With 229 Organ Donors, This Tamil Nadu Village Is Leading The Way In Eye & Body Donation

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When someone dies in Madathattuvilai village in Kanyakumari district, the information is first conveyed to the church priest, following which the bell is rung to announce the death.

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This is also a signal for the members of the youth group to meet the family and prepare them for eye donation of the deceased. While the family is busy informing their dear ones, a team from an eye hospital in Tirunelveli rushes to the village, carefully retrieves the eyes and replaces them with artificial eyes that look almost real.

As many as 229 people in the village have donated their eyes over the past 11 years turning Madathattuvilai into a trendsetter in creating awareness on eye donation.

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But the journey was not easy, as people were unwilling to donate their eyes till 2007. The then youth group president of the church, F X Aruno Xavier, told TOI that most elders did not want to donate eyes “as they feared that they would not be able to see God in their afterlife”. It was against this backdrop that members of the group started actively donating blood from 2000.

Realising the importance of eye donation, youngsters from St Sebastian Church in the village started creating awareness about it in 2004. But it took three more years for them to convince the family of the first eye donor.

“About 1,500 enrolled, most of them were young,” he said, adding that they needed more elderly people to come forward. That was when parish priests Dominic M K Das and Sujan Kumar began talking about the importance of eye donation in their sermons.

In June 2007, T Mariya Sebastian, 52, a disabled person, became the first donor. The same year, eight other donations were recorded. Holy Family Federation, a church unit, now handles eye donation. “We were earlier donating eyes to a private hospital in Nagercoil.

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But sometime ago their staff showed some reluctance. From then on, we started donating to a private hospital in Tirunelveli,” said V Auslin, 43, the federation’s secretary.

He said about 95% of those who die now donate their eyes. The village also boasts of the first whole-body donation in the district. Madathattuvilai has motivated and helped 17 people from neighbouring villages donate eyes.

Quite a few families in the village have more than one donor. The village’s youngest donors were sisters J Jeflin Infancy Cilicia and J Joleyn Steffi. They were 15 and 14 when they died in 2014 and 2015, respectively.

 The girls, daughters of P Jeranus and J Shanthi Sheela, were healthy kids. The family was in Velankanni when tsunami struck on December 26, 2004. The girls started falling ill after that. Jeflin died in 2014 and Joleyn the next year. And the parents donated the eyes of the girls.

Article Credit : IndiaTimes

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Light pollution on the rise in India: Study

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  • A study published in January 2019 shows that the brightness from outdoor lights is on a steady rise in various parts of India over a 20 year period.
  • New Delhi, Telangana, Maharashtra, Karnataka and Uttar Pradesh, which were already experiencing high levels of outdoor brightness,showed a further increase from 1993 to 2013. West Bengal, Gujarat and Tamil Nadu transitioned from low to high light pollution areas.
  • Light pollution can come in forms such as glare, light trespass and skyglow in addition to over-illumination and clutter.

In the ongoing Amsterdam Light Festival, illuminating the city’s waterway, a Serbian artist duo’s installation of an LED version of Vincent Van Gogh’s iconic painting ‘The Starry Night’ has drawn attention to the growing menace of light pollution in urban areas.

7000 kilometres away, in India’s commercial capital Mumbai, Nilesh Desai is steadily working on a public interest litigation on light pollution-disturbance due to excessive, inappropriate and misdirected artificial lights.

For the last couple of years, Desai, who holds a day job in the information technology sector, has been fighting against the excessive and obtrusive glare of floodlights in his neighbourhood. He has fired off over 20 complaints with state and civic authorities on the nuisance of light pollution along Mumbai’s Marine Drive, a scenic curved beachfront promenade.

He likens his ordeal to a “curfew-like situation”.

“We live in curfew like situation when floodlights are on. I ask my kids not to look outside windows as it may harm their eyes. We have put up thick curtains in our houses to block out the glare from floodlights installed by the Wilson College Gymkhana [a club]. My neighbours have to use blinds to block the light so they can watch television in the evening,”Desai told Mongabay-India.

The concerned father added that according to the Marine Drive Police station, floodlights can cause accidents at the beachfront and is a nuisance to citizens who visit the promenade.

“Wedding events use temporary floodlight set-up, which is usually on am to 3 am causing massive light pollution. This is not just a nuisance but a violation of right to life.”

Desai’s complaints prompted the Mumbai civic authorities to act and ask the gymkhana to take down the lights.

“But the catch is there are no laws to fight light pollution so the civic body has asked the state government and pollution control board to draft norms for light pollution in the city,” Desai explained, promising to generate more awareness on the emerging issue in India.

Light pollution can come in forms such as glare, light trespass and skyglow in addition to over-illumination and clutter. The damaging effects of light pollution on human and ecosystem health are being increasingly acknowledged worldwide.

With our sleep-wake rhythm synced to the day-night cycle, excessive artificial illumination can disrupt health contributing to poor sleep, obesity, diabetes, certain cancers and mood disorders. Artificial light at night puts a spanner in the works for nocturnal animals, interfering with reproduction and impacting populations. For young turtles and birds, disorientation can be fatal.

“People are already experiencing the effects of light pollution in various forms but we do not recognise it as pollution in India yet,” Desai lamented.

Recognising light in excess as a pollutant

His observations are not in isolation. A study published in Urban Climate journal in January 2019 has shared Desai’s concern that the brightness from outdoor lights is on a steady rise in various parts of India over a 20 year period.

Discussing the findings, study author Pavan Kumar said New Delhi, Telangana, Maharashtra, Karnataka and Uttar Pradesh experienced increase in “very high light pollution intensity” from 1993 to 2013.

“This means that these states already had a high level of light pollution which has gone up further over the years,” said Pavan Kumar of Kumaun University, Uttarakhand.

Whereas in states such as West Bengal, Gujarat and Tamil Nadu, outdoor brightness due to artificial lights, transitioned from low to high in 20 years.

Urban expansion, cropping up of new suburban residential areas and industrial and agricultural development are attributed to increasing brightness in these patches. Urban expansion, industrial development and air pollution have been the main actors for increasing light pollution in these states.

“Only two states, Assam and Madhya Pradesh, exhibited decrease in light pollution from 1993 to 2013,” Pavan Kumar told Mongabay-India.

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Decrease in brightness was predominantly identified in the areas having small undeveloped urban areas and where mineral extraction industries have been closed and transformed into some other infrastructural facilities.

“This is true for Assam and Madhya Pradesh where air pollution is also low. Both these states are also maintaining and enhancing natural unlit areas,” pointed Pavan Kumar.

Lighting the skies rather than just streets

To map the upward light emissions from outdoor light sources, the researchers turned to eyes in the sky.

They acquired night time light satellite-based imagery of the US Air Force Defense Meteorological Satellite Program (DMSP) to chart trends. DMSP designs, operates, and maintains satellites for monitoring the meteorologic, oceanographic, and solar-territorial environments.

If you see closely, the streetlights that we have do not focus the light rays on the streets itself, they emit upwards too. This light as captured by satellites orbiting in the sky has been used as an indicator of light pollution in our study, said Pavan Kumar.

“The night time light data that we used is linked to outdoor light sources in urban areas so it doesn’t capture the sky glow which refers to the orange glow or brightening in urban areas caused due to excessive light,” explained co-author Meenu Rani of G.B. Pant National Institute of Himalayan Environment & Sustainable Development.

According to the International Dark Sky Association, when streetlights come on, light rays branch off in different directions.

Some of the light rays are directed up into the sky and travel completely through Earth’s atmosphere. Of these rays, a few will be detected by satellites as they pass over the night time side of our planet. In still other cases, rays are scattered back to the ground by dust particles or molecules in the atmosphere, forming the familiar “sky glow” seen over cities.

Occasionally, rays directed downward reflect off the ground into the sky, where they might escape the atmosphere and be seen by satellites. Lastly, some downward-scattered rays make it into astronomers’ telescopes, effectively blocking their view of the universe, the association said.

In 2017 results of a global study pointed out the “loss of night” due to excessive artificial light at night for India is three times faster than the global average.

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Christopher Kyba who conducted the 2017 study pointed out that Pavan Kumar and colleagues “measured that upward light emissions are increasing, and this probably means that many forms of light pollution are increasing.”

“The problem is that ‘light pollution’ can mean a lot of things. Artificial sky brightness is light pollution, glare that prevents you from seeing well is a form of light pollution, when someone’s lamp shines in your bedroom that is light pollution, and when artificial light affects animals and plants, that is light pollution,” Kyba told Mongabay-India.

“If you have large increases in light observed by satellite, then it is very likely that many of the other types of light pollution are getting worse,” he said.

While Desai and others push for guidelines and norms, Pavan Kumar and colleagues also bat for regulation of outdoor light consumption in core urban areas (where maximum use of light has been found) by implementing laws to maintain the minimum level of light consumption.

“Adoption of efficient lightning sources and their accessibility among people can go a long way in reducing level of light pollution,” said Pavan Kumar.

Indian government data says over 21 lakh LED street lights have been installed across the country under Street Light National Programme.

Kyba believes that everyone who installs lights can take action. The most important things are that lights should not be brighter than necessary, and outdoor area lighting should not shine down.

“For example, illuminated LED video signs should be dimmed at night. They are actually really unpleasant to look at during night if they are not dimmed, because they are so much brighter than the surroundings. In general, making things brighter won’t make things more visible – what matters is how the light is distributed. So people should try to use the least light that allows them to see well,” Kyba explained.

The researchers echo Kyba’s suggestion that with area lighting, it should be installed so that no light shines into the atmosphere — that is, all the light should go downward.

“Cities can adopt policy to require advertisers to turn off lights after a certain hour, or put restrictions on what types of area lighting is allowed, or restrict how bright signs can be. There are lots of possibilities,” Kyba said.

As light pollution hides the night sky, it has also sparked an interest in the latest travel trend: astrotourism. Desai, who recently indulged in a round of night-time photography in Malshej Ghat, a small hill station near Mumbai, wants to seize this opportunity for greater awareness.

For starters he has written to Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation on light pollution awareness and to make the site dark sky compliant (stem light spillover).

“This will provide citizens an experience to witness a truly dark sky, see the Milky Way and astronomical events and in turn increase revenues and awareness on light pollution. They liked my idea and will be working to make not just this location but several locations across Maharashtra dark sky compliant,” Desai added.

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Article Credit: IndiaMongabay

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Meet 58-Year-Old Man From Manipur Who Is Using Plastic Waste To Make Brooms

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A 58-year-old innovator from Manipur has found a way of re-using the disposed of plastic water bottles to combat the problem of plastic pollution in the state while also generating income for the people of his village.

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New Delhi: Heaps of plastic waste including plastic bottles, cups, straws, and wrappers dumped by the roadside, littered around his residence, in the local park, near public offices, around schools and in the nearby forest too prompted 58-year-old Usham Krishna Singh to act. Resident of Chingkhu Awang Leikai, Imphal East, Manipur, Mr Singh learnt about the dangers of plastic pollution when the Government of Manipur announced a complete ban on the use of plastic bags in June 2018. He also learnt from the Directorate of Environment of Manipur that five per cent of the total solid waste generated per day by Imphal city is plastic. The newly acquired information made him question the ban which made only plastic carry bags illegal while plastic bottles which make up a huge part of the plastic litter in the region was not banned.

his prompted him to find a way in which he could reuse the disposed of plastic bottles productively and combat plastic pollution. On researching ways to reuse plastic items, Mr. Singh with the help of his eldest son, 30-year-old Usham Ashok Singh, came up with the idea of manufacturing brooms carved out of disposable plastic water bottles. These plastic brooms work and look similar to conventional brooms made of bamboo found in the market. Mr. Singh told.

I have fond memories of rivers and drains flowing freely and during floods, they brought plants and insects to the land. But now, the rivers seem so choked with garbage and floods bring mounds and mounds of plastics. There is a big lake in Manipur, Loktak Lake, which can be called the lifeline of Manipur. Most of our waste goes in this lake, thereby posing serious threats to the environment and ecology of Manipur. To save our Lake and environment from pollution of plastic waste materials, I worked on the idea of making brooms out of plastic bottles

Initially some people mocked me when I used to collect disposed of plastic bottles from streets in my bag every time I used to go to work or to run an errand or just for a stroll. But it did not discourage me. Rather, I used to feel even more motivated to try harder in my pursuit of building a machine for recycling plastic. With time people of my village understood me and now some people even bring empty plastic bottles to my home.

Technical Knowledge About Machines Helped The Father-Son Duo In Recycling Plastic Bottles

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Mr. Singh works as a pump operator in the Water Supply Department under the Public Health Engineering Department, Government of Manipur. His son Ashok runs an electronics repairing centre. Using the technical knowledge about machines, they successfully created an apparatus for recycling used plastic water bottles into brooms after hard work of three months.
Elaborating on the procedure of making the broom, Mr. Singh said he uses a horse-knife with the help of which the plastic bottles are sliced to very thin pieces, almost in the form of threads. The plastic threads are then made rigid by applying hot air-gun used by Ashok in repairing mobile phones. He uses bamboo sticks to hold the plastic threads. For manufacturing one broom, 30 bottles of one-litre capacity are required.

Initially, Mr. Singh could make only two brooms in one day. But gradually after some failed experiments, he got the idea of installing an electric motor. With the help of the electric motor, he is now able to produce 20 to 30 brooms in one day. He said,

We are still experimenting and trying new things. Due to financial and technical limitations, I have confined the workshop to using only plastic bottles to make brooms. But I hope to widen the scope of my work and use other plastic items which are disposed of as waste, especially the single-use plastic items like straws, cups, plates and carry bags and make more products out of those.

How Recycling Plastic Bottles Is Generating Income For Villagers

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Mr. Singh has formed a Self-Help Group (SHG) called, ‘Usham Bihari & Maipak Plastic Recycle Industry’ and is planning to register it soon as a small scale enterprise. The SHG is currently helping in income generation of 10 villagers, both men and women. Mr. Singh said,

Even though income generation was not the primary motive, I am happy to see that we are able to provide a source income to people of my village.

He further said that the demand for his brooms is increasing in not only his own village but some of the nearby villages too. They have also started selling the brooms in city markets. Mr. Singh and his team are currently making two kinds of brooms- one by using waste plastic water bottles selling at a price of Rs.150 and the other with soft drinks plastic bottles selling at a price of Rs. 200.

Mr. Singh has, till date, made 500 brooms and has invested around Rs. 20,000 for the whole set up for recycling, which includes the cost of the motor, other parts of the machine and raw materials like nails, wires, and bamboos.

With the tagline-‘If you love your future, love your environment’, the SHG formed by Mr. Singh aspires to include more people to have more hands in the battle against plastic pollution in Manipur and in the process also try and help the economically weaker sections of his village earn some money.

Article Credit: NDTV

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Food production needs to be more eco-friendly


According to Lancet study, food system changes land use, leading to climate change, water depletion.


If the planet has to be saved from catastrophic climate change, by 2040, the world’s food production systems should absorb more carbon than they emit; in other words, act as a carbon sink, a global report has found.

The EAT- Lancet Commission on Food, Planet and Health, comprising a team of over 37 experts from 16 countries, including India, has cautioned that it would be impossible to contain global warming unless food production systems, of which agriculture is a vital component, are not overhauled.

Under the 2015 Paris Agreement, 195 nations agreed to keep average global warming to well below two degree Celsius compared to the global temperatures in the pre-industrial era.

There is already a rise of one degree in global temperatures since 1900.

“In this geological epoch, the Anthropocene, paceand scale of local environmental effects have grown exponentially since the mid-1950s. 

Humans have become dominating drivers of change, and food production is the largest source of environmental degradation and has the greatest effect on the earth system,” the report, published in the Lancet Journal on Thursdayfound.

Food production changes land-use, causes climate change, biodiversity loss, freshwater depletion and involves the use of chemical fertilizers.

The commission, which focused on two endpoints of the global food system — final consumption (healthy diets) and sustainable food production — also offered solutions to stave off negative impact.

“Sustainable food production for about 10 billion people should use no additional land, safeguard existing biodiversity, reduce consumptive water use and manage water responsibly, substantially reduce nitrogen and phosphorus pollution, produce zero carbon dioxide emissions, and cause no further increase in methane and nitrous oxide emissions,” 

the report said.

The commission attempted to estimate a maximum allowable carbon budget from food production.

For instance, greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions of methane and nitrous oxide will have to remain between 4.7 to 5.4 gigatonne in 2050. In 2010, these emissions were already estimated to be about 5.2 gigatonnes.

Phosphorus use must be reduced from current usage of 17.9 teragram to between 6-16 teragram. Biodiversity loss must be decelerated from 100 to between 1 to 80 extinctions per million species annually, no further conversion of land for agriculture should be allowed.

Although total emissions from food production have been stable since 1990, the total estimate of all GHG emissions from food production is 8·5–13·7 gigatones of carbon dioxide equivalent per year.

The report terms these targets “planetary boundaries” (global biophysical limits that humanity should operate within to ensure a stable environment) within which agricultural production must remain to prevent harmful impact of climate change like global warming.

Apart from halving the current rate of food losses and wastage, the commission also recommended efficiency in agricultural land use with a focus on closing yield gaps by at least 75% (yield gap is defined as the difference between potential yield and actual farm yield under the same environment); balancing nitrogen and phosphorus fertilizer application between regions; improved water management; and saving biodiversity in agricultural plots.

“Agriculture is in fact an opportunity to mitigate as well as adapt to climate change. Policy makers have to realise that making these changes in the farming system is not optional any more. I hope the Lancet Commission reaches out to policy makers,” said Kavitha Kuruganti, researcher and activist, Alliance for Sustainable & Holistic Agriculture.

Examples set

In India, two states have taken the lead on demonstrating how natural farming can be water efficient, help conserve biodiversity and eliminate phosphorus and nitrogenous fertilisers.

In 2003, Sikkim stopped imports of chemical fertilizers, and since then, the cultivatable land there is used for organic or natural farming. Sikkim won the Future Policy Award 2018 of the Food and Agricultural Organisation, beating 51 nominated policies from 25 countries, for its sustainable farming practices.

Andhra Pradesh government last year launched a policy to transition 6 million farms and farmers cultivating 8 million hectares of land from conventional synthetic chemical agriculture to Zero-Budget Natural Farming by 2024.

Article Credit: HT


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Amazing! Here’s How Thousands From Ahmedabad Came Together To Rescue 4506 Birds

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About 2,023 volunteers associated with various NGOs have signed up with the programme, and they have collectively managed to save as many as 4,506 injured birds in the past two days.

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The custom of kite flying is one of the most popular activities during the festival of Uttarayan in Gujarat.

However, the sky becomes a death trap for millions of birds who are fatally injured by the ‘manja,’ the string used to fly the kites.

Year after year, we see photographs of birds who have been mutilated by the killer kites, especially the ones that are coated with powdered glass.

In 2017 alone, close to 3,000 birds were reportedly injured while another 500 were found dead.

While many non-profit organisations work round-the-clock to rescue the avian population, the festival-frenzy population shows very little empathy towards this cause. This year, Gujarat intends to change that by launching Karuna Abhiyan, a statewide campaign to protect the lives of injured birds during the Kite Festival.

And standing at the forefront is the district administration of Ahmedabad, whose Collector, Dr Vikrant Pandey is personally overseeing the campaign in the city.

About 2,023 volunteers associated with various NGOs have signed up with the programme, and they have collectively managed to save as many as 4,506 injured birds in the past two days.

“Karuna Abhiyan has been a very successful campaign. The birds, which got injured during Uttarayan are being treated so that they can fly again. They will be kept in the shelter for few days till they fully recover,” said the IAS officer.

About 11 rescue and rehabilitation centres were set up across various locations in the city with the help of animal husbandry, forest and environment departments of the state.

Ten veterinary ambulances were also deployed by the Collectorate to ensure that bird rescue operations ensued without much delay.

In addition to that, 40 volunteer organisations also joined the cause, and their members have been tirelessly working for the last two days.

Between January 14 and 15, the volunteers of Jivdaya Charitable Trust, an animal help centre, have reportedlytreated close to 945 injured birds, including endangered species like rump vultures, cranes and barn owls.

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Another non-profit organisation, Namo Namah had received over 500 injured birds, of which a large percentage included kites and pigeons.

Besides bird rescue and rehabilitation operations, the responsibility of raising awareness about the perils of kite strings to birds amidst people was undertaken by Shree Cultural Foundation, an animal welfare organisation in the city.

“Several of our vans went around the city, holding awareness programmes in schools and societies about the damage that kite strings can cause birds. We also taught them how to attend injured birds and call for help,” said Mukesh Bhati, the founder of the NGO.

We salute their selfless commitment and drive to fight for the feathered beings and hope the initiative raises more awareness amidst the citizens.

Article Credit: better India

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