Saturday, November 26, 2011

“Universities are different, allow them to be so”- Prof. Suresh Chandra

“Universities are different, allow them to be so”:
Prof. Suresh Chandra
Nithin Raj
Neha C N

  “Universities are different so allow them to be so”, said Prof. Suresh Chandra. He was talking on “Role of University Science and Technology Education/Research in capacity building for construction and utilization of Biodiversity” held at University of Kerala, Kariavattom.
  Prof. Suresh said that the universities are the centers of knowledge diversity including, science and technology and humanities and its primary task is capacity building in youth.
  On the occasion Prof. S.K.Apte talked on ‘Impact Assessment on Aquatic Ecological Ecosystems in the vicinity of operating Muscular power plant’. He pointed out that the thermal discharge from nuclear plants mix with sea water.
Prof. S.K.Seth talked on “Capacity Building in relation to biodiversity, conservation, and utilization using science and technology”.
  He pointed out that the development of methods to multiply, breed and on serve the threatened and endangered species through modern technique of tissue culture and bio technology, are essential for conservation of Biodiversity.

Development doesn’t mean more IT parks and Cricket Stadia

Development doesn’t mean more IT parks and Cricket Stadia

  The organization of the science congress by the Kerala University in 2010 was much easier since it was in collaboration with VSSC, and supported by government grants. “But as the supporting agencies are now less in number , this year’s symposium  is a great challenge to the organizers” says Dr. Bijukumar, joint secretary of the organising committee of NASI symposium.  “Focusing on the topic, sustainable management of biodiversity itself, but gives a rare dimension to this national seminar”.
Dr. Bijukumar
  According to Dr. Bijukumar, the financial growth of China is not the only reason for it to be accepted as a world power even by United States. The richness of biodiversity plays a major role in this recognition. And in comparison with China, India is not far away. “If we are more determined, we can make sufficient yield from this soil”, says Dr. Bijukumar.
  But in both these countries intense cultivation leads to ecological disasters as synthetic pesticides and fertilizers badly affect the fertility of the soil and makes it inefficient for further farming.
  Dr. Biju also quoted an example of Gobi desert in China, where the sand storm, at the end of 1990s resulted in the destruction of cultivable lands. Intense cattle rearing in these countries results in overgrazing and it ultimately increase decertification.  Hence, wherever desertification poses a threat to farming, sustainable farming methodologies can be adapted as a long-lasting solution.
               Keralites have never thought of cultivating in huge quantities. We have a careless attitude towards farming and considers development as something that brings vast IT parks and cricket stadiums in cultivable farmlands or marshy paddy fields, Dr. Bijukumar observed.

From backyard activity to industry

From backyard activity to industry
Jobin K J

Fish production in India has the potential to become a major industry rather than being just a backyard activity, said Dr J K Jena, Natural Bureau of Fish Genetic Resources, Lucknow. He was talking at the NASI symposium today.
  He said that fish production can be turned into a business for rural development. The production can be modernised with stock improvement, supplementary feeding, soil and water quality management and immuno – diagnostic therapies.
The presentation was followed by a talk on Bio-resources of India and its management by Dr.Venkataraman, Zoological Survey of India, Kolkata. He pointed out that commercialism is the major cause for the destructions of biodiversity in India. We should take care to protect the different species and varieties of flora and fauna around us, he said.

Neglected crops hold the key to future food security

Neglected crops hold the key to future food security
Jobin K J
Anju V Padma

  The food habits we inherited from our forefathers are disappering rapidly these days. No one is bothered about the locally available products that once we consumed largely. The crops like amaranthus, also known as common man’s spinach, horse radish, bread fruit, chayote, tender core of banana stem, lotus root, noni, pisonia, agathi, spine gourd, yams, coleus, colocasia,star anase etc are almost forgotten.
  But these crops hold the key to securing our food security in the future, said Dr. K.V.Peter, former vice chancellor of Kerala Agricultural University. He was presenting a paper at the NASI symposium.
  “The global population is growing at an increased rate. According to UN projections, World population will rise to 9.1 billion in 2050 and there wont be enough food to feed all of them if we don’t find a solution to sustain our food production immediately”, he said. “World’s food supply is now in a critical situation. Majority of food is provided by a small group of plants. There is a huge problem of malnutrition and under nourishment. One billion people go to bed hungry everyday;3.6 billion is anaemic; many children have stunted growth and 400,000 die every year due to lack of zinc in their diet; and 40,000 children in the world are blind  due to the  deficiency of Vitamin A.”
  The situation is alaming in Kerala too. The agricultural land is shrinking fast; there are problems of high wages and water shortage. Also, factors like climate change, natural disasters, huge post –harvest loss, unstable geo political scenario, competition for land, water, and labour, new array of pest and diseses, poor energy management, and new life style and food habits are challenging our food sector. So we must incorporate science in agriculture to maximise our production,Dr. Peter pointed out.
 Application of nano technology
   The collaboration of Science, especially nano technology, with traditional and alternative medicine has led to a better understanding of these conventional branches of medicine, said Jayesh R. Bellare,the first head of IIT bio science and bio engineering school, Bombay. He was talking at the NASI symposium here.
  The traditional and alternative system of medicines have long been a controversial area as it lacked standardised and qualitative methods of preparation, storage and use. They were not studied in context of modern science. But now, with the application of nano technology to study such medicines we are able to understand its composition to the minute levels.
  While pursuing these studies,he said, it is important to have an open intellectual approach. It doesn’t matter what the researcher personally thinks of the subject. However, the field offers huge opportunities, he said.

Children’s Science Conference

Children’s Science Conference
  There will be a parallel Children’s Science Meet for encouraging budding scientists today from 2-4 pm. The speakers in this session include M.G.K.Menon, J.P. Mishra, U.C. Sreevasthava, Manju Sharma, Rahul S. Chatterji, A.Bijukumar and Gaurangi Maitra.

Adding spice to science

Adding spice to science
Arun V Gopal

  Be it vegetarians, non-vegetarians, Keralites, north Indians or foreigners- everyone was having a great time, just as they had in the science sessions, at the food court here. Food is served according to one’s taste. The smile on the faces of people coming out of the food court is a clear indication of satisfaction. There was one man behind the curtains, taking a sigh of relief.
  The food court, serving more than a thousand people three times a day is fed by none other than Pazhayidam Mohanan Namboodiri, the famous cookery expert who has an enormous experience of seven years at Kerala Youth Festivals, the largest cultural event in the world.
The day at the food court starts with the breakfast at 8’o clock. The menu includes bread, jam, omelette, idli, vada, puri and cornflakes. One could surely find his favourite. Likewise at noon, there are three varieties of rice, chapattis and 15 curry items. The dinner at 8’o clock also has many items to choose from, for both vegetarians and non-vegetarians.
  Everything happens in the perfect order. Behind the curtains is a 35 member team of Mr.Namboodiri. Of them 15 are expert cooks and 20 servers. The volunteers at the place are also doing a great job. They are all students of Kariavattom campus.
  What is there to taste today? Don’t guess. Get a coupon.



“I like to do actions without attachments”

“I like to do actions without attachments”
Renowned agricultural scientist M.S. Swaminathan hails from Mankombu village in Kerala where people from all caste and creeds belonging to both rich and poor strata of society stand united in preserving the fragile ecosystem. ‘Though the past glory of nature has been lost forever the greenery in my village still remains. My early life is something which really remains in me as such’, says the father of our green revolution.
Excerpts from a conversation with Swaminathan.

Gokul P & Shilpa S R

Transitions in Kerala

It is sad to see that people give much importance to dowry, gold and alcohol. I think Kerala again has to regain the glory of yester years in sectors like public health and education to lead more productive life. This is very important for the future of Kerala.

Changes in Biodiversity

There were lots of medicinal plants here. Even new species of rice from Malampuzha were there. There was a proposal to destroy silent valley forest for an electricity project. This was during Indira Gandhi’s time. And I have made suggestions to cease this project and maintain silent valley as a biosphere, which was accepted by the government. Wayanad is also a rich example of biodiversity with coffee, tea and other plantation crops. The government has set up a biodiversity board and I hope this would make the practice of protecting biodiversity even at the panchayath level. I believe population pressure is the major threat to the proper maintenance of biodiversity. More land is being consumed for developmental purposes.

Scientist’s spiritualism

Like everyone, I also follow my own principles of spiritualism. In childhood days I used to read Vivekanada and one of the passages from his book says that life is short. One day you are a hero and the other day a zero. When we live, live for others. Naturally in life everything should be balanced. You can be a rajayogi but I like to be a karmayogi. I like to do actions without attachments. Ego is the greatest enemy of spiritual and professional growth. One who believes that he knows everything will never grow more.

ISRO maps country’s vegetation

ISRO maps country’s vegetation
Priyanka Nair
Meera Jasmine S
Nimisha V

  The fifth session chaired by Prof. Akhilesh Tyagi focused on Critical, Scientific and Technological Inputs. The session consisted of talks by distinguished Professors, Dr. S P S Kushwaha, Dr. A S Raghubanshi, Dr. Uppeandra Dhar and Dr Asha Juwarikar.
  Prof. S P S Kushwaha of ISRO, Dehradun did a presentation on the topic “Satellite Remote Sensing and Geospatial Modeling for Biodiversity Assessment, Conservation and Monitoring”.  He said the Government mainly focuses on the development of people rather than giving priority to the development of biodiversity. A software called Special Landscape Analysis for Modeling (SLAM) has been developed by ISRO. Using satellite imagery they have designed maps to show the natural vegetation and these maps are more than 85 percent accurate. So far 155 vegetation types have been mapped by ISRO. He pointed out that increasing population has resulted in forest fragmentation. ISRO is involved in the development of a relational database to preserve and provide data for the country.  According to him space provides vantage point for monitoring and studying biodiversity as a complete system.
  Prof. A S Raghubanshi spoke on “Diversity Disturbance Relationship in Dry Tropical Forests”. He emphasized that tropical dry forest are the most important biomes as it consumes 35 percent of forest in India. He explained how disturbance ( i.e. any relatively discrete event in time that disrupts ecosystem, community and population) plays a crucial role in maintaining biotic diversity. He observed that deforestation and fragmentation leads to reduction in diversity and in turn leads to reduction in diversity of species.
  Prof. Uppeandra Dhar, Senior Scientist of NASI did a presentation on the topic “Application of Bioindicators to Assess Changing Patterns – A Case in the Himalaya”. He talked about biodiversity indicators and characteristics, which includes specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and timely indicators. With the help of these indicators progress can be measured, habitats, sites and species can be prioritized and stressors can be identified.  For the study in Himalayas they chose 20 major temperate families there. He said that early flowering in alpine/subalpine is seen there when compared to temperate zones.
  Prof. Asha Juwarikar, Chief Scientist of NEERI spoke on “Microbe-assisted Phytoremediation for Restoration of Biodiversity of  Degrade Lands – A Sustainable Solution”.  She talked about how to restore lands and forests contaminated by industries.  It is estimated that 40 percent of world’s agricultural land is seriously degraded. The main reasons for land degradation are deforestation, erosion, mining, land pollution due to industrial waste, overgrazing and urban sprawl and commercial development. The main threats posed by the mining industry are the restoration of sustainable biodiversity and management of mine spoil dumps.