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Updated: April 2, 2010 23:25 IST

‘Green’ in black and white

D. Murali
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Title: The Green Pen, Environmental journalism in India and South Asia.
Author: Keya Acharya and Frederick Noronha
Title: The Green Pen, Environmental journalism in India and South Asia. Author: Keya Acharya and Frederick Noronha

Many people believe that water is a very ‘dry’ subject, frets Shree Padre in ‘Water journalism warrants better attention,’ an essay included in ‘The Green Pen’ (www.sagepublications.com). To Padre, the subject of water is so wide, important and deep that to do justice to that we need a battalion of water journalists. He anguishes about the dearth of right kind of information in the form of books, videos and so on that can teach the layman how water can be conserved in the local situation or how rain can be caught.

“Take the example of open wells that are there in many parts of the country. For nearly 4,500 years, these have been serving people. But in the last 50 years, this structure is being neglected, abandoned and refilled with soil.” If only a booklet can explain the possible methods to increase the water availability in a well or to revive a ‘dead well’ or at least to reuse a dried well as a percolation pit for the surrounding community, it can encourage the local communities to shoulder the easy, low-cost revival process, the author argues.

On how the media can make a difference, Padre cites the example of Rajasthan Patrika, a Rajasthani daily, which carried out a campaign on rainwater harvesting. In about sixty days beginning May and through June 2005, more than 1.5 lakh volunteers clocked around 4.7 lakh man-hours to work on as many as 388 water harvesting structures, informs a story in www.indiatogether.org.

Another essay – in the book about environmental journalism in India and South Asia, edited by Keya Acharya and Frederick Noronha – is ‘Good science, environment journalism and the barriers to it,’ by Pallava Bagla. He rues that a major hurdle to science writing is the corporate opacity, and the private sector looking for ‘coverage but only on its own terms.’

Media, a pesky intrusion

Outreach by scientists themselves is rather poor and most look upon media as a necessary evil that occasionally creeps into their sacred workspace, Bagla describes. “Scientists in India – most of them – consider media a pesky intrusion into their great work, and I have often felt this is a reaction used as a mask to hide their own inability to communicate their work to a popular audience.”

He is again not too happy that a lot of environment reporting, which should actually be rooted in science, is more on the lines of issue-based writing, often times bordering on activist journalism.

To wannabe science journalists, Bagla’s advice is to get a good grounding in science – a thorough specialised education, an advanced degree, or even work experience – so that their stories stand out among the many mediocre ones. Because ‘at the centre of science is fact, and it is this eternal search for the fact that engenders great science.’

Imperative addition to the shelves of the eco-conscious.

***

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