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Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Take up active steps to deal with climate change issues – Hu Jintao

Chinese President Hu Jintao addresses the Summit on Climate Change at the United Nations in New York on September 22, 2009. [AFP]

The Chinese President Hu Jintao called on both the developed and developing nations to take active steps to deal with climate change issues.Mr. Hu was addressing the U N Summit on Climate Change in New York on 22 September 2009. He asked the developed countries to assist the developing countries through financing and technology transfer while he stressed that it was not their outright responsibility – reports Xinhua. It has to go with the long term interests of developed countries to extend assistance to developing countries as a joint investment in the future of mankind.

In his address, the President of China told that his country was going to adopt an integrated action under its economic and social development plan through four important measures. These four measures, according to the President were –

1. Intensification of efforts to conserve energy and to improve energy efficiency, and endeavor to cut the carbon dioxide emission per unit of the gross domestic product by a notable margin by 2020 from the 2005 level.

2. Vigorous development of renewable energy and nuclear energy and increasing the share of non-fossil fuels in primary consumption of energy to around 15 percent by 2020.

3. Increasing forest carbon sink energetically and endeavoring to increase forest coverage by 40 million hectares and forest stock volume by 1.3 billion cubic meters by 2020 from the 2005 levels.

4. Stepping up efforts to develop green economy, low carbon economy and circular economy, and enhancing research, development and dissemination of climate friendly technologies.

[CONCEPT: The Hindu]

Authorities order the polluting textile units to ensure zero -discharge of effluents in Bhilwara

Pressed by the public protests due to seriously changing scenario of air and ground pollution in the whole area that is symbolized by stinking air and bad smelling green ground water in Bhilwara, producing 75 percent of the country’s textile, a town of Rajasthan(India), a high power committee comprising Minister of industries, Environment and Forests, Chairman of the Central Pollution Control Board, and Principal Secretary –industries passed orders on 23September 2009 to restart the eight closed units of industrial effluent treatment .

A major textile area of India, Bhilwara has as much as 500 synthetic textile units located in its outskirt areas of Chittorgarh, Gangapur, and Mandal roads. Most of these units reportedly utilize plenty of water and release it in the polluted condition without treating them as per the rules laid down by the Central Pollution Control Board. Earlier the pollution control authorities set zero-discharge norms for these units and the Government offered subsidies for the installation of effluent treatment plants in them, the pollution by these units continued indifferently. Experts are of the opinion that the contaminated effluent released from these industries is polluting even the ground water so seriously that it smells like chemicals and bears some type of colour.

Water Analysis reports
It has been reported that the State Public Health Engineering Department had already declared in the year 2004 that most of the water of wells located near the Kothari River contained lead, chromium, zinc, and sodium above the BIS (Bureau of Indian Standard) standards. The water of these wells had been found to be hard which is indicative of chloride contamination. After immense pressure from the civilized public of Bhilwara, the State Pollution Control Board had ordered the polluting units in December 2005 to operate as zero discharge units. It is amusing to state that following the orders of the State Pollution Control Board these units started plantation of Eucalyptus trees in two to five acres of green land using waste water for irrigation. This land happened to be within the premises of the units. As per the environmental activists of Bhilwara district the polluting units are injecting the polluted water into the ground causing serious ground water pollution. In 2006, when villagers protested against the serious ground water pollution the State Pollution Control Board told them that the textile units were making use of effluents for irrigation and they were not allowing the polluted water to flow through streams. Environmental activists of the area are of the opinion that the government is offering only short term solutions like reverse osmosis etc. and the effluent treatment plants if installed by some textile units, were un-operational.

Government action
Following the report of discharging un treated effluents on the ground the authorities decided to put pressure on the polluting units by ordering them to install effluent treatment plants with immediate effects. If any of such industry failed to do so, its security amount would be forfeited. It is important to mention here that every textile unit has been ordered to deposit a security of rupees fifteen lakh and to adhere to the conditions and parameters laid down for pollution control within one month. It has been reported that 21process houses and one woolen mill in Bhilwara have been ordered to install electric sub meters in their effluent treatment plants. These industries too are to follow the earlier order to ensure that no polluted water is released out of their premises. Though the industry minister has stressed on the vedeography of polluting units, it is understood that it can in some way not do the needful in view of prevailing corruption in some industrial houses. Since the effluent treatment plants consume high energy and their costs of installation too amounts to heavy amount of money, the industrial units have always been reluctant to do the needful. However, the Bhilwara Municipal Corporation has declared to install a plant for reverse osmosis, shortly. (Source: the Hindu, 23 September, 2009).

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Dodo: the extinct bird

Dead as dodo
Long long ago in the island of Mauritius, lived a big population of flightless, innocent and gentle birds named as “dodo”. The origin of the name dodo is unclear. It likely came from the Dutch word dodoor, meaning “sluggard,” the Portuguese word doudo, meaning “fool” or “crazy,” or the Dutch word dodaars meaning “plump-arse” (that nation’s name for the little grebe). Its original scientific name was Didus ineptus. To the rest of the world, it’s the dodo — the most famous extinct species on Earth. It evolved over millions of years with no natural predators and eventually lost the ability to fly, becoming a land-based consumer of fruits, nuts, and berries. Having never known predators, it showed no fear of humans or the menagerie of animals accompanying them to Mauritius.

DODO Bird : Reconstruction (Raphus cucullatus) reflecting new research at Oxford University Museum of Natural History

Isolated by the location of island habitat in the ocean, these birds were unknown to human beings till 1958 when Portuguise sailors landed on the shores of island. Since dodos had never seen a man earlier, they could not understand the cruelty hidden inside the strangers and greeted them with childish innocence. As cruel and criminal minded affluent men treat the poor and innocent but skilled people on earth, the wicked sailors thought these birds as stupid mistaking the gentle spirit of the birds and their lack of the fear from the new predators.

Now the dodos had to face not only men but to the other predators like dogs, pigs, rats etc. also that were brought by them to the new location. The cruel sailors started killing and eating dodo birds describing them as “flesh pots”.Their dogs started eating their eggs. Pigs and rats did everything they could do to disturb and alter their habitats. As the men from outside started felling trees to meet their own ends, pigs in turn dug out their roots and crushed out the eggs of dodos on the ground. As the bird was flightless, it was bound to build its nests on the ground. Their young afforded little protection against the introduced predators like feral dogs and pigs that were left there by the Portuguise sailors. The dogs and the wild pigs trampled and ate away their eggs and the great strain compounding on the birds made it very hard for them to survive any more on the island on which they were living for centuries. Finally, the birds were lost to the world.

The last dodo had died in 1981 leaving the cruel and offensive men to do more and more cruelty and offence, and to suffer more and more in return (Roberts and Solo, 2003).Now dodo’s significance as one of the best known extinct animal and its singular appearance has led to its use in literature and popular culture to symbolize a concept or object that will or has become out of date, as in the expression –“dead as dodo” or “gone the way of the dodo”(Steve Miller, 2006).

The Anatomy of the bird
Dodo was a plump flightless bird weighing approximately 20 to 30 kg. It was grey in colour with a large hooked beak and a plume of white feathers adorning the rear of the body of the bird. It had small reduced weak wings that were inefficient to lift up the heavy body of the bird into the air. This morphological weakness of the bird made it prone to the danger from the Portuguise invaders who clubbed it to death when it approached them in search of friendship.

Today, the skeleton of dodo is not available except some bones and the whole story about dodo’s morphology and anatomy and its behavior can not be formulated even after great attempts. The work of the Museum Curator Andrew Kitchener suggests that the bird could have a weight ranging from 13 to 17 kg. After the analysis of the available bones of the bird the curator predicted that the bird was not as fat as reported and shown through the European portrait of the bird.

Impact of dodo’s extinction on environment
The extinction of the important bird species dodo is a permanent certificate of the impact of human activities on the environment. It indicates how human beings can disrupt the delicate balance of nature by eradicating whole species just for their amusement, and unnecessary needs. History is witness to a large number of human activities of destruction just for the sake of amusement, words of praise or time pass. Kings and princes of Indian dynasties used to kill wild animals and large number of birds in their natural habitats just because they had no other works to do.

Soon after the extinction of the dodo birds the Mauritian “Calvaria trees” stopped sprouting seeds (Witmer and Cheke, 1991). Human activities of cutting and clearing of these trees washed away the already standing ones. Thus the tree species too became extinct. It has been reported that the seeds of Mauritian trees sprouted only after they passed through the intestinal tracts of dodos. Now that the bird had gone extinct, it happened to be impossible for Calvaria seeds to sprout. This historic incident is an example of the close linkages that exist among the components of an ecosystem. Whenever a particular plant or animal goes extinct, it becomes very difficult for the levels of other organisms to survive. Thus extinction of one species of organism is sure to push a number of other species of organisms towards extinction. This is the reason why the environmentalists the world over and various organizations like the Center for Biodiversity- Mexico are advocating, rather fighting for the protection of biodiversity on this planet.

The dodo bird verdict

In Alice Adventure in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll (1865), it is narrated somewhere that – a number of characters became wet at a certain point of the story. The dodo decided to issue a competition and as per the rules of the competition organized by dodo, everyone of the group was asked to run around a lake until he was dry. Nobody had to measure how long and how far he had to run around the lake so as to get dry completely. When all of them came to dodo to know the result about who had won, the dodo declared – everyone has won and everyone will receive equal prize. This is called as the “Dodo bird verdict”.

More about dodo
The extinction of dodo bird indicates towards the greatest cruelty done against a particular animal. Hence the extinction of dodo bird is regarded as a great event in the history of environment. It is due to this reason that the Center for Biodiversity has instituted the “Rubber Dodo” award to offer the person who ranks first among the nominated enemies of environment or the biodiversity. The 2008 Rubber Dodo Award was won by the Alaska Governor Sarah Palin. He had sought to remove Endangered Species Act Protection for the Polar Bear, suppressed and lied about State Global Warming Studies, and denied that Global Warming was caused by Greenhouse Gas Emissions. The nominees for the 2009 Dodo Rubber Award are - Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship- who is CEO of West Virginia's largest coal company, the ringleader behind the anti-climate legislation, pro-coal, anti-union Friends of America 2009 Labor Day rally made infamous by the Center and allies; TAREX Portfolio Manager & Tejon Ranch Corporation Board Member Michael Winner who is famous for pushing to build the largest master-planned community in California’s history, he intends to destroy up to 19,000 acres of designated "critical habitat" for the endangered California condor; Idaho Governor Clement Leroy "Butch" Otter who is well-known for his desire to eradicate gray wolves from Idaho, Governor Otter celebrated the removal of his state's gray wolves from the endangered species list at an anti-environmental rally; Oklahoma Senator Jim Inhofe, the Senator, has one of the most anti-environmental records in Congress and has vowed to do all he can to block progress against global warming -- which he won't even acknowledge exists.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Management of pest - the integrated way

Integrated Pest Management Programme( IPM) is a broad ecological pest control programme which aims at best mix of all known pest control measures to keep the pest population below Economic Threshold Level (ETL).It is an economically justified and sustainable system of crop protection that leads to maximum productivity with the least possible adverse impact on the total environment.

The Integrated Pest Management Programme can be defined as – “a sustainable approach of management of pest by the combination of biological, cultural, mechanical and chemical tools in a way that minimizes economic, economic, health and Environmental Risks". In other words the IPM is an “economically justified and sustainable system of protection of crops that leads to the maximum agricultural productivity with the least possible negative impacts on the natural environment”. This worldwide programme lays emphasis on the application of Bio-pesticides, and Bio-agents with rarest and unavoidable application of safe chemical pesticides.

The concept of Integrated Pest Management was developed by Dr. Ray Smith (1919 – 1999), an American entomologist and educator, around 1950. In 1940s, Dr. Smith led a ten- year project to test his basic concept of “supervised control” of pests of alfalfa. During this project, he gathered enormous amount of economic, biological and ecological data that helped him in developing Integrated Pest Management Model. He worked on it with Dr. Perry Adkisson for a long time and joined hands with a number of International Organisations like FAO, UNEP, and the World Bank etc. to spread his concept. He took the lead in forming the Food and Agriculture Organization’s Panel of Experts on Integrated Pest Control in 1967 and headed this group from its inception until 1982.He worked for the expansion of concept of Integrated Pest Management on priority basis and worked directly with farmers, experts and policy makers in Latin America, Asia, Africa and assessed the needs of pest control in these regions.

A key priority was expanding IPM’s philosophy and practice in developing areas and working directly with farmers, experts, and policymakers in Latin America, Asia, and Africa to specially assess the pest-control needs of those regions. He organized the FAO’s 1974 Global Project for Integrated Pest Management of Major Crops, lectured and published prolifically overseas, and consulted to USAID and the FAO on food production and pest control issues. Dr. Smith received the 1997 World Food Prize with Dr. Perry Adkisson for their shared achievement in developing and propounding the practice of Integrated Pest Management programs by farmers around the world.

The aims and major objectives of pest management programme are -reduction of the application of Synthetic Chemical Pesticides; development and application of environmentally sound practices of pest management; application of safe chemical pesticides with minimal risk of human health ; re-useable return on investment;providing consumable and safe food to consumers; and Principles of Integrated Pest Management Programme.

There are five basic principles of Integrated Pest Management Programme and these are -identification of key pests and beneficial organisms ; defining the management unit, the agro-ecosystem ; development of management strategy ; establishment of economic thresholds (loss & risks) ;development of assessment techniques;and evolving description of predictive pest models .

The Integrated Pest Management Programme can be implemented in following ways-

1. Monitoring: Keeping tracks of the pests and their potential damage is called as pest monitoring. This provides knowledge about the current pests and crop situation. It also helps in selecting the best possible combinations of the pest management methods.

2. Pest resistant varieties: Developing pest resistant varieties is an important and powerful tool for mast management. It is a continuous process. Crop plants are bred and selected when available in order to protect against key pests.

3. Cultural pest control: Cultural practices of pest control are to be given greater importance under this programme .It includes crop production practices that make crops less susceptible to pests. Crop rotation, sowing cover crop, keeping plants in rows and leaving proper spaces between rows, planning of dates of plantation and harvesting, destruction of old crop debris etc. -are a few examples. Cultural controls are based on the biology and development processes of pests.

4. Mechanical control: Pests can be picked out if someone has a complete knowledge and behaviour. Hand picking, installation of bird perches, mulching and installation of traps are a few examples of mechanical control.

5. Biological control: These include augmentation and conservation of natural enemies of pests such as insect predators, parasitoids, and pathogen and weed feeders. In IPM programmes, native natural enemy population is conserved and non-native agents are released with utmost caution.

6. Chemical control: Under the IPM programme, safe chemical pesticides are used to keep the pest population below economically damaging levels when the pests cannot be controlled by other means. It is applied only when the pest's damaging capacity is nearing to the threshold.

Values and Biodiversity

Intrinsic Values relates to the fact that humans too are parts of Nature. The concept of intrinsic value of biodiversity accepts that biodiversity is the foundation of civilization. The author of the Silent Spring- Rachel Carson asks - “Can any civilization wage relentless war on life without destroying itself and without loosing the right to be called civilized?” The integrity, stability and beauty of the biotic community are values that can be saved and protected as it is evident from following lines-

“A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability and the beauty of the biotic community. It is wrong when it tends otherwise.”- Aldo Leopold; sand Country Almanac.

The integrity, stability and the beauty of the biotic community(Photo: Dr. M. P. Mishra)

The evolutionary values and the Noah’s principle accept that- since humans are and were parts of nature, they benefited from the evolutionary processes. This thought can raise a question, whether humans should endanger their own milieu and the process from which they stem. The Noah’s principle is named from the biblical Noah and the principle argues that the usefulness of a species is not considered when discussing its conservation, but rather its very presence in the long history of evolution is sufficient to warrant its preservation. Since most of the loss of biodiversity has been caused by human beings through the loss of habitat, overexploitation and other activities, the Environmental ethics says that- humans must have to protect the biodiversity of nature.

Usefulness of a species is not considered when discussing its conservation, but rather its very presence in the long history of evolution is sufficient to warrant its preservation. Photo by Dr. M. P. Mishra

The Environmental Ethics demands extension of rights to species and landforms. According to the ethical point of view, the biodiversity and land forms have their rights to exist with us because of the simple reason that its long standing existence in Nature is deemed to carry with it the ‘ unimpeachable right’ to continued existence.

The Harward Biologist E. O. Wilson is of the opinion that love of nature has been deep rooted into us by the process of Natural Selection. The religious feelings about biodiversity can be seen as a natural extension of a tendency to focus on life and life like processes. Wilson coined the word “Biophilia” for this tendency. This tendency is seen in the form of human desire to remain surrounded by biodiversity and to manage natural things and also the artificial Greenland.

Biophilia is a tendency which is seen in the form of human desire to remain surrounded by biodiversity and to manage natural things and also the artificial Greenland.Photo by Dr. M. P. Mishra

The Anthropocentric values centre around economic benefits, services of ecosystems; regulations of climate by biodiversity, generation of moisture and oxygen by plants and animals; formation of soil and improvement of fertility; de-toxification of wastes by organisms; and Aesthetic and recreational benefits.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Light Pollution!

Today’s environment is in the grip of a peculiar type of atmospheric pollution which like other pollution is a byproduct of the modern development geared by heavy consumption and wastage of energy. I am talking about the least concerned and most avoided type of pollution – the Light Pollution.

Is light a pollutant? You may ask. Going by the definition of pollution that mixing of undesired or unwanted matter or energy with any of our natural resources to alter its natural quality is called as pollution, we may very easily justify that light at nights; yes the “sky glow” is affecting the atmosphere and living components very seriously and most adversely. SO, call it light pollution and make up your mind to reduce it.Indoor light in excess intensity harms our eyes and disturbs our mind. The excess intensity of light diffusing into the atmosphere harms the biotic components including nocturnal birds and insects. Let us examine the adverse impacts of light pollution in a systematic way.

The Sky -glow : Skyline of Mumbai at night (credit- flickr)

•Excess intensity of light produced on earth diffuses in sky to produce an effect known as “sky glow”. The sky glow interferes with the task of astronomers who remain engaged in observing planets and stars. The glowing or over illuminated sky makes it difficult for them to observe the sky and bodies located in it. This is the reason why observatories are located at places far away from the illuminated urban areas. According to N Ratnashree, the Director of Nehru planetarium- when the first observational facilities of the 20th century were coming up in India they were being shifted far away from cities. The observatory in Hyderabad was shifted to Rangapur, and the Indian Institute of Astrophysics set up an observatory at Hanle, in the Himalyas. The Uttar Pradesh State Observatory shifted its location from Varanasi and set up an observatory at Nainital. But the location became so polluted with light that the new telescope of this observatory, which is largest in India, is now being built far away at Devsthal.

•Unwanted light emissions kill turtles as it alters the natural processes of their lives. Installation of mast lights at beaches is most dangerous for the sea turtles as they prefer dark areas for their stay and lying of eggs.

•Light pollution is very dangerous for insects as they live and breed in dark places. The bright light attracts insects at nights as a result of which they fly close to the source of light. It is due to the source of light that they become dazzled, scorched and burnt. It has been reported that about150 billion nocturnal insects are perished due to light pollution in Germany every year.

•The artificial light in the sky or the sky glow confuses the migratory birds and they collide with high structures constructed by human beings on the earth. Rather, the migratory birds forget their route of migration in the illuminated sky, fly in wrong direction and are killed in the mid way due to some or the other dangers.It has been reported that one billion birds per year are killed in North America alone as they collide with sky scrappers in the illuminated sky.

•Light pollution seriously disrupts the growth of plants.

•Light pollution interferes with the biological clocks of many animals and makes it imbalanced.

•Light pollution causes psychosomatic disturbances and breast cancers among women living in highly illuminated zones.

In view of dangers from the light pollution mentioned above it is important for concerned authorities to take up appropriate measures so as to check the diffusion of city lights into the sky and enforce control over unnecessary emission of light of high intensity. Appropriate technologies to measure light pollution in urban areas should be employed and rules should be framed so as to keep control over the emission of lights beyond the accepted limit. The concerned bodies of the government should fix standards and should take up appropriate measures for the monitoring of light pollution.

Some steps towards water conservation and sustainable agricutlture

Human activities during past few decades have compounded to cause numerous ecological problems on local, regional, national and international levels. Uncontrolled emissions of green house gases is intensifying green house effect leading to global warming and climate change , which is a global problem and needs global efforts. On the other hand uncontrolled exploitation of ground water due to improper water management practices is leading different parts of India towards a serious water crisis. As for India, it is a local problem at many places. Local problems need local efforts towards fruitful solutions. But, before going towards solutions let have a look towards principal causes of the falling groundwater level.

Urbanizations and increasing activities of plastering of land surface for various purposes do not allow rainwater to enter into the earth. The water that falls on the ground in the form of rain joins streams that in turn join rivers. Heavy siltation of rivers causes enroute flooding which claims lives and property every year. In cities people have developed tendencies of putting all the household waste into streams or drains. This is the reason why most parts of our cities get flooded during rains. This is the story of most of our Indian cities. Large scale clearing of forests, over grazing along hill slopes encourage soil erosion and the soil eroded in this way joins rivers and causes heavy siltation. On the other hand construction of mega dams is checking all the silt to accumulate near the dams. It is reported that many of the river delta systems of Indian rivers are being engulfed by oceans as silt from rivers is not joining them due to mega dams. The mega dams too are at the verge of heavy siltation which may lead to an unwanted rise of dam water causing local floods. All these reveal the story of improper management of water. Extraction of ground water through bore wells for irrigation is a great factor which is lowering the water table at different places. The growing apartment culture in all the cities and supply of ground water to inhabitants of apartments is another major factor which is lowering the water table.

The pressure of growing more and more food to feed our growing populations does not allow our fields to remain empty even for a few months. The continued cultivation of crops and shallow ploughing practices has sealed the substrata of the land that do not allow the water to enter into deeper layers. In this way water of crop fields has no other way except getting evaporated. Now, since most of the surface areas of the land are sealed in some or the other ways, it is difficult for the surface water to join the underground level of water. These are the basic reasons behind current drought like situations in many parts of India.

In case the emerging problems are taken seriously some important measures are essential to be adopted in the direction of proper water management at the field level and also at the social level. At social level rain water harvesting measures are essential to be adopted. It should be made essential for every house to construct rain water harvesting structures on its roof. On the other hand apartments and agriculturists should not be allowed to dig bore wells. Instead they should be advised to go for secondary options. Watershed development is a major solution towards the management of water in rural and semi urban areas. The governments have so far spent huge amounts of money on the developments of watersheds in different areas of the country through non-government organizations. But the result is unsatisfactory. Crores of rupees are being spent on National Environmental Awareness Campaign and the money is sanctioned to NGOs through nodal agencies. It has been reported that the money sanctioned under the programme remains limited to sending utilization reports and many of the NGOs are expert in the art. Thus sanctioning money can in no way solve the problem.

Let us have a look towards our fields. Since the practice of deep ploughing has been left by our farmers the water that falls into our fields does not penetrate the sealed surface found below the soil. Thus most of the water runs away without any use. The surface run off should be checked by retaining all the water falling into a particular field by bunding and deep ploughing. Deep ploughing will break the under soil seal and will facilitate the water to move downward, and thus to join the underground water level. The bunding around fields will check the water against running away. Thus most of the water will be retained inside the earth. This way the soil moisture can be maintained in a field for longer periods which will in turn reduce the frequency of irrigation.

The green revolution solved our food problem and made us self sufficient. But in the race of raising food production we lost our own mental acumen. We lost our native seed varieties within the 40 years of the start of the revolution. While adopting methods of green revolution we went on increasing the input, ignoring totally our local and traditional knowledge systems. As a result most of the land became barren. The natural varieties of insects and birds that one time helped our crops to grow well vanished away. The water table went deeper and deeper. In the race of cross breeding of hybrid cows and buffaloes we pushed many of our native varieties towards extinction. Now the farming has become non-remunerative and farmers can not cultivate unless they get bank loans. All these conditions have emerged due to dependence of farmers on external inputs. Thus, in order to make the Indian agriculture more lucrative, our farmers will have to for the methods of sustainable agriculture. A major expense on agricultural inputs can be cut down by going on the ways our forefathers used to go, and adopt innovative methods.
Deep ploughing, bunding, depending on organic fertilizers, applying green manure, water conservation, restoration of underground water level, checking the surface run off etc. and adoption of methods of sustainable agriculture can solve the proble.

The story of light and darkness

In the pre-industrial era days and nights were characterized by sunlight and darkness, respectively. These have been regulating lives on this planet and processes of nature since the emergence of life. When the sun, the ultimate source of light and energy goes beyond the horizon, the world for us becomes invisible. Since man cannot see in the dark, he can not do anything at night and the only activity he can do during this period of darkness is to remain inactive and go for a sleep. So do different types of organisms with light receptors inhabiting the earth.

Not all the animals and human beings remain inactive in the darkness of nights. Some who remain active during these hours have either specific works to complete that have not been completed during the day or have to do certain works that can only be done in the darkness of night due to some or the other reasons. It is all about human business. On the other hand many birds and animals remain active at nights. They have well developed senses, rather more powerful than those of human beings that help them do most of their activities at nights. Migratory birds continue their journey to far off places during nights also and move through sky in a peculiarly disciplined manner. Owls catch rats as they can see in the dark. Insects and most of the rodents remain busy in their business at nights, and hence their predators too have to remain busy in keeping eyes on them and in searching ways and moments to gain the result of their work.

Migratory birds
[Marra PP, Hobsonka & Holmes RT.(1998). Science 282: 1884-1886]

Many plants too show some sort of sleeping behavior at nights. Folding of leaves by many plants show such type of tendency after the sunset. All the food synthesized during the day has to be distributed properly to all the parts of a plant. In spite of prevailing night attitude in animals and plants, the major internal life processes have to be continued to keep up the existence. Plants respire and breathe out carbon dioxide at nights that is why it remains warm under the canopy of a tree during nights. Most of the birds roost on branches of different trees wake up early in the morning and fly away for different destinations. Most of the work planned and discussed during the meeting held at early night, have to be implemented and performed now during the day. Some birds bring their favourite fruits with them as per their carrying capacities and eat them at nights while resting in the particular area on the particular branch of the particular tree. Some predators like snakes identify these areas and do their best to attack the roosting birds. Once an accident is faced by some one in a particular tree, the whole group leaves the tree for ever.

Not all night actors complete their remaining works at night, though many of them really pass through a situation like this. Tailors often wake up at nights to finish their work, as they remain under pressure to deliver the finished clothes to customers the next day during busy periods of festivals.

Days have gone when thieves had to remain active at nights and attack the houses spotted during the light of the day. Dogs, in those days played important roles in helping human beings in catching the thieves or in chasing them away. Loud barking of a number of dogs together at nights which was heard from a neighboring village used to remain as a confirmed signal of such an incident. With the development of science and technology, thieves of today have developed new technologies of stealing things in the broad daylight. Now they don’t have to bother and to remain awake at nights. On the other hand modes of theft have been transformed and the money is taken directly in the broad daylight from its keeper in many offices, treasuries and court- compounds. There is no need of theft or hiding from anyone as the money keeper himself pays it with great humbleness. Now, the situation is such that nobody can call it robbery either.

Now, in olden days groups of men used to be formed by villagers and the tern for each one of the group used to be fixed to guard and speak loudly – jagte raho (remain awakened). Those virtual night guards were potential threats for lovers who used to meet at nights deceiving their family members. In the today’s world they have a number of artificial sanctuaries to meet and talk for hours and light has no longer remained an enemy for them. Yes, police in certain areas is playing the role of their enemies, if members of some religious organizations are not considered here. Owls remained whole night witnesses for these nocturnal lovers. But the bird has probably gone extinct due to human intervention by lighting every backyard and background at nights or due to the curse of nocturnal lovers. The misuse of energy at nights has wiped away the tradition and culture that remained indigenous in particular areas and can only be seen now in some old black and white Hindi / Bhojpuri cinema in India.

Travelers and traders in olden days used to travel at nights even during cold seasons, through their defined routes on the backs of camels. The caravans of camels used to pass through barren and un-populated areas during dark cold nights and people sleeping in their houses could hear their peculiar songs and imagine about the row of camels passing through the barren land bearing their riders bending forward and going backward with the jerk created by walking of camels, and some one out of those riders singing loudly, stretching his breath longer and longer. But the days have gone with most of the camels. The remaining members of the genus have become endangered here due to gross negligence; trade in their body parts and reduction in their utility potential.

A camel caravan moving on its way at during night

In the pre-industrialized world a unique type of sound wave used to travel in the air of some rural Indian villages in the complete darkness of nights usually during winter seasons. Almost similar to the singing notes of travelers on the backs of camels, the melody used to reach to the ears of sleeping human beings, floating in the air after emerging out of some house from the mouth of a lady grinding wheat between two heavy pieces of stone, by pushing the upper one round and round with a great force, tirelessly though bathed in the sweat of her own body in the freezing nights of December- January months; extracting energy from the responsible emotions of feeding her husband and children in the morning overhead, and after the sunshine- not a less endangered individual, member of the human species.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Awarding the cruel - the Mexican NGO follows the Gandhian way

Sample of The Rubber Dodo Award
Center for Biodiversity

In today’s world, people can do the work that Governments can not. A small group of like minded citizens of any country willing to do good for humanity, for all the fellow being on this planet, or for any type of just and good work, can achieve their goal in spite of greatest obstacles put in their way. They can expand themselves into millions and trillions and can even unite the whole world for the most genuine cause they fight for. These people organize themselves, frame rules, decide aims, and formulate plans of action and achieve their goals without breaking a heart, without insulting any one, and without injuring even a stone. Mohan Das Karmchand Gandhi, the Father of the Indian Nation has set such a glittering example before the world. Some others too, might be his contemporaries or coming after him, adopt similar philosophies and win the battle peacefully.

In today’s world both - the criminals and good people exist, as they always used to be. Criminals tend to do crime and good people tend to avert it. Good people join hands, increase their number, start doing good and become successful. Their success in doing “good’, attracts other good people from all the directions. These good people join hands and ideas to form organization with numerous predefined good aims. The Center for Biological Diversity is such an organization of the world. It sends complaints to competent authorities for taking back wrong steps, stands fast to protect life on the earth, and institutes Rubber Dodo Award for the powerful persons performing best in putting life into darkness.

I wish to present the matter for you about this organization by direct quoting from the organization’s story and here it is -
The Center for Biological Diversity was founded beneath the ancient ponderosa pines of New Mexico’s Gila wilderness, where Kierán Suckling, Peter Galvin, and Todd Schulke met while surveying owls for the U.S. Forest Service. All three were in their early twenties, with a passion for wild places; Kierán was a doctoral student in philosophy, Peter was training in conservation biology, and Todd had a background running outdoor-education programs for high-risk kids. When their surveys turned up a rare Mexican spotted owl nest in an old-growth tree, and they found out that same tree was part of a vast area slated to be razed in a massive timber sale, they took their findings to the local Forest Service manager. The Forest Service had been entrusted with shielding sensitive species from harm, but it soon became clear the agency was more invested in its relationship with big timber than in its commitment to the public to protect forest wildlife. The timber sale would go forward, in violation of the Service’s own rules.
The three young men promptly took the story to a local paper.

In the end, that big old tree never fell to the chainsaws, and Kierán, Peter and Todd became personae non gratae at the Forest Service. Along with Dr. Robin Silver, an emergency room doctor, nature photographer, and grassroots advocate who had written an Endangered Species Act petition to protect the Mexican spotted owl — and joined by a growing group of other activists as word of mouth spread — they formed the group that would eventually be known as the Center for Biological Diversity. Tackling cattle-grazing abuses on the public lands where they lived, they leveraged protection for species like the southwestern willow flycatcher into orders to remove cows from hundreds of miles of vulnerable desert streams; with their campaigns to protect goshawks and owls, they shut down major timber operations throughout Arizona and New Mexico and brought an end to large-scale industrial logging in the heritage public lands of the arid Southwest.

Now what does this organization of people from all over the world do? Read in the organization’s own words -We’re now fighting a growing number of national and worldwide threats to biodiversity, from the multifaceted, global problem of climate change — possibly the greatest extinction risk in history and an arena in which our lawyers are using highly innovative tactics to catalyze change — to intensifying domestic sources of species endangerment such as off-road vehicle excess. Based on our unparalleled record of legal successes — 93 percent of our lawsuits result in favorable outcomes — we’ve developed a unique negotiating position with both government agencies and private corporations, enabling us, at times, to secure broad protections for species and habitat without the threat of litigation. Now in our twentieth year, we look forward to a future of continued expansion, creativity, and no-holds-barred action on behalf of the world’s most critically endangered animals and plants.

The Center for Biodiversity is doing commendable lobs in the fields of conservation of flora and fauna in its area. It is standing fast to protect land, forests, endangered species of wild birds and animals, and for checking the pollutions of all types. It brings out an online weekly e- newsletter entitled “endangered earth”.

Some important aspects of management of environment

The Indian Philosophy, of Environment focuses on a holistic approach towards the Management of Environment. According to the Isha Upnishad,-

“The whole universe belongs to the lord of creation or the Nature togetherwith all its creatures. By giving up all the green, one can enjoy the bounties of nature. No creature is superior to any other, and human beings should not have absolute power over nature. Let no species encroach on the rights and privileges of nature. The elements of sustainability are ingrained in this, because the emphasis is on using nature for the good of all human beings.”

According to the Traditional Culture of India, the harmony with the Natural Environment is the essential part of survival of human societies. Nature and Man form inseparable parts of the life support system of the earth that are interconnected and interdependent. The deterioration in one element affects others. There is greater emphasis laid down on values, beliefs and attitudes in traditional social ethics that helps man to live in harmony with nature. The most impressive and eloquent testament of Ecological Values found anywhere in the world literature is the Bhoomi Suktam contained in the Atharvaveda. In the World History, the Ecological Concerns became the State Concerns, for the first time during 272-232 BC. The Empireal Edicts declared by Ashoka lay down the rules of conduct that had to be obeyed with respect to the environment and non-compliance with those edicts met with adequate punishments. Here is another example of the Traditional Attitudes of Reverence that shows age long ethical approach of the Environmental Management in India-

Impart to us those vitalizing forces that come,
O Earth! from deep within your body,your central point, your navel; purify us wholly.
The Earth is Mother; I am son of the Earth,
The rain-giver is my father; may he shower on us blessings.”

- Atharvaveda: (12.1.12).

Here is a current statement in support of the Ethical Aspects of Environmental Management in India –

“It is an arrogant assumption to say that human beings are Lords and Masters of the lower creatures. On contrary, being endowed with greater things in life, they are the trustees of the Lower Animal Kingdom. The delicate and holistic balance that exists in nature has to be respected and maintained."
- M.K.Gandhi. quoted by T. N. Khoshoo, in “An Apostle of Applied Human Ecology”- 1988.

Since we cannot raise the carrying capacity of the earth systems, we have our moral duty to conserve all the resources and biodiversity with all its means, traditions, cultures and religious practices. “To save our planet with all its living and non-living manifestations and to ensure the diversity that has been its strength, there is an urgent need to adopt a code, which may be called the Dharma of Ecology” (Khoshoo, T. N. 1999.Dharma of Ecology, Current Science. Vol.77 No. 9: 1147-1153).The Dharma of Ecology, is the ethical sense that should be one important aspect of the Environmental Management.

Economics has very much to do with development and development tends to do very much with the natural environment. Industries, agriculture, mining, developmental projects etc. are the pillars of the modern development and these, either directly or indirectly cause most of the problems in the environment. All of these, the industries, agriculture, developmental projects (including dams, bridges, flyovers, roads, rail-tracks, pastures etc.) are based on economic principles. The Environmental Management must take care of the cost and benefits together with the health of the environment while analyzing and managing development in its favour.

Environmental Managers must ensure that all the industries use pollution control devices to ensure good health of their local environment. On the other hand, industrialists often try to escape from using these devices as it affects the cost of industrial production and profit by consuming electricity or so. Many industries initially start using pollution control devices but later stop their function to reduce the consumption of energy and thus the cost of production. Hence, industries should be checked and their activities should be monitored regularly so as to safeguard the environment.

Industrialists often donot take into account the loss of health of environment in the price of the industrial productions. In case the industrialists’ donot include the impacts or costs experienced by adversely affected people on their health, or on the environment on the whole; in the prices they pay, the industry may produce pollutants in excess of the socially optimal level. The Theory of the Tragedy of Commons given by Garret Hardin reveals that visitors to an open access recreational area use the resources more than if they have to pay for it. It leads to the degradation of the environment. If Municipal Corporations lift up all the restrictions from the public walking along roads in cities, the moving public tends to convert every bend of a street into a toilet and every open space into a garbage dump or so. If Municipal Corporations construct toilets and lavatories and charge taxes from users, the problem will disappear automatically. Thus taxation in this case improves the economic level of municipal corporations and helps in the management of the health of the city environment. If the motor vehicles, industries and allied sectors that cause pollution are forced to pay taxes and fines, the problem of pollution in the local environment can be minimized and the income of enforcement organizations can be improved.

The economic aspect of the Environmental Management values the losses caused to the health of environment in economic terms. Hence the environmental management applies some practices as solutions to environmental problems. Some of these practices are explained below.

Environmental Regulations
The impact of development is estimated in economic terms through regulations. Most of these regulations are enforced by fines that are operated in the form of tax if pollution rises above the prescribed limit. Secondly, pollution is monitored on regular basis and enforcement agencies see that the laws pertaining to the control of emissions or effluents are obeyed by industrial units.
Pollution Quotas

Pollution can be reduced by fixing pollution quotas in the form of tradable emission permits. The polluter company tries to reduce pollution load on its own if it has to pay more than the actual expenses for pollution reduction.

Taxes and Tariffs on Pollution
If the cost of pollution is increased a polluter becomes bound to reduce the pollution being caused through its industrial unit. In view of this thought, taxes and tariffs on pollution are usually imposed on polluters. These taxes are termed as Green Taxes. A pollution tax that helps in the reduction of pollution to the socially “optimal” level would be set at such a level that pollution occurs only if the benefit to society exceeds the cost. Some people suggest shifting the tax on sales tax and income tax to the tax on pollution. It is popularly known as the Green Tax Shift.

Property Rights
One economic aspect of environmental management is redefining the property rights. Through environmental management, the property rights may be assigned to them who suffer from pollution. According to this theory of property rights which is also called as the Coase Theory, if people living near a factory had a right to clean air and water, then the factory could pay to the affected people. On contrary, if the factory had the right to pollute, though it can never be accepted), the people could pay the factory for reducing pollution.

Economic Policies
The economic aspects of management also relates to the economic policies so as to manage the global market system and its impact on environment. The economic policies should encourage environment friendly enterprises that employ people and take care of their welfare along with protecting the environment. Under this aspect of environmental management, resources are treated as natural capitals and so, these are accounted and assessed in the economic context. This is called as Green Accounting.

Promotion of Traditional Values and Occupations
A number of traditional values and practices can be substituted to economic values. For example, planting twigs of trees in paddy fields is a traditional practice of pest control through birds and it saves money expected to be consumed by pesticides. On the other hand, if traditional and environment friendly economic activities of people are promoted adequately, it will improve their economic conditions along with protecting the environment. The traditional Small Scale Industries like Bee-keeping, Pisciculture, Sericulture, Mixed Farming etc. promote health of environment togetherwith improving the economic conditions of farmers. These traditional practices should be subsidized by the government instead of subsidizing the purchase environment damaging projects.

The technological aspects of environmental management relate to the development and adoption of environment friendly technologies that may help improve the income of people along with protecting the environment. Under this aspect, efficiencies of machines are improved so as to improve production with lesser expenses. This demands further research and innovations for the improvements of indigenous technologies, designing of better machines and enhancing production while safeguarding the natural environment.

The government of India has prescribed regulations and standards to adopt emission control strategies and to use eco -friendly technologies. Eco Marks are awarded to products that are environmentally safe and that have been manufactured through the application of environment friendly and efficient technologies. Along this line Eco Marks are awarded under following conditions-

(i).The products of industries should meet the standards prescribed by the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS).

(ii).The manufacturers should have sufficient evidence of compliance of Environmental Protection Act and Rules framed by the government. Such acts and rules may be the Environmental Protection Act, Water Act, Air Act, Prevention of Food Adulteration Act and Rules etc.

(iii). All the products should display the composition on the label pasted on the container of the product along with dates of manufacturing and expiry.

(iv).The manufacture of a product should use recyclable packaging materials.

The benefits of awarding Eco Marks are –

(i)Increase in the accountability for environmental impact.

(ii)Consumer Awareness

(iii)Improvement in the image of product and manufacturer.

Social Aspects of Environmental Management incorporate: Community Health, Traditional Values, Traditional Culture, Nutrition and Human Rights including Women and Child Welfare in relation to environment. Some specific areas of social field especially covered under equity, social justice and women empowerment have been described below.
Equity and Social Justice

According to Adams, 1965 – the relational satisfaction in terms of perception of fair distribution of resources within interpersonal relationships is called as equity. The term was first developed by John Stacy Adams in 1963. Equity in the sense of environmental Management relates to equal distribution of resources and equal sharing of benefits of development by all the sections of society.

The programmes of modern development have not been supporting equally to all the sections of society. It has been a common experience that poor have always been sufferers during the constructions of mega-dams, power stations, industries, hospitals etc. The Green Revolution benefited big farmers only as the poor could not afford machines and agro-chemicals. Thousands of poor families have to migrate leaving their habitats and their shares of natural resources for ever. Many tribal populations have to face multiple migrations after being displaced during developmental activities. The environmental management should therefore ensure that natural resources are shared equally by every section of society so that the poor may not remain poor for ever and the underdeveloped may gain full chances of proper development. On the International Level, we have the example of a few developed nations exploiting maximum resources of the world. The International efforts are being made to fill this gap of disparity.

A concept of society in which justice is received in every aspect of the society rather than merely the administration of law, is called as Social Justice. There is injustice in many societies of the world. It is of common observation that some groups of people are consistently privileged while others are consistently disadvantaged. According to an opinion, “the social justice is about preventing human rights abuses and ensuring adherence to the International Law. Issues of minority groups, international justice, issues pertaining to women and children come under the process of social justice. Social justice on International level refers to war crimes, and crimes against humanity, including genocides.

Micro Irrigation System: advantages and disadvantages

A low pressure irrigation system that spray, mist, sprinkle or drip – is called as Micro Irrigation System.

The term "micro-irrigation" means - a family of irrigation systems that apply water through small devices. These devices deliver water onto the soil surface very near the plant or below the soil surface directly into the plant root zone. Growers, producers and landscapers have adapted micro-irrigation systems to suit their needs for precision water application. This system is based on specific discharge-patterns of water in the crop fields, lawns, and horticulture stations, landscaping areas or domestic settings. Micro-irrigation requires a number of components that include pipes, tubes, water emitting devices, flow control equipment, installation tools, fittings and accessories.

Water Emission devices in micro irrigation system deliver water in three different modes: drip, bubbler and micro-sprinkler. On this basis the micro irrigation system can be divided into three basic categories- Drip Irrigation, Bubbler Irrigation, and the Micro- sprinkler Irrigation. In drip mode, water is applied as droplets or trickles. In bubbler mode, water `bubbles out' from the emitters. In the micro-sprinkler mode of irrigation water is sprinkled, sprayed or misted on the plants.

Advantages of micro-irrigation
Micro Irrigation has following advantages-

1. Water savings- In this type of irrigation system water is saved through different ways such as
-By reducing loss of water in conveyance
-By reducing loss of water through evaporation, run off, and by deep percolation.
-A water supply source with limited flow rates such as small water wells or city/rural water can be used in this type of irrigation system.

2. Energy savings – This type of irrigation system requires a smaller power unit and consumes less energy

3. Weed and disease reduction- This type of irrigation system is helpful in inhibiting growth of weeds as it keeps limited wet areas. Under this condition the incidence of disease is also reduced up to major extent.

4. Can be automated- Fertilizers and chemicals can be applied with water through micro irrigation system. This systems can be automated which reduces labor requirements.

5. Improved production on marginal land -On hilly terrain, micro-irrigation systems can operate with no runoff and without interference from the wind. The fields need not be leveled.

Disadvantages of Micro Irrigation System

The Micro Irrigation System has following disadvantages -
1.Management. Micro-irrigation systems normally have greater maintenance requirements. Soil particles, algae, or mineral precipitates can clog the emission devices.
2.Potential for damage. Animals, rodents and insects may cause damage to some components. The drip and bubbler irrigation systems need additional equipment for frost protection.
3.High initial cost. Micro-irrigation systems are ideal for high value installations such as orchards, vineyards, greenhouses, and nurseries where traditional irrigation methods may not be practical. However, the investment cost can be high.

What is organic farming ?

A form of agriculture which is mainly based on the use of organic fertilizers, natural pesticides, natural feed for cattle and poultry, and indigenous varieties of crops is called as Organic Farming.

According to the Codex Alimentarious, a joint body of FAO( Food and Agricultural Organisation) and WHO(World Health Organisation)- “organic agriculture is a holistic food production management systems, which promotes and enhances agro-ecosystem health, including biodiversity, biological cycles and soil biological activity. It emphasizes the use of management practices in preference to the use of off-farm inputs, taking into account that regional conditions require locally adapted systems. This is accomplished by using, where possible, agronomic, biological and mechanical methods, as opposed to using synthetic materials, to fulfil any specific function within the system”.

According to the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM) –
Organic agriculture is a production system that sustains the health of soils, ecosystems and people. It relies on ecological processes, biodiversity and cycles adapted to local conditions, rather than the use of inputs with adverse effects. Organic agriculture combines tradition, innovation and science to benefit the shared environment and promote fair relationships and a good quality of life for all involved."

The Organic Farming began as a movement in the 1930s and 1940s as a reaction of people against growing dependence of farmers on synthetic fertilizers, synthetic pesticides, and other agro-chemicals like hormones etc. Synthetic fertilizers had been created during the 18th century, initially with superphosphates and then ammonia derived fertilizers mass-produced using the Haber-Bosch process developed during World War I. These early fertilizers were cheap, powerful, and easy to transport in bulk. Similar advances occurred in chemical pesticides in the 1940s, marking the decade as the 'pesticide era'.

Merits of organic farming over modern farming
Organic Farming has a number of merits over the modern farming as it is sustainable and environment friendly. Organic farming normally does not involve capital investment as high as that required in chemical farming. Since chemical inputs, which are very costly, are not required in organic farming, small farmers are not dependent on money lenders. Crop failure, therefore, does not leave an organic farmer into enormous debt, and does not force him to take an extreme step. We know that many small farmers worldwide commit suicide due to increasing debt. Organic farming involves synergy with various plant and animal life forms. Small farmers have abundance of traditional knowledge with them and within their community. Most of this traditional knowledge cannot be used for chemical farming. However, when it comes to organic farming, the farmers can make use of the traditional knowledge. They don’t need to ask anything from experts.

Traditional –ethnoherbological and medicinal properties of Madagascar periwinkle

Vinca rosea- the Madagascar periwinkle
The Madagascar periwinkle has a long history of traditional- ethnoherbological and medicinal applications across the world. The folk-healers have been using this plant in many different ways for treating many types of diseases in many different cultures since long.

Following the modern researches that have proved the plant to contain many important active compounds useful in the treatment of many resistant and serious diseases, the plant is being extensively grown on large scales in many parts of the world. The increasing commercial value of the plant due to its medicinal applications has stimulated the horticulturists to carry on breeding experiments and develop different varieties.

Madagascar periwinkle was used in the charms and love potions in Europe during the medieval period in floral garlands so as to protect the bearer of the garland from the evil spirits. In Italy the rosy periwinkle is called as the flower of death and garlands made from the rosy periwinkle are placed on the grave stones of children. The cultural connotations of Vinca rosea kept on changing over time and during the enlightenment in Europe the French people started considering it an emblem of friendship.

Applications of extracts of Madagascar periwinkle in traditional healthcare systems
The extracts of different parts – roots, stems, leaves, flowers, and fruits of Madagascar periwinkle have been applied in traditional health care systems for the treatment of memory loss, intestinal inflammation, problems of circulatory system etc. However, the effectiveness of extracts of the plant in the treatment of all these health problems has not been confirmed by modern researches.

For centuries, the extract of Madagascar periwinkle has been used as folk remedy for diabetes in Europe. The extract of leaves of the plant was in traditional use to treat wasp stings in India for a long time. In Africa, leaves of the plant have traditionally been used for treating menorrhagia and rheumatism. In Bahamas the extract of the whole plant (roots, stems, leaves, flowers, and fruits) has been used for the treatment of asthma and flatulence. In Cuba – Puerto Rico, Jamaica and other islands the extract of flowers has been commonly used as eye wash. The people of Caribbean island prepare eye wash for the treatment of eye irritation from the flowers of the plant. In China, the extract of this plant is traditionally used as astringent, diuretic and cough remedy. In Vietnam, people have been using the extract of this plant for the treatment of diabetes and malaria.

In Central America, and parts of South America people use the extract of this plant to make a gargle to ease soar throat and for the treatment of chest ailment and laryngitis. In Curacao and Bermuda the plant extract is traditionally used for the control of high blood pressure. The extract obtained by boiling different parts of the plant up to a long time is given to a patient to arrest bleeding in the traditional health care in Hawali. In Mauritius, the infusion of leaves is given for the treatment of dyspepsia and indigestion. The people inhabiting the Philippine islands use the extract of Madagascar periwinkle as folk medicine for the treatment of diabetes. The people of Suriname boil ten leaves and ten flowers together and use the extract for the treatment of diabetes. The Indo-Chinese people use the extract of stalks and leaves for the treatment of dysmenorrhea.

Medicinal importance of Madagascar periwinkle:
Application of extract of Madagascar periwinkle in Modern Medical Healthcare systems

The traditional uses of Madagascar periwinkle for lowering the level of blood sugar attracted researchers in 1950s to conduct researches on the medicinal properties of the plant. During this period the scientific and medical communities were inspired by the folk uses of “Periwinkle- tea” as folk remedy for the treatment of diabetes in Jamaica. As a result, a number of Useful compounds in the plant extract came to be investigated by them. Present day researches have proved that the compounds extracted out of the plant are capable of treating juvenile leukemia, Hodgkin’s disease or the testicular cancer, and even other cancers .Chattopadhyay( 1999) and Chattopadhyay and Sarkar,(1992 )reported that the extract of Vinca rosea contains blood sugar lowering agent.

Vinca rosea has been reported to contain more than 70 alkaloids and tannins, the active compounds of the plant. Some of these alkaloids are used by the Pharmaceutical industry for the treatment of testicular cancer or the Hodgkin’s disease and the cancerous tumors, and the childhood leukemia.

The extract of the plant has been reported to improve blood supply to the brain if taken internally on routine basis. It helps in the prevention of abnormal coagulation of blood. It has also been reported to raise the level of serotonin, a neurotransmitter in the brain. Out of all the alkaloids contained by the plant, two alkaloids namely vinblastine and vincristine have been reported to be capable of binding proteins in microtubules of cells and helping in arresting cancer. The mitosis arresting effects of these two alkaloids on the malignant cells have been studied by Alberto M. Marmont and Eugeneo E. Damasio (1966). El- Sayed, Handy have jointly investigated that bisindole alkaloid extracted from C. roseus can be administered for the treatment of tumors.

Chattopadhyay RR (1999). “ A comparative evaluation of some blood sugar lowering agents of plant origin”. J Ethnopharmacol 67:362-72.
Chattopadhyay RR, Sarkar SK, Ganguli S et al.(1992) “Hypoglycemic and antihyperglycemic effect of leaves of Vinca rosea Linn.” Indian J. Physiol Pharmacol 35, 145-51.
Alberto M. Marmont and Eugenio E. Damasio (1966).”The effect of two alkaloids derived from Vinca rosea on the malignant cells of Hodgkin’s disease, Limphosarcoma and acute leukemia in vivo. Hematology center and II medical division, Ospedali Civili, Genova- Sampierdarena, Italy.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Differet species of Sida plant growing in the wild

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Sida is an important plant in the traditional healthcare systems across the world. It grows in the wild - in the waste lands, along road sides, in shady places, and banks of pools and ponds where water dare not to accumulate. It has many natural varieties but major distinction is observed in the morphology of leaves only.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Vinca rosea, Sadabahar or the Madagascar periwinkle: A plant of great horticultural and medicinal values


Vinca rosea or Madagascar periwinkle is an important plant taxonomically known as Catharanthus roseus. Catharanthus is a genus of eight species of herbaceous perennial plants seven of which are endemic to Madagascar; the eighth one is native to the Indian sub continent in Southern Asia. Catharanthus pusillus goes by its common name, sadabahar or sadaphuli (perennially flowering) grows in parts of western India with a number of horticulture varieties derived from it. Some botanists classify Vinca as Vinca minor and Vinca major. The lesser periwinkle with lilac blue flowers is called as Vinca minor where as Vinca with purplish blue flowers is called as Vinca major. The minor one is native to Europe and is spread in the British Isles. After introduction into America it has widely spread over much of the eastern continent. Vinca major is reportedly native to the continental Europe and has become acclimatized in England. According to the Flora of Madagascar: Catharanthus, Germplasm Resources Information Network - the seven important wild species of Catharanthus endemic to Madagascar are: C. coreaceus, C. lanceous, C.longifolius, C. ovalis, C. roseus, C. scitulus, and C. trichophyllus.

Vinca minor

Vinca major

Principal morphological features

The plant Catharanthus belongs to the family Apocynaceae of the Order Gentianales under the class Magnoliopsida, dicotyledons.

Catharanthus or Vinca is a woody perennial shrub growing up to a height of about 80 cm. It has glossy, dark green, cauline, opposite, decussate, ex-stipulate, and oval to oblong, simple, and short peteolate leaves with uniform margins and reticulate venation. Stem is erect, cylindrical, branched, glabrous, solid and green in colour. The inflorescence is solitary, cymose- terminal or axillary cyme. Flowers are pedecellate, bracteates, hermaphrodite, actinomorphic, complete, hypogynous, and pentamarous. Corolla is tubular and it consists of 5 petals showing gamopetalous condition. The flower is usually funnel shaped. The androecium consists of 5 stamens that alternate with the petals. These are epipetalous with short filaments and introse anthers that are often linear, oblong or segittate. The gynoecium consists of two carpels, syncarpous, two distinct ovaries with single style and stigma. A nectar secreting disc remains usually present below the gynoecium. The ovary is unilocular with marginal placentation.
Flowers of Vinca rosea are reported to be self sterile and only cross fertilization takes place in them(East, 1919).The pollen tube that develops from the pollen derived from the flowers of the same plant seem to grow too slowly to reach the egg before it dries. On the other hand pollen grains from the other plant develop rapidly enough to achieve fertilization before the eggs deteriorate. The specific factor that causes self sterility in these flowers is yet to be determined by researchers. Fruits are in pairs of elongated follicles.

Catharanthus with white flower

The plant Catharanthus is usually found either growing in the wild or under cultivated conditions. If under cultivation it is for the medicinal or ornamental purpose. It can grow in nutrient deficient soil. In India the native species grows through out the country. However, numerous horticultural varieties having different flower-colours are grown through out the country. Flower colours of horticulture varieties may be white, mauve, peach, scarlet and reddish to orange. It blooms all through the year due to which it is called as sadabahar in Hindi.

Historical background of the plant

As per reports, Phillip Miller(1691- 1771) who was an undaunted and hard working chief gardener of the relatively young Chelsea Physic Gardener of London, England received “some un specified seeds from his colleagues in 1757 at the Jardin des Plantes of Paris, France. These seeds were apparently collected in Madagascar off the coast of Eastern Africa. He planted these seeds and discovered a wonderfully sprouting from verdant, solitary leathery leaves. It looked a bit vine-like periwinkle with which he was familiar and he described it as “Vinca foliis oblong-ovalis integerinous”. Under his binomial system of nomenclature of plants Carolus Linnaeus (1759) added rosea to Vinca to the name of the plant than vine-like periwinkle. Its name was corrected to Catharanthus roseus with red pure flowers Catharanthus means red pure flowers (Catharos means pure in Greek). Finally the taxonomic name Catharanthus was given to the plant by John Edward around 1795. It was also known as Locherna roseus and Ammocalis rosea and the two names are still popular. A similar plant growing in Europe is said to contain medicinal properties and hence was known as “sorcerer’s violet” at that time due to its violet coloured flowers. The classical English name of Catharanthus roseus is called by common English names as Vinca rosea, Ammocalis rosea, and Lochnera rosea, and by occasional English name “Old maid.”

The Catharanthus - a horticultural variety

The plant Vinca rosea is historically known to treat a number of diseases but during current times researchers across the world are studying its valuable healing properties. The plant is now known to contain anti-cancer properties.

Read more about the Madagascar periwinkle's medicinal properties in the section” medicinal Plants”.