All posts by vijikumari

BEAT THE PLASTIC POLLUTION

It’s not unusual for us to wake up to news of yet another instance of the environment bearing the brunt of human negligence. The latest being reports of a whale dying in southern Thailand after swallowing over 80 plastic bags.

It shouldn’t be news to us that the use of plastic poses a major threat to the environment. Plastic bags have been banned time and again in several countries, including India, but the problem is far from resolved. United Nations has declared “Beat Plastic Pollution” as the theme for this year’s World Environment Day, which is celebrated across the world on June 5. This time around, people from various walks of life have joined hands and pledged to beat the plastic bully. Celebrities Alia Bhat, Arjun Kapoor, Prakash Raj and Dia Mirza have been tagging their friends on social media, asking them to take up the #BeatPlasticPollution challenge and stop using plastic. Arjun and Alia have even posted pictures of themselves using environment-friendly water bottles.

 

What makes today even more special is that India has been selected as the global host for this year’s World Environment Day celebrations, and Hyderabad is leading the way in raising awareness about the cause. United Nations India has acknowledged as much in its tweet — “India is on track with cities like #Cochin, #Hyderabad & #Nagpur leading the way towards sustainable #SmartCities. I encourage India to keep this momentum going: @ErikSolheim, Head, @UNEnvironment with @HardeepSPuri. #WorldEnvironmentDay #BeatPlasticPollution (sic).”

The Government of Telangana is committed to protecting the environment from further damage. Talking about its plans and initiatives in this regard, K.T. Rama Rao, the Minister for IT, Industries, Municipal Administration, Mines and Geology, and NRI Affairs, says, “Apart from hiring 20 electric vehicles, around 45,000 lakes in the state are being cleaned and restored. The government is determined to make Hyderabad a plastic-free city by 2022.”

But there’s only so much the government can do on its own. It requires the cooperation of citizens to bring its plans to fruition. And people do seem enthusiastic about the #BeatPlasticPollution challenge. Ravadi Kantha Rao, the man behind Shubhra Hyderabad, is organising a special clean-up drive on World Environment Day. “Our whole movement is in sync with this year’s theme of #BeatPlastic Pollution, and we are all geared up. 30 volunteers have already registered for the June 5 drive, and that number will increase, for sure,” he says. Rupam Kumar, another environmental activist from the city, plans to do seed bombing — throwing seeds at random places and allowing nature to take its course.

Water conservationist Kalpana Ramesh has come up with an indigenous way to contribute to the protection of the environment — by only using recycled water for her rooftop garden. “My family uses over 150 litres of water every day, and we make it a point to recycle every drop. My house is also equipped for rain-water harvesting. So there’s no wastage and no need to source additional water either,” she says.

These are just a few of the simple things that people are doing to create a positive impact. What change are you promising to make today?

courtesy      Deccan Chronicle

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THE HAND WINGED ANIMAL

We don’t yet know the precise role of bats in the Nipah outbreak

Most bats fly high/ Swooping only/ To take some insect on the wing; But there’s a bat I know/ Who flies so low/ He skims the floor; He does not enter at the window/ But flies in at the door. In his poem, ‘The Bat’, Ruskin Bond recounts the tale of a ‘crazy’ bat — albeit a fairly benign one — that made itself cosy at the foot of his bed on a lonely night in Mussoorie.

But ‘benign’ is certainly not the reputation bats have: superstition has them down as bad omens; science has proven they are carriers of disease — they are linked to the spread of SARS in China, MERS in Saudi Arabia, Ebola in Africa, and most recently debated as the possible cause of the Nipah outbreak in Kerala; the Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, lists them largely as vermin. And blood-drinking Dracula hasn’t helped the creature’s cause.

The bat is something of a chimera: it has wings like a bird, the furry face of a mouse, it often flies zigzag or flits giddily like a moth. It belongs to the taxonomic order ‘Chiroptera’, derived aptly from the Greek words for ‘hand’ and ‘wing’.

Thinning dwellings

I’ve been spooked by bats too, mostly because their movements are so inscrutable. While looking for a white barn owl perched on a lamp-post in Delhi one night, I was startled by a large flying fox that swooped down from the sky, it’s membranous wings translucent against the street light. I was convinced it was coming for my face, though of course, the frugivore was headed for a fig tree behind me.

India has no less than 128 species of bats — yet very little is known about their population status, their behaviour, or their role in the spread of zoonotic disease. Most species are listed as ‘data deficient’ in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. What we do know, however, is that many species are likely under enormous threat.

For instance, found in just one cave in a Karnataka village, the Kolar leaf-nosed bat is threatened by granite mining. Because of its very small range and a population of 200 or less, it has a high risk of extinction and is classified as critically endangered in the Red List. Salim Ali’s fruit bat, which also has a very small range in the tropical forests of the Western Ghats, is classified as endangered.

Research has shown that bat diversity has reduced in Delhi. Species once found in the crevasses of old buildings and in the Humayun’s Tomb complex are no longer found there. Humayun’s Tomb used to be known for its colony of Megaderma lyra, or the greater false vampire bat, distinguished by its long ears. And once found in several old buildings was the Tadarida aegyptiaca or the Egyptian free-tailed bat, which feeds on insects while in flight or while crawling on the ground with equal ease.

“Neither species is easily spotted in Delhi anymore,” says Sumit Dookia, Assistant Professor, University School of Environment Management, Guru Govind Singh Indraprastha University. Today, there are only four generalist bat species that remain in Delhi, he says: the fruit-eating Indian flying fox and the Leschenault’s rousette; and the insectivorous greater Asiatic yellow bat and the least pipistrelle bat.

Apart from habitat loss, bats are also prone to fatally colliding with wind turbine blades — and several wind power projects are coming up in India, particularly in Gujarat and in the Western Ghats. Greater mouse-tailed bats have been reportedly killed by wind turbines in Kutch. Concerns have also been raised about turbines impacting the movement or local migration of bat flocks.

Natural history has largely overlooked bats. As for the Wildlife Act, it names just two bat species for protection — Salim Ali’s fruit bat and Wroughton’s free-tailed bat. The Act does not name other bat species except the generic ‘fruit bats’, which are listed in Schedule V, where they find themselves in the company of ‘vermin’ such as common crows, mice and rats — species that can be legally removed or killed. Fortunately though, as bats are considered ‘wild’ animals, they must, at least in protected areas, remain protected and cannot be driven out, unlike feral dogs or buffaloes.

The only instance the animal got its due in terms of formal conservation was when Karnataka declared the Bhimgad forest a sanctuary to protect Wroughton’s free-tailed bat.

More than spooks

But much remains to be done. Bats, after all, provide huge ecological and economic services, says bat biologist Rohit Chakravarty. “Without insectivorous bats, farmers would lose billions to pest insects. Fruit bats are also important pollinators and seed dispersers in tropical forests. For example, the durian is mostly pollinated by bats.”

Chakravarty, like many others, believes that bats must be removed from the vermin list, because their populations could take time to recover from losses. “Bats are long-lived, slow-breeding species. A small 5 gm insectivorous bat is capable of living up to 30 years and gives birth to one or two pups a year. So, killing them indiscriminately can wipe out large chunks of their populations.”

Several organisations have recently asked for environmental impact assessments of wind energy projects, with a focus on impact on bats. Chakravarty adds, however, that we also need to find an urgent, cost-effective solution to mitigating fruit damage by fruit bats in orchards.

It is not yet clear if bats are responsible for the Nipah outbreak. While some bats have been tested — and found free of infection — those were insectivorous bats, not fruit bats. Further testing, and a greater understanding of the movement history of infected people, should bring clarity.

In his 1902 book The World of Animal Life, Fred Smith describes bats as ‘hand-winged animals’, ‘rendering good services to farmers’ by eating pests. It is a 117-year-old reminder that bats are in dire need of conservation focus; and that they deserve adjectives far better than ‘spooky’.

The writer is a wildlife conservationist with Bombay Natural History Society.

COURTESY    THE HINDU

FULL OF BEANS

Grown in hundreds of varieties across the map, beans are India’s most underrated comfort food

Beans — rich, versatile, magical — have inspired countless stories, proverbs, idioms, slang and analogies. They can be had as soup, as an accompanying dish, with bread, rotis , puris , rice, noodles, tacos… or simply as a bowl of comfort food (aka the Buddha bowl). The diversity begins long before these protein powerhouses reach your kitchen counter: varieties of this crop, as they are sown in different parts of the country, are more than you can count.

Well-loved rajma, chickpeas, lentils, and soyabean are what we come across in our day-to-day life. But there is a huge repertoire of beans that India consumes: butter beans, lablab ormochai, moth ormatki, rice beans, winged beans, velvet beans,yongchakbeans…

Under each of these varieties are yet more varieties, which vary as per the soil where it is grown. What is sad, though, is that several have never been documented: people continue to use local names for them, or name them based on the district or village they are grown in.

Try this: one of the most common israjmaor kidney beans. A quick check at any market reveals three-four varieties, with small Kashmiri rajma the choicest. Butrajmais actually available in at least 120 varieties in Uttarakhand alone: from white, light coloured, speckled, maroon, brown to luscious, dark purple.

Rajma from Chakrata is among the best: light coloured, it swells to three times its size when soaked in water and boils in a few whistles of the pressure cooker. It is soft and delicious. The Munsiyari one is different from Supi, which is white.

Sikkim has around 34 varieties of beans, with seven varieties of rice bean alone, and 14 of French beans. The Northeastern states have over 70 different varieties. Several are used as seeds after they mature, others are used both as a vegetable and as a seed.

Devender Singh Negi, Centre Incharge, State Training and Research Centre for Organic Farming in Majkhali, Uttarakhand, elaborates, “In Uttarakhand, according to the shape of the plant, beans can be divided into two parts: dwarf and vine. Mature pods are used as pulses.”

The state is also home to the remarkable naurangi beans. Negi adds, “ Naurangi is a rice bean, also called titriyal dal , jhilingya , jhalugu or navrangi locally. This crop is of nine colours of grains. The scientific name is vigna umbellata .” The bean is used along with kidney beans in stuffed paranthas, or what is called daal ki bhari roti , in the Garhwal region.

The North-East is prolific in the types of beans found. Rice bean is commonly used to make chutneys, soups, and of course, dals . It is combined with fish and meat, though very little spices are added.

In Rajasthan and Maharashtra, matki dal or moth dal is more popular. Food blogger Nisha Madhulika says, “It’s a speciality food from Rajasthan and is mostly grown in the north-western part of the state. Moth is mostly eaten in Rajasthan.” So quintessential is this food to the region, that the region of Mewar has a special saying for it., “ Aak ki jopadi, kogan ki baad, bajri ka sogra, moth ki dal, dekhi raja manne thari Marwar ,” recites Madhulika, translating roughly, “A cottage of aak , and a fence of kogan , A roti of bajri , and moth dal , O King, I’ve seen your Marwar.”

COURTESY     CHITHRA BALASUBRAMANIYAM    THE HINDU

THE ART OF SMALL THINGS

Meet R Vijaya Lakshmi who has been specialising in bonsai for three decades

Small, compact version of trees that lead to a mini-forest, an element of the Japanese culture and art, made inroads to India and found loyal practitioners. Hyderabad-based R Vijaya Lakshmi is one of the active bonsai artists in India and has practised bonsai making for 30 years now.

In the lanes of Journalist Colony, Jubilee Hills, the pleasant aura of flowers around Vijay Lakshmi’s garden that cocoons a variety of bonsai trees, each one crafted with love, care and technique, is magnetic. While some bear beautiful pink and blue tinted flowers, some grow tamarind and berries, and others bear thorns.

The 70-year-old bonsai artist’s journey started when she read a couple of books that got her hooked. “My husband brought home a couple of books on bonsai from Japan. Since then, I knew I had an inclination towards bonsais” she says.

Out of curiosity, she took up classes at the local bonsai society, visited bonsai gardens and slowly created her very own collection. She has also visited gardens and artists in other countries including the US, UK, Hong Kong, Bangkok, Singapore and Japan.

With a number of bonsais that vary in size, distinct shapes of trunks and additional concepts of forests and rocks, a trip around Vijaya’s garden is a treat for the eyes. Following a lush green front yard is a vast backyard with a waterfall and some of the tallest bonsais in her collection.

Ficus, bougainvillea, malpighia and jade, Vijaya’s expertise reflects as she explains the different types of bonsai trees she hosts in her garden and each one’s specification. Waking up at 6am, watering and pruning her trees has become the most enjoyable part of her day. “They are like my children. They need care and nurturing 24×7”, she adds.

When asked to pick a favourite, Vijaya points at every other bonsai and is not able to settle for one. Later, she points at a bonsai placed in the front yard — a ficus long island, amid 10 other, as she proudly states, “This is a 30-year-old bonsai; it was my first one.”

Before moving to Hyderabad, she practised making bonsais for 23 years in Mumbai, reveals the former president, Bonsai Club in Chembur, Mumbai. She would conduct regular classes and help the gardeners at municipal parks prune and nurture the plants.

Vijaya, now the president of Friends Bonsai Society, Hyderabad, apart from working on her garden, is conducting workshops in the city. “My forthcoming workshop with Collab House is an effort to guide and educate bonsai enthusiasts,” she adds. The workshops help people understand techniques like pruning, wiring and soil changing.

What keeps Vijaya motivated is participants who return to follow up workshops with growing interest. The art of bonsai serves purpose beyond eye candy. For many it is a stress buster. While creating some trees takes only a couple of hours, others can take days depending on the size and intricacy.

“She takes pride in what she does and I love it. She has single handedly created and managed the entire garden,” says RHG Ragu, Vijaya’s husband. The garden is his escape as it brings him closer to nature in an age where everything is covered in concrete, and he gives all credit to his wife as they share a smile.

 

 

COURTESY    SNEAH AGARWAL    THE HINDU

CURD , A COOLING HEALTH SHOT FOR ACIDITY

Hyderabad: Over the years, Indians have managed to balance their food habits. Indians suffering from problems like indigestion and constipation are less when compared to western countries, and the reason is stated to be local habits. Though Indians consume lot of spicy foods, it is balanced out with curd and ginger. 

Dr Anand, a gastroenterologist, said, “In the last 10 to 15 years, we are coming across more cases of vitamin deficiency because of the influence of westernised foods like junk food and because of which people are avoiding fibre and organic food.”

He said that people had now started realising the dangers of consuming such foods. “Curd has a definite role in controlling acidity. It is a natural antacid like milk and buttermilk. It has been proved time and again that gastric problems are healed through natural means,” Dr Anand said.

He said natural spices like ginger, turmeric, lemon and honey help in reducing acidity. “Whatever dead cells are present in the body will be cleaned up. If you consume them early in the morning, they help in preventing bloating and acidity,” Dr Anand said.

Nutritionist Sujata Stephen said, “Indian cuisine consists of products with medicinal value like turmeric and ginger among others. These help in digestion and metabolic activities.”

She said the people used to be very healthy and energetic while consuming traditional foods like porridge, ragi java, ragi sangati. “At present, we are not consuming the same,” she said.

Eating on time is extremely important, she said. “The standard practice should be breakfast at 6 am, lunch at 1 pm and dinner at 6 pm which will aid digestion.” 
Medical experts stated it is important to consume homegrown vegetables but the practice has now been largely lost. The fresh vegetables ensure that the diet is healthy and there is no chemical intake.

courtesy    DECCAN CHRONICLE

 

TROUBLE TREE

 

worth sharing

P

“I hired a plumber to help me repair an old farmhouse.

He already had a rough and tiresome day. 

* a flat tire 

* his electric drill fault

* his old car broke down. 

* his tiffin was spoilt

* he lost his wallet

* his bank was calling for loan repayments  In all the tension and stress he finished my repairs.  Since his car broke down, I drove him home.   While I drove him home, he sat silently, but I could mark his agony and restlessness.

On arriving, he invited me in to meet his family.  As we walked toward the front door, he paused at a small tree, touching the tips of the branches with both hands and closed his eyes.  When the door opened, he was smiling and happy.  In seconds he underwent an amazing transformation.    He hugged his two small children, gave his wife a kiss, laughed, and never even slightly made them feel the troubles that he had encountered that day.   I was astonished and curious. Seeing my inquisitive eyes he said, “Oh, that’s my Trouble Tree. My best friend. My trouble carrier for the night”.

He replied. “I know I can’t help having troubles on the job, but one thing’s for sure. Those troubles don’t belong in the house with my wife and the children. So I just hang them up on the tree every night when I come home and ask God to take care of them. Then in the morning I pick them up again.”  He smiled and shared a secret. He said, “when I come out in the morning to pick ’em up, there aren’t nearly as many as I remember hanging there the night before!!”  

Life may be a burden of worries, but there is a way to keep our loved ones untouched from these worries.  Time will heal every wound.   Whoever is tensed today,  look for a tree 

COURTESY       WHATSAPP

 

A COP TO RECKON WITH

A Vijayawada cop has done the nation proud by setting a new record in long-distance swimming.  

Recently, Tulasi Chaitanya, a Head Constable from Vijayawada, became a hero by beating the record for the shortest time taken to swim across the Palk Strait. The 30-year-old managed to swim from Talaimannar in Sri Lanka to Dhanushkodi in India — a distance of 29 km — in 8 hours and 25 minutes.

Talking about his achievement, and the training that went into it, he says, “I have trained under Olympic coach Pradeep Kumar, in Bengaluru, for six years. I started preparing for the Palk Strait swim in September last year. I would run 5 km every morning, swim 8 to 10 km twice a day, and work out for two hours daily. I included protein supplements and energy drinks in my diet and had regular physiotherapy and massage sessions.”

Tulasi’s record is no minor feat given the circumstances under which he had to swim. The swimmer was terrified throughout, as anyone in his position would be. “The sea was pleasant initially, but later it turned very rough. I was forced to swim against the strong wind and the choppy sea, with no light. There were several sharks and jellyfish in the water. In fact, I was bitten by a jellyfish during a practice swim, and I was left vomiting for two days. On the day of the final swim, I applied grease on my body to make it slippery and thus making it difficult for jellyfish to grip. But throughout, those fish tried to bite me!”
he says.

Before long, Tulasi found himself struggling. It was the guidance and support of local fishermen that led to his record-breaking success. “They guided me to the best possible route using marine GPS. A few of them travelled alongside me and helped me to navigate,” the swimmer says.

But when he finally made it back, it all seemed worth it. “I was dying to reach Indian shores; by the time I did, I was exhausted and relieved. My family was there to receive me and I felt this sense of satisfaction.” His timing was recorded by officials of the Aquatic Association of Madurai and Krishna District.

“This success has given me the confidence to kick-off my next expedition!” the cop adds.

Tulasi is no stranger to long-distance swimming. He has swum the 25-km stretch from Bheemunipatnam to R.K. Beach in 2013, and a 3.2 km stretch off Hermosa Beach in an open-water event in 2017. He has bagged several medals at international tournaments including a gold in 4×50-m freestyle relay at the World Police Games held in Belfast last year.

He already has his sights set on his next goal. “I want to swim across the English Channel, from England to France,” he says.

Apart from his family, friends, and trainer, Tulasi has his seniors to thank for their support. “I am grateful to Rajeev Tridevi and A.R. Anuradha, the Home Secretaries of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh, and Goutam Sawang, the Police Commissioner of Vijayawada. They have encouraged me from the beginning,” he says.

 COURTESY       DECCAN CHRONICLE