Saturday, 27 August 2011

“Environmental Conservation”; Order of the Day

Let us try and understand the current status of this city and the country. India is progressively losing green cover despite, so called efforts by the Govt. Experts say that we are left with approx 16% of green cover (I doubt) which is insufficient to provide support. Serious calamities like cyclones, Tsunami, draught, un-timely rain falls and temperature differences are already troubling us. Now let’s observe environmental changes that have occurred in Hyderabad last two decades.

   a)     Rise in temperatures: Till 1975 there were no ceiling fans in many military family quarters, reason was simple; there was no need. In last two decades, the day temperatures have gone up by approx 14 degrees Celsius and about 17 degrees Celsius rise in night temperatures. This has probably disturbed not only human lives but certainly many animal and bird populations.

b)    Vanishing hills and Rocky areas:  Let’s see the cantonment areas which were lush green once, are slowly becoming arid and dry. Many Olympian Footballers come from Ammuguda village and they claim this hilly locale was wonderful for training, now is dwindling and dying due to quarrying followed by concrete invasion. Many rocks of Hyderabad turned into concrete villas. As you are aware, concrete holds heat and radiates till late in the evening increasing dependency on Air conditioners which in turn  pollute by leaving CFC’s in air and so on……Truly mockery of Rockery(picture of Ammuguda mosque and degraded hillock by quarrying). 

c)     Changes in Bird population: I have made observations past three decades and  observations are as under

a.     Drastic decrease in numbers of House-crow, Brahmani Mynas, common Mynas, Common House sparrow, Green Fly-catcher, Black Drongo, Spotted Owl, Copper smith Barbet, common dove and common Hoopoe.
But the other species have slowly adapted and moved to domestic areas in search of survival; but likely to endanger themselves in future, these are Bulbul, Indian Grey Hornbill (now abundant in Bolaram area), Bubblers, Sun birds,  Munia and plenty of Common Asian Koel (picture).
Rock pigeon, Peacock and sunbirds are flourishing now, but we do not know how long they will survive.
b.     Microwave invasion through mobile phones, electro-pollution (Electro-magnetic Fields),  extreme noise from night-long televisions, inadequate day and night temperature variations needed for hatching, pesticides in the grains and in the fields, lack of nesting places due to felling of tall trees and modern housing which do not provide them ideal conditions for breeding.

c.      Packaging of cereals in departmental stores and non availability of drying grains outdoors like earlier days stressing these birds for survival. Shortage of water is also a major problem for many birds. Important Predators like cats and cars kill more birds than disease.  

 Green and Brown: Thousands of trees are cut by the electricity boards every year all over the country. Politicians talk loudly on tree plantation but rarely speak on plant conservation. You may see any European country; they make tunnels in the hills just to protect 2-3 species of animals on that hill. On the name of Vastu-sastra, people have cut large size trees from their house yards. CM’s like ChandraBabu Naidu put lot of efforts for plantations but small shrubs like golden thoranta make no significant additions from preventing degrading Hyderabad Environment, but preserving bigger trees make greater differences to environment as large tress not only add Oxygen, provide shade but also become housing for many colonies of fauna. Our efforts are very poor to hold the current process of imbalance in biodiversity resulting conversion of green into brown.

e)     Water bodies: You will be surprised to look at the old satellite picture of twin cities taken couple of decades ago displayed in Hyderabad Public School (I saw few years ago), and then city was full of water bodies. These have shrunk and many areas occupied by modern housing, these houses get inundated during heavy rains and people abuse the Govt; we must understand that water needs a way to go somewhere. Water bodies like catchment lakes and ponds are essential to maintain the ground water table and to avoid the soil erosion. Sainikpuri lake known as kapra lake, Ramakrishnapuram lake, Safilguda lake, Fox-sager, Hussain-sager lake,  Meer-Alam lake have become half in size and some have disappeared completely; no wonder why we face so much of water problem. I recollect we used to swim in Kapra Lake and beautiful birds like peasant-tailed Jasona, Water coots, Cormorants and many Spot bills used to visit this lake. Now there are houses have surrounded the lake and you need oxygen cylinder to survive if you want to walk on the bund which is full of human excreta. There has been a serious damage to these water bodies probably resulted in rising temperatures.

f)      Vehicular pollution: As all of us are aware, thousands of vehicles are being added to roads and their emission levels are increasing day by day. Already we are facing exceeding levels of Carbon Dioxide, Sulfur Dioxide, Carbon Monoxide and suspended particles much beyond the pollution limits in many traffic areas. Indiscipline people and arrogant make their own traffic rules resulting in slower traffic thus exposure time is increasing. Even in small and poor countries, traffic regulation is good but in Hyderabad it’s in vain. Our own study couple of years ago revealed that the decibel levels have crossed beyond human ability to handle rendering people at risk in many parts of city.

g)      Polythene explosion: When look down from the aircraft the whole city appears shining is nothing but polythene papers and carry bags. You are aware of non-biodegradability of these products. It’s impossible to stop lady collecting an extra carry-bag from shopping Malls (picture: small natural wells on the hill full of garbage and plastics). The most dangerous thing which people are not aware is about the dangerous chemical coating we find in all plastic bottles (water bottles), Bisphenol the dangerous chemical known to cause cancers and many illnesses get’s released from inner surface of plastics and slowly get dissolved; more so in high temperatures. The longer we use these bottles, the risk for Bisphenol poisoning increases many folds. But we have no choice as we do not have too many companies who make bio-degradable paper bags to replace the plastic bags.

h)     E-waste: Electronic waste is of no use because it’s difficult to de-assemble and costs more money for recycling; this is going to be challenging for humans to handle this waste.

i)       Energy conservation: Do you know, if we use nuclear energy it will cost only 20-30 paisa per unit; battery size uranium can provide sustainable energy for a large amount of population. It not difficult to develop easier and cheaper technology but somebody is stopping??. We should spend more money for fundamental research especially in the fields of energy production. Look at the solar energy, why it is not cost-effective because bigger MNC’s who deal with fossil fuels may be putting breaks not only in India but also in developed Nations. Can’t we spend money for fundamental research to develop cheaper technology to make solar energy more economical? Developing R&D by our brainy IIT graduates is not as difficult we think. Just think we have 365 days solar energy is available, public should speak out.
j)       Occupational hazards: We have hundreds of industries without dedicated medical aid. People who treat them have no formal training in handling diseases related to many occupational. Detrimental effects in each work need a greater understanding. If you look at our IT industries with sophisticated luxurious setup for employees but the doctors who treat them have no clue about ergonomics and workplace management. Organizations do not understand the hidden losses involved in occupational hazards, hence do not have adequate solutions. Employees are not aware of the long standing effects and their own self responsibility. Wave energy and wind energy has some limitations but we have 365 days sun for enormous energy, we must think once again.

k)     Un-forced wastage of resources: We waste lot of water, whole city is covered with roads, concrete, leaving less earth surface to absorb rain water. Rivers drain into oceans; we are not able make a Nation-wide river grid by adding rivers to join. Indiscriminate bore wells in domestic areas not only create more dust but water tables also get exhausted. Does anybody know that we need permission to dig a bore well??. Development of rural areas would avoid villagers running away to cities making them explode.  In view of the above, it’s important to follow certain guidelines to save this earth. Don’t think that one person doing something is not going to make a difference. Little drops of water make an ocean.

1.     Cut down the temperature by all means; switch off lights when not needed, both domestic and industrial heat production need serious audit, this indirectly saves energy resources.

2.     Govt. and NGO’s should proactively react over any construction activities on natural hills and rocky areas. Its better put a small temple / church / mosque on all possible hills instead of fighting for them on the roads; this will save them.

3.     Save water and water bodies is vital for human existence. Every citizen is responsible to report the changes and it’s not only the Government’s job. Everybody should have harvest pits to save water collected from your top of the building and the rain water is better for lot of domestic uses. Good idea to drain the dirty water first to harvest pit followed by to water storage tank. Kitchen waste can go to kitchen garden and vegetable waste and garbage to compost pit.

4.     Avoid Chemicals in your garden and try to use zinger, chilies, Neem cake and other organic materials as insecticides. Avoid GMV seeds; instead use conventional species even though not so productive.

5.     Do not use or throw plastic materials as far as possible; make a self commitment and share with friends. Govt. should invite paper bag manufacturers to facilitate users.

6.      Understand Ergonomics and workplace management; organizations including small scale industries must train their medical and safety members in all aspects of ergonomics and various safety measures. Engineering colleges should invite guest speakers to share their valuable suggestions with students. This will prevent long term occupational health problems related to ergonomics and posture and lifestyle. Our association can help if somebody needs

7.     Saving tress is very important than planting trees; we must learn from Europeans how to respect trees; we have lot of stories and gods related to trees but we cut them indiscriminately. Overhead electricity lines and their maintenance, cut millions of trees all over the country. Underground lines will prevent this damage. Municipal permissions should involve compulsory space for trees and bigger the flats and more the population the number of trees should be more to plant. Types of the trees are important; they should hold soil to prevent soil erosion, good foliage to provide Oxygen and strong branches to prevent breaking. Neem trees are the best on the road sides. Road development authorities should have serious vision before planting trees or else every 5-8 years many trees are cut for the sake of road widening, e.g. Kammam road had so many banyan trees more than 100 year old which were cut one day. Every tree has life span so we need to plant more trees periodically.

8.     Government should invest money in fundamental research related to environment more than before. We are capable of developing cost effective methods for energy production with regard to solar energy. People should become more responsible in questioning the leadership for such issues. People should reduce their cars and walk more; bicycle is a better alternate for youth.  

9.     Transports authorities should provide alternate transport such as mini-buses which are air-conditioned, comfortable to all corners of the city, this prevent people to use their own transport thus reducing pollution. Who wants to drive, if good public transport is available? Schools should focus more education on environmental protection, kindness to animals and knowledge about plants and gardening.

10.             Putting soil and plants in your old printing machines and cpu’s is better way of  E-waste management ; please try

    Prof Dr S Bakhtiar Choudhary,
    President Indian Association Occupational Health,
    Green Peace Activist; E-mail:

Finally let’s join our hands to save this earth; you are most welcome to contact me for any help.