Monday, February 7, 2011

Let us build Temples


Hats off to the technological man out to conquer the whole planet! Hats off to technology bent upon redirecting energy and material flows towards human beings!! What grander achievement can there be when we command and consume more than 40 p.c. of the total terrestrial biomass of the world? Let us push the proportion to 60 to overcome poverty and hunger! With genetically engineered foods and biotechnology, this is already within our reach. Why? Even creating Superman and Super races is not difficult. Let us enslave every living being on the earth and realize God's dream of giving birth to a Supreme Being that will ultimately rule the Universe! Or is it a Satan's dream?

Those of us who have such visions and confidence in our scientific ability, what do we call them? Scientists? Visionaries? or Doomsayers? They are not scientists for they hardly understand the basic laws of science. They are not visionaries for their over-riding ambition inflicts incalculable harm on non-human beings. They can well be doomsayers because their blind faith in technology is fetching them ever near the abyss of self-destruction!

How? Simply because ecological science tells us that humans can never totally separate themselves from principles and cyclical processes of nature. If they attempt to enslave others in their greed, they will destroy the very web of life and foundations on which their own survival depends. If technology attempts to perform natures' services, the costs will escalate so much that only a lucky few can afford them and that too will be possible only by enslaving fellow human beings.

The supreme triumph of technology forebodes utter disaster, strife and violence among human societies!!

Who is to blame? Technology or the use of technology by human beings? To make a telephone call is perfectly benign. But to tap the call may be sinister and illegal. Technology is power and power is likely to corrupt. With the help of machines and technology, we have produced a system which has forced the people forget all the good things in life. In the last over 300 years our training, culture and civilization have failed to produce a human being, morally sound, socially responsible and materially a conscientious consumer. Liberty, equality and fraternity are corrupted to lack of restraint, disequalising progress, and a disintegrating society.

Let us understand science correctly and not through the sunglasses of technology. Let us find out what science has to tell us about natural evolution: how a weak, diffuse energy source is utilised to create innumerable life-forms fabricating a web of life manifesting distributive justice, no human society has ever been able to match. A simple principle underlies this wonderful biodiversity. Species with high metabolism have large populations but short life cycles while species with low metabolism have small populations but longer life cycles. This has enabled species to look for and cultivate a variety of habitats containing a mind-boggling variety of niches. As habitat is the address and niche the profession of a species, evolution progresses through distribution of energy and resources towards diverse life-forms. Technology however, progresses through uniformity and mass production. It has no formulae to bring about distributive justice. The call of the saints:

"सर्वे s त्र सुखिनः सन्तु| सर्वे सन्तु निरामयः | सर्वे भद्राणि पश्यन्तु| मा कश्चित् दु:मानुयात||”

is muted in the age of technology!

While the march of evolution is ordained by the basic laws of science, technology has marched by perverting these laws. It was able to do this because human beings evolved in tandem an economic system, a perfect hand-maiden to its powerful mistress! The collaboration between technology and economy has produced all the strife and stress that afflict human societies today.

Our economy is based on the assumption that consumer is sovereign and his/her free choice is always right. But the consumer is trained to obey and cultivate a technology bent upon redirecting flows of energy and resources to human beings by denying them to non-human beings and nature. Technology confers power that nurtures greed and avarice among consumers and flaws their choice. To redirect flows of energy and resources, technology has to convert resources by using energy. Each conversion brings about losses of energy and creation of waste matter, the latter increasing entropy in nature. Like evolution technology cannot use sun's diffuse energy at ambient temperature. It has to use energy of fossil fuels. The economy has to invest large sums in exploring, extracting and processing the fossils before energy is produced. Any loss of energy in conversion means a negative return on investment made to facilitate use of fossil fuels. If these losses are internalised in the cost of production, the cost becomes higher than the value of the product. If the social and environmental costs of the entropy are internalized, cost escalates so much as to make all manufacturing impossible to continue! The system is a contradiction in itself!!

In such a scenario profits can never be possible. Then how are colossal profits made by individuals, companies and the corporate sector? In the past developed nations made profits by acquiring political control over raw materials from their colonies and importing cheap labour and even using slave labour. Profits were made by denying adequate wages to labour and prices to raw materials. Costs of entropy were never internalized causing immense pollution. These devices are still used to amass profits today. India cannot have colonies so in the name of development, we are exploiting our own resources keeping down their prices. As labour cannot be exploited easily, industry and commerce have to depend increasingly on government subsidies which take various forms. The amount of subsidies to industry, commerce and modern agriculture runs into thousands of crores. These really are concealed profits sanctioned by the government in the name of employment and economic growth. The expenditure on subsidies also means less expenditure on health, education and denial of support to necessities of life on which the survival of the poor depends. Government support to industry and modern agriculture ultimately results in production of goods needed by the rich while production of necessities of life goes a-begging.

The gap between the rich and the poor becomes wider and wider in such an economy.

Who is to blame? I squarely blame the wrong use of technology by us. Most of us are ecologically illiterate simply because the importance of this subject is utterly unknown to our educational system. No one is aware of the ecology of technology. Priority should be given to technology that strengthens our natural resource base. Natural resources are the foundation of our life, especially of that of the rural population which still forms more than 60 p.c. of our people. City people too must understand that cities are primarily supported by natural resources. If they degrade we have to depend on imports, of food, water, timber and many other products. Total dependence on imports will make the cost of living in the city exhorbitant. Today we are simply directing more and more resources to the cities without providing anything for their maintenance, revival and enhancement of quality and quantity. Restoration of natural resources is today's primary need. Unfortunately very few people are aware of the significance, techniques and how to involve rural India in this vital job. Everyone including rural people is taught to believe that technology is a perfect substitute to nature. Nature can be safely ignored, because it is technology that is going to provide everything to human beings.

This is not only wrong but it is extremely costly too! Ecologically speaking indiscriminate use of technology is destroying many natural linkages that go to make our atmosphere, the quantity and quality of our water, the quality of our soil, the waste assimilating capacity in nature, the work of pollinating insects that enrich our crops and horticulture, and lastly maintenance of biodiversity, a wonderful reservoir for our future needs of food, medicine and raw materials. Moreover, this indiscriminate use is destroying not only the wherewithals of our own life those of our children and grandchildren too!!

These linkages are the arteries of our life support systems. Nature provides us life support free of cost. But when these arteries are harmed technology has no alternative but to try providing these wherewithals of life. Technological services based as they are on costly energy, are expensive and cause pollution too. Technologically produced drinking water is almost as costly as milk. Insecticides is a terribly costly substitute for natural pest control. Biotechnology is many times costlier than biodiversity.

Our experiments in restoration and revival of nature around Pune have demonstrated their cost effectiveness in comparison to technological and engineering solutions. Moreover they tend to establish natural linkages which confer on them the quality of sustainability and obviate the need to spend on repair and care of restored systems. It is the vital need of our country that we start restoring our soil, restore our streams and water-courses, restore vegetation on hill-tops and hill slopes, along stream banks and in-stream habitats, revive wetlands and wastelands and lands that are degraded and industrially made derelict, saline and water-logged lands, deciduous and evergreen forests, savanna and grasslands and littoral and seashore areas. Restoration techniques for all these are available. One only has to understand and practise them. These can be combined with our traditional wisdom to involve villages and communities.

In a former era, Jawaharlal Nehru had called our irrigation and power dams as temples of newly-independent India. That era is long past. The new temples of India, if I may venture to say so, are our Restoration Projects, though they are as yet too few. Let us build these temples all over India to make our lives materially and spiritually richer. Let all the NGOs gathered here build such a temple, start a restoration project in their area to make the foundations of our country strong and bring prosperity to all those millions who have been denied fruits of development so far. Let us unite to restore the glories of Mother India.

Prakash Gole.



The 3 pillars of the water vision for the next century are: Adequacy, Equity and Purity.

These pillars can only be supported if their foundation is Ecology and not Technology.

Sustainability in every aspect of life can only be achieved if basic ecological processes – the life supporting systems – on the earth are kept viable and functioning. Biodiversity is the outward manifestation of basic ecological processes. This has been recognized by all leading scientists of the world and has been enunciated in many international declarations.
The present mindset of the bureaucrats and technocrats only emphasizes preventive actions and not curative ones. It lacks true understanding of ecological processes. It thus piously believes that viability of ecological processes will be ensured if environmental safeguards dictated by the concerned Ministry and by pollution abatement laws are guaranteed . Unfortunately in the present water management system even these minimum things are not carried out. The mindset is you can safely ignore peoples’ health, welfare and quality of life

Let us therefore, see what positive things can be incorporated in the Water Vision to ensure the viability of basic ecological processes and life supporting systems.

Of paramount importance are the Sources of Water: Springs, Streams, Rivers and the Underground Water Table. It is necessary to understand their ecology to keep them functioning. A river basin should be divided into 3 zones 1) The Conservation Zone 2) The Storage Zone and 3) The Utilization Zone.

The first covers the source region where the stream flows through a wild landscape of steep gradient , the second where the stream coalesce to form a large flow and the third where it forms a floodplain and meanders towards the sea .

Measures that can be suggested to protect basic ecological processes and biodiversity are:

The Conservation Zone: The accent here should be on restoration and maintenance natural habitats. At least 10 percent area of each catchment should be reserved for natural regeneration ( no plantation) Forests , bank vegetation, in-stream habitats , shallow pools , rock crevices , rapids , eddy formations etc. should be restored and maintained . These measures will rejuvenate mountain springs, control erosion and ensure adequate flows to the next zone.
Man’s activities should be constant with conservation goals : No shifting cultivation , stall-feeding of domestic animals , nurseries of a variety of indigenous cultivars and seedlings , agroforestry , horticulture that is not energy intensive , tourism that does not indulge in overuse of resources .

Reservoirs which submerge some part of this zone should be well managed through bank protection, protection to tributary streams and their habitats and catchment area development consistent with conservation goals.
These measures will ensure gains in biodiversity as this zone is breeding ground of many wild animals, birds and fish. Viability of indigenous genetic stock will thus be ensured.
Some work in this direction has been carried out in the catchment areas of some dams in Maharashtra.
At present catchment area in hills are mostly neglected. The drinking water needs of hill residents can be met by excavating ponds on rejuvenated streams and keeping them inviolate. Some wise communities have demonstrated this simple measure in the hills of Maharashtra.
The Storage Zone: The goal should be to service the minimum water needs of far-flung areas at low costs.
Many storages have already been built in this zone. The accent in future should be on more equitable distribution of water. The objective of reaching to far-flung areas can be more economically achieved by keeping the area’s streams flowing and their in-stream and bank habitats healthy. If conservation zone is managed well, it will ensure adequate flows in streams which in turn will recharge the hyporheic zone helping the underground water table. This will be far more economical than building fresh storages. Livelihood security is ensured by lowering costs all around, not by enhancing output at high costs.

As agriculture becomes more important from this zone, it is necessary to say something about agriculture that is viable in the tropics. In a tropical country with fragile soils, the Green revolution Technology with high inputs of water, fertilizers and insecticides is not appropriate. It is costly and efforts to maximize output through this method have been successful over a limited land area and that too at great cost. The resulting prices are not affordable to the common man. The method to increase output should be cost effective and resources saving. Our country has thousands of mini-catchments with their own micro-climates. We have cultivars suited to these micro-climates. If we revive them, they will provide for basic necessities of local communities and indeed be free from insecticide poisons! Moreover the low cost will make them affordable. This will also obviate the necessity of keeping centralized stocks and transporting them over great distances.

We need an inexpensive water delivery system for this zone, which can only be provided by flowing streams providing adequate spring flow for wells. Water intensive crops need not be prescribed here. This strategy will conserve our biodiversity of crops and genetic resources directly useful to man. The streams will have to be kept free from sewage and other waste dumping. Keeping land reserved for waste disposal in each village should form an integral part of water management. This disposal should be kept as decentralized as possible so as not to generate large flows.

Dam sites in this zone are ideal sites to conserve biodiversity. Each dam site can be used to restore indigenous forest, indigenous and endemic varieties of medicinal plants and can be a demonstration site where wetland creation, stream bank management can be demonstrated. Such experiments have been carried out at some dam sites in Maharashtra.

The Utilization Zone: This zone will have great concentrations of human population and their activities such as agriculture, business and industry.
Surface flows through canals in this zone are wasteful and harmful to the quality of water. Delivery of water should be through pipes. In this extremely stressed zone, river basins also call for careful, coordinated management. River banks should be kept free of encroachments and lined with buffer zones and greenways. Base flow in rivers has to be ensured by controlling lift irrigation. For disposal of waste, retention and detention basins should be provided to settle heavy and particulate matter and filter many other debris. Bank, in-stream vegetation and habitats should be maintained to avoid excessive eutrophication.

Reservoirs in this zone call for intensive, imaginative and multiple-use management. If properly managed they will greatly contribute to biodiversity conservation and be points of aesthetic interest. Experiments in this direction have been carried out on certain reservoirs in Maharashtra.

All these measures are labor intensive and have great employment potential. Moreover they will strengthen the natural base of economic development, lower the costs of satisfying basic needs and check inflation. The focus should be to restore nature and satisfy basic needs at very low costs from the restored abundance of nature. Once this is achieved, surplus can remain in the hands of many to satisfy intermediate wants for which the market caters. It will ensure adequate demand for manufactured goods. Otherwise even with high growth rate deflation will result due to lack of demand as is happening in China. The high cost water management today has increased prices all around, accentuated income disparities and made necessities costlier. The present mindset needs to be changed to ensure a low cost equitable water management.




The 3 Es, Engineering, Economics and Ecology should be the basis of human life. But are they really ? Indeed the first 2 Es definitely form the basis of modern life. Without engineering and technology modern life cannot be conceived. Also human beings are taken to be rational, objective. Self interest governs their actions and attitudes. Objectivity, not sentiments, is essential for the advancement of science. Economics therefore, which assumes rational human behaviour based on self-interest, rules human behaviour and social relations.

The third E, Ecology, however, lacks recognition. It seems invisible, is neither immediately felt nor readily identified. The general consensus is, Ecology is something extraneous, can either be totally dispensed with or replaced by technology. Human beings are or can become capable of producing every arrangement that nature has taken millions of years to produce through evolution. In India we already have a role model in sage Vishwamitra who threatened to produce exactly a parallel world.

The first 2 Es are therefore, considered enough for the survival and welfare of people, rational human beings technologically adequately equipped. Let as now analyse what the first 2 Es imply. Human beings started using engineering and technology ever since they used a stick to grab a fruit from a tree or to dig roots and tubers. But the real use of technology began when people started harnessing energy first fire, then fossil fuels like coal and peat, then hydro-electricity, oil and atomic energy. Technology essentially involves transformation of matter by using energy. As everyone knows matter and energy are governed by laws of thermodynamics. The first law states that matter and energy can neither be created nor destroyed. Energy is used not consumed. Energy is high grade when it is in a form with high availability to do applied work. All natural and technological physical processes proceed in such a way that the availability of energy involved, decreases. What is consumed when we use energy, then, is not energy itself but its availability to do useful work.

The 2nd law of thermodynamics tells us that it is impossible to recycle energy and that eventually all energy will be converted into waste heat. Also it is impossible to recycle materials with 100% completeness. Some material is irrevocably lost in each cycle. If matter and energy cannot be created or destroyed, what does the economic process do? Matter and energy enter the economic process in a state of low entropy and comes out of it in a state of high entropy.

Any living organism fights the entropic degradation of its own material structure. Man’s economic activity may transform a high entropy copper ore into a low entropy copper sheet but this lowering of entropy is more than compensated by increase in the entropy of the surroundings. In entropy terms the cost of any biological or economic enterprise is always greater than the product. In entropy terms any such activity necessarily results in a deficit.

The transformation of matter by energy, which is the essence of technology therefore, involves costs - costs in terms of lost quantities of matter as 100% transformation is impossible and costs in terms of energy passing into a state of unavailability; also these two things involve creation of waste leading to entropy of surroundings - a local cost in terms of pollution and garbage. Now if all these costs are taken into account, the cost of production of any commodity, where energy other than solar energy, is used, is higher than its value. Increase in production means increased costs. This is how the first E is intertwined with the second E.

The economic effort is actually a dual effort. It aims at producing a surplus by keeping down costs. In nature however, surplus is produced without apparent costs by plants using solar energy. The use of solar energy through solar energy apparently considerably slows down the operation of the laws of thermodynamics. In photosynthesis food is synthesised for plants for their survival needs and additional food is produced for the survival needs of other organisms. Very little solar energy is passed out as waste heat and almost no waste is produced to increase the entropy of surroundings.

What evolution has produced is a closed system. Matter is recycled and energy is radiated without producing waste. Entropy in the surroundings is mainly through accidental happenings, sudden, natural events such as exceptional floods, fire, lightning, earthquakes, meteoric hits, droughts or failure of rain. Evolution continues its work of remediation and rehabilitation resulting in reduced entropy.

In such a system as costs are low so is the surplus. In a mature forest the net productivity is zero. Whatever is produced is consumed and/or recycled. Surplus is small and cannot be stored for a long time. All animals living in the forest are tuned to utilise this small surplus whenever it is available. The small amount of this surplus controls their populations and keeps them in balance with food supply. Ecology thus puts limits on the creation and maintenance of this surplus and controls population growth. Human beings can only increase the food supply and consequently human population by negating controls prescribed by ecology.

The relationship between the three Es can be explained as follows: Engineering and technology aim at increasing the amount of the surplus and make it as long lasting as possible; Economics prescribed and regulated the distribution of the surplus in such a way as to facilitate advances in technology and Ecology defines the limits to the creation of this surplus and awakens in human beings a desire to desist from the possible disastrous consequences of man’s actions in increasing the surplus.

Surplus is only produced by negating the influence of ecology. Agriculture is the earliest human effort to produce a surplus. Essentially agriculture means a mono-culture contrary to poly-cultural arrangements existing in nature. The ecological control on agriculture is expressed in terms of pests that try to destroy crops. In promoting agricultural surplus people are still trying to overcome these controls either by using chemical weapons or by following rather than opposing ecological principles, as in organic farming. The gross amount of surplus increased enormously when people started using machines run on various forms of energy such as coal, oil and electricity.

Ecological controls were not immediately apparent as they appeared as social costs. As emissions and effluents were freely discharged in the atmosphere or rivers, the pollution so caused was borne by the society as a whole. Private costs were kept low through monopoly on raw material sources, low wages, child labour and captive markets. Natural wealth of colonies in Asia and Africa was freely exploited and manufactured goods sold in those countries. The scale of production came to be increased enormously through the application of technology realizing the economies of scale. The post Second World War boom resulted in over-exploitation, indeed ruthless exploitation of resources, especially non-renewable resources. The result was rapid depletion of accessible stocks and rise in social costs such as pollution and waste. The industrial society of USA was described by Prof. Galbraith as producing private affluence and public squalor. With the growth in the scale of production, ecological controls came to be felt as waste and pollution increased by leaps and bounds. This was the time (in the seventies of the last century) when environtalism had its birth. It was an attempt by a few to make the majority aware of ecological controls and pay heed to them.

Industrialism which was the result of great advances in technology during the second world war, though global in character, may spawn its own anti-climax. One may even ask will it dig its own grave? At present industrialism, whose social incarnation is capitalism, is basking in its own triumph which resulted from the almost total annihilation of communism. But to make the surplus larger and more permanent, it must constantly search for cheaper and more accessible sources of raw material and energy and improve technology so as to reduce social costs, the so-called externalities, which costs have to be internalised due to pressures from the environmental lobby and legislation. This constant need to reduce costs (as scale is increased) results from the operation of laws of thermodynamics. Large-scale transformation of matter through the use of energy produces large-scale entropy, i.e. waste and pollution.

The need for reduction of costs calls for greater investments in raw materials, energy and improvements in technology. This calls for capital accumulation through savings which are made by concentrating wealth in ever fewer hands and if governments make the investments, by depriving the majority of many necessities of life like good education, health, sanitation, fuel, fodder and shelter. In less developed nations it also involves destruction of natural capital on which the livelihood of many depends. Indeed the number of people in slums is a measure of the destruction of natural capital and the number of people in upper and middle classes is a measure of the population that can be supported by man-made capital! The need to reduce costs deprives people from having adequate purchasing power to make a living possible as creation of man-made capital has increased costs all round. Shrinkage of purchasing power leads to failure of demand which periodically plagues capitalism. One must realize the direct connection between poverty amelioration and existence of natural capital. The greater the amount of natural capital the less will be the poverty and the greater the amount of man-made capital the greater will be the poverty!

Deprivation of adequate purchasing power for the majority and greater inequity in distribution of income make a mockery of all the ideals that a free, capitalistic society is supposed to have!

In reality ecological controls are becoming manifest through these two forces. The so-called developed countries are trying to thwart them through improvements in technology and greater access to available energy and resources. Technology requires great investment which becomes readily available during a war effort. One wonders whether it is in the interests of advanced technological nations to fan the fire of wars so that they can justify to their people greater investments in technology which always come at the expense of peoples’ welfare.

The tragedy is that the less developed countries are trying to follow the same model, i.e. larger scales of production, greater and ruthless exploitation of natural resources, higher entropy of surroundings, greater inequality of incomes and lack of purchasing power for the majority. Higher investments in technology and production are possible by denying a majority of people education, health, sanitation, fuel, fodder, shelter and clothing. The apparent prosperity and wealth that is seen in certain pockets, in rural and urban areas is due to mining and liquidation of stocks of natural resources : air, water, soil, forest and marine wealth. The figures speak for themselves. Almost 50 % of the land area lies in various degrees of degradation; most of the rivers lack fresh water flows and are actually sewers; natural forest cover smaller area each year though plantation monoculture has increased; there are 86 threatened mammals in India as against 76 in China though in land area China is far larger than our country; there are 1236 threatened plant species in India as against only 312 in China. It looks ecological controls are being negated by deliberately destroying ecology, the very foundation of our life. All people are not unaware of the impending crisis. There are efforts and movements to counter centralisation of power, to make the production of surplus more people-oriented, use soft technologies and restore degraded eco-systems. Watershed development, eco-system approaches and restoration are being used to promote environmental awareness and ecological rehabilitation.

All these may prove mere palliatives and not cures. A much more holistic approach is required. Only then will the promotion of greed inherent in the present system because of periodic failure of demand, be replaced by saner and judicious management of resources and markets. There should be a conscious effort to recognise ecological needs and to allocate adequate resources for them. In effect we must recognise the importance of and the necessity to bring back the operation of ecological controls. This is essential to control the greed of a few and satisfy the needs of many. The imperatives to achieve this are:

1. Decentralisation of planning : local resources used to satisfy local needs. Watershed development, the present local developmental effort, should not only aim at increasing the surplus but satisfying the basic needs of all. Basic needs include besides food, clean air, potable water, health and sanitation, adequate education, fuel, fodder, timber and other biomass etc. To provide these it is necessary to keep these resources in good shape ; i.e. restoration and qualitative improvement of atmosphere, water(stream), soil, vegetation etc. in other words to allocate resources for eco-system functioning. Agricultural production should be planned and market at village level. Though land remains individually owned, its utilization, i.e. crop pattern, water use should be planned by the village as a whole.

2. Landscape approach in planning : planning of the use of resources based on geographic and geomorphic features, soil and lie of the land, climate and vegetation. The aim should be welfare individuals in a particular landscape. Thus agriculture need not be taken into account.

3. Avoid settlement and other “brown uses” on agriculturally good soil.

4. Restoration of degraded eco-systems, especially compensatory restoration to be made compulsory to all major and medium projects; the focus has to be on restoration of natural capital.

5. Rejuvenation and revival of local and indigenous varieties of crops, fruit, fibres, domestic animals breeds and their marketing on a village or a group of village basis. The idea is to develop specialities at local level and to that extent free villages from the middlemen. Also to encourage service and processing of produce at the village level.

6. The basic idea is to restrict the scale of production in such a way as to provide minimum resources for the production of intermediate goods. Such abstinence and restriction of ostentatious and orgiastic consumption can be possible with universal, correctly designed, holistic education. It should emphasize inter-relationships between various disciplines and should not erect unbreachable walls between them. Ecological research will have to be the foundation of this system. Technology has to change its direction and content. Soft technology seems to be essential for providing welfare to all sundry. Technology should facilitate rather than obstruct and replace the essential ecological services and processes. Replacement is costly and will have side effects.

The welfare of the individual should be the prime concern and not of the economic system. In all fields and areas, today’s policies seem to favour the market and the economic system and not the individual. Dreams of a strong and powerful India can be realised not by augmenting the GNP or by increasing the growth rate from 3 to 13% but by making individual citizens educated, enlightened, responsible, work conscious, healthy and happy.

Prakash Gole



Many critics accuse environmentalists of opposing economic development wholesale. But this is not so. Environmentalists oppose development which involves large-scale displacement of people, or severe pollution which affects the health of many or large-scale destruction of nature and of traditional livelihoods of thousands!

Unfortunately today’s technology-based development inevitably gives rise to all the above problems. Why is this so? Let me explain.

Science can be divided into pure science and applied science which is basically technology. Research in pure science is mostly restricted to astronomy or space science, quantum physics and ecology ( how life survives on this planet). It is applied science or technology which has made modern life possible on this planet. But what in essence is technology? It is redirecting sun’s energy towards things that benefit Man only. That is why we feel happy when new inventions increase our amenities and comforts. But it creates imbalances or entropy in nature which we generally designate as pollution.

Moreover, it essentially violates basic laws of physics. Technology on large-scale has only become possible since the discovery of fossil fuels, i.e. coal and oil. These are the cheapest sources of energy on this planet simply because Nature has done the work of concentration of energy over millions of years. We only have to extract these from the earth.

When energy is applied to convert matter, the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics tells us, entropy increases. This means more energy and matter are wasted than are converted into useful product. More energy comes out as heat and more matter comes out as waste than are incorporated in the product. In economic terms it involves loss. That is why all modern industry is interested in getting energy, labour, raw materials, land etc. as cheaply as possible. In historical times technological advances were possible only when western nations established political control over nations and people and made them provide resources, labour, energy etc. at almost no cost. They also completely ignored technology created imbalances in nature.

Today all this is not possible for a country like India. Today’s technology-based development therefore, is based on grants or subsidies from the govt. Govt. finances research in technology, it makes land and power available at concessional rates, offers tax exemptions, promotes export through subsidies etc. One must clearly understand that technology-based development is impossible without such help.

It creates imbalances in nature and even in our economy. I may recommend everyone to go through two excellent reports prepared by India’s leading economists. Their titles are: Disequalizing Growth and The Decline of the Welfare State. In them the economists have clearly shown that poverty and inequality of income have greatly increased in India since 1990 i.e. when the present prime minister liberalized the economy and imported technology.

There are many instances of the use of wrong technology or even dangerous technology promoted by the govt. The latest is the invitation to a French company to install atomic power plants on the Konkan coast. The incipient technology has not yet been successfully tested, has yet to become operational. When Finland adopted it, it created insuperable problems even in its installation. Yet our govt. wants our people to accept it without protest! Such is the pressure of multinationals and western powers who want bolster their economies by exporting technologies that they cannot use in their own lands.

Be assured that technology-based development will never create mass employment as it wants to minimize labour costs to reduce overall cost of production. It may create employment in fields which give rise to high and ostentatious consumption.

The alternative development path is nature based development, i.e. enhancement of our natural resources. Unfortunately there are no facilities in India to train people in this field.

In the present circumstances therefore, social inequalities, social strife, economic disparities and destruction of natural resources in India are likely to continue!

Prakash Gole

The Technological Man

The Technological Man

This is the age of Science & Technology. We all know how they have improved our lives & we are always looking forward to miracles they are expected to achieve tomorrow or day after. The computer and the mobile phone are the symbols of modern life. Biotechnology is expected to give us the power to control all other life forms for our benefit & provide us with all the wherewithals of life including food, fibre & medicine.
But have we ever stopped to ask the question what really are science & technology? What do they involve? Why is it that what they do appear as miracles to us? Let us try to answer these questions.

Science tries to unravel the secrets and mysteries of the universe, and enriches our knowledge of the physical & biological world. Technology is the practical manifestation of science. By applying Principles of Science, it provides us newer & newer means & tools to mould & bend the physical & biological world for the benefit of human beings. It caters to our wants & desires, increases our command over resources, thereby saving labour & providing more comforts to human beings. Therefore, it is technology that everyone is enamoured with.

How technology achieves this? that is, how it gives us greater command and control over resources? It does this by diverting & making available exclusively to human beings the natural flows of energy and materials evolved on this planet. What are these natural flows of energy and materials?

Everyone knows that energy flows to us from the Sun. Seventy percent of the energy that strikes the surface of the earth warms the planet, contributes to the movements of winds & sea water & generates the hydrological cycle. A small part of the Sun’s energy is converted by plants through photosynthesis into food on which all living beings including humans depend. Sun’s energy thus flows from plants to insects & higher animals ( herbivores & carnivores) and enables them to survive, grow, mature & carry out various movements & work. Energy is again used by decomposers to break down plant & animal waste & release nutrients stored in them so that they can be recycled in the system. Materials are then brought back into the system continuing the flows. Energy concentrated in the plants is converted over geological time into coal & oil which we increasingly use as fuels.

Nature therefore, is a wonderful system & an organization whose working depends on these flows of energy & matter. This system has evolved certain processes which ensure continuity of life on this planet. They are: the hydrological cycle which gives us rain & fresh water, the atmospheric balance which ensures a continuous supply of oxygen, the work of decomposers, which assimilates waste & assures the continuation of flows, the making & supply of soil which enables plants to survive & diversify & a pool of genetic resources embodied in various life forms whose survival and multiplication depends on these processes & who become an integral part of Nature’s organization.

Technology tinkers & interferes with this system so that more energy & materials are available to human beings. Less energy & materials are then available to other life forms, plants and animals of every hue, thereby affecting their lives & populations. They are deprived because the total flows of energy & matter on this planet are given; these can neither be created nor destroyed as laws of physics inform us.

The principal technologies through which Man interferes with energy & material flows are agriculture & industry, i.e. use of machines. Energy available to a variety of plants is diverted to a single plant by agriculture. The plant then provides ample food to human beings by taking away energy from other plants. More & more lands for agriculture means less plant variety, change in landscape, in soil chemistry, in insect & animal life, more erosion, sediment flows & creation of bare areas. If rivers & streams are used to provide irrigation to agriculture ( through dams & canals ) and power to industry, energy incorporated in rivers & streams which provides wherewithals to a number of riverine plants, animals, fish etc. is diverted to ensure survival of a few plants. The change in river flows affects the life in river basins, percolation & evaporation rates, ground water, the moisture holding capacity of soil and encourages water- logging, salinity & breeding of mosquitoes.

More & more use of machines leads to greater extraction of materials, cratering & gulleying the landscape, creating huge piles of waste, encouraging leaching of minerals & materials, emissions of heat & gases, effluents & chemicals polluting atmosphere, water, soil, & affecting vegetation and animal life.

The question before technological man is: in the pursuit of technology & benefits derived from its use, how far the changes described above should be allowed to proceed? These changes in energy flows & materials affect nature’s system & processes which are essential for our survival also. Should we, for our short term benefits, kill the goose that lays the golden egg? Much depends on the question how far the technology be allowed to proceed? The future of you and me, our children and grand children depends on how we handle technology today. Put your conscience to test & answer this question to the best of your abilities!

Prakash Gole

Atomic Energy – At What Cost?

Atomic Energy – At What Cost?

“Atomic energy? Yes! But at what cost!! This question is being posed to powers that be by a number of poor and middle class families who reside on the picturesque Konkan region of India’s western seaboard. For their livelihood – farming & fishing & raising fruit orchards – their health & future are being threatened by the up and coming atomic power plants being located in the coastal area.

The people are stoutly resisting the government acquisition of their lands for installing power plants. They have even refused to accept cheques proffered by the government as compensation to acquire their lands. The government, pressurized as it is by some multinationals and the powerful atomic energy lobby, seem adamant. It appears the government wants to replace local productivity and sustainable livelihood by expensive technological innovations based on imports which, moreover, benefit not the local people but outsiders, mainly urban areas danger, industries and chemical farming spread throughout India.

The government even frowns upon the security argument that coastal atomic power stations may prove easy targets for enemy missiles and if destroyed, entire populations may fall victim to atomic radiation! This danger is amply demonstrated by the recent entry and attacks on the west coast by terrorists! The coastal system presents an integrated profile. It consists of elevated lateritic plateaus with their characteristic vegetation, slope forests, farming and fruit orchards and coastline with mangroves,, mudflats, scattered rocks and sands. The local people so far have formed an integral part of this picture simply because their traditional practices involve sustainable use of resources. Here again government interventions, though well meant, ultimately resulted in over exploitation. The government provided subsidy and easy loans to fishermen to buy mechanized trawlers. Government even provided cold storages at almost no cost. The result was a boom in fishing, entry of multinationals, leading to severe depletion of fish stocks on the otherwise very productive shallow marine areas adjoining the coast. Of late lateritic plateaus are much in the news. To the common man they provide immense visual delight when at the end of monsoon, they are embellished by a variety of herbaceous flowers with attractive colours. Kaas, a plateau on the crestline of Western Ghats, overlooking Konkan, has been attracting hordes of visitors from Mumbai and Pune. Jaitapur and Madban plateaus in the Konkan are slowly gaining popularity as sites as much endowed with wild flowers, as is Kaas.

Researchers have studied their herbaceous flora and have demonstrated that some of the plants are rare and endangered and need protection. Some are highly endemic and have heritage value. In fact when a World Conservation Union team of experts visited India, they were invited to examine Kaas and researchers put up a strong case before them to include Kaas in the world heritage list. The experts agreed after their site visit and after going through the evidence gathered by the researchers. Jaitapur and Madban are in line for the inclusion. Their biodiversity value transcends all other values. But huge windmills generating power have already destroyed parts of the plateaus. To the local people they are equally valuable as the source of perennial water supply. During the rains cracks and fissures in the laterite catch rain water which seeps through to bottom layers and remain a source of water for springs and underground seepage which moisturizes farm soil and replenishes wells.

Recent research has demonstrated that these herbs tolerate extreme climatic conditions and lack of soil and survive even through the driest summers. They are therefore, called desiccation tolerant. Scientists are hoping to find among them some of agricultural and horticultural values. These can then be introduced in regions where extreme dry seasons and vagaries of monsoon make farming very dicey.

People do not want to lose all these valuable resources for atomic power plants
whose benefits may prove to be severely negative. One may then ask why the government is so insistent about atomic energy development in the face of opposition by local people and even by experts in the field?

Pioneers in this field included such renowned physicists as Dr. S.N. Bose, Dr. C.V. Raman,
Jagdishchandra Bose & Dr. Saha. They were for dissemination of atomic physics through
universities and research institutes. But the 1948 Atomic Energy Act made the development of atomic energy the exclusive responsibility of the government. Atomic Energy Commission was organized by the government under the chairmanship of Dr. Homi Bhaba.

The main argument against atomic power is its high cost. The capital cost of a thermal power plant is slightly over 30 million rupees per megawatt and for the atomic power plant it is around 110 million. The per unit cost therefore of these two types is `2.37 and `5 respectively. All atomic power plants in India are beset with the problem of uranium supply. As the supply is inadequate, the plants work up to only 50% of their installed capacity. Import of uranium and of fossil fuel to convert it into fissionable material is the only option for the government. It seems the government is bent upon adopting this high cost road to power development. In 2002-03 atomic power was given a budget allocation of over 33 billion rupees while development of non-traditional sources of power such as solar, wind etc. received only about `4 billion. In spite of this step-motherly treatment in 2005 the non-traditional sources achieved an installed
capacity of 4800 megawatts against 3310 megawatts of atomic power.

It seems experts including officials of the Atomic Energy Commission heavily discount hazards posed by atomic radiation. Already over 300 radiation incidents have been documented, most of them involving workers in atomic energy plants and residents of villages and towns in their vicinity. Physical deformities and high incidence of cancer are common among them. According to Dr. Helen Caldicott, an atomic expert of international repute, India’s atomic energy programme is the least efficient in the world and is highly pollutive exposing hundreds of workers to dangerous radiation.

But sanity, wisdom and even sound economics fail before the interplay of international politics. It looks countries like France & USA are putting pressure on the GOI for they want to sell to India technology which they can no longer use in their countries. Government of India now proposes to hand over the installation of Jaitapur atomic energy plants to a French Company called AREWA. They would install reactors called EPR ( European Pressure Cooled Reactor ) which is still in an experimental stage and has not been successfully installed and operated anywhere. In fact in Finland the installation of these reactors has not been successful. In U S A the Atomic Energy Commission has not given permission to operationalize this technology. Yet the Government of India proposes to invest over 50,000 crores of rupees in this dubious technology. Now a counter pressure from international conservation and peace keeping
organizations is necessary to fight the one put up by certain countries and multinationals.

We appeal to them to write to the GOI protesting strongly against their decision to go
ahead building atomic power plants. Is it extravagant to hope that these will come
forward in support of Indian people?

Prakash Gole

Ethics and Ecology

Ethics & Ecology

Ethics is a set of principles about right & wrong & how human beings should behave. Ecology is about inter- relationships – between living organisms (both plants & animals) and between biological & physical entities. The still unresolved issue seems to be how these two can be reconciled – probably in the interests of the future of mankind & the future of all the non- human beings.

The dichotomy between right & wrong began to be significant when the needs & efforts of human beings proliferated. The ethical question was probably absent or insignificant when the predominant theme and effort of human life was survival, as in the hunting gathering stage. It began to be more & more significant as one abandoned nomadic life style, became settled with the spread of agriculture which induced a sense of individual and / or communal property.
The surplus food that agriculture created tuned the communities into a human society with diverse skills & professions and a hierarchy of classes based on wealth & power or their lack & gave rise to different cultures which reflected aspirations, beliefs & motivations. Environment probably played a crucial role in shaping these. In the comparatively benign environment of the tropics flowered cultures which professed human life in tune with nature & its ecological compulsions. Human beings were never considered to be superior to nature. The cosmos & the nature were considered to be so vast & complex that they would always remain beyond human comprehension.

On the other hand cultures that survived in a comparatively harsh environment considered nature to be subservient to human beings and a resource to be conquered & exploited. As Lynn White Jr. says, “Christianity, in absolute contrast to ancient paganism and Asia’s religions (except perhaps Zorostrianism), not only established a dualism of man and nature but also insisted that it is god’s will that man exploit nature for his proper ends”; and further. “To a Christian a tree can be no more than a physical fact. The whole concept of the sacred grove is alien to Christianity and the ethics of the west.” (Lynn White Jr. The Historical Roots of Our Ecologic Crisis published in The Environmental Ethics and Policy Book: Ed. D. Vade Veer & C. Pierce, 2003, Thomson Wadsworth, USA).

But it was not until the Industrial Revolution when the west effected a union between science and technology, a marriage of theoretical and empirical approaches to nature, that knowledge came to be considered as technological power over nature. By the 19th Century conquest of nature became a normal pattern of action (Ibid).

Almost simultaneously, that is in 1873, this new pattern of action gave rise to the concept of ecology. As the study of the plant & animal kingdoms progressed, the western thinkers became increasingly aware of the necessity of preserving these in the interest of human survival and so arose the need to question the notion of human rights ( & later duties) towards the --- human world. An investigation began in the origins of right & wrong in humans & other animals. People began to discuss whether the animals have rights, whether trees have a moral standing & how the present generation should use nature & resources so as to ensure a decent standard of living for future generations. The constant rise in consumption & pollution triggered a movement that questioned the very basis of religious dogma and culminated into a Land Ethic and Deep Ecology.
Manual G. Valasquez examines the pros & cons of Ecological Ethics in his essay ‘Ecological Ethics’. The discussion is especially in relation to business & industrial practices & policies as these affect ecological systems. He examines the views of several authors who have contributed to the development of Deep Ecology by advocating that every animal & plant has an intrinsic value & needs to be treated with respect; that non- human parts of the environment deserve to be protected for their own sake whether they benefit humans or not & that business & industry should recognize the inter- relationships & interdependence of ecological systems in which they operate.

In the end however, he concludes that all these thoughts & actions emanating from them are still controversial. Authors who think otherwise argue that “why the fact that something is alive implies that it should be alive & that we therefore, have a duty to keep it alive or to express respect or reverence for it …. and that whether” We can claim that animal have rights or intrinsic value”.

What seems to be absent from thoughts of the authors quoted in the article, is the existence of predator- prey relationships in eco- systems. Humans today are the apex predator. Their consumption needs engulf almost the whole plant & animal world. The question then is how far should we stretch our consumption needs? Ecology recognizes thresholds for every natural systems beyond which a predator cannot & should not destroy prey species. Are we going to heed this scientific fact & Herold Laskis’ maxim that liberty is a system or restraints? Or should we go ahead destroying everything in the belief that technology will always find a substitute for everything?

The question of animal rights probably does not attain as cutting as an edge in the eastern cultures as it does in the west. Meat- eating is not such a compulsion in the tropics as it is in the temperate latitudes. In the east ecological knowledge is still a curiosity & has not led to awareness creation among the masses. Plants, animals & ecology are more a matter of neglect than of serious concern scientific, philosophical or otherwise.

The other relevant issue, that of pollution prevention has a wider audience both in the west & in the east than that of animal rights. This is because it directly affects business & industry’s profit- making & accumulation of wealth. The issue is whether companies should bear the responsibility of creating & maintaining an environment conducive to the welfare of people in the neighbourhood. The court case between Mackline Mining Co and official pollution prevention authority & environmentalists very well illustrates the issue of corporate environmental responsibility.

The law requires that the industries should use the best available technology to prevent pollutants entering atmosphere, water & soil. The company was accused of polluting a creek & destroying its fish & wildlife through the discharge of its effluents. The company then built a settling pond & there was some improvement in the water quality. Later the pond began to leak pollutants resulting in the water quality deterioration in the creek. The company pleaded that difficult market conditions had lowered its profits & it found it difficult to maintain the pond. If any penalties were to be imposed the company would have to close down resulting in loss of employment to locals.

Whether the penalty was imposed and the company has to close down is not known. But the case very well illustrates the arguments & difficulties faced in enforcing the “Polluter Pays Principle”. The “Precautionary Principle” states that any profit- making project should not be undertaken if the consequent pollution is difficult to prevent. In reality both these principles are rarely accepted due probably to the influence of English Common Law which gives priority to enterprise & asks pollutee to compensate the polluter if the former wants the enterprise to close down for introducing pollutants! In the modern world profit- making is still the “right” thing & not the preservation of the environment!!

The deeper question here is whether the right to a livable environment should or should not be considered a basic human right. William T Blackstone examines this problem in his article Ethics & Ecology. He considers rationality & freedom essential to develop capacities in human beings; that quality of life in a society is dependent on the availability of education, housing, medical & legal care etc. But finds that a livable environment though recognized as a human right is hardly enforceable legally. ( In India however, the apex court has upheld this right in recent cases). Given man’s great ability to manipulate the environment, it is necessary that new institutions & regulative agencies need to be established to make sure that manipulation is in the public interest. The state must prevent abuse & waste of environmental resources. By themselves private businesses are hardly agreeable to provide solutions to multiple environmental problems that they themselves create. Competition implies production at lowest possible cost. The calculation of GNP does not allow for the destruction of the environment. The uncontrolled growth culture basically encourages artificial needs detrimental to the quality of life.

If the ecological attitude is to challenge this reality, reconsideration of a host of current values is unavoidable. This reconsideration will undoubtedly affect the present institutions of private property & enterprise. Resources cannot be considered free or capable of unbridled exploitation.
In response to these problems there is now talk of a new economy, of natural capitalism and of a restoration economy. These recognize that a great many things have value & use which have no economic value & use. It is accepted that we should go in for soft technology as hard technology is responsible for most of the problems.

All this boils down to the ecological wisdom that everything on this planet is finite & perishable.

Unfettered rights & unbridled freedom are just not enduring & sustainable. Today’s reality vindicates therefore, the eastern ideals of restraint & abstinence; that the happiness is the highest when needs are controlled! Human rights imply not only responsibilities but also ecological wisdom!! The inter-relationship between ethics & ecology is therefore, enduring & irreplaceable.

Prakash Gole

Climate Change & India

Climate Change & India

It is well said, “If climate change is the problem, biodiversity is the answer”.

Indian scientists are already forecasting that monsoon in India will be weakened if global temperature rises. At present the global average CO20 c, if the total Green House Gases concentration is 385 ppm. It is predicted that global temperature will rise by 2 (GHG) concentration goes up to 445 ppm. Global warming will affect growth rate of plants, many of them will go extinct and distribution of species & their reproduction will be affected. This will directly affect India’s poor. People who are directly dependent on forests are estimated to be more than six crores. For many rural poor wild plants provide 14 to 42 percent of their income.

Quality of life of people, especially those living in rural areas is therefore, greatly dependent on the quality of natural resources in the country.

It is alarming to note that over the last 50 years, the quality of natural resources in India has been degrading rapidly. The Noble prize winner Mr. Pachauri & his team have estimated the loss in billions of rupees due to degradation of natural resources. Here are the figures


Annual economic value (Rs billion)

Preventing adverse effects of poor quality of drinking water on human health


Loss of crop productivity due to degradation of soil

89 - 322

Loss of wood due to degradation of forests


Adverse effects on human health due to polluted air

885 - 4250

The loss must be continuing as little evidence is there for corrective measures on a large scale. As the opening statement says, climate change will deeply affect India as we have already lost the protective cover of biodiversity.

I am not going to enter into the controversy whether human activities contribute to global warming in a major way or not. It is far more important to discuss what measures should be taken to avoid losses due to climate change. Such measures include policy changes at the centre and state levels, corrective actions to be taken by various government departments and agencies & NGO level actions based on peoples’ participation.

I shall speak mainly, on research & action programmes with which our Ecological Society is directly concerned. A nation wide move is currently going on to collect basic information on Biodiversity in the form of Peoples’ Biodiversity Registers. It is necessary that these registers are brought under Intellectual Property Rights so that individuals & communities who hold this information can get some material benefit.

Before discussing action programmes let me first take you to regions with which I am associated over several years & where effects of climate change are strikingly evident. The first such area is Ladakh, the northern most region of India.

Ladakh was known to be a cold desert with average altitude above 11000 ft or 3500 meters. Climate change has led to melting of glaciers flooding the sand filled valleys with water & turning them green.

This has benefited wildlife in general as food has become plentiful & reproduction is easier. Breeding pairs of the rare Black necked Crane (Grus nigricollis) were hard to find in 1990s as freshwater marshes where they breed were widely scattered. There were in all 5 or 6 breeding pairs in entire Ladakh. Now there are 30 pairs in 2007 as freshwater marshes can be met everywhere due to glacier melt. Animals like Bharal & Urial have increased in numbers too & could be easily seen by the roadside. But knowledgeable people predict that these conditions may not last long & the reverse process of drying up will begin soon.

Coastal areas of Maharashtra are also witnessing changes in sea level. The famous Jaki Mirya beach near Ratnagiri now lies submerged as the sea has invaded over it. Since 2000 the coastal biodiversity of plant & animals has been rapidly declining. There is a horrendous decline in fish catch & large size; deep water fish have become rare. Already in 1998 some 24 species of fish had become scarce & were rarely recorded in fish catch.

Government efforts to create awareness of the situation among fishermen rarely succeed as the government fails to provide alternative occupations that will generate income for fishermen.

Initiatives & programmes to fight not only climate change but also ill effects of the present process of economic development are conspicuous by their absence. How can we reverse the ill effects of both? What could be the nature of such programmes? Some pointers in this direction can be gauged from the work Ecological Society has been doing over the last 26 years.

But before I delve into the nature of such programmes let me remind you of some simple truths which we seem to have forgotten in recent years because of the overwhelming influence of technology on our minds. The first simple truth is healthy nature i.e. natural ecosystems with their regenerative & absorptive capacities unaffected & high quality natural resources are the foundation of economic progress. The second one is in a tropical country like India, decentralization is far better than centralization. It accounts for microclimates & peculiar local biodiversity and the third seems to be technology should be consistent with ecology.

You will immediately realize that our educational system, our occupational strategies and our top-down developmental planning deride these three basic propositions.

Our educational system seems to be hardly aware of the importance of micro-climates of different livelihoods that these generate & of the importance of local conditions & other genetic variants of plants & livestock. All this leads to neglect of local natural resources & biodiversity, their degradation & students are made to believe that technology alone generates livelihoods & that too primarily in cities. The urban sprawl therefore, continues.

Our occupational strategies & development planning shows their excessive dependence on modern technology. Our administrators and politicians seem to be totally unaware of eco-processes & basic life support systems which are provided by nature free of cost. These are: self cleaning of atmosphere and fresh water, natural development of soil, biodiversity or gene bank, assimilation & waste absorptive capacity of nature, the self- generating marine wealth etc.

When a person enjoys these services free of cost, his/ her cost of living decreases remarkably. For example, if agriculture is supported by an adequate area of forest, a farmer’s input cost comes down & soil improvement & availability of water enhances productivity.

Modern technology, in its efforts to divert more & more Sun’s energy towards human beings, first destroys these eco-processes & then tries to technologically restore them which increase the costs tremendously. In order to enhance per capita consumption of food & water, agriculture is standardized through green revolution techniques, and fresh water flows are disrupted by building dams. Both these lead to unprecedented quality losses in soil & water. These are then sought to be corrected by application of inorganic fertilizers and chemical treatment of polluted water. Both are extremely expensive.

Overall impact of economic development based on technology is unbelievable degradation of natural eco-systems & eco-processes & consequent steep rise in the cost of living.

Our efforts now should be directed towards understanding the ecology of natural eco-systems, & eco-processes & restoration of degraded nature in all its forms. Ecological Society has been working in these two related fields for the last 26 years.

If our technology is to be consistent with ecology, we need a complete overhaul of our educational system. We must aim at a holistic view of life & not compartmentalization of knowledge into different subjects. Social Sciences such as Sociology & Economics need to be combined with physical sciences such as geography & general science to clarify the role of human beings in a natural setting. With this goal in view we are working with urban & rural school students, making them aware of the importance of micro-climates & local natural resources. We have also devised a post-graduate holistic course in management with special emphasis on restoration & sustainable management of natural resources & eco-systems.

The importance & potential of restoration of nature are hardly understood in India at the administrative & political level. Our efforts to restore nature have been more appreciated abroad than in India. Restoration of nature is basically labour intensive & has a potential to create millions of jobs. Again it will create natural assets for the nation & will be directly beneficial to India’s poor. The great potential of restoration of nature in eradicating poverty is hardly realized in India.

I may indicate here certain areas where restoration is urgently necessary. Restoration of soil quality & fresh water will benefit almost everyone. Basic truth seems to be that our mountains & hills are the sources of both. Many of our dams & reservoirs are located not far away from the source regions of rivers. Ecological Society has produced a plan to revive the ecology of the source region and catchment area of a dam which supplies drinking water to Pune, irrigation to farming in downstream areas. It has actually carried out a project to restore the ecology of hill slopes and other economic benefits to local people.

Areas around dams generally present a picture of desolation as soil; stone & rubble have been removed together with destruction of plant life. Such stone quarry areas have been restored to wetlands & indigenous forest yielding significant gains in biodiversity.

We have hundreds of reservoirs all over Maharashtra but there is hardly any attempt to manage them for multiple benefits. Our project on the reservoir of Ujani dam was a pioneering project in reservoir restoration. If such projects are carried out, local biodiversity will get a welcome boost.

We have extensive dry & drought prone areas in Maharashtra where farming in risky. The best way to revive productivity & ecology of these areas is to promote grassland development. Our restoration of grassland project located in Phaltan (District Satara) tehsil aims at quality enhancement of grasslands.

Restoration of streams & rivers in rural & urban areas is another dire necessity. Our river front development projects in urban areas & Niraml Ganaga Abhiyan in rural areas have quality enhancement of water as their main objective.

If educational reform & restoration of nature go hand in hand the benefits in terms of biodiversity & eco-processes regeneration & employment & income generation are immense.

Prakash Gole