Saturday, January 28, 2006

Policy Views: EIA and Environment Policy

EIA and Environment Policy: Unease over environment clearances

The draft Environment Impact Assessment notification draws protests.THE MINISTRY of Environment and Forests (MoEF) has for some time now been under attack, accused of a lack of commitment to what it is supposed to safeguard. On Monday, November 14, about 150 environmental activists managed to enter the Ministry premises in New Delhi and stage a sit-in, protesting against its draft Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) notification. That day was also the deadline for objections to the draft notification.

The draft, released on September 15, was a dilution of the original 1994 EIA notification, activists said. The protest action followed a public hearing a day earlier in the capital where about 25 affected groups from across the country made representations. A "death certificate" to the EIA was issued during the protest action.

The yet-to-be-released National Environment Policy has been criticised for its lack of consultation with communities and as being economic growth driven, with the idea of promoting private-public partnerships. The draft EIA notification seeks further dilutions.

In the past 11 years, there had been 13 amendments to the EIA notification of 1994. The 13th amendment of July 4, 2005, relaxes the requirement for major projects to get prior environmental clearance. Instead, it says that the MoEF may, after satisfying itself, grant temporary working permission to major projects. This effectively does away with the main reason for environmental clearance, which is to ensure that projects do not result in ecological disasters.

The Govindrajan committee on reforming investment approval and implementation procedures (October 2004) observed that environmental clearance perhaps takes the longest time and causes maximum delays to projects. It seems that its observations have found their way into the draft EIA notification as it proposes that environmental clearance can be given without public hearings, if it is justified, "depending on local conditions." Also, the validity of environment clearance has been extended to 15 and 10 years in case of river valley and other projects respectively, (earlier it was five years from commencement of the project).

Kalpavriksh, the Environmental Action Group that coordinated the three-year biodiversity action plan supported by the MoEF, was reduced to releasing "Securing India's Future," the final technical report of the National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan (NBSAP), on its own last month. The MoEF is critical of the report for various reasons. In a press release on October 5, the Ministry said the NBSAP submitted by Kalpavriksh was rejected. The NBSAP was reviewed by a group of scientists appointed by the Ministry, the note explained. They concluded that the report was, for the major part, scientifically invalid. Hence, the Ministry also said that it had started the process of developing the National Bio-diversity Action Plan afresh. Ashish Kothari of Kalpavriksh claims what may be irking the MoEF is not the 15 or 20 so-called factual errors or the scientific flaws that were detected by a three-member committee appointed last year, but the recommendations of the Plan, which are quite radical.

It has to be emphasised that it was the MoEF that initiated the three-year process of preparing the NBSAP from 2000 onwards and 50,000 people all over the country were involved in it in a massive consultative process. Over 100 documents were produced in the process and the final report was submitted to the Ministry in 2003. Many scientific institutions were also involved in the process, funded by the Global Environment Facility (GEF) through the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). The report has a wealth of information and action plans, which many States such as Maharashtra, Sikkim, and Karnataka have already started to implement.

The NBSAP report comes at a time when the country is losing nearly half its forests, 40 per cent of mangroves and substantial portions of its wetlands. Agricultural biodiversity was also under threat and this directly impinged on the nutrition levels of people. Mr. Kothari said the biggest threat to areas rich in biodiversity was the threat of development projects. One of the major recommendations the NBSAP makes is to re-orient the development process. Projects will have to conduct what impact they will have on biodiversity in future, before they are approved. It also recommended a National Land Use plan that would ensure that development processes respect the sanctity of regions rich in biodiversity. Apart from this, the report also demands localised planning and governance.

India's richness in biodiversity needs to be protected at all costs, not merely to satisfy the requirements of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), under which the country has to have a national biodiversity action plan ready by 2006.

Meena Menon in The Hindu, Nov.23, 2005

Monday, January 16, 2006

Indegenous Knowledge


Tribals save elephant habitat

Tribals strengthen the bund of Sami Eri lake in Denkanikottai taluk in Krishnagiri.

At a time when everybody waits for Government help, here is a classic example of tribals saving themselves and a prime elephant habitat in the recent rain.

Kishnagiri district received the highest average rainfall this year. Many areas in the district particularly Thally, Kelamangalam and Krishnagiri received heavy rain - the highest in the last 10 years. While almost all major lakes and tanks breached and suffered damage, the Sami Eri lake in Aiyur forests - the main water source for elephants and other wild animals - was saved, thanks to the timely action of the Forest Department and tribals. Sami Eri lake in Aiyur Reserve Forests in the Denkanikottai Forest Range is one of the prime elephant habitats in the district with a lot of bamboos.

This area is to be brought under the proposed Cauvery Elephant Reserve. The lake also attracts migratory birds. During the heavy rain, the Lake started overflowing all along the western bund-cum-road. The central portion of the bund started breaching due to heavy water pressure in the lake.

A team headed by the Conservator of Forests, V.N. Singh and District Forest Officer, S. Paulraj rushed to the spot. A wireless message and alert was given to the Betamugilalam tribal hamlets.

Hundreds of tribals from Kottaiyur tribal colony in Betamugilalam reached the spot and started flood relief work.

The breach was plugged and the bund strengthened. According to Mr. Paulraj, "The ecologically-sensitive lake was saved thanks to the tribals. If not, flooding would have caused much damage."

S. Prasad writes in The Hindu, dated 13 November, 2005

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Gender Equality Law 3

Policy views

Catch Points of HAS 2005

Empowerment of women with property rights to land will lead to decrease of violence of women. Bina Agarwal’s research on Kerala shows that women’s risk of physical violence from husbands is dramatically less it they own land or a house. The incidence is 42 percent among women without property, but 18 percent among land owning women, and 7 percent if they own both land and house.

Gender equality in agriculture land can reduce not just a women’s but her whole family’s risk of poverty, increase her livelihood, enhance prospects of child survival, education and health, and reduce domestic violence.

Land in women’s hand can also increase agricultural productivity as male migration and female headedness increases.

Another point it to be note in connection with a general misconception that gender -inheritance laws can only benefit a few women. In fact, millions of women - as widows and daughters - stand to gain. Calculations based on NSS data for all India indicate that at least 78 percent of rural families own some agricultural land; and if we include homestead plots 89 percent of rural families own land. Although most own very small fields, rights even in these can provide supplementary subsistence.

The risk of fragmentation of properties is also said to be a disadvantage of gender-equal rights. In reality, this argument is misleading and cannot justify selectively disinheriting women. Fragmentation can occur even when sons inherit. In practice many rural families continue to cultivate jointly even when parcels are owned individually. The same can hold for daughters. Fragments per holding for all India actually declined from 5.7 percent in 1961 to 2.7 percent in 1991.

Women migration on marriage was thought to be a barrier to inherit property. But if men retain their claims despite job related migration, women could retain claims on marriage related migration too. They could lease out their land to their family or some one else, or cultivate it co-operatively with other women. It will ensure economic security to women.

The present law economically empower and enhance their security by giving them birth rights in property that cannot be willed away by men. Further, women can become ‘kartas’ of the property. This strongly signals that daughters and sons are equally important member of parental family. It undermines the notion that after marriage the daughter belongs to her husband’s family. It her marriage breaks down she can now return to her birth home by right, and not by sufferance of relatives. This will enhance her self-confidence, social worth and give her greater bargaining power for herself an her children in both parental and marital home.

Giving married daughters co-parcenary rights from the start is unusual. Except Kerala whch abolished joint family property altogether, in other State level amendments of the 1956 HAS, viz: Tamilnadu, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Maharashtra - only daughters unmarried when the amendments were passed got co-parcenary rights. Notably however they retain this right on subsequent marriage and fears of extensive litigation by such married daughters have proved false.

Under the 2005 Act, married daughters will also benefit by deletion of Section 23, since now they will have residence and partition rights in the parental dwelling house. In particular women facing spousal violence will have somewhere to go. The only negative aspect is that allowing partition could increase the vulnerability of elderly parents. A preferred alternative would have been to bar both sons and daughters from seeking partition during their parents’ life times, if the family had only one dwelling.

It is more egalitarian to abolish mitakshara system altogether. Making daughters co-parceners will decrease the shares of other Class I female heris, such as the deceased widow and mother, since the co-parceners share of the deceased male from whom they inherit will decline. In States where the wife takes a share on partition, as in Maharashtra, the widow’s potential share will how equal the sons and daughters. But where the wife takes no share or partition, as in Tamilnadu and Andhra Pradesh the widow’s potential share will fall below the daughters.

Gender Equality Law 2

Policy views

Features of HAS, 2005

In the first place, the 2005 Act deletes the gender discriminatory Section 4(2) of the 1956 HSA. The present Act brings all agricultural lands on par with other property and makes Hindu women’s inheritance rights in land legally equal to men across states. The existing State laws are thus made inoperable before the present Act.

Next, the 2005 Act includes all daughters co-parceners in joint family property. Though this act does not separate property (except broadening the class I heirs) it includes daughters as co-parceners in the mitakshara joint family property. The female heirs (such as daughters, widows and mothers) are given the same birth rights as equivalent to sons to shares, to claim partition and to become ‘karta’ while also sharing the liabilities.

The 2005 Act includes the heirs of predeceased sons and daughters more equal as Class I heirs two generations of children pre-deceased daughters. It was already the case for sons and all daughters have the same rights as son to reside in or seek partition of the family dwelling house. More over re-married daughters also are given the right to inherit the deceased property. These two reformations have been done by deleting the Sections 23 and 24 of the 1956 HAS.

Gender Equality Law 1

Policy views

Reformation in Women Propertieship

Start of the Millenium Reformation

The Hindu Succession (Amendment) Act, 2005 has been passed with big expectations in terms of ensuring equal gender rights in the nation. In December 2004, the amendment Bill on HAS 1956 was placed before the Upper House. The 2004 Bill reproduced some shortcomings of the Act based on the Law Commission’s 174th Report. All the same time, the 2005 Bill was said to have fulfilled the goal of achieving equal gender rights.

But in fact, the Bill reflected more the aspects of State level amendments and ignored reforms needed in agricultural land ownership, married daughters’ rights, etc. The Bill showed the pressure put on the government by the democratic forces and necessity of facing the crises of growing militant characteristic of the middle and oppressed classes of the northern and some southern states.

The least commitment on part of the government was withheld for eight months to seek comprehensive amendment. Concerted efforts made by individuals and committed groups, a series of memoranda depositions and lobbying, the inputs of the Standing Committee on Law & Justice, support of lawyers all contributed a shift from the 2004 Bill to the wide ranging 2005 Act.

The history of the 2005 Act shows the initiatives for putting reform in the HAS 1956 was taken by a relatively small number of committed individuals and groups and endorsed and supported by grassroots organisations and people from across the country with a government and parliament that have the will to reform., can go a long way. This tells us the state implementation of the Act, 2005. Civil group campaigns and grassroots organisational activities will be triggered in the next few months. Funds will be flowing in to the nation in the name of propaganda and educational programmes to ‘enhance’ ‘social awareness of the advantages of the 2005 Act’. Voices will be raised for more gender equality and sponsorship will be made to assist women legally and socially to assert their rights.

Urban Environment - Thiruppur


Health Menace in Thiruppur: In the words of a Physicians

The layers on dust on several roads with the underground sewerage works progressing are terrorising the travelling public in Thiruppur. People now dread travelling on some of the arterial roads, particularly Perumanallur and Kangeyam roads which engulfed by a thick layer of dust. One walking down the road side path will start to feel head ache and body ache in a matter of thirty minutes. Even on broad day light motorists find it extremely difficult to locate the road space on Kangeyam road - the gate way to Thiruchy and Karur - because of poor visibility caused by dust layers.

Similar scenario is found on Perumanallur road and Mangalam road in Thiruppur and including junctions including the Town Hall, Pushpa Theratre Junction and Municipal office, etc. through out the day where pedestrians and passengers are bombarded by mud and sand particles. All these roads were dug up humpteen times by the contractors for water supply and sewerage scheme and the Highways Department is yet to relay it. The roads were relayed but the road margin shrunk. With a huge number of vehicles plying every day, there is increasing layer of dust too.

Besides the Highways Department’s action of dumping mud on potholes on battered roads instead of carrying out patch work makes it worse. Local paediatricians say the frequency of children getting cold and cough is common here and high compared to other towns. The Head of the Department of Pulmonology of PSG Institute of Medical Sciences, Coimbatore, Rtn. Pl. Ramanathan says he receives increasing number of patients with respiratory ailments from Thiruppur. Seven to ten out of 30 patients are from Thiruppur alone.

The consultant pulmonologist, who visited the town a couple of weeks ago, says frequency and severity of exacerbation of bronchial asthma patients are very high from Thiruppur. Besides increasing their drug requirements, it brings down their quality of life. It will be very trouble for those genetically susceptible to respiratory allergy. For non-allergic people the implications will be known at a later stage only after long term exposure.

Mr. Ramanathan says the asthmatic patients earlier visited him for treatment only during climatic changes. But now they visit him most of the time in a year from Thiruppur. The Control Board sources say they had not done any study recently about the problem of air-pollution. The worker-starved Thiruppur municipality which struggles to clear even the garbage lying on street, has no time or resources to clean the roads. A question buzzing around every body’s ears is: Who is to bell the cat?.

Forecasting the Future


Disaster Tomorrow

Likelihood of Earth Quake in Tamilnadu

Quakes are of two kinds by their characteristics: first occurs in nature and the other is developed by wrong human activities. When we build dams large quantities of water cause quakes. This type of quake is called man-made quakes. Natural quakes are caused by motion between plates in the crest. Countries and continents are made of different plates in the crest. India and China in Asian continent are made of two separate plates. The Indian plate is believed to move 2mm per year from the north to the south. The Chinese plate is stable and there is no quake risk. Yet the Indian plate is clashing slowly with the Chinese plate. It causes at one stage quake in India.

In India 85 percent of land surface is classified as to be affected by natural disasters. In the survey conducted in 2002 following the quake in Gujarat 17 states were identified as having more likelihoods of quakes. These 17states consist of 169 districts and 38 cities. India could be divided in to five zones on the basis of the likelihood of quake occurrence. The first zone is quake-free region. The following zones are believed to be hit by multiple increases in the shake. Central Tamilnadu is in the second zone, Coimbatore, Chennai, Thirunelveli and Kancheepuram cities are in the third zone. Nilgiri, Thiruvallur, Nagapattinam, Cudallore and Kanyakumari districts are also delicate. The Central India is the fourth zone whereas the Great Himalayas are the firth zone. Formerly Coimbatore, Chennai, Thirunelveli and Kancheepuram cities were in the second zone. Now these cities are classified as third zone as they are more likely to be shaken.

Professors Dr. S. Rajasekaran of Department of Civil Engineering and Dr. K. Ilangovan of Department of Geography at the PSG College of Technology have explored the possibilities of quake occurrences in Coimbatore. In the Southern part of India the Great Western Ghats are situated in the West of Tamilnadu. The Ghats are situated through all four states in the South and in Maharashtra in the Central India. At Palakad, a canal in the Ghats is looked at a fault which would cause quakes in Coimbatore and parts of Kerala state.

Those places having large dams are also likely to be met with quakes. The quake which occurred in Palakad region in 1900 took about 1,000 lives. The Idukki Dam in Kerala, Koina Dam in Maharashtra are also likely to cause quakes in the South. Some spots in the cities of Chennai, Kancheepuram and Thirunelveli are also identified as likely to be subject to quake menaces as these three cities are comprised mostly rocks which could lead to cracks in the crest and consequent quakes. The quakes which are expected to occur in these cities are believed to have been measured at 6 Richter Scale.

The expected quakes could not be estimated in advance before they occur. Yet some symptoms could be seen as to sign the occurrence of a quake. Just half a hour before the occurrence of a quake birds and snakes will feel it; some animals will react to the would-be quake moments in advance. A large scale awareness is required to minimise the damages of a would-be quake. Buildings should be strengthened as to withstand a quake. Civil engineers and construction masons should be specially trained in quake-prevention and control measures. The current buildings will be affected for 90 percent if a quake occur. Educational campaign at large is also necessary to sensitise people about the damages of a would-be quake, so that they will be able to protect their lives and properties in case of a quake. At the same time physicians, especially country medical practioners (as most ordinary people go to them for treatment to their ailments) should be trained and skill-enhanced to help people met with the danger of a quake.

Women and Environment



Migration of males due to industrialization of towns derails women’s roles in rural areas

The reckless destruction of forest and masculine industry in the towns pulls men from rural areas out from their living places. It leads to increasing feminisatin and senilisation of the society in the bottom. This trend in rural areas dramatically compounds the toil and hardships faced by the rural women. In the absence of most able bodied male members, the burden of running the household, tending the land and cattle is shouldered entirely by the women.

The top crises arising out of depletion of environment and resources: women being the centre point
As the forest cover declines there is a huge fuel wood and fodder crisis.

Destruction of forest cover also affects the volume of water discharges from the watersheds. This forces women to trek or walk miles of distances for water, fuel wood and fodder. The lengthier forage time resulted in immense physical exhaustion and enormous hardships.

The depleted forest covers in the rural areas, home to many wild animals, exposed the village people and livestock to their unwelcome visits as the animals strayed in to the village in search of shelter and food. All this tend to a desperate situation and called for immediate action.

Women in the subsistence..…….be motivated!

It must be the women of the villages that should protect forest cover, engage in rejuvenation and responsibility of guarding the forests to save the future of the life. Rural women bear the brunt of the problems caused by environmental degradation. So it is not surprising to find that they are trying to set things right. "The women who participate in and lead ecology movement in countries like India are not speaking merely as victims. Their voices are the voices of liberation and transformation which provide new categories of thought and new exploratory direction" (Anna Rodda in Women and Environment).

Women and Environment



Popular women role models:

Who are the women role models today?

The so-called women of substance?

Most of the women role-models held up as icons are either in the glamour of business or come from upper middle class families or privileged backgrounds.

The media is portraying a distorted picture of today’s women, especially through advertisements. There are innumerable women who outstandingly expose their prowess in the social life in different planes are not focused upon or deliberately bogged down.

The role models who are portrayed in the media give a picture of how a women should live or adopt life. The life style of women portrayed by media is the way of life useful for business world. This way is strongly recommended by way of comodification of women’s body.

More comodification of women’s body takes place, the more the common women become voiceless with an insignificant number of privileged women pretending to live a creamy life in the opposite side. A handful of such women get much today what they take for granted. Still there are many who do not have such luck. They are the real carers of the social life…..they are in the other side…..

Women’s role in the other side:

In the other side, in the developing world……women are the major producers. They participate in activities like farming, fishing, selling the produce and are also responsible for domestic tasks like cooking, gathering wood for fuel and fodder for cattle, nurturing and caring for children and the elderly members.

Women interact with the environment to meet the daily substance needs and are, therefore, most affected when their immediate environment is altered. In a typical agrarian economy like one in India any form of environmental degradation has direct impact on the lives of women and undermines their right-to-live.

Women’s role in production of the economic world and reproduction of life sources is understandable only in "the new insight provided by rural women in the Third World that woman and Nature are associated not in passivity but in creativity and the maintenance of life" (Annabal Rodda in Women and Environment ).

Environmental degradation and women becoming refugee:

Depletion of environmental degradation and natural resources have a direct bearing on the time and energies of women. With depleting resources they have to trek longer distances for fuel wood, fodder and water collection. A large proportion of girls happen to discontinue their studies in order to help their mothers in the collection process or in the domestic work.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

River and the Real Owner


Who is to blame for destructing the river Noyyal?

They conserve the river! They are the real owners of the river!!

Drop the plan of evacuating them!!!

The Chennai high court has recently passed an order to remove `occupations' along the riversides in Tamilnadu. It has reflected the other side of the coin in Coimbatore district. The district administration and corporation of Coimbatore city have stepped in to action following the HC order and issued notices to hundreds of families which have their settlements along sides of river Noyyal to evacuate at once.

The thousands of people belonging to hundreds of families living alongsides of Noyyal near Singanallur ponds and Nanjundapuram village near Coimbatore city face severe bottle – neck problem due to the administrative measure. On 10th October, 2005 thousands of people affected by the administrative measure rocked the collector's office and staged a demonstration against the evacuation effort of the administration.

The agitating people advocate that they live in the particular places for about half a century period and eke out their livelihoods by working as coolies in the nearby farms. They have not blocked the water flow by any means by raising their simple huts and tiled houses. Indeed they used to frequently cleanse the river banks and canals of the river. Hence the rive appears unpolluted in their places. Their residences are approved by government with grant of electricity, drinking water supply and public toiletry built by government. So there is no point to evacuate them who are part and parcel of the river side environment.

EKU supports their view strongly. In fact, the slow death of the river Noyyal is caused by the illegal act of the export based garment industries functioning in Coimbatore and Tiruppur urbans. The industrial units, despite several guidelines issued by the HC violate all rules behind screen and freely emit their waste waters in to the river. Now the industrial units are ultimately warned and directed by the HC to make enough compensation deposits and employ sufficient technology to purify waste waters before emitting in to the river. Yet the industries are not whole heartedly willing to obey the HC order and adopts various covert strategies to avoid incurring expenses in employing new technologies to purify waste waters and making deposits.

When, thus, the culprit shows his face in the day light, poor people are often blamed for the pollution made to river water. In fact, these people conserve the river environment by their sincere cleansing effort and protect the natural resource. They are the real saviors of the river. Though there are a number of bans for industrial activities which pollute river water, the industrialists skillfully violate law and make the river as their waste water ditch.

The industrialists have also promoted many pseudo environment groups in the district to `protect' the river Noyyal. The forefront pseudo environment group "Siruthuli' being fostered by millionaires of Coimbatore district recently held a `holi yatra' to make awareness for protecting river Noyyal and show of themselves as river protectors when they themselves are river destructors. They compared their `holi – yatra' as equalant to the `Dandi March' and called their pseudo effort as `the second Dandi Yatra' ! The so-called environment group `Siruthuli' does not speak a single word against the sufferings of the poor people who conserve the river in real sense and are now facing problem of evacuating.

EKU is trying to shed light on the real side of the situation in Coimbatore district with regard to the issue of Noyyal. We oppose the administrative measures directed against the working masses who are the real owners of the river and river environment, and stand against any effort to put their lives in peril.

We request the concerned ones to please write your anger to the Coimbatore administration against evacuating the people living as part of the Noyyal environment and protect them in their living places. You can use the following letter for registering your protest with the Government of Tamilnadu and Coimbatore Corporation

Women Population Question


A Nation without Women

Female infanticide is a phenomenon in three countries in the world: India, China and Korea. Female infanticide is an evil practised largely in these countries. If the rate of female infanticide is not curbed at today’s level, India would turn a ‘nation without women’ in 2,100. The male-female ratio has sizeably decreased in the decade 1991 – 2001. U.N. also has focused upon this fact in India. The ration between males and females has been declining in India for the past fifty years. It was 1000 : 945 in 1991 and 1000 : 925 in 2001. 20 percent of female infants die before completing five years.

When compared to Southern states Northern states have a much lower decrease in the female infants number. This phenomenon can be attributed to the invent of scanning in medical centres. In Northern parts of the country scanning centres had come in to scene in 1980 itself. But it happened only after 1990 in Southern states. The female infants which are killed in womb has increased in Southern India after 1990. The consequences of this trend will be lighted upon in 2011.

Shockingly Nathial in Andhra Pradesh has only 310 females for 1000 males. This rate in 549:1000 in Karnool in Karnataka, 682 : 1000 in Edappadi at Salem district of Tamilnadu and 879 : 1000 in Sikkodi of Karnataka. The average woman’s life in India is full of unbearable burdens. A husband cut his wife’s nose because she did not give birth to male child in Subihar at Uttar Pradesh. Another husband set fire to the stomach of his wife after finding that she was bearing a female foetus.

Female infants are killed not only by men, but also by women. They are forced by social custom and belief and pressure to take this decision. It happens not only in poor households, but also in rich people’s families. The male-female ratio has decreased in Maharashtra, Gujarat, Haryana and New Delhi also.

In China and Korea young men now a days have hardship to find brides for their marriage. In India male youngsters from Haryana, Gujarat, New Delhi and Punjab go in search of brides in Assam, Nepal and Bangaladesh. They give dowry to the parents of the bride. ‘One family; one child’ and ‘One family; one tree’ are the out-of-date slogans. Today’s reality is ‘One woman; one family’.

Pollution and Health

Note & News


Environmental degradation places human health at risk in many ways. Exposure to toxic chemicals and pollution is a direct cause of many illnesses (including cancer, lead poisoning, and damage to the nervous system). A major stumbling block in controlling risks from toxic chemicals is the lack of information about the toxicity of many of the chemicals now widely marketed in hundreds of products in the United States. We are working to ensure that at least basic data are publicly available for chemicals, particularly those in widespread use or to which children are exposed.


For the past sixty years, antibiotic drugs have turned bacterial infections into treatable conditions, rather than the life-threatening scourges they once were. Today, however, the effectiveness of many antibiotics is waning sharply, as bacteria increasingly develop resistance to these valuable drugs. A significant cause of antibiotic resistance is the widespread use of antibiotics in animal agriculture. An estimated 70% of the antibiotics used in the lace>United Stateslace> are used as feed additives for hogs, chickens and beef cattle - not to treat disease, but rather to promote faster growth and to compensate for stressful, unhygienic growing conditions. Environmental Defense seeks to restrict the routine feeding of antibiotics and other inappropriate uses of antibiotics in animal agriculture, to protect human health.

Rivers Undone



Puranas and literary works held it high as `Kanjimaanathi' (The Great River Kanji). It is interwoven with the history and culture and customs of the people belonging to Coimbatore district. It is none other than the river known today as Noyyal. The district Coimbatore through which Noyyal flows is a forefront region in Tamilnadu for agriculture and industries. People from parts of this region used to have trade tie with Romelace. Such places are called Vellalur and Sulur. Till date the townships situated on the banks of Noyyal are famous for trade growth. They are Tiruppur and Coimbatore.

Where does it start?

River Noyyal starts at Velliangiri Poondi in 40 km distance from Coimbatore at the eastern slopes of Wetern Ghats. Western Ghats and Palakad Canal are the source for the year- round mild climate prevailing in the district. Noyyal, adjoining with her a number of small water runs flows from Coimbatore through Palladam, Avinasi, Erode and Tharapuram and joins Great Kaveri at Karur of Thiruchy district. Together with her sisters Bhavani Sagar and Amaravathi, Noyyal is also considered to be a tributary of Great Kaveri.

How She was before 50 years?

Noyyal was too healthy until 50 years before. During South-West monsoon season every year, Noyyal used to be filled fully with water. At that times, people would bath in its pure water everywhere on its banks. Noyyal also used to get water from monthly rains. She provided water to several number of ponds and other water sheds. On the banks of Noyyal green species were seen at Vellalore, Ottapalayam, Irugore and Sulur. Every morning people would go in crowd to take bath in Noyyal water.

How Noyyal is today?

Today Noyyal gets only rare water South-West monsoon season rains. Her shape and beauty and water capacity have been diminished to unbelievable levels. The small amount of water which runs in Noyyal today smells worse and at many places there are seen only sands and wastes in the river. Her water is good for use only at a shorter distance from its source at Velliangiri Poondi. From lace>Coimbatorelace> till Tiruppur its water is rarely pure and under ground water level has also gone down due to this. The length of the river till Orathupalayam dam is 112 km. There are 19 dams across the river. There are 16 ponds spread in 3,200 km area on her banks. All these resources are now drained.

The poor condition of Noyyal affects agriculture done at 42,000sq acre lands. All the boring pumps laid on the banks of Noyyal have turned to be the depository of chemicalised water along with the fish resource of the rivers and ponds reduced to nothing.

Who is the culprit?

There are 830 dyeing industrial units at Tiruppur town and another 180 units at Coimbatore city. They are the culprit, ofcourse. They pour their waste waters unpurified in to Noyyal every day and night. This has made the once beautiful Noyyal in to a complete hell of dirt and smell. These industrial units let out about 1,00,000 litres of acidic waste water. Tiruppur municipal also adds at Noyyal its waste waters and dirt. This crime committed by the industries and the municipality have made the whole Noyyal environment poisonous. Water, land, agriculture, air and all parts of environment have turned to be dangerous and people just flee from many places on the banks of this age-old river.

The olden structures at the river bank

There are 23 dams built across Noyyal at 3,486 sq. km area. 23 canals were dug, each of 100 km length. 35 ponds were created at 4,500 acres of lands. Regularised irrigation facility was done at 19 acres of lands. All these structures were built before 1,300 years for doing agriculture at 30,000 acres of lands. There was no modern technology during those days. Giant machines were not used to create these structures. Committed humans created these by spending crores of work hours. A considerable number of these structures have been damaged or abused today by the greedy trade firms. Several water sheds have not been silted and several others have been occupied for building purposes and vanished.

After 1947 we built only one dam, the Orathupalayam dam across Noyyal. It was planned to be built during the regime chief minister Kamaraj during 50s and opened in 1992. It was built with an expenditure incurred for about Rs. 33 crores. This dam is full now. The water of this dam should be let out irrigation purpose. But there is a strange voice from the farmers that the water of Orathupalayam dam should not be opened and let out for irrigation. Why? Because the whole dam appears to be a dam of diseases due to dumping of wastes in it by heartless industries.

Some facts:

Palladam is a taluk at Coimbatore district. Its ground water level has gone down for 200 feet and the whole taluk area has been announced as a `black' area. 300 million litres of water is used every day at Coimbatore city. 99 percentage of this water comes back as filth. More several hundred millions of filthy water from all panchayat unions of Coimbatore district is also getting their refuge at Noyyal. Noyyal gets South-West monsoon rains only. In contrary she runs throughout the year. The water flows in her all round the year is not pure water, but waste water. The waste water has indeed raised underground water level at Coimbatore and Palladam taluks, but with acidic and chemicalised water.

Nilavarasu Kannan

Urban Health


Health Degradation takes life of youth in Coimbatore

People mass-packed and struggled against health degradation which took life of a youth in Coimbatore. Athuppalam area is one of the health-wise ruin areas in Coimbatore city. The housing flats are in this area are situated near drain canals and bio wastes from the slatter shops are being dumped in the drain canals for many years. These drain canals never silted and have become the source of life-taking deceases.

A school student, aged 14 and son of a coolie worker Abdul Nasar died of ill health in the hospital in the last week of November, 2005. On hearing the death of the youth in the hospital people gathered in hundreds in national highways and went on to stage road-picketing under the guidance of Akbar Ali, the district president of Tamilnadu Muslim Progressive Council, an organisation in understanding with CHUVADI. The struggling people shouted slogans for persuading the administration for taking immediate step for silting the drain canals in that area. Their demonstration lasted over two hours from 9.30 am to 11.30 am on 25 – 11 – 2005. Due to blockade of the roads traffic was jammed, consequently officials arrived at the spot and held talks with the struggling masses. An agreement was achieved between the administration and the people that the public plea would be accepted and silting work would soon be started by the administration. The people gathered were numbered over 600 including 100 women.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Girls as House Servants


The Doom of Minor Girls as House Servants
The car of an industrialist belonging to Coimbatore parks near a small tiled house in a village near Madurai. Two gentle men (the managing director or other managers of the industrial unit) gets down and are received by the poor parents of Susila residing in the tiled house. The gentle men enters their house, takes tea served by Susisla's parents and talks to them freely without the sort of unpleasant expression on their face that usually educated people would show when happening to talk to poor. They share poor family members' feelings of living in poverty and difficulty. They promise to adopt their minor girl Susila and to give her salary in their house. They guarantee by word that they would treat Susila as their own daughter.

The poor parents of Susila believes the words of the gentle men with their glowing eyes and are so happy that their child has attained endless joy in her life. Rather than living with her poor parents who cannot afford to pay for her three times food even, she can have a great life in the gentlemen's bungalow. The guests (the gentle men) are rich and well educated. So they are good people. They will look after their girl as their own daughter. The poor child will wear costly clothes like them and eat rich food. This is the ignorance of the poor illiterate parents of Susila. So they happily consent to send their girl to live in the gentlemen's house.

Innumerable minor girls are drawn in this way by the industrial rich for working in their residences as servants. When they `recruit' the girls in the village they would well pretend to be fathers and brothers. Once the girl steps in to their bungalow….all her dreams would shatter in no time. She would see her hell there. The house owners would start to instruct her what to do and what not to do. Where to walk and where not to walk. Where to sleep (her sleeping place will be mostly one of the store rooms of the bungalow) and where not to. She would be given only diluted rice three times a day as her food. She would be required to look after the overall maintenance of the bungalow. Such girls mostly are drawn from other districts such as Madurai, Sivagangai, Selem, etc. There will be some other girls also in the bungalow like her. They would also be drawn like her. In a bungalow there would be up to three to five girls as servants.

The under age children would often commit faults. For every fault they would be cruelly punished, beaten up, knocked down and abused in third degree by the women folk and men folk of the bungalow. If they could not fulfill their assigned duty they should undergo special punishment. Of-course the vulnerable girls would fall as prey for the sexual urge of bungalow men without any evidence left out to prove such things happen. When the parents visit her the bungalow owners would again become the girl's fathers and brothers before her parents. The poor parents would be given good reception and presented with some thousand rupees and would be safely dropped in the bus station or railway station to return home. This clever approach of the bungalow owners helps them to hide their mistreatment of the girl otherwise. The neighbours who may come to know about the illfate of the girl in the bungalow would not come forward to speak it out as the industrialists are powerful.

One can see a number such servant girls with hands swollen, torn clothes, hunger and a search for escape in their eyes in the housing areas of Coimbatore. Go to police? You would get the reply from the khakis that if complaints lodged they would jump in to action. You lodge a complaint with police? You would be locked before sunset with the charge that you planned to defame the industrialist purposely you were involved in some illegal activity. Also the concerned girl will be made to give word that she was safe in their house and nothing bad happened to her. So average folk would never bother the sufferings of these girls in the housing areas of the industrial city.

But the questions which are posed before each of us is depressing: Should these girls be battered endlessly? Would the civil society of a developed city like Coimbatore remain silent when the adolescent girls in the housing areas are put in to inhuman behaviour? Will not activists bother such cruelty done under age girls? Who is to bell the cat?

Nilavarasu Kannan