Category Archives: Green Initiatives & Environment

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

When a noisy creature brought laurels to a not too silent campus

A short film on cicada, shot at Maharaja’s College, bags top honours at National Science Film Festival

Kochi :

Cicada is an insect that turns an otherwise silent place noisy. In fact, it is its absence that continues to preserve the silence in the rain forests of Silent Valley.

However, it required these noisy creatures to bring laurels to Maharaja’s College campus, which was in the news recently for all the wrong reasons, thanks to its fare share of noisy scenes.

Ore Naadam…Ore Thaalam (Same Tune, Same Rhythm), a short film made by Kottarakkara-based Padanakendram of the Kerala Sastra Sahitya Parishad, in association with the zoology department at the college, has bagged the prestigious Golden Beaver Award for the best science and technology film at the seventh National Science Film Festival held at the Birla Industrial and Technological Museum in Kolkata from February 14 to 18.

The festival was organised by Vigyan Prasar of the Department of Science and Technology and the National Council for Science Museums.

The 25-minute film was directed by K.V. Sreenivasan Kartha, who had previously won the Golden Beaver Award in 2015 for another short film. C. Lilly, who wrote the screenplay, also received a special jury award.

“The whole idea was the popularisation of science, and the film aims at deconstructing several myths and misconceptions about cicadas and the sound they generate,” said K.S. Sunish, a faculty member of the zoology department at Maharaja’s College.

The film narrates how a group of children from Kottarakkara approaches Maharaja’s College in their quest to know more about cicada and where L.P. Rema, head of the zoology department, and Mr. Sunish take them through the many characteristics and life cycle of the insect.

One of the highlights of the film is a 2.30-minute visual on the moulting of cicada. But as ubiquitous as their sound is, it is equally tough to spot cicadas.

Some portions of the film were shot at Kottarakkara and some at the Kerala Forest Research Institute based on interactions with a scientist, T.V. Sajeev, who also happens to be an alumnus of Maharaja’s College.

source: http://www.thehindu.com / The Hindu / Home> News> Cities> Kochi / by M P Praveen / February 26th, 2017

The transformation of a historic church

Window to past The Koonan Kurishu Church that was renovated by avoiding conventional building materials.

Church commemorates the January 1653 vow taken by Malankara Nazranis

The Koonan Kurishu Church (Church of the Leaning Cross) in Mattancherry has undergone a transformation worthy of its remarkable place in history.

The church, built in 1751, commemorates the January 1653 vow taken by the Malankara Nazranis or Christians against Portuguese and Roman Catholic Church attempts to dominate their spiritual and ritual affairs.

The 1751 church underwent major renovation in 1974. Now, it has been renovated by retaining the original structure except in places where it had deteriorated badly. The church has been rebuilt, mostly avoiding conventional materials such as cement and steel, and using compressed, stabilised mud blocks.

The renovated church provides a brief glimpse into the past with its earthy shade, domes, vaults and arches that rise up as symbols of early eastern Christianity. The Marthoma Cross (St. Thomas Cross) crowns it and the altar is blessed by a cross formed by light beams, says NRI businessman and philanthropist John Samuel Kuruvilla who oversaw the renovation works.

He said architect Vinu Daniel designed the structure. The masons were provided training in the use of earth blocks, employing the ancient Nubian technology of arch and vault-building without extensive shuttering, said Mr. Kuruvilla.

The Koonankurisu Church, under the Malankara Indian Orthodox Church, will be reconsecrated on February 24 and 25. A religious amity meet will be organised as part of the reconsecration of the church. The all-religion meet will celebrate its lineage steeped in an era when different communities lived in harmony.

The spot where the church is located is where thousands of the Nazranis, restive over the Portuguese efforts to dominate, gathered to pledge their allegiance to their long-standing traditions. But the gathering was so large that hundreds were unable to touch the cross directly. They drew a rope from the cross, and touching it, publicly denounced the Portuguese. The story is that the cross bent under pressure and hence the name ‘Koonan Kurisu’. The event is described as ‘Koonan Kurishu Sathyam’ or the oath before the bent cross.

source:  http://www.thehindu.com / The Hindu / Home> News> Cities> Kochi / by Special Correspondent / Kochi – February 22nd, 2017

Breakthrough method developed for water purification by young scientist

Deepu Gopakumar, a 28-year-old research student of Nanoscience technology at MG University

Kottayam :

In a breakthrough invention , a research student at the MG University  here developed a method to remove toxic dyes and Nano particles from water using cellulose based Nano filters made from agro waste. It was Deepu Gopakumar, 28-year-old research student of Nano Science technology at the varsity who made this important invention which will help in cost effective purification of water in future. A green approach for purification of water is also made possible as organic solvents are not needed in this new method.

Deepu developed a Nano cellulose based Nano fibrous membrane from agro waste (pineapple, banana, coir etc.) for the removal of toxic textile dyes and nanoparticles from water. Currently, most of the surface modifications of cellulose nanofibers are done using toxic organic solvents. The new method is the first one where the surface modifications of cellulose Nano fibers is done through non solvent assisted procedure.

Deepu did his research under the supervision of Sabu Thomas and Nandakumar Kalarikkal at the International and Inter University Centre for Nano science and Nanotechnology (IIUCNN), MG University. The research also had support of Federal University of Uberlandia, Brazil, under the supervision of Daniel Paiquini, said MG Vice Chancellor Babu Sebastian. The results of the study were recently published in ACS sustainable energy and engineering. American Chemical Society  (ACS) is a scientific society based in the United States that supports scientific inquiry in the field of chemistry.

According to Deepu, the bed developed from the agro waste which is used for purification of water can be continuously used for six months after that it has to be cleaned. Since the membrane does not have any organic solvent, minerals are not lost from the water.

Babu Sebastian said that the University will apply for a patent for the invention. Research guides Sabu Thomas and Nandakumar said that the University will start producing it commercially within a year after finding a business partner. The university is also planning to develop miniature models which can be connected to the water taps. According to initial studies the cost of purifying water which costs around Rs 5 for a litre can be reduced to Rs 2 using the new method. It can also be sued for sea water purification.

source: http://www.timesofindia.indiatimes.com / The Times of India / News> City News> Kozhikode News / Jaikrishnan Nair / TNN / February 13th, 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

Where tea production is a lasting legacy

teafactorykerala15oct2016

The factory was set up by Britishers in 1935 and production is still on the equipment installed then

 Acclaimed as the highest altitude tea plantation in the world, Kolukkumalai, near Munnar, has the unique feature of preserving the British heritage in tea-making at the factory here.

Located at an altitude of 7,130 ft. above sea level, the factory is housed in a two-storey wooden structure set up by the Britishers in 1935 and the method of tea production is still on the equipment installed at that time.

The equipment still in use at the Kolukkumalai tea factory in Idukki are those installed by the Britishers
The equipment still in use at the Kolukkumalai tea factory in Idukki are those installed by the Britishers

Tea is made here through a process of withering. Manual labour is an integral part of the process, from hand-plucking to the final stage of making tea dust. The factory is set in the ambience of green tea plants on the mountain stretch bordering Tamil Nadu.

Though Kolukkumalai is in Theni district of Tamil Nadu, it is 32 km from Munnar. The story of Kolukkumalai is linked to the tea plantation era of the British Raj in Munnar.

Leased land

The visit of British resident of the erstwhile Travancore Kingdom, John Daniel Munro, to Munnar in 1870s paved the way for tea plantation. He leased the land in 1877 from Poonjar Koikal Rohini Thirunal Kerala Varma and started cultivation of various crops under the North Travancore Land Planting and Agricultural Society. However, it was A.H. Sharp, a European resident who started tea cultivation on 50 acres of land in Munnar in the 1880s.

The tea plantations later extended to the nearby hills, reaching the present border areas of Tamil Nadu. Though tea production in the Kanan Devan Hills is still done in the factories set up by the Britishers, the process and the equipment underwent a lot of change under the modernisation process

An official at the Kolukkumalai factory said the organic method of production is followed here. Since the plantation is located on a peak, the attack of pests is minimum and the natural elements in the soil are preserved. Kolukkumalai also provides a bird’s-eye view of land extending up to Kodaikanal and it is also a natural habitat of bird species that are seen in the high altitude ranges.

source: http://www.thehindu.com / The Hindu / Home> National> Kerala / Idukki – October 15th, 2016

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