Posts Tagged 'Environment'



Pondicherry Beach Erosion: a Man-Made Environmental Disaster

The citizens of Pondicherry are finding their voices, and it is inspirational to see. They are crying out against the crooked deal which proposes to place a new deep-water port at the south end of tow, vast profits in the hands of private developers, and environmental disaster throughout Pondicherry and into the neighboring state of Tamil Nadu.

Usually, the corrupt public officials and venal private developers are a winning combination in India; the public interest and the health of civic institutions take a beating. This time, up against smart, informed citizens’ action groups that cannot be bought-off, it looks as though truth, decency, and the environment have a fighting chance.

There are a number of environmental, livelihood, and criminality issues at stake in the proposed development of a port in Pondicherry by Subhash Projects Marketing Limited and Ohm Metals, but perhaps the beach-sand issue is at the heart of the fight. To better understand how a new port would starve the coastline of sand, create penetrating erosion, and cause salinity in the watertable and topsoil, click here to view an excellent slide presentation (in pdf format).

The proposed port in Pondicherry must be defeated for many reasons. Hopefully, this presentation will help clarify one of the important environmental issues.

Pondicherry’s Sandy Beaches Imperiled by New Port Development

sob-banner.jpg

Study the photos above. In less than two decades — and it may have been much more rapid than that — Pondicherry’s beautiful sandy beach along the the main promenade of the town has completely disappeared, leaving a rough coastline of riprap boulders, brought in with heavy equipment to staunch further erosion.

What happeed to the gorgeous beach front? It eroded away, largely as a function of breakwaters (stone jetties that protrude into the sea to arrest wave action), which were built between 1986 and 1989 at the harbour entrance where the Ariyankuppam River joins the sea.

And now the Government of Pondicherry is planning to compound the damage.

Continue reading ‘Pondicherry’s Sandy Beaches Imperiled by New Port Development’

Snot: The Canary in Bombay’s Coal Mine

Bombay smog, overlooking Churchgate

“Mumbai is such a foul city that frequent nose-picking has become compulsory.”

So begins Dilip Radte’s lengthy commentary and first-finger account on the Op-Ed page of yesterday’s Hindustan Times (Mumbai Edition). His point is that dust, grime, and foul air have reached a point where they clog the nose. In truth, at the end of every Mumbai day, I find myself blowing black-shit from my schnoz, just as one does in any other North Indian city, or in New York for that matter.

Radte also puts the prissy and well-mannered – who would turn up their nose at nose-picking – in their place: “The elitist’s only advantage over other Mumbaikars is that they don’t have to pick their noses in public.”

nose

The Shit of the Saintly is Still Reeking

Garbage on the River Ganga (Ganges)

The Kumbh Mela, the world’s largest religious festival, has just rounded its halfway point in Parag, near Allahabad, Uttar Pradesh. Occurring roughly every three years, the Mela coincides with certain astrological events, and lasts approximately eight weeks. This year’s festivities, will be attended by an estimated eight million people, including the traditional quorum of spiritual poseurs, religious exhibitionists, and voyeurs. Only the most uncritically relativistic, everything-is-beautiful-in-its-own-way, intellectually blinkered observers could possibly see the Kumbh Mela as anything other than a spiritual freak show, notwithstanding the devout piety of the rank-and-file superstitious who also attend.

The rather poor 2005 film, Kumbh Mela, depicted a small slice of the brainlessness of the event. My evidence for the spiritual vacuity of the Kumbh Mela and its participants, however, is drawn from today’s Times of India headline, “Heaps of Garbage Lie Unattended in Mela Area.”

Continue reading ‘The Shit of the Saintly is Still Reeking’

Varanasi: Shit-Hole of the Gods

Ghats on the Gnaga, Varanasi

I’m posting this from the tarmac of the airport in Delhi (I no more enjoy calling it “Indira Gandhi International Airport” than I would willingly refer to National Airport in Washington, D.C. “Ronald Reagan Airport”), on my way to the 7th Annual International AIDS Conference. India is playing host to this year’s gathering of leading scientists, doctors, and NGOs working on the HIV/AIDS epidemic, and the venue for the conference is Varanasi.

I am looking forward to the conference, at which I will be representing an innovative biotechnology project that provides unique sample preservation tools to enable the diagnosing HIV infection through analysis of DNA. Still, I am dreading being back in Varanasi. Rather than recount my reasons, let me attach the text of an email I sent following my previous visit in 2002.
Continue reading ‘Varanasi: Shit-Hole of the Gods’

Alang: Shipbreaking, Salvage, and Environmental Issues

Shipbreaking at Alang
Photo courtesy of Greenpeace International

We traveled to Alang, a stretch of beach on the Gulf of Khambhat in Gujarat, to witness first-hand what has been described as one of the “Seven Garbage Wonders of the World.” At the moment, there are 70 large ships beached like dead whales on the sands of Alang, where they are being dismantled for the reprocessing of their valuable steel. Shipbreaking is easy on neither the environment, nor the workers.
Continue reading ‘Alang: Shipbreaking, Salvage, and Environmental Issues’

Trash on the Tracks

Indian Railways Trash

A few years ago, I was riding in open-seating on a short-haul train between major metros. The precise place doesn’t much matter; this scene could have played itself out anywhere. I was by the window, and in the window seat across from me sat an obviously affluent, middle-aged woman. She was snacking incessantly throughout the journey. As she finished each morsel, she would casually toss its plastic bag or wrapper out the open window. When she purchased a cup of chai from the passing chai-wallah, it was a safe bet that the plastic cup would also be headed out the window.

It was more than I could stand; and though it was not premeditated, when she aimed the cup out the window, I instinctively reached out and caught it, scalding my hand with the remains of the chai in the process. The woman was shocked and angry, and lashed out at me. What the hell was I doing? She was simply disposing of trash!
Continue reading ‘Trash on the Tracks’


Blasts from the Past

Man Up!
Man up you pussy!

... because the idiocy of manliness is an evergreen topic.

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Talking Turkey
how to cook a perfect turkey in half the time

... because Canada and the US will celebrate their Thanksgiving holidays and, regrettably and preventably, not 1-cook-in-10 will serve a decent turkey.

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Filial Piety Awareness Day
Kaki Tusler, Mother's Day Celebrant

... because everyday is Mother's Day.

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America Dreaming Small
American Dream

... because the American Dream seems but a distant memory, given the country's dominant ethos of small-mindedness.

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Serenity and Gratitude to Bring in the New Year
New Year's Eve at Tibetan Pavillion

... to remind us that not every mix of Tibetans and Western spiritual seekers has to be nauseating.

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Incredible Vision
Infinite Vision

... to celebrate the new edition of Infinite Vision published in India.

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Expelliarmus! Harry Potter and the Path to Gandhian Nonviolence
Expelliarmus, Potter, Gandhi, Nonviolence

... reprised because military strategy seems more cruel and less effective than ever -- and certainly there is a better way.

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India Going Nowhere Fast
Nano in Flames

... because cars are ruining Pondicherry, where I live. How badly are they fucking up your Indian town?

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Understanding the Gift Economy
Gift Economy Explained

... reprinted because more-and-more people seem want to understand the gift economy. (Yeah!)

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