Registered with the Registrar of Newspapers for India under R.N.I 53640/91

Vol. XXVIII No. 6, July 1-15, 2018

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5824

Water starvation faces us

By The Editor

Page 1 picture

Queuing to supply water to the City. (Photo: R. Raja Pandiyan.)

Earlier this year, Cape Town acquired the dubious distinction of becoming the first city in the world to face the prospect of forcibly closing off all taps and get its population to get water from 200 collection points across the city. That catastrophe got pushed back somewhat, but Simla was not so lucky. Last month, piped water was no longer feasible, and people lined up at various places to get their share of this precious commodity. A newspaper report has it that Delhi is not far behind, likely to go dry in 2020. Can Chennai be far behind?

Or has the city already crossed that tipping point? Reports speak of the rich in Cape Town drilling deep bore wells in a panic reaction to the crisis. Have we not been doing this for years? In some areas of the city, the depth of these bore wells has already reached impossible levels. With this, what little subterranean water exists will soon vanish. The Chennai Metropolitan Water Supply and Sewerage Board (CMWSSB) has been overcoming the problem of reducing water levels by simply identifying wells in the countryside and bringing water from there to the city. The residents there have been protesting but this has been overcome by declaring all these feeder regions as the Chennai Metropolitan Area. When you are part of a city, you cannot deny water to yourself, or at least that appears to be the logic.

In May this year, the Central Government approved a Rs. 3,900 crores desalination plant for the city. To be located at Minjur with a capacity of 400 million litres per day, it has raised the concerns of marine biologists who feels that such a giant facility would wreak havoc on animal and plant life by, and in, the sea. Not that this appears to have worried anyone – the decision makers, the residents of Chennai or the Ministry of Environment that gave its final nod.

The one aspect that is being completely overlooked in all this is the minimising of wastage. Rainwater conservation, which was taken up with such enthusiasm in the 1990s, appears to have lost steam somewhere along the way. On a larger scale, the Government has begun putting disused quarries to good use for storing surplus water. This is a commendable initiative. But why is the citizenry not being told to minimise water wastage?

By this we do not mean those half-hearted appeals that are being periodically sent out. The CMWSSB needs to immediately form a department for water conservation and begin insisting that all large apartment complexes and commercial establishments have water recycling facilities in place that segregate grey water, purify it and send it back into the system for reuse. Presently, there are hardly any buildings in the city that have such facilities in place and even those that claim to have them apparently do not have systems that can cater for what is really being generated as grey water. If such facilities were to be in place, not only will water be conserved, it will also reduce the strain to which the drainage system is at present being subject to. The CMWSSB should then begin targeting individual households, and smaller buildings as well, to take this up. The Corporation also needs to change the ways by which it maintains its parks – the system of using large hoses to water plants needs to be changed to drip feed systems.

In the absence of such conservation processes, Chennai is forever going to be starved of water. And the deficit is only going to become increasingly worse in the years to come.

5835

Is new MSP good for TN farmers?

* The writer is an Agricultural Economist and a former Consultant with the FAO.

Agriculture supports about 40 per cent of the population for livelihood. How it is impacted by the Centre’s proposal to introduce a Margin Guarantee Scheme to farmers is of importance. The present Minimum Support Price (MSP) scheme has been only moderately successful in many states and, so, continuing to call the new proposal by the same name may lead to its uninformed rejection. The new scheme being still in its embryo, there is opportunity for the Tamil Nadu government to interact with the Centre and ensure that the new proposal in its final form becomes a real boon to our farmers.

The present MSP offers protection to farmers against a falling market for produce. While in concept it is good, in practice it has not been as effective as expected, mostly because of implementation deficiencies. The Commission for Agricultural Costs & Prices (CACP) determines the national level production cost per quintal/tonne of each crop covered by the scheme. It is derived from data of each State which are weighted for the volume of production of that state and averaged for all the States of the country. To determine the cost of production, paid costs are taken and to these the imputed (although unpaid) cost of family labour on the farm is added. This is referred to as A2 + FL cost. Quantum of margin over the cost is arrived at by assessing the effect of the following factors supply demand balance, inter-crop price parity, domestic and international prices, terms of trade for agriculture and non-agriculture sectors and effect on cost of living – which sounds daunting.

5837

From India’s Digital Archives

The Digital Library of India (DLI) project, an initiative of the Central Government, aims at digitising significant artistic, literary and scientific works and making them available over the Internet for education and research. Begun in 2000 by the Office of the Principal Scientific Advisor to the Government of India and later taken over by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, it has to date scanned nearly 5.5 lakh books, predominantly in Indian languages.

The archives of the DLI contain a huge collection of books on old Madras and various institutions that were/are part of its landscape. While these include the more famous ones, such as the Madras Tercentenary Commemoration Volume, Story of Madras by Glyn Barlow, and Madras in the Olden Times by James Tallboys Wheeler, several out-of-print publications too are part of the collection. This column will profile some of them.

Freemasonry comes to South India

The Digital Library of India (DLI) project, an initiative of the Central Government, aims at digitising significant artistic, literary and scientific works and making them available over the Internet for education and research. Begun in 2000 by the Office of the Principal Scientific Advisor to the Government of India and later taken over by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, it has to date scanned nearly 5.5 lakh books, predominantly in Indian languages.

The archives of the DLI contain a huge collection of books on old Madras and various institutions that were/are part of its landscape. While these include the more famous ones, such as the Madras Tercentenary Commemoration Volume, Story of Madras by Glyn Barlow, and Madras in the Olden Times by James Tallboys Wheeler, several out-of-print publications too are part of the collection. This column will profile some of them.

Freemasonry is one of the world’s oldest social movements, with its origins traced to the times of King Solomon. Modern Freemasonry is, however, dated to 1717, when the United Grand Lodge of England, the body that has overseen much of the progress of Freemasonry across the world, was founded. The first Lodge formed in our country was in Fort William, Calcutta, in 1728. The movement took root in South India in 1752, with the formation of the District Grand Lodge of Madras.

5841

Corporate houses and contemporary art

by Geetha Doctor

A 20-year old article that’s still relevant.

Walking through the Peugeot Talbot factory near Coventry, U.K., recently, what struck me were the posters – pin-ups really – of lavishly endowed women that the assembly line crew had stuck near their work stations. Even in the most technologically perfect environment, where the workers hardly have the time to pause in between their carefully timed activity, people need to keep alive an element of fantasy.

The blonde bombshells are the modern Western equivalent of the brightly coloured calendar images that are to be found in the Indian context, hanging over the entrance of a car mechanic’s workshop, in a bank manager’s airconditioned room, no less than that in a pawn-broker’s shop, or over a modest hotel desk. Formerly, these were of smiling goddesses, no less well endowed, sitting on lotuses, attended by swans; now the nubile nymphs seem more intent on advertising a brand of soap or agarbathi. The basic theme in both societies remains the same. The representations are almost always of buxom women, erotically clad, with a “come hither” look, though I presume that goddesses work on a different level…

5858

Lost Landmarks of Chennai

SRIRAM V

The tower that vanished

Page 4Today there is no sign of a tower at the Government Museum, Egmore. Yet, in its time the absence of such a structure would have been completely out of character for the architects who designed the public buildings of Madras. Chisholm, Irwin, Pogson, Brassington – almost all of them believed in their structures being surmounted by a tower. The Museum too was no exception. It is just that the tower does not exist any more. Its disappearance had as much to do with professional rivalry as it had to do with structural problems.

The Madras Museum, as is well known, emerged from an informal collection of artefacts that people kept adding to at the Madras Literary Society. The latter, founded in 1818, was an adjunct to the College of Fort St. George and lived much of the first century of its existence at old College House,