June 03, 2007

Mumbai abloom with rare palms

URL: http://www.thehindu.com/2007/06/03/stories/2007060300932200.htm

— Photo: PTI

A Talipot palm in Mumbai.

Mumbai: One of the world's largest palm trees, the Talipot, or Corypha umbraculifera, is abloom in different parts of Mumbai. They have flowered at the St. Francis d'Assissi Church compound in Borivali, Mazgaon, Goregaon, Vile Parle and at the Jijamata Udyan, the local zoo.

"This species... needs around 50 or 60 years... to bloom," plant taxonomist Dr. Suchandra Dutta said here on Saturday. "According to calculations... they produce about 12 million flowers, which contain more than 500 kg of seeds."

Once it bears fruits, the plant dies. It gradually uses up all the nutrient reserves accumulated in the trunk over the decades.

The Talipot is monocarpic, flowering only once when it is 30 to 80 years old. It takes about a year for the fruits to mature. There will be thousands of round yellow-green fruits, measuring to 3-4 cm in diameter. Each will have a single seed.

The flower is native to the Malabar coast and Sri Lanka, and is Sri Lanka's national tree. — PTI

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May 15, 2007

Whale shark in danger

THE SPECIAL REPORT: Veraval: caught in a net

Whale shark in danger

D P Bhattacharya

Ahmedabad, May 12: ONLY a few months ago, fishermen in the coastal areas of Gujarat had pledged never to kill the whale shark again. But their harpoons are out again and once more they are ready for the hunt. That they had once ripped open their nets to release the "big fish", they remember.

The cry of "save the whale shark" rings only somewhere in the distance, muffled by a dire need for money.

More than Rs 90 crore as diesel subsidy for boats has been lying pending with the Gujarat State Fisheries Department for three years now. Money, the fishermen say, they could use after they gave up hunting the whale shark, which was sure to fetch a high price in the market.

"We had promised Murari Bapu not to hunt the whale shark," says Jitubhai Kuhada, president of Veraval Samast Kharva Samaj. "But if the government does not take steps to improve our condition, we'll have to apologise to Bapu and begin killing whale sharks again," he says.

While earlier, fishermen could get diesel at subsidised rates, they have been getting the fuel at full market rate for the last three years now, says Kishan Varidum, president of Shree Akhil Gujarat Machhimar Khamandal and Shree Kharva Sanyukta Machhimar Boat Association. "We had been promised that we would be paid later," says Varidum.

"We are yet to get a part of the money for 2005-06 and the entire amount meant for 2006-07, which comes to Rs 91 crore," he says, "On paper, they have declared quite a few schemes, but none has percolated to the fishermen..."

"A whale shark fetches as much as Rs 1 lakh to 1.5 lakh. It is way more expensive for us to let it go. Once a whale shark is caught we have to go to a forest official for verification and then release it. This costs us more than Rs 30,000," says Vasram Solanki, president of Bedia Koli Samaj Boat Association. "The Forest department gives us Rs 25,000 to release a whale shark, but even that money takes a lot of time to come".

Meanwhile, sources claim that clandestine killing of whale sharks is still on. "A few sharks are being hunted even now, though discreetly. But gathering evidence is difficult," they say.

Says P N Roychoudhury, Principal Secretary, Forest and Environment: "We have rewarded a few fishermen, who cut their nets to release whale sharks. But if they find the reward inadequate, it is really unfortunate... If worse comes to worse, the department will intensify vigil along the coastline and tie up with Coast Guards to keep a tab on fishermen. Cases where sharks are harmed will be dealt with a firm hand."

Gujarat Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries Bhupendrasinh Chudasma assured that he will look into the matter of subsidy and expedite the release of money. "We want to pay them as early as possible but the money comes from the Centre," says Chudasma.


"There is nothing noble in being superior to some other person. True nobility comes from being superior to your previous self."

Hindu Proverb
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May 06, 2007

Polo Forest Reserve - Volunteer Training Camp


I'm just back from the camp.... it was hell fun for me. What I learnt?

Lots of eco-games,
Teaching tactics,
Handling kids/participants of all ages(i'm not perfect with BIG ppl....i like kids),
Organisational Setup,
Volunteer Responsibilities,
lot lot lot more....

What I need to do?

Document it all. So, I'll be putting a link here on the blog to another blog or an additional note where I will document all this stuff. Only way I can achieve this would be going through the timetable all over.... gonna be a helluva job... but still gotta do that.... as its a must for the future use of the knowledge and its conversion into wisdom....

and i'll do tht.... i'm a bit more disciplined now??

may be yes. thanks to the super-strict, sturdy, moustached guy called Mayur Mistry(with a stick in his hand....lol). jokes apart, i'm greatly happy after the learning experience with Mayurbhai.

April 26, 2007

China to lift ban on tiger parts sale???

China's tiger farm lobby wants sale ban lifted
IANS[ MONDAY, APRIL 23, 2007 11:00:47 AM ]

KATHMANDU: India and Nepal are likely to be great jeopardy with the news that China's powerful tiger farm lobby is stepping up pressure on the government to lift its 14-year-old ban on the sale of tiger parts, wildlife experts have warned.

"Fifty years ago, China had the highest number of wild tigers," says Susan Lieberman, director of WWF International' s Global Species Programme. "Today, the number has come down to about 20, which are increasingly moving towards the Russian forests in search of safety."

Traditionally, China has been the biggest consumer of tiger bones, hunting down the big cats for their bones, which the Chinese believe have medicinal qualities.

Though the Chinese government banned the trade in tiger parts in 1993, wildlife experts say new illegal markets are opening in the communist republic with restaurants, boutiques and gift shops advertising tiger meat dishes, fur robes and even wines said to have been made by dipping tiger carcasses in rice wine.

In a bid to circumvent the ban, individuals with and without government funding began establishing tiger farms in China. Some tiger products available in China claim they used tigers that died of natural causes in the farms. Currently, over 100 tiger farms, which have nearly 5,000 captive tigers, have begun pressuring the government afresh to lift the ban.

This month, the Global Tiger Forum, an inter-government group comprising countries with tiger populations, met in Kathmandu to plan its strategies where an official from the Institute of Scientific and Technical Information of China began lobbying for lifting the ban.

"There is considerable need for tiger bone to cure diseases like rheumatic arthritis," says Jia Qian, the official. "Legalisation of the use of farmed tiger bone may meet the market demand and significantly reduce illegal trade by cutting down its price."

However, 30 organisations around the world, which have united under the International Tiger Coalition to oppose the lobbying, say tiger farming will boost poaching of the big cats since many consumers think the wild tiger's potency can't be found in the tame ones.

Between 1999 and 2005, nearly 650 kg of tiger and leopard bones were seized from China, India and Nepal.

Since both India and Nepal are not traditional consumers of tiger or leopard bone or skin, it is assumed that the caches were intended for China. This month, the smuggling of precious red sandalwood from India to China via Nepal exposed the existence of a well-organised international smuggling network with the security and customs officials of all three countries on its payroll.

"If China lifts the ban on tiger trade, Nepal and India's wildlife will be endangered," says Lieberman.

"Instead of lifting the ban, the law enforcement agencies of countries sharing a border need to collaborate and share information to curb smuggling."

Source: http://economictime s.indiatimes. com/News/ International_ _Business/ Chinas_tiger_ farm_lobby_ wants_sale_ ban_lifted/ articleshow/ 1942156.cms

Laurie Baker, I salute!

Master Builder

The moral origins of Laurie Baker’s art

Amrith Lal

Laurie Baker, who passed away in Thiruvananthapuram a few days ago, is relevant for a world that is threatened by global warming. His futuristic vision of India, encapsulated in his buildings and ideas of architecture, emphasised efficiency in the use of materials and energy, improvisation and adaptation of local craft and artisanal traditions, and the needs of millions of homeless. The hundreds of houses, churches and public buildings he designed and constructed offer a rare example of an equitable and sustainable architecture.

Baker has spoken about the influence of a Quaker upbringing and the teachings of Mahatma Gandhi in his life. In an autobiographical essay, he recalled how Gandhi took fancy to the Chinese shoes he had made of cut waste clothes when they met the first time. Gandhi invited him to come and work in India after the war. One can deduce from the encounter that Baker shared some of Gandhi’s economic ideas even before they had met in person. The Quaker roots had inculcated in him an appreciation of labour and austerity.

One does not know if Baker shared Gandhi’s interest in the British philosopher, John Ruskin. However, there is an imprint, conscious or otherwise, of Ruskin in Baker’s work, especially the ideas expressed by the former in his writings on the Gothic. Ruskin suggests three rules to test the desirability of a product: One, never encourage the manufacture of any article not absolutely necessary, in the production of which invention has no share; two, never demand an exact finish for its own sake, but only for some practical or noble end; three, never encourage imitation or copying of any kind, except for the sake of preserving records of great works. These, we can see, formed the core of Baker’s work ethic.

The contribution of Baker to Gandhian praxis is similar to that of the economist J C Kumarappa. Unlike with Kumarappa’s formulations on the village industries, Baker’s ideas found a wider audience. As in the case of Kumarappa, it was Gandhi who gave a political orientation to Baker’s professional skills. Baker’s experiences within the Quaker community may have prepared the ground for him to relate to Gandhi and understand science in moral categories. His pacifism was also shaped by the belief that the science which disrupted the order of life negatively ought to be shunned. He was always supportive of campaigns that sought to expose the false science of our times. He wrote with equal passion on the need for an essential architecture and the immorality of a nuclear bomb. The aesthetic and wholesomeness of his buildings and concepts were a reflection of his philosophy of life. In the essay,Architecture and the People,Baker summed up his work practice in four points. One, he had a clear idea of his clients and their needs. To him, they did not exist as social and economic categories; they were not high income groups or tribals, but people with names and personalities. He once said that he could recall the names of all those for whom he had built houses. Two, no one has the right to waste money, materials and energy in a country like India. Three, people have the ‘‘inherent and inherited ability’’ to know what good architecture is. Architects, he felt, could and should learn from ordinary people. Four, design has to be organic; it has to be transferred from the field to the drawing table and not the other way. He wrote that, ‘‘good or bad design, or good or bad taste has little to do with colour, or form, or texture, or costliness — but that has only to do with honesty and truth in the choice of materials and the method of using them’’. His concepts of architecture and design were not utilitarian; he only reiterated that utility and aesthetics can comfortably coexist.

There is a fundamental critique of the way knowledge is currently understood, acquired, valued and practised in Baker’s work. He did not respect the hierarchies implicit in the use of modern knowledge. He acknowledged traditional wisdom and was constantly learning and adapting it in his work practices. The divide between thought and manual labour was for him a false one. He designed his buildings in such a way that they would ‘‘fit in with the local styles and not be an offence to the eyes of the people’’. The housing projects Baker undertook for the poor were in sharp contrast to the government housing projects. His homes were lived in whereas the sarkari concrete huts ended up being used as cattle sheds and storehouses.

In one sense,Baker was a lucky man.Gandhian ideas of social and economic reconstruction were on the retreat by the time Baker began to build. Baker’s low-cost architecture was in sharp contrast to the promise of big science. However, he found a powerful backer in C Achyuta Menon, the communist leader and chief minister of Kerala, and the Archbishop of Thiruvananthapuram when he settled in Kerala in the 1960s.

The Baker model of a low-cost housing revolution to address the needs of the poor found a lot more takers among a moneyed elite in the later years. The joke about the upwardly mobile Malayalee seeking a Baker model house with an exorbitant budget explains the complex nature of his acceptance among people. People may have only bought in to the form of his architecture, and not the vision behind it. A construction company offered tributes to him with a frontpage ad in a leading Malayalam daily on the day his death was reported. Of course, the master builder would have smiled at the irony.

Text Source: TOI Editorial , A'bad Edition, 21 April, 07.