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Chennai – A Haven for Migratory Birds

by Rahul J

Our seasonal guests, from over 29 countries, come to India every year during the winter. [1] For most of us, a day’s long flight is enough to tire and bore us down. But for these birds, taking flight paths that can go over 1000kms long is not a choice, it is an act of survival. And as ecologists, we have all wondered how, and in particular, why- birds choose specific locations to migrate to, and that is what I’ll cover in this blog.

Why do they migrate?

Firstly, it is important to recognize that certain bird species can live and prosper only in certain conditions that their species consider ideal (similar to most wildlife). For instance, an arctic tern travels over 30,000 kilometers in its round-trip journey and moves from the arctic circle to the Antarctic circle. It is not a bird that resides in the equatorial region. [2] And when a certain region becomes unfavorable due to a season, it migrates to another more favorable region for breeding, food, and shelter. Hence it is an adaptation mechanism that we identify in them and the health of ecosystems can also be judged based on this metric.

Arctic Tern Source- Ebird

Why are they important?

Migrant birds play an especially important role in enriching the ecosystems that they cross and settle in. For starters, they act as pest controls in the areas they reside in, by eating insects that might harm crops and even prevent locust attacks which have been known to occur in seasons with reduced migration.

Bird droppings on the other hand are rich in nitrogen and act as fertilizers. Finally, they have a deep-rooted ecological impact and the absence of any one of the species can negatively disturb the food chain in multiple areas.

Why are the wetlands in Chennai especially important?

If we look at where Chennai is located, we can see that it is a coastal city, and the proximity to sea is very important for birds and gives security over lake conditions ( alkalinity/acidity )and food.

Moreover, Chennai being a metro-city, one of the advantages is the lack of poaching, compared to rural areas where awareness over ecological issues is very less and to top it all off certain wetland regions such as Pallikaranai are given the status of protected hotspots.

In the absence of the above reasons, the biggest deciding factor for birds to migrate to Chennai is simply the fact that they have multiple wetlands to choose from. Having been a large wetland city, even with considerable urbanization, Chennai has multiple pockets of areas where birds can settle down, such as — Pallikaranai, Adyar estuary, Muttukadu, Pulicat lake, Kelambakkam backwaters, etc.

Flamingoes Source- livechennai.com

But why is this choice very important? 

Birdwatchers and naturalists will know that birds love to come back to the same regions every year at a certain point in time, so even in the worst scenario when water levels seem to be too low in one wetland, having a choice to move somewhere close by is essential when you are travelling across continents to come to one specific area.

Birds also like to stop in multiple regions that are favourable to them in their round-trip for rest, and Chennai is a favourable location before they take off again to cross a longer flight path without other rest locations.

Wetlands here are also favourable in terms of weather conditions. Compared to severe winters abroad, and the western ghats which do not share the same climate as their neighbours, Chennai wetlands are milder and better for shelter and mating activities. 

Having said all of this, the focus then turns to sustaining these habitats so that our visitors have a nice stay.

Preservation of wetlands

To begin with, the bare minimum should be maintaining a clean environment for these species. This can be done by clearly demarcating waste areas, disposal sites and wetlands ( which are often used as dump yards, unfortunately ).

Then would be rejuvenating water bodies themselves, and increasing the green cover in them. For instance, croton plants are said to be an ideal plant for this activity.

At the end of the day, we need society to understand the importance of wetlands and be mindful, if not this burden rests disproportionately on the few who volunteer and take interest.

References
[1] https://www.downtoearth.org.in/blog/wildlife-biodiversity/how-important-are-migratory-birds-in-an-era-of-climate-change-75588
[2] https://oceanwide-expeditions.com/blog/22-enchanting-arctic-birds-and-their-most-fascinating-facts
[3] https://www.nationalgeographic.com/magazine/graphics/bird-migration-interactive-maps

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Partitions and water

by Prithvi Saravanabawan

People say, “ If there is magic on this planet, it is contained in water”. Nevertheless, people being who they are, constantly think that they stand at the pinnacle of nature’s creation and naturally think that they are entitled to everything around us. This is an archetype that we have constructed for ourselves. This article does not aim at talking about how humans pollute or taint the water bodies. Instead, I aim at scrupulously yet briefly talking about different ways by which people strike water for its purpose. 

Firstly, the primary notion that aids this archetype exists in “ borders”. Though borders between different countries play an integral role in social and economic causes, they ostracize the very concept of human existence, sharing. Nonetheless, the concept of borders is not necessarily wicked or sinful. Therefore, I simply wish to enumerate that though the idea of borders is paramount in the domain of politics and economics, but nonexistent for rivers, lakes, or oceans.

Secondly, when we view this “borders” paradigm from an emotional perspective, we can observe that the root of this problem lies in a peculiar emotion. This emotion is greed. However, make no mistake, by greed I do not mean corporate greed, industrial greed, or economical greed. I mean the greed for improvement. This mortal emotion drives people to improve everything within a particular border of confined land we call countries, states, etc. Furthermore, in the process of making borders, people hoard water bodies like lakes and rivers in an attempt to improve their land or even deteriorate others. Thus creating a situation that produces an unbalanced environmental and ecological state within the same country. For example, altering the natural passage of a river may cause irreversible environmental damages like the extinction of indigenous marine life, endangerment of the various array of terrestrial animals that use that particular river as their primary source of water, and the plausible destruction of local flora.

In conclusion, I think it is safe to say that water breathes life into everything it touches. Though we are aware of this fact, our hubris shields us from attaining perfect harmony with the environment that surrounds us. I believe that our hubris as humans is the very source that instigates us to conceptualize improvement which makes way for borders. However, regardless of the veracity of the previous statement, it is an irrefutable fact that we cannot live without boundaries. Ergo, the best possible solution I could come up with for the topic “borders and water” is to establish good relationships with ourselves, our neighbors, and most importantly, our environment. 

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Sustainable Living

by Nakshatra Balachander

Living Alone and Bored weekends?

Why don’t we move around our house and make it a zero-waste home without disposing anything?

A little background of zero-waste house concept: 

Zero Waste is a movement to reduce the amount one consumes and consequently  throws away. Adopting a Zero Waste lifestyle is one of the most sustainable ways of  living

Zero waste house is an idea to reuse those already existing bottles, old CDs and  various other household products into a décor item or to any other useful material.

How to shift to zero waste? (3 tips)

1.Monitor your everyday trash collection.

– Think about how you can cut them down or reuse them. Go around the house  and see if you can organise an area with the help of your inorganic solid waste  items. 

– Think of ways to regenerate greenery with the organic waste of your trash. If it  becomes impossible to use for regenerative purpose use them for  decomposition. Organic manures are in high demand because of its purity. So  why waste such a pure nature’s blessing?

2.When “Reusing” met “Creativity”. 

– When you find an object lying in the house and you’re already quite bored of it,  give it a new life by transforming it into another object. 

– This transformation can be of any form- colour, shape, feature or even usage. – One good example- We all have that one pen stand with a branding of any  company lying in the dust. Also, we all have some used gift wraps neatly folded  at home in the hope of using it again. Let’s give the stand that hopeless cover  to cover itself. With such good cover and shape it deserves to be on the dining  table as a spoon stand.

3.Converting villains to heroes. 

– We all have just started to adapt to zero waste. Which means there are some  plastic containers or bottles lying around. They’ve been a real villain and now  it’s time to transform them. 

– Let them be of a small help in helping an emerging life. With little holes in the  bottom, they can be an excellent plant holder or even bird feeder. – Usually, plants initially require a nursery sometimes to give out shoots. They  can be of help. 

– Well, sometimes those dried out paints can also be used again to decorate  these containers to give them a cute outlook.

With lockdowns we very often get bored to even watch series or movies. Why don’t  we spend our time just like we did in our school days in art classes?  

This one move can help lighten our mood and at the same time address the issue of  waste management. 

At this point of time, let’s not punish our environment anymore instead help them. 

Living a sustainable life is the need of the hour. Choosing to live sustainably can help  the environment become cleaner. If we don’t start bringing sustainability into our  daily lives, the future generations have to comprise their needs.  

All this can start with a little waste managing step.The pandemic is a great example to  know the damages that we’ve done to the environment and hence let’s be kind to  them by being waste free.

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Ganges River Dolphins (Platanista gangetica gangetica): Effect of Dams and their Conservation

by Rohan Nath

Introduction

Considering the rate with which many landscapes, including freshwater ecosystems, around the world is being converted by humans; it is important to understand the evolutionary  potential of endangered species. The race between the surrounding countries to harness water  extraction and hydropower propels the South Asian Rivers into a threat. The most endangered  freshwater river dolphin in the world- the Ganges River dolphin (Fig. 1) is found in the  Ganges-Brahmaputra-Meghna and Karnaphuli River Basin (Fig. 2) in India, Nepal and  Bangladesh. However, several human development projects and activities like dams and  barrages as well as natural factors hamper the ecology of the Ganges dolphin and alter their  habitat. Numerous factors are likely to put the population of Ganges dolphin at risk of  destabilization and extinction.  

Dams and water-related projects in the main branch and the tributaries of the Ganges Brahmaputra-Meghna and Karnaphuli River Basin create a flow-regulating barrier that obstructs the movements of the dolphin population. This results in small, local  subpopulations that disrupt the potential of the dolphin population for evolution. 

Fig. 1. The Ganges river dolphin (Platanista gangetica gangetica).  Image Source: Mansur / WCS Bangladesh / Braulik et al., doi: 10.1111/mms.12801.

Fig. 2. The Ganges-Brahmaputra-Meghna and Karnaphuli River Basin in South Asia and  the location of the major dams that isolate the dolphin population into several small  groups. Image Source: Paudel, S., & Koprowski, J. L. (2020). Factors affecting the  persistence of endangered Ganges River dolphins (Platanista gangetica gangetica). Ecology and evolution, 10(6), 3138-3148.

Why is evolution important for the Ganges dolphin? 

Under the serious threats of extinction, the dolphin population needs to adapt to changing  environmental conditions which may threaten their existence. Therefore, evolution is the  mean by which the population can cope up with environmental stresses. 

Effects of Dams on the Population of Dolphins 

i. Modification of Physical Habitat  

The dams lead to habitat loss and fragmentation resulting in the isolation of small groups of  Ganges dolphin with limited geographic range. Disturbances in any hydrophysical habitats  like required depth can potentially reduce or eliminate the reproductive success of the Ganges  dolphin. Further research is necessary to identify the other hydrophysical habitats to increase  the conservation and survival of the dolphin population. The rate of local extinction has  increased in the upstream range of the Ganges River. Considering the high risk in these small  isolated populations, it is important to develop a plan to work on the conservation of these  endangered species. 

The government of India declared the Ganges dolphin as the national aquatic animal and  developed the Conservation Action Plan for the Ganges dolphin. However, the government  also constructed dams and structures at international borders leading to an alteration in the  Ganges-Brahmaputra-Meghna and Karnaphuli River Basin, risking the population of the  species they declared as the national aquatic animal.  

WCS dolphin conservation project in Bangladesh and Vikramshila Gangetic Dolphin  Sanctuary, Bhagalpur District of Bihar in India are some of the river dolphin-based  conservation projects.

ii. Genetic 

The Farakka Barrage in West Bengal divides the Ganges dolphin global population into  several local subpopulations. The geographical limitation of the subpopulation of the Ganges  dolphin puts them at a higher risk of extinction. This usually occurs through phenomena like  reduction of genetic variability and inbreeding depression that decreases the genetic diversity  and fitness of the population. The number of small local subpopulations is further increased  with an addition of a new dam. Considering that the extinction of species occurs quicker in  freshwater than in terrestrial ecosystem, the increase in inbreeding and decrease in genetic  heterozygosity makes the local extinctions of Ganges dolphin seem inevitable.  

iii. Behavioural ecology of the Ganges dolphin 

Anthropological influences are likely to affect the specialized circadian rhythm of the Ganges  dolphin concerning habitat selection like depth profile selection for foraging and  reproduction. This in turn can affect the life-history stages and functional ecology of these  species. The Ganges dolphin uses the cyclic range of water levels and seasonally moves  between the mainstream and tributaries. For example, the Ganges dolphin is stimulated to  migrate to other tributaries when there is a high-water flow in the mainstream. Anthropogenic  structures like hydropower dams or development structures can regulate the water level and  present as a false environmental cue, leading to a dysfunction of the functional ecological  behaviour of the dolphin.  

iv. Human-dolphin conflicts 

The primary cause of endangerment and extinction of the Ganges dolphins is due to their  interactions between artisanal fisheries in the Ganges-Brahmaputra-Meghna and Karnaphuli  River Basin. The endangerment of the Ganges dolphin can be attributed to the dietary and  diel activity and spatial and temporal overlap with the fisheries. The factors leading to the  fisheries and Ganges dolphin interaction needs to be assessed for effective management.  Therefore, the driving factors like spatial overlap, dietary competition and behavioural  distractions need to be further researched both qualitatively and quantitatively to manage the  coexistence between the river dolphin and fisheries.

v. Implications for future management 

Genetic tools cannot be applied to explore the viability of the Ganges dolphin population in  the Ganges-Brahmaputra-Meghna and Karnaphuli River Basin because of the limitation of  resources and conservative policies. It is essential to develop a regional intergovernmental  project that promotes the investigation of genetic viability and factors associated with the risk  of extinction using genetic-based research. For genetic monitoring, it is important to consider  the use of non-invasive tools, like environmental DNA. It is suggested to integrate census  data with genetic data for the accurate prediction in the population trend of the Ganges  dolphin. Proper capture and handling techniques might make it possible to improve the  genetic stability by translocation of individuals among subpopulations.  

It is tremendously difficult to predict the extinction using a single ecological factor due to the  synergistic effect of several other factors. A better understanding of management purposes  and conservation could be reached if we integrate demographics, genetics, and environmental  factors in future studies. Restoration and preservation of essential surfacing and foraging  habitats and maintenance of minimum stream flow can prevent the further decline in the  population of the Ganges dolphin.

Reference 

1. Paudel, S., & Koprowski, J. L. (2020). Factors affecting the persistence of endangered  Ganges River dolphins (Platanista gangetica gangetica). Ecology and evolution, 10(6),  3138-3148.

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Kanakan Lake – Puducherry

The Kanakan lake in Puducherry is well-renowned for its magnificent beauty and significance in the lives of the city’s inhabitants, as it also serves as one of the largest sources of freshwater in the union territory.

Today, the lake is battling for its survival as it continues to be choked by untreated sewage and industrial effluents. These not only pollute the water, but also supplement the growth of water hyacinths in huge numbers, that hinder the movement of boats and vessels.

The Kanakan lake has been neglected, and it is on the verge of dying. Even though many residents approached concerned authorities (Lt. Governor Dr. Kiran Bedi) to highlight this issue, and several departments were requested to effect change and help in the lake’s revival, the lake’s situation remains pitiful.

In June 2019, it was reported that the Kanakan lake had become a “depository” of pollution as untreated pollutants were frequently discharged from Indira Gandhi Medical College and Research Institute, as well as industries in Mettupalayam.

Since then, the water body has been regularly visited by volunteers and government offcials, who have been taking numerous measures to conserve the lake. Governor Kiran Bedi also led an initiative to plant tree saplings along the lake, with the help of school students. These steps have helped transform the Kanakan lake phenomenally, but the zero-pollution goal has not been achieved yet.

The condition of the lake improved to some extent when the tourism department of Puducherry introduced reformative measures to protect the lake. By allowing boating and a variety of other activities to promote eco-tourism, the government was able to divert people’s attention from the Kanakan lake’s deplorable state.

Kanakan lake is plays a crucial role in Puducherry’s ecology, economy and helps meet the domestic water requirements of hundreds residing in the area. Temporary measures are not sufficient; additional laws and stringent conservation measures are needed to save the precious water body.

Reference:
Source 1
Source 2

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Damaged Kidneys of the Earth

Known as “kidneys of the Earth”, wetlands are of immense significance in the ecosystem. Havens for migratory birds, hotspots of flourishing flora and fauna, sources of clean water, etc. – wetlands are jackpots for us serendipitous humans.

Or at least, they were jackpots. Our actions have inflicted calamitous damage on the world’s “kidneys”. Wetlands are vanishing three times faster than forests, and only a ruinous future can be foreseen in their absence.

Amidst rising development, wetlands struggle to live in Chennai, much like any other water body of the southern city.

Take the Pulicat Lake for instance. Despite it being the second largest brackish water lagoon in India after Orissa’s Chilika Lake, sewage, chemicals, industrial effluents, pesticides, etc. menace its beauty. Birds flocking the Pulicat Lake Bird Sanctuary and fish thriving in the water body have been severely affected by this. Those days when dense mangrove trees flanked the lake have long gone by. What remain today are scattered mangroves dotting the wetland. It is, however, hopeful that initiatives are being taken to protect the Pulicat Lake.

Pulicat Lake (Image Source)

The lesser known Kattupalli Island (also called Ennore Island) is at crossroads. Lying south of the Pulicat Lake, the island is flanked by the Ennore Creek on one side and the Bay of Bengal on the other. This narrow island has been identified as a “no development zone” by the Coastal Zone Management Plan. Yet, ironically, it finds itself with two ports (the Kamarajar Port and the Adani Kattupalli Port Private Limited), a thermal power plant (the North Chennai Thermal Power Station) and a desalination plant (ABENGOA Seawater Desalination Plant).

Kattupalli Island
Shrinking shoreline of Kattupalli Island (Image Source)

The recent proposal of expansion of the Adani Port from 330 acres to 6111 acres has sparked protests among local fishermen, environmentalist and residents of the island to conserve the biodiversity of the region.

The Madhavaram and Manali Jheels too have a similar story to share. These twin lakes in north Chennai are home to several bird species. However, once stretching over 150 acres, these lakes today have been reduced to half their size. Garbage, sewage, illegal constructions and encroachments have victimized the wetlands and have affected their habitants adversely.

It’s hard to believe what has become of the well-known Pallikaranai marshland today. Less than half a century ago, the marshland sprawled across an area of 50 sq. kilometres. But today, over 90% of the wetland has been lost to IT corridors, urban settlements, garbage dumps and sewage treatment plants. With renewed efforts of the government and several local organizations to revive this booming water body, the Pallikaranai marshland can once again become what it used to be not so long ago.

Pallikaranai marshland shrinks by 93% (Image Source)

Several smaller wetlands of Chennai such as the Adambakkam Lake or Mangal Lake have fallen prey to pollution and contamination, and have shrunk miserably.

Presently, human urbanisation and development at the cost of environmental damage seems like a short-term developmental victory. In the long run, however, humans are racing ahead for a devastating fiasco.

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Indian Forest Fires – A Raging Omission

by Rahul J

Forest fires have been raging in many parts of India for some time now, and this issue has been going unnoticed. There have been 82,170 forest fire alerts over the span of two weeks ( April 1- 14th ) of this year, many of them falling to deaf ears[1]. So, in this week’s blog, let’s take a look at why these incidents occur, their impact and what can be done to prevent them.

  1. What causes forest fires?

These can occur due to a variety of natural reasons. The ones that we saw in India, especially in the states of Uttarakhand, Madhya Pradesh etc. have been said to be caused by human activities. This can either be adopting the use of burning croplands, or by accident. But research today points out that there is a very distinct link between climate change and forest fires, notably the fire in the Amazon Forest in Brazil and the Australian fires.

Hopefully, the Indian situation is not that serious, but nonetheless, each year the trend is getting worse. Not only were this year’s fires the highest in the last half decade, but the temperatures recorded in the month of March 2021 was the third warmest in 121 years ( according to IMD report ).[2]

Given this correlation between climate change and forest fires, the most common way they occur is when dry wood, logs and dry grass cause friction rubbing each other on the ground and initiate fires.

The lack of soil moisture has been identified to be the reason behind Uttarakhand’s fire this year ( one of the most affected states ).

It is also important to note that India’s Disaster Management Authority has not classified forest fires as a natural hazard, even though 36% of India’s forest has been prone to fires.

Even though government funding for the forest service has increased in recent years, fire services are understaffed and are not able to contain fires in the big forests that India has.

Help from local communities has often become the solution but this has also been weakened given the trust deficit between the locals and forest admins[3].

This has led to small-scale protests by the locals against alleged conservation policy violations and depriving them of forest rights[3].

(Forest fire alerts from April 1-14, 2021 in India as recorded by the Global Forest Watch, an open-source monitoring application)[1]

2. What are the major impacts?

  • Forest fires ensure that fighting climate change is much harder, as it increases the carbon levels present in the region and these forests stop playing the important role that they normally play as carbon sinks.
  • Fires often affect the wildlife present in these regions adversely and result in habitat loss or displacement, given that they reduce soil quality and moisture. E.g. Bandhavgarh forest reserve in Madhya Pradesh known for its Tiger Population was severely affected.
  • Forest cover, soil and tree growth, main components of a healthy forest will also be damaged.

3. Prevention/Treatment

  • Given that temperature control, rainfall pattern and soil moisture is beyond control, we should work on acting on forest fire alarm calls spontaneously, with maximum fighters on the ground. This should be done especially in the months of March, April and May given that fires are prone to crop up during this time of the year.
  • Better communication and dialogue between locals and forest departments would mean that there are more nuanced methods of fighting fire that the locals may be aware of, more fighters on the ground and awareness to the locals not to accidentally initiate fires.

This trend year represents one of the tipping points in the climate crisis and we must take this seriously. 

References:

1. https://www.downtoearth.org.in/news/forests/forest-fires-in-india-alerts-since-april-1-nearly-double-that-of-2020-76559

2. https://indianexpress.com/article/explained/why-forest-fires-break-out-in-the-spring-and-why-they-have-been-so-frequent-this-year-72590573. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-56671148

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Khecheopalri Lake, the Sacred Lake of Sikkim Himalaya of India

by Rohan Nath

Introduction

The Khecheopalri Lake of Sikkim Himalaya can easily be considered as the most sacred lake among all the 150 lakes in Sikkim. It is a highly popular site for a large population of domestic as well as international tourists due to the rich biodiversity, the landscape of the lake and many religious and cultural values and sacred beliefs associated with it. It is also known as a “wish-fulfilling lake” due to several folklores on the lake. The lake and its surrounding were intensively studied and documented. The research included the benefit of the surrounding watershed on the lake and numerous parameters like forest ecology, nutrient and sediment deposition from the neighbouring watershed into the lake and precipitation portioning pathways were taken into account. Moreover, the physio-chemical properties of the lake like pH, dissolved oxygen, alkalinity, and nitrogen, phosphate and phosphorous concentration were studied.

The study revealed the fact there is a severe anthropogenic influence on the lake. The values of sacred beliefs, ecotourism and folklore might contribute to the conservation of the prestigious ecosystem.

Location

The sacred Khecheopalri Lake is located 147 km west of Gangtok, Sikkim at an altitude of 1700 meters above mean sea level (Fig. 1, 2). The lake is formed more than 3500 years ago by the scooping action of an ancient hanging glacier.

A forested watershed area of 12 square kilometres called Ramam watershed surrounds Khecheopalri Lake.

Morphology

The size of the open water surface area is 3.79 hectares with 7.2 metres of mean water depth. 2 perennial and 5 seasonal inlets keep the lake well drained from the watershed. The lake morphometric data is provided below (Table 1).

Many Trans-Himalayan migratory birds halt at this lake. Numerous pilgrims from Sikkim as well as from Nepal and Bhutan are attracted to the religious events and festivals celebrated in this lake. Moreover, the rich biodiversity of the lake lures several tourists.

Table 1. Lake Morphometric Data

Fig. 1. Satellite image of the Khecheopalri Lake in Sikkim. Image Source: Google Earth
Fig. 2. Chains of prayer flags surround the Khecheopalri Lake. Image Source: C.P.R. Environmental Education Centre, Chennai

Folklores associated with Khecheopalri Lake

Demazong (Land of Hidden Treasures) is a sacred valley of rice of which the lake forms a part. According to local beliefs, the rice produced from the Demazong valley can satisfy the food requirements of the people. The senior members of the local communities in Khecheopalri and Yuksam believe that the saviour of Buddhism in Tibet, Guru Padmasambhava visited Sikkim, blessed the area, and sanctified it.

Demazong has four religious sites, each considered to represent four plexuses of the human body (Table 2).

Table 2. The four religious sites of Demazong where the sites symbolise four plexuses of the human body.

Since the lake is considered sacred, the local communities forbid fishing and boating in the waterbody. It is only used for rituals and ceremonies. The Lepcha communities are dominant in that area and their belief in sacredness has led them to maintain a strong bonding with the natural environment surrounding the lake.

The Buddhists believe that the mother of Lord Buddha, Goddess Tara Jestum Dolma dwells in that lake and the shape of the lake resembles her footprint (Fig. 1).

Lake Khecheopalri is also worshipped as the Goddess Chho Pema. Numerous religious sites are surrounding the lake, such as holy caves named Dupukney, Chubukney and Yukumney, which were the incarnation site for the lamas and was used as a meditation site for rimpoches. A stone near the stupa contains the footprints of Macha Zemu Rimpoche. According to the Hindus, Dupukney Cave located just above the Khecheopalri Lake was a meditation site for Lord Shiva.

According to folklore, the north-western part of the Himalayas contains two sister lakes. The younger of the two lakes, Labding Pokhari is situated in the western part of the Sikkim in a place called Yuksam. The Goddess residing in the Labding Pokhari lake got dismayed when the people of Yuksam threw waste into her waters. She flew the lake into a place called Chhojo. She then shifted to Khecheopalri when the lake could not fit into the area of Chhojo. There is still an absence of an open water surface in the dead Chhojo Lake other than a marshy land with terrestrial vegetation (Fig. 3).

Fig. 3. The dead Chhojo Lake without open water surface. Image Source: Jain, A., Singh, H. B., Rai, S. C., & Sharma, E. (2004). Folklores of sacred khecheopalri lake in the Sikkim Himalaya of India: a plea for conservation. Asian folklore studies, 291-302.

Religious and Cultural Features

Chho-Tsho and Bhumchu are the two main festivals associated with Khecheopalri Lake (Table 3). A Buddhist monk or a Hindu priest helps the communities to perform rituals and rites. Bamboo poles or small trees (Eurya acuminata and Symplocos thaefolia) are used to place prayer flags around the lake. The prayer flags contain inscriptions or prayers for the sick members, deceased relatives and, wish for peace and harmony in the family. The local communities set up numerous stalls selling clothes, food, and other items like prayer flags, holy books, photographs of Gods and Goddesses and, rosaries. Therefore, both religious and recreational purposes are satisfied by the lake.

Table 3. Main festivals associated with Khecheopalri Lake.

Conclusion

Despite the protection Khecheopalri Lake receives, it is still under the threat of anthropogenic influences like agricultural practices and watershed exploitation which includes the collection of fodder, the felling of trees for timber and firewood, and uncontrolled livestock grazing. This has resulted in the damaging of the forest structure leading to soil exposition. The longevity of the lake is affected when soil and nutrient are deposited into the lake from the neighbouring watershed during the rainy season. Moreover, the biodiversity of the lake water is negatively affected due to the offerings made by pilgrims and tourists. Therefore, the government as well as the local communities must take action to save this sacred sanctuary.

Reference

  1. Jain, A., Singh, H. B., Rai, S. C., & Sharma, E. (2004). Folklores of sacred khecheopalri lake in the Sikkim Himalaya of India: a plea for conservation. Asian folklore studies, 291-302.
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Excessive fishing in God’s own country

Kerala – the God’s own country possesses a plethora of bounties of nature, and each of it has its own beauty. The hills, tea plantations, and lakes make Kerala extremely special and resourceful.

Though it has been recently witnessed that excessive fishing in the state is exhausting its marine resources. Fishing that was once highly dependent on old tools has been replaced today by modern, technologically-advanced equipment.

On February 8, 2020, the government of Kerala had even signed an MoU with the EMCC International India Private Limited, for “fisheries research and development for the upgradation and promotion of deep-sea fishing in Kerala.” The 5000-crore large-scale project included building 400 deep-sea fishing trawlers and upgrading 14 harbors in Kerala. Such massive actions are without doubt economically beneficial for the people, but they have had a negative impact on Kerala’s aquatic ecosystem.

Source

The number of overfished stock is alarming, as it surpasses the damage done to the marine environment. Another major issue that has stirred the problem is illegal fishing. Due to this, the incomes of several registered fishermen has drastically declined.

Surveys conducted reveal that the number of fish in inland water bodies such as brackish waters, backwaters, lakes, etc. has reduced over the last decade. This can also lead to an imbalance in the Kerala’s aquatic food chain and ecosystem.

Owed to destructive human intervention and harmful fishing techniques, Kerala’s prominent Vembanad lake, which supports a large number of fishermen in Kerala, has seen a massive drop in fish numbers too. Indulging in methods such as explosion and electrocution is a popular practice in this region, which also houses about 150 species of fish. The use of mesh-nets to sweep the bottom bed has been devastating.

It is to be noted that the problem is multi-fold, as excessive fishing not only affects Kerala’s lake’s ecosystem, but the livelihoods of thousands of fishermen is at risk. Fishermen also tend to take out more boats in the waters aiming to get a larger catch. But this only leads to an overpopulated lake, and supplements water pollution and weed growth.

Kerala has been indubitably gifted with precious reserves, that need to be protected with better legislative action and firm implementation.

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Aging dams…

Let’s start with some statistics first : India has over 5000 dams and reservoirs that can store around 257 billion cubic meters (BCM) of surface water per year which is ~40% of its annual water consumption . Present day availability is ~694 BCM which includes stored surface water and renewable ground water and not surprisingly our growing population will have a water demand that would almost double to ~1180 BCM by year 2050 with demand exceeding supply by two times.

Dams are engineered structures that have several purposes: water storage, agricultural irrigation, flood control, hydro power generation, as a recreation site to name a few. Hydropower is the world’s most reliable and renewable source of electricity and dams store river water which, when released, powers turbines and generators to create electricity.

Aging dams and flash flooding accelerated by climate change are a looming threat to our ecosystems, questioning dam sustainability

Why are dams seeming unsustainable?

Several important dams in India were built during the 1970s and are aging, in need of repair, rehabilitation or even decommissioning (dam removal having outlived their purpose).

Siltation: Sedimentation or gradual accumulation of soil in dams and reservoirs especially downstream results in reduced storage capacity. As an example, Bhakra dam in Himachal Pradesh, has a siltation rate 140% higher than when planned in 1963. Given the excess silt formation, the dam’s expected lifespan was for 47 years instead of the original estimate of 88 years which meant that Bhakra dam would have to be decommissioned by 2010. Every year, de-silting measures and dredging of the soil sediments is a continuous, expensive, and laborious maintenance process to keep these dams operational.

Environmental and social concerns: Dams disrupt flow of rivers, block seasonal flood patterns and its negative impacts on river ecosystems have worsened over the years. Dam failures have displaced millions of people, mostly tribals and submerged entire villages and towns.

The Uttarakhand tragedy in Feb 2021 due to Himalayan glacier melt resulting in flash floods not only killed several people but washed away two power projects generating hydroelectricity, destroyed Dhauliganga dam and emptied downstream dams to stop floodwaters reaching towns of Haridwar and Rishikesh.

More recently in March 2021 , Australia’s Warragamba dam started to overflow spilling water ( around 550 gigalitres/day about twice the average daily flow of Niagara Falls) resulting in evacuation and extreme flooding . What could have possibly prevented the spillover was keeping space in the dam for flood mitigation, but the dam’s main purpose as Sydney’s drinking water supply and keeping it full resulted in escape routes for water flooding the city and suburbs.

And, how can we forget activist Medha Patkar’s courageous fight to save the Narmada river from the Sardar Sarovar dam in Gujarat resulting in the Supreme court ruling in 2000 to stop work at the dam and cancelling World Bank’s loan to further increase the height of the dam. Sadly, displacement and rehabilitation of the tribals and villagers in the surrounding areas have been inequitable and forced relocation of thousands of people has created social unrest.

Dam safety:

Until the early 2000s, dam inspections were minimal but with extreme weather and numerous dam disasters, dam safety came back to focus. Inspections found that a third were unsafe and states began to take their dam safety responsibilities seriously. One sure way to eliminate a dam’s danger is to dismantle it but removing a dam can cost as much as building the dam in the first place.

Incorporation of climate change into dam safety practices still has several challenges as the predictive science that can quantify frequency and intensity of flooding is still not advanced. Dam safety officials typically take decisions to release water based on readings of precipitation that has already occurred and technologies for forecasting of extreme events and flash flooding is being implemented in pilots. The Dam Rehabilitation and Improvement project(DRIP) of India has its objectives focused on improving safety and performance of key dams in a sustainable manner. Take a look at this dashboard that gives a picture of India’s dams , expenditure on dam safety and upkeep guidelines.

Are there alternatives to dams?

If we are thinking about dams mainly built for hydroelectricity generation, the alternatives are many: wind, solar, nuclear, bio-mass energy, small scale hydro-projects that run on river’s natural flows.

Sub-surface dams and coastal reservoirs are built to store natural flow of water near the riverbeds of seasonal rivers. Japan’s Fukuzato underground dam is a great example that saves water being wasted into the sea. Ananganandi dam in Kerala, Bhujpur underground dam near Mundra in Gujarat are good case studies of sustainable water projects that highlight the advantages of limited evaporation loss, no siltation, less susceptibility to pollution, no big dam failure disaster, no land submergence, and resettlement associated with surface dams.

America is dismantling dams faster than ever and looking at restoring free-flowing rivers because of its environmental value.

In conclusion : for developing countries like India, the need for construction of additional large dams to support and sustain economic development will remain. We need to find better ways to plan, build, and operate dams, reservoirs, and hydropower stations in a manner that their negative impacts on environment and society can be reduced.

Dams are erected assuming they would be eternal, would not fail, never be filled with sediments and be financially viable. Yet, all dams disintegrate eventually by the power of nature. Planning water administration of large river basins, inter-basin water planning, diversified sources of water management and careful decommissioning of dams can reduce huge costs related to people displacement, environmental damages and enhance resilience against negative impacts of climate change.

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Waste Management at East Calcutta Wetland

By Rohan Nath

Introduction

Calcutta has two important water bodies. One of them is the Hooghly river on the west which acts as a drinking water source and the other is a low-lying area towards the east called East Calcutta Wetland (Fig. 1), which plays the role of a sink. The East Calcutta Wetland has been declared as a Ramsar site in 2002.

Fig. 1. A satellite image of the East Calcutta Wetland. Image Source: Google Earth

Waste can be defined as an economically useless material or energy that cannot be recovered or recycled at a particular place and time. Consumption of resources by cities produces both solid and liquid waste. 20,000 farmers and fishermen of East Calcutta Wetland have devised a method to utilize these wastes as a resource rather than a hazard.

The East Calcutta Wetland acts as a resource recovery system where the city sewage is used for practices of agriculture and fisheries. Four principal resource recovery practices are involved in the recycling of waste:

i. Garbage vegetable farms.
ii. Fish ponds holding wastewater.
iii. Fishpond effluents used for paddy fields.
iv. Aquaculture with sewage-fed brackish water.

About 600 million litres of daily sewage and wastewater and more than 2500 tons of garbage is generated by the Municipal Corporation. Several underground sewers carry the wastewater to the eastern border of the city where the pumping stations are located. The pumping stations then pumps the wastewater into open channels. The wastewater is then distributed to sewagefed fisheries, solid waste and agricultural farms.

The bio-remedial activities are conducted in Bheri

Shallow flat-bottomed ponds with wastewater are locally called Bheris (Fig. 2). They have a depth and size of about 50-150 cm and 40-50 ha, respectively. The bio-remedial activities are primarily due to a high rate of photosynthesis in the basin. The shallow nature of the basin allows a high photosynthetic rate due to a better pond volume and pond surface ratio than ponds that have a deeper depth. The high amount of oxygenation in the pond leads to efficient BOD (Biochemical Oxygen Demand) and population reduction of pathogen or faecal coliform. The schematic of the sewage treatment is as follows:

The factors important for the purifying process are:
i. Shallow ponds – It plays a role of a stabilizing tank
ii. An abundance of water hyacinth – It helps in the accumulation of metals.
iii. The sunlight reaching the bottom of the pond.
iv. The wind.
v. Multiple types of algae, plankton and bacteria.

Fig. 2. Bheris located in the East Calcutta Wetland. Image Source: Telegraph India

The East Calcutta Wetland is a rich source of 12 different bacterial phyla. This heavily indicates the high amount of bio remedial activity undergoing in the wetland. They play a varying role in the bio remedial activity (Table 1).

Table 1. Bacteria in the East Calcutta Wetland and their functions

The multiple types of bacterial phyla in the wetland indicate the probable presence of bacteria which can be useful commercially such as metal accumulating, antimicrobial compound producing, oil-degrading, and enzyme-producing bacteria.

Reason for water purification

The possible factors responsible for the water purification phenomenon of the East Calcutta Wetland are:

i. Cumulative efficiency of above 80% in reducing the BOD of the sewage water.
ii. Efficient photosynthesis due to solar radiation of 250 langlays a day.
iii. Algae can use solar radiation and accumulate nutrients from the dilute concentration of water.
iv. Commensal association between the algae and waste-oxidizing bacteria results in the release of oxygen and bacterial degradation products synthesis which is used as protein-rich plant material.

The algae-bacteria symbiosis is highly beneficial since it can reduce the BOD at a rate of 237 kg of BOD per day.

The fishes thriving in the wetland also plays a huge ecological role:

i. They maintain the population of planktons in a proper balance.
ii. They convert the available pond nutrients into an edible form (fish).

Removal of faecal coliform bacteria

Pond algae play a major role in the removal of faecal bacteria. The photosynthesizing algae have a high demand for CO2 which cannot be fulfilled by bacterial metabolism. This leads to the dissociation of carbonate and bicarbonate ions. The CO2 formed is fixed by the algae and the hydroxyl ions are accumulated which raises the pH of the water, killing the faecal bacteria. The algal photosynthesis also results in a high amount of O2 in the water, as well as the high light intensities from the sun is fatal to faecal bacteria.

However, there are certain limitations in this method:

i. The solar energy of the ambience must be greater than 200 cal/cm2/day for waste utilization process and algal growth, which is primarily possible in tropical countries.
ii. The photosynthetic oxygen production should be high enough which requires great algal growth potential of the wastewater.

Importance of aquatic weeds

The process by which green plants such as aquatic weeds remove, contain or convert environmental contaminants is known as phytoremediation. Water hyacinth is an important plant that accumulates and removes heavy metal ions from the waterbody (Fig. 3). It is a case of rhizofiltration where the roots of the plant act as a biological filter and absorb heavy metals present in the wastewater. It also prevents pond bank erosion and provides shade to the aquatic organisms during summer.

Fig. 3. The water hyacinth growth in the East Calcutta Wetland. Image Source: Ghosh, S., 2018. East Kolkata Wetlands lock down over 60 percent carbon from sewage: Study. [online] Mongabay-India.

Conclusion

A developing country like India is in a dire need of proper environmental protection and management planning. The case study of the East Calcutta Wetland is of prime importance due to the sustainability of the ecosystem using inexpensive resource and the least possibility of side effects. Bioremediation is the main process that aids to sustain the environment. The city of Calcutta with 12 million citizens has no sewage treatment plant currently. The East Calcutta Wetland has been a boon for the people of Calcutta and has saved the city from building and maintaining wastewater treatment plant. The wastewater fed lagoons help the city to produce around 8000 tons of fishes annually. Moreover, 150 tons of vegetables daily and 16,000 tons of winter paddy annually is being produced by the garbage farms. The wetland is also a biodiversity-rich site forming a habitat to about 100 plant species, above 40 bird species (both indigenous and migratory), and 20 rare mammal species. However, the wetland is currently under threat with a reduction of 2/3rd of its area within the last 40 years. Hence, we must take immediate action considering the innumerable benefits the people of Calcutta receive from it.

Reference

  1. Raychaudhuri, S., Mishra, M., Nandy, P., & Thakur, A. R. (2008). Waste management: a case study of ongoing traditional practices at East Calcutta Wetland. American Journal of Agricultural and Biological Sciences, 3(1), 315-320.
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The Three Rivers of Chennai

Cooum River

Once designated as the “Thames of South India”, the 64-kilometer long Cooum River, like many other water bodies of Chennai, is dying a slow death.   This river that frolicked with life not so long ago has a sad story to share today. Excessive use of the river’s water for irrigation, direct discharge of industrial effluents, encroachment along its banks, and drainage of untreated sewage into it have turned the once-beautiful Cooum River into a narrow, slow, meandering dump yard.

Cooum River (Image by: D. Sampathkumar)

The Cooum River originates from a village of the same name in Tiruvalluvar district, almost bisects Chennai while passing through the city, and ends its journey by draining into the Bay of Bengal. Presently, with the government’s and civic bodies’ measures to restore it, the river’s future might not be so forlorn after all. Yet, the onus of responsibility falls equally on residents of Chennai as well. What are the steps that can be taken on an individual basis to save the “Thames of South India”? Click this link to read Lakes Of India’s article.

Adyar River

After years of government investments, the Adyar River is showing a slow recovery. The toxicity and pollution levels of this 42-kilometer long water body have come down after continuous revamp measures by the Chennai River Restoration Trust (CRRT) and other civic bodies. However, the amounts of raw sewage and wastes being dumped into the river is still a cause of concern.

Two of the most noted specialities that make this river unique are the Adyar Estuary and the Adyar Creek. The estuary region stretches from the Thiru Vi Ka Bridge (that spans over a section of the Adyar River in R.A Puram) to the river mouth, while the creek runs from the Santhome Causeway to the mouth of the river, both covering an area of about 358 acres in total. Today, one only hopes that this river springs back to life and be the source of inspiration and joy that it once used to be.

Kosasthalaiyar River

The lesser known, lesser polluted and largest of the three rivers of Chennai, Kosasthalaiyar River originates near Pallipattu in Tiruvalluvar district, flows in the northern parts of the city, and drains into the Bay of Bengal at the Ennore Creek. Having a length of around 136 kilometres, this river too has fallen prey to human encroachment and discharge of effluents.

Chennai’s three rivers are a sore reminder of the despairing future we are headed towards. Polluted and almost lifeless, the dire condition of these water bodies is exigent. Greater effort is required – both by governmental bodies and the general masses – to revamp them.

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The ‘E’Rase: E-Waste Campaign

by Dakshina Kannan

With great innovation in electronics, comes a surge of electronic waste. With cheap and smart mobile phones, and easy E.M.I options, it has become easy to own and dispose electronics. For every new phone upgradation, one is discarded. Electronics are being produced at an exponential rate without a consideration of how much waste is being produced.

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To address this issue, E.F.I conducted an e-waste drive. A year after its successful campaign, the ERASE e-waste campaign is back again! This initiative is led by E.F.I to keep electronic waste out of land and water bodies. Since last year, we have increased our goal on e-waste collection from 280 kgs to 800 kgs.

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Electronic items contain hazardous substances including, lead, mercury, and cadmium. When they are improperly disposed, pregnant women and children are the most vulnerable to its pollution. Without personal protective equipment, children who are employed in informal labor are also exposed directly to these hazardous chemicals. Besides, e-waste also our contaminates groundwater system.

Here are some stories on why our volunteers participated in this campaign:

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This year, we were able to collect over 1200 kg of e-waste! Check out these images:

We thank all our volunteers and support from YPO Chennai Gateway for making this event a true success.

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Pandemic Protection: Tradeoff at a cost of Future Threat

Case Study: Lake in Golf Club Road

by Srijita Chakrabarti

The pandemic since the year 2020 has turned the world upside down especially concerning the natural resources at large which have majorly suffered. The tradeoff highlighted in this situation is at a cost of great future threat. The case highlighted in this article talks about the situation of a pond located in the posh locality of Kolkata, Tollygunge- Golfclub Road. In India due to the lockdown, the natural resources have witnessed deterioration due to the influx of infectious waste, and massive consumption and hoarding have further worsened the situation, The problem also encompasses the issue of migration and influx of extra population which resulted in and financial crisis among the vulnerable community. The pond located in the middle of a suburban area is a place of great significance, owned and managed by the Royal Calcutta Golf Club, sharing its borders with the locality slum and places of great religious significance (Masjid on one side and a Temple on the other). The presence of the residential buildings and hospitals makes the location of the lake a matter of great strategic importance. However, there has been an interplay of multiple factors playing on this piece of the water body.

The issue of Pollution has been entrenched for the longest time. The lake is used for all kinds of purposes and due to the lack of authority and proper management, the lake has been exploited to its fullest. Pre Covid the lake was used for dumping domestic waste from the residential areas and the slum due to which the area has always established itself to be prone to obnoxious odor, dengue, and malaria. However, the 2020 Pandemic made situations persons, due to the presence of Hospitals in the vicinity the Lake vicinity was rampantly used for dumping of Infectious wastes (masks, gloves, PPE kits)- healthcare waste – estimated face mask (as per the population) use. When we consider Asian countries’ scenario in waste disposal, there is improper management of waste persisting for ages. But the pandemic has worsened the situation with a kind of medical waste such as masks, gloves, and PPE suits. Institutional assistance plays a major role in waste disposal and collection especially at the urban water bodies which lack boundaries and waste dynamics at the local level. In this we will look at the possible threats (Anthropogenic activity), the medical waste can cause to the lakhs of common-pool resources (which have minimal or no monitoring by the local bodies). It has been noticed that the deteriorating condition of the lake is primarily due to the issue of Governance and Lack of community awareness.

Encompassing the issue of migration and lack of proper management the reverse migration has taken a toll on the water body, Rapid increase in the population of the slum area has contributed greatly to the increasing pollution levels of the lake. This situation thus highlights the fact that the pandemic has not created an ambiance for nature to breathe. Based upon the primary data collected- lack of awareness and the issue of governance has aggravated the covid cases in the neighborhood. The condition of the water is brackish therefore not only the health of the water body- but the health of the residents are also at risk. The intertwining relationship of the humans and the water body is thus being highlighted. The majority prone to risk are the slum dwellers who are majorly dependent on the water body for various resources.

The solution to the above-mentioned problems appears in ways like- Instead of various types of masks, gloves, and PPE, a unique type(in material and reusable) must be utilized- a proper system of waste management thus needs to be established. This situation calls for the application of Ostrom’s principles of management of common-pool resources. The resource area must be clearly defined- The private body along with the Local municipality must join hands to provide a proper boundary to the CPR. There has to be a proper rule mechanism- which shall include the local members as decision-makers- who are dependent on the resource for various essential purposes. There should be Usage of graduated sanctions for rule violators, There should be a provision for accessibility of, low-cost means for dispute resolution. Lastly -Develop a system, carried out by community members, for monitoring members’ behavior on the CPR. SES FRAMEWORK needs to be applied – Coordination between Governance unit, and users unit must be in relation with resource system and resource unit interaction. Socio-Ecological Resilience principles such as Learning and Experimentation, Participation of users at all levels of governance is crucial. Resilience in this case can be related to Waterbodies being complex and Adaptive systems. SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT GOAL 11 AND 12, should be equally focused upon enhancing existing waste treatment facilities, to reduce pandemic-induced waste generated.

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The Case for Chennai’s Ramsar Site

by Rahul Jayaraman

It was still dark as I set my tripod on the ground, absorbing the view around me. A few minutes in and I saw a silhouette of what looked like a Grey Heron just staring back at me, until it took off to search for food on the other side.

It was my first birding session to Pallikaranai, I clearly remember preparing two days before hand and ensuring no lockdowns were going to be announced because I knew that this was something I would hate to miss. I am quite sure that anyone who lives in Chennai would have crossed the marshland multiple times, or may even live nearby, given how it is a “developing residential area”. But what they may not be aware of is the fact that Madras used to be a low plain, intersected by three rivers many years ago, and marshlands like Pallikaranai are the remnants of what used to be Madras.

Figure 1 – Grey Heron in Flight.

Even though I could easily spot numerous birds that I would not be able to spot near home, even with this excitement, I knew that this wasn’t a balanced ecosystem, and it was facing grave challenges.

Waste Management
From being classified as a wasteland until not very long ago, Pallikaranai is now in a real battle against becoming an actual wasteland. Even after legal segregation allowing for separate dumping sites, cases of illegal dumping, encroachment and development are rampant.

Figure 3 – The garbage dump at Pallikaranai in 2014 – Photo: V.Ganesan [1]

Out of the 5000 metric tonnes of solid waste generated in a day in Chennai, Pallikaranai marsh overlaps one of the two dump yard grounds in Chennai – the Perungudi wasteland. Even with protected status, day by day it is being intoxicated by man-made waste and sewage. Hence, ground-birds such as Egrets and Wagtails are forced to perch elsewhere or continue to live in grounds that are often shoveled and dug for reuse.

And this issue gets even worse with urbanization taking place right.

Ecological Damage –
This marshland houses more than 100 species of birds right now, where previously more than 150 species could be spotted including threatened species such as the Spot-billed Pelican and Black Headed Ibis. It has also been identified as a very important breeding and resting ground for several migratory birds using research including radio tagging [2] and one such important migratory flight path is the Central Asian Flyway.

Out of the very few resting grounds in a long flight path for these birds, it is critical that our avian visitors get the natural hospitality that they need for about a third of an entire year. Birds such as the greater flamingoes – which have become quite rare to spot, the black tailed godwit, glossy ibis are all critical species that should be taken more seriously.

In the little attention that birds of the marsh do get, sometimes the other residents – freshwater fish, reptiles and other organisms which are equally important and at risk don’t get as much attention. Changes that frequently take place, like construction of small stands and construction of temporary sewage pipes that I witnessed during my visit affect all these organisms in the long run.

Apart from regular encroachment activities and dumping of waste, what’s even more shocking was the plan to dredge the marshland by the state government. This does more harm than good to both the city and the wetland. [3]

Recognize that this marshland continues to work as a stormwater drain Chennai is a flood-prone city because of abysmal planning with regards to water.

Over the years the wetland has shrunk drastically in size leading to groundwater depletion because of massive construction projects and dumping. But even in this situation, many migratory birds do visit the marshland such as the Painted Stork, but if the marsh is dredged then these birds most certainly are not likely to visit.

Encouragingly for us, the Madras HC has given a notice against the plan to dredge the marsh recently. [4] But this is not enough, the way forward would be to include Pallikaranai as a Ramsar Wetland part of the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands of International Importance.

Checking all the boxes to become one of these sites, Pallikaranai needs the international focus that is needed to keep a check on the activities that cause it harm. [5] Apart from the regular benefits firstly, this could generate the awareness that our marshland needs from local communities and citizens ; secondly, it makes all activities undertaken by the government a lot more accountable, and finally gives a chance for both native and foreign birds to continue making the marshland their home for many more years to come.

References:
[1] – https://sites.google.com/a/aisch.org/friends-of-pallikaranai-wetland/?tmpl=%2Fsystem%2Fapp%2Ftemplates%2Fprint%2F&showPrintDialog=1
[2] – https://chennai.citizenmatters.in/chennai-pallaikaranai-marshland-birds-threatened-by-dumping-of-waste-24229
[3] – https://science.thewire.in/environment/chennai-pallikaranai-marsh-dredging-ecologicall-bad-idea/
[4] – https://www.newindianexpress.com/states/tamil-nadu/2021/feb/11/hc-notice-to-tn-on-dredging-at-pallikaranai-marshland-2262458.html
[5] – https://chennai.citizenmatters.in/how-international-tag-can-help-save-pallikarnai-marshland-14057

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Lakes in diversity!

Indian geography is diverse! 

So, are the water bodies in different regions.  

The different types of Lakes found in India creates a unique story behind each aqua. 

Lakes are surrounded by land terrains. Rivers are source, inlet or outlet of lakes which strive to join the sea together as a mainstream. 

In India, the following types are found with the distinguishing factor of surrounding terrain – plateau, mountains, glaciers, desert with a close view of the specific Indian Lake stories that make them unique and important : 

Natural Lakes

Natural Lakes are the waters naturally formed from glaciation mostly formed and flown from rift and mountainous regions to land. Natural Lakes are found in the forms of : 

  • Freshwater Lakes

The unsalted Lake, freshly found and formed by a river, stream as surface runoff surrounded by land. 

Name StateUniqueness
Wular LakeJammu and KashmirIndia’s Largest Freshwater Lake 
Chandra TaalHimachal PradeshSite of Ramsar, Wetland of National Importance 
Suraj Tal Himachal PradeshThird highest Lake of India and 21st Highest Lake in the world  High Altitude Lake, inflow of Bhaga River 
Maharana Pratap Sagar Himachal PradeshSite of Ramsar, Wetland of National Importance 
Blue Bird Lake Haryana Habitat for Migratory birds 
Brahma SarovarHaryana Ancient and spiritual Lake
KarnalHaryanaRouted to Epic Mahabharatha
Tilyar HaryanaCanal inflow, Located inside Tilyar Zoo
HarikePunjabSite of Ramsar, Wetland of National Importance 
KanjliPunjabSite of Ramsar, Wetland of National Importance 
BelasagarUttar PradeshLake used for irrigation purposes
Bhimtal UttarakhandLake of Medium Altitude
RajsamandRajasthan Vast Catchment Area
VastrapurGujaratA part of Narmada River 
Cholamo (Tso Lhamo Lake )Sikkim (East)Lake of Highest Altitude Lake in India 
KhecheoplariSikkim (West)Sacred Lake for Hindus and Bhuddhists. 
Son BeelAssamLargest Tectonically formed Wetland in the state
Deepor BeelAssamUnder Ramsar Convention 
Haflong LakeAssamOne of the highest Altitude Lakes
UmiamMeghalayaFamous for cycling and boating
Tam DilMizoramStory of uprooted mustard plant hole becoming a lake known at Lake of Mustard.  
Kanjiya LakeOrissaSite of Ramsar, Wetland of National Importance 
Salim AliMaharashtraBird Watching Site
ShivsagarMaharashtraKoyna Dam oulet
Pampa SarovarKarnatakaOutlet of Tungabhadra River 
HonnamanaKarnatakaHoly Lake visited during festive seasons
AgaraKarnatakaMigratory Birds habitat of southeastern Bengaluru
BellandurKarnatakaLanding strip turned Lake, largest in the city of  Bengaluru.
KaranjiKarnatakaSurrounded by Butterfly park
Kolleru LakeAndhra PradeshHome to Migratory Birds.
ShashtamkottaKeralaSite of Ramsar, Wetland of National Importance 
PanchadikulamTamil NaduPoint Calimere Wildlife and Bird Sanctuary, Site of Ramsar, Wetland of National Importance 
  • Salt Water Lakes

The Lakes high on salinity (at least 3 grams per litre) with higher salt concentration and dissolved mineral contents. 

Name StateUniqueness
Chilika LakaOrissaLargest Saltwater Lake in India 
Pangong TsoJammu and KashmirEndorheic Lake (That do not flow into the sea) bordering Indo-China 
Tso MoririJammu and KashmirHigh Altitude Saltwater Lake 
Ulsoor LakeKarnatakaSaltWater Lake that is stale in nature
Sambhar Lake RajasthanLargest Inland lake and Site of Ramsar, Wetland of National Importance
  • Brackish Lakes

A blend of freshwater and salt water Lakes low in salinity.   

Name StateUniqueness
Pulicat Lake Andhra Pradesh A part of Pulicat Bird Sanctuary 
Ashtamudi KayalKerala Site of Ramsar, Wetland of National Importance
VembanadKerala Longest Lake of India and Site of Ramsar, Wetland of National Importance, Famous for Boat Race
East Calcutta WetlandsWest Bengal Site of Ramsar, Wetland of National Importance
  • Oxbow Lakes 

Longer Lake course in a curvy flow, formed when the river finds a shorter route.  

Name StateUniqueness
Kanwar LakeBiharAsia’s largest freshwater oxbow Lake 
Vyanthala LakeKerala South India’s naturally formed Oxbow Lake, inlet of Chalakudy River 
  • Crater Lakes

Lake born in eruptive regions, mostly volcanic.

Name StateUniqueness
Lonar Lake MaharashtraNational Geographical Heritage (that turned pink in 2020 named Soda Lake since then)
Chandubi LakeAssamFormed by 1897 earthquake 
  • Lentic Lakes

Seasonal Standing Pool of Lake waters. 

Name StateUniqueness
Thol LakeGujaratIrrigation Purposive Lake
Loktak LakeManipurFloating Island waters, Site of Ramsar, Wetland of National Importance
  • Artificial Lakes 

Man-made Lakes that act as water reservoirs for public use and consumption. 

Name StateUniqueness
Govind Ballabh Pant SagarUttar Pradesh Largest Artificial Lake in India
Hussain SagarTelanganaRock Island Waters
Badrakali LakeTelanganaArtificial Freshwaters
Ooty LakeTamil NaduFamous for kayaking, boating
Chembarambakkam LakeTamil NaduLarge reservoir for state public water supply
RuparPunjabMan-made riverine Lake
BhojtalMadhya Pradesh One of the largest Artificial Lake in India and Site of Ramsar, Wetland of National Importance 
Damdama Lake 


HaryanaDam built during Colonial era by Britishers for rainwater harvesting
Hamirsar LakeGujaratSituated in Bhuj town’s centre
Kankaria LakeGujaratAncient Lake of 14th century creation by Muhmmmad Shah II
Narayan SarovarGujaratSite for Hindu Pilgrims
Nagarjuna SagarAndhra PradeshConstructed along Krishna River 

Lakes in diversity and Lake biodiversity embodies the beauty and strength of a nation.

Let’s commit to do our part to conserve the diverse and beautiful aqua by understanding their importance and geography for the country’s richness of Unity In Diversity.

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Chambal – The Vanishing Elixir of Life

Slithering its way through Rajasthan, the Chambal river is a tributary of the Yamuna and forms a major part of the Gangetic channels. In India’s largest and driest state, the Chambal river plays a crucial role in agriculture, manufacturing, etc. It is also known for its extensive ravine system, and holds significant historical and cultural value.

The river holds the largest population of the critically endangered gharial and red-crowned roof turtle. Over the years, the size of this once-mighty tributary has shrunk down. This is owed to the excessive sand-mining and fishing carried out in the highly populated areas surrounding the Chambal river. Due to this, female gharials are forced to migrate and lay their eggs fifteen kilometers away. Sand mining destroys precious natural sand banks that are required by gharials to breed by occupying them with heavy machinery, etc. Hence, gharials no longer have a safe habitat near their homes and have to migrate in search of a better place.

The population boom in Rajasthan has also aided to the problem of Chambal’s deterioration. The urgent demand of fresh water for both domestic requirements as well as industrial activities has put to threat the river’s life.

Keeping in mind the low-flow rate of Chambal during the dry seasons, several hydroelectric and irrigation projects such as the Rana Pratap Sagar dam have been launched. These sure do help to meet the water requirements of the people, but have add an adverse impact on the flora and fauna around them. Even though one may argue that the scale of such projects is small, to provide the benefits to the people at the grassroots level, the collective impact and pressure of these small projects is large, and it is choking the Chambal river.

The reduction in water levels is a matter of serious concern, because the population of migratory birds that nest exclusively on sand bars, like the Indian skimmer, is at risk too.

Industrial activity along the Chambal basin in Rajasthan has increased the pollution levels of the water by many folds. Unchecked dumping of industrial effluents, chemicals, pesticides, has made the river extremely toxic. Over the years, many environmentalists and reporters have discovered metals and plastic in the stomachs of gharials and fish. But the problem does not stop here. The highly-degraded water continues its journey through Rajasthan and eventually ends as a confluence of five rivers – Kwari, Yamuna, Sind, Chambal and Pahuj; thus, further degrading the quality of other rivers.

As people in Rajasthan continue to indulge in intensive agriculture, and tend to flatten or level ravines along the Chambal basin to try and improve productivity, it only results in the destruction of the ecology which makes it prone to erosion. This further threatens the river.

The Chambal river forms an integral part of our culture, and it has even been mentioned in the Mahabharata as ‘Charmanyavati’. It is not only important to protect the river for the survival of the aquatic life that thrives in it, but also the human lives and livelihoods that depend on it.

References:

  1. https://www.conservationindia.org/articles/bleeding-the-chambal-dry
  2. https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/chambal-river-s-gharials-migrate-to-kuno-as-sand-mining-disturbs-habitat/story-dnjvmN6DnAzggKRXNFQISL.html
  3. https://india.mongabay.com/2019/10/chambal-river-water-supply-demand-madhya-pradesh/
  4. https://www.hindustantimes.com/jaipur/rajasthan-pollution-takes-toll-on-aquatic-creatures-in-chambal-river/story-XD5r8bGgRNawNDOlm96FaJ.html
  5. https://www.downtoearth.org.in/news/environment/chambal-without-ravines-58655
Featured

Chennai’s Inland Waters, Worth a Countless Words

The capital city of Tamil Nadu has a rich and diverse natural waters architecture. The natural amenities, flora and fauna, bio-diversity and beauty gives a significant standing that anyone should never miss visiting them.

Lakes (in tamil “Aeri”) of Chennai act as a reservoir of rainfall. Inter-connection with other water bodies and the passage enables them in flowing seamlessly to join the sea.

Bigger lakes act as a source of water for the city. With increasing demand for water and environmental significance of lakes, conservation can gauge the gulf.

To witness and photograph the beauty queens flow onto the ocean, never miss visiting the following lake view points:

  1. Chembarambakkam Lake

Chembarabakkam Lake is a widespread aqua with a span of 15 square kilometres. The waters lie in the outskirts of Chennai, a part of the Kanchipuram district. The lake is an extensive reservoir, a rain fed water body. She facilitates outflows being the origination of Adyar river and furthermore a crucial waterbody drawn for supplying water to the city.The Lake is also known by localists as Puliyar Kottam since the Chola period with kottam being the one amonst the 24 kottams (villages).

2. Puzhal Lake

Puzhal Aeri located in the Red Hills area, has a full capacity of volume of 93 cubic metres. The reservoir was fabricated during the colonial period as Puzhal town in the late 19th century. It is a rainfed water body, with a geographic significance of origination of outflows and major water supplying bank for the city.

3. Porur Lake

The south-west frontiers of Chennai begin with the massive waterbody – the Porur Aeri. The vast space derived the name from its area, Porur. For its volume of 46 million cubic metres a capacity and the spread over 200 acres, the lake serves as 24 x 7 water drawn bank. The lake’s panorama, is the best to be viewed for a scenic view from the Chennai Expressway.

4. Sholavaram Lake

Chola – varam, a Chola dynasty’s blessing is a suburb lake spread over 24 kilometres. Cholavaram Aeri, is now recognized as Sholavaram lake which was an airstrip during the world war – II. Now, the aqua is connected with Puzhal Aeri via canal. The lake adjoints the T shaped air strip of the Air Force. The canal is a prime utility for people inhabiting Thiruvallur.

5. Naryanapuram Lake

Narayanapuram Aeri is one of the finest wetlands in the suburbs of Pallikarani (Chennai’s only marshland till date). Erstwhile, the lake served for irrigation purposes, for the local farmers at the locales of Pallikaranai, Thoraipakkam and Pallavakkam pathway. It has a strategic importance of acting as a reservoir of water holding and water absorption of the marshland originally spread over 64 acres.  

6. Velachery Lake

Velachery Aeri (chery meaning muds), is a marshy and lake(y) terrain of waters in the heart of the area. It is a primary source of water in the locale since the bank is subtly vast of approximately 24 lakh square feet. It has a spiritual and a watery history making it a prime distribution reservoir for the people who inherit the area.

7. Perumbakkam Lake

Perum-bakkam (vast – area) has a picturesque view any time at the day of the summer seasons. It havens for migratory birds such as storks, flamingos, pelicans are such a scintillating sight that can grab a day wide attention. It is a rich waterbody with a higher bank of fresh waters making it one of the few lakes with good quality of aqua. The marine biodiversity and the bird’s ecosystem, this the best place to watch the beauty, photograph the mesmerism which could be your therapy.

8. Pulicat Lake

The Pulicat Lake is a significant landmark with its origination of 60 kilometers away from Chennai. Hence, the vast aqua has a seasonal access of a period between October – March. Pulicat Aeri is a home to a rich bio-diversity with low inhabitations around the water scape. The sight of the lake at any point of the day, can drag the attention to witness school of fishes lingering, migratory birds sprawling, kingfishers hunting and course of an astounding sight. The history of lake roots to the 10th century of the Chola Dynasty.

The Bottom-line

The birds congregate and chirrup when any of their species is in danger.

The lakes breach and sea waves sprawl when the pressure on land rises.

Likewise,

When are going to flock together to bring a tsunami of change to conserve the aqua?

The 2015’s Chennai floods and 2019’s massive water crisis has taught the lesson; has it been learnt?

The graphic below shows the effect agglomerations in Chennai (Source – Scroll.in) :

Actor Lionardo Di Caprio’s post on Instagram: “Only rain can save Chennai from this situation.” A well completely empty, and a city without water. The southern Indian city of Chennai is in crisis, after the four main water reservoirs ran completely dry. The acute water shortage has forced the city to scramble for urgent solutions and residents have to stand in line for hours to get water from government tanks. As the water levels depleted, hotels and restaurants started to shut down temporarily, and the air con was turned off in the city’s metro. Officials in the city continue to try and find alternative sources of water – but the community continue to pray for rain.

Featured

Few Canals of Chennai

Deemed the water capital of India by many, Chennai is at crossroads. Significant urbanization and industrialization has taken place at the cost of rising pollution. The city’s tales of beautiful water bodies have become distant memories as sewage, effluents, and plastics choke their lungs and kill the beings within. It’s only a matter of time before the remaining few of them disappear.

1. Buckingham Canal

The Buckingham Canal – one of India’s largest canals sprawling over an area of 796 kilometers – struggles to live today. Though once a source of livelihood and the primary means of transportation for the people of Chennai, the canal is succumbing to a slow death with increased drainage of sewage and pollutants into it.

It was 1806 when Chennai was called Madras, and when the excavation of the first section of the canal between Madras and Ennore had been completed, leading to the present-day Basin Bridge Junction. This section was called the Cochrane’s Canal – named after its major financer, Basil Cochrane. Over time, Cochrane’s Canal was extended both northwards and southwards, section by section, and eventually came to be called the Buckingham Canal – named after the then Governor, the Duke of Buckingham and Chandos – around the time of the Great Famine of Madras.


The condition of the historic Buckingham Canal is miserable today. Plastic strewn all over the canal, sewage blackening the little water that remains, and a nauseating stench are unfortunately the things what characterize this historical wonder. It is however possible for the canal to witness a brighter future with increasing governmental measures to revamp the water channel.

2. Pappan Canal

The Pappan Canal, a lesser known canal of Chennai, lies dilapidated. It slithers across areas of MGR Nagar and Tambaram, and serves as a feeder channel to the Adyar River. Whilst earlier the canal’s banks were around 13 meters wide, they are less than 4 meters wide today. Urban settlements and encroachments are believed to be the principal reason behind this.

Shrinking banks have led to lesser drainage of water into the Adyar River, increasing the chances of flooding of several localities during heavy rains.

3. Mambalam Canal

Once a beautiful, well-known water channel brimming with life, the Mambalam Canal today remains forgotten and ignored amidst the hustle-bustle of a developing city. Originating near the Valluvar Kottam and draining into the Adyar River, this canal is struggling desperately to breathe. With waste and sewage being dumped into it, the canal is a mosquito-breeding site and a source of various diseases. However, the measures being undertaken by civic bodies to revamp the polluted canal creates chances for an optimistic tomorrow for it.

4. Korattur Eri Canal

Draining excess water from the Korattur Lake to the Retteri Lake, this canal too has been victimized by pollution. Sewage discharge by industries and dumping of wastes into the Korattur Lake has negatively impacted the surrounding verdure, as well as the organisms that live within. And the parallel consequence of this has been the contamination of the narrow north-bound canal. With EFI’s restoration efforts, the Korattur Eri Canal has received a significant impetus for reverting to what it once used to be.

5. Okkiyam Maduvu

A crucial flood-prevention system that drains excess water from the Pallikaranai wetland into the Buckingham Canal, the Okkiyam Maduvu Canal is a lesser-known channel that gurgles in the southern suburbs of Chennai. This canal is even called the “aorta” of the Pallikaranai marshland because of its ecological significance as a flood-prevention system.  However, with settlements being constructed over the marshland, the canal’s drainage is slowly being blocked. This may result in flooding of neighborhoods during monsoons.

It’s deeply disheartening that such is the condition of canals in Chennai. Polluted and ignored, they are a constant reminder of our wrongdoings. Yet, these canals also show us that our mistakes can be corrected and we can start afresh. With civic bodies trying to restore these water channels and organizations like the EFI striving to see them flow again, a better future is imminent.

Featured

Cooum to Marina

The sunrise and beach point of Marina is the adjoining point of Cooum River mouth with the Bay of Bengal crossing the Napier Bridge hailing from Kosasthalaiyar River, Thiruvallur.

The Cooum estuary is a lifeline of Chennai waters flowing for 72 kms with 32 kms in the urban part and 40 kms in the rural part.

The journey she undergoes is a unique story until she surrenders in the marina shoreline at Chennai. It’s considered a Dead River in Chennai owing to its sewage collection, garbage disposal and pollution from commercial and industrial establishments. 

Does this mean the pollution meets Marina, the face value of the city? 

The gushing waters of Cooum to the ocean continue to choke for years and the search for respite is on the envision! 

January 2021 witnessed foam deposits near the Napier Bridge, with findings of industrial effluents of phosphate floating the foreshore of Cooum mouth. 

Any restoration or clean up, fast becomes dead with steadfastness of civic negligence to turn it into an easy dumpyard. 

Can Cooum never be cleaned completely ever?

Featured

Lake Arasankazhani – Where Beauty and Restoration Have Come Together

By Lavanya

I’ve always wanted to live close to nature and that’s probably why my husband and I chose an area that is home to more than 15 lakes. We envisioned a life where we could gaze at the birds, walk along pristine waters, and even catch a glimpse of sea life! We felt that such a life would not only make nature an inherent part of our lives, but will also imbibe the responsibility of caring for nature in the minds of our children.

After we moved, we realized that life is never that rosy! A closer look at the nearby water bodies, especially the beautiful Lake Arasankazhani, near Perumbakkam showed the extent of litter around it. A few like-minded individuals came together and with help from the Environmentalist Foundation of India and Arun Krishnamurthy, we cleaned the lake, built bunds arounds it, planted native samplings, built a G-shaped island for birds, and created a sense of belonging with the local communities.

EFI restores Arasankazhani lake - The Hindu

The transformation was phenomenal. The first year was a lake surrounded by mounds of plastic while the next monsoon was one of bliss! We could spot about 80 different species of birds and to our wonder, we found that this area was originally called Vedanthangal because it was once on the path of migratory birds. Though we don’t know if we brought back all of them, it was surely a great joy to see so many birds in Dec-Jan.

As we continue to maintain the lake, we are not completely out of the woods. Waste dumping happens, especially during the hot summer months when some parts of the lake become bone dry. We also have a burial ground close by and there are also strewn liquor bottles and encroachments.

Arasankazhani Lake Restoration « Krish

Despite these challenges, there is hope because we have seen how small efforts have a big impact.

Featured

Our mineral thirst that depletes water

The world is increasingly looking at a green energy future with lesser reliance on fossil fuels as countries accelerate their transition to electric cars and products powered by clean energy.

So, where does ‘Lithium’ fit in all this?  Lithium popularly called ‘white gold’ is a soft silvery-white metal (cover picture shows lithium ingots) and is the magic ingredient in lithium-ion batteries that powers everything from our mobile phones, laptop computers, watches, and electric cars. Lithium is the king of the battery-world, super light that it makes up only 1-2% of a lithium-ion battery’s total weight. Unlike older lead-acid batteries, Lithium-ion batteries can be recharged and discharged thousands of times. As a reference, a single electric vehicle like Tesla or Tata Nexon needs a minimum of roughly 10 kilograms of lithium to power the car.

Demand for lithium powered batteries is expected to increase tenfold by 2030 and if lithium is the key to a low-carbon future by electrifying transport, storing grid-scale electricity where is the real problem? The answer lies in lithium extraction.

South America’s ‘ABC’ and Australia:

Majority of world’s lithium is found in rock and clay deposits as solid mineral such as in Australia and North America , but South America has lithium in underground brine reservoirs below the surface of dried lake beds.

In South America, Argentina, Bolivia, and Chile are known as the “Lithium Triangle” and estimated to hold at least half of world’s lithium and lithium-rich water is pumped from beneath the surface of dry lakebeds called ‘salars’, and allowed to evaporate in the direct sunlight of the starkest deserts in the world.

Australia currently supplies about 55% of the world’s lithium by using traditional mining of rocks containing lithium ores, particularly a mineral called spodumene: a mix of lithium, aluminum, silicon, and oxygen.

Perils of mining:

In South America, availability of water is the biggest challenge. To extract lithium and other rare minerals, miners start by drilling a hole in the salt beds and pumping out salty, mineral-rich brine to the surface. The brine is then left to evaporate for months at a time in evaporation pools and then filtered to get lithium carbonate – white gold – that can be extracted.

It’s a relatively cheap and effective process, but it uses a lot of water ~ 500,000 gallons per ton of lithium. In Chile’s Salar de Atacama, mining activities consumed 65 per cent of the region’s water resulting in water shortages , not enough water for animals to survive and impacting local communities that sell meat, textiles and crafts made from Llama wool. Producing local food such as peas and potatoes are strained due to water diverted for lithium extraction.

Poorly managed mining operations have left a legacy of environmental problems, affecting locals due to land transformation, resulting in loss of forestry, agricultural land and destroying ecosystems.

India’s lithium reserves and mining:

India’s first lithium plant has been set up at Gujarat in 2021, where lithium ore would be refined to produce base battery material. The Department of Atomic Energy, Government of India has discovered 1600kg lithium in Mandla district of Karnataka. India has been dependent on lithium imports from China, Japan, and Taiwan for its electric battery supply for a long time, which makes this discovery more significant and accelerates India’s energy goals of 350GW from renewable energy by 2030.

America’s race to power electric vehicles:

America is racing towards becoming a leader in producing raw materials such as lithium, cobalt and nickel as carmakers ramp up manufacturing of electric vehicles. China is currently the go-to place for batteries and to reduce reliance on foreign sources for raw materials, mining projects are being backed by investors rushing to get permits for production and secure contracts with battery companies and car manufacturers.

In California , a 110-year old Salton sea has briny water beneath it that is being planned for lithium extraction but environmentalists warn that water disappearance due to lake bed being exposed will result in several challenges such as loss of marine life, oxygen deprivation resulting in emissions of foul odors to name a few but with a bigger problem of fewer natural resources left in the decades to come.

Sustainable alternatives to lithium:

Lithium batteries do have a few challenges such as prone to overheating and catching fire, can’t charge quickly and limited capacity to handle sudden surges of current.

Zinc-anode batteries, aluminum-anode batteries offer sustainable alternatives that are relatively safe and inexpensive, have a long cycle life, and higher capacity to store energy than many other metals. These kind of latest solid-state battery technologies are still evolving and technical hurdles, high manufacturing costs are limiting their expansion.

Read this article on the landscape of solid-state batteries which are light weight, use ceramic separators for high conductivity , resistance to dendrite formation ( a phenomenon that can short circuit a battery and lead to overheating and failure) having potential to be used in a wide range of applications . Less weight in the car from a lighter battery system can reduce chassis weight, tires, brakes, and more, which can improve vehicle performance and efficiency.

If successful, these batteries could result in a 50-80% improvement vs today’s leading electric vehicles with better mileage.

In conclusion:

It is undeniable that mining makes almost every aspect of our modern lives comfortable but the effects of mining on our natural world has transformed the surface of Earth. What is sadly left behind is a scarred future that has extracted metals locked for millions of years within rocks or underground. Look at these images that remind us that in our bid to live in a modern society we have reshaped our planet and nature to devastating proportions . Sustainability is no longer a choice, but our greatest responsibility and we need to collectively work towards protecting our environment and support all possible alternatives that avoid a climate disaster.

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Perungalathur Aeri

The big beautiful bank.

Perum – Kulam – Urr  meaning ” A Place with a Big Pond ” is a southern suburban beauty of Chennai with waters spread across 55 acres adjoining Peerkankaranai Lake.

The scenic landscape has a plateaued island in its centre tangible from the highway NH-45 with mountains backdropping leaving the jaws drop and gaze at the nature by any traveller, beholder and bystander.

Perungalathur and Peerkankaranai are born and living twins as towns, lakes and inhibitions of southern Chennai waters. Their connectivity between Vandalur and Tambaram make them the hub spot for transportation and logistics of trucks, railway gate and bus terminus.

The surplus waters of Mudichur and Tambaram join the mouth of the twin lakes. Based on the research, Care Earth (https://careearthtrust.org/) organization has identified the lake to be home for different species of fishes (8 types) and birds (16 types).

In 2017, the residents and Care Earth Trust took the voluntary initiative (https://careearthtrust.org/wetland-restoration/protection-and-restoration-of-perungalathur-wetland/)  to clear the weeds (“Velikathan” – a weed that saps groundwater and spreads) and restore the lakeside. The freshwater lake is a portable aqua which has gained precedence to be conserved from sewage disposal, garbage dumping and encroachments.

A stretch of the lake gives a vicinity to Shriram Gateway real estates and IT park along a mountainous region heading as a flyover to Vandalur, the outskirts of the city. 

Tamil Inscriptions deciphered reveals Tambaram lakes to be flood control bunds maintained since Cholas, Pandyas and Vijayanagar dynasties of the twelfth to fifteenth century A.D. Perunkulathur, as named during the Chola period, meant a large village with a big tank.

The history epigraph shows that Perunkulathur belonged to Thiruchuram, the modern Tirusulam village near Pallavaram (being then the part of Nedungundram Nadu after the village of Nedungundram) 

The area is famed for its aquatic blanket from times immemorial. The need for its preservation of the 55 acres is felt lately in 2017. And, it’s important to participate in the lake clean ups, lake conservation programs and join hands to safeguard and restore the reservoir from the brunt of vulnerabilities.

Sources :

https://www.cmi.ac.in/gift/Epigraphy/epig_tambarammore.htm

https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/chennai/perungalathur-lake-to-get-a-facelift/article19411029.ece

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“Pallikaranai Thamarai Kulam”

Index of Pallikaranai – The Lush Lotus Pristine Pond

A tranquil, ancient, serene, and naturally formed space, the “Pallikaranai Thamarai Kulam” is a picturesque pond of Chennai’s only existential marshland, Pallikarani to behold pekins, domestic geese, and ducks perching and quacking, white lotuses smile, small tadpoles tickle your senses, and dancing nut grasses.

The Lotus pond has been maintained for a decade to preserve its beauty and embellish the space. The children’s park, walking pavements on 4 sides, the newly built temple in the premises has attracted the community with an attachment of a ritualistic affinity.

The well-fenced nature’s carpet is surrounded by concrete jungles facing the main road upfront and sides, along with dense bushy green verdant trees at the back.

The four stepped structures in the mid-points of every side sloping to the ripples of water is a place to sit, relax and meditate, keeping one’s senses open to the voice of the birds, tadpoles, and grinning lilies.

The droplets of water conspicuous on the waxy lotus leaves surfacing the aquatic adhesion show how important it is to practice a detached-attachment lifestyle. 

The pond experiences a cycle of water capacity, being filled to the brim in the rainy season and dryness during summer. But, never has she ever been completely dry or ever breached out the brim.  

The banyan trees shading the place, the ringing of insects makes the whole destination a holistic ecosystem. Light reflections during sunrise and sunset cherish its environment with widespread scintillation. 

A deeper observation of the inland wetland would make you witness litters around the mushy natural lap. 

And would provoke thoughts of why? 

Is it because of the micro-businesses (juice, sundal, tender coconut) around the place? 

Is it due to civic negligence of waste disposal?

The landscape close to a 3-acre area was once upon a time widespread to 22 acres! 

Concrete jungles, shrinking space have rung an alert to restore the ecosystem, hence a restoration project propelled by the government in the decade has left 10% saved from the brunt of vulnerability. 

Why litter this beautiful, serene and nonchalant expanse? 

Can more dustbins preserve the landscape?

This natural architecture is home to its world of species and its high time that we wake up to conserve the pristine and wholesome support system.

Pallikaranai Lotus Pond has remained as the noticeable yet subtle face value of the area, a dry pond indicates water incapacity and a filled pond indicates water overflow. An adequate aqua indicates the stability of water flow in the area. 

Pallikaranai Lotus Pond has the significance of being a hub spot for: 

  • groundwater recharge, 
  • biodiversity co-existence of aquatic and terrestrial life, 
  • breeding ground for ducks, pekins, and geese, 
  • flood control, 
  • freshwater habitat with ecological value, 
  • rich tapestry acting as mini-reservoir.

Understanding and management of this haven of nature is critical amongst the community and mainly its prime users. Building awareness can gallop and catalyse in preserving this wonder of nature that could be passed on to explore for generations.

Signboards prohibiting littering the land and pond, strictly prohibiting feeding to animals may be a great solution to maintain cleanliness. More dustbins on the premises can aid in better waste disposal. 

This small universe has a lot to speak about, are we ready to listen without interrupting her oxygenating and cleansing voice? 

Is the community up to discern the seriousness of its existence, beauty, and importance by surmounting invasive litters?

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The sound of silence…

Noise pollution cannot be seen but its dangers impact not only our health but also the well-being of animals and wildlife. As a result, millions of Indians are affected daily with health problems such as noise induced hearing loss, sleep disturbances, stress, heart, and blood pressure problems affecting all age groups.

What soothes us when we are caught in a cacophony of noise? …. Water.

Reverence for water and its cultural significance are universally recognized with calmness and serenity of water symbolizing harmony with the environment. When we are near water, or just the sight and sound of water releases neurochemicals that trigger an immediate response in our brain that promotes relaxation, wellness and increases blood flow to the heart.

Water reduces cortisol levels (the stress hormone), slows our breathing and heart rate, and allows us to gently move into a mildly meditative mood.

‘Blue Mind’ theory:

People can experience the benefits of the water whether they’re near the ocean, a lake, river, swimming pool or even listening to the soothing sound of a fountain,” says marine biologist and author of the book ‘Blue Mind’ , Wallace Nichols. Modern life has in many ways made us anxious, over-connected and over-stimulated and this state is referred to as ‘Red Mind’ that is in total contrast to the ‘Blue Mind’. Being around water has calming benefits on our minds and bodies.

‘Forest Bathing’ is indeed a medicine:

The concept of ‘forest medicine’ originated in Japan, a place where nature has long been celebrated. ‘Shinrin yoku’ which translates as ‘forest bathing’ considers forests mystical and trees having healing powers. Forest bathing basically means being in the presence of trees and appreciating nature’s beauty in an aimless manner. Forest bathing is not hiking or brisk walking but spending time gazing at trees, listening to running water, bird songs, breezes on branches, rumble of thunder, crunching leaves and much more.

Listening ‘Outward’:

Most of the time, we are listening ‘in’ to the sounds of our inner thoughts and chattering mind. To hear the forest, we listen ‘outward’ by tuning in to the forest’s frequency and listening in all directions and even closing our eyes to hear more keenly.

The impressive benefits of forest bathing are several : boosts mood and immune system function; reduces blood pressure, heart rate, stress, anxiety, and confusion; improve sleep and creativity; and even helps fight cancer and depression.

Forest bathing is a calming experience (Pic Credit- Unsplash)

India’s ‘quiet’ places:

As our population soars, cities and towns spread out, and roads stretch into even the most remote parts of the world, quiet is becoming increasingly scarce with a surge in tourism to national parks, monuments, and water bodies. The Covid-19 pandemic has increased footfall traffic in local parks and green areas raising noise levels in previously out-of-the-way spots. Increasingly, a growing coalition of environmental organizations, scientists, and grassroot activists are working to protect and restore quiet places.

Take a look at these maps where around 260 ‘quiet’ places have been identified as conservation spots and undisturbed areas worldwide. India’s ‘quiet’ places on this list are:

Few preserved ‘Quiet’ places in India

Need for designated ’quiet’ areas and water bodies:

If nothing is done to preserve and protect several such ‘quiet’ places from noise pollution, natural quiet may be non-existent in our world in the next decade. Silence is a part of our human nature, which can no longer be heard by most people.

Creation, identification, and protection of ‘quiet areas’ in public parks or other quiet areas in a cluster, near schools, hospitals and other noise-sensitive buildings and in quiet areas in open country are the key to setup a relaxing environment. Urban beaches, water fountains, misting towers, wading pools are examples of artificially created water themes popular in cities that provide an environment to relax and preserve the auditory experience of nature.

Listening to nature sounds, soothing sounds of a waterfall, bird songs using smart apps on our phones are popular methods to focus, relax and calm the mind. Check out this site where you can play soothing background sounds on your phone or computer while you continue with your day-to-day activities.

Close your eyes and listen for only a few seconds to the world you live in, and you will hear this lack of true quiet, of silence. All of us must do our best to protect one of the most important and endangered resources on the planet: silence.

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HOME TO THE ROYAL TIGER

Located within the largest mangroves in the world, the Sundarban Wetland is one of the largest wetland which covers an area of about 1,40,000 ha. The Indian Sundarban has an area
of about 9000 sq km. It lies in the delta formed by the River Brahmaputra, Ganges and Meghna on the Bay of Bengal. The Indian side of the wetland has also been recognized under the Ramsar Convention of wetlands of international importance since February 2019. Habitat of the Royal Bengal Tiger, it is located in a totally different bioclimatic zone. It is surrounded by the beautiful scenic nature and is also known internationally for its rich biodiversity of flora and fauna.

The wetland is considered as a biodiversity hotspot as it inhabits some of the rare and threatened species of the world like the Indian Python, estuarine Crocodile and Irrawaddy Dolphin. It is the only mangrove forest which is home to the
Bengal Tiger.

The Ramsar site also has around 260 species of birds and 40 species of plants including 34 of mangroves. More than 87 species of fish is also found including the critically endangered River Shark. It is a habitat to 8 of the 12 species of Kingfisher found in India. The vast variety of organisms found in this hotspot makes it an area to be protected and conserved fully.

Despite being designated as a protected wetland, it is facing some major threats. The foremost concern is the human interference as people live on the wetland’s periphery. They cultivate shrimp, fish, crabs and molluscs. Fishing has a high impact on the ecosystem of Sundarbans. Also the hunting and poaching of wild animals is another concern of the administration. The hotspot is also under the threat of climate change.

For the protection of this ecologically important spot, proper steps need to be taken from the government as well as the concerned authorities. Most importantly the local and native
people should be involved in the conservation process whose livelihood depends on this wetland. Regular checks should also be carried out to protect its beauty.

REFRENCES
https://www.wwfindia.org/about_wwf/critical_regions/sundarbans3/conservation_challenges_in_the_sundarbans/

https://vajiramias.com/current-affairs/indian-sundarban-wetlands/5c84cbd71d5def0294cc180b/

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Lake Eutrophication

Eutrophication is one of the stages in the life cycle of a lake which happens over a period of years. Eutrophication is a natural process where the oxygen levels in the lake decreases as it ages and eventually just becomes a wetland.  

But due to pollution and industrialization, this process has fastened. Eutrophication is a state where the lake becomes toxic with high levels of nitrogen and phosphorus and they are heavily silted. Eutrophication may be defined as inorganic nutrient enrichment of waters, leading to the growth of algae. Many lakes are in this state, this happens due to human activities, extensive agricultural practices and major anthropogenic activities like global warming, deforestation and large scale environmental destruction that has led to harmful effects on the ecosystem. 

Image by: tnluser

Effects of Eutrophication: 

A lake when there is limited availability of Phosphorus and nitrogen then it is called “Oligotrophic”, when there is higher levels of these chemicals available then it is called “Eutrophic”. An intermediate state is called as “Mesotrophic state”. 

The productivity of the lakes are high in the Eutrophic state, this causes major changes in the waterbody. 

  • There is reduced visibility in the lake because of discolouration. The light penetration is very low because of the algae blooms. When there is no light penetration, photosynthesis no longer occurs. 
  • Oxygen levels in lakes differ and no longer can sustain ecosystems. 
  • Eutrophication causes dense algal blooms and injures the aquatic ecosystem by poisoning of the water, clogging of gills and high nutrients in the water. 
  • Abundance of organic substances give the water disagreeable odors or tastes. 
  • The lake is prohibited from any social activity.
  • Eutrophication damages the ecosystem by decreasing the biodiversity and by increasing the water toxicity.

Why do water bodies become so rich in nutrients?

Phosphorus and Nitrogen are the main limiting factor for the ecosystem in freshwater. Phosphates tend to stick to the soil and carry along with it. Hence, Soil erosion is one of the main contributors to Eutrophication. Other sources of phosphorus are:

  • Fertilizers
  • Detergents
  • Untreated Sewage
  • Industrial Discharge
Image by: tnluser

As years pass by the algae in the lake die and sink to the bottom of the lake and are broken down by bacteria in the process they consume oxygen.  This over consumption of oxygen, decreases the oxygen levels in the lake. This condition tends to suffocation and death of fishes and plants in the water. 

WHAT CAN WE DO?

The process of Eutrophication can be controlled at the inlet channels of the lake by not allowing phosphorus rich substances. Avoiding the overuse of fertilizers and encouraging people to adopt organic farming methods.   Water must not be commercialized but rather considered as a heritage protected and saved. Despite many efforts taken to improve the water quality, it results in pollution, fires and algal blooms. The action to prevent and protect these water bodies must be adopted not only in scientific ways but by citizens and with support of likeminded organizations. 

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A Surviving Wetland

Spread over an area of 490 ha, Kanjli Wetland is one of the Artificial wetlands identified by the Indian Government. The wetland is upward of Harike Wetland which is situated in the Beas River basin in the Kapurthala district of Punjab. Since 2002, it has been internationally dedicated as a Ramsar Site. This makes it a water body of international importance. The Kanjli Lake is an integral part of the wetland. Kanjli not only has ecological importance but also some sacred and cultural significance for the people of Punjab.

The area of Kanjli was a part of the recreational spot or Saigarh for the Maharaja of Kapurthala. The Kanjli Lake was created in 1870 primarily for irrigating the vicinity by constructing headworks across the perennial Kali Bien Rivulet, a tributary of River Beas. This lake is located across an area of 184 ha.

The wetland holds a wide variety of life forms. It is also home to varied species of birds and flora and fauna. Kanjli is winter home to more than 50 species of migratory birds. The popular birds which inhabit Kanjli are Heron Common Moorrhan, Pond Heron and Purple Swanphen. The variety of tree found in this area include Ziziphus, Acacia, Mauritiana, Eucalyptus and many more. It also has some significant herbs and shrubs. Some of the common fishes found are Labeo, Cythus, Catla, Chana including others. The fauna of Kanjli include 4 species of mammals and 34 taxa of invertebrates. The lake is very famous for its picturesque views and is a tourist spot for birdwatching and boating.


However, from the past few years Kanjli is under ecological threat due to many stresses. The impact of pollution on the lake is enormously high and had lead to the Eutrophication of the water body. Due to extensive growth of Water Hyacinth, the oxygen level of the water has dropped enormously and lead to death of major life forms. Also the conversion of the wetland into agricultural land and human inhabitation has worsen the situation.

Management and Conservation measures have been taken by the concerned authorities but in vain. Government has also spent crores on the wetland but failed in maintaining the spot. The authorities also worked on controlling the spread of Water Hyacinth manually. More species of fishes have been introduced in the lake to lessen the effects of the exotic species. To prevent grazing by the cattle, fencing has been constructed around the wetland. Many biological researches are also being carried out to look for alternative measures.

Kanjli is the only wetland in Punjab which has Utricularia, a carnivore plant that eats insects. This is the importance of this wetland and we have to do our small bit in conserving this valuable entity.

REFRENCES
https://www.indiawaterportal.org/articles/kanjli-wetland-despair

https://m.timesofindia.com/city/chandigarh/punjab-cm-approves-kanjli-wetland-as-kali-bein-conservation-reserve/amp_articleshow/68037235.cms

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Why do we need to rejuvenate our lakes?

How are lakes formed?

Lakes are formed where there is depression in the landscape. It is localized in a basin, surrounded by land apart from rivers and other outlets that are fed. Lakes are distinct from lagoons and are larger than ponds.

Life Cycle of Lakes

Image from Vermont Lay Monitoring Program Manual

Once lakes are formed, they do not stay the same just like how humans go through phases like teenage, youth, maturity, old age and then die. Lakes slowly die/ disappear when the sediments settle in the lake. The aging of the lake could take over hundreds or thousands of years but with human influence it could just take a few decades. The plants, microbes and algae die. The warm upper layer of the lake decomposes the plants and sinks in the basin. The lake becomes smaller and smaller in size and eventually becomes a mash land and the lake dries up. 

A lake is usually classified in following possible cases: 

Oligotrophic lakes: They are pristine lakes where the ecosystem is naturally undisturbed by human activities and unspoiled its beauty. Oligotrophic lakes are characterized by high water clarity, low nutrient concentration (low on Phosphorus and Nitrogen), low algae growth, and minimum level of aquatic plants. The oxygen levels in these lakes are high in oxygen levels throughout the water column. Since there is low algal growth, the light penetration is deep and there is low decomposition. Since there is less decomposition, the oxygen doesn’t get used up. 

Mesotrophic Lakes – These lakes have clear water and beds submerged with aquatic plants, medium level of nutrients (Phosphorus and Nitrogen) and increasing levels of algae and weeds growing. These lakes have clear water but will have algal blooms in summer. These lakes behave differently in summer, they separate into layers. The top layer of the lake becomes warm from the sun and contains algae. While, at the bottom layer the remains cool and may be depleted by oxygen in the mid-summer. This happens because as the algae and other organisms die and sink at the bottom. Since water in the bottom and surface do not mix, oxygen cannot be replenished. During this time, the fishes move to the upper layer. 

Eutrophic Lakes – Eutrophication is a natural process where the oxygen levels in the lake decrease due to pollution and industrialization. Eutrophication is a state where the lake becomes toxic with high levels of nitrogen and phosphorus and they are silted heavily. There is low water clarity, high levels of aquatic plant growth, and high nutrients. The oxygen levels in the lake are very low for any ecosystem to survive. 

Hyper Eutrophic Lakes – There is very low/ no water clarity, highly rich in nutrients and depleted of oxygen. Lack of oxygen causes the fish to die and makes it not suitable for any ecosystem to live.  

Stresses on Lakes 

Stresses on the lakes have caused impairment of the lakes. Lakes occupy just a fraction of the landscape but they are a major source of surface water bodies in urban cities. Over the years due to population, urbanization and industrialization etc… water bodies are exploited. Water bodies are used for resource provision i.e drinking, washing & irrigation, regulating services like flood and drought management, cultural services like religious practices and historic values. However these water bodies are sensitive to environmental stress.   

Lake restoration is an act/method/process/steps undertaken for revival of a lake. These refer to the methods taken inside and outside the lake. Lake restoration activities are done mostly to battle eutrophication. Eutrophication leads to loss of biodiversity.  

Benefits of rejuvenation of lakes: 

1. Acts as a natural reservoir, it increases the storage of water

2. It constitutes natural biodiversity by maintaining the quality of water and atmospheric temperature. 

3. It increases the Ground water level. 

4. It controls erosion of soil and reduces the risk of flood. 

5. The lake is home to flora and fauna, the lake becomes a place of recreation for people around.  Lakes are the most valuable sources which maintain the temperature and support the ecosystem.

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Is there hope for the Thames of South India?

by Dakshina Kannan

What was once known as ‘Thames of South India’ is now a highly polluted and toxic river. Cooum river is 65 kms long and it originates from a village of the same name in Tiruvallur district. The river faces pollution from illegal disposal of untreated sewage, untreated affluents from industries and encroachments along its banks. Besides sewage and sludge, the river also contains heavy metals (like copper) and pesticide remnants that prevent the existence of flora and fauna.

A picture containing tree, outdoor, sky, nature

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Coovum: Before and After

Despite big budget (5000+ crores from a world bank partnership, 41 crores from Eco-Restoration plan etc.) restoration efforts, these actions tend to be counterproductive. Since there is no one to monitor and prevent sewage from being dumped into the river, sewage is still illegally dumped into Cooum by sewage tankers (or lorries). Unfortunately, the residents in Ambattur, Vanagaram and Adayalampattu are dependent on these tankers to collect sewage from their households.

As residents of Chennai, what can we do about the plight of Cooum? We can:

  • Analyze and understand where our household sewage goes. Whether we live in apartments or independent households, we have a responsibility to be aware of how our waste affects our environment. 
  • If we realize that our waste is being dumped in rivers like Cooum, we can look for alternatives to our sewage treatment. For example, a bio septic tank is a simple, cheap household solution that prevents our sewage from contaminating Cooum.
  • Hold our governments, businesses and NGOs responsible (in their treatment plans for Cooum). We can also ensure if the funds allocated to Cooum are spent wisely
  • opt for organic food. Since they are grown without chemical fertilizers, they will not contaminate the groundwater system and rivers in Chennai.

Yes, there is hope for the Thames of South India. Cooum’s pollution and toxicity is a complex problem involving many factors and stakeholders. Therefore, it is crucial that we understand our role and our stakeholders’ role in this pollution, so that we can make real changes. Besides fixing the sewage system, we have to tackle the root cause(s) of this problem.

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Kabartal Wetland: The oxbow lake of India

The Kabartal Wetland (locally known as Kanwar lake) is Asia’s largest oxbow lake situated in the Begusarai district of Bihar. It is a residual oxbow lake, formed due to the meandering of Gandak river, a tributary of Ganga. Covering the majority of the Indo-Gangetic plains in northern Bihar, this lake was declared a Ramsar site in 2020, making it the first wetland in Bihar to be included in the Ramsar convention.

No photo description available.
Top view of Kanwar lake , Source – https://www.facebook.com/

What are oxbow lakes?

Oxbow lakes are crescent-like water bodies formed due to erosion and deposition in meanders of rivers. Meanders are loops or curved structures formed in the course of a river (as in figure 1) due to friction or tectonic activity. The speed of water flow in the outer section of this meander is more than the inner part causing its neck to become narrower over time. Eventually, the size of this loop increases making it harder for the river to flow through it so it opts for a straight path. Finally the ends of this meandered loop are separated by deposition of sediments or silt separating the river and a horseshoe-like structure called oxbow lake.

Biodiversity:

The Kanwar oxbow lake also houses the eminent Kanwar bird sanctuary which is one of the largest breeding grounds for migratory birds in India. From critically endangered to vulnerable, you can find over 100 species of birds during the peak season. The oriental white-backed vulture and greater adjutant are some of the rare species found.

Degradation of the water body:

A study conducted by Ashok Ghosh, scientist and chairman of the Bihar State Pollution Control Board, found that the lake covered 6,786 hectares in 1984 but reduced to a mere 2032 hectares by 2012. Illegal poaching, deforestation, land encroachment, and overgrazing have destroyed the lake’s natural ecosystem. The constant discharge of chemical effluents into the water body has made the water turbid and acidic, further harming the aquatic life.

Another concern is the lack of accountability by authorities. Even Though the lake is protected under the Wildlife Protection Act of 1972, no serious measures have been taken to preserve it. The district authorities have taken no action against the buying and selling of land designated to the wetland and illegal agriculture around it. Furthermore, land disputes between the local farmers and tribes have elevated the tension there.

A strong legal framework and co-operation from the locals is necessary for protecting this water body and the rare species that depend on it. Locals have to be educated and awareness has to be spread while the government must develop a coherent program to initiate conservation.

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Alligator weed in Indian Lakes

Alternanthera philoxeroides (Alligator weed), a South American weed of the family Amaranthaceae, has been found in the lakes and water pools in the eastern parts of India, namely, West Bengal and Bihar. It is a noxious invasive weed. This species was introduced long ago in the tropics of the Old World, but its introduction into India has taken place during late years. This weed has recently also been found in Northern India.

As other American weeds, some fertile seeds of Alligator weed may have arrived in India with packing material during the Second World War. This weed species was first found in Kolkata. It reproduces vegetatively using Subterranean Shoots and under favorable temperature and moisture, it spreads rapidly and grows in masses.

Alligator weed was recorded during the vegetation survey of Wular Lake, Kashmir. Wular Lake, the largest freshwater lake in India, is located 34 km northwest of Srinagar at an altitude of 1580m. It is a shallow lake with a maximum depth of 5m and water temperature range from 2°C to 29.5°C during the year. It also provides important habitats to the migratory water birds. Because of the importance of the wetland to biodiversity, it was described as a Wetland of International Importance under Ramsar Convention.

The flowering of Alligator weed takes place in June-October in Kashmir. During the survey of the lake, the weed was found in six areas. The invasive shrub forms floating Islands on the lake. It forms dense and large masses, thus creates problems for the aquatic environment by obstructing light to enter and not allowing gaseous exchange. It also creates a probable ground for breeding of mosquitoes.

This noxious weed can be managed and controlled by chemical, mechanical and biological methods. The use of Flea Beetle in biological methods is quite effective in eradication of weeds. Mechanical or manual control involves local eradication of the weed at a few locations. Using 1% glyphosate for free floating alligator weed is effective. Inspection and proper survey should be done on a regular basis to check on the spread of the weed.

It is the time to develop and implement a management plan for alligator weed before it grows into uncontrollable rate and proportions.

REFERENCES

https://www.semanticscholar.org/paper/Alligator-Weed-in-Indian-Lakes-Maheshwari/f5385f21bc9aa1002c2f4c316bedd2661b4dc5d8

https://weeds.brisbane.qld.gov.au/weeds/alligator-weed

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Groundwater Replenishment

Groundwater is a natural resource of freshwater that soaks in the soil and stores in porous rocks and in other particles of the soil. It is also referred to as subsurface water to distinguish it from surface water. Groundwater accounts for nearly 95% of the freshwater resources. It can stay underground for hundreds of thousands of years, or it can come to the surface and help fill rivers, streams, lakes, ponds, and wetlands. Groundwater comes out of a spring or is pumped from a well. Both of these are common ways we get groundwater to drink. About 50 percent of our municipal, domestic, and agricultural water supply is groundwater. Groundwater composition depends on the kinds of soil and rocks the water has encountered in its movement through the subsurface.

Image from Worldatlas.com

How does water circulate?

Human activities and Groundwater contamination: 

The general nature of the water cycle has various stages. Both surface and Groundwater are a part of the hydrological cycle. There is constant movement of water from above, on and below the earth’s surface. The cycle has no end or beginning but it is traced from the precipitation. Precipitation may occur in the form of rain, snow and hail, wets the ground. As there is more precipitation, it filters through the ground. The rate of percolation depends on the type of soil, land use and intensity of rain. Water infiltrates fastly through sandy soil than clay or silt. Almost no water filtrates through paved areas. Rainwater that cannot be absorbed flows as runoff. 

When the soil cannot absorb anymore water it slowly moves to unsaturated surfaces by recharging the groundwater. The remaining runoff water moves towards rivers and eventually reaches the oceans. Water from surfaces that are not absorbed is evaporated. Oceans are the largest contributors to evaporation of surface waters. Evaporation and transpiration from plants rises above the earth’s surface, condenses and forms clouds. And then precipitation occurs. 

Groundwater is highly susceptible to contamination of the human activities and the chemicals on the surface. Pesticides like nitrogen and phosphorus applied to soil as fertilizers may leak into the soil when there is irrigation and precipitation leading to increased contamination of water. Industrial waste, mine refuse, radioactive wastes, household materials and other anthropogenic sources dissolved into water are detected in Groundwater. 

Is it hard to clean Groundwater?

Groundwater systems are complicated and the contaminants are dissolved so it takes longer time to clean.This makes it more difficult to design and build a suitable treatment plant that pumps the water to the surface and cleans the water.   

How to increase Groundwater?

We must be looking at conserving Groundwater.Today, we are not able to recharge Groundwater at the same rate as we pump out. Planting and protecting trees will help in groundwater recharge. Using injection and recharge injection wells alongside river sand and feeder channels will recharge the ground aquifers and increase the water table. 

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PRIDE OF HIMACHAL

Located at an altitude of 660 meters, Renuka Wetland is one of the most beautiful and famous natural wetlands of Himachal Pradesh. It is situated in the Sirmaur district and it is known to be the largest lake of Himachal. The wetland is named after Goddess Renuka and also from a distance the lake appears as if a women is lying on her back. It is also recognized as a Ramsar site of international importance since November 2005.

Many myths and legends are associated with the lake and it is of high religious significance. The Wetland is considered to be the birthplace of God Parshuram, the Sixth Incarnation of Lord Vishnu according to the Puranas. Saints from all over India visit the lake to experience the divine power.

Home to more than 440 species of fauna, the wetland has prominent vegetation ranging from dry deciduous like robusta, Terminalia, Dalbergia etc to hydrophytes. It also has around 103 species of birds of which 60 are native, Crimson-breasted Barbet, Bulbul, Myna and Egrets are some birds found.

Due to the continuous shrinking of the lake, the Wetland is under a threat of degradation. The probable reasons include pollution, siltation and extensive growth of weeds. Silt from the surrounding hills gets deposited in the bottom of the lake. Also the waste is being dumped into the lake which is a major issue.The total lake area covered reduced by 25 percent in the past years.

In order to protect the Wetland, the administration and the Renuka Vikas Smiti is carrying out regular checks to monitor the threat level. The fauna and flora; and the businesses of the local people would get affected whose livelihood depends on tourism if proper and strict steps are not taken to safeguard the shrinking wetland.

REFRENCES
http://www.himachaltravelclub.com/sirmaur

https://theoktravel.com/renuka-wetland-welcomes-migratory-
birds-223-so-far-more-to-come/

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The Lake of Skeletons

Located roughly at an elevation of 16,470 feet (5,020m), Roopkund Lake is a glacial lake in the Chamoli district of state Uttarakhand. It is locally known as the Mystery Lake or the Skeleton Lake due to the hundreds of skeletons found near the lake. The lake is situated in the laps of the Himalayas and the area around the lake is not inhabited. It is surrounded by rocky glaciers and snow covered mountains and is a popular trekking spot of Uttarakhand.

With a depth of around 3 m, Roopkund is popularly known for the remains of several hundred ancient humans scattered around its shores. The skeletons are widely visible in one month when the ice melts.

According to the local Legend, Raja Jasdhaval, King of Kanauj along with his pregnant wife Rani Balampa and their servants went on a pilgrimage to Nanda Devi shrine and there they faced a heavy storm. And thus the entire group disappeared near the Roopkund Lake. The skeletons were first found by a British guard in 1942. The researchers have now found that the remains were of pilgrims and the locals which date back to 840 AD.

The lake has many conservation issues. The major concern is the regular disappearance of Skeletons, and if adequate steps are not taken, the remains might vanish in the years to come. It is being reported that the tourist take back the remains with them. Curious researchers and scientists are also transporting the skeletons on the back of mules for evolutionary research purposes. So the concerned authorities have decided to transform the area as an eco-tourism spot for the preservation of skeletons.

Roopkund is picturesque and scenic lake that is an amazing tourist destination in the Chamoli district of Uttarakhand near the base of two peaks namely, Trishul and Nanda Ghunti. Every autumn a religious festival is celebrated at Beedhi Bugiyal with full enthusiasm by the villagers. The Nanda Devi Raj Jat is also celebrated once in every twelve years in Roopkund in which Goddess Nanda is worshipped. Roopkund is an awesome place for Adventure junkies to trek in the autumn season.

REFERENCES
https://api.nationalgeographic.com/distribution/public/amp/culture/2019/08/dna-study-deepens-mystery-lake-skeletons-roopkund

https://www.thehindubusinessline.com/news/science/scientists-crack-roopkund-skeleton-mystery/article29189533.ece/amp/

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Oil and Water

Peatlands are a type of wetlands forming a unique ecosystem , home to rare and unusual plants, wildlife and contain the most valuable natural store of the world’s soil carbon.

‘Peat’ refers to thick, muddy soil having high content of organic matter made up of dead and decomposing plants in water-logged conditions

Peatlands and Climate change:

Peatlands are vital: they are found in over 175 countries and are more widespread in Asia (38% of peatlands) and in North America (32%) followed by Europe (12%) and South America (11%). In their natural wet state , peatlands help minimize the risk of flooding and drought, and prevent seawater intrusion.

Why must we act to save them?

Majority of the world’s peatlands are intact, but peatlands are being drained, severely overexploited and damaged due to land converted for agriculture, burning and mining for fuel, among others.

When drained out, the underlying peat is exposed to air and the carbon it contains gets oxidized into carbon dioxide. As peatlands contain high carbon content (as high as 50%), they become tremendous emitters of methane and CO2 when disrupted.

Draining of Peatlands emits tons of methane and CO2

Palm oil and its popularity world-wide:

Palm oil is naturally reddish in color and is a ‘miracle’ product used in everything from food to construction. The food industry is responsible for 72% world-wide usage of palm oil. Cosmetics and cleaning products usage are around 18% and biofuels and animal feed account for the rest 10% globally.

Commonly known as the oil palm, this crop is a large woody tree easy to grow in the tropics and highly profitable for farmers, even in difficult soils. The fruits from the oil palm are harvested when ripe (has a color of fiery orange and red) and its kernel deep inside is where palm oil is derived.

Palm oil is unique in that it survives the high temperatures involved in cooking, does not spoil easily and all products with palm oil have a long shelf life. All parts of the Palm oil tree are useful : oil can also be burned for fuel, and the kernel seeds left over after processing can be crushed and used to make concrete, and the ash left after burning the palm leaves, trunks and fibers can be used as a replacement for cement.

So, what is the exact problem?

Due to the high demand of palm oil, drainage of peatlands for palm oil cultivation and massive deforestation is resulting in emissions of huge amounts of carbon dioxide into the air. Adding to the disaster is the extinction of wildlife such as orangutans, tigers, elephants, and rhinos in the tropical forests of the world.

Farmers produced 77 million tons of palm oil for the global market in 2020-21, and that is expected to grow to 108 million tons by 2024. Indonesia and Malaysia alone boast around 13 million hectares of oil palm plantation, almost half the world’s total. More than 75% of Indonesia’s Tesso Nilo national park, home to tigers, orangutans, and pygmy elephants, has been converted into illegal palm oil plantations. Globally, 193 critically endangered, threatened, and vulnerable species are threatened by palm oil production. For example, the decline of the Bornean Orangutan population by 60% within the last few decades is largely attributed to the loss of its peat swamp habitat.

Natural Palm Oil

Why is India in the spotlight and what are our alternatives?

India is the world’s single largest importer of palm oil and what happens to palm oil demand in India has a significant impact on the entire industry. As palm oil blends well with other oils and suits frying, Indian food specifically made in restaurants, hotels, low to middle-income households are the major consumers of palm oil. Apart from suitability for cooking, palm oil is cheaper when compared to other oils such as coconut oil, sunflower and soybean oils and can be easily imported from Malaysia, Indonesia etc. with shorter shipping times.

India imports around 95% of mostly crude palm oil and refining takes place in India. Most Indian consumers buy cheaper ‘loose’ palm oil and are unaware of the un-sustainable effects on production/processing of palm oil to the world’s remaining rainforests and its deforestation. Though we have policies such as NDPE (No Deforestation, No Peat, No Exploitation of people and local communities) , 58% of India’s palm oil imports are not covered by NDPE.

Palm oil is everywhere …

Palm oil is nearly impossible to avoid, and just as difficult to replace. Unfortunately, we do not have too many alternatives. Palm oil is found in everything from washing powder to toothpaste to shampoo to chocolates to chips.

Here are some sustainable ways that we as consumers can look at alternatives to palm oil products:

  • Majority of eatables like biscuits, bread, cake, fast-food like instant noodles, chips etc. are made from palm oil. Look out for ingredients such as ‘palmates’, ’sulphates’, ’glyceryl’ , vegetable oils and try buy organic instead.
  • Soaps, shampoos, toothpaste, cleaning detergents, make-up and cosmetics have palm-oil ingredients and try explore brands that are natural, sustainable, and made by ethical companies.
  • Explore usage and rotation to natural oils like coconut, sunflower, rice bran , mustard oils or ghee in day to day cooking and avoid palm oil.

In conclusion

Just imagine, it takes thousands of years to build up peat, but a matter of minutes to release harmful CO2 when peatlands are drained. Urgent action worldwide is needed to protect, manage, and restore peatlands and due to a lack of awareness of the benefits of peatlands, damaged peatlands are accelerating a climate crisis by emitting an estimated 1.3 giga-tons of CO2 every year. The good news is that countries like Indonesia have planned a permanent stop on new forest clearing for palm plantations.

Awareness is key to understand the impact of agricultural commodities like palm oil, cocoa, coffee, rubber etc.. on forests and water bodies , and each of us must look for more sustainable ways to meet our food, fuel and cosmetic needs and be willing to pay slightly more money for products that are justifiable and do not hurt the planet.

A lone orangutan perches on the remains of a tree in a felled forest in Indonesia
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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

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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