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Wednesday, November 19, 2014

The Green School rating system


The Indian Green Building Council (IGBC) has set specific norms for the construction of school buildings in environment friendly ways. It has also developed a rating system for schools as well. Thus the IGBC addresses not only the design of school buildings and various aspects of environment friendly constructions; it also includes functioning of schools in context of environment. What is IGBC?

The Indian Green Building Council (IGBC) is a part of the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII). It was formed in the year 2001. It is a committee based organization with a vision to enable building of an environment sustainable for all thereby facilitating India to be one of the Global Leaders in building the sustainable environment by 2025.

Now it is properly understood that children need to understand the harmful effects that degradation of environment can have on this planet and thus our children can be able to prevent degradation of environment by making informed decisions from an early age.

Environmental Education
Today Environmental Education needs to be included in school curricula as a compulsory subject. Though environmental aspects have been infused in different subjects, they just pollute the pure spirits of those subjects and the doing components lack badly due to those subjects being not based of activities. Without activity, research etc the aspects of environment can neither be understood properly nor can conservation measures be planned and implemented in any ways. A Green Rated school should spur interest and spread awareness among students through classroom and outdoor learning. The IGBC has introduced a school rating system which advocates a number of eco-friendly policies. For example norms fixed by IGBC under energy efficiency look into the usage of energy efficient electric appliances, natural light and ventilation and capturing solar potential. Points are awarded in accordance to the quantum of energy savings generated. This ensures not only an eco-friendly building but saves the running electricity costs for the management of the school also.

Indoor quality norms
The IGBC has also fixed norms for the quality of indoor environment. These norms address cleanliness of toilets, use of non-toxic paints on walls and windows etc and applications of dust free chalk in the classrooms.. This will ensure that children are educated in a healthy environment. Adequate indoor and outdoor play areas are also expected to be planned properly. The rating system for this field requires separate toilets for boys and girls. Our governments too are stressing in this area seriously and allocating funds to construct in all the schools run by them.

Treatment and re-use of waste water
The green school norms fixed by IGBC advocates effective treatment and re-use of waste water along with the use of fixers with low flow rates to conserve water. Water meters should be fixed with water pipelines. It can help children monitor how much water is used by students. The measure of conservation of water should also be demonstrated to them. One example in this regard is pipe waste water from sinks provided within each classroom through a grease trap into the planters placed outside on window sill of the same classroom. This ensures that the plants are watered everyday and the grey water from the sink is not wasted.

Waste management norms
The norms fixed by IGBC for waste water management in schools advocate provisions for separate bins for paper, plastics, organic waste; and collection of organic waste collected periodically.
Children should bring their own recyclable and re-usable waste to create sculptures or to build tree gardens or benches within the campus. Another feature of the IGBC Green School rating system is accessible facilities for students and teachers with disabilities.

Green Committees
In order to encourage echo-friendly measures schools should form Green Committees. These committees should encourage participation of schools in environmental awareness programmes and campaigns within schools and outside.

The rating system provides tangible cost saving in the forms of electricity and water at one hand and an opportunity to stand out and address one of the foremost concerns faced by the world today.
The schools that are already taking up green measures can now use the rating system to comprehensively integrate into pedagogy as well as administration and in this process add the Green School stamps to their names.

Key Words: IGBC, Environmental Education, waste

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Condition of females in poor tribal societies

In tribal society of India women do most of the household work. Right from cooking food they have to perform duties of firewood collection, arrangement of water, child rearing, marketing and agriculture. Those with less or no land are reported to work here and there including working as labour at construction sites and at brick kilns, working as maids in houses, and even as agriculture labour. In some areas they have to migrate to other states in particular seasons to work at different sites as labourers. In many such cases they face exploitation and other types of sufferings.

In these societies school going girls are seen to leave their schools during paddy seasons to work in fields during paddy transplantation. Many such girls who remain serious towards studies apply for long leave stating reason that they have to work in fields during the activities of transplantation of paddy. In fact paddy transplantation is a group activity and cannot be continued for long depending on rains. Everything seems right in general but appears painful if education and development of girls are concerned. On the other hand even child bearing women are seen working at different places as they don’t have options except earning their livelihood. As such they have to pass through very painful conditions and many times the lives of both the mother and the child in her womb are threatened. Something must be done to improve the life-conditions of females in these societies.

Key Words: tribal, labour, paddy fields

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

The work of a Child Scientist

The impact of Climate Change on agricultural productivity is a topic much talked about. Recently, two girl students presenting their project report on the” Impact of Climate Change on Agriculture of Jharkhand” in Children’s Science Congress organized by Kendriya Vidyalayas in Ranchi, categorically told that changes in climate are causing agriculture production to go down. They showed interviews with farmers in a small video.

The Children’s Science Congress is organized every year by the National Council of Science and Technology Communication Network, New Delhi in which students prepare their projects around a central theme and the theme for this year’s congress is the Climate Change. This was a small project about which I cannot guess whether it may reach to any higher level or not.

About a week later, I read in a news paper about a published research work on the Impact of Air Pollution on Productivity of agriculture focusing on Chhattisgarh, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh and Jharkhand. The study presents a statistical model which shows that averaged over India, yields in 2010 were up to 36 per cent lower for wheat than they otherwise would have been, absent climate and pollutant emission trends, with some densely populated states experiencing 50 per cent relative yield loss.

The researchers have been reported to have been of the opinion that much of the drop in yield was due to air pollution, a principal factor behind the climate change. The air pollution – which is caused especially due to fine particles like soot and ozone generated by sunlight acting on emission of precursor molecules.

The researchers reportedly found that the yield of wheat in Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand had fallen up to 50 per cent of what the yield otherwise could have been. Similar cases have also been reported from some other Indian states like Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Bihar and Jharkhand though it has also been reported that in Punjab and Haryana the impact was negligible. The researchers suggested that air cleaning, and the use of improved chullhas in rural sectors, control over emissions from transport and electric generation sector were some of the important measures to control the condition. The Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore has also recommended the study as per reports.

Now let me tell you that this research has been done by two researchers of the University of  California at San Diego in U.S. and Scrips Institution of Oceanography who presented their paper in the proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

Now compare the project work presented by two girl children in the zonal congress of Kendriya Vidyalayas through small video, write up, and posters that remained a Child’s Project and that may not be published as a paper and the paper presented by these workers in the PNAS. Let our Child Scientists be recognised and  rewarded properly and adequately.

Key Words: Children’s Science Congress, Climate Change, Agriculture

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Amazing escape artist Octopus Houdini

Far away from the laws of nature humans are emerging up in the form of huge and most powerful predators on this planet. When Darwin propounded his theory of natural selection, he probably was not able to predict or foresee the future developments of humans both as a predator and as a most technologically advanced living being on this planet. On one hand where men are inclined to trap and eat away all the small and big animals- terrestrial or marine, animals too are inclined to protect themselves in spite of not being blessed with the high development of a central nervous system. It is the survival instinct of every living creature which can search all possible ways for its protection. 

Here in this video the survival of the Pacific Octopus Houdini (named after escape artist Harry Houdini) appeared impossible but the instinct helped it at last. See for yourself -

Interaction in nature

In nature interaction exists everywhere and at all levels.In an ecosystem which is smallest unit of environment, a continuous interaction exists between organisms and their environment.For example, we see organisms doing different types of actions with some or the other components of environment. Here I present some specific examples to justify my point-
•A rat digs long wandering tunnel inside the earth.
•Ants carry tiny  pieces of soil and deposit somewhere to make a highly engineered and  amazing ant-hill. 


•Humans construct bridges, flyovers, sea-tunnels, flood-resisting thick walls of steel built against the inflow of sea water, quake proof building etc. 
•Humans install high towers, explore minerals, and dig deep oil wells to exploit away all the fossil fuels.
•The tiny caterpillar too does something that can be said as interaction- as it eats away leaves of plants

What the environment on the whole or its components on individual level do to these organisms in interaction? Well,the rainwater fills tunnels of rats and makes them homeless; it washes away the anthill. An insect eating bird lands on the lower branch adjacent to the leaf being eaten by the caterpillar and dives down to catch the worm in its beak.Big structures constructed or installed by humans invite seriously dangerous calamities. This is the fundamental story of interaction in nature. 

Now, the whole world observes that a number of environmental problems have stood against the survival of the human race.

Key Words: interaction, environment, anthill

Monday, November 10, 2014

Kalmegh: The king of bitters

Kalmegh or Chiraita as it is popularly known in different parts of India is a plant with immense medicinal importance. In Jharkhand it is believed by tribal people that intake of extract of this plant can cure any disease if taken internally for some days.In botany it is called as Andrographis paniculata. It is an annual herbaceous plant in the family Acanthaceae. It is native to India.

Kalmegh is variously known in different languages. In English it is called as Creat, Green Chirayta, and King of bitters. Some common Indian names are -Hindi: Kalmegh, Kiryat, Mahatit, Gujrati: Kiriyata, Olikiriyat Marathi: Olen Kirayat, Canarese: Nelabevu Ida; Sanskrit: Bhuinimb, Kirata, Mahateet Malyalam: Nilaveppu, Kiriyatta, Telugu: Nela Vemu: Tamil: NilavempuiFamily: Acanthaceae

Kalmegh or Andrographis paniculata is an erect annual herb extremely bitter in taste in all parts of the plant body. The plant is known in north-eastern India as Maha-tita, literally "king of bitters", and known by various vernacular names (see the table below). As an Ayurveda herb it is known as Kalmegh or Kalmegh, meaning "dark cloud". It is also known as Bhui-neem, meaning "neem of the ground", since the plant, though being a small annual herb, has a similar strong bitter taste as that of the large Neem tree (Azadirachta indica). In Malaysia, it is known as Hempedu Bumi, which literally means 'bile of earth' since it is one of the bitterest plants that are used in traditional medicine. The genus Andrographis consists of 28 species of small annual shrubs essentially distributed in tropical Asia. Only a few species are medicinal, of which A. paniculata is the most popular.

Andrographis paniculata grows erect to a height of 30–110 cm in moist, shady places. The slender stem is dark green, squared in cross-section with longitudinal furrows and wings along the angles. The lance-shaped leaves have hairless blades measuring up to 8 centimeters long by 2.5 wide. The small flowers are borne in spreading racemes. The fruit is a capsule around 2 centimeters long and a few millimeters wide. It contains many yellow-brown seeds.

Distribution of Kalmegh

A. paniculata is distributed in tropical Asian countries, often in isolated patches. It can be found in a variety of habitats, such as plains, hillsides, coastlines, and disturbed and cultivated areas such as roadsides, farms, and wastelands. Native populations of A. paniculata are spread throughout south India and Sri Lanka which perhaps represent the center of origin and diversity of the species. The herb is an introduced species in northern parts of India, Java, Malaysia, Indonesia, the West Indies, and elsewhere in the Americas. The species also occurs in Hong Kong, Thailand, Brunei, Singapore, and other parts of Asia where it may or may not be native. The plant is cultivated in many areas, as well.
Unlike other species of the genus, A. paniculata is of common occurrence in most places in India, including the plains and hilly areas up to 500 m, which accounts for its wide use.

Medicinal Properties

 According to Ayurveda the plant is bitter, acrid, cooling, laxative, vulnerary, antipyretic, antiperiodic, anti-inflammatory, expectorant, depurative, soporific, anthelmintic, digestive and useful in hyperdispsia, buring sensation, wounds, ulcers, chronic fever, malarial and intermittent fevers, inflammations, cough, bronchitis, skin diseases, leprosy, colic, flatulence, diarrhoea, dysentery, haemorrhoids etc. Kalmegh is also a reputed Homoeopathic drug. In Bengal (India), household medicine known as "Alui" is prepared from fresh leaves and is given to children suffering from stomach complaints. Recent experimental finding indicated that Kalmegh is having antityphoid and antibiotic properties. It has been proved to be hepatopratective drug.

Chemical Constituents

Chemical Constituents of Kalmegh contains bitter principles - andrographolide, a bicyclic diterpenoid lactone and Kalmeghin. The leaves contain the maximum active principle content while in the stem it is in lesser amount.

Key Words: Kalmegh, andrographolide

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Diet for Laboratory Animals

Preparing diet for laboratory animals is a complex work and demands great skill and expertise.

There are various considerations in planning a balanced diet for these animals. There are vast genetic differences among species, breeds, strains, stocks, sexes, and individuals so far as balanced diet for these animals is concerned. Genetic differences in growth potential among species, strains, and sexes may influence the daily requirements for amino acids and other nutrients that are incorporated into tissues.

There is evidence that mouse strains may differ in requirements for riboflavin, pantothenic acid, and other nutrients. Hence, the preparation of balanced diet for laboratory animals must be planned carefully, and feed must be obtained from reliable source.
The Nutritional requirements for laboratory animals are usually studied under controlled conditions with minimal diurnal or seasonal variation in temperature, light cycle, or other environmental conditions. Marked modification in these conditions may alter nutrient requirements. For example, exposure to temperatures below the lower threshold of the thermo neutral zone increases energy requirements as animals are obliged to expend energy to maintain a constant body temperature. The consequent increase in food intake may permit the feeding of diets of lower nutrient density without decreasing nutrient intakes.

High temperature, disturbing stimuli, social conflict, or other environmental factors that reduce food intake may necessitate diets higher in nutrient concentrations to maintain adequate nutrient intakes.

Here is standard diet composition for laboratory animals-

S. N.
Test Parameters
Rat and Mice
Guinea Pig
Moisture per cent maximum
Crude Protein per cent
Crude Fat per cent
Crude Fibre per cent
Calcium per cent Minimum
Phosphorus per cent Minimum
Total ash per cent Maximum
Carbohydrate per cent
Vitamin C/gm
Metabolizable Energy(kcal/gm)

-                      National Institute of Nutrition, Hyderabad
-                      Nutrient Requirement of Laboratory Animals, IV revised Edition,      1995
-                     American College of Laboratory Animal Medicine, II  Edition, 2006

Key Words: Laboratory Animals, Nutrient concentration