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Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Notice issued to Jindal Saw Limited &Others by the Gujrat High Court

Alleging irregularities of Jindal Saw Limited and others to hold a proposed public hearing and starting construction without environmental clearance for its new unit at Mundra in Kutch District, the Gujarat High Court has issued notice to the company.

Earlier, a petition was filed in the public interest before first bench of the court by Mahesh Solanki and Aniruddha Singh Jethwa, residents of Samaghogha village in Mundra Taluka of Kutch.

According to a local report the petitioners claimed that the project of the company fell under category  B  for which prior environmental clearance was necessary. The claim was made by Mr. Anand Yagnik, the advocate of the petitioners. The claim was made that the clearance from the state level expert appraisal committee was yet to be taken, and still the construction at the proposed site was started by the company.

 The petitioners claimed that – it was clear violation of the Environmental Impact Assessment Notification, 2006 as amended and instructions issued by respondent Ministry of Environment and Forest, Government of India under the Environment Rules and Environment Act.

The advocate Mr. Yagnik has reportedly told that the company already had a manufacturing unit in the vicinity, Manufacturing DI pipes of different sizes and that might be an extension of the existing unit. However, before getting prior environmental clearance no construction of any nature could be put up except fencing and making temporary shelter for guards. The construction was going at a good speed as if clearance was just a paper formality before even the public hearing took place.

 The advocate further said that the venue of the public hearing on Tuesday was in the school located inside the existing unit of Jindal Saw Limited and that was not a neutral venue as required under law and hence it was needed to have been changed. It was also alleged by the petitioners that the project proponents of the company had not even submitted a summary in vernacular language or Environmental Assessment Report with either the Gram Panchayat or the Mamlatdar office.

 According to the report -The Public Interest Litigation (PIL) stated, for the purpose of "Informed participation of villagers" in the public hearing, copy of the entire Environmental Impact Assessment Report is required to be provided in vernacular language before actually public hearing takes place with a sufficient gap between provision of the EIA Report of the proposed project in vernacular language and the public hearing. The petitioners have also challenged the EIA notification of 2006 issued by Ministry of Environment and Forests to the extent that it permits provision of summary in vernacular language. They've challenged it on the ground that such discrimination on the basis of language violates Article 14 of the Constitution of India and it therefore is unconstitutional.

Key Words: Jindal Saw Limited, public hearing, petition, Gujarat High Court, PIL, Environmental Impact Assessment Report (EIAR), Article 14 of the Constitution of India

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Wetlands and their roles in the evironment

The cycling of nutrients is also performed by wetlands and aquatic plants. These help in the recovery of resources also, since these produce biomass that can be harvested and utilized as a source of energy and food for the efficient recycling of nutrients. Wetlands are instrumental in decreasing both the nutrient load and high biochemical oxygen demand (BOD) levels of the wetlands and Lakes. Different native aquatic plants such as emergent, floating leaved, submerged and free-floating vegetation colonize lakes and wetlands, and are the sources for the formation of different niches occupied by variety of micro flora and fauna. The lake plays a major role in the removal, recycling of nutrients, and also controlling water pollution through physical, chemical and biological means.

Image 1 Wetland-  credit Encyclopedia of Earth

Image 2  wetland with a dependent animal

What are wetlands? Well, Wetlands are marshy areas where there is much moisture in the soil. Wetlands are sometimes covered in water. Swamps, marshes, and bogs are some of the names used for wetlands. In other words, "Wetlands are lands transitional between terrestrial and aquatic systems where the water table is usually at or near the surface or where water shallow covers the land and where at least one of the following attributes holds-
·         the land predominantly supports aquatic plants at least periodically;
·         untrained hydric soils are the predominant substrate; and
·         at some time during the growing season, the substrate is saturated with water or covered by shallow water." Definition by Environmental Protection Agency, U.S.A.

Ecological Roles of Wetlands
Wetlands are among the most productive ecosystems in the world, comparable torainforests and coral reefs. An immense variety of species of microbes, plants, insects, amphibians, reptiles, birds, fish, and mammals can be part of a wetland ecosystem. Physical and chemical features such as climate, landscape shape (topology), geology, and the movement and abundance of water help to determine the plants and animals that inhabit each wetland. The complex, dynamic relationships among the organisms inhabiting the wetland environment are referred to as food webs.

The functions of a wetland and the values of these functions to human society depend on a complex set of relationships between the wetland and the other ecosystems in the Watershed. A watershed is a geographic area in which water, sediments, and dissolved materials drain from higher elevations to a common low-lying outlet or basin a point on a larger stream, lake, underlying aquifer or estuary.

Wetlands play an integral role in the Ecology of the watershed. The combination of shallow water, high levels of nutrients, and primary productivity is ideal for the development of organisms that form the base of the food web and feed many species of fish, amphibians, shellfish, and insects. Many species of birds and mammals rely on wetlands for food, water, and shelter, especially during migration and breeding.

Wetlands' microbes, plants, and wildlife are part of global cycles for water, nitrogen, and sulfur. Furthermore, scientists are beginning to realize that atmospheric maintenance may be an additional wetlands function. Wetlands store Carbon   within their plant communities and soil instead of releasing it to the atmosphere as carbon dioxide. Thus wetlands help to moderate global climate conditions.

Economic benefits of wetlands
Only recently have we begun to understand the importance of the functions that wetlands perform. Far from being useless, disease-ridden places, wetlands provide values that no other ecosystem can, including natural water quality improvement, flood protection, shoreline erosion control, opportunities for recreation and aesthetic appreciation, and natural products for our use at no cost. Wetlands can provide one or more of these functions. Protecting wetlands in turn can protect our safety and welfare.

Water Quality and Hydrology
Wetlands have important filtering capabilities for intercepting surface water run off   from higher dry land before the runoff reaches open water. As the runoff water passes through, the wetlands retain excess nutrients and some pollutants, and reduce sediment that would clog waterways and affect fish and amphibian egg development. In performing this filtering function, wetlands save us a great deal of money. For example, a 1990 study showed that without the Congaree Bottomland Hardwood Swamp in South Carolina, the area would need a US$5 million waste water treatment plant.

In addition to improving water quality through filtering, some wetlands maintain stream flow during dry periods, and many replenish Ground Water.  Many Americans and yes, most of Indians depend on groundwater for drinking.

Flood Protection
Wetlands function as natural sponges that trap and slowly release surface water, rain, snowmelt, ground water  and flood waters. Trees, root mats, and other wetland vegetation also slow the speeds of flood waters and distribute them more slowly over the floodplain. This combined water storage and braking action lowers flood heights and reduces erosion. Wetlands within and downstream of urban areas are particularly valuable, counteracting the greatly increased rate and volume of surface water runoff from pavement and buildings.

The holding capacity of wetlands helps control floods and prevents water-logging of crops. Preserving and restoring wetlands, together with other water retention, can often provide the level of flood control otherwise provided by expensive dredge operations and levees. The  bottomland hardwood  riparian wetlands along the Mississippi River once stored at least 60 days of floodwater. Now they store only 12 days because most have been filled or drained.

Shoreline Erosion
The ability of wetlands to control erosion is so valuable that some states are restoring wetlands in coastal areas to buffer the storm surges from hurricanes and tropical storms. Wetlands at the margins of lakes, rivers, bays, and the ocean protect shorelines and stream banks against erosion. Wetland plants hold the soil in place with their roots, absorb the energy  of waves, and break up the flow of stream or river currents.

More than one-third of the United States' threatened and endangered species live only in wetlands, and nearly half use wetlands at some point in their lives. Many other animals and plants depend on wetlands for survival.
Estuarine and marine fish and shellfish, various birds, and certain mammals must have coastal wetlands to survive. Most commercial and game fish breed and raise their young in coastal marshes and estuaries. Menhaden, flounder, sea trout, spot, croaker, and striped bass are among the more familiar fish that depend on coastal wetlands. Shrimp, oysters, clams, and blue and Dungeness crabs likewise need these wetlands for food, shelter, and breeding grounds.

For many animals and plants, such as wood ducks, muskrat, cattails, and swamp rose, inland wetlands are the only places they can live. Beaver may actually create their own wetlands. For others, such as striped bass, peregrine falcon, otter, black bear, raccoon, and deer, wetlands provide important food, water, or shelter. Many of the U.S. breeding bird populations—including ducks, geese, woodpeckers, hawks, wading birds, and many song-birds—feed, nest, and raise their young in wetlands. Migratory waterfowl use coastal and inland wetlands as resting, feeding, breeding, or nesting grounds for at least part of the year. Indeed, an international agreement to protect wetlands of international importance was developed because some species of migratory birds are completely dependent on certain wetlands and would become extinct if those wetlands were destroyed.

Natural Products for Our Economy
We use a wealth of natural products from wetlands, including fish and shellfish, blueberries, cranberries, timber, and wild rice, as well as medicines that are derived from wetland soils and plants. Many of the nation's fishing and shellfishing industries harvest wetland-dependent species; the catch is valued at US$15 billion a year. In the Southeast, for example, nearly all the commercial catch and over half of the recreational harvest are fish and shellfish that depend on the  estuary -coastal wetland system. Louisiana's coastal marshes produce an annual commercial fish and shellfish harvest that amounted to 1.2 billion pounds worth US$244 million in 1991. Wetlands are habitats for fur-bearers like muskrat, beaver, and mink as well as reptiles such as alligators. The nation's harvest of muskrat pelts alone is worth over US$70 million annually.

Recreation and Aesthetics
Wetlands have recreational, historical, scientific, and cultural values. More than half of all U.S. adults (98 million) hunt, fish, birdwatch or photograph wildlife. They spend a total of US$59.5 billion annually. Painters and writers continue to capture the beauty of wetlands on canvas and paper, or through cameras, and video and sound recorders. Others appreciate these wonderlands through hiking, boating, and other recreational activities. Almost everyone likes being on or near the water; part of the enjoyment is the varied, fascinating lifeforms.

Human impacts on wetlands
 Human activities cause wetland degradation and loss by changing water quality, quantity, and flow rates; increasing pollutant inputs; and changing species composition as a result of disturbance and the introduction of nonnative species.

Hydrologic Alterations
A wetland’s characteristics evolve when hydrologic conditions cause the water table to saturate or inundate the soil  for a certain amount of time each year. Any change in hydrology can significantly alter the soil chemistry and plant and animal communities. Common hydrologic alterations in wetland areas include:
·         Deposition of fill material for development;
·         Drainage for development, farming, and mosquito control;
·         Dredging and stream channelization for navigation, development, and flood control;
·         Diking and damming to form ponds and lakes;
·         Diversion of flow to or from wetlands; and

·         Addition of impervious surfaces in the  watershed, thereby increasing water and pollutant runoff  into wetlands.

Pollution Inputs
Although wetlands are capable of absorbing pollutants from the surface water, there is a limit to their capacity to do so. The primary pollutants causing wetland degradation are sediment, fertilizer, human sewage, animal waste, road salts, pesticides, heavy metals, and  Selenium. Pollutants can originate from many sources, including:

·         Runoff from urban, agricultural, silvicultural, and mining areas;
·         Air Pollution from cars, factories, and Power Plants, Old landfills and dumps that leak toxic substances; and
·         Marinas, where boats increase turbidity and release pollutants.

Vegetation Damage
Wetland plants are susceptible to degradation if subjected to hydrological changes and pollution inputs. Other activities that can impair wetland vegetation include:

·         Grazing by domestic animals;
·         Introduction of nonnative plants that compete with natives; and
·         Removal of vegetation for peat mining  
·          Harold Ornes is Dean of the College of Science at Southern Utah University (SUU) in Cedar City, Utah (since 1999)

Key Words : wetland, biodiversity, vegetation,Grazing, pat colony.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

The Earth Hour 2011

Here is a Doha (couplet) by the Hindi poet Bihari composed long back in the history of Hindi Literature -
"Kahlaney ekal basat ahi, mayur, mrig, bagh
Jagat Tapovan so kiyo deeragh dagh nidagh".
The meaning of this couplet may go like this – the long scorching heat of summer has brought varieties of animals like snake (ahi) and Peacock (mayur); deer (mrig) and tiger (Bagh) at one place in a small forest area. All these animals stay together during the hardest time, at one place – forgetting their prey- predator relationship. And thus the intense heat has made the world a TAPOVAN (a forest where a number of tapasvis or priests prey together). Here it appears that even animals forget their differences during the hour of danger and stay united to bear the hardship together.

Let us see towards the other side. About four thousand cities of the world remained in dark today from 8.30 PM to 9.30 PM. Why? In order to save energy, in order to contribute in checking the Global Warming, and in order to protect the earth from dangerous impacts of climate change and in order to …And in order to celebrate the Earth Hour.

The celebration of the Earth Hour started in 2007 when citizens of Australia took an initiative of not operating any electric- operated equipment or machine for one hour. The same concept has spread across the world today and as per reports - more than 4000 cities of about 131 countries celebrated the Earth Hour today – still not all the countries of the world. Though I can not imagine that rest of the countries might had doubled their electric consumption during the period; I am sad just to think that many countries of the World did not join the movement for the Global Cause. What should I do to make the whole world do so? Why did the remaining countries not join the campaign if it was for the cause of the whole world? Don’t they think that they too are standing at the bank of the same flooding river?  

About the Earth Hour 
Here is a report quoted directly from The Earth Hour -
Earth Hour started in 2007 in Sydney, Australia when 2.2 million individuals and more than 2,000 businesses turned their lights off for one hour to take a stand against climate change. Only a year later the Earth Hour had become a global sustainability movement with more than 50 million people across 35 countries/territories participating. Global landmarks such as the Sydney Harbour Bridge, CN Tower in Toronto, Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, and Rome’s Colosseum, all stood in darkness, as symbols of hope for a cause that grows more urgent by the hour.

In March 2009, hundreds of millions of people took part in the third Earth Hour. Over 4000 cities in 88 countries/territories officially switched off to pledge their support for the planet, making Earth Hour 2009 the world’s largest global climate change initiative.

On Saturday 27 March, Earth Hour 2010 became the biggest Earth Hour ever. A record 128 countries and territories joined the global display of climate action. Iconic buildings and landmarks from Asia Pacific to Europe and Africa to the Americas switched off. People across the world from all walks of life turned off their lights and came together in celebration and contemplation of the one thing we all have in common – our planet.

In March 2009, hundreds of millions of people took part in the third Earth Hour. Over 4000 cities in 88 countries/territories officially switched off to pledge their support for the planet, making Earth Hour 2009 the world’s largest global climate change initiative.

On Saturday 27 March, Earth Hour 2010 became the biggest Earth Hour ever. A record 128 countries and territories joined the global display of climate action. Iconic buildings and landmarks from Asia Pacific to Europe and Africa to the Americas switched off. People across the world from all walks of life turned off their lights and came together in celebration and contemplation of the one thing we all have in common – our planet.

Earth Hour 2011 will take place on Saturday 26 March at 8.30PM (local time). This Earth Hour we want you to go beyond the hour, so after the lights go back on think about what else you can do to make a difference. Together our actions add up.

Earth Hour is organized by WWF. With almost 5 million supporters and a global network in over 100 countries/territories, it’s one of the world's largest and most respected independent conservation organizations. WWF’s mission is to stop the degradation of the Earth's natural environment and build a future where people live in harmony with nature.

Key Words : global warming, climate change, WWF, natural environment

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Garlic (Allium sativum) & its medicinal properties

Garlic as it is known in English is taxonomically known as Allium sativum.It belongs to the family Alliaceae or the family of onion. History reveals that garlic has been used across the world for both culinary and medicinal purposes.

Image 1 Garlic plantation

Image 2

Image 3

Image 4
Bulbs of Garlic   (credit : flickr )

Bulb of garlic is most prominent and commonly used part. It has stored food inside its cloves. Some garlic species have their bulbs single clove type where as other have many cloves. Cloves of garlic are fleshy sections of the bulb. Cloves are consumed in both raw and cooked forms. These are used as medicine too. The whole plant with its different parts the bulb, leaves and flowers is edible either as spice or as medicine.
The basal plate of the bulb has a number of fibrous roots. Applications of roots for either of culinary or medicinal purposes have not been reported so far.

Though garlic is grown in most parts of the world, China has been reported to be its  largest producer.  It produces approximately 10.5 million tonnes of garlic annually which is 77 percent of the total global out put of garlic.

Gilory, California, is called as the Garlic Capital of the world as much of the garlic production of the United States is centred on this place. In USA garlic is grown as a cash crop in all the states except in Alaska. However, USA stands on the fifth place in terms of garlic production. With 4.1 percent of garlic production, India stands on the 2nd place in the world. Production of garlic in South Korea is 2 per cent of the world. South Korea is followed by Egypt and Russia where garlic production ranks at just 1.6 percent.

Nutritional Value per 100g of garlic

Energy                                             149kcal
Carbohydrate                                    33.06g
Sugars                                             1.00g
Dietary fibre                                      2.1g
Fat                                                   0.5g
Protein                                             3.69g
Beta – carotene                                 5µg
Thiamine                                          0.2mg
Riboflavin                                         0.11mg
Niacin                                              0.7mg
Pantothenic acid                               0.6mg
Vitamin B6                                        1.23mg
Folate                                               3µg
Vitamin C                                         31.2mg
Calcium                                            181mg
Magnesium                                       25mg
Iron                                                  1.7mg
Phosphorus                                      153mg
Sodium                                             17mg
Potassium                                        401mg
Zinc                                                 1.16mg
Manganese                                       1.68mg
Selenium                                          14.2µg
Credit: USDA

Medicinal use and health benefits
Garlic has been reported to have antibacterial, antiviral and anti-fungal activity. It is also claimed to prevent heart diseases that include atherosclerosis, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure etc. It has also been reported to treat cancer in some cases. Lower prevalence of cancer has been reported from countries using garlic as traditional cuisine. Studies on animals suggest that garlic consumption reduces accumulation of cholesterol on vascular walls. According to another study, intake of food supplementation with garlic extract can reduce vascular calcification in human being. The intake of garlic extract has been reported to have vasodilative effects.

Garlic has long history of its application as traditional herbal medicine for treating common colds, hoarseness, and cough.

Garlic has been reported to reduce platelet aggregation and hyperlipidemia. It regulates blood sugar level. Regular consumption of garlic has shown to prevent some complications of diabetes mellitus. However, it is suggested that patients taking insulin should not consume garlic.

Garlic’s antibacterial activity was first observed by Louis Pasteur in 1858. During the World War I and the World War II, garlic was used as an antiseptic to prevent gangrene.

Garlic cloves are used as a remedy for infections   (especially chest problems), digestive disorders, and fungal infections such as thrush. Garlic has been found to enhance thiamine   absorption and therefore reduce the likelihood for developing the thiamin deficiency Beriberi. In 1924, it was found that garlic is an effective way to prevent Scurvy due to its high vitamin C content.

In an uncontrolled study conducted in China, garlic has been found helpful for AIDS patients to treat cryptosporidium and toxoplasmosis. Garlic consumption has been found by some researchers to boost testosterone levels.

Adverse effects and toxicology
Garlic is known for causing halitosis as well as causing sweat to have a pungent 'garlicky' smell which is caused by allyl methyl sulphide (AMS).  AMS is a gas which is absorbed into the blood during the metabolism of garlic; from the blood it travels to the lungs](and from there to the mouth causing bad breath) and skin where it is exuded through skin pores. Washing the skin with soap is only a partial and imperfect solution to the smell. Studies have shown that sipping milk at the same time as consuming garlic can significantly neutralize bad breath. Mixing garlic with milk in the mouth before swallowing reduced the odor better than drinking milk afterward. 

 Raw garlic is more potent; cooking garlic reduces the effect. The sulfur compound allicin, produced by crushing or chewing fresh garlic produces other sulfur compounds: ajoene, allyl sulfides, and vinyldithiins. Aged garlic lacks allicin, but may have some activity due to the presence of S-allylcysteine.

Some people suffer from allergies to garlic and other plants in the allium family. Symptoms can include irritable bowels, diarrhea, mouth and throat ulcerations, nausea, breathing difficulties, and in rare cases anaphylaxis. Garlic-sensitive patients show positive tests to diallyl disulphide, allylpropyldisulfide, allylmercaptan and allicin, all of which are present in garlic. People who suffer from garlic allergies will often be sensitive to many plants in the lily family (Liliaceae), including onions, garlic, chives, leeks, shallots, garden lilies, ginger, and bananas.
Garlic consumption in high quantity during pregnancy is not recommended because it has the property of thinning blood. Several reports of serious burns resulted from topical applications of garlic extract have also been found. Topical application of garlic extract in young children is not advisable. However, garlic has been consumed for several thousand years without any adverse long-term effects, suggesting that modest quantities of garlic pose, at worst, minimal risks to normal individuals. Possible side effects include gastrointestinal discomfort, sweating, dizziness, allergic reactions, bleeding, and menstrual irregularities. The safety of garlic supplements had not been determined for children. According to an important study, some breastfeeding mothers have found their babies slow to feed and have noted a garlic odour coming from their baby when they have consumed garlic.

Social Traditional perceptions
A number of religious and spiritual thoughts have also been associated with garlic. The Cassell’s dictionary of superstitions reports that in an Islamic myth when Satan left the Garden of Eden, garlic arose in his left foot print and onion in the right. Owing to its reputation as a potent preventive medicine, garlic has been used by many cultures in Europe against white magic. Folks in Central Europe believe that garlic can be used to ward off demons, werewolves and vampires. Garlic is worn, hung in windows or rubbed on chimneys and keyholes to ward off vampires.

In both Hinduism and Jainism, garlic is considered to stimulate and warm the body and to increase one's desires. Some devout Hindus generally avoid using garlic and the related onion in the preparation of foods for religious festivities and events. Followers of the Jain religion avoid eating garlic and onion on a daily basis. It is probably due to the odour of garlic that Islam views it inappropriate to eat garlic before going to the mosque as the smell from mouth may irritate the fellow worshipers.


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Key Words: Allium sativum, garlic, Alliaceae, cloves, USDA,traditional herbal medicine,testosteron, insuline