21 Jan 2013

Shrinking Sunderbans threat to Bengal Tiger

File photo of a Royal Bengal Tiger.
                                    The Hindu File photo of a Royal Bengal Tiger.
        Fast-disappearing mangrove forests of the Sunderbans pose a question mark over the future of the Royal Bengal Tiger, an endangered species, say scientists.
Rapid deterioration in mangrove health is causing as much as 200 metres of the vegetation-rich coast to disappear annually in the Sunderbans, according to zoologists.
Nathalie Pettorelli, from the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) and senior study author, said: “Our results indicate a rapidly retreating coastline that cannot be accounted for by the regular dynamics of the Sunderbans. Degradation is happening fast, weakening this natural shield for India and Bangladesh.”
Sunderbans is the largest block of continuous mangrove forest in the world, native to nearly 500 species of reptile, fish, bird and mammals, including the world famous Royal Bengal Tiger, the journal Remote Sensing reports.
Thriving human development, rising global temperatures, degradation of natural protection from tidal waves and cyclones is inevitably leading to species loss in this richly biodiverse part of the world, according to a ZSL statement.
Sarah Christie, ZSL’s tiger conservation expert, says: “The Sunderbans is a critical tiger habitat; one of only a handful of remaining forests big enough to hold several hundred tigers. To lose the Sunderbans would be to move a step closer to the extinction of these majestic animals.” 

Courtesy with: THE HINDU

10 Jan 2013

World’s largest solar telescope to be set up in Ladakh

P. Sunderarajan

File photo shows the Pangong Lake in Ladakh. The National Large Solar Telescope, the world's largest such device will come on the banks of this lake.
       PTI File photo shows the Pangong Lake in Ladakh. The National Large Solar Telescope, the world's largest such device will come on the banks of this lake.
          It will help in understanding the process of creation and decay of sunspots
Work on the world’s largest solar telescope is likely to commence in the Ladakh region of Jammu and Kashmir by the end of this year.
The telescope, with an aperture of two metres, is expected to be of great help in understanding the process of creation and decay of sunspots, apart from furthering cutting edge research on other fundamental processes taking place on Sun.
Giving details of the Rs. 300-crore project, the former Director of the Bangalore-based Indian Institute of Astrophysics and chief investigator of the project, S. Siraj Hasan, said on Saturday that the telescope could come up either at Hanle or Merak village near Pangong Lake in Ladakh.
Once ready, it would be one of the few solar telescope facilities in the world with a capability to do both day and night astronomy. It would also fill the longitude gap between Japan and Europe.
The innovative design and backend instruments would further enable observations with an unprecedented high spatial resolution that would provide crucial information on the nature of magnetic fields in the solar atmosphere, he added.
Dr. Hasan was speaking to reporters on the sidelines of a panel discussion organised here as part of the on-going centenary session of the Indian Science Congress.
A better understanding of how and why of the formation and decay of sunspots assumes importance as they pose a threat to the communication system on earth as well as satellites orbiting in the outer space.
Increased sunspot activity frequently accompanies an increase in the outflow of matter from the Sun in the form of solar wind. Charged particles in this wind can interfere with the operation of satellites by introducing what is called background static and also interact with atoms in the upper part of earth’s atmosphere and thus wreaking havoc with the communication systems on ground.
Satellites in low earth orbit face greater risk as during periods of heightened solar activity, the earth's upper atmosphere swells up slightly in response to the extra heating, which in turn increases the rate of decay of these satellites. 

Courtesy with: THE HINDU

New improvised tool for SRI paddy planting method

M. J. Prabu
LESS WEIGHT: The new tool at a field demonstration. Photo: Special Arrangement
         The Hindu LESS WEIGHT: The new tool at a field demonstration. Photo: Special Arrangement
          This device helps farmers to plant the seedlings at exact locations
One of the main steps Tamil Nadu farmers are advised while growing paddy under ‘System for Rice Intensification,’ method, popularly called as SRI, is to adopt seedling distance while planting.
“Planning the planting space is important for a good yield. Normally about 500 seedlings are planted from the nursery to the main field at a rough spacing of 20X10 cm.
“This spacing differs in some regions according to the labour availability and convenience. Whereas under SRI, about 16 single seedlings are planted at spacing of 25X25 cm,” says Dr. G.Kathiresan, Director (Planning & Monitoring, Tamil Nadu Agricultural University, Coimbatore.
Initial stage
During the initial stages of SRI introduction, a lengthy rope was used for marking the seedling space.
Two labourers used to hold the rope at the ends on either side of the field bunds and walked across the field, while another person made markings on the field for planting.
But this system did not prove popular because the line of planting was not straight due to naturally occurring slopes or partition in the fields.
The line of planting also used to get altered. Physical labour was also more for this work.
Considering the demerits of rope marking, an iron roller marker was introduced. It requires two labourers to pull the iron marker which has pegs on it to mark the place of planting.
The rolls are fitted in such a way as to mark 25 cm. But this did not prove to be easy, the main reason being the roller was heavy in weight and farmers found it difficult to pull it in the slushy, water laden fields. The marking was also not visible.
The University came out with yet another simple and improvised device for planting.
Bamboo sticks
A low weight triangular pointer with three straight bamboo/casuarina sticks or polyvinyl chloride pipes was introduced.
“These three lengthy sticks tied with small sticks (25 cm length), or 6 mm iron rod fitted with half an inch GI triangular shape pipe holder with 60 angles in each corner. For convenience, ten feet sticks (three numbers) are sufficient for planting by two labourers,” explains Dr. Kathiresan.
The iron rod measuring 25 cm in length, represents the intra row spacing and the ten feet sticks in which markings are made represent inter row spacing.
Iron rods
For measuring the spacing, a triangular shaped iron rod fitted with the lengthy (10 feet) sticks at every five feet is also introduced.
Six points are marked on the lengthy sticks at the spacing of 25 cm to point the exact place for planting the seedlings. The planting can be done by a single labourer for an acre.
Farmers can use this device by placing it in the field parallel to the field bunds. The seedlings can be planted inside the triangular lengthy sticks. This is quite easy though cumbersome for some workers.
Normally for SRI planting, 45 labourers are needed to cover one hectare land. In the case of SRI planting with this new tool, 33 labourers are sufficient to cover the same area, according to him.
“The main objective for introducing this device is to help farmers to plant the seedlings at the exact location without any confusion and at the same time to maintain appropriate space between seedlings,” says Kathiresan The device is presently being used by farmers in Tanjavur, Ambasamudram, and Tirunelveli districts.
General opinion
The general opinion among some of the farmers who used this device is that it would be a good initiative if this work can be mechanised instead of doing it manually, as sourcing labour for the same is proving to be very difficult.
For more details contact Dr.G.Kathiresan, Director (Planning & Monitoring, Tamil Nadu Agricultural University, Coimbatore – 641 003, email: directorplanning@tnau.ac.in, phone: 0422- 6611566. 

Courtesy with: THE HINDU

Kilogram now weighs heavier

            The humble kilogram — the standard measure of weighing — has become heavier, according to experts from a British university.
The original kilogram is likely to be tens of micrograms heavier than it was when the first standard was set in 1875, experts using a state-of-the-art Theta-probe XPS machine — the only one of its kind in the world — have said.
Known as the International Prototype Kilogram or the IPK, it is the standard against, which all other measurements of mass are set, the Journal of Metrologia reports.
But the kilogram has become heavier as contaminants have built up on its surface, experts say.
The IPK and its 40 replicas were made in 1884 and distributed globally in a bid to standardise mass. Britain holds replica 18 at the National Physical Laboratory (NPL). The original is stored in the International Bureau of Weights and Measures in Paris.
But despite efforts to protect the IPK and its duplicates, industrialisation and modern living have taken their toll on the platinum-based weights and contaminants have built up on the surface, according to Newcastle University.
Now Peter Cumpson and Naoko Sano at Newcastle have used cutting-edge X-ray Photoelectron Spectroscopy (XPS) to analyse surfaces similar to the standard kilogram to assess the build-up of hydrocarbons — and how to remove them.
“Around the world, the IPK and its 40 replicas are all growing at different rates, diverging from the original,” said Cumpson, professor of Micro Electro Mechanical Systems (MEMS) at Newcastle.
“By exposing the surface to a mixture of UV and ozone, we can remove the carbonaceous contamination and potentially bring prototype kilograms back to their ideal weight,” added Cumpson.

Courtesy with: THE HINDU

Wanton destruction

Sohail Hashmi

  • Arravali and the forest: Gasping for life. Photo: Sohail Hashmi
                    The Hindu Arravali and the forest: Gasping for life. Photo: Sohail Hashmi 
  • Caging the greens. Photo: Sohail Hashmi 
                                  The Hindu Caging the greens. Photo: Sohail Hashmi 
  • A footpath in July 2010. Photo: Sohail Hashmi 
                              The Hindu A footpath in July 2010. Photo: Sohail Hashmi 
  •               The same footpath in January 2013. Photo: Sohail Hashmi               
                      The Hindu The same footpath in January 2013. Photo: Sohail Hashmi
     Even as the remains of the picturesque old jungle road are being dug up and a huge boundary wall fashioned out of broken pieces of the Arravali, there is little activity connected to restoring the Neela Hauz.
After many months one returns to the Neela Hauz again, the Hauz is located east of Aruna Asif Ali Road in New Delhi. Before the road came up and Jawaharlal Nehru University campus and Vasant Kunj sprang up to the west of the road in the early 1970s, all this was a forest and village commons for the inhabitants of Kishangarh, Masudpur, Malikpur Kohi, Sultan Garhi, Rangpuri, Mahipalpur and other villages and hamlets that lay scattered in this area. One returns to Neela Hauz, this much abused natural water body, not with good tidings but to report that despite tall promises and high sounding declarations what is going on in and around this once beautiful lake is large-scale destruction, encroachment or modification of three elements of our natural heritage.
First, the destruction of the surviving bits of the oldest natural heritage in India and among the oldest mountain ranges in the world - the Arravalis. Large and small outcroppings of the Arravali ranges can be seen poking through the Sanjay Van. Some of these rock formations, rapidly being broken up by those horribly destructive machines called earth movers, have tentatively been dated to the Pre-Cambrian era.
Secondly the Sanjay Van, in itself a reserved forest has been stripped of many trees, mostly the invasive Prosopis Juliflora or the Mexican Mesquite, but also of several, increasingly rare Ronjh and Desi Babul and Keekar trees. This denudation has occurred across a long stretch skirting the lake and extending beyond it towards Kishangarh. If one were to believe those in-charge of this wanton destruction, permission has been taken from the Delhi Forest Department.
And thirdly the Neela Hauz, the Hauz had began to suffer encroachments and dumping in the wake of a rather expansionist scheme to build a bridge across the lake in the run-up to the much-touted October 2010 Commonwealth Games. As per promises made at the time and subsequently, the lake was to be restored to its ‘pristine glory’ once the job at hand was completed. The job at hand was not completed in time and in fact there was a time overrun of more than 10 months. The bridge scheduled to be completed by September 19, 2010 was eventually finished only in July 2010. One does not know if the builders of this ‘priority project’ were penalised for the time overrun or not, what is however clear that even almost two-and-a-half years after the delayed completion, the lake seems to be nowhere near its “original pristine state”. An exercise was launched to rid the Neela Hauz of its horrible cover of water Hyacinth, the operation was never completed and the Hyacinth is once again expanding and choking whatever little life is left in the Hauz.
Even as the remains of the picturesque old jungle road, skirting the lake before this bridge came up, are being dug up and a huge boundary wall fashioned out of broken pieces of the Arravali, one sees little activity connected to restoring the Hauz. The long promised biodiversity park continues to be a distant chimera.
Meanwhile, the entrance to the Sanjay Van has been given a huge bill board inviting visitors to the forest. In order to facilitate the newcomers the forest is being spruced-up. All natural under-growth in the forest near the gate abutting the lake has been removed and concrete benches provided. And what about the wild life, the original residents of the forest: the quails and partridges, the krait and the hedgehog, the jungle babbler and the mongoose and the myriad insects and beetles and other beings that lived and prospered in the undergrowth in the reserved forest? What about them, are they part of any scheme?
Enquiries have revealed that all this digging is being carried out to create a parking lot for those who come for a walk to the Sanjay Van and for those visitors who might come visiting the Hauz and the proposed biodiversity park. The car park will come up even if the lake and the forest do not survive. Large parts of the old jungle road are piled high with iron frames that are going to be used for throwing up a fence around Sanjay Van and everything else besides. Here is another case of the fence eating up the field and the forest perhaps.
The earth moving machines need to get up close and personal before they begin to pull down anything, and in order to give the embrace of death to the surviving bit of the Arravalis they had to clamber over the expensive designer pavement that was built with rather expensive coloured and glazed tiles at either end of the bridge in July 2010. The pavement is now almost totally gone, once the earth movers are through moving mountains, the contract for relaying the pavement will perhaps be awarded to someone once again and the cycle of construction and concretisation and fencing will go on endlessly. The Arravalis, the Neela Hauz, and the forest can wait till kingdom come.

Courtesy with: THE HINDU

Internet emits 830 million tonnes of carbon dioxide

A girl browsing in a cyber cafe in Vijayawada. File photo: V. Raju
   The Hindu A girl browsing in a cyber cafe in Vijayawada. File photo: V. Raju
              Internet and other components of information communication and technology (ICT) industry annually produces more than 830 million tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2), the main greenhouse gas, and is expected to double by 2020, a new study has found.
Researchers from the Centre for Energy-Efficient Telecommunications (CEET) and Bell Labs explain that the information communications and technology (ICT) industry, which delivers Internet, video, voice and other cloud services, produces about 2 per cent of global CO2 emissions — the same proportion as the aviation industry produces.
In the report published in journal Environmental Science & Technology, researchers said their projections suggest that ICT sector’s share in greenhouse gas emission is expected to double by 2020.
They have also found new models of emissions and energy consumption that could help reduce their carbon footprint.
The study said that controlling those emissions requires more accurate but still feasible models, which take into account the data traffic, energy use and CO2 production in networks and other elements of the ICT industry.
Existing assessment models are inaccurate, so they set out to develop new approaches that better account for variations in equipment and other factors in the ICT industry.
They describe development and testing of two new models that better estimate the energy consumption and CO2 emissions of Internet and telecommunications services.
The researchers suggest, based on their models, that more efficient power usage of facilities, more efficient use of energy-efficient equipment and renewable energy sources are three keys to reducing ICT emissions of CO2. 

Courtesy with :THE HINDU