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Sunday, September 23, 2007

Words that can influence anyone

While elites in the US and Eupore consider spending billions of dollars in an impossible battle to "stop global warming", millions die from diseases of poverty that could be effectively controlled. - Environment & Climate News

My view: Poverty Eradication should be done along with Sustainable Nature Friendly Development.

Kandasamy - Excellent simple step by a film group

Today while watching TV I saw that a Southern India film producing unit while producing the film "Kandasamy" improved the living conditions two remote villages. This is an excellent deed. While doing that they need to teach the simple environmental awareness (This need not be Global warming, Ozone depletion or Green House Effects) such as avoiding Public Spitting and Public toileting. The unit can also provide these amenities and explain the good things of the clean Environment.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Working with nature By Aparna Pallavi

Twenty years after the glory days of the Green Revolution, the yield from Subhash Sharma’s farm plummeted, even as input costs increased. He switched to organic farming as a last-ditch effort. Thirteen years on, his farm in Yavatmal is flourishing, and has become a model for hundreds of other farmers .

“You can’t hold on to business and still do farming. The two things are enemies of each other. Agriculture is nature; it demands that you give it your all. Then alone will it be bounteous to you. If you have an eye on business, land will never give you anything because you will be robbing the land.”
When Subhash Sharma talks like this you know he is not merely spouting poetry. Because the month is June, when sowing in Maharashtra’s ‘suicide-prone’ Yavatmal district has just begun, and he is standing against a backdrop of lush, healthy crops of pumpkin, chauli beans and tall, delicious-looking corn at his farm in Dorli village. The crops, as Sharma points out with justifiable pride, were sown in April which is certainly not when farmers in water-scarce and scorching hot Vidarbha wish to sow anything at all.
Sharma has seen a lot of ups and downs to arrive where he is. In his early days as a farmer, in the mid-’70s -- the glory days of the Green Revolution -- his 32 acres of land yielded a record crop of 400 tonnes under artificial stimulation from chemical fertilisers and pesticides. But 20 years later, he was struggling under huge debts as yields shrank to 50 tonnes, cultivation costs shot up, and the land became more and more impoverished under those very same chemicals.
“I was very close to breaking point, in 1994, when I got to hear about organic farming and decided to switch to it as a last-ditch effort,” says Sharma. Today, 13 years on, production has peaked to 450 tonnes on the same 32 acres of land. Sharma even leased an additional 35 acres of land three years ago, to better carry out his organic experiments.
Sharma says he owes this dramatic turnaround to a deeper understanding of the dual nature of science. “The science of agriculture I was following earlier was a destructive science, which destroyed life and ecology for profit. The science I am following now is the science of creation, which is in harmony with nature and enriches nature even while it takes what it needs from it.”
According to him, prolonged use of pesticides had killed the soil fauna on his land, and erosion had drained the top soil. “The entire ecology of the farm -- which involves trees, birds, soil fauna like earthworms, ants and termites, along with crops -- had been destroyed.”
To reconstruct this intricate system, Sharma began with two things -- water management and natural manure.
Water management was very important because Yavatmal district is a hilly area and both irrigation and soil quality are affected by rain water run-off. Sharma designed a simple technique to conserve water – planting along contours. As a result of this, the rows of plants in his fields are often undulating, instead of straight. But the advantage is that the plants in every row are at exactly the same height; each row becomes a miniature check-dam. And when it rains, the water collects in shallow trenches between the rows. The excess water that these trenches cannot hold is channelised through small drains into irrigation ditches located at strategic points on the land. Sharma has dug one small irrigation ditch for every acre of land. “First the contour planting reduces run-off, and, in the second stage, the run-off -- both water and soil -- is collected in the irrigation ditch. So, not a single drop of rain or a single grain of soil from the land is allowed to drain away.”
Constant practice of this method of water conservation has raised water levels on Sharma’s land, and the effects are visible. He now gets three crops from his land every year, while in most parts of Yavatmal farmers have just one.
The manure and pest control problems were solved in stages. Initially, Sharma began making organic fertiliser and organic pesticides out of biomass, cowdung and cow urine. But he soon realised that there was a better way of doing it. “Organic farmers usually make vermicompost separately and then add it to the soil, saving the earthworms, whereas nature has provided for earthworms and other fauna to work in the soil itself and enrich it naturally.”
After a while he stopped making fertiliser and instead started turning farm waste and cowdung into the earth directly. Soon, natural soil fauna like earthworms, ants and termites revived in the soil that began to get softer, richer and more porous.
For pest control, Sharma realised the importance of birds on the land. “Farmers believe that birds are harmful for their crops, as they eat the crop,” says Sharma. “But the fact is that birds are valuable agents of pest control as they eat the pests and their larvae. And their droppings also enrich the soil.”
To attract birds, Sharma started planting different kinds of fruit trees on his land. “Farmers today fell standing trees on their land because crops don’t grow under trees. But they miss the point that trees attract birds, hold water in their roots, bring down temperatures, add biomass to the land through shed leaves, and finally also give you a profit in terms of fruits, leaves, wood and whatever else you can harvest off them.”
Unlike chemical inputs, natural processes do not perform just one task, says Sharma. “A bird controls pests and provides manure. An earthworm enriches the soil by breaking down biomass, makes the land porous and helps conserve water, and the slime off its body -- known as ‘vermiwash’ -- controls fungus in the soil. Termites and ants also help break down different biomass, make the land porous, and attract birds that feed on them. And there may be so many other functions that these creatures perform without our knowing. By opting for chemical inputs we destroy these systems, deny all these creatures a right to life, and finally destroy ourselves and our land.”
The rise in production and drop in input costs has also enabled Sharma to find a solution to the labour problem that plagues farmers all over the country. “When a farmer is impoverished, when his input costs are high and returns are low, he resents labour costs and tries to exploit labour,” he says. “I have done that too. But after turning to organic farming I found a unique win-win solution to the labour problem.”
Initially, Sharma used to pay labourers daily wages. But after production soared, his need for labour increased. Unable to find more labour, Sharma started contracting the day’s work out to the labourers at the same wage. The result was amazing. “Work that used to take eight hours was completed in 2.5 hours. The remaining hours were utilised for other work, and, at the end of the day, the labourers took home three times the daily wages and I got all my work done faster, and without having to employ additional labourers.”
Today, Sharma employs 14 families on his land, on a permanent basis. They receive wages worth Rs 50,000 per couple per year, and enjoy free housing, electricity and water. They also get vegetables from the farm all year round, again for free. Apart from these he also has a loyal non-residential labour force of 35 women and 14 men, all of whom take home anything between Rs 90-Rs 100, sometimes more, daily, and are employed throughout the year.
“My cultivation cost for the 32 acres of land is Rs 9 lakh per year, out of which Rs 7 lakh goes towards wages.” It is well worth it, as Sharma’s turnover is Rs 17 lakh.
Significantly, Sharma follows no fixed pattern for cultivation. He rotates crops a lot, and the choice of crops keeps changing. This year, for instance, he planted a combination of corn and tur on 1 acre, in alternation, something he has never done before. “This rotation is important as it keeps the land rich in various elements,” he explains. He doesn’t even plant the same vegetables every year.Farmers who plant cotton should not do so every year, he urges. “The cotton crop has a nine-month cycle and does not allow for rotation if planted every year. Also, it is a demanding crop. Planted every year it leaches the soil”. His suggestion to cotton farmers: Resist greed and take a cotton crop every alternate year, if not once in three years.While Sharma has not made a conscious effort to spread his knowledge, around 3 lakh farmers have already visited his farm, and all day long farmers call him for guidance. Replying to the propaganda that organic farming is not viable for small farmers, he says: “The problem is not with the size of land but with attitude. The government and input companies have created such a paranoia that farmers are now too scared to trust their indigenous wisdom.”
Sharma admits that organic farming takes time to yield results, and for a small farmer it might be difficult to switch to it all at once. “But surely ways can be found to return to nature in stages? But the attitude of the farmer has to change first, and government agencies have to play a big role in this.”
“Land,” says Sharma, “is the source of life for all creatures, and when you co-exist with them, all prosper. But when man arrogates everything to himself, he can’t survive either. Life, you see, sustains life.”
(Aparna Pallavi is an independent journalist based in Nagpur ) - From http://www.infochangeindia.org/changemakers65.jsp

Sethu Project - Environmental Impacts

As a Marine Estuarine Environmental Scientist who did Ph.D thesis research on Chesapeake Bay sediments, I would like my comment on the Sethu Project.

Humans will never learn the effects of the projects they do against nature, before they actually do it. (Best example - Humans thought CFC was a safe chemical until Scientists found it was affecting the helpful ozone layer). Sethu project is another prime example of the previous statement.

The following are few studies done on Dredging in which people are worried about small organisms such as vegetation, seagrasses and eelgrass:

Dredging Effects on Vegetation Adjacent to the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway
Hard clam Mercenaria mercenaria in Cumberland Sound
Dredging effects on seagrasses: case studies from New England and Florida
Dredging effects on eelgrass (Zostera marina) in a New England small boat harbor.

Sethu Project requires more dredging which will affect a whole lot of marine environment.

Mechanical, Noise, Plume Water Quality, Plume Suspended Sediiments Contaminant Pathways for Open-Water Disposal and Plume impacts will be some of the effects.

Indian coasts have a large variety of sensitive eco-systems. Sand dunes, coral reefs, mangroves, seagrass beds 7 wet lands are some that deserve special mention. Some of these are the spawning grounds and nurseries of a number of commercially important fishes, gastropods and crustaceans. A critical feature of these ecosystems are the variety of bioactive molecules that they host.
Recent mining of organisms from the tidal and inter-tidal zone have revealed large numbers of molecules with obvious application for human health and industrial applications. This could be the most commercially important aspect of the Coastal Zone. Molecules that show bioactivity from one ecosystem may not show the same activity, or level of activity, when mined from a different locale or different season. This feature alone should be reason enough for the protection of all such ecosystems, and not only representative isolated units in protected areas / parks.
Considering that Indian waters are of a good quality and that pollutant sources remain relatively confined, the protection of sensitive environments, with adjacent buffer zones should be promptly notified and enforced. Losses of such areas are losses to the common good and future generations.
Sand dunes seem to be ecosystems that are most often destroyed, probably because their place in the scheme of dynamic coastal morphology, is not obvious. Suffice to say that dunes are the reserves that nature stores, dissipates energy on, and moves when needed.

( http://www.teriin.org/teri-wr/coastin/papers/paper2.htm).

Petroleum Exploitation, Fuel Storage, Energy Generation, Industrial and Commercial Development, Ship Breaking operations, waste dumps,. These activities have caused marine pollution - Hugli Estuary is most polluted estuary in the world. Factories from Nabadwip discharge more than half billion liters of untreated wastes a day. However fate and effects of pollutants have not been studied due to poor administrative system. Hoogly river carry effluents that have contaminated fish and shell fish with heavy metals such as Ni, Cu, Cd and Zn. The sediments near Haldia have upto 10 ug/g of pesticides. These river waters are contaminated by e-coli, shigella, salmonella and other human pathogens - indication of severe sewage contamination. The Bay of Bengal has virtually turned into a waste dump. (Protecting the Marine Environment from Land-Based Sources of Pollution ).

All the wastes are transported by water and settle in sediments. Once the sediments are dredged the contaminants will affect the fauna and flora of the Great heritaged Marine Environment of the World.

Dr. Charles Hocutt's (One of My Ph.D thesis supervisor) Scientific Research Paper- Evolution of the Indian Ocean and the drift of India - A vicariant event - clearly indicates that Indian Ocean is poorly known, particularly from a biogeographic perspective.

A first compilation of the type and quantum of pollutants into the coastal ecosystem of India are given below:
Input / pollutant
Quantum - Annual
1.
Sediments
1600 million tonnes
2.
Industrial effluents
50 x 106 m3
3.
Sewage - largely untreated
0.41 x 109 m3
4.
Garbage and other solids
34 x 106 tonnes
5.
Fertilizer - residue
5 x 106
6.
Synthetic detergents - residue
1,30,000 tonnes
7.
Pesticides - residue
65, 000 tonnes
8.
Petroleum hydrocarbons (Tar balls residue)
3,500 tonnes
9.
Mining rejects, dredged spoils & sand extractions
0.2 x 106 tonnes

We have to be very careful in not disturbing the Natural Marine Ecosystem.

Also Read about Dr. Badrinarayanan's interview in the following link:
http://kalyan97.wordpress.com/2007/08/01/492/
My vote on this: No to the Sethu Project. Instead spend on improving the Bay of Bengal and save India.
Makesh Karuppiah, Ph.D
Marine Estuarine Environmental Sciences.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Toxic dump in India

Every minute of the day, in recycling yards across the country, thousands of poor people handle the end products of India 's great IT revolution. When they break open a computer, they are exposed to a lethal cocktail of highly-toxic substances. mercury, lead, cadmium, beryllium, PVC, brominated flame retardants, you name it. Many of these are young children, with no training, no protective gear, and no medical care.
As one of India 's leading IT companies, HCL is contributing a lion's share to this problem, yet refuses to remove toxics from its computers. Instead, it has lied repeatedly about what's in its products, and what it plans to do with them
Greenpeace believes that all this can change. By clicking here to sign a letter , you can send out a message that HCL hears loud and clear, forcing it to stop lying, and start making toxic-free products.
I thank you for joining Greenpeace in the clean-up of India 's IT industry.

G. Ananthapadmanabhan Executive Director Greenpeace India