November 01, 2007
".......... it makes a lot of sense for conservation movements to use the
public health angle rather than the environment angle, as this has a
direct bearing on people. In a nation, where human lives themselves
are so ’cheap’, animals are perhaps, a ’collateral damage’!........many diseases have been directly linked to deforestation
and bad management of ’development projects’! Some diseases like
Kyasanur Forest Disease, Malaria (especially in NE India) and West
Nile Encephalitis are directly tracable.
MB Krishna (of bngbirds) pointed out about how Ronald Ross worked on
avian malaria. In fact, the role of swamp
malaria has been better worked on in Africa than in India. Many of the
swamps were earlier located deep in forest areas and were hardly
accessible to humans. However, due to rapid deforestation and sudden
exposure to human beings, lethal forms of Malaria are being seen.
I have been regularly going to Arunachal Pradesh over the last few
years, and had the opportunity to see first hand in some of the tribal
communities, the high mortality of Malaria. Most of these are what are
categorized as "Forest Malarias". These are generally acquired in
transit through forests! Also, what is surprising is that the vector,
in this case, Plasmodium fluviatilis, I think) is adapted to breeding
on ’fast breeding streams’, and so the classical public health
measures of covering all stagnant water/kerosenese etc are useless!
This mosquito is probably a forest mosquito, for which humans are
’just another mammal’!
October 30, 2007
Three out of 34 biodiversity hotspots identified globally -Himalayas, Indo-Burma and Western Ghats cover parts of India. The Northeast of India is traversed by the first two. Northeast also houses 21% of Important bird Areas identified nationally.
In recent years biologists have discovered new species of mammals and smaller life forms in this region which is waiting to be fully explored yet.
The region has also been identified as India’s future "powerhouse" and 168 large hydroelectric projects totalling 63,328 MW are planned. The Envronment Impact Assessments done hurriedly and casually ignores the rich wildlife of the area.
Areas known to be having 300 bird species have been dismissed with five species; A river with 135 recorded species finds mention with just 55 species.
The EIA report for the Teesta III project in Sikkim does not have a single mention of the Khanjhenjunga National Park or the biosphere Reserve after a year-long study, even though the project is within a kilometer of the former and is within the latter!
October 29, 2007
"...without bringing America’s underclass into the green movement, it’s going to get nowhere...
The leaders of the climate establishment came in through one door and now they want to squeeze everyone through that same door. It’s not going to work. If we want to have a broad -based environmental movement, we need more entry points.
The green economy has the power to deliver new sources of work, wealth and health to low income people-while honouring the Earth."
-Van Jones, Social Activist, Oakland, Caifornia
October 25, 2007
Solar power could be the world’s number one electricity source by the end of the century, but until now its role has been negligible as producers wait for price parity with fossil fuels, industry leaders say.
Once the choice only of idealists who put the environment before economics, production of solar panels will double both next year and in 2009, according to U.S. investment bank Jefferies Group Inc, driven by government support especially in Germany and Japan.
Similar support in Spain, Italy and Greece is now driving growth in southern Europe as governments turn to the sun as a weapon both against climate change and energy dependence.
Subsidies are needed because solar is still more expensive than conventional power sources like coal, but costs are dropping by around 5 percent a year and "grid parity," without subsidies, is already a reality in parts of California.
Very sunny countries could reach that breakeven in five years or so, and even cloudy Britain by 2020.
"At that point you can expect pretty much unbounded growth," General Electric Co’s Chief Engineer Jim Lyons told the Jefferies conference in London on Thursday, referring to price parity in sunny parts of the United States by around 2015.
"The solar industry will eventually be bigger than wind."
The United States’ second largest company, GE is a big manufacturer of wind turbines and wants to catch up in solar, said Lyons.
October 23, 2007
Observing around the tiny green space around the house can be rewarding for a wildlife lover. Here is something which fascinated me for over two weeks.
Can you make out the pupa on the curry leaves branch? It is shaped and coloured like a curry leaf. The second photo is a close up of the pupa. The third one is the empty pupa.
Though I kept observing the branch everyday for more than 10 days, the butterfly flew away early morning one day leaving the empty cocoon for me to document. I could not verify what the butterfly (the pupa could be that of a moth too) was like, when it spread
its wings and flew away. I am also including the pic of a commonly seen butterfly which sits on the curry leaves tree. May be this is the butterfly whose metamorphosis I witnessed!
See the pics at
October 23, 2007
Following the recommendations of the Ministry of Environment and Forests which made a case for the translocation of tigers to Sariska, the Rajasthan Forest Department decided on voluntary relocation of 11 villages from the core areas in Sariska. Out of these,
four were to be relocated first on a priority basis. There are 17 more villages in the reserve.
Although voluntary relocation of the villages had been tried in Sariska in the seventies, it had not been successful due to various reasons. This time however, the approach was more focussed and Bhagani village was selected to be the first of the four. An
eco-development committee was set up in mid-2006 and by October 2006, every family had given its consent to move out to a better life outside Sariska.
"For a Greener tomorrow," Ashok Kumar (Vice Chairman, WTI) planting a Neem sapling in the new settlement
October 20, 2007
"So as the trees are felled and land cleared of its carbon-stripping units, the earth simmers and mourns the growing loss of creatures that have survived ice ages but not the fatal pincer of man’s insatiable hunger for land, lumber and lips-smacking mammalian
delicacies. As ecologist Richard Corlett noted, many long-studied forests in Southeast Asia have nothing left but deer and boar, and some not at all. And as the elephants, rhinos, orang-utans, gibbons, tapirs and bears vanish, they take with them the future
generations of trees that once relied on these beasts to disperse their seeds and carve new clearings in the jungle where saplings might sprout. "
"Unfortunately, the sun bear’s preferred haunts are also where fine furniture lovers obtain their raw materials, such as Bornean ironwood, a tree so densely built that it sinks and takes nearly a thousand years to reach a harvestable size. With the additional
impetus of biofuels that now drives a crazed and counterproductive frenzy to cover the region with ’climate friendly’ oil palms, the sun bear and its homelands, face a future that is bleak at best and at worst incapable of sustaining advanced life. "
October 18, 2007
Incorporating Nature in Hospitals
Hospitals still need to bring nature into the clinical setting. But there are a few trailblazing institutions as well as people like Becky Pape, CEO of Samaritan Lebanon Community Hospital in Oregon, who have become believers.
Indeed, only a curving bank of ceiling-to-floor glass separates patients undergoing chemotherapy at Samaritan Lebanon’s Emenhiser Center from a 11,250 square-foot Japanese garden. Designed by an award-winning father-and-son team, Hoichi and Koichi Kurisu
of Kurisu International, the garden boasts three gentle waterfalls and mature black pines.
“We now know that exposure to nature is not just a nice thing—it’s essential,” says Pape. “We’ll never build anything the way we did it before when it was all about technology. I’ve been completely converted. Before the garden, I would have bought a CT scanner
or the equivalent with a large sum of money, but now I think we have to marry the technology with an improved environment for patients and staff.”
October 17, 2007
What can bring back the birds?
"Better knowledge about the birds, more green in the city and more parks. If the environment is clean, the birds will be back"
October 13, 2007
Flooding Rivers in India -Why?
We know that the areas classified as flood-prone-defined as area affected by overflowing rivers (not areas submerged because of heavy rains)-has progressively increased over the past decades. It was 25 million hectares (mha) in 1960, which went up to 40
mha in 1978 and by the mid-1980s an estimated 58 mha was flood affected. But importantly, over these years the area under floods increased each year even though average rainfall levels did not increase. In other words, we were doing something wrong in the
way we manage the spate of water so that rivers would overflow each season.
The answer is not difficult to find. In flood-prone areas-from the flood plains of the mighty Himalayan rivers to many other smaller watersheds-the overflow of the river brought fertile silt and recharged groundwater so the next crop was bountiful.
But over the years, we learnt not to live with floods. We built over the wetlands, we filled up the streams that dispersed and then carried the water of the rivers and we built habitations in lowlands which were bound to be inundated. We cut down our forests,
which would to some extent have mitigated the intensity of the flood by impeding the flow of water. All in all, we have become more vulnerable to annual floods.
The current floods are all that, and much more. In recent years, the flood fury has intensified because of the changing intensity of rainfall. The deluge comes more frequently because of the sheer fury of incessant rain, which has nowhere to go. Just last
week torrential rain in villages of Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka killed over 60 people. We know that climate change models had predicted extreme rain events. Is there a connection here?
We know that dam authorities maintain high reservoir levels because of the uncertainty of rains. We also know that when there are intense bursts of rain and levels of water rise to an extent that could endanger the dam, the gates are opened and the water rushes
out. If this flow of water is combined with even more rain in the region, then a deluge becomes inevitable. We know that variability in our rainfall is increasing at the sub-regional level. What then will this mean for the management of our reservoirs in the
future? The question is do we understand the phenomenon of floods?
We don’t. We have no mechanism to be informed of the changing intensity of rainfall; of the increased inflow into our reservoirs and of the water released by dam authorities. The fact is that today’s floods are a double tragedy: of mismanagement of our land
and water combined with mismanagement of science and data.
This mismanagement is criminal. Let’s at least know that.
Source: Editorial by Sunita Narain