March 07, 2010
Majuli in upper Assam is the largest river island on the Brahmaputra River . It is a pollution free fresh water island. Total area of the island was 1250 sq.km., now it is about 650 sq.km, having lost significantly to erosion. Only 26 percent of total land
area of Majuli is suitable for cultivation.
In the 16th century a sage called Shankardev founded a new sect of Vaishnavism here, which has flourished healthily in the last five hundred years. Today, the ‘sattras’ play a major role in the religious and social lives of every inhabitant of Majuli. Every
family sends one son to be a monk, usually from the age of six; the belief is that if one son becomes a monk, then the whole family will be blessed by God. With pilgrims flocking here every year in numbers matched only by the migratory birds for which the
island is also a haven, Majuli is known in some circles as the ‘Vatican of Vaishnavism’.
Performed by the monks of the Bhogpur Sattra at the Birla Mandir, New Delhi on 20th February, 2010, the dance clip below, has no song or words but strangely resonates with the uncertain future of this island.
The island today is separated from the mainland of Assam by 2.5 KM. Apart from the ferry connecting Majuli to mainland, an “e-Sethu” or e-governance project of Government of India connects the village to Assam. A wetland, Majuli is a hotspot for flora
and fauna, harbouring many rare and endangered avifauna species including migratory birds that arrive in the winter season. Among the birds seen here are: the Greater Adjutant Stork, Pelican and Whistling Teal. The island is almost pollution - free owing
to the lack of polluting industries and factories and also the chronic rainfall.
A UNDP study reports that the island is under threat due to the extensive soil erosion of its banks. The reason for this magnitude in erosion is the large embankments built in neighbouring towns upriver to prevent erosion there during the monsoon season
when the river distends its banks. The upshot is a backlash of the tempestuous Brahmaputra’s fury on the islet, eroding most of the area. According to reports, in 1853, the total area of Majuli was 1,150 km² and about 33% of this landmass has been eroded in
the latter half of 20th century. Since 1991, over 35 villages have been washed away. Surveys show that in 15–20 years from now, Majuli may cease to exist.
Here is another evocative clip, a dance by Sattriya Dancers of Kalabhumi- one of complete surrender to fate?
September 17, 2009
Sunderbans of West Bengal in India
Sunderbans is the world’s largest delta formed by the river Ganga. Sunderbans comprises 54 tiny lands at present and a number of tributaries of the river Ganga crisscross Sunderbans.
Ghoramara island in the Sunderbans is shrinking due to the rising sea-level. Ghoramara has shrunk from 9 square kilometres to 4.5 square kilometres in the past 30 years as rising sea level and constant erosion of embankment has already uprooted 7,000 inhabitants
leaving another 7,000 in a state of constant fear.
The biggest island, Sagar which hosted refugees from other islands all these years is witnessing massive erosion now. 70,000 people in the 9 sea-facing islands are at the edge of losing land in next 15 years. For these people climate change is real. “Mean
Sea Level”, a documentary made by CSE depicts the threat of erosion the island faces in the wake of rising water levels.
The Union ministry of environment and forests is reportedly preparing measures to protect Sunderbans, the largest mangrove block in the world. According to a report in
Business Standard, short-term and long-term measures for protecting the ecology of Sunderbans would have to be taken.
Venice, which rests on millions of wooden piles pounded into marshy ground, has sunk by about seven centimetres a century for the past 1,000 years.
(According to a study done in 2000 and reported by CNN)
The earth’s natural underground water supplies acted as a cushion that helped slow the city’s sinking.
Venice and its lagoon was added to UNESCO’s World Heritage list in 1987.
The Italian government is spending 4.5bn euro (£2.9bn) on a controversial project to build floodgates across the entrance to the lagoon in which the city stands in an effort to keep the sea at bay.http://travelphotolog.wildbytes.in/#5
February 04, 2008
A holistic view on climate change
There has been much debate about climate change perhaps because we cannot see carbon dioxide when we exhale, or when we burn oil and coal to heat our homes, or use petrol to power our cars or fly planes. We do, however, have scientific instruments that can
accurately measure what we humans produce and the increasing amount of carbon that we are adding to our environment.
The data is irrefutable - carbon dioxide concentrations have been steadily
increasing in our atmosphere as a result of human activity since the earliest
measurements began. We know that on the order of 4.1 billion tons of carbon are being added to and staying in our atmosphere each year. We know that burning fossil fuels and deforestation are the principal contributors to the increasing carbon dioxide concentrations
in our atmosphere. We know that increasing CO2 concentrations has the same effect as the glass walls and roof of a greenhouse. It lets the energy from the sun easily penetrate but limits its escape, hence the term greenhouse gas.
Observational and modeling studies have confirmed the association of increasing CO2 concentrations with the change in average global temperatures over the last 120 years. Between 1906 and 2005 the average global temperature has increased 0.74 degrees C.
This may not seem like very much, but it can have profound effects on the strength of storms and the survival of species including coral reefs.
Eleven of the last 12 years rank among the warmest years since 1850. While no one knows for certain the consequences of this continuing unchecked warming, some have argued it could result in catastrophic changes, such as the disruption of the Gulf Steam
which keeps the UK out of the ice age or even the possibility of the Greenland ice sheet sliding into the Atlantic Ocean. Whether or not these devastating changes occur, we are conducting a dangerous experiment with our planet. One we need to stop.
The developed world including the United States, England and Europe contribute disproportionately to the environmental carbon, but the developing world is rapidly catching up. As the world population increases from 6.5 billion people to 9 billion over the
next 45 years and countries like India and China continue to industrialise, some estimates indicate that we will be adding over 20 billion tons of carbon a year to the atmosphere. Continued greenhouse gas emissions at or above current rates would cause further
warming and induce many changes to the global climate that could be more extreme than those observed to date. This means we can expect more climate change, more ice cap melts, rising sea levels, warmer oceans and therefore greater storms, as well as more droughts
and floods, all which compromise food and fresh water production.
The increase in population coupled with climate change will tax every aspect of our lives. In a world already struggling to keep up with demand, will we be able to provide the basics of food, clean water, shelter and fuel to these new
citizens of Earth? And will governments be able to cope with new emerging
infections, storms, wildfires, and global conflicts?
So is there any way of avoiding these apocalyptic visions of the future coming
true? Many have argued that we simply need to conserve, to alter and regress our standard of living and block the industrialisation of developing countries. In
my view this is extremely naive thinking. Furthermore, even the most optimistic models on climate change show a dramatically altered planet Earth going forward even if we embrace all alternative options such as wind and solar energy, and electric cars. Our
entire world economy and the ability of modern society to provide life’s basics, depend on the very industrialisation that contributes to our possible demise.
Yet, sadly, very little thinking, planning or projections about how to cope
with the carbon problem and climate change have taken into account the
capabilities of modern science to produce what we have long needed to help solve these global threats.
It is clear to me that we need more approaches and creative solutions. We need new disruptive ideas and technologies to solve these critical global issues. This is where, I believe, biology and genomics, come in.
Source: Excerpts from the annual Richard Dimbleby Lecture on BBC on (Tuesday 4 December 2007) by Dr J Craig Venter
January 21, 2008
Organic farming combats global warming
Data from The Rodale Institute’s®
long-running comparison of organic and conventional cropping systems confirms that organic methods are far more effective at removing the greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide, from the atmosphere and fixing it as beneficial organic matter in the soil………..
The key lies in the handling of organic matter (OM): because soil organic matter is primarily carbon, increases in soil OM levels will be directly correlated
with carbon sequestration. While conventional farming typically depletes soil OM, organic farming builds it through the use of composted animal manures and cover crops………
"Agriculture and forestry are a very potent sink--they will make the emissions problem easier to get a handle on,”
Organic farming for carbon capture is also compatible with other environmental and social goals such as reducing erosion, minimizing impact on native
ecosystems, and improving farmer livelihoods.
December 12, 2007
The poor of the world are providing breathing space to the world
"We believe India must take a proactive and leadership position on the issue of climate change. It is also important to assert the linkages between increasing weather disasters and climate change. It is clear that while we will never be able to make absolute
predictions or direct correlations between events that we see around us and the warming that is now inevitable, there is enough evidence to make connections. For instance, we know that climate change will lead to intensification of tropical cyclone events,
like the one in Bangladesh, which has devastated the lives of millions in that country. We also know that rainfall in our world will become more variable – devastating for people dependent on rainfed agriculture. We can already see the rapid melting of glaciers
(http://www.downtoearth.org.in/cover_nl.asp?mode=1), which will threaten water security in large parts of the country.
Biofuels are being touted as the new panacea for climate problems. All the biofuel in the world will be a blip on the world’s total fuel consumption. In the us, for instance, it’s agreed that if the entire corn crop is used to make ethanol, it will replace
only 12 per cent of current gasoline—petrol—used in the country.If we factor in fuel inputs that go into converting biomass to energy—from diesel to run tractors, natural gas to make fertilizers, fuel to run refineries—biofuel is not energy-efficient. It is
estimated that only about 20 per cent of corn-made ethanol is ‘new’ energy. This reckoning does not account for the water it will take to grow this new crop. There are fears that rainforest might be cut to expand biofuel crop cultivation; this will contribute
substantially to climate change.
So how should biofuel be used to reduce greenhouse gas emissions? Any strategy must be founded on an understanding that biofuels aren’t substitutes for fossil fuels, they can make a difference if we limit our fuel consumption. If that’s the case, governments
should not give subsidies to grow crops for biofuel. They should, instead, invest in public transport that will reduce the number of vehicles on roads. Biofuels should be just for public buses and only if cars get off the road
Biofuels could be a part of the climate solution but only if they are used to help the world’s poor to leapfrog to a non-fossil fuel-based energy future. The poor are today providing the world its only real opportunity to avoid emissions. For, the bulk of renewable
energy -80 per cent-is the biomass-based energy used by the poorest to meet their cooking, lighting and fuel needs.
So, the opportunity for a biofuel revolution is not in the rich world’s cities to run vehicles-but in the grid-unconnected world of Indian or African villages, where there is a scarcity of electricity for homes, and generator sets to pump water and to run
vehicles. It here that fossil fuel use will grow because there is no alternative. Instead of bringing fossil fuel long distances to feed this market, this part of the world can leapfrog to a new energy future. The biofuel can come from non-edible tree crops-jatropha
in India, for example-grown on wasteland.
The irony is that it is the poor in the world who provide us breathing space today. Currently, about 80 per cent of renewable energy is biomass based energy used by the poorest to meet their cooking, lighting and fuel needs. This also provides us the opportunity
for a biofuel revolution – reinventing the energy options for millions who are still unconnected to the fossil fuel grid (http://www.downtoearth.org.in/cover_nl.asp?mode=9). In this challenge,
our forests can be critical players – planting trees to provide employment, which will also absorb carbon dioxide and increase the sinks for our emissions (http://www.downtoearth.org.in/cover_nl.asp?mode=10).
November 16, 2007
This week, November 2007, a massive storm swept into the Black Sea, sinking dozens of ships and breaking apart a Russian oil tanker. Over 1,890,000 litres of thick fuel oil was spilled and initial reports suggest some 30,000 birds may have been killed. Thousands
more are covered in oil and face death in the coming weeks.
Over 50 kilometres of Russian coastline are impacted by this oil spill, including critical habitat for migrating and wintering birds.
November 03, 2007
Carbon Neutral Search Engine
Google search engine on a black screen? Ji Hain, it serves a great environmental purpose.
The site http://www.carbonneutralsearch.co.uk/ utilizes Google search engine and is in fact no different. However, according to the site, the amount of energy used on each individual computer generated
from search queries equates to about one gram of carbon dioxide.
So the premise of the website is that any revenue generated from Google queries on their ’Carbon Neutral Search Engine’ will go to purchase carbon offsets. The website has openly chosen to use ClimateCare.org, a UK based company that allows people from all
over the world to purchase carbon offsets and puts the money towards funding sustainable energy projects. The idea is a great one and should be remembered by all those self proclaimed environmentalists there.
As for other environmental bloggers out there,
"We offer websites the opportunity to enhance their listings on the Carbon Neutral Search Engine by either writting about us on their website or blog (subject to Carbon Neutral Search Engine reviews). If you do please forward the details to
firstname.lastname@example.org. You may also receive a listing in our "In the Media" section of this blog."
if you write about the website and let them know you’ve done so, they will enhance your listing in there search engine. It could result in more traffic to your environmental website if you have one. Besides that, make sure you check it out the next time
you have a search, it goes to a great cause and will provide an extra boost to battling climate change.
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 07, 2007
For 15 years, Chewang Norphel, a retired civil engineer of Ladakh, has been building "artificial glaciers" to make life a little easier for the hard working but poverty-stricken farmers of Ladakh. He uses a network of pipes to capture and channel precious
snowmelt that would otherwise be wasted. First, water from an existing stream is diverted through iron pipes to a shady area of the valley. From there, the water flows out to a sloping hill at regular intervals along the mountain slope. Small stone embsnkments
impede the flow of water, creating shallow pools. During the winter, as temperatures drop, the water in these pools freezes. Once this cycle has been repeated over many weeks, a thick sheet of ice forms, resembling a glacier.
Norphel says an artificial glacier scores over a natural one in many ways. " It is closer to the village and at a comparatively lower altitude. "
Norphel can be contacted at Tel: 01982-252151
September 18, 2007
"Each new moon, families in Kanhapur, a coastal Orissa village start packing up. Over the years, the sea has come dangerously close to the villages, swallowing half the houses, forcing people to migrate to higher ground.
Though exact scientific studies are yet to be undertaken, these could well be one of the world’s few ’climate refugees’. They could be paying the price for somebody else spewing carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
Land records show the march of the sea: In 1930, the Satabhaya cluster of seven villages had an area of 320 sq.km; in 2000, it is shown as just 155 sq.km.
Read the full story at Source: