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Monday, May 30, 2011

Butea - growing to be called as the Flame of the Forest

Plant : Butea sp.
family Fabaceae
Habitat : waste land
Distribution : worldwide
Uses: Social, ethnoherbological, commercial, medicinal

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Key Words : Butea, flame of the forest, waste land

Sunday, May 29, 2011

The world’s largest women-only university opened in Saudi Arabia – A huge step of the king towards women development

                                                    The Social Environment
The reports of opening the world’s largest women-only university by King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia appears to be a huge step of the king to empower and develop the remaining  half of the  population that has been ranked zero in terms of female political empowerment in 2010 by the World Economic Forum gender gap report.

As per reports the world’s largest women university in Saudi Arabia is situated on the outskirts of the capital Riyadh. It has been named as Princess Nora bint Abdulrahaman University. With the capacity for 50,000 girl students, the university is equipped with a teaching hospital, laboratories and libraries, and it is said to be capable of improving women’s access to business and science courses.

Commentators and Human Rights personalities the world over, are of the opinion that it is a very nice step if the king’s strict sex-segregation rules are ignored for a moment. They appear a bit confused about the future lives of the women who study there, after their graduation. There is no scarcity of well educated women in Saudi Arabia but it is said that women add up less than 15 percent to the labour force earning far less than men there. However, experts are hopeful that this new facility would open up more male dominated fields to women- reports the Guardian.

The 2010 report of the World Economic Forum ranked Saudi Arabia 129 out of 134 countries. It has been reported to be the only country to score zero for female political empowerment. In March 2010 it was announced that the ban on Saudi Women’s Voting Rights would continue. It is reported from time to time that Saudi women are forced to live under the control of a male guardian, usually a father or husband, without whose authority they cannot get a job, travel or open a bank account. Here it is important to note that such rules do exist in other societies and other religions too, though these are not enforced strictly in those other societies, and disobedience to such rules in those societies and religions is usually ignored and hence, is very common. Hence, in the author’s opinion many guardians too tend to change their attitudes towards women and the same is being seen in many Muslim families also. This is the reason why women from different sections of societies have been joining the main stream. In view of all this, opening of a grand university in Saudi Arabia is undoubtedly a beam of women development and empowerment.

Women become mothers and take key position in producing a country’s man power. All the development of a nation depends on its skilled, civilized, healthy, brave and disciplined and responsible citizens. Making of a good citizen starts in families where mothers are best technologists. An illiterate mother finds it hard to manage routine affairs of a child scientifically. Even an illiterate pregnant lady can not know many scientific things the knowledge of which is considered necessary during that period. Most of us can agree that rates of infant mortality were higher when mothers were mostly illiterate. With the growth of education they became able to understand biological processes, diseases, and also various government schemes that are run for their and their babies’ welfare. A literate or educated lady in India can understand the Janani Suraksha Yojana, Swayam Siddha, and the like better than an illiterate lady. On the other hand remaining parts of upbringing of children are also carried on by mothers themselves. A properly educated mother can produce good citizens and can contribute to the growth of her nation. Gold not… these are the citizens of a country who can make it great and strong, and good citizens can be made by good and well educated mothers. In modern times, it is being observed that many children have to suffer due to employment conditions of their mothers and many children are being reared in Play Schools on high costs. Such children, I fear to say, remain usually deprived of education and love from their own mothers. No business can copy love, care and education of a mother just as no milk can be as useful for an infant as the Mother’s Milk. By producing, rearing, developing, and educating and more by loving their children mothers do greatest jobs for families, societies, nations and yes, the world. What if women are less employed what if they are not politicians?? All of these are created and aggravated pains.

I support the thought of giving ladies proper opportunities and reservations, and I do support that they must be empowered in every way. But as far as education to ladies is concerned, it should never be considered to be meant for employment only, or for getting representation in politics or business. Who shares pains of ladies which they experience during their pregnancy periods, and which they experience during child-birth?? Who stays awake for the whole night with a new born baby?? A person who has to carry on such responsibilities at least in the current conditions   must be educated properly. Hence, leave aside laws of a particular country and appreciate such a great work with open heart. It is up to the concerned government to lift up any law or ban or to impose on. Appreciable steps must be appreciated or at least never criticised. However, experts have their own opinions and can express in their own ways. Let virtues join us step by step.

Every family is an institution, as said by sociologists and an institution must have a head. Still in most societies in most of the religions a competent or senior male remains the head. Fathers take care of their daughters and sons and of course, the husbands take care of their wives. Rules, codes of conduct, norms of discipline etc. remain particular in families and institutions. The question is – why only males dominate? Here it can be said that females too dominate in families lacking competent males. Dominance of males can never be a law for any society, nor is it so as I think. If it is, it may surely be based on some strong or weak notions derived from psychological, biochemical, morphological and attitudinal schools of thought. So it is nothing wonderful and needs no serious comment through any media report or so. After all, education does not basically aim for employment. Rather it does have the aim of human development.

Now, let us hope from the Government of Saudi Arabia that it may do something towards lifting the restriction from women employment, voting rights and others whatsoever is thought important by it. As regards family rules there, or the rules society or the government, these are as much respectable as rules in other societies across the globe. If the government there takes some huge step towards a particular direction, it must have some huge aim which may not be less than excellent.

Saudi Arabia, women empowerment, women education, largest university of the world, King Abdullah

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Involvement of Panchayati Raj Institutions needed for better implementation and sustainability of Slow- Running RGGVY in India

In spite of having the world’s largest population, India has been doing a lot to receive consideration as an emerging and a rapidly growing economy. It has been facing a great demand of energy to maintain and raise its rank in the world to keep a balance between the population growth and economic development.

Here it is important to recall that more than 60 percent of India’s total population which accounts up to 114 million households, lives in villages. Most of these villages are deprived of access to and steady supply of energy. Planners in the government have been planning to fill this gap by generating more and more power. For this, projects have been formulated and still a large number of projects of power plants are in the pipeline to be added year After year. These power plants are to be based on coal -based conventional technology – big hydro projects and nuclear power projects. The whole country including our planners, knows the detrimental impacts of coal based projects.

In view of providing power supply to Indian villages the government of India initiated a plan entitled Rajiv Gandhi Gramin Vidyutikaran Yojana (RGGVY) in 2005 with the Ministry of Power as its nodal agency. The plan aimed to provide access to electricity to all households by 2010. The programme implementation was later extended to 2012 but observing the speed of implementation the government is now planning to incorporate it in the 12th Five Year Plan. The RGGVY has its focus on the development and extension of the centralized grid system to rural areas but the scheme has met a big failure. Let me quote directly the definition of electrification of villages from the website of the Ministry of Power, Government of India -
As per the new definition, a village would be declared as electrified, if:
1)  Basic infrastructure such as Distribution Transformer and Distribution lines are provided in the inhabited locality as well as the Dalit Basti hamlet where it exists.
 2)  Electricity is provided to public places like Schools, Panchayat Office, Health Centers, Dispensaries, Community centers etc.
 3)  The number of households electrified should be at least 10% of the total number of households in the village.

Now the scheme is being reviewed and suggestions from people are being invited in order to make improvements in the process of implementation of the scheme.

Rural Electrification work under Rajiv Gandhi Gramin Vidyutikaran Yojna RGGVY

Greenpeace, an International Non-government Organisation working in different sectors of the global environment in inclined to improve the condition of the energy supply in different states of the country starting from Bihar. It has introduced different programmes based on renewable sources of energy with the cooperation of local NGO. Recently the organisation initiated a social audit to enable energy supply process in some states like Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, and Andhra Pradesh etc. The result of the survey from Andhra Pradesh revealed following facts –

1.  The rate of electrification to supply electricity across the villages has been found good, but there is shortage of electric supply.
2.   Long hours of power cuts are a daily affair in villages and most during the peak hours.

3.  Shortage of power has resulted in no development for schools and healthcare centres. As a result schools cannot be equipped with computers, functional laboratory equipments for experiments and other educational technologies.

4.   The voltage in these villages has been recorded low most of the time. As such people in villages cannot run electrically operated appliances, nor can they establish small scale industries.

5.  Lack of reliable and quality supply of electricity erodes the possibilities of economic and commercial activities in villages and villagers have to move to district headquarters for their similar activities.

6.   In spite of being under the coverage area of the project many of the remote villages have not been electrified (reportedly).

7.   “People in the villages do aspire for a reliable and stable supply of electricity as they feel it would help them in various ways to improve their lives and livelihoods”.

By having a steady supply of electricity villagers can think of increasing productivity. It would increase their working hours and empower them.

9.   They do feel that having decentralised models of energy generation would be able to provide them longer hours of electricity.

10.  People in villages think that a steady power supply would help their children study for longer periods and would ensure their villages have health centres and stock of medical supply.

11.Villagers and Panchayat Heads feel that there have to be locally managed electricity systems which would enable people to take charge of their energy needs.

   Observing the inferences from the extensive survey of the electrified villages in Andhra Pradesh, the Greenpeace has presented following policy recommendations –

1.   Rapid uptake of small scale renewable energy generation (grid connected and offgrid) units in non-remote areas is needed to ensure quality generation of electricity and supply at local level.

2. Mandatory provisions have to be made for involvement of Panchayat Raj Institutions for better implementation and sustainability of the scheme.

3.   Provisions need to be made for energy requirement for irrigation and medium and small scale industries.

4.   Embedding the social audit component in the scheme is necessary to enhance accountability of the implementation system.

Thus, though very late, still if the government is determined to implement the scheme in full spirit it should opt for technologies based on renewable energy sources and the system of power generation should be at local level to make it sustainable. In this view the recommendations of the Greenpeace are acceptable in all respect to empower Indian villages to contribute their maximum in the development of the country.

Key Words : RGGVY,Panchayati Raj Institutions, Grid system,coal based technologies 
Photo credit :Credit :www.indiamart.com

Friday, May 27, 2011

Nature has made arrangements for each one of us if we humans don't interfere

Besides feeding pollinators with the nectar they produce,utilizing too much of carbon dioxide of the urban polluted air and releasing oxygen in return, making the air cool and maintaining a climatic balance, providing pleasant shade to travelers and attracting sellers to earn livelihood under their shade, providing dense cover to nest building birds, these yellow flowered avenue trees are feeding pigeons with their flowers.Let us make a comprehensive list of deeds we do in our daily lives to help others.

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Key Words : Yellow flowers, trees, nectar,pollinators, air pollution.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Sticky Nightshade - the Solanum susymbriifolium, an invasive species in Jharkhand

Solanum susymbriifolium is commonly known as Sticky Nightshade.It belongs to family Solanaceae, the Potato family.It is variouslyknown as Bitter apple, Dense thorned bitter apple, Wild tomato etc. In Bengali it is known as Swetrangani, and Sada kantikari.

Its leaves are pinnately cut into lobes and are upto 30cm long.The whole body of plant including fruits havs thorns. Even the sepals are armed with yellow prickles.

Flowers are starlike. These are purplish or white in colour, 1.6 to 3.5 cm across, with oval petals, that are 1cm long, 4to 8 mm wide. Filaments are prominent, about 1mm, having yellow lance-shaped anthers.Anthers are about 9cm long and yellow.Fruit is a berry.

 It is native to South America but naturalized in parts of asia including India.In Jharkhand state of India it is registering its appearance as an invasive species. It can be seen growing extensively in waste lands, along road sides, and also in crop fields. Its population in the state is increasing year after year. It has virtually replaced the native thorny species with violet flowers known as Solanum virginianum which has become rare inmost parts of India probably due to reclamation of wastelands and habitat destruction. Here are some images of the species sisymbriifolium. 

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Key Words : Solanaceae, Solanum virginianum, Jharkhand, invasive species, habitat destruction

The rare croton

A few years back crotons were seen in every waste land, road sides, rail-tracks and along margins of fields. But now these are hard to be seen. Why? I don't know ... well probably due to severe air pollution due to increasing vehicles on roads, habitat destruction or more probably due to climate change. Comments are invited. Here I upload many similar images of croton as a tribute to the noble plant. ...

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Key Words : Croton, Habitat, rail-track, waste land

Identify this down to earth plant



Sunday, May 22, 2011

When leaves fall down, fruits develop and change the canopy

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Identify this summer blooming tree

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Saturday, May 21, 2011

Need of Preserving marsh lands and wetlands

If you are one of those wondering why there is so much fuss made about preserving marshlands and wetlands, here is why.

Pallikaranai, apart from housing a rich biodiversity of more than 330 varieties of plants, animals and birds, also act like a giant sponge, storing water when available and releasing them in small usable quantities when there is a need.
Pallikaranai has historically played a crucial role in water management for South Chennai until man made interferences upset the cycle, say experts.
With the marsh shrinking from 5,500 hectares in 1965 to a mere 600 hectares at present, the water retention capacity has drastically dropped, threatening the water security and also making it prone to floods.
There have been recurrent floods in South Chennai since 2001-2002. Experts believe this is directly linked to the destruction of the marsh.

“While the annual rainfall has remained consistent, with the overall trend of the last 200 years being around 1,200 mm per year, the intensity of floods alone has gone up,” says Jayashree Vencatesan.

“The flooding days which were just three days in 2005, has increased to five days last year. Construction and garbage dumping have choked the canals making it difficult for water to drain.”

Construction of the Kannagi Nagar resettlement colony over what was the Okkiyam Maduvu, one of the major passageways for water in the marsh, has intensified the fury of floods.

Also, it reduces the water storage capacity, thereby threatening the ground water availability in the region.

“For instance, if the overall extent of the marsh is considered to be around 900 hectares, the surface area would account for nine million sq m. If this surface could accommodate a minimum average of one metre of water, the volume of water that the marsh can potentially hold/drain can be estimated as nine million cubic meters (9 million tons of standing water),” notes the management plan prepared by Care Earth and Chennai City Connect.

“However, if the marsh continues to be degraded and converted to terrestrial lands, not only will the water holding capacity of the marsh be severely curtailed, but the continued inflow of more or less the same quantum of water would cause flooding.”

The Union Ministry of Environment and Forest in December 2010 released the Wetlands (Conservation and Management) Rules of 2010 calling for institutions to undertake a comprehensive mapping exercise delineating all the wetlands in the country.

In order to ensure there is no further degradation, the rules prohibit activities that are harmful to wetlands such as industrialisation, construction, dumping of untreated waste and reclamation.

A project on ‘Inland Wetlands of India’ commissioned by the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests had also prioritised it as one of the most significant wetlands in India.

But these efforts continue to remain only on paper as dumping of waste, sewage treatment plants and unbridled encroachment and development continue to eat away the marshland.

Key Words : wet lands, marsh, conservation, water, swvage treatment
Gokul Chandrashekhar in Express buzz

An urgent call to protect native fish

Federal Pumps in Delta Are Killing Huge Numbers of Critically Imperiled Salmon and Other Native Fish
Tens of thousands of imperiled Sacramento splittail and federally protected spring-run chinook salmon have died recently at Central Valley Project water pumps in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, according to government figures. The news comes amidst debate over federal legislation that would exempt pumping in the Delta from Endangered Species Act protections for salmon and other fish.

“State and federal water-project pumps are pushing already-struggling salmon and native fish populations closer to extinction while Republican lawmakers are introducing legislation to eliminate environmental protections for the devastated Bay-Delta ecosystem and block restoration efforts on the San Joaquin River,” said Jeff Miller, conservation advocate with the Center for Biological Diversity. “Excessive pumping and the highest-ever water diversions from the Delta the past decade have devastated Central Valley fish populations, including commercially valuable salmon.”

Recent salvage data from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation show that the Central Valley Project pumps have so far killed more than 10,000 juvenile spring-run chinook salmon this year. Central Valley spring-run chinook were listed as threatened under both the state and federal Endangered Species Acts in 1999. Only three of 17 original wild spring-run chinook populations remain in the Central Valley, and numbers of spawning adult salmon are down to as low as 500 wild fish in some years. Overall Central Valley salmon numbers have dropped so low that California’s salmon fishery was closed completely in 2008 and 2009 for the first time in history.

The salvage also show that the pumps have killed more than 85,000 Sacramento splittail in the past week alone. The splittail was formerly protected as a federally threatened species but was improperly stripped of Endangered Species Act protections in 2003. The depleted splittail population has declined dramatically in the past decade and has now collapsed to barely detectable numbers in state fish surveys.

Spring-run chinook were once the most abundant salmon run in the Central Valley, ranging throughout the Sacramento and San Joaquin watersheds, but now only remnant wild runs remain in the Deer, Mill and Butte creek tributaries of the Sacramento River. Spring-run chinook have been decimated by construction of large dams, and populations in the mainstem Sacramento River and Feather River have hybridized with hatchery-influenced fall-run salmon. Spring-run salmon enter fresh water in the spring, while immature, and hold through the summer in deep cold pools at higher elevations, spawning in early fall.

Conservation groups first petitioned for federal Endangered Species Act protection for Sacramento splittail in 1992; the species was listed as threatened in 1999. After litigation by water agencies challenging the listing, the Bush administration improperly removed the splittail from the threatened list, despite strong consensus by agency scientists and fisheries experts that it should retain protected status. The Center for Biological Diversity sued, and the Fish and Wildlife Service agreed to revisit the tainted Bush-era decision. A recent analysis of splittail population trends by the Bay Institute shows that there has been a significant decline in the abundance of splittail during the past several decades. Splittail have fallen to consistently low levels since 2002, and the estimated abundance from 2007 to 2009 has been the lowest recorded since surveys began in 1967. However, the critically endangered splittail was again denied Endangered Species Protection by the Obama administration in October 2010.

Debate has raged over the proposal to construct a peripheral canal or tunnel to divert water from the Delta to agribusiness and Southern California and the potential impacts on endangered and declining salmon and other native fish populations. The National Research Council earlier this month slammed the state’s peripheral canal proposal for lacking credible scientific analysis of the potential impacts on Delta fish and other species. This week Gov. Jerry Brown’s administration backed off former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's Delta tunnel proposal, stating that building a proposed pair of huge tunnels to facilitate water exports is no longer the top option. Any conveyance scheme that diverts more water from the Delta would likely lead to the extinction of Central Valley steelhead, chinook salmon, Delta, smelt, longfin smelt, Sacramento splittail, green sturgeon and other imperiled fish species.

Key Words: salmon, native fish, delta, U.S. Bureau of Reclamation

-        -   CBD, SAN FRANCISCO

Saturday, May 14, 2011

10 Billion People by Century's End- Reports U.N.

It looks like our planet's about to get a lot more crowded even faster than we thought. A sobering new report by the United Nations predicts the global human population will hit 10 billion by the end of this century. (Earlier estimates figured the world's population would top out around 9 billion by 2050.)

The U.N. report adds to the urgency of addressing the global human overpopulation crisis now. Simply put, there's no way the Earth can support that many people and still sustain all of its other species. The more people we add –- and the more consumption that results -– the deeper the trouble for plants and animals already struggling to escape extinction. Stabilizing the world's population won't happen without important changes, including access to family planning and contraception.

That's why the Center for Biological Diversity launched our campaign to address human overpopulation three years ago and continues to expand education and advocacy efforts. Projects such as our Endangered Species Condoms are spreading awareness about the relationship between unsustainable human population growth and the devastating extinction.
Key Words : U.N., overpopulation, crisis

Overpopulation and Extinction

The world’s human population doubled from 1 to 2 billion between 1800 and 1930, and then doubled again by 1975. Sometime in 2011, it’s expected to top 7 billion. This staggering increase and the massive consumption it drives are overwhelming the planet’s finite resources. We’ve already witnessed the devastating effects of overpopulation on biodiversity: Species abundant in North America two centuries ago — from the woodland bison of West Virginia and Arizona’s Merriam’s elk to the Rocky Mountain grasshopper and Puerto Rico’s Culebra parrot — have been wiped out by growing human numbers.
As the world’s population grows unsustainably, so do its unyielding demands for water, land, trees and fossil fuels — all of which come at a steep price for already endangered plants and animals. Most biologists agree we’re in the midst of the Earth’s sixth mass extinction event; species are disappearing about 1,000 times faster than is typical of the planet’s history. This time, though, it isn’t because of geologic or cosmic forces but unsustainable human population growth.
Today’s global human population stands at 6.9 billion. Every day, the planet sees a net gain of roughly 250,000 people. If the pace continues, we’ll be on course to reach 8 billion by 2020 and 9 billion by 2050.

We’re in the midst of the Earth’s sixth mass extinction crisis. Harvard biologist E. O. Wilson estimates that 30,000 species per year (or three species per hour) are being driven to extinction. Compare this to the natural background rate of one extinction per million species per year, and you can see why scientists refer to it as a crisis unparalleled in human history.

The current mass extinction differs from all others in being driven by a single species rather than a planetary or galactic physical process. When the human race — Homo sapiens sapiens — migrated out of Africa to the Middle East 90,000 years ago, to Europe and Australia 40,000 years ago, to North America 12,500 years ago, and to the Caribbean 8,000 years ago, waves of extinction soon followed. The colonization-followed-by-extinction pattern can be seen as recently as 2,000 years ago, when humans colonized Madagascar and quickly drove elephant birds, hippos, and large lemurs extinct.

The first wave of extinctions targeted large vertebrates hunted by hunter-gatherers. The second, larger wave began 10,000 years ago as the discovery of agriculture caused a population boom and a need to plow wildlife habitats, divert streams, and maintain large herds of domestic cattle. The third and largest wave began in 1800 with the harnessing of fossil fuels. With enormous, cheap energy at its disposal, the human population grew rapidly from 1 billion in 1800 to 2 billion in 1930, 4 billion in 1975, and 6.8 billion today. If the current course is not altered, we’ll reach 8 billion by 2020 and 9 to 15 billion (likely the former) by 2050.
No population of a large vertebrate animal in the history of the planet has grown that much, that fast, or with such devastating consequences to its fellow earthlings. Humans’ impact has been so profound that scientists have proposed that the Holocene era be declared over and the current epoch (beginning in about 1900) be called the Anthropocene: the age when the “global environmental effects of increased human population and economic development” dominate planetary physical, chemical, and biological conditions.
·         Humans annually absorb 42 percent of the Earth’s terrestrial net primary productivity, 30 percent of its marine net primary productivity, and 50 percent of its fresh water.
·    Forty percent of the planet’s land is devoted to human food production, up from 7 percent in 1700.

·       Fifty percent of the planet’s land mass has been transformed for human use.
· More atmospheric nitrogen is now fixed by humans that all other natural processes combined.
Key Words : over population, food production, land mass
- Center for Biological Diversity http://www.biologicaldiversity.org