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E-mail me at this address: panditji@cseindia.org

Dear Panditji

I wasn't able to get an answer as to why Indians are using a lot of mercury despite knowing its danger? I read in many articles that other countries have minimised the usage of mercury. What is your view in this regard?
Fred Easlee
Kodaikanal, Tamil Nadu


Dear Fredji
,
In developed countries, the use of mercury in various products is either banned or regulated. No concrete initiative has however been taken by the government of India to address the mercury issue.

So, even as other countries are cracking down on mercury pollution, India is still trying to bring about a
legislation for phased elimination of mercury from consumer products such as thermometers, fluorescent tubes, batteries, electrical thermostats and switches, medical instruments and certain pharmaceutical and agricultural products with an exemption for essential products.

p64.jpg (7160 bytes)New mercury-based chlor-alkali plants have been banned, but the old ones are still allowed to operate.

A draft notification was circulated by the Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF) in 2000 for a phased elimination of mercury from consumer products, but so far no action has been taken. The government is also dragging its feet on the phasing out of the existing chlor-alkali plants. India is one of the very few countries to allow the use of catalytic mercury compounds in industrial chemical processes.

Mercury alternatives exist, but Indian industries don't use them, because mercury is cheaper and easier to use. The industry says the technology to replace mercury is very costly and it will take a lot of time to do so.

Also, there is not much awareness in the Indian public. For example, Thermometers contribute greatly to the mercury menace. Electronic thermometers are available in the market, but not widely used.

For more information, go to:
www.cseindia.org/dte-supplement/mercury-index.htm.

I would like some tips for keeping my classroom clean and eco friendly.
Soumya Dasgupta
Class 8, Vasant Valley School

Dear Soumyaji,
It is heartening to know that somebody of your age is actually thinking about such issues. Here are some of the things you can do:

1. Waste management: Place two dustbins in the class. One for dry waste (like paper, pencil shavings etc) and one for wet waste (like food wastes). Plastic waste can be set aside and sent to recycling (if possible) or handed over to rag pickers.

You can try to cut down the amount of paper wasted by writing on both sides and not throwing away paper that has some space for writing. In this way, you can also conduct a waste audit.

You can get the school to make a vermicomposting pit, where worms will convert the wet waste into nutritious soil for plants. You can get a lot of wet waste from the school canteen.

2. Audits: You can conduct audits like recording the usage of both water and electricity in the school in a month and suggesting ways and means to bring down their usage. For example, how much energy would be saved in the long run if the class (or school) replaced bulbs and tubelights with CFLs (compact fluroscent lights).

3. Transport: Another activity that you can do is that find out where each student lives in the class and how he or she comes to school. Then you can figure out ways to do carpooling and autopooling, hence saving on fuel and carbon dioxide emissions. This activity is explained in GT September 15, 2003 issue in detail: (http://www.gobartimes.org/gt20030915/70-71.PDF)

"Eco-sense" is not something you merely study, but something which becomes part of your life. If you can make your class, school and finally your home eco friendly, it would go a very long way in solving the world’s problems.