Atmosphere And Ozone Layer
Posted under: News
This year’s ozone hole in Antarctica is 5th biggest
This year’s ozone hole over Antarctica was the fifth biggest on record, reaching a maximum area of 10.5 million square miles in September, Nasa says. That’s considered “moderately large”, Nasa atmospheric scientist Paul Newman said in a statement.
Source: Times Of India (New Delhi)
TagsAntarctica, NASA, Ozone Layer, Atmosphere And Ozone Layer
Posted under: Reports and Documents
Atmospheric brown clouds - regional assessment report with focus on Asia
Increasing amount of soot, sulphates and other aerosol components in atmospheric brown clouds (ABCs) are causing major threats to the water and food security of Asia and have resulted in surface dimming, atmospheric solar heating and soot deposition in the Hindu Kush-Himalayan-Tibetan (HKHT) glaciers and snow packs.
Author(s): Henning Rodhe, Madhoolika Agrawal & et al, V. Ramanathan
Date: Nov 2008
TagsAgriculture, Aerosols, Asia, Climate Change, Glacial Melt, Green House Gases, Health Effects, Himalaya, Indian Ocean, Monsoons, Rainfall Pattern, South Asia, Atmosphere And Ozone Layer, Air Pollution, India
Posted under: News
Science & Technology - Briefs
Researchers of the University of Michigan, usa, have cracked the genetic secrets of nicotine addiction. Whether or
not one gets hooked to smoking is dependent on a particular variant of a gene— chrna 5—they say. So far, it was
believed that smoking is governed by one’s genes, environmental factors and peer pressure. The research suggests
Source: Down to Earth
TagsAgriculture, Acid Rain, Atmosphere Science, Bees, Birds, Crop Biodiversity, Insects, Malaria, Medical Research, Research, Smoking, UNEP, United States Of America (US), Atmosphere And Ozone Layer, Health
Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology
Indian Meteorological Department
Ministry of Earth Sciences
Ozone Cell, Ministry of Environment and Forests
A & N Island
Posted under: Feature Articles
Subtropical to boreal convergence of tree-leaf temperatures
The ratio of stable oxygen isotopes in tree-ring cellulose was first used to reconstruct temperatures during tree growth, and a seminal study showed a strong correlation between oxygen isotopes of woody tissue and mean annual temperature.
Author(s): Brent R. Helliker, Suzanna L. Richter
Date: Jul 2008
Source: Nature Vol: 454 Issue: 7203 pp: 511-515
TagsAtmosphere, Climate Change, Climate Impacts, Rainfall Pattern, Trees, Atmosphere And Ozone Layer, Forests
Posted under: Feature Articles
The Montreal Protocol as a tool to regulate the ozone depletion
The Montreal Protocol with its subsequent amendments and adjustments has been providing a global regulatory framework for the phase out of ozone depleting substances. Till date, CFCs, CTC, HBFCs, methyl chloroform and halons have been already phased out completely by the developed countries and a number of other ODSs are scheduled to follow.
Author(s): A. K. Dikshit, Deepak Kapoor
Date: Jul 2008
Source: Journal of the Institution of Public Health Engineers Vol: 2008-09 Issue: 3 pp: 17-20
Attachments: The montreal protocol.pdf
TagsMontreal Protocol, Ozone, Ozone Agreement, Ozone Mitigation, Atmosphere And Ozone Layer, India
Posted under: Feature Articles
Resolving an atmospheric enigma
In 1971, meteorologists Roland Madden and Paul Julian studied weather data from near equatorial Pacific islands. To their surprise, tropospheric winds, pressure and rainfall oscillated with a period of about 40 to 50 days.
Author(s): Dennis L. Hartmann, Harry H. Hendon
Date: Dec 2007
Source: Science Vol: 318 Issue: 5867 pp: 1731-1733
Attachments: Resolving an atmospheric enigma.pdf
TagsAtmosphere Science, Climate Change, El Nino, Indian Ocean, Monsoons, Oceans and Seas, Rainfall Pattern, Atmosphere And Ozone Layer
N-war fallout: giant hole in ozone blanket
New Delhi, April 7: A devastating nuclear war between India and Pakistan would also tear open a giant hole in the Earth’s protective blanket of ozone, endangering human health and crops worldwide, a study predicted today.
Scientists in the US simulated a hypothetical war involving 100 Hiroshima-size bombs to predict that soot from firestorms in the subcontinent’s cities would rise high in the atmosphere, triggering ozone loss that would affect all continents.
Indian researchers have dubbed the scenario “outlandish” and cautioned that simulations of the atmosphere need to be validated through multiple models.
“I’m amazed they simulated this scenario. The chances of 100 weapons being used in the subcontinent are very unrealistic,” said Roddam Narasimha, a senior faculty member at the Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research, Bangalore, and former member of the national security advisory board.
The ozone layer, densest at about 25km high in the atmosphere is a natural shield against ultraviolet radiation from the sun. But it is itself vulnerable to destruction by chemical reactions.
Research scientist Michael Mills at the University of Colorado and his colleagues found that loss of ozone after a regional nuclear war could reach up to 45 per cent in the mid latitudes and 70 per cent in the upper latitudes. Their findings will be published on Tuesday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
“It will be a near-global ozone hole, affecting places as far away as North America, Europe, and Africa,” Mills told The Telegraph over the phone.
The simulation showed that soot from the fires would rise up to 60-km high, penetrating the ozone layer where it would absorb heat from the sun and trigger chemical destruction of ozone.
The ozone loss is likely to increase ultraviolet radiation that can cause genetic damage to humans, plants, and animals. Previous studies have shown that a 40 per cent loss of ozone would increase damage to DNA believed to be related to carcinogenesis by 213 per cent, the researchers said.
“Such ozone depletion could elevate the risk of skin cancer and cataracts in humans, and cause damage to crops and aquatic ecosystems,” Mills said.
The first studies of the impact of nuclear war on the atmosphere conducted in the 1980s had shown that a global nuclear exchange of 6500 Mt would deplete 17 per cent of ozone that would recover to 8.5 per cent loss within a year.
But the new study suggests that even a regional nuclear war with only 1.5 Mt (100 Hiroshima-type 15 kT bombs) would lead to 25 per cent to 70 per cent ozone loss that would persist for more than five years, posing a hazard to the biosphere worldwide.
“The soot appears to have a long-lasting impact,” said William Selvamurthy, chief controller of research with India’s Defence Research and Development Organisation. “But I would say the scenario it has examined is quite exaggerated.”
One scientist who requested anonymity told The Telegraph that the concept of neighbouring countries throwing dozens of nuclear weapons at each other is “outlandish”.
Narasimha pointed out that India and Pakistan have the smallest arsenals in the world. “It’s odd that they pick on a country with the smallest arsenals,” he said.
But Mills said the simulation examined a scenario where “things get out of hand”. “It’s easier to have faith in predictions when several models produce smilar results,” said J. Srinivasan, a senior atmospheric scientist at the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore.
Healing the world
The closing of the ozone hole over Antarctica has positive implications for the southern hemisphere as well as global climate in general, writes P. Hari
If ever there was a successful international agreement, it was the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer. This was signed in the year 1989, by which time the ozone layer in the stratosphere was rapidly depleting and the hole over Antarctica was becoming large and damaging. The Montreal Protocol, signed by 191 countries, ensured that the production of the offending CFCs (chlorofluorocarbons) stopped in 1996. The ozone layer has started recovering quickly. The former UN secretary general Kofi Annan called it the most successful international treaty. Now it seems that its impact was even larger than envisaged by Annan or anybody else.
In a paper published in Science recently, scientists at the University of Columbia and other institutions say that the treaty could have a profound impact on the earth’s climate as well. The depletion of the ozone layer has a direct impact on human and animal health, by increasing the amount of dangerous ultraviolet radiation hitting the earth’s surface. The Columbia scientists now show that the closing of the Antarctica ozone hole will affect winds in the southern hemisphere, and hence its climate, and even the global climate. “This may be good news,” says the lead author of the study, Seok-Woo Son, a post-doctoral student at the university.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which made predictions for climate change for the 21st century, did not consider the healing of the ozone hole in its assessments. In its calculations, the IPCC used a set of models that did not take into account the stratospheric ozone recovery. Son and his colleagues at Columbia University and other institutions used a different model that considered the recovery of the ozone layer. And the results were quite different.
The key issue is a type of winds called the westerlies. These winds blow in both the northern and southern hemispheres, but in opposite directions. In the southern hemisphere, the westerlies blow from the north west, and produce the Antarctic Circumpolar Current around the icy continent. This circulating ocean current is critical to maintaining the climate over Antarctica, as it keeps the warm waters away from the continent. This is why Antarctica is colder than the Arctic. This current influences the Antarctic and southern hemisphere climate in complex ways that are still not completely understood.
In the last few decades, the southern westerlies have intensified towards the pole by as much as 20 per cent. There are two reasons for this intensification. The first is the build-up of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and the resultant warming of the earth, and the second is the depletion of the ozone layer. But we do not know how much these factors contribute individually. We do know, however, that the intensification has important consequences for the surface sea temperature, the extent of sea ice over the Antarctic, the variability of storms, location of deserts or arid regions and many other things that influence climate.
In its previous report, the IPCC had predicted that the westerlies will continue to intensify, but the rate of intensification will slow down over the next few decades. While this is expected to have several negative impacts over climate in the next five decades, we do not quite know precisely what. One of the consequences of this intensification would be the enlargement of arid zones in the southern hemisphere, mainly in Africa and Australia. Since Australia is already experiencing a serious water shortage, it will not be good news for the country.
The Columbian team, however, used a different mathematical model in their study. This model took into account the recovery of the ozone layer in general, and the complete closing of the ozone hole over Antarctica by mid century. When they ran their models, they also saw something interesting – the westerlies weakened towards the poles, in part reversing the trend in the last few decades. If this turns out to be true, the impact on climate in the southern hemisphere can be profound.
There are still many areas of this change that are not well understood, but one can certainly foresee some impacts. “I think that the expansion of the arid regions will stop,” says Son, “but we have to do much more research to know the full impact.”
One thing is clear: the thickening of the ozone layer could certainly bring some cheer.
Ministry of Environment and Forests
Effects of the depletion of the Ozone Layer on humans and the environment
The ozone molecule contains three atoms of oxygen and is mainly formed by the action of the ultraviolet rays of the sun on the diatomic oxygen molecules in the upper part of the earth’s atmosphere (called the stratosphere). Atmospheric pollution near the Earth’s surface can form localized areas of ozone. The stratospheric ozone layer protects life on earth by absorbing most of the harmful ultraviolet radiation from the sun. In the mid 1970s it was discovered that some manmade products destroy ozone molecules in the stratosphere. This destruction can result in damage to ecosystems and to materials such as plastics. It may cause an increase in human diseases such as skin cancers and cataracts.
The discovery of the role of the synthetic ozone-depleting chemicals such as chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) stimulated increased research and monitoring in this field. Computer models predicted a disaster if no action was taken to protect the ozone layer. Based on this research and monitoring, the nations of the world took action in 1985 with the Vienna Convention for the Protection of the Ozone Layer followed by the Montreal Protocol on Substances that deplete the Ozone Layer in 1987. The Convention and Protocol were amended and adjusted several times as new knowledge that was obtained. The Meetings of the Parties to the Montreal Protocol appointed three Assessment Panels to review the progress in scientific knowledge on their behalf. These panels are the Scientific Assessment Panel, the Technological and Economic Assessment Panel and the Environmental and Health Effects Assessment Panel. Each panel covers a designated area.
Effects of human activities on depletion of ozone layer and climate change
There is overwhelming evidence that human activities are influencing global phenomena. Natural environmental cycles often span thousands of years but most scientific measurements have been made only over the past 150 years. It is often not easy to accurately determine the influence of humans on any natural activity. In the case of the ozone layer, the depletion of the ozone over the Antarctica cannot be explained by natural cycles but is caused by the increase of synthetic chemicals in the stratosphere. The relationship between these chemicals (e.g. chlorofluorocarbons also known as CFCs) and ozone depletion has been proven by experiments in laboratories, numerical modelling studies and by direct measurements in the atmosphere. By absorbing the infrared radiation emitted by the earth, some gases control the way natural energy flows through the atmosphere. Such gases are known as greenhouse gases. Carbon dioxide, although only a tiny fraction of the atmosphere, is an important greenhouse gas.
Measurements show that its concentration has increased by almost 30% as a result of human activities since the beginning of the industrial revolution (around 1750), resulting in enhancement of the greenhouse effect.Methane and nitrous oxide emitted from agricultural activities, changes in land use, and other sources are also potent greenhouse gases. The increase in greenhouse gasses contributes to climate change in the form of increased temperatures on the earth and a rise in sea level. Carbon dioxide is produced when fossil fuels are used to generate energy and when forests are burned. Observations show that global temperatures rose by about 0.6 °C over the 20th century.
Relationship between ozone and solar ultraviolet radiation
There is an inverse relationship between the concentration of ozone and the amount of UV-Bradiation transmitted through the atmosphere. Stratospheric ozone is naturally formed in chemical reactions involving ultraviolet sunlight and oxygen molecules. These reactions occur continually wherever ultraviolet sunlight is present. The production of stratospheric ozone is balanced by its destruction in chemical reactions. Ozone reacts continually with a variety of natural and anthropogenic chemicals in the stratosphere. In the lower atmosphere ozone is produced by the chemical reactions between mainly nitrogen oxides and organic chemical pollutants produced by motor vehicle and industrial emissions. The ozone in both the troposphere and the atmosphere absorbs the UV radiation received at the surface. The radiation emitted by the sun contains an ultraviolet component. As the sunlight passes through the atmosphere, all the UV-C and approximately 90% of the UV-B are absorbed mainly by ozone and oxygen. UV-A radiation is less affected by the atmosphere. Therefore, the ultraviolet radiation reaching the Earth’s surface is composed of mainly UV-A with a small UV-B component. A decrease in the concentration of ozone in the atmosphere results in increased UV-B radiation at the surface of the earth. DNA and other biological macromolecules absorb UV-B and can be damaged in this process.
determinants of UV-B radiation at a specific place
The sun is the origin of the ultraviolet radiation reaching the earth. That radiation is partly absorbed by the components of the earth's atmosphere. The amount of potentially harmful ultraviolet radiation that is absorbed by one of these components, ozone, depends on the length of the path of the sunlight through the atmosphere. The UV-B irradiation varies with the time of the day, geographic location and the season. The ultraviolet radiation that reaches the earth is greatest in the tropics and decreases towards the poles. For the same reason it is greatest near local noon and least near sunrise or sunset. Outside the tropics it is generally greater in the summer and least in the winter. Clouds, particulate matter, aerosols and air pollutants absorb and scatter some of the ultraviolet radiation and thereby diminish the amount reaching the earth's surface. Under clear skies the maximum irradiation occurs when the sun is directly overhead. Locations at higher altitudes have less atmosphere overhead, as evidenced by the thinner air and lower atmospheric pressure therefore the radiation of the sun is less attenuated. This increase in UV radiation varies between 10% and 20% for each kilometre of height, depending on the specific wavelength, solar angle, reflections, and other local conditions. Frequently, other factors besides the thickness of the atmosphere cause even larger differences in UV radiation between different altitudes. Surface reflection, especially from snow, ice and sand increases the irradiation at a particular site because the reflected radiation is redirected towards the surface through scattering by particles in the atmosphere or on the ground. In some conditions clouds will have the same effect. Snow is more common at higher altitudes, and reflects as much as 90% of the ultraviolet radiation. Dry beach sand and sea foam reflects about 25% of UV-B radiation. Clouds also reflect an appreciable amount of radiation to the areas where they do not directly obscure the sunlight The ultraviolet irradiation to which an individual is exposed is determined by a combination of all these factors.
Effect of pollution of the lower atmosphere on UV-B irradiation
Pollutants emitted by human activities can absorb UV-B radiation near the surface, while particles may lead to enhancement by scattering. While most of the atmospheric ozone is formed in the stratosphere, some ozone is produced in the lower atmosphere by the chemical reactions between pollutants such as nitrogen oxides and hydrocarbons. This ozone is a component of the photochemical smog found in many polluted areas. Airborne particles (smoke, dust and sulphate aerosols) block UV radiation, but at the same time can increase the amount of scattered light (haze) and therefore increase the UV exposure of side-facing surfaces (e.g., face, eyes). Comparisons of measurements made in industrialized regions of the Northern Hemisphere (e.g., central Europe) and in very clean locations at similar latitudes in the Southern Hemisphere (e.g., New Zealand) indicate the importance of particulate and pollution-related UV-B reductions.
At any particular location there is a direct relationship between UV-B irradiation and the amount of ozone in the atmosphere. UV-B increases with ozone depletion in the stratosphere but decreases with ozone formation in the lower atmosphere. The natural UV-B variability (e.g., from time of day, or clouds) can be larger than the effect of pollution, but goes in both directions, up and down. The cumulative amounts will depend critically upon local conditions and are therefore difficult to model in a general way. Many detrimental effects of UV-B are proportional to the cumulative UV-B exposure.
$1.2 mn fine for depleting ozone layer
22 Sep 2008, 1428 hrs IST, IANS
TORONTO: A Canadian faces $1.2m in fines for releasing ozone-depleting Halon-1301 from a fire-suppression system at his property in Burnaby near
Halons, used in fire extinguishers, are the most dangerous form of ozone-depleting substance.
Scientists say Halon-1301 not only eats the ozone layer, but is also a deadly greenhouse gas "thousands of times more powerful" than carbon dioxide. Although Halon-1301 is a liquid, it vapourises instantly on release.
The ozone layer at the top of the earth's atmosphere protects us from the ultraviolet rays of the sun, which can cause skin cancer. Release of ozone-depleting substances by people - mainly chlorofluorocarbons (CFC) and hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFC) used as refrigerants and fire retardants - has created holes in the ozone layer over the north and south polar regions.
According to a report, more than 3,800 kg of Halon-1301 was released into the atmosphere two years ago, inviting the stiff penalties under Vancouver city bylaws and British Columbia provincial laws. Halon-1301 is an HCFC.
The Vancouver Sun newspaper said it was the largest single release of ozone-depleting substances in recent Canadian history.
The paper identified the offender as Donald Rix, a well respected Canadian who has won the nation's highest Order of Canada award and is the current chairman of the high-powered Vancouver Board of Trade.
His property - 0727219 BC Ltd - is charged with releasing the ozone-depleting Halon-1301 into the atmosphere June 4, 2006.
Curiously, Rix was not the owner of the property when the deadly release occurred. It was under Teleglobe, which was owned by a Los Angeles-based American, when the incident happened.
But the authorities are after his company that now holds title to this property - 0727219 B.C. Ltd. That did not change during Rix's purchase, the newspaper said.
Under the law, if this substance had been released during a fire, there would have been no offence.
Canada banned production and import of Halons in 1994.
Climate Change & Global Warming
The role of Crystal Refrigeration in this major effort to Save the Planet
Since 1992 Crystal Refrigeration has been conducting in the State of West Bengal, RSE Training Workshops under the aegis of HIDECOR & NCCoPP for technicians and engineers from various organisations in air-conditioning & refrigeration, government in-house maintenance cells and private small business owners and individual technicians.
RSE training has been designed as effective, practical 2-day sessions. The training for Refrigeration Service Enterprise (RSE) technicians illustrate:
Good practices in handling CFC.
How to handle new technology for better servicing.
Proper servicing and retrofitting of refrigeration appliances using alternative HFC and HC refrigerants.
How to recover and re-use CFC and HFC refrigerants.
More details can be found at: http://www.nccopp.info/RSETraining.asp
In recent years, scientific research has proved that several chemicals such as chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), halons and methyl bromide contribute substantially to ozone depletion. CFCs developed in the early 1930s are non-toxic, non-flammable and are used extensively as coolants for commercial and home refrigeration units, aerosol propellants, electronic cleaning solvents, and blowing agents. Over time, these CFCs are released into the air and often, strong winds carry them into the stratosphere.
When CFC molecules drift into the stratosphere, the UV-B and UV-C radiation from the sun releases their chlorine atoms. Complex chemical reactions in the atmosphere result in the formation of chlorine monoxide, which reacts with the ozone molecule to form oxygen and regenerates more chlorine atoms that carry on converting the ozone molecules. Each chlorine atom can destroy as many as 100,000 ozone molecules over 100 years. Thus, even a small amount of CFCs can cause tremendous damage to the ozone layer.
THE MONTREAL PROTOCOL
In 1987, several countries across the world signed an international treaty, the Montreal Protocol, On Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer. According to this protocol, countries would phase out CFCs and other ODS as per a given schedule, with a complete halt by 2010. 190 countries are signatories to the Montreal Protocol.
Under the Protocol, industrialized nations have rapidly eliminated most ozone depleting substances. Developing countries are following suit, with critical assistance from the Protocol's Multilateral Fund, which has already committed over US $ 1.5 billion to assist developing countries in the difficult transition to ozone-friendly substances.
BENEFITS OF CFC PHASE OUT
Protection of the Ozone Layer: The phasing out of CFCs will help tremendously in the recovery of the ozone layer. As a result of the phasing out, lesser amounts of CFCs will accumulate in the atmosphere, thereby leading to the less depletion of ozone.
Reduced Health Risks: The phase out of CFCs will have a positive impact on health risks posed by the depleting of the ozone layer. These health benefits include reduced incidence of skin cancer and cataracts, decreased risks to human immune systems, and increased protection of plant and animal life from excessive UV exposure. A United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) study shows that a sustained 1 percent decrease in stratospheric ozone will result in about a 2 percent increase in the incidence of non-melanoma skin cancer, which can be fatal. With the successful phase out of CFCs, fewer instances of this fatal cancer are expected.
New Technologies: Phasing out of CFCs is prompting research and development of alternative technologies specially for cleaning applications in electronic assemblies and precision parts.
Energy Savings: As a consequence of CFC phase out, there has been considerable effort in many countries to develop and invest in a new generation of energy efficient air-conditioning and refrigeration equipment. This also impacts positively on global warming and climate change.
Pollution Prevention: The energy savings from equipment upgrades mean that less fossil fuel are burned at the power plant, leading to reduced emissions of air pollutants including carbon dioxide (CO2), nitrogen oxides (NOx), and sulfur dioxide (SO2). These pollutants are responsible for global warming and acid rain.
As per the Montreal Protocol, India is one of the Article 5 (1) countries consuming a large volume of CFCs, second only to China. India ratified the Montreal Protocol agreement in 1992 and the Government of India has taken many progressive steps to phase-out ODS in India. These include:
Setting up of a special Ozone Cell in the Ministry of Environment And Forests to co-ordinate all Ozone Depleting Substances (ODS) phase-out initiatives.
Approval of the Ozone Depleting Substances (Regulations and Control) Rules 2000, which amongst others restricts the manufacturing of CFCs, CFC-based refrigeration equipment and consumption of CFCs. These rules set a deadline of January 1, 2003 for the complete phase-out of CFCs in the RAC manufacturing sector.
A large number of Industry-specific Multilateral Fund funded projects have been approved and successfully implemented to phase out ODS in various sectors.
Preparation of an Indian Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Service Sector Strategy (RAC SSS) that will help phase-out ODS in this sector.
Formulation of Chiller Sector Strategy to phase-out ODS
Training of Custom Officials and other officers associated with implementation of Ozone Regulations
Implementation of ECOFRIG and HIDECOR projects in the RAC sector
Organizing State workshops across the country regarding ODS phase-out.
Current major initiatives include:
CFC production sector phase-out in all sectors
Carbon Tetra Chloride(CTC) Phase-out
CFC Phase-out in small assembly/servicing enterprises of commercial refrigeration appliances
National CFC Consumption Phase-out Plan (NCCoPP)
IN THE THIRD MILLENNIUM:
A Gandhian Perspective
JOSEPH ISIDORE FERNANDO
It is imperative that the technological process be brought within the moral domain of non-violence. Failure to do this will spell chaos and tragedy.
We confront technology everywhere. Technology has come to stay largely and permanently: the modern person is homo technologicus. At the beginning of the 21st century we are astounded by how technology has changed the face of the earth and how it has revolutionized modern living. Science and technology are the new religions; they do wonders and perform miracles. If a person from a primitive society were to visit a modern technopolis, s/he would believe that s/he were in wonderland. Very ordinary things of everyday use which we have taken so much for granted with a vanishing sense of wonder (very un-Platonic indeed!) would appear miraculous to the primitive person. For example, press more and more buttons, more and more things turn on and go zooming B from domestic appliances to spacecrafts. Rejoice, hopefully we will have many exciting technological inventions in the third millennium.
OUR EXPERIENCE OF TECHNOLOGY
The first sentence of Aristotle’s Metaphysics reads "All men by nature desire to know." Our innate curiosity has resulted in the advancement of knowledge in the arts and sciences. Our knowledge of the world has helped us to gain greater control over nature and to use nature for our purposes. Beginning with the Industrial Revolution in the West, life has become very comfortable as more and more goods are produced. Time-saving, labor-saving devices have increased our comfort. Technology today has entered every field of human activity. The immense benefits of technology have been a boon to humanity. The use of electricity, petrol, nuclear energy and so on has been the soul of modern industry and technology. Modern transportation and communications have accelerated the growth of technology. Jet-age travel and satellite communications have made the world shrink. Even an ordinary thing like moving around on a two-wheeler has tremendously contributed to faster, independent, personal mobility. The entire world has become a global village due to ultramodern transportation, communications media and computer global networking. Medical technology has contributed to the eradication, control and healing of diseases and to longevity. Biotechnology offers a host of marvelous and unprecedented opportunities in terms of human health and reproduction, agriculture, poultry, dairy, fishery and so on. The benefits bestowed on us by technology are numerous that it would not be an exaggeration to call technology a miracle worker.
But at the same time we cannot desist from asking: At what cost have these miracles of technology been performed? In other words, given our experience, what is the negative impact of technology on human beings, nature and society? Therefore, we shall now turn our attention to the adverse effects of technology.1
The Impact of Technology on Environment
Technological growth has resulted in environmental decay and degradation. Excessive exploitation of nature threatens the environment. Poisonous gases emitted from factories increasingly pollute the atmosphere and hence, the air we breathe. In certain highly industrialized cities more than half the population suffers from respiratory diseases caused by pollutants in the air. If a person lives in a city like Calcutta for a long period s/he develops a lung disease called locally, ‘Calcutta lungs,’ consisting of tiny holes in one’s lungs caused by the pollutants. Added to the industrial pollution of the air is the pollution caused by the motor vehicles which emit deadly carbon monoxide into the atmosphere. In a city like Bombay, half the pollutants in the air are emitted by motor vehicles owned by urban citizens.
Untreated industrial effluents are diverted into streams, rivers and the sea, which in turn are poisoned. Aquatic life is the worst hit by industrial wastes, so much so that some species are becoming extinct. Industrial effluents affect the land too, damaging soil fertility and turning fresh water into salty water unfit for consumption and agriculture. Polluted air destroys plant life. Though the plants convert carbon dioxide into oxygen during the day, there is a limit to this capacity, beyond which they perish. As a result, we have noticed the extinction of some plant species. In some places excessive pollution causes acid rain, which in turn causes great havoc. In certain mining areas children are born with irreparable genetic damage caused by pollution. Industries and transport cause excessive noise leading to noise pollution beyond the acceptable level. Excessive noise harms people, causing deafness, blood pressure, hypertension, nervous disorders, irritability, headaches, insomnia, restlessness and, in some cases, even heart attacks.
Chloroflurocarbons (CFC) emitted by refrigerators in millions of homes go up in the air and cause holes in the ozone layer. The ozone layer is a protective layer in the atmosphere and prevents the ultraviolet rays of the sun from reaching the earth. Due to ozone depletion ultraviolet rays of the sun have had harmful effects on humans and animals. Ultraviolet rays cause skin cancer in humans, and it is reported that some animal species like frogs and turtles are vanishing in some countries due to depletion of the ozone layer. Oil tankers which spill oil into the sea destroy marine life. Mechanised deep-sea fishing, too, ruins marine life. Mercury has been found in the fish sold in the markets of some countries.
Forests are disappearing at a faster pace due to the indiscriminate felling of trees. Environmental scientists tell us that the forest cover which is the source of rain and oxygen should be 30 percent of the total land mass of a country. The Amazon forests are known as the lungs of the world, as they supply 70 percent of the oxygen to the world. Deforestation causes both floods and drought. Soil erosion caused by deforestation leads to floods. Trees in the forest prevent soil erosion as the roots of the trees tightly hug the soil. With soil erosion, rain water flows down from the slopes of the mountains without resistance and floods the plains. Drought in the summer, too, is caused by deforestation. Trees in the forest soak up the rain water in the bosom of their roots like a sponge and keep releasing it gently and gradually. That is why there are streams and brooks flowing even in the summer. In the absence of trees in the forests, nothing else can soak up water and release it gradually for the benefit of humans, animals and plants.
Forests disappear for a number of reasons. Modern life style, backed by technology, consumes a lot of timber products.2 Forests are cleared to make way for human habitation. Huge trees are felled while clearing the forest area for cultivation of cash crops. In hill stations like Ooty, environmental disaster is feared due to clearing the forest for the sake of planting crops. Though Cherrapunji in Meghalaya is supposed to have the highest rainfall in the world with rains almost daily, incredibly even Cherrapunji suffers from drought.3 Strip-mining, too, leaves its indelible scars on hills and forests.
Hit by deforestation and pollution, some species of fauna and flora have already vanished from the earth forever. The use of chemical fertilizers has robbed the earth of its fertility. Pesticides and insecticides have killed many animal species. Through the consumption of food grains chemical pesticides enter the human body to alter it genetically.
For millions of years solar energy has been stored in coal or fossil fuels. Modern technology especially in developed nations uses up colossal volumes of non-renewable fossil fuels. It is feared that the oil wells of Arabia will dry up in thirty years. At present there is hardly any evidence of the judicious use of fossil fuels, which are known to be highly polluting.
The environment is threatened by untreated waste. Heaps of garbage choke the environment. Empty cans and polytene bags litter the area. Mountain-climbers all along Mount Everest leave behind garbage which threatens the fragile ecosystem of the mountains. Even in outer space, garbage in the form of about 30,000 disintegrated parts of spacecrafts like rockets and satellites, orbit the earth and occasionally hit it. Nothing is beyond our reach to pollute: space, air, water, soil, the mountains and oceans.
As technology advances, our habits, too, keep changing. For instance, instead of eating healthy food, people go for junk food with high chemical contents detrimental to health. Millions of gallons of soft drinks are consumed daily which do not contain even a single drop of natural fruit juice. Fast food is becoming more popular with the urban population who may not realize that fast foods are not equivalent to healthy wholesome food from the poison in the air, water and soil harmful chemicals have been detected in the milk of mothers though which it has enters human body to cause genetic disorders.
The existence of nuclear reactors is a matter of great concern for those who care for the earth. They produce cheap and abundant energy, but the problem is with nuclear waste. It is highly radio active, and so far no safe method has been found to dispose it of. Nuclear waste from some developed countries has been dumped into the sea or soil of some poor nations after bribing their political leaders. The Chernobyl nuclear reactor accident is a great warning to humanity about the hazards of nuclear energy. The havoc it caused is so horrifying that no one would favor the continuance of nuclear reactors. Indeed, it is said that the nuclear reactors in India are already leaking, and the surrounding neighborhood is being affected by radioactivity.
We are concerned about another serious problem B the greenhouse effect. The continuous emission of pollutants into the air increases global temperature. As global temperature increases, ice melt in the polar regions which in turn causes the sea level to rise. If the sea level rises, the sea will devour the land. About thirty island nations of the world face the threat of being submerged in the sea after some years. It is said that at the present rate of rise in global temperature the island nation of Maldives will disappear into the sea within some thirty years. The Association of Island States has appealed to the industrial states to scale down the level of pollution, but one wonders whether such an appeal will ever be heeded. The greenhouse effect alters the seasons in the world, and the rhythmic functioning of nature is seriously impaired or interfered with so that the world climate is adversely affected.
Cities with a technological base attract more and more people from villages. The exodus from the rural to the urban areas results in the heavy pressure of the population in the cities. Consequently, in the cities of the developing countries we find overcrowding, sanitary chaos, filth and garbage, slums and shanties, polluted drinking water, and so on. Nearly half the population of these cities lives in slums under subhuman conditions. We are unable to check the exodus from villages to townships and cities.
The greatest threat from technology comes from highly sophisticated nuclear arsenals. The best brains of the world are pressed into the service of military technology. Huge quantities of deadly weapons are heaped upon the earth. Nations compete with each other in obtaining the most sophisticated arms. Humanity today is capable of global suicide B the entire human race can be wiped of the face of the earth anytime any day. The threat of nuclear holocaust looms large before us.
The Socio-Economic Impact of Technology
Technology has increased the wealth of the industrial nations; the more sophisticated the technology, the greater the accumulation of wealth. As the Industrial Revolution spread from England to the rest of Europe, those nations were in dire need of raw materials to support their industries. Colonialism was the outcome of such a need. Nations in Asia, Africa and Latin America were plundered for the sake of capitalism in the home countries of the colonial powers. This resulted in mass poverty in the colonies. Economic exploitation of the colonies was coupled with political ruthlessness so that the nations reeling under the yoke of colonialism had to struggle for decades to be freed from the shackles of slavery and oppression.
Even after independence from foreign powers these nations are still bleeding from the wounds of colonialism. We witness mass poverty, unemployment, illiteracy, malnutrition and subhuman living conditions in the so-called developing nations, which are really poor nations. The wretched of the earth are found in these poor nations. With the globalization of economy these days there is a fresh threat of neocolonialism due to superior technology which is the key to greater power and wealth. Marxists are right in their observation that the owners of the means of production would have their wealth multiplied even in their sleep. Technocrats rule the world today. Multinational corporations, backed by their governments, are the most powerful force in the world of today, and run the world as they deem fit.
The Psychological Impact of Technology
In the rich nations the technocrats have created technopolis in which the most important question regards the quality of life. In a technopolis the ruling monarch is technology, which is soulless and faceless, hence automation, the mechanical and the mechanized characterize the life-style. The danger is that the people will be uprooted from the soil, alienated from fellow humans, devoid of tenderness and joy, and steeped in drudgery and melancholy. This is due to being estranged from the healing powers of nature, from the warmth and simplicity of the people, from the ordinary and enriching pleasures of life which abound in social intercourse with good-natured people who love the smell of the earth, the feel of the air, rain and sunshine, and are passionately in love with the world. Technopolis can create psychopathic killers, nihilists and terrorists; excessive technology can ruin human nature and the joy of living just as, for example, the mass media can enslave the masses by destroying their capacity for thinking.
The Northern Hemisphere with its excessive technology takes its toll in the Southern Hemisphere. Exploitation and unfair global trade practices leave their victims in perpetual subhuman conditions, devoid of dignity, decency and self-respect. Life is an eternal nightmare for those condemned to live in utter misery. But can we blame technology for its negative impact, or are we to blame ourselves for the abuse of technology? What would Gandhi say about technology?
GANDHI’S VIEWS ON TECHNOLOGY
The focus of this research paper is Gandhi’s view of technology. Given his views, how would he visualize the role of technology in the next millennium? In some circles Gandhi is portrayed as an obscurantist, anti-technological and outdated. But a careful examination of his views falsifies such a portrayal. The ensuing passages have been gleaned from his writings.
Industrialism is, I am afraid, going to be a curse for mankind. Industrialism depends entirely on your capacity to exploit, on foreign markets being open to you, and on the absence of competitions.4
True, industrialism has not banished poverty. Millions of people go to bed hungry and live in conditions incompatible with human dignity. Added to that, even life-sustaining eco-systems have become fragile due to excessive and thoughtless modes of industrialization. Such industrialization can be termed a curse for humanity. Therefore, Gandhi maintains: "The future of industrialism is dark"5 and in the third millennium could reach the height of darkness unless priorities are rearranged.
Further, Gandhi holds: "Machinery has its place; it has come to stay. But it must not be allowed to displace necessary human labor."6 Gandhi rightly recognizes that we cannot do away with machinery, but it should not put people out of jobs and rob them of the dignity of labor, without which human beings cease to be human beings. This is what Gandhi calls necessary human labor. "That use of machinery is lawful which subserves the interest of all."7
The use of machinery becomes unlawful when it is solely meant for increasing the profit of the owner of the machinery at any cost. Gandhi would reject anything that does not fit into his scheme of Sarvodaya (welfare of all, not of a few or of many):"I would favor the use of the most elaborate machinery, if thereby India’s pauperism and resulting idleness could be avoided."8
Gandhi has a practical approach as he favors complex technology aimed at the eradication of poverty and the creation of employment. "Are you against all machinery?" Gandhi’s answer to this question is an emphatic `No’.
"You are against this machine age." To say that is to caricature my views. I am not against machinery as such, but I am totally opposed to it when it masters us. "You will not industrialize India?" I would indeed, in my sense of the term. The village communities should be revived.9
Gandhi was by no means anti-technological, but, at the same time and unlike Nehru, he is not bewitched by its power. He opposes the indiscriminate multiplication of technology, an obsession of the modern person, the technocrat, the citizen of a technopolis:
What I object to is the craze for machinery, as such. The craze is for what they call labor-saving machinery. Men go on ‘saving labor’ till thousands are without work and thrown on the open streets to die of starvation. I want to save time and labor, not for a fraction of mankind, but for all, I want the concentration of wealth, not in the hands of a few, but in the hands of all. Today machinery merely helps a few to ride on the backs of millions. The impetus behind it all is not the philanthropy to save labor, but greed. It is against this constitution of things that I am fighting with all my might.10
Gandhi is too correct in saying that machinery helps a few to ride on the backs of millions, as is true today of multinational corporations. The New Indian Express11 reports under the heading ‘Microsoft bigger than India’: "The market value of Microsoft Corp touched $ 507 billion, about Rs. 21,92,268 crore on Friday, the first time ever any company has passed the half trillion dollar level. This value is much higher than India’s Gross Domestic product (GDP) of about Rs. 17,70,000 crore."12 Gandhi would relentlessly fight such a state of affairs:
I am personally opposed to great trusts and concentration of industries of elaborate machinery. "So you are opposed to machinery, only because and when it concentrates production and distribution in the hands of the few?" You are right. I hate privilege and monopoly. What ever cannot be shared with masses is taboo to me. That is all.13
Gandhi was rudely shocked by the exploitative use of machinery by the English capitalists. He wrote in Hind Swaraj: "It is machinery that has impoverished India. It is difficult to measure the harm that Manchester has done to us. It is due to Manchester that Indian handicraft has all but disappeared."14 In pain and anguish at the starvation and death of many villagers caused by British exploitation,15 Gandhi wrote in Hind Swaraj: "Machinery is the chief symbol of modern civilization; it represents a great sin." A major component of his vision of Sarvodaya is preservation of the villages:
The revival of the villages is possible only when they are no longer exploited. Industrialization on a mass scale will necessarily lead to passive or active exploitation of the villagers as the problems of competition and marketing came in. Therefore we have to concentrate on the village being self-contained; manufacturing mainly for use. Provided this character of the village industry is maintained, there would be no objection to villagers using even the modern machines and tools, that they can make and afford to use. Only they should not be used as a means of exploitation of others.16
Alternative technology is very much in keeping with the spirit of Gandhi ever since E.F. Schumacher’s classic, Small Is Beautiful, was published17 and should become more relevant in the next millennium. Many people are dissatisfied with the technology we have, and would like to replace it with another, called "alternative," more viable, appropriate, careful, frugal or participatory. Based more on small group initiative than on societal mobilization it presents a radical challenge to contemporary technological practice. Examples energy devices, agricultural practices and tools, transportation vehicles, and building designs in which the emphasis is on hardware, but the attempt is to transform the organizational arrangement whereby technology is developed, controlled and delivered. They include cooperative organizations for medicine, farming, food delivery, marketing, financial credit, communications, insurance, banking, and so on which, to banish the anonymity of city life, emphasize a re-emergence of neighborhood identity by tapping the artisan skills of various members of the community through "sweat equity" exchanges of services.18
Alternative technology groups insist that technology should follow two design norms: sustainability and democratic patterns of organization. The concept of sustainability leads to the selection of only practices that can be continued into the indefinite future. Some current industrial practices which provide air, water, fertile land and a stable climate but now are recognized as interfering with the regenerative capacities of the earth’s life-sustaining process, will have to be drastically modified. Since the stock of fossil fuels and other materials is very limited, we need to develop an economic philosophy which would treat these scarce resources as capital, rather than as raw materials. Artifacts of the future should be made of renewable materials that can be grown, not made from finite material stocks. The emphasis is on conservation and curtailing the flow of materials from manufacture to consumption.
Democratic management of technological enterprises is the second design norm of alternative technology groups. This calls for decentralization of productive facilities into small, relatively autonomous units, which could be the only way to the realization of democratic self-management. Technology can be made more democratic in an additional way: "When technological tools and products are intelligible to the user, a new form of power results. The user is no longer at the mercy of a mysterious, alien object, but instead can adapt, repair, and thus preserve it. In this light the producer of flimsy, disposable objects becomes both irresponsible and politically suspect."
Finally, proponents of alternative technology hold, "that in fashioning a technology the character of work itself must be included as a design constraint, rather than a mere afterthought." Schumacher has proposed that every job be required to meet three desiderata 1) a means to attain an appropriate existence; 2) the enhancement of human skill; and 3) overcoming ego-centeredness through joint participation in common tasks. By these criteria a humanly repressiver workplace is clearly immoral. Schumacher distinguishes between moral and immoral apparatus, with the distinction turning on whether the pace of production is under human or machine control.
The advocacy of alternative technology has come under severe attack. Some consider alternative technology as impractical since it aims at restructuring industrial practices which are deeply embedded in socio-political philosophies which define what are reasonable goals of technology. Others think of alternative technology as "an ill-formed ideological movement, a kind of radical chic for generally well-educated dropouts from the integrated, capital-intensive society." Yet others dismiss it for lack of feasibility.
Alternative technology cannot be dismissed as a mere fad or impractical and impossible venture. Small is beautiful, especially when the local communities can look after and manage their needs on a co-operative basis rather than being recipients of consumer goods and services from a centralized body. Big is beautiful only from the point of view of multinational corporations, as huge heavy industries are the global sources of their income. If small is beautiful, electricity, for instance, can be produced through the use of biogas for every village, for which a centralized Electricity Board is not necessary. Through alternative technology, human sanity and ecological balance can be preserved, whereas large-scale industries and consumerism may eventually create a sick world.
The search for an appropriate normative basis for evaluating technology is conditioned by a type of policy analysis known as technology assessment. This aims at a comprehensive picture of the factors involved in technological choices and directs attention to the broader social context that is affected, often unintentionally, when a new technology is introduced, or an existing one modified. Technology assessment is not a critique of technological means or ends, but a search for strategies for mitigating unwanted side effects.
Within the past quarter century, concerns about the undesirable features of modern industrial technology have taken new forms. These challenges have gone beyond the already painfully obvious fact that twentieth-century technology, in concert with evil human intentions, has developed the capacity to obliterate our species. Instead, what is now being questioned are certain systemic properties of industrial technology itself, properties which, despite the good intentions of human actors, lead to unwanted and unanticipated results that are themselves threatening the species.
Technology assessment originated in the U.S.A. and initially was concerned with the environment.19 Technology assessment reflected the fact that while technologies based on market economies were responsive to short-term consumer demands, some long-term results were beginning to be recognized which ultimately threatened life. Technology assessment was proposed as a new form of political analysis that would assist in the separation of negative impact, that might occur when a new technology was introduced or an existing one was significantly modified.
Technology assessment certainly reflects disappointment with the contemporary technology of the industrial nations and is supposed to be neutral. Impact analysis performed by such technical experts as economists, scientists and engineers assumes that the identification of impacts is basically an exercise in scientific prediction. It is expected to predict what effects the introduction of a particular technology may produce through economic, legal, environmental, social, political and technological means. Though it faces the danger of manipulation inasmuch as it is funded and potentially influenced by industrialists, legislators and policy-makers, technology assessment has a proper positive role to play in the contemporary industrial world.
However as alternative technology, technology assessment and legislation are extrinsic to the intrinsic moral imperative, we must turn to the realm of values for further and more decisive understanding and handling of technological issues.
REVOLUTION IN VALUES
For Gandhi, without a revolution in values, humans will be ill-prepared to handle technology. We are already overpowered by our own inventions and lack maturity in our relation to them. One of the great problems of humanity is the wide gulf between our scientific progress and our moral progress: we have become materially richer, but morally and spiritually poorer. The human person lives in both internal and external realms: the former is expressed in art, literature, morality and religion, while the latter is the mechanical gadgets, techniques and instruments. Our problem is that the internal is lost in the external or, to paraphrase Thoreau, that we have "improved means to an unimproved end." The abundance of Western civilization has brought people neither peace nor serenity of spirit. Certainly science has been a blessing to humanity, but that does not mean we should minimize the internal and maximize the external dimension of our lives. Creative living in the modern world demands re-establishment of the moral ends of personal character and social justice lest we be destroyed in the misuse of the instruments of our creation. As Arnold Toynbee said, in the rise and decline of some twenty-six civilizations on earth, the decline has been caused not by external invasions, but by internal decay. Self-centered, consumerist societies may collapse prematurely if the technological process is divorced from moral practice.
The stability of global living calls for a revolution of values to match the revolutions in science and freedom in modern times. The present increasing tendency to love things and use people must be reversed: things are to be used, and people to be loved. When machines, profit and property are treated as more important than persons, the trio of racism, materialism and militarism cannot be overcome and a civilization can easily disintegrate due to moral and spiritual bankruptcy. A genuine revolution of values means that our loyalties must become universal, rather than parochial. Each nation must foster an overriding loyalty to humanity as a family in order to preserve the best in individual society. Moreover, the survival of human beings requires worldwide fellowship based on love of which all religions speak. As the supreme unifying principle of life, love is the key to understanding the ultimate reality and hence the fundamental reality of all creatures.
Love has to become the mode of daily life because we no longer can afford to hate or retaliate. History shows that hatred and retaliation bring only destruction. Arnold Toynbee remarks: "Love is the ultimate force that makes for the saving choice of life and good against the damning choice of death and evil. Therefore, the first hope in our inventory must be the hope that love is going to have the last word." There is a tremendous sense of urgency for humanity to choose between non-violent co-existence and violent co-annihilation before it is too late. This may be humanity’s final choice between destruction and community because of the very real technological potential of a nuclear war.
Moral bankruptcy gradually is eating into societies all over the world; today materialism engulfs humanity. Overemphasis on materialism in the form of a consumer culture weakens the moral and spiritual fabric of humanity. As materialism unchecked may swallow up our civilization there is an urgent need to re-order our priorities. Life in its wholeness ought to be accepted and an integrated value system must assume its rightful place in society. Embracing a part, as if it were the whole, spells disaster. Clearly the physical is no substitute for the moral and the spiritual, for materialism certainly is not the whole of existence. Hence, the need to restructure our priorities.
The essence of morality for a moral being is love through non-violence. The human person is neither merely a sensuous being of desires nor one of praxis, but a moral being. The human person is not a brute following the law of the animal kingdom: the survival of the fittest. On the contrary, tolerance, the spirit of "live and let live" and ahimsa are bonds of love that bind people together. In a moral perspective, equality, justice and liberty are not just political rights, but moral values which insist more on duty and obligation than on rights.
In the history of philosophy, there has been a glorification of the human being as rational animal, not only in contrast but in opposition to non-rational nature. The conception which views the human being as "lord of beings," rather than in truth the "shepherd of Being,"20 implies a challenging and dominating attitude towards nature which is regarded as the mere stuff upon which to exercise the human will. Such an attitude leads not only to the ecological disruptions we perceive today, but to a truncation of the human experience.
Affirmation of the primacy of the moral leads to a recognition that human beings are primarily moral beings and as such not the master of the world, but its caretaker, steward and custodian. This requires humility on the part of humans. As rational beings they cannot treat non-rational nature at whim, for non-rational nature takes shelter in humans as moral beings. Human beings are called to respect the unity of life B all life, including the non-human. They are the spokespeople for the world, certainly not its rulers; the logic of domination has no place in the genuine thinking of the moral being.
Secondly, moral persons relate to the world with a great sense of moderation: they depend on nature for their livelihood and treats nature as finite and limited. Therefore, they exercise moderation in dealing with the world. As homo technologicus, they believe in science and the advancement of knowledge, they must use the world and do so with a sense of moderation. They do not run away from the world, or call for a halt to science and technology, nor do they believe in indiscriminate and endless exploitation of the world to satiate consumer greed guided by maximum consumption. Rather they believe in careful, guarded, moderate use of the world’s resources. The principle of moderation must guide the moral person who cares for the welfare of generations yet unborn.
Thirdly, moral persons are deeply aware of the fact that there are irrational people who reject rational behavior, which is bound to a moral sense. Irrational human beings are guided incorrigibly by passions to which the rational makes no sense. When in control they turn the world into a hell, for they reject the rationality which is the "given" foundation for moral actions. When multinational corporations, power-mongers, chauvinists and racists pose a threat to the world, both physical and human, moral persons must make the choice to save the world from the irrational and immoral. This choice implies suffering and sacrifice without which nothing significant can ever be achieved. As "shepherds of Being," moral persons must protect beings from technological predators. Leaders of movements for environmental protection and for a safer and cleaner world must be eternally vigilant against the enemies of nature and money-mongers. Non-violent resistance must be adopted for such protests without fear or favor.
Lastly, moral persons perceive the contemporary technological threat to be rooted in and to originate from violence. Having driven God the creator out of the universe, humans have no respect for creation and would destroy nature and eventually her/himself. Creation experiences brokenness, because human beings themselves are in a state of brokenness which they impose on creation. Moral persons understand that violence has crept into the world B in our thinking, in our attitude towards the other, in our interpersonal relations, and finally in our relations with nature, resulting in ecological catastrophes.
Technology and Non-violence
Overpowered by violence, the modern person has lost her/his sense of justice, balance, respect and tenderness. Instead s/he is filled with lust for power, hatred, anger, ruthlessness and covetousness B in a word, ‘wickedness.’ The moral person has the tremendous task of transforming everything on the basis of non-violent, universal, unselfish love which alone can guarantee not only the survival of the world and the species, but also and more basically a joyful, meaningful and rich experience of life for humans.
In our increasing confrontation with the abuse of technology by the rich and the mighty, we need a powerful means to achieve a just, rational and human use of technology. As stated earlier, our technological practice is already rooted in violence. To counter this further violence cannot be employed for violence to counter violence leads only to a vicious circle. Therefore there is but one strategy to adopt, namely, that non-violent resistance. It is imperative that the technological process be brought within the moral domain of non-violence: failure to do so will spell chaos and tragedy.21
One of the great virtues of non-violent resistance is that it reduces hostilities to a minimum. Non-violent coercion not only produces good will, but also offers the greatest opportunities for evolving communal harmony. It maintains moral, rational and co-operative attitudes amidst conflict; thus it increases moral forces rather than destroying them. Another important merit of non-violent resistance is its practicality, especially for an oppressed minority group. Non-violent tactics put enormous pressure on the governments and force those in power to act justly; they can be employed in all conflict situations. Moreover, non-violence is not merely a tactic but a moral imperative and way of life that seeks to restore the wholeness of a community by reconciling the oppressor with the oppressed. We need serious study and experiment with non-violence as a philosophy and strategy.
Technology can be at the service of humans only in a non-violent culture because there it has to recognize fundamental human rights and respect the dignity of the human person. The many technological inventions expected in the next millennium must be judged according to whether they contributes to the development of the human person as truly free and creative. Absolute preference should be given to the alleviation of human suffering, to the eradication of hunger and disease, to the fight against social injustice and to the struggle for lasting peace. As in a society without love technology can become a monster, we are called upon to seek love above all else. In this, Gandhi, with his common sense approach to technology, can be relied upon as a sure guide for the forthcoming millennium.
1. P. T. Durbin, Philosophy and Technology (Dordrecht: D. Reidel, 1983).
2. For instance, the Japanese architecture demands the use of a lot of wood for paneling Japanese homes. As a result huge quantities of wood logs are imported by Japan from Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines where the forests are disappearing.
3. Some years ago in December when this researcher visited Cherrapunji, there was hardly any sign of rain there. On the contrary, there was drought in the area. The hills appeared brown and denuded. People of Cherrapunji had difficulty in finding water for their needs.
4. Young India, 12 Nov., 1931.
5. Ibid., 12 Nov., 1931.
6. Ibid., 5 Nov., 1925.
7. Ibid., 15 April, 1926.
8. Ibid., 3 Nov., 1921.
9. Harijan, 27 Feb., 1957. See also Young India, 17 June, 926
10. Young India, 13 Nov., 1924.
11. The New Indian Express (Madurai Edition), 18 July, 1999.
12. One crore is 10,000,000.
13. Harijan, 2 Nov., 1934. See also Young India, 24 July, 1924.
14. M.K. Gandhi, Hind Swaraj (Ahmedabad: Navajivan Publishing House, 1998).
15. This fact is recorded by Marx in his Capital, vol I, p. 406. The English cotton machinery produced an acute effect in India. Marx quotes the Governor General who reported in 1834-35."The misery hardly finds a parallel in the history of commerce. The bones of the cotton-weavers are bleaching the plains of India." K. Marx, Capital, vol. I (Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1986).
16. Harijan, 29 Aug., 1936. See also M.K. Gandhi, Sarvodaya (Ahmedabad: Navajivan Publishing House, 1984).
17. E.F. Schumacher, Small Is Beautiful (Delhi: Rupa & Co, 1990).
18. See M.L. King, Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community? (New York: Harper & Row, 1967). See also M.L. King, Stride toward Freedom (New York: Harper & Row, 1953).
19. In the U.S. the National Environmental Protection Act of 1969 and the Technology Assessment Act of 1972 made technology assessment and environmental impact analysis obligatory for technological project receiving government financing. Technology assessment policy is seriously viewed in Canada, Japan and Western Europe, with France, Germany and England taking the lead.
20. ‘Shepherd of Being’ is a Heideggerian concept. See M. Heidegger, The Question Concerning Technology and Other Essays. Trans, William Lovitt (New York: Harper & Row, 1971).
21. See Martin Luther King, Why We Cannot Wait (New York: The New American Library of World Literature, Inc. 1964).
Mining is a major activity in the Damodar Basin area. As mentioned earlier also, the area is the storehouse of Indian coal. But mining leads to degradation of land due to fire, subsidence, overburden dumps, open pits, etc.
Jharia Coalfields (JCF): It is one of the most important coalfields in India, located in Dhanbad district, between latitude 23° 39' to 23° 48' N and longitude 86° 11' to 86° 27' E. This is the most exploited coalfield because of available metallurgical grade coal reserves. Mining in this coalfield was initially in the hands of private entrepreneurs, who had limited resources and lack of desire for scientific mining. The mining method comprised of both opencast as well as underground. The opencast mining areas were not backfilled, so large void is present in the form of abandoned mining. Extraction of thick seam by caving in past at shallow depth has damaged the ground surface in the form of subsidence and formation of pot holes or cracks reaching upto surface, enhancing the chances of Spontaneous heating of coal seams and mine fire. This coalfield is engulfed with about 70 mine fires, spread Over an area of 17.32 sq. km., blocking 636 million tonnes of coking coal and 1238 million tonnes of non-coking coal. Around 34.97 sq. km. area of the JCF is under subsidence. It is mentioned in JCF reconstruction program that 70% of the underground production of coal would come by caving and balance 30% by stowing and thus about 101 sq. km. underground mining area would be affected by subsidence. The other factor, which damages the land in JCF, is opencast mining and overburden dumps.
Raniganj Coalfield (RCF): Raniganj Coalfield, where the first coal mining in India was started in 1774, is situated mainly in the Burdwan district of West Bengal. Large coal bearing areas in this coalfield is blocked underneath surface properties. The situation here is further aggravated due to the presence of old abandoned water-logged areas, goaves and caved areas. The subsid-ence in this coalfield is also responsible for mine fire. The total fire area in RCF (within the basin) is 5.88 sq. km. While the subsided area is 29.4 sq. km. In the near future also, as more and more coal is to come from underground method, more area is likely to be degraded due to subsidence. The presence of old and water logged working is the major problem in this coalfield. There are some localities, which are situated above the water logged (unsafe residential) areas. Overburden dumps and open pits also increased the problems of land degradation.
Central Coalfields Limited (CCL): Area degraded in CCL is less compared to that in BCCL and ECL. Total area degraded is 7.451 sq. km., of which 3.082 sq. km., 1.96 sq. km. and 2.409 sq. km. are due to subsidence, abandoned mines and OB dumps respectively.
The municipal solid waste generated due to human activities are not addressed properly by the municipal authorities in Damodar river basin. The non-biodegradable waste like plastic, rubber, glass and crockery pose a severe threat to the nearby soil and underground water as it may cause leaching of toxic -elements such as Pb, Zn, Cn, Cd, etc. The role of pickers is appreciated in recycling of non-degradable waste. They segregate the waste and transport them to the nearby recycling plant. It was seen during the study that biodegradable waste is not properly utilized. Thus it is recommended that the municipal solid waste should be collected at one identified site and segregated into degradable and non-degradable components. In Dhanbad and Howrah the Municipal bodies have identified dumping sites. Other municipalities are throwing the waste at low lying areas beside railway tracks or roads without any treatment. Apart from municipal solid waste, industrial solid waste also posses a great problem in Damodar river basin area. Coal mine overburden dump shows alarming toxicity to adjacent soil and underground water. Toxic elements like lead (Pb) and cadmium (Cd) pollute soil and water to a great extent. Thermal power plants generate a lot of flyash which decreases soil water holding capacity thus reducing moisture content of the soil. This may be beneficial as well as harmful as it increases water and other mineral availability to plants but may also cause toxicity by leaching of Pb, Cn, Ti, Cd, etc. Similarly, steel plant waste generates Fe, Mg, Na, Mn, K, Ca, Ti, P, S and Cn, above threshold concentration causing toxicity to soil.
The Jharia coal field fire
The Jharia coalfield in Bihar is an exclusive storehouse of prime coke coal in the country, consisting of 23 large underground and nine large open cast mines. The mining activities in these coalfields started in 1894 and had really intensified in 1925. The history of coal-mine fire in Jharia coalfield can be traced back to 1916 when the first fire was detected. At present, more than 70 mine fires are reported from this region.
Coal, a non-renewable source of energy, is found in several parts of the world. The coal layers are mined by two methods: open cast mining and underground mining. Coal is formed from organic matter with a high carbon content, which when exposed to certain conditions (temperature, moisture, oxygen etc.) tends to ignite/ burn spontaneously at rather low temperatures. This may occur naturally or the combustion process may be triggered by other causes.
However, once a coal seam catches fire, and efforts to stop it an early stage fail, it may continue to burn for tens to hundreds of years, depending primarily on the availability of coal and oxygen. Coal fires have occurred in nearly all parts of the world like India, the US, Indonesia, South Africa, Australia, China, Germany and many other countries. However, the nature and magnitude of the problem differs from country to country. In India, the fire in the Jharia coalfield has mainly been due to unscientific mining and extraction of coal in the past.
Fires may occur in coal layers that are exposed to the surface of the earth or areas close to it. These are visible to the naked eye. Also, fires erupt in the underground seams, which have large cracks that serve as channels for oxygen to the burning coal. The main cause of natural coal fires are lightening, forest fires, bush fires, etc. Among human causes are accidents, negligent acts, domestic fires, lighting fires in abandoned underground mines for heating or distilling alcohol etc. Besides, burning away of an important energy resource, it creates problems for exploitation of coal, poses danger to humankind, raises the temperature of the area, and when present underground, can cause land to subside.
The pollution caused by these fires affects air, water, and land. Smoke, from these fires contains poisonous gases such as oxides and dioxides of carbon, nitrogen and sulphur, which along with particulate matter are the causes of several lung and skin diseases. High levels of suspended particulate matter increase respiratory diseases such as chronic bronchitis and asthma, while the gases contribute to global warming besides causing health hazards to the exposed population. Methane emission from coal mining depends on the mining methods, depth of coal mining, coal quality and entrapped gas content in the coal seams. These fires also pollute water by contaminating it and increasing its acidity, which is due to a certain percentage of sulphur that is present in coal. These fires lead to degradation of land and does not allow any vegetation to grow in the area.
The measures for controlling coal mine fires, in the case of Jharia coalfields, include bull dozing, leveling and covering with soil to prevent the entry of oxygen and to stabilize the land for vegetation. Fire fighting in this area requires relocation of a large population, which poses to be a bigger problem than the actual fire fighting operations.
Smog blanket blinds Kolkata
16 Dec 2008, 0531 hrs IST, Prithvijit Mitra & Krishnendu Bandyopadhyay, TNN
KOLKATA: The weather is playing tricks on Kolkata. For the last two days, the city is shrouded in smog so thick that motorists cannot see beyond 10
metres at some places. If Kolkatans are bewildered to see this in a surprisingly warm winter, so are weathermen.
While some believe it is a direct consequence of the sharply rising pollution levels in the city, others blame the rise in surface temperature.
The smog is so dense that visitors to South City Mall could not see the imposing structure from the eastern end of Prince Anwar Shah Road, just 500 metres away, on Sunday afternoon. Parts of EM Bypass, VIP Road and the Maidan, too, wore a thick white film of smog.
"It's strange, since visibility is always good in winter afternoons. But over the last two days, Anwar Shah Road and EM Bypass have remained engulfed in thick smog since early afternoon. Rise in surface temperature has led to the change in weather patterns. It has accelerated evaporation, pushing up the moisture levels in the lower strata of the atmosphere. This is why winter has been delayed this time. And now that cold winds are finally blowing in from the north, the trapped moisture is condensing, leading to this unusual smog," explained environmental expert Pranabesh Sanyal.
Environmentalist Dr Tanmoy Rudra held unchecked vehicular pollution the culprit. "Our study shows that both SPM and RPM levels have been more than double compared to last year's figures at places where there is a concentration of auto-rickshaw and taxis. The auto-rickshaws running on kata tel (adulterated fuel) play havoc with the air quality," he said.
Rudra warned that the smog can cause asthma and lung congestion in children who get exposed to smog during their journey to school. Experts said the smog density was highest around five feet in other words, the rough height at which most people breathe, multiplying chances of respiratory infection.
"The high density of diesel vehicles in the city and the rise of SPM and RPM, has triggered a major jump in nitrogen oxides. In fact, NOX in the city is not only beyond the permissible limit, but is also the highest in the country," said auto-emission consultant S M Ghosh
The ever-rising pollution levels continue to add to this. Suspended particulate matter (SPM) count in some parts of Kolkata was as high as 451 ?g/m3 on Monday, when the permissible limit is 200. RPM was more than double of the permissible standard at 229.
Experts believe the surface temperature rise has been a major factor as well. Accelerated evaporation has led to a spurt in moisture that has remained trapped, which has been triggering the smog. "It has been happening for the last two years but is more visible this year as the late monsoon has upset the weather pattern," said weather expert Subir Ghosh. He warned that the smog will only get worse till the trapped moisture escaped into upper layers.
by Raju Peddada
(Swans - December 29, 2008 - January 1, 2009) India is the antithesis to what Morocco is in every conceivable way. We were in Morocco this past summer and just three days ago returned from a trip to "incredible India," as the understated advertisement claimed. This expiatory, elegiac, and cathartic trip I undertook with family was to honor my father's memory, and was primarily to experience the "air-spaces" we lived through with him. Personal pathos restricted my visitation with some old friends, as this piercing loneliness is the hallmark of pain, suffering, and loss. This then was for being alone with my father, to experience him in mental images, in his prime guiding us in life. It was also a poignant reminder to me of how short life is and how our dysfunctions dominate our living moments. The well-known photojournalist Art Shay once referred to "air-space" as a place where one's memories took shape, a place where the air and space meant time and space lived by people, who later relive those memories by visiting those places. Another reason for the trip was my maternal cousin's son's marriage in Hyderabad. I would not have taken this trip if my father continued living.
Dear reader, you are welcome to tag along with me as I will sometimes meander and detour into my indelible memories to relive the moments I missed and loved so much. In the sixteen years elapsed I had heard many stories from all sources about India's progress, and after this decade and a half all my five senses woke up and assembled for a quick recalibration when we landed in Mumbai to change plane for Hyderabad. The feel of saturation was palpable, the smells, the colors, and the relentless bustle, a kind of urgency that you could feel but couldn't see, the rush to get ahead, survive and flourish; a complete contrast to the flaccid, languorous and indolent atmosphere in Morocco.
After we were picked up by my maternal uncle's family and an old friend at the new and expansive Hyderabad airport we were whisked in the wee hours of October 17, 2008, to a hotel in Kukatpally, a suburb there, to catch up with our sleep as the marriage loomed the following evening. I woke up suddenly at five am the next morning to this lovely evocative call, a melody I hadn't heard for decades -- it was a nightingale on a tree close by welcoming my senses back to my own lush tropical memories. This cooing was so refreshing it erased my jet lag and lingered in me for hours, a natural exculpation of sorts. Later that day we moved to my uncle's place. Their corner apartment on the ground floor was greeted daily by a buffalo dairy (Indians consume buffalo dairy and not cow dairy products) on the banks of a lake to the east, and as we moved south in the corridor with the dairy to the right, we could see the lake wrap around the apartment building as a cool easterly breeze joined us at the door. In the foreground towards the east, adjacent to the dairy, was a fishermen's shack and on the horizon across the lake stood a dusty row of belligerent buildings under construction. Considering the scenes available from most apartments, this was a veritable visual feast. Early in the mornings everyday, I was treated to a scene full of birds and the easterly breeze; one November morning in a seventy millimeter view I actually saw a blue kingfisher with a fish in its long beak, a crane, a heron sitting on floating debris, grey doves picking at the dirt by the edge, a blue jay resting on a stump, tiny yellow wrens flitting about in the bushes trying to catch the lake flies, mynas, common sparrows, ducks and ravens hopping nervously. Nightingale being a shy bird was never in sight, but her calls hallowed our mornings. Our host, our dear maternal uncle here in Kukatpally, is a character identical to Howard Roark of The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand. He and his family together are anachronisms in the 21st century, righteous to a fault in an age where "get rich at any cost" is the modus operandi.
India is the land of education and fervid ambition, as it is also the land of diversity and universities. In the afternoon of October 18, we all were accompanied by my uncle to this south Indian wedding with anticipation. The loquacious marriage milieu included my eleven male maternal cousins, "the dirty dozen," most of whom had achieved high stations by mid-life with their trenchant personalities, and also carried their grandfather's sarcasm and dry-wit gifts to new heights. It was intimidating ground for me. Besides the usual comparisons and envious glances, we were received at the wedding with warm informality and sarcastic jokes, with no perfunctory hugs or kisses on the cheeks like in the West. I loved it. What followed was a colorful wondrous marriage ceremony with feast after feast of fascinating cuisine and people that I had never seen before. The sense of taste was jolted to life after decades of all the bland fare of the West. The marriage host, a cousin -- one of the "dirty dozen" whom I admire immensely -- is a sagacious character with a certain élan, an upstanding, prominent, and retired CEO of a large petroleum refinery, reveled in our presence as well as in the panoply of successful and powerful people who attended the marriage. This was also an occasion to see all of my cousins' sisters and their grown offspring with whom I never had any contact. The splendid marriage took place in the bride's town of Hyderabad, and the reception was six hundred kilometers away at the host and groom's home in Visakhapatnam, a coastal city in an uptrend with booming real estate and burgeoning employment. With our first train trip under the belt and upon reaching their place, our host (my cousin) showered us with warmth and humor despite the surrounding marriage madness. The English shortened the name to Vizag for this Miami of India. The national highway five snaked north and south, becoming a coastal drive-through town surrounded by hills covered in dense forests. The humidity's grip is relieved by late afternoon with the westerly breeze off the Bay of Bengal. The landscape painted is of lush green rolling hills sprouted with light colored buildings amongst swaying palms and coconut groves, all under a blue sky with huge cumulous clouds. The tranquil feel of the distant views disguised the hustle that persisted below, a busy city with plans to become a modern metropolis in a hurry.
On October 24, after a few festive and restful days at Vizag, my cousin arranged to travel and accompany us to my maternal grandfather's village, where my mother and her sisters grew up -- where actually, we all grew up. The drive from Vizag in the north to the East Godavari River region and then to the West Godavari district was almost five hours on the highway, dodging everything but life. We riotously enjoyed this drive with familial humor and reminiscences of our grandfather's bone-dry character and sarcasm. We stopped by a revered pilgrimage center called Annavaram on the way for blessings and snacks, then proceded to the city of Rajahmundry. Rajahmundry, sitting on the east river bank of the mighty Godvari River, is the center of distribution for all produces and is the district headquarters with the courts. Several of our relatives still lived there and where my grandfather frequented for the court work and entertainment during his heyday. The way to the West Godavari area and our village is only by an old and long road-rail bridge. Getting through to the bridge was an adventure itself, we plied through the bustling town that was nothing but chaos to us. This old bridge over the river and its islands intertwined with the stories of our family and village. Both the riverbanks are high and dotted with ancient and idyllic temples with stairs leading to the waters called ghats for bathing. The riverbank is called Gattu and is hugged by a frontier road that runs from northwest to southeast towards the delta on the west. We crossed the bridge uneventfully and drove to a village called Thirugudumetta, the place where my mother and her older siblings were born. Upon arrival through gutted roads that shook us, we were further shaken to find that no trace of the old house had remained; the place where the roots of our maternal homestead and grandfather started and spread was no more. This pretty much set the tone for the entire trip, to my dismay, as place after place our memories had been dismantled brick by brick and stone by stone. After a few minutes of regret at Thirugudumetta we gathered and drove to Annadaverapeta through a shortcut that supposedly was used by my great grandmother, who had walked barefoot in a snake and scorpion infested area back and forth from Ragolapalli during the decades between the late 1930s and late '50s. After a lunch and respite at Annadaverapeta we headed to Ragolapalli.
A few minutes later we arrived at this is indelible and idyllic village, with a large reservoir anchored by an old common well and the familiar tamarind tree, welcoming us as it did for decades of relatives. An old place where dusty bullock carts and cattle driven lanes overhung with centuries old trees and tiled houses defined the ultimate of rural retreats. That and the smell of dust, smoke, and cow dung mixed with the sounds of a dogfight in the distance, peeking residents with questions, children's play, and coterie in discussion on a verandah told me that I was in memory's lair. My mother's village of Ragolapalli dominated my memories, as we used to visit there in summers once every few years -- oh, what vacations those were! I experienced that "transportation" today and saw myself in the company of my grandparents in pre-dawn hours sitting around the fire. I have to be content with my imagination, and imagination is a boon when it comes to these types of consummations. Unfortunately, most do not have that faculty. We also visited our ancestral "Naga" temple in the village that sat atop a hillock flanked by a huge Banyan tree to the right. This place was carved and founded by an ancestor in the late 19th century. Unfortunately the Christian converts in the village had turned the front yard of the temple into a lavatory. It is one of the most beautiful places I had ever seen despite the abuse by the local malignants. Every December my cousin from Vizag performs prayer ceremonies there despite the local politics of usurpation. The temple complex facing east is serene with foliage around and distant views of rich rice fields with swaying palms to the north that offered peace. We later drove over to my mother's school, fortunately an unchanged location with tamarinds shading the school yard. The school looked the same as it probably did at my mother's time in the forties. I saw my mother standing quietly with a far-off look on her face in that serene compound. She probably felt like I did in other places. We drove back into the village again. This time I was escorted to a Rama temple and there I was shocked to find out that this temple was intact due to my father's largesse. My father's name was welded in steel on the door to the inner sanctum in Telegu. This place pulled my cathartic trigger, which broke my dam... I missed my magnanimous father. It also evoked a longing and sadness that made me pensive and withdrawn, taking in as much as I could with the time we had. I did not want to leave the place, but like life's ironies we do what we don't desire doing. We left at sunset for "Gootala," another temple my grandparents founded by their fields for a legendary mythological deity known as Hanuman.
We drove back to Annadaverapeta, six kilometers from Ragolapalli, for respite with my lovely nieces and their family. Now here is a family that fires on all cylinders with the energy output of a huge family. They are my Vizag cousin's older sister's family. Both my nieces are princesses of positive energy and alacrity along with their parents, as they received us with immense love. A typical day for these ladies is getting up at pre-dawn to do the yard and dairy work, followed by breakfast and more housework, then getting ready and traveling one hour each way on a bus to their schools to teach, come back later in the evening to resume yard work, bantering with their lucky parents finally settling down for the night...all of this in smiles. Here we all got rejuvenated physically and morally to resume our journey. The next morning, October 25, we drove to the Kotnis Hospital where I was born, six kilometers east between Ragolapalli and Annadaverapeta. This hospital was in Tallpudi, another river town by the Godavari. After chugging down fresh coconut water, nectar of the gods, we embarked out to the last destination, Kakinada. An hour and a half later, back across the river in Kakinada, we were received warmly by two families from the same building complex, my paternal uncle and family (my father's younger brother) and my aunt and older maternal uncle (my mother's brother, the older one) a certifiable polymath and an intellectual behemoth whose affection was equal to his intellect. After my Vizag cousin left us here, it became our temporary headquarters for our visits to Tungapadu and Velangi, which are mentioned hereafter. After celebrating a thundering and exuberant Diwali with the children and adults here on October 28, we left for Tirupati by train the next evening, on my birthday.
Tirupati is the name of the town, what many Indians consider a wonder. It is the biggest as well as the most revered pilgrimage center in India and one of the most celebrated and important places in the world for Indians. It is the home of the Hindu gods of good fortune. The location of the place is over seven hills (as aptly, it is called the lord of seven hills) reached only by a dizzying drive or for the strong-kneed and morally resolute, ten hours by climbing seven kilometers of hills. It is literally a heaven with protected forests and flower gardens, waterfalls and lakes, passing clouds and birds with a super efficient complex to process all the thousands of pilgrims that show up daily. On October 30, we experienced an epiphany in our struggle to see the lord. A struggle that involved being breathless in a jostling crowd, a crowd that was an organism out of control except for the railing that hemmed us in. The tight turns on the route is where we got pulverized, no place for the old or the tots as we managed with singular determination to see him. My wife, the non-believer, did better than most believers with her proactive attitude. She helped vigorously with our goal as we eventually were all relieved and grateful in the end to see the god. We sat there taking in the big picture and experiencing what millions do when they go to St. Peter's or Mecca or Bodh Gaya. It was indeed a visit of a lifetime with my two little boys who did not complain. Life blurs by if we get mired in the details and not see the bigger picture. Similar to that of the scenes from the various trains we traveled on. From a window of the train, the foreground blurs by, and as we lift up to see the landscape at mid-distance it is slower than the foreground, and the beautiful distant views are hardly moving.
The train, as we all know, is a delightful metaphor for life; it unites, it separates, it propels us, it moves us from one station to another literally and figuratively, it brings us into contact with friends who stay with us till the end or get off never to be seen again. There is something inexorable about an oncoming train, bringing good or bad omens. India is the land of trains and restless brains; it is also a land of parallels and contrasts. Trains have not changed much except now there are twenty-five thousand speedy trains spread like blood vessels throughout India to carry the marriage parties, pilgrims, job seekers, and tourists like us from place to place; a good percentage of the billion-plus on the move every year. The adventure that is the Indian trains begins after you purchase your tickets, which by itself is another story. We usually brought second-class three tier sleeper tickets. At the train station once your rail compartment is identified on a posted chart, the shoving, jostling, accusations of usurpation, and expletives exchange ensues, and the tough and the meek eventually get to their seats. Before the first stop all the surly and vociferous behavior and animosity mysteriously dissolves into camaraderie, and sharing of space as well as foods become commonplace. By the time you get off, ten, fifteen, or twenty-four hours later, you will have exchanged your phone numbers, personal information, and discussed intimate details that a few hours before seemed impossible and abhorrent. The Indian train journeys are tales by themselves and a tonic for the intrepid traveler; that is if you can transcend the scenes once the train stops.
One such revivifying train journey we embarked on October 31 was from Katpadi Junction in Tamil Nadu on the east coast to Mangalore Central on the west coast, cutting across lush green countryside and the sub-continent. Once the train moved and picked up speed, we were hypnotized by the gentle rocking of the train accompanied by a constant metallic lullaby of the wheels on rails...tek-taa-tek-tek, tek-taa-tek-tek, tek-taa-tek-tek. This and the settled fellow travelers' banter mingled in with intermittent vendor calls for tea and coffee made for a surreal personal reverie. To elevate all of this was the cool easterly breeze and the green clouds of lushness outside that blurred away with sudden exclamation of hamlets punctuating the landscape. One primal experience on the way with my older son was fantastic to say the least. On a train gliding at nearly one hundred kilometers per hour, we sat on the doorstep with feet dangling, with the door of the railcar completely ajar and nothing to hold but the bars on each side; and there was nothing between the blurring greenery outside and the train, with danger as the third companion. The whizzing countryside and villages, the breeze in the face and the gentle rocking, and the continuous symphony of the wheels all glowed in my son's innocent eyes; the joy of this short adventure for him outweighed all of the risk in logic, not possible anywhere but here. A train is always a fascinating sight no matter how many times you see it in a day. Upon slowing down near approaching stations we could see children and adults on verandahs of their tiled cottages or thatched huts gazing at us slide by. The mango orchards, the sugarcane fields, the swaying coconut and palm groves and the thick impenetrable tropical undergrowth, the colorful people, the quaint unfinished homes, the small sleepy stations with dozing travelers, the paddy fields with water buffalos and women with earthen water cisterns balanced on their bobbing heads were like essential elements and notes of an elaborate natural symphony; something that cannot be replicated by deliberate diligence but only by randomness of life and its chaotic movements in serendipitous juxtapositions. The rural scenes in the south beckoned me with promises of simple unburdened life, away from high-tech toys, bills, and real estate taxes. The small stations aspired to bigness, but it's their size that made them idyllic. All stations were identified by three languages: the local state language like Telegu, then the national medium of Hindi, and the universal one of English.
When our mesmerizing train journey terminated at Mangalore Central at five am on November 1st, we arrived looking like unkempt gypsies in desperate need of showers. To our great relief we were rescued by our warm lady host and her precocious children, who welcomed us into their affluent hearth and drenched us with their love and hospitality throughout our stay till November 4. We tasted new cuisine and fruits that we never had before. Now here is our host, who had met my father and mother for less than an hour in early 2007 on a bus to Bangalore. Even though I never saw her, our communication grew closer, like that of a family member, and we eventually acquiesced to this idea to visit her to validate and honor my father's last new friend. I am certain he would have been happy for this. While in Mangalore we visited a beach on the Arabian Sea and another fantastic temple complex in Kateel, suspended on a rock in a gushing river. I will not forget this place as long as I am alive -- it was a spiritual oasis. We took three such trips, including one from Hyderabad to New Delhi and back on November 12 through the 19th, which we will be etched in our psyches, simply for the company we had and for the magnificent countryside that went from lush green to sandy brown to lush green in scenic transformations and monuments of history spanning millennia no matter which direction we panned.
India is a land of beauty and yet the scene of dereliction of duty. There is revulsion against the political class here where corruption is endemic. This is a country that is flirting with the title superpower. How can a superpower's leadership buy twenty-year-old Russian carriers and submarines instead of building their own with all that steel available? Where is the plan and accountability for national hygiene sanitation and waste management? The back streets and train thoroughfares are filled with organic filth in India, but are we any better in the U.S., where one household produces enough garbage to supplant fifty households there, and what about all that filth we consume off of our colorful and enticing supermarket shelves...all that processed food? Again, where is the commitment to have secure water supplies for the population despite being the land of incessant rainfall and rivers? What are the priorities for the leadership? One early morning I saw my cousin, the CEO, waiting by his water cisterns virtually praying for the municipal water to come and fill them. We lived through the same problem in New Delhi in the 1970s when I used to pull buckets of water to our first floor apartment in an upscale area. The water problem hasn't been solved, yet the government spends and sends a rocket to orbit the moon -- is it for water? Progress does not mean cells phones, more cars, overpasses, and a space program. To me real progress is attitudinal change, the availability of basic amenities and infrastructure to benefit all, and unfortunately, given the population and political climate there, this progress is perpetually on the drawing board. Meanwhile, the business community keeps trucking, pulling the country to prestige and power. India is also the land of tropical fruits and political brutes. Most people here belong to associations, groups, sects, religious orders, fan clubs, political clubs and parties, hero and saint worshipper groups. Film stars attain sainthood once they become politicians with bizarre manifestos. This is the land of the gullible and the culpable, each trafficking their own brand of political potion for the private accounts. The average citizen is so fed up and cynical with the government bungling on floods, traffic, filth, and pollution issues, the rallying cry of the citizenry now is "just deliver to us a world-standard antiterrorism plan." The multiple-party system also causes political traffic jams tying up the coalition governance with no real solutions for huge nationwide problems and needs.
The traffic laws are made to be broken here. Anybody who honors traffic laws becomes a hazard. The scene of a whole family of five (father, mother, two toddlers, and an infant) on a motorcycle with the mother holding the infant in one arm, weaving, stopping suddenly, swerving and riding through the polluted chaos, is simultaneously confounding and astounding; and this being the only means of transport for thousands makes this sight ubiquitous. What becomes a bloody joke is the fact that last summer I exited a parking lot in an armored Tahoe in Chicago at fifteen miles per hour while working on our safety belts, as we were suddenly pulled over for violating a safety ordinance, and to make it worse, there was minimal traffic. Where is the common sense with the cops? I feel that common sense has been wiped out by our litigious culture. In a twisted and convoluted manner I liked the skillful driving here -- it is slow and excruciating, but every rider and driver depends on his anticipation, reflexes, awareness, and foresight. Traffic becomes a riddle and an applicable metaphor. Once in Hyderabad I purposefully stood in a corner watching the traffic and was literally stupefied by the patternless movement, its randomness, and the jolting unpredictability. I saw individual riders and drivers go in any direction they pleased creating bottlenecks, stoppages, and chaos; all that with infinite patience of the violated. The horn is a tool to prod others to move, whereas in the U.S. it is offensive to honk at anyone. There they request you in writing behind their vehicles to "sound horn please." Every little nuance in the traffic condition is discounted by the driver and a reflexive adaptation is instantaneous. They drive and ride the ebb and flow like a floating weed in a stream. There is no such thing as stopping. Laws have given way to the instincts and order had acquiesced to anticipation in a chaos that pits man-made law versus the natural law. Instincts overwhelm instructions and what seems like chaos outside is actually order on the inside. India is like the sea. You cannot legislate and police the sea. It will find its own level and equilibrium in the common sense. In my forty-plus days I did not witness one accident in this game of survival. The traffic in India telegraphs something else to me, the urgency to earn where there are no welfare handouts, and if you don't work, you don't eat. Where have all these values disappeared in the American society?
India is ancient and prescient. It is living antiquity as well as Asian serenity. I wandered around the country experiencing the air-spaces we lived through. As an ardent romanticist I revere writers that can experience the "transportation" like Marcel Proust, Edward Gibbon, Paul Theroux, Brian Fagan, V.S. Naipaul, and Jane Taylor did. I would be hopelessly engrossed in places with great antiquities and history like Greece, Italy, India, Egypt, China, and Turkey; and that is what happened in India to me. If antiquity in the U.S. is measured by seventy-year-old Coca Cola bottles, hundred-year-old stock certificates in collections, or three-hundred-year-old forts, the antiquity barometer in India is confounding to say the least. Here people still live in buildings and use tools that were built when Europe was going through a renaissance. I managed to finagle a pewter water container from my nieces that my grandmother had used in her youth -- it is probably a hundred years old and they were still using it. We also visited an ancestral Shiva temple built by my paternal ancestor in 1818, and once inside I peered at the inscription on a bronze bell that was donated in the late nineteenth century by a great aunt who adopted and raised my grandfather whose name I carry. My father visited his mother's village like I did as a child every now and then and probably played around the temple, where I was now standing in all solemnity and mawkish humility. It is tough to describe the feelings that welled up inside me. Writing becomes futile when trying to express the myriad feelings, emotions, and longings that emanate inside instantaneously, and which can never be shared. I believe that the business of pain, suffering, longing, and reminiscing cannot be shared; they are issues that are intrinsically exclusive to individuals and diminish in dignity once shared.
I traveled to my "personal" pilgrimage centers of mother and father's birth places, villages where they grew up and went to school. I was a whisper waiting for that fateful meeting between my parents decades ago, the bushes and the ruts where my father played with his cousins and the tamarind trees that my mother climbed in her innocence. The villages and the atmosphere had not changed much since those glorious and fuzzy days, only the spaces had been transformed. Most of these spaces we lived through were destroyed by the vicissitudes of land values and development, except for one place, where my father was born. The house in the remote interior village of Old Tungapadu is a dark brooding and gloomy mansion built nearly two hundred years ago for the biggest landlord of the area, my paternal ancestor known as Punyamurthula. My father had eight aunts and all of them came to their maternal home in Old Tungapadu to deliver their offspring, and my father was one of them. I met the last surviving, dignified, and reticent ninety-plus-year-old aunt of my father, as she guided us to the room where all the birthing took place. It was a metaphysical experience for me, witnessed by the present occupants of the house, who certainly must have thought of this strange intrusion in their calm lives. The room where my father was born probably looked as it did a hundred years ago; with a century old bed and wardrobe, a musty smoky aroma permeated the room suggesting time that had elapsed, I stood there without a word. Words cannot do anything in moments like these; you just feel your viability in the birth of your father and move on, no banal statements or grandiose platitude to belittle that space. Again, somehow I managed my emotions.
Two hours later we, with my paternal uncle and his son, left Old Tungapadu and drove between bright green paddy fields with the afternoon breeze creating waves on the green rice grass towards Velangi, an hour drive to my grandfather's village where my father grew up and came of age. There again I was very disappointed to see only an empty lot where my grandfather's house stood. This again is the air-space where my father and uncle were conceived in the 1930s and me in February 1956. The weight of the moment and the utter loneliness I coped with was with great difficulty, as this "picture" loomed huge emotionally on my total being. I got out of there holding it in. With all the changes in the locations the "space" part of the equation had been decimated and remains only in the mind's eye. Memories that took shape at these locations decades ago are now relegated to my mind, as the tangible location is no more. In New Delhi, where our family spent the most years from 1966 through '81, it was quite devastating to see the whole landscape transformed, vanished as they said in "Gone with the Wind." Delhi was an open space and today every urban crevice is saturated with structure, the streets I walked are no more, unrecognizable. It became another kind of pain inflicted with these changes to all those comfort zones I knew.
How can we explain India in a few lines? It is like transplanting a gigantic Banyan tree...impossible! India must be seen and felt, and the best way to see India is to experience its tolerance. As a typical American, it is the impossible that interests me, so, let me try. The history of India is a massive palimpsest that is layers within layers of civilizations, settlements, kingdoms, barbaric invasions, and resettlements. It is an imperative to have an acute mental and visual tweezers to surgically pry each layer of fact, myth, and legend that is the Indian history, if you are serious. Otherwise it is better to cultivate a passing interest like many tourists do in its history as details can overwhelm even a serious history buff. From tea leaves to the Taj Mahal, this is a country where there is no separation between the antiquity, present, and modernity; it is all an agglomeration for survival, an existential mandate, and quite inseparable. It is the land of paradoxes, dichotomies, juxtapositions, and parallels. Everything is congruent and incongruent at the same time. India is the Athens of possibilities and a New York of opportunities -- to comprehend, assimilate, mingle, adapt, survive, and grow tolerant. Despite the genocidal and proselytizing Islamic invasions starting in the tenth century and continuing through the seventeenth century British incursion and domination, the Vedic culture has remained intact and resilient through its tolerance regardless of all the intolerant "visitors." This unique and breathtaking culture finds unity in its diversity and diversions within this unity. This is nation where cognitive dissonance is as ubiquitous as elephants on streets along with BMWs and Bentleys; and where donkeys ply the main streets with CAT and Mac trucks, and where shepherds wielding cell phones guide their flocks through downtowns. The myriad dialects, languages from state to state, and indigenous cuisines that flourish here at grass roots level are beyond comprehension and a mysterious monument unto themselves. India is a living wonder, inexplicable to the thick and a chaos that is an oasis for the senses, with belief systems and societal movements resulting in compromise surfacing like fat on rich buffalo milk. All belief systems here cross-pollinate invariably generating a social lubrication that keeps the society within societies steaming along with the occasional combustions. Combustions will become frequent in this lovely paradise of tolerance as they sit on a ticking time bomb in the Muslim population, particularly the radicals, according to Mr. Douglas Feith, undersecretary of defense for policy in the U.S. The noted Indian historian Ramachandra Guha also wrote on the Muslim problem titled "India's Dangerous Divide" in The Wall Street Journal dated December 6, 2008. In contrast to the other ideology, the fundamental necessity of the Hindu majority is to visit and see their revered ones, and upon reflection, it is not a bad idea. I would rather see humans on this earth that assume the mantle of a god with their deeds, like Gandhi, Buddha, Mother Teresa, and Pope John Paul II than some ideology with dogmas and doctrines to keep us in perpetual fear, hatred, and war. All the religious and social groups within the country are watered and nurtured by tolerance, a great nutrient from the Hindu culture. Despite all the problems, India is one of the happiest places on earth and it showed on the individuals every day I was there. My observation was affirmed by my wife and in the best-selling book titled The Geography of Bliss. If I want to visit there again, it will not just be for the world renowned monuments and natural wonders, but certainly for another great living wonder of that civilization, "tolerance," which is as tangible, delectable, and succulent as a custard apple...ask my Moroccan wife.
About the Author
Raju Peddada is an industrial designer running an eponymous brand, purveyor of ultra luxury furnishings of his own design (see peddada.com). He is also a freelance correspondent/writer for several publications, specializing in commentary, essay, and opinions on architecture, design, photography, books, fashion, society, and culture. Peddada was born in Tallapudi, a small southern town in south India. He's lived in New Delhi and Bombay before migrating to the West Indies and eventually settling in Chicago, Illinois, where he worked in corporate America until he chose to set up his own designing firm. He lives with his family in Des Plaines.
Please, feel free to insert a link to this work on your Web site or to disseminate its URL on your favorite lists, quoting the first paragraph or providing a summary. However, please DO NOT steal, scavenge, or repost this work on the Web or any electronic media. Inlining, mirroring, and framing are expressly prohibited. Pulp re-publishing is welcome -- please contact the publisher. This material is copyrighted, © Raju Peddada 2009. All rights reserved.
2009 Predictions - Swans
Bengal's blueprint best in country, forgotten in state
3 Jan 2009, 0421 hrs IST, Krishnendu Bandyopadhyay, TNN
If you are wondering how the government managed to tie itself in knots over the two-stroke auto ban issue, this will surprise you even more: it was
the West Bengal government which formulated the model that Delhi and Bangalore later used to cut down pollution, but the Left Front government failed to implement its own formula.
The West Bengal government's report to Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) in 1999 was regarded as the best possible model for the use of alternative fuel in automobile sector. The blueprint was passed on to each state government to be emulated. While Delhi and Bangalore implemented it to perfection years ago, the state which drafted the model, dug itself deeper into the pollution muddle.
"Not only that. When Delhi went on implementing the clean-fuel charter by making the entire auto-fleet to switch to CNG, a huge portion of condemned two stroke autos were transferred to Kolkata, where there was little respect for emission norms. So, we excelled in being dreamers, but never tried to follow up on our words," said environmentalist Tanmoy Rudra.
"In response to the NC Mehta case, the Supreme Court had said that pollution needed to be curbed in other major cities in India where automobile emission is completely unchecked. The court asked CPCB to seek reports from state governments. The most impressive report was sent by the West Bengal environment department, which was immediately accepted as the model worth emulating across the country," said Rudra.
In the report, the environment department had suggested that the majority of automobiles in the city the entire auto fleet in particular should shift to LPG.
"It's really sad to see that the state government failed to follow what it foresaw 10 years ago," said Rudra. Although given six months by Calcutta High Court, the state government did little to educate auto owners about the impending change or tell them about the government subsidies. The result: panic.
One of the problems is that in Kolkata, autos run as stage carriages whereas in every other city, they run as contract carriages. "As a stage-carriage, an auto cannot violate its designated route. So, availing LPG is a problem if the dispensing station is not on the route. In other cities, autos run as contract carriages and on meter, just as taxis do. They can fuel up wherever they want," said a transport officer.
KMC has no alternative to overburdened Dhapa
28 Dec 2008, 0429 hrs IST, S P Gon Chaudhuri, TNNGarbage is gold. That's what the tonnes of waste that gets generated in Kolkata can actually be turned into. The city generates a whopping 4,000
tonnes of municipal waste, which is now being dumped at Dhapa.
The present site is overburdened and KMC isn't ready with an alternative. But when the civic body does decide to switch to another place, it has to be a paradigm shift in the way it views and handles waste. Simply dumping the entire garbage is neither environment-friendly, nor commercially sound.
Had a little more attention been paid to the issue, Kolkata could have gone in for landfill engineering, where garbage is disposed scientifically in a way that prevents soil and ground water contamination and enables generation of electricity through methane extraction.
But given the sheer quantity of garbage generated in Kolkata, it isn't possible to adopt landfill engineering, as it requires a large tract of land, which one cannot locate near the city.
Moving away will not serve the purpose, as transportation cost of garbage will go up, and so will pollution.
The way forward for Kolkata is to go in for refuse derived fuel (RDF) technology, where waste is segregated into biodegradable and non-degradable segments. The biodegradable portion can be dried to form cakes for use as fuel in boilers that generate electricity. Some of it can also be used in making bricks.
There is also plasma technology, which entails combustion of biodegradable waste at very high temperature, so that there is no pollution. Given the amount of pollution in Kolkata, the city can seriously look at this technology that has been adopted in all major cities in the world, including Washington DC, Shanghai and Tokyo.
Of the 4,000 tonnes of waste generated in Kolkata, at least 40% should be biodegradable. If properly utilized, I believe it is possible to generate 40 MW of electricity from the refuse.
The non-degradable portion can be sorted to recycle ferrous and non-ferrous metals. The rejects can be processed into compost or mixed with stones to go in for brick-making.
As for the present dump, much of it would already have turned into soil, making it difficult for use as
One can convert the mounds of rubbish into hillocks that develop into destination points like Swabhumi and PC Chandra Gardens have come up on rubbish heaps.
(As told to Subhro Niyogi)
The author is managing director, West Bengal Green Energy Development Corporation, which promotes the use of renewables
Autos spew toxic chemicals: Study
31 Dec 2008, 0444 hrs IST, Prithvijit Mitra, TNN
KOLKATA: The autorickshaw strike on Monday may have caused some inconvenience to commuters but Kolkata breathed easier. And if your eyes started
burning and watering again on Tuesday, blame it on the return of the three-wheeled polluting machines.
What had always been suspected is about to be officially confirmed. A study being conducted by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) reveals that the level of volatile organic compounds (VOC) chemicals emitted by vehicles has crossed the danger mark in Kolkata. Autos are most likely the biggest contributor of pollutants, it says.
When autos went off the streets in large parts of Kolkata on Monday against the high court ban, the difference in air quality was starkly evident. So was the relief among residents. SPM, RPM and Nox (oxides of nitrogen) counts dropped sharply. But the respite was brief. Pollution rose to danger levels yet again when autos returned to clog the city on Tuesday.
"While it won't be correct to blame autos entirely for the poor air quality, they are certainly a big contributor. This is particularly true for pockets of the city in south and central Kolkata where thousands of autos ply. The picture is grim and it is getting worse," said Anjali Srivastav, deputy director of the National Environmental Engineering Institute (NEERI) which is conducting the study on behalf of CPCB.
According to the NEERI study, VOC levels have crossed the danger mark at Kasba, Cossipore and Lalbazar. The research commenced in August this year and will conclude a year later. A final report will be prepared by November after the data is analyzed. It will not only offer a clear picture on vehicular pollution, but also pinpoint the sources of the noxious chemicals.
"We shall do a chemical mass balance model study to identify the source of the chemicals. It will soon be clear if autos are the real culprits. Preliminary studies indicate that they are," added Srivastav. VOC has never been measured in Kolkata even though they have been computed in other metros like Delhi and Mumbai.
While petrol leads to benzene emission, diesel creates a mixture of harmful gases. Kaata tel or adulterated fuel, used by thousands of autos, emit harmful chemicals in larger volumes. "Benzene emission is much higher if adulterated fuel is used. Most autos use it so it is obvious that pollution levels are much higher in auto-infested zones. This study should finally shake the authorities into action," said environmental scientist Dipankar Chakraborti.
VOC, he pointed out, penetrated the lungs more easily than suspended particulate matter. "We need to be more careful about chemicals than suspended particles," Chakraborti warned.
Some, however, felt that autos are being needlessly singled out. "Only autos using adulterated fuel should be banned. The rest pollute only as much as any other vehicle," said Sivabrata Chatterjee, environment consultant.
Don’t play politics in development: Somnath
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Express News Service
Posted: Jan 01, 2009 at 0139 hrs IST
Kolkata Stressing that development projects should not be an issue of political confrontation, Speaker Somnath Chatterjee on Wednesday termed the withdrawal of the Nano car plant from Singur as a “sad” episode.
Addressing the concluding ceremony of the 22nd Industrial Trade Fair at Milan Mela ground, Chatterjee said: “On the issue of all round development there should be no conflict, no hesitation and no competition.” He said that land acquisition is not unique to Bengal and it has happened across the country.
“There is a propaganda that there is no scope of industrialisation in West Bengal following the withdrawal of the Nano project,” he said while sharing the dais with the state Industry Minister Nirupam Sen. “I am totally out of the political scenario and will remain out of it. But development should not be a matter of confrontation.”
The Speaker also put his weight behind the organising of fairs at Kolkata Maidan. “There is a lot of talks going on about pollution. Of the 365 days in a year, if fairs are held for 100 days there should be no opposition to it.”
Insisting that he is not criticising the judiciary, he also questioned why books should not be sold at the Maidan.
According to Somnath, the policy of confrontation and fractured policies have made the parliamentary democracy weak. “I got the opportunity to enter Parliament in 1971, but looking back in 2008 I feel sad that the respect once the parliamentarians received is missing now,” he added.
Air to lung to DNA
Air pollutants damage genes, affect human behaviour
THE air you breathe in may affect your health in more ways than you think. Besides causing respiratory disorders and hypertension, pollution may be damaging genes and changing human behaviour, revealed a study on health of urban population in Delhi and rural population West Bengal and Uttarakhand.
The Central Pollution Control Board (cpcb) sponsored the study that links the pollutant, pm 10 (particulate matter smaller than 10 microns), to these illnesses. The central regulatory authority recently prescribed stricter norms for a number of air toxins and pollutants but omitted revision of the standard for pm 10.
“We have focused on physical and mental health of minors and adults exposed to air pollution,” said Manas Ranjan Ray, head of the experimental haematology department of Chittaranjan National Cancer Institute (cnci) based in Kolkata and the key researcher.
The group compared the health of 11,628 schoolchildren and 6,005 adults living in Delhi for more than 10 years to that of 4,536 schoolchildren and 1,046 adults in rural West Bengal and Uttarakhand.
“The study establishes the clinical link between respiratory problems and urbanization,” said Randeep Guleria, professor of medicine, aiims. He added that doctors have been observing a spiral in chronic diseases like allergic rhinitis, asthma, chronic bronchitis and coronary diseases.
The researchers found that the lungs of people living in Delhi were not functioning well— 43.5 per cent children and 40.3 per cent of adults showed lung function deficit. People living in rural areas were better off as only 25.7 per cent children and 20.1 per cent adults were found suffering from lung function deficit. The poor were found more vulnerable. Street vendors and drivers were the worst affected. Residents of South Delhi fared better and had lower incidence of respiratory diseases compared to those living in North, Central and West Delhi. Though South Delhi has more vehicles, air quality in the area was better as industries did not add to the pollution.
The effect of the pollutants on dna was determined by studying the epithelial cells of mouth and throat. Non-smokers in Delhi had 2.3 times more micronuclei or mn compared to non-smokers in rural West Bengal and Uttarakhand. mn is indicative of damage to cell chromosomes and is usually found in smokers. The study correlated pm 10 with mn formation in epithelial cells and dna damage in lymphocytes.
Sputum examination of people in Delhi showed large number of white blood cells, neutrophils, eosinophils and lymphocytes. These indicated pulmonary infection, inflammation, allergy and hypersensitivity. The sputum samples also showed greater risk of damage to the bronchial and alveolar walls that could lead to emphysema or swelling of the alveolar sacs along and bronchitis. The researchers also studied the impact of long-term exposure to air pollution on human behaviour. They found that children from medium and low-income families had higher incidence of attention deficit disorder. Rich children were prone to high blood pressure.
Adults also showed a correlation between pm 10 levels in ambient air and blood pressure. Rise in blood pressure appeared to be a major risk factor for reduced lung function. pm 10 levels and benzene exposure were also confirmed to cause short-term memory loss. Blood tests showed susceptibility to liver diseases among adults, said the report recently published by cpcb.
The study recommended stricter air pollution norms. “Potential health impact on children should be the main criterion for setting up standards for an air pollutant or establishing an industry in a locality,” Ray said. “Introduction of public transport fuelled by cng has improved Delhi’s air quality. But pollution levels are still higher than the prescribed standards; the increase in vehicular population is diluting the benefits of cng use,” added Ray.
Business Asks Australia to Ease Carbon Trade
Source: Planet Ark (Australia)
Environment groups demanded on Friday that Australia ignore the "greenhouse mafia" as major energy and mining companies met the government to demand greater compensation for a coming emissions trading regime.
The government is planning to introduce one of the world's biggest carbon trading schemes by 2010 that will force companies to buy permits to cover their emissions, putting a market price on carbon that will encourage firms to clean up their pollution.
Big business told the government this month the scheme could be a "company killer", driving big emitters offshore or out of business.
Energy Minister Martin Ferguson met more than 70 large firms at parliament to talk over their concerns on Friday.
"Giving millions of dollars of taxpayers' money to rich companies to allow them to continue polluting is immoral and uneconomic," Greenpeace climate campaigner Trish Harrup said ahead of the meeting.
The centre-left government plans to introduce carbon trading by mid-2010 to help curb greenhouse gas emissions, blamed for global warming, with compensation for consumers and help for businesses facing higher energy costs.
Under the scheme still being discussed to target 1,000 large companies, energy firms will receive 30 percent of carbon permits for free, with hefty initial subsidies for other big polluters to be slowly phased out.
Companies with more than 2,000 tonnes of emissions per A$1 million in revenue would pay for only 10 percent of total emissions, while companies producing 1,500-2,000 tonnes of carbon would pay for 40 percent of their emissions.
But the country's top business lobby, the Business Council of Australia, representing 100 major firms, this month said emissions-intensive exporters in the refining, cement, coal and steel sectors would need higher-than-promised compensation to stay competitive.
Ferguson initially met three groups covering energy-intensive industries, followed by other strongly affected firms such as road transport, shipping and power generators. Tourism companies followed in a third meeting.
Ferguson's office would not name participants. But miners BHP Billiton, Rio Tinto and Xstrata, plus energy firms Woodside Petroleum and ExxonMobil were believed to be closely involved.
Woodside, Australia's second-largest oil and gas producer, this month said emissions trading as planned could jeopardise a massive liquefied natural gas (LNG) project off the west coast.
Prime Minister Kevin Rudd this week said tackling climate change would inevitably cost business money, but promised "reasonable people" would be able to negotiate a way forward.
Australian newspapers said Ferguson was willing to compromise on extra compensation or assistance, while powerful Climate Change Minister Penny Wong favoured a tougher approach.
Australia is the world's 16th biggest carbon polluter, accounting for about 1.5 percent of global emissions, but produces five times more carbon pollution per person than China and is the fourth-largest per-capita emitter.
But scientists say the country is also at high risk from global warming, which is expected to bring greater extremes of droughts and floods, rising seas and is likely to cause shifts in agricultural production and endanger the Great Barrier Reef.
A government report earlier this year said emissions from transport were projected to increase 42 percent on 1990 levels by 2012, and be 67 percent higher by 2020, while industrial process emissions would rise 49 percent by 2012 and 95 percent by 2020.
But while emissions per-capita would fall 13 percent from 1990 levels, from 33 tonnes to 28 tonnes, by 2012, they would climb back to 29 tonnes per person by 2020, it said. (US$1 = A$1.16) (Editing by David Fogarty)
Scientists can extend mission life of Chandrayaan-I
4 Jan 2009, 1605 hrs IST, PTI
SHILLONG: Scientists can now extend the duration of India's maiden moon mission Chandrayaan-I beyond its planned two-year period.
The precise launch and lunar orbit insertion of Chandrayaan-I has given space scientists the leverage to extend the mission life of the spacecraft orbiting the moon at an altitude of 100 km.
"The spacecraft has about 183 kg fuel onboard and we are looking at a two-year plus mission life," S K Shivakumar, Director ISRO Telemetry, Tracking and Command Network (ISTRAC) said at the 96th Indian Science Congress here.
Principal scientists involved in all the 10 experiments onboard the spacecraft are meeting in Bangalore on January 29 to discuss the initial findings of the moon mission.
Orbital manoeuvres need to be carried out on the spacecraft once every 28 days to ensure that it stays in the designated 100 km circular orbit and does not go astray.
"About three kg fuel is used when onboard motors are fired for carrying out the orbital manoeuvre," said Shivakumar, whose team has been monitoring the spacecraft ever since it's launch on October 22 last year.
Chandrayaan-I was launched with an orbital accuracy of five km making India the first country to achieve such a precise maiden mission, ISRO Chairman G Madhavan Nair said.
The Chandrayaan-I mission has been sending "unprecedented" amount of data and scientists are busy analysing it.
Is the worst over for Wall Street?
4 Jan 2009, 2100 hrs IST, REUTERS
LONDON: Investors begin the first full week of 2009 trading on Monday with one question in mind: Is the worst over? Events that changed Dalal Street
Given that a 38 per cent loss on the broad US S&P 500 stock index last year was actually one of the better performances on stock markets, it is hard for some investors to imagine otherwise.
Indeed, December ended on a rare up note, with global stocks putting in something of a rally.
MSCI's main gauge of global stocks, its all-country world index, gained almost 3.6 per cent for the month, its first gain since May and the sixth best performance in two years.
Its generally riskier emerging market counterpart -- one of the worst performers of 2008 with losses of 54.5 per cent -- gained 7.6 per cent in December, also its first gain in seven months.
Some sentiment indicators, such as the Reuters monthly investment polls, also showed some return to risk appetite.
So it would not be a major surprise if some of the most recent gains spilled over into the new year because many investors have argued that stocks are attractively priced.
Many are also expecting financial markets to return to more normal patterns during the year.
Next fiscal will be painful for exports: FICCI
4 Jan 2009, 1626 hrs IST, IANS
NEW DELHI: Aggressive pricing by Chinese exporters, coupled with lack of credit flow and cancellation of orders, is crippling India's exports,
which may go down further in the first half of 2009, said an industry lobby survey, released here on Sunday.
According to the report by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (Ficci), Indian exporters are facing 'meet the China price' challenge from across the market.
Many Indian exporters have already cut their prices by an average 10-15 per cent or even more in some cases to retain their hold in the market.
Over 360 companies representing sectors like automotive, consumer durables, food and food processing, leather, marine products, gems and jewellery, textiles, IT and pharmaceuticals, participated in the survey.
According to the respondents, despite the easing of the monetary policy by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), banks are still maintaining their "conservative stance" towards export finance.
Nearly 56 per cent of the companies said they have faced at least a few cases of cancellation of orders. There have also been several cases where the international buyers have defaulted on their payments or are refusing to accept delivery of consignments.
The respondents demanded that the government "do more" to bail them out of the crisis.
Nearly 51 per cent of the companies said they expect a dip in exports in the next six months, while 62 per cent said export prices would further go down during the period.
Most of the exporters are worried over the aggressive pricing by the Chinese exporters. Backed by their government, the Chinese exporters have reduced prices drastically in the international market, forcing others to follow suit.
Close to 60 per cent of the companies said they were going slow on fresh hiring.
Manufacturing to face the heat of global slowdown
4 Jan 2009, 1144 hrs IST, PTI
MUMBAI: Sales in manufacturing sector is likely to witness a slowdown in the quarter ending December on account of steep fall in the commodity
prices, a report said.
"Although healthy, we expect the growth in net sales of the manufacturing sector to slow down to 26 per cent in the quarter ending December 2008 compared to 37 per cent in the quarter ended September 08," Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE) said in its report.
The performance of the manufacturing sector is expected to deteriorate on the profit front as well, the report said.
While apparels sector was expected to slip into the red, sector like steel, copper, aluminium, alkalies, edible oils, automobiles and auto components were likely to witness fall in net profits, it said.
The expected moderation in growth has been attributed primarily to the steep fall in commodity prices.
"Due to the lower unit realisation, sectors like edible oils, steel, copper, aluminium are expected to report a slower growth in sales in the December quarter," the report said.
"We expect the manufacturing sector to continue to grapple with the problem of high raw material costs, while the sharp rise in the cost of borrowings amid the current liquidity crunch is also expected to hamper their profitability," CMIE said.
Chambers want more measures
3 Jan 2009, 0242 hrs IST, ET Bureau
Apex industry associations on Friday said deeper rate cuts and more specific measures for small and medium-scale companies are needed to boost
business.Reacting to the package, CII said while government expenditure will generate employment, steps are needed to improve flow of credit to SMEs.
CII president KV Kamath said: “We expect RBI to slash CRR further. Moreover, completion of infrastructure projects worth Rs 1,00,000 crore over the next 18 months, as envisaged in the package, will provide a significant stimulus to the economy.”
Industry body FICCI said after the cut in CRR, repo rate and reverse repo rate, banks will start lending to corporates. Secretary general Amit Mitra said the combination of monetary and fiscal measures will address a wide range of economic issues. “More such measures need to be taken in future,” he added.
Assocham said CRR reduction should have been at par with the cut in reverse repo rate. “The SLR should be brought down to 20% from existing 24% and we hope that RBI will gradually rationalise CRR, repo and reverse repo to 2004 levels,” said Assocham secretary general D S Rawat.