- Join the online national rainwater harvesting database
- Leapfrog Factor : Sneak preview
- Cover Story: Pesticide free farming
- Editorial : Want to be fried?
- CSE launches Green Educators Network
- Gobar Times: Why Indian fisher folk are starving
- News: Malaria outbreak in Assam mirred in corruption, mismanagement
- Analysis: Uttaranchal's drought declaration lacks logic
- Feature: Why the mafia controls the waste industry
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Rainwater harvesting database
We need your help to create a public online database of urban rainwater
harvesting systems (URWH) implemented across the country over the
past few years. We want to find out how many people are harvesting
rain, where and how they are doing it, and what the impact is. If
you have an Urban rainwater harvesting project in your house, colony,
office or institution, if you have helped others to build a system,
or if you are involved in protecting a lake or water body, we want
For more information>>
The Leapfrog factor : Sneak Preview
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clean vehicle technology and fuels. The book stirs the debate on the
dilemmas and dynamics of Asia and sets the agenda for action and progress
in our cities. It challenges the current mobility paradigm that hard
sells cars as a lifestyle of wealth and freedom. The book also captures
the drama and politics of the fight for clean air in Delhi.
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Cover Story: Pesticide free farming
The future of pest management doesn't have pesticides because they
don't make economic sense. This is the lesson coming from Andhra Pradesh,
where about 12,000 farmers across 23,000 acres have reaped the benefits
of not using pesticides in the past year. Non-pesticidal crop management
has not only helped them bring down the cost of cultivation but also
improved the quality and quantity of yield in some places.
Read the in-depth report (subscription required)>>
Editorial: Want to be fried?
By Sunita Narain
I first learnt about SLAPP when we released a study about pesticides
in colas. PepsiCo had filed a defamation case against us in the Delhi
High Court and our lawyer, fresh out of law school in Bangalore, jumped
as he read through the company's petition saying this was a classic
SLAPP case. We were bemused, knowing nothing about such legal intricacies.
SLAPP, he explained, was an acronym in the US for 'strategic lawsuits
against public participation'. These are libel or defamation cases
filed by corporations against individuals and institutions, supposedly
to defend their honour and business. The intention was to use the
legal system to threaten, intimidate and silence.
But how, we asked. The companies who file SLAPP cases rarely win
in court, but achieve their real objective to discourage others from
speaking out. The defendants, who are invariably individuals, spend
huge amount of time and money running to courts fighting the case.
This harassment discourages others from petitioning government on
public issues. An environmental activist in West Virginia was sued
for us $200,000 for criticising a coal-mining company for polluting
the local river. Cattle-ranchers filed a million dollar case against
television celebrity Oprah Winfrey for hosting a show on mad cow disease
and discussing dangers of eating contaminated beef. The list runs
The most (in)famous of these cases was filed by junk food giant
McDonalds against two activists in Britain, who had in 1990 distributed
a six-page leaflet on 'what was wrong with McDonald's'. The company
accused them of defaming it because they had said that it contributes
to cardiac diseases, cancer and diabetes. The company won the case
in 1997 and it has become a precedent for corporate libel cases, commonly
known as McLibel. Such cases particularly target individuals and media
organisations so that the messenger is shot, along with the message.
But why should we be interested? The fact is that we are catching
up with the world. Just in case you have missed this buzz, let me
bring you to date.
Y S Mohana Kumar is a doctor practising in a nondescript village
called Padre in Kerala. Unknown, till he noticed that people in his
village were more diseased and deformed than most and started asking
questions. One thing led to another and researchers - from different
institutions - confirmed and reconfirmed the presence of residues
of endosulfan, a pesticide, in blood, soil and water samples from
the village. In 2003, Mohana Kumar received a legal notice from the
lawyers of the Pesticide Association of India threatening legal action
if he did not apologise and withdraw his statements immediately. His
crime? Writing a letter in this magazine on these findings against
the government-appointed O P Dubey committee, which had absolved the
pesticide of the deadly ailments of people in Padre.
For the record, Down To Earth followed up investigations against
the Dubey committee and found to its horror evidence of how data was
fudged; how scientists were coerced and how industry influenced the
findings of the committee. The committee's proceedings were challenged
and investigations reopened by the government. Mohana Kumar was right
but that clearly was not the point.
Madhumita Dutta is not a doctor, but an environmental activist who
recently received legal summons to appear before a court in Warangal,
Andhra Pradesh. Her crime is that she researched and published, with
others, an investigation on acute pesticide poisoning in the district.
The case filed by the pesticide industry association Crop Care Federation
even implicates the designer of the publication and is aimed at harassing
and warning others to desist or be destroyed.
Umendra Dutt runs an NGO in Punjab called Kheti Virasat Mission,
which works on various farmer-related issues, including pesticide
use. He has been sued for Rs 5 crore by United Phosphorous Limited,
a leading pesticide manufacturer. His crime: discussing in public,
health studies on pesticide exposure and how it could act as a trigger
to diseases, and even lead to congenital malformations and genetic
disorders. All clearly well-established in scientific studies across
But it does not stop there. The company has also filed a case against
the media giant, Bennett and Coleman, the publishers of the Times
of India . Their crime is similar: publishing a report quoting Dutt
in their daily newspaper, Mumbai Mirror . The defamation case has
been filed by the company alleging that the statements in the article
will 'disparage our client's reputation' in the trade across the world.
This is particularly intriguing, because the article does not mention
the company at all, only pesticides and their health impacts.
But how do I know this? Because two weeks ago, my colleague Chandra
Bhushan, received a letter from an NGO called the Centre for Environment
and Agrochemicals, which enclosed a copy of this legal notice. The
letter told him that if he was to attend a forthcoming meeting being
organised by Kheti Virasat Mission he "will be made a party (to the
case against Kheti Virasat) and unnecessarily dragged into litigation".
In simple language a simple threat: we will sue you if you dare to
It does not stop there. We called to check more about the NGO and
received another letter. The letterhead was the same, but the signatory
had changed. Now Rajju Shroff, the owner of United Phosphorous Limited
wrote, saying, "The industry has decided to take legal actions and
expose all your activities." I am sure we will hear from them again.
In these modern David-and-Goliath tales, I can only hope (and pray)
that there are many, many more Davids.
- Sunita Narain
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Read this editorial online >>
Green Educators' Network
CSE's Environment Education Unit presents the Green Educators Network
a forum to bring educators across the world together to collaborate
and discuss environment matters. Membership of the network is free
and open to University/College teachers of all backgrounds interested
in the field of environment. Apart from regular updates and reviews
on the latest books, films and other resources on environment, members
can use the forum to showcase their own books and publications on
To find out more and to register online>>
Gobar Times : Environment for beginners
With a coastline of 9,040 kilometers and a network of rivers crisscrossing
every part of its land, its not surprising that India is the third
largest fish producer in the world. Yes, fisher folk-living in Assam
at the top of the map, or in Kerala right at the bottom--contribute
enormously to our national income. So why are they still starving?
Find out in this issue of Gobar Times>>
More in Down To Earth magazine
News: Malaria outbreak in Assam mirred in corruption, mismanagement
A malaria outbreak that has affected 20,000 in India's north-east
has caused the region to rise in protest over the government's lax
attitude towards the outbreak.
Analysis: Uttaranchal's drought declaration lacks logic
The government of Uttaranchal has declared most of it's districts
drought hit and has responded with a Rs. 33 Crore (US$ 72,000) aid
package. Experts warn that the declaration does not into account the
ecological differences in this hilly region. With no measure for drought
intensity, areas that are heavily dependent on rain are treated the
same as those irrigated by river water.
Feature: Why the mafia controls the solid waste disposal business
In the very first episode of the hit HBO TV series "The Sopranos",
mafia boss Tony Soprano utters a seemingly programmed response, "waste
management consultant" to his therapist's inquiry: "What line of work
are you in?". In fact, the mafia's control over waste disposal has
deep historical roots. Cities such as New York, unable to handle their
own waste, turned to "private players" like the famous mobster Carlo
Gambino to take their garbage away.
Inside Down To Earth (subscription required)
To get a trial issue>>
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Give us 6 referrals and you will receive a gift>>
- Contract poultry farmers dealt a raw deal
- Sri Lankan government puts foreign aided NGO's under scrutiny.
- Leaders agree on an alternative trade pact for the Americas
- 17 units in Gujarat closed for discharging hazardous effluent
- Orissa draft rehabilitation and resettlement fails to impress
- India number two in Polio cases this year
- Avian flu his UK, strikes back in Pakistan
- Hunter-gatheres of Great Nicobar yield evolutionary clues
- Are subsoil carcinogens to blame for Punjab cancers?
- New approach to identifying those below poverty line
- When can we really expect the WTO Doha round to end?
Science and Technology>>
- Traditional house construction safer against next predicted quake.
- Controversial study suggests aluminium link with alzheimers
- Hemantha Withanage - What exactly is an environmentalist?
- Film: Health matters - A look at the Indian public health system
To read these and more subscribe to Down to Earth online>>
CSE is an independent, public interest organisation that was established
in 1982 by Anil Agarwal, a pioneer of India's environmental movement.
CSE's mandate is to research, communicate and promote sustainable
development with equity, participation and democracy.
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