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Tarsar-Marsar – The Twin Sisters

The Tarsar lake or Tar Sar, shaped like an almond, is an oligotrophic (low in algal production due to low primary productivity, but with quality of drinking water) and an alpine lake situated in the Kashmir Valley, more specifically in the area of Aru, in the district of Anantnag of Jammu and Kashmir. Same goes for Marsar lake, which is famous for its scenic beauty. Both the waterbodies are separated by a 13,000 ft mountain, but since both the lakes share the same characteristics and are so close in proximity they are often referred to as twin sisters. They came to be referred so, after the 16th Century Kashmiri ruler Yusuf Shah Chak mentioned the twin lakes in his poem to his beloved.

Tarsar lake

Both the lakes are drained in the opposite directions where Tarsar is drained by an outlet stream which flows into the Lidder River at the seasonal settlement of Lidderwat and stream of Marsar is joined by another stream from Mount Mahadev, which is called Telbal nallah (perennial flow of stream) which is considered to be the primary source of Dal lake.

The waters of Tarsar lake is known to change colours during the different parts of the day which ranges between Turquoise green and many shades of blue. It is dotted by numerous meadows with conifer trees, mountains and snow-capped peaks. When Marsar lake is viewed from the top, it is considered to have an aesthetic look with clouds covering the lake and the blue colours of the water that is surrounded by the rocky terrain makes it look picturesque and extraordinary, especially for the nature lovers. They are two most significant and prominent lakes in the district of Pulwama where Tarsar and Marsar are situated approximately 3 and 5 kilometres respectively from the village of Nagberan. A lot of folklores and legends surround the two lakes. Marsar is said to be prohibited from camping due to the frightening stories spread by the locals of the area, where one of them includes a torrential downpour if its untouched waters gets polluted by anyone. Both the lakes are famous for their tourist attractions in the Kashmir Valley of India which goes by the term of Tarsar-Marsar trek, which is a crossover expedition from Aru to Sumbal village of the Sind Valley. The nature lovers can visit the lakes during the time of summer where they will be able to spot a variety of birds like the black bulbul, high-flying coughs and the Himalayan golden eagles. Overall Its quaint and peaceful environment is what makes the twin sisters captivating and delightful.

Marsar lake

Source-
TourmyIndia

References-

TrekTheHimalayas

TourmyIndia-Tarsar

TourmyIndia-Marsar

KashmirTreks

GoogleBooks-HabaKhatoon

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The Story of Water and Wildlife

The Environmentalist Foundation of India, E.F.I, is a wildlife conservation and habitat restoration group. Over the years, our focus has always been to protect and conserve the environment. E.F.I since it’s inception in 2007 has successfully revived 132 water bodies across 15 states in the nation. In doing so, several lifeforms have thrived and rejoiced in these newly rejuvenated water bodies. When we restore a water body, fish first return, then tadpoles, amphibians and reptiles, creating a new biodiversity hotspot in the region.

Rejuvenating a water body does not only benefit wildlife at large, but also the neighboring community. The impacts that restoring a water has are a plenty, ranging from increase in water storage capacity, replenishment of the ground water, to decrease in spread of waterborne diseases. We’re thankful to all our partners and the government who has constantly supported us in our efforts.

Vandalur lake

This year’s theme for World Wildlife Day is “Forests and Livelihood: Sustaining People and Planet”. A truly important theme as it serves to be an inclusive yet diverse topic. One such an effort by the government is that of the recent addition of the Srivilliputhur-Megamalai Tiger Reserve in Tamil Nadu.

TN to get its fifth tiger reserve between Meghamalai and Srivilliputhur |  The News Minute
The News Minute, thenewsminute.com/article/tn-get-its-fifth-tiger-reserve-between-meghamalai-and-srivilliputhur-142947

This newly established tiger reserve not only serves to protect the critically endangered tiger and wildlife but also aims to protect the Vaigai river that flows through it! This has worked out before in the revival of the Thamirabharani river when the Kalakkad Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve was established in Papanasam.

“Megamalai will soon have a tiger reserve if the Union environment ministry’s proposal goes through. Unchecked encroachments, grazing of cattle, tea plantations and cash crop cultivation in Megamalai are now posing a threat to the Vaigai. Experts point to the revival of the Thamiraparani after the Kalakkad Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve (KMTR) in Papanasam was opened and is a proven strategy that could be replicated to save the Vaigai.”

Deccan Chronicle, https://www.deccanchronicle.com/140824/nation-current-affairs/article/tiger-reserve-rejuvenate-vaigai

We thank the government for indulging in such efforts to protect our nation’s wildlife and water.

Volunteer for India and her Environment with E.F.I, Jai Hind

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The Serenity of Manasbal

A scenic and a calm lake situated about 32 kilometres from the city of Srinagar of J&K, the Manasbal lake is considered to be one of the least known waterbodies despite its proximity to the city. The lake is seated in the Valley of Jhelum and covers an area of up to 22 kilometres in length with a depth of 12 metres. Its name was derived from the holy lake of Manusarvar which skirts the mountains of Kailash. Despite being a least popular lake, it is considered to be one of the jewels of Kashmir amongst the numerous lakes.

The lake is surrounded by a number of majestic hills and is filled with lotus plantation and other vegetation, especially during the times of summer, which attracts a lot of aquatic birds. During the times of Spring, a number of watercress plantation can be viewed on the northern and eastern shores of the lake. A fissure can be seen in the middle of the lake, which runs from east to west of Manasbal. The lake is considered to have no major inflow channels, and so its water supply is managed through water inflow that comes in the season of Spring and also the precipitation.      

It is predominantly surrounded by the three villages of Kondabal, Jarokbal and Gratbal which overlooks the waterbody. The locals of the area, use the lake as a source of water and also use the waterbody for fishing purposes for getting food and also use the plants for fodder. Many of them, are also involved in harvesting the rootstocks of the lotus plantation, that are extensively used for eating, all over the State.

Source-
Holidify

The lake is construed to be one of the ancient waterbodies where its origin is still uncertain. Some of the Locals believe that the lake is bottomless, where over the years, the human pressure resulted in the lake to become eutrophic. The waterbody contains a lot of submerged weeds, especially during the times of Summer, where the lake is considered to be at the height of Tourist Season. A number of water-skiing activities apart from other water sport activities can be done as a part of tourism. The lake also has facilities for Shikara riding, which is considered to be the Kashmir counterparts of Venice’s Gondolas. They are small wooden boats that are better suited to be ridden by three to four people.

Today, to protect the lake from littering and pollution, a number of conservation projects has been undertaken by the Government as well as the public to restore the glory of Manasbal lake.

References

HeavenlyKashmir

AalaTravels

India9

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The Balancing Act: Analysing the role of Seemai Karuvelam Trees

Most of the wetland ecosystems in the city of Coimbatore are populated with the Karuvelam tree known as Babool. This species has particularly found mention in wetland restoration activities in the south of our country. The Seemai Karuvelam tree, or prosopis juliflora as it’s known biologically, is a species native to West Africa and was introduced in India by the Britishers to meet the increasing need for charcoal. They grow well in dry regions where rainfall was less than 200 mm. The tree was brought to Tamil Nadu in the 1960s as fuelwood. Slowly, these seeds started drifting into dams and rivers, causing problems. The plant according to multiple reports, absorbs excess ground water, adding to the woes of the water- starved state. Several drives have been organised for the eradication of these trees from wetland and dryland ecosystems owing to its negative impacts on the water table and its ability to prevent other natural growth around it. Over the years studies have brought to us the positive and negative effects of this species. A large portion of the rural population in TN depends on the trees for their livelihood. The trees have traditionally been extensively used as fuel wood, charcoal. It is a major boon for impoverished people subsisting in those environments as it provides them with badly needed shelter, reduces erosion, improves micrometeorology, and is a source of food, feed, fuel, medicines and cosmetics.

However, it can prove to be toxic to other biota in ways that allow the invasives to monopolise space and nutrients at the exclusion of other species and this leads to a decline in the proportion of indigenous woody species. The thickets also provide breeding grounds for mosquitoes, causing an increase in the incidence of malaria. It is clear that keeping the population of Karuvelam under control is crucial to maintain biodiversity by allowing for native species to establish themselves. However an attempt to completely eradicate this species holds strong implications for the lower sections of society and particular wetland species that have evolved to grow dependent on these trees for shelter and breeding grounds. It is important to understand it’s never possible to restore an ecosystem to its previous state but we need to rethink the role of such invasive species in light of the equity question and changing requirements for maintaining the stability of ecosystems.

By
Trrishala Kumarswamy

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Green hydrogen to our rescue …

“If there is magic on this planet, it is contained in water.”  

Loren Eiseley

Let us start with a quiz question: What is the energy source in the coming decade that is believed to end the era of fossil fuels such as coal/gas/petroleum and slow down our Earth’s warming?  

The answer is ‘green hydrogen’.

Hydrogen is the most abundant element on Earth and locked up in huge quantities in water, rocks and minerals and most widely used in industrial applications such as refining petroleum and removing sulfur content in oils to produce cleaner fuels, producing fertilizers , providing heat and power , as rocket fuel and for processing foods among others . (Fun fact: Hydrogen is used to produce sweeteners that go into chewing-gum).

Different shades: Brown, Grey, Blue, and Green hydrogen

Depending on the energy sources and production processes, hydrogen is categorized by different colors.

Green hydrogen production mechanism – Source SGN

Benefits of ‘Green’ Hydrogen:

‘Green’ hydrogen is the new mantra for a greener planet and most countries including India are all embracing green hydrogen to reduce their green-house gases (GHG) emissions.

Several industries such as in steelmaking, cement and fertilizers, shipping and aviation are reducing dependency on fossil fuels like coal, oil and gas as raw materials and adopting hydrogen as their high-quality fuel. Hydrogen fuel cells that power electric vehicles are transforming the automotive industry and are set to replace gas guzzling vehicles in the next few decades. These fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs) combine hydrogen stored in a tank with oxygen from the air to produce electricity, with water vapor as the by-product.

Future aircrafts are looking at hydrogen to power their commercial aircraft operations and read this article around Airbus journey towards green hydrogen. The energy density of green hydrogen is three times that of traditional jet fuel, making it a promising zero-emissions technology for aircraft fuel.

Hydrogen cities – South Korea and Saudi Arabia lead the way:

South Korea has embarked on an ambitious mission to create 3 ‘hydrogen’ cities by next year. These cities will use hydrogen as the major fuel for their cooling, heating, electricity, and transportation. Seoul is focused on promoting hydrogen-powered passenger cars and commercial vehicles in partnerships with Hyundai Motor Group and other car manufacturers, while increasing the number of hydrogen charging stations and offering government subsidies for the purchase of hydrogen cars.

Hydrogen powered city near Seoul

Saudi Arabia is building a new city on the edge of the Red sea called ‘Neom’ and it is touted as the world’s most livable destination. Home to a million people, Neom will have flying taxis and robots for domestic help among other services and guess what will power this city? Not oil. Instead, Neom will be powered using ‘green hydrogen’.

The advantage that Saudi Arabia has is the availability of abundant wind and solar power that can be used to produce green hydrogen , providing electricity to power homes and electric cars, run energy-intensive industries like concrete and steel manufacturing as well as the transportation industry.

Neom city in Saudi Arabia

What is India doing ?

Currently India’s energy mix is around 60% from coal, 14% from hydro, 8% from gas, 2% from nuclear, and renewable energy (solar/wind/biomass) is around 16%. India’s goal is to increase its energy source from renewables to 40% by 2030 and that includes ‘green hydrogen energy’ contributing to 4% of renewable energy.

In Budget 2021 , Finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman has announced a focused hydrogen mission from renewable power sources that aims to reduce India’s carbon footprint with major emphasis on clean energy.

India’s top energy companies Reliance Industries, Adani Group, NTPC, Indian Oil Corp are increasingly looking at moving to carbon-free fuel such as green hydrogen and investing in technology to replace coal and crude oil with clean electricity and hydrogen. Heavy-duty, long-distance transportation, where electric vehicles would not be competitive is an area that green hydrogen fuel can make a huge difference.

What are the challenges today ?

Green hydrogen technology is still being fine-tuned, the process of electrolysis is expensive, and storage of hydrogen is complex as its weight and volume are high. It is also not easy to simply replace all existing infrastructure with hydrogen technology and hence transition to green power will take time.

Currently green hydrogen costs about three times as much as natural gas and it is anticipated that in 10 years’ time the costs will be comparable. As countries and corporations make huge investments towards a carbon free future, it may be sooner that we have this ‘miracle from water: green hydrogen’ a part of our daily lives.

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THE KASHMIR OF RAJASTHAN

Picturesque and elegant, Udaipur is a beautiful city, also known as the Kashmir of Rajasthan. It is also known as the city of lakes and Venice of the East. Undoubtedly, it is one of the most romantic cities of India situated between the pristine waters of its famous lakes and the ancient Aravalli Ranges. The city is a mixture of pretty sights and experiences which makes it an inspiration for the artists. The gorgeous palaces and lakes makes Udaipur a perfect spot for tourists. Lakes make a perfect blend to the romantic air of Udaipur.

Udaipur is genuinely popular for its lakes and water bodies. The breathtaking view of the lakes and mountains gives a sense of relief and peace to the local people as well as the visitors. Since many ages these lakes have been providing water to the nearby areas for their development. In the dusk light, boating in the lakes gives a soothing and mesmerizing experience.

Lake Pichola, Udai Sagar Lake, Fateh Sagar Lake, Rajsamand Lake and Jaisamand Lake are the five significant lakes of the city.

LAKE PiCHOLA
Surrounded by the majestic mountains, forts and palaces, Pichola lake is located at the heart of the city. It is one of the largest and oldest lakes of Udaipur. The beautiful lake was built by Pichhu Banjara during the rule of Maharana Lakha in 1362. It is mesmerizing to watch the grey green mountains cast their shadows in the water under the setting sun. There are four islands on the lake, namely: Jag Niwas, Jag Mandir, Mohan Mandir and Arsi Villas. Bridges ate also constructed to connect different places of the lake.

UDAI SAGAR LAKE
This lake is located at a distance of 13 km in the east of Udaipur. The lake was constructed by Maharaja Udai Singh in 1565. Udai Sagar is a famous tourist spot with small pristine waterfalls and the clear green water. The lake is also surrounded by hills and is home to many myths and legends. Today the lake is 4 km long, 2.5 km wide and 9 m deep.

FATEH SAGAR LAKE
Located next to the Moti Magri Hills, Fateh Sagar Lake is one of the most soothing spots of Udaipur. It is pear shaped and fronted by the green Aravalli hills. The lake was constructed by Maharana Jai Singh in 1678. It is the second largest artificial kake in Udaipur and is 2.4 km long and 1.5 m deep. The overflow of water during the monsoons in the lake is regulated by the Overflow Channel. There are three small islands on the lake.

JAISAMAND LAKE
Next to the lush green mountains and the marble temples and palaces, Jaisamand Lake is a vision to behold. The lake is the second largest artificial lake in Asia. It was built by Maharana Jai Singh in 1685 while making a dam on Gomti River. The lake is also known as Dhebar and is 14 km long.

RAJSAMAND LAKE
Situated 66 km in the north of Udaipur, Rajsamand Lake is one of the spectacular sites in Udaipur. A 17th century dam is constructed accross its stretch and holds a marble embankment on its southern end. The lake is also known as Rajsamudra Lake. Constructed in 1600 by Maharana Raj Singh, the lake is 60 feet deep. River Gomti provides water to this lake.

The greatness displayed by every aspect of picturesque Udaipur, especially the glorious lakes and water bodies is sure to attract tourists. The lakes of the city capped with the majestic Aravalli Ranges add to the scenic beauty. It is also famous for its Rajput era palaces and the most popular is the Lake Palace which covers the small island in Lake Pichola.

Udaipur is indeed the best place for art and tranquility.

REFRENCES
https://www.andbeyond.com/tailormade-tours/a-splash-of-colour-in-rajasthan/ http://www.rainwaterharvesting.org/udaipur_lake/udaipur_lakes.htm https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.fabhotels.com/blog/lakes-in-udaipur/amp/

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Halasuru (Ulsoor) Lake Story

Halasuru Lake sunset – Image Via fabhotels

Located on the North- Eastern part of Bangalore, it is a man made lake spread across 50 hectares. The beauty of the lake is enchanted by the islands in it.

History and Legendary story behind the lake

Halasuru Lake – Image by Reckontalk via metrosaga

Halasuru lake is one of the oldest lakes in Bangalore, dates back to 1537. The lake’s catchment area is 1.5 km2 . As per the ancient stories, Kempe Gowda II was travelling through the forest near Halasuru. He was tired and fell asleep under a tree.

Someshwara Temple in 1890. Image by Sreelatha N Prasad via metrosaga

 This was the tree under which Mandava Rishi meditated and worshipped God Someswara. It is said that God Someswara appeared in his dreams and showed him a hidden treasure. Kempe Gowda II found the treasure and thus built the Someswara Pagoda and Halasuru lake. This is also significant as, One of the 4 pillars which mark the boundaries of Bangalore laid by Kempe Gowda II is near Ulsoor lake. The lake was then developed by Sir Lewin Bentham Bowring, then Commissioner of Bangalore. The lake has islands which support the ecosystem around. 

Scenic Beauty and Attractions

Halasuru Lake – Image via MakeMyHangout

It is spread across 123 acres. It is one of the major tourist attraction in Bangalore. The lake is surrounded by lush green trees. The lake attracts people for its scenic beauty, sunrise, morning walk, play area for children, evening walk and boating activities or for one to just sit and relax. The lake also serves as a visarjan spot for Ganesh Chaturthi festival. 

Trees, birds, insects and aquatic life. 

The lake is surrounded by very rich and bird attracting trees and flowering plants. The lake has 4 islands, and is home to several species of birds, butterflies and many species of aquatic life. Although, due to the poor environment habitat only a few species of fish exist. 

The lake suffers from many environmental challenges like poor water quality as waste water pipes are let into the lake. Efforts have been made to restore and clean the lake from pollutants. Diversification of sewage pipe lines will reduce the pollution to the lake.  This will help in keeping the lake alive. 

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An Evening at the Madambakkam Lake

On the 9th of January 2021, around 3: 30 pm, a group of energetic volunteers took on the mission to paint the bridge on opposite to the outlet of the Madambakkam Lake. The bridge which was previously a plastic laden spot for antisocial activities now has a different look on the whole. The volunteers white washed the inner side of the bridge and painted it with environment conservation and awareness building messages and pictures.

Close to 20 random people stopped by to see what the volunteers were up to on this bridge and the look of suspicion soon turned into smiles as they saw what the volunteers were doing. A few of the people were even very supportive and showed interest to join the next activity at the lake. During the activity the lake was visited by lots of people mostly families to watch the lake overflowing and to take in the scenic beauty while spending some time with family.

The activity carried on till 5:30pm and closed with an interactive orientation session, where the volunteers were introduced to topics like:

  • What was the state of the lake before and after restoration.
  • Need and importance of Community engagement in water conservation.
  • Importance of the creation of the awareness on real time result oriented environment conservation within the volunteers and their family.

The variety of activities that EFI hosts has a two-fold impact; firstly the conservation of the environment and secondly the strong psychological impact on the volunteers, wherein they are sensitized on the field about the results of improper waste management and excessive use of plastic thereby forming a basic link of an awareness chain. This happens when the information and experience they gain through these activities are passed on to the general public and their families.

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The City of Vanishing Lakes

‘Once destroyed, nature’s beauty cannot be repurchased by any price’ – Ansel Adams

Banglore’s transformation from the ‘Garden city’ to the ‘Garbage City’ has been a prolonged process but what intrigues scientists till today is the story of its lost lakes. Proudly housing more than 200 lakes in the 1980s, the lakes of Bangalore were Karnataka’s pride. These pristine and scenic waters not only attracted tourists from around the world but also hosted an assortment of fauna. 

Ulsoor Lake
Source- https://www.fabhotels.com/blog/

In the past decade, Bangalore has experienced a population explosion due to the numerous opportunities it offers in the IT industry. Rapid urbanisation has compelled builders to seize the land belonging to water bodies and use it for satisfying human needs. The city has transformed into a concrete jungle destroying nature and wildlife. According to the House committee report on lake encroachment, of the 837 lakes in Bengaluru Urban district, 88 lakes covering an area of 1,307 acres have completely disappeared. Moreover, 80% of the existing lakes are contaminated and unfit for use.

In January 2018, Bellandur lake caught a 30-hour fire, engulfing the neighborhood in flames. Being the largest lake of Bangalore and the most abused one, Bellandur lake carries 40% of the city’s discharged sewage. In addition to raw sewage, illegal effluents are also dumped into the body containing chemicals and oils. Oils form a layer on the surface of water making it highly inflammable and prone to fires.

Image result for fire in bellandur lake
Fire from Bellandur lake , Source – https://www.thestatesman.com/

Toxic foaming/ frothing has also become a common phenomenon due to excessive adulteration in lakes. Varthur lake spat out toxic foam onto roads causing the commuters to fall prey to skin irritation and burning. High amounts of ammonia, phosphate, and very low dissolved oxygen in the water caused the snow-like foam to pile up and seep on to the road. Till a few years ago, Varthur lake was a hub for migratory birds from South Asia but as the sewage started seeping in aquatic life terminated, and eventually birds stopped visiting.

Image result for varthur lake froth on roads
Froth coming from Varthur lake, Souce- https://www.downtoearth.org.in/

In 2002, the Lake development authority(LDA) was established by the government of Karnataka to regenerate and develop lakes but the authority was unable to bring about any change in the state of affairs as it lacked legal powers. The government took no responsibility for the same and failed to impose fines on violators.

Image result for sewage going into bangalore lakes
Source- https://www.thehindu.com/

The lost lakes of Bangalore will never return but the existing lakes should be preserved with the joint efforts of the government and citizens. We must conserve these gifts of nature before it’s too late…

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THE MYSTICAL LAKE OF KUMAON VALLEY

Uttarakhand, also known as DEVBHOOMI by many is not only a state of picturesque geography and breathtaking adventure sports but also a place full of myths and legends.

Located at an elevation of 1200 meters above sea level, Naukuchiatal is a beautiful hill station for mountain lovers that is close to the majestic Bhimtal Lake. Surrounded by the gorgeous Kumaon mountains, the small retreat spot is famous for its irregular shaped and pristine nine-cornered lake. Decorated with natural beauty all around, the lake is the deepest (175ft) among all the Himalayan lakes in Nainital.


Named as Naukuchiatal because of its nine-cornered irregular shape, the lake has an inseparable association with History and Mythology. It is believed that it was created as a blessing by Lord Brahma (the Creator in Hindu Mythology) after a hard wish or tapasya by the local people. Also a small temple dedicated to Brahma is situated nearby. Another myth or belief is that if one performs parikrama of the lake, he/she is in good fortune.
It is believed that no one can see the nine corners of the lake at one time. If a person is able to see all the corners, there is a myth that he/she will either die or attain nirvana.

Naukuchiatal is also famous for the nearby Lotus Pomd. It is full of pretty Lotus flowers. Colourful Kingfishers add to the mystique of the pond. A board near the pond clearly says- NO PLUCKING OF FLOWERS.

As mentioned above, Naukuchiatal is found to be an amazing place for peace lovers with all the picturesque views and adventurous sports. The place is found to hold an array of Recreational activities such as birdwatching, boating and angling. For the adventure junkies, there are a number of blood pumping activities like paragliding, yatching, paddling and parasailing. Every year in the month of May-June, Escape Festival is celebrated with full enthusiasm.

It is indeed a worth travelling location for nature lovers and tourists for spending some quality time with yourself in peace.

REFERENCES

https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.tripoto.com/trip/naukuchiatal-lake-of-nine-corners-5bf6a649b3298.amp

https://www.inditales.com/bhimtal-sattal-naukuchiatal-lakes-kumaon/

https://www.euttaranchal.com/tourism/naukuchiatal-lake.php

https://www.tripoto.com/trip/naukuchiatal-this-kumaon-lake-is-home-to-interesting-myths-5ba0cb2e7ce39.amp

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SILT – A blessing in disguise!

Image via wordpress

Silt is created when rocks are eroded or worn away by wind or water. Silt is made up of tiny rock and mineral particles that are smaller than sand. It can be transported by water, wind, ice and deposited. As silt flows along it chips more rocks.. Silt is found in soil along with other types of sediments like gravel and clay. The soil can be classified as silt if it has 80% of silt. Silt settles in water and gets deposited in lakes, ponds and wetlands. 

Environmental Impact

Increases the risk of flooding: As silt accumulates, it does not allow groundwater recharging. The capacity of the lake/pond reduces, thus leading to flood when there is heavy rainfall. 

Loss of fish and wildlife: The oxygen level in the water reduces thus not suitable for aquatic life to survive. It often creates an acidic condition, reducing the quality of water. 

Dense algae and bad odor: Stagnant water gives an unpleasant smell and the high nutrient levels of silt encourages algae blooms. In summers, the water body gets warmer resulting in an increased growth of algae and weeds.

Silt can also change the landscape of where it deposits. Where there are less or no trees, deposits of silt can harm the ecosystem. Fertilizers, chemicals and industrial waste can runoff along with silt and become toxic. Toxic silt is harmful for the river, lake and pond. It affects plants, vegetation, aquatic life and contaminates the water. 

Fertile Soil

Silt is light and fertile for growing crops, it promotes water retention and air circulation. Silty soil is rich in nutrients, also easily cultivable. Silty soil supports diverse growth of plants and crops. Silt deposits are used for agriculture, they provide high yields. 

Lotus plant blooms above water but takes its roots in silty, muddy wet soil.

Many organisms live and survive in silt. Frogs hibernate during winter in silt at the bottom of a lake or pond. This is because water does not freeze/ get cold at the bottom this provides some insulation or warmth. 

Silt Traps

Silt impacts the freshwater ecosystem and aquatic life. It controls the flow of silt by having barriers.  

Silt traps – Silt traps are structures made of boulders, they trap silt. They are built alongside drainage ways of water. They reduce the accumulation of silt in the lake bed. 

Silt Fence – Silt fence is used to catch the sediments/silt that runoff. Silt fences are made up of wire and fabric. This is used in construction sites to restrict the flow of contaminated water to nearby areas. Silt fence is also called a filter fence. It controls the silt and sediment flow into rivers, lakes and ponds. It should be installed alongside the contour of the slope. 

Reference: silt | National Geographic Society

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Periyar River- The Pulse of Kerala

Considered to be the lifeline of Kerala, the Periyar River is the longest river in the state of Kerala, India that covers a length of about 244 km. It serves as a source of drinking water for the major towns in the state apart from a few other perennial rivers. Sivagiri hills of the Western Ghats serves as the origin for the river, which reaches the Periyar lake after flowing through the National park of Periyar, which finally reaches into the Arabian Sea after flowing through Vembanad lake. Some of the river’s major tributaries include Muthirapuzha, Mullayar, Cheruthoni, Perinjankutti and Edamala rivers. As a perennial river, it is considered to be a channel that has a continuous flow in parts of its stream bed all the year round.

Source-
gosahin

History of Periyar River

The Kingdom of Pandya, who ruled Madurai until 12th century, had the Periyar valley under their reign. They’d constructed the Mullaperiyar dam in the year of 1895, which was built across the west-flowing Periyar river, that later stops the river to form a reservoir. It also resulted in the creation of an artificial lake, which enhanced the charm of the valley.

The Travancore kings, used the reserve as a source for hunting grounds, during the 18th and 19th centuries. Inside the reserve was a palace – the Edapalayam Lake Palace, which was meant for the guests of the royal family. In 1899, the area was declared as a forest reserve called the Periyar Lake Reserve. This step was taken with the main intention of protecting the hunting area of the kings from the encroachment of tea plantations.

What it is to Kerala-

It is considered to be one of the most celebrated rivers in Kerala, as it serves as the lifeline and pulse of all the activity in the native settlement. Apart from serving as a source of water for all of Kerala, it is also a source for supplying electricity, throughout the state. To top it all, it is considered to have a rich reserve of fisheries that gets harvested across its course and the river also serves as a secret to prosperity in regards to the agriculture in the state, as many irrigation projects are supported by the waterbody. The Cardamom hills plateau of Kerala also gets benefited from the river as the latter provides nourishment for the plateau.

Periyar river- Today

The river is considered to be a perfect tourism spot for people from all over the world, where they can indulge in numerous activities like bamboo rafting, boat rides and birdwatching. The people of Kerala understand the importance of the river and how measures must be taken to conserve the waterbody. For instance, steps were taken recently, to conduct clean-up drives for the river apart from other waterbodies, as the people realized how much these waterbodies were polluted and that it was in their hands to conserve them. Hence, it comes as no surprise that Periyar river is considered to hold a Divine status in God’s own country.

References

KeralaTourism

Gosahin

FactlyForumias

TheHindu

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The Scenic Lake of Pichola

Located in the heart of Udaipur, Rajasthan; lake Pichola is considered to be one the oldest and largest lakes of the city. It is also one of the most beautiful and picturesque lakes of Rajasthan. The lake is extended to a length of 3 miles and a breadth of 2 miles with a depth of 30 feet. As an artificial freshwater, the depth normally gets increased during heavy rainfall which also acts as the main source of water for the lake.

Dating back to the 15th century, the lake was built during the reign of Maharana Lakshaja by Banjara tribe. It was later extended by Maharaja Uday Singh, who built a stone masonry dam, which is called ‘Big Pole’. For decades, the lake and surroundings have been developed and it has become a major tourist attraction.

Picholi was the name of a village that lent its name to the lake. The islands of Jagniwas and Jagmandir are housed in this lake. Along the eastern banks of the lake lies the City Palace. A boat ride in the lake around sunset offers a breathtaking view of the Lake and City Palace.

Source-
TripHobo

The lake came to be known overseas, after the English Journalist and writer, Rudyard Kipling had mentioned the lake in a phrase from the book, “Letters of Marque”- “If the Venetian owned the Pichola Lake, he might say with justice, `see it and die’”.

Considered to be a manmade marvel, Pichola has historically been recognised as an example of an engineering phenomenon, as it was successfully constructed in the midst of a desert. The lake is enveloped by a number of palaces, temples and elevated hills on all sides.

As much as the lake provides a bubble of tranquillity, it has faced a lot of problems as well. During the period of 1970’s, the lake, which once had an abundance fishes of different varieties, was then empty with no water beings. It was later found out that, the water quality index of Pichola was poor. Over 1000 toilets were directly connected to the lake and the sewage would flow directly from these into the lake. A lot of solid and liquid waste gets deposited into the lake, due to the growing population and lack of taking effective measures. To top it all, the erosion of soil led to the deposit of sediments inside the lake, depleting its water quality.

Several conservation projects were implemented that involved installing a 24-kilometre-long sewerage line around the area of the lake. The problem wasn’t taken care of completely, and even today the waterbody faces the problems of sewage disposal. This causes a drawback to the tourism in regards to the lake.

Taking up of conservation projects and adopting a strict system in regards to sewage disposal are means to ending this problem. It is a continuous process. With the proper effort and care, the lake will be restored to its glory of serving as a mesmerizing beauty.  

References

https://swachhindia.ndtv.com/udaipurs-iconic-lake-pichola-in-crisis-encroachments-and-an-outdated-sewerage-system-take-a-toll-12238/

http://www.udaipur.org.uk/lakes/pichola-lake.html

indiaraju

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E.F.I’s efforts towards a green environment!

It’s not about planting that sapling, its about caring-nurturing and see it grow. E.F.I’s ForesTree efforts aims to increase the green cover of our fragile environment!

The Thamarai Kulam Plantation in Ennore

On 8th January, over 1120 saplings (1060 Clerodendrum and 60 Oleander) were planted along the bunds (530 ft.) of the Thamarai Kulam in Ennore! The Thamarai Kulam was taken up for restoration in 2019 with support from the Greater Chennai Corporation and the Gulf Oil India Ltd.

To know more about this restoration, watch this video!

The Sholinganallur Lake Plantation

On 25th January, over 300 saplings (150 Ixora and 150 Oleander) were planted along the bunds (880 ft.) of the Thamaraikeni Lake in Sholinganallur! The Thamaraikeni Lake was taken up for restoration in 2018 with support from the Govt. of TN, Hinduja Foundation-Jal Jeevan Program, IndusInd Bank and E.F.I.

Check out this video to know more!

We thank all the volunteers and local residents who joined us in our efforts to conserve and protect the Lakes of India

Volunteer for India and her Environment with E.F.I, Jai Hind

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The Stories of Bhimtal Lake

Located at a height of 1200 metres above the sea level and situated about 22 kilometers from Nainital, Uttarakhand; the lake is seated in the small town of Bhimtal, after which the lake was also named. It is considered to be the largest lake around the areas of Nainital.

Named after Bhim, one of the five Pandavas, the lake was also mentioned in the Hindu epic, the Mahabharatha. Having an intimate association with History and Mythology, the lake serves as the most prominent tourist spot of the town, which makes the latter, a famous place to visit. It is believed that the Pandavas had visited the lake during their exile period in the forest. Local legend explains that, their wife Draupadi was thirsty, which made Bhim struck the ground with such a force, using his mace, that created a crater, which was later miraculously filled with water, and this phenomenon is the reason why the lake is named after him. The lake has been known for much longer period in comparison to, Nainital, which was a secret holy lake known only to the people in the hill areas until 1841, when the British discovered it. 

Source-
Postoast

The winter months are usually the period, when the lake gets visited by migratory birds. One of the most exceptional activities in regards to tourism, includes boat cruises and birdwatching. The lake provides drinking water supply and supports aquafarming with a variety of fish species like common snow trout, catla, rohu and silver carp.

As mentioned, it is considered to be one of the best places for tourism, where the lake, accompanied by the temple constructed next to it, and a picturesque island located at the middle of the lake serves as the perfect spot of hangout. A 14.8 meters dam was also built on the lake during the British rule, the Victoria Dam, which created a water storage facility. The dam, along with an aquarium in the lake’s island is spread over an area of 47 acres. It is indeed a scenic place for nature lovers and tourists to visit and enjoy its tranquility and serenity.

Source-
BizareXpedition

References

https://www.thomascook.in/places-to-visit/bhimtal-lake-in-bhimtal-13697

https://www.postoast.com/bhimtal/

http://kumaon.com/Nainital/place/Bhimtal.html

uttarakhandtourism- bhimtal lake

https://www.theretreatbhimtal.in/about-bhimtal/index.html

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The Brackish Side of Pulicat

Being one of the largest Saltwater lake in India, the Pulicat lake is found to have a length of about 50 kilometres and a width of around 5 to 16 kilometres. A major part of the lake lies on the south-eastern portion of Andhra Pradesh and the rest covers a portion of Tamil Nadu in an adjacent manner. The Sriharikota island separates the lake from the Bay of Bengal; which has made the southern end of the island and the northern part of Pulicat as the only entrance of the lake into the sea. The lake’s Bird Sanctuary is encompassed by this waterbody. As described previously, a major part of Pulicat lake comes under the Nellore District of Andhra Pradesh.

History of Pulicat Lake

The history of Pulicat lake goes a long way back and also has an immense heritage value right from the 6th century and the importance for waterbirds is widely recognized. It has been a nesting place for migratory birds from time immemorial.

Around the period of 16th Century, the lake was colonized by the Portuguese followed by the Dutch who’d drifted to the lake as their ships got stuck on the shores of Karimanal village on the opposite side of the lake’s mouth during their occupation. Pulicat was also known by the name of Palaverkadu.

The traditional festivals of Pulicat Lake-

The lake is known to be a venue of numerous festivals that encompasses the traditional, and the cultural heritage part of Pulicat. The Flamingo Festival is conducted annually by the lake, and in the village of Nellapattu in the Sullurpet Mandal of Nellore District, where it serves as a visual treat, especially for the avid birdwatchers. The festival takes place for 3 days, where they celebrate the migratory birds, which includes the flamingos, that come to the lake for their nesting period and return to their native lands along with their babies. This entire ordeal happens between October and March every year. A number of Exhibition stalls and Cultural Programs would be conducted where varied street artists would come and perform by dressing up in costumes of mythological characters. This festival is also conducted to encourage Tourism in the areas of Pulicat and Nellapattu.

Conclusion

As mentioned previously, the lake is a nesting home for various flora and fauna, especially migratory birds which includes the Flamingos, the White Ibis, Grey Pelicans, Spoon Bills, and Spot Billed Ducks among others. It is also known to support 160 species of fish, 25 species of polychaetes, 12 species of penaeid prawns, 29 species of crabs and 19 species of molluscs. The lagoon is a delicate system, that requires constant inflow of seawater and if there is a constant increase in the sand deposition, the inflow of water gets affected in an adverse manner, which also leads to the depletion of fish stock. Despite its ecological, economic, social and cultural importance, the Pulicat Lake is under serious pressure. For the purpose of long-term conservation, it is essential to preserve this treasure.

Reference-
The Hindu
Reference-
MakeMyTrip
Reference-
The News Minute
Reference-
Deccan Chronicle

References-

Live History India

Kalpavriksh

Times Travel

The New Indian Express  

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Let’s get water-wise with sustainable architecture

Concrete is synonymous with development but is an environment killer…

After water , concrete is the most widely used substance on earth. Concrete slabs provide us a modern environment , protect us by from natural disasters by providing a roof over our heads and is the foundation for our infrastructure, transport and energy industries.

Concrete sucks up almost a 10th of the world’s industrial water use. India is the third largest consumer of construction materials after China and USA and is expected to emit between 4 to 7 billion tons of carbon dioxide by 2030, compared to 1.2 billion tons today. Our natural blue and green environment is increasingly becoming concrete grey and the dangers of concrete to name a few are choked landfills, urban flooding, overheated cities, toxic dust, freshwater consumption, destroyed beaches and lakes and ‘sand mafias’.

It is high time we look beyond the concrete age and look at sustainable architecture , circular construction based on building materials that increase recycling, reduce waste and save water.

Eco-friendly building projects that celebrate the spirit of water

Here is a look at 3 sustainable architecture projects designed with natural elements balancing concepts of water, environment and ecological conservation.

1. Sangath, Ahmedabad

The first Indian architect to ever win the International Pritzker Architecture prize was architect Balkrishna Doshi in 2018. Doshi has been a practitioner of architecture for over 70 years with his guru being Le Corbusier(master architect of Chandigarh). Doshi’s studio ‘Sangath’ in Ahmedabad is considered one of his masterpieces that takes advantage of natural energy flow, water bodies reducing greenhouse gases with special materials used to promote low cost building costing.

Sangath , Ahmedabad ( Pic courtesy : https://www.sangath.org/projects/)

2. Transformation of Delhi’s Nullahs (water streams)

In the 14th Century , the Tughlak dynasty in Delhi constructed drainage channels to divert monsoon rainwater called as ‘Nullahs’ . The Nullahs were a dense, connected system of water streams spanning 350 kilometers  with 20,000 branches, across 1750 acres of land and ultimately all tributaries connected to the Yamuna River.

Currently, the nullahs are unhygienic drains, in a shabby state – they smell, breed disease and pollute the Yamuna River.

The Morphogenesis project proposes that prior to sewage entering the nullahs , wastewater is treated and also any rainwater collected is filtered to form a sustainable network of nullahs. Apart from water treatment, an alternative transportation infrastructure can be built on either side of the nullahs by providing pedestrian and cycling routes connecting neighborhoods and business districts. 

This ambitious project aims to interlink many of the city’s famous archaeological sites that are situated along the nullah network and opening broad areas of tourism to sports, creating a cultural web within the Delhi metropolis.

Delhi Nullahs transformation project

3. Oceanix City Concept for Floating cities:

International Architecture firm BIG has designed a concept for a floating city that could help populations threatened by extreme weather events and rising sea levels.

Famous Danish architect Bjarke Ingels, known for visualizing and designing sustainable architecture concepts such as Oceanix city  presented to the United Nations an idea of ‘floating islands ’ . One floating island would have multiple homes built on it and groups of ‘floating islands ’ form villages. Villages are grouped to form an archipelago of a sustainable city.

Home to around 10,000 citizens these floating cities would be entirely self-reliant, subsiding off water collected, desalinized, and stored on-site, with food grown through hydroponics and vertical farming.  Oceanix City would produce zero waste and rely almost entirely on renewable energy.

Oceanix City Concept ( Pic credit : BIG Architecture firm)

What is LEED and why is it good for buildings to be LEED certified ?

LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design and is a widely used and recognized green building rating system around the world for both commercial and residential buildings. When a building is LEED certified, what it means is that the building’s design and construction is very energy efficient , water usage, air quality and the choice of building materials are healthy, highly sustainable and are cost-saving green buildings.

LEED certification ensures that wastewater management is highly effective, and wastewater is re-used either by treatment , water harvesting or recycled.

Infosys, one of India’s largest software services provider has most of its 50 offices LEED certified and watch this video of their Chandigarh office setting an example of these green buildings being better for the environment , healthier for employees and saves money long term.

Something unique …look at nature’s architecture that stands for a thousand years ….

These amazing tree bridges are found in the Cherrapunji region of state of Meghalya. The living tree root bridges called ‘ jing kieng jri ‘ made by the local people are handmade by guiding the roots across a river or stream and allowed to grow and strengthen over a period. The roots are tied and twisted together and encouraged to combine with each other and form strong roots on either side of the riverbanks.

Though impractical for cities , it does show how mother nature can help people commute without worrying about environmental damages due to modern day construction.

In conclusion, sustainable architecture that incorporates rainwater collection, wastewater treatment , solar design, recycled and sustainable materials , and other ecological methods not only protects our environment but also provides a better quality of life .

Promoting ‘smart growth’ of our cities and towns by adopting sound design and construction principles increases housing opportunities for all and makes our environment more resilient, prosperous, healthier and water-wise. We should demand sustainable architecture, governments and architects should invest in it and housing regulations should mandate it for these solutions to be successful.

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Pangong Tso – A lake that changes colour

Pangong lake is the world’s highest saltwater lake situated at an altitude of almost 4,350m in the union territory of Ladakh. The lake derives its name from the Tibetan word, “Pangong Tso”, which means “high grassland”. For the last decade, acquiring the western front of the lake has been a point of contention between India and China because 2/3rd of the lake about 20 km from the Line of Actual Control lies in Tibet.

Colorful water of the world's highest salt water lake the Pangong lake  (Ladakh India). [4608x2176] [OC] #Music #IndieArtis… | Salt water lake,  Salt and water, Water
Source- pinterest.com

The charm of Pangong lake is its ability to change colour. The shades range from light green to crystal blue and sometimes even golden,red and pink. Experts believe that change in sky colour and refraction at high altitudes causes this phenomenon.

Why Pangong Tso Lake Is Enchanting And Deserves A Visit | Travel.Earth
Source- travel.earth
Plan Your Trip To The Lake Of Changing Colours, Pangong Lake
Pink colour of the lake , Source-https://www.herzindagi.com/

Another intriguing quality of the lake is that it completely freezes during the winter months (November-March) despite having brackish character. The rocks situated in the bed of the lake discharge high amounts of salt which is not drained into any sea or ocean and so it remains enclosed within the water body , causing the water to be saline.

Frozen Lakes of India | India.com
Source- india.com

The lake does not support any vegetation or aquatic life except for some species of shrimps but it is an important breeding ground for migratory birds like- Brahmini ducks, black-necked cranes, and a plethora of seagulls. A species of herbivorous ground squirrel called Marmot and a type of wild ass locally known as Kiang are the commonly found creatures here.

Pangong Lake, Ladakh: Of Ever-Changing Colours and Sparkling Waters
Himalayan Marmot , Source-https://www.budgetwayfarers.com/

The snow-capped Himalayas, crystal clear water, and serene environment will make you fall in love with the Pangong lake. Camping by the clear waters and enjoying the breathtaking view will complete your experience.

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Is Nuclear waste a major water polluter ?

Nuclear power has historically been one of the largest contributors of constant, carbon-free electricity globally . In 2019 about 10 % of global electricity was generated from nuclear energy.

Electricity generated from the world’s nuclear reactors increased for the seventh consecutive year in 2019, with electricity output reaching 2657 TWh (Trillion-watt hour) . India has 22 operating nuclear plants producing 6255 MWh (Million-watt hour) which is around a dismal 3% of its total energy mix as compared with France where 71% of its electricity generation comes from 56 nuclear plants and USA has 95 nuclear plants that contribute to around 20% of its energy needs.

How do nuclear plants work ? Like all other thermal power plants, nuclear reactors work by generating heat, which boils water to produce steam to drive turbo-generators. In a nuclear reactor, heat is the product of nuclear fission. Uranium and plutonium nuclei in the fuel are bombarded by neutrons and split usually into two smaller fragments, releasing energy in the form of heat. Uranium is mined and milled and the product – uranium oxide concentrate – is the raw material for making nuclear fuel.

Kazakhstan produces 43% of world’s uranium and caters to 80% of India’s uranium requirement annually.

And why is nuclear power considered reliable ? Power generated from nuclear plants have the highest capacity factor (at around 90%)  , meaning that the nuclear plant is running at maximum power for 90% of its time when compared to power plants running on other energy sources (see graph below) . Nuclear power plants in full-swing operation can produce energy non-stop for an entire year, which allows for a good return on investment because there is no delay in energy production unlike wind or solar plants whose outputs fluctuate with day to day climate variations.

Nuclear waste handling and impact on water pollution :

Little waste is generated : Nuclear fuel is very energy dense, so very little of it is required to produce immense amounts of electricity – especially when compared to other energy sources. As a result, a correspondingly small amount of waste is produced. Radioactive waste is typically classified as either low-level (LLW), intermediate-level (ILW), or high-level (HLW), dependent, primarily, on its level of radioactivity. Up to 90% of nuclear waste can be recycled and the rest can be disposed safely underground.

March 2011 Tsunami tragedy : Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant was flooded when the earthquake hit, and its control equipment triggered a meltdown. Radioactive water started piling up at the site and even today , after 9 years , millions of tons of radioactive water are in the tanks of the reactor.

What are the disposal options for this wastewater, and why is Japan considering the ocean?

Disposal options are very limited. Since dosage determines toxicity, any solution must dilute the radioactive water as much as possible. An expert panel assembled to find solutions focused on two potential options: vaporizing the water and dispersing it into the atmosphere  or dumping it in the ocean. Though the United Nations International Maritime Organization is governing this activity, local fishers and environmentalists are worried about the impact on marine life and neighbors South Korea have banned seafood imports from Japan.

Fukushima Nuclear Plant Japan was flooded by the 2011 Tsunami ( Picture credit : Alamy)

How is India handling nuclear waste ?

India is pursuing a closed fuel cycle, where there is very little quantity of radioactive waste generated. Moreover, technologies for separation, partitioning and burning of waste are in place ,which will further bring down the quantity of radioactive waste. Kudankulam plant in Tamilnadu is supported by Russian state atomic energy corporation Rosatom, and recycles its nuclear waste and the useful radioisotopes from the waste made use of in various other applications.

What’s new ?

  1. Russia has launched floating nuclear power plants that are modular and can provide reliable carbon-free power in remote , off-grid zones where there are power shortages and limited electrical grids.
  2. France is building a new aircraft carrier that will be nuclear-powered. Costing around $8.5 Billion , the carrier will have a deadweight of 75,000 tons and carry upto 30 Rafale fighter jets and showcases France’s climate strategy committed to lower emissions using nuclear energy when compared to diesel fuel.
  3. New methods such as shock electrodialysis that generates shockwaves in water and removes the contaminants from polluted water and separates out the radioactive isotopes are being used for routine clean-ups in nuclear reactors.

In conclusion , there exists a popular misconception that due to certain parts of nuclear waste remain radioactive for billions of years, the perceived health risks arising out of radiation is extremely harmful for generations. Many countries like Germany, Switzerland, Italy and Spain are phasing out nuclear plants due to public concerns around safety and focus on newer clean energy technologies.

Nuclear energy is a good alternate to fossil fuels(such as coal, crude oil , natural gas) as countries race towards less CO2 emissions, improved air quality and lesser marine pollution . The need for diversification of power projects has never been greater and nuclear energy can co-exist with other renewable sources of energy such as wind, solar, hydroelectric, biomass etc. with robust safety guidelines , waste & water management and real time monitoring in place.

Russia’s floating nuclear power plant ( Picture credit : https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-49446235 )
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Urban Expansion has led to loss of Lakes

Image via IANS

Migration of people is one of the main reasons for urbanisation, as people moved from rural areas to cities in search of jobs for better lifestyle and better living standards. Already half the global population live in cities, it is estimated that by 2050 two-thirds of the world’s people will live in Urban areas.

Image by Noorani via UNICEF/BANA2007-00136/Noorani

This only means there will be a fight for two of the most important  issues, Poverty and Environment deterioration. With the growing population, there is a scarcity of resources like water, quality air, energy, health and quality of life.  The water bodies, land, climate, vegetation, ground water level, water resources, soil are highly impacted. Considering the nature of urbanisation, it is important and critical to minimize the damages to the environment. Strong planning for cities will be essential in managing all these difficulties.

Water bodies are encroached for infrastructure developments like apartments, roads, parks, industries and factories. This development had led to a crunch of resources and basic amenities. Encroachment of lakes and drainage lines leads to floods when there is heavy rain. The effects of floods are loss of lives, damage of infrastructures including roads, canals, drainage lines and sewage systems.

Image by  wonderisland via The Lake Receives More Water From Sewage Than Natural Water Flow (hscprojects.com)

Waste water outlets are let into lakes, thus contaminating the lakes and giving no chance for aquatic animals to survive and not suitable for daily use or consumption. This also leads to contamination of groundwater level. Contaminated lakes  provide an environment for bacteria, parasites and pests to multiply drastically. Waterborne diseases like cholera, malaria, diarrhoea etc.. are caused because of consumption of contaminated water. 

Wetland loses its fertility. When the soil does not have the capacity to absorb water and it does not allow water to seep through and reach ground water aquifers. 

Lakes are one of the most valuable sources of freshwater in urban cities, they help the communities around to establish. To have a balance we must learn to coexist with nature, our actions must be measured considering both the environment and human habitat. These causes must be reversed and With better planning and sustainable ways to conserve water, sustainability can be maintained and reduces the impact on the environment.

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Time to keep a check on the pollution

The waters of Narsampathi Lake have fallen prey to plastic pollution over the last couple of years. The lake lies within the vicinity of Nagaraja Puram, a village located within 20 km radius of the city. This not only makes the environment look so unsightly but it also destroys pond-life. The pollution has led to lesser fish in the lake and this leads up to the pond being an unsuitable habitat for birds. Polluted waters also prove unsuitable for other water based animals/reptiles.

A series of efforts were taken up by the government and local NGOs to clean up and revive the lake. But due to sheer negligence, dumping of waste persisted in this lake and ended up returning it to its unsightly state. A long term solution cannot be put in place when it comes to maintaining the lake if the people around the place fail to realise the importance of not polluting it. Preaching about the importance of preserving ecosystems or biodiversity loss doesn’t really help because these issues hardly matter to those who are concerned about making their ends meet. The environment is the last thing these people want to be concerned about.

Poverty and environmental degradation are closely related. So then is it impossible to fix this situation. No. People around the lake are dependent on this water body for many things. It is a source of water for their daily chores and provides for a fishing ground. Given that there are direct benefits that these draw from the lake highlighting them can make the message more powerful and heard. Emphasis has to be placed on the fact that a healthy system ensures their personal well being. Besides this incentives can be provided if needed.

For centuries man has considered himself different from nature. For as long as this dualism exists he will continue to miss out on probable solutions to solve environmental concerns. We need to identify a middle ground and rethink our place in nature. The water in a lake must remain clean if it is to provide a healthy environment for the organisms (animals and plants) living in it but also for human beings whose lives are largely supported by the ecosystem.

Written and Edited by: Trrishala Kumaraswamy

Volunteer for India and her Environment with E.F.I, Jai Hind

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Picturesque Puzhal Lake

Seated in the Thiruvallur district of Tamil Nadu, this lake is situated in the area of Red Hills of Chennai. This is also the reason, why Puzhal Lake is also sometimes, referred to as the Red Hills Lake. This is one of the waterbodies that is fed by the Chembarambakkam Lake, apart from the Adyar River and the Porur lake. It has a capacity to hold water up to, a quantity of 3300 million cubic feet.

History-

Constructed during the year of 1876, under the British rule, in the town of Puzhal, it originally served as a small tank, holding a capacity of 500 million cubic feet. Apart from this, two additional weirs (low dams) were built, which functioned as surplus ones, to release excess water from the lake. In the year of 1997, it’s size was increased to cater to the people of Chennai, for drinking water purposes, apart from storing water of the Krishna river, that flowed from Andhra Pradesh through Poondi reservoir and Sholavaram tank.

Source-
Kiddle

Jones Tower-

This tower was built in the year of 1881 and is the main attraction of the lake. It was initially built to measure the water levels and the deepness of the lake. The bund roads of the tower is used for several recreational activities like walking and jogging and a perfect spot for spending time with your family, serving as a picturesque view.

2015 Floods-

According to statistics, the lake had a storage capacity of 2,228 million cubic feet out of it’s original capacity of 3300 million cubic feet. Compared to the other reservoirs, Puzhal had only 67.5% of the total capacity. The Area of Puzhal recorded the highest rainfall that flowed overnight, in the history. The lake was recorded with a water inflow of 9,607 cubic feet and an outflow of 5,470 cubic feet, which was the highest inflow and outflow of reservoir’s history.

Source-
Kiddle

Puzhal Lake today-

Up until the end of 2019, the city was facing heavy water shortage, where the pipeline water supply was cut down by almost 40%. The Groundwater was fed by the lake apart from many other waterbodies. The heavy monsoon accompanied with the Nivar cyclone in December 2020, filled up the lakes with ample rain water. The Burevi cyclone that came after the former, was converted into a depression and caused a steady and a continuous rainfall in different parts of Chennai. The lake started filling up too fast, and almost more than 2,000 cubic feet of water was discharged from the river. As mentioned previously, it is still considered to be a perfect tourist spot for a number of recreational activities. if you’re looking for a place where you can spend a day of your Tamil Nadu holidays amidst nature then the Puzhal Lake is the best fit.

Source-
Enidhi

References-

Wikipedia

DTnext

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Kolleru Lake: A story of vanishing biodiversity

Flamingos spread across the lake engrossed in their process of searching for food. Boom! A gunshot hits one of the innocent birds and the rest fly hither thither to save their lives, unable to mourn the loss of their fellow being. The fishermen who shot the bullet sits back, without any guilt, happily with the sense of saving the fish from being taken away by the pink migratory birds. And thus, year by year, the population of flamingoes visiting the Kolleru lake has lowered rendering to the slow decay of diversity in the once healthy and diverse lake.

westgodavari.org

Kolleru lake, one of the largest freshwater lakes in India located in the state of Andhra Pradesh and forms the largest shallow freshwater lake in Asia, 15 kilometers away from the Eluru and 65km from Rajamahendravaram. Kolleru is located between Krishna and Godavari deltas. Once well-known for the large number of flamingoes that flourished here, the lake now surprises the visitors with fewer members of the fauna community.

Source: Britannica.com

Human greed has intervened in the natural bond that exists between the water bodies and the bird-life. Illegal encroachments have led to poor quality of water as the natural cleansing agents are washed away from the lake without any prohibition. The intrusion of seawater into the landmasses and its fallout in terms of adverse influence on the rainfall pattern in this region. Reduction in rainfall leads to failure of crops and thus an endless vicious cycle is created.

Source: tourtravelworld.com

In November 2002, this lake was declared a wetland of international importance under the Ramsar Convention, which would help in the restoration of the lake. However, without individual efforts, it is very difficult to revive the beauty of this precious lake. With various concerned scientists and large-scale human efforts, steps towards reversing the damages to the lake are being carried out and it is possible that this campaign will help Kolleru regain the title of the largest pelicanry of the world.

Source: Commons.wikimedia.org

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Women as Water Managers

There is enough fresh water on the planet for 7.7 billion people who inhabit it , but it is distributed unevenly and too much of it is wasted, polluted and unsustainably managed. Quarter of the world’s population face water shortage as domestic water consumption has grown over 600% over the last 50 years.

Countries and people are fighting on account of water and look at this database with a chronological listing of recorded water conflicts globally. In 2018 Cape Town, South Africa taps ran dry in an infamous event called ’Day Zero’ and India’s water hostilities every summer have unfortunately become common . Texas, the second largest state in USA will need to find an extra 10 trillion liters of water by 2070 ; the question is how ?

The gender gap and water :

In the Indian economy , women are grossly under-represented making up only 26% of the workforce and contributing only 17% of India’s gross domestic product, as compared to the global average of 37%. In the Global Gender Gap Index 2020 rankings, India slipped 4 places to 112th rank in gender empowerment.

Lack of access to safe drinking water supply, particularly impacts women as they are disproportionately burdened with the responsibilities related to water: collection, treatment, use for domestic chores, and caring for family members ill from waterborne diseases. In households that do not have access to drinking water on premises, 80% of the water is collected by women. This gender disparity has resulted in low contribution of women to India’s economy and on an average 66% of women’s work in India is unpaid.

With a view on farming , water management and involvement of women , the table below summarizes some of the top reasons preventing women participation in water user associations in Eastern India and why women are often ignored. Overall, only men participating and addressing the meetings, and men making all the decisions, were major obstacles to participation of women.

The relevant data are obtained from the states of Assam and Bihar through a focused survey administered to 109 women in 30 water institutions, and a larger farmer-institutional survey covering 510 households and 51 water institutions.

Success stories of water projects empowering women in rural India :

1. Safe Water Network project: Transforming women from water carriers to women entrepreneurs and managers

In Telangana state, private companies providing water to the community is expensive(15 Rupees for a 20-liter container ) and unaffordable for many . Safe water network helped setup several water stations that are locally managed ,operated and water priced affordably at approximately 4 rupees per 20 liters .

Just like Bank ATMs, these water stations(called iJal meaning ‘my water’ in Hindi) are installed at convenient locations and consumers can purchase and pay for water using a card (e-payments) anytime of the day. Water is locally sourced and treated for water contaminants and local women are trained to manage and operate the water stations.

These iJal stations owned and operated by women has been a huge success with almost 49 water stations providing 150,000 people access to clean water in Medak district of Telangana.

These women are proving to be competent water managers keen to learn both technical and managerial skills. Not only has this increased the self-confidence and independence of the women who run it , these projects are also financially viable and provide capacity and opportunity for women to become active leaders in the iJal value chain as entrepreneurs, operators, field executives, and mobilizers in the provision of safe water to local communities .

These water projects are now extended to the states of Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan.

Women managing water stations

2. Tata-Cornell Institute AguaClara project : Clean drinking water systems

The vision of Mr Ratan Tata (former chairman of India’s Tata Group) , this initiative was made possible improving access to clean water and sanitation for villages in Jharkhand state of Eastern India.

Using low-cost and innovative technologies, the water treatment systems consist of a filtration unit for removing suspended matter and a chemical dosing unit for removing fecal contamination, making it safe for drinking and cooking. Solar-powered pumps move the water from lowland wells to an elevated tank in the village and then into homes, all without using electricity or fossil fuels. The outcomes reveal that women in households with piped water save an average of almost 1 hour per day on water collection, compared to households without them. Apart from being healthier, access to clean water in the home frees female family members to live more productive lives.

Tata Group enabling piped water projects in Jharkhand, India

3. Jal Jeevan mission :

A Government of India campaign run by the Ministry of Jal Shakti called  Jal Jeevan Mission, is envisioned to provide safe and adequate drinking water through individual household tap connections by 2024 to all households in rural India. All States and Union Territories to plan for their drinking water safety and Gram Panchayats / rural communities to plan, implement, manage, own, operate and maintain their own in-village water supply systems.

Some of the highlights are :

  • Solar Energy based stand-alone water supply systems for scattered/ isolated/ tribal/ hilly villages
  • Community Water Purification Plants in Groundwater Contaminated Areas
  • Cold deserts are primarily located in high altitudes in Himalayan region of Arunachal Pradesh, Ladakh, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, etc. with primary source of water is glacial melt, which is being impacted due to climate change. Promoting use of micro-irrigation can reduce the irrigation requirement to increase drinking water security.

Lessons learnt from these stories :

India needs to catch up with the rest of the world and ensure women are mandatorily represented, have enough opportunities to grow as female leaders and can actionize others in the community to contribute to their own health, livelihood and wellbeing in general .

  • To ensure greater equity in water access, women must be included in decision-making related to water and irrigation. The non-availability of water puts additional burden on women; hence water programs and projects must be planned with a view of women as significant water users.
  • Focused training for women through STEM(curriculum in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) education and vocational programs and initiatives on conservation and utilization of water.
  • We must aim for more women as water managers and encourage them to organize and participate in networking opportunities and community events that cater to women and girls, improve partnerships, providing them with the space and time to share tips and practices to improve water efficiency.
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Watching Over The Pristine Waters Of Perur

The Perur Chinna Kulam tops the list of the several scenic and serene sights in the city of
Coimbatore. The rain fed pond is an ecological hotspot and hosts several species of birds and
insects. Common sightings at the pond include Common coots, Bar headed Geese, Drongos,
Brahminy Kites, Black Kites, Small Blue Kingfishers, Wagtails, Cormorants among many
others. The waters are coloured with hues of greens from the very many Babool trees (Vachellia
nilotica subsp. indica) that populate the waters along with water lilies (Nymphaea daubenyana).
The sight is enhanced by the Velliangiri hills in the distance. On the shores of the pond, here and
there grow thickets of reeds. They also form similar patches at the back of the pond. The pond
has been restored and maintained by Siruthuli, an NGO based in Coimbatore which works to
rejuvenate the water sources in the city of Coimbatore. Restoration activities over the past year
have really paid off. Improved capacity of the pond and strong bunds have made way for a
healthy and rich ecosystem around the area.

It is essential to protect these waters for they provide refuge for birds, amphibians and
insects across intensive agricultural landscapes. They also play a key role in maintaining the
water table and providing for irrigation and other water related needs of people who live around
this area. Improving our understanding and management of such ponds can help us provide
excellent wildlife havens, right in the middle of the landscapes where they are needed the most.

Photographs by : Vishal Shanmugasundaram
Written and Edited by: Trrishala Kumaraswamy

Volunteer for India and her Environment with E.F.I, Jai Hind

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The Dark reality of Dal lake

Source – https://www.deccanherald.com/

Popularly known as ” Srinagar’s Jewel” or “Lake of flowers” the Dal lake of Jammu & Kashmir has been a tourist hotspot for several years. With snow-capped mountains and lush green coniferous trees in its backdrop, it truly creates a magical scenery. The lake is traversed through long wooden boats known as ‘Shikharas’ which pass through the floating flower and vegetable market.

Dal Lake
Source-www.greenkashmirtravels.com

‘All that glitters is not gold’. Staying true to this saying the Dal lake might be scenically mesmerizing but the rise in pollution there is shocking. The lake used to cover an area of 75 square kilometers but in the last two decades shrunk to 12 square kilometers . Numbers from the Dal Lake pollution statistics look dangerous as the Lakes and Waterways Development Authority (LWDA) estimates that 80,00 tonnes of silt ,31,000 kg of nitrates and 4,000 kg of phosphates are dumped into the lake.

Untreated sewage is also a culprit in the overall degradation. The government has failed to upgrade the STP’s in that region which compels people to direct sewage into the water body. Due to an escalation in sewage discharge, wild weeds have started to grow in the lake contaminating it further and harming aquatic life. Since the lake is also one of the sources of potable water, locals fall prey to diseases like- typhoid, gastroenteritis, etc.

In the year 1997, 500 crore was directed towards the “Save Dal Project” by the state and union government but after 2-3 years, the project hardly made any progress. The government authorities took no accountability for the same. Similarly, several other projects were assigned to the state government like- developing STP’s, de-weeding the lake but all of them faced the same fate.

The Dal lake is choking in effluents and hazardous material. The government and citizens have to take some serious steps to revive it. Locals have to be educated, STP’s have to be developed and awareness has to be spread for protecting the pride of Kashmir.

“Be the change that you wish to see in the world” – Mahatma Gandhi.

Written by Vedha P

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The Phenomenon called Chembarambakkam

Rains are something that are very welcoming to the city of Chennai. Everybody prays for that marvel to happen, from the millennials to baby boomers. Children wish for rains especially, so that the Government can declare a holiday while the rest would simply enjoy the smell of petrichor and spend their time having a hot cup of tea with fritters. But what happens if that marvel becomes excessive and something, we wish to happen a lot becomes something we wish to disappear? And what would happen if Mother nature fills up the rivers to an extent that it creates a catastrophic situation? Chembarambakkam lake is one such Phenomenon. Known once as, Puliyur Kottam (village), Chembarambakkam is one of the 24 kottams that was prevalent during the later part of Chola period in Thondai Mandalam with Kancheepuram, that served as it’s headquarters. Dating back to the 8th century, it was built under the construction of Narasimhavarman II of the Pallava dynasty

Situated about 25 kilometres from Chennai with a capacity of almost 4000 million cusecs, and serving as one of the four reservoirs of the city, it supplies water to both the Puzhal lake and the Adyar river. It is one of the thirst-quenching lakes for the people of  Chennai. Until 2015, there was no reason for anxiety or panic. But the heavy rains back then, as we all know, resulted in the release of the dam, and flooding of the entire city. Every part of Chennai, still feel that anxiety, every time November and December comes and the monsoon season happens. With the emergence of the Nivar cyclone, for the first time since 2015, the water levels have risen to almost 80%, and are continuing to rise, that the Public Works Department, are in talks about releasing the dam, to the other connecting rivers. Environmentalists suggest that one of the causes for that disaster would be the water capacity being reduced to 60% due to the excessive silt deposits apart from the river being dumped with garbage and rubble.

It is a perfect spot to visit during the periods of October to March, irrespective of the current situation. It is a period where the climate is at its best. It is an aesthetic sight to view while going on picnics and family gatherings. Serving as a home to several water beings and birds, it is an ideal place for Fishing and Birdwatching. Once considered as a lifeline for the South of Chennai, it has provided a source of irrigation for almost 168 villages, in the district. All things set aside, it is one of the most beautiful landmarks and a brilliant tourist attraction to visit. Some of the measures taken to protect it, especially during natural calamities like floods, include the proper management, distribution and re-allocation of water from the lake to its connecting water bodies. Maintaining a proper system of information to keep tabs of the weather fluctuation also helps to understand it’s pattern and be prepared accordingly. It is of utmost

importance to take such measures, as it is our responsibility to understand it’s significance and the impact it can create, if the proper action is not taken.

References

https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/chennai/watch-chembarambakkam-once-the-lifeline-of-south-chennai/article33178145.ece

https://www.inspirock.com/india/chennai/chembarambakkam-lake-a3273030837

https://www.maalaimalar.com/amp/News/TopNews/2016/05/19053149/1012895/Chembarambakkam-Lake-again-threat-by-chennai-people.vpf

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chembarambakkam_Lake

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Caring about Water; Caring for Water

The influences of anthropogenic activities have seeped into almost every aspect of the environment. The expansion of humanity into the natural landscapes, largely in the form of urbanisation or agricultural developments has led to the fragmentation of water bodies and key habitats, as well as harm to valuable flora and fauna.

Furthermore, the discharge of industrial run off, and microplastic pollution have contaminated water bodies, severely disrupting aquatic ecosystems, and reducing the amount of freshwater available. As of June 2019, the Central Water Commission reported that 65% of India’s reservoirs were dry. About 40 percent of India’s population, including 21 cities will have no access to drinking water by 2030 according to a report by thinktank NITI Aayog. One of which is Chennai, home to over 10 million people.

Plastic Pollution. Source: Swachh India

It seems that human beings, always regarding themselves as the dominant species because of cleverness and inventiveness, are pushing the earth into a danger zone. Moreover, environmental degradation is rooted deeply in human culture. In a world forcefully maintaining materialistic standards, people are motivated to exploit natural resources to achieve economic wealth, perceived by many as the ultimate measure of success.

But there are some who do not see nature in such a way.

The Environmentalist Foundation of India is just one example of this, demonstrating that nature is not simply a resource to serve human needs, but it is a highly integrated system upon which all life forms depend on for survival. However, questions which comes to mind are how do some come to care about water? How do they come to care for water? How can others do the same?

To shed some light on this, I asked fellow interns at the Environmentalist Foundation of India two questions, one focusing on environmental attitudes, and the other on environmental behaviours.

  1. Why do you care about water? How did this caring come about?
  2. Why did you want to do something, such as volunteer with the E.F.I, to protect water and the natural world?

The quotations dotted throughout the remainder of this article are thanks to my fellow interns at the E.F.I. This article is tribute to their kindness in contributing answers and to their passion for conserving water bodies.

How did you come to care ABOUT water?

One of the clear reasons as to how a caring about water came about was undoubtedly education, either informal education based on an experience, or through formal education, such as through school classes. For example:

“I always loved studying water bodies and oceans around the world in my geography classes in school but one time, I watched a film on the Flint Michigan Water Crisis. I could not imagine more and more people living like that”.

For those unaware of the case of Flint Michigan, it is a story of environmental injustice and bad decision making. Flint’s water crisis began in 2014, when the city switched its drinking water supply in a cost-saving move. Switching from Detroit water to the Flint River, a river with highly corrosive water resulted in lead leaching into the drinking water of thousands of homes. Inadequate treatment and water testing resulting in a series of health issues for Flint residents, issues which were chronically ignored and discounted by officials.

Other reasons came not from specific case study examples, but from realisations of how human and nature interactions are inherently interrelated.

“I came to realise the importance of [water] when I saw what wasted water did to nature and what occurs when people interfere in natural processes for their own personal gain”.

“My care for water came when I realized its importance and the kind of role it plays in keeping the ecological balance of the nature”.

These two responses share a similar theme, that caring about water protects the ecosystem and humanity. If we negatively impact the ecosystem, for example, if we pollute the water bodies with plastic or leaked oil, we harm species that live there, and the species that drink the water, including ourselves.

Put simply, a caring about water came from a vital understanding, that

“Without water, living organisms cannot survive. So, it is necessary for us to conserve it”.

If we could all understand that conserving water was pivotal for being able to survive on this planet, then perhaps we would all care a little bit more about what we are putting into our water sources, rather than filling with rubbish, microplastics, untreated sewage, heavy metals and chemicals.

How did you come to care FOR water?

The second question focused on why other interns wanted to do something to protect water, considering how they came to care not just about water, but actually for water. Answers can be summarised by a desire to learn, and a desire to take community action, to do one’s part.

Concerning the former, two interns explained:

“I began work with EFI to understand the process and work involved so that I can also do the same for a lake just outside my campus (college) which has been foaming and is quite polluted”.

“Through my bachelor degree in pharmaceutical sciences, I came to know about the damage that the pharma industry yields and how it exacerbates the already stressed water systems. And I somehow felt responsible to do something about it”.

They went on to add “I recently learned that activism has many forms- writing scientific reports might just be mine. However, my aim wasn’t merely that. Through this volunteer work, I wanted to learn more about the water issues and how people resolve them. Doing research on local water bodies has put me in touch with my immediate surroundings, their stress factors and what I can do for them”.

In these cases, caring for water and volunteering for the EFI came with the opportunity to ‘do good’, but also to ‘learn to do good’, to learn how to take their experience to their own neighbourhoods and restore water bodies there, or into their own field, such as the pharmaceutical industry.

For the latter, answers focused on the desire to do one’s part to conserve water, and that together, as team, and if we all play our part, we stand a better chance at restoring and protecting an increased number of water bodies. For example:

“I joined hands with EFI to volunteer for our environment including the water bodies as it is a great platform to start with. I feel it is better to serve for the environment as a community or a team, which will have greater results”.

“My main motive to join EFI is to do anything I can from my end to protect and preserve the natural habitat, that also includes the water resources.

“I wanted to intern with EFI for not only doing my part in protecting water but also to raise awareness”.

G-shaped islands restoration on Arasankazhani Lake. Source: E.F.I.

What we can take away from this is the centrality of water to life, and the importance of each of us doing our best. Our best to limit pollution, our best to restore water bodies, and our best to raise awareness of the harm humanity has caused, and continues to cause, to water.

We all care about water. With water making up, on average 71% of Earth, and 60% of the human body, we would be foolish not to. But the distinction between caring about water and caring for water is an important one. If we thought we had a choice in this, then we would be wrong. When we pollute water sources, we are the ones who lack clean water. Caring for water is a must if we want to guarantee ourselves and future generations a healthy life. As a fellow intern put it:

“The first thing someone should understand is, he or she is themself a product of the nature. It’s not something “around” them, in fact they are a part of the nature, if they are harmful to the environment, they’re being harmful to themselves. Therefore, protecting and being responsible when it comes to our environment should become habitual”.

We all need to care a bit more for water. The term environmentality expresses this, a term which usually resides in academia, but which should be of a more common understanding, understood simply as an awareness of environmental issues and a sense of responsibility to the natural world

We only have one Earth as our home. Let’s care about it. Let’s care for it.

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Lonar Lake of Maharashtra

Nestled inside the Deccan Plateau, Lonar lake is India’s best kept secret . Located in Buldhana district of the Vidarbha region of Maharashtra (around 500 Km from Mumbai), Lonar lake is one of its kind in the world .

Its origin can be traced back to around 52,000 years ago as a result of an asteroid collision with Earth creating a crater 1.8Km wide and 450 feet deep . This ‘impact’ crater fed by natural springs and monsoon precipitation formed a natural, saline lake called the Lonar lake. Almost circular in shape, this unique salt-water lake has no outflows to rivers and its high alkalinity (pH more than 10.5) makes the water un-usable for drinking, agriculture and industry.

Why is Lonar Lake so different ? It is a crater formation …

Lonar lake is different from other lakes in the world . It is the only crater lake on Earth formed out of basaltic bedrock (like craters found on Mars, Moon and other planets) that has both high alkalinity and salinity with rich microbial diversity.

The lake has two parts with different chemical composition. The inner part is alkaline (with pH 11) and the outer part is neutral (with pH 7) and each has distinct flora, fauna , and the most striking microorganisms among which is its blue green algae and bacteria. These microscopic forms have adapted to thrive in an extremely alkaline medium, where normally no life forms could hope to survive.

Around June 2020 , Lonar Lake turned pink for more than a month . Due to the presence of  salt loving bacterial population called ‘Haloarchaea’  that produces a pink pigment and elevated temperatures , the entire lake surface changed from blue color to pink.Once the monsoons arrived the lake water was diluted, and the lake returned to its normal blue-green color.

Lake story :

The locals in the area relate to several stories that make the Lonar lake so historical and mysterious . The ancient scriptures (Puranas) state that the demon Lonasura while hiding in the lake was killed by Daitya Sudan, an avatar of Vishnu. The blood scattered by the demon formed the water of the lake and his decomposed body contributed to the high salt content in the water . And that makes Lonar lake a one-of-its-kind salt-water lake where unique micro-organisms thrive.

Historical references :

Surrounding the Lonar wetlands today are numerous temple ruins that indicate high archaeological, cultural and spiritual significance to the crater lake. Inside the crater are 3 inscriptions referencing 27 temples, 3 monuments and 7 temple tanks.

Some of the temples that need a mention are the Shankar Ganesh temple that is partially submerged in the water and has a rectangular shaped Shiva idol. The Sita Nahani or the Dhara temple is a place where goddess Sita is believed to have bathed during the Ramayan exile .

Vishnu Temple – Lonar Lake

Lonar Lake is now added to the Ramsar convention list of wetlands:

The Ramsar treaty (first adopted in the Iranian city of Ramsar in 1971) is an intergovernmental treaty adopted by most of UN member countries ( including India) that strives to conserve wetlands and ensure the effective management and protect their diverse ecosystem .

Lonar lake and its surrounding wetlands were added to Ramsar protected wetland list in October 2020 and this will help preserve the water , the countless species of plants and animals whose survival depends on the lake’s environment . Lonar wetlands preserves the Indian sandalwood tree that is vulnerable to exploitation as well as animal species like the grey wolf, jungle cats, hyenas, cobras , water snakes and several beautiful migratory bird species.

If this lake is on your list of tourist places to visit, let’s remember the uniqueness of this crater lake as we admire its beauty, and do you think the lake would turn pink again next summer ? Time will tell…

Red-wattled lapwing bird at Lonar lake

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Harike Wetland

Harike Wetland is the largest wetland in Punjab state, northern India. Situated on the confluence of the river Beas and Sutlej, the wetland encompasses an area of approximately 86km2. Declared a Ramsar site in 1990 and a Wild Life Sanctuary in 1999, Harike Wetland offers a sanctuary a vast array of species.

A bird watchers paradise, Harike Wetland attracts thousands of migratory birds, offering a refuge, during the winter months – some even as far off as Siberia and the Arctic. During peak migratory season, almost 45,000 ducks are regularly been recorded, and the water body is particularly famous for diving ducks, such as the crested pochard and tufted ducks, which congregate at the water’s edge. Moreover, the wetland is inhibited by a number of rare and vulnerable fauna, such as the testudines turtle and smooth-coated otter. The smooth-coated otter, characterised by a very smooth coat, is listed as vulnerable on the IUCN Red List.

Smooth-coated otter. Source: WWF India

Additionally, the Indus dolphin (Platanista gangetica minor), which was supposed to have become extinct in India after 1930, was spotted in the Beas River in Harike wetland area. Indus river dolphins are believed to have originated in the ancient Tethys Sea. When the sea dried up approximately 50 million years ago, the dolphins were forced to adapt to its only remaining habitat—rivers. These endangered fresh-water dolphins are one of the World’s rarest aquatic mammal living in fresh waters. In 2016, there were estimated to be between 18 and 35 Indus dolphins in the Beas River above Harike Barrage. During periods of low flow, they have been observed to move downstream into the head pond above the barrage which includes the Harike Wildlife Sanctuary.

Indus river dolphins. Source: WWF

However, on 27th March 2017, the flow of the Beas River was virtually stopped in order to allow maintenance works to the barrage and canal gates; this caused the river flow to drastically drop. As a result, many aquatic animals perished. An extensive search was made for the resident river dolphins, but only 4 were located. This sad situation demonstrates the vulnerability of river dolphins that today live only in heavily managed rivers and that the needs of wildlife must be considered in the management of rivers and barrages.

Additionally, a 2015 study highlighted that Harike wetland receives large quantities of untreated industrial effluents from surrounding cities. Along the banks of the river Sutlej stand any number of industrial factories including cement factories, paint manufacturers, pesticide factories, and tanneries, all with their own pollutants, and discharging polluted water in the river and ultimately into the Harike wetland. The studies analysis of the wetland’s water quality revealed high concentrations of lead, chromium, copper, zinc, cadmium, and other heavy metals; levels which, by international standards, make the water unfit for drinking and irrigation, but also harmful for the residing aquatic animals.

For example, a gharial was found dead in the Harike wetland, with the suspected cause of death being polluted water. Gharials are a critically endangered species which have seen an over 80% drop in their population in the last decade.

Gharial. Source: Wikipedia

Harike Wetlands offers a sanctuary for many rare and incredible species. All of whom remains in peril if we remain unable to alter our relationship with the natural world.

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The fascinating story of Nainital lake

Nainital lake, a prominent tourist destination in the hill station of Nainital is spread over a perimeter of 2 miles and is situated at an altitude of 6,358 feet. The lake is further divided into two parts- Mallital( Northern half) and Tallital(Southern half). As of the 2011 survey, the total population of Nainital is about 41,000 with the lake being the principal source of water for many households.

Source – Vedha P

When Nainital was first discovered by P. Barron in 1839 he was enchanted by its scenic beauty and soon settled there. Shortly it became an important administrative point and summer capital of the colonial government. The British developed this region very strategically building drains, locally known as ‘Nalas’ which brought water in and out the lake. The major catchment area for the water body is ‘Sukhatal‘, another lake located some kilometers away.

While interviewing Mrs Latika, a citizen of Nainital and a women scientist working with DST(Department of science and technology) along with the foundation ‘Jagrati’ she disclosed to me the possible reasons for the degradation of the lake over the years

Source- Vedha P

Since the early 1900’s , Nainital has been attracting many tourists because of its climate and scenic beauty. As tourism has increased, construction has also escalated immensely causing blockage in the Nalas, contamination of potable lake water and overall degradation of the ecosystem. Many houses direct their sewage water into the canals which eventually drain into the lake. Idols of god are immersed into the water after the annual festival thus discharging large amounts of mercury . Water is being pumped out from Sukhatal lake(the catchment area) to ease construction there. These issues have consequently led to harsh effects on the biodiversity and the quality of water in the lake.

Image result for polluted nainital lake
Source – https://m.jagran.com/

To tackle these challenges, some measures have been taken. Recently a machine was supplied by the UNDP(United Nations Development Program) which can automatically check the BOD and COD of the water and experts have verified that it can help monitor the condition of the lake. Huge funds have also been coming in to supplement the revival process.

Source- Vedha P

Even though these steps have been taken, locals have to be educated and awareness has to be spread among tourists to keep the lake alive. Only through spreading awareness will the lake be 100% effluent free

– Written by Vedha P

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A Tree

Guest Contribution by Nehchaldeep Kaur, 8th standard student


A tree provides us many things,
So that we can effortlessly live.
A tree is main part of life,
It preserve us from rain and sunlight,
It give us oxygen and takes away carbondioxide.
Deforestation is on large scale,
Please do some efforts to protect it,
Protection of trees means protection of life.
If you cut a tree, you kill a life.
Save more and more trees,
So that we can live pollution free.

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Melting Water: Nanda Devi Biosphere Reserve

Nanda Devi Biosphere Reserve is located in one of the remotest regions of India, situated within the dramatic landscape of the Himalayan Mountains in the state of Uttarakhand. Encompassing the core areas of Nanda Devi and Valley of Flowers National Parks, Nanda Devi Biosphere Reserve was inscribed as a World Heritage Site in 2005. Due to its inaccessibility, it does not face the traditional problems of pollution which are typically discussed in this blog – but that does not mean it is untroubled.

In September 2020, the Ministry of Environment and Forests announced that the glaciers in the Rishikesh catchment area of this World Heritage Site are depleting fast due to long-term increases in temperature stemming from climate change. In fact, satellite data reveals that in 1980, over 243km2 of the Rishikesh catchment area was covered in snow, but that in 2017 this had reduced to 217km2, revealing a 10% reduction over 37 years.

Reduction in glaciers 1980-2017. Source: ANI / Devdiscourse

The contribution of glacier meltwater to river flow cannot be sustained over long periods of glacier shrinkage which means the sustainability of river flow in south-east Asia will soon be at risk. There is a growing realisation that environmental changes that are occurring in the Himalayan mountains – the water tower of Asia – threaten to undermine the security and wellbeing of a South Asian population.  These melting glaciers are the source of mighty rivers such as the Ganges, the Indus and the Brahmaputra, which hundreds of millions of people depend on for their daily needs and survival.

As always, humans are not the only species at adverse risk to a changing climate. The Nanda Devi Biosphere Reserve has an extraordinarily large altitudinal range (1,800 to 7,817m), resulting in a unique topography and biogeographical locations which give rise to a number of diverse and interesting habitats, including reserve forests, evam soyam (civil) forests, panchayat (community) forests, agricultural land, grassy slopes, alpine meadows and snow covered areas.

Nanda Devi Biosphere Reserve. Source: UNESCO

As a result, there are many ecosystems, and many ecologically and economically important species. For example, approximately 1000 plant species including lichens, fungi, bryophytes and pteridophytes have been recorded. The inhabitants of the Pindari, Lata-Tolma-Malari, and the Valley of Flowers areas use over 220 of these species for various purposes including medicine and food.

 Moreover, the percentage of native and endemic species is particularly high. Over 55% of the species are native to Himalaya, over 10 are endemic and 225 are near endemic. Seven endangered mammal species also find refuge in the area such as the snow leopard (Panthera unica), Himalayan black bear (Ursus thibetanus laniger), brown bear (Ursus arctos), musk deer (Moschus chrysogaster) and bharal/blue sheep (Pseudois nayaur).

As the planet warms, these beautiful and important species also find themselves in grave danger.

Snow leopard. Source: Wikipedia
Himalayan Black Bear. Source: The Mysterious World

This is not the usual story of the need to clean up water bodies, but of the need to alter our behaviours on a global scale, reducing emissions before the most incredible habitats and water sources are lost to climate change forever.

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Air pollution: A harmful effect to environment

Guest Contribution by Nehchaldeep Kaur, 8th standard student

One of the greatest problems that the world is facing today is that environmental pollution. The action of making air, water etc. dirty and dangerous is known as pollution. Air pollution is one of the types of pollution. The contamination of air by harmful toxic gases, smoke and dust etc., is called air pollution. Air pollution causes damages to crops, animals, forests and water bodies. It also causes depletion of ozone layer which protects our Earth from Ultra-Violet rays.

Discoloring of the white marble of the Taj Mahal is due to air pollution. Burning of fossil fuels, transportation, open burning of garbage waste and deforestation are some of the causes of air pollution. There are respiratory problems and lung diseases due to air pollution. There are 4.2 million deaths linked due to air pollution globally. 318 animals became extinct due to air pollution.

Some ways to control air pollution are:
•by planting trees.
•by using better technology to control the level of pollutants in the emission.
•by replacing wood, coal and kerosene with LPG for domestic use.
• by improving the quality of fuels in automobiles and using catalytic converters  in them. The use of CNG in automobiles has reduced the air pollution in our metro cities considerably.

Volunteer for India and her Environment with E.F.I, Jai Hind

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The silent serenity of Chilika lake

Source-Democratic Accent

Recognized as the largest estuarine lake in Asia, the Chilika lake never fails to infatuate tourists. It is located in the eminent district of Puri in Orissa and is approximately 37 kilometers from the Jagannath Temple. Along with housing the world’s only freshwater Irrawaddy Dolphins it’s also a bird watcher’s paradise as migratory birds from Mongolia, Russia, Iran, Kazakhstan, and other parts of central Asia nest here during the winter. 

Source-trawell.in

Geography:

The lake is divided into various islands- Southern, Central, Northern, and Outer channel. The major river systems that drain into it are Daya and Bhargavi along with the Bay of Bengal that also contributes to its partial salinity and brackish character. The Bay of Bengal flows into the lake at high tide through a 35-km-long, narrow, zigzag channel, the Magarmukh which is situated in the northern zone.

Top view of Chilika lake , Source-Nasa earth observatory 

Fauna:

Chilika lake is a biodiversity hotspot with over 200+ species of fish the most common being- Milkfish, Indo-pacific Tarpon, and Wallago Attu. It is also the home to the freshwater blind dolphin which is listed endangered by IUCN(International Union for Conservation of Nature) .Aquatic Birds, Waddlers, and land birds are the major categories of birds under which – White-breasted kingfisher, painted stork, black-winged stilt, common sandpiper, and bed wattled lapwing are some of the prominent species.

Image result for white breasted kingfisher
WHITE BREASTED KINGFISHER
Source- Fine art America
Image result for irrawaddy Dolphins
IRRAWADDY DOLPHIN
Source – Conservation India

Threats to wildlife and protection of species

Recently due to an increase in aquaculture, depletion of resources, overfishing, and poaching of migratory birds , the biodiversity of Chilika has been threatened. The large scale construction of ‘fish ponds’ and excavation work carried out in villages located on the shores of Chilika Lake has posed extreme challenges to the flora and fauna as well. The government of Orissa along with the State environment department and the Chilika Development authority are engaged in making sure the fauna of the lake is not exploited.

The panoramic view, uncommon wildlife, and silent serenity of Chilika lake will captivate you. If you are a nature lover this place should definitely be on your bucket list.

Beautiful sunset at the lake , Source-Telegraph India

 

Featured

Microplastic Pollution

By Lucy Gibson

We know that plastic is devastating wildlife and intoxicating our water bodies, but until recently we have known little about the impact the plastic system is having on people.

Microplastics are non-biodegradable pieces of plastic which measure less than 5mm. These tiny pieces of plastic are causing havoc in our environments and ecosystems. As of yet, their effects have not caused substantial harm to humans, disincentivising action; however, a 2017 study by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) concluded that annually 1.5 million tonnes of microplastics enters ocean water. Microplastics have been identified in oceans across the world, as well as lakes in India, such as Vembanad Lake in Kerala, the subject of a previous article here at lakesofindia.com  

The unchecked disposal of plastic on such a large scale is causing an enormous negative impact on wildlife and even humans from marine environment pollution as we shall learn.

Microplastics. Source: India Today

There are two categories of microplastics: primary and secondary.

Primary microplastics are tiny particles designed for commercial use, such as cosmetics.

Plastic microbeads are in fact used in a number of personal care products such as exfoliating shower gels, toothpaste and make-up. A study by the Dehli-based NGO Toxic Links in March 2018, found that microplastics were present in 50% of face wash products and over 30% of toothpaste products readily available on the Indian market. Due to their size, these microbeads are  too tiny to be filtered by water treatment plants, some research also suggests that some manufacturers even deliberately use microplastics to increase the volume and weight of a product. There is no law which prevents the use of microplastics in products. Health hazards posed by microplastics are further aggravated by the fact that items such as toothpaste, face wash or soap are used regularly and unavoidable.

Toothpaste. Source: India Today

Fleece and synthetic clothing also shed microplastics into the water with each wash and are a primary microplastic. In fact, a fleece jacket sheds about 2,000 pieces of plastic per wash. Wastewater treatment plants do not have the ability to screen these tiny pieces. The result is that they end up in the discharged water.

Secondary microplastics are particles that result from the breakdown of larger plastic items, such as water bottles.

Over 80% of the waste generated on land finds its way into oceans; plastic forms a major part of the waste. In India today more than 25,000 tonnes of plastic waste is produced daily, of which 10,000 tonnes goes to landfill.

Plastic pollution. Source: Swachh India

But plastic does not biodegrade, all it does is keeps breaking down into smaller pieces with the effects of water and sun making it harder and harder to spot. The tiny particles are then consumed by marine wildlife and indirectly, even by seafood eating humans. In fact, people could actually be ingesting approximately 5 grams of microplastic every week – this is the equivalent of a credit card’s worth of plastic!

When microplastics enter the food chain and ecosystem, it can disbalance the entire structure. Chemical toxins such as DDT and BPA from factory effluents and other sources stick to the microplastics floating around in the ocean and enter the digestive system when they are consumed risking a number of health conditions.

Plastic is everywhere.

But in many ways, India is leading in the fight against plastic pollution. Here are a few examples:

  • The state of Maharashtra has banned almost all kinds of plastic pollution from plastic bags, to single use plastics like spoons, straws, and plates for packaging food;
  • The National Green Tribunal directed a ban on disposable plastics in Delhi.
  • As part of Kerala’s Haritha Keralam Green Protocol mission since 2014, various steps have been taken to ensure that neither plastic is used nor waste is generated during different festivals. In fact, Green Protocol has gone so big that a village in Kannur, India’s first plastic free district, decided to give marriage certificates only if green protocol is followed.

There are also a few things we can do to avoid microplastic pollution:

1. Don’t litter and pick up all the waste that you see on beach and on the banks of water bodies. Take part in clean-up programmes.

2. Avoid buying and using products with microbeads. Look for the words like ‘polythylene’ or ‘polysterene’ on the ingredient label.

3. Reduce use of plastic bags and opt for reusable bags made from biodegradable materials.

4. Wash fleece and other synthetic products less often to avoid the synthetic fibres polluting the water. Products such as Guppyfriend Washing Bags collect the microfibers released from washing clothes ensuring they can be disposed of safely.

We must find ways to adapt our behaviours for the sake of our waterbodies, wildlife, and our health

Featured

Neknampur Lake

By Lucy Gibson

Neknampur Lake, in Hyderabad, was previously a rubbish dump. Spread over 108 acres, this 450-year old water body had often made the headlines for its continued pollution. A weed-choked mixture of chemical pollutants and domestic sewage from the increasing numbers of housing that cropped up around the lake’s edge.

Now, although it may be mistaken that water hyacinth has consumed Neknampur Lake, this could not be further from the truth.

Neknampur Lake. Source: Telangana Today

A closer look reveals that floating gently on the water’s surface there are a number of artificial ‘structures’ each covered in a meticulous selection of plants and joined together to form an island.

The island is, in fact, a “floating treatment wetland” that was released into Neknampur Lake in 2016 by Madhulika Choudhary and the NGO Dhruvansh who incorporated phytoremediation techniques into their restoration plans. This was achieved with supervision and support from the State Irrigation Department, Rangareddy District Collector, Hyderabad Metropolitan Development Authority, Telangana State Pollution Control Board, Telangana Fisheries Department and the Telangana State Biodiversity Board.

Pre-released floating island. Source: Telangana Today

The island structure is simple, but effective. With thermocol on all four sides with plastic bottles attached to ensure that they remain afloat, a plastic mesh, a gunny bag placed on the top, and followed by a layer of gravel in which aquatic plants known to absorb pollutants are planted. For example, vetivers, canna, bulrush, lemon grass, fountain grass, lillies, khus, and other flowering plants. Mosquito repelling plants, such as citronella were also planted. Once floating, the plants grow and their roots reach into the water absorbing pollutants like phosphate and nitrates, cleaning the lake. Such hydroponics systems allow plants to grow only in sunlight and water.

Each 10ftx10ft raft, of which there are 27, are joined together to form an island which spreads across over 2,500ft2 of the lake. In total, the island is covered by approximately 3,500 saplings which break down and consume harmful nutrients and organic matter in the water through microbial decomposition.

Island made of 27 rafts on Neknampur Lake. Source: Madhulika Choudhary / The News Minute

An additional problem has also been that cement debris and rubbish were commonly found to be dumped alongside the water’s edge, threatening the homes of pythons and monitor lizards. In response, Dhruvansh, along with the Irrigation Department, established a barricade on the bund. Fencing, walking tails and cycle tracks have also been proposed, to transform the lake into a public recreation site.

Far cheaper than sewage treatment plants, these floating islands demonstrate that sometimes restoration efforts don’t need a big budget to be effective. In fact, recent analysis of water samples collected from the lake show that, thanks to the floating island, water quality has improved significantly. According to the latest data collected by the Telangana State Pollution Control Board, the Biological Oxygen Demand (BOD) at the outlet of the lake had decreased from 27mg/L to 3.8mg/L in only 5 months.

Biodiversity is also on the rise. Conservationists have found bird nests and eggs belonging to Whistling ducks, herons, and geese, as well as new turtles. Moreover, when the floating island was brought to shore for maintenance a young python was spotted on the island! The lake is now home to 132 species of flora, 178 species of birds, 12 species of mammals, 21 species of reptiles, and 20,000 fish.

Projects such as this highlight the potentials of such a replicable model of bio-remediation. That nature, when allowed, can take care of itself.

Featured

Water: A Natural Resource

Poem by Nehchaldeep Kaur, 8th standard student (Woodstock Public School, Punjab)

Water is our life,
If we will not save it,
then we will not be alive.
People throw too much garbage in lakes, ponds, rivers and oceans.
It creates so much pollution.
If there will be pollution in water recourses
How aquatic animals will live there?
All we need is to care,
If aquatic animals will not be there,
no balance in nature will be maintained.
Water is present in rivers, ponds, lakes and oceans,
In humans, there will be dehydration.
So conserve water, conserve life.
If water will be not there,
we will not be alive.


Got a story or a poem about India’s waterbodies? Send it to lakesofindia@gmail.com, and we’ll share it with the world!

Volunteer for India and her Environment with E.F.I, Jai Hind

Featured

Achieving Food Security by Reducing Food Loss and Waste

Food Loss and Waste refers to food not consumed by people and is either lost or wasted somewhere in the food supply chain between being ready for harvest and used-up as consumed food.

A few startling facts to begin with :
  • Around 1.3 billion tons of food is wasted globally per year amounting to $940 billion of economic losses ( approximately INR 70 Lakh Crores).
  • One in nine people remain undernourished.
  • Food that is harvested but ultimately lost or wasted consumes about 25% of all water used by agriculture every year.
  • Food Loss and Waste contributes to an estimated 8% of annual greenhouse gas emissions(GHG) responsible for global warming.
Where does maximum Food Loss and Waste occur in India ?

The food supply chain has several stages such as agricultural production, handling and storage , processing and packaging , distribution and marketing and finally consumption.

Hard to believe but maximum food loss happens during harvest in several forms such as grain left behind by poor harvesting equipment , sieving, threshing remains , fruits and vegetables not harvested , discarded fish/meat or natural disasters damaging the yield.

During handling and storage, food gets spoilt by pests, fungus , moisture and/or disease . During processing and packaging spillage of milk, damaged fish , fruits and vegetables unsuitable for processing etc. , get wasted.

At the time of distribution, fruit and vegetables are discarded for looking ‘imperfect’ as supermarkets demand ‘fresh and attractive look’ for fresh products, food that has expired(not sold by sell-by date) and failure to meet food compliance and safety standards (example high pesticides or fertilizer content).

And finally, a lot of food that is purchased by us (consumers) , restaurants , caterers etc. are not eaten and wasted.

What foods are prone to more wastage ?

Cereals take the top spot with wheat, rice, millets being the dominant group contributing to loss .

In the roots and tubers category : potatoes , sweet potatoes , cassava (called Maravalli Kizhangu in Tamil, Kappa in Malayalam, Kavva pendalam in Telugu, Mara Genasu in Kannada and Simla Aloo in Hindi) suffer maximum loss.

Despite meat being a relatively low contributor to global food wastage in terms of volumes (less than 5% of total food wastage) it has a significant impact on climate change, contributing to over 20% of the carbon footprint of total food waste . Efforts to reduce food wastage should focus on major climate hotspot commodities, such as meat and cereals .

And why have countries not taken drastic steps to reduce food wastage ?

In India and other developing countries , costs to setup cold storage units for reducing food waste is so high that project becomes unviable or loss making. Entrepreneurs and Government agencies do not want to invest as initial costs are high and immediate short-term benefits are low.

We should also consider non-financial reasons of reducing Food Loss and Waste such as enhanced food security for our people, better waste regulations, sense of social responsibility and environmental sustainability. Governments must look at the benefit-cost ratio as a generational investment and not as a short-term return on investment.

An Interesting Example of Innovation :

The Apeel Science company has developed sprays of thin oils to coat fruits and vegetables from organic sources. These sprays originally extracted from plants such as banana leaves and peels have extended shelf life of fruits and vegetables by 30 days or more. It helps hold in water, which prevents vegetables and fruits from shriveling and controls the exchange of gases between the interior of the fruit or vegetable and the atmosphere, particularly oxygen and ethylene, to slow decay. Finally, it also blocks the ability of bacteria to spoil the food. Because this method works without refrigeration, it offers great potential benefits in countries like India with limited refrigeration.

Next Steps :

Improving food production and supply chains by having better infrastructure in cold storage , handling , efficient order forecasting and factory processes is the first big saving. Though there is no single answer to this problem, we can approach this from multiple angles such as government policies, targeted technology , consumer mindset and set realistic targets to reduce food loss and measure them continuously.

As a food consumer, how can we be socially responsible when it comes to food waste ?

Here are some thoughts :

  • Understand the massive food poverty that exists today and try move away from a careless attitude of those who can afford the food but waste them.
  • Public awareness. Spread the word, educate those around you and participate in consumer education initiatives at schools and government levels.
  • Try and reduce portion sizes of what you eat as well as what you cook. Consider starting to eat food on a clean plate and ending your food on an empty plate. Not only will this improve your cooking skills , it will also give you the satisfaction of helping create a brighter future for all.
  • Buy ‘imperfect’ looking foods . Fruits and vegetables with irregular shape, cleft or blemish may fall below high cosmetic standards , but having an aesthetic defect is not a reason for not buying or throwing away food.
  • Wasted food lands up as garbage in landfills and that is a staggering 17% contributor to methane/Green House Gas(GHG)emissions . Implement composting options at home and in the community around you.
Featured

Chennai’s Water Struggles

By Lucy Gibson

Water is key to life. Cities and towns were formed because of access to it and we humans cannot live without it.

But India is running out of water.

As of June 2019, the Central Water Commission reported that 65% of India’s reservoirs were dry. About 40 percent of India’s population, including 21 cities will have no access to drinking water by 2030 according to a report by thinktank NITI Aayog. One of which is Chennai, home to over 10 million people.

Chennai has struggled with water for years. Either there’s not enough rain, or there’s way too much. But the problem is not just one of nature’s quirks. Rapid urbanisation has swallowed up lakes and fields. Land is too expensive, apparently, to be left alone.

Between 1980 and 2010, heavy construction in the city meant that area covered by buildings increased from 47 to 402km2 while wetland areas declined from 186 to 71.5km2. The IT Corridor (a road which houses a large number of IT companies in the city), for example, was built on  Pallikaranai marshlands and the area immediately upstream of Chembarambakkam (the city’s largest drinking water tank) converted into an automotive special economic zone (SEZ).

Satellite surveys reveal what has become of Chennai’s main rain-fed reservoir Lake Puzhal. What resembled a dark blue ink-stain in 2018, was, a year later a small grey shadow of its former self.

Puzhal reservoir in Chennai, India before the drought and in its current state. Source: Independent

In 2019, Chembarambakkam Lake also ran dry; it had never dried up fully in the last 25 years. During the droughts, Chembarambakkam Lake was a cracked, windswept mud flat. The massive pipe that was supposed to carry water into the city was empty. As mentioned, the area immediately upstream of Chembarambakkam converted into an automotive SEZ. The factories use rain and groundwater for cooling machinery, washing vehicles, and mixing with paint. Water that would otherwise flow into the reservoir.

With reservoirs parched, water must be found from somewhere. Chennai’s richer residents and businesses had water trucked in from nearby states. But anyone else, those who could not afford these deliveries were forced to find, and wait with buckets, for rationed amounts from state water trucks.

Women use a hand-pump to collect water at an apartment complex whose buildings are not connected to a central water supply in the OMR district of Chennai. Source: New York Times.

And climate change is coming into play.

11 of the warmest years on record, since record-keeping began in 1901, have all occurred since 2004. Maximum temperatures have on average gone up by 1.3 degrees Celsius since 1950. With this, the frequency of heatwaves is increasing, and monsoon rains delayed, leaving millions of people without water. Environment experts note that Chennai is an example of how a situation, exacerbated by climate change, can morph into a climate emergency. A crisis that is becoming more and more frequent in today’s megacities.

Climate change is happening, there is no doubt about that. But so is mismanagement; all across the world. We cannot hide from this.

Chennai was blessed with beautiful reservoirs, lakes, and ponds. But they have been encroached by urbanisation and clogged up by silt.  The city’s watershed areas have been neglected. Reservoirs need regular desilting and more storage areas (making use of existing ponds and tanks) need to be established. Unchecked urban growth, a lack of reservoir maintenance, and overextraction of groundwater by public authorities and private landowners through bore wells. 

Water catchment areas are vanishing, and regular maintenance is needed. 

With reservoirs running dry, and huge amount of money being spent of scooping water from the sea and processing it through desalination plants, could rainwater harvesting be part of the answer?

Chennai gets most of its water each year from the monsoon rains; an average of 54 days of rain per year. As a result, in 2003 it was made mandatory that every building captured rainwater by installing a water catchment system on its rooftop. This, in theory, could go a long way. Capture the water as it comes and save it. However, many rainwater harvesting structures were either not maintained or were badly designed. In fact, a survey of Chennai’s Gandhi Nagar neighbourhood revealed that only 40% of buildings were in compliance with the obligation. 

Moreover, Chennai’s lakes need desilting.

In stark contrast to the 2019 drought, in 2015, Chennai saw devastating floods. Floods that stole at least 422 lives and caused up to $14 billion in damages. However, as a result of poor storage capacity of the lakes, such as Velachery Lake, the lakes overtopped causing much of the damage and most of the rainwater flowed into the sea; lost forever. Organisations have been pushing for lakes to be desilted for years, but progress has been slow. In a public hearing, the Madras High Court criticised the state government for having mismanaged the looming water crisis by failing to desilt water bodies.

As a result, global mismanagement and land degradation are colliding with climate change.

Chennai’s water struggles, whether this be flooding or drought, cannot be addressed until water becomes central to the city’s urban planning. And as humans we must, on a worldwide scale, reconsider how we treat our relationship with land and water before it is too late.

Featured

Choking: Pallikaranai Wetland

By Lucy Gibson

South of Velachery, a residential area of Chennai, there used to be thousands of acres of marshland called Kazhuveli. The marshland was a sanctuary for resident birds, such as the median egret, and migratory birds, such as the brown shrike that flew from its far off breeding grounds in Siberia.

Median egret. Source: Arvind Balaraman/Shutterstock

However, over the past few decades, rapid development and encroachment have caused this marshland to disappear. All that remains of the Kazhuveli marshland is its southern portions. This makes up the Pallikaranai wetland.

Pallikaranai wetland is the only surviving wetland ecosystem of the city of Chennai.

It is also a site of strategic importance for biodiversity. Towards the end of their long migration, migratory birds have but few options for touchdown, before the miles of ocean beyond Tamil Nadu, except Pallikaranai wetland. Migratory birds, including greater flamingos, have been arriving at Pallikaranai in increasing numbers. In 2016, the rare and endangered Calidris tenuirostris(great knots) were spotted in the marsh – their last sighting had been in 1950-60.

Greater flamingos in the marsh. The urbanisation of the surroundings is clear. Source: Wikipedia

On average, solely considering avian life, Pallikaranai marsh hosts over 40,000 birds in the migratory season, and over 5,000 resident birds through the year. It also serves as a breeding ground for resident birds like the threatened black-headed ibis, and the near-threatened spot-billed pelican.

A near threatened species, the spot-billed pelican in Pallikaranai marshland. Source: Sundararajan / Shutterstock

Birds are just one element of Pallikaranai’s biodiversity. Plants, freshwater fish, mammals, reptiles that often go unnoticed, are also vulnerable to changes in wetlands and the interconnected water channels that feed them.

However, in amongst this wealth of biodiversity, is a darker and deeper problem.

An Anna University study in February 2019 noted that the marshland emitted a staggering 8.4 giga-tonnes of methane annually. Methane is a far more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide, trapping up to 100 times more heat in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide in a 5-year period. While a healthy marshland can act as a much needed carbon sink, the extremely high levels of emissions today are upsetting the ecological balance of the ecosystem, as well as emitting large quantities of greenhouse gas up into the atmosphere. The study highlighted the 50-year old Perungudi dumpyard as the culprit.

Perungudi dumpyard extends onto Pallikaranai marshland. Source: Ashwin Bhat Kemthuru

In the 1970s, Perungudi dumpyard covered 19 acres, and was based in Sevaram village in Perungudi. But this filled up quickly. By the mid-1980s, the area was completely full, and the Chennai Corporation shifted the dumpyard to its present location in Pallikaranai. As a result, the marsh which originally covered 12,000 acres, had, by 2002 shrunk to 1,470 acres. Conversely, the dumpyard at Pallikaranai, which covered 140 acres in 2002, has expanded to 340 acres in 2007. This expansion is continuous even today.

The Chennai Corporation dumps 2,000 tonnes of waste into the marsh daily. As Perungudi dumpyard extends out into the wetland, the water has become increasingly contaminated by toxins found in the rubbish.  This has resulted in leaching of heavy metals in the marsh, including chromium, lead, iron, manganese, cobalt, nickel, copper, zinc and cadmium.  Water quality analysis indicated the presence of mercury, lead, and cadmium in quantities four times over permissible levels.

Thankfully, the MOEFCC under the National Action Plan for Conservation of Migratory Birds in Central Asian Flyway, the Pallikaranai marshland was prioritised. The State government declared it would commence the eco-restoration of Pallikaranai during 2018-2023. But there has been no suggestion of moving the Perungudi dumpyard, nor has Pallikaranai been added to the Ramsar site list which would gain it international predominance

With limited progress the toxins are leaching in. Since wetlands are common property it is essential that this trend be quelled to prevent the further destruction of Pallikaranai’s ecosystem.

There is scope for recovery, but only if the degradation is stemmed now.

Featured

The Restoration of Arasankazhani Lake

By Lucy Gibson

Arasankazhani Lake lies about 26km from Chennai near Chemmancherry-Perumbakkam, at the base of the Sithalapakkam hills. It is just one of the lakes that the E.F.I. have successfully restored; this article will focus on how this was achieved and the benefits this restoration has brought.

Prior to restoration, Arasankazhani’s waters had been polluted by illegal sand-mining, heavy silting and was covered with weeds and water hyacinths which choked the lake and the life bodies it contained. Its densely populated surroundings, overlooked by schools, colleges, IT parks and tall apartments threatened Arasankazhani. Additionally, the roads which wrapped themselves around the area of the lake had also previously been used by local residents as sites from which rubbish could be thrown into the lake’s waters. As many examples can show, at this time, Arasankazhani’s 39 acres represented the negative impact humanity can have on nature.

Now, however, Arasankazhani also represents humanity’s impact in a different light; that with time and determination nature can be restored.

This is the story of how the E.F.I. restored Arasankazhani to its former glory.

Having first been approached by residents from the neighbourhood, and having received permission from the Government, Arasankazhani Lake was restored in two phases, first in 2012, and then in 2014. Volunteers of E.F.I., with the support of residents, removed the rubbish and weed growth from the Lake’s waters. The removal of weeds, means that sunlight is now able to reach native aquatic plants, and prevents the depletion of dissolved oxygen in the water, which in turn allows fish stocks to thrive. Moreover, the removal of rubbish, prevents microplastic pollution, as well as the leaching of heavy metals and toxins into the water body.  

After removal of rubbish, focus was given to creating outer and inner bunds, wind barriers, and a large central G-shaped island.

The G-shaped islands on the lake with an outer and inner mud wall that is fenced by plants are an innovation, ensuring water circulation in the lake. Planted with ‘Vettiver’ grass, for example, as well as bamboo, Pongamia, pinnata, and neem, these islands recreate and establish habitats for birds, pond turtles, and other native living species, thus restoring biodiversity to Arasankazhani’s waters. The North-western part of the lake was also de-silted to increase the water holding area.

G-shaped islands on Arasankazhani Lake. Source: E.F.I.

Moreover, the creation of foreshore plantation bunds were designed to prevent lake encroachment and to restrict residents from dumping rubbish in the lake. On the bunds, around 500 palm seeds were planted, their roots stabilising the soil and strengthening the bunds alongside waterbodies; thus preventing breaches from waterbodies and soil erosion.

The planting of native saplings along the lake to create a small, forested area also brings great benefit, reducing flood risk potential through infiltration.

Today, the restoration efforts have yielded positive results and residents have stopped dumping rubbish into the lake. Additionally, species which originally considered the lake their home, can thrive again. More than 40 species of birds can be spotted enjoying its waters, including the Grey heron and three amphibian and four reptile species also all got their homes restored in a natural way.

The lake’s unique G-shaped island keeps waste away from nesting birds. Source: Navmi Krishna K.

Arasankazhani Lake was given a new life, and provides a fine example of collaborative conservation by local residents, the government, academics, and the E.F.I.

Featured

Adambakkam Lake and the (Beautiful) Blue Devil

By Lucy Gibson

In the city of Chennai, Tamil Nadu, lies a water body by the name of Adambakkam Lake, a lake which gives its name to the nearby locality of Adambakkam. However, due to a neglect which extends for nearly a decade, this once pristine lake which was a lifeline to thousands of agriculturalists, now resembles a swamp. Moreover, the much discussed revival plans, considering the fixing of the lake boundary to prevent further encroachments, and the laying of walk pathways to encourage recreational activities remain on paper.

The woes of Adambakkam stem largely from three sources: encroachment, sewage, and rubbish. As a victim of encroachment, both residential and commercial, Adambakkam Lake which only around 25 years extended over approximately 86 acres, has now shrunk to just 6 acres. Additionally sewage from the nearby St Thomas Mount is now let into the lake. Finally, Adambakkam Lake is choked by the dumping of rubbish in its waters at a pace at which nearby environmental organisations, such as the E.F.I. struggle to control.  

Water hyacinth and rubbish on and in Adambakkam Lake. Source: New Indian Express.

Together these three sources of trouble amount to an additional problem – water hyacinth.

Untreated sewage from stormwater drains and houses adjacent to Adambakkam Lake contaminate the water, leading to the formation of a thick cover of water hyacinth and invasive weeds on the lake surface. This only adds to the problems facing Adambakkam Lake.

Water hyacinth, with its beautiful flowers and shapes of leaves, is in fact, often referred to as the “(beautiful) blue devil”. This is because it is actually an incredibly harmful invasive weed which drains oxygen from the water body.

Eichhornia crassipes (water hyacinth). Source: Wikipedia.

When left uncontrolled, water hyacinth will cover lakes and ponds entirely. This dramatically affects water flows, as well as blocks sunlight from reaching native aquatic plants which often die. The decay processes deplete dissolved oxygen in the water; as a result of this, fish stocks become significantly depleted and the water body becomes a prime habitat for mosquitos.

Water hyacinth often invades bodies of water that have already been affected by human activities.

But Adambakkam Lake is significant for another reason: it represents one of Chennai’s remaining water bodies.

Since the beginning of the 20th century Chennai has witnessed a steady decline and deterioration in water bodies and open spaces; it is estimated that more than half of the wetlands have been converted for other uses. Chennai had about 150 small and big water bodies in and around the city, but today the number has been reduced to 27. Adambakkam Lake remains an important water body, but in its current state, offers little.

Due to its plain terrain, Chennai lacks a natural gradient for free run-off. This necessitates an effective storm water draining system. The sewage system in Chennai was originally designed for a population of 0.65 million – it is now much below the required capacity. In 2020, there were 10,971,108 people living in the city of Chennai, making Chennai by all accounts a megacity (a city with a population of more than 10 million residents).

In theory, Adambakkam Lake ought to offer a much needed place for flood water to drain into during the monsoon. However, due to the water hyacinth occupying the areas in and around the lake many people fear that there is now little space for flood water to drain and Adambakkam Lake can offer little protection.

The situation does not seem to be improving.

In 2020, the Water Resources Department planned to restore the original storage capacity of Adambakkam Lake, as well as strengthen the bund and improve the lake with recreational facilities – at a cost of ₹3.5 crore. However, progress has stalled. Historically, previous plans back in 2014 for example, have also been postponed; in 2014 this was due to a lack of funds.

Residents now are calling for the waterbody to be restored and desilted before the monsoon season to prevent flooding in the surrounding localities. There is a threat of flooding in areas such as Adambakkam, Thillai Ganga Nagar and Nanganallur during the northeast monsoon.

The longer projects are delayed, the further the encroachments. Desilting, however, would lead to an increase in groundwater level.

There is an urgent need to desilt, deepen and fence Adambakkam Lake.

Featured

Sampangi Lake: The Tale of how a Lake became a Stadium

By Lucy Gibson

In the heart of Bengaluru, the state capital of Karnataka, lies the state-of-the-art Sri Kanteerava Stadium. However, just behind this stadium is a small, largely ignored for the majority of the year, water body. A water body which is now the only remnant of what, only a century ago, was one of the city’s largest and most prominent lake, Sampangi Lake – 35 acre lake boasting trees, open spaces, a source of water and a livelihood.

Bengaluru has been an urban settlement since the mid-16th century, although settlements have existed even prior to this. Due to lacking access to large rivers, the city’s water came from a networked system of storage reservoirs, primarily lakes. In fact, the importance of lakes for Bengaluru can be recognised from the city also being called ‘kalyananagara’ (city of lakes).

As well as critical drinking water sources, Bengaluru’s lakes were crucial to the livelihoods for several communities, including brick-makers, farmers, pastoralists to name a few. Oral histories indicate that the lake acted as an urban commons, supplying water for drinking and domestic uses, as well as supporting horticulture, fishing, brick-making, laundering, and pastoralism. Given the interconnection of the people with water-bodies, it is not particularly surprising that a lot of importance was attached to them and annual festivals celebrated them.

This is the story of how a beautiful lake, which supported several different communities, became a stadium.

In the late 19th century, the city was divided into two jurisdictional regions: the British Cantonment and the native city, or Pete, governed by the Mysore kings. Sampangi Lake offered an important water source for both zones due to its central location and it was protected as both Cantonment and Pete were dependent on it.

However, after 1898, the Hesarghatta reservoir began to supply water to the British cantonment. As they were no longer dependent on the lake for water, Sampangi became seen as valuable for a very different reason: aesthetics and recreation.

As a result, to maintain the ‘aesthetics’ of the lake, local livelihoods such as brick making were banned, under the claim that this created unsightly pits, and entry to the lake became guarded, restricting the access of local communities of fishers and washers. These communities migrated away from Sampangi Lake, and new communities (who practiced livelihoods which were not dependent on the ecosystem services from the lake) immigrated to fill the gap.  

Moreover, British polo players went further, asking the colonial government to drain the lake so that they could play polo on the lakebed. Although 49 horticulturists (Vanhikula Kshatriyas) petitioned the Mysore king to prevent this, and despite the king writing in favour of the horticulturists, the lake was drained and used to play polo. At the end of 1937, the 35 acre lake had become a small tank.

The remains of Sampangi Lake: A small, square, water body. Source: JRL Explore

Sampangi Lake no longer represented an essential water source for the city. Its reclamation and conversion into a built-up space was catalysed by urbanisation and a changing perception of the lake’s utility. As Bengaluru grew into a 20th century city, aspiring from modern identity, what was previously Sampagni Lakebed became the Sri Kanteerava indoor sports stadium.

Sri Kanteerava Indoor Stadium. Source: Urban Institute

In present day Bengaluru, the landscape around Sampangi Lake bears little resemblance to its former social and ecological importance. As mentioned, only a small rectangular tank remains due to its centrality to the Karaga festival, the city’s oldest festival which is celebrated by the Vanhikula Kshatriyas horticulturists. Only once a year, during Karaga does the water body become a focal point, a site of celebration, visited by thousands. 

The pattern observed in Sampangi Lake, where aesthetic and recreational perspectives are prioritised over utilitarian uses, continues today. Many other lakes with Bengaluru have also been impacted by urbanisation. They now form bus terminals (previously Dharmambudhi Lake), and hockey stadiums (previously Akkithimmanhalli Lake).

Yet, Bengaluru still needs water for its resilience. Now such large,  the piped water from distant rivers can no longer supply all of the city’s needs.

But all is not lost.

Citizen movements across Bengaluru have begun to focus on protecting and restoring their lakes. In some neighbourhoods, where sufficient water supply is a persistent challenge, community wells, once ignored, are now protected, and maintained. Moreover, mass citizen protests have gained significant victories for the city’s green cover, including reversing the decision to build a steel flyover, which would have destroyed thousands of trees.

In order to build socially inclusive and ecologically sustainable cities, we must consider stories such as that of Sampangi Lake, and understand that the sustainability of these resources depend largely on their accessibility as an urban commons, with utilitarian and recreational value for all to enjoy and protect.

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Renew the Land with Regenerative Agriculture

Guest Contribution: Meena Iyer

By 2050 , our world population is likely to hit 10 billion people and creating a sustainable food future is one of our biggest challenges. Regenerative agriculture refers to safe, efficient techniques aimed at boosting yields and helping our agricultural lands survive the climate change onslaught with an end goal of building greater food security for our planet.

With regenerative agriculture , we can achieve several wins : increased profit for farmers , greater resilience to climate change and more importantly valuable environmental benefits by restoring our soil’s health and water needs . Here , we will be looking at some of the important factors that affect practices around regenerative agriculture :

  1. Regenerative versus Degenerative Agriculture
  2. What is Biochar and Recycling of Carbon in Soil

Land degeneration and its impact on agriculture

Over the years , clearing out forests for agriculture and over farming/overgrazing methods have resulted in the depletion of our soil quality as well as reduced agricultural capacity from our farmlands . Out of the 11% of earth’s surface devoted for agriculture , FAO estimates that 25% of all cropland suffers from high soil degradation mainly due to soil erosion . Endless rows of single crops(called as monocultures) are planted and harvested year after year and chemical fertilizers adopted to improve production to meet the exponential food demand. These degenerative methods have not only reduced Agri-productivity but has created an imbalance between nature and humans with far reaching consequences such as extreme poverty among farmers.

When humans tamper with nature , nature will not return easily to its original condition .

Regenerative farming aims to improve soil health by deploying techniques such as :

  • ‘no-till’ agriculture by minimizing soil disturbance and reducing amount of tillage. The advantage with minimal tilling is that organic matter remains in the soil creating room for beneficial micro-organisms and improve soil fertility.
  • Using cover crops which are plants grown to cover the soil after farmers harvest the main crop.
  • Crop rotation using perennial and native plants so that farmers can grow and adjust foods based on the local climate and conditions.

The famed Japanese farmer and philosopher Masanobu Fukuoka and author of notable book ‘The One-Straw Revolution’ is extremely relevant even today for his agricultural philosophy around ‘Do-nothing farming’. His principles on regenerative farming are that agriculture is just not the means of producing food but an aesthetic and spiritual approach to life . When humans tamper with nature , nature will not return easily to its original condition . Hence farming methods need to be approached holistically, by being a part of nature and understanding the relationship between soil , the micro- organisms(insects/bacteria/fungi) in the soil that promote the richness of the organic matter and minimizing changes to the natural landscape.

Clay ball seeding

Masanobu Fukuoka is also famed with pioneering the natural farming technique of scattering clay seed balls to revegetate barren lands . Seeds that are compatible with local weather and soil conditions are mixed into clay balls to protect from insects and other seed predators and moisture stored in clay balls due to fluctuations in day/night temperatures creates the necessary environment for clay-ball seeds to germinate. When the season comes, the seeds germinate, and the roots sink deep into the soil in search of underground water.

Did you know :

Guerilla gardening :

As the name suggests , guerilla gardening is a form of a protest gardening where gardeners provoke change by sowing and raising plants in abandoned sites, areas not been cared for , or even public property. Social networking groups and volunteers come together for a variety of purposes such as community improvement, better aesthetics by planting flowers with attractive appearance, physical and mental well-being benefits as well as land conservation.

Guerilla gardeners have used clay seed bombing as an interesting method to improve reforestation by using orthodox seeds ( that are native, viable seeds that survive drying and/or freezing) and use of modern technologies such as drones for spreading seed bombs. Read this interesting article on how IISc scientists in Karnataka used unmanned aerial vehicles covering nearly 10,000 acres of land with seed bombs.

Hydroponic gardening :

Hydroponic farming is a technique that uses no soil but grows plants in a mixture of water and nutrients and very popular in urban areas and regions with extreme climates. India has seen a dramatic increase in hydroponic farming using 95% less water than traditional farming methods.

See the source image

Carbon recycling and leveraging Biochar

How do we recover the loss of soil organic nutrients and enrich soil ? Replenishing carbon is the key as carbon holds moisture and provides for chemical bonding that allow nutrients to be stored within plants. An alternative approach involves various ways of converting agricultural residues or household wastes into Biochar.

What is Biochar ? Biochar not only reduces need for chemical fertilizers but enriches soil, reduces soil acidity and thus contributes to higher yields from the soil .The many benefits of biochar for both environment and agricultural systems make it a promising tool for regenerative agriculture.

Food for thought :

India has committed to the Paris agreement on climate change and keep global temperature rise ‘below 2 deg C’ , reduce emissions intensity by 33-35% of year 2005 levels by year 2030.The onus is on each one of us to think green, motivate ourselves and our youth to be involved in initiatives that help create ‘greener’ gardens , understand and monitor climate-induced changes in our natural landscapes, support green technologies that adapt to climate change and propagate a healthy and sustainable way of living. Do we want to turn up as a guerilla gardener or try some balcony gardening at home and improve our ‘green-thumb’ skills ?

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Oh Deer! Threats to Loktak Lake and the World’s Only Floating National Park

By Lucy Gibson

Loktak lake is considered the lifeline of the State of Manipur. It is the largest natural freshwater lake in the north-eastern region of India and plays an important role in the ecological and economic security of the region. Large populations, both human and non-human, living in and around the lake depend on the lake’s resources for sustenance.

Loktak Lake is famous for phumdis (naturally-occurring masses of floating vegetation formed by the accumulation of organic debris and biomass with soil) which are a specialised habitat for many biota. Phumdis is the most important part of Loktak Lake’s habitat, and its thickness varies from just a few centimetres to two metres thick.

Phumdis rings of Loktak Lake. Source: Third Eye Traveller

These numerous floating lands cover a variety of habitats and therefore they can sustain rich biological diversity. In terms of flora, approximately 233 species of aquatic macrophytes belonging to emergent, submergent, free-floating and rooted floating leaf types have been reported in the lake. A total of 425 species of animals have been recorded including a number of rare animals such as Indian python, sambhar and barking deer. It is the breeding ground of several riverine migratory fishes and continues to be vital as a fish habitat. In addition, Loktak Lake provides refuge to thousands of birds, including migratory birds who have travelled far from different parts of the northern hemisphere beyond the Himalayas.

However, of most interest to this article is the largest of all the phumdis. One which covers an area of 40km2, is home to Keibul Lamjao National Park.

Keibul Lamjao National Park is the only floating national park in the world.

Keibul Lamjao National Park. Source: Indian Tourist-Spots

Located in the southern part of Loktak Lake, Keibul Lamjao National Park is a unique floating wildlife reserve and the only natural home of one of the world’s most endangered deer, the brow-antlered deer (Cervus eldi eldi), locally called Sangai, that was once thought to be extinct.

The Sangai, also called the dancing deer, is has uniquely distinctive antlers which can measure up to 100-110cm in length. The home range of Sangai in the park is confined to 15-20km2, in the south-western part of the lake where the phumdis is thick. The vegetation of phumdi is also critical source of food plants for the Sangai, such as Zizania latifolia and Saccharum munja.

Sangai – Brow-antlered Deer. Source: Our Breathing Planet

A census conducted in 2000 in the park showed that there were just 162 deer. With reports of unbridled poaching, and their home, Keibul Lamjao National Park, at risk, the Sangai population is feared to drop and they find themselves on the IUCN Red List with population numbers decreasing.

The Sangai’s home is at permanent risk of flooding, which can be attributed to the construction of the Ithai Barrage, and the resultant effect on the thickness of phumdis. The construction of Ithai barrage has led to changes in hydrological regimes, thereby affecting ecological processes and functions of the wetland. This has disturbed the natural cycle of floating and sinking of phumdis which is used to maintain the National Park and therefore the growth of vegetation on phumdis and their thickness are decreasing. The concern is that at some stage the phumdis may not be able to support the number of Sangai in Keibul Lamjao National Park.

Additionally, the construction of Ithai barrage has caused the inundation of agricultural lands and the displacement of people from flooded lands. Water quality of Loktak Lake is also decreasing as a result, as pollutants from towns and agrochemicals from farming drain into the water.

The rise of human settlements on the lake contributes to the depletion of phumdis and pollution. Source: Third Eye Traveller

Over time, public awareness, and local support for have evolved for conserving the Sangai and concerted actions have been initiated to stop encroachment of the park and security arrangements have been made to stop poaching. This fact was soberly presented in a children’s magazine called Chandamama, which gave a first-person narrative by the affected Sangai itself.

“‘Thanks to these youngsters who live nearby’, he said. I was happy and felt indebted to the youngsters for saving our lives.

My friend added that these people really loved and respected the Sangai deer. They believed that killing the Sangai was an unpardonable sin. According to a Meitei legend, the Sangai are the link between humans and nature. So, killing us would mean breaking a bond.

My friend informed me that people concerned about animals like us have formed a group. They teach others to protect animals, too.

The news that people are trying their best to save the phumdis, deer like me, and the Loktak Lake, infuses new hope in me. ‘How nice of them!’ I thought”.

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Time to Act: Vembanad Lake

By Lucy Gibson

Vembanad Lake is India’s longest freshwater lake. With a lake area covering approximately 250 km2 and with a catchment area covering 14,000 km2, Vembanad Lake, located within the state of Kerala, is included in the list of wetlands of international importance, as defined by the Ramsar Convention for the conservation and sustainable utilisation of wetlands.

Home to more than 20,000 waterfowls, such as spot billed pelican and oriental darter, and Kumarakom Bird Sanctuary, located on the eastern banks, Vembanad Lake is an ornithologist’s paradise. Set within lush woodland, this site is also a favourite to migratory birds (such as the Siberian stork, flycatchers, and larks) who flock in their thousands from miles away. Flying along the Central Asian Flyway, migratory birds travel from their northern breeding grounds, some as far away as Siberia, to their wintering grounds in the Indian subcontinent.

Indian Paradise-Flycatcher. Source: eBird
Great Egrets. Source: Kumarakom Houseboat Club

Additionally, over 1.6 million people live on the banks of the Vembanad Lake and are directly or indirectly dependent on it for their livelihoods. Major livelihood activities of the people living on the shores include agriculture, fishing, tourism, inland navigation, and coir retting.

Fishing in Vembanad Lake. Source: Kumarakom

However, as Vembanad Lake is fed by seven major rivers plus many streams and canals, all of which flow through densely populated urban areas (for example, the major city of Kochi, 12 municipal towns, and approximately 100 villages) the possibility of occurrence of pollutants and microplastics in the lake sediment is high.

Plastics wastes are of significant environmental concern due to their longevity and worldwide distribution. India is one of the major plastic consumers in the world, generating approximately 5.6million tonnes of plastic waste annually. Vembanad Lake is one of the most polluted water bodies in India with microplastics (<5mm in size) ubiquitous and abundant in sediment samples from across this water body in a recent study.

Microplastic contamination poses a grave risk to aquatic fauna. LITTERBASE, a database which presents the distribution of litter across the world, and its interaction with wildlife, notes that ingestion is the most frequently observed interaction, followed by entanglement.  When microplastics are ingested by the benthic fauna and zooplankton, this can trigger the contamination of the whole food web. 

Additionally, a study revealed by the Kerala State Pollution Control Board highlighted the concerning  presence of heavy metals and pesticides in Vembanad Lake, such as zinc, nickel, and copper, as well as benzyl benzoate and benzene propanoic acid which have application in the pharmaceutical industry. This also poses a major health hazard to ecosystems and to humans via trophic transfer.

Vembanad Lake holds a rich population of black clam and other clam species. Annually, 31,650 tonnes of clam are fished from the lake for local consumption, as well as prawns, crabs, and fish which are staples proteins for local residents. Potential microplastic and heavy metal contamination, therefore, becomes critically important, posing threat to the local fauna and the health of local residents through ingesting plastics and toxins.

As a result of houseboat tourism and sewage discharge, the water quality has declined with low dissolved oxygen levels and high biochemical oxygen levels. This has affected aquatic life: as per the latest fish survey report, Vembanad Lake only has 98 fish varieties, when just a decade ago, there were 150 species.

Sewage pipes from houses drain out into the water body. Source: A. Sanesh

Polluted by plastic, various organic and household waste, industrial activities and anthropogenic activities like land reclamation, Vembanad Lake’s incredible environment is at risk.

Concerted efforts in improving and monitoring waste management programs, emphasising the three ‘R’ principle of reduce, reuse, and recycle for plastic management, may reduce the abundance of plastics and microplastics in the lake. Additionally, the findings of Yunus et al.’s study (2020) on the effects of COVID-19 lockdown on surface water quality showed that the pollutant level of Vembanad Lake decreased considerably when industries and boating were suspended. They argue that now is the time to act, based on the Ramsar Convention framework, to reduce the environmental damage to the Vembanad Lake ecosystem.

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This Solution is Less Pollution – How Smart Shopping Can Sustain Our Waters

Guest Contribution: Meena Iyer

The impact of Covid-19 and the lockdown it triggered has deeply changed our lives with an increased focus not only on our health and safety but also on the planet and the people around us. This blog highlights how making sustainable choices when we buy products makes us more responsible consumers with a positive impact on the environment around us. 

Cattle are reared to provide meat and dairy with cattle hide(skin) processed in tanneries and used in leather goods production. This blog focuses on the impact of pollution on our water bodies, mainly from tannery waste, and what interesting and bio-friendly alternative leather choices we as consumers have. Our shopping experiences can be enhanced when we know our choices are safe for the earth. The considerations mentioned here are :

  • Leather Traceability 
  • Sustainable Sourcing 
  • Impact of Tannery Waste on Waterbodies 
  • Bio-friendly Alternative Leather 

Traceability of Leather:

Knowing the materials that make our leather products, such as apparel/footwear/handbags or belts, and the ability to trace the raw materials from the slaughterhouse to the finished product is called traceability. This process is fundamental to assess the sustainability of the leather supply chain. Tanning is a process where the hide is treated primarily with chemicals and convert to finished leather. Safe and effective treatment of tannery waste is critical as the effluents are commonly discharged into water bodies, and the potential effects on native water communities can damage the environment.

Sourcing of leather from certified tanneries would ensure environmental best practices in all leather production areas, such as usage of chemicals in the tannery process, wastewater management, related greenhouse gas emissions, and leather traceability. 

Think about this …

India’s lakes, rivers, and water bodies are stretched to breaking point due to multiple factors around the effects of climate change, population surge, and pollution, to name a few. Several positive steps have been taken, and one of the notable ones is the cleaning up of our Ganges river basin. Industrial waste discharged from the nearby cities into the Ganga river constitutes around 20% to its pollution. Due to industrial waste’s toxic and non-biodegradable nature, the negative impact on water is very high.

Analyze from the picture below the threat of pollution to the Ganges from industrial waste(including waste from tanneries), municipal sewage, among others that are hurting India’s lifeline.

Bio-friendly Alternative Leather: 

Did you know that several leather-intensive Fashion, Automotive, and Furniture companies embrace the ‘away from the cow’ approach and look at environmentally friendly options? 

Retail/Fashion/Apparel Industry:

  • Currently, the most widely used leather alternatives are plastic materials. PVC is the most commonly used alternative due to its low prices, but it is an environmentally damaging as plastic releases toxins throughout its lifecycle. Mushroom Leather is made from edible mushrooms cultivated on recycled sawdust and, at the end-of-life can be fully compostable. Pineapple Leather made from wasted pineapple leaves are not only an extra source of income for the farmer, but the residue left behind from the waste is used as fertilizer back into the pineapple fields. Bio-Fabricated Leather is an alternative, and so is metal-free tanning, as the conventional tanning process has potential carcinogenic effects due to the usage of chemicals like chrome.

Automotive Industry:

  • Leather car interiors are gradually losing momentum in the global automotive and transportation industry. More vehicle manufacturers are opting for synthetic fabrics as alternatives for leather materials, both due to a decrease in leather supply and lower costs. Car manufacturers are looking into sustainable leather operations and supply chains, mirroring the apparel industry’s major trend.

Furniture Industry:

  • For the most part, Furniture companies are still embracing the traditional leather business, again focusing on sustainable leather supply chains and operations. Some innovations in the space, such as Enspire Leather, which makes leather from scraps and can recycle unused leather it sells, has partnered with La-Z-Boy and Timberland to create more environmentally friendly products.

Food for thought:

Though one may argue cattle hide is just a by-product of the meat industry and has excellent durability, provides maximum comfort as finished leather, and is cost-effective than the bio-friendly leather options, it is imperative for us to think about the social, health, and environmental impact due to usage of leather. Is this a sustainable solution for our waters? So, as informed consumers, we should be smart, look at eco-friendly options, and think before we buy. Our future generations will thank us for our sustainable choices that we make today.

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TEMPLES FOR WATER

Stepped Wells

By Sushmitta Renganathan

In India, water and waterbodies were always seen as life-giving and healing forces of nature. Water’s place of honor and reverence is visible in many architectural marvels. Tracing the idea of sanctity in water might take us as far as the documented beginning of civilization in India, or even further. While the social significance of water and waterbodies seems to have led ancient Indian settlements to perfect the art of water harvesting, conservation, and conveyance through the creation of several typologies of structures, specific to the ecological diversities and culture of the regions; the spiritual significance of it, seems to have led to its enshrinement through mastery in subterranean architecture and engineering. One of the most prominent examples of structures under this built form are the stepped wells. 

Descending into Rani-Ki-Vav, “The Queen’s Well” – A UNESCO World Heritage Monument in Gujarat

“…A descent deep into the earth, which can easily evoke the terror of an otherworldly abyss, instead serves to intensify awareness of the ordinariness of life.” Says art historian Milo C. Beach on the experience of descent into the stepped wells. 

The history of this typology, dates back to as early as 3rd century BC when the concept – of what is now a unique symbol of ancient India’s architectural genius emerged as simple excavated pits in sandy soil, reaching for the water tables. By 11th century AD, the architecture of the stepped wells had evolved to such an extent, that the typology was largely represented by multi-storied, lavishly carved structures, with surface decorations and ornamentation as elaborate as those of temples. 

A significant example of this subterranean structure is “Rani-ki-Vav” also known as “The Queen’s Well”, built in the 11th century, on the banks of Saraswathi River in the historical town of Patan, once the capital city of Gujarat. It is said that geotectonic changes along the Saraswathi River bed in 13th century, led to flooding — according to some accounts, and drought according to others — and the eventual abandonment of the Vav till the mid 20th century. In 1958, excavation and restoration works of the Vav began by the efforts of Archaeological Survey of India, and in 2014 it was declared as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Constructed at the peak of craftsmanship in our subcontinent, Rani-ki-Vav is a seven-story deep testament to the complex Maru-Gurjara style of Architecture. However, when one enters the site today, the nature of the structure reveals nothing, but a wide flight of steps in the midst of landscaped bunds in a bare field. As one follows the steps, surfaces adorned with sculptures of Gods, Goddesses, and other heavenly creatures, lead the way to the cavernous well: An inverted temple marking the sanctity of the water harvested, 23 meters deep into the ground.

A stepped well in decline from the Kakatiyan Era in Warangal, Telangana.

Although a small percentage of stepped wells continue to be in use in India, the majority have been lost to time, squalor, and neglect. Cultural journalist Victoria Lautman in the documentary “Subterranean Ghosts: India’s Disappearing Stepwells”, explains the Indian subcontinent’s journey away from stepped wells:

“Industrialization, unregulated pumping, and drought has depleted the water table in many places. But step wells began to lose their prominence and have been in precipitous decline for a century. While a handful have been protected and restored by the Indian Government, many more have been demolished, left to deteriorate. During the British Raj, they were deemed unhygienic and were often filled in. Centralized village water taps, plumbing, and storage tanks replaced the physical need for step wells, leaving the social and spiritual aspects unmoored.”

India is home to many more ancient tributes designed to emphasize on the sacrosanctity of water and waterbodies. Some remain, while the others are lost to time.