Saturday, March 30, 2013

Weekend Thought - 30th March 2013 !

Many a times we overestimate our own experience, simply because we forget to calculate how much we have gained from that of others…
Good Afternoon!
Have a Great Weekend!!

Monday, March 25, 2013

Good Morning Thought - 26th March 2013!

Mind doesn't stop ambulating even when we sit idle.  However, an idle person can hardly take pride of recognizing the psychological moment…

Good Morning!

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Message on World Water Day - 2013!

Water, water everywhere, not a drop to drink

Water, water everywhere, not a drop to drink

BHUBANESWAR: Rivers of Odisha are far more polluted than what is projected by the Orissa State Pollution Control Board (OSPCB), pointed out experts at a seminar here on Wednesday. As the board is yet to put an effective system in place to monitor river pollution, samples collected from the rivers to ascertain the pollution level are not foolproof, said panelists at the seminar on water quality organized by OSPCB.

According to environmentalists, Brahmani, Baitarani and Mahanadi are bearing the brunt of industrial pollution in the state. "The OSPCB may be claiming that only 12% pollution in these river systems is contributed by industries, but the truth is different. Brahmani basin, which is taking pollution load from industrial clusters from Rourkela to Kalinga Nagar, has been rendered a dead river with its water containing cyanide, phenol, coal chemicals and coliform bacteria," said activist Ranjan Panda. There is direct flow of these dangerous effluents from the industrial units round the clock and the monitoring by OSPCB is done only once a month, which is grossly flawed, Panda pointed out.

Release of ash water and other wastes from thermal power stations into the Brahmani adds to the pollution. There are at least three ways through which waste water from power plants and their colonies is being released into the rivulet Nandira which merges with the Brahmani. A thick layer of oil and other polluting chemicals on the surface of the river water has become a common sight. This has endangered aquatic lives and also affected agriculture in neighbouring villages," conceded an official of OSPCB on condition of anonymity.

Environmentalists feared Mahanadi is heading the same way owing to the dependence of a large number of industries on the river. "Though Brahmani is the most polluted river at present, falling in the E category as per the standard set by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), Mahanadi is soon going to face a similar situation," said Panda. At present Mahanadi accounts for 62% of the state's total industrial water allocation with 57 industries drawing about 12,95.167 cusec water on a daily basis, the activist informed. "If such huge quantity of water is drawn from the river for industrialization and the industries in turn release deadly chemicals into the river, the situation is going to be more dangerous than what we perceive it to be," he stressed.

Mahanadi, whose basin area is 65,628 sq km area, has 32 pollution monitoring zones set up by OSPCB. There are 25 and six such zones for Brahmani and Baitarani respectively. "We collect samples from the monitoring areas once a month. Mostly the samples are collected during the day or in the evening," said senior environmental scientist B N Bhol.

-          Riyan Ramanath V, TNN | Mar 21, 2013, 07.03 AM IST

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Indian children face shunted growth due to open defecation?

Dear Friends/Co-sailors,

Pasting below for your interest, an article by Dean Spears, published in The Hindu, that argues Indian children face shunted growth as half of the country defecates in the open!  

Thought this might interest you.  So, picking it today for my blog.

Thanks and regards,



The long and short of open defecation


There is statistical data to show that the height of Indian children is correlated to their and their neighbourhood’s access to toilets

You can learn a lot from measuring children’s height. How tall a child has grown by the time she is a few years old is one of the most important indicators of her well-being. This is not because height is important in itself, but because height reflects a child’s early-life health, absorbed nutrition and experience of disease.

Because health problems that prevent children from growing tall also prevent them from growing into healthy, productive, smart adults, height predicts adult mortality, economic outcomes and cognitive achievement. The first few years of life have critical life-long consequences. Physical or cognitive development that does not happen in these first years is unlikely to be made up later.

So it is entirely appropriate that news reports in India frequently mention child stunting or malnutrition. Indian children are among the shortest in the world. Such widespread stunting is both an emergency for human welfare and a puzzle.

Why are Indian children so short? Stunting is often considered an indicator of “malnutrition,” which sometimes suggests that the problem is that children don’t have enough food. Although it is surely a tragedy that so many people in India are hungry, and it is certainly the case that many families follow poor infant feeding practices, food appears to be unable to explain away the puzzle of Indian stunting.


One difficult fact to explain is that children in India are shorter, on average, than children in Africa, even though people are poorer, on average, in Africa. This surprising fact has been called the “Asian enigma.” The enigma is not resolved by genetic differences between the Indian population and others. Babies adopted very early in life from India into developing countries grow much taller. Indeed, history is full of examples of populations that were deemed genetically short but eventually grew as tall as any other when the environment improved.

So, what input into child health and growth is especially poor in India? One answer that I explore in a recent research paper is widespread open defecation, without using a toilet or latrine. Faeces contain germs that, when released into the environment, make their way onto children’s fingers and feet, into their food and water, and wherever flies take them. Exposure to these germs not only gives children diarrhoea, but over the long term, also can cause changes in the tissues of their intestines that prevent the absorption and use of nutrients in food, even when the child does not seem sick.

More than half of all people in the world who defecate in the open live in India. According to the 2011 Indian census, 53 per cent of households do not use any kind of toilet or latrine. This essentially matches the 55 per cent found by the National Family Health Survey in 2005.

Open defecation is not so common elsewhere. The list of African countries with lower percentage rates of open defecation than India includes Angola, Burundi, Cameroon, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Liberia, Malawi, Rwanda, Senegal, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, and more. In 2008, only 32 per cent of Nigerians defecated in the open; in 2005, only 30 per cent of people in Zimbabwe did. No country measured in the last 10 years has a higher rate of open defecation than Bihar. Twelve per cent of all people worldwide who openly defecate live in Uttar Pradesh.

So, can high rates of open defecation in India statistically account for high rates of stunting? Yes, according to data from the highly-regarded Demographic and Health Surveys, an international effort to collect comparable health data in poor and middle-income countries.

International differences in open defecation can statistically account for over half of the variation across countries in child height. Indeed, once open defecation is taken into consideration, Indian stunting is not exceptional at all: Indian children are just about exactly as short as would be expected given sanitation here and the international trend. In contrast, although it is only one example, open defecation is much less common in China, where children are much taller than in India.

Further analysis in the paper suggests that the association between child height and open defecation is not merely due to some other coincidental factor. It is not accounted for by GDP or differences in food availability, governance, female literacy, breastfeeding, immunisation, or other forms of infrastructure such as availability of water or electrification. Because changes over time within countries have an effect on height similar to the effect of differences across countries, it is safe to conclude that the effect is not a coincidental reflection of fixed genetic or cultural differences. I do not have space here to report all of the details of the study, nor to properly acknowledge the many other scholars whose work I draw upon; I hope interested readers will download the full paper at


Of course, poor sanitation is not the only threat to Indian children’s health, nor the only cause of stunting. Sadly, height reflects many dimensions of inequality within India: caste, birth order, women’s status. But evidence suggests that socially privileged and disadvantaged children alike are shorter than they would be in the absence of open defecation.

Indeed, the situation is even worse for Indian children than the simple percentage rate of open defecation suggests. Living near neighbours who defecate outside is more threatening than living in the same country as people who openly defecate but live far away. This means that height is even more strongly associated with the density of open defecation: the average number of people per square kilometre who do not use latrines. Thus, stunting among Indian children is no surprise: they face a double threat of widespread open defecation and high population density.

The importance of population density demonstrates a simple fact: Open defecation is everybody’s problem. It is the quintessential “public bad” with negative spillover effects even on households that do not practise it. Even the richest 2.5 per cent of children — all in urban households with educated mothers and indoor toilets — are shorter, on average, than healthy norms recommend. They do not openly defecate, but some of their neighbours do. These privileged children are almost exactly as short as children in other countries who are exposed to a similar amount of nearby open defecation.

If open defecation indeed causes stunting in India, then sanitation reflects an emergency not only for health, but also for the economy. After all, stunted children grow into less productive adults.

It is time for communities, leaders, and organisations throughout India to make eliminating open defecation a top priority. This means much more than merely building latrines; it means achieving widespread latrine use. Latrines only make people healthier if they are used for defecation. They do not if they are used to store tools or grain, or provide homes for the family goats, or are taken apart for their building materials. Any response to open defecation must take seriously the thousands of publicly funded latrines that sit unused (at least as toilets) in rural India. Perhaps surprisingly, giving people latrines is not enough.

Ending a behaviour as widespread as open defecation is an immense task. To its considerable credit, the Indian government has committed itself to the work, and has been increasing funding for sanitation. Such a big job will depend on the collaboration of many people, and the solutions that work in different places may prove complex. The assistant responsible for rural sanitation at your local Block Development Office may well have one of the most important jobs in India. Any progress he makes could be a step towards taller children — who become healthier adults and a more productive workforce.

(Dean Spears is an economics PhD candidate at Princeton University and visiting researcher at the Delhi School of Economics.)

Groups sue 3 W.Va. coal mines over pollution

Groups sue 3 W.Va. coal mines over pollution

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (AP) — Environmental groups filed federal lawsuits against three coal companies Wednesday, claiming that runoff from their mountaintop removal mining sites have polluted West Virginia waterways.

The Sierra Club, West Virginia Highlands Conservancy and Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition filed the three lawsuits in federal court in Huntington.

The groups accuse Alex Energy Inc. and Fola Coal Company LLC of contaminating water in tributaries of Twentymile Creek with sulfate and other harmful chemicals. The other suit alleges that Consol of Kentucky's Peg Fork mine discharges unlawful quantities of selenium into nearby streams.

Selenium is a naturally occurring element that surface mining can release into waterways. In humans, high-level exposure can damage the kidneys, liver, and central nervous and circulatory systems.

A bill making its way through the Legislature would allow the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection to raise the allowable levels of selenium in lakes and streams. 

It also would order a study to determine acceptable levels of selenium specific to West Virginia. The bill says that the federal Environmental Protection Agency has been considering revising the selenium standards for several years, which raises questions about the usefulness of the current standards. The EPA would have to approve the changes.
The groups, which have spent years suing coal companies over water pollution, also have threatened federal regulators with legal action if they do not rein in state regulators. The Legislature last year passed weaker water-quality standards that resulted in 173 streams that would have made the list of impaired waterways being left off the list. Being placed on the list means a plan must be developed for improvement.

"Rather than forcing the mining companies to clean up the impaired streams, WVDEP is trying to redefine the meaning of impairment administratively so that it no longer exists while the EPA is taking a 'cross your fingers and hope' approach to mining pollution," Jim Sconyers, Chapter Chair of the West Virginia Sierra Club said in a release. "So groups like ours have to do WVDEP's job. We can't allow these companies to keep poisoning our streams."

Representatives for Alpha Natural Resources, which owns Alex Energy, did not immediately return a phone messages seeking comment.

It is the policy of Consol, which owns the other two mines, not to comment on pending litigation, spokeswoman Lynn Seay said.

"CONSOL Energy strives to be a good corporate citizen in the communities where we operate, and as such, we strive to comply with all of our regulatory, contractual and other legal obligations," she added. "Once we have had a chance to review these complaints, we will respond appropriately."

Mountaintop removal is a particularly efficient but destructive form of strip mining that blasts apart mountain ridge tops to expose multiple seams of coal. The practice of flat-topping the mountains, then filling valleys and covering streams with rubble has divided communities and led to confrontations between coal miners and environmentalists.

Consol was ordered to pay a civil penalty of nearly $270,000 in a settlement reached in December with state regulators concerning violations at its Peg Fork mine in Mingo County. The groups argue the settlement doesn't specify a timeframe for the company to bring its selenium discharges into compliance. They also argue the penalty was not adequate "to disgorge Consol of its economic benefit of noncompliance."

Such lawsuits are prohibited as long as the state has "commenced and is diligently prosecuting" to require compliance. But the groups argue the state is doing so, which "leaves a realistic prospect that Consol's unlawful selenium discharges will continue," the groups allege.

They are asking the courts to require the companies to abide by pollution regulations or to pay civil penalties up to $37,500 per day for each violation.

-          Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Mining counties have higher death rates, study says

Mining counties have higher death rates, study says

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Residents in the coal-mining communities of West Virginia suffer higher overall death rates than non-mining areas of Appalachia, according to a new University of Pittsburgh study made public Wednesday.

The study, conducted as part of a coal industry-funded project, confirms some of the findings of West Virginia University research. However, authors of the new paper said their findings do not point as squarely at mining as a potential cause for increased coalfield mortality rates -- at least not yet.

"More studies will be needed to understand the complex interactions of environmental factors, personal behaviors and other risks to determine the extent coal mining plays in elevating mortality rates," said lead author Jeanine Buchanich, deputy director of epidemiology at the Pitt Public Health Center for Occupational Biostatics and Epidemiology.

Buchanich and her colleagues matched 31 West Virginia coal-mining counties to non-coal mining counties with comparable family income. The non-coal mining counties were in Appalachia, but not all of them were in West Virginia.

The study then compared cancer mortality rate data from 1950 through 2007 and non-cancer death rates from 1960 to 2007.

Among the findings:

• Higher rates of mortality in coal-mining counties compared to non-coal mining counties for total mortality, and all cancer, respiratory cancer, diabetes and heart-disease mortality.

• Higher rates of mortality in non-coal mining counties for kidney cancer and stroke.

• Higher rates of non-cancer respiratory disease mortality among males, but not females, in coal-mining counties, perhaps indicative of occupational diseases such as black lung.
A briefing on the study's results was posted online Wednesday by the Virginia Tech-based Appalachian Research Initiative for Environmental Science, or ARIES, project.

Coal companies including Alpha Natural Resources, Arch Coal and Patriot Coal have contributed $15 million to ARIES to fund regional university research on coal's impacts, in response to federal government regulatory efforts and WVU studies that found residents living near mountaintop removal mines face increased risks of serious health effects.

Pitt public relations officials distributed more complete details of the new study, and the authors are scheduled to speak next month during a four-day ARIES meeting in Charleston.

Results of the Pitt study also will be included in the peer-reviewed proceedings of that ARIES meeting, which are being published in conjunction with the Society for Mining, Metallurgy and Exploration.

Over the past five years, WVU researcher Michael Hendryx and various co-authors have published peer-reviewed studies examining possible links between mountaintop removal and various illnesses.

The work has linked health and coal-mining data to show, among other things, that residents near mining face a greater risk of cancer, birth defects and premature deaths. 

Environmental groups have not funded Hendryx, but those groups have seized on his findings to argue that mountaintop removal isn't just an issue about mining's effects on salamanders, mayflies or isolated mountain streams.

Buchanich and her colleagues say in their study, "The categories in which we found excesses [in mortality rates] are arguably heavily influenced by personal behaviors and risk factors, including heart disease and lung cancer.

"We were not able to control for personal risk factors in these analyses, including no control for confounding by smoking for causes of death highly affected by smoking, such as heart disease and respiratory system cancer," the new study said.

In an interview Wednesday, Hendryx noted that his research has controlled for a variety of other possible factors, including smoking, poverty and educational level, and still found increased mortality and illness rates in Appalachian mining communities.

Also, Hendryx noted, the Pitt researchers said that further study should be performed to look more closely at the amount of coal mined and the type of mining -- analyses that Hendryx and his co-authors have already done in their work.

"We have measured mining, generally, by looking at mining over all years covered by the study, and also examined not just presence/absence of mining but mining defined by amounts measured in tons, and by [mountaintop removal] versus other mining," Hendryx said. "We have found health effects to be strongest in areas where mining is heaviest, and in areas where [mountaintop removal] is practiced, and those distinctions will be lost in their paper."

-          By Ken Ward Jr., March 13, 2013

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Good Morning Thought - 14th March 2013!

Water, as truth, is making a disappearing act.  Sans both, civilizations are bound to disappear…

Good Morning!

Monday, March 11, 2013

In Fukushima, about 42000 children suffer from thyroid abnormalities

Dear Friends/Co-sailors,

Sharing below news from Fukushima Daini nuclear plant in Koriyama, where government reports have now confirmed that children are increasingly suffering the aftermath of the Fukushima Nuclear disaster of 2011.  A recent report that points to this alarming trend shows that more than 40 per cent of children have thyroid abnormalities.  This means about 42000 children are suffering from these abnormalities!  And the number is growing.

High time nuclear energy be shunned and clean options promoted. 

Thanks and regards,


Fukushima kids have skyrocketing number of thyroid abnormalities - report

A recent report into the Fukushima Nuclear disaster of 2011 has shown that more than forty percent of children have thyroid abnormalities.

The Tenth Report of the Fukushima Prefecture Health Management Survey, released earlier this week, with data up to January 21, 2013, revealed that 44.2 percent of 94,975 children sampled had thyroid ultrasound abnormalities. The number of abnormalities has also been increasing over time as well as the proportion of children with nodules equal to and larger than 5.1 mm and any size cysts have increased.

The report has also revealed that 10 of 186 eligible are suspected of having thyroid cancer as a result of the exposed radiation.

On Wednesday, the Fukushima Prefectural Government announced that two people who were teenagers at the time of the Fukushima No. 1 meltdown have been diagnosed with thyroid cancer, bringing the total number of cases officially confirmed by authorities to three. All have undergone surgery and are now recovering.

Around 360,000 youths at the time of the disaster have to be repeatedly checked to see if they have been affected by the radiation.

In the meantime on Friday, a government-backed researcher claimed that no health effects have been detected in people living in the contaminated area because the radiation level is not high enough.

“Since the accident in Fukushima, no health effects from radiation have been observed, although we have heard reports some people fell ill due to stress from living as evacuees and due to worries and fears about radiation,” Kazuo Sakai of Japan's National Institute of Radiological Sciences has said.

He went on to argue that people in the area had a radiation exposure of 20 millisieverts or less, while “we know from epidemiological surveys among atomic-bomb victims in Hiroshima and Nagasaki that if exposure to radiation surpasses 100 millisieverts, the risk of cancer will gradually rise.”

Sakai says that it will take years to establish a clear link between the nuclear catastrophe and health risks “as empirical knowledge says it takes several years before thyroid cancer is detected after exposure to radiation.”

Scientists and activists across the globe are still arguing about the possible long-term effects of the nuclear catastrophe while activists accuse the government of concealing the crucial data from people ever since the disaster.

Global environmental watchdog, Greenpeace, has criticized Tokyo of undermining the severity of public health risk.

Kazue Suzuki, nuclear campaigner at Greenpeace, who is not a scientist, said Japan should not try to play down the potential dangers.

"Japan should pour more energy into prevention of diseases including thyroid cancer than talking down the risk of low-level radiation," Kazue Suzuki from Greenpeace has said, warning “if there is no comparative epidemiological data, the government should err on the side of caution and carry out more frequent health checks among residents not only in Fukushima but in other prefectures,” she said.

An earthquake in the ocean in March 2011 sent a devastating tsunami to Japan's northeast coast killing around twenty thousand people and sending nuclear reactors on the coast into meltdown.

Published – February 18, 2013

Coal Kills at least a Hundred Thousand People In India Per Year!

Dear Friends/Co-Sailors,

A recent path breaking study report just released establishes the death trap being laid by the current economic growth model that pushes for heavy reliance on coal-fired power plants.  This study by Conservation Action Trust, Urban Emissions and Greenpeace finds out that coal kills at least a lakh people per year in India.  

The report says:

In 2011-12, particulate emissions from coal-fired power plants, resulted in an estimated 80,000 to 115,000 premature deaths and more than 20 million asthma cases, which cost the public and the government an estimated 16,000 to 23,000 crores Rupees (USD 3.2 to 4.6 billion). The largest impact of these emissions is felt over the states of Delhi, Haryana, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Indo-Gangetic plain, and most of central-east India.

Besides the emissions from the stack, fugitive dust from coal-handling units and ash ponds (after the disposal from the plants) is of concern, particularly given the expected increase in coal-fi red power plants.  The forward trajectory analysis, using 3-dimensional meteorology, of emissions released at the stacks show that the impacts can be observed farther than 50-100km from the source region, increasing not only ambient concentrations at these receptor points, but also the morbidity and mortality risk.

Additional impacts include deposition of heavy metals and sulphur oxides on agriculture through dry and wet deposition. 

Coal kills, the report confirms.  But these direct impacts are just a part of the story.  In my opinion, the rush for coal fired power plants has already killed millions of farmers by stripping them off their livelihood.   Aptly titled 'Coal Kills', this report is a must read.  You can find it at

Thanks and regards,


Saturday, March 2, 2013

News Pick: The Poison Eaters of Gansu Province

Pasting below an interesting article from China.  I am sure the pollution situation is similarly alarming in many of India's industrial and urbanized locations.


The Poison Eaters of Gansu Province
Pollution is not a problem some western farmers can choose to ignore, as many say they have suffered from chronic bone pains for decades

By staff reporter Liu Hongqiao

(Beijing) -- 03.01.2013 - Barely any rainfall on a bone dry landscape has always made crop farming in the western province of Gansu a rough gamble between the sky and local irrigation policies. But now, farmers reap only sorrow from fields that experts say is severely contaminated with cadmium and other heavy metals.
A survey conducted between 2006 to 2010 by the Ministry of Environmental Protection (MEP) and the Ministry of Land and Resources is believed by many soil pollution experts to be the most comprehensive inspection of China's land pollution to date. But the central government has refused to release the results of the survey, on grounds that the information is an issue of national security. In 2006, the MEP stated roughly 10 million hectares of farmland had been contaminated by heavy metals, including 2.2 million hectares of land affected through water pollution.

One farmer named Wu Zonglu said land experts that visited from Beijing declared that the soil in his village of Miqin to be hazardous. He said they told him that eating produce farmed from the soil was tantamount to suicide.

Heavy metals are absorbed in the stomach and stored in the bones. The cadmium moves slowly – so slowly that when Wu began to feel bone pains two decades ago, no one thought it would eventually take over his thigh bones and then his lower back. His wife has suffered more – she can hardly hold her hands outstretched.

Caixin found that people in dozens of villages along the Dongdagou, the biggest canal for sewage discharge in Baiyin City have complained of similar health problems for decades. The canal is used as a dumping ground for local factories and streams across 200 hectares of land. When villagers visit the hospital, they are diagnosed with osteoporosis or hyperostosis. But they've never received an official medical explanation as to why so many people suffer from the same set of ailments.

The descriptions of the bone pain echo one of the most prominent cases of mass cadmium poisoning, which occurred in 1950s Japan. An illness called the "itai-itai," or the "ouch-ouch" disease in Japanese, in Toyama Prefecture, was eventually traced to the consumption of rice containing excessive levels of cadmium. Crops irrigated with polluted water led to contaminated food.

Some government researchers openly deny the existence of "itai-itai" in China. Shang Qi, a research fellow at the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention has been following health problems caused by land pollution for more than 20 years. He says that while soil contamination is a problem, there are no studies that have confirmed large-scale cadmium poisoning.

In many of China's arid regions, wastewater is used for irrigation. According to a national survey on irrigation water quality conducted in the 1980s, 86 percent of irrigation water was substandard. The study also found that 65 percent of wastewater used for irrigation contained excessive levels of heavy metals, including mercury and cadmium. Soil experts say that the use of wastewater for irrigation is still a widespread practice.

Meanwhile, the bone pains have hit almost everyone in Minqin village and all of the villagers share the same description of the disease. The pain can come at any time of the year. Villagers describe a coldness that comes to the joints, which then spreads to the rest of the body.


Friday, March 1, 2013

Weekend Thought - 2nd March 2013!

Water is not only the best educator of cohesion but also the most used and trusted cosmetic on earth…
Save Water! Each drop counts!!
Good Morning & have a Great Weekend.