Book Reviews

Book Review

Indian Mammals-a field guide by Vivek Menon
-Susan Sharma


What is the best present you can give to yourself or a friend who is going on a trip to a National Park?  A field guide on mammals.  Field guides on birds are many, but when it comes to mammals other than the tiger, few authentic and user friendly books are available.The updated field guide by Vivek Menon is  a must have for conservationists, travelers to wildlife areas, schools, libraries and institutions.

Covering the rich diversity of mammal species in India, from tigers, elephants, rhinos and whales to primates, rodents and bats, Indian Mammals is a comprehensive, field-ready and illustrated guide. Accompanied by superb full-colour photographs, supplementary illustrations and distribution maps, and based on impeccable scientific research reviewed by experts, Indian Mammals records details of virtually every mammal known to exist in India. The in-depth, up-to-date text by Vivek Menon, one of India's leading naturalists and an authority on Indian wildlife, describes key identification features, biometrics, behaviour, social strategies, habitat and distribution.


Passionate wildlife watchers will appreciate the range of coverage and tips on identifying mammals, while naturalists will value the exacting detail needed to distinguish similar species in the field. Planned for easy reference, this compact guide is the essential resource for wildlifers of any age, from animal watchers and eco-tourists to active conservationists. Field notes reveal uncommon on-site experiences


Andaman Adventure – Barren Island by   Deepak Dalal



The best gift for your teen aged daughter or son?  Buy her a Deepak Dalal.  He introduces the imaginative and curious minds to the natural world outside through an adventure story which will get them hooked.  

The hilly terrain surrounding a harbour discovered by Lieutenant Blair is today the bustling city of Port Blair, capital of the Andaman Islands. Teen-aged friends Vikram, Aditya and Chitra – recuperating from their adventure in the Jarawa Jungles – discover the charm and history of this colourful island city.

Stumbling on a trail of promising clues, Vikram pursues them, tracking men who had abducted him earlier. But powerful criminals thwart his endeavour and unable to escape their wrath, he is forced to undertake a night-voyage destined for alien shores.

In the remote corners of the Andaman Sea lies an island called Barren. On this uninhabited and forgotten outpost of India, Vikram discovers that it is not just a band of desperate men he must pit his wits against. Primal forces of nature – the very ones that shaped our planet – are at work on Barren, and the smouldering narrative comes to a fiery climax on the island’s lonely shores.

Buy this book at 

(Now at a discount of 10% to the displayed price!)

Burning Issues

Water Bodies in Gurgaon

Water Bodies in Gurgaon
A grim photolog by Susan Sharma

(With inputs from Ashish Shah, Anita Nandkumar and Vivek Kamboj)


The following photographs are a snapshot as on 2nd July, 2014


Badshahpur village pond behind Bhairon Mandir is slowly being encroached by building into this natural lake.  We also understand that a proposal to fill this natural lake and build a community center on it, is under consideration.

The dry natural lake in Gairatbas village, just 3 km before Pathways International School.  A tube well near this lake also went dry.  A second tube well has been dug and pipes are being laid to reach drinking water to the village.  The domestic animals which used to depend on this lake are now left high and dry.

Golf Course Road, existing pond few meters down from the road

Golf Course Road, waterways from across the Road bringing storm water

Golf Course Road, A large water body almost running through the length of the road exists at the lowest point.   This water body is flanked by indigenous trees on both sides.  A proposal is there for constructing an entertainment park by DLF over the area covered by photographs 3,4 and 5. 

Corporates and Environment

"Living in harmony with Nature" season II

"Living in harmony with Nature" season II
-Susan Sharma

The second in our series of planned one day workshops was concluded successfully on 28th June, 2014 in Gurgaon.  

Susan Sharma addressing the participants

The participants heard presentations from leading environmentalists and naturalists.  In a bid to bring the thrust of these presentations to all IWC members, we will  try and put out in a nutshell, the import of these presentations. 

 
Prashant Mahajan from Earth Watch Institute making a presentation.

Earth watch Institute proclaimed their intention to source citizen scientists from IWC members and this was reported in the Gurgaon edition of Hindustan Times the next day.  See a clip here

Report in H.T newspaper dated 29th June, 2014

The details of their citizen science programs in Sirsi(Karnataka) and Manali(H.P) will be uploaded on our website soon as we finalize the details of our partnership.  

In this month's ezine we present to you the power point presentation made by Mr.Manu Bhatnagar of INTACH.   Mr Bhatnagar presented a fascinating case-study of how INTACH managed resurrecting the Hauz Khas lake in New Delhi.  The lake is now a favourite spot for bird watchers looking for local and migratory birds.   His presentation about the possible resurrection of Najafgarh jheel on the border of Delhi and Gurgaon  has been uploaded on slideshare.net and the link is given below.

Manu Bhatnagar making his presentation


A report in Hindustan newspaper attached below, gave special mention about bio remediation and other natural methods of water treatment available today to make sewerage water usable.  

Report in Hindustan dated 29th June, 2014

Environment Education

Rain water harvesting in a leafy London suburb

Rain water harvesting in a leafy London suburb



If its London, it must be raining ! This is the common thought that runs through most people's minds, so then where does the question of rain water harvesting arise?  Rainwater harvesting for me a journalist out of India is meant for countries with fresh water scarcity issues. Obviously that was an ignorant supposition as wasting of valuable rain water can happen anywhere in the world.  
Chatting with a London resident who lives in the leafy  London suburb of Woking, one finds that a system of 'harvesting' the rain has existed for decades here in London and he took me around his 100 year old home in Woking to explain the system.


"In Woking there is a system called a  soakaway where building regulations require you to adequately dispose of stormwater from the building. To try and ensure water is dispersed into the ground evenly and quickly you must consider the use of a soakaway in all homes, according to the council," explains David.

" You must use a soakaway, if design criteria can be met. Discharging stormwater into a drain will only be allowed if soakaways or other infiltration into the soil, methods are not suitable," said David.

So we were curious to know how  do soakaways work? Soakaways store the immediate stormwater run-off to allow infiltration into the adjacent soil. Then, they  must discharge their stored water sufficiently quickly, to provide the necessary capacity to receive run-off from a subsequent storm. The time taken for discharge depends upon the soakaway shape and size and the surrounding soil's capacity to absorb. Soakaways can be constructed in many different forms and from a range of materials .


Interestingly one cannot just build a soakaway without first checking if a soakaway is the most suitable means of disposing of stormwater. That is done by checking if the soil around the building can absorb water; the site is not on filled ground; the site does not slope towards the building and; the water table is not too high already. Other rules are that  soakaways can be sited at least 5m from any buildings and if one is close to boundaries the neighbour should be consulted.

The council gives guidelines which are interesting to read up on, regarding the building of the Soakaway In most cases where the soil drains well, and the roof area is less than 100m2, you will be able to construct an open chamber type soakaway, as follows:

Calculate the roof area to be drained into each soakaway. Then calculate the volume of the soakaway:
Roof area in m2 divided by 40 = Volume of soakaway in m3 (AxBxC)
The volume can then be measured below the incoming pipe and above top of foundation.
The council is particular that the  residents ask for an inspection of the drainage and the soakaway while it is being constructed.


David's soakaway was in the middle of his lawn! Well, if this can be done in London, why ever not elsewhere right?

Events

Basic Gardening Course in Gurgaon

Basic gardening course by AIKGA(All India Kitchen Garden Association)

Date : July 21st to 31st, 2014 
Time : 11 am to 1pm
Venue : Rolie Anshuman's center for English Excellence, Next to JAP diagnostics, Galleria market road, DLF ph 4, Gurgaon 122002
Fees : Rs 1000/-

For further details, please contact Mrs Renu Sood at 91-9810518238  or mail her at renusoodin@gmail.com


Honeybees feast on methi (Fenugreek)  flowers


Do you want to learn how to enrich the soil, the organic way?
Want to learn how to propagate your seasonal plants, fruit trees and shrubs?
Understand basics about landscaping and terrace gardens?
How to take care of pests without using chemicals?

Learn from the experts of AIKGA and Pusa Institute at the Basic Gardening Course, a must for all garden lovers.

Happy gardening!


Grass blue butterfly on nasturium flower

Gardening for wildlife

Organic Farming

ORGANIC FARMING
(This the first of a series of articles on organic farming)

Organic Farming is a method of cultivation done in line with nature. Food, fodder and livestock are raised in an integrated way. Natural balance remains undisturbed even after many years of Organic Farming. In other words, the web of life is integrated which results in conservation of Biodiversity.

Indian farmers were cultivating and “Farm Husbanding” using natural way of cultivation for generations, which are evident from the remains of Mohenjo-daro and Harappa. A typical Indian farmer had a minimum of 50 pairs of livestock. Some of them used to help with the farm activities like ploughing, pulling carts, water lifting and so on. Some of them supplied milk and meat. The farm wastes were converted to farmyard manure. The goats and sheep were their mobile banks (could sell whenever they need instant money). The value of a farmer was estimated with the herd they possessed. The hens gave egg and meat. Vegetable were grown in their backyard. People ate farm-fresh food so remained hale and healthy. There was a network of LIVES. 


With modernization and mechanization we lost our treasure. With the entry of tractors, the farmers preferred to lose cattle. The microbial load of beneficial microorganisms was not fed to the fields. The minimum microbial load present in the Indian soil was killed with the fresh supply of chemical fertilizers which was introduced in the name of Green revolution. 

Over years of advanced agriculture, we lost our traditional varieties which were pest resistant, disease resistant and saline resistant and which could withstand water stagnation and all possible natural vagaries. Yes, OUR rich and varied collection of gene pool was lost as farmers are forced to cultivate short duration varieties and high yielding varieties.
 
A typical field has a good number of insects. There is a mix of beneficial and harmful insects. Beneficial insects include natural enemies, which kills harmful insects. A natural enemy is organisms which kill, harm and cause disease in other living organisms. There are three types - predators, parasites and pathogens. Predators kill other organisms. Parasites enter or attach to the bodies of their victims and feed on their tissues and fluids ultimately kill them. Pathogens are microorganisms which cause diseases. On application of pesticides to the field the farmers’ friend “beneficial insects” are the first where as the harmful insects get resistance to the pesticide and gains resurgence which require higher dose of insecticides to kill them. The pest management was wisely done by encouraging the natural enemies. Cow’s urine was used to manage various crop diseases. Herbal extracts like neem oil and neem based products were used to control pests and diseases. The use of Panchakavya dates back to Vedic era. These methods also helped in multiplication of the microbial load of the soil and made them fertile.


Now it is time to seek old wine in new bottle - The traditional agriculture in the name of Organic Farming. Organic farming uses crop rotations and cover crops which help in balance of nutrient supply. Cover crops and composted manure are used to maintain soil organic matter and fertility. Balanced host/predator relationships were encouraged for pest and disease management without any external factor. Organic residues and nutrients produced on the farm are recycled back to the soil. Organic farming protects the environment, minimize soil degradation and erosion, decrease pollution, and optimize biological productivity. 

Organic Farming is gaining importance to gain back what we lost - A healthy life, a sustainable economy and integrated development. In this age of globalization, an organic certification helps to reach out to the global market. The developed countries consume organic foods but sells to developing countries like India, genetically modified seeds and agricultural fertilizers and pesticides /which they produce. . It is time for us to wake up and get the better of this marketing game. 

(K. Amina Bibi is a Post Graduate in Agriculture with specialization in Plant Breeding and Genetics. She is currently working as Agriculture Officer in Karaikal, Department of Agriculture, Government of Puducherry)





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