Thus reports "The Economic Times” on Union Budget 2011- India

>> Monday, February 28, 2011




Indian Government   to sort out environmental issues in time-bound manner – reveals the Union Budget 2011

The government on Monday said all vexed environmental issues hurting infrastructure and mining sectors would be sorted out in a time-bound manner. 

Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee while presenting the Budget said a Group of Ministers (GoMs) would suggest changes in existing statutes, rules, regulations, guidelines and make its recommendations in a time-bound manner for reconciliation of environmental issues related to infrastructure and mining. 


The GoM, headed by the Finance Minister himself, has been set up to suggest ways of the necessary changes in existing environmental rules and asked to finalise its recommendations within two months. 

The Coal Ministry and Ministry of Environment and Forest have been at the loggerheads over various issues after the latter last year classified 203 coal blocks under 'no go' area, impacting 660 million tonne coal production in a year. 

In the first meeting of the GoM, Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh had assured he would be "positive" towards infrastructure projects. 

As per the Economic Survey, both the coal production and the progress of the country's beleaguered infrastructure sector have been badly hampered due to environmental issues. While more than half of ongoing infrastructure projects are running behind schedule, coal production are hampered to a large extent, forcing bulk consumers to rely on imports. 

"The lower growth in production during the current year is primarily due to environmental restrictions, particularly, application of the comprehensive environment pollution index (CEPI)," the survey said, adding there was an urgent need to streamline land acquisition and environment clearance for infrastructure projects. 
The widening demand-supply gap in coal is set to touch 142 million tonnes next fiscal from 82 million tonne estimated this fiscal, mainly because of the classification of 203 coal blocks by environment ministry as "no-go" zones

Coal Minister Sriprakash Jaiswal, Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh, Home Minister P Chidambaram, Mines Minister Dinsha Patel and Commerce Minister Anand Sharma among others are the members of the ministerial panel.

 Analysts think – The Union Budget -2011 focuses on Farm Sector
In his union budget Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee has given thrust to improving infrastructure, farmers' development and raising agricultural productivity, say research analysts. 

"Overall, it is a welcome budget for the agriculture sector. There are lots of long term measures proposed in this budget. The finance minister has mentioned about bring urea under nutrient-based subsidy (NBS) regime. Food Security Bill is also to be introduced. The agricultural growth is expected to be 5.5 percent," Prasoon Mathur, senior analyst, Religare Commodities, told IANS. 

Mukherjee, in his budget speech in the Lok Sabha Monday, said the new policy on providing subsidies on fertilisers on the basis of their nutrient composition could soon be extended to urea, one of the most widely used fertilisers. 

Sageraj Bariya, research analyst with Angel Broking , said: "The finance minister has reduced excise duty on micro irrigation systems which augurs well for companies operating in that sector. It will be interesting to see how the government plans to bring urea under the NBS regime." 

Presenting his sixth budget and the nation's 80th, Mukherjee proposed raising of rural infrastructure development fund corpus by Rs.2,000 crore to Rs.18,000 crore and also announced Rs.2,000 crore corpus for creating addition warehousing facilities. 

The government is also considering creation of huge food storage facilities and announced infrastructure status for cold storage sector. 

The minister also announced issuance of tax free bonds of Rs.30,000 crore for infrastructure development covering Warehousing Corporation, National Highway Authority of India and others, while increasing the foreign institutional investors (FII) limit in corporate bonds infrastructure by an additional $20 billion.
Mukherjee also announced creation of Rs.100 crore equity fund for micro finance companies. 

Referring to the increase in credit flow to farmers from Rs.375,000 crore to Rs.475,000 crore, Bariya said the budget is a pro-farmer one. 

According to a research report prepared by Religare Commodities, the interest subsidy for farmers who repay their loans is raised by one percent to three percent thus reducing the effective interest to four percent. 

Referring to the increased allocations for green revolution, cultivation of pulses in rain-fed areas, Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana, encouraging farmers to produce vegetables and oil palm production and others, Mathur said: "With cultivable area almost stagnant it has become imperative to increase farm productivity."
(Original Story from The Economic Times)
 Picture Courtesy : The Hindu
Key Words: environment issues, economic survey, GoM, "no-go" zones, demand-supply gap,  Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojna
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Bombax ceiba or the Semal Tree

>> Saturday, February 26, 2011



Semal Tree as it is known in Hindi is taxonomically known as Bombax ceiba belonging to family Bombacaceae of the class Magnoliopsida. In Ayurveda its genus is known as Shalmali.In English it is known as Red Silk Cotton Tree and in Hindi it is known as Semal or Semul. Its names in different Indian languages are -

                   I.            Kannada : Burugadamara
                II.            Malayalam : llavu, Elavu, Pulamaram
             III.            Sanskrit : Salmali, Moca
             IV.            Tamil : Llavu, Mullilavu
                V.            Telugu : Mulluburugacetu, 

Semal grows in warm climatic conditions across the world and in India it is found in the whole country.

Morphological Features
A tall deciduous tree with a straight buttressed trunk having a clear bole of 24-30 m and spreading branches, bark grey or brown covered with hard, sharp, conical prickles; leaves large, spreading, glabrous, digitate, leaflets lanceolate, 3-7, entire; flowers red, numerous, appearing when the tree is bare of leaves, stamens many arranged in five bundles of 9-12 each and an inner bundle of 15; fruits capsules, dehiscing by 5 leathery, or woody valves; seeds smooth, black or grey embedded in long white wool. A gummy exudates obtained from the bark is dried and sold as 'semul-gum'or 'mocharas'. Tlie''dried gum is light brown in color resembling the galls, and gradually becomes opaque and dark brown. 

 


Image 1 : The majestic tree of Bombax ceiba 
 
 


Image 2 : A portion enlarged
 

 
Image 3-  Flowers of Bombax ceiba fall in a large number to form a mat on the ground



Image 4 - A single flower on the ground


Chemicals found in Semal 
Seeds of this tree contain stable oils. It also contains 8 to 9 % minerals and catecol tannin. It also contains tannic acid and Gallic acid. It contains starch 71.2 %, glucose 8.2 %, proteins 1.2 %, fatty acids and cellulose. 

Pharmacology
It is generally used in vata and pitta disorders. It helps in relieving from burning sensation after burns also does not leave the mark. It is also used to make teeth and gums strong. It also is used in improving skin texture. It is also used in conditions like dysentery and diarrhea. It also improves digestion. It helps in preventing hemorrhages. It is widely used in cough and cold. It is a good aphrodisiac agent. It also resolves female urino-genital tract problems. It is used in general body weakness. 

Ayurvedic Properties
Guna – laghu or light, snigdh or slimy
Rasa – Kashya or astringent, Madhur or sweet
Virya or Potency – Sheet or cold
No toxic effect was seen on human body with its consumption. 

Useful Parts
Root, flowers, fruit and extracts 

Indications
(I).Inflammation
(ii).Skin related ailments
(iii).Hemorrhages
(iv). Burning sensation
(v).Wounds
(vi).Cough
(vii).Urine related disorders
(viii). Increases sperm count
(ix).Kidneys disorders
(x).General body weakness
(xi).Female urino -genital tract ailments. 

Medicinal and Ethnoherbological Properties
The roots are sweet, cooling, stimulant, tonic and demulcent, and are used in dysentery. The gum is astringent, cooling, stimulant, aphrodisiac, tonic, styptic and demulcent. It is useful in dysentery, haemoptysis of pulmonary tuberculosis, influenza, and menorrhagia, burning sensation, strangury, hemorrhoids, blood impurities and vitiated conditions of pitta. The bark is mucilaginous, demulcent and emetic, and is used for fomenting and healing wounds. A paste of it is good for skin eruptions. Leaves are good for strangury and skin eruptions. Flowers are astringent and are good for skin troubles, splenomegaly and hemorrhoids. Young fruits are useful in calculus affections, chronic inflammations and ulceration of the bladder and kidney. Seeds are useful in treating gonorrhea, chronic cystitis and vitiated conditions of kapha.
 
Here are some very important lines Guru Granth Sahib, the Great Sikh Scriptural Enlightener-“The Semal tree is straight as an arrow; it is very tall, and very thick. But those birds which visit it hopefully depart disappointed. Its fruits are tasteless, its flowers are nauseating, and its leaves are useless. Sweetness and humility, O Nanak, are the essence of virtue and goodness. Everyone bows down to himself; no one bows down to another. When something is placed on the balancing scale and weighed, the side which descends is heavier. The sinner, like the deer hunter, bows down twice as much. But what can be achieved by bowing the head, when the heart is impure?”

Key Words :  Bombax ceiba,warm climatic conditions, Guru Granth Sahib, Sikh Scripture
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Amarbel or Cuscuta reflexa on Bougainvillea - through lens

>> Friday, February 25, 2011



Botanical name: Cuscuta reflexa    Family: Convolvulaceae (Morning glory family)
Common name:
English; Giant Dodder, Hindi: Amar bel , Akashbel • Manipuri: Uri sanamacha • Oriya: Kolanirmuli • Tamil: Kodiyagundal • Bengali: Swarna lata • Telugu: Sitamma pogunalu • Marathi:Nirmali • Assamese: Amarlati • Malayalam: Akasavalli 





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Bougainvillea is a genus of flowering plants native to South America from Brazil west to Peru and south to southern Argentina). Different authors accept between four and 18 species in the genus. The plant was classified by Europeans in Brazil in 1768, by Philibert Commercon, a French Botanist accompanying French Naval Admiral and explorer Louis Antoine Bougainville during his voyage of circumnavigation. 

Key Words : Bougainvillea,     Cuscuta reflexa, Convolvulaceae, dodder, South America,Philbert Commercon



After one month


Growth and development of Cuscuta reflexa on the same plant
[Images from different angles]











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Acid Rain and it's impact

>> Tuesday, February 22, 2011



Falling down of acids from atmosphere to the earth through various ways is called as acid rain. In other words, we can say that-
The process by which acids with pH normally below 5.6 are removed from the atmosphere in rain, snow, hail or sleet is called as acid rain.
The quantity of acid in a liquid like water is measured by a scale called as pH scale. In fact, the acid content of a solution is based on the concentration of Hydrogen Ions and it is expressed as pH. The acidity of rain samples is usually measured by pH- scale. As the number on a pH- scale goes down, it indicates more and more acidic nature of the sample of the rain water. Zero number indicates maximum acidity, seven (7) number indicates neutrality where as fourteen (14) number indicates maximum alkalinity

How is the Acid Rain caused?
Acid is a substance chemically characterized by the ability to form a salt on reacting with a base. It turns blue colour of litmus into red and can burn or cause injury to animal skin and plant leaves that come into its contact.

In the modern industrialized world furnaces, engines and machines burn lots of fossil fuels regularly. Burning of fossil fuels emits gaseous pollutants like oxides of sulphur and nitrogen etc. Forest fires also cause the release of acidic fumes and vapours that go up into the atmosphere. These substances are regarded as serious air pollutants. These pollutants are transported in the atmosphere over distances of hundreds and thousands of kilometers. In their journey through sky, these pollutants eventually combine with water vapor to form acids like Sulphuric Acid (H2SO4) and Nitric Acid (HNO3). These acids are washed down during rains to reach to the earth surface. Such a rain is called as acid rain. 

There are other pollutants as well that help in the process of acid rain. These pollutants are Hydrocarbons, soot and metallic ions of manganese, iron, nickel and copper etc. that may often remain inside water vapour. These particles have been reported to catalyze the process of acid formation.

Sulphur dioxide and Hydrogen Sulphide may form Sulphuric acid where as Nitrogen oxide may form Nitric acid when combined with water. Similarly, other acids like Hydrochloric acid, Carbonic acid and Phosphoric acid may also be formed in the atmosphere as secondary pollutants and may be washed down to earth along with rain water, snow, hail or sleet.

Chemical Reactions pertaining to the formation of acid during the process of acid deposition/ acid rain are given below.



Acid Deposition
When acid forming primary pollutants like SO2, H2S and NOx move through atmosphere, they encounter a number of solid particles and water vapour moving in air. Some of those pollutants combine with water vapour to form secondary pollutants like acids of sulphur and nitrogen that fall down as acid rain. This is called as wet deposition of acids.  When acid forming pollutants are absorbed by solid particles like fly ash etc. already present as pollutants in the atmosphere, this process is called as dry deposition of acids. In fact, dry deposition refers to acidic gases absorbed by particles that move through wind here and there. The acids absorbed by solid particles in air are also washed down to earth during rains; otherwise they remain in the atmosphere for longer periods. In this way the concentration of acids in rain water is increased. These processes wet and dry deposition of acids in the environment are together called as Acid Deposition in the Environment. The acid rain is only a part of acid deposition.

Impact of Acid Rain
The acid rain affects living and non- living components of environment. In July 1982, Stockholm- the venue of U N –conference on acid rain, suffered heavy acid showers for about a week. In India too, acid rains have been reported since last twenty years in areas where thermal power plants are located and also around Delhi, the capital of India.

Some of the remarkable impacts of acid rain are mentioned below-
Impacts on Human Health
Acids of rain water join food-chains and water cycles and reach to human body systems. There they cause various types of health problems like neurological and digestive disorders, problems of eyes, throat and respiratory tract. Acid rain causes varieties of safety hazards like reduced visibility due to smog etc. 

Impact on Flora and Fauna
Acid rain has seriously adverse impacts on aquatic as well as terrestrial flora and fauna. It kills fishes in lakes and ponds. Sweden and U.S.A. have 15000 and 100 fishless lakes respectively due to acid rains. About 237 lakes in Adirondack have highly acidic water with pH below 5. Numerous species of microorganisms are also killed due to acid rains. About 10 percent of forests have been destroyed and 18 million acres of vegetation are under serious threat due to acid rains in West Germany. Many of the Spruce Forests have seriously been damaged by acid rain.

 Acid reaches to wild animals through water cycle and food- chains and cause serious health problems often leading to death. Acidic water containing traces of toxic metals destroys root systems of plants. Since acid rain is a transdoundary problem, both Norway and Sweden experience up to 90 percent acid rain due to air pollution in United Kingdom. Acid deposition in soil damages trees like Pine, Cedar, Ashes, Birch, and Spruce etc. About 5000 sq km of Cedar trees in Japan have already been damaged by acid rains. The populations of phytoplankton, snails, insects etc. are eliminated due to acid rains. 

Impact of Acid Rain on Monuments
Acid is corrosive by nature. Hence, water containing acids will also be naturally corrosive. Even dry acids deposited in air causes damage to limestone, marble and metals. Acid rain causes heavy damage to monuments and other buildings containing limestone, marble and metals as acids quickly react with these substances. Some chemical reactions of Sulphuric acid with different substances are given below.



The damage caused to rocks and marble by acid rain is called as marble-leprosy or stone- leprosy. In India acid rain was reported to cause damage to the walls of Taj Mahal in Agra. Acid rain has caused serious damages to different things and statues in the world like monuments and statues in Italy and Greece etc. St. Paul’s Cathedral in Bristol is reportedly being corroded by acid rains. The British environment experiences acidic snow fall. Much of the snow that falls there contains acids due to which the snow does not melt easily.

Image:  The Taj Mahal in India

Prevention and Control of Acid Rain
Acid rain can be prevented by controlling air pollution especially from industrial sources. For this, industrial units should install such technological equipments or devices that may control emissions at the source of their origin. Scrubbers, filters and electrostatic precipitators are some devices that help in controlling as well as removing air pollutants. Acidic water should be neutralized chemically so as to reduce its toxicity. The existing level of air pollutants especially CO2, SO2, NO, NO2, N2O etc. should gradually be removed out of atmosphere through specific technology. Vehicles should also be fitted with pollution control devices. They must be checked regularly for their exhausts.

Key Words
acid rain, acid deposition, scrubbers, pollution, vehicles, flora, fauna, Bristol, Cathedral, marble leprosy
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Roles of Bio-Geo-chemical cycles in controlling Environmental Phenomena

>> Friday, February 18, 2011



Some of big environmental problems like Climate Change, Acid Rain, and dead zones in coastal areas demand greater attention of the world community. But, these problems can not be addressed without attending to Bio-geo-chemical Cycles.

The earth contains a number of minerals that are essential for sprouting and developing life on the earth. These minerals are found in the soil in forms of different compounds that may be called as Geo-Chemicals. Roots of plants absorb geo-chemicals and green parts of plants convert them into different forms that may be called as biochemicals. This conversion takes place inside a closed system.

The entire green portion of a plant contains numerous organelles in their cells called Chloroplasts, and chloroplasts help in the synthesis of food by absorbing energy from the sun. Now, bio-chemicals join food cycles as plants are eaten up by herbivores and herbivores I turn are eaten up by carnivores. Thus biochemicals flow in the closed system and are recycled instead of being lost. In bodies of organisms these biochemicals are oxidized to give off carbon dioxide which is released into the atmosphere and is in turn used up by plants in the food-making process called as Photosynthesis.


  
Image 1:  Cells containing Chloroplasts
 
Most of the biochemicals join the earth by decomposition of living beings after their deaths and decay by decomposers like numerous fungi, bacteria, nematodes and insects. The energy trapped inside their bodies is librated during their decomposition to join the atmosphere. This flow of energy occurs in open system.


Image 2 : A number of Saprophytic fungi act as decomposers 
In some cases, it is possible for an ecosystem to obtain energy without sunlight. Carbon must be combined with hydrogen and oxygen in order to be utilized as an energy source, and this process depends on sunlight. Ecosystems in the deep sea, where no sunlight can penetrate, use sulfur. Hydrogen Sulphide near Hydrothermal vents can be utilized by organisms such as the giant tube worm. 


 Image 3 : Ecosystems in the deep sea ( credit: TopNews.in)

Here Sulphur cycle runs on and in this cycle sulfur can be forever recycled as a source of energy. Here energy can be released through the oxidation and reduction of sulfur compounds. 

Although the Earth constantly receives energy from the sun, its chemical composition is essentially fixed, as additional matter is only occasionally added by meteorites. Because this chemical composition is not replenished like energy, all processes that depend on these chemicals must be recycled. These cycles include both the living biosphere, and the nonliving lithosphere, atmosphere, and hydrosphere. Like sulphur cycle mentioned here, numerous other cycles run on in an ecosystem and some of these cycles are water cycle or hydrologic cycle, carbon cycle, oxygen cycle, nitrogen cycle, phosphorus cycle etc.

Now, the biochemicals that join the earth are changed variously to become geochemical. Thus the cycle of geo-chemicals and bio-chemicals that may together be called as bio-geo-chemical cycle, goes on and on until it is interrupted through human activities. And it is this interruption of various bio-geo-chemical cycles that causes different problems in the natural environment – may they remain big or small. Over use of natural substances, their wastage and various pollutions, and also the habitat destruction are some human activities that cause interruption in bio-go-chemical cycles, imbalance in environment that lead to several environmental problems- both local and global. Hence, it is observed that natural bio-geo-chemical cycles must be maintained in order to avert or minimize environmental problems.
Key Words : bio-geo-chemical cycle, decomposers, deep sea, giant tube worm, environmental problems
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Cleome viscosa

>> Wednesday, February 16, 2011

 

Name:  Cleome viscosa
Botanical name :  Cleome viscosa Linn.
Family :  Capparaceae
Sanskrit  synonyms:  Pasugandha
Ayurvedic  properties Rasa    : KatuGuna   : LakhuVirya   : Ushna
Plant Name in Different Languages
English     : Wild mustard, Cleome, Sticky cleome Hindi  : Hulhul, Hurhur; Malayalam    : Aryavela, Vela, Kattujeerakam.
English: Asian spiderflower, cleome, tickweed, wild mustard
French: acaya jaune, brède caya, collant, mouzambé jaune
Spanish: barba de chivo, frijolillo, jitomate, malva pegajosa, plantanillo, sambo, tabaquillo
 Distribution – Throughout India growing wild in planes as a weed 
Plant Description
An annual herbaceous plant with sticky pods. Leaves compound, 3-5 foliate, palmate, flowers yellow in lax racemes from the leaf axils. Fruits capsules, hairy and covered with sticky material. Seeds kidney shaped and turns dark on ripe. 
 Medicinal Properties
 Plant pacifies vitiated kapha, intestinal worms, colic, stomach upset, cardio myopathy, diarrhea, fever and dyspepsia.
Cleome is an erect herbaceous annual herb, which is branched and rather stout. Depending on environmental conditions, it can grow up to 1.5 m in height, but is usually 0.5-1.0 m tall. It has a long tap root, with a few secondary roots with root hairs. Stems and leaf petioles are thickly glandular. They exhibit variable pigmentations, from green to pink, or violet to purple. Leaves are alternately arrnaged and stalked. Each leaf has 3-7 leaflets, but most commonly 5 (rarely 3-4), which are pinnately dissected and stalkless. They vary from obovate to elliptic in shape, and are usually 2-10 cm long and 2-4 cm wide. They have finely toothed margins or round ends. Inflorescence is quite showy, and is usually up to 30 cm in length. The flowers have long stalks. The bracts are much smaller than the leaflets. The flowers measure 1-2.5 cm in diameter, and have 4 sepals, 4 narrow clawed petals, and 6 stamens with long purple filaments, arising from a much elongated receptacle. The petals are white, pale, pink or lilac. The fruit is a long-stalked, dry, spindle-shaped capsule measuring up to 12 cm long and 8-10 mm wide. Throughout Africa, the tender leaves or young shoots, and often the flowers, are boiled and consumed as a potherb, tasty relish, stew or side dish. Fresh leaves are used as ingredients in other mashed foods, and dried leaves are ground and incorporated in weaning foods. The leaves are rather bitter, and for this reason are cooked with other leafy vegetables such as cowpea. 
Flowering:  July-August.



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Key Word : Cleome, medicinal plant, spider flower
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The Earth- Dance of Tribals of Jharkhand




The Earth Dance International,  Francisco, CA 94103 has written –

In 2010, Earthdance drew over 100,000 participants to the globally synchronized festival for peace – comprised of 100+ public events, 50+ private events, and even a virtual festival online! Plus, for the first time ever, Earthdance invited individuals to register for the Prayer for Peace on September 18th, 2010! Over 2,000 individuals registered to join in the synchronized prayer in spirit, along with tens of thousands more at public and private regional events from around the globe. Addressing the 2010 theme, Embracing All Traditions, all Earthdance events focused on causes that honor the patchwork of faiths and cultures that make up our human family. 

Impacting local change on a global scale, each official Earthdance event donates at least 50% of its profit to a local charity. In 2010 alone, Earthdance Global Festival for Peace benefited over 75 international charities for peace, sustainability, and/or social justice. As Earthdance events continue to grow each year, more and more local organizations are gaining traction and exposure in their communities.
The above was on A Global Festival for Peace. But here we are concerned about a unique dance system which is deeply enshrined in the life and culture of Jharkhand- tribals. Yes The Earth Dance in Jharkhand –Tribal ladies is performed to express every bit of pleasure and happiness that their God offers them. Peace and prayer for the World Peace; happiness and prayer for the world’s happiness; honesty and the prayer for human being to remain moral and honest is their way of life. They don’t select any particular time to pray for the World Peace and to perform the Earth Dance for it. The tribal people of Jharkhand about who it is said that their walking is dance and their talking is music – perform the Earth Dance on every happy moment in life. Prayer for the world peace – always! They worship Sun and Earth as they believe that the Mother Nature can only provide peace, wealth, health and happiness and … everything. Here is an image  being courteously presented for you.



The Earth -Dance being performed by tribal ladies of Jharkhand

Key Words: earth dance, world peace, an Francisco, Jharkhand, Global Festival, world peace

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