Press on Environment and Wildlife
River-link cloud on monsoon ‘engine’ (March Week 3 (2006)) Interlinking India’s rivers on a massive scale might raise salt concentration in the Bay of Bengal and tinker with the “engine” that drives the monsoon, atmospheric and environmental scientists have said.
Freshwater from the Ganga, Brahmaputra and the Mahanadi flowing into the Bay of Bengal plays a critical role in intensifying monsoon activity by maintaining low salt levels in the layer of water in the top 20 metres of the bay.
Canals between rivers might reduce freshwater discharge into the bay, raise salinity (salt level) and affect monsoon rainfall, said Vedharaman Rajamani, professor at the school of environmental sciences at Jawaharlal Nehru University.
“The low salinity in the Bay of Bengal sustains convection, which is the engine for the monsoon,” Rajamani said. The low salinity leads to relatively higher temperatures at the sea surface, which stimulates convection and cloud formation. Increased salinity would mean lower sea surface temperatures and lower potential for cloud formation, which might mean less rain.

“We can’t say with 100 per cent certainty that this will happen. Nor can we say it won’t happen,” he said. “Physics tells us some impact is likely. We need to simulate in computer models how river links will change rainfall.”
Since the 1960s, successive governments have been evaluating proposals for connecting rivers through a complex network of canals that would transfer water across river basins and reduce the flow of river water into the sea.
The ministry of water resources has been engaged in preparing feasibility reports on proposed links between several rivers — Mahanadi-Godavari, Ganga-Gandak and Ganga-Damodar, among more than a dozen others. Last year, Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh signed an agreement for preparation of a detailed project report on the Ken-Betwa link.
Scientists, however, caution that not enough is known about the monsoon to predict its behaviour under reduced freshwater flow into the Bay of Bengal.
“Less freshwater discharge could indeed increase salt concentration and lower temperature. But to assume that this will also reduce the rainfall is a huge jump with a hypothesis,” said Debasis Sengupta, an atmospheric scientist at the Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore.
Sengupta said “common-sense physics” does suggest that the lower the sea surface temperature, the lower the convection and the lower potential for clouds and rain.
“However, the region with the deepest and most persistent cloud is not always the region with the highest sea surface temperatures, he added. “In a system as complex as the monsoon, common sense may not apply.”

SOURCE : The Telegraph, Wednesday, March 29, 2006
Farmers turning to organic farming (March Week 3 (2006)) In recent years human health has been affected by chemically contaminated food items, hence developed countries have started encouraging organic farming.
Today organic agricultural products market exceeds 35 million dollars. In our country also many NGOs and progressive farmers have taken up organic farming and have registered a profit of Rs 71.23 crore during last year through export. Organic farming is being taken up in 38,000 hectares. As people are becoming more health conscious, the demand for chemical-free organic products is increasing. Organic produce fetch higher prices than chemically grown products.
More than 7,000 members have registered in Organic Agriculture Producers Co-operative Association. The organic market will be developed in Bangalore’s JP Nagar and Indira Nagar and government has allocated RS 2.5 crore.
In north India many NGOs are providing training on organic farming to farmers. In Rajasthan Morarka foundation a NGO has created a revolution as more than 10,000 farmers have taken up organic farming.
In Shekavathi district alone, more than a thousand farmers have registered with Morarka foundation, and in Badavasi village of Junjhunu district, it is mainly the women who have taken up organic farming.
Vasanth, an organic farmer from Bangalore, had made a trench to prevent chemicals from entering into his land from nearby farms during rain. He said he is getting good returns despite deep price fall of agri-products. He said Bangalore-based ‘Phalada Foundation’ is helping farmers to interact with foreign buyers from European countries including the Netherlands.
Many foreign buyers have visited Vasanth’s estate. He said that organic turmeric is helpful for digestion, blood circulation and has disease resistance power.
It is also being used to treat cancer. He said he produces organic manure by farm wastes. He has also prepared pesticide out of 32 herbs and panchagavya. He said by using this he has controlled many pests. He said he has planned to make turmeric powder packets and to sell it locally.
For more details about organic farming call Vasanth on 944822028.
SOURCE :, Monday, March 27, 2006
Time lauds Delhi environmentalists (March Week 3 (2006)) Sunita Narain and Bhure Lal, credited with cleaning up Delhi's air and help build the world's cleanest transport system, are among top environmentalists worldwide whose efforts have been highly commended by the Time magazine.
The magazine notes it was a lawsuit filed by Narain, Director of the Centre for science and Environment, in mid-1990s to force Delhi's buses, taxis and rickshaws to convert to cleaner compressed natural gas (CNG) fuel that set the ball rolling with the Supreme Court largely ruling in her favour.
"But busmakers and oil companies, supported by government ministers, objected loudly. So the court formed a committee led by Lal and Narain, to enforce its judgment," Time writes.
And it was largely due to their fight that the last diesel bus had left Delhi by December 2002 and 10,000 taxis, 12,000 buses and 80,000 rickshaws were powered by CNG.
Recalling the days when they began the struggle, Narain, told the magazine that air pollution was taking one life per hour.
"The capital was one of the most polluted on earth. At the end of the day, your collar was black and you had soot all over your face. Millions had bronchitis and asthma," Lal, who was then a senior government administrator said.
They do not claim to have slowed the global warming but their efforts have attracted advice from as far away as Kenya and Indonesia, according to Time.
"Delhi leapfrogged. People noticed," Narain said.

SOURCE : The Indian Express, Monday, March 27, 2006
Medha seeks rehabilitation of displaced (March Week 3 (2006)) Leading social activist Medha Patkar’s fight against the construction of the Narmada Dam and the demand for complete rehabilitation of those affected by the Sardar Sarovar Project received support from 10 MPs belonging to different political parties on Friday. These MPs urged Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to “intervene and reverse the illegal decision of the Narmada Control Authority to raise the height of the dam”.
Ms Patkar, in the Capital with hundreds of affected tribal families, has been demanding the stopping of the “illegal dam construction” at Sardar Sarovar, full rehabilitation measures, including land-for-land for affected families, besides a complete review of the draft of the National Policy for Rehabilitation of Project Affected.
Meanwhile, talking to The Tribune, Ms Patkar, who led the dharna at the Shram Shakti Bhavan, the headquarters of the Ministry of Water Resources here, said the entire decision to raise the height of the dam had been based on false action-taken reports.
“It is obvious from documents that resettlement and rehabilitation of thousands of families below 110 and 122 metres is not yet complete and false ATRs have been submitted,” she said, adding that the ATR that said that families had rejected the land hence cash had to be given and became the basis for clearing the dam height was also not true.
Demanding immediate stop to the dam construction at Sardar Sarovar, she said till date as many as five crore had been displaced due to various dam projects in the country.
“Surely there are better ways to ensure development in the country,” she said, demanding a clear-cut policy for the rehabilitation of all those who were displaced due to development projects, whether urban or rural, in the country.
The NAC had not taken various movements and organisations into confidence when the modified draft policy with amendments was forwarded to the Prime Minister, she said demanding the consent and not just consultation of the gram sabha in an affected village as a pre-condition for any project.
“Those who lose land for a development project, whether irrigation or mines or infrastructure, should be compensated with land. It should not just be limited to an irrigation project.

SOURCE : The Tribune, Monday, March 27, 2006
Village women save big cats (March Week 3 (2006)) Tiger conservationists in the country have found assistance from local women of areas around some of the tiger reserves. These determined women are giving a tough fight to tiger hunters and poachers.
Vasant Sena in the Periyar tiger reserve is just one example of how women can help check poaching and hunting of big cats.
The Vasant Sena, that was formed a couple of years ago with only six women, now has 100 members. These women patrol the forest reserve to keep hunters at bay. Even during the festivals the patrolling continues.
The Kalakad-Mundanthurai reserve in Tamil Nadu is witnessing a similar drive. The local women in the Kanha wildlife sanctuary in Madhya Pradesh do more than just patrolling. They also assist people in availing financial help under schemes run by the Centre and the State government to keep them away from hunting/poaching.

SOURCE : Deccan Chronicle, Monday, March 27, 2006
Thermal Power Plants cause Smog and Haze (Issue of the week, March Week 2 (2006)) The Indian Express published details from a joint study conducted by the Indian Institute of Technology-Kanpur (IIT-K) and the George Mason University in USA recently puts thermal power plants in the dock for causing air pollution leading to dense fog, smog and haze.
Based on NASA’s satellite data, the results of the research were carried by the leading international journal, Geophysical Research Letters published by the American Geophysical Union, on Tuesday.
‘‘These coal-based power plants use thousands of tonnes — upto 40,000 tonnes per day — of very low-grade coal with 30-45 per cent ash content, which is a major source of carbon emission in the air,’’ said Professor R P Singh of the department of civil engineering at IIT-K, a co-author of the research paper.
Uttar Pradesh alone has 35-40 such thermal plants, all located around the Gangetic basin. According to Singh, the Gangetic basin and South India together account for more than 89 plants with over 100-MW capacity. Some of them even produce over 2000-MW of electricity.
As per the law, these plants need to use ‘‘electrostatic precipitator filters’’ to restrict emission of carbon particles in the atmosphere. But it is not sure whether these filters are effective enough to control the emission.
‘‘It is also suspected that the concerned authorities don’t ever check these filters or get them replaced from time to time,’’ said Singh.
While the density of power plants is high along the Gangetic basin, the Himalayas and Vindhyachal mountains also act as a barrier, leading to accumulation of pollutants in the area.
‘‘Due to this, the region suffers dense haze, fog and smog. These then lead to poor agricultural production, health hazards and depletion of ozone layer over the sub-continent. While this affects the whole of the Indian population, the 600 million people living in the region are especially hit,’’ said Singh. The brick kilns concentrated in the basin add to the carbon emission.
Singh pointed out that while the Japanese government had banned such power plants, India, on the other hand, was planning to set up five more thermal plants.
The research also counters the perception that biofuel-cooking in UP and Bihar, beside automobile emissions, are responsible for the air pollution.
Giving details of the studies taken up in the last five years, Anup Krishna Prasad, a PhD student and co-author of the research paper, pointed to the comparitive data provided by NASA on the emissions caused by power plants and other sources.
‘‘It was shocking to find that the emission from power plants was more than the total of various other emissions,’’ he said.
Emission data for around 89 power plants collected during the research indicated that the plants in UP and Bihar were emitting maximum pollutants as compared to plants in South India due to the lower topography and wind pattern in the Gangetic basin.
Prasad added that the Panki power plant, located around 4 km from the IIT-K campus, has an adverse effect not only on the institute but the whole of the city. ‘‘The combustion of 3,300 tonnes of low-grade coal daily leads to concentration of carbon for upto 30 km. The problem becomes more severe during winter,’’ he said
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