Friday, September 29, 2006

Think Twice Before You Drink

A huge debate is going on now- was it correct on the part of the Government of Kerala to ban Coke? Those who support Government’s decision say that Coke being a carbonated drink (read MNC’s drink) should not have any kind of pesticide. Those who oppose Government’s view argue that pesticides get into Coke through the water and Government should take steps to provide good and safe water to one and all.

I am an environmental engineer working in the design of water and wastewater treatment plants for the last 5 years in US. I would like to present some facts to you about the so called “safe to drink” water we get in our homes in Kerala.

So when we think about a water treatment plant what comes to our mind? The process like coagulation, sedimentation, filtration, using sand and disinfection with chlorine. Over 85% of drinking water treatment plants follow these conventional treatment processes.

Most of the treatment plants in US are moving away from conventional treatment process. Research has found that many organic contaminants (which include most of the pesticides) cannot be treated using conventional treatment process.

US Environmental Protection Agency in March 2001 published this report. The abstract of it reads like this

“A group of chemicals, known as endocrine disruptor chemicals (EDCs), has been identified as having the potential to cause adverse health effects in humans and wildlife. Among this group DDT, PCBs, endosulfan, methoxychlor, diethylphthalate, diethylhexylphthalate, and bisphenol A may occur in drinking water. The various components of the drinking water treatment process have been evaluated and granular activated carbon has been identified as the method to be used for the removal of EDCs from drinking water. This document presents treatment processes for large municipalities and small communities to remove EDCs from drinking water.

So did you read DDT and endosulfan – two compounds that we use widely as pesticides and pet subject of our CM. How many water treatment plants have granular activated carbon treatment plants in Kerala? I don’t know of any. So what that means? You may be drinking water containing DDT and endosulfan. Our elected representatives are doing nothing to improve the drinking water quality.

We think if we boil the water we are safe. Yes boiling water removes virus/bacteria but most pesticides/organic contaminants which are carcinogenic persist. If virus/bacteria are present you get sick immediately. If carcinogenic substances are present, over a period of time you get cancer. Now you know, who is the main culprit for increasing the cancer rate in our community?

Another wrong belief- adding more chlorine to water is good. Yes it is good in killing the microbes but if we add chlorine to water not properly treated it produces what is called “disinfection byproducts” which are highly carcinogenic. These compounds are regulated in US and most of the water treatment plants are moving away from using chlorine as a primary disinfectant. All water treatment plants in US have to monitor for disinfection byproducts daily. Does anyone sitting in Kerala Water Authority have any knowledge about disinfection by product formation potential of chlorine? I don’t know. It is time for them to know this, as they are playing with the lives of millions of people.

There is a treatment plant near my house in Trivandrum. This treatment plant is in a place called Vandithadam. What they do is, pump water from the Vellayani Lake and pass it through a sand filter, add excess chlorine and sent it to the distribution system. Last time when I came back from India I took a water sample and brought it to my lab. I found the disinfection by product almost 50 times that is permissible in US. Yes, being an Environmental Engineer, I know the water my parents and brother drink, is not safe, but do we have any other alternative?

I wish the political parties instead of taking law into their own hand and destroying public/private property do something to provide safe drinking water to the people.



quills said...

You are right!

And not just our drinking water. The government seems unconcerned about "mayam" in our food, like in the essential spices used in daily cooking, but instead wastes its time taking on MNCs for the wrong reasons, whose products are consumed by a very small minority of people. If the government is so concerned about the health of its citizens, let them stress the same standards of quality for all products irrespective of the nationality of its manufacturer/producer.

Mind Curry said...

yes..but as long as its local pesticide or local carcinogens and local waste that we are forced to drink and eat, government thinks its ok; and they can focus on more important things like "suryanelli sex case" and "beauty parlor case"..


what a shocking and revealing article! kudos to you brijesh..hope everyone in kerala gets to read or know about this!

Brijesh said...

@quills-If the government sets standard for food and other essential items then majority of food items now sold has to be banned.

@MC- drinking/eating high doses of pesticides in food/water made by local people is ok. I remember supreme court giving a verdict against travancore titanium that it is polluting the nearby areas. did the government shut that down? So Government policies are always double standard whether it is UDF or LDF.

silverine said...

There is small village in central Kerala where I have many relatives. According to what I am told, during the 70's a lot of people from this village died of Cancer. Cancer came in like an epidemic. Later independent studies revealed high level of pesticides content in the water. Nothing was done about it neither did such an event make it to the papers. (However this did bring about an awareness about pesticides at a local level.) Therefore I find this hoo haa about Colas totally laughable.

quills said...

Well, what more can we expect from a government whose leaders insist even when facts prove otherwise, that the grim situation and fast spreading cases of chikungunya is a just a "media creation." Like you put it across, it is about time that the government gets its priorities in order.

Pathetic is right!!

Brijesh said...


A big epidemic like that should happen in Kerala. Then only people/politicians/bureaucrats will realize the importance of safe drinking water.

@quills –

U r correct - the way the government is handling the “suicides of farmers” is more pathetic. Giving incentives to family of people who commit suicide is making more people to commit suicide. I feel this is the worst decision made by the government. Almost 50 farmers have died after this government came to power. The government should have studied the borrowing/spending pattern of these people who committed suicide. Without that paying incentives to people who did cowardly act will encourage more cowards to commit suicide.

pradeep raju said...

Totally agree, India is way behind in providing safe drinking Water. For some reason water issues lack the visibilty they deserve , i dont see gov authorities taking any steps to improve it either, guess things will improve ,if by law gov has to provide a verifiable quality of drinking water(preferably adopt US standards here) are u aware of any such exsiting laws?? , something like a forced change should happen, similar to Euro II pollution compliance for cars in the National capital region.
Also read an article that Coke follows active carbon , in addition to traditional water purifying techniques , still traces of pesticides.??.

If what coke says is true, then why didn't coke pose a counter argument that drinking water(tap) contains more pesticides than their drink , sure lot of people drink tap water than coke. ban water supply first ?? what a shame.

കേരളഫാർമർ/keralafarmer said...

വെള്ളായണി കായലിലെ വെള്ളം പമ്പ്‌ചെയ്ത്‌ ശുദ്ധീകരിച്ച്‌ ബ്രിജേഷിന്റെ വീട്ടിലെത്തിച്ചത്‌ പരിശോധിച്ചതില്‍ നിന്നും 50 ഇരട്ടി (disinfection by product almost 50 times that is permissible in US) അനുവദനീയമല്ലാത്ത രീതിയില്‍ ഘടകങ്ങള്‍ കണ്ടെത്തിയ്രെങ്കില്‍ ശുദ്ധീകരിക്കാത്ത വെള്ളത്തില്‍നിന്നും പിടിക്കുന്ന മത്സ്യങ്ങളും ആ വെള്ളം നനച്ച്‌ വിള്‍വെടുക്കുന്ന പച്ചക്കറികളും മനുഷ്യ ശരീരത്തിലെ പെസ്റ്റിസൈഡുകളുടെ അളവ്‌ ആ വെള്‍ലം കുടിക്കുന്നതിനേക്കാള്‍ എത്രയോ ഇരട്ടി വര്‍ദ്ധിക്കും. പല സ്ഥലങ്ങളിലും രക്തദാനം ഇന്നൊരു ആഘോഷമായി കൊണ്ടാടുകയാണ്. അര ജീവനുള്ള മനുഷ്യനെ അറത്ത്‌ മുറിച്ച്‌ അനുവദനീയമായതിലും കൂടുതല്‍ പെസ്റ്റിസൈഡ്‌ അടങ്ങിയിട്ടുള്ള രക്തം കൂടി നല്‍കിയാല്‍ ആരോഗിയുടെ ഗതി യെന്താകും അല്പം ചിന്തിക്കുക. ഒരു മന്ത്രിയാകുവാന്‍ പ്യൂണിനു വേണ്ട യോഗ്യതപോലും വേണ്ടയെന്നിരിക്കെ പ്രായ പരിധിയും കൂടെ കഴിഞ്ഞാലുള്ള ഭരണം ഇത്രയും വിപത്തുകളല്ലെ സമ്മാനിക്കുന്നുള്ളുവെന്ന്‌ ആശ്വസിക്കാം. അക്ഷരതെറ്റുണ്ടെങ്കില്‍ ക്ഷമിക്കുക.

K V Peter said...

Dear Friends,

It is welcome that the issue of drinking water is highlighted. In my childhood days,drinking
water was collected in earthern/aluminium pots from
open ponds by barefooted housewifes.I have seen in
2005,housewives collect drinking rain water from potholes in village kacha roads in Puduvyppu near High Court of Kerala, because the pond ground water is silty
and undrinkable.You know the amound of water we as a
nation require per day. It is an astonishing 1028
million x 195 litres.You know its value,x Rs.5. It is
nice that we dream to become as Americans. More than
60% of consumables in the world are used by them. If an
American can drink the water, we drink daily without
any inertia. By the by I am now taking one glass of water served to me in an ordinary glass-, an American may become hospitalised. I am evolved over a period of time,my systems are refined to tolerate coliforms,Ecoli
etc. Every region has evolved its system of water purification. Let those systems be researched and
refined rather than aping what is done by US. Ahmedabad based National Innovation Foundation has a few commendable programmes in this direction. Let us not be carried away by ad hoc solutions.Let us remember that
India carries three times the population of US. Kerala
alone has a population of Australia. Personnel,family, community and societal hygiene come through education,laws and awareness.

K V Peter
Former Vice-Chancellor
Kerala Agricultural University

Mind Curry said...

i think its a bit of a point to ponder that someone who has been the agricultural univ VC has taken a very laid-back approach on the issue.

it is ofcourse true that india's population, and with it, the nation's problems are massive. but i dont think anything is an excuse to not improve, or not to work towards betterment and development.

sir says in his childhood people drank from open ponds and walked about barefoot. perhaps it will also be worthwhile to note the drop in communicable diseases and water-borne diseases then and now..the number of children dying have also reduced.

I am evolved over a period of time,my systems are refined to tolerate coliforms,Ecoli

but ofcourse now the problem is different. the water we drink now may not only kill the coliforms, but will kill our own body cells.

Personnel,family, community and societal hygiene come through education,laws and awareness.
education and awareness is the first step, law is necessary, but things wont happen automatically. we have to lose that "inertia" and make it happen.

its easy to think that everything progressive is only for americans, and we indians can always do with secondary and substandard quality. the tough part is achieve that top-standard for ourselves- not only in everything we drink and eat..but in the way we behave and perform and think as well.

Vinod/Kakka said...

The same companies who have accepted the ban on their products in the U. S., have jumped through congressional loop holes to prevent law suits against their selling harmful products knowlingly, sell the self same products in India. Asbestos, DDT, Endosulfan.. the list goes on.
There was a time when I used to wake up in Kariyavattom listening to the birds. I would walk through the paddy fields seeing dragonflies and fire flies. The dragon flies and the birds, the fire flies and the crickets were all killed by Endosulfan, Furidan, DDT and their ilk. They will start killing us too, soon

Brijesh said...

@pradeep - In US when a water treatment plant is designed, they try to find out the various contaminants present in water and then select the water treatment process. Carbon cannot remove all the impurities. Ozone, UV, chlorine dioxide etc are various other water treatment techniques. So some contaminants/pesticides cannot be removed using carbon alone.

@Keralafarmer- the drinking water got contaminated due to the reaction between the organic matter and chlorine. That doesn’t mean that Vellayani Lake is polluted. It gets contaminated in water treatment plant.

@K V Peter- I think MC has replied for your comments.

@Vinod/Kakka - Yes, I also have same kind of memory of my native place – Vembayam. Paddy fields, streams, birds etc. That and all are things of the past now.

Even when we know the harmful effects of DDT, endosufan etc. we still use them in India. Why can’t we ban them?

കേരളഫാർമർ/keralafarmer said...

പ്രീയെപ്പെട്ട ബ്രിജേഷ്: വെള്ളായണിക്കായലിലെ വെള്ളം മലിനപ്പെട്ടതായി വാര്‍ത്തകളുണ്ടായിരുന്നു. (DDT, PCBs, endosulfan, methoxychlor, diethylphthalate, diethylhexylphthalate, and bisphenol) തുടങിയവയെക്കാളും മാരകമായ പെസ്റ്റിസൈഡുകള്‍ ഇന്ത്യയില്‍ ഉപയോഗിക്കുണ്ന്നുണ്ട്‌. ക്യാന്‍സര്‍ വരുവാന്‍ കാരണമാകാവുന്ന പല പെസ്റ്റിസൈഡുകളും കാലപ്പഴക്കം ചെന്ന ഇന്‍‌സെക്ടിസൈഡ്‌ ആക്ട്‌ 1968 ഉം റൂള്‍ 1971 ഉം നാലു പെട്ടികളായി തിരിച്ച്‌ താഴ്‌ന്ന വീര്യമുള്ളവയ്ക്കൊപ്പം ലഭ്യമാക്കുന്നു. ആദ്യം തിരുത്തേണ്ടത്‌ പെസ്റ്റിസൈഡ്‌ ആക്ടാണ്. എനിക്കൊരനുഭവമുണ്ടായി എന്റെ കിണറ്റിലെ വെള്ളവും കുറച്ച്‌ കഞ്ഞിവെള്ളവുമായി പസ്രിശോധനയ്ക്ക്‌ തിരുവനന്തപുരം പബ്ലിക്‌ ഹെല്‍ത്ത്‌ ലബോറട്ടറിയില്‍ ചെന്നപ്പോള്‍ കിണര്‍ വെള്ളം പരിശോധിച്ച്‌ തൃപ്തികരമാണെന്ന്‌ റിസല്‍‌ട്ട് തന്നു. എന്നാല്‍ കഞ്ഞിവെള്ളം പരിശോധിക്കാന്‍ കഴിയില്ല അതിലെ പെസ്റ്റിസൈഡുകള്‍ തിള്‍പ്പിക്കുമ്പോള്‍ നശിക്കും എന്നാണ് പറഞ്ഞത്‌. അരി കൊണ്ടുചെന്നാല്‍ പരിശോധിക്കാം എന്ന്‌ മറുപടിയും തന്നു. ഇപ്പോഴാണ് എനിക്ക്‌ മനസിലാകുന്നത്‌ അതെന്തുകൊണ്ടാണെന്ന്‌. കൊക്കൊകോളയില്‍ വിഷം കണ്ടെത്തിയവര്‍ ഭൂഗര്‍ഭജലം കമ്പനി ഊറ്റുന്നതില്‍ വിഷമുണ്ടോ എന്ന്‌ പറയുന്നു പറയുന്നില്ല. നാഷണല്‍ മലേറിയ ഇറാഡിക്കേഷന്‍ പ്രോഗ്രാം മുതല്‍ ഇങ്ങോട്ട്‌ എത്ര ടണ്‍ പെസ്റ്റിസൈഡുകളാണ് ഇന്ത്യന്‍ ഭൂമിയില്‍ ആവശ്യമില്ലാതെ വാരിയിടുന്നത്‌. രോഗികളുടെ എണ്ണം വര്‍ഷം തോറും വര്‍ധിക്കുന്നു ഒപ്പം ആയുസും കൂടുന്നു. എന്‍ഡോസള്‍ഫാനെതിരെ കേസിന് പോകാന്‍ പോകുന്ന കേരള മുഖ്യന്‍ മോഡറേറ്റ്‌ലി ഹസാര്‍ഡസ്‌ ആയ ഇതിനെക്കാള്‍ വീര്യം കൂടിയ എക്സ്ട്രീമ്ലി ഹസാര്‍ഡസ്‌ ആയ “ബ്രോമാഡിയോലോണ്‍” കൃഷിഭവനുകളിലൂടെ ഇപ്പോഴും ലഭ്യമാക്കുകയല്ലെ ചെയ്യുന്നത്‌. സ്പെഡ്‌ ചെയ്ത്‌ വാഴകൃഷി ചെയ്യുന്നതു കാരണം ഹൈലി ഹസാര്‍ഡസ്‌ ആയ കാര്‍ബോഫുറാന്റെ ദോഷവശങ്ങള്‍ ആരും അറിയുന്നില്ല. എന്നാല്‍ കാര്‍ബോഫുറാന്‍ കഴിക്കുന്നത്‌ ദോഷമാണെന്ന്‌ കാര്‍ഷിക സര്‍വകലാശാലയിലെ മുന്‍ വൈസ്‌ ചാന്‍സിലര്‍ അനുഭവത്തിലൂടെ മനസിലാക്കിയിരുന്നു. “കുടിവെള്ള മലിനപ്പെടുത്തിയത്‌ തന്നെയാണ് അതെ സ്വയം മലിനപ്പെട്ടതല്ല”

Anand said...

Hey Brijesh!

Good write up and well backed. I guess it is time, as concerned citizens we should take this up. I know we cannot change everything in one stroke. Maybe, send your findings to Manorama...or Mathrubhumi?

Anand said...

Hey Brijesh!

Good write up and well backed. I guess it is time, as concerned citizens we should take this up. I know we cannot change everything in one stroke. Maybe, send your findings to Manorama...or Mathrubhumi?

flaash said...

Excellent and informative article!! Really should be carried by the media..
The left govt and its DYFI/ SFI goons opportunistically used the CSE findings & Coke controversy to satisfy their egos..but the real issues like drinking water which affect more people are conveniently overlooked !!

Alex said...

The media ought to play a crucial role in educating the masses. Mostly, the media reports what it wants the people to believe and not the facts. This has caused very different views amidst the malayali populace.

Seldom do we find good reporting. And sadly most of the people who can make changes are not bothered or are ignoramuses. Whatever be the case, its taking the toll in the state.

Brijesh said...

@Kerala Farmer – It is high time that we change the Insecticide act. The developed countries no longer uses most of these chemicals any more. Also thanks for sending the link of this blog to most of the newspapers/ TV channels

@Anand – now due to Pepsi/Coke ban the quality of drinking water has become an issue. Two years back when I did that analysis such for curiosity if I have told some one no one should have cared for. When a big disaster takes place involving drinking water, then media and politicians will start focusing on quality of drinking water. I don’t think media/politicians know that “Prevention is better than cure”.

Due to unplanned use of water majority of our water shed is polluted. In US the contamination we see now in the groundwater is due to the spill that occurred more than 2 decades earlier. So in Kerala/ India in the name of modernization we have over exploited the mother nature. We or our future generation will face the music of this exploitation.

@flash – Kerala Farmer has forwarded the link of this article to popular newspapers and TV in Kerala.
We don’t have a good drainage system even in the so called “metro” cities. What is happening now? The diseases like chikungunya is happening. You wont see DYFI/SFI or UDF people helping these people. Politicians just want political issues to win vote. They don’t care about people.

@Alex – you brought out a valid point. In Kerala we see one of the most biased media (In fact that is the case in most part of the world). take the case of popular Malayalam newspapers other than those run by any political parties. Mathrubhoomi- if you read that continuously you may think that MP Veerendra kumar is the greates writer in the whole world and he may get a Nobel Prize for Literature soon. If we read Kerala Kaumudi – the paper depicts the abkari Vellapalli Natesan as the incarnation of Sree Narayana Guru. Manorama seems to think that they are the guardians of all Christians in Central Kerala. In short the media in Kerla have there on agenda and business interest. They need more business and they could see each and every news as a tool to enhance the business.

So Alex- I don’t feel good reporting and Malayalam media won’t go hand in hand.

alex said...

Yeah you are absolutely right!

AJITH said...

Give this article to some newspaper if they are willing to publish it.. Probably contacting a neutral paper like 'The Hindu' or Kerala Kaumudi would do..

abhishek said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
abhishek said...


Excellent article! I am very impressed by the quality of your research and your arguments. It is high time that the authorities and more importantly, the public take notice of the issue of clean drinking water.

I did find it curious that the Vice Chancellor of Kerala Agricultural University would comment so quickly on your article and respond in a manner which legal experts would claim would be a defense counsel's position. So, let's assume that the person who posted here is indeed K.V. Peter. Why does he have an interest in maintaining the status quo? And by status quo, I mean not inspecting our water treatment facilities and upgrading them so that they achieve the minimum clean water standards.

The Kerala Agricultural University claims to be a "an autonomous public funded institution incorporated in the State of Kerala" on its website. Its governing body is by its own claim, "the General Council and...the Executive Committee". Let's review a couple of the members of the General Council:

5. The Secretary to Govt., Department of Agriculture
6. The Secretary to Govt., Department of Finance
7. The Secretary to Govt., Department of Fisheries
8. The Secretary to Govt., Dept. of Animal Husbandry


20. Sri. Rajaji Mathew Thomas, MLA
21. Sri. A. K. Balan, MLA
22. Sri. K. A. Chandran, MLA
23. Sri. Umesh Challiyil, MLA
24. Sri. A. K. Mani, MLA

I have an issue with how an institution can claim itself to be autonomous with so many government employees on its board. The KAU is in my opinion, far from the last authority on the subject.

I am not going to talk about the Vice Chancellor's arguments because he has not elaborated them in any detail. I also fear that there is a possibility of someone masquerading as him so it would be unfair to consider it to be his comments. But, regardless of the source, the solutions proposed are distractions. There is nothing the commentor has proposed on the subject of how much the government of Kerala spends on drinking water facilities and what it proposes it to do to upgrade our facilities.

Water treatment receives lip service and very little of it in the Kerala State Governments’ Economic Review 2003 (the latest available on its web site) chapter on Water Resources:

“5.68 Monitoring and preservation of groundwater is an important aspect, which requires serious attention. The factors like over exploitation of groundwater, the deep infiltration of surface water from irrigated fields using chemical fertilizers and pesticides, infiltration of saline soils, effluents from industries affect the quality of ground water.
5.69 Artificial recharge and rainwater harvesting are the best-suited and cheapest methods to overcome this situation. The sources of pollution have to be properly surveyed and identified. The Central Ground Water Board’s Pollution Cell has undertaken studies to find out the ways and means to check the effect and spreading of pollution.”

Water treatment, what is that? Let’s just collect more rainwater…

In closing, I wanted to present a passage I found on the Kerala Pollution Control Board:

“Monitoring results indicate that surface waters are contaminated by sewage. This is due to lack of proper sewerage system. Industrial pollution is of concern, primarily, in the Periyar river basin. Unscientific disposal of garbage is also a major problem in all the Municipalities.”

Water treatment facilities are a problem both at the input and the output. Not only are our facilities not enough to treat the water we extract from the environment, but they are also incapable of treating sewage and other effluents. What these governing bodies fail to understand is the link between the two…water flows in a cycle. Unfortunately, that’s one more thing in our society that ends up going nowhere else as well.

Brijesh said...

@Ajith – Kerala Farmer has sent this article to few newspapers like Hindu and few television channels yesterday. Let us see what happens.

@Abhishek Nair – Thanks and this is the kind of stuff I was doing for my MS, PhD and now for my job. So I would understand what is really happening when CSE came up with pesticide story.

Coming to Dr K V Peter, it was Dr K V Peter himself who replied. I know him personally and send this blog to him. He is the brother of former minister Prof K V Thomas.

Abhishek – Correct me if I am wrong. This is the way all Universities function in Kerala. MLA’s and Government Secretaries make up decision making body along with few elected on political basis. 99.99% percent time government has control. So the autonomous doesn’t have any meaning.

I don’t think people of Kerala/India have any sense of water pollution. Since I came to US and studied about this I am aware of that. For people back home it is well water/tap water it is safe. They don’t think more because they are unaware of the dangers of drinking contaminated water.

In US none of the major cites dispose waste to an open stream without treating it properly. It is a rule here. See in India/Kerala. In Trivandrum we have a river called . it Parvathy puthanar. It was supposed to be a river. But now it looks like a drainage. See “Koovam” river in Chennai. The problem with all these is that these wastewater and chemicals move down through the soil and reach ground water and pollutes it. This is another way by which the groundwater gets polluted.

Lot of infrastructure development has to be done in India/Kerala to provide pure drinking water to people and also to treat the wastewater. As we get more modernized more and more contaminants gets into the environment. It is high time we start taking care of all that.

Abhishek – it seems like you have done a lot of research in writing this reply. Keep it up.

കേരളഫാർമർ/keralafarmer said...

Hi all,
I saw the View site statistics that forst time visitors came into this blog above 77%. That means that the information I forwarded to media came as hits. Let us wait and see these media will do some thing or not? I am publishing Malayalam articles related with Agriculture and I included this blog link in my blog. I will send this link to Hon Minister N.K.Premachandran.
Thank you

Babin said...

Excellent post Brijesh. Thank you for sharing your professional expertise here.

In my opinion, this is what we need to do:

First, nourish professionals like yourself whose job it is to protect environment. Little in India have ever heard of the term 'Environmental Engineer'. It is a critical profession for all of us and we need to create a market for such professionals in india/kerala.

Second, nourish the government institutions that is entrusted with protecting environment. Give it necessary teeths to prosecute violators in the form of strong legislatory support.

Third, to have a government that can set the priorities right and fund the first and second objectives.

Alex said...

We need more of specialists like environmental engineers and environmental economists.

abhishek said...

Apathy to the environment is deeply rooted in our society, worldwide. It begins with our schools. I remember that I was the only student in my IB environmental systems class in high school. Ultimately, you can't ignore these issues because you can only do so at your own peril. Like Brijesh aptly pointed out, it is going to take a crisis to get any action done in our state. The question is how bad does a crisis have to get.

I just picked up a book the other day - "Best American Science Writing" - which contains a piece called "Bioterrorist" by Elizabeth Kolbert. It is an excellent read on how diseases like the avian flu can get dispersed quickly through our environment. Although it does not touch on water pollution directly, it paints quite an alarming picture of how advanced societies are more vulnerable to the spread of infectious disease. The point is as India develops sophisticated health systems, our so-called "capacity" to withstand diseases is going to be meaningless. We are going to have to take better care of our surroundings and invest heavily in public infrastructure. Infrastructure development has to be the government's top priority. Sadly, our state policy seems to actively encourage unemployment so that we don't develop the level of pollution that is typical of societies that generate employment. Some solution...

Babin said...

@Alex exactly.. It is a great combination. Environmental engineers and environmental economists would be able to better design human development activities in the most Optimum way. Our society requires more such professionals. Professionals need to be strongly backed by powerful institutions and institutions need to be backed by a vigilant government and the government need to be backed by a resourceful pool of tax payers. I just explained effective governance model of developed countries!

Sadly, our state policy seems to actively encourage unemployment so that we don't develop the level of pollution that is typical of societies that generate employment. Some solution...

This is kerala's development dilemma in a nutshell. I have heard this argument from way too many leftist 'intellectuals'..Usually, their underling argument to oppose any development project in the state goes like this... "US with 5% of world's population already consume 70% of earths resources.. Therefore, poor Earth can not afford to have kerala developed!! Not only that, to help alleviate Earth's 'Bharam' caused by America, kerala should go back 25 years in development and should immediately put a moratorium on any project that stand a chance to increase our economic activity by more than -1%" I wish I was joking! but sadly this what our buddijeevikal and their influential buddies think.

PCM said...

Well, the issue is very serious. Our politicians will take no heed of this because whatever happens to the people, their view is limited to the elections when this government falls. People have no choice other than electing one of the two 'scoundrels' and suffer the consequences. The ministers will never realize that 'verbal outpour' will not solve problems.
Think of the chickun gunia epidemic. Promises of 'clean Kerala' come and go, but the end result is just the same. Even if a thousand people die, there will be many left to vote them to power.
At the most, a committee or a commission will be set up to enquire into the epidemic. The opposition will call for Judicial enquiry. There, everything ends.
Does anyone have any idea how many committees and commissions work currently in Kerala?
As the dictum goes, "if you want something to get done, entrust it with someone. If you don't want it done, form a committee."

Brijesh said...

@Babin- there are environmental engineers in India. Even in Kerala Thrissur Engineering College offers MS in Environmental Engineering. It is there in all IITs. But the problem is that there is no job after you did MS in Environmental Engineering. Here in US I have not found a single person without job after doing MS in Environmental Engineering. In orkut I get so many mails from students who have completed Masters in Environmental Engineering about job opportunities. Finally what I have seen nowadays is that they also end up in software.

Coming to your second point – Government has no time to think about environment. The various government agencies that are supposed to protect the environment will be nourished only when the government understands the importance of environmental issues. Till that time I don’t think nothing is going to happen.

@Alex- those environmental engineers graduating in India doesn’t have any job and they all are migrating to software. Till the government/people gives importance to environmental issues this trend will continue.

Abhishek Nair & Babin – As Thomas Friedman pointed out in his book “The World is Flat” if we don’t adopt to present day world we don’t have future. To adapt to the modern world we need to develop our infrastructure. We play politics when it comes to infrastructure development. The best example is Express Highway. To survive in this world we need to adopt the latest technologies. But sadly we have a political mindset that is based on anti-development.

@PCM – Good that you brought out the “chikungunya” epidemic. What are we seeing today? Both LDF and UDF are blaming each other. UDF leaders like Ramesh Chennithala and omman Chandy are making statements like “ Failure of LDF govt”. Youth Congress even blocked the health minister. The mosquito that spreads the disease doesn’t care if LDF or UDF is ruling the state. Only thing the mosquito knows is that there is a state in southern part of India where mosquitoes can feely roam and no government will take any steps to curb its freedom. A truly socialist state, right?

Just think – why chikungunya? We create an environment for mosquitoes to breed. We don’t have proper drainage. All political parties are equally responsible. If we follow such kind of politics or if we see everything through a political angle then in few years Kerala will become most backward state in India.

Vineeth said...

Great post. Thanks for being so generous to provide us Keralites (fools and perhaps dog like..) the details of how it is handled in United States. United States is a great country which had developed great practices and brands- of course like Coke and Pepsi.

How do I get a visa to U.S. I am scared of living in Kerala after reading how bad even the water is. I am now working in small resort in Varkala and managing internet kiosks. I saw many European tourist , not any one from America.

abhishek said...

I don't think the point of the article was to create a massive exodus from Kerala. :)

Panic is never a solution, only a reaction.

Brijesh said...

@Vineeth – Understand one thing – if something can be done in US it can be done in India and Kerala also. We have all the resources to do most of the thing. But what we lack is discipline. Also understand one thing – US is a country which spends millions of dollars in doing research and what is wrong in adapting something from US? I wanted to share my professional expertise with you people about the way the water treatment is done in US and importance US government gives to clean and pure drinking water

Mind Curry said...

@ vineeth - reading the former half of your comment it would appear you have seen the article in a very critical way: the same sense of seeing everything positive and constructive with a snideful and dismissive attitude that ruins the malayali. we always like to assume that we are the best or think that our "wonderful, conservative state" does not need any improvement.

any case, i dont think usa is going to give you a visa if you cite "unsafe water" in kerala as a reason :)

better would be to collectively try and change whats not so great about kerala.

alex said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
alex said...

What Brijesh did was just tell us that something like this exists in USA.
And they give so much imporatnce to research which is why they are technologicaly advancing.

Look carefully!

abhishek said...

Now we have one more epithet to add. Apart from being one of the most literate states in India and the first democratically-elected communist government, we also have the pleasure of being the "chikungunya" state.

The fever has reached the scale of an epidimic:

Oh, and we made it to BBC.

The Opposition walked out again yesterday on account of accusations of the government doing nothing to resolve the issue. Just when I hoped this health crisis would give an opportunity for parties to set aside their differences. Maybe God plays in mysterious ways and the Opposition are testing the fever to the fever by venturing out of the Assembly Hall every now and then. You can never underestimate those smart politicians.

So, we used to be the healthiest and most literate society in India. Now, we've lost the first claim...and as for the second, it didn't do as much good as we had hoped. What's so great about being educated and unemployed?

PCM said...

The present picture about chickungunia is really alarming. The govt is planning to celebrate a 'pollution-free day on 13 Oct. A similar one was conducted some three years back when Mr Sankaran was the Health Minister with aplomb. Then the culprit was the same mosquito, but the epidemic was Dengue. Nothing happened eversince.
Know the reason why Alleppey and Cherthala are the breeding grounds for mosquitoes? A level land close to sea level with no drainage facilities. The two canals in Alleppey, even after 'beautification' at the cost of Crores of Rupees, remain the happiest breeding gound. Most houses do not have drainage facilities. Even septic tanks overflow in the backyard. The water has nowhere to go. During the rainy season, it mixes with rain water and spreads all around.
The renovation of the canals came as a revenge to my suggestion that these could be converted to closed drainage channels. Unless provision is made to allow free flow of sea water through these canals, things will only worsen.

abhishek said...

Could you please explain that last comment - the "revenge to" your suggestion? Did you advice the government at one point?

Just curious, that's all.


Anonymous said...

I do endorse some of the views of Brijesh. I strongly endorse the ideas expressed by Dr K V Peter

PCM said...

I had given a viable project to get rid of the problems of the Canals in Alleppey as early as June 2002 to all the people in power - the local self government, District authorities, and the State Government and the Local MLA Mr K C Venugopal. It is since then that they started the renovation of the Canals, spending crores on some cosmetic changes - like painting the shores and removing some of the weeds. All the money spent on these things have not affected the breeding ground of the mosquitoes (about 8 Kms. of canals nearly 40 feet wide in the centre of the town). The only solution seems to be laying along the whole length of the canals cement pipes of high diameter to serve as drainage ducts.

abhishek said...


I would be greatly interested in reading your findings. I think it would do a lot of good to bring up the topic in this forum. Could you perhaps write an article summarizing your recommendations, their estimated costs and compare it to the government's actions?

abhishek said...


Please don't mind my previous post. Just got your report. Thank you very much.

Look forward to reading it.

Saji said...

No doubt the systems in India (Kerala) has to improve a lot. But that does not mean the people in India(Kerala) has to drink polluted soft drinks to make MNCs rich.

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Mani said...


vini said...

Hey brijesh....

I guess i am bit late in reading your post. Your observation about water treatment in kerala is appreciable. I just joined a water treatment consultancy in Bangalore as a design engineer...i think much developments have happened all over India but our kerala is still sailing in the same boat...we always take interest in outwitting others and finding faults, while ignoring the fact that we are getting outwitted. I dont want to put the blame on ordinary people, it's not necessary that they have to know these facts, but the leadership fails to meet the basic health factors that a government should meet. It is high time for our government to change their agenda . its really sad to see them fight for miserable reasons which take them nowhere..

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