Author(s): Nabina Das
Source: Down to Earth
Tags: Cauvery, Karnataka, Water Distribution, India
THE dispute between Karnataka and Tamil Nadu regarding the distribution of the Cauvery river water in the winter of 1995, had become a constitutional crisis, Early this year, the Narasimha Rao government appointed a three- member panel which was expected to submit a report to the Centre after assessing the crop pattern and stress in the Cauvery basin and the delta (Down To Earth, Vol 4, No 18). According to Y K Alagh, vice-chancellor, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, and head of the panel, the report has recently been submitted to the government. although it has not been made public yet. Earlier reports had assessed crop condition in region during normal rainfall seasons, and not in the dry months. Speaking to Down To Earth on February 1, Y K Alagh, refusing to comment categorically on the panel's findings, said, "I think both the states are great, and I am glad to render my service for a national cause. I can only say that the crisis is a seasonal problem, under discussion since last quarter of the last century, with which the farmers in both the states have learnt to live. External water supply may be required to lessen their sufferings." In Alagh's opinion, southern India has a very complex crop pattern (rotating kuruva, samba and thaladi rice crops) dependent mainly on the north- east monsoon, as opposed to the north Indian crop pattern. The 'canal colonies' that modem Punjab boasts of today, were in fact, already present in the state of Mysore since long. His observations reaffirmed the position held by many experts that the crisis stems largely from the recent shift over to water-intensive cash crops, Several experts have opined that the failure of the northeast monsoon last year, triggered the recent crisis in the Cauvery basin. The dams had very little water; even satellite pictures showed a very low index of both ground and surface water. The VC pointed out the correlation of the present water crisis: Tamil Nadu's needs heighten Karnataka's, and vice versa. He observed that both the states were actually water-strapped in different ways. And it is only the balancing of 'need' and 'usage'- important determinants of the irrigation methodology practised in the two states (the reliability is almost 75 per cent) - that can solve problems. Referring to probable measures to reduce the sorrow of farmers in the Cauvery basin and the delta, Alagh said, "Water should be used in an optimum manner. There can be better sharing patterns, rationing and pricing of water, rainwater harvesting, creation of effective water markets and the like." Eventually, these measures are expected to improve the ground and surface water situation in the Cauvery basin. He said that all these would be part of the National Water Policy which has been created to aid both Tamil Nadu and Karnataka; but it should be made "effectively operative", He commented, "Already, we are late in creating the policy." Alagh sounded an ominous prediction. He said, "In the very ear future, India is going to be a water-strapped economy. Mostly, the country will face groundwater irrigation problems, increasing salinity and ingress in several regions marked by a falling water table. Pricing of water may teach policymakers a few lessons. The need of the hour is societal and political wisdom, which can put the problems to rest."
AT a function organised by the World Wide Fund for Nature- India in New Delhi on June 5 on the occasion of World Environment Day, the chief election commissioner, T N Seshan said that the burning topic of environment could be compared to the proverbial elephant which was touched by four blind persons and wrongly defined by all! There is no need to go into the details of the proceedings of the function where several suggestions were made, debates held and explanations given, except imbibe the information that there are only five people to every vehicle in Delhi as opposed to 45 in Calcutta, 24 in Mumbai and 55 in Madras; and that vehicular pollution alone contributes to 64 per cent of the Delhi's noise and air pollution; that the quality of the Yamuna water in Delhi is in the E category - fit only for irrigation and industrial uses, and that by AD 2010, the food grain requirement in the country will touch 240 million tonnes. Depressing enough. What rules our lives anyway? Environmentalists and their outfits have emerged as the 20th century Nostradamus, predicting a great apocalypse if the right things don't just happen. Dante's descent into Hell perhaps couldn't have been worse. The emergence of environmentalism in the last decade has, in certain ways proved a boon and in some cases, a sustained eyewash. From forming a committee for mountain development to wildlife conservation to protest incinerator usage to CFC phase-6ut efforts, the world has marched a long way in defining green crusadeering today. Even as the Habitat ii in Istanbul took off after a yawning span of two decades (Habitat I was held in Vancouver), to parley the state of the world's teeming multitude, everyone woke up to several cruel facts about the state of the global populace. Since many of the situations are being realised as irreversible, there seems to be a frenetic attempt to pitchfork reforms everywhere, from anywhere. But the centre is falling apart. The book Our Stolen Future, by Theo Colborn, Dianne Dumanoski and John P Myers - described as a cautionary tale - makes interesting observations: "What is happening to the animals in Florida, English rivers, the Baltic, the high Arctic, the Great Lakes, and Lake Baikal in Siberia has immediate relevance to humans. The damage seen in lab animals and in wildlife has ominously foreshadowed symptoms that appear to be increasing in the human population." The book says: "In time, the alarming reproductive problems first seen in wildlife touched humans, too." In fact, the root of the problem had been grasped by the early 20th century American philosopher, John Muir, quoted in the book as saying, "When we try to pick up anything by itself, we find that it is bound by a thousand invisible cords ... to everything in the universe." No one seems to have yet picked up the common thread. Precious little is usually done to resolve any ecological disaster until the 91tuation gets out of control. At this moment, we are bestowed with a punctured ozone layer; a massive onslaught of death-dealing old and forgotten viruses; the AIDS / HIV spectre; a toxic waste inundation resulting in,@carcinogenic food, water, dyes and materials; a struggle for the right over one's indigenous resources; nuclear' disasters still lurk around; virulence of pollution; a marauded forest cover, dying waterbodies and depleting resources, and a madly burgeoning population. Intellectuals may have been and swearing by the swooning over environment on umpteen occasions like the World Environment Day or the Habitat conference. Sustainable @evelopment anyway is their mantra. Alternatives naught. But a national newspaper reported that despite all homilies or exhortations, 17,000 biological species or sub-species disappeared from the face of Earth, about 26 billion tonnes of top soil was washed away by surface erosion, desertification rose by nearly six million ha, 17 million ha of forest cover was lost - and all this in just one year. Environmental activism today should mean environmental legislation strictly coupled with people's participation the world over, in tune with the scale of degradation experienced in different places. It is heartening to note that for the first time in the judicial history of India, the first green bench has started sitting from June 3 at the Calcutta High Court as per the Supreme Court's direction. One expects a lot from it. A Poison Information Centre recently set up at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences in New Delhi would, besides immediately treating cases of poisoning, provide information on poisoning induced by chemicals, plants, drugs and household pesticides. Shimla has reportedly been successful in completely banning polythene bags and introducing paper and cloth bags for commercial purposes. In this kind of effort, educating the people is a basic necessity. In this regard, Anil Agarwal, director of the Centre for Science and Environment, New Delhi, opines that Third World issues, being complex ones, need careful handling. According to him, the Third World must have development in a way that protects the environment and its people from harm. And there is still enough time left for us to deliver the goods.
Author(s): Nabina Das
Source: Down to Earth
Tags: Children, Population, Urbanisation, Women
IT is definitely a small world that we live in today, and Damocles' sword never shone so ruthlessly before. This fact has been highlighted by the startling revelations in the recently released The State of World Population, 1996. Within 10 years, more than half the people of the global village will become city dwellers, comprising 3.3 billion of the 6.59 billion urbanites. states the report. The report examines "the causes of urban growth and the implications of expanding urbanisation" that would inevitably face neo-urbanites. This may not necessarily be a "bad" development, assured Wasim Zaman, United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) representative, while releasing the report. "But it is also true that in developing countries some 600 million of today's 1.7 billion urban residents do not have the means to meet their basic needs for shelter, water and health," he said. Zaman stressed that poverty will threaten the growth of urban future; for the poor, their environment will emerge as overcrowded, violent and unhealthy, where millions of urban children may be at the risk of being school drop-outs and becoming victims of labour exploitation, sexual exploitation, unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases (STD). In the foreword to the report, UN secretary-general Boutros Boutros-Ghali says, "To be sustainable, development should be better balanced between rural and urban areas, and among small, medium-sized and large cities." The report pinpoints increased mobility as one of the major features of rapid urbanisaton. Migration, in fact, accounts for some 40 per cent of the citywards exodus, where the effects of international migration (although insignificant by comparison with internal movement) would have more serious implications. Apocalypse now While the report touches upon all the issues confronting urban life, it makes some startling statements: "The emerging viruses (on which another UN report was carried in Down TO Earth, Vol 5, No 2) are the only most dramatic examples of rural diseases establishing themselves in urban areas." Hectic urbanisation is projected to lead to a deadly apocalypse whereby several infectious diseases like malaria, tuberculosis, cholera, antibiotic-resistant infections and STDS/HIV/AIDS, etc would wreak havoc on communities in the developing world. Already, India has seen a resurgence in the onslaught by the first three. The possible threats to urban health conditions are more or less unknown to rural surroundings, most important among them being air and water pollution - the direct result of industrial activity, transportation and cooking exhausts. The neo-urbanites will thus be exposed to hazards which their natural immune system is unaccustomed to, making them much more susceptible. The report states: "The demands of the urban future will test the pledges made by the world's governments at the series of global conferences on social development, which started in 1992 and concludes in June 1996 with the International Conference on Human Settlements (Habitat ii) in Istanbul. Meeting their universally agreed goals is vital for the future of cities and for all prospects for human development." It also says: "Among the most specific goals are those of the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD), held in Cairo in 1994). The 1CPD aims at achieving primary goals of providing universal primary health care including reproductive health care, family planning and sexual health by 2015, closing the gender gap in education and providing education for all by then , and ensuring equality and autonomy for women as essential for dynamic urban growth." Interestingly, the report documents the composition and distribution of the World's largest cities that have undergone dramatic changes over the past 45 years. Bangalore, Mumbai, Calcutta and Delhi are among those metropolises 'projected to become megacities by AD 2015, registering a more than three per cent growth rate per annum between I @90 and AD 2000. Zaman specifies, "By the year 2000, it is projected that Mumbai will be the second largest city of the world and there will be three Indian cities with population of 10 million and over."
Focus on Eve Several recent studies, according to the report, show that a growing proportion of the rural-urban migration patterns comprises women; and if individuals migrate, they do so as "part of a complex family and community process". It is evident, then, that the gender factor plays a significant role in determining migration streams. But this aspect remains somewhat elusive - "obscured by conceptual problems and measurement difficulties". The report discusses the policies, strategies and issues for improving the cities, which have been further refined by the ongoing Habitat ii conference which has focussed on shelter for all; it was attended by a representative of the NGO Waste Wise from Bangalore in India which presented an alternative approach to solid waste management. The ICPD'S main concerns are families and children, health and environment, population distribution, urban management and ensuring access to information. The UNFPA strategies encompass improved family planning and health care for all, and advocates empowerment of women. But questioning Turkey's right to hold the conference, 35 NGOS organised an Alternative Habitat ii to highlight problems not adressed by the official event. The urban future is feared to carry several risks towards our physical environment and natural resources, for social cohesion and human rights. However, considering the opinion Of sociologists, that cities - already accounting for 60-80 per cent of the GNP of many developing nations - could serve as hubs of human creativity, this growth could open up a lot of developmental avenues. Despite the speculated setbacks, the phenomenal urban growth is seen as a very heartening "secular shift in societies and economies, on a scale never experienced before", asserts the report. The need of the hour is a cohesive society where women's role will be well-defined. To meet existent needs and anticipating new ones would be the crux of the agenda in building a "civic society", it envisions.
A Bolt From The Blue Author(s): Nabina Das
Source: Down to Earth
Tags: Air Transport, India
AS the debris of the first ever mid-air collision in the history of Indian aviation between a Saudi Boeing and a Kazakh IL-76 aircraft lie spread over an area of 10 km in Charkhi Dadri — about 80 km southwest of Delhi — several investigations are on to probe into the disaster. Whether it was pilot error or instrument failure, for aviation experts, however, the cause behind the collision that claimed 351 lives and reduced the safety of the Indian skies to a myth, lies somewhere in the haloed portals of the ministry of civil aviation and the National Airports Authority (NAA). The omen has long been felt to be disconcerting on the ground itself. The "airport stress syndrome' came to roost in India with the statement of an annual air traffic growth rate of five per cent and the NAA projection that the rate would have climbed to eight per cent from 1996 (see Down To Earth, Vol 3, No 12), thanks to the open skies policy adopted under the aviation glasnost. If the sheer magnitude of the November 12 accident makes the word ‘tragedy' sound like an understatement, the word ‘crowded' fails to convey the state of the Indian skies, once thought to be generous and capacious. Says air marshall D Keeler, former additional director general of civil aviation (ADGCA), "The quantum of air traffic handled by airports like Delhi and Mumbai has flown above the danger mark. We are promoting its further growth and approaching the target of close to 20 flights per hour. Aviation operations are a matter of dealing with carefully carved out corridors, and presently, the corridors resemble a choked throat.' But the asphyxiation of air corridors is not an unheard of phenomenon. Way back in 1988, when Vayudoot was being conceived as the alternative domestic airliner to the sagging Indian Airlines, jams in the air with aircrafts flying bumper to bumper were foreseen. Air Traffic Control (atc) was identified as the key area of growth to handle the number of flights that resembled German armadas over England during World War II.K V N Murthy, former executive director (planning), naa, says, "There are airports in the west and the east which are handling much more traffic. But the difference is the quality of technology at disposal in the air traffic control rooms that makes their job easier and reduces the error margin.'It is indeed a startling revelation that air traffic controllers at the Delhi and Mumbai airports which, incidentally, are the most modern ones, monitor air traffic manually. Surjeet Singh, a controller in Delhi says, "We handle flights on paper and fix recording points for both incoming and outgoing flights. Once a flight reports its presence, we fix another slot and then move to the next. Once there is a computer to do all this and a sensor to feed a voice system, we can cut down the time taken to handle each flight.'In fact, an ambitious atc automation project was conceived in 1988 by the naa in collaboration with the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO). Following global tenders in 1990, the contract went to the lowest bidder — Raytheon — a us-based company. Today, the project outlay cost is Rs 423 crore.As per the contract, Delhi and Mumbai atcs would get a whole range of sensors: one airport surveillance radar (ASR) with a range of 60 nautical miles, one en route surveillance radar and a monopulse secondary surveillance radar — the last two with a range of 250 nautical miles (one nautical mile = 2.9 km). For better communication, installation of very high frequency omnigraphers (VHFO) of a 30 nautical mile range and very high frequency omni range transmitters for bifurcation of unidirectional flights have been proposed. Presently, the Delhi and Mumbai control towers function with an ASR having a range of 60 miles. Of the seven vhfos that were proposed, four have been installed. But there were complaints of radar ‘slippage'. For example, on the radar screen one aircraft was shown by two blips, and often, the radar did not pick up the signal of a moving target within its range. According to airport officials, apparently the equipment supplied had some defects in the software. Says Keeler, "Had the new radars been commissioned in time, then there would have been fewer chances of this collision. Ironically, the given date of completion of the automation project was November 1, and the crash took place within a fortnight's time." Keeler says that the collision occurred because one of the two aircrafts strayed into the others flight path although the Saudia plane was directed by the atc to maintain a height of "14,000 ft and level' after leaving Delhi, and the incoming Kazakh airliner was asked to maintain "15,000 ft and level'. It has been recorded that the two aircrafts were at a distance of 13 miles, and were, according to the pilots, maintaining their respective heights (later, a section of the press reported that the Saudia aircraft had assumed excess height). But 13 miles is a minor distance between two aircrafts moving towards each other along the same path at the speed of 260 nautical mile/hour — to be covered within a matter of seconds.The atc at the control tower saw the two aircrafts on the screen as two blips. He knew the distance between the two and their position, but not the speed or the height, because the 20-year old radars in use at the igia do not provide this kind of data. Therefore, even as the two blips converged on the screen, the atc saw no cause for alarm. It was only when the blips did not separate themselves and carry on along the designated path but just vanished from the screen, that the initial shock set in. Says Murthy, "World over, the atcs have detailed data and they warn the aircrafts from straying into each other's path. But not so in India." Experts like Keeler say, "What is important is the fact that the control tower did not have an inkling that the two crafts were on the collision course. On the radar screens that are in use, all incoming and outgoing flights on the same radial seem to be on the collision course. These two dots, however, met on the screen and disappeared." The former ADGCA says that even a freak meteorological phenomenon could have led to the collision. H S Khola, DGCA, however, refuted charges that the equipments at the igia control tower were outmoded. He was speaking at a press conference in New Delhi, on November 13. It is also not known whether the aircrafts were equipped with a collision warning system, mandatory for aircrafts operating in the developed world. But it was not just the absence of certain instruments that invited the disaster. There were other lapses as far as the general operation procedures laid down by the icao are concerned, the most crucial being the ‘lateral separation' of the incoming and outgoing flights.Says Keeler, "The aircrafts in the sector (path) were separated by a height of 1000 ft. That is one level of safety margin. But then, they could have been separated laterally also, so that, even if there is some problem in levelling, they are still not on collision course." The two ill-destined aircrafts were flying in a sector once nicknamed ‘green five two', which handles more international flights than domestic ones. Normally, all sectors have corridors with lateral seperation for both incoming and outgoing, as well as domestic and international flights. In fact, all corridors in the Indian air space have provision for lateral separation, with the exception of this particular one.Keeler says, "The lateral separation was not done in this case as it was claimed that the corridor towards Pakistan in the west is too narrow. But I do not agree. It is at least three km wide, and there is scope for lateral seperation for adding another safety margin." The alibi adopted by the naa was that the Indian Airforce has always resisted expansion of the corridor citing security reasons. But according to Keeler, the airforce had, some months ago, called for negotiations for widening of the corridor. Another factor is the curfew system enforced by countries on the east and west of India due to the immense noise polllution caused by the aircrafts. Thus, to skip night travel through these countries, aircrafts on international sorties prefer night flying over India. But with ancient radars and communication systems in our country, night flying increases the risk factor all the more. Recently, the situation had improved a little when in Delhi and Mumbai, an Instrument Guided Landing System was installed to facilitate safe take-off and landing. To take a look at the West, in the us, a comprehensive plan known as the Future Air Navigation System (fans), is being drawn up by aviation authorities which is expected to be operational from ad 2010. A close-up of the system shows the following features:
• the package includes the Global Satellite Navigation System (GSNS)
• it is being developed by the us department of defense
• the fans package involves a total of 21 satellites
• the system transmits position and altitude data to an accuracy of 10 m
The GSNS, which will update positional information on aircrafts, is a combination of observation and communication satellites. Several European nations have expressed their interest in this system. According to the NAA, the Indian authorities, too, are keen on having the fans installed for a safer flying future.