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Archive for the ‘Ecology’ Category

The Hidden ConnectionsThe Hidden Connections by Fritjof Capra
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

In this book the author compares how networking is a fundamental nature at all levels. He starts with how the single cell lifeforms evolved to complex cell lifeforms by forming communities which could grow in its own way internally while exchanging and getting external stimulus too.
He describes these external stimulus bring in a change in the community and this change may lead to a stable community with some changes from the earlier one, or may lead to the destruction of the community.
He compares these lifeforms to human communities and how these interact with each other and how these mutate to change its culture.
He talks about how corporates are similar communities and goes onto to say only corporates which are “living corporates” will survive. He says that we have tended to control things top down because of the success it yielded us during the industrial revolution when manufacturing was the key industry and if somebody at the top figured out how to manufacture the required goods in a very efficient way then that would give the organization more profits.
He argues how this cannot work in today’s organization which have become more knowledge centric and unless the management starts hearing the talks and whispers and feedback from the community lower down the pecking order in the corporate hierarchy companies will start folding up.
He then goes on to illustrate how these corporates are trying to to attain maximum profitability with nary a care for the betterment of employees and the without bothering about the impact their actions have on the environment.
He describes how the WTO was envisaged to be used by the big corporates and developed countries to exploit the developing countries which are rich in resources required by the developed countries. He quotes Vandana Shiva‘s (an ecologist) repeatedly “The Developed countries will get the resources and the Developing countries will end up getting polluted”.
He also describes how the big companies tried to hijack agriculture by promoting Genetically Modified good. He gives a passionate argument as to why these companies have no clue of how these GM food will impact the health of the ecosystem. He argues that these should be discouraged.
He goes on to say how different NGOs have sprung up the world over and are fighting these power and money hungry organizations. He gives example of how the internet was used to undermine the WTO pact in Seattle and sees hope for humans in the form of these NGOs which are dedicated to preserving the natural order.
He also illustrates how we were fortunate enough to have “Open Source” software which ensured that the Human Genome mapping was done in the Open Source world rather than by some corporate which was aiming to patent and lock up the whole thing.
All in all a very good book and an eyeopener (atleast for me especially with respect to GM food, WTO and genome mapping). Although some may see this book as an harbinger of doom, the author has illustrated how the incidents, set in motion by one set of community, that could have lead to catastrophes were prevented by other communities.

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There had been almost no rain the months of June, July and August in Mumbai and western Maharashtra. It appears that the rain gods have paid heed to requests of denizens of this area of the third rock from sun and have sent the clouds to parch the thirsty earth and earthlings.

Year after year this is a common story repeats across the sub-continent of India. While one area of India is flooded with water which causes enough grief for the populace of the area, there are areas which are left thirsting for water.

We seem to be happy to be left at the mercy of weather for our survival. We do not make any attempt to try and implement schemes which will make us free from the clutches of whimsical rains. It is not for lack of ideas or suggestions that we are still stuck in this rut, it is just a lack of will on our part to try and execute these suggestions that has ensured that we remain ensnared in this uncertainty.

Linking of Rivers

Linking of Rivers has been a suggestion has been around for more than five to six decades and at least on the face of it, it seems to be a very practical suggestion. There will be multiple benefits that can accrue if this project is executed. It is a historical fact that every year we have flood in north India due to the rising waters in Brahmaputra and Ganges and there is lack of water in the south India during the same time of the year. If one could create a canal from these rivers which get excess water during the months of June – July – August to the southern states one could redirect this canal to areas where there is no water. The advantages are manifold
1. Generation of employment for people who will be involved in this project. Yes it is to be noted that this is not a perpetual employment for as many people as would be required during the construction, but it will definitely offer perpetual employment to many who would be required to manage and maintain this canal.
2. It can provide a cheaper and alternate mode of transportation for goods across the continent.
3. It can provide a channel for tourism in two forms. One could be cruises along the canal passing through places of importance and secondly one can conceive of artificial lakes along the canal where one can offer vacations on houseboats.
4. Using water from the canals to irrigate the corps goes without saying.
5. One could look at the canal as an opportunity to generate solar energy based electricity in a manner in which it has been done in Gujarat. The canal is covered with solar panels that generate electricity and at the same time prevent evaporation of water from the canal
6. The artificial lakes alongside the canal could provide a place for fisheries and poultry which will generate employment to many.
7. Resorts can be built at selected sites where one will cause the minimum environment impact and use the revenue to build and maintain the canal.
8. Industries can be setup at selected spots to take advantage of the canal as a source of clean water, as a source of transportation for procuring the raw materials and for transporting the goods that they manufacture. Service industries can also be setup as small townships. One can think of IT industries being setup along the shores of the canal if there were infrastructure to support them. It can be haven for the IT industries which their employees grappling with the daily traffic and chaos in the big cities. The employees would also be lured by the calm and peace of such a self contained township with the requisite logistics and infrastructure to support them and their family.

Some precautions and possible show stoppers.
1. This canal should be considered as a dumping ground for waste matter from the industries which are bound to come up along the canal. We have polluted enough rivers in our country and we should maintain the cleanliness of the water in the canals and should in fact endeavor to cleanup the ones that we have polluted.
2. There will be challenges to take the canal along hilly areas. Two options can be considered; one obvious solution will be to look at a lock system. The lock system can be complicated and expensive to create and maintain. Tourism and transportation can be some ways to offset the cost of such a lock system. The other mechanism could be by drilling tunnels through the hills that are in the way. It could be novel way and it increase the novelty of cruises through the canal. Travelling through a canal through a dark tunnel in a cruise boat or for the adventurers kayaking through these tunnels can be an additional source of income.
3. Every effort should be made to conserve the greenery that comes in the way of the canal and indiscriminate felling of trees or clearing of greenery or disturbing the habitat of the animals in the forest through which these canals will pass must be avoided at all costs. In fact efforts should be made to see how this canal can be a source of succor for the wild life in the forests through which the canal will pass. We have destroyed enough greenery in our country and can ill afford to destroy more of it in the process of building these canals.
4. We need somebody of the stature of Sreedharan who has been responsible for the Konkan Railway and Delhi Metro to execute this project. Somebody with whom the politicians will not mess around with and provide required permissions without being paid their usual bribes. This will be a tough ask as finding such a person itself will be daunting task.
5. We need to ensure that the politicians and other goons in areas through which the canal will pass do not garner all the benefits that will accrue due to the canal passing through the area. These clans are known to acquire the land around the areas where development is expected as they are privy to this information much before the common citizen and make a killing by buying them cheap and selling them off at a premium. The other set of people that one needs to be wary of are the real estate builders who will try to buy land cheap along the canal, build houses promising the buyers a Venice in India and sell them off for a killing while completely neglecting the impact they will create on the environment by hacking through the greenery around the area where they construct the houses.

Ground Water Harvesting

Chennai 10 years ago was a city that was despised by many, including its own denizens, for lack of water and electricity. Today Chennai is almost self sufficient in its water requirements.
Corporation Water in which people used to hesitate to wash clothes a few years ago is today potable and used for cooking too.
All this thanks to the strict rules regarding water harvesting passed and implemented by the local Government. Today almost every house in Chennai has running water 24 hours a day.

Gujarat has seen a similar benefit. A few decades ago due to excessive use of tubewells in agriculture the water table had fallen so low that the salt water from the sea started seeping in making the soil saline. This meant that one could not grow any crops in these areas. The government of Gujarat has encouraged building of small dams along the river. These dams hold the water sufficiently long enough for the clean water to seep into the ground and increase the water table. Over a period of time the water table has come up sufficiently enough for the people to start planting crops in this land.

These two states have proved the importance and impact of water harvesting. It is high time that we look into this seriously and look to ways to implement this to benefit not just big cities but also the agriculture in rural areas. Just like scientific means were introduced to bring a green revolution in the 60s and 70s we should look at having a Green Revolution 2.0 at the end of which we should be looking to become independent of the vagaries of the rains and try and eliminate the farmer suicides and eliminate the deaths due to starvation that still haunts us in various parts of our country.


It is high time that we start looking into these aspects and take positive action towards achieving a well defined set of goals. If we do not take action we can never hope to be the Asian Tiger that we hope to be. We will be the Asian Tiger that was killed in its sleep or rather in its stupor of inactivity.