The Mighty Kabini River

by Nikitha Hadya

Source: Reef and Rainforest

The River

The Kabini River, also known as the Kapila River, is a river in southern India that originates from the Wayanad district of Kerala where the Panaraman and the Mananthavady Rivers converge. The river then flows eastward into Karnataka where it joins the Kaveri River in Tirumakudalu Narasipura. The Kabini River has a length of about 240 km and a total basin area of about 7040 sq km.

The Kabini River flows through the Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary, and the Nagarhole and Bandipur National Parks, all of which are a part of the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. These parks are home to tigers, deer, sloth, elephants, bears, gaurs, and leopards, and are extremely important in wildlife conservation efforts.

Near the town of Sargur in Karnataka is the Kabini Reservoir, which is home to a wide variety of wildlife and plants, especially in the summer when the water levels recede. The dam is approximately 2,284ft in length and can store 19.52 tmcft, although that number has been reduced recently due to silt accumulation in the reservoir. Most importantly, this reservoir flows in between two significant tiger reserves, the Bandipur National Park and the Nagarhole National Park.

Nagarhole National Park and Tiger Reserve

Source: Nagarhole National Park Safari, Youtube

The Nagarhole National Park and Tiger Reserve are located in the state of Karnataka, about 50 km from Mysore and 220 km from Bangalore. Historically, this park was a hunting ground for Mysore royalty, however, it has become a site of conservation in recent years. The Nagarhole Game Reserve, as this area was once known, was converted into a national park in 1988, with an area of over 640 sq km. The park was designated a tiger reserve in 1999. Today, the reserve is home to over 250 species of plant and animal life, including tigers, elephants, bison, and sloth bears. This park is also home to over 200 species of birds, ranging from ducks and herons to scarlet minivets and blue-bearded bee-eaters.

The Nagarhole Park is named after the many snake-like streams of the Kabini River that pass through the forest. Nagarhole literally means serpent stream in the Kannada language, “Nagar” meaning serpent and “Hole” meaning stream. This national park is also separated from the Bandipur National Park to the south by the Kabini reservoir.

Bandipur Tiger Reserve

Source: Bandipur Tiger Reserve

The Bandipur National Park lies in one of the richest areas of biodiversity in the country, surrounded by multiple national parks that are teeming with wildlife and rice plant life as well. This landscape consisting of the Bandipur, Nagarhole, Madumalai, and Wayanad national parks provides an abode to the world’s largest population of Asian Elephants. This collection of wildlife reserves is also home to the world’s largest wild population of tigers, with a tiger population of over 350.

The Bandipur Tiger Reserve was formed in the year 2007, previously known as the Bandipur National Park, and is named after a nearby village, Bandipur, where the administrative offices for the park are located. This reserve is spread across the Karnataka districts of Mysore and Chamarajanagar. The total area of the reserve today is around 872 sq km.

Works Cited

Bandipur Safari Booking, Bandipur Online Safari Booking – Online Safari Booking In Bandipur Bandipur Tiger Reserve, https://bandipurtigerreserve.org/index.php. Accessed 11 May 2023.

“Kabini or Kapila River | District Mysuru, Government of Karnataka | Heritage city | India.” 2ೖಸೂರು, https://mysore.nic.in/en/tourist-place/kabini-or-kapila-river/. Accessed 11 May 2023.

“Kabini – Rally For Rivers.” Isha Foundation,

https://isha.sadhguru.org/rally-for-rivers/ourdyingrivers/kabini/. Accessed 11 May 2023. “Kabini River Lodge.” Reef and Rainforest Tours,

https://reefandrainforest.co.uk/accommodation/kabini-river-lodge. Accessed 11 May 2023.

“Nagarhole National Park Safari.” YouTube, 17 May 2018, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jcs5UGXU65s. Accessed 11 May 2023.


Maybe going in circles is actually better

” The illusion of unlimited power, nourished by astonishing scientific and technological achievements, has produced the concurrent illusion of having solved the problem of production.”

-E.F Schumacher

As I await my blissful fate in the dark and empty garbage truck, I look back on my fruitful life with joy. Manufacturers had crafted my paper body in a magnificent factory with thousands of line workers toiling away to create my siblings and I. The factory was so grand that it spewed black smoke into the sky affecting everyone around, yet no one dared to question it. Most importantly I was birthed from the fresh pulp of many a fell tree destined for greatness to be used in one document. As I ponder and reminisce, the garbage truck door opens and the two workers start collecting the waste and dumping it on the ground. Finally! I think. As I was made from organic materials, I will finally be able to return to the earth from which I came from and meet my blissful end. Eventually my turn comes to be picked up and as the workers pick my fragile paper body and throw it on top of a large garbage dump, time freezes. There is only non-biodegradable waste as far as the eye can see.  Then it struck me. I was never designed for reuse and recyclability but for cheap and fast sale and therefore I had chemicals in me which were non-biodegradable. The toxic ink on me also constituted a health hazard for everything organic around me and therefore I had to be disposed in a place where all toxic waste come to never die. I see the garbage truck drive away and as I come into contact with a liquid chemical, a single inky teardrop falls down my body.”

-A very sad paper.

The concept touched upon in that moving testimony by a real paper is the concept of a circular economy. The current global economic system is a system known as a linear economy. A linear economy is a system where finite resources are extracted to make (generally) low-quality products ideal for one-time use. As opposed to a linear economy a circular economy is the name given to an economic system that promotes reusability and recyclability to ensure that we don’t deplete our finite resources rapidly. The first thing that comes to mind when one thinks of a circular economy is recycling. We’ve all studied the three R’s in middle school but what if I told you that recycling is only a last-case resort and is almost tantamount to throwing it away. A circular economy follows the 5 R’s. those five R’s are; reduce, reuse, repair, repurpose, and recycle. The main aim of a circular economy is to reduce and reuse so that we don’t even need to generate waste to recycle.  

Very briefly the five tenets tell us to; reduce consumption to a minimum, reuse products, repair products, repurpose them for other uses, recycle them by breaking them down into their components, and make a new product.

One very important element lies in the crux of the idea of a circular economy and that is design. From your phone to your car to your pen to your experience at the airport, it is all designed by a person. Obviously while designing a product the aesthetic and utilitarian value comes to mind but it goes much deeper than that. What materials are viable, how the value of the product is communicated, and how it inspires a materialistic desire in us. Currently, the design of products is almost purely motivated by the market and by the profit percentage resulting in low-quality mass-produced goods with little utilization of the human capital who are the designers. Not only does this contribute to environmental degradation but also it is a form of underemployment. A circular economy can only ever be achieved when the design of a product goes hand in hand with the five R’s AND profit maximization. How will you maximize profits while also producing fewer products you may ask. This is where the aspect of sharing reveals itself as a core concept of circular economies.

A very classic example of this dichotomy of money-making and lesser production is that of cars. Many, many people own cars and keep them in their garage or parking lot where it spends at least 90% of their time idle. Only 10% of that car’s time is spent transporting you somewhere. Instead of such a high-value high-volume product being used by one person sharing or a rental system would effectively curb that problem. Renting cars only when there is a need for them ensures that a multitude of people will be using a single car throughout the day. This means that the cars need to have high durability and a long-lasting design instead of being built cheaply for use for only a few years. These high-quality cars will result in a lot of revenue for car manufacturers due to community expenditure, incentivizing them to make more such high-quality cars.

All in all, a circular economy depends on the masses more so than the designers and corporates themselves because it is up to us to convince companies that profit is also generated in a circular economy and to liberate their designers from the curse of designed products through planned obsolescence. Now before you buy the latest iPhone or throw a paper that has a blank side, reflect on how you can bring the 5 R’s to life and consciously move to a more sustainable future.


Buckingham Canal: Chennai’s Liquid Lifeline

In the heart of the bustling city of Chennai lies an unsung hero, a silent observer of history, and a forgotten conduit of life – the Buckingham Canal. Located amidst chaos and urban sprawl, this waterway weaves its way through the city, telling stories of the past, reflecting the present, and offering a glimpse into the future. Embark on a unique journey as we explore the captivating history, meandering routes, and hidden potential of this enchanting canal!

Construction of the canal began almost two centuries ago in 1806 under the supervision of the eminent engineer, Sir Arthur Cotton. It was envisioned as a trade route to facilitate transportation and boost commerce between Chennai (then known as Madras) and its neighboring regions.

The Buckingham Canal, which runs from Viluppuram District in Tamil Nadu to Kakinada City in the Andhra Pradesh district of Kakinada, is nearly 800 kilometers. The canal makes its way through bustling cityscapes, rural villages, lush paddy fields, and tranquil backwaters. Its winding path offers a delightful passage, allowing one to witness the vibrant tapestry of life along its banks.

During the great famine of 1877 and 1878, more than six million people died throughout the country. Just like the rest of the major cities in the country, Chennai too was badly affected badly due to the same. The 8 km stretch connecting the Adyar and Cooum rivers, was constructed during these years as a famine relief project. And because the link was constructed on the orders of the then-Governor, the Duke of Buckingham, the canal was given the name Buckingham Canal in 1878. Locally, it has been affectionately called the “Nadu Thukkaram Pathi” (meaning “Canal of the Holy Man”) due to its association with the revered Tamil poet and philosopher, Thiruvalluvar.

Another less-known fact about the canal is that during British rule, it played a critical role in India’s struggle for independence. It served as an underground route for freedom fighters, offering a means of transportation and communication, away from the eyes of the British authorities.

However, as Chennai grew into a metropolis, the Buckingham Canal gradually faded from the city’s eyes. It was neglected and urban encroachment took over the waterway. However, in recent times, there has been a renewed interest in reviving and restoring its glory, recognizing its potential as a cultural, ecological, and recreational asset. In fact, during the 2021 state elections, DMK made a promise to restore the canal to its old glory.

The Buckingham Canal, when revitalized, has the potential to be transformed into a thriving ecosystem, with plenty of flora and fauna. By rejuvenating this historic waterway, we not only preserve our heritage but also create a sustainable future for the city of Chennai.


  1. https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/chennai/central-buckingham-canal-to-get-a-makeover/article66688717.ece

Image Credits

  1. https://images.newindianexpress.com/uploads/user/imagelibrary/2023/3/17/w900X450/Buckingham_Canal1.jpg?w=400&dpr=2.6

The Kalakad Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve

The Kalakad Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve (KMTR), located in the Tamil Nadu districts of Tirunelveli and Kanyakumari, is one of the protected places with rich flora and fauna. It is part of the Agasthyamala Biosphere Reserve and is the second-largest protected area in Tamil Nadu. On the highest sections of the reserve, the vegetation changes from dry thorn woodland to dry deciduous, moist deciduous, and a patch of West Coast wet evergreen woods.

KMTR was designated as the “First Tiger Reserve of Tamil Nadu” and the country’s 17th Tiger Reserve. This reserve’s forests are rich in biodiversity and endemism. The main area of KMTR is 895 square kilometers, which includes two nearby sanctuaries, Kalakad Wildlife Sanctuary and Mundanthurai Tiger Sanctuary in Tirunelveli District, as well as parts of Veerapuli and Kilamalai Reserve Forests in Kanyakumari District. Kalakad Wildlife Sanctuary was founded in 1976 largely to protect the Lion Tailed Macaque.

This Biosphere Reserve has an abundance of water resources. River Thamirabarani, Ramanadi, Karayar, Servalar, Manimuthar, Pachayar, Kodaiyar, Gadananathi, Kallar, and a few other rivers come from KMTR and provide drinking water and agriculture to Tirunelveli, Tuticorin, Virudhunagar, and Kanyakumari districts. As a result, KMTR is also known as the River Sanctuary.  These rivers are responsible for the construction of seven large dams: the Raiyar, Lower Dam, Servalar, Manimuthar, Ramanadi, Gadananathi, and Kodaiyar.

With about 1500 plant species identified, Evergreen forests, moist deciduous forests, and sholas, which are stunted evergreen forests found at high altitudes, are among the vegetation types. Teak, rosewood, sandalwood, and bamboo trees dominate the woodlands, providing critical habitats for species. The reserve also contains various types of medicinal plants and herbs that are employed in traditional medicinal practices by local populations. The reserve’s prominent plant species include the vanda orchid, a gorgeous and uncommon species of orchid found in the sholas, and the Ceropegia, a flowering plant genus recognized for its unusual and exquisite blossoms.

The reserve is a vital habitat for the Bengal tiger, the area’s most emblematic species. The reserve also has the Indian elephant, Indian giant squirrel, sambar deer, spotted deer, barking deer, and wild boar. Several primates, including the endangered lion-tailed macaque and the Nilgiri langur, live in the area. Furthermore, the reserve is a refuge for birdwatchers, with over 200 bird species documented in the vicinity. The Malabar grey hornbill, big pied hornbill, and Malabar trogon are among the significant bird species present in the reserve.


The Story of the Kalingarayan Anicut

An engineering wonder of the past that connects rivers and helps impound water

Somewhere around the year 1270 King Kalingarayan visits the neighboring kingdom to discuss a possible matrimonial alliance for his son the price. In the kingdom, the head chef who is present there asks his companions what type of rice should he serve the king and one of his coworkers replies that the king who rules barren and unfertile lands can know no difference between the types of rice and that anything could be served. Knowledge of this conversation reaches the king and is angered by the remark so he returns to his kingdom determined to make the lands fertile enough to strengthen agriculture. Therefore, the king thinks of ways to improve water management in his kingdom and arrives at the conclusion to build an anicut with an irrigation canal that originates from it.

His plans to build a canal and an anicut were greatly contested by the public. Rumors had spread that the king was going to waste people’s money to satisfy his own ego and this idea was not accepted by many. In an effort to regain the trust of his subjects, the king moved his palace to a place that couldn’t utilize the benefits of his plan. He also swore an oath that he and his family would never use the water from the canal or the anicut. The people replaced their trust with the king and the twelve-year-long project was started.

The king was a great visionary of his time and made phenomenal progress in implementing his plan. He didn’t just create a canal that starts from the Bhavani River and joined the river Noyyal. His intellectual thinking led to the creation of a canal that was 90km long which is longer than a canal that could have connected the rivers directly. The shorter canal, which would have only been 52km, was not built because of the benefits offered by the longer one.

This extension in the length of the river helped reduce the velocity of the river because the river was full of twists and turns which also helped in recharging the groundwater table. The canal was also designed in such a way that the water would flow against the force of gravity from a lower area to elevated land. The ambitious king extended the canal further to meet the Amaravati River.

The purpose of building the anicut was to divert water from the river Bhavani and to use it for the canal. The initiatives taken by the king are still helping the people even after 700 years of its construction. This idea of his has also earned a spot in the history books as one of the world’s first-ever river-linking projects.

Today the Kalingarayan anicut and the Kalingarayan Canal stand as a symbol of India’s culture and heritage. The government is taking initiatives to increase tourism around them and has already built a memorial hall alongside a children’s park. The government has also made efforts to stop the pollution of such a historical wetland by the industries present nearby. They have constructed concrete walls along the bunds to prevent the mixing of industrial waste effluents. A small canal parallel to the current one has been constructed to carry sewage waste. The hopes for a better future come from the past just like how the waterbody will serve the future.



The Kodiveri Dam Story

With irrigation as its sole primary objective, the Kodiveri dam in the Erode district of Tamil Nadu has played its part throughout many generations. It is the main source of water for agriculture in the peripheral areas of the district. Surprisingly it has not been through any major modifications since it was first built. The magnificent structure has stood there for almost 900 years since it was first built under the rule of King Kongalvan Vettuva Urali. Its construction almost resembles modern-day architecture and building technology.

The twenty-foot megastructure is built out of rock and interlocked with iron bars. Lead was melted and used as mortar between the rocks to firmly affirm them together. The construction of the dam has been so effective that it has not required any external support or additional reinforcement to remain structurally stable. This sort of construction is much similar to the current methods that are being used widely. The arrangement of bricks and cement along with rebars constitute the majority of structures that are being built in today’s world. Even then we can’t guarantee their integrity for long but the dam which was built during an era without the technology that is available today is still structurally stable. The fact that the dam hasn’t collapsed in such a long period of time kindles the brain to think of the rich historical wealth that an Indian inherits. It fascinates the brain to think of the great minds behind the civilization and sustainability of ancient Indians.

Source: Tripadvisor

The folk story behind the building of the dam makes it even more interesting. Legend has it that the king first issued the order to build the dam as his people were dying of starvation caused by drought. He intended for the dam to store water to help in the rearing of animals and improve agricultural productivity. The building of the dam was completed during the end of a drought and the lands were expecting rain soon. After its completion the king was supposed to arrive and a ceremony was for his arrival. Mother nature had some other plans and a flash flood occurred washing away the dam entirely. The king was greatly saddened by this and being the spiritual man that he is he thought that the gods didn’t want his presence in the dam and hence the dam was destroyed by divine power. His objective was to find a solution for the suffering of his people and he was fixated on it.

Unable to find any other routes he reverts back to the original plan and the dam is built for the second time. This time the king announces that he won’t be visiting the dam and this time the dam was not attacked by any floods and the dam stayed there for years. Though the beliefs of the king may not be justified we can for sure say that when the dam was built for the second time it was built better.

Though the dam only had its significance as a water body in the past it has in recent times become a tourist attraction. Though this might seem a good thing it is actually not. This reveals the current situation where large waterbodies such as this are reducing in number. What once used to be normal is now a rare sight. The waterfall that is the main attraction in the dam was just something that was not widely popular in the past as there were many such places all over the plateau. Though this revelation is not all good we can still benefit from the magnitude of people visiting such places.

If the power of the masses is utilized correctly, we can educate them on the importance of such places and conserve our environment. Through support, we can also restore places that previously were of such importance and do many such things. With the present being bad there might be hope for a better future.

All this might be visionary and remain as such because even now people are directly destroying and polluting our Natural treasures. With such incidents happening all around the world even the slightest rays of hope in the darkness of human activities get shunned and are never expressed to the world of nature. This dam in particular is affected by people who use artificial products such as soaps, shampoos, petroleum products, and synthetic oil during their time in the water which enters the water and ultimately destroys the habitat. The coracle rides are not supervised in the sense of addressing the ecosystem and they are contributing to deeper levels of pollution and disturbances. The shops there also are in close proximity to the actual waterbody and waste generated sometimes does enter the water, especially during rain.

 All the harm we cause leads right back to us in cases such as floods, irregular rain, drought, and other potential phenomena that are triggered by humans. We do have people that take responsibility for the actions of the entirety of humans and are trying to make a change toward a brighter future. Let us not make their magnanimous task bigger even if we do not help them. Let us stop this unacceptable act of destroying our own world today and now.



The Lifeline of Urban Cities

For a few decades now the so-called urban cities of modern times have been a hub for diseases originating from abiotic factors, caused primarily through anthropogenic disturbances. To find a solution to this problem caused by pollution and other similar factors, many kinds of research are going on. A few suggested initiatives are also being implemented by the governing body but no matter what the efforts taken in order to reach a solution; the problem is only growing bigger. To reverse the effects caused by this problem, it will take years and can be achieved only through community support.  

Recently a few ways have been discovered through which people are contributing to reducing the negative effects caused by such agents. They have been concentrating on the waste that they generate and the pollution accompanied by deforestation caused by human activities. The method that is being widely used to tackle this situation is Terrace Gardening or Rooftop Farming. This method not only addresses the problem but also provides certain benefits for the practitioner.

Firstly, let us get to know what rooftop farming is. Just like the name suggests it is the process of growing edible and useful flora in people’s roofs. Some people also grow plants for decorative purposes and they too enjoy certain benefits. A benefit that all experience is the cooling of the building structure in summer and retention of heat in the winter. The natural processes that plant use for their survival contribute to this phenomenon.

For justifying this claim let us take an example. During winter with the limited availability of sunlight, the buildings get very cold. In such a situation the plants utilize the sunlight for photosynthesis and the excess sunlight that doesn’t fall on the plant reaches the soil/substrate which in turn absorbs the heat produced. Most plant-growing mediums have the ability to retain the heat over long periods of time as is scientifically proven hence keeping the building warm. Then if plants that yield edible products are grown, we can also benefit from eating actual organic produce with the added benefit of reducing household expenditure. Apart from this, plants also provide other benefits like purifying air, reducing organic waste generated, and effectively utilizing rainwater, and will also imbibe many values and lessons in us.

Source: The Guardian

To utilize all the benefits offered by a rooftop garden one must understand how to establish and take care of a rooftop garden. The first step in creating a rooftop farm is to make a plan which utilizes the area effectively and can give a better yield. For making a good plan one must do research on what plants can be grown in a particular location and what will be requirements for such a plant. For this task, one can utilize the vast multitude of information available online. The next step is to familiarize oneself with the necessary skills that are required to do the necessary task. With enough research, planning, and proper execution an amazing rooftop garden can be set up easily.

There are many ways to set up a rooftop farm apart from the classical method involving pot and soil. For example, we can switch the soil for any other appropriate substrate available. We can also use other methods of farming such as but not limited to Hydroponics, aeroponics, Air-dynaponics, and the green roof method.

Hydroponics is a method where a water-based nutrient solution is used as a growing substrate and the plants are held in place through a physical structure. Sometimes instead of creating a nutrient-rich solution, the farmers grow fish in the water, and through the waste produced by the fish the water gets enriched with nutrients and then this water can be used to grow the plants. This way of growing fish is called aquaponics. If this method is used to its maximum, the farmer can harvest both fish and plants for profit. This innovative method has crossed its pilot stage and is being widely used in developed and developing countries.

Growing plants without any substrate seems impossible but it is something that is really being practiced in reality. The plants are kept in structures with their roots exposed along with all the other parts to air. That is the plants are suspended in the air and are sprayed or misted periodically with a nutrient-rich medium or with an aerosol of a nutrient solution. This system has been given the term aeroponics. Air-dynaponics is a method where the cost of maintaining an aeroponics system is reduced further and the yield is increased.

Source: indiaMART

The Green Roof method is also an improvised version of an already existing method. It is just another form of the classical method with a twist of modern engineering. It tackles all the problems involved with the classical method and is more scientific. The problems it primarily addresses include the disruption of structural stability, water clogging, penetration, drainage of excess water, and other similar issues. Changes can be made to the green roof model to meet specific requirements. With such promising advancements in technology even urban wastelands can be turned into something filled with flora and fauna.

Recent polls and data collection statistics prove that in almost every urban complex of society, the residents are willing to accommodate a rooftop garden in their homes. This opinion is seen in over 60 percent of households. With proper planning and infrastructure developments, even, the simplest methods used in rooftop farming can give amazing results. If executed on a large scale even unexplored and unimagined benefits can be enjoyed in the future. With the cooperation of the public the primary problem that we face can be resolved so let us do that as our first step into a better world.



Help me, I want to live… The Story of a Lake

Hello Friends, I am Maduranthakam Aeri but no worries you can call me Madhu. Today I will tell you about myself and how I came into existence. Let us go back to the tenth century. This was the time when King Uttama Chola of the Chola Dynasty also known as Madhuranthakar, Don’t we sound the same. So he is my Father and created me to quench the thirst of the people living in Maduranthakam. I am also the home to Eri-Katha Ramar Temple which is dedicated to Lord Rama.

Now, I belong to the Chengalpattu District near the very famous bird sanctuary of Vedanthangal. I have got a lot of friends, the three rivers – Subam and Perungozhi who give me water, and Kiliyar who drains my water, they help me keep the flow of freshwater constant, and many avian visitors like storks, Egrets, Cormorants, and Darters, Flamingos, Pelicans, moorhens, herons, kingfishers, sandpipers, white ibis, spoonbills, swans and grey wagtails who meet me during the months of October to March.

I am the second largest lake (2400 acres) in Tamil Nadu, it is the state which has the highest number of lakes. I take pride in helping many villages nearby me. But due to climate change, Some days I overflow with water which troubles all the people who live near me and causes inundation in the agricultural lands in the surrounding villages. 😭😭 But during summers, I dry up and because of urbanization people encroach on my land which has decreased my storage capacity by 24% from 791 metric cubic feet to 530 metric cubic feet and I am becoming smaller and smaller every day.

My lake bed has been silted heavily and measures need to be taken to remove the silt. It is not only reducing my storage capacity but also the habitat of aquatic organisms who live in me. The silt excavated can be used to strengthen my structure by forming a bund in the foreshore area. It can also be used to raise the height of the lands in the foreshore area that are at risk of submerging when I fill up.

I need to be cleaned up and rejuvenated to store water. Residents of 38 surrounding villages would have better drinking water once I am restored.  This water from me will also likely be used to cater to Chennai’s needs.


The Heat Waves in India

A heat wave phenomenon is currently on the rise, in both frequency and lethality, in India and many other countries around the world. Heat waves are caused by high atmospheric pressure systems that compress and heat up the air while decreasing cloud cover simultaneously. Without clouds above, sunlight directly strikes the ground below, removing moisture that would otherwise aid in cooling the air. Over the course of several days, as the pressure increases and the sun heats up the ground even more, heat accumulates, sometimes to a lethal level. A heat wave is most commonly classified as an extended period of time, typically a week or more when temperatures continually exceed the 90th percentile of the local average temperature of a certain area at that particular instance.

Source: BBC

A common metric used to measure the severity of a heat wave and its effect on human health is the “wet-bulb” temperature, which accounts for both temperature and humidity. The basic principle is that as humidity increases, the wet bulb temperature is higher than the air temperature, because of a lack of evaporative cooling. Essentially, it is a measure of how fast a person can cool down by sweating.

Just a few hours of exposure to wet-bulb temperatures of 35°C can be deadly for humans. For people doing physical labor, the threshold for humid heat is even lower, at just about 31°C.

Source: Washington Post

In India, the build-up to the monsoon, around mid-June is the most dangerous period of time. With both heat and humidity at deadly levels, the wet-bulb temperatures get perilously close to the 35°C threshold. In South Asia, the regularity of days when wet bulb temperatures get this high has doubled since 1979. In India alone, the total number of heatwave days in 2022 exceeds the total heatwave days in the preceding three years.

Source: Times of India

Although most concerns over heat waves focus largely on the impacts on human health, there is significant economic fallout as well. And these devastating health and financial effects are most often experienced by the most vulnerable populations. The worst affected areas are in South Asia, consisting of billions of people, most of whom lack access to air conditioning. The most deadly effects are felt by low-income labor workers who are often forced to work in these lethal conditions outdoors, people who depend on income from daily work and cannot afford to stay indoors during a heatwave, or households who cannot afford cooling, shelter, or adequate water. Even households with access to air conditioning or coolers have to manage their use in between power outages or high energy prices. Many poor farmers reliant on rain for crop irrigation have seen a significant reduction in rainfall and scorched fields during these heat waves.

These countries of the global south experience the most devastating effects of climate change, yet contribute the least to it. “India accounts for just 3.7% of historic emissions, a smaller tonnage of carbon dioxide than Germany. Pakistan’s burden is just 0.36% of the total, less than Belgium” (Fickling). Often the countries that do contribute the most to climate change experience the least of these devastating effects, and do not realize the realities of climate change as experienced by millions of vulnerable people in the global south.

If urgent action isn’t taken to reduce and terminate activities that are contributing to climate change, the frequency and intensity of these deadly environmental phenomena will continue to increase. According to a 2018 study, “[by] the second half of this century, swaths of the tropics and sub-tropics could be seeing months at a time above the highest recorded wet-bulb temperatures” (Fickling). Currently, heat deaths in India are estimated to be around 89,000 deaths

annually. “With 4C of global warming, heat deaths will rise to 1.5 million a year” (Fickling). Without commitments from and action taken by the global north, in efforts to bear their fair share of the costs of climate change, these conditions will only continue to get worse.

Works Cited

Crownhart, Casey. “Climate change is making India’s brutal heat waves worse.” MIT Technology Review, 28 April 2022, https://www.technologyreview.com/2022/04/28/1051511/climate-change-india

-heat-waves/. Accessed 7 May 2023.

Fickling, David. “Analysis | India’s Deadly Heatwave Will Soon Be a Global Reality.” The Washington Post, 7 July 2022, https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/energy/indias-deadly-heatwave- will-soon-be-a-global-reality/2022/07/07/f8a66d3e-fe40-11ec-b39d-7130916 8014b_story.html. Accessed 7 May 2023.

Irfan, Umair. “India and Pakistan’s severe heat wave, explained.” Vox, 11 May 2022, https://www.vox.com/23057267/india-pakistan-heat-wave-climate-change-c oal-south-asia. Accessed 7 May 2023.

Regan, Helen. “Deadly heat waves fueled by climate change are threatening India’s development, study says.” CNN, 20 April 2023, https://www.cnn.com/2023/04/20/asia/india-heat-wave-development-climat e-intl-hnk/index.html. Accessed 7 May 2023.

Singh, Nandini. “Devastating heatwaves in India: Here’s all you need to know.” India Today, 14 June 2022,

https://www.indiatoday.in/diu/story/devastating-heatwaves-in-india-all-you- need-to-know-1962392-2022-06-14. Accessed 7 May 2023.

Spindle, Bill. “The World Has No Choice but to Care About India’s Heat Wave.” The Atlantic, 8 May 2022,

https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2022/05/india-heat-wave-climate- change/629786/. Accessed 7 May 2023.

“US-Canada heatwave: Visual guide to the causes.” BBC, 2 July 2021, https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-57665715. Accessed 7 May 2023.


Lake of Scenic Beauty Turning Into A Harbour For Plastic

The once magnificent lakes belonging to the district of Nilgiris are now one of the most polluted water bodies in the country, owing to the pollution caused by the locals and the tourists collectively. Though there is a Sewage treatment plant (STP) present in the district its inefficiency in handling the entirety of waste produced has made it possible for one of its lakes to earn the title the as the most polluted lake in all of Tamil Nadu. The lake in the discussion here is the famous Ooty Lake which is considered to be one of the most popular international tourist hotspots in Tamil Nadu.

The lake was artificially created by John Sullivan in the year 1824 with intentions of fishing and the use of ferries as a mode of transport that revealed the beauty of the surrounding area. Later on, when the Tamil Nadu Tourism Development Corporation took authority over the lake they had allotted areas of the lake for developments in other areas. The new structure built included a bus stand, a children’s park, and a race course. These encroachments on the lake have shrunk its size from a massive 65-acre lake in 1824 to a meager 23-acre lake in the present. The decisions were taken by the government to improve what they thought was important at the time and hence no one else could question their destructive actions toward the lake. The lake still continues to reduce in size because of the process of silt deposition and irregular desilting can also further reduce its capacity.

During the monsoon large amounts of plastics can be seen floating on the surface of the lake and when enquired about it the officials from the Nilgiris district administration said that during rain, there would be an increase in water flowing into the STP, which does not have the capacity to handle and treat the amount of sewage flowing into it. This caused the water to flood over the sluices of the plant. “This could have resulted in more plastic entering the lake,” said an official to The Hindu publication.

Source: The Hindu

Moreover, the ecological functioning of the lake has been severely affected and as of recent times, the harm inflicted on the ecosystem is transforming into a “problem” for humans. A study by N. Moinudheen, an independent researcher in the Nilgiris, and wildlife biologist A. Samson recorded a high prevalence of flies in the lake, and their paper on the habitat usage of the flies has been published in the International Research Journal of Insect Sciences. This paper included topics such as the artificial origin of fly habitats that have led to the spike in their population and that if the colony is left unchecked could lead to severe contamination of all edible and drinkable resources in the area. Then such a situation would cause the spread of innumerable diseases among both humans and other living creatures.

Even remote tribal villages that have to yet completely adapt to modernity are being affected by pollution in the district. Many small villages comprising of people from the Toda tribe have been struggling to voice out their problems caused by a glycerine-producing factory that is present in close proximity to them and is allegedly releasing untreated effluents into a hamlet that finally terminates in another lake. The hamlet passes through several villages and has been causing problems for the residents. The allegations are backed by research papers on the water samples taken from the waterbodies connected to the water coming out from that particular factory and the results do prove that the water has extreme levels of pollution in the collected sample.

The need to protect such important elixir sources has not yet been much higher than it is today. Just the amount of importance such places hold is enormous and we all do know it. Our ignorance towards such life givers will create only a situation where our insignificant lives will fade away just like how we left our lifelines to die because we thought it was not important. If the current path of destruction continues there will be nothing left to destroy but ourselves. Ironically, we are doing that already hence we must take care of ourselves and then automatically we will take care of what we deem necessary. This journey that we will embark on must be with hopes and not with expectations. Let us come together with hopes united by cause to change what we can no matter how small or how big.



Two lakes, One mission

Over the last few years, huge metropolitan cities worldwide are seeing an increase in urbanization and development programs. In India, close to 35.39% of our population lives in urban areas. Before discussing peri-urban we have to establish the meaning behind the word “urban.” Different countries have different measures to classify an area as “urban” or “rural.” India uses a threefold definition consisting of the following:

  1. An urban area has a minimum population of 5000 people
  2. 75% of the male working-class population cannot be involved in only agriculture
  3. A density of population of at least 4000 people per sq. km.

All of the biggest metropolitan cities of India such as Delhi, Kolkata, Bangalore, Chennai, and Mumbai fall under this definition. To understand the rapid growth and proliferation of urban trends we need to situate the phenomena of urbanisation historically.

As the city grows and encompasses more land and starts including more rural areas on paper, those rural areas transform into peri-urban areas. The name peri-urban stems from the root “peri”-pheral. These areas are categorized by dynamic population growth, shifting economic activities, and a complex juxtaposition of formal and informal land conversion and land appropriation. This expansion of huge metropolitan cities in India takes its inspiration from the theory of Western urbanization as seen in the US and the UK which is largely based on capitalist expansion as more people climb the ladder of class and don’t need to rely on the city center for job opportunities. This model however cannot be blindly pasted onto most South Asian and South East Asian countries as the middle class is the only class that keeps increasing. This means that the price of land keeps increasing, decreasing the affordability of land for people who are from EWS (economically weaker sections of society) or LIG (lower income groups).

Peri-urban areas are built-up megastructures that consist of both informal highly dense settlements and formal sparsely populated communities concentrated around transportation hubs. This sort of amalgamation of various communities and different types of people from differing socio-economic backgrounds leads to legal pluralism in the system. The actual governing authorities themselves are unsure about their own jurisdiction. It is highly evident as peri-urban areas are very diverse the municipality corporations and the panchayats are themselves unsure of the correct appropriate governing policies for that specific geographical region which can lead to a host of problems. In peri-urban areas, since suburban gated communities exist, the municipal corporation has formal laws and regulations in place but due to the fact they are undergoing the process of transition from rural to urban, rural informal customary and traditional frameworks are also employed. The biggest contention point is land tenure where there are bound to be disputes about land ownership. This unique legal pluralism also has adverse environmental impacts. Three of the main adverse effects are waste management, air pollution, and of water pollution. Informal and traditional waste management practices are bound to conflict with formal regulatory waste management policies. Many peri-urban areas lack infrastructure and the framework needed to get rid of waste properly which leads to the dumping of waste in waterbodies or openly incineration of the waste. Adding to this pressing problem is the issue of the types of waste generated. the waste generated by the new middle-class residents and the natives of the previously rural area are often incompatible and require more dynamic approaches. Waste generated by the native residents is usually the waste products from agricultural endeavors such as crop residue and animal manure. Alternatively migrating urban residents generate the most non-biodegradable waste in the form of plastics.

Arguably the most heavily affected part of peri-urban areas is its water bodies and especially its lakes. Because of the lack of infrastructure and sanitation facilities, a lot of sewage ends up getting dumped in lakes creating toxic environments for the natural biodiversity and for humans by unleashing pathogens into the surroundings. Mixed with agricultural runoffs consisting of fertilizers and pesticides, the lakes and rivers eventually accumulate a lot of chemicals and eventually become a burden on the surrounding ecosystems themselves. Some runoffs can cause highly toxic and hazardous algal blooms that threaten the rich biodiversity present in the lakes. Sometimes just by sheer negligence water bodies can start to deteriorate.

In Chennai, one very obvious peri-urban area comes to mind; the OMR IT corridor. Taking two examples of water bodies at the heart of the peri-urban area of Semmencherri and Navalur, we can see the reality of environmental degradation in peri-urban areas. Analyzing the difference between an EFI restoration project of the Rettai kuttai lake and an unnamed lake adjacent to the Rettai kuttai lake, we see the stark difference between a well-maintained lake that has rich biodiversity and a borderline dumping ground. The Rettai Kuttai Lake was also a former toxic dumping ground suffering from negligence due to the rapid development of the Navalur area. EFI was able to restore the lake with support from the government of Tamil Nadu, TATA Realty, and Ramanujam Intellion Park.  

 The above image is a picture of the Rettai Kuttai lake in the morning and it is evident from the pictures themselves that it has thick vegetation and rich biodiversity with a lot of flora and fauna. There are many dragonflies and cicadas and the presence of dragonflies has scientifically been proven to indicate healthy lake environments as dragonflies are predators which indicate abundance of other small insects. The presence of dragonflies also indicates dragonflies require clean water to reproduce. The trees growing around the lake are numerous and the vegetation is thick. The presence of water lilies also shows that the lake is nutrient-rich and can sustain a host of creatures.

Unfortunately, bang opposite the Rettaikuttai lake exits another smaller lake which is yet to be restored. This unnamed lake right behind Vivira Mall is entrenched by dumping grounds around it and is being neglected by all the authorities involved. Here are some pictures of the lake and its surrounding area.

Completely covered in algae this lake is extremely hard to get to in the first place. One has to jump over the vehicular scrapyard and the thick bushes to even get a glimpse of the lake. This much algae is definitely an indicator of the poor quality of the lake as algae are oxygen-hungry, depleting oxygen from other aquatic animals in the lake. I was surprised to see that more birds were flocking around the lake that was not restored in contrast to the few water birds at the Rettai Kuttai Lake but on further analysis, I realized that more birds were at the unrestored lake to scavenge for any food that they could find, through the various waste bags and waste materials dumped in the lake. Not only is this saddening but it constitutes a major health risk for the marsh ecosystems by unleashing pathogens on water birds like egrets, herons, and cormorants. The first step to making sure a lake is not neglected would be to surely clear the surrounding area which blocks physical access to the lake, much less start to restore it. Even though this unnamed lake next to Rettai Kuttai is in a sad state, EFI’s restoration of Rettai Kuttai itself stands as a testament that it is possible to not only salvage but also to transform a toxic lake into a harbor of rich biodiversity and home to many creatures.


Poecilotheria Regalis – Indian Ornamental Tree Spider

by Jainam S Jain

Poecilotheria is derived from the Greek words “poikilos” (spotted) and “therion” (wild beast). Regalis means “royal”. They are members of the Arachnida class and the Araneae order. These spiders can be found in the southern regions of the Eastern and Western Ghats in the states of Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, and Kerala at elevations of less than 1,000 meters. Because these areas are humid and have a tropical climate, these species prefer areas where the atmosphere is frequently moist. The usual temperature in these areas ranges between 24 and 27 degrees Celsius, which is ideal for spiders.

Indian Ornamental Tarantulas are a relatively elongated species, with males being even thinner than females. They are hardy and grow quickly. Adult females can have a leg span of up to 9 inches (22 cm), while males average around 7 inches (18 cm). Females can live for up to 8 years. Males, like other tarantulas, have a substantially shorter lifetime, living only one-third as long as females. Poecilotheria species seem to prefer flying insects such as moths, they will feed eagerly on crickets, grasshoppers, and large specimens will even feed on an occasional small mouse. Their primary prey consists of various flying insects, which they seize in flight and paralyze.

They are commonly known as the Indian Ornamental Tree Spider or The Indian Ornamental because they are arboreal spiders that reside in tree holes and spin asymmetric funnel webs.  These are stunning creatures, with striking markings of black, white, and silver that make them one of the most popular species. The abdomen of this genus of arboreal tarantulas has an interesting fractal-like design. Ornamental Tree Spiders are grey on the outside but have a magnificent complex pattern of whites and blacks in stripes and chevrons on the inside. Adorn in this glorious and commanding ornamentation, they are also known as the Regal Parachute Spider and the King Parachute Spider. There are bright yellow spots under the first pairs of legs, on both males and females, that flash when this spider raises its legs in a defense posture. This has made it a popular choice among tarantula enthusiasts as a pet, although it is a more advanced species to care for due to its arboreal nature and potentially aggressive behavior.

Although there has never been a recorded death from a spider bite because the venom lacks the proteins required to cause a fatal allergic reaction. It is venomous, like other tarantulas, but its bite is not regarded as medically serious for humans, but it can cause pain and discomfort. The large fangs can cause puncture wounds, which can lead to secondary bacterial infection if not treated properly.

According to the IUCN Red List of Endangered Species, these species are classified as Least Concerned, however, their numbers are falling. Population declines can be attributed to a decrease in forest cover in the areas where they dwell, as well as climate change.






Vellode Bird Sanctuary – A Safe Heaven for All Birds

Located in the Erode district of Tamil Nadu this hospitable sanctuary is home to about 150 migratory and nonmigratory species of birds. With tons of water and agricultural land nearby thousands of native and migratory birds visit this wetland every year. Though the total land area within the sanctuary is very little the flora present there is equipped with enough features to accommodate all visiting birds. Most of the notable developments in the vegetation present there are because of human intervention and management. The Babul tree plantation drive of the 80s has played a major role in building green belts of comfort in the sanctuary. Wetland conservation efforts of the forest department from early 2000 have also contributed to this cause.

The 77-hectare sanctuary founded in the year 1996 is more of a project by the people. All the villages in the periphery of the sanctuary have contributed greatly to the creation of such a place and also to its upkeep. Some notable recent effort by the villagers is their decision to not burst crackers during Diwali and they have upheld their decisions for almost two decades. This initiative taken by the people in the surrounding villages has been a morale booster to all other villages and cities in the state. The concern of people towards the sanctuary shows the world how a united cause can even change nature.

Flowing adjacent to Vellode the lower Bhavani canal is the lifeline of the sanctuary that makes sure the water level remains consistent all year round. This phenomenon helps many species stay in the sanctuary throughout their life without having to leave the protected lands.

Throughout the duration of the lockdown, the sanctuary has been modified a few times, and places inside the sanctuary restored for the accommodation of an even larger number of birds. The changes were also made with the interest of tourists in mind. The efforts taken have helped the local economy grow and the people who visit the sanctuary are also happy because of the improvisations in the infrastructure.

The plans haven’t stopped there, both the local community and the Erode Forest department have many more ideas and are hoping to improve the sanctuary into something even better. The sanctuary too has helped the human race in many ways. One such way is by creating a better ecosystem so that we can cultivate more crops. The bird droppings have enriched the nearby ayacut lands with minerals and nutrients and the yields have increased significantly as reported by the farmers.

The Vellore bird sanctuary is an icon of inspiration to any conservation or restoration project because it has proved that humans can coexist with nature even in the age of technology. The headstrong warriors protecting the sanctuary as their own treasure chest prove that love for all life still exists among humans. The officials who have brought illegal poaching to a still have earned the respect of not just the people living there but the respect of all the wildlife in the area. This is not an achievement but just the start of a revolution.



Pondicherry’s Unique Reptile Story

When most think of Pondicherry, they usually think of the picturesque French colonies and resorts, the clean-looking beaches, and the Auroville township. But known only to locals, it is a very interesting species of reptile. Described first by Edward Blyth in 1853, the reptile according to his lens, had “a long slender body, an elongated tail, and a pointed head.” Nothing interesting so far. Sounds like any other gecko. However, the next few lines were what made this reptile unique. In the words of Blyth, “A dewlap exists in both sexes (of the reptile), which can be puffed out at pleasure.” He was referring to the Pondicherry Fan Throated Lizard.

8 inches in height, and weighing merely a few grams, the Sitana Ponticeriana, as is its scientific name, has over 15 different species and is now found almost all over the coast of India. The Pondicherry fan-throated lizards evolved over 26 million years ago when they split from kangaroo lizards, their closest living relative. They were able to adjust to the changing habitat from cool, humid woods to hot, dry grasslands, while their kangaroo counterparts were unable to do so.

Now coming to what many call the USP of the lizard, the dewlap, or fan as most people call it. They display their colorful dewlaps in full capacity to be visible to potential mates. The color of their dewlaps changes as the weather changes. This is mainly because the weather affects their energy levels, which in turn affects the color of the dewlaps. Days with bright sun provide energy to the lizard, bringing out the most color in the dewlaps; while overcast weather forces the lizard to display a white-colored fan, due to low energy levels in the reptile.

Similar to most animals in the wild, these creatures display their dewlap during the mating season, which occurs after the end of the monsoon. During that time, changes can also be seen in their behavior, as they climb over rocks and show off their dewlaps in order to assert dominance. When fighting over a female or over territory, they hardly throw hands (legs in this case) at each other i.e., they hardly get involved in a physical fight. Rather, they hop and move around tactically provoking each other by moving towards each other, in a bipedal gait, finding the best lighting to display their fans. They mainly do this because the colors of their dewlaps are an excellent basis for genetic health.

Fortunately, these creatures are present in the wild in abundance and are therefore in the category of ‘least concern’ on the IUNC scale. So, the next time you think of Pondicherry or that place, make sure to look for and include the Fan throated lizard among other things. You will not be disappointed.






Picture Credits:



India’s Largest Lake is Struggling to Breathe – The Major Issues Plaguing Vembanad

Often at times, when people hear of Kerala, they think of, naturally, bananas, coconuts, lush plantations, and of course, the infamous houseboats. When you look up pictures of Kerala and see the beautifully crafted houseboats floating through a clear body of water, it is likely that you are looking at the Vembanad Lake, the largest lake in India, the second largest wetland system in the country, and also one that is inching towards extinction.

Spanning across various districts in the state, the Vembanad Lake is a major hotspot for a plethora of species of aquatic creatures, such as prawns and pearlfish. The lake is also a major area for bird migration, and as a result, the Kumarakom bird sanctuary, a popular tourist destination, is located on the east coast of the lake. The lake has also been labeled a Ramsar site, given its ecological importance, which deems the lake to be of international importance as a wetland under the Ramsar Convention, which is associated with UNESCO. However, given the recent patterns in climate change, scientists estimate the lake’s extinction to occur in the next 50 years.

Another major area of concern arises with regard to the pollution found in the water. A study conducted by the Kerala State Pollution Control Board found the water to be highly saturated in heavy metals and pesticides, while another study highlights the concentration of microplastics found in the waters. This is alarming, especially when you consider that these contaminants are ingested by the organisms residing in the waters, who contribute a major part to the diet of locals. This sets off a chain of events that eventually results in biological magnification, which is in turn unimaginably harmful to human health.

This is especially concerning to those residing in the Kuttanad region, also known as Kerala’s “rice bowl” through which the lake flows, as large parts of the water body were reclaimed for paddy cultivation following the Bengal famine.

Kerala’s history with paddy, and as a result, rice, has been turbulent. Rice cultivation in the state can be traced back to 3000 BC, and since then has remained a staple in the diet of the people residing there, as well as a major part of the state’s economy, although there has been a sharp decline in its cultivation over the past few decades. Although rice cultivation is not as economically important to the state as it once was, the crop still remains crucial ecologically, as the flood-prone state benefits from the natural drainage and water-conserving properties of the crop.

Kuttanad, which is the area with the lowest altitude in India, lacks proper drainage facilities, and as a result, is the area that suffers the highest levels of threat as a result of Vembanad’s current situation. The region’s low-lying nature and poor facilities have led to an accumulation of pollutants, such as insecticides and pesticides. These pollutants, naturally, contaminate the paddy crops in the area and make them harmful to consume. The lake, which has also reported high levels of fecal contamination in other districts and areas around Kuttanad has led to reported cases of cholera, typhoid fever, and E.coli.

Waste from houseboats, a study found, is also a major cause of pollution for the freshwater body. Houseboats alone dump roughly 23 thousand liters of waste into the waters, and matters were made worse due to the dysfunctional nature of the sewage treatment plant for houseboats. This treatment plant was even shut down in 2019 as it was found that the waste is not being treated properly, rather, waste was dumped back into the lake.

The above problems surrounding the Vembanad Lake have led to people pointing fingers all over. Individuals blame corporations, while corporations, unwilling to admit responsibility, somehow find their way out of the hefty penalties one must face for causing such damage to a natural resource. However, this time-consuming game of pointing fingers has led to a certain conclusion: everyone is responsible in one way or another. Whether it is the individuals by the banks, those on houseboats, corporations responsible for cleaning up, or governments in charge of tracking pollution, all of who have been engaged in blaming each other, the damage has been done and continues to take place.

Rather than assuming that one group of people is solely liable, it is about time everyone begins to work together, to bring back the species who once called the lake their home, reverse the decade-long damage, and ensure that this important ecological and economic site is able to thrive and flourish for the next generations to be able to nurture.


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The Paradox of Renewable Energy in India

Renewable energy sources have been all the buzz over the past decade. They refer to those sources which are replenished at a faster rate than they are consumed. Solar energy, sourced from sun rays, hydro energy, sourced from moving water, and wind power, sourced from winds are the most common forms of renewable energy seen throughout the world.

India’s transition from non-renewable sources has been steady, but not easy, given that in 2021, India still received around 80% of its energy from fuels such as coal and oil. However, given this, it is surprising that India has managed to stand third globally for total renewable power capacity additions, and first for being the fastest in the same category. and has observed a 396% increase in its installed renewable energy capacity over the last decade or so.

In 2022, India installed a record volume of solar power sources, and by establishing a stunning 10 gigawatt of solar capacity, brought the country’s cumulative installed solar capacity to 60 gigawatts. Between 2014 and 2021, the country observed a 15-fold increase in its solar capacity. Most of the solar energy plants in the country are spread around the hot and dry climatic regions of Gujarat and Rajasthan, and the Bhadla Solar Park, the largest solar park in the world, lies in the Jodhpur district of Rajasthan. India also plans to expand these solar power installations with coastal areas, such as offshore areas near the state of Tamil Nadu.

India’s potential for wind energy installation is massive, standing at more than 200 gigawatts, as of May 2022. However, the total installed capacity of wind energy lies at a mere 41 gigawatts, only around 20% of the actual, exploitable capacity. Wind plants tend to be spread over coastal areas, and the state of Tamil Nadu boasts the highest annual wind output and also houses the Muppandal Wind Farm, the largest wind farm in India, and the third largest of its nature in the world.

However, what may seem like a leap in environmental conservation and slowing global warming is paradoxical. On the surface, solar power and wind energy seem like they could do no harm, and it may look like these renewable energy sources are a dream come true for nations and individuals who wish to lessen their carbon footprint. Although that is partially true, deeper research into these resources sheds new light on what we think is the ideal way to help our environment.

With regard to solar energy, a primary cause of concern is with regards to land usage. The installation of large-scale solar facilities can cause land degradation as well as habitat loss. It is also important to note that land used for the installation of these facilities cannot be used for other purposes, therefore drastically decreasing the availability of already scarce usable land. It also brings about questions from activists all over the country. Many feel as though the land used for solar plants could be used for alternate purposes, such as ecological conservation.

Solar panels, also known as photovoltaics, are the most common device used to convert energy from the sun into electrical energy. In 2022, governments of various states commissioned floating photovoltaic projects. For renewable energy enthusiasts, this was a matter of excitement, given that it would enable the country to reach its target of deriving 500 gigawatts of energy from renewable sources by 2030 quicker, however, ecologists did not share the same enthusiasm. Photovoltaics, according to them, set off a chain reaction that disrupts aquatic habitats and as a result, aquatic organisms. A similar fear has been shared by scientists in the state of Rajasthan, where at least 7 critically endangered Great Indian Bustards have died since May 2017 after coming into contact with high-power transmission lines.

Solar panels in rural areas are also reliant on lead batteries, and given that the recycling of these batteries is poorly regulated in India, it leads to the toxic substance being released back into the environment, which defeats the environmental-safe claim of solar panels.

The issues regarding wind energy are mainly highlighted by the suffering caused in the Western Ghats, comprising the states of Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Goa, Maharashtra, Karnataka, and Gujarat. The almost unbelievably large Muppandal wind farm has not only helped the state boost its renewable energy levels but has also led to a loss in traditional job opportunities for the people in the region, who once used the vast lands to carry out agricultural practices. Those practicing agriculture in the region also find that their crops do not yield as they used to, and find that natural winds have a different impact on their produce.

A study conducted in Maharashtra also showed how the implementation of wind turbines has changed the region’s ecology. Areas with wind turbines recorded a higher concentration of fan-throated lizards, the species chosen for the study. This leads to higher competition for food and has also resulted in a color change in the lizards, given the lesser availability of their traditional diet in the area – beetles. The lizards were also tested for stress hormones, and those living near wind turbines recorded a lesser amount of the same, given that predatory raptor birds were sighted four times less in areas around wind turbines.

Wind farms, naturally, pose a threat to airborne species, like birds and bats. Often at times standing in their migratory path, the turbines have led to a disruption in migration patterns and have caused an above-average death rate, with various reports of airborne creatures meeting their unfortunate fate due to the rotor blade of wind turbines.

Although renewable energy at a glance does seem like the most viable and sustainable option for governments, corporations, and households to switch out their consumption and do their part for the environment, it is important to look into the potential negative side of these sources. Of course, the adverse effects do not take away from the immense positive impacts of renewable energy, however, it is crucial for us to push for better planning, to ensure that everyone can enjoy a lower carbon footprint with a lower ecological opportunity cost.


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https://scroll.in/article/901384/in-the-western-ghats-wind-farming-is-making-lizards-c hange-colour-says-new-study

https://energy.economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/renewable/wind-farm-predator-eff ect-hits-ecosystems-study-by-indian-institute-of-science/66519289

https://india.mongabay.com/2022/07/a-new-study-from-karnataka-evidences-the-imp act-of-windfarms-on-biodiversity/#:~:text=Wind%20turbines%20have%20been%20k nown,%2C%20especially%20birds%2C%20is%20increasing.


Protecting our ‘green’ water

“No water, no life. No blue, no green,” said legendary oceanographer, deep sea explorer and field researcher Dr. Sylvia Earle. To define access and management of fresh water, water is referred to as blue and green.

Blue water is surface, groundwater found in lakes, rivers and reservoirs.

Green water is the rainwater held in soil and available to plants. It is the water absorbed by roots, used by plants, and released back to the atmosphere through the process of transpiration. ‘Green water’ relates to the water-holding capacity of soil.

To protect our Earth’s green water, it is important that the water cycle is circular: water lost in evaporation is returned back to the atmosphere forming clouds and rain and this is what sustains some of our most important ecosystems and rainforests. Rainforests are the lifeline of world’s fresh water and play a critical role in regulating the water cycle and circulating ‘green water’ back to the soil with the Amazon rainforest which makes up roughly 40% of global tropical forests, storing 112 billion tons of carbon dioxide helping stabilize temperatures around the globe.

So, how do we prevent this loss of ‘green’ water?

Commodity-driven deforestation in the tropical forests is the single biggest challenge affecting our global food systems. Food production depends on green water. Around 60% of staple food production globally and 80% of cultivated land is rain-fed. In these areas, the only water reaching the crop is what rain provides. Even irrigated crops rely on rain to some extent.

We humans are the problem. Asia’s middle class has doubled since 2000 and hence a dramatic increase in demand for agricultural commodities has resulted in more than 60 million hectares of forest loss in the tropical areas of Brazil, Indonesia and South-East Asia. China and India’s imports, combined with Brazil’s and Indonesia’s domestic consumption of soybeans, palm oil, pulp and paper, and beef, is rising 43% to 264 million metric tons by 2025.

Rather than harvesting crops for direct food consumption, crops are being harvested for animal feed, exports, industrial uses and processing. On top of the list, are palm oil and soybean followed by cocoa and coffee with cattle meat rising at a slower pace as per graph below. The food industry uses up more than 70% of the world-wide usage of palm-oil.

The entire harvesting patterns have changed. Brazil, Argentina and Mexico used to harvest food crops, but today the switching of crops is focused on exports and processed foods. Brazil is now the largest exporter of beef and leather switching from rice, wheat and maize. In India, the increased demand for branded and convenient items, modernization of retail and food service sectors has exponentially increased demand for palm oil.

Investing in trees, keeping Amazon alive, restoring forests:

The world continues to lose primary tropical forest equivalent in size to Belgium each year. Amazon rainforests are facing an estimated 17% loss of its forest cover over the last 40 years mainly due to agricultural land converted to pastures meant for cattle grazing and rearing. The Amazon is referred to as ‘lungs’ of the world as its healthy forests store carbon and an estimated 340 million tons of carbon-di-oxide removed from the air each year.

Read this story about how Amazon’s forests when managed by local (indigenous) people were safeguarded and preserved for decades. For Indigenous people and other communities, their land is a primary source of food, medicine, fuelwood and construction materials, as well as employment, income, welfare, security, culture and spirituality. Protecting indigenous forests and their communities is the most cost-effective carbon storage mechanism that we recognize and defend against deforestation.

In a landmark move last year, the United Nations General Assembly recognized that a clean, healthy and sustainable environment is a universal human right. In India too, Madras high court ruled that ‘Mother Nature’ has the same legal status as a human being and it is our environmental duty to future generations to preserve nature .

These help strengthen constitutional rights that empower people be active participants in environmental protection. All countries under the Paris agreement have committed to conserve billions of trees and India which is the third largest carbon emitter has an ambitious goal to restore 26 million hectares of forest land by 2030.

In conclusion:

We are facing a wicked problem, demand for commodities is resulting in forest-loss impacting farmers and local communities. Actions are needed to improve productivity of land, so farmers have incentives to continue farming sustainably, reduce food waste, shift our diets by embracing plant-based alternatives and keep our forests standing. Restoration of degraded land through practices such as reforestation, sustainable agricultural practices and water efficient investments can transform usage of land collectively and thereby protect our ‘green’ water, the main ingredient that balances carbon cycle and keeps Earth ‘green and cool’.

Rainforests of Nagaland, India

The Cradle of Speciation

The term “cradle of speciation” describes an area where several new species have evolved over the years. High levels of biodiversity and a wide variety of ecosystems, such as mountains, islands, and rainforests, are frequent characteristics of these areas.

India is known for its remarkable biodiversity, making it a cradle of speciation. The country has a unique geographical location, lying at the crossroads of three biogeographical regions: the Palearctic, the Oriental, and the Ethiopian regions. This unique position, coupled with diverse climatic conditions, has contributed to the evolution and diversification of several endemic species in India.

Source: Teachoo

One of the most prominent regions of speciation in India is the Western Ghats, a 1,600 km long mountain range that runs along the western coast of the country.

The Western Ghats are recognized as a biodiversity hotspot and are home to an estimated 5,000 species of flowering plants, 139 mammal species, 508 bird species, and over 200 reptile species. The Western Ghats have a long history of isolation and have been isolated from other regions of India for over 150 million years. This has allowed for the evolution of a large number of endemic species, with several new species being discovered every year. The high level of endemism in the Western Ghats is due to the diverse topography, unique microclimates, and geological history of the region.

Source: India Climate Dialogue

Another region of speciation in India is the Eastern Himalayas, which cover the north-eastern states of India. The Eastern Himalayas are home to a large number of endemic species, including the red panda, clouded leopard, and the Himalayan musk deer. The region is also home to several new species of birds and reptiles that have been discovered in recent years. The Eastern Himalayas are known for their rugged terrain, high altitude, and extreme weather conditions, which have contributed to the evolution of unique species in the region. The region also has a rich cultural heritage and is home to several indigenous communities that have coexisted with nature for centuries.

            Source: World Atlas

Therefore, India is a cradle of speciation, with several regions contributing to the evolution and diversification of endemic species. The Western Ghats and the Eastern Himalayas are two prominent regions that have played a significant role in the evolution of unique species in the country. Protecting these regions and their biodiversity is crucial for the conservation of India’s unique flora and fauna.



The Salt Invasion

Salt is ubiquitous, a commodity we cannot live without. But you will be fascinated to know that ancient history has several stories of sowing salt on the lands of enemies as an act of revenge. Jewish, Roman, and Assyrian texts dating back to more than 1000 years contain references to leaders and armies who sowed the lands of their enemies with salt. Salting the land was seen as a symbolic act, a curse, intended to make the land infertile and that nobody would be able to return to the land ever again.

Fast forward to now, as sea-levels rise, we have a bigger threat – SALT INTRUSION.

Soaring temperatures cause greater evaporation, longer dry seasons, progressive loss of surface water and low-lying coastal areas are increasingly being inundated with salt water. Both ground water as well as surface water sources of drinking water have become ‘saltier’.

With population and economic growth higher than ever and atmospheric concentrations of carbon-dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide and other greenhouse gases on the rise, our oceans keep absorbing around 30% of these gases causing warmer oceans that rise and intrude into river estuaries .

Heavily impacted deltas:

Salt-water intrusion threatens livelihood of the world’s largest deltas such as Ganges Brahmaputra, Indus, Mekong, Mississippi, Ayeyarwady, Nile, Red, and Pearl River Deltas.

Coastal zones contain more than 40% of the global population and these densely populated areas have an ever-increasing demand for fresh ground water. Over exploitation of ground water resources is accelerating sea water intrusion into freshwater systems mainly due to density. Saltwater is denser than freshwater and as more and more freshwater is pumped out, saltwater begins to take its place.

Our freshwater aquifers are becoming increasingly salinized due to large-scale groundwater usage for agriculture, land reclamation, unplanned shrimp culture and inadequate water management systems and the table below highlights how the coastal states in India are struggling with ground water becoming increasing saline.

Innovative ways of growing crops in saline water

Only 2% of water in the world is fresh water of which 70% is used for agriculture. Saline agriculture is a practical solution of growing salt tolerant crops in salt (or brackish) water. Brackish water is found when sea water meets fresh water and increasingly used for fish breeding, irrigation of crops like cotton and barley that have high tolerance for salt levels.

Kuttanad farming:

Coastal Kerala has been long experiencing floods every year and its Kuttanad region spanning three districts of Alappuzha, Kottayam and Pathanamthitta has paddy cultivated below mean sea-levels. The Kuttanad farming method is a complex mosaic of fragmented agricultural landscapes divided in three structures: wetlands used for paddy activities and fish catching, garden lands used for coconut, tubers and food crops plantation and brackish water areas used for inland fishing and aquaculture. Kuttanad paddy fields have bio-bunds made of coir, banana waste, bamboo and clay to keep away the salty sea water making its way into the Vembanad lake, the longest and largest lake of Kerala and the lifeline of the paddy fields.

Jabal wheat farming:

Coming to wheat, a new drought and salt tolerant variety of durum wheat called ‘Jabal’ (means “mountain” in Arabic ) has been developed by farmers and crop scientists by crossing a commercial durum wheat with a wild relative from an arid region of Syria, to create a new durum variety that can withstand drought. Jabal can cope with erratic and extreme conditions caused by climate breakdown and has evolved in nature to survive extreme heat, flooding and poor soils. With wheat prices soaring due to heatwaves and widespread drought, Jabal variety has stood strong among other varieties destroyed by drought and its distinctive black spikes also produced high yields of plump grains that made tasty bread, scientists said.

In conclusion:

Our fresh-water aquifers, drainage river basins and water supplies are becoming increasingly saline, and this continues to be one of the most important global challenges for agriculture, industries and coastal water-resource managers as contamination and degradation of natural ecosystems is a climate change driven onslaught.

Reducing human-induced environmental degradation by keeping our natural ecosystems intact and empowering people to be active participants in ecological protection is key.

A few ways for common citizens to lessen this risk is to lower food consumption of water-intensive grains such as rice and wheat and include other grains like millets (sorghum, ragi, pearl millets etc.) into their diet. These ancient grains are making a comeback and are the most farmer friendly of crops considered as the lazy farmer’s crop! They are nutritious and high in protein and fiber as shown in table below and check out these interesting recipes that make millets a must-have in your kitchen. Foxtail millets in particular have less carbohydrates than rice (see chart below) with several health benefits and inspires us to be master chefs in our own kitchens.


Theri Kaadu – The Red Desert in Tamil Nadu

When we think of Indian deserts, we only think of the Thar. The Sindh and Punjab provinces of Pakistan and Rajasthan both contain portions of the Thar or Great Indian Desert. The majority of us might not be familiar with the small desert found in Tamil Nadu called Theri. It only exists in the  Tiruchendur, Thoothukudi district, and is made up of red sand dunes. They are composed of marine sediments that date back at least to the Quaternary Period.

They have a relatively limited capacity for water and nutrient retention. The possibility of aerodynamic lift exists in the dunes. This is the force that causes things to go upward. The force that opposes weight is this one.

Source: Civilsdaily

The current Theri could have been produced by the local limitation of beach sand following sea regression. Sand grains moved and dunes accumulated as a result of the Western Ghats’ strong winds blowing east. The southwest monsoon winds that blow from May to September transport the red sand over the surface of a vast strip of red soil in the plains of the Nanguneri region, which is about 57 kilometers away in the Tirunelveli district. Wind erosion is said to be mostly caused by deforestation and a lack of vegetation in the Aralvaimozhi gap as well as the Nanguneri plains.

Source: Inmathi

The settlements of Nalumavadi, Pudhukudi, Sonaganvilai, Kayamozhi, and Paramankurichi are located on the southern bank of Thamirabarani, the state’s shortest river. The Bay of Bengal borders Theri Kaadu, which is a location sandwiched between these villages, on one side. About 12,000 acres, or 50 square kilometers, make up Theri Kaadu. Although cultivation is not feasible in Theri Kaadu, palm trees, and cashew nut trees are widespread. But if there is a drought, these could perish. In order to support themselves, the peasants worked incredibly hard to establish cashew and palm trees.

Water pockets that form after rainstorms become temporary lakes and ponds. These areas develop agricultural grounds around these water features. They are known as Tharuvai Kaadu by locals. In these spots, the villagers are currently growing plants like drumstick trees.

Source: Roaming Owls

The Fan-Throated Lizard is a significant member of the unique fauna that can be discovered. The lizard is a special animal that can endure even the worst climates. It possesses what appears to be an umbrella-like neck. Another common snake is the saw-scaled viper.

Source: Encyclopedia of Life

Among the species found here are the Black Rumped Woodpecker, Common Lora, Spotted Owl, Green Bea Eater, and White Breasted Water Hen. Some varieties of butterflies are the Crimson Tip, Blue Tiger, and Plain Tiger.

The environment has been damaged by widespread sand mining. The habitat for living things is in jeopardy. Theri Kaadu should be made a protected area so that the conservation department can take better care of it in order to stop this from happening.



India, a Megadiverse Country

by Rajshri Ravichandran

India is one of the world’s 12 major biodiversity countries. Ten biogeographic regions make up the nation. Diverse physical characteristics and climatic conditions have created biological habitats such as forests, grasslands, marshes, coastal and marine ecosystems, and desert ecosystems, which house and support enormous biodiversity.

Additionally, this nation is one of the 12 major hubs for the development of domesticated animals and plants. It is regarded as the native habitat of 114 domesticated animal breeds, as well as 167 key plant species, including cereals, millets, fruits, sauces, vegetables, pulses, and oilseeds. The number of indigenous flowering plant species in the nation is about 4,900. These are spread over 47 families and 141 genera.

Source: Bored Panda

The preservation of biodiversity is essential for India not just because it provides many essential goods and services for humanity, but also because it is closely linked to the provision of livelihoods and the improvement of economic factors for millions of locals, supporting sustainable development and the reduction of poverty. The forest sector in India, which is widely regarded as a key performer in programs to reduce poverty, is an example of an advantage obtained from biodiversity. Nearly 11% of India’s greenhouse gas emissions are offset by its trees. In India, the forests provide a living for close to 200 million people.

Source: The Logical Indian

The majority of the many plant, animal, and aquatic species in the environment are concentrated in four regions of India, which are referred to as mega diversity hotspots. India’s four diversity hotspots are the Himalayas, Western Ghats, North-East, and Nicobar Islands.

The primary threats to biodiversity are habitat fragmentation, degradation, and loss; excessive resource use; dwindling genetic variety; invasive alien species; a declining base of forest resources; climate change and drought; the effects of development projects; and the effects of pollution. The demand to intensify and accelerate efforts for biodiversity conservation and sustainable use, as well as for the equitable and just sharing of benefits resulting from the use of genetic resources, is urgent given the diverse sociocultural context and frequently competing priorities of various stakeholders.

Source: Atlas & Boots

By learning more about environmental concerns, being more conscious of the effects of biodiversity loss, and strengthening our support for governmental policies and initiatives that protect our priceless ecosystems, we can contribute to biodiversity conservation. By assisting in the recovery of endangered species and preventing the extinction of other species, we can serve as environmental educators and role models.

Enhancing the quality of the soil, water, air, and other natural resources as well as maintaining and preserving endangered animals and their habitat by giving the land to a land trust are all examples of habitat stewardship activities. Determine the hazards to these places as well as the locations of vital wildlife habitats for endangered species. Remove hazards where you can, while maintaining natural regions and protecting vital wildlife habitats by not disturbing them, especially nesting and resting areas, and creating bird and bat habitations to encourage animal use.



Wood Wide Web

by Rajshri Ravichandran

Trees, from the massive redwoods to the delicate dogwoods, cannot exist without their microbial companions. A large, linked network of organisms called fungi and bacteria, numbering in the millions, exchange nourishment between soil and tree roots throughout the forest. Currently, using data of much more than 28,000 species of trees found in more than 70 nations, scientists have for the first time defined this “wood wide network” on a worldwide scale.

Source: One Earth

This global map of the fungi living beneath the soil reveals how the world’s ecosystems function, just like an MRI scan of the brain reveals how the brain functions. What we discover is that particular kinds of microbes inhabit particular regions of the globe, and by comprehending this, we can determine how to repair various ecosystems and understand how the climate is changing.

As trees undergo photosynthesis, they transfer carbohydrates into the earth, giving the structure underneath energy. To ensure that nutrients are supplied fairly throughout the area, the subterranean microbes link each plant in exchange. Key information on all species on our planet is provided by this finding, which gave rise to the term “world wide web”.

Source: GoldBio

Arbuscular mycorrhizal networks and ectomycorrhizal networks are two different kinds of networks that connect various kinds of plants and fungi. The ectomycorrhizal (EM) fungi, which create extensive underground networks, are found around the roots of oak and pine trees, for instance. The arbuscular mycorrhizae (AM), on the other hand, burrow directly into the cells of trees’ roots and are preferred by maple and cedar trees. The cooler areas (North America, Europe, and portions of Asia), where organic matter decomposes slowly, are dominated by network-building EM fungus. However, AM fungi, which typically construct smaller webs and engage in less inter-tree trade, are dominant in the warmer tropical woods.

Source: European Scientist

Due to trees’ ability to warn nearby neighbors of impending risks, the wood wide web is essential for preserving tree health under adverse situations. A network of trees can communicate with one another to alert one another to potential danger before releasing hormones and substances to defend themselves against environmental tensions like predators, pollutants, or pathogenic bacteria. The survival of life on Earth depends heavily on trees. By absorbing carbon dioxide, which warms the globe, they create clean oxygen that we can breathe.

With the assistance of the wood wide network, trees can cooperate to withstand droughts, deforestation, and increasing temperatures.



മീനച്ചിലാർ മനസ് തുറന്നപ്പോൾ

എന്നെ നിങ്ങൾക്ക് നന്നായി അറിയാമായിരിക്കും, ഞാൻ മീനച്ചിലാർ സഹ്യനിൽ നിന്നും ഒഴുകിയെത്തുന്ന പാലായുടെ സ്വന്തം മീനച്ചിലാർ. ഒഴുകിയെത്തുമ്പോൾ പല പേരുകൾ കേൾക്കുമെങ്കിലും മീനച്ചില്ലെന്ന് കേൾക്കാനാ എനിക്ക് ഇഷ്ടം. വരുന്ന വഴിയെല്ലാം ചാടിക്കളിച്ചും, ചെറിയ കുറുമ്പുകൾ കാട്ടിയും ഞാൻ ഇങ്ങനെ ഒഴുകികൊണ്ടേ ഇരിക്കുന്നു. ജനിച്ചപ്പോൾ എന്റെ ഏക ജോലി സഹ്യനിലേ മഴവെള്ളം അങ്ങ് വേമ്പനാട് കായലിൽ കൊണ്ടേൽപ്പിക്കുന്നതായിരുന്നു. പക്ഷേ ഞാനിന്ന് ഒരു വലിയ സമൂഹത്തിനെ ഭാഗമാണ്.

Image Source: The Hindu

ഇക്കണ്ട മനുഷ്യർക്കും സസ്യ ജന്തു ജീവജാലങ്ങൾക്കുമെല്ലാം ജീവജലം നൽകുന്നു, 20 ഓളം മീൻ താരങ്ങളും കൊഞ്ചും കണവയും എല്ലാം എന്നിലൂടെ ജീവിക്കുന്നു. എന്നിൽ ജീവിതം തുടങ്ങി എന്നിൽ ജീവിച്ചു എന്നിൽ അവസാനിക്കുന്ന ഒരായിരം ജീവജാലങ്ങൾ. എന്തോ എന്നെ എല്ലാവര്ക്കും ഇഷ്ടമാണ് .

എന്റെ കുസൃതികള്ക് അപ്പുറം ഈ സമൂഹം എന്നെ എത്രമേൽ സ്നേഹിക്കുന്നു എന്നു ഞാൻ മനസിലാക്കുന്നത് പാലായിൽ എത്തുമ്പോളാ..! പാലാക്കാർ പറയും ഞാൻ പാലായുടെ ആണെന്ന്. അല്ലേലും പാലാ ജൂബിലി തിരുനാളും കടപ്പാട്ടൂർ ഉത്സവവും രാക്കുളി പെരുന്നാളും പിന്നെ നമ്മുടെ മാനിച്ചായനും എല്ലാം പാലക്കാരെന്റെ സ്വകാര്യ അഹങ്കാരമല്ലേ!! അക്കൂട്ടത്തിൽ അവർ എന്നെക്കൂടെ കൂട്ടി.

  ഇക്കണ്ട ദൂരമെല്ലാം ഞാൻ പോയിട്ടും പാലാ ടൗണിലോ നമ്മുടെ സെന്റ് തോമസ് കോളേജിലോ പാലാ പള്ളിയിലോ എനിക്കൊന്ന് കേറാൻ പറ്റാറില്ല. ഞാൻ കാത്തിരിക്കും… എന്നും… മഴ പെയ്യാൻ. അല്ലേലും ഇതൊക്കെ ആരാടാ ആഗ്രഹിക്കാത്തേ.. മഴ പെയ്താൽ ഞാൻ നിറഞ്ഞങ്ങനെ ഒഴുകും.. എന്റെ ഒരു വർഷത്തേ കാത്തിരിപ്പാ.. പാലാ ടൗണിൽ കേറി എല്ലാരേം കാണും, കുരിശു പള്ളിയിൽ ഒന്ന് കേറും.. പിന്നെ എന്റെ കോളേജിലും.. മറ്റെങ്ങും പോലെയല്ല ഞാൻ ടൗണിൽ കേറിവന്നാൽ എല്ലാരും ഓടിയെത്തും എന്നെ കാണാൻ. പിന്നെ ഫുട്ബോളും വോളി ബോളും റോഡിലൂടെ വള്ളം കളിയും അങ്ങനെ എന്റെ വരവ് ഒരു ആഘോഷമാക്കും പാലായിലെ പിള്ളേർ.

വെള്ളം ഇറങ്ങുമ്പോൾ ഞാൻ നൽകിയ മണ്ണിൽ അവർ കൃഷി ചെയ്തു. ഞാൻ നൽകുന്ന വെള്ളത്തിൽ അവർ ജീവിതം നയിച്ചു.. ഞാൻ സന്തോഷിക്കുകയായിരുന്നു ഇത്രയും നാൾ.. പക്ഷേഎന്തിനോ നിങ്ങളുടെ സ്വാർഥ താല്പര്യങ്ങൾ എന്റെ കണ്ണിനെ ഈറനണിയിക്കുന്നു. നഞ്ചു കലക്കി മീനിനെ കൊന്നു മതിയാകാതെ വന്നപ്പോൾ നിങ്ങൾ സ്ഫോടക വസ്തുക്കൾ ഉപയോഗിച്ചു. ഞാൻ പരന്നു ഒഴുകാതിരിക്കാൻ വശങ്ങൾ നിങ്ങൾ കയ്യേറി. എന്നെ നിങ്ങൾ ഒരു കുപ്പ തൊട്ടിയാക്കി. വർഷങ്ങളോളം മാലിന്യം പേറി ഞാൻ ഇന്നിപ്പോ മടുത്തു തുടങ്ങി.

 ദയവായി നിങ്ങൾ ഇത് കേൾക്കണം. എനിക്ക് ഒന്നേ പറയാനൊള്ളൂ മക്കളെ. എനിക്ക് ഒരു ജീവിതമേയുള്ളൂ നിങ്ങൾ എന്നെ സംരക്ഷിക്കണം, ഞാൻ നിങ്ങളെ പൊന്നുപോലെ നോക്കാം.. നിങ്ങളുടെ പൂർവികരെ സംരിക്ഷിച്ചപോലെ


Luni River

Luni River is the only saline river in India. The word “Luni” is taken from the Sanskrit word “lavanavari,” which signifies salt water. The high salinity of the river is the reason behind its name. For the initial hundred kilometres, the freshwater in Luni is fresh, but as it gets closer to Balotra in Barmer, it starts to get salty from the high amount of salt of the land it flows on.

Source: Zee News

The Luni River rises 772 metres above sea level in Rajasthan’s Ajmer district from the Naga hills of the Aravalli Range. The river Luni, locally known as Sagarmati, flows through the Rajasthani districts of Nagaur, Pali, Jodhpur, Barmer, and Jalore as it travels 495 kilometres in a south-western direction towards Gujarat. The river gradually runs out in Gujarat’s Barine, close to the Rann of Kutch. The astounding feature is that the river’s stream sinks across a shallow bank before coming to an end and not entering any other bodies of water.

The river Luni, while being saline, is a major irrigation supplier for Rajasthan’s parched regions, and as a result, the residents consider it to be sacred. Maharaja Jaswant Singh of Jodhpur constructed the Jaswant Sagar Dam close to Pichiyak hamlet in the Jodhpur area in 1892 to harness the water from Luni.

Source: RajRas

The Luni basin is bordered to the east by the Aravalli range and Gujarat plains, on the north by the Rajasthan sand, and on the south and west by the Arabian Sea. The Luni basin has a total area of 32,879 square kilometres and contains a number of locations in the Ajmer region, from Nagaur to Pali, then proceeding on to Jodhpur and Barmer and finally entering the Jalore district.

The major rivers that flow into Luni include the Jawai, Sukri, Guhiya, Bandi (Hemawas), and Jojari rivers. Jojari serves as the only tributary on the right bank; there are eight on the left side. Additionally, it is the only branch of the Luni River which does not come from the Aravalli Mountains.

Source: Hindustan Times

Wild creatures including the wolf, Indian fox, desert fox, and Indian porcupine are significant species in the area, in addition to large mammals like the Indian gazelle, blackbuck, and nilgai or blue bull.


“Luni, the Indian river with saline water that doesn’t drain into any sea or ocean: Facts you need to know”. India Today, November 1, 2018.


“Luni River: Origin, Tributaries, basin, Dams and Concerns”, RajRas.


“Hydrogeological Atlas of Rajasthan Luni River Basin”, Rajasthan Government.


Sacred Groves Across India

by Rajshri Ravichandran

Source: Teahub

A substantial portion of India’s floral and faunal richness can be found in sacred groves, which are lengths of forest or other natural habitats of varied sizes that are typically safeguarded by the local populations. They are regarded as sacred and are frequently connected to temples, monks, or shrines. Since the spaces beneath these trees are commonly devoted to a regional divinity, the local populations take charge of and are responsible for maintaining these locations. On the basis of the idea that all natural creatures must be conserved, several groups in India practice nature worship. Endangered and rare species can be found in sacred forests. These groves also stand for an ancient heritage of environmental conservation, serving as natural biodiversity gem homes, and are home to numerous rare and endangered species.

The sacred groves have been sustainably preserved by surrounding communities and act as significant receptacles for various plants and animals. They frequently serve as the final remaining habitat for exotic species in a given area. The woods frequently have ponds, streams, or springs nearby, meeting the locals’ needs for water. Aquifers are recharged with the help of the vegetative cover. The sacred groves’ greenery helps the town’s soil health and reduces soil erosion.

Source: The Hindu

Even though the sacred groves are spread across India, they are majorly found in forested areas such as the Western Ghats, the Himalayas, and the northeastern and central hill tracts. Different species of medical plants, animals, birds, lizards, snakes, frogs, and many other endangered living creatures are found in these sacred groves. 

List of Scared Groves in Each State:

S.NoStateTerm for Sacred GroveNo. of documented sacred forest
1Andhra PradeshPavithravana677
2Arunachal PradeshGumpa Forests159
3AssamSacred Grove29
4BiharSarhuli Mander43
6GoaDeorai, Pann93
7GujaratSabarkantha, Dahod, Banaskantha42
8HaryanaGurudwara grove57
9Himachal PradeshKul Deveta329
10Jammu & KashmirBani92
11JharkhandSarana/ Jaherthan29
12KarnatakaDevara Vana, Devara Kadu, Huli devarakadu, Nagavan, Bhatappavana, Jatakappan bana, Ghowdibana, Kan1476
13KeralaKavu, Sarp Kavu1096
14Madhya PradeshSharana, Devkot, Matikot, Devsthali, Budhadev170
15MaharashtraPavithravan, Deovan, Deorai, Devgudi, Pen Gada/ Gonds, Devarahati2820
16ManipurGamkhap, Mauhak166
17MeghalayaKi Law Lyngdoh, Ki Law Kyntang, Ki Law Niam105
18OdishaJahera, Thakuramma188
19PuducherryKovil Kadu108
20RajasthanVani, Malvan, Kenkri, Orans, Shamalt deh, Devabani, Jogmaya560
22Tamil NaduSwami Shola, Koil Kadu, Kattu Koil, Vanakkoil1275
24UttaraKhandDeo Bhumi, Bugyal133
25Uttar PradeshDev van, Pavithravan32
26West BengalGramthan, Santalburitan, Shitalatan, Haritan, Sabitritan, jahera, Deo Tasara, Mawmund562



India’s Latest RAMSAR Sites You Need to Keep An Eye Out For

by Rajshri Ravichandran

Ramsar Sites constitute wetlands of worldwide significance that have been recognised according to the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands for their significance in preserving biodiversity or for possessing important, uncommon, or unusual wetland varieties.

Source: UPSC Colorfull notes

The total of Ramsar sites across India has now increased to a total of 75 owing to the addition of 11 additional wetlands to the database recently. Tamil Nadu has four locations, Odisha has three, Jammu & Kashmir has two, Madhya Pradesh has one, and Maharashtra has one. The classification of these areas would aid in the administration, conservation, and efficient use of wetlands.

To survive the brutal winters in their nesting sites, dozens of bird species from Central Asia and Russia relocate to warmer tropical territories, especially India and the tropical regions. In accordance with the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS), the Central Asian Flyway (CAF), which spans 30 nations, protects at least 279 populations of 182 migratory waterbird species, which include 29 species that are attacked or near danger to extinction worldwide and that breed, relocate, and spend the winter in the area. During the wintertime, these migratory birds use the wetlands of India as feeding and resting areas.

Source: The Indian Express

The Chitrangudi Bird Sanctuary, Suchindram Theroor Wetland Complex, Vaduvur Bird Sanctuary, and Kanjirankulam Bird Sanctuary are the latest Indian wetlands in Tamil Nadu that are of worldwide importance. The combined amount of these wetlands of worldwide importance in Tamil Nadu has become 14, surpassing Uttar Pradesh’s aggregate of ten such regions.

Source: The New Indian Express

Winter migrating birds thrive in the Chitrangudi Bird Sanctuary. A total of 50 birds from 30 different families have been recorded at the location.

The Vaduvur Bird Sanctuary is a huge irrigation tank that was constructed by humans to serve as a refuge for migratory birds since this offers a good habitat for nutrition, housing, and nesting grounds. The majority of the tanks studied contained Indian Pond Heron Ardeola grayii. In tanks, there were high densities of wintering waterfowl such Eurasian Wigeon Anas penelope, Northern Pintail Anas acuta, and Garganey Anas querquedula.

The Kanjirankulam Bird Sanctuary is well-known for being a place where a variety of migratory heron species lay their eggs. These herons nest in the tall babul trees that are prevalent there. Between October and February, migrating waterbirds that nest in this area include the painted stork, white ibis, black ibis, tiny egret, and great egret. Since the endangered Spot-billed Pelican Pelecanus philippensis breeds there, the region serves as an Important Bird and Biodiversity Area (IBA).

Source: Global Green News



La Nina and El Nino Effect in India

by Rajshri Ravichandran

Trade winds sweep west along the equator in the Pacific Ocean under typical conditions, carrying hot water from Latin America towards Asia. Upwelling is the process by which cool water flows from the deep to substitute that warm water. These typical conditions are disrupted by the opposing climate patterns known as La Nina and El Nino. The El Nino-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) cycle is the term used to describe this phenomenon. La Nina that lasts longer than a year are rather typical. It’s more likely that an El Nino will only occur once per year.

The term “El Nino” refers to the extensive ocean-atmosphere climate interaction associated with cyclical increases in sea surface temperatures throughout the central and eastern Equatorial Pacific.

Source: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

The air rises and the surface air pressure over the Eastern Pacific decreases as a result of this warm water. On the other side, the temperatures cool off Asia and the western Pacific. Increased surface pressure results from this over the Indian Ocean, Australia and Indonesia. Therefore, as high pressure accumulates over the cool ocean waters, the drought begins to spread throughout Asia while it is raining in the Eastern Pacific. Pressure difference in the western Pacific is connected to it. El Nino has a negative effect on India’s agriculture and, consequently, its monsoon season. Seabirds and marine mammals struggle to survive or breed during El Nino.

Source: Galapagos Conservation Trust

Contrary to El Nino, La Nina occurs. The weather patterns are stronger than what drives ocean temperatures into Asia as during La Nina phenomena.

Source: The Hindu

Warmer water builds up in the western Pacific Ocean as a result, and cold water in the central and eastern Pacific Oceans. The eastern and central Pacific Ocean tides are colder than usual because of the strong easterly trade winds, which direct warm water into the western Pacific Ocean. Drought in Peru and Ecuador, severe flooding in Australia, high temperatures in the West Pacific, Indian Ocean, off the coast of Somalia, and abundant monsoon rains in India are all effects of La Nina. The Indian monsoon really benefits from a La Nina.

Source: CNN

In the Indian continent, warm weather emerges in the winter while dry conditions and insufficient monsoons develop in the summer. In India, El Nino typically results in a weaker monsoon. However, this isn’t always the case. A study claims that an El Nino is to responsible for 60% of India’s droughts during the previous 130 years. These were years with below-average rainfall of more than 10%. But not every El Nino has been followed by a disastrous monsoon or a catastrophic drought. 70% of farmers rely on rainfall, while the remaining 30% rely on irrigation. As a result, the monsoon is essential for India, where agriculture accounts for over 18% of the country’s GDP (GDP). Demand declines in rural areas as a result of bad rainfall and the ensuing decline in agricultural revenue. Additionally, the government might be compelled to set a minimum support price for crops. Inflation will rise as a result of consumers having to pay more for staples like rice, sugar, and other food goods like cereals and pulses.

Source: Bigstock



Adapting to the landfills of the future

Imagine a world with zero waste where every single product and component that is discarded is either reused, recycled or refurbished and no contaminated residue reaches our waterways ensuring clean and clear water. At the core of this futuristic world is the concept of ‘hyper-circularity’. A hyper circular product is one that can be infinitely recyclable and need not be disposed. Plastics are most widely used for packaging and one good example of a circular product is using biodegradable packaging products from seaweed and plants as an alternative to plastics that do not end up as garbage.

This brings us to an important question, how is the world treating all our garbage and trash today? Majority of the trash finds its way into landfills and by 2050 it is estimated our waterways will have more plastic than fish. In India, majority of municipal solid waste ends up in landfills and municipal landfills are the third-largest source of human-made toxic methane gas in the country. 

Leachate into water:

Contamination of both surface as well as ground water due to human activities is a global challenge and landfill liquid discharge (called leachate) that percolates through disposal sites causes significant damage. Majority of the municipal landfills have been garbage dumps without any waste segregation methods and un-monitored leachate from landfills have contaminated ground aquifers degrading groundwater with high chemical compositions of sodium, chloride, sulphates, nitrates, heavy metals and ammonia to name a few.

In the news recently was the beautiful bio-diversity of the Aravallis range of North India polluted by leachate from the landfills of Gurugram and Faridabad. The landfill was setup on an abandoned mining pit in 2009, but today is bigger than the 38-foot-tall statue of Christ the Redeemer that towers over Rio de Janeiro in Brazil.

Is Incineration a better solution? Burn or Recycle?

Let us take the example of Singapore handling its waste over the years that is sent to the Semakau Landfill ( 8 kilometers south of the main island of Singapore) popularly called as the ‘Garbage of Eden’ . In 2019 Singapore incinerated more than 2.8 million tons of waste, an increase from 2.4 million tons in 2000. This landfill is filling up very quickly than previously anticipated with ash, mixed materials and very bulky objects that cannot be incinerated. The ash contains arsenic which is carcinogenic and also exposes the marine ecosystem around it to irreparable damage. Singapore is now looking at more efficient recycling methods that will discourage waste upfront.

Alappuzha, Kerala’s coastal town is a model for a zero-waste community that has no landfills. Waste is segregated at source and the municipality ran several campaigns for years to change the mindset of people on how to manage waste. Alleppey’s canals that connect the local villages and communities are now getting cleaner and sustainable thanks to a de-centralized waste management system with a lot of people’s participation to handle waste.

Recycle advocates claim that recycling most materials from municipal solid waste saves on average three to five times more energy than does burning them for electricity. Incinerators burn waste but destroys the resources for good.

Solar projects on landfills:

How do we adapt our landfills to be more useful and not just serve as dumping grounds that pollute land and water? By installing solar on closed and inactive landfills around the country, municipalities have been successful in re-purposing large vacant sites. The clean electricity potential and jobs created due to solar projects can be a great incentive for individual states and local governments to achieve ambitious sustainability and environmental goals.

But a bigger problem arising is how to recycle the solar panel waste and not to dump them back onto other open landfills. Read this report, that states that the volume of photovoltaic (PV) panel waste in the country is estimated to grow to 2,00,000 tonnes by 2030 and to around 1.8 million tonnes by 2050. India needs stringent policies to handle this waste as the heavy metals in solar panels (mainly lead and cadmium) can contaminate groundwater, affect plant life and harm human health.

In conclusion:

Education begins at home. Waste segregation begins at home. If we have to stop all the waste reaching our precious waterways, the onus is on each one of us to reduce our single use plastics and products usage, explore natural methods of kitchen waste composting, recycle and repurpose what we no longer may need and promote more public awareness every day.

We have only one earth to live in and let us take care of it as responsible humans.


Study on Nitrate Pollution in Freshwater of Chennai

by Shanmugam Ganesan and Byeongchan Kang, American International School Chennai (AISC)


This study aims to identify and discover water bodies of high nitrate levels across Chennai. Doing so is important because in excess, nitrate has been shown to be toxic to aquatic organisms and humans. Using an Arduino Uno Wifi Rev 2 connected to a Vernier Nitrate Ion-Selective Electrode, nitrate levels from seven samples of freshwater in Chennai were retrieved. These data points were compared to a reference point of 50 ppm to deduce whether their condition was toxic or acceptable. All lakes and rivers proved to have a nitrate concentration greater than the reference point, indicating that freshwater in Chennai is likely dangerous to aqualife and low-income families, who may rely upon these sources of water


Nitrate; Freshwater; Arduino; Nernst Equation; Vernier Nitrate Ion-Selective Electrode



Many countries face issues with nitrate contaminated freshwater. Primarily, this is a result of fertilizer and mistreated sewage contamination in water sources.

Since the Green Revolution between the 1950s and 1960s, farmers have increasingly relied upon fertilizers to boost crop yields. In addition to other few types of fertilizers, nitrogen-based ones have been popular. When used appropriately and with a limit, nitrate does not pose a great threat to the environment. However, when used excessively, to a point beyond which soils can withstand, nitrogen chemicals permeate through soil to groundwater. Soil erosion and runoff also cause nitrate contamination of nearby fresh and salt waters (“Nitrogen and Water Completed”, 2018).

In regards to sewage systems, when communities dispose of foods high in nitrate and certain kinds of waste like urine, the nitrate level of sewage water increases. If mistreated, or if a leakage is present, this water may spread to and contaminate groundwater. Often, this is an issue found in urban areas. For instance, the Chennai Metropolitan Water Supply & Sewerage Board (CMWSSB) states that in March of 2018, 82% of the urban city of Chennai was covered under the sewage system (CMWSSB: Sewerage System, 2018). However, according to the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) report of India, “[a]s of March 2019, only 52% of the sewage in the [Chennai Metropolitan Area] was being collected through the sewage system, leaving 48% uncollected.” Of the collected sewage, only 88% was being treated before being let out (Indian Audit and Accounts Department, 2020). These statistics demonstrate the relevance and importance of managing functional sewage systems in Chennai.

Other causes of high levels of nitrate in freshwater include mistreatment of animal waste—those produced by cows or dogs in the city, for example—and poorly designed septic systems. Although, it is to be noted that septic systems are not common in Chennai (TNN, 2016).


Excess amounts of nutrients in aquatic ecosystems, like nitrate in combination with phosphorus, result in a biological process called eutrophication. Sufficient levels of nitrate in aquatic ecosystems are not harmful: algae and other aquatic plants rely on nitrates as a source of nutrients. However, excess levels of nitrate drastically increase the size and population of algae and other aquatic plants.

Growth may exceed to a point where algae covers the surface of the water, restricting sunlight and by consequence, inhibits the process of photosynthesis. In turn, underwater plants, as well as algae, die. When this occurs, bacteria consume the decaying organisms; such a process invokes aerobic respiration—in which bacteria use oxygen in addition to food for energy—releasing carbon dioxide inside the water. Ultimately, the activities of these bacteria deplete the level of dissolved oxygen in the aquatic ecosystem, creating an anoxic “dead” zone in the water. If fishes fail to migrate out of this zone, they die (“5.7 Nitrates,” 2012).

The accelerated process of eutrophication as a result of nitrate may damage the economic livelihood of fishermen. As fishes migrate and die, fishermen’s supply reduces and with that, so does their income. Beyond this, firms in the secondary sector that process fish will also have less fish to process, resulting in less revenue.

As it relates to human health, nitrate, when consumed in high concentrations in water, can produce adverse effects, primarily on infants. Moreover, excessive nitrate restricts the degree to which red blood cells carry oxygen, potentially creating a lack of oxygen, causing methemoglobinemia or “blue baby syndrome” (“Nitrate in Drinking,” 2021). As the name suggests, one of the main symptoms of this condition is the presence of a blue-ish skin tone on the infant. But in addition to this, methemoglobinemia has been shown to cause seizures, lethargy, difficulties in breathing, and in rare cases, death. Other consequences of high-nitrate consumption include an increased risk of cancer and thyroid disease (“Blue Baby,” 2018).


Limitations of Past Reports

Although researchers have published several reports on the issue of nitrate contamination in freshwater, the ones we identified each featured some limitations.

First, the Department of Chemistry at Anna University conducted a study on wells using a spectrophotometer where they found that approximately 50% of the samples they tested possessed a high concentration of nitrate (Selvaraj, Rengaraj & Murugesan, Velayutham & Lakshmanan, Elango & T, Elampooranan, 1996). Our study differs from this as it tests water from lakes and rivers, not necessarily wells; additionally, this study may have outdated data, as it was published in 1996.

Second, in 2014, the State of Environment and Related Issues in Tamil Nadu uploaded their findings on the water quality of various bodies of water across the state. It revealed that a number of samples featured high levels of nitrate (“Pollution Database,” 2014). While this report was relatively comprehensive, not all samples were tested for nitrate. Our study places more emphasis on this data point specifically.

Third, in the November of 2021, Sajil Kumar published his report on nitrate where his team explored the quality of water in the districts of Coimbatore and Tirupur. It found that 37% of the collected samples had an unhealthy concentration of nitrate (Sajil Kumar, P.J. & Kuriachan, Lemoon, 2021). While this study is up to date, ours differs from it as we focus on an entirely different city of Tamil Nadu state: Chennai.

Fourth, the “Impact of Solid Waste Effect on Groundwater and Soil Quality” written by N.Raman and D.Sathiya Narayanan, measured the groundwater and soil qualities without the parameter of nitrate level (Raman, Nishant & Narayanan, 2008). It also focused its research on the areas around the Solid Waste Landfill Site in Pallavaram, a district in Chennai, while our study tested samples from bodies of water throughout the city.

From all of this data, it is clear that nitrate pollution, at the time of data collection, was an issue across Tamil Nadu and likely Chennai.

Our Motivation

With this study, we sought to identify points of danger across bodies of water in Chennai. Nitrate has its effects on society, aqualife, and the economy, and so, it is all the more important to have current and relevant findings to not only spread awareness, but bring such an issue to the attention of local authorities. Thus, we researched the nitrate levels of different fresh water bodies around the Chennai city, as indicated in figure 2.


Water Sample Collection

A total of 9 water bodies throughout the north, east, south, and west of Chennai, inclusive of areas in the outskirts, were selected. Using bottles, a sufficient amount of water was collected from each. In response to less accessible locations, a bucket pulley system—where a rope was tied on to

the end of a half-cut bottle—was used to reach the body of water. Here, after the bucket was launched into the water over any walls or obstacles, the rope was used to pull back the samples, which were then transferred into test-tubes prior to data collection.

Technology and Set-up

An Arduino Uno WiFi Rev 2, a microcontroller board capable of connecting to motors, sensors, and various external systems with a wifi unit, was used to extract the data collected by a Vernier Nitrate Ion-Selective Electrode. This nitrate sensor is a membrane-based electrode, which when submerged in a solution, measures the voltage of nitrate ions. These voltage values are dependent on the concentration of nitrate ions in solution, and so, can be used to deduce nitrate level with the Nernst equation. This report will delve more into this subject in the next section.

The Vernier sensor is compatible with both the Arduino integrated development environment (IDE)—the programming software used for Arduino—and LoggerPro 3, a data analysis software linked with Vernier. The LoggerPro 3 is capable of reporting data from Vernier’s Electrode. So, to verify the reliability of our Arduino, we corroborated its data with those retrieved by the LoggerPro 3.

The Arduino Uno WiFi Rev 2 was programmed to analyze the nitrate content detected by the Vernier sensor and transmit the collected data to our real time, online Firebase database, a platform capable of storing data points.

Data Collection

V=E0+m(ln C) 

the Nernst Equation*, where V is the measured voltage, E0 is the standard potential for the combination of the two half cells, m is the slope, and C is the concentration of the measured species

The Nernst equation* was used to determine the mathematical relationship between the voltage value collected by the Vernier sensor and the concentration of nitrate in the aqueous solution.

We used the values collected by the Logger Pro from 1 ppm and 100 ppm solutions as our two known points when developing this mathematical equation. According to the data, the voltage value from 1 ppm was 2.260 V and the value from 100 ppm was 1.786 V. Using the straight line slope formula, it was deduced that for voltage, the slope is -0.103 and E0 was provided as 2.260 by the Vernier user manual.

This formula required concentration as an input and determined the voltage as an output. For the purposes of this experiment, the opposite was required. Thus, we found the inverse of the equation as follows.

As the Vernier sensor retrieved V, the voltage level of the sample, the above equation was used to determine C, concentration of nitrate.

Challenges and Our Methods

Our sensor, being a membrane-based one, is recommended to be used within 12 months of manufacture. The sensor was borrowed from our school and considering that it was purchased in 2018, the values the sensor collected were not always accurate, reliable or precise. Moreover, when trying to find a systematic difference between reported values and known concentration, there were no consistent precise factors. For example, on some days, the reported value was 2.7 times greater than the tested, whereas on others, it may have been 3.5 times greater. For this reason, a singular systematic error could not be identified, and the certainty of our data reduced.

*The Nernst equation was first introduced by a German chemist named Walther Hermann Nernst in 1888. It is often used to calculate the cell potential of electrochemical cells (“Nernst Equation, 2022). Cell potential refers to the potential difference—the difference between electric potential in voltage— between two half cells.

Consistently, however, when we tested highly concentrated samples, the program returned higher values than when relatively less concentrated samples were tested. Similarly, when we tested less concentrated samples, the program returned lower values than when relatively more concentrated samples were tested. As a result, it was still possible to deduce relative nitrate levels—the program consistently differentiated samples with more or less nitrate concentration given that testing occurred in a similar time frame—through setting a binary constant with which to compare other samples against. This binary constant was our reference point of 50 ppm (according to our research, this concentration is most certainly dangerous for human consumption, and most probably dangerous for an array of aquatic life). That is, we created and measured a 50 ppm sample of nitrate with the sensor, and compared that reported value with all of the reported nitrate values of the water samples. Through this, we determined whether a water sample had a nitrate concentration greater than or less than 50 ppm.

Another challenge was that as the sensor was submerged in a solution, the values continually became more and more accurate: this created variation within a sample in itself. To reduce inconsistencies within our findings, the time each sample was tested for was kept at five minutes as a controlled variable. After five minutes of submerging the sensor in each water sample, data was collected for one minute. The table below showcases an average of these detected values

Water Samples*Averaged Data (ppm)50 ppm Reference Point (ppm)Percent Difference from the 50 ppm Reference Point (ppm)
Perungudi Lake93.4513.93+ 570.85%
Velachery Lake37.2613.93+ 167.48%
Buckingham Canal36.5113.93+ 162.10%
Madipakkam Lake38.5113.93+ 176.45%
Porur Lake22.5313.93+ 61.74%
Adyar River at Wellness Walking Track13.257.33+ 80.76%
Retteri Lake7.457.33+ 1.64%
*Although 9 samples were collected, only 7 were tested due to the sensor malfunctioning overtime.


Sensor Error

Our Vernier sensor is old and potentially damaged. Unfortunately, due to resource constraints, we were unable to purchase a new sensor. This caused fluctuations in our findings, where on different days, the sensor reported different values for the same sample.

This indicates that no data point can be taken with absolute certainty: as the time frame of testing increases, the sensor becomes increasingly inconsistent across samples. This is even true for our binary point. For example, while we may have found that the sensor translates a 50 ppm sample to approximately 14 ppm, the binary point may have changed to 13 ppm if we tested for it a day later.

Even though we limited testing time to an hour or less per day, variations may have still occurred.

Personal Error

Personal errors may have also skewed the results, albeit only marginally. This is because the Vernier sensor was supposed to be submerged in each and every sample for 5 minutes. Due to imperfect reaction time, though, samples may have been tested for a slightly longer or shorter duration.

Sample error

Water samples from the Buckingham Canal, Madipakkam Lake, Porur Lake, and Wellness Walking Track were all collected one day after rainstorms. Since nitrate concentration in rainwater most likely differs from that of our freshwater samples, this may slightly skew our results. This suggests that the collected data might not accurately reveal nitrate levels of Chennai freshwater bodies for an entire year, especially when there is little to no rainfall.

Additionally, the data of this report would be more comprehensive in evaluating the severity of nitrate level in Chennai if more fresh water samples had been collected and recorded in the northern and southern part of Chennai.


From viewing this data, all tested samples contained a higher concentration of nitrate than the reference point, 50 ppm. This firmly suggests that these sources of freshwater, and most probably others in Chennai as well, are unsafe to drink: the World Health Organization puts the maximum limit of nitrate on safe drinking water as 10 ppm (World Health Organization, 2011). The point of toxicity for fish, however, is much more contested. While some aquariums find that chronic exposure to nitrate levels above 30 ppm is harmful (PetMD, 2019), other organizations argue 44 ppm (Camargo JA, Alonso A, Salamanca A, 2005), and others 80 (“Water Treatment, 2022). Results are uncertain.

Regardless, it is clear that the conditions of water sources in Chennai are not ideal, especially for lakes and rivers that are significantly greater than the binary point. Moreover, 5 out of 7 of the data points report an increase of over 80% in ppm from the binary point, indicating that the majority of our samples have a high likelihood of being unsafe for aquatic life.

While the nitrate level from the Retteri Lake is relatively less, it seems like it is an outlier among the freshwater samples in Chennai that were tested. In fact, excluding outliers (Perungudi and Retteri Lake), our samples averaged a 129.71% positive difference in reported value from the binary point. The same argument can be applied to Perungudi Lake, which had an increase of 570.85%.

Despite some outliers, statistics from these water samples demonstrate that in Chennai, nitrate level is a prevalent issue. Most likely, the root of the problem can be traced back to factors such as sewage disposal, mistreatment of animal waste, and poorly designed septic systems.


While there are numerous aspects that determine water quality for humans and aquatic organisms, this lab report focuses on the nitrate levels of seven different fresh water bodies around Chennai. Vernier’s nitrate sensor and the Arduino microcontroller helped acquire the nitrate concentrations from these samples. With this data, it is evident that nitrate levels are excessive in many bodies of freshwater in Chennai, and it is likely many other cities face a similar issue. While finding nitrate concentrations can be an expensive process, the technology used in this investigation is more affordable. In future, the Arduino can be used in experiments in other locations as a relatively low-cost method of identifying dangerous water bodies.

Ultimately, the lab report highlights the severity of nitrate contamination in Chennai, and indicates its possible causes and consequences. Thus, authorities like the CMWSSB should take more

steps to ensure sewage is treated properly and fully as feasible. Doing so reduces nitrate levels, benefiting not only the aquatic ecosystems but also society at large.


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A & Camargo JA & Alonso A & Salamanca. “Nitrate Toxicity to Aquatic Animals: a Review with New Data for Freshwater Invertebrates.” Chemosphere, U.S. National Library of Medicine, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15667845/.

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Davidson, John, et al. “Comparing the Effects of High vs. Low Nitrate on the Health, Performance, and Welfare of Juvenile Rainbow Trout Oncorhynchus Mykiss within Water Recirculating Aquaculture Systems.” Aquacultural Engineering, Elsevier, 11 Feb. 2014, www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0144860914000041.

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Report.” The New Indian Express, The New Indian Express, 24 June 2021, www.newindianexpress.com/cities/chennai/2021/jun/24/only-half-the-sewage-in-chennai-metropo litan-area-being-collected-says-cag-report-2320914.html.

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“Nitrate and Drinking Water from Private Wells.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1 July 2015, www.cdc.gov/healthywater/drinking/private/wells/disease/nitrate.html.

“Nitrate in Drinking Water.” Minnesota Department of Health, www.health.state.mn.us/communities/environment/water/contaminants/nitrate.html#HealthEffects

“Nitrogen and Water Completed.” Nitrogen and Water | U.S. Geological Survey, www.usgs.gov/special-topics/water-science-school/science/nitrogen-and-water.

N.Raman & D.Sathiya Narayanan. (2008) “Impact of Solid Waste Effect on Ground Water and Soil Quality Nearer to Pallavaram Solid Waste Landfill Site in Chennai”.

Odorico, Nikoleta. “Nitrate Water Pollution.” ArcGIS StoryMaps, Esri, 31 Aug. 2020, storymaps.arcgis.com/stories/206b2dc33a9f4e168666686911ef6bfe.

Raman, Nishant & Narayanan, D. (2008). Impact of solid waste effect on ground water and soil quality nearer to pallavaram solid waste landfill site in Chennai. 1. 828-836.

Sajil Kumar, P.J. & Kuriachan, Lemoon. (2021). Exposure and health risk assessment of nitrate contamination in groundwater in Coimbatore and Tirupur districts in Tamil Nadu, South India. Environmental Science and Pollution Research. 28. 1-14. 10.1007/s11356-020-11552-y.

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July 1970, www.indiawaterportal.org/articles/whats-your-drinking-water. “Sources of Cultural Eutrophication.” Project Eutrophication,

projecteutrophication.weebly.com/sources-of-cultural-eutrophication.html#at_pco=smlre-1.0&at_s i=6231c01555265f73&at_ab=per-2&at_pos=0&at_tot=3.

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TNN / Updated: Dec 20, 2016. “Survey Finds Many Septic Tanks Not Built as per Norms: Coimbatore News – Times of India.” The Times of India, TOI, timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/coimbatore/survey-finds-many-septic-tanks-not-built-as-per-norm s/articleshow/56082558.cms.

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World Health Organization. (2011) “Nitrate and Nitrite in Drinking-water”.


Deep Diamonds

Diamonds are forever… This phrase may bring the famous James Bond spy movie to our minds, but the reality is, our Earth’s crust and deep-water ecosystems that gave birth to these magnificent stones are under severe threat of destruction.

Diamonds are made from carbon placed under high pressure, but that carbon can come from different sources: either organic carbon, from once-living matter, or inorganic carbon – like carbonate minerals, which are commonly found in rocks. Diamonds are mined in several ways: Open-pit and underground mining where layers of sand and rock are removed, and diamonds mined from the earth’s crust; Alluvial mining occurs in riverbeds and beaches from diamond deposits or Marine mining where diamonds are extracted from the deep seabed.

It is not just diamonds, but the ocean floor and several riverbeds contain millions of polymetallic nuggets (black lumps looking like coal) that are rich in minerals such as manganese, cobalt, nickel and copper.

Marine mining of these metallic morsels is in exponential demand as large amounts of these minerals are required to build electric cars, produce high-tech applications such as in smartphones and green technologies such as wind turbines, solar panels and electric storage batteries.

Alluvial mining in Orange river in Namibia

The Orange river, South Africa’s longest waterway has been called ‘The River of Diamonds’, as over the millennia, stones from the heart of Africa have been carried its length, passing through the delta and into the ocean, where strong currents carry them northwards and cast them up onto the beaches.

Crawler ships are custom built mining vessels that dredge material from the riverbeds and this rich sediment containing precious gems, minerals are dumped overboard and scoured for diamonds by machines with the left-over gravel returned to the ocean. Marine species such as whales, dolphins and seals , entire habitats of aquatic animals are heavily impacted as it takes anywhere between two to ten years for the seabed to recover due to heavy machinery disturbance. The Ramsar convention is an international treaty to conserve wetlands and the ‘Orange River Mouth’ on the border of South Africa and Namibia off the Atlantic coast is a protected site with mining prohibited . But despite all these environmental guardrails, mining operations continue downstream across the Atlantic coast with Namibia coast generating around a million carats annually.

The largest diamond producing countries are Russia, Canada, Botswana, South Africa with Australia leaving this list as their largest mine (Argyle mine) is closed due to depletion of its reserves.

India’s deep ocean mining:

India has embarked on deep ocean missions in the central Indian Ocean for its mineral and energy security. Experiments would focus on exploring and identifying potential sites of “multi-metal hydrothermal sulphides mineralization along the Indian Ocean mid-oceanic ridges.” Technologies for deep-sea mining and a manned submersible will be developed to carry three people to a depth of 6,000 meters in the ocean with a suite of scientific sensors and tools.

While collecting the metallic nodules from the deep-sea , marine organisms at the top layer would die, habitats altered and destroyed, and scientists are working on a design that can incorporate a balance between conservation of marine areas and development of mining technology.

Environmental costs of Electric Vehicles (EV):

All eyes are now on deep-water mining as the transition to clean energy has been complex with a purposeful shift from ‘dirty’ coal /gas to mining exclusive metals from the deep ocean needed for electric vehicles.

Minerals especially cobalt, lithium and nickel are the core ingredients of electric vehicle batteries. Electric vehicles (EV) do consume far less minerals when compared to diesel/petrol vehicles and this study highlights that over its lifetime, any car that runs on traditional engines burns around 300-400 times more than the total quantity of battery cell minerals in EVs.

The good news is that technology has evolved so much that less raw material is needed to produce each kWh of an electric battery. Also recycling of battery materials ensure that primary demand for virgin materials (mined underground or from waterways) will reduce pressure on mining the environment. The table below shows top producers of raw materials for EV’s, and cobalt production is expected to zoom 50% by 2050 to meet turbines and battery requirements.

In conclusion:

Be it diamonds, precious metals or minerals from land or water, the demand for such raw materials will continue to see an exponential growth due to the sheer size of the world’s population that require latest technologies in electronics, solar panels, wind turbines, and electric cars to name a few. And it is quite impossible to stop mining or fossil fuel extraction as the world runs on this energy and transition to cleaner fuel is a long-drawn journey.

Development and conservation of the environment to run hand-in-hand as countries race for strategic supremacy to secure international waters that make deep-water mining commercially viable. Another interesting observation is that countries that are ‘resource and mineral’ wealthy often have weaker institutions and spend less on education and are more corrupt. So, it is critical that revenue earned from raw materials are ploughed back into health, education and infrastructure.

Land resources are running out and soon deep-water resources will also be depleted if we do not strike that environmental balance.


Dusty and ‘Tyred’

So, you thought that smoke spewing from vehicle exhaust pipes are the worst polluters making air thick with smog and smoke dust dirtying the environment? Guess again, tyres are the leading highest polluter of water resources and leaching of chemical compounds from tyre wear and tear are found in air, water, and soil samples posing a huge threat to marine life.

Microplastics is a term commonly used to describe extremely small pieces of plastic debris in the environment resulting from the disposal and breakdown of products and waste materials. The EU-Commissioned research paper ‘Plastics in the Marine Environment’ found that tyres were the main single cause of marine microplastics, amounting to 270 million tonnes per annum and as an analogy if we melt enough Arctic snow to get about 3 liters of water, “it might contain as many as 53,000 pieces of microplastic.”

Tyres on vehicles are made from a complex blend of different materials and chemicals including several types of plastic in addition to their rubber base. Every time we brake, accelerate our vehicle, or turn a corner, tyres spew microplastics with the average car tyre losing a total of 4kg of plastic throughout its lifetime due to wear. These particles become airborne affecting our lungs and ending up in our waterways and oceans eventually entering our food chain. It’s estimated that we eat about a credit card’s worth of plastic every week .

Wear and tear of tyres by country:

Calculating wear and tear can be approached in a few ways, by using emission factors per vehicle-km multiplied by the total mileage or by gauging the number of tyres multiplied by the weight loss of these tyres during use.

Looking at data from countries such as China, India, Australia, the USA and Brazil on the amount of wear and tear emitted into the environment, data on mileage and number of vehicles, below are some findings:

India has the lowest wear and tear estimate, i.e., 0.23 kg/capita/year, while the USA has the highest, i.e., 4.7 kg/capita/year. The 20-fold difference can partly be explained by the fact that USA has 0.82 cars per capita, while in India there are 0.13 cars per capita. Car density in India is only 16% of that in the USA. The amount of wear and tear per vehicle in the USA is 6.8 kg/year compared to 1.8 kg/year for India, a 3.8-fold difference. Americans are leading in wear and tear emissions because they have more vehicles while they also travel longer distances per vehicle, especially with their trucks(lorries). China at 0.55 kg/capita/year, Australia at 0.87 kg/capita/year and Brazil at 1.4 kg/capita/year are comparable estimates. Other countries data can be found here in this paper.

In India and China, the number of vehicles per capita are lower which explains the lower emission per capita per year.

Do new Electric Vehicles (EV) make this better?

Electric vehicles are 24% heavier than their conventional counterparts and so tyre wear and tear would be higher. But new technologies in braking such as regenerative braking in electric vehicles reduces usage of brakes and pads and the big tyre brands and companies are specifically working towards reducing pollution from tyres.

Natural solutions:

We can use nature’s tools to clean up urban rivers and other waterways and estuaries that bear the brunt of the micro plastic pollution and improve water quality by restoring fragile ecosystems.

Scientists are focusing on organisms like bivalves (such as oysters and mussels) and aquatic plants (such as celery grass, eel grass beds) to cleanse the water. Bivalves and aquatic vegetation improve water clarity by arresting suspended particles, allowing more light to penetrate deeper. They also have an exceptional capacity to cycle nutrients — both by absorbing them as food and by making them more available to other organisms. Thriving underwater plant meadows act as carbon sinks absorbing heat and provide food and habitat for small fish, crabs, and other bottom-dwellers.

Riparian buffers are strips of vegetation (trees, shrubs, or grass) planted next to streams or other waterbodies. These spaces are planted with native species of water tolerant trees and large shrubs and filter pollutants such as microplastics before entering the water.

In Conclusion: As individuals, we can reduce tyre footprint by choosing to walk, cycle or share vehicles, buy smaller cars, driving carefully, avoiding high-speed braking, and using public transport systems, but with a growing population and expanding infrastructure there needs to be a broader approach to microplastic pollution problems.

Tyre materials contain natural rubber tree latex as well as synthetic rubber polymers and switching to natural latex would lead to expansion of rubber trees and further deforestation. Rubber plantations need huge volumes of water to grow, with Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, and India the top rubber producing countries in the world grappling with natural plantation degradation. It is a consumption-based problem that needs responsible consumers and sellers who consciously switch to ‘sustainable’ rubber. And our community has to come together and implement nature-based solutions to proactively protect our water bodies across ecosystems and build climate resilience.

Latex collected from natural rubber tree

Community Conservancy: Case Study on the Island of Jambudwip, Sundarbans

This piece narrates the story of a transient fishing community and their vast knowledge base in dry fish production. However, when the state intervenes, these fisherfolk are subjected to loss of livelihoods.

Jambudwip is an uninhabited fishing island in the South 24 Parganas district of West Bengal. The island is located at the southwestern tip of the Sundarbans delta, on the Bay of Bengal. The island remains uninhabited throughout the year, except for the four months when fishermen travel to the island. These four months is the prime fishing season, from October to February. About 10,000 fishermen travel 28 miles from their native villages in and around Kakdwip to Jambudwip for the fishing season.

The main factor that made Jambudwip an ideal spot for dry fish production was the availability of vast, empty spaces on the island for drying fish. The island’s natural topography proved advantageous for the fisherfolk as the presence of mangroves and other plantations provided them safety from cyclones. Next, the presence of a natural creek on the island enabled the fishermen to use either side of the creek as drying grounds. They steer their boats through the creek and deposit the catches on the drying grounds on either side. Finally, the community used the ample open area with grass as drying beds and cut the grass to spread fishing nets to dry the catches.

These traditional fisherfolk practice antique methods of fishing which are highly non-mechanized and sustainable in nature. The island is demarcated based on the different needs and uses of fishing production and processing. The makeshift camps comprise living areas, kitchens, and storage areas. These temporary residential camps are constructed in Jambudwip during the fishing season and are made of Hogla, a type of grass found in Kakdwip. The fishermen also leave some temporary implements back at Jambudwip to reduce recurring costs every season. Traditional skills and thorough knowledge of the island help the fishermen locate the perfect fishing ground. Following this, the nets made of bamboo are pitched in deep sea beds and left undisturbed for acquiring a good catch. The fishing nets characteristic of this fishing community is known as bindi jal, funnel-shaped bag nets that decrease in size from mouth to tip to balance the flow of water. The tip of the net was made of fine mesh is the most significant part of the net as they help trap the fish. The fishermen constantly monitor the pitched nets awaiting the tide to change from high to low or vice versa. In such a situation, the net moves to a sleeping position signaling a haul of catches; 3 to 4 hauls are expected in every 24-hour cycle. While the fishing boats stay in the deep seas to monitor the nets, the carrier boats transport the catches for drying. As mentioned earlier, the boats enter the island through the creek. The boats are anchored beside the camp so the catches can be washed fresh before it is dried. The drying area is covered with dry grass over which nets are spread to keep the catches free from sand dust. Afterward, the fresh catch is laid in single rows to dry under the sun in the drying area.

Image 1: A representative image of fishes Pic: fish coop.PNG

These tools, methods, and practices have given rise to a sustainable fishing culture practiced by a distinctive fishing community. The fish are cleaned, dried, packed, and sold sustainably without the addition of any preservatives. Therefore, it is evident that the dry fish production process is environment-friendly in nature. Nonetheless, after 50 years of sustainable fish harvest at Jambudwip, the community’s livelihoods were in jeopardy.

On 3rd May 2002, the Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF) issued a directive that by 30th September 2002, all illegal encroachments on forest lands across the country were to be evicted. Following the order, the West Bengal Forest Department, which had been issuing passes to the fishermen since the 1950s, stopped issuing entry passes in 2002. The forest department asserted that the fishermen destroyed the mangrove forest, and their unsustainable actions affected the biodiversity. Furthermore, the department argued that the fishermen had settled in the islands while their visit was only transient during the fishing seasons. Hence, to prevent the fishermen’s visit to the island, the forest department burnt down all the temporary hutments claiming the fishermen to be illegal encroachers attempting to cut down the mangrove reserves. In addition, the department blocked the creek with RCC pillars, probating fishermen’s entry into the island. With these checkpoints in place, boats found it difficult to entire the creek during the cyclone resulting in the death of 10 fishermen. In this intermittent period, the socio-economic conditions of fisherfolk declined massively, their income levels halved, and their livelihoods were threatened.

Though the dry fish market in India is considerably tiny, its existence is vital. The industry generated Rs.10 crores per annum at the time; it supplied rich protein food to poor masses and employed numerous ancillary sectors. Therefore, the eviction of fishermen from Jambudwip directly impacts the livelihoods of the transient fishing community and indirectly impacts the other livelihoods supported by the fishing industry. Thus, the Supreme Court stepped in and delegated the Central Empowerment Committee (CEC) in December 2002 to advise on the issue. CEC, alongside the state forest department, stated that the fishing community destroyed the mangrove reserves and should be strictly prohibited from entering the island. Regardless, there was no substantial evidence of what they destroyed. The report also suggested that Haribhanaga can be used as an alternative fishing site. However, it is not as huge as Jambudwip and does not have the space to incorporate the 40+ fishing units of the Jambudwip fishers. Additionally, what made Jambudwip attractive was the creek and its tree cover, which helped dry fish and protected the fishermen. But Haribhanga’s reality was much different – it was full of sand, with no creeks or tree cover. Also, as the island had a high tide level, fishing was often done near the shore. Thus, the quality of dry fish produced at Haribhanga is only suitable for poultry feed, not human consumption. Proving that, in reality, alternative sites are never appropriately selected.

Image 2: Creek at Jambudwip Pic: sunderban_forest_pop_up.jpg

Jambudwip was classified as a reserve forest area protected under the Forest Conservation Act of 1980, which restricts the use of forest land by any entity settled in the region post-1981. Now comes the question: why didn’t the Namkhana forest office issue pass to the fishermen even post the enforcement of the Forest Conservation Act? In addition, Indian anthropologist Bikash Raychaudhuri studied the fishing community across an entire season from 1967-68 and recorded his observation in his 1980 book The Moon And Net. This proves that fishing activity had been happening in the area even before the enforcement of the Forest Conservation Act. This makes one ponder why the fishermen are evicted now and not before. The answer to these questions became apparent when the West Bengal Forest Department signed an MoU with a leading real estate company in the state to convert 750 hectares of the Virgin Islands from the Sundarbans reserve into a global ecotourism hotspot, and Jambudwip – was a part of this expanse. But isn’t it true that tourism could also be detrimental to the mangrove reserves and affect the ecological balance? But that did not matter to the forest department, they declared that ecotourism initiatives without disturbing the area’s ecological balance would always be welcome.

In conclusion, the final issue of Community Conservancy discusses a case of artisanal fishing in Bengal and their plight when decisions are made based on vested interests by a handful of people with no regard for nature and people. It is time that all actors must realize that nature is common to everyone and that all elements of nature must coexist. Moreover, none of the actors involved wanted to understand how the fishing community and the use of their indigenous wisdom helped preserve sea biodiversity. Practices such as fishing during the non-breeding seasons and using simple fishing techniques that are not as destructive as mechanized fishing are examples of how the fisherfolk are users and not violators.


Community Conservancy: The Bharatpur Case Study

The current issue of Community Conservancy analyses a classic example from Bharatpur, Rajasthan. The case shows how the application of the universal conservation model in the region may not be as effective and attempts to understand the significance of local community presence.

Image 1: Animals at Bharatpur Sanctuary Pic: 1603868634_shutterstock_1363884176.jpg.jpg

India’s rich geographical and cultural diversity is the primary reason for various human-nature conflicts. For example, people residing near forests and wetlands have constantly used the reserve’s natural resources for livelihood purposes. These intricate links between culture, local groups, and their dogmatic beliefs, coupled with politics and scientific knowledge, lead to complex socio-ecological issues. This case discusses an exciting story of the conservation of an artificially built wetland in Bharatpur, Rajasthan. The Keoladeo Ghana National Park (KGNP), also known as the Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary, is located in Bharatpur, Rajasthan. The national park, which is almost 250 years old, hosts innumerable residents and migratory birds during the winter. According to a report by the Wildlife Institute of India, “KGNP’s flora consists of over 375 species of angiosperms, of which 90 species are wetland species. The fauna includes more than 350 species of birds which include 42 species of raptors and nine species of owls, 27 species of mammals, 13 species of reptiles, seven species of amphibians, 58 species of fishes and 71 species of butterflies, and more than 30 species of dragonflies and more than 30 species of spiders inhabit the park. Owing to the abundance of birds, KGNP is often referred to as Birders Paradise.[1]

Managing wetland ecosystems is seldom done due to their rugged terrain making them one of the least protected natural ecosystems worldwide. However, they can be highly productive agricultural fields; most of the Ganges wetlands have been converted into agricultural land in the post-independence era. Thus, there are only a few wetlands left in the country. Nevertheless, the wetlands in Bharatpur are a result of dam construction in the 1890s by the Maharaja of Bharatpur. Due to the scarcity of wetlands in the region, an exceptionally high number of birds flock their way into Bharatpur. The human-made characteristic makes KGNP unique from the other wetlands, it was created by the Maharaja of Bharatpur in the 1890s to be used as a waterfowl hunting ground for the royals and their acquaintances. A pre-existing marsh was carefully chosen and expanded to attract birds. Canals were also built to regulate the water level. The wetland turned out to be hugely successful in attracting wintering birds. Unexpectedly, Bharatpur wetlands were helpful to many poor villagers by providing them with firewood, thatch grass, fodder, berries, etc., for their survival and livelihood needs. Furthermore, the villagers also used a portion of the wetland for grazing their cattle. Initially, the Maharaja allowed the villagers to use the wetland as grazing grounds. When India attained independence, a large portion of the princely assets was transferred to the Union Government; however, Bharatpur Maharaja managed to retain exclusive ownership and shooting rights for his pleasure. The Maharaja’s pact with the government led to massive opposition from localities residing in the nearby areas.

As mentioned earlier, owing to its resource and use value, Bharatpur was saved from being converted into agricultural lands, despite the local political pressure. Nevertheless, the farmers’ happiness did not last long enough. Despite putting hundreds of livelihoods at stake, the head of Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS), Ali, was determined to protect one of the only existing wetlands in north India. Therefore, he approached Prime Minister Nehru to make him aware of the current situation of KGNP. Following his move in 1956, Rajasthan Forest Department took over the authority over the wetlands for management and maintenance purposes. As Bharatpur was receiving huge attention, Maharaja’s deal also suffered; though he managed to retain shooting rights, it was restricted only to non-breeding seasons.

Until being declared a sanctuary, the wetland supported most of the livelihoods in the area. However, in 1981, the site was designated as a National Park, and according to the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, all national parks are necessitated to be a no-human zone. While villagers continued grazing in the wetlands, the Indian Board for Wildlife issued an order for a complete ban on grazing in the park. The Indira Gandhi government enforced the ban and built a stone wall to keep the cattle away from the park. The action resulted in riots killing nine people. Though the ban on cattle hit the villagers’ incomes terribly, many ecologists and environmentalists from across India and the world supported the move. According to them, cattle grazing was the main reason for the degradation of natural resources at Bharatpur or in any other national park or wildlife sanctuary. Several international experts from academia and the world of practice claimed that eliminating domesticated animals would be the best solution to manage natural resources. Hence, the park managers were instructed to remove livestock if found within the park premises. They viewed domesticated livestock as a disease that spread and believed in protecting pristine areas by making them free of human and livestock activities. Many also treated the local population from these areas like cattle, and it is obvious that these people were not politically or monetarily influential. Therefore, their stories and struggles were muted.

Simultaneously, in 1980, a ten-year ecological study of the KGNP was initiated to understand Bharatpur’s resource value, hydrology, vegetation, fish, mammals, and bird population dynamics. Scientists assumed that cattle grazing was the problem fueling the declining bird count as they destroyed the bunds which were essential in bringing water to the wetlands. The ban was enforced, resulting in a bloody clash between local people and the government. Post the ban; the study wanted to analyze the before and after cattle ban situation in the park. But to their shock, a mid-study report indicated that the bird count was reduced rapidly since the cattle ban. The investigation revealed that Bharatpur was being attacked by the growth and spread of a few invasive weed species, which affected the vegetation, bird, and fish populations. The weeds had invaded the marshes to a dangerously great extent that canals were clogged, which decreased water levels. Soon after, the BNHS realized cattle was necessary to improve Bharatpur’s bird population and encouraged the reintroduction of cattle, especially buffaloes, to rectify the situation. Thus, proving that an artificially made wetland necessarily needed human intervention and the support of livestock to mitigate and re-establish the loss of resources at Bharatpur.

Image 2: Birds at Bharatpur Sanctuary Pic: bharatpur-bird-sanctuary-feature-image.jpg

Bharatpur’s fortress conservation model is a definitive example of how Indian policymakers are convinced of the American conservation model. The Yellowstone National Park in the US was convinced that fortress conservation was the best management practice to preserve national parks — hoping the removal of human interference would undo the negative actions and strike a balance. The model was followed like the gospel for the natural restoration of ecosystems. Yellowstone’s model of conservation was hailed and practiced across the globe, including Indian policymakers with a colonial mindset. Yellowstone, too, was confronted with a similar problem when it witnessed uncontrollable growth of the elk population in the absence of traditional predators like wolves. But, the reintroduction of these animals did not change the impact its absence had caused. The idea that domesticated animals are mundane creatures that would not go extinct and can survive in non-wild, common, unprotected areas makes them less exciting for ecologists to invest their time. Subsequently, scientists decided that no discussion was required on understanding their significance in the ecosystem. The common notion of conservation is often based on the assumptions of the fortress or universal model of conservation. Experts in favour of community conserved areas claim that the findings from KGNP may be true to all national parks in terms of grazing and fodder collection. Natural ecosystems have adapted and evolved with the existence of humans as a core element of their system – just like Bharatpur’s habitat was heavily dependent on livestock grazing and fodder collection for supporting its avian population. This piece elaborates on how imposing an international model of conservation based on one ecological context and its experiences when applied to other ecosystems could go wrong. Bharatpur case exhibits the lack of deep understanding of local practices and how the application of such assumed models is accompanied by elitist decision-making, ignoring local truths


Lewis, M. (2003b). Cattle and Conservation at Bharatpur: A Case Study in Science and Advocacy. Conservation and Society, 1–21. https://www.conservationandsociety.org.in/temp/ConservatSoc111-2036161_053921.pdf

Wildlife Institute of India. (2009, July). A Bibliographical Review for Identifying Research Gap Areas – Keoladeo Ghana National Park, Bharatpur: A World Heritage Site. http://www.indiaenvironmentportal.org.in/files/bioliographical_keoladeo_ghana_np.pdf

[1] Quoted from Keoladeo Ghana National Park, Bharatpur:


Community Conservancy: The Andhra Pradesh Case Study

The piece talks about collective action by various community in Andhra Pradesh for sustainable groundwater management and its impact.

Globally, groundwater is treated as a CPR (Common Property Resource), with exceptionally high use value. Countries like the United States, Indonesia, Peru, and Australia have legalized groundwater as a public good, unlike India, where it is regarded as private property. Additionally, groundwater as a resource in India is linked with land ownership rights, leading to overexploitation and degradation of the resource. It is well known that groundwater is India’s single largest source of fresh water, and in a country like ours, it is used for irrigation and all other domestic and essential needs. Therefore, it is imperative to understand the dynamics of groundwater resources, the implementation and enforcement of groundwater development, and its sustainable management in the country. As the resource is privately managed, there is often huge inequity and injustice in gaining access to groundwater. It is usual to study groundwater through the lens of hydrogeology and the socio-economic status of the communities involved. Nevertheless, looking at the sustainability aspect of groundwater management is extremely significant. This piece attempts to compile the sustainable community practices involved in groundwater management in Andhra Pradesh.

Andhra Pradesh Farmer-Managed Groundwater Systems (APFAMGS) The first case of participatory groundwater management is based on the Andhra Pradesh Farmer-Managed Groundwater Systems (APFAMGS) project. It is one of the longest-running community-driven groundwater resource development and management program. Over the years, it has successfully engaged the community and made them aware of sustainable groundwater management practices to avoid droughts. The impact of its achievement was felt when it spread to over 650 villages from 7 drought-prone districts across Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. The origin of APFAMGS was from APWELL, which was started in 1987. The Government of India initiated the APWELL (Andhra Pradesh Groundwater Bore-well) project in collaboration with the Netherlands Government. APWELL was implemented in 7 districts across AP, namely Chittoor, Cuddapah, Kurnool, Nalgonda, Anantapur, Prakasam, and Mahbubnagar. One of APWELL’s essential objectives was to improve the socio-economic status and the quality of life for small and marginal farmers in the specified locations. However, APFAMGS aimed at improving groundwater capacity for agriculture and crop production through community practices.

Image: Participatory groundwater practices in Andhra Pradesh Pic: 32_1(2).jpg

The project was designed and operated through a participatory approach called participatory hydrological monitoring (PHM). APFAMGS, through its PHM strategy, attempts to change the behaviour of farmers towards the development and management of the resource. The project focused on equipping the farmers with the required awareness, skills, and knowledge through training to manage groundwater resources sustainably. Providing the farmers with an understanding of the local groundwater situation in their region and demarcating the hydrological units in use helped convince them that practices like pumping out groundwater and digging new wells would worsen the situation. Furthermore, this was also useful in changing their perspective about groundwater as a public resource rather than someone’s private property. These measures were worthwhile in enhancing farmers’ cooperation in making them aware of water-saving techniques and other sustainable practices. The awareness about water-saving techniques promotes a voluntary behavioural change in the farmers wherein they come to a consensus to use water efficiently, thereby analyzing and managing their own demand and building resilience for dry seasons. One of the other noteworthy activities of the APFAMGS is crop water budgeting (CWB), a joint exercise for farmers to plan crop production based on water availability in the region. This incredible community practice encourages collective decision-making. CWB, as an activity, displays the importance of community knowledge, increasing the responsibility of managing groundwater as a common good. Skills provided during training help make informed decisions about groundwater, and CWB offers an opportunity for the farmers to change their behaviour towards the resource. A village groundwater committee was formed to promote crop diversification, incorporate other changing production practices, and for governing purposes. Thus, APFAMGS demonstrates the need for equity in using shared resources such as groundwater with complex land-water interlinkages. The initiative has established the need for adopting location-specific participatory methods to increase community awareness and knowledge about groundwater management.

Social Regulations in Water Management (SRWM)

The current case is based on the Social Regulations in Water Management (SRWM), an action project at the Community Level in AP. In the project’s initial phase, it was implemented in 4 villages, and as the project progressed, its scope expanded across 15 more villages in AP. The project transformed the livelihoods of these village communities and has reduced migration in the area to a tremendous extent. Though regular rainwater irrigation is the most common method used to irrigate agricultural fields, groundwater plays a substantial role in irrigating the fields during dry periods. Subsequently, numerous borewells were dug out across these villages, and the groundwater level reached a point where further extraction was restricted owing to the rapidly declining groundwater level. This dependency on groundwater affected the socio-economic status and livelihoods of farmers from these villages as they started taking loans to dig new wells. As the condition of these villages was becoming uncontrollable, a series of meetings were set up by the Center for World Solidarity (CWS) in partnership with local civil society organizations, thus, initiating SRWM in 2004. SRWM focuses on building community resilience against droughts and promoting efficient water management for all with the support of the local government and NGOs. The project incorporated Participatory Rural Appraisal (PRA) methods to analyze the groundwater situation and its various uses. The primary objective of SRWM is to manage groundwater so that everyone has equal or at least minimum access to water for essential purposes. The project aims to engage the community and Panchayat Raj Institutions to decentralize decision-making and vouch for policy-driven community practices. As a result, the community has agreed upon the “social regulation,” wherein there is equitable access to groundwater for all. Hence, the project has successfully increased groundwater levels by educating the community about groundwater resource knowledge and changing their perception that it is a common property resource.

Image 2: Groundwater pits in Anantapur, Andhra Pradesh Pic: RECL-watershed.jpg

Now, the community members share the common benefit from the resource. This has also led to conserving the resources keeping in mind the community’s best interest. Farmers believe that the help of scientific knowledge has enhanced their practices, which is vital in changing the groundwater situation in their area. As a result, this has increased the expanse of agricultural land in the area, and the communities are slowly moving towards producing less water-intensive crops to save water. Some key takeaways from this case are: prioritizing water usage for essential purposes, stocktaking of water resources, water-saving cropping patterns, and participatory groundwater monitoring mechanisms that set norms for water regulation. These achievements have positively impacted the lives of people from these villages by bringing an elevation to their socio-economic conditions.

Andhra Pradesh Drought Adaptation Initiative Project (APDAI)

The final case is based on the Andhra Pradesh Drought Adaptation Initiative (APDAI), again a program to address the situation of frequent droughts in the state. The origin of the project was established in 2005 when the World Bank wanted to study the cause and consequences of the state’s drought problem. The study recommended that locally based solutions be adopted to mitigate droughts and improve climate resilience. Consequently, the government of AP launched the APDAI as a pilot project in the subsequent year in the most drought-prone districts of the state – Anantpur, and Mahbubnagar. The World Bank financed the project’ in 6 villages in the Mahbubnagar district. The second phase absorbed nine more villages from the same district alongside ten villages from the Anantpur district. Another reason for implementing the pilot in these districts was that they heavily relied on groundwater and grew water-intensive crops such as rice. Therefore, there was a crucial need to create alternative livelihoods for these communities by helping them create better production systems and judicious use of common pool resources.

APDAI’s challenges in these districts were similar to that of APFAMGS and SWRM in terms of equal access to water for all households, crop diversification, and the need for other livelihood opportunities. In order to resolve these issues, an integrated participatory approach was required to include all stakeholders, village institutions, and the local government. Furthermore, APDAI wanted to install the idea of sharing groundwater as a CPR through solid local leadership from all levels of government, namely, the Mandals, districts, and the state government. A portion of the project’s success can be attributed to the local grassroots-level organizations that facilitated the planning, implementing, and monitoring processes. Besides, they also played a significant role in mobilizing the community through Self Help Groups that provided representation and support on behalf of the communities. This sign of inclusion of even the poorest of people from these drought-prone villages was a critical factor in managing the natural resources in the region.

Farmers, marginalized people, community representatives, village institution representatives, and government representatives come together for a dialogue to adopt efficient solutions for managing groundwater water resources. Soon after, the villages adopted micro-irrigation techniques that expanded the agricultural area and the crop yield. Likewise, the community enforced a complete ban on digging new wells and discouraged groundwater pumping, reducing it by 25 to 30%, saving groundwater and electricity. Additionally, technical and financial support was offered to the communities for livelihood diversification resulting in the adaptation of resilient climate measures, which focuses on conserving and regenerating natural resources. Hence, the APDAI strategy is an excellent example of good governance in drylands that engages with the local communities for sustainable development of natural resources and agricultural management.

In this issue of Community Conservancy, we discuss the impact of Community-Based Groundwater Management across different geographical locations in Andhra Pradesh. All the cases describe groundwater beyond its capacity. It was becoming difficult for the community to cope as water availability decreased by the day, and the status of groundwater in these areas was pathetic. The programs mentioned above are designed to mitigate droughts and fight dry spells in arid and semi-arid regions like these villages in AP. The strategies of the programs have brought awareness to the farmers in managing groundwater. These programs have united the community to a large extent and have made them realize that ‘groundwater’ is a shared resource. Moreover, these participatory models of groundwater management have helped the communities access groundwater and conserve it for future use. Therefore, community practices for groundwater management in Andhra Pradesh have efficiently provided sustainable, equal, and equitable access to groundwater resources.


Foundation for Ecological Security. (2016, March). COMMON POOLS AND COMMON KNOWLEDGE (Working Paper 33). https://fes.org.in/resources/studies-&-reports/working-papers/wp33.pdf

German Agro Action & Rural India. (2009, May 14). Social regulations in water management in a village in Anantapur district, Andhra Pradesh- a case study on livelihood transformation | India Water Portal. India Water Portal. https://www.indiawaterportal.org/articles/social-regulations-water-management-village-anantapur-district-andhra-pradesh-case-study

Reddy, M. S., Reddy, V. R., & Mohan, R. V. R. (n.d.). Institutionalising Groundwater Management: A Tale of Three Participatory Models in Andhra Pradesh (RULNR Working Paper No. 15). CENTRE FOR ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL STUDIES & RESEARCH UNIT FOR LIVELIHOODS AND NATURAL RESOURCES. https://www.academia.edu/9819286/Institutionalising_Groundwater_Management_A_Tale_of_Three_Participatory_Models_in_Andhra_Pradesh

The World Bank. (2011, April). India: Andhra Pradesh Drought Adaptation Initiative. https://openknowledge.worldbank.org/bitstream/handle/10986/2775/645070ESW0whit0APDAI000Final0Report.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y

World Bank Group. (n.d.). Can Participatory Groundwater Management Enhance Drought Resilience?https://documents1.worldbank.org/curated/en/479511579804284753/pdf/Can-Participatory-Groundwater-Management-Enhance-Drought-Resilience-The-Case-of-the-Andhra-Pradesh-Farmer-Managed-Groundwater-Systems-Project.pdf


Community Conservancy: The Alwar Case Study

This case talks about the role of rural communities in sustainable and equitable water resource conservation and management in the Alwar district of Rajasthan.

In 2019 after being monsoon deficient for two consecutive years, the city officials of the Chennai Municipal Corporation declared “Day Zero,” or the day that there is no water left in the city’s reservoirs for its consumption. However, in the Alwar district of Rajasthan, which is considered the driest part of the country, Day Zero was once an everyday reality. With water being the most vital resource for human existence, this piece talks about how people who live in this region of India manage to have access to water. 

It is well known that Rajasthan is the driest state in India, and in most parts of this water-scarce state, annual rainfall is the only source of water. Located in Northwest India, about 150 km south of Delhi, Alwar also depends on yearly rainfall as the primary water source. As the five rivers flowing through this region do not start from snow peaks, they are left out and dry if the southwest monsoon fails to provide enough water. Therefore, the five rivers flowing in this region are often dry. Though there has been no significant change in the rainfall in the last few decades, rainfall in the area is mostly less. However, according to the Pre-Monsoon water level data for the district, records claim that there is a 25cm decline rate in groundwater level annually across various blocks.[1] Hence, the usage of groundwater and its gradual decline posed a massive concern to the villagers of the area.

Generationally, agriculture is the local livelihood of the villagers of Alwar. In such a water-scanty area, extracting groundwater via borewells is the primary water source for irrigation. Regardless, the agricultural practices at Alwar showed a growing dependence on groundwater, which resulted in unsustainable over-extraction of the resource. The water crisis has persuaded the agriculturalists in the area to cultivate only a certain kind of crop owing to the lack of water. This has resulted in villagers comprising a diverse nutritional basket. Consequently, in the last few decades, the youth from these villages have been moving to explore other livelihood opportunities. The reason behind this shift is the lack of water for irrigation purposes, pushing people away from pursuing agriculture in the region. Therefore, this leaves the villagers with the urgent necessity to devise workable water harvesting techniques to save the day. Alwar is an ancient Indian city with a great history of water conservation through traditional water harvesting processes. For example, Kui, to minimize water runoff; Tanki and Bawari (step wells) for rainwater storage; and so on. Of these, Johads are pond-like structures prominently found in water-stressed districts like Alwar and are dug-out pits primarily used to collect rainwater and recharge groundwater. Johads are useful in replenishing groundwater by allowing rainwater to percolate directly into the soil.

Image : A representative image of a Johad Pic:A_Nadi_(small_johad)_in_village_Laporiya,_Rajasthan.jpg

As mentioned earlier, the region of Alwar is known for its rich water conservation systems. Along with it, the neighbouring forest lands of the Aravalli range have helped replenish the underground aquifers. In ancient times, the rulers of the region funded the building of johads while holding a portion of the harvest as tax. Local kings slowly gambled away the forest lands to British invaders leading to deforestation and soil erosion. Thus, rainfall runs off through the area along with the eroded topsoil, which is observed to be washed down into these old johads. Post-independence, the government of India ventured into technologically advancing agriculture and irrigation techniques. Modern technologies were used to fetch groundwater via bore wells and tube wells for agricultural activities and other essential needs in such arid parts of the country. These modern initiatives seemed to ease the water-stressed situation of villages like Alwar. However, a repeated cycle of this resulted in groundwater depletion in the district. The condition worsened further in 1985-86 when Alwar faced a severe drought. The period was arid, and water levels dropped drastically, so the villagers could not dig deeper.

This was when Tarun Bharat Sangh (TBS), a not-for-profit organization that seeks to restore socio-ecological welfare via community governance and community-driven sustainable management of natural resources, came into play. TBS is headquartered in the Bheekampura block of the Alwar district and has been working in the region since the late 1980s. The founder of TBS, Rajendra Singh, popularly referred to as the Waterman of India, started rejuvenating the johads across the villages of Alwar. Soon after, in 1986, their efforts began paying off when the region’s wells started filling with water. TBS also facilitated in creation of the Arawari River Parliament in 1999, a non-legal governing body for community water management. The function of this parliament is to regulate water across the villages and conserve the resource. In addition, the body has regular meetings to resolve issues of conflict between villages or people regarding the resource.

One such area of Alwar that has flourished due to this successful johad management is — Gopalpura. In 1986, the village, with the help of villagers, renovated the damaged silted johads. Ten years later, more earthen dams or johads were constructed, and the water level had risen to 162 million gallons. The agricultural capacity of the region also increased manifold from 33 hectares to 108 hectares, leading to double cropping. Moreover, as part of the social forestry initiative, the villagers revived forest resources around Gopalpura, and compensation was also enforced as a penalty for anyone found cutting trees. Currently, johad-based conservation has spread across Rajasthan and has been proven effective in groundwater management. Construction of numerous johads by the community all over the state has been contributing to providing groundwater to the people in the area during the dry seasons and improving water quality. Today, there are 8,600 johads across 1086 villages in the Alwar district. In addition, the community has also tasked social forestry to increase the area’s green cover.

Image 2: Community meetings Pic: 1237084_1088155261215938_942889094146866102_n-1.jpg

The impact of this success is felt across such arid regions in the country. In 2014, Kohar village in Alwar, too, faced the wrath of water. A check dam was built to reduce water flow velocity by engaging the community in dam construction. Hence, the renovation of johads through rural communities was successful, and additionally, it also left a positive impact on the community and ecology. Now that agriculture seems possible, migration has reduced, and the villagers’ socio-economical status has also improved drastically. This piece illustrates the success of community practices in conserving the precious resource, which is the elixir of human life.


[1] Based on Ground water information report of Alwar district, Rajasthan http://cgwb.gov.in/District_Profile/Rajasthan/Alwar.pdf


Community Conservancy

An introduction to the series and community-based conservation and the recent trends in Indian conservationism

Ecology and people complement each other, and their constant interconnection is what makes the earth a fascinating place for humans to live on. However, today human developmental activities are carried out at the expense of the environment, and it is often poor and marginalized communities that pay the price for it. Hence, the Community Conservancy series aims to illustrate how conservation, biodiversity, and local livelihoods are mutually affected due to these complex socio-ecological conflicts.

The Community Conservancy series will shed light on the current Indian environmentalist and conservationist trends. However, this series mainly focuses on bringing on accounts of specific community-based conservation (CBC) approaches that have proved effective in preserving natural resources and views the same through the lens of sustainability. Finally, the series will also point out some of the sufferings and failures of such models.

Humans have generally turned their backs on the environment, and often their willing blindness prevents them from seeing how their actions towards the environment turn out to be destructive in nature. Although India has always been known for its rich geographical diversity since time immemorial, the urge to preserve its natural resources started only during the 1970s. The Chipko movement in 1973 was the stepping stone for igniting the environmental movement in India. Simultaneously, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, owing to her love for nature and wildlife, introduced the Project Tiger, a tiger conservation program that gained momentum and helped strengthen the environmental movement in India. So now comes a critical question, how is India planning to conserve its environment and natural resources?

Image: A representative image of forest women carrying fuelwood Pic: 875823-87844-bevqvztxiz-1524409752.jpg

The Government of India plays the predominant role in governing and regulating natural resources resulting in public neglect of these resources. For a long time, India has adapted most of its ideas and approaches to conservation from the West, and – Western Environmentalism strongly believes in preserving and conserving natural resources for the sake of maintaining environmental aesthetics (it isn’t surprising that fortress conservation strategies are dominant globally). Therefore, conservation in India also meant creating inviolate spaces to protect natural resources and biodiversity. Consequently, even today, colonial attitudes of Indian policymakers play a significant role in influencing environmentalism in the country. But, in recent times, community-based conservation is receiving increasing attention. But to understand the same, one must know how the creation of protected fortresses affects socio-ecological systems.

Protected areas (PAs) strictly prohibit the inclusion of humans, particularly local people, in planning for creating these spaces. They are often not allowed to enter these zones and are usually evicted from these places if necessary. Due to its exclusionary nature, this type of conservation approach is referred to as fortress conservation. Fortress conservation is based on the notion that resources and biodiversity are gradually diminishing in sites of active human intervention. According to fortress conservationists, human intervention creates fragmentation inducing the loss of resources and species. It is believed that when left undisturbed, nature tends to thrive, and the entire ecosystem will organically go back to its natural state. Thus, these conservationists justify their claim to eliminate poor rural indigenous people to protect the environment. On the other hand, fortress conservation can disastrously impact the local communities that depend on natural resources from the protected area. The lack of access to these resources has left numerous such communities in a state of dismay costing their livelihoods and, in the worst case, even their shelter. Nevertheless, experts in favour of community-based conservation practices argue that over the years, human activity around these critically protected zones has been a catalyst in improving the biodiversity in the region. Though localities use some of the resources for survival or livelihood purposes, their actions do not tend to harm them. Yet, it is essential to understand the threshold of this partnership and draw clear boundaries that do not harm either of the entities.

Image : Community meetings Pic: file7kl4pspt8ie1ltggad2l.jpg

This form of exclusionary conservation cuts humans from the scene of protecting resources and biodiversity. Furthermore, the idea is supported by various stakeholders like the government, environment foundations, think tanks, NGOs, industrial leaders, and civilians, whose stance is sometimes considered more valuable than that of people living in the region generationally. Such a case fuels the need for a much-needed development debate that poses a moral dilemma — whether to leave natural spaces untouched for conserving them or evict the local people who depend on this resource. Should the world follow the Western model of fortress conservation or community-based conservation? The answer to this question is not simple. In a country like ours with ten diversely unique biogeographic zones, thrusting a single universal conservation model does not help preserve natural resources. The public must take an informed stand on the issue because we also fundamentally depend on nature, and neither entity can exist without the other. Moreover, it is crucial to realize the presence of a complex nexus between resources, biodiversity, poverty, and local livelihoods. Therefore, it becomes tough for actors like the state to design an intervention that serves the combined needs of both community and conservation. It is time that policy stakeholders realize the same and chart out conservation models specific to each region based on local realities. This piece tries to bring out the reality of Indian environmentalism. It attempts to point out that merely the idea of exclusionary and inclusive conservation is not enough to address the problem of conservation in today’s era.


Let Nature Sing

Where have the sparrows gone? That’s something people living in cities are quick to notice. House sparrow populations have been declining worldwide due to modern buildings, disappearing home gardens and air pollution wreaking havoc on the bird’s habitat and food sources. House sparrows have been considered the most adaptable of birds capable of thriving in cities, farms, and suburbs. Though it is an aggressive little bird that pushes out native birds, its world-wide decline has listed it as a species very important as part of urban conservation. As record heatwaves dry up India’s water sources, dehydrated birds are falling from the sky with animal rescuers treating thousands of birds in animal hospitals.

Need for biodiversity and green spaces management:

Biodiversity loss has serious implications beyond just species loss and the deteriorating health of our ecosystems are eroding the foundations of our economies, livelihoods, food security, health and quality of life worldwide.

Covid-19 resulted in empty streets and made city life quieter. The acoustic quality of bird songs improved as birds did not have to sing louder to compete with the noise of traffic. The lockdowns had a positive impact on migratory birds using cities as ‘rest stops’ as they made long journeys across continents.

Birds are messengers and teachers of our environment and are indicators of wealth and prosperity. Where there are birds, you have insects, vegetation, grass, and plants to sustain the earth that we humans live off. Bird sounds have deeply influenced our societies and increased exposure to bird sounds have shown to improve physical and mental health.

Birds make us appreciate nature and are a natural alarm to wake-up each morning and the onus is on each one of us to make our homes and surroundings greener and more diverse. Our cities need to be ’restorative environments’ that facilitate recovery from everyday fatigue, negative mood and stress and exposure to sounds of nature specifically bird songs have shown to be very effective. Read this interesting study that shows participants who experienced a virtual reality forest environment with birds and water sounds showed significantly reduced pulse rate, muscle tension, whereas those who listened to classical music or silence showed lesser stress recovery.

India’s water bodies for birds:

There are thousands of bird species with India having almost 12% of the bird species found on the planet. Over 60 species are unique to the Indian sub-continent. Though wild-life experiences in India brings tigers and elephants to our minds, the foothills of the Himalayas, flood plains of the Ganges, and the off-beaten track of the tropical paradise of the Andaman Islands are bird paradises.

Here are a few popular bird sanctuaries in India and the water bodies that support it.

Arunachal Pradesh and Assam:

The eastern most state of India, Arunachal Pradesh is one of its kind because of the abundance of birds and some of the most important bird species found in the Namdapaha national park, Mishmi hills and Eaglenest Bird Sanctuary. With over 500 recorded species, these are declared as Important Bird Area (IBA). IBAs are an important indicator of bio-diversity richness holding threatened bird species.

Assam, the land of mystique blue hills and valleys serve as a rare refuge for as many as 109 species of birds as part of the Dehing Patkai, Maguri Beel wetlands and Kaziranga national park.

The rivers of Sunderbans and the Santrgachi Jheel in Howrah and the Kulik Bird Sanctuary are few of the well-known spots where thousands of migratory birds visit every year in winter.

Laughing Thrush (Local name: Bugun Liochicla) threatened with extinction in the Eaglenest bird sanctuary – Arunachal Pradesh, India

In conclusion:

We are biologically connected to bird songs. Researchers point to a ‘universal grammar’ that indicate common acoustic patterns between bird sounds and human speech giving us a better grasp on the communication patterns of other species and may even help us perfect natural speech for future robots and Artificial Intelligence (A.I).

Our lessons learnt from Covid-19 among others is how reduced human disturbances have been a positive story around linkages between bird songs, mental health, and alignment with nature. We must do our bit to increase bird diversity and its abundance in urban areas.

More varied bird songs are needed and how do we keep up that momentum? By educating ourselves, inspiring our younger generation to forge that connection with nature, visiting those precious waterbodies that sustain these birds, creating an emotional connection with them, listening to them, treating them like our loved ones and experiencing the calmness that comes with the sense of freedom and playfulness that birds exhibit.


Jal Jeevan – Sundaleri Lake

The ambitious collaboration between the Hinduja Group and E.F.I to conserve and protect India’s water bodies 

The Sundaleri Lake is located in the North-Eastern part of the Kanchipuram District in the village of Vallakotai. The Kanchipuram District is well-known for its traditional clothing industry and historical significance.

Rapid urbanization and industrialization, and no maintenance led to the Lake being polluted with solid waste and invasive weeds. This severely affected the ecosystem and biodiversity of the surrounding area.

With the support of the government of Tamil Nadu and the Hinduja Foundation under the Jal Jeevan initiative, the Environmental Foundation of India took on the task of restoring the Sundaleri Lake.

The Lake underwent a rigorous transformation in 2021, which included the removal of weeds, desilting of the Lake, bund strengthening and dual embankment and the construction of islands and recharge pits. A C-shaped bund was also constructed to strengthen the structure of the Lake.

The lake is now all set to become a biodiversity hotspot for indigenous flora and fauna.  


Jal Jeevan – Sathangadu Lake

The ambitious collaboration between the Hinduja Group and E.F.I to conserve and protect India’s water bodies 

The Sathangadu Lake is located in Manali, Chennai. It is surrounded by industries, and was found to be deteriorating due to pollutants like sewage and weeds. Lack of maintenance also contributed to its deterioration. The lake is integral to our ecosystem as it hosts several species of endemic and migratory birds. These birds can be spotted nesting along the bunds of the lake.

The Government of India, along with the Hinduja Foundation under the Jal Jeevan initiative and the Environmentalist Foundation of India took on the task of restoring this lake.

The restoration process consisted of de-weeding, de-silting, and regulation of the sewage in-flow through the construction of a sedimentary pit. Five islands have been roosted in this lake and about 245 native species have been planted across it. The restored lake is now more beneficial to the ecosystem than it was prior to the restoration.


Jal Jeevan – Senguttai Pond

The ambitious collaboration between the Hinduja Group and E.F.I to conserve and protect India’s water bodies 

Located in the east of the village of Kattampatti is the Senguttai Pond. It is a natural spring-based pond, surrounded by windmills and agricultural land. This pond plays a major role in recharging the groundwater table of the surrounding area. Over the years, the pond fell into disuse, and was soon forgotten by the people, which led to growth of invasive weeds and an accumulation of excess silt.

The restoration was undertaken by the Environmentalist Foundation of India along with the Hinduja Foundation and IndusInd Bank.

The restoration of the pond included the removal of invasive weeds, de-silting and deepening of the water body, constructing and strengthening of the earthen bunds, inlet and outlet regulation in the pond area, construction of recharge pits, fencing of the water body and native tree plantation along the bunds.

With all of its new features, the Senguttai pond is now ready to support of life forms. The pond id well protected and has an increased water holding capacity.


Jal Jeevan – Nandiambakkam Pond

The ambitious collaboration between the Hinduja Group and E.F.I to conserve and protect India’s water bodies 

In the town of Minjur, located in the outskirts of North Chennai is the Nandiambakkam Pond. This pond is vital in sustaining the lives of the community and controlling floods. Hence, it can be classified as a community pond. Community ponds are just as important as lakes and reservoirs as a source of water. This pond was polluted with solid and liquid waste. There were multiple invasive species that lived there along with algae. The accumulation of a lot of the waste was due to the urbanization and industrialization over the years. The quality of water in the pond impacts the nearby citizens, which are nearly 5,000 in number. Under the Jal Jeevan initiative, the task of restoring this pond has been undertaken. This has been done by E.F.I in association with the Government of India, and Ashok Leyland, part of the Hinduja foundation. The restoration has led to a cleaner, safer pond for its residents instead of the health hazard that it was.


Jal Jeevan – Nagachery Lake

The ambitious collaboration between the Hinduja Group and E.F.I to conserve and protect India’s water bodies 

Nagachery Kulam is located in the town of Chidambaram. The town is between the Vellar river in the North and the Kollidam river in the South. The town uses water from the water bodies around it. Nagachery Kulam is one of these water bodies which support the town. Before restoration, the lake was polluted, filled with silt and weeds. It was not properly maintained.

Chidambaram Sub Col. Thiru L. Madhu Balan IAS, IndusInd Bank and the Hinduja Foundation funded this initiative to restore Nagachery Lake which was undertaken by the Environmentalist Foundation of India.

During restoration, the silt removed was used to strengthen the lake and construct dual embankments. The strengthening of the bund has improved resilience of the lake against floods. Recharge pits were made to help restore ground water. A sluice gate and regulator shutters were constructed to prevent erosion and control the velocity of the water.

Chidambaram town still depends on water bodies like this lake for water and the restoration of the Nagachery Kulam has helped the community realize its importance.


Dammit! – Tehri Dam

A mini series that brings to light the stories of India’s dams 

📍Tehri Dam, Uttarakhand

 टिहरी डैम

टिहरी बांध भारत का सबसे ऊंचा बांध है और उत्तराखंड में स्थित है।

India’s highest dam, the Tehri Dam is a 260.5m tall earth and rock fill dam built over Bhagirathi river with an installed capacity of 1,000 MW. Power generated by this project benefits the states of Uttarkhand, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Delhi. It also supplies Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh and Delhi with about 250 million gallons of water.

The design of Tehri dam was completed in 1972 but construction after feasibility studies began only in 1978. It was completed only in 2006 due to various financial, social and environmental impacts. There were numerous protests relating to construction of this dam as it would obstruct the natural flow of Bhagirathi river. The reservoir thus created would lead to complete submergence of 24 villages while affecting 88 others, including the town of Tehri.

हमें बांध नहीं चाहिए। बांध पहाड़ का विनाश है। – सुन्दरलाल बहुगुणा

Total cost of building this dam was approximately 1 billion USD. India National Trust For Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) conducted a cost-benefit analysis which stated that the cost of constructing the dam is about twice the benefits reaped from the project.

Another interesting point to note is that such a huge structure is built on the Central Himalayan Seismic Gap, which is considered to be a vulnerable segment prone to earthquakes. It also implies that impoundment of water in its reservoir is likely to create more pressure and trigger landslides. If an earthquake of very high magnitude breaks the dam, it would lead to submergence of highly productive and populated valleys of Uttarakhand(including Rishikesh and Haridwar),destroying lives, forests and agricultural resources. If a catastrophic event like this occurred, over a million people could lose their lives.

Did you know?

SOURCE: kafaltree.com

The Ghantaghar, which was a symbol of the splendor of the princely state of Tehri during the reign of the monarchy, was submerged as a result of the Tehri dam. It stands proud even after 11 years of drowning in the Tehri Lake.


Jal Jeevan – Morai Lake

The ambitious collaboration between the Hinduja Group and E.F.I to conserve and protect India’s water bodies 

The Morai village is located in the district of Tiruvallur. It is surrounded by many bodies of water. Due to the presence of the Krishna canal, the region is agriculture rich. A large lake provides water to the farmers for irrigation. This is the Morai lake. It also provides a habitat for the local flora and fauna. Over the years, due to no maintenance, the lake deteriorated rapidly. Invasive weeds and excess siltation were some of the major problems faced by the lake.

The Tamil Nadu Government, the Hinduja Foundation under the Jal Jeevan Initiative and the Environmentalist Foundation of India together took up the effort to restore the Morai lake.

The restoration consisted of removal of invasive weeds, desilting of the lake, bund strengthening and dual embankment, construction of a check dam and breaking bunds, construction of nesting islands and recharge pits, percolation trenches, protective fencing and plantation of native saplings. After restoration, the Morai lake is now once again a viable source of water to nearby farms and villages as it used to be.


Jal Jeevan – Moosi Rani Sagar

The ambitious collaboration between the Hinduja Group and E.F.I to conserve and protect India’s water bodies 

The Moosi Rani Sagar, an ancient stepwell is located in the city of Alwar, Rajasthan. A stepwell is a well or pond which is reached by descending a set of stairs. The Sagar has been a major provider of water to the city for thousands of years. The sandstone-marble memorial, Moosi Rani ki Chhatri was built in 1815 by Raja Vinay Singh in memory of Maharaja Bakhtawar Singh and Rani Moosi. This site, along with the City Palace has great historical significance.

The stepwell is part of a water system, which includes water collection, a sedimentation tank and a canal that links both. Over the years, the Sagar has deteriorated due to lack of maintenance. Solid waste and contaminated water found its way into the stepwell.

The restoration of this body of water was carried out by Ashok Leyland, the Environmentalist Foundation of India, the Hinduja Foundation (under the Jal Jeevan initiative) and the Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation.

On the 22nd of March, 2022, on World Water Day, Moosi Rani Sagar, newly restored, was revealed to the public.


Jal Jeevan – Kinhi Gadegaon Reservoir

The ambitious collaboration between the Hinduja Group and E.F.I to conserve and protect India’s water bodies 

The Kinhi-Gadegaon Reservoir is located in Vidharbha, Maharashtra. It is an important source of water for nearby farmers for their fields and the animals of the adjacent forest.

The Environmentalist Foundation of India in association with the Bhandara District Administration and Ashok Leyland decided to take on the task of reviving this lake.

Prior to the beginning of the revival, the level of the lake was quite uneven. Through the process of scrape silting, it was levelled and an embankment was made between the two water bodies this reservoir comprises of. The soil dug out from the lake to deepen it was used for the embankment to prevent floods. The reservoir is filled by a freshwater stream flowing from the forest behind.

After the project, the reservoir’s water holding capacity has increased by almost sixty percent. This is a unique restoration project that has focused on providing water for all life forms. This deepened water body is once again earning its name as the life line if the surrounding region.


Dammit! – Teesta Dam

A mini series that brings to light the stories of India’s dams 

📍Teesta Dams-West Bengal, Sikkim

तीस्ता बांध – बंगाल, सिक्किम

The Teesta river originates in the Eastern Himalayas and flows through the states of Sikkim, West Bengal and through Bangladesh before it enters the Bay of Bengal. It has a beautiful blue-green tinge owing to the presence of dolomite and limestone in this river. There are 6 hydroelectric projects being developed on the Teesta River, spread over the states of West Bengal and Sikkim.

SOURCE: indiawaterportal.org

तीस्ता नदी 414 किमी लंबी है।

There are five parts to the Teesta Hydro power project. The Teesta-VI hydroelectric power project is expected to be commissioned in 2024.This project is to be situated in Sirwani village of Sikkim and is undertaken by Lanco Teesta Hydro Power (LTHPL),which is a subsidiary of the National Hydroelectric Power Corporation (NHPC).With a capacity of 500MW,the Teesta-VI hydroelectric power project is expected to utilise the potential of this river basin to produce a lot of electricity for Sikkim and it neighbouring states.

What are the consequences that come along?

There are numerous dams on this mighty river. They have already tampered with the natural flow of this river, causing erratic and extreme bursts of rainfall in those areas. The soil has also become less fertile over a period of time. Not only this, Teesta has lost over 15 species of fish that used to inhabit this river.

Constructing more dams will increase the pressure on the Darjeeling-Sikkim sensitive seismic zone triggering earthquakes.Teesta carries high sediment load and rise in water-table will also make the towns and cities on the lower reaches more vulnerable and prone to disasters.

A survey published by the International Mountain Development Society reveals that most participants belonging to the Teesta river basin had a negative perception of such projects. They stated that it lead to loss of jobs and quality of life, decreased their feeling of security as they would be more prone to floods and landslides.


Dammit! – Mini Dams of TN

A mini series that brings to light the stories of India’s dams 

ஐந்து ரத்தினங்கள், தமிழ்நாடு

📍 Adavinainar Dam,Tenkasi district

அடவி நயினார் அணை, தென்காசி

Built over Hanumantha river,this dam is 670m long.There is a specific reason for its construction: in 1992 there was exceptionally high rainfall in Tirunelveli and Tenkasi.This resulted in flooding,landslides and huge damage to life and property.Following this the Government of Tamilnadu decided to build the  Adavinainar to regulate floods and supply water for agricultural purposes.

Construction of the dam was completed in 2002.Currently the dam benefits several agricultural villages of Tenakasi and Tirunelveli districts.

Did you know?

In 2019, one of the sluices of the dam was damaged which resulted in water from the dam flowing onto the road and causing partial damage. This was followed by backlash from farmers who said that the damage caused more water to be released from the dam than inflow to the dam, which could result in the dam drying faster.

SOURCE: timesofindia

📍 Manimuthar Dam,Tirunelveli district

மணிமுத்தாறு அணை, திருநெல்வேலி

Built in 1958 over Thamirabarani river, Manimuthar dam has the biggest reservoir of the district of Tirunelveli.

The purpose of building this dam was to prevent rainwater from mixing with Bay of Bengal during monsoon. It can hold upto 118 feet of water.

This dam stretches over 3km and has helped in irrigation of over 65,000 acres of land including villages of Viravikulam, Therku Paapankulam, Ayan Singampatti and Therku Kallidaikurichi.

📍 Rama Nathi Dam,Tirunelveli district

ராமநதி அணை, திருநெல்வேலி

Constructed in 1974 in Melakadayam village across the Ramanadhi river, the Ramanadhi dam has a storage capacity of 152 Mcft. Located at the foothills of the Western Ghats, this dam is built out of earth and stone masonry structures.

SOURCE: maalaimalar.com

முழு கொள்ளளவை எட்டி கடல் போல் காட்சியளிக்கும் ராமநதி அணை.

This dam is a tourist attraction and picnic spot due to its scenic beauty.

📍 Kadana Nathi Dam,Tirunelveli district

கடனா நதி அணை, திருநெல்வேலி

Located between Agasthiya Hill and Kuravanchi Hill, the Kadana nadhi dam receives water through two waterfalls namely Thoniyar and Kallaru.

The 85-foot embankment has now been renovated and expanded by the Public Works Department, with seven sluices. This dam is the main water support for the surrounding farmlands. It was inaugurated in 1969 by the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu Mr. M. Karunanidhi.

📍 Motai Dam,Tirunelveli district

மோட்டை அணை, திருநெல்வேலி

மேற்கு தொடர்ச்சி மலை அடிவார பகுதியில் பெய்த தொடர் மழையால் மோட்டை அணைக்கு நீர்வரத்து அதிகரிக்க தொடங்கியது.

Motai Dam is situated at the foothills of the Western Ghats, about 5 km from Sengottai.This dam has a catchment area of ​​about 1.35 square miles. It has a capacity of about 27 feet. Through this dam, 366.15 acres of land is directly irrigated through 22 ponds. Also, 100 acres of land in Motai, Thavanai, Kaduvetti, Urapatu district areas are indirectly being used for irrigation.


Jal Jeevan – Thamaraikulam Lake

The ambitious collaboration between the Hinduja Group and E.F.I to conserve and protect India’s water bodies 

Ennore is a region in Chennai located in the Kosathalaiyar basin area. This basin houses several bodies of water close to each other that are the primary sources of water for the region. The area consists of many factories and ports. This urbanisation led to the deterioration of many of these water bodies. The water became polluted with domestic waste and untreated sewage.

The Thamarai Kulam is one among these water bodies. Dumping of large amount of solid waste along its bunds and the inflow of untreated sewage contaminated it, making it unfit for local aquatic fauna to survive.

The Government of India, along with the Hinduja Foundation under the Jal Jeevan initiative and the Environmentalist Foundation of India worked together to restore this water body.

The restoration process consisted of the removal of invasive weeds and garbage, dredging and de-silting along the periphery of the lake, construction and strengthening of the bund and plantation along the bund.                             

After restoration, the lake is now once again becoming a beautiful water body.


Jal Jeevan – Alasanatham Lake

The ambitious collaboration between the Hinduja Group and E.F.I to conserve and protect India’s water bodies

To the east of the city of Hosur is the Alasanatham Lake. Hosur was ruled by several revered kings in the Sangam age. It is on the banks of the Thenpenniyar river and is today bustling with industrial activity. This lake receives and shares water in every direction. Over the years, it became polluted with solid waste. In 2019, the Environmentalist Foundation of India along with the Krishnagiri District administration and Ashok Leyland took on the task of restoring this body of water. Over the course of nearly a year the lake was ecologically restored and transformed into a suitable habitat for various forms of life. The lake was dug up, bunds were made, native plants were planted to strengthen the bunds. Sedimentation tanks and a recharge pit were made as a part of the natural filtration system. Protective fencing was built around the lake and efforts were made to clean the land surrounding the lake. The restoration of this lake is now complete.