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Sunday, October 31, 2010

Owls now endangered across the world

Conservation of nature has been enshrined in Indian traditions and culture since the time immemorial. Hindus have traditions of worshipping trees, rivers, stones and rocks, and even birds and animals since the birth of civilization. Epics and Puranas reveal stories of nice harmonies of humans, plants, and animals that existed during these ages.

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Hinduism has a number of Gods and Goddesses. Each God or Goddess is supposed to be the controller of at least one component of nature or of the material world. Goddess Luxmi is considered to be the Goddess of wealth and Hindus worship Goddess Luxmi on the occasion of Deepawali, the festival of lights. SHE is supposed to move on owl and an owl is called as VAHANA of Goddess Luxmi. So, with the worship of Luxmi, owl is also worshipped in the Deepawali Pooja.Since owl is the Vahana of Goddess Luxmi, it is regarded as sacred by Hindus.

An owl has a strange morphology. It is a nocturnal bird and feeds on rats and other animals. Some persons regard it as carrier of evil spirits. Some tantriks (practitioners of tantra) use owls in practicing black magic. Some tantriks suggest the use of body parts of owls in the worship of Luxmi to please her. Thus, a number of bad notions and ideas gaining popularity in Indian societies are potential reasons behind brutal killings of owls. Many people believe that the medicines made out of body parts of owls can cure a number of diseases like leucoderma, asthma, impotency etc. These ideas have no scientific justifications. However, owls are being smuggled and killed for various human purposes and these practices have reached to a large scale business.

Where do owls live?
Owls live in the holes of old trees and do not build their nest. They remain hidden during the day time and come out when it is dark. They screech a specific sound which is heard from quite a distant place. During winter nights the screeching of owls can be heard most frequently from distant places. They screech even when they      see something strange or even a man. They remain busy in search of field rats that come out of their holes at nights. Owls prey on rabbits also.

In India principally three types of owls are found- The Brown Wood Owl(Strix leptogrammica), Forest Eagle-owl (Bubo nipalensis),and Brown Fish Owl (B. zeylonensis). These owls are found in dnse forests or sacred groves where water is availabl at a certain distance. These are abundantly found in cemeteries that bear largest trees with cavities and hollows in an area( Marcot 1995) . Members of the animistic Garo Hills Tribe of Meghalaya, northeast India, call owls dopo or petcha. Along with nightjars, they also refer to owls as doang, which means birds that are believed to call out at night when a person is going to die; its cry denotes the death of a person (Nengminza 1996; B. Marcot, pers. obs.).

In India, the Brown Wood Owl (Strix leptogrammica), Forest Eagle-owl (Bubo nipalensis), and Brown Fish Owl (B. zeylonensis) are found in dense riparian forests of Ficus near streams and ponds, sites often considered as sacred groves, or in cemeteries that bear the last of the largest trees with cavities and hollows in an area (Marcot 1995; B. Marcot, pers. obs.). Old-forest owls, particularly the Forest Eagle-owl, play major roles in many Nepali and Hindu legends. As heard calling at night from cemeteries and sacred groves, such owls are thought to have captured the spirit of a person departed from this world. In one sense, then, many of these owl species can serve as indicators of the religious value of a forest (Marcot 1995); conserving the religious site equally conserves key roost or nest sites.

Smuggling of owls
Owls are sold and smuggled at the start of Deepawali season. As per surveys done by different wildlife organizations from different regions of the India like Jama Masjid area of Delhi, Mehbooba chowk of Hyderabad, Old Moor Bazaar of Chennai, and Venison Town of Bangalore. The price of a healthy living owl in these markets may start from Rs. 30,000 and go up to 10 lakh.

“People for Animals” - a wildlife welfare organization of India which is headed by Smt. Maneka Gandhi, has done commendable jobs in the protection of Indian Owls. Volunteers of this organization spread in different state run programmes for the protection and rescue of the important bird. People greedy of wealth can pay any amount to buy an owl as they worship it to get “siddhies”.In Hindi the word siddhies means powers given by Gods or By evil spirits after bring pleased with the worshipper. The smuggling of owls as per reports is principally done from Amritsar, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, Assam, West Bengal, Madhya Pradesh, and Maharashtra.

Role of owls in environment
Owls are inseparable link of nature’s ecosystem. They help in the transfer of food materials and energy and protect our crops from rats. As such they can be regarded as friends of farmers. According to “Owls in lore and culture” by Marcot, Johnson and Cocker (2006) Shakespeare wrote of "The owl, night's herald" (Venus and Adonis, 1593, Line 531) and recognized the role that owls have as the "fatal bellmen" (Macbeth, 1605-1606, Act II, Scene ii, Line 4) of that final deepest sleep. In this way, owls have been seen as harbingers of eschatology or the ultimate fate of humans.

In various mythologies in different parts of the world, owls have been considered nothing more than evil spirit. But with the change of time people started recognizing the important roles of owls in environment.

Vanishing species
The species of owls have been reported vanishing across the world. Among various religious and mythological reasons, large scale use of synthetic pesticides in the crop filds stands at the top. In fact rats and other rodents damage crops and cause considerable loss to agriculture. Farmers use rodenticides to kill them. Now, owls prey on rodents and most often eat poisoned rodents. This is the reason why owls are dying in fields. The second important reason behind loss of owl species is destruction of habitats. Except cemeteries, there is no place for owls. Most of the old orchards and even forests have gone. And, without suitable habitats owls fall prey to different types of enemies. Owl falls under the category of endangered bird. The trapping, killing and  selling of owls are prohibited under Wildlife(Protection) Act- 1972.A man can be punished for catching an owl with three to seven years’ imprisonment and a fine for rupees 25 thousand.

Marcot, B. G. 1993. Conservation of forests of India: an ecologist's tour. USDA Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Research Station, Portland OR. 127 pp.
Marcot, B. G. 1995. Owls of old forests of the world. USDA Forest Service General Technical Report PNW-GTR-343. 
B. G. Marcot, D. H. Johnson, & M. Cocker 2000-06-15, last updated 2010-01-28

Edward Lear's poem "The Owl and the Pussycat", first published in 1871, is a popular reading at many wedding services. The full version is shown below for you.

The Owl and the Pussy-cat went to sea

In a beautiful pea green boat,
They took some honey, and plenty of money,
Wrapped up in a five pound note.
The Owl looked up to the stars above,
And sang to a small guitar,
'O lovely Pussy! O Pussy my love,
What a beautiful Pussy you are,
You are,
You are!
What a beautiful Pussy you are!'

Pussy said to the Owl, 'You elegant fowl!
How charmingly sweet you sing!
O let us be married! too long we have tarried:
But what shall we do for a ring?'
They sailed away, for a year and a day,
To the land where the Bong-tree grows
And there in a wood a Piggy-wig stood
With a ring at the end of his nose,
His nose,
His nose,
With a ring at the end of his nose.

'Dear pig, are you willing to sell for one shilling
Your ring?' Said the Piggy, 'I will.'
So they took it away, and were married next day
By the Turkey who lives on the hill.
They dined on mince, and slices of quince,
Which they ate with a runcible spoon;
And hand in hand, on the edge of the sand,
They danced by the light of the moon,
The moon,
The moon,
They danced by the light of the moon.

Key Words : owls, leucoderma,asthma, Edward Lear

Friday, October 29, 2010

Formal notice of intent filed to sue the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

 The Center for Biological Diversity today filed a formal notice of intent to sue the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service over its failure to protect four species under the Endangered Species Act in response to Center petitions, including the Mexican wolf, giant Palouse earthworm, spring pygmy sunfish and Oklahoma grass pink orchid. The four species join 91 others listed in an earlier lawsuit over the agency’s failure to protect highly endangered species. 

“Every day of delay of protection places the Mexican gray wolf, giant Palouse earthworm, spring pygmy sunfish, grass pink orchid and dozens of others at increased risk of extinction,” said Noah Greenwald, endangered species director at the Center. “Under Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service lacks any sense of urgency for plants and animals facing the prospect of disappearing forever.”

The agency frequently claims it lacks sufficient resources to list more species. Congress, however, has increased the budget for listing species from $3 million in 2002 to more than $10 million in 2010 with little increase in the rate of species listings. To date, the Obama administration has not substantially increased the pace of species listings by the Fish and Wildlife Service. It did finalize protection for 51 species in Hawaii, but in the conterminous United States has only finalized protection for one plant and only proposed protection for 16 species. Because it takes at least one year to finalize proposed listings, these 16 will likely be the only species protected in all of 2011. Under the Clinton administration, by contrast, the Fish and Wildlife Service listed 498 species for an average rate of 62 species per year.

“We had hoped to see serious reform of the Fish and Wildlife Service under Secretary Salazar, but instead it’s only been more foot-dragging and delay,” said Greenwald. “Meanwhile, species that badly need protections provided by the Endangered Species Act are facing increased habitat loss, the effects of climate change and other threats to their survival.”

Background on the species 
The Mexican wolf was listed as an endangered subspecies of the gray wolf in 1976, but in 1978 all gray wolf subspecies’ listings were consolidated into a species-level listing for all gray wolves in the lower 48 states. Although it does receive some protection from listing of the gray wolf overall, a separate listing as a subspecies or distinct population would compel the government to develop a modern recovery plan for the Mexican wolf, which is declining toward extinction as the government delays again and again. Today, only about 42 Mexican wolves survive in the wild. The Center filed a petition to list the Mexican wolf on Aug. 11, 2009. The Fish and Wildlife Service issued an initial positive finding, but has failed to make the 12-month finding determining whether listing is warranted.

The giant Palouse earthworm is a native of the Palouse prairies of eastern Washington and Idaho, which have been plowed and paved. Today it occupies just 3 percent of its former range. It has been found only five times in the past 110 years, including this year when University of Idaho researchers found two live specimens on a prairie near Moscow, Idaho. The earthworm was first petitioned for protection in 2006. After that petition was rejected by the Bush administration, the Center and allies petitioned again on June 30, 2009. The following month, the Obama administration reversed course and agreed to consider the new petition, but is now late on making a 12-month finding.

Discovered in 1937, the spring pygmy sunfish was twice presumed extinct during the 70 years it has been known to science. It is limited primarily to headwater springs in the Tennessee River watershed and historically occurred in three small disjunct spring complexes (Cave, Pryor and Beaverdam springs), separated by up to 65 miles. Two of the three populations have disappeared. The Cave Springs population was extirpated in 1938 due to inundation by the formation of Pickwick Reservoir; the Pryor Springs population disappeared by the late 1960s, most likely due to dredging and chemical contamination; and the single remaining native population occupies only roughly five river miles within the Beaverdam Springs complex. The Center and fisheries biologist Mike Sandel petitioned to list the sunfish November 24, 2009. The Fish and Wildlife Service has yet to make a finding on the petition.

The grass pink orchid occurs in wet prairies and open savannahs, where it requires frequent burning and is under threat from forces like habitat destruction for urban and agriculture sprawl, livestock grazing and fire suppression. It once occurred across 17 states from Minnesota to Texas and across to Florida, but is now believed to survive in only eight: Illinois, Wisconsin, Missouri, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Texas and Louisiana. The petition was submitted by Douglas Goldman, a concerned scientist on May 28, 2008. The Fish and Wildlife Service issued an initial positive finding, but has failed to make the 12-month finding determining whether listing is warranted.

SOURCE Center for Biological Diversity

A crusade for protection of indigenous seeds

“Beej Bachao” has been an Andolan initiated in the late 1980s by farmers and Social Activists to promote conservation and use of indigenous seeds in Tehri district of the newly constituted state Uttaranchal in India. The Beej Bachao Andolan, which means- “Save the Seeds Movement” is not only a crusade to conserve traditional seeds but also to promote agricultural biodiversity, sustainable agriculture, and local traditions.

1.Beej Bachao Andolan is a peoples’ campaign;

2.It is flourishing without any financial assistance from the government;

3.It focuses on traditional farming and emphasizes on avoidance of hybrid seeds, synthetic pesticides, and chemical fertilizers as against the tradition established during the Green Revolution;

4.This revolution was started as an Awareness Campaign in 1989 for farmers to discontinue growing cash crops, and to promote indigenous practices;

5.About 200 varieties of Kidney Beans, 100 varieties of Paddy, 7 varieties of wheat have been collected and stored so far by Andolan workers;

6. The collection of seeds by the Andolan workers is being done in view of protection and propagation,

7.Preparing a comprehensive chart of High Yielding Varieties of seeds and traditional seeds to show a comparative account to farmers and to remove their confusion,

8.Doing a village wise documentation of seeds and maintaining a seed- bank.

The Andolan received Rs. 1.5 lakh as a token appreciation from the Booker-Prize Winner Arundhati Roy in 2002.The Andolan Workers are planning to establish a farm in Tehri to grow traditional crops.Dr. Trent Brown, a researcher in Austrelianotes that -Uttarakhand was the last stage my journey. My research had already taken me to Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Punjab. I had been trying to learn more about the potential of people’s initiatives for sustainable agriculture to make a difference for rural development – about how a small number of committed people can make big changes to their regions and to popular consciousness. In Uttarakhand, I would be learning about the Beej Bachao Andolan(BBA), a twenty-five year old movement to conserve traditional seeds and agriculture. Spending some time with BBA was an exciting prospect for me. It was an opportunity to meet with the surviving members of the Chipko Andolan, India’s most famous movement for social and environmental justice, and to learn more about the work that they are doing today.

I travelled to the Henwalghati Valley, the base of BBA, from Dehra Dun, after spending a few days with Biju Negi’s family, who are long-time supporters of the BBA cause. I was dropped off at the taxi stand in the early morning. My bags were stacked on top of a jeep, and we waited about an hour for enough passengers to climb inside as to make the journey financially viable for the driver. Thirteen people were squeezed into the ten-seat vehicle (admittedly, a modest achievement by Indian standards), and we set off along the road to Rishikesh. I felt a giddy excitement stirring in my chest as we travelled through the monkey-populated forests and began our ascent into the Himalayan foothills.

The Henwalghati Valley is about half way between Rishikesh and New Tehri, in the district of Tehri-Garhwal. The dominant source of livelihood is agriculture and most of the work in the field is done by village women. Farming is done on terraces carved into the sides of the mountains and is mostly unirrigated. The majority of families only have access to a few terraces each, meaning that they generally pursue agriculture for domestic consumption only, rather than sale on the market. Notably, agriculture in this region is highly dependent upon surrounding forests. Farmers depend upon the forest not only as a source of firewood and fruits for their families, but also as a source of food for livestock and of green manure for the fields. The people also assert that where forests are conserved, there tends to be more rain throughout the year.

Dr. Trentbrown further writes - …BBA has also inspired several local NGO workers to take up their vision of sustainable, village-level development. Mr Sanjay Maithani from Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam (Sanskrit: ‘The Whole World is One Family’), has been supporting small scale local industries to add value to the high quality locally grown food of the Himalayas. It is promising to see some small businesses developing for these purposes, as they provide employment for the youth, thereby putting a slight break on the flood of young people leaving the region.The unfortunate reality is that despite these initiatives, life for the people in the valley remains difficult. Though the spirit of the people and of the people’s movements is strong, there is a need for a broader paradigm shift in the way governments think about development, and in the value that Indian society places on its villages and rural communities. The outlook of the people of Henwalghati is largely pessimistic. The older people lament the lack of company since their families have departed. When asked where they see their villages being in ten years time, the most common response is “Empty – everyone will have left”. Others, feeling even more dejected, suggest that with climate change occurring and no support coming from government, starvation remains a possibility, albeit a remote one.

At another place, Dr. Trentbrown says - Traditional seeds are also incredibly important to the challenge of climate change. BBA asserts that since the traditional seeds have survived long droughts in the past, they are in a better position to survive in a changing climate. This is a stark contrast to the hybrid seeds, which have not withstood the test of time in the same manner. Indeed, hybrid seeds require far greater quantities of water to thrive than their traditional counterparts, and water is a resource that the people of Garhwal can hardly afford to spare. They also require the application of chemical fertilisers, which most Garhwali farmers cannot afford. Nonetheless, the seed companies, hungry to make profits even from the poor farmers of this remote part of the world, have tried to make in-roads in the region, encouraging farmers to sow hybrid and the so-called HYV seeds and apply chemicals to their fields. Fortunately, due to the awareness that BBA has built, the majority of the farmers in Henwalghati regard these salesmen with great suspicion, recognising the devastation that would come with these laboratory seeds at this critical point in their history.

The Humboldt current and Alexander von Humboldt

There is an ocean current that flows along the Peruvian Coast. It is called as Humboldt Current, after the Prussian Explorer Alexander von Humboldt. This ocean current serves as a classical example of an eastern boundary current and features a typically wide and slow equator ward transport of cold water along the coast of South America.

The Peruvian Current is the largest upwelling system among the eastern boundary currents. What do you mean by upwelling? Upwelling is a process in which cold nutrient-rich water rises to the surface from the ocean depths.

The North- western alignment of the Andes Mountain along the Peruvian Coast forces the south –east Trade Winds to blow northwards. This condition causes an offshore flow in the surface layers of the marine water. This makes it one of the most productive upwelling systems in the world causing cold nutrient rich water to appear along the coast. It supports an extra- ordinary abundance of marine life. The Peruvian Ocean Current System accounts for approximately 18 to 20 percent of the tidal fish catch worldwide. The weakening of the Peruvian Current System allows the counter current to move southwards. It disrupts the coastal upwelling which normally occurs along the coast and creating a condition known as El-Nino. El- Niño is the warming of  sea surface temperatures in the equatorial pacific ocean which influences atmospheric circulation, and consequently rainfall and temperature in specific areas around the world.

El-Niño is the Spanish world which means Christ Child. It indicates the appearance of a warm ocean current of the South American Coast around the Christmas. Approximately 14 El-Niño events affected the world between 1950 and 2003. On the reverse side, is La-Nina which is the cooling of sea surface temperatures in the equatorial Pacific Ocean, and which influences the atmospheric circulation, and consequently the rainfall and temperature in specific areas around the world. It is the opposite of El-Nino.Now let us talk about Alexander Humboldt, whose contributions will be remembered by the History of Natural Sciences till eternity.Here is a detail, directly quoted from his Biography from macroevolution.net.

Alexander von Humboldt (1769-1859)

Alexander von Humboldt (1769-1859), a Prussian naturalist, scientific explorer, polyglot, and polymath. His full name was Friedrich Wilhelm Heinrich Alexander Freiherr von Humboldt.He was borne in Berlin on September 14, 1769.

The last great scientific generalist, Humboldt made important contributions to nearly every branch of the natural sciences. Indeed, he believed that no organism or phenomenon could be fully understood in isolation. Living things, the objects of biological study, had to be considered in conjunction with data from other fields of research such as meteorology and geology. His object was to measure every aspect of nature, and he did so with the finest instruments then available.

Alexander von Humboldt was born in Berlin in 1769 (the same birth year as Georges Cuvier). He was raised, after the age of nine, by his mother — his father, a Prussian military officer, having died in 1779. During his early years, Alexander was tutored at home together with his brother Wilhelm. He went on to study at the Freiberg Academy of Mines under the famous geologist A. G. Werner.

After graduation, he worked for a time as a mine inspector. But when his mother died, and he became financially independent, he decided to leave government service. Together with botanist Aimé Bonpland, he began planning an expedition to Latin America, a region then poorly known to European science. The two traveled to Madrid, obtained permission for their journey, and set out. The year was 1799.

The story of their journey (see map below) is told in the famous Personal Narrative of Travels to the Equinoctial Regions of the New Continent. In the Narrative, Humboldt and Bonpland report on their travels throughout much of Central and South America, where they scaled the heights of the Andes and penetrated the unknown depths of the rain forests.

They recorded information on geology, geography, botany, archeology, zoology, oceanography, and other fields of natural science. Many organisms first entered the scientific literature in their reports, for example, the Humboldt Squid . Others, such as the Amazon River Dolphin, they found in previously unknown locations.

Humboldt also studied the customs, politics, languages, and economies, of the countries they visited. As José de la Luz y Caballero put it, "Columbus gave Europe a New World; Humboldt made it known in its physical, material, intellectual, and moral aspects." His writings would spark the dreams of future generations of scientists. Late in life, Charles Darwin said Humboldt and Bonpland's Narrative had been the primary inspiration for his own decision to ship on board the Beagle and sail around the world.

Humboldt had incredible mental and physical energies. At the age of 59 he completed a 9,000-mile exploratory trek across much of Russia. Six years later, when he was 65 years old, he began his five-volume Cosmos, a massive work in which he attempted to organize everything then known about the entire universe. Like Carl Sagen's later book of the same name, Humboldt intended Cosmos to be a popular scientific book that would provide the general public with an overview of the whole natural world. He hoped it would inspire a wider appreciation of science and scientific study. A huge success, it was eventually translated into most European languages. But Humboldt's flame burnt out before he could finish the last volume — he died on May 6, 1859, still writing, at the age of 89.

A question from ocean- What is coral bleaching?

What is Coral Bleaching?

The whitening of coral colonies due to the loss of symbiotic zooxanthellae from the tissues of polyps is called as Coral Bleaching.

Zooxanthellae are unicellular algae that provide colour to corals. They provide food to corals and their deaths lead to breakdown of the symbiotic relationship between them. This breakdown of symbiotic relationship causes starvation and resultant deaths of coral polyps. This condition exposes the white calcium carbonate skeletons of the coral colony.

Image 1Coral (unbleached)

There are a number of stresses or environmental changes that may cause bleaching including disease, excess shade, increased levels of ultraviolet radiation, sedimentation, pollution, salinity changes, and increased temperatures.

Image 2 Coral (bleached)

Some Other causes of coral bleaching include -

·                     increased exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation;
·                     large amounts of storm water from heavy rains flooding the reef;
·                     the exposure of coral to certain chemicals or diseases;
·                     sediments such as sand or dirt covering the coral;
·                     Excess nutrients such as ammonia and nitrate from fertilizers and household products entering the reef ecosystem. (The nutrients might increase the number of zooxanthellae in the coral, but it is possible that the nutrient overload increases the susceptibility of coral to diseases.)

Steps of protection
- We should not pour gas, oil, dry cleaning fluid or other harmful chemicals into the sink, into canals or even onto the soil.
- We should recycle all batteries. When put into the trash, their toxic chemicals, such as mercury or cadmium, will leach into the soil and water; and water finally reaches to the sea.
-We should learn about coral reefs and educate others about their ecology.
- We should inform others by writing articles for the news paper, school news magazine or other publication.
-We should Support legislation that protects the reefs.
- We should Support laws that prohibit pollutants from reaching the reefs.
- We should reduce our carbon footprint by supporting carbon neutral programmes.
- We should not drop litter or dispose of unwanted items on beaches, or in the sea.
- Everyone must recognize and make specific decisions about the costs of waste disposal. Anyone may either accept the costs of waste treatment before it is discharged into waterways, or accept environmental impacts. Anyone can no longer simply assume that the sea is the cheapest and most effective place to dispose of sewage, urban, agricultural and industrial waste. 

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Identify this plant

A number of plants like poor people take birth and die off almost unnoticed.Such a plant is being introduced here. This plant grows high up on the wall every year during the monsoon session and lives some days after Deepawali. I have been seeing it year after year on the same place in the same season.Some three to four plants grow every year and in a very vulnerable condition, still these survive up to the time of fruiting. Such a survival instinct is hard to find.Please e-mail me its name if you identify it.

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Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Chief Minister serious to complete irrigation projects in Jharkhand

Planning, assessment, arrangement of funds, execution and proper utilization of funds are key elements for the development of a state. Currently, it has been observed that Arjun Mnda, the Chief Minister of the newly constituted government after the President Rule in Jharkhand state of India, is willing to place the state on a fast track of development. Mr. Munda has submitted a requisition letter to the Planning Commission for the overall development of the state. He has also informed the commission about the plans on which his government wanted to work.

The Chief Minister has explained before the Planning Commission that his government wanted to establish a proper system together with the preparation of structural framework development and delivery mechanism but it needed roads. The government has made targets for all types of roads and the centre is required to provide special package for National Highway.

Stressing on Panchayati Raj System the Chief Minister has mentioned that Panchayats would do more work than blocks after the Panchayat elections. Plans like MANREGA would b shifted under Panchayats after their proper constitutions. The priorities of Indira Avas Yojna will also be fixed by Panchayats in future.

Development Framework
The Chief Minister has expressed that the infra structural development was not up to the desired level. The government is in a mood to discuss about all the plans during the discussion with the Planning Commission about the plan allocation for the financial years. The budget for the next year would be the last budget of the 11th Five Year Plan.

Limit of loans
The Chief Minister has reportedly requested the Planning Commission to enhance the limit of loans to the state so as to extend the financial cooperation towards a better development process. He has stressed that the Planning Board of state was to be remodeled. The commission should help the state with specialists and advisors. It is reported that the Government is wishing to organize a team of experts in state in this direction.

The Chief Minister has reportedly explained that completion of irrigation projects in the state would be the first priority of his government. About 25 or more projects are still pending in the state. Some of these projects are as old as 30 years, or even more. These are to be completed soon at a fast speed. It is expressed the matter at the Ranchi Airport with the media personalities on October 2, 2010.He told that the government was taking up suitable steps to combat drought in the state. He assured that the government would do its level best to combat the problem. He further told that the discussion with the planning commission had been positive.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Bats- disappearing from many parts of the world

Bats are disappearing, from the northeastern United States to the Midwest, due to a disease that showed up only four winters ago in upstate New York. The illness is called white-nose syndrome, for the fuzzy white fungus that appears around bats' muzzles.In India, bats have other causes for their disappearance too. And, one of the several causes for their disappearance in some states like Jharkhand, Bihar, Bengal, and M.P. is their killing for the taste of tongue.

While biologists have called this bat catastrophe the worst wildlife die-off in North American history, federal wildlife and land-management agencies have responded with excruciating slowness.No attempt has ever been taken for their conservation in Indian states.A national white-nose syndrome plan that was due out last winter in America has still not been released. And the Department of the Interior failed to request funds for white-nose syndrome in its 2011 budget. So Congress appropriated zero dollars for the research and management actions that are so desperately needed.

Meanwhile, white-nose syndrome is stalking bats of the American West, and is already infiltrating some of the most abundant and diverse bat colonies in the world, in the Midwest and South. More than a million bats have died, and cave ecosystems reliant on bats are in jeopardy, too.

The bat-killing fungal infection known as white nose syndrome (WNS) has spread into Tennesse for the first time. The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA) has confirmed that infected bats were found in Worley's cave in Sullivan County, where they had been hibernating.

Most Tennessee caves were closed visitors last spring to try to prevent WNS from reaching the state's bats. That effort may have come too late.WNS has killed hundreds of thousands of bats in the U.S. since it was discovered in New York State just three years ago, including large numbers of endangered Indiana bats (Myotis sodalis). Vermont has lost at least 95 percent of its bats since WNS was first observed within its borders.

Tennessee is not taking the threat lightly. "Bats provide a tremendous public service in terms of pest control," said the TWRA's Richard Kirk in a prepared statement. "If we lose 500,000 bats, we'll lose the benefits from that service and millions of pounds of insects will still be flying around our neighborhoods, agricultural fields and forests."eanwhile, attempts to understand and fight WNS are moving forward on multiple fronts.

In Pennsylvania biologists DeeAnn Reeder of Bucknell University and Greg Turner from the Pennsylvania Game Commission are experimenting with anti-fungal agents, treating infected bats to see if their survival rates improve. But since WNS may be a symptom, not the actual cause of the bats' deaths, it's too early to tell if the anti-fungal will be effective in reducing mortality rates. "This will help us provide data as to whether fungus is the causative agent," Turner told The Times – Tribune of Scranton . Researchers for the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation are trying a similar tactic in the Adirondacks.Funding to help study WNS has been included in the Obama administration's most recent budget. Congress approved $1.9 million for WNS research last year.

Key Words : bats, white nose syndrome, Dee Ann Reeder, Bucknell University

The Deccan Development Society of Andhra Pradesh

The Deccan Development Society is a non- government organization in Medak District of Andhra Pradesh of India. It is a grass root organization which is working in up to 100 villages with its women members numbering up to 5000 or more. Most of these women members belong to dalit community. 

The organization is projecting a working model for the people oriented participative development in the areas of food security, ecological agriculture, and alternate education. It is also trying to reverse the historical process of degradation of the environment and people's livelihood system in this region through a string of land related activities such as Perma-culture, Community Grain Bank, Community Gene Fund, Community Green Fund and Collective Cultivation through land Lease etc. These activities, along side taking on the role of Earth care is also resulting in Human Care, by giving the Women a new found dignity and profile in their village communities. The Society is trying to relocate the people's knowledge in the area of Health and Agriculture.

The International Development Research Centre adds -
The Deccan Development Society (DDS) works with sangams (voluntary associations) of poor village women, mostly dalit [low caste] agricultural laborers in 60 villages in the Medak District of Andhra Pradesh. The community gene bank project initiated by the Society and targeted at these dalit women farmers envisages the following:

1. To secure crop biodiversity in the area and ensure a safety net for women who are dependent on subsistence farming;
2. To establish in-situ rural gene banks
3. To empower the women to reclaim their unproductive lands;
4. To enable the women's groups to develop the skills and management capacity to grow local landraces as seed crop and start village-level seed banks;
5. To develop a seed distribution network for the local crop varieties and ensure large-scale re-emergence of these varieties;
6. To empower the women to develop into seed entrepreneurs and enter agribusiness.

The era of commercial seed business will give the women a chance to enter the market once they become good seed producers. DDS visualizes a new context in which organic (non-hybrid) agricultural products will be bought at a premium. This will certainly be to the advantage of the women who grow traditional crops using non-chemical farming practices.

The Community Gene Bank project of DDS 

Deccan Development Society (DDS) is a decade-old organization which works in the Medak District of Andhra Pradesh. Zaheerabad region, where the Society operates, has been listed as a DPAP district. The semi-arid tract runs through this region. People here have traditionally followed dryland farming.The Society has catalyzed the formation of sanghams (voluntary associations) of poor village women, mostly agricultural laborers, in 60 villages. These women manage on their own most of their credit needs, and manage programs of community health, environment conservation and regeneration and education.

The  group of women in 60 villages, who comprise the target groups/beneficiaries of the Community Genebank project, are mostly dalit [low caste]. By profession, they are mainly agriculturists and work as wage laborers for a major portion of their earnings. During the rest of the time, they cultivate the small patches of land owned by them, work as well-diggers and as labor in other construction works. As members of DDS sanghams, they are actively involved in collective cultivation of lands and have a high awareness of environment-friendly farming practices.

The Society pioneered and extended the concept of Permaculture among these groups over the last six years. Apart from the theoretical and technical issues that it advocates, the issue of ethical farming and regional self-sufficiency lies at the core of Permaculture. Years of experience of practicing it (and debating it) with women farmers have created a need for several initiatives that promote regional self-sufficiency.

Three main initiatives have been taken up by the Society to fulfill these objectives. They are: an Alternative Public Distribution System known as the Community Grain Fund; massive wasteland development; and the raising of traditional seeds and establishment of decentralized village-level seedbanks called the Community Gene Fund.

The Community Grain Fund operates on 3000 acres spread over 30 villages. The project involves reclaiming fallows through making them productive through the raising of sorghum. The investment made by the Society in rendering the land productive is repaid by the project-partner farmers in kind (a fixed quantity of sorghum every year for six years). This grain is stored in the village and for six months a year is sold to the poorest 100 families in the village at subsidized prices.

 The money accrued from the sales becomes a village fund for further investments in reclamation of fallows and also becomes a revolving Community Grain Fund. This ensures that the environmental hazards that fallows bring in their wake can be countered. In each village, at least 2000 additional wages are created every year1; the grain availability is increased by 25 per cent; and fodder production goes up by 20 percent. The poor do not need to migrate out of the village to fight their hunger. The Community Grain Fund also ensures the principles of local production, local distribution and local consumption-- as opposed to the dominant PDS system which promotes centralized production and centralized distribution systems.

If the Community Grain Fund is meant to tackle the problem of foodgrains, the Community Gene Fund is designed to answer the problem of seeds. The project proposes to identify 30 acres of land per village and start raising traditional crops for seed purposes. The lands are selected by the village sanghams along the following criteria:

•The poverty of the woman who owns the land and her commitment to grow the traditional crop;
•The suitability of the land to grow the traditional crop as seed.

Once the lands have been selected, an amount of Rs. 2500 will be made available to the farmer as input support to cover the expenses towards timely plowing, purchase and application of farmyard manure, timelyweeding and harvesting. This is a one-time investment and will be recovered in the form of seeds. The recovered seeds will be stored in the village to serve as an in situ genebank to help other farmers grow traditional crops. As with all programs of DDS, the Community Gene Fund program was a result of continuous dialogue between the DDS workers and the members of the women's sanghams.

DDS runs a health program which is completely based on local healing systems and local herbal and plant medicines. The regular interaction with our health workers and local healers has given us a clear insight into the richness of folk nutritional systems and the problems of the mainstream medical establishment. Such discussions have also revealed the strengths of traditional food and nutrition. With the disappearance of these foods a host of problems has arisen.

As a consequence of the deficiency of traditional food, the issues of nutrition and seeds started to be elaborated in our discussions. After additional participatory research assessments (PRAs) with health workers, healers and women farmers, it became clear that some steps needed to be taken. The result was theCommunity Gene Fund project.

The Community Genebank and the women

•Since much of the low-input farming is managed by women, the seed situation hits the women in a particularly harsh manner. Earlier, all the seeds needed for their farming were produced by them at their own farms. But with the growth of commercial agriculture, and with the entry of the transnational seed companies round the corner, poor women will have to go to the market every time they need to buy seeds. Hence their age-old self-reliance faces possible extinction.

•By being actual controllers of seeds, women do not have to be at the mercy of the outside seed market, which supplies what the manufacturer has made available and not necessarily what the people want. This situation is very apparent in dryland agriculture. As a consequence of such market forces, the women are currently forced to buy, against their will, hybrids and other high-input-demanding seeds-- in contrast to their own native seeds, which demand low-inputs.

•By becoming seed producers, women can get more income out of their lands than before. For example, if a woman earns Rs. 1000 per acre producing a normal crop like sorghum on her land, and if she engages in seed production, which is a specialized activity, she will earn Rs. 1500 to Rs. 2000, an increase of between 50 to 100 per cent over her normal income.

•The era of commercial seed business will also give women a chance to enter the market. once they become good seed producers. We also visualize a new context in which organic (non-hybrid) agricultural products will be bought at a premium. This will certainly be to the advantage of the women who can become seed entrepreneurs.

The project has just begun. The lands have been identified, the project partners have consented to start seed farms. Manure has been bought and applied onto these lands. We are sitting with our fingers crossed. We don't know how we will go. But any distance traversed is worth it--for the cause of biodiversity.
(Additional information has been added from www.idrc.ca)

Monday, October 25, 2010

What are Limiting Factors?

The growth of population is automatically controlled or limited by certain factors called as limiting factors. Water, food, cover, and space determine the growth of any population in an area. Hence these are regarded as limiting factors in that area. However, presence of large numbers of natural enemies or predators in that area may be another limiting factor that may limit the size of population even if all the other factors remain in sufficient magnitude.

Limiting factors in an area determine the carrying capacity of that area. No population can maintain itself beyond the carrying capacity of its habitat or the environment. If population in an area increases beyond its carrying capacity, it will soon become a prey to stress, starvation, disease, predation, and parasites. Here are some examples of limiting factors-

(i). 10 rabbits may live in a habitat that has enough water, cover and space to support 20 rabbits, but if there is only enough food for ten rabbits, the population will not grow any larger. In this example, food is the limiting factor.

(ii). There may be enough food to support a thousand birds in a certain area, but only suitable nesting sites for one hundred. Hence, scarcity of enough space is the limiting factor in this example.

(iii). There may be plenty of food, water, cover and space to support a larger population of pheasants in an area, but predators are the limiting factor.

(iii). There may be enough trees in a forest for bats but public disturbance is a limiting factor

The Barefoot College at Tilonia

The Barefoot College at Tilonia in Ajmer district of Rajasthan state of India is a glaring example of Community Efforts for Sustainable Development. Previously known as Social Work Research Centre, or SWRC, the Barefoot College was founded in 1972 with a vision that rural problems can be solved by the community itself. The college uses village knowledge and local skills to address problems of drinking water, girls' education, health and sanitation, rural unemployment, income generation, electricity and power. The college also addresses issues of social awareness and conservation of ecological systems and serves a population of over 125,000 people in an area covering 500 square miles and 100 villages.

Image 1: Barefoot 

The Barefoot College began in 1972 with the conviction that solutions to rural problems lie within the community.

Image 2: The  unique architecture of the Barefoot College
(courtesy Pinkpinkmoon.live.journal.com}

The College addresses problems of drinking water, girl education, health & sanitation, rural unemployment, income generation, electricity and power, as well as social awareness and the conservation of ecological systems in rural communities.

Soil Health and Organic Farming

What is Soil Health?

The ability of soil to perform all its functions in an ecosystem is called as soil health.

Soil health is an assessment of ability of a soil to meet its range of ecosystem functions as appropriate to its environment.

The term soil health is used to assess the ability of a soil to -

  • Sustain plant and animal productivity and diversity;
  • Maintain or enhance water and air quality; and,
  • Support human health and habitation

A healthy soil is not just a growing medium, rather it is a living, dynamic, and ever-changing environment. Physical, Chemical, and Biological properties are regarded as its health-indicators. The arrangement of soil particles and the movement of air and water in and out of the soil are called as physical properties of soil. Healthy soil can supply sufficient air and water to plants for their proper growth. Tillage operations are done in order to improve the physical properties of soil.

Chemical soil properties act as chemical indicators of soil health and deal with the nutrients in the soil and the ability of soil to supply nutrients to the plant. The living components of the soil are its biological health indicators. These are micro organisms, worms, insects and other organisms. An unhealthy soil cannot support the lives of organisms in it.


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.

Definitions of organic farming

1. According to the Codex Alimentarious, a joint body of FAO and WHO- “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”.

2. 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."

Beginning of Organic Farming

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 super phosphates and then ammonia derived fertilizers mass-produced using the Haber - 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

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.