Category Archives: Green Initiatives & Environment

This Kerala Man Built a Huge House Entirely from Waste, Without Cutting a Single Tree!

Abraham hopes that his house will inspire others to create without harming the environment, and return to their roots.

Biju Abraham has created a beautiful home, situated in the green fields of Mallapally, in Kerala. Its carefully structured walls made of red earth, bricks, and tiled roofs come together to form a traditional nalukettu, a Kerala home which has four sides. But that is not all.

Biju Abraham has managed to create the entire 12,000 square feet of his dream home without cutting a single tree, or hurting the environment!

source: Facebook

Abraham was brought back to his hometown of Mallapally, Kerala, because he wanted to take care of his ageing parents, and help them in their time of need. When he saw that many people in Mallapally were elderly, and were not receiving the proper care and attention they needed, he wanted to create a home where they could be looked after, keeping in mind the early traditions of India.

“Cement was only used in India around 1886, but centuries before that, we would build our homes from the earth, and sustainably use natural resources. I have tried to use that approach when building my home,” says Abraham.

Throughout his travels in India, he observed the techniques used in villages to create homes, especially in South India, and has replicated several of those styles in his own home, from the traditional tiled roof to the bricks used to build the walls.

Abraham bought 24 houses through an auction. The houses, which were no longer in a usable condition, were demolished and the wood, bricks, tiles, and foundation stones were used to build a new home for the elderly.

He calls his home, “Ooru,” meaning hometown.

source: Facebook

“We wanted to pay tribute to the land. Whatever is here has a story to tell, whether it is the tiles collected, the bottle designs, or even the staircase,” he adds.

Abraham explains that because he was able to obtain the materials for a low cost, he was able to use the money he saved to pay labourers and give them additional work days to earn their livelihood. Many of them came from villages where they were able to employ their home techniques. For example, some of the masonry work was done by labourers from Assam, who replicated the same structures used in their hometowns.

Designed by RD Padmakumar, the home has 15 private rooms, and is equipped with many facilities for the elderly, including wheelchair access.

Abraham hopes that his house will inspire others to create without harming the environment, and return to their roots.

source: Facebook

“Today, I can proudly say that I have built my home without cutting a single tree, or extracting a single stone. I hope that the youth will remember the beauty of villages, and of nature. I feel like people are slowly starting to realise the importance of building in a sustainable manner. There are already around 6-8 homes being built using the same principles I have,” says Abraham.

Jatayu Earth Centre and adventure park opens in Kerala

Jatayu Earth Centre Concept Art

The Jatayu Earth Centre has finally been opened to the public after a long delay. Built at Chadayamangalam in Kollam, Kerala, the tourism centre or nature park has taken over two years and is still being built. Therefore visitors will have access to only certain areas.

The nature park became famous because of a massive statue built to remember the mythical demigod, Jatayu, from Ramayana. Chadayamangalam’s Jatayupura is already a big tourist spot because of its links to the epic Ramayana. The new sculpture, developed by filmmaker Rajiv Anchal only adds to the attraction. It is 70ft tall and 200 ft long. It is reportedly world’s largest bird sculpture. It depicts Jatayu’s heroic fall when he fought Ravana, who was returning to Lanka after kidnapping Sita.

Apart from the sculpture, the Earth Centre also offers adventure activities like rock climbing, rappelling, rifle shooting, and paintball. Offering more than 20 activities the nature park also has an Ayurvedic resort, a digital museum and what it claims to be a 6D theatre, and cable cars for those are not so adventurous. Visitors will have to pay Rs 2500 for entry.

According to a report in India.com, the project is the first ever build-operate-transfer model private-public partnership in the tourism industry in Kerala.

source: http://www.dnaindia.com / DNA / Home> Lifestyle / by DNA Web Team / Thursday – November 30th, 2017

Valliyamma becomes Kerala’s first woman to head RAF

She leads a 10-member team in Agali region to chase wild elephants away

Though she lacks any formal scientific training in herding back crop-raiding wild elephants to their forest environs, 38-year-old R. Valliyamma looks confident in her new role as the first woman in Kerala to head a unit of Forest Department’s Rapid Action Force to mitigate escalating human-animal conflicts.

“My selection to this post proves managing wild elephants is no more a male bastion. My growing up in forest fringe tribal village Vadakottathara in Attappady as member of a family with harmonious relationship with the wild animals has provided me enough capability to carry out this challenging job. I know elephants and their behavioural patterns since schildhood,” said Valliyamma in an interaction with The Hindu a day after taking charge as RAF unit head at Agali under Mannarkkad Forest Division.

She is now leading a 10-member team comprising two beat forest officers and five forest watchers in Agali region, where wild pachyderms from Coimbatore and Nilgiris districts of Tamil Nadu engage in regular crops raiding apart from posing threat to the lives of local community.

She is getting the new responsibility hardly four months after being promoted as a Section Forest Officer, the first woman in that post in Kerala. In the previous role, she had to manage a section of wild under Mannarkkad Forest Division. As far as Valliyamma is concerned, this is her 15th year with the Forest Department.

The Irula tribal woman had begun her service with Kerala government as a forest guard and her initial years were in fact a hard struggle to rein in sandalwood smugglers and ganja cultivators who roam the Attappady forests.

“I had been fighting hunters, ganja cultivators and sandalwood smugglers with the help of my colleagues in the department. There were instances in which we collectively seized sandalwood pieces weighing more than 35 kg,” she said.

Before becoming section forest officer, her designation was Beat Forest Officer.

“After failing pre-degree, I was working as an Anganwadi helper. My engagement with forest protection began after getting selected under a special recruitment drive by the Kerala Public Service Commission. But my family and friends were initially worried because the job was too risky,” said Valliyamma.

“My parents were nominal farmers and the land we inherited was barren. I married Sivan, a weaver. But he lost his job when the local weaving centre closed down. To make ends meet, I became an Anganwadi worker. The job exposed me to the world outside and I was determined to find a government job,” recalled the mother of two school-going children.

Apart from her official assignments, Valliyamma is also the secretary of the Adivasi Forest Protection Samithy at Melechavadiyoor. The tribal collective is engaged in social forestry apart from coordinating with the Forest Department to collect forest produce. “Fear never prevented me from going deep inside the forests for conservation-related matters. I prefer working outside than going through files in office,” she said.

She is the first person in her extended family to enter government service. “The new responsibility is reflection of the absolute faith my superiors have in me. I will live up to their expectations,” she said.

source: http://www.thehindu.com / The Hindu / Home> News> States> Kerala / by K A Shaji / Allapady (Palakkad) / November 26th, 2017

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

_____________________________________________________________

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