Down to Earth (magazine)

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Down to Earth
DTE pic.jpg
Logo
EditorSunita Narain
CategoriesEnvironment, science, nature
FrequencyFortnightly
First issueMay 1992[1]
CompanyCentre for Science and Environment
CountryIndia
Based inNew Delhi
LanguageEnglish
WebsiteDown to Earth

Down to Earth is Asia's premier fortnightly on politics of environment and development assisted by the Centre for Science and Environment and published from New Delhi, India. It was started in 1992 by environmentalist the late Anil Agarwal, with a commitment to make people aware of the challenges of environment and development and to create informed change agents. Sunita Narain a leading Indian environmentalist and director general of the Centre for Science and Environment is editor of this fortnightly magazine.

The intent of the magazine is to present timely news, research, analyses and provide insight into grassroots-based environmental struggles that were only being sporadically covered in books and research-based publications. A key intent is to bridge the communication gap between science and policy, and between decision makers and practitioners across the wide environment-development spectrum.

The fortnightly format was created specifically to supplement the research, analyses and documentation efforts that were being undertaken by its associated organization, Centre for Science and Environment (founded also by the late Anil Agarwal in 1980).

The objective / founding principles of the magazine, as envisioned in the first editorial, was to ‘fill a critical information gap’ rather than ‘capture a share of the information market’ and to serve as an enabler in a chaotic world. Reportage and analysis is geared to enable an increasingly young India with information and analysis from villages, fields, factories and labs, places where the mainstream media has vacated.

DTE reports everything from two lenses – the environmental challenge of development, as well as the development challenge of the environment. DTE digital is the source of most updated and objective source to track news and views on environment, development and science from across the world. The world's top experts and a network of over 60 correspondents report for the digital platforms. With nearly two million page views a month, the web edition covers all the continents.

In October 2016, Down To Earth launched the Hindi edition (monthly) of the magazine, with exclusive coverage as well as repurposed content from DTE English edition. The Hindi edition was launched to serve a long-standing need to serve the large Hindi-speaking audiences in the country, especially in the Hindi speaking heartland, and to begin a conversation on environment, development and sustainability concerns with them.

The magazine has been awarded for its cutting edge reportage, and its writers have won many national and international fellowships.

Down To Earth Books is the magazine's publishing wing. It brings out two annuals: State of India's Environment and State of India's Environment In Figures. This is the country's only annual survey on environment. The later one is a completely data-driven annual statement on state of India's environment published every World Environment Day

Down to Earth has become a reading habit in at least 600 districts of the country — more than any other Indian newspaper or magazine. The magazine's sphere of influence is not limited to India, readers across the world rely on Down to Earth for a view from Asia on the critical issues of human existence. Its founder editor Anil Agarwal said: "Ideas are like time-bombs. You never know when someone will read it and make change. The idea will then explode."

Special Reports published by Down to Earth[edit]

DTE reports from places ignored by the mainstream to bring regional stories to the national spotlight. Here are few special reports and cover stories published by Down to Earth

Endosulfan test, 2001[edit]

Tested endosulfan traces in environmental and human samples from Padre village in Kasaragod district of Kerala. An unusually large number of health anomalies reported from a single village. These ranged from cancer to physical deformities and mental to neurological disorders. Endosulfan was aerially sprayed in the cashew plantations in the area.

High traces of endosulfan was found in every sample [2]

After the test results were released the Union government ordered its own scientific institutions to study the health problems. The National Institute of Occupational Health in Ahmedabad confirmed endosulfan was the cause of poisoning. Union agriculture ministry banned use of endosulfan in Kerala in 2005.

Pesticides in bottled water, 2003[edit]

Analysed pesticide residues in bottled water that was being sold in Indian markets at a premium and without regulations.

Samples tested contained a cocktail of pesticide residues.[3] Most of the samples contained as many as five different pesticide residues,[4] in levels far exceeding the standards specified as safe for drinking water.

Health ministry proposed mandatory regulations. India's first ever bottled water standard promulgated. Every bottle of water sold in the market must meet the standards. The norms state that pesticide residues considered individually should not be more than 0.0001 mg/litre, while total pesticide residues were capped at not more than 0.0005 mg/litre.

Pesticides in soft drinks, 2003 and 2006[edit]

Analysed pesticide residues in soft drinks, another sector left unregulated.

High levels of toxic pesticides and insecticides,[5] high enough to damage the nervous system and reproductive system, and cause cancer, birth defects and disruption of the immune system.

The government formed a Joint Parliamentary Committee, only the fourth in independent India and the first on health and safety of Indians. The committee report vindicated the CSE findings and said it is prudent to seek complete freedom from pesticide residues in sweetened aerated water.[6] After prevaricating for five years, the Union Health Ministry was forced to set up in soft drinks,[7] world’s first ever.

Pesticides in Punjab, 2005[edit]

Analysed pesticide residues in blood samples of farmers in Punjab, where pesticides are commonly used in agriculture.

Deadly cocktails of six to 13 pesticides found in all the blood samples tested.

The Punjab government ordered a study and immediate health remediation measures. Later, the government formulated organic farming policy for the area. Recently, the government has asked Indian Council of Medical Research to look into the health concerns in the region and suggest solutions.

Tests in 2009[edit]

Transfats in cooking oil, February[edit]

Branded edible oils are full of unhealthy transfats.

The results showed transfats in seven leading vanaspati brands were five to 12 times the 2 per cent standard set by Denmark.

Since the release of this study several government agencies took steps to set standards for transfats in cooking oil. The Union health ministry is finalizing draft standards for transfats to be notified under PFA. Bureau of Indian Standards is in advanced stages of finalizing a standard. The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India has also got involved in the process of regulating transfats in edible oils.

Lead in paints, August[edit]

The CSE laboratory tested leading brands. Young childrenking steps to remove lead from their household paints. Industry associations also contacted CSE, saying that they favoured removal of lead from paints used in houses and in paints children are likely to come in contact with. BIS is in advanced stages of finalising a mandatory standard.

Contamination in Bhopal, December[edit]

For more than 25 years, the Union Carbide (UCIL) factory has been contaminating the land and water of Bhopal. Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) tested water and soil samples from in and around the factory.

High concentrations of pesticides and heavy metals found inside the factory as well as in the groundwater outside. Tests showed groundwater in areas even three km from the factory contained almost 40 times more pesticides than Indian standards permitted.

The Central Pollution Control Board, which had collected samples with CSE, also confirmed the contamination. This was the first-ever study that revealed continued contamination of surrounding areas from waste stored at the UCIL factory. This led to the re-opening of the Bhopal case and for the first time there was serious focus on the clean-up. The government of India has ordered cleaning up of the site and asked different institutions to prepare plans for remediation. Renewed the liability debate; senior Union ministers said Dow Chemicals should be held liable for the clean-up.

Tests in 2010[edit]

Phthalates, January[edit]

Tested presence of phthalates, a highly toxic chemical, in toys sold in the Indian market. These chemicals are not regulated or monitored by the government.

Lab results showed over 45 per cent of the samples exceeded the internationally accepted safe limit for phthalates. India has no standards.

In a meeting the joint secretary of Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion said that the Prime Minister's Office was taking a keen interest in setting standards for toys. The department of consumer affairs issued a draft notification to make it mandatory for all toy manufacturers to register with Bureau of Indian Standards. The BIS certificate will ensure that companies registered with BIS will get tested in the BIS recognised labs. BIS is also finalising the mandatory standards for phthalates in toys.

Antibiotics in honey, September[edit]

The CSE laboratory tested leading brands. Tests found high levels of antibiotics—from the banned chloramphenicol to broad spectrum ciprofloxacin and erythromycin—in almost all brands sold in the market. The leading Indian honey producers—Dabur, Baidyanath, Patanjali Ayurveda, Khadi, Himalaya—had two-four antibiotics in their products, much above the stipulated standards. Two foreign brands, an Australian and a Swiss, had antibiotics levels not permissible in their own countries.

Power plants in Singrauli[edit]

Singrauli, the powerhouse of India with massive coal reserves and many thermal power plants, should have been prosperous. But it is poor and polluted. People complain of unexplained ailments. An investigation by Centre for Science and Environment found that mercury, a deadly toxin in coal, is slowly entering people’s homes, food, water And even blood. Down To Earth reported on the lab findings and how mercury affects people and environment

Protests against garbage dumping in Thiruvanthapuram, Kerala[edit]

As Kerala cities dump their waste in the countryside, people in the villages hit back. An unresolved civic problem of decades compounded by topography and demography has now turned gram panchayats against municipalities and urban bodies against the state government. Here is a report by Down to Earth from Thiruvananthapuram.

Right over Bamboo[edit]

Five years after it was implemented, the Forest Rights Act finally took root. Communities across the country rushed to claim rights over forests and their produce, particularly bamboo. But they faced challenges. Down to Earth reported from Odisha and Maharashtra to unfold the new battle in implementation of the Act

Antibiotics in chicken[edit]

At a time when chicken consumption is at an all time high in India, a study by Delhi non-profit Centre for Science and Environment showed that poultry meat could be churning out robust microbes that can render all antibiotics ineffective. Here is the DTE report on this study.

Thermal Power plants in India[edit]

More than 70 per cent of India's electricity is produced by coal-fired power plants. But most of them do not have modern technologies and use low-grade coal that is low on energy and high on waste found the CSE study. Down to Earth reported on the CSE study which covered 47 plants with a capacity of 54 GW

Burden of disease in Punjab[edit]

Down To Earth traveled to Punjab, one of India's most thriving and prosperous states. It found that the state had metamorphosed into the country's second-highest disease burdened state. It will be a challenge for the new government in Punjab to tackle increasing burden of disease that’s plaguing the state. Read the report by DTE

Cape Town-like water crisis[edit]

Down To Earth’s analysis shows that at least 200 cities across the world are fast running out of water and 10 metropolitan cities are moving quickly towards Day Zero.From Cape Town to Bengaluru and Nairobi to Mexico City, hundreds of cities across the world are on the verge of going completely dry. Read this special report

Storms in India[edit]

An unprecedented storm season challenged India's scientific community. From February to May 2018, India has witnessed more than 44 storms in 16 states. About 423 people have been killed and over 785 people have been injured. This special report by Down to Earth demystified the science of storms and explained the causes behind the natural disaster.

Genetically modified ingredients in food products[edit]

In a first-of-its-kind study in India, the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) tested 65 food products available in the market for genetically modified (GM) ingredients. CSE found GM genes in 32% of the products; almost 80% of them imported. Read this report by DTE on CSE study


The content of Down to Earth is for anyone interested in the environment and the politics behind it. Reporters of Down To Earth travel the length and breadth of the country to uncover the truth.

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