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Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Voice of Kibera - a novel innovation

In Sub- Saharan Africa, Kibera in Nairobi is considered to be the largest slum, reports electronic media. About one million people inhabit the area.

People living in this area have developed many farming innovations but limited communication does not allow the innovations to reach up to grass root level. However, the condition is being changed now by the project Voice of Kibera.

People under the Kibera project are reported to send innovations through SMS that are later posted on the website of the project. Though the project is not specifically targeted to agriculture only, the website can serve medium of communicating innovative ideas to residents and to organise workshops and orientation programmes.

It has also been reported that voice of Kibera has become powerful enough to influence social, political and economic areas.

Key Words : project, Kibera, Africa

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Get your research published here ...

Researchers in Zoology, Botany, Ecology, Phytopathology, Environmental Biology, Economic Ecology, and related disciplines are invited to join the team of www.ecosensorium.org to get their researches/ articles published free of any charge and to help aid our research.
Just tell us about area of your specialization and start sending your work for publication.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Issues Ailing Jharkhand

An article by Latika Mishra 
Amid cheers from the crowd and many unattended issues, Jharkhand  celebrated  its 12th statehood day in november, last year. Many schemes were announced and eight mega projects were inaugurated with a hope for a better tomorrow. With a will to make women empowered the theme declared for the year was ‘Bitiya-Varsh’. 

Map of Jharkhand

In the eleventh year of the formation of the state scores of issues continue to hamper the speed of the development in the state. The issues range from the everyday scams that surface in the news, poverty, hunger and malnutrition that doom the health, maoist activities that create unnecessary terror resulting into the loss of armed forces and infrastructure.

With a vow to eradicate corruption from the political machinery, Chief Minister Arjun Munda assured the execution of the project within the set time frame. But four days after the celebration yet another scam: Jatropha cultivation scam appeared in the news.

Arjun Munda: Chief Minister Of Jharkhand

In absence of skill-training women in the rural areas are forced to migrate to cities and many times out of state to work as construction, mining and stone workers, domestic servants and agricultural labours. It is needed that more self help groups would emerge that could help them in binding to their home districts, that could check illicit trafficking of girls and women and children being victims of forced labour.

Poverty is the basic cause of all social vices. Low average per capita is associated with a high degree of income inequality. Disparity of income distribution between the rural and urban areas in the state is startling and this accounts from the high incidence of poverty in the rural areas. Equitable distribution of resources and income is needed to bridge the gap.

Garhwa and Palamau are districts in which impoverished families forced to eat roots due to the drought have been in the news last year. This year too fluoride in water that caused fluorosis was in news and led the union minister Jairam Ramesh to intervene into the scene. Being a mineral rich state, unwanted minerals in the groundwater used for drinking purpose is a common problem here.

Worsened situation of women in the state add to the plight of Infant and Childcare in the rural and backward areas of the state. Cases of alcoholism and domestic violence prevalent among tribal men ruin the family most often and the responsibility to eek out livelihood burdens woman folk that further worsens the infant and childcare in the state. It has been proved that tying of infants on backs hamper their development and thereby health.

Newspapers report that cases of AIDS and Malaria are on rise in the state. Existing superstitions also block the health care services in the state. Many deny the free service of the sahiya in-lieu of the suspicion regarding the quality of the medicines that are provided free of cost.

Still half of the population is illiterate in the state. Mid-day meal scheme is carried out to pull out idle minds out of the doors of their houses but the results to speak of success are yet to be noticed.

The over exploitation of fossil-fuel is due to the coal mafia active in the state. Despite the state being mineral rich agriculture continues to be the mainstay of the locals here. Jharkhand is the largest producer of lac and lac-cultivation has the potential to aid to the economy of the villagers as it can be carried alongside. Chattisgarh has emerged as the leading producer of lac despite the presence of NINGR (National Institute of Natural Gums and Resins), their policy is needed to be understood. Other allied agricultural activities needs encouragement at the block level that can act as subsistence in case of droughts.

Declining forest belt due to illegal tree felling is alarming due to climate concerns of the day. This is happening due to alleged association of forest officials and mafia that operate together behind the screen.

Illegal land acquiring practices that have been prevailing in the region from time immemorial result into displacement of the original inhabitants, in absence of any legal document to prove ownership. Due to absence of laws, the possible fear reins the minds of locals regarding possible risks after displacement: landlessness, homelessness, food insecurity, increased morbidity and mortality, loss of access of common property and social disarticulation.  Industries are prevented from establishing their foothold in the state due to displacement issues blocks high investment flow, rising employment opportunities and increasing service based sectors. 

The state was carved with rosy dreams for bright future of the tribals. But the slow rate of development presents a picture of sorry state of affairs in the state. 

Many languages are on the verge of extinction for the failure of recording the words and discord on the choice of scripts between the native speakers. The linguistics authorities across the world needs to be alienated and consulted.

Human Rights have been denied to the tribals from a long time by the ‘sadans’ that have settled here. Overexploitation, bonded labour, child-labour continue to exist despite the stern laws that have been enacted off-late. Children of lower background are denied basic rights and are forced to work in hotels, motels and other industries.

From the sports point of view, Jharkhand has promising potential in its youth to act as sport professionals, as evident from the National Games 2011 and sportspersons need encouragement. But media reports that they are harassed by the officials and their job recruitment is delayed often.

The state has undergone a rapid change in the past decade as the old machinery of the then existing Bihar has been uprooted and Jharkhand has recently started functioning from the lower level after the long waited parliamentary elections. The ailing issues of Jharkhand can be dealt only by proper publicizing in the incoming years.

Key Words: Jharkhand,statehood, Arjun Munda,landlessness, displacement, tribal

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Need of political and administrative will for sustainable development

The most quoted definition of sustainable development, since the 1st Earth Summit held in Rio de Janeiro in 1992 in which 182 countries adopted Agenda 21, is -the development that “meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”. In other words - Sustainable development is about striking the right balance between economic development, social equity and environmental protection. For the road transport industry, meeting this objective translates into the challenge of satisfying market demands at the lowest economic, social and environmental cost possible.

Sustainable development is about striking the right balance between economic development, social equity and environmental protection. For the road transport industry, meeting this objective translates into the challenge of satisfying market demands at the lowest economic, social and environmental cost possible.

Sustainable Development

Sustainable Development in a country can be brought about by incorporating needs of common man and environment in the economic and political agenda of that country. It is the government of a country which remains directly responsible for a number of things like-

1. Making policies, plans etc. and conducting various programmes for development;
2. Enactment of laws for the welfare of societies, protection of environment and enforcement of these laws;
3. Making assessment regarding the status of the health of environment, ascertaining the decline in the natural resources, assessing the levels of pollution in its different segments and setting of standards;
4. Evaluating natural resources and their contribution in the development of economy and society;
5. Regulating and monitoring activities of industries, companies etc. towards the good of society and environment.

The above mentioned responsibilities of the government demand strong political and administrative will that are essentially the primary means for developing nations to achieve sustainable development. The politics and administration must consider the balance and repair of the environment and share of common man in environmental resources instead of considering only the development of industries and mega projects of modern development.

The sustainable development calls for empowerment, participation, cooperation, equity, security and long term sustainability for all the people in a society. All of these can only be acquired if the constituent components in politics and administration – the mechanisms, institutions and processes, through which citizens articulate their interests and exercise their rights-, are transparent and accountable. In Indian case, the country has the democratic form of government. It holds parliamentary elections. But at local government level and at the political level too, there are no democratic processes or representative systems. For example, the rural poor have no platform within the public sector to exercise their rights, or to raise objections to the detrimental practices of more powerful individuals such as industrialists, landlords, contractors, influential people, mafias etc.

Political and Administrative will have a key role in meeting the aims and objectives of sustainable development in a country. The economic and political agenda must incorporate the needs of the common man and environment. The political and administration must consider the balance and repair of environment and share of the common man in environmental resources instead of caring for the development of industries and mega projects of development. For development to sustain, it is essential that environment is protected, societies are developed, violence and crime are controlled and basic requirements of common people are fulfilled adequately.

According to a report on the Millennium Development Goals-

“As the new millennium opened, 1.1 billion people had no access to safe water, and 2.4 billion lacked access to improved sanitation – making up one sixth and two fifths of the world’s population respectively. The international community has pledged to halve both these proportions by 2015. If these targets are to be met in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean – taking population increase into account – the number of people served by water supply must increase by 1.6 billion (32 per cent) and those served by sanitation by 2.2 billion (59 per cent). The Global Water Partnership estimates that an additional $30 billion needs to be spent each year – $17 billion of it on sanitation. Policy-makers need to overcome a series of hurdles if they are to bridge the resource gap and make sure that the international targets become reality”.

India, in which political system is unstable, any programme of sustainable development cannot be implemented in full spirit. However, in this country, the rest of social development needs to escalate and economic growth needs to be backed by sustainable development. The Government of India has taken a number of steps for the development of rural poor. It has increased allocation for the social sector in the Union Budget 2008. The ambitious Bharat Nirman Programme aims at strong attempt to enhance rural infrastructure by 30 percent. The Government has earmarked US$ 2.68 billion for rural road scheme to link all villages. One-third seats have been reserved in local bodies like gram or village panchayats, municipalities, city cooperatives and district bodies of the 28, 00,000 elected representatives. In India, 970,000 are women. This figure is greater than the sum of elected women representatives across the world.

Human activities have never been favorable to the environment. The Indian constitution lays emphasis on the harmonious development of nature. Several acts and rules have been framed by the government to protect the environment from the pollution of air, water, land and wildlife. Pollution control boards have been set up at the central and state levels to enforce the implementation of these laws with the cooperation of the local administration. But the lack of political and administrative will has been the basic hurdle in the way of implementing laws. However with the intervention of honorable Supreme Court of India and initiatives from the public, environmental laws are being enforced and violators are being punished in the different parts of the country now.

Key Words:Agenda-21, economic and political agenda, millennial development goal
Image Credit IRU

Monday, February 06, 2012

Haryana Agriculture University to develop new wheat variety

 Wheat crop

Inadequate irrigation resources and changing climatic conditions has been affecting agricultural productivity since long.

Recent projections for the demand of food grains by 2020 are 30 to 35 percent and this can be managed by protecting natural resources like water for irrigation and shrinking land for irrigation.

Scientists have been trying to develop crop varieties that may produce sufficient food grains even in the adverse climatic conditions.

Wheat is grown on more land area than any other commercial crop and is the most important staple food for humans. World trade in wheat is greater than for all other crops combined. Globally, wheat is the leading source of vegetable protein in human food, having higher protein content than either maize (corn) or rice, the other major cereals. In terms of total production tonnages used for food, it is currently second to rice as the main human food crop and ahead of maize, after allowing for maize's more extensive use in animal feeds.

Wheat producing zones of India

Since wheat is main crop, efforts are being made to increase its production in any way. In current conditions scientists are thinking to have such varieties of wheat that can be cultivated in short time, that have resistance to rising temperature and that may have high productivity.

Scientists of Chowdhary Charan Singh University Haryana, India have signed an agreement with National Bureau of Plant Genetic Resources for evaluation of Germ Plasm.

Key Words : agriculture, climatic change, wheat production, Haryana
Photo credit map -krishiseva.com

Efforts to protect State Bird of Rajasthan, India

Concern over globally threatened Great Indian Bustard

Rajasthan Forest Department has planned to survey population of globally threatened Great Indian Bustard, the State Bird of Rajasthan, from February 14, 2012 in technical association with Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF).

The survey is to cover four districts of Rajasthan comprising Jaisalmer, Barmer, Jodhpur, and Bikaner. A village named Sonkalia in Ajmer has been included especially in the survey. It has been reported that the survey is to receive support from local NGOs, individual volunteers and Border Security Force of India.

The Great Indian Bustard is considered to be critically endangered species. The desert region of Rajasthan especially accounts for maximum population of the Great Indian Bustard. The bird has been listed in the Red Data Book of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). As per reports, it has been planned to count the bird in the desert terrain of Rajasthan in the second week of February 2012.

The Great Indian Bustard

Taxonomically known as Ardeotis nigriceps, the Great Indian Bustard has been estimated to be less than 500 in number in India. It is found in the states of Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, and Gujarat besides Rajasthan. The principal reason behind falling number of the Great Indian Bustard has been reported to be hunting, habitat loss, changing pattern of land use and urbanization.

Some of important places in the desert having population of these birds in Rajasthan are Phalodi, Pokhran, Baap, Diyatra, Mohangarh, and Ramgarh. The birds are to be counted in the desert by volunteers astride camels- reports The Hindu (Jan. 31, 2012). The methodologies of counting the bird will be line transect method, i.e. counting of birds from one point to the other point. As per the reports the Thar desert of Rajasthan accounts for maximum population of the bird. These birds are especially found in the Jaisalmer district of the desert. The authorities have included Bikaner for the first time for the census of these birds in view of good chances of availability of birds there.

The status of population of the Great Indian Bustard and its habitat was already discussed in a workshop held in Delhi in the last week of December. It is expected that 80 to 100 birds may be found in Jaisalmer alone. It has been planned to rationalize the territory of the desert by Defense Forces and Oil Exploration Units. Prior to the commencement of the survey workshops have been exposed to be conducted in Jodhpur, Jaisalmer and Bikaner. The methodologies, as per reports, have already been finalized one month before. It is hoped that the current survey will be much more comprehensive than the entire surveys conducted in the past.

The IUCN site states - The Great Indian Bustard (Ardeotis nigriceps) has been uplisted to Critically Endangered, the highest level of threat. Hunting, disturbance, habitat loss and fragmentation have all conspired to reduce this magnificent species to perhaps as few as 250 individuals.

Standing a metre in height and weighing in at nearly 15 kg, the Great Indian Bustard was once widespread across the grasslands of India and Pakistan but is now restricted to small and isolated fragments of remaining habitat.

“In an ever more crowded world, species that need lots of space, such as the Great Indian Bustard, are losing out. However, we are the ones who lose in the long run, as the services that nature provides us start to disappear,” said Dr Leon Bennun, BirdLife’s Director of Science and Policy.This year’s update brings the total number of threatened bird species to 1,253, an alarming 13% of the world total.

Key Words :Great Indian Bustard, Rajasthan,IUCN, disappear, threatened

Image Credit Flikr

Sunday, February 05, 2012

Biological hazards due to ionizing and non-ionizing radiations

High doses of radiations may produce serious consequences in the environment that lead to dangerously hazardous conditions. By radiation hazards in the present context we mean the biological effects of radiations, radionuclides and radioactive fallout. As we know that radiations have been classified into ionizing and Non-ionizing categories, the biological impacts of these radiations are being mentioned here separately.

A. Biological Hazards due to Ionizing Radiations

Various ionizing radiations are electrons, positrons, alpha particles, Gamma rays and X-rays. Some nuclides may affect externally and may cause superficial injury. On the other hand there are nuclides like Beta particles or X-rays that penetrate deeply and cause seriously hazardous effects on skin and tissues. One or more atomic nuclei, identifiable as being of the same element by having the same number of protons and same energy content, are called as nuclides. This term was coined during the mid-20th century. The Biological effects of ionising radiations are mentioned below.

(i). Accumulation in the Critical body organs: These radiations accumulate in the critical organs of our bodies like liver, thyroid gland, spleen, lungs and bone marrow. For example bone and adjacent bone marrow are body organs vulnerable to plutonium, radium, and strontium. Radio Iodine collects in the thyroid gland. 

(ii). Hazards due to Nuclear Fall out: The deposition of airborne radio active contaminants on earth due to nuclear testing, explosions, and war bombing is called as nuclear fall out. It allows the radio active isotopes to join food chains through different media and to accumulate in the vital parts of living bodies.Strontium-90 is the hazardous nuclide which accumulates in high concentration in the skeleton of higher animals for many years. These radiations cause serious injuries and cancers, Leukaemia and the like diseases.

(iii). Hazards due to Long Lived Radioisotopes: The long lived radioisotopes cause most serious hazards in human bodies due to the fact that they persist there for very long periods. Such types of radioisotopes like caesium-137, strontium-90, and plutonium-239, if contained in the radioactive fall out are sure to enter the bodies of humans, animals (both fresh water and marine) and plants through the natural food chains. The fall out of Iodin-131 can be easily detected out of the food chains. This radioisotope emits beta and gamma rays and it can cause thyroid cancer and various types of metabolic disturbances especially in children if absorbed in high doses.

(iv). Major Radiation Injuries in Human Beings: In Human Beings injuries caused due to radioisotopes can be divided into two broad categories – Somatic and Genetic. 

Somatic injuries pertain to the injuries in human bodies, whereas Genetic injuries are Genetic Effects that pertain to the injuries, alterations, translocations, dislocations and mutations of genetic materials like chromosomes, genes and DNAs. These may also include death of cells, alterations in the pattern of cell division, and damage to genes or the Genetic Mutation. 

Mutation is the sudden, permanent and heritable change in the body of an organism due to the exposure of some radiation or effects of some chemicals. Genetic mutation occurs when the form or structure of a gene is changed permanently to produce genetic defects. A disease known as the ‘sickle- cell’ anaemia is also caused by genetic mutation. The Genetic Mutation due to radiations is the nuclear event in which nucleotide sequence of Deoxyribose Nucleic Acid is altered and a new sequence is passed on to the off springs to produce different types of defects in the offspring. 

In fact, Mutation is the genetic event that causes sudden heritable changes in individuals. During 19th century Rutherford had proposed that one element can be transmutated into some other element. The word transmutation relates to a complete transformation of a substance or an element. In the present context radiological mutations can cause a complete transformation of an element thereby making it more harmful to life.

Somatic Effects of exposure to radiations usually occur for shorter periods like the inhibition of cell division. But there are some somatic effects of exposure to radiations that occur years or decades after the exposure of radiation. The radiation induced cancer comes under this category. Still, there are stochastic and non-stochastic types of somatic effects of radiations. The stochastic effects are those for which no threshold dose is known to exist where as the non-stochastic effects are those which occur only in response to the exposure to some considerable dose of radiation, like skin cancer.

Some major examples of the effects of radiations on body organs are- skin injuries, deaths of blood forming cells of the bone marrow, ulcerations of gastrointestinal tract, sterility in men and women, opacity or damage to eye lens, damage to brain and sensory organs, radiation sickness, alterations in growth and development of embryos, incidence of different types of cancers, and shortening of life pawn etc.

B. Biological Hazards due to Non- Ionizing Radiations

The effects of non-ionizing radiations are summarized below-

(i). Effects of visible and Ultra Violet light: The Ultra Violet light contained in the sun light is more intense and hazardous. These rays are highly toxic below the wavelength of 2200 angstroms. The UV rays of these wavelengths are highly absorbed by nucleic acids of cells that are the main constituents of the genetic material. These rays are mutagenic and due to this characteristic these may cause skin cancer on exposure. These rays are also emitted out from mercury vapour, xenon, and hydrogen arc lamps.

(ii). Photodynamic Actions: Light sensitivity causes a number of diseases in animals and also in human beings. Intense light may cause blisters on parts of body exposed to sunlight. This disease is called as hydroa. This disease is caused due to the presence of a light sensitive compound called as porphyrin which remains present in the skin. A number of chemical substances that are synthesized in the skin make cells light- sensitive. These chemicals are called as photodynamic substances and the adverse action of light due to these substances is called as Photodynamic actions. 

Some important photodynamic substances are Rose Bengal, hematoporphyrin, and phylloerythrin. These photodynamic pigments cause several diseases in many of our domestic animals when they ingest plants containing these toxic and fluorescent substances. A disease known as phagopyrism is produced in animals when they eat buck weeds. The disease Xeroderma pigmentosum, which is somewhat a heritable disease, is caused by lesions of nucleic acids produced due to the action of UVlight on exposed skin. The cells that lack nucleic acid essential for repairing nucleic acid lesions (a genetic defect), develop tumours that finally leads to death at an early age.

(iii). Effect on Development: Light has profound effects on growth and spatial orientation of plants. On the other hand the presence of illumination modifies cellular activities in plants. Here is an important example in support of this fact. Some species of blue green algae carry out photosynthesis in the presence of light but the process of cell division stops in that condition. The Chromatophores found in the skins of Chameleons, Frogs and Octopuses can change colour under the influence of light. 

(iv). Effects on Eyes: The wavelength of light which causes sun burn can cause inflammation of the cornea of human eye also. The Ultra violet radiations cause cataracts of the eye lens. This condition originates when the protein of which the eye lens is made up of, is denatured due to the exposure to UV rays. Visual pigments of eye are bleached by large doses of visual and infra red light. This accident is called as sun blindness and it is an irreversible process. Abnormal sensitivity to light causes Photophobia in human beings. It is a condition when reflex movement of the iris and the reflex dilation of the blood vessels of conjunctiva lead to eye-pain. Workers who are exposed to atomic flashes need to wear protective glasses in order to escape conditions like these.

The exposure to radiations may cause permanent damage to life and property. A nuclear reactor accident took place in 1896 in Chernobyl, Ukraine, which killed at least 31 people and forced more than 200, 000 people to vacate and relocate. A number of chemical and radiological accidents, and also a large number of marine accidents have been reported through history that has proved serious hazards from time to time. But, we are not concerned with the discussion about those hazardous accidents as they are covered under disasters.

Key Words :Hazard,ionizing, exposure, radiation, Chernobyl, accidents

Thursday, February 02, 2012

Preservatives Used in Common Food items & their Prescribed Quantities

Chemical substances that are added to food products for their preservation are called as additives. These substances keep the products safe against being spoilt and do not alter their taste. About 3000 chemical substances have so far been approved by the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) for their applications as direct additives. Nowadays, Benzoic acid, Sodium Benzoate, Sulphur dioxide and Sodium metabisulphite are popularly used as food additives. These substances include artificial sweeteners (such as Aspartame and Saccharin), fat replacement agents such as simplesse , colours(FD & C Yellow No-5) that are used in beverages, ice- creams, cereals and other foods.

Additives and preservatives encourage us to keep agricultural produce for longer period. On the other hand they help us in preparing many types delicious items.

Following table presents brief information regarding different edible items prepared and canned for sale in the markets.

Key Words : additives, preservatives

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

The Hindu Photojournalist recieves Cannon Wild Clicks award

Nature Wanderers recently organised an on the spot Wildlife Photography Contest at Kanha National Park, Madhya Pradesh, India from January 26 to 29, 2012.

As many as 36 Photographers participated in the contest. A picture by K. R. Deepak, Special News Photographer of The Hindu, English daily won the “Cannon Wild Clicks” award for his on the spot photography of the “Marching Ants”. Here is the photograph which was published in the January 30, 2012 issue of The Hindu. Let us congratulate the great photographer. 

Nature Wanderers is India’s pioneering organisation of young nature enthusiasts that aims to spread awareness about environmental conservation through innovative means, primarily photography. 

Image : The Marching Ants

Key Words:Cannon, Wild, Clicks,deepak

Photo Credit : The Hindu (30.01.2012)