‘A friend in roots down in the earth’
TIMES NEWS NETWORK
NEW DELHI: Environmentalists are trying to come to terms with the loss of Anil Agarwal. While saying Agarwal will be sorely missed, they are looking forward to carrying forward his fight for a cleaner environment. ‘‘As a professional, no one can ever replace him. But he generated so much awareness on the importance of environment in poor, developing countries, that his work will go on,’’ environmentalist Iqbal Malik said. Describing Agarwal as a ‘‘friend with roots down to earth,’’ she said: ‘‘He knew the details of the environmental problems and was ready to take up new challenges.’’
Agreed Central pollution Control Board chairman Dilip Biswas. ‘‘A few years ago Anil spent over three days with me learning all about air pollution. Later he went on to publish a paper in which the board was shown as a stooge of the government. He would never compromise on the things he stood for,’’ Biswas said.
Biswas recalled Anil Agarwal as a freelance journalist, who had quick grasp of scientific details, and had created his own ‘‘brand of environmental journalism.’’
A mechanical engineer from IIT, Kanpur, Agarwal dedicated his life to the mechanics of the environment. He firmly believed that the survival of the poor depended more on the environmental ‘‘gross natural product’’ than the economical gross national product.
In 1982, he edited the first citizen’s report on the ‘‘state of India’s environment’’ in which he provided the social rationale for a developing country like India to take environmental concerns into account. The report provided a shocking overview of the level of degradation and its impact. The result was a sudden interest in environment and led to the formation of several NGOs. In 1992 he founded a fortnightly magazine on science and environment — Down To Earth.
His NGO, Centre for Science and Environment, won global acclaim for its pioneering work. The New Scientist described the CSE thus: ‘‘India has one of the world’s most energetic NGOs in the CSE which reports on the state of the country’s environment.’’
The combined result of his NGO, magazine and his selfless efforts helped spread tremendous awareness among the people.
Pre-digested organic wastes for high quality vermi-composting
By Our Agriculture Correspondent
THOUGH EARTHWORMS can digest a diverse range of organic residues and yield rich vermi-compost, it is better to use pre-digested organic wastes for the worms to act faster and produce high quality compost.
The pre- digested material will be converted into quality vermi-compost in about 30 days, says Dr. Sultan Ismail, Deputy Director of Murugappa Chettiar Research Centre (MCRC), Taramani, Chennai.
The composite organic wastes should be degraded using diluted fresh cow dung slurry, which is to be sprinkled over the several layers of the heap. The heap has to be kept moist by regular irrigation, and it will have to be turned two to three times at an interval of ten days.
The aerobic composting process generates an internal heat, which reaches up to 70 degrees Celsius.
The heat kills the pests and pathogens. It also destroys the seeds of weeds that may be found in the organic wastes, according to Dr. Ismail. The pre-digested waste is an ideal medium for the worms to act on.
The vermi-compost can be made using pits and tanks of any convenient size or in open windrows.
Adequate shade should be provided and sufficient moisture level should be maintained for getting good results. The nutrient level of the vermi-compost varies with the inputs. To get high nitrogen content, residues of leguminous species should be added to the pit.
Addition of blood meal will result in increased nitrogen and potassium content and bone meal will enhance the potash and phosphorus content of the vermi-compost, according to Dr. Ismail.
``Besides the major nutrients and trace elements, the earthworm casting are known to be a rich source of plant growth promoting substances such as auxins and cytokinins,'' explains Dr. Ismail.
Farmers can collect the earthworms from their own fields by employing a simple technology. In a well-shaded patch of the land where earthworm castings are found, a small area of 1 m by 1 m should be earmarked for this purpose.
About 500 g jaggery and an equal quantity of fresh cow dung should be mixed in 15 to 20 litres of water, and this diluted slurry should be sprinkled over the area.
Wet pats of cow dung is scattered over the area and a layer of moistened rice straw should be laid over it.
The whole area is then covered with a jute sack. Regular watering should continue for a period of 20 to 25 days, and care should be taken to avoid water stagnation.
``When the cover is removed one can see the concentration of surface and sub-surface earthworms. Farmers can collect as many as 600 to 700 small worms of Drawida species, which is a surface feeder, and at least of fifty each of Perionyx (surface worm) and Lampito mauritii (sub-surface worm) from that small area.
This simple and low-cost technology helps in sustaining the bio-diversity of the region. These worms can then be used for making vermi-compost,'' points out Ismail.
He made environment a national concern
By Anand Parthasarathy
With the passing away of Anil Agarwal, India loses perhaps the one person whom the world recognised as the authentic voice of the informed and concerned environmental movement in this country. He died on Wednesday in Dehra Dun, where he was undergoing treatment - the last of many heroic attempts - in his decade-long battle with cancer and leukaemia. He was 54.
The Delhi-based Centre for Science and Environment, (CSE) an organisation which he founded in 1980 (www.cseindia.org), soon became the most respected environmental action group in India, trusted worldwide as an authentic people's voice with no governmental or political baggage. But even earlier, Mr. Agarwal (a B.Tech. in mechanical engineering from IIT Kharagpur) had made a name for keen and professional reporting on science developments. I first interacted with him when he was the Science Correspondent of the Indian Express in the late 1970s, a position he briefly held after a similar task at the Hindustan Times. Already in those days his developmental reports for the London-based New Scientist weekly carried the stamp of a firm conviction that science and environmental were primarily about people.
His concern about the environment led him to throw up these regular jobs and create a new platform to focus on environmental matters. Mr. Agarwal and like-minded citizens had a tough time being taken seriously by the establishment. But a few enlightened government officials ensured that the fledgling movement grew.
While national accolades (Padma Shri in 1986 and Padma Bhushan in 2000) and international recognition (the Global Environmental Leadership Award as well as the Normal Borlaug Award in 2000) piled up, Mr. Agarwal retained the common touch and the ego-less pursuit of environmental goals that was to become the hallmark of the CSE as well as of Down To Earth the monthly magazine that the Centre started in 1992.
The first Citizen's Report on the State of the Indian Environment the CSE brought out in 1982, followed by a second report in 1985, were models of their kind - and inspired many state-based NGOS in India to document their own backyards.
More than any other organisation it was the CSE that vigorously lobbied to educate the Government on burning issues - like neglected water resources, lopsided energy priorities and the like. Sadly, Mr. Agarwal could not continue the Citizens Report series for many years after that - and subsequent reports tended to tackle one issue at a time.