Category Archives: Nature

Environmental activist P.S. Panicker dead

A former professor, he was part of many human rights movements

Environmental activist P.S. Panicker, who took up the cause of victims of groundwater exploitation in Plachimada by Coca Cola and campaigned relentlessly for the protection of Bharathapuzha, died late on Tuesday. He was 75.

A former college professor, Mr. Panicker hailed from Arookkutti near Cherthala and had worked in the Political Science departments of NSS colleges at Pandalam, Changanassery, Ottappalam, Mattannur, and Cherthala. He retired from NSS College, Nenmara.

He then settled at Sekharipuram in Palakkad to actively engage with various civil society movements. A long-time associate of the late environmentalist Indyanur Gopi, Mr. Panicker was the coordinator of National Green Corps and president of Bharathapuzha Samrakshana Samithy.

He was also president of the human rights organisation Janajagratha and chairperson of Plachimada Struggle Solidarity Committee.

He is survived by wife B. Saraswathi, daughter Sudha, and son Rajkamal. Cremation was held on Wednesday evening.

source: http://www.thehindu.com / The Hindu / Home> News> States> Kerala / by Special Correspondent / Palakkad – June 07th, 2017

A fisher couple who defies conventions

Braving waves: The CMFRI will felicitate K.V. Karthikeyan and K.C. Rekha on Friday.

Rekha is the first woman in the country who goes fishing in the sea by boat, according to CMFRI

The Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute (CMFRI) will felicitate K.V. Karthikeyan and his wife K.C. Rekha who have been venturing into the sea for fishing using gill nets and hooks since the past 13 years.

Sudarshan Bhagat, Union Minister of State for Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare, will present a memento to the couple at a fishermen meet to be held at CMFRI here on Friday. He will hand over fish seeds to the couple for launching sea cage farming. The programme is part of the ongoing platinum jubilee celebrations of the institution.

An official release here said that the couple hails from Kundazhiyoor near Chettuva in Thrissur district. It claimed that Ms. Rekha is the first woman in the country who goes fishing in the sea by boat. Although there are women engaged in fishing in backwaters, no record about women’s presence in fishing along the Indian coasts is available so far, said A. Gopalakrishnan, Director of CMFRI. He said that the institution wanted to felicitate the courage shown by the couple.

Financial support

“There are some superstitious beliefs in the society that women are not supposed to go to the sea for fishing. But, here a lady has courageously broken all these unreasonable customs and conventions and made a living out of fishing,” said Mr. Gopalakrishnan. The CMFRI has offered them financial and technical support to launch cage farming in the sea.

The Minister will address the representatives of fishermen and fish farmers. An interactive session will also be held on the occasion to solve the issues being faced by stakeholders.

source: http://www.thehindu.com / The Hindu / Home> News> Cities> Kochi / by  Special Correspondent / Kochi – May 04th, 2017

Nilambur teak set to enter elite club of products with GI tag

prized wood: The superior quality of the Nilambur teak was identified by the British. — Photos: Special Arrangement

The timber has superior mechanical and physical properties, besides an incomparable aesthetic appearance

Nilambur teak, internationally known for its superior quality and elegant appearance, will soon be added to the list of Kerala produces with the Geographical Indication (GI) tag.

The effort to obtain the GI status for this unique timber variety, pioneered by the IPR (Intellectual Property Rights) Cell of the Kerala Agricultural University (KAU) with the support of the Nilambur Teak Heritage Society, the Kerala Forest Research Institute (KFRI) and the Department of Forests, is set to bear fruit within a month.

It was the Britishers who identified the superior quality of teak from Nilambur plantations and forests. Later, the region became the major supplier of quality teak in the world.

Global appeal

As its fame crossed the seven seas, Nilambur was christened the Mecca of Teak. Tonnes of timber, blessed with superior mechanical and physical properties as well as incomparable aesthetic appearance, were taken to London and other parts of the world. The Nilambur-Shoranur Railway line was laid for transporting the teak logs.

However, fake products with false tags started flooding the wood/ furniture markets as the fame of Nilambur teak increased. Understanding the potential risk, the IPR Cell and the College of Forestry of Kerala Agricultural University motivated the people of Nilambur to protect their rights legally, by registering the unique product as a Geographical Indication under the GI Act.

The Nilambur Teak Heritage Society joined hands with the Kerala Agricultural University to register Nilambur teak as a GI product of India. The IPR Cell of KAU coordinated the legal procedures. Scientific studies to validate the unique qualities of Nilambur teak were done at KAU’s College of Forestry. The KFRI Centres at Peechi and Nilambur and the Kerala Forest Department also supported the venture.

The preparations for registering Nilambur teak were initiated with a workshop of stakeholders organised by KAU in 2013. The application for GI registration was submitted to the GI Registry, Chennai, in December 2015. The modalities completed, the formality of bestowing the GI tag on Nilambur teak is expected at the next sitting of the Registry, according to KAU sources. Members of Nilambur Teak Heritage Society, Coordinator of KAU’s IPR Cell and experts from the College of Forestry have been asked to attend the sitting at the GI Registry, scheduled for the end of February.

GI registration of Pokkali rice, one of the first Kerala produces to get the GI tag, meanwhile, has been renewed. Other Kerala products with GI registration include Vazhakulam Pineapple, Wayanadan rice varieties Jeerakasala and Gandhakasala, Tirur Betel vine, Central Travancore Jaggery and Chengalikodan Nendran, a banana variety.

source:  http://www.thehindu.com / The Hindu / Home> News> Stats> Kerala / by Mini Maringatheri / Thrissur – February 10th, 2017

Going native

Media entrepreneur M.R. Hari rears Cheruvally cows | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Many city dwellers are rearing native cattle breeds

Veterinarian Easwaran E.K. is passionate about cows, specifically breeds native to Kerala. Among his prized bovines is a six-year-old pure breed Vechur cow that he rears on his home farm in Aruvikkara. For media entrepreneur M.R. Hari though, it’s Cheruvally cows that have captured his interest. He rears five of these cows that are endemic to villages in central Kerala in his farm at Puliyarakonam.

Not too far away, in Malayam, government employee and dairy farmer Suraj S. considers a playful 10-month-old Kasaragod dwarf, yet another native breed, as the star of his 40-strong herd. For R.G. Arundev, an award-winning dairy farmer from Balaramapuram, meanwhile, his herd of indigenous cows, comprising two Vechurs, two Kasaragod dwarfs and North Indian natives Gir, Sahiwal, Kankrej and Krishna Valley, are his favourites within his herd of 87 cattle…

At a time when the hullabaloo over Jallikattu turns the spotlight on the need to preserve native breeds, there are quite a few farmers and agriculturalists in the city who have already taken the bull by the horns and are helping to conserve indigenous cattle of Kerala. “Native breeds are the BMWs of dairy farming!” says Hari.

“They’ve become so rare and consequently expensive that it’s now become a bit of a prestige issue for people to rear them” he adds. Suraj is one of them.

“It’s very difficult to procure a Vechur cow and also they cost a bomb – upwards of 1.5 lakh. The next best bet was a Kasaragod dwarf. I bought 10 of them from Kasaragod but had to sell them because they are naturally free-ranging animals and there was no space at home for them to roam at will,” he says. Unlike ‘super cows’ the native breeds are easy to rear, say the farmers. “All that they require are green grass, fresh water and plenty of sun. These animals are very hardy and have a make-up that’s suitable to our climate and as such rarely fall ill, ” says Suraj, who turned to dairy farming when he hit 30 nine years ago. “I don’t think of it as business but my way of giving back to society. It gives me great satisfaction,” he adds.

For many of them, though, their interest in organic farming appears to have led them to native breeds.

Dr. Easwaran, a veterinary surgeon at the Animal Husbandry department, for instance, practices Subash Palekar’s zero-budget natural farming, for which native cattle are essential. “Their manure is rich in microbes that can revive the fertility and nutrient value of soil. Their discharges have medicinal properties,” explains the vet. “I have a professional interest in conservation of native breeds but it’s also my passion. At home we’ve always reared cows,” he adds.

Hari also practices zero-budget agriculture. “Actually, converting rocky or barren land to fertile natural forest is my passion. For that I need indigenous, cows, goats, hens and so on. To me these animals are small organic processing units that send many nutrients from native shrubs, trees and herbs that they eat, back to the soil,” says the entrepreneur.

His interest in cows stems from the pioneering efforts of Sosamma Iype, a professor of Animal Breeding and Genetics in College of Veterinary and Animal Sciences, Mannuthy, to bring back the Vechur cow from extinction. “I went to film a documentary on her and was blown away by what she had achieved and I immediately resolved to buy native cattle,” he explains.

That said, native breeds are not cash cows when it comes to the quantity of milk. “They produce much less milk per day than European or hybrid breeds. From a Vechur cow, for instance, one can get a maximum of two litres of milk per day and that’s pushing it. Compare that to an average of 20 litres from a Holstein-Friesian,” says Arundev, a CISF officer-turned-dairy farmer. It’s the quality that counts.

“There is high demand for their milk, cowdung and urine, all of which have medicinal value. Most of my customers are Ayurveda companies. I have to get up with the cows to collect the first discharges of the day and squeeze the first milk out of them, for they are all top dollar, literally and figuratively,” says Arundev.

Did you know?

Kerala has several indigenous breeds – Vechur, Cheruvally, Kasaragod dwarf, Kuttampuzha dwarf, Vadakara and Vilwadri, though only the Vechur is officially recognised as a ‘native’ breed. Pure breed native cattle are always of single colour,says Dr. Easwaran.

Cow conservation

Sosamma Iype motivated a group of environmentally-conscious university students to conduct an extensive search for Vechur cows and bulls. The Vechur Conservation Project was launched in Veterinary College, Thrissur, in July 1989 with eight animals. Today, there are, reportedly, 1600 or so Vechur cattle in Kerala. The Vechur Conservation Trust came into being in 1998 and is now ‘dedicated to the cause of domestic animal diversity conservation.’ (Source: PIB, Government of India).

source: http://www.thehindu.com / The Hindu / Home> Society / by Nitya Sathyendran / Thiruvananthapuram – February 10th, 2017

Tribe offers clues to hidden wonders of medicinal plant

Based on traditional knowledge of Cholanaickan tribe

A medicinal plant endemic to the southern parts of Western Ghats and Sri Lanka could offer scientists the key to new herbal formulations and modern drugs for the treatment of cancer and wounds and burns.

Scientists at the Jawaharlal Nehru Tropical Botanic Garden and Research Institute (JNTBGRI) here have confirmed the multiple therapeutic properties of Neurocalyx calycinus used by the Cholanaickan tribe, one of the particularly vulnerable groups in Kerala, to treat inflammations and wounds.

The researchers have filed for a patent on a novel herbal drug formulation possessing wound-healing, burn-healing, anti-cancer, analgesic, anti-inflammatory, immuno- enhancing, platelet-augmentation and anti-oxidant effects.

The scientists came to know of the miracle plant in 1988 during a biological survey deep inside the Nilambur forests. The team led by S. Rajasekharan, former Head, Ethnomedicine and Ethnopharmacology division, JNTBRI, came across Kuppamala Kaniyan, a tribal elder, with hideous scars right across his chest. On inquiry, it was revealed that he had been terribly mauled by a bear a few years ago.

“We were told that the animal had pinned him down and was trying to rip open his chest. The bleeding tribesman somehow fought back and managed to hack the bear to death,” says Dr. Rajasekharan. “It took three days of persuasion before Kuppamala Kaniyan revealed how he had made a paste from the fresh leaves of N.calycinus, known in local parlance as ‘pacha chedi,’ to arrest the bleeding and heal the fresh wounds on his chest.”

Systematic documentation of traditional knowledge helped scientists take up the research work later.

Animal trials have proved that the leaves of N.calycinus possess wound-healing properties comparable to the standard drug Povidone/ Iodine in the early phase of inflammation. The anti-inflammatory activity of the leaves was found comparable to the drug diclofenac sodium.

The pre-clinical trials confirmed the therapeutic effects of N.calycinus against burn wounds and pain, besides its immuno-enhancing, platelet augmentation, and anti-oxidant potential. The presence of high Vitamin E content and potent cytoprotective activity in cell lines in the plant species have also enhanced the prospects of developing an anti-cancer drug.

In a presentation that won the best paper award at the Kerala Science Congress last month, Aneeshkumar A.L., a member of the research group, said the work had thrown up promising leads for the development of novel herbal formulations and modern medicines.

“It will now need multi-institutional studies to take the work forward,” says Dr. Rajasekharan.

The paper said the JNTBGRI would share the commercial benefits of its work with the dwindling Cholanaickan tribe.

source: http://www.thehindu.com / The Hindu / Home> Sci-Tech> Science / T Nandakumar / Thiruvananthapuram – February 04th, 2017

Kerala government to explore new markets for native bamboo products

Industries Minister E P Jayarajan checks out the bamboo products at Bamboo Innovation Centre after the inauguration at Angamaly on Tuesday
Industries Minister E P Jayarajan checks out the bamboo products at Bamboo Innovation Centre after the inauguration at Angamaly on Tuesday

Kochi :

Industries Minister E P Jayarajan on Tuesday said the government would take initiatives to explore the national and international markets for bamboo products made in Kerala.

He was speaking after inaugurating the Bamboo Innovation Centre developed jointly by the government and the State Bamboo Mission at Angamaly.

The Bamboo Innovation Centre is envisaged to make and exhibit bamboo products of international quality. It is expected to introduce the latest developments in the global bamboo sector to the State’s bamboo industry, while opening up new opportunities for artisans here.

The Minister said bamboo products made at the Centre would be made available at tourist spots across the State, besides exhibiting at the annual bamboo products exhibition held in Kochi.  On the occasion, Jayarajan also inaugurated  training for the first batch of artisans. Referring to the Central Government’s amended forest rules prohibiting bamboo felling, Jayarajan said a practical solution was the need of the hour, rather than stubborn rules for environmental protection.  “In order to resolve the issues faced by the people of Kerala, we should embrace environment-friendly industrial development. The main crisis facing the bamboo sector is unavailability of raw material, which could be overcome easily by using the tissue culture method. It is high time we became self-sufficient in bamboo cultivation,” said the Minister, and pointed out that the Commerce Department under the State Government was being restructured to tap the international market of products manufactured in India. He also promised that the wages of persons working in the Kerala State Bamboo Corporation (KSBC) would be revised soon.

KSBC former chairman P J Joy, managing director Sukumaran Nair, Roji M John MLA and Angamaly municipal Chairperson M A Gracy also spoke.

source: http://www.newindianexpress.com / The New Indian Express / Home> Cities> Kochi / by Express News Service / August 17th, 2016

Designer eggs sans cholesterol concerns

Designer eggs being produced by the Kisan Jyothi Farmers Club at Vaduvanchal in Wayanad.
Designer eggs being produced by the Kisan Jyothi Farmers Club at Vaduvanchal in Wayanad.

A group of farmers come out with designer eggs at Vaduvanchal in Wayanad

Though eggs have been considered as the complete food with most of the nutrients necessary for the body, concerns over its cholesterol content have kept many at bay.

Now, a group of farmers under the NABARD-supported Kisan Jyothi Farmers Club (KJFC) at Vaduvanchal in Wayanad have come out with designer eggs, which they claim will settle the apprehension once and for all. They say their ‘Omega’ brand eggs solve the riddle and set to rest doubts of the cholesterol-conscious.

“Designer eggs are those in which the content has been modified from the standard egg. The technology of designer egg involves manipulating nutrients in poultry feed and fortification of egg with micro-nutrients and vitamins,” Anil Zachariah, deputy project director of ATMA, Wayanad, the certifying agency, said.

Made using scientific method

Dr. Zachariah said the eggs were produced through a scientific method adopted for nurturing the layer with right feed so that they laid high quality eggs.

“The composition of the feed leads to the desired composition of the eggs adding to its nutritive profile through enrichment in the diet, and not by use of drugs or hormones,” Sreeshitha, district technology manager, ATMA said.

“Eggs laid by hens fed on a diet of greens and insects contain higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids than those produced by hens fed on corn,” Dr. Sreeshitha added.

“When the project was launched under the Farm Sector Promotion Fund programme of NABARD two months ago, we distributed ten BV380 strain chicks each to 66 families in the area,” N.S. Saji Kumar, assistant general manager, NABARD, said. Training and technical support were given by ATMA to the farmers, he added.

250 eggs a month for a family

“Now each family is getting an average of 250 eggs a month and we have entered into a memorandum of understanding with the WAYFARM farmer producer company to procure the designer eggs from the farmers at a price of Rs.6.50,” P. Hariharan, chief coordinator of the club, said. The company would market the produce through its retail shops, he added.

P. Balachandran, general manager, NABARD, handed over the first lot of eggs to P.A Sabu, managing director of WAYFARM, at Mananthavady on Wednesday.

source: http://www.thehindu.com / The Hindu / Home> National> Kerala / E.M. Manoj  / Kalpeto – June 23rd, 2016

Striking gold with pearl spot

Sunil Kumar (left) owns scores of netted enclosures at Thanimoodu in Thiruvananthapuram.
Sunil Kumar (left) owns scores of netted enclosures at Thanimoodu in Thiruvananthapuram.

Story of a national award-winning farmer’s success and travails

Lying wakeful at night is one of the fallouts of five years of farming fish, says Sunil Kumar, 43.

The national award-winning farmer owns scores of netted enclosures along the bank of the expansive backwater lagoon at Thannimoodu in suburban Thiruvananthapuram. Year-round, they abound with pearl spot, a pricey fish widely considered a delicacy. It sells for Rs.500 and above a kg.

The bounty attracts raiders at night. Certain lawlessness exists along Kerala’s maze of inland waterways and lagoons and Thannimoodu is no exception.

Marine patrols are unheard of and farmers like Mr. Kumar are left to fend for themselves. They maintain solitary night vigils to protect their farms from raiding boatmen. Local goons who demand protection money are also a thorny problem.

Mr. Kumar’s quest for self-employment had prompted the matriculate to attempt fish farming in 2010. His first shot at shrimp cultivation failed. But with pearl spot, Mr. Kumar struck gold.

Peak daily sales often touched Rs.15,000. He was able to keep his family of the breadline.

Traditional knowledge

Most of Mr. Kumar’s farming knowledge comes from anglers and traditional fishermen. They helped him devise the porous netted enclosures that allow tidal flushing, but keep natural predators out.

Tortoises, eels, catfish, rat snakes prey on pearl spot fingerlings. Top nets protect the corralled fish from predatory birds.

Mr. Kumar regularly traverses the lagoon with experienced fishermen to net healthy pearl spot pairs for controlled breeding.

“The male burrows into the lagoon bed to make holes for the female to deposit her eggs while she hovers around. They often breed close to the shore,” he says. Adult pearl spots are paired off in hatcheries, which simulate the lagoon environment.

Mr. Sunil is thankful to the Kerala Fisheries Department for its support. However, like other farmers, he faces the issue of land availability. The lease of his three acre farm is set to expire soon and he is scouting for a new place to relocate it.

source: http://www.thehindu.com / The Hindu / Home> News> Cities> Thiruvananthapuram / G. Anand / Thiruvananthapuram – May 30th, 2016

Now, chicken soup to power your car

John Abraham of KVASU at the biodiesel plant set up on the premises of the Veterinary College at Pookode in Wayanad district.— PHOTO: BY SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT
John Abraham of KVASU at the biodiesel plant set up on the premises of the Veterinary College at Pookode in Wayanad district.— PHOTO: BY SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

A team of researchers of KVASU extract biodiesel from the wastes of slaughtered broiler chicken

Horsepower will stay, but the humble chicken may actually power your car, if a technology model developed at the Kerala Veterinary and Animal Sciences University (KVASU) in Wayanad gets scaled up to viable commercial production.

For the last one year, a team of researchers led by John Abraham of the university’s School of Bioenergy and Farm Waste Management (SBFWM) have been quietly extracting biodiesel from the wastes of slaughtered broiler chicken, in a small Rs.12-lakh prototype plant.

Patent

For several months now, they have been field-testing this chicken-based fuel in their university’s old multi-utility vehicle (MUV), which goes all over the hill district. The team has applied for a patent on it on behalf of the KVASU, which is pending. The KVASU intends to play the role of technology provider.

The researchers have also run their biodiesel through tests at the Bharat Petroleum Corporation Limited (BPCL)’s quality control laboratory at its Kochi refinery. They said the tests confirmed that the fuel conformed to exacting BIS standards. Besides, the chicken-sourced biodiesel was also found to have a commendably higher cetane value of 72, as compared to 64 of petro-diesel, which means better efficiency, Dr. John added. It is relatively cheaper too. Even without economies of scale, the small pilot plant incurs a production cost of just around Rs.32 per litre for this fuel (while petro diesel costs Rs.55 or more). At the trial stage, it is being used at 50:50 ratio with petro diesel in normal, unmodified, diesel engines. But it could be used as the sole fuel with some engine modifications, Dr. John said.

With word trickling out, several innovative entrepreneurs, including registered slaughter waste collectors in the neighbouring Kozhikode Corporation, have approached the team for tapping the idea’s commercial potential. The team has already provided a project report for a plant for a consortium, which will be capable of processing up to 40 tonnes of slaughter waste and generating about 1,000 litres of chicken fuel a day. This project is to come up with the collaboration of the Kozhikode Corporation and the District Suchitwa Mission there.

Dr. John, whose doctoral thesis at the Tamil Nadu Veterinary and Animal Sciences University in 2012 was on alternate fuels, said chicken-powered biodiesel had great potential. “In Kerala alone, about 5.3 lakh chicken are slaughtered daily. This means some 350 tonnes of slaughter waste every day, which pose a catastrophic threat to the environment.”

“If this waste is cooked at very high temperatures, 10 per cent of the volume turns extractable oil, another 30 per cent gets converted to animal and pet feed ingredients with 62 per cent protein content that costs a mere Rs.20 per kg to produce,” he said. Almost 96 per cent of this oil could be converted into biodiesel, while a small portion turned into glycerine, which could be used for making soaps and cosmetics, he added. About 10 kilograms of chicken wastes yield one litre of oil, on an average.

But why only chicken waste and not mutton or beef slaughter waste, when these have an equally huge availability in the State? “All ruminants have bio-hydrogenation pathways which saturate fats. Saturated fats are solid at room temperature. But mono-gastric animals like chicken lack this pathway. Hence, more unsaturated fatty acids are available in their fats, which turn to oil at room temperature. Biodiesel can only be made from such oils,” Dr. John said.

source: http://www.thehindu.com / The Hindu / Home> National> Kerala / by E.M. Manoj / Kalpetta – May 29th, 2016

‘Neera man’ Jose steps down after an eventful term

T.K. Jose
T.K. Jose

Jose helped set up new coconut farmer producer companies, besides turning around old ones

‘Neera man’ T.K. Jose, who helped bring the sweet drink made from coconut flowers out of the shackles of the Abkari Act to unleash its commercial potential, steps down as Chairman of the Coconut Development Board this week after an eventful tenure.

Over the last more than five years, Mr. Jose helped create new coconut farmer producer companies and turn around the old ones. He was instrumental in forming an army of coconut technicians, including Neera tappers, and tree climbers. He also laid down a roadmap for the growth of the business through value addition.

“The credit for pursuing the cause of Neera must go to the outgoing Chairman,” said V.K. Raju, former Associate Director of Research, Kerala Agricultural University, and an expert in Neera tapping.

Mr. Jose, an IAS officer of the Kerala cadre, joined the Coconut Development Board in May 2011 and immediately set about reviving the three-tier system of coconut farmers’ organisations. The outgoing Chairman also worked hard to bring Neera out of the Kerala Abkari Act.

source: http://www.thehindu.com / The Hindu / Home> News> Cities> Kochi / by Special Correspondent / Kochi – May 19th, 2016