Category Archives: Green Initiatives & Environment

Farmers find success in fighting bugs the organic way

Kozhikode :

Even as farmers following intensive farming are struggling to battle bugs which are increasingly turning pesticide-resistant, farmer groups who have adopted organic cultivation say they have been successful in keeping the pests at bay by adopting sustainable and integrated pest management strategies. Rajesh Krishnan, a biotechnologist turned organic farmer and winner of this year’s Youth Icon award instituted by state government, for instance, has not sprayed even a drop of pesticide in his ten-acre paddy field at Thrissilery in Wayanad in the past four years.

Still, he has been able to curb the deadly trio of major rice pests the leaf roller (Cnaphalocrocis medinalis), stem borer (Scirpophaga incertulas)and earhead bug (Leptocorisa acuta) using organic formulations and local traditional knowledge.

The farmer collectives say pest management is a built-in process in the overall crop production in traditional and organic farming process rather than a pest-killing activity using chemicals. “Pests have been evolving to overcome targeted chemical pesticides as part of their survival strategy . In organic farming, the focus is on management of pests instead of elimination of pests. We have been able to manage pests very well for paddy and other crops without using chemical pesticides,” he said.

Rajesh Krishnan said that the leaf roller can be controlled by a simple mechanical method of sweeping the rice plants with branches of `Parakam’ tree which has rough leaves.

“When we sweep the plants using the tree branches in the morning, the caterpillar will be dislodged from the leaves and falls into the water which will be drained out immediately,” he said.

For repelling the earhead bug (Chazhi), ‘fish amino’ made using sardines which are fermented in a jaggery solution and sprayed after diluting it with water. Farmers in the state who have taken up `zero budget natural farming’ advocated by Subash Palekar are also of the view that pest management is not a big issue.

“Under our farming practices, which uses only natural inputs, a healthy ecosystem makes the plants stronger and enhances their selfdefence against pest attacks,” said CA Gopalakrishnan, state secretary of Palekar Prakrithi Karshaka Samithi.

He said that farmers have been effectively using natural pesticides like Neemastram (a decoction made out of  cow urine, dung and neem leaf paste), Brahmastram (made out of fruits like custard apple, leaves of papaya, guava and pomegranate apart from neem leaves and cow urine) to manage various pests including borers, bugs and caterpillars.

source: http://www.timesofindia.indiatimes.com / The Times of India / News> City News> Kozhikode News / TNN / November 06th, 2017

It’s a story of rice to riches for Kerala farmer

Against the grain: Praseed Kumar with his children in his progressive farm at Sulthan Bathery.

When others moved to cash crops to cut losses, he brought Gujarat and Punjab varieties to Wayanad

India’s traditional rice diversity has brought riches to a farmer in northern Kerala .

Praseed Kumar from Thayyil at Sulthan Bathery went against the tide, when his peers in the loss-hit farming community in Wayanad switched to cash crops such as plantain and arecanut a few years ago.

The 43-year-old progressive farmer got a small packet of rice seeds from a friend in Gujarat, which stood out with its violet-coloured chaff. He decided to propagate this variety. Initially, it was on just one cent of land, but later, it was expanded to one hectare.

Mr. Kumar has been conserving the ‘Krishna Kamod’, a basmati rice variety from Gujarat known for its taste, colour and aroma on one hectare for the past seven years.

Last year, he harvested nearly 2,500 kg of this paddy and sold it as seeds to farmers at ₹ 200 a kg, rather than in the open market.

“While farmers procure the rare rice variety as seed, others buy it as a gift, or keep it in their pooja rooms and offer it to temples,” Mr. Kumar said.

Fights drought, pests

He spent ₹ 85,000 as costs and earned ₹ 5 lakh. The Agriculture Department, which finds the rice attractive, chipped in with ₹18,000 as incentive.

“It seems quite suitable for Kerala and its pest and drought resistance are plus points,” said M.K. Mariyumma, Agricultural Officer, Krishi Bhavan, Nenmeni. Many farmers coming under Krishi Bhavan are eager to cultivate it.

The farmer has become famous for growing 15 varieties of rice. These include Mahamaya, a hybrid with an average yield of 4.3 tonnes an acre, Ramli, a traditional Punjab rice, Navara and Rakthashali, with medicinal properties, Black Jasmine, a violet medicinal Assamese type, two basmati variants from Jammu and Kashmir, besides Valichoori and Adukkan, both indigenous varieties.

Mr. Kumar is looking at rented land now, to grow even more.

source: http://www.thehindu.com / The Hindu / Home> News> States> Kerala / by E.M. Manoj / Kalpetta – October 31st, 2017

India’s largest floating solar plant ready

The solar farm on 18 floating platforms in Banasura Sagar reservoir

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Highlights

  • The solar photo voltaic panels of the floating solar farm have been installed on 18 floating platforms made of ferrocement floaters with hollow insides.
  • KSEB sources said that they were waiting for the availability of chief minister to inaugurate the plant possibly by next month

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Kozhikode :

The construction works of the largest floating solar plant in the country have been completed at the Banasura Sagar reservoir in Wayanad.

The 500 kWp (kilowatt peak) solar plant of the KSEB floats on 6,000 square metres of water surface of the reservoir. The outlay for the project is Rs 9.25 crore.

The solar photo voltaic panels of the floating solar farm have been installed on 18 floating platforms made of ferrocement floaters with hollow insides.

“The installation works of the floating solar panels is over and the plant will be ready for inauguration soon,” said Manoharan P, assistant executive engineer at the KSEB research and dam safety sub-division, Thariyode.

He said the 500 kWp project is the largest floating solar project to come up in the country. The work of the project had begun on March 2016.

KSEB sources said that they were waiting for the availability of chief minister to inaugurate the plant possibly by next month.

Officials of Thiruvananthapuram-based Adtech Systems Ltd, which set up the plant, said that the plant would be able to generate 7.5 lakh units of power annually which will be fed to the KSEB grid using underwater cables.

“We have used high efficiency solar panels for the project as per KSEB stipulations. Also, we have set up a floating substation on the reservoir to convert the output into 11kV considering economic and safety aspects,” said Raveendran T Nair, vice-president (projects) of Adtech Systems Ltd.

He said that the floating solar plants had higher efficiency compared to ground-mounted installations due to the moderating effect of water bodies on panel temperature.

“Also, when compared to ground based units, the floating panels will accumulate lower concentration of dust,” he said.

The 500kWp project is a scaled up version of the 10kW floating solar project which was commissioned in Banasura Sagar reservoir in January 2016.

source: http://www.timesofindia.indiatimes.com / The Times of India / Home> City News> Kozhikode News / TNN / October 17th, 2017

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