Powered by Blogger.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Government to look for fresh relief allocation in Jharkhand

The disaster relief fund was made available to the government of Jharkhand 3 years ago, for digging fresh ponds in every districts but the fund could not be utilized for the purpose it was allocated- report local media.

The Department of Disaster Management had made available rupees 112 crore in two installments but the expense of only 22 crore could be shown in the record by authorities concerned. Here, it is important to note that the government to start fresh relief measures in the current drought situations needs money from the department but finance department has asked to clear the pending record of utilization of funds allocated earlier. The finance department has asked about the conditions that did not allow full utilization of the sanctioned amount for the noble cause.

Now, it is reported that that funds were made available to different districts of the state and out of these few districts managed to dig some ponds whereas other districts could not do it due to non-availability of land for the purpose. Now the department is preparing to surrender the amount sanctioned three years ago for the construction of ponds. According to reports, when the fund was allocated, Arjun Munda, then Chief Minister of state had announced a scheme entitled “Work for 100 days” and had asked to dig ponds one each in every panchayat. But the scheme disappeared after his government.

During the current drought like situations in Jharkhand it is meaningful to state that traditional ponds used to contribute in balancing local ecosystems and controlling the microclimates in most of the districts of the state. Digging of ahar-pyne systems in dry areas has been the traditional practice towards conservation of rain water for the irrigation of food and fodder crops in the area.

The current drought like situations that have caused a complete damage of food and fodder crops and non-cultivation of paddy during the current monsoon session, have stressed humans as well as cattle populations up to such an extent that anyone walking through the area could see dead bodies of cattle lying in the open fields, cracks in the crop fields and poor farmers sitting on doorsteps with hands on foreheads.

Scene of drought and damaged crops

The activities of leveling of ponds for expanding agricultural lands in rural areas and for constructing apartments in urban areas have swallowed in most of the traditional ponds dug by ancestors with deep wisdom. Thinking over the matter one can conclude that humans have been loosing foresight in the race of development.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Taxonomic and Medicinal properties of Eclipta alba- the Bhringraj

Bhringraj- Eclipta alba : A rare medicinal herb

Eclipta alba or Eclipta prostrata L. or Yerba-de- tago is a small plant belonging to the family Asteraceae or Compositae. It is commonly known as False Daisy in English and Bhringraj in Sanskrit. The word Bhringraj literally means that which bestows hair the splendid black colour like that of a grand humming bee. Its other names are – Keshraj or Bhringraj in Hindi, Uchi-sumbal in Manipuri, Karisilanganni or Kavanthakara in Tamil, Kannunni in Malayalam, Galagara in Telugu, Ajagara in Kannada, Kesarda in Oriya, and Bhangra in Santali.

Habit and Habitat

Eclipta is a small and erect annual herb. Its stem is usually erect, flat or round, blackish green, profusely branched and pubiscent. Leaves are opposite, serrate, 3 to 5 cm long and blackish green in colour. The inflorescence is a head with 6 to 8 mm diameter. It is solitary, white, achene, compressed, and narrowly winged. Fruits are many seeded. Seeds are black and resemble cumin seeds. Flowering takes place during August- September months and fruiting occurs up to November.
Eclipta alba syn. E. prostrata is cosmopolitan in distribution. However it is abundantly found in India, China, Brazil and United States. The United State’s Department of Agriculture has declared this plant as endangered. Habitat destruction, reclamation of wetlands and changes in climate seem to cause pressure on the survival and distribution of this plant as a result of which it has become rare and endangered in many parts of the world including India.

Bhringraj - Eclipta alba showing floral heads

Major chemical compounds found in the plant

A number of chemical compounds have been isolated from and reported to exist in the plant Eclipta. Some of these chemical compounds are resins, ecliptine, nicotine, glucosides, and alkaloides. The extract of the plant contains bio-active steroidal alkaloides that have cytotoxicity against certain cells. Ecliptasaponine C is a new Triterpenoid glucoside which has been isolated along with Daucosterol and Stigmasterol-3-O- glucoside from this plant. The Ethanol extract of Eclipta alba has been reported to have a neutralizing effect on the venom of rattle snakes. A number of other chemicals that have so far identified to exist in the plant extract are Wedelolactone, demethylwedelolactone, Wedelic acid, apegenin, luteolin, b-amyrin etc. Wedelolactone and demethylwedelolactone have been reported to have trypsin inhibitory effects. Demethylwedelolactone, polypeptides, polyacetylenes, theophene- derivatives, steroides, triterpenes and flavonoids have been reported to possess estrogenic activity. Wedelolactone has been reported to have the property useful for treating hepatitis and cirrhosis (Wagner et al. 1986), as antibacterial, and antihemorrhagic (Kosuge et al. 1985). Scientific studies reveal that it contains bio-active steroidal alkaloides.

Medicinal Properties

A. Importance in Ayurvedic and Unani Healthcare Systems

The leaf extract of Eclipta alba is considered to be a powerful liver tonic. It is considered rejuvenative and good for hair. A black die is obtained from it which is used as hair dye.

The extract of this plant is bitter in taste. It is considered hot in Ayurveda and Siddha that recommend its application for recovering the imbalance of vata and kapha.

The plant extract is considered as a rasayan for longevity and rejuvenation.

In the Unani Healthcare System it is used for curing vertigo.

B. Importance in Traditional Healthcare Systems

The extract of the plant is traditionally used to cure skin problems like athlete foot, eczema, dermatitis, etc. It is also applied on the scalp to arrest hair loss. Leaves of this plant are traditionally used against snake bite in China and Brazil.

In Punjab and Gujrat its extract is used in curing ulcers and as an antiseptic for curing wounds.

The expressed juice of Eclipta leaves is applied after mixing with honey to cure catarrh in infants.

The leaf-juice of this plant is boiled with sesame or coconut oil and applied on head to render the hair black and luxuriant.

The extract of Bhringraj is mixed with the extract of amla and Brahmi and used to blacken the hair.

The extract of the plant is rubbed on gums to cure toothache. It is also applied with a little oil for relieving headache. It is applied with sesame oil in case of elephantiasis.

The root extract of Eclipta alba is considered as emetic and purgative.

The entire plant of Eclipta alba is used for the treatment of bleeding, haemoptysis, haematuria, itching, hepatitis, diphtheria, and diarrhea in Taiwan.

Plant extract is used against dysentery, anaemia, eye-diseases, asthma and liver cirrhosis.

In Suriname’s traditional medicine, it is used to treat upper respiratory congestion in children.

In China, the extract of this plant is used for cooling and restoration which supports the mind, nerves, liver, and eyes.

The extract of Eclipta alba is also used as alternative medicine as expectorant, antipyretic, antispasmodic, tonic, deobstuent in hepatic and spleen enlargement, in skin diseases and as a substitute for a liver tonic.


1. Chopra, R.N., Nayar, SL., Chopra, IC. 1955. Glossary of Indian Medicinal plants.C.S.I.R. New Delhi.
2. Kritikar, K.R., Basu, BD.1975.Chronica Botanica Indian Medicinal plants. New Delhi.
3. Puri, HS 2003 Rasayan: Ayurvedic Herbs for Longevity and Rejuvenation. Taylor Francis, London, pages 80-85
4. Wagner H. et al.Coumestans as the main active principles of the liver drugs Eclipta alba and Wedella Calendulaceae. Planta Med Oct 1986 ;( 5): 370-4.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Royal Bengal Tigers in Sunderbans - drinking saline water

The tigers of Sunderbans Biosphere Reserve have been reported to eat unusual food and drink unusual water for about more than a decade. On July 17, 2009 finding of a poisonous snake inside the stomach of a Sunderbans tiger has raised many questions. Though earlier, these tigers were reported of eating crabs, and fish etc., the finding of grass hoppers in their stomachs again lays stress on the same unanswered questions.

A news report in The Hindu (Friday, August 21, 2009, page 20) reads –
“Living in the intertidal habitat among marshy thickets, having become accustomed to the saline water, and but often without the trademark element of surprise, the Royal Bengal Tiger of the Sunderbans may have evolved differently from its brethren in peninsular India, according to experts here.” The reporter Ananya Dutta, reporting the case has kept herself off by quoting the experts as it most often remains the case with news reporters.

Is it authentic to say, even for an expert that Tigers of Sunderbans may have evolved differently from their brethren … and that’s why they are drinking saline water, eating poisonous snakes, grasshoppers, crabs, fish and what not? Experts say and the reporter writes – and the Journalism gets completed. How can a journalist leave an expert after receiving a handful of baseless words?

It is very simple to understand that thirsty tigers have no way except drinking the saline water as there is scarcity of fresh water since long. They were reportedly bound to eat crabs and fish etc. some decades ago as they had to face the scarcity of food as they are still facing. Now that they are unable to catch sufficient number of crabs and fish, they are bound to eat what they can catch for it- may it be a snake, a lizard, a rat or a cat. It is baseless to say that the tigers did not eat poisonous snakes earlier. It means they used to eat non- poisonous snakes most often. How do they distinguish between a poisonous and a non- poisonous snake, I think, may still be a matter of research. Let it be the topic of research for any one of the officers of the Sunderbans Biosphere Reserve. Since they can trace a new evolutionary line, they can research out anything.

The reporter has nicely quoted Pranabesh Sanyal revealing the fact that “… few fresh water ponds that were created (?) are not sufficient to support this large a population….In any case there were no fresh water ponds before 1977, so what else could the tigers drink then?” Yes, the whole story presents a picture of gross negligence of the animals of the Biosphere Reserve which is continued for decades. The tigers there have been put into distress since long for fresh water and food that’s why they are bound to adopt these dangerous habits. In real sense, it can not be regarded as adaptation nor can it be linked to some type of genetics. Are tigers there adapting to the habit of grass eating? How did grasshoppers enter into their intestines? So far we could only know that “tigers don’t eat grass”. It is again a matter of research and the responsibility of this research too may be laid down on any one officer- scientist of the – reserve. Let the people come forward to save our wildlife in the peoples’ country.

Toucan- A cute, cruel, smart and friendly bird

Birds are highly adapted, colourful, and skilled creatures of nature. They carry considerable variations in morphological features, distribution, reproductive and social behaviors, friendliness etc. from each other. They add to the beauty and dynamism of the natural environment through their presence and make it lively through their varying calls. Their beauties, dynamism, behaviors, and varying calls fascinate a number of persons to become lifelong bird watchers. Blessed with the ability of flight, strong lungs and heart many birds fly up to very long distances during their migration and make the atmosphere vibrant with their specific calls and singing notes. Among all the birds of nature toucan deserves special significance.

A Toucan bird in the wild
Photo Ramphastos aerial
Toucan is a cute and friendly bird with a small rounded tail and a long, red and amazing bill. It belongs to family Ramphastidae of the zoological order Piciformes belonging to the genus Ramphastos.There are 37 species in Ramphastidae and the largest birds is known as Toco toucan. The bird under study is Ramphastos aerial.

Morphological features and adaptations
Toucans are large birds with rounded tails. These birds can move their tails in different directions owing to the specific engineering of their tail bones. Though large enough, the bill of a toucan is very light as it is made of keratin, the substance of which our nails are made. The large bill of toucan is supported by thin rods of bones. It is bright red to orange in colour with a black band and a large black patch. The length of an average bird remains 60 to 65 cm and the bill grows up to 20 cm. The tongue inside the bill is extended to its full size. It is flat and 55 to 65 cm in length in the largest toucan bird.

The bill of toucan is highly efficient and accurate food gathering organ. The bird uses its bill in many different ways like picking a fruit and tossing it into the throat, catching young ones of other birds out of their holes. Thus toucan not only eats the fruits like berries and nuts, it eats the flesh of other birds as well. The bird uses its bill as an armor to threaten the other birds also. It also uses its bill to frighten the parents of nestlings, and ones the parents escape away from the nest due to the fear of toucan, it attacks the nestlings and eats them away. Thus toucan is not only a cute bird, it is cruel also.

The long red bill of toucan remained a matter of debate among naturalists of the world. Darwin was of the opinion that the long red bill was meant for attracting the mates in addition to serving the purpose of eating fruits and nuts. According to current day researchers the bill of toucan is a large insulated appendage having extensive network of blood vessels close to the surface. As such it might be an important tool for helping toucans in cooling themselves. Researchers have pointed out that the colour of the bill goes dark at low or cooler temperatures. It shows lesser supply of blood to the bills. Thus bill of a toucan serves as a heat release organ. Bills of ducks and geese too serve the similar function but not to the extent the bill of toucan does.

The long bill of a toucan bird

The plumage of the bird is black. There is a white patch under the throat. The upper tail coverts and the under tail coverts are white and red respectively. Legs are blue to grayish blue in colour. Feet have yoke-toed arrangement with two toes facing forward and two facing backward. This arrangement provides strong grip to the bird on branches of trees.
Habit and Habitat
Ramphastos are mainly non-forest birds. However the Toco toucan (Ramphastos toco) is a forest dwelling bird. These birds can be found in the semi-open habitats with scattered trees. Though these birds are mainly found in low lands but can also be seen up to 1750 m height.
Toucans are original inhabitants of South America, though they may have developed their populations in many different countries. Ornithologists report its presence in northern and eastern Bolivia, extreme south eastern Peru, northern Argentina, eastern and central Paraguay, eastern and southern Brazil, along the lower Amazon river, and coastal regions of Guanas.

Special features
Toucans are the noises birds when they dwell in a forest. Their croaks are similar to that of a frog and can be heard from about half a km. These birds have been attached to a number of mythologies. These are associated with evil spirits in Central and South America. Some people think these birds as incarnations of demons. In some areas of South America, people believe that the father of a new child must not eat toucan flesh as it might bewitch the new borne child and cause it to die off.
Nesting behavior and reproduction
Toucans live in holes of tree trunks. One may be astonished to think as how a bird with such a long bill can live inside a hole of a tree trunk. But it is simple. Toucan can fold its bill and can rest it on its back with the help of the movable neck. Similarly it can bend its tail to come under its belly and at the same time it can wrap its feathers around the whole of its body to look like a ball of feathers. Some toucans have been spotted nesting in holes of earth banks and terrestrial termite nests.

Both male and female toucan birds are similar in shape, size and body colour. Even the bills of both the birds remain the same. The female toucan lays 2 to 4 eggs. The incubation takes 17 to 20 days. The young ones develop slowly and the bill takes several months in reaching its full size. The young ones leave the nest after 8 to 9 weeks.

Toucans can be trained as pets if lifted up directly from their nests and reared like young babies. They need spacious cages to move about because of their active nature. Toys should be placed in its cage to provide stimulation. The life of a toucan in captivity has been recorded to be 26 years. However, it is against law to keep a bird in a cage.

The problem of constructing a diversion of NH33 through the Jharkhand’s coal belt

The work of extinguishing coal seam fire under NH33 near Loha Gate of Kuju coalmine area in Jharkhand is going on by blowing nitrogen foam inside the mine but the construction of diversion through the route planned earlier is awaiting a safe zone certificate from the CCL authorities who are still not confirmed that the area through which the diversion of NH33 is to be constructed is free from coal deposits.

Filling Nitogen foam into the earth to extinguish the underground coalseam- fire

The work of physical examination for the construction of a diversion of NH33 in Kuju area started since the coal seam fire surfaced with smoke and flames under and around the NH33 segment. Passenger vehicles have been plying through a temporary route to Patna and Varanasi since the government has stopped all the transport through the earlier route. It is important to note that six coal mines are located within a periphery of 10 km from the fire area. Under these conditions construction of an alternate road passing through this area cannot be a safe option. Experts of CCL are still drilling the land at various points to find out the condition ofunderground coal seam fire or the presence of coal at least that may be vulnerable to catch fire in near future, and to their sadness the coal is everywhere. Under these conditions the authorities are not comfortable to issue any certificate of safe zone through which a diversion of NH33 can be built. The alternate routes through which vehicles are plying to Patna and Varanasi are already unsafe and risky.

The diversion under construction

The amazing lifestyles of some plants and trees

Some plants have been observed to grow under very harsh conditions. Some times one may spot a plant growing under completely dry conditions and may wonder about how the plant is surviving without water. On some other time one may see a plant emerging out from a thin crack of a rock and may wonder to see it looking quite happy. The explanation behind all these wonders may be that the conditions remain really not as harsh for these plants as they appear to us.

Some small plants growing under harsh conditions

Some plants appear to be growing under driest conditions but it does not stand true in all such cases. The plants appearing so, usually have developed tremendous capacity of growing their roots up to the water where ever it may be. Once, when I happened to peep down into a water tank built to store water in the campus of my house I was surprised to see numerous long filaments extending across the water of the tank from one side to the other. I could not guess about what those filaments were and to confirm I dared to take the risk of putting down my right hand up to the shoulder and touching those strange filaments with my fingers. By chance I became successful in catching some of them firmly, breaking them and bringing up out to see closely. When I crushed some filaments with the help of my toe and fore finger and smelled it deeply the smell lingered in my mind for some time and occupied a place there so deeply that I could compare the same with the smell of the roots of the Jack tree standing far away from the tank, in the opposite corner of the campus. I was astonished to guess that the roots of the Jack tree standing at fairly a long distance for this incident to happen, had travelled to the only source of surface water. Now I can guess that this is the way the roots of some trees travel deep down up to the water level of the earth.Supporting roots of banyan pierce into walls in surch of moisure which they absorb either from the driest soil or from air.Air, in fact contains lots of humidity at certain places.These powerful roots get attached to a wall, even though it may be built of cement, and absorb moisture and nutriens from it.It has not been confirmed yet whether these roots contain some types of symbiotic bacteria like those of cacti.

Amazing roots of a Banyan tree

Plants growing on dry walls penetrate their roots deeper and deeper into the plaster between the two rows of bricks and exploit as much of the moisture as they can. Such cases are more visible during rainy seasons. But to my surprise I have seen that while many plants get vanished after rains, some still stand growing happily, extending their branches in all useful directions to capture maximum quantum of sunlight, bearing flowers to attract most of the greedy insects to collect nectar out of them, and some even bearing fruits in view of dispersing their seeds to keep up some or the other law of nature, almost very religiously or “Very cleverly”- if you wish to say.

Haven’t you seen peepal trees growing on walls of some old buildings in many cities of India? You may wonder for sometime about why these trees haven’t been uprooted by the owners of respective buildings as trees growing in these conditions damage the building considerably and create very awkward scenes. You might have seen banyan trees also growing in more or less similar fashion and style. Roots of banyan remain so powerful that they can penetrate into a hard brick wall through its tough plaster or can creep up to many meters while remaining attached to the wall surface. These moisture seekers often create amazing scenes for strangers who often do not become able to trace the origin of these roots.
Some ferns like the general ferns that grow on the floor of a forest under shady conditions develop roots that wander upto lond distances in search of moisture and nutrients. If by chance they donot get these, they give birth to a new plant when in cintact with good soil, moisture and nutrients.Here is a fern grown in a pot.Though there is plastered floor all around, it is sending its wandering roots even on the well plastered floor.In this case too, we have no record of the presence of any symbiotic bacteria in roots.

Wandering roots of fern

We can regard peepal a saprophytic plant as it often grows on some dead portion of an old tree that was living sometimes ago, or whose remains are still existing inside the soil. What ever the case may be, it is true that its roots remain powerful enough to remain alive for years and to suck moisture and nutrients from even a hardest substratum.Many times when this plant is cut with a portion of root remaining inside, it again grows in the next rainy season and develops itself as an evergreen tree.Such trees a potential problems for our historial monuments and buildings of residential, official or religious importance.Here in this case too we don't have any research record of the presence of any symbiotic bacteria inside the roots of a peepal tree.

A small peepal tree(Ficus religiosa) growing on a plastered surface

The only reason behind the existence of the trees mentioned above, causing damages up to a level we observe, comes to my mind may be some religious belief of being sacred and being attached to some or the other traditionally mythological streams of thoughts. These might have been the streams of thought that might have been keeping in discipline even the greediest wood smugglers against smuggling the wood of some of the like trees. What ever the reason may be or might had been, we have no aim of talking about conservation right now.

The aim of writing these words is just to show wonder on the abilities of some plants and trees to survive under even the harshest conditions. Many species of cacti have been spotted to grow on hard rocks and they have been reported to be getting support from specific symbiotic bacterial strains in their venture. These bacteria have been reported to live inside the plant body endophytically and even to occupy their places inside fruits and seeds. Scientists like Dr Yoav Bashan, a biologist at the Northwestern Center for Biological Research in La Paz, Mexico; are of the opinion that the specific entophytic bacteria start dissolving a portion of rock where the seed of the plant starts sprouting up. Since the rock dissolving bacteria are found inside the seed, the seed has no difficulty in growing on a hard habitat like that. Further, as the cactus plant ones becomes able to penetrate its roots inside the crack or pit engineered by the symbiotic bacteria, it becomes able to convert the rock into soil bit by bit to provide chances of colonization to the secondary colonizers.

Walls of old houses are damaged further by numerous verieties of small plants who possess better survival skills. These plants usually grow in rainy seasons and remain in hurry to complete their life cycles within the same rainy season. These plants have been known to have powerful roots to absorb moisture and nutrients as per their requirements.These plants produce numerous seeds that are disseminated here and there by the agencies of wind, insect, or human beings.Seeds of these plants bear different types of structures that help them in their dissemination up to long distances.If by chance some seeds of these plants are destroyed, no matter. Other seeds are there to produce new plants.Some plants of this category grow at the same place again and again in every rainy season. They die there and their body parts are decomposed there to mix into the soil and to prepare fertile soil for other species of plants to colonize , survive and develop. Thus the succession goes on to end into a rather bigger and evergreen plant to occupy the habitat permanently it human or animal interference does not come to disturb at all.

Wall flora-1

Wall flora -2

Wall flora -3

Wall flora -4

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Dog-Tax : A New Tax for keeping more than two pet dogs in Chandigarh

Long, long ago in the 18th century a graduate of the Trinity college of Dublin, the son of an Iris Clergyman, Oliver Goldsmith had written “An Elegy on the Death of a Mad Dog”. Men like the one of Islington as in the poem, are not found these days though more varieties of dogs and not just “mongrel, puppy, whelp, and curs of low degree”, are found on roads, streets, nooks and corners.

Stray Dogs : Thinking over the emerging problems

Out of men who are found these days, very few are here to establish friendship with a stray dog, but since the hereditary trait of love with dogs that developed soon after the emergence of human civilization have proved the laws of genetics, we have numerous lovers of dogs here these days, though very few to love the “curs” of low degree. People are buying exotic varieties of dogs, keeping and rearing them as loving pets, and leaving the older varieties on roads whenever they purchase a new and cuter sample of the foreign origin. On the other hand on roads and streets, the population of strays is attesting the Malthusian theory of population, biting everyone who dares to disturb, being crushed under the rushing heavy vehicles, and teaching traffic rules to youngsters speeding high on bikes and overtaking from left, middle, right, and all possible sides. Bored on reading these lines? Read the report.

Growing population of dogs in urban areas has created problems in many Indian cities like Chandigarh and Ranchi (for the case of Chandigarh see the report in The Hindu dated 23rd Aug.2009, and for the case of Ranchi see the report in Dainic Jagaran- Hindi of the same date). Ranchi is rather more special as dogs in urban areas and wolfs in the rural areas are biting people causing rabies. The administration has declared that it has enough number of rabies injections in store. But the problem of increasing population of stray dogs on roads has to be managed by hook or by crook.

Accidents on roads, spreading land pollution due to animal waste, and rising cases of rabies in hospitals are some major problems created due to rising population of stray dogs, and people’s attitude of purchasing foreign varieties of dogs as pets and releasing the older ones on roads, and not adopting stray dogs (though they remain naturally more immune) as they have the same conventional noses, mouths, tails, body figure, barking styles etc. all the typical characters of Indian dogs … Indian, ugh!

In view of controlling the problems created by rising population of dogs various municipal corporations have already started programmes for the registration of pet dogs. Now that dog lovers are going on increasing the number of pet dogs of different varieties following setting up of various dog breeding centers in different cities and multiplying the number of stray dogs on roads and streets, management of dog population has stood in the shape of a big problem before municipal corporations.

As per the reports, Chandigarh administration has ordered the dog owners to stop breeding of their pets and not to keep more than two dogs at a time. If some one adopts a stray dog, it is good in view of managing dog population and rehabilitating the stray dogs, but if he or she buys a dog from some breeding center he will have to pay a Dog-Tax of rupees 1000/- year. Every dog owner has been ordered by the administration to carry a big stick and a plastic bag while walking their pets to keep streets clear of animal waste.

Various animal welfare organizations have already been conducting population control programmes for dogs in different cities in India under funding programmes of the Animal Welfare Board of India. Shelter Houses for animals including dogs have already been constructed in different cities. These organizations and the Animal Welfare Board have been requesting people to adopt the homeless dogs instead of buying dogs from dog breeding centers. While Municipal Corporations try to bring down the population of dogs in open urban areas and conduct a number of programmes to manage the population of stray animals on roads and streets, dog breeders go on increasing the number of hybrid dogs of foreign varieties, and dog owners go on replacing dogs putting old dogs on roads. It is important to note that the so called dog lovers go on increasing the number of dogs with them as symbol of high position without any care of surrounding that is polluted by the animal waste when these animals are carried out for walking.

In Ranchi the capital city of Jharkhand, cases of dog- bite are rising in different areas as per the reports in the local print media. About 34 persons per day are being bitten on an average by stray dogs in different localities. About 492 persons have been recorded to be bitten by stray dogs within a period of one month only. However the administration is bold and states that it has already preserved sufficient number of anti-rabies injections to mange the cases of dog bites. The government is already on its way to controlling the population of stray dogs in the city.

Medicinal importance of Madar (Calotropis sp.)

Madar : Calotropis gigantia
Madar or mandar is a neglected medicinal weed. It is taxonomically known as Calotropis belonging to the family Asclepiadaceae. In English it is commonly known as milk weed or swallow-wort. It is a common wasteland plant which gains not much recognition from animals and human beings. Animals usually do not eat it and insects too seem to have some fear from it though its flowers are seen to attract a variety of nectar loving insects. Its names in different languages are –arka, alarka, mandara and surya patta in Sanskrit; madar, and ak in Hindi;Khok in Persian;akado in Gujrati; ruvi, akdo and akra in Maharashtriyan; mandaram, eke, jiledu and arkamu in Telugu; badabadam,yercum and erukku in Tamil; erikka in Malayalam; ekkemale in Kannad; byclospa in Sindhi; and arbor-a-soie in French.

Principal constituents of the leaf extract of Calotropis sp.

The extract of Calotropis leaves has been reported to contain a chemical known as mandarin, which is the principal active constituent. It contains resin and three glycosides namely calotropin, uscharin, and calotoxin. These glycosides have been reported to be highly toxic in nature. The latex contains a very toxic bacteriolytic enzyme calactine which acts as a defense mechanism against grasshoppers and other insects. The extract of Calotropis gigantia is reported to contain giganteol, isogeganteol, and b-sitosterol etc. chemical compounds.

Medicinal Properties

•The whole plant (Panchang) when dried and consumed is reported to act as a good tonic, anthelmintic, and an expectorant.

•Different parts of Calotropis procera and Calotropis procera are commonly used in preparation of various important Ayurvedic, Unani and Homoeopathic medicines.

•In traditional Indian practice the dried roots of Calotropis are powdered and used effectively to cure bronchitis, asthma, leprosy, eczema, and even elephantiasis.

•Hindu physicians used the secretion of the root bark of Calotropis in the treatment of skin diseases, enlargement of abdominal viscera, intestinal worms, cough, ascites, anascara etc.

•In the Ethno botanical practice in some Indian and African communities the milky juice of the plant is regarded as a drastic purgative and caustic. Flowers are used to improve digestion, catarrh and increase appetite. The leaf-ash is used with whey for treating abdominal cases.

•In traditional practice the root bark with latex is smoked for cough.

•In traditional practice when medical science was not so well developed, and in some tribal communities even now, the juice of Calotropis is used for the purpose of infanticide and is sometimes taken by women to induce abortion.

•The extract of the plant is used in the preparation of various homoeopathic medicines also.

•The processed extract of the leaves of the plant is used in the treatment of vertigo, hair loss, tooth aches, intermittent fevers, swelling of joints, and paralysis. In traditional practice, the leaves of the plant are heated in oil and attached over a joint of the body to relieve swelling and pain. However it is recommended that the application of extract or the latex of this plant should be made in the supervision of a knowledgeable Ayurvedic medicinal practitioner only.

Other Properties
It has been reported that Calotropis leaves can be successfully used alternatively for biomethanation (Current Science, vol.92, No. 4, 25 Feb.2007). The milky juice of the plant has been traditionally used by tanners to remove hair from hides.

Toxic Properties
•The extract of the root bark if consumed in higher dose may causes nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.

•Accidental entry of the latex of this plant into eye causes congestion with tear and local anesthesia, followed by deeper effects due to absorption.

•Calotropin, found in the plant extract is reported to be 15 to 20 times more toxic than strychnine (Perry, Medicinal Plants of East and South East Asia).

•The latex of the Calotropis plant had been in traditional use as arrow poison by some traditional tribal communities of India and Africa.

Madar (Calotropis sp.): an important but neglected weed

Madar or mandar is a neglected medicinal weed. It is taxonomically known as Calotropis belonging to the family Asclepiadaceae.

Madar : C. procera(Raktarka)

In English it is commonly known as milk weed or swallow-wort. Commonly it is a wasteland plant which gains not much recognition from animals and human beings. Animals usually do not eat it and insects too seem to have some fear from it though its flowers are seen to attract a variety of nectar loving insects. Its names in different languages are –arka, alarka, mandara and surya patta in Sanskrit; madar, and ak in Hindi;Khok in Persian;akado in Gujrati; ruvi, akdo and akra in Maharashtriyan; mandaram, eke, jiledu and arkamu in Telugu; badabadam,yercum and erukku in Tamil; erikka in Malayalam; ekkemale in Kannad; byclospa in Sindhi; and arbor-a-soie in French.

Inspite of its great taxonomic, cultural, medicinal and ethnobotanical values, madar is placed on the status of a neglected weed due to its some of the toxic behaviours.

Habit and Habitat
Sanskrit texts including Ayurveda make a mention of two principal varieties of Calotropis – Shwet Ark or the Calotropis with white flowers (C.gigantea), and Raktarka or Calotropis with red or purple flowers (C. procera). Calotropis is native to India and grows wild here and there in the wasteland and up to 900 meters through out the country in different types of soils and climates. It is however, is found commonly in Africa, China and other parts of the world too. In India it is very common in Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Jharkhand, Bihar and many other states as well. It is a tough plant and adopts well in different types of habitats like rubbish heaps, waste and fallow lands, roadsides and even sand dunes.

Calotropis gigantea or Madar with white flowers

Calotropis may be regarded as a succulent shrub, or a small tree that grows up to 6 m in height with soft woody stems and thick corky bark. Calotropis is easy to recognize by its large, stiff, thick and pale green leaves, densely covered with white hairs feeling like velvet and the thick bladder like spongy fruit. White milky latex is abundantly found in the whole plant. This milky latex is poisonous and very dangerous to eyes. Leaves of Calotropis are opposite, sessile or very short stalked clasping the stem, large, stiff, and more or less erect, fleshy, pale green to blue green, densely covered with fine white hairs, oblong, obovate to broadly obovate or ovate, rounded, more or less shortly acuminated or abruptly pointed at the apex, slightly heart shaped at the base 7.30x4.18 cm. These contain 7 to 9 marked lateral nerves.

Flowers of Calotropis are small, 3 to 18 in clusters between the leaves, the stalk of inflorescence is thick, pedicels 1 to 3 cm long, corolla campanulate with 5 spread lobes, 2 to 25 cm cross, and lobes ovate, acuminate, white or pink outside, white pink with intensive purple tips. Flat green stigma is the principal characteristic feature which is perfectly pentagonal in shape.

Fruit of Calotropis is inflated, large, conspicuous, bladder like, spongy, subglobose to obliquely ovoid, uneven, usually 12x9 cm but also up to 25 cm long. When squeezed hard fruits burst with a loud bang. The seeds are numerous. They are packed densely with white silky white tuft of hairs.

Religious and cultural importance of the plant

The plant Calotropis sp. or madar or mandar or AK has been in the traditional religious and cultural practice since the time immemorial. It leaves were used for Sun worship in Vedic times. The leaves and flowers of this plant are considered to be sacred in Hindu mythology. Leaves of madar along with the flowers and fruits of Datura plant are used in the worship of Lord Shiva in various temples of India including the Lingraj Temple of Bhubaneswar in the Indian state of Orissa. The garlands of flowers of Calotropis are used in the worship of Hanuman on Saturdays by Hindus. The ancient Arab Tribes also had specific notions rooted in superstition about this plant in relation to Sun-worship.

Hindus obtain Swetark Ganapati from the root of this shrub that sometimes takes the shape of Lord Ganesh. The Calotropis Shrub that produces white and fragrant flowers is called as Swetark. This is a rare shrub. Flowers of Swetark are considered to be favorite of Lord Shiva. The root of this shrub is invited on some auspicious day ( in the Ravi-Pushya Nakshatra ) and carved into the form of Ganapati or Ganesh in some auspicious muhurta. Hindus believe that those who worship this idol of Ganesh enjoy the presence of Mahadevi Laxmi and Lord Shiva. The Ganesh idol carved out of the root of Swetark is worshiped – to receive blessings of Shiva and Ganesh, to achieve knowledge and power, to get promotion in jobs and to increase business, to maintain harmony in married life, to get rid from the hardships of insufficiency, to activate positive energy in the house and to get victory on enemies.

The ancient Hindu texts make mentions that a house where the Swetark Ganesh is worshiped becomes free from poverty, obstacles, quarrels, horror, and all sorts of negative things. While worshipping Swetark Ganapati, the essential mantras to be chanted are – Om Vakratundaya Namaha, and Om Shree Ganeshay Namah.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Falling underground water level may invite an acute water crisis in many states of India

Population growth, development of apartment culture in cities,and the food production mechanisms extracting more and more from the ground water reserve for irrigation have resulted into a dangerous fall of the ground water level at the rate of one foot a year in Northern-Indian states.It can lead to extensive stress on residents and economy- reports a latest research published in the current issue of Nature, the International Journal of science.

According to the latest research based on National Aeronautics and Space Administration's Satellite[NASA} Imagery about 109 cubic km of ground water has been lost within a period of last six years i.e. between 2002 and 2008.It is twice the capacity of India's largest surface water reservoir. In today's apartment culture and flood irrigation system consuming and wasting ground water by extracting the same through bore wells, the ground water is being pumped out on large scales,with a rate faster than it can be naturally replenished.This depletion of ground water is solely caused by human activities of overutilization, wastage, and misuse of ground water by through domestic use, irrigation of crop fields, construction works, supplying water to vertical dwellers, mineral water industries,factories and power plants.It is not through the natural climatic variabilities that the ground water is depleting at such a fast rate- say hydrologists.

Now, under this conditions it can be predicted that the agricultural production may be collapsed accompanied with a severe crisis of potable water in near future.Unless effective measures to recover the ground water level through effective recharge methods and mehods of judicious utilization of water are adopted on priority basis, a number of states in India including Punjab, Rajasthan, Haryana and Delhi may face acute water crisis in near future.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

A wonderful wall-garden ?

Every link of the long chain of nature tells a strange story- the story of the ended past, the story of the running present and the story of the uncertain future that will tend to connect the past. Life, may it be tiniest or tallest, weakest or strongest - is sweet. What about the life that emerges in such a vulnerable place? What were the factors that led the sprouting of a single sp. of this fern to grow here on an old brick wall, without a competing plant of some other sp., that too in such a beautiful order? This is the second time the Ecosensorium Lens is putting a case before you.Observe the conditions behind these pictures, shape your story as per your own philosophy on nature, and express it in the form of a comment.

Picture 1

Picture 2

What is Climate Change?

According to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) the term “climate change” refers to "a change of climate which is attributed directly or indirectly to human activity that alters the composition of the global atmosphere and which is in addition to natural climate variability observed over comparable time periods."

Among human activities responsible for climate change, adding up of billions of tones of carbon dioxide and other man- made gases like methane and chlorofluorocarbons to the atmosphere is of serious concern. Billions of tones of carbon dioxide, the principal heat trapping gas is released every year into the atmosphere through the activity of burning fossil fuels like coal, oil, and natural gas. Large scale uses of the chemical compounds known as chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and their release into atmosphere are other reasons behind the climate change. Lots of methane gas is generated in rain-fed paddy cultivation in many areas of the world. All these gases accumulate around the earth to form a thick belt that allows the heat of the sun to pass through and to reach to the earth but does not allow the heat of the earth to go out. Thus the temperature around the earth is bound to increase which results into changes in the global pattern of environment and thus, the climate change.

Chhoti Duddhi (Euphorbia thymifolia Linn.): A rare and neglected wild medicinal herb

Chhoti Duddhi or Euphorbia thymifolia Linn.: An important medicinal herb

Chhoti Duddhi, as the name indicates is a small plant containing milky latex in it. I know it from my childhood because some of my caring elders used to apply a paste of this plant whenever anyone of us got wounded while chasing and running behind one another during our routine games and sports in the village. As time passed, I grew older and older but could not forget this small plant peculiar in appearance but inhabiting in such ways that it can easily escape out of your notice if you are not a keen observer. Whenever and where ever I went and walked, in a not so happy mood, not in a hurry to rush for reaching to my destination, looking on the earth passing through my left or right sides, I located this humble plant with all its small expansion, sleeping on the surface without any ambition of life, never looking up towards the egoistic world, never wretched to feel about its smallness, rather shy enough in showing its existence, living under tough conditions offering refuge to lots of dust particles and bits of light weights. My writing about the humble plant is just a tribute to it as it occupies its place in my mind like anything else for the whole of my life, not like a thing of some use to me but like someone of the God’s creation occupying a place in the field of love of my mind I just cannot explain about.

Chhoti Duddhi in Ayurveda is called as Laghu Dugdhikaa. In Sidha it is called as Ammanpthrishi. It is taxonomically known as Euphorbia thymifolia Linn. , belonging to the family Euphorbiaceae. It has different names in different regions like – Dudia and Shweetkerua in Bengal, Cgittirapalavi in Ceylon; Nahani dudheli in Gujrat; Ghakdidudhi and Chothadudhi in Maharashtra; Chickenweed, dwarf spruce, and red caustic creeper in English. In Sanskrit it is known as Lakhu dugdhi, Dugdhika, and Raktabinducchada. In Spenish it is called as Golondrina and in Unani it is called as Dudhi khurda.

Habit and Habitat
Euphorbia thymifolia is an annual herb with pan-tropic distribution. This is mainly found in waste lands, along roadsides and wall sides under humid conditions. Its stem is slender, smooth, and reddish in colour and profusely branched. Delicate adventitious roots come out from nodes. Roots are fibrous, thin and delicate. The stem is 10 to 20 cm in length with a diameter from 1 to 3 mm.

Leaves are opposite, elliptic, oblong or ovate, 4 to 8 mm long and 2 to 5 mm wide with rounded apex, oblique base, inequillateral, margins serulate, stipules lanceolate or linear, and 1 to 1.5 mm long, deciduous.
Flowering occurs from June to November. Inflorescence is solitary or severely clustered at axils of leaves; peduncles are 1 to 2 mm in length and sparsely pilos. Involucres are slightly exceeding, and ovaries have short stipes. Fruits are cocci when mature and seeds are long, ovoid and tetragonal.

Medicinal Properties

According to Charak the soup of Dugdhika is beneficial in diarrhea and painful bleeding of piles. He has prescribed its latex for ring worm and for eruptive boils. In the traditional medicinal practice of konkan people also, the extract of this plant is applied for the cure of ringworms.
Bhaavaprakash states that Dugdhika is expectorant as it can cure aggravated cough. Besides this a paste of the plant cures skin diseases and parasitic infections. If used internally, its extract promotes conception. It is aphrodisiac and possesses age sustaining properties.
In Tamil traditional Medicinal practices the leaves and seeds of this plant are given in cases of worms and certain bowel affections of children.
In North- Indian traditional practice the extract of plant is considered to be stimulant and laxative.
The Santal tribals of Jharkhand and other regions use the extract of its roots as remedy for treating amenorrhoea (the absence of a period in a woman of reproductive age).
The extract or the powder of this plant mixed in alcohol is used as a remedy for snakebites.
It has been reported that the extract of Euphorbia thymifolia is antiviral and anti oxidant. It has also been reported to act as diuretic, laxative, detumiscent, anti-diarrheic, anti-malarial, anti-rash, anti-dysentery, anti-carbuncle, detoxificant, and anti-hemorrhoidal.
It has been reported that the extract of this plant when combined with 1.5% HCl can inhibit the growth of both the Gram positive (Bacillus subtilis) and Gram negative bacteria (E.coli).
It has also been reported that the aqueous extract of E. thymifolia possessive laxative properties.