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Sunday, May 30, 2010

Death of a lactating tigress

An eight year old lactating tigress was hit and killed by a vehicle in Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve on May 19, 2010. The vehicle that hit the tigress to death was reportedly the vehicle of the Bandhavgarh Reserve itself.

Following the accident and the tragedy (for animal lovers at least) three officials of the Reserve including an assistant director and two rangers were suspended on May 25 as per the Director of the National Tiger Conservation Authority who reportedly refused to comment on who was responsible for the death and told that the enquiry was started.

The reason for the death of the poor mother who was attempting to cross the road and to reach to her three cubs in the early morning of the day of the tragedy was reportedly the accident by a speedy vehicle of the Reserve. The officials of the reserve are reported to say that the tigress was killed by a tourist vehicle. On the other hand the tourists say that it were the tourist vehicles that spotted the injured tigress and informed officials of the reserve. After information a vehicle of the Reserve was sent out to investigate and the tigress finally died after the vehicle carrying the officials reached there.

As per the media reports, two tourists blaming the officials of the Reserve say that they were harassed by them to put the blame on their driver but they refused to put false charge on their employee.

The reason of the death of the tigress as suggested by officials of the wildlife department and the authorities of the reserve are contradictory. Two of the reasons suggested by them are territorial fights and a wire injury. The post-mortem report has shown internal injuries caused by the impact of a hard, blunt object. The field director of the Reserve has told the media that he suspected collision with a tourist vehicle. Rumors have suggested the involvement of a relative of a Madhya Pradesh Minister. The Hindu reports –since the tigress was hit before the tourist vehicles arrived into the park before 6a.m., investigations are now focused around the officials of the Reserve. What ever the enquiry and whosoever is guilty, the tragedy involving the scene of the death of a lactating mother trying to reach to its three hungry cubs is strong enough to break the heart of a “living” animal lover, or the lover of humanity at least.

Key Words: Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve, Madhya Pradesh, Tigress, vehicle, tourist, Madhya Pradesh Minister, post-mortem, injuries, lactating, cubs, territorial fight, blunt object, rumors

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Take Action for the Center for Biological Diversity


The BP drilling plan that led to the April 20 deadly explosion -- killing 11 people and causing the largest oil spill in U.S. history -- was approved without environmental review. Despite the Gulf catastrophe, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar issued 19 new drilling approvals after the explosion -- all exempt from environmental review under the "categorical exclusion" exemption policy.

This loophole in the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) was meant only to apply to projects with little to no negative effects, such as outhouse and hiking-trail construction -- not massive deepwater oil drilling. The controversy over BP's drilling plan deepened when it was revealed that hundreds of dangerous offshore oil-drilling projects in the Gulf of Mexico evade environmental review every year.

Now, billions of dollars in damage to the Gulf and coastal states later, the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ), the agency tasked with ensuring that federal agencies meet their obligations under NEPA, is reviewing this loophole that allows oil drilling to skip these legally required environmental reviews.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Child Marriage –causes and consequences

Surveys on child marriages that have been carried on in India, show that child marriages contribute to numerous social problems like soaring birth rates, acute poverty and malnutrition, high illiteracy and infant mortality and low life expectancy etc. In Rajasthan state in India, a survey of more than 5000 women conducted in 1995 by the central government showed that 56 percent of women were married before attaining the age of maturity. Even 15. 3 percent of these were married before the age of 5 years and the 14%   were married before the age of 10 years.  Out of every 1000 births, 73 children died in their infancy and 103 were under the age of 5 when they died. Sixty three percent of the children fewer than 4 years of age were found to be severely undernourished. “Sociologists say that the Gujjars and similar groups trace the origin of child marriages to Muslim invasions that began more than 1,000 years ago…. Today the stories are still echoed in the local view that any girl reaching puberty without getting married will fall prey to sexual degradations
 Any marriage of a female child younger than 18 years and a male child younger than 21 years, in accordance to the Article -1 of the Convention on the Rights of Child, is called as Child Marriage or Early Marriage.
In fact, Child Marriage is the practice in which the parents of two small children arrange a future marriage. These children are not allowed to meet each other until the wedding ceremony is performed at their age of maturity. This age may differ from culture to culture. In some cultures this age often falls even before the onset of their puberty.
The child marriage is a world wide phenomenon but it is most prevalent in Africa and Southern Asia and although its practice has decreased somewhat in recent decades, it remains common in (although not only confined to) rural areas and among the most poverty stricken populations.

The International Institute for Population Sciences; Mumbai conducted a Child Health Survey from 2002 to 2004 in different states of India. According to the study conducted by this institute the percentage of child marriages in some states of India are – 52 in Bihar, 44 in Jharkhand, 49 in Rajasthan, 28 in Haryana, 10 in Punjab, 10 in Uttaranchal, 46 in West Bengal and 39 in Andhra Pradesh. It has been found that the rules framed for the abolition of Child Marriages and efforts of Governments are being proved ineffective on the ground levels.                                  
Causes of Child Marriage
There are two fundamental reasons behind child marriage- Poverty and Economic Transactions, and Notions of Morality and Honour.
·         Poverty and Economic Transactions-Poverty is a critical factor which encourages child marriages. Rather, it is a reason behind that. In communities where child marriage is thought to be a transaction that often represents a significant economic activity for the family, the girl child   is the only commodity the family has with it to trade and sometimes to use it as a currency to settle a debt. In some poor African societies young girls are considered to be properties of their parents who can attain greater wealth and are married in early years.
·         Notions of Mortality and Honour-Notions of Mortality and Honour have been enshrined deeply in many cultures. These factors encourage the practice of child marriage. High values have been placed on female virginity in Indian culture since very long. It is being considered shameful if a girl going to marry is not virgin. Hence, parents stand searching appropriate groom for their daughters even earlier to her puberty.
Consequences of Child Marriage
Child marriages have many detrimental consequences that can be classified as physical, developmental, psychological and social.
1.Physical Consequences: When a girl child is married in early age she is likely to be forced into sexual activity with her husband who usually remains much older than him. As the bride remains physically and sexually immature it has serious health consequences.
2.Developmental Consequences: Child marriage and gender inequality limits the development of a girl child to her reproductive roles only. Studies conducted in Africa show that there is a strong relation between woman’s age between marriage and the level of education she achieves. Early marriage of a girl child results in a low level of education and life skills, increases vulnerability to abuse and poor health and thus acute poverty.
3.Psychological and Social Consequences: A girl child married in her early age has to lift the huge responsibility of playing the role of a wife and mother. Since such girls are not prepared to become a wife and mother, this heavy burden has a serious impact on the psychological welfare and relationship of these children. Early marriages have also been found to have connections with abandonment and increased levels of divorce. Child brides often face the danger of being widowed by their husbands due to old, disease or other reasons. Some brides often become domestic slaves of their in-laws.
Indian and Global Scenarios of Legislation against Child Marriages
The central government of India has enforced Child Marriage Restraint Act – 1929, revised on 1 Oct. 1978 through which it has raised the legal age of marriage as 18 years for girls and 21 years for boys.
Child marriage has been prohibited through a number of International Conventions and other instruments on global level. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948 states through its Article 16 (I) that men and women of full age have the right to marry and form a family. They are entitled to equal rights as to marriage, during marriage and its dissolution. Marriage shall be entered into only with the free and full consent of the intending parties.
According to the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child 1990 and its Article XII- Child Marriages and brothels of girls and boys shall be prohibited and effective action including legislation shall be taken to specify the minimum age of marriage to be 18 years.
The convention on the Rights of Child, 1989 (CRC- 198) has been satisfied by all the countries with the exception of the US & Somalia. A number of articles within the CRC hold relevance to child marriage like Article 3, Article 19, Article 24, 28 29 and 36.
Education can play an important role in efforts of eliminating child marriages. UNICEF has researched into child marriages and has come to the conclusion that ‘more education a girl receives, the less likely she is to be married as a child’. Therefore, access to female education and elimination of gender gaps in education, can be important strategies for abolition of child marriages.
Key Words : child marriage, life expectancy, birth rate, poverty,puberty,International Institute for Population Sciences, African societies, Rights and Welfare of the Child 1990, rticle XII- Child Marriages and brothels of girls and boys, divorce, elimination of gender gaps,abolition of child marriages

Tigers suffering from hunger and malnourishment

A news paper report entitled – Five tigers stray from Sunder bans, appeared in The Hindu of 25 May 2010 says that – five tigers apparently in search of food have strayed into villages in the Sunderbans stretching across South 24 Parghanas district of West Bengal in a week.

The report shows that four different cats including an adult tigress and a five year old tiger were trapped at different places and were released in forest areas after being radio collared by forest officials. It is not clear whether these four animals trapped, radio collared and released into the habitat were out of the same five or not.

One thing which is categorically mentioned is that the tigress that walked into the trap when lured by the bate of a goat at Netidhopani was malnourished. Another tiger on some other day walked into the house of a farmer but gets trapped when villagers bolt the door from outside. Officers from the forest department come tranquilize it, put a radiocollar around its neck and release into the nearby forest. The tiger might have been in search of food. The search of food and malnourishment are principal factors that enforce tigers to stray from a forest.

Since, tigers have been reported straying from different forests, it can be easily guesses that most of the forests in India have gone bankrupt, loosing their capacities to support tigers. It can now be inferred that most of the forest ecosystems in the country have gone upset.

Through different reports coming into the atmosphere every body knows that forests in India have been under serious stress of exploitation and encroachment since long and in spite of different programmes of regeneration and compensatory forestation, such incidents are happening most frequently.

Tigers when forced to live in captivities, can die of hunger and thirst but can never stray. They can die it there is no sufficient food and water. Unlike the tigers of Nandan Kanan, the tigers of Sunderbans can stray.

The report tells that the malnourished tigress was attracted by a bait of goat and was trapped. Goats and other animals in forests are hard to find now a days. They are now in a home and that’s why some of the tigers have started looking into the houses of farmers in forest villages. Everything appears very strange. Goats under special conditions can live on leaves on the forest floor but tigers can not. Now there are leaves on the forest floor but no goat or such animals. Tigers can not eat grass. The tigers of Sunderbans were once reported eating fish and crabs (and even snakes). But tigers of some zoological parks of India cannot get even water in captivity, unless proper arrangements are made. Here are some self explanatory images to show the conditions of tigers in one of the famous reserved areas of India.These images were taken during author’s visit to Nandan Kanan Zoological Park of Orissa  by a mobile phone camera during late winter of 2010.

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Key Words: tigers, stray, Sunderbans, village, forest, captivity, tranquilize, habitat, compensatory forestation, regeneration, Nandan Kanan, Orissa

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Nature invites eligible creatures to eat ripe fruits

Come ants, come squirrels, come crows and other birds ! 

Nature invites  you to take delicious lunch of these ripe fruits.



Child labours have to work even at nights

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Smut on Cynodon dactylon Pers.

Smuts on Cynodon dactylon Pers.

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Kantakari- A wonderful wild plant

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Saturday, May 22, 2010

Marine turtles endangered

Six of the seven species of marine turtles have been declared either endangered or critically endangered. Habitat destruction, poaching, oil spills, marine pollution, trawlers etc are some major causes behind this tragedy. A conference of the protection of marine turtles recently held in Goa of India. Many national, and regional news papers have reported that Olive Ridleys are endangered not only on the coast of Orissa, rather these are endangered on the coast of Mexico as well. More or less similar stories follow the critical survival stage of other turtles. Let us read an editorial from the Hindu, a national News Paper.

Just seven species make up the known diversity of the world's sea turtles today, but these evolutionary marvels are encountering a growing number of threats. The marine reptiles, all of them endangered, have persisted for millions of years, moving from the sea to land for nesting, and traversing the great tropical and sub-tropical ocean basins as part of their life cycles. Yet, as the 30th Annual Symposium on Sea Turtle Biology and Conservation held recently in Goa has highlighted, the modern human-dominated era poses grave challenges for their survival. With each passing year, nesting habitat is degraded or lost, feeding grounds are polluted, more turtles die in mechanised fisheries, and the threat of mindless port development looms large. Two environmental crises in the past few weeks highlight the dangers. The large oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico has turned the major feeding grounds of the rare Kemp's Ridley turtle into a veritable death zone. In South Asia, which hosts five species, thousands of Olive Ridleys making their annual journey to Orissa's Rushikulya rookery for nesting had to suffer the effects of a massive oil leak from a ship in the Ganjam port. If a healthy population of turtles must survive into the future, there is a need for a new conservation paradigm.

The first-order priority is to identify and protect the nesting habitat of sea turtles on the Indian coastline. This can be achieved through a full environmental audit of all port projects. If the proposals discussed at the Goa symposium are accurate, no fewer than 331 ports are planned, and notifications have been issued for over 200. The scale of coastal development warrants an aggressive conservationist stance on the part of the Ministry of Environment and Forests. To its credit, the MoEF has supported the International Sea Turtle Society in organising the global symposium, for the first time in the country. It must now strike a blow for protection by enforcing environmental norms. For a start, it can declare the ‘no development zone' of 10 kilometres around turtle nesting beaches, and the 25-km buffer zone that conservation biologists suggest. This needs to cover all new port projects and the expansion of existing ones. A second priority relates to fisheries. While artisanal low-intensity fishing in sensitive zones does not appear to be unsustainable, the catchall ferocity of mechanised boats is killing vast numbers of turtles. A regime of restrictions is, therefore, justified. This should set seasonal curbs for intensive commercial fishing, enforce regulations on turtle excluder devices, and control trawler density. Only determined measures can save these wonderful creatures.

Olive ridley turtles on the coast of Mexico credit: NPR

Keywords:sea turtles, Annual Symposium on Sea turtle biology and conservation, oil spill, Kemp's Ridley turtle, Olive Ridley, Rushikulya, Gulf of Mexico 

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Take Action for the Center for Biological Diversity

Act now to stop ocean acidification. The EPA is seeking your input on how to address ocean acidification -- a process that opens the door to greater opportunities to regulate the emissions that are causing ocean acidification. It is extremely important that the EPA hears from you in support of protecting our oceans and coasts from acidification.

The oceans absorb about 22 million tons of CO2 pollution daily, causing seawater to become more acidic. Ocean acidification prevents crucial marine life such as plankton, shellfish, and corals from building the protective shells they need to survive.
Scientists warn that if we do not rapidly reduce atmospheric CO2, our oceans will dramatically change and entire ocean ecosystems could unravel from the bottom up due to acidification. It's not too late to act, but time is short.
Ask the EPA to use the tools provided by the Clean Water Act -- our nation's strongest law protecting water quality -- to rein in CO2 pollution. The law has a history of successfully reducing water pollution, including other atmospheric pollutants such as mercury and acid rain. The EPA has the ability to invoke this powerful law to get a handle on the CO2 pollution that’s acidifying our oceans.
Please send the letter below to urge the EPA to act quickly to address ocean acidification.

Docket ID No. EPA-HQ-OW-2010-0175

I am writing to express my support of the EPA’s efforts to address the problem of ocean acidification. Protecting our oceans and coasts from acidification must be a national priority. Specifically, I urge the EPA to issue guidance on ocean acidification that will help to prevent the harmful impacts of acidification.

Ocean acidification is an overarching threat to the natural marine environment and the coastal communities that depend on our oceans. CO2 pollution, the result of our burning of fossil fuels, has changed seawater chemistry at a rate faster than seen in millions of years, affecting the growth, reproduction, and health of all marine life. Without curbs on CO2 emissions, ocean acidification could contribute to the collapse of global fisheries and disappearance of coral reefs, among other consequences.

The EPA has the ability to use the Clean Water Act to get a handle on the pollution that is causing acidification. The EPA can provide needed leadership on approaches to ocean acidification by providing guidance and developing a framework for state and national efforts to address ocean acidification. Accordingly, the EPA should issue guidance that will help states monitor ocean acidification, identify impaired waters, and take steps to limit the CO2 pollution that is causing acidification.

The EPA should use its full authority to tackle the important problem of ocean acidification. Regulating CO2 that is causing ocean acidification through the Clean Water Act can play a role in reducing CO2 emissions while complementing other efforts aimed at greenhouse gas reductions. The faster EPA encourages state and federal action to address ocean acidification, the more likely it is that those efforts will be successful.

I support the EPA taking action under the Clean Water Act to help protect our oceans and coastal resources from the threat of ocean acidification. Thank you for the opportunity to comment.

Monday, May 17, 2010

"Every Human Being's life is to be valued" - Bill Gates

Bill  Gate's Bihar Visit

Bill Gates’ recent Bihar- visit, his movements in its villages, and his talks with poor villagers unlike the same of some political leaders of Bihar has been a realistic and praiseworthy step worth recording in the history of sustainable development. The state, though after a long time, is now blessed with a good and visionary leader Mr. Nitish Kumar, and it is during Mr. Kumar’s time that a person of the world fame walked on its streets to review the progress of various programmes being conducted by workers of his organization in the area of healthcare including work on Polio, Kala-azar, and tuberculosis etc. Known for its humble, disciplined, labourious and intelligent people who have been neglected for a long time across the country, who have now come on the global platform to prove their real worth with their visionary leader, the state of Bihar is now marching ahead to regain its lost glory … may God protect it from some corrupt leaders and evil forces in the future.

Bill Gates, the Microsoft Chairman who visited Bihar on 12th May 2010 expressed his real concern for Bihar by signing the agreement for “accelerating state-wide improvement in maternal, new borne and child health. The Memorandum of Cooperation signed by the Government of Bihar with the Melinda Gates Foundation is expected to raise the health standards of Bihar in a big way within the next five year duration, from 2010 to 2015 through programmes and activities covered under it. The Foundation is already working in areas of health in some parts of Bihar including Khagaria and Banka districts where Mr. Gates visited to review the Foundation’s work on polio, kala-azar, and tuberculosis eradication programmes.

It has been incorporated in the Memorandum of Cooperation (MoC) that the Foundation will provide technical, management and programme -design support through NGOs in the areas of maternal, neonatal and child health; maternal and child nutrition; vaccine preventable diseases, tuberculosis, pneumonia and kala-azar etc. It is important to note here that these areas of health in Bihar have been demanding attention since long but the previous governments could not crack the nut.

Starting work initially in nine districts of Patna, Banka, Khagaria, Begusarai, Gopal Ganj, Saharsa, Samasti Pur and East and West Champaran, the MoC will cover total 38 districts of Bihar targeted as most needy area for healthcare.
The Chief Minister of Bihar, Mr. Nitish Kumar has been reported to state that “ the state immunization rate which was previously a mere 11 percent had shot up to 60 per cent due to the efforts of the Foundation’s workers. He expressed to look forward to the Foundation’s cooperation on some more issues including Integrated Child Development System. He praised Mr. Gates’ efforts and admired his credo “every human being’s life is to be valued”.

Key Words: Bihar, Bill Gates, Melinda Gates Foundation; Maternal, new borne and child health; Kala – azar, Nitish Kumar, preventable disease.

Image- The Hindu

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Garlic cultivation

Garlic has been reported to be most useful to our heart to function well, and to our arteries to remain free from cholesterol. It can be grown properly even in small spaces in our campuses.

Why do all the mothers tend to do so?

My grandmother was a great religious lady. She used to pray Gods and Goddesses and used to remain on religious fast during most of the auspicious days as per her traditional calendar of which she had a good knowledge. However, she never went to a temple. She used to say that all the Gods and Goddesses live with us in our homes and we just need to worship them.

We had a great faith in her worship and most of the time when we felt problems we requested her to pray God to solve our problems, and no sooner than anyone or us made a request, she started praying one of her Gods. We used to be amazed to see that our problems were solved. As a child, whenever it started raining in the morning hour during my school time I used to become very sad as the rains might not allow me to go to school or to reach there in time. But soon I used to request my grand mother to ask her god to do something to stop the rain so as to make me able to go to school. The grand mother having oceans of love for me, used to start her prayer and to my amazement her God used to help stop the rain to facilitate my movement to school.

Now let me describe about her religious fasting. She used to remain on religious fast and unlike today’s fasters; she could never get any fruit or other eatable item that could be purchased from the market. She used to prepare her own specific dishes to eat during those periods.
Most often she used to cook Bakle-dal for her to eat during her fasts. Being children, we used to eat away most of her bakla –dal (the broad bean) and most of the time a minor quantity used to be left by us in her share. Today as she is no more, I feel very sorry on my greedy behavior at that time. I could not see her when she died as I was studying in my M.Sc. final year in a college of a city of Uttar Pradesh, India and my parents could not or did not inform me in time. People say that she died while talking to one of our relatives, and that she had no disease at all.

Image:1 Broad bean

Image : 2 Pods of Bakala

Medical facilities were very rare in my village at that time and my parents were not so thoughtful to think about side effects of frequent fasts, nor had they been aware of blood pressure etc. The voices of her pain and agony could never reach to me in the city and I was so busy in my useless studies that I could never think about her health. She wanted to make me a great officer and used to say like this when I was a child. In the city I always kept her dreams in my mind and always tried to become a grand son of her dreams but the news of her sudden death had broken me to pieces. Still today I am very sorry to feel that I could not make her dream to come true.

Today, I try to stop my wife against going on a fast during any one of many religious occasions and try my best to arrange fruits etc during her fasts. My children are not as greedy as I used to be in my childhood but to their benefit she remains very generous to make them eat away most of the fruits as “Prasad”. Why do all the mothers tend to do so?

Key Words : Broad bean, Bakla, Village, childhood, grand mother, parents, school, rains, Gods and Goddess, prasad.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

India's Green House Gas Emission Inventory released

30 percent fall in the greenhouse gas emissions intensity of GDP during the period from 1994 to 2007 has been announced by India, recently. The country has released its first Green House Emission Inventory 1994-2007 and has announced several measures to improve the domestic study on climate change.
The Government of India is trying to reduce its dependence on International Science through the application of ISRO satellites to monitor India’s Green House Gas Emissions and the application of data received from Peer Reviews of Climate Change Journals on the Forest Cover – reports The Hindu, India’s most Environment Friendly News Paper in its New Delhi Edition of May 13, 2010. Let us read the full report –

… India has released its first greenhouse gas emissions inventory since 1994 — showing a 30 per cent fall in the emissions intensity of the GDP from that date till 2007 — even as it announced several measures to improve the domestic study of climate change.

From ISRO satellites to monitor India's greenhouse gas emissions and forest cover to indigenous peer-reviewed climate change journals, the government is initiating steps to reduce dependence on international science.

The ISRO will launch a dedicated satellite to track greenhouse gas (GHG) and aerosol emissions in 2012, and plans another satellite to monitor changes in forest cover on a real-time basis by 2013, according to Union Minister of State for Environment and Forests Jairam Ramesh.

Mr. Jairam Ramesh, India's Environment Minister

 Promises funding
Speaking at the release of the Indian Network for Climate Change Assessment's GHG inventory, Mr. Ramesh urged the network's scientists to establish an Indian peer-reviewed journal on aspects of climate change science, and promised the Ministry's support and funding. “It is irksome that the best articles on Himalayan glaciology are from Ohio State University,” he said, pointing out that Indian expertise on such subjects needs to start influencing the global discourse on climate change.

The INCCA's inventory is in itself a step forward in pushing the domestic climate change agenda. “You cannot monitor something you cannot measure. And you certainly cannot hope to control something which you cannot monitor or measure,” said Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia, releasing the report on Tuesday.He added that the 30 per cent drop in the emissions per unit of GDP boded well for India's voluntary target of reducing emissions intensity further by 20 to 25 per cent by 2025.
However, the inventory also shows that emissions grew 58 per cent from 1.25 billion tonnes in 1994 to 1.9 billion tonnes in 2007. The fastest growing contributors were the electricity generation, transport, cement, waste and residential sectors. Interestingly, agriculture, iron and steel and other industry sectors actually saw a relative decline in their share of the total emissions pie. In fact, emissions in the farm sector were slightly lower in 2007, as compared to 1994.The forestry sector acted as a carbon sink, sequestering 177 million tonnes of GHG emissions.In per capita terms, emissions rose from 1.4 tonnes to 1.7 tonnes without taking forestry compensations into account. Despite the increase, the per capita figure is still well below that of the developed world.

Key Words: Green House Emission, Inventory 1994-2007, GHG inventory, Planning Commission, intensity

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The Hingwala

I remember the Hingwala, and miss him badly even today. Who was the Hingwala? Well, the word Hingwala does not relate to the Hingwala Lane of Mumbai, nor does it relate to a person suffixed as Hinwala on the “face book”. The Hingwala is no more. He used to be in my childhood. The Hingwala in my story was … a middle aged man representing several of his kind, during my childhood who used to visit our village once in a year. He used to hang a mysterious bag on his right shoulder, and in this bag he used to keep a number of things and “a number of things” included some clothes, mustard oil in a smallest bottle that could be made in a factory in those days, a packet containing sattoo, a small packet containing common salt, and a big squire shaped box containing the Hing.

The specific smell or aroma that used to come out of the whole figure of Hingwala, and that used to fill the air around him forced everyone to recognize him as a Hing seller though villagers used to recognize him by his face, graceful but humble look and his big bag. Not just a Hing seller he used to remain for villagers, his behavior, looks, and talk-pattern had established him as a dear and believable person like a close relative of each one of them. He too recognized every one of the village with a clear remembrance about him and his family members including children, their education, their educational progress etc. He was very familiar to us also, but through our parents as he did not keep anything of our taste.

The Hingwala used to sell Hing (the resin like gum derived from a plant Ferula assafoetida, used as a spice to season many types of dishes, and also as a home medicine for treating various stomach disorders) on loan basis and the loan was to be returned either in cash or in kind during his next visit the next year in the same month. Our parents used to pay him some kilos of wheat or rice as price for the Hing they had purchased from him the previous year for the consumption during the whole year.

The Hing purchased from the Hingwala used to be excellent spice and our mothers used the same in many different ways. They used it for seasoning the Bathua dal, sag and other items also, that they used to cook on the traditional smokey chullhas. I had seen some mothers making their small children drink a solution of Hing made by them in their own milk. Most of the mothers in those days did not use spoons for making their children drink some liquid, and instead they used to make use of seep- shells or the shells of fresh water mussels. These shells were also used in making fruit- or vegetable- scrappers as any one of the school going children had yet to invent a metal- scrapper and demonstrate the same in any one of the science exhibitions organized in any part of the world for school children. The Hing solution in milk was traditionally used by lactating mothers to stop their children crying due to any unknown reason, probably due to stomach ache.

Image:1. Chenopodium (Bathua)

Image 2 : Chenopodium Plant growing wildly in a campus

The LPG very popularly used in our kitchens as domestic fuel was not known to Indian villages in my childhood, and rural ladies used to cook food on traditional smokey chullhas by burning wood or crop residues. Though smokey wood chullhas are still not uncommon in Indian villages, the Government Programme on building awareness about the use of smokeless chullhas and making such chullhas available on subsidized rates have removed the problem of smoke from many of our rural kitchens now. Some of our villages have started enjoying the use of LPG, the scarce fossil resource to be conserved at any rate now. It is very agonizing that no sooner than our villages start using any resource it is declared as scarce as our cities have already consumed it wastefully.

We liked to eat Bathua –Dal and Bhat very much especially in the morning of winter before leaving for school. Now let me tell about the Bathua –Dal that may be disturbing you. Bathua is the Hindi name of a well known leafy winter vegetable known in English as Chenopodium. Rural girls used to collect Bathua from crop fields growing wildly there as weed. The cooked rice is called as Bhat in rural U.P. and Bihar, and also in Jharkhand states of India. While eating Bathua Dal and Bhat in the winter morning we used to sit near the bonefire, on which we often heated our food, and the aroma of Hing in the Bathua Dal used to come up on heating and fill our nostrils and brain. Still today, as I am spending my most of life with my parents, wife and children in a normally good though politically mismanaged city of India, I cannot forget the taste of Bathua Dal seasoned with that pure and good Hing purchased from the Hingwala.

I miss my childhood very much, though I know the same can never come back again in remaining part of my life; and my childhood friends with whom I used to go to school; and the horse gram fields from where we used to uproot a few plants and walked over the whole way to school while plucking and eating seeds contained in its pods.

I miss Hingwala, as for about decades I have not been able to buy Hing of similar excellent quality and the unforgettable aroma from even the most genuine shop in this city. As far as I know till today, Hing like other spices was never sold under any brand name in those days but people used to believe their sellers with products they carried for sale who were equipped with high degrees of morals, honesty and names and their personalities mixed together to challenge even the best sales men of some of the biggest masala companies of today’s world in terms of quality, purity, faith reliability and treatment. In today’s world people die off dropsy after consuming mustard oil mixed with the oil of Argemone seeds. Argemone (Argemone mexicana) is a weed that grows here and there in India and many other countries. Everything has been adulterated even after decades of passing of Acts and Rules and the so described alertness of Law Enforcement Agencies. Even our thoughts and deeds have been adulterated now. The Hingwalas of my childhood have gone extinct from today’s world … almost dead, yes “dead as dodos”.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Loggerhead sea turtles (Caretta caretta) among others, is a seriously threatened species across the world

Sea turtles are ancient creatures considered as one among the most important indicators of the health of the world’s marine and coastal ecosystems.

Among sea turtles Loggerheads (Caretta caretta), Leatherbacks (Dermochelys careacea), and Olive Ridleys (Lepidochelys olivacea) are considered as seriously threatened species. These are being brutally and painfully snagged on hooks dragged behind marine boats. It is reported that about 200,000 Loggerhead and about 50,000 Leatherback sea turtles are caught in the world every year. The industrial fishing fleets are killing hundreds of thousands of sea turtles each year besides whales, sharks, sea otters and sea birds in most vicious ways. The greatest threat to sea turtles is loss of nesting habitat due to coastal development, predation of nests, and human disturbances like coastal lighting and housing developments that cause disorientation during the emergence of hatchlings. Incidental capture in longline fishing, shrimp trawling and pollution are other threats to sea turtles. In the recent decline of the population of sea turtles, the incidental capture in fisheries is thought to have played a significant role.

Image : 1 - Loggerhead turtle source - Wikimedia

Image : 2 - Leatherback turtle  source: Flickr

Image : 3 - Olive Ridley Turtle  source : Green peace

Loggerhead sea turtles
Loggerhead sea turtles are amazing creature of ocean. Loggerhead was listed as a threatened species in 1973 and currently it is considered as Vulnerable by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. The population studies conducted recently concludes that the number of female loggerheads that nest in the South East United States is declining continuously.
Loggerhead sea turtles are so named due to their relatively large heads that support powerful jaws enabling them to feed on hard shelled prey. The top shell or Carapace of a loggerhead turtle is slightly heart shaped and reddish brown in adults while the bottom shell or Plastron is pale yellowish in colour. The neck and flippers are dull brown to reddish brown on top and pale yellow on bottom and on sides. Flippers are dark grey to brown on upper side with   white to white grey margins. The plastron is generally yellowish to tan in colour.

Each loggerhead turtle measures about 92cm in length corresponding to its 250lbs or 113 kg weight. The turtle attains sexual maturity at 35 years of age. The females lay eggs 3 to 5 in number or even more during a single nesting season. The eggs incubate about 2 months before hatching. The hatchlings are usually 45mm in length corresponding to their weight which is approximately 0.04 lbs or 20g on an average.

Loggerheads live through three different types of ecosystems that mean three different parts of the sea- environment, in their lives. These three habitats are the terrestrial zone, the oceanic zone, and the neritic zone. They nest on ocean beaches. A period of frenzied activity starts after hatchlings emerge from the nest. During this period of activity they move towards the sea, swim and are swept through the surf zone. They continue swimming for a few days and come to rest in a residence that is selected by them where surface waters converse to form local downwelling. Here they feed upon different types of floating materials. After a period they join sea waves that transport them to places far away from the coast. This is the oceanic zone where the loggerheads spend some years and swim towards reefs and rocks where they get crabs, mollusks, and other animals and eat them. They crush them between their powerful jaws and get stronger and stronger. In the age of 12 to 17 years they come back towards coastal areas near the shore. This is the neritic zone where they get plenty of food supply. Here they continue maturing up to adulthood. This zone provides them a habitat suitable for foraging, mating, migrating and moving to beaches for nesting and hatching.

Loggerheads are found through out the temperate and tropical regions of the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian Ocean. Loggerheads are most abundant species of sea turtle found in the coastal waters of United States. Loggerhead nesting in majority can be observed in the western rims of Atlantic and Indian Ocean. About 88 per cent of total nesting of Loggerheads occurs in Oman, the United States and Australia. In the United States the loggerhead nesting areas have been divided among four states – Florida – 91%; South Carolina – 6.5 %; Georgia – 1.5 % and North Carolina -1%. According to a research, the Florida beaches account for one third of the world’s total population of Loggerheads.

Trends of Loggerhead population
Various surveys and studies done at different nesting sites of Loggerheads reveal that the population of these turtles everywhere shows a declining trend. The analysis of the data received from the Index Nesting Beach Survey Programme in Southeast Florida show a declining trend of population. The nesting of Loggerheads has been reported declining in all the four nesting sites of the United States and other nesting sites elsewhere. Very small number of nesting has been reported from Egypt, Israel, Italy, Lybia, and Tunisia. The loggerhead population in Honduras, Mexico, Colombia, Turkey, Bahamas, Cuba, Greece, Japan and Panama has been reported declining.

Efforts for conservation
Since Loggerheads have highly migratory behavior, they have become shared resource among many countries of the world. Thus efforts for conservation of Loggerheads in one country may be weakened through negative activities done in other countries. The conservation efforts done along beaches of any one country, say U.S. is not sufficient to ensure continued existence of the turtle species. The international trade of Loggerheads has been prohibited through international treaties, agreements and international laws. They are listed in Appendix-1 of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES). These have also been listed in Appendix I and II of the Convention on Migratory Species. Different Nations of the world have been planning to protect this turtle species through their own efforts as well.

Key Words: Loggerhead Turtles, Leatherbacks, Olive Ridleys, threatened,CITES,Indian Ocean, Atlantic,International laws, Treaties, conventions, neritic zone, oceanic zone, nesting sites, habitatsEgypt, Israel, Italy, Lybia, Tunisia,Florida, South Carolina,  Georgia, North Carolina, migratory species.