.
By the time an adai is made, several dosas can
be churned out. So dosas are value for money
as opposed to adai. In contrast, adai is ideal
for a homemaker as it does not require standing next to the skillet to turn it over. One can
leisurely leave it for a good several minutes
and attend to other kitchen chores. Also,
fewer adais need to be prepared as they are
thick and filling.
The best part of adai is that it can be
made with as many combinations of lentils
as one likes. This includes a number of rarely consumed nutritious pulses, such as black
gram or urad, the vegetarian equivalent to
meat, and horse gram or kulath. Adai made
using kulath is very tasty.
Adai is often eaten on the days of fasting
when meals are typically restricted to phalaharam, or meal of fruits, and certain grains.
Depending on the austerity, people mix the
grains and enjoy a balanced diet.
Each house has its pet recipe for adai.
The variation usually depends on the
combination of pulses with rice and, of course,
seasoning. Since certain pulses can cause
flatulence, black pepper, cumin seeds and
asafoetida are traditionally added to adai
to help in digestion. But there are those
who add red chillies instead of black pepper and coriander leaves instead of curry leaves or use ginger, green chillies and
curry leaves for seasoning. Some add a
whole range of leafy vegetables, including
cabbage, spinach, fenugreek and moringa leaves, while others add small pieces of
coconut to enhance the taste.
To suit the contemporary palate, many

RECIPE
Adai
INGREDIENTS

Rice: 4 cups
Whole black gram (urad), split Bengal
gram (chana dal) and split pigeon pea
(arhar dal): 1 cup
Green chilli, red chilli, asafoetida and
curry leaves: for seasoning
Salt: to taste
METHOD

Soak rice for three hours and the pulses


for half-an-hour. Some prefer soaking
black gram for a good two hours or
more. Strain the grains, add green
chillies, red chilli, asafoetida, salt and
curry leaves to the mixture, and grind
coarsely. Allow the batter to ferment for
a few hours. This gives the adai a sour
flavor. One can also make adai half-anhour after grinding.
Spread oil on a flat frying pan. Since
adai is thicker than dosa and is more
like tandoori roti, spread two spoons of
batter on it, as opposed to one spoon of
batter for dosa. It is customary to make
a tiny hole with the spatula in the centre
of the adai and pour a wee bit of oil in it.
This enables the oil to spread well within
the adai and, of course, helps it cook
faster and better. Some prefer making
adai by patting the thick batter on the
skillet by hand. Turn it over till both
sides turn golden crisp.
Serve hot with dollops of white
butter, jaggery, honey, gun powder or
chutney of choice.
treat adai as a pizza base and top it with
onions and tomatoes, or even eggs, mushrooms and olives. Another fact that works
for adai as a favourite breakfast food is that it
can be eaten with a host of assortments, be it
honey, jaggery, podi or gun powder, pickles or
chutney. But the best accompaniment of adai
is butter, preferably white. A hot adai topped
with butter is soul satisfying, and can never
be compared with the market-innovated
multigrain food items.
Chitra Balasubramaniam is an independent
food writer in Delhi
www.downtoearth.org.in 53

OPINION

THE ENERGY
DIVIDE

Chronic power deprivation in some


districts raises serious policy issues
S B AGNIHOTRI AND P C MAITHANI

HE CENSUS data of 2001 and 2011 are good indicators of

ANKUR PALIWAL / CSE

energy use in the country. The data shows that Indians use
firewood, crop residue, cow dung cake, kerosene, lpg and
coallignite, charcoal biogas as fuel sources.
Electricity, followed by kerosene, fulfils lighting needs of most
households in the country. Other sources, including solar light,
account for a very small fraction. The census data also categorises
households as No lighting. But this category is very small
numerically ideally, it should have been near zero.
Given the relatively straightforward distribution of lighting
sources, it will be convenient to take up this category first. The set of
maps shows states in terms of use of electricity and kerosene as a

source of lighting: high, medium and low. For example, the first map
(see Districts that lack electricity make up with kerosene on p56)
shows low electricity use in a contiguous patch in the northern and
the north-eastern India, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, Odisha,
West Bengal and Assam (shown in red in the first map in the set).
Kerosene use, concomitantly, is high in these areas (green in the
second map in the set). Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and
Chhattisgarh occupy an intermediate position in terms of electricity
use (yellow in the first map) while most southern and western states
and the northern states of Punjab, Haryana Himachal and Jammu
and Kashmir show high electricity use (green in the first map). This
pattern persists for both rural and urban areas.

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What lights India


Households where electricity hasn't reached use
kerosene. Solar has not made much headway
Districts that lack electricity make up with kerosene (2011)
Source of lighting:
Kerosene

Source of lighting:
Electricity

>71
<= 55
> 55 & <= 71

>55
<= 30
> 30 & <= 55

Scenario improved since 2001, but not enough


Electricity use
2011

2001

>80
< 47
>= 47 & <= 80

>67
<= 25
>25 & <= 67

The rural-urban divide


Urban: having more than
80% households that access
electricity (2011)

Rural: having more than


75% households that
access electricity (2011)

Solar has not stepped in to replace kerosene


Source of lighting: Electricity
2011

2001

The pattern becomes sharper once we look at the district-level


in the next set of maps (see Scenario improved since 2001, but not
enough ). The map on the left depicts the cluster of districts by
percentage of households using electricity as a source of lighting. In
a large segment of districts shown in green, electricity is the main
source of lighting for more than 80 per cent of the households. But
in another compact cluster, shown in red, less than 47 per cent
households have such access.
As any discerning reader would realise, this is quite the same
cluster where more than 47 per cent households use kerosene as the
major source of lighting.
The map on the right in this set is somewhat similar. The latter
map depicts the situation in 2001 but here districts shown in green
are the ones where electricity is a major source of lighting in more
than 67 per cent households. What is more interesting is the compact
cluster shown in red where such access was available to less than 25
per cent households.
The two maps tell us that the situation has no doubt improved
since 2001 but the cluster of the deprived districts has remained more
or less the same.This is a repeatedly recurring pattern; while the levels
of deprivation decrease, the locus of deprivation endures far more
strongly. This is a serious challenge to policy makers, planners,
programme implementers, researchers and activists alike.
How do urban and the rural segments compare with regard to
access to electricity for lighting? For that we turn to the third set of
maps (see Rural-urban divide).The map on the left shows that a very
large part of the urban landscape has more than 80 per cent
households that access electricity as a major source of lighting. But
the map on the right reveals the rural reality where a far smaller set
of districts can boast of 75 per cent or more households having such
an access.
It would appear logical that solar energy should have made a
much stronger headway in the region where kerosene has been used
for lighting. But that does not seem to have happened (see Solar has
not stepped in to replace kerosene). One can no doubt see a sizeable
cluster of districts in rural area where solar energy is used for lighting.
But this cluster shows up only when we lower the cut-off level to as
low as 0.2 per cent households. However, census data also shows that
the number of urban districts where more than 0.2 per cent
households were using solar energy for lighting has reduced
considerably between 2001 and 2011. Solar energy has not been able
to replace kerosene as the major source of lighting whether in rural
or in urban areas. It needs to be analysed whether it is a cost issue, an
access issue or a governance issue.
There is some hope. The 2011 census data also shows that in 46
districts in the country more than two per cent households use solar
energy as a source of electricity. n
S B Agnihotri is a former Secretary Coordination, Cabinet
Secretariat, New Delhi. P C Maithani is a Director in the Ministry
of New and Renewable Energy, Government of India. Views
expressed by the authors are their own and do not represent views of
their institutions

Source: Census reports of 2001 and 2011


56 DOWN TO EARTH

16-31 MARCH 2015

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LAST WORD

CIVIL LINES

R I C H A R D M A H A PAT R A

RIP Panchayati Raj ministry

The new-found `cooperative federalism' will kill the third


tier of government in India
on his promise of "cooperative federalism"
getting the states involved in the countrys
decision-making and overall development
through the Union budget. Just a few days before the
budget, he accepted the 14th Finance Commission's
recommendation to increase the share of the states in the
central tax pool from 32 per cent to 42 per cent.The budget
also kept another promiseto give the states untied funds
and letting them design their development programmes
according to their priorities instead of the Centre
imposing centrally-sponsored schemes. On the face of it,
both the decisions are impressive and long overdue.
But
Modis
cooperative
federalism, aimed towards a
smoother Centre-state relationship,
has almost smothered to death Indias
third tier of elected governmentsthe panchayats. A year ago, while
campaigning, Modi wanted the
panchayat to be to the village what
Parliament is to the country. But that
commitment has not been reflected
in his push for federalism.
THe budget has left the
fate of
ongoing development
programmes in the hands of the state
governments. These programmes
include the Backward Regions Grant Funds, which is
being implemented in 272 backward districts to fund
their development deficit through the involvement of
local governments, and the Rajiv Gandhi Panchayat
Sashaktikaran Abhiyaan that aims to strengthen
the capacity of Panchayati Raj institutions. Both the
schemes, which come under the Union Ministry of
Panchayati Raj, have not been allocated any fund. It has
been left to the states to decide whether to continue with
these schemes.
Quite unbelievably, the budget of the Panchayati Raj
ministry has been reduced to `95 crore from last years
`7,000 crore. It is a death sentence for the ministry on

58 DOWN TO EARTH

its 10th anniversary. Technically speaking, the cut in the


ministrys budget does not mean panchayats will not get
money. They are now supposed to get their funds from
state governments. The 14th Finance Commission has
allocated `2,00,292 crore to panchayats for the next five
years, starting April 2015, and the states will decide on
how to transfer this fund to panchayats.
The states have been demanding such an arrangement
for a long time. Constitutionally, they are within their
rights to make such a demand. But the fact is that they
have never been proactive in helping panchayats. In
Indias devolution index, the states have performed
spectacularly low in devolving funds to panchayats.
It is the most prominent
stumbling block in making the
worlds largest decentralisation
experiment effective. Now that
the states have been empowered
to allocate funds, what would
happen if they continue with their
step-motherly
treatment
of
panchayats?
When the Union Panchayati
Raj ministry had control over the
budget, it could impose conditions
on the states to devolve funds. But
now the central government cannot
do much if the states dont hold
elections to panchayats within the stipulated time period
of six months after the local body completes its term. State
governments, with all the funds and the control they now
have, may further cripple the local bodies.
Almost all the states have the power to terminate
a duly-elected panchayat. But the fear of being
denied funds discouraged them from exercising this
power. The new mechanism denies this security to
panchayats. It is a distinct possibility that the states will
now design and develop programmes where panchayats
will just be implementing authorities.This kills the spirit of
local governance to make people participants in their own
development.
SORIT / CSE

RIME MINISTER Narendra Modi has delivered

16-31 MARCH 2015

First-ever
environment impact
study of Indias coal
thermal power sector,
covering 47 plants
with 55% of the
countrys thermal
electricity capacity
DAY
O
T
Y
P
O
RC
GET YOU

You can order this or


other CSE books by
visiting our online store
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