Monday, December 17, 2007

Ready for a tough lesson?

Water turns poison in Punjab villages-Chandigarh-Cities-The Times of India

This makes for sad reading. Really sad reading. The health of the people of several villages is on the line here because of industrial waste dumped into the drain which has now leaked into the ground water supply. I have heard of similar cases in northern Karnataka also.

We haven't done an analysis like this in Bangalore. If we do, we will most likely find similar heavy metal concentrations in the ground water here also. New water purifiers that remove the heavy metal content from water have come out. But these are expensive and who knows what by-products they generate?

The callousness towards our own lives shown by scant regard for the environment never ceases to amaze me. People, you are digging the graves of your own grand children by greedily grabbing whatever resource is left!

In Bangalore, I am appalled at the way ground water gets carted away in multiple tankers. I know of a case where 50 tankfuls of water (probably 50-100,000 litres) are pumped out every day. The residents of that locality were clueless in the beginning. Now, their borewells are dry! The borewell just became deeper! This also increases the chances of heavy metals entering drinking water.

Whenever I mentioned rain water harvesting, I used to be met with laughs and derisive smiles from the know-alls. I was an idealist in their eyes. And my own family is split on the extent of doing it. Some feel that there is no need to be alarmed at these media items. Though RWH is mandated in Bangalore, I don't see many people doing it out of need. They try to just be compliant. Of course, even that helps!

So, should I be an optimist or pessimist in these matters?

The media have always been alarmist on these matters. They like to scream "The end is nigh" at the top of their voices every time they print something. And they have done so ever since man learnt how to communicate. So is it any different this time? When they say the Himalayan glaciers will disappear in 50 years, are they being serious? Scientists themselves are mixed on this.

However, having seen the quality of air deteriorate in the past ten years and all the tanks and borewells actually go dry, we can all safely say that the environment has not been paid the same importance as it is entitled to.

I sometimes feel (in spite of being a human myself) that Nature should teach all of us such a hard lesson that will never be forgotten for thousands of years. I dread the lesson, but as we say in Kannada "daDDanige doNNe peTTu" (A stick-blow for the fool), so let us all not be fools. Let us learn from our mistakes and thus hopefully avoid Nature's harsh lesson.

To end on a lighter note (paraphrasing a cliched email signature) - this blog is coming to you via recycled electrons.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Burn Bangalore, Burn IT - says Dr CNR Rao

'If IT Is Going To Take Away Our Values, Burn Bangalore, Burn IT' :

If you read this spirited statement from Dr. CNR Rao, celebrated scientist and educationist, you would either completely agree with him or disagree with him. As a born and raised Bangalorean, I agree sadly to what he says in this piece, in spite of my having benefited from the IT Boom.

Bangalore is not what it was ten years ago; let's not even talk about the city twenty years ago. I undergo the ordeal of a three hour commute every day and it is quite often that I recall those days when I could have made the same trip in a public bus in half the time before.

Malleswaram is an area that has been close to my heart. Having spent north of ten years studying in the schools and colleges of that area, it still evokes warm nostalgic feelings in me. But unfortunately, Malleswaram has become that place "where fools rush in and angels fear to tread". Gone are those lazy afternoon strolls and quite empty streets that were the norm even fifteen years ago. Not one road is spared from the angry honk of a driver that wants to get someplace. Old palatial homes have made way to high rises. Culture is dying a slow death and consumerism has already raised its ugly head. Can we not see a happy balance?

Kannada is already gone. If you speak in Kannada, you are seen either as a hero (as no other dared to speak in Kannada) or as a loser local. I make it a point to talk in Kannada everywhere. English (a pretty bad strain of it, to add) is heard almost everywhere. Che, hEgiddiddu hEgAgide!

The other important point that he brings up as a scientist is the lure of the IT profession. Several intelligent children are all starry eyed when it comes to the mention of a "Software Engineer". I did an informal survey once ; I asked a bunch of children what they wanted to be when they grew up. Barring a couple, the answer was frighteningly uniform - "Software Engineer". My only grouse is that they don't want to be software engineers for love of the profession but they crave to be so for the sheer love of lucre. As a result, what could have been a great brain theorizing and experimenting on the difficult problems of basic science, becomes ready to be a code jockey. I am really really sorry to use this phrase as I am belittling a fantastic job profile - there is tremendous joy in coding. But the love for anything but money is gone. If the IT profession takes some kind of a correction where salaries come closer to the ground, I wonder if all these kids would be as eager then.

It is because of this that whenever I hear a child say that he/she wants to be a teacher/lawyer/scientist/pilot/policeman (anything other than SW engineer), I grin from side to side and heartily congratulate the child and his/her parents.

Will a return to basics solve Bangalore's woes?