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Saturday, January 30, 2010

Chemicals in our daily life

Three-four decades ago domestic cleaning of utensils was done by rubbing pots with sand and jute, ash and some rough clothy material, or just by soil and grass. Pots in those days were not so advanced technically and pressure cookers were hard to find at least in small towns and villages. However, people were quite easy and comfortable in those days too as they are today. One thing that I observe, may it be my own observation and not all may agree to me, people today are suffering from more stomach troubles that they had to in earlier days. Most of the people complain about gas trouble in their stomach, constipation, belching and heart burning.

chemicals in everyday life

Problems of some people may be related with specific life styles, but of others may surely be related to excessive use of washing powders and detergents. There are numerous other health problems also that are connected to excessive use of chemicals in our day to day life.

The application of cleaning powders and detergents is increasing at fast rate in today’s developing world. There were 27 to 30 brands of washing powders in India about ten years ago. But today the number has increased up to 65 or more. More than three crore rupees are spent daily merely on soaps and detergents for washing clothes in India. Availability of washing machines has raised the frequency of cleaning and we go on cleaning even those clothes that are not otherwise needed for washing.

More and more detergents are thus being used and more and more water is wasted in this practice. Rather we can say that more and more water is being released after being intoxicated in our houses through washing and cleaning.

The figure of consumption of cleaning chemicals is second largest in the world.

Increasing use of detergents for washing utensils is causing further problems related to health and environment. The residues that are left on utensils due to careless washing cause oral toxicity in human beings. Even careful washing can not remove cent per cent of these residues from utensils. Yes, though rubbing dried vessels after washing by cotton clothes may help to some extent.

Use of chemicals for exterminating cockroaches’ ants and termites is now a regular practice. The accidental inhalation of these chemicals causes dizziness, nausea, breathlessness and fainting, Mosquito coils and mats contain pesticides. The inhalation of gases produced on their heating cause’s allergic cough and throat irritation. There are pesticide residues in food grains and mothers’ milk. These residues cause birth defects and poor child developments Hair dyes and face-skin tightening creams are popularly used in beauty parlors. Synthetic hair dyes cause carcinogenesis and even cancer. Face-skin tightening creams are popularly used in beauty parlors and have very high levels of mercury, lead and arsenic in them. These chemicals are absorbed in body and can cause kidney diseases and may cause damage to central nervous system.

The eatable items kept in plastic bags contain phthalates in them. Thus they don’t remain fit for eating. If eaten frequently, these chemicals cause serious health defects in our bodies. Even over the counter medicines that people often consume cause serious defects of kidneys, stomach, and urinary systems. In fact, kidneys have been structured to filter some specific by products produced in our bodies during metabolic reactions. When these are forced to filter out different items they get damaged soon. Residues of antibiotic medicines, urea and sugars damage our kidneys when these are to be filtered out from our bodies. So it may be concluded that natural ways and care can protect us from the seriously harmful impacts of these chemicals on our bodies.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Social interaction in environment

The social dimensions include interactions also that go on among organisms continuously in different ecosystems. The social interactions have been grouped into Positive and Negative interactions. Positive interactions include mutualism, commensalisms, amensalism and protocooperation. Negative social interactions include exploitation, predation, antibiosis and competitions.

1. Positive Interactions

(i) Mutualism: The social relationship between two species in which both the species derive benefits from each other, is called as mutualism. Pollination by animals; dispersal of fruits and seeds by birds, insects and even by human beings; symbiotic associations in Lichens etc. are some examples of mutualism.

 Lichen is an association of an alga and a fungus. The alga synthesizes food as it is blessed with chlorophyll but fungus can only live on the food prepared by the alga. In return it offers protection, moisture and nutrients to the alga. Such an association is called as symbiosis
There are symbiotic nitrogen fixers also. The bacterium Rhizobium lives in the root nodules of leguminous plants. It receives food from the leguminous plant and in turn it fixes atmospheric nitrogen for the host plant.  Non- leguminous plants of about 400 species have been reported to have symbiotic associations through their leaves.

(ii) Commensalism: The social relationship between two species of organisms in which one species is benefited but no one is harmed, is called as commensalisms. Sheltering of birds and animals on trees; presence of the bacterial species E. coli in human intestine; Lianas; and epiphytes like Orchids, banyan plants, peepal plants and Loranthus etc. are called as commensalism. Epiphytes are green plants that grow on other plants but do not harm to their hosts. The Lianas are vascular plants rooted in soil but stand erect by the support of other plants. These are very common plants in the dense forests of moist tropical climates.

(iii) Protocooperation (non-obligatory mutualism): An association of members of two populations, in which both are benefited, is called as Protocooperation. An important example of this association is the association of the Sea- anemone and the Hermit crab. The crab carries the sea-anemone to the fresh feeding sites where as it gets protection by the sea – anemone, though this is not always necessary.

2. Negative Interactions

            (i) Exploitation: In nature, it has been observed that organisms of one species harm the organism of other species by taking support, shelter and by exploiting food from the other species. Under these conditions relations between species are differently called as Parasitism and Predation. We have already discussed this relationship in earlier paragraphs. In predation an animal kills its prey for food, but a parasite derives its food from the host and does not kill it. The host may die due to some disease caused due to the parasite.  

Root Nodules


(ii)Amensalism: The association between organisms of two different species in which one is inhibited or destroyed and the other is unaffected, is called as amensalism. There are two modes of amensalism (a) competition and (b) antibiosis

(a) Competition: The relation which involves struggle among organisms for water, nutrients, space, sunlight or organic food is called as competition. Competition may either be Interspecific or intraspecific. The Interspecific Competition occurs between members of the same species due to overcrowding or overpopulation. Intraspecific Competition occurs between members of different species. It is also called as contest or interference competition. This type of competition has been reported in cases of insects, paramecia etc.

(b) Antibiosis: Secretion of substances by the organisms of one species to kill or repel another organism of a different species is called as antibiosis. Species of Actinomycetes (bacteria) and some Lichens have been reported by researchers to produce substances inhibiting certain fungi and bacteria. The classic example of antibiosis is the destructive effects of the mould Penicillium upon certain bacteria.. The secretion, known as Penicillin has remained a potent medicine in combating bacterial infections in early days of antibiotic discoveries.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

What is Sustanable Agriculture?

The first of the couple of words ‘sustainable agriculture’ – sustainable, has the base as Sustain which has been derived from Latin word sustinere (sus-, from below and tenere, to hold), to keep in existence or to maintain, implies long term support or permanence. When it pertains to agriculture, it describes farming systems that are capable of maintaining their productivity and usefulness to society, indefinitely. Thus a Sustainable Agriculture System must be a system which conserves resources, supports social structure, stands in commercial competition, and supports the original make up and processes of the natural environment.

an integrated system of plant and animal producing practices specific to a particular area, site or place.

Thus, the term Sustainable Agriculture means – an integrated system of plant and animal producing practices specific to a particular area, site or place. Over the long term, a Sustainable Agriculture System is expected to –Satisfy human needs of food and fiber; Enhance environmental quality and the natural resource- base upon which the agricultural economy depends; Make the most efficient use of nonrenewable resources and on-farm resources; and integrate where appropriate, natural biological cycles and natural controls; Sustain the economic viability of farm operations; and enhance the quality of life for farmers and society as a whole; Ensure equitable distribution of resources etc.

In order to ensure sustainability of Indian Agriculture –The National Policy on Agriculture gives special emphasis on following facts –utilization of vast and untapped growth potential of Indian Agriculture; strengthening the rural infrastructure to support fast agricultural development; promotion of value addition and to accelerate the growth of agriculture based business; creation of employment in rural areas; securing a fair standard of living for the farmers and agricultural workers including their families; discouraging migration to urban areas; and facing the challenges arising out of the Economic Liberalization and Globalization.

According to India’s Agricultural Policy–The Agriculture which is based on “technically sound, economically viable, environmentally non-degrading and socially acceptable use of natural resources – land, water and genetic endowment” etc. is called as Sustainable Agriculture.
In other words – farming systems and practices that maintain or enhance the economic viability of agricultural production, the natural resource base, and other systems which are influenced by agricultural activities, may be called as Sustainable Agriculture.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation-“The successful management of resources for agriculture to satisfy changing human needs, while maintaining or enhancing the quality of environment and conserving natural resources” is called as sustainable agriculture (FAO, TAC/CG/AR, 1989).

On another place, FAO has explained – A sustainable Agriculture System is one which involves the management and conservation of the natural resource base, and the orientation of the natural resource base, and the orientation of technological and institutional change in such a manner as to ensure the attainment and continual satisfaction of human needs for the present and future generations. Such a sustainable development conserves law, water, plant and animal genetic resources, and is economically viable and socially acceptable (FAO, 1991).
Sustainable agriculture integrates three main goals:Environmental Stewardship, Farm Profitability, and Prosperous Farming Communities. These goals have been defined by a variety of disciplines and may be looked at from the vantage point of the farmer or the consumer.

Sustainable Agriculture as per the Indian Agricultural Policy
According to the Policy Document of Indian Agriculture Policy, Agriculture in India is a way of life, a tradition, which, for centuries, has shaped the thought, the outlook, the culture and economic life of Indians. Therefore agriculture in India is central to all strategies for its planned socio-economic development. A fast agricultural growth is essential in order to achieve self-reliance, household food security; and in order to bring about equity in distribution of income and wealth that may result into a fast reduction in poverty levels.

For Agriculture, to be made Sustainable, the Indian National Agriculture Policy has fixed following aims to achieve within a period of twenty years-
o A Growth Rate in Excess of 4 percent per year in the agriculture sector;
o The growth in agriculture should be based on efficient use of resources and conservation of soil, water and biodiversity;
o Agricultural growth must be equitable i.e. it must be widespread across regions and farmers;
o The agricultural growth should be demand-driven growth, and it should cater to domestic markets and should maximise benefits from export of agricultural products in the face of challenges arising from economic liberalization and globalization;
o The agricultural growth should be technologically, environmentally and economically sustainable.

Under the programme of Sustainable Agriculture, the Government of India, accords abiding importance for improving the quality of country’s land and soil resources through a number of national programmes. The Government is inclined to promote the rational utilization and conservation of its water resources, and to offer highest priority to the conjunctive use of surface and ground water. According to the policy, the use of biotechnology will be promoted for evolving plants that consume less water, are drought resistant, pest resistant, contain more nutrition, give higher yields and are safe in view of environment. High priority to the sensitization of the farming community with the environmental concern is to be given Balanced and conjunctive use of bio-mass,, organic and inorganic fertilizers and controlled use of other agro-chemicals through integrated nutrient and pest-management is to be promoted to achieve the sustainable increases in agricultural production.

The traditional knowledge of agriculture enshrined in tribal communities and also in other communities is to be explored, encouraged and developed through various methods. The agriculture is to be protected from natural calamities and preventive efforts are to be made through the application of remote sensing technologies in different aspects of agriculture.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

What are Environmental Indicators and why are they important?

A substance, factor, change, living being or a system that quantifies and simplifies phenomena and helps in understanding complex realities, is called as indicator. It tells us something about changes in a system. There are many types of indicators some of which are- Financial Indicators, Poverty Indicators, Health Indicators, Environmental Indicators, and Indicators of Sustainable Development. Financial Indicators describe changes in the state of individual, local and national economies. Poverty Indicators describe poverty whereas health indicators describe changes in the health conditions.

Environmental Indicators expose realities relating to good or bad health of environment of a particular area and status of interactions among its components. These are selected to provide information about the functioning of a specific system to support decision making and management. Indicators quantify and aggregate data that can be measured and monitored to determine whether some changes are taking place. The indicators need to help the decision makers understand why the change is taking place so as to make the environmental managers able to understand the actual process of changes. Here we are principally concerned with the indicators of environment. These indicators show the condition of environment, for example the level of pollution, health of ecosystem etc.

A number of factors are considered for the assessment and prediction of the health of environment and balance among its various components that are feared to be affected due to anthropogenic activities. The effective and reliable monitoring systems that are required for assessing, recognizing and predicting adverse impacts of anthropogenic activities on the health of environment are called as environmental indicators.

There are a number of environmental indicators. These may be bio-indicators or Ecological indicators. Some of the indicators of this type may be the Indicators of Land Productivity, Agriculture, Climate, soil type, fire, petroleum deposits, concentration of gases, pollutions etc., micro-organisms, plants, animals, cell organelles, organs, individuals, populations, biotic communities and ecosystems that show different levels of sensitivities towards impacts of anthropogenic origin are some indicators. These can be considered and impacts can be analyzed to asses and predict environmental changes in periodic manner.

Functions of Environmental Indicators

The Environmental Indicators have some basic functions like – simplification, quantification and communication. The environmental indicators indicate environmental conditions in simple ways that remain easy to understand. They should show the extent of the environmental conditions in clear terms and they must communicate the message or the indication of particular environmental conditions.

The environmental indicators should meet the following criteria-

(i) These should be sound scientifically,

(ii) These should be easy to understand,

(iii) These should show trends overtime,

(iv) These should be sensitive to the changes that these are intended to measure,

(v) These should be measurable and capable of being updated regularly, and

(vi) The data and information from environmental indicators should be easily available.

Important facts about indicators

While making use of indicators, the environmental managers should bear following facts in mind –

(i) It is not possible to develop indicators without the stock of sufficient information and accurate data,

(ii) Appropriate targets should be set to measure performance,

(iii) Indicators should take into account different locations, communities, cultures and institutions etc. because different people living in different locations have different values.

(iv) Different sets of indicators are evolved overtime, and these are seldom, if ever complete,

(v) The measurement of indicators have tendencies to eliminate the conditions of uncertainty, but it does not eliminate these conditions,

(vi) Making changes in indicators can change the system.

The Global Bio-indicator Programme

A Worldwide Programme for identifying and applying biological indicators in environmental monitoring was formulated in the XXI General Assembly of International Union of Biological Sciences (IUBS), Ottawa in 1982. This programme was initiated across the globe to evaluate the effects of hazardous substances on ecosystems. The objectives of the Bio-indicator Programme are listed below-

(i).to encourage researchers to develop methods that indicate the presence of hazardous substances in the environment,

(ii). to collect information on available bio-indicators, and

(iii). to promote the exchange of new knowledge across the globe,

(iv).to provide detailed information and lists of references to institutions interested to have knowledge regarding the same,

(v). to promote interdisciplinary co-operation and standardization.

How do bio-indicators help us?

Indicators provide information about the functioning of any system for scientific purposes like decision making and management. It quantifies and aggregates data that can be measured and monitored to determine whether change is taking place. It helps the decision makers in understanding the causes of changes that take place. Indicators can assist with overall analysis in many areas of environmental management. Some of these are mentioned below-

· Performance Evaluation: Indicators can be applied in the evaluation of performance by comparing with a target specified in the policy process.

· Threshold: The point just before a new situation in the environment is called as threshold. It is most important basis for the assessment of the situation. If a sustainability threshold is clearly defined, the policy makers and even the society can make assessment about the success of management system or the status of environment whatsoever, on the basis of threshold.

· Causal Loops: There is a link between pressures and environmental conditions. The environmental conditions exert pressures on its components. On the other hand pressures on the components of environment (like overuse or exploitation of resources) can cause damages to the environment and thus can alter the environmental conditions. The observation of indicators can help in understanding causes of pressures on environment and the altered environmental conditions due to these causes. The indicators support the claim for fixing causes of the extent of environmental damage, or the health of components of environment.

· Modal Construction and Scenario Analysis: Real data can be obtained by the help of indicators. These can support field testing of modals and possible future scenarios.

The disastrous impacts of human activities are marked by a number of local, regional and global problems emerging here and there. These problems are intensified green house effect leading to the global warming; and the climate change; the depletion of ozone layer; pollution of air and water including pollution of seas and oceans; desertification of vast areas of land and so on.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Applications of Adhatoda vesica in traditional, medicinal and ethnoherbological healthcare systems

Taxonomically the plant is known as Adhatoda vesica. In local systems it is variously known as Malabar Nut, Adulsa, Arusha, Vasaka, Justicia adhatoda, Adulsa Arusa, Adathodai, Bakash, Adathoda, Adalodakam, Adusoge, Addasaramu, Lion’s Muzzle, Stallion’s Tooth. It is known as Adathoda in Tamil and Adalodakam in Malayalam.It belongs to family Acanthaceae. It is a small evergreen and sub-herbaceous bush which is commonly found in the lower Himalayas- up to 1300 meters above sea level, in India, Srilanka, Burma, Malaysia etc.The average height of the plant ranges from 50cm to 90cm. Leaves are broad and lanceolate measuring 10 to 16 cm in length and 5 cm in width.

The dried leaves become greenish brown in form and bitter in taste. The stem wood is soft and can be used for making charcoal for gunpowder. Flowers are large, fragrant, and attractive with white petals. The filaments are usually free and project beyond the corolla tube. The gynoecium consists of two carpels, syncarpous.Ovary is superior, bilocular with axile placentation.Ovary is highly elongated and remains situated in a nectar secreting disc. It terminates above in a long narrow style which projects beyond the mouth of the flower, and ends in two small stigmas of various shapes. Fruit is usually bilocular capsule dehiscing loculicidally. Seeds are exalbuminous and usually four in number per fruit. Pollination is mostly brought about through the agency of insects.

Adhatoda vesica : A Young Plant growing at the root of a tree

Adhatoda vesica : A flowering plant growing independently on uncultivated land

Constituents of the plant extract
The plant extract has been reported to contain a number of constituents. The extract of its leaves is reported to contain – Quinazoline alkaloids, vasicine, N-oxides of vaccine, deoxyvasicine, oxyvasicine, maiontone and essential oils. The whole plant is reported to contain a peculiar compound named as organic adhatodic acid which is an odorous substance.
Roots of Adhatoda vesica contain vasicinolone, vasicol, peganine, hydroxyl oxychalcone, glucosyl oxychalcone etc. compounds (Gupta, Anand, Ghatak and Atal, 1977). Flowers of the plant are reported to contain b-sitosterol-D-glucoside, kaempferol, glycosides of kaempferol, and queretin etc.

Medicinal Properties of plant extract
The plant extract in general, is found to be abortifacient, anti-asthmatic, antispasmodic, antitussive (Dhule, 1999), bronchodilator, expectorant. It has also been reported to be febrifuge, mucolytic, oxytocic, and uterotonic.

The extract of leaves is traditionally used for the treatment of bronchitis. It is known to Ayurveda for 2000 years. It has important places in Siddha and Unani medicinal systems also. It has been reported to releave cough and breathlessness (Gogate, 1982). The local use of the leaf extract is reported to cure pyorrhea and bleeding gums (Doshi, J.J. et al 1983). The active alkaloid vasicine and its autooxidation product vasicinone have shown bronchodilator and antihistaminic effects (Chopra1982, Arnin A.H. and D.R Mehta 1959).

The plant is recommended for a variety of ailments such as bronchitis, asthma, fever, jaundice etc.in traditional healthcare and Ayurvedic systems. The leaves & roots are efficacious in coughs, arthritis, diarrhea & dysentery and have the best haemostatic quality. Leaves are anti-inflammatory, analgesic, and effective in skin disorders. The leaf-extract is considered as a tonic for heart in some traditional healthcare systems. This is one of the most potent anti tuberculosis drug. The important constituent of the plant Vasicine is also reported for its anthelmintic and weak hypertensive activity. The plant extract has also been reported to have antibacterial (Brantner and Chakraborty1998), antimycobacterial, wound healing, and hypoglycemic activity. Adhatoda vesica Nees has been commonly used in the indigenous system of medicine of Naga tribes in India for curing intestinal worm infections (Yadava and Tangpu, 2008).

The extract of Adhatoda is found to have anti-ulcer activity against ulcers induced by the consumption of ethanol, pylorus and aspirin. The leaf powder of adhatoda showed a considerable degree of anti-ulcer activity in experimental rats when compared with control. Research has shown that syrup of adhatoda improves the symptoms of dyspepsia.

These results suggest that in addition to its classically established pharmacological activities, Adhatoda has immense potential as an anti-ulcer agent. Further research showed that a syrup of Adhatoda improved symptoms of dyspepsia (Chaturvedi et al, 1983).

Insecticidal Properties
According to an important research by Kokate CK, D’Cruz JL, Kumar RA, ApteSS (1985), Adhatoda has been used for centuries in India as an insecticide. Its leaves have been shown to control insect pests in oil seeds, in both laboratory and warehouse conditions.39 Research has shown Adhatoda alkaloid, vasicinol, to have an ant fertility effect against several insect species by causing blockage of the oviduct. The same study showed that essential oils taken from Adhatoda reduced feeding activity in specific granary pests. Research has also proven Adhatoda effectiveness as an insect repellent.

Applications in veterinary healthcare system

M.K.Jha (1992) has reported that Adhatoda has been used successfully in veterinary medicine for thousands of years in India. It is effective for a variety of animal conditions including coughs, colds, and diseases such as abscesses, anthrax, throat diseases, asthma, tuberculosis, jaundice, scabies, urticaria, rheumatism, pneumonia, hematuria and contagious abortion.

· Amin, A.H. and D.R Mehta: Nature, 184:1317 (1959).
· Arun K. Yadav and Vareishang Tangpu : Anticestodal activity of Adhatoda vasica extract againstHymenolepis diminuta infections in rats. Journal of Ethnopharmacology, 119;322-324(2008).
· Brantner AH, Chakraborty A 1998 In vitro antibacterial activity of alkaloids isolated from dhatoda vasica NEES. Pharmacy and Pharmacology Letters 8(3):137
· Chaturvedi GN, Rai NP, Dhani R, Tiwari SK, 1983 Clinical trial ofAdhatoda vasica syrup (vasa) in the patients of non-ulcer dyspepsia (Amlapitta). Ancient Science of Life 3(1):19
· Chopra, R.N.: Indigenous Drugs of India, Academic Publishers, Calcutta (1982).
· Dhuley, JN Antitussive effect of Adhatoda vasica extract on mechanical or chemical stimulation-induced coughing in animals. J Ethnopharmacol. 1999 Nov 30;67(3):361-5.
· Doshi, J.J. et al.: Int. J. Crude Drug Res., 21:173(1983).
· Gogate, V.M. : Dravyagunavignyana, continental prakashan, Pune (1982)
· Gupta OP, Anand KK, Ghatak BJ, Atal CK 1977 Pharmacological investigations of vasicine and vasicinone - the alkaloids of Adhatoda vasica. Indian Journal of Medical Research 66(4):680
· Jha MK1992 The folk veterinary system of Bihar - a research survey. NDDB, Anand, Gujrat
· Kokate CK,D'Cruz JL, Kumar RA,ApteSS 1985 Anti-insect and juvenoidal activity of phytochemicals derived from Adhatoda vasica Nees. Indian Journal of Natural Products l(l-2):7

Adhatoda vesica: an important wild plant

I recognize Adhatoda since my childhood or when I was in seventh standard. Someone had suggested me to take tea of its leaves when I was suffering from bronchitis like symptoms. Being a child I could not take it as a medicine as I had yet to learn to tolerate unpleasant tastes. My professor too had shown me the plant in full bloom while he was in a field trip with us and was teaching us how to identify plants. In rural settings I used to spot the plant growing here and there in uncultivable lands often under the shade of some big tree. While on field trips I happen to see the plant along road sides but always in a sheltered position, either under the shade of a tree or close to its trunk. Some insect likes the taste of its leaves and makes numerous holes in them. Now when I am grown up, rather elderly, I am bound to admit medicinal importance of this miniature tree not so liked by cattle and humans.

Adhatoda vesica: an important wild plant growing in the road side

Taxonomically the plant is known as Adhatoda vesica, Malabar Nut, Adulsa, Arusha, Vasaka, Justicia adhatoda, Adulsa Arusa, Adathodai, Bakash, Adathoda, Adalodakam, Adusoge, Addasaramu, Lion’s Muzzle, Stallion’s Tooth. It is known as Adathoda in Tamil and Adalodakam in Malayalam.It belongs to family Acanthaceae. It is a small evergreen and sub-herbaceous bush which is commonly found in the lower Himalayas- up to 1300 meters above sea level, in India, Srilanka, Burma, Malaysia etc.The average height of the plant ranges from 50cm to 90cm. Leaves are broad and lanceolate measuring 10 to 16 cm in length and 5 cm in width. The dried leaves become greenish brown in form and bitter in taste. The stem wood is soft and can be used for making charcoal for gunpowder.

Flowers are large, fragrant, and attractive with white petals. The filaments are usually free and project beyond the corolla tube. The gynoecium consists of two carpels, syncarpous.Ovary is superior, bilocular with axile placentation.

Adhatoda vesica: a flowering twig

Ovary is highly elongated and remains situated in a nectar secreting disc. It terminates above in a long narrow style which projects beyond the mouth of the flower, and ends in two small stigmas of various shapes. Fruit is usually bilocular capsule dehiscing loculicidally. Seeds are exalbuminous and usually four in number per fruit. Pollination is mostly brought about through the agency of insects.

Adhatoda vesica: a whole plant in blooms

The plant Adhatoda vesica is known to Traditional, Ayurvedic, Unani and Siddha healthcare systems for centuries. Its extract is used for treating a number of diseases like asthma, colds, uterine troubles etc.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Laser Printers and Copiers emit ozone in your offices

Most of us know it very well that a thick layer of ozone surrounds our earth in its atmosphere, and protects the earth against the exposure of ultraviolet radiations coming towards the earth from the sun. Since ultra violet radiations can produce seriously harmful and sometimes injurious effects on the life forms inhabiting the earth, the ozone layer is very important. Some say that it is the protective umbrella of the earth. But, ozone if found near the surface of the earth, is considered very harmful. Rather, one may call it a serious pollutant. Hence, detection of ozone if it is present near the earth surface is very important.

Ozone can be detected by ozone sensors manufactured by some technically advanced organisations. A highly sensitive, portable, miniature and mobile ozone sensor has been developed by scientists to identify ozone in air, water, and near some gases that remain explosive by nature. The Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Solid State Physics, Germany has been working on a project for manufacturing such mobile ozone sensors. According to the Project Manager of the Institute Volker Cimalla, ozone is an agent with high application potential. Hence ozone sensors are important to detect it. If compact and affordable, such a sensor may have added advantage.

It is important to note that ozone is emitted mainly from some industries and transport sectors. During summers or in warm conditions emissions from industries and transport react with intense ultra violet radiations and form ozone near the ground. The laser printers and copiers employed in most of the offices emit greater volumes of ozone on ground level. Here, it is again important to note that ozone is a powerful oxidizing agent and can cause a wide range of symptoms in human beings that include irritation of mucus membranes in the buccal layers, throat and bronchial tubes; headaches, coughing, and even damage to lungs. It is due to above harmful effects that ozone content of air in any particular area should be measured and monitored regularly by trained and expert persons. For it, the ozone sensors are very important.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Controversy around Himalayan Glaciers

Himalaya is one of the most complex regions on earth. About 80 per cent glaciers of this region have been reported to be retreating. However, the conditions of these glaciers are affected by confusing local variations and some reports reveal that some glaciers including that of the Karakoram are advancing. As for the glacial retreat in Himalyan region during the current global stress of climate change accelerated by global emissions of carbon, soot, methane and other pollutants is concerned, it can be considered on the basis of some facts collected through real researches. But, forecasting baselessly that Himalaya’s glaciers would disappear by 2035 is a matter of serious criticism and strongest comments. It is important here to remind that UN’s international panel on climate change in its “fourth assessment report in 2007” said that “glaciers in the Himalayas are receding faster than in any other part of the world and, if the present rate continues, the likelihood of their disappearing by the year 2035 and perhaps sooner is very high if the earth keeps warming at the current rate.”

Himalayan Glacier

source: UNEP

The retreat of Himalayan glaciers is felt deeply by all the nations sharing the area. But, there are many thousands of glaciers in Himalayas that are difficult and expensive to get to. These glaciers are located in three major weather systems and numerous types of microclimates. The striking feature is that, the countries in which these glaciers are located are not good neighbors and they don’t have any considerable record of scientific cooperation. Some glaciers lie in most sensitive security regions due to which these are inaccessible for scientists of other countries. Thus very little research could have been done so far about Himalayan glaciers. Hence, making big and strange forecasts that too with absolute certainty can not be understood by any one.

The countries sharing the Himalayan region are aware of the consequences of the climate change. They are aware of the resultant water and food crises and risks of disasters. They also know that water crisis resulted by receding glaciers has started threatening their energy supplies by disrupting the process of hydro power generation. The report of 80 per cent retreat of Himalyan glaciers has been produced by the Chinese Academy of Science. The out break of new pests and diseases has already been reported by farmers of Nepal. Another consequence feared to come up due to retreating glaciers relates to the river systems of India and Pakistan becoming seasonal in the near future. It is feared to make the monsoon erratic. Scientists predict that Yangtze and Yellow River may loose their volumes of water in near future.

Himalayas-Hindu Kush is the region on which about 40 per cent of the population of the world depends for its water requirement.But, it is sad that no reliable data on the possible fate of this largest source of fresh water is available due to lack of proper and sufficient research. It is again heartening to think that the impact of Himalayan Glaciers on monsoon responsible for the food security in South Asia, too has not been researched properly till now and we depend on the forecast of climate sceptics. Only a true glacier scientist can research and report properly and only he can supply the reliable data.

Mr. Jairam Ramesh, India's Environment Minister

Mr. Jairam Ramesh, the Indian Environment Minister has reportedly stated that – the claim that climate change would cause Himalayan Glaciers to melt away by 2035 was unfounded. He has further told the media that they (glaciers) were indeed receding and the rate was cause for great concern but the claim was not based on the iots of scientific evidence. In India’s discussion paper by glaciologist Vijay Kumar Raina has criticized the IPCC’s glacier claim (November 2009). The discussion paper admits that some of the glaciers in Himalayas are retreating, nothing to suggest as some have said that they will disappear.

Mr. R.K. Pachauri

The IPCC's Chairman, Mr. R. Pachauri said recently while discussing the report, “We are looking into the issue of the Himalayan Glaciers, and will take a position on it the next two or three days”. Here, it can be noted that the forecast that Himalayan glaciers could disappear by 2035 was based on a report published by WWF on the basis of an article published years ago in 1999 in the journal New Scientist. The journal had published an interview of the Indian glaciologist Syed Hasnain and the U.N.‘s International panel on climate change incorporated the same in its 2007 report. Now U.N.’s international panel of scientists have begun reviewing the disputed claim in the report.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Botanical and Zoological Survey of India

A complete knowledge, identification and listing of all the species of plants and animals are essential for the protection, preservation, research, and judicious utilization of the biodiversity of a country. The Government of India has constituted Botanical Survey of India and Zoological Survey of India for these purposes.

The Botanical Survey of India was formally constituted on 13th February 1890 with its Head Office at Calcutta (now Kolkata). Sir George King, originally appointed as superintendent of Royal Botanic Garden, Calcutta in 1871 took the charge as its first ex-officio Director. The Central Circle of the Botanical Survey of India started at Allahabad in 1962. In 1972, the survey extended its Branch Offices of the Andaman and Nicobar Circle at Port Blair and Arid Zone Circle at Jodhpur. The Arunachal Field Station of Botanical Survey of India was established in Itanagar in 1977, and regional centre as Sikkim Himalayan Circle was set up in 1979 at Gangtok. “After reorganisation, with the development and establishment of different regional centres, the aims and objectives of the Survey were redefined by the Programme Implementation and Evaluation Committee in 1976 with a view to encourage taxonomic research and to accelerate the scientific expertise for the preparation of a comprehensive flora of the country, under "Flora of India" project, ethno botanical study, modernisation and maintenance of herbaria and museum, and creating interests among botanists and public in general. In a recent review (1987) the aims and objectives of Botanical Survey remained unchanged except that the activities like survey and exploration of plant resources, listing of endangered species, publication of national flora, preparation of national Data Bank on herbarium and live collection, plant distribution and nomenclature were prioritised”.

Following are the Primary and Secondary objectives of the Botanical Survey of India-

A. Primary Objectives of the Botanical Survey of India : 1. To survey the plant resources of the country and to undertake complete taxonomic studies of all the flora of the country, 2.To enlist the endangered species, to undertake measures for the effective conservation and to collect and maintain germplasm and gene bank of endangered, and vulnerable species, 3.To bring out volumes of National Flora and Flora of States/Union Territories, 4. To identify, collect and preserve specimens of plants which are economically and otherwise beneficial to human being and, 5. To prepare National Database of herbarium collection including types, live collections, plant genetic resources, plant distribution and nomenclature.

B. Secondary Objectives of the Botanical Survey of India: 1. To undertake studies on selected critical and fragile ecosystems; 2. To undertake assessment of flora relating to environment impact studies as and when called for; 3. To undertake ethno botanical studies and evaluate plants of economic utility in specified areas and, 4. To carry out geobotanical studies in specified areas.

The Zoological Survey of India was established on 1 July, 1916 with the basic aim of promoting survey, exploration, and research in the animal life of India. It is the only organization in the country involved in the study of all kinds of animals from Protozoa to Mammalia, occurring in all possible habitats from deepest depth of the ocean to the peaks of Himalaya. The Survey had its genesis in the establishment of the Zoological Section of the Indian Museum at Calcutta in 1875. The Survey undertakes no regular teaching but from time to time holds Conferences and Symposia, Training Courses, Workshops and Colloquia. The scientists of the department are constantly exposed to the stimulation of ideas and techniques developed in cognate disciplines by the visiting investigators. For the publication of the results of research carried out in its laboratories, the Survey has its own journals.According to the Zoological Survey of India “Scientists in ZSI are engaged in exploring, naming, describing, classifying and documenting animals from all over India. But a lot more needs to be done to understand and investigate the faunal diversity of India in the light of the objectives of the Convention of Biological Diversity for scientific use and equitable sharing of the benefits of animal resources of the country”.

The Zoological Survey of India has following Primary and Secondary objectives –

A. Primary Objectives

1. Exploration and survey of animal species and their taxonomic studies;

2. Survey of the status of endangered species, and the publication of results in the Journal of the Department;

3. Publication of Fauna of India, maintenance and development of National Zoological Collections;

4. Central Referral, Information, Advisory and Library Services.

B. Secondary Objectives

1. Exploration and Survey of Faunal Resources, and

2. Environmental Impact Studies wherever specially asked for by the Ministry of Environment & Forests