Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Coastal Andhra Pradesh undergoing major geomorphological changes: New beaches appearing, some disappearing: Upputeru shifting its course unidirectionally

Syed Akbar
Hyderabad: The coastal region in Andhra Pradesh is fast
changing with the area under beaches either increasing or decreasing,
and rivulets shifting their course. The sea is eating into lush green
lands at certain places.

The geomorphology data for the last four decades available with the
city unit of the Geological Survey of India indicate that the mouth of
the Upputeru rivulet has unidirectionally shifted very rapidly
westwards by about 3 km in the last 30 years, eroding more than 100
hectares of high-yielding coconut gardens near Chinnagollapalem. There
has been a growth of about 3 km long beach near the Upputeru river
mouth and formation of bars and shoals in the vicinity.

The coastal tract between the two distributaries channel mouths of the Gautami Godavari at Malatithippa is subjected to both erosion and accretion, though the latter is dominant.  The prominent bar, which existed in 1971, and the northeastern side of the Gautami-Godavari mouth disappeared. Spits are developing on left mouth of the
Vainateyam and the Vasishta.

The GSI has summerised the research works (GSI Memoirs) since the
opening of the Hyderabad centre in 1973. An analysis of the data
reveals that the delicate geomorphology of the coastal region is
undergoing visible changes at a rapid phase. According to the GSI
data, beach growth up to 1 km wide has been noticed along the 10 km
stretch from river mouth of Gautami towards west, while the shoreline
near Machilipatnam is subjected to erosion. The tidal creek mouth is
constantly shifting northwards with respect to the Machilipatnam Port.

The GSI city team has found erosion of bars on one side and accretion on the other side of the estuary of the Penna River. A spit is emerging on the Swarnamukhi River mouth. There is beach accretion further south near Kondurupalem.

“Accretion in the form of bar and shoal is seen at the confluence of
Vainateyam, Vasishta, Krishna River northeast distributary and also
the outfalls of Enamadurru drain- straight cut, Kunavaram straight
cut, Peddalanka drain etc. Due to the formation of the Kakinada spit,
a vast area of shallow sea is being separated from the main sea,” the
GSI Memoirs points out.

The GSI has noticed sea erosion north of Uppada village, where 100 m
wide beach was eroded in 14 years. Besides, presence of a wave-cut
platform at 2.5 km southwest of Uppada, and erosion of beach at
Mulapeta are the important evidences of sea erosion.

The health of the health research in India is not good: Dr MS Valiathan says India needs to produce more medical research papers

Syed Akbar
Hyderabad: Dr MS Valiathan, eminent surgeon and national
research professor, Manipal University, has regretted that Independent
India had failed to come out with any new ”knowledge, product or
process” that had improved the health care of people in the country.

Addressing a group of scientists and researchers at the annual
convention of the Andhra Pradesh Akademi of Sciences here on Friday,
Dr Valiathan said medical research in India did not produce new
technologies in the last several decades. The private sector, on the
other hand, had been successful in providing cheap and effective
vaccines, and technologies like iodization of salt.

Much of the medical research including on malaria, kala azar and
cholera was done during the British India. Describing the health
status of medical research in India as “feels healthy but diseases
latent”, he said of the Rs 1,20,000 crore allocated during the 11th
five-year plan, a whopping Rs 40,000 crore remained unspent.

“Majority of the 18,000 medical research papers published in independent India had appeared in low impact journals. Only 80 research papers on medicine appeared in high impact journals, that too published by non-medical institutions,” Dr Valiathan pointed out.

He said topics of medical research carried out in the country did not
correlate with diseases identified as high priority by the
epidemiological data of the union ministry of health.

As many as 180 of the 300 and odd medical colleges in the country never published a research paper in five years.


There is no collaborative research among medical colleges even within a city, he said adding that medical research is driven by the urge to publish in high impact journals even if the research has little relevance for India.

Dr Valiathan said the major tasks ahead for the country include
fighting emerging and re-emerging infections and  rise in
non-communicable diseases like diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and
compulsory promotion of research in medical colleges.

Diamond zone is much wider than believed: River Krishna downstream of Prakasam Barrage in Vijayawada may contain diamonds: Area extends up to the offshore of the Krishna river

Syed Akbar
Hyderabad:  After oil and natural gas, the offshore of Krishna
River now holds prospects for diamond mining. The diamond search in
the State has extended to areas beyond Vijayawada and up to the
estuary of the river Krishna with the Geological Survey of India
finding evidence for the presence of precious stones in this hitherto
unexploited region.

So far, the area between Sangam (confluence of Tungabhadra and Krishna
in Mahbubnagar district) and Prakasam Barrage in Vijayawada is
recognized as the diamond zone. Recent studies by the GIS have
revealed that the diamond zone well extends beyond Vijayawada and up
to near shore in Avanigadda and Nagayalanka in Krishna district and
Repalle in Guntur district. Penna River, downstream of Somasila, is
another new area with prospects of diamond reserves. The region may go
well into the sea, offshore of Krishna and Penna.

The mapping of the geological terrain of coastal areas dating back to
the last glacial maximum (18,000 years ago) and beyond shows that the
palaeo-channels and channel bars comprising diamond bearing gravels
extend into the lower part of the Krishna delta and even into the near
shore area.

According to GSI, about 18,000 years ago Krishna as well as the Penna
rivers had extended courses joining the sea at lower levels. “The
palaeo-channels of Krishna and Penna in their delta and offshore areas
may also form important diamond prospects, in select zones,” GSI’s new
“Quaternary Maps” point out. Quaternary is the current period in the
Cenozoic era on the geological timescale. These diamonds were formed
during this period. Diamond-bearing gravels are also found in Chennuru
and Kanuparthy, located along the upper reaches of the Penna.

GIS believes that Quaternary studies of the river basins of Penna,
Hagari and Handri might help in delineating their palaeo-drainage
channels and in locating new diamond bearing terrace/gravel zones. The
existence of a few old pits and dumps near these gravel beds indicates
that terrace gravels were excavated to recover diamonds in the past.

Diamond constitutes the most important economic mineral of the Quaternary
fluvial gravels of AP. The alluvial tracts around Kolluru, Ustapalle,
Paritala, Chandralapadu and Venkatayapalem areas in Guntur and Krishna
districts along the banks of the Krishna River, have yielded many
world famous diamonds.

Besides diamonds, precious stones like transparent to translucent ruby
corundum have been found around Salebhanjar village in Khammam
district. Corundum is also found in an area of about 50 sq km up to
Lalguda in the south, Tummalapalle in the west and Lallurgudem in
Kadapa district.

Gem variety garnets are noticed in the Muneru river around Tekugudem.
Semi-precious stones including chalcedony, agate, carnelian, jasper
and opal have been found in abundance in the older gravel bed as well
as recent channel/ point bars of the Godavari river around Bhadrachalam.

Bhuvan now comes out with interactive thematic maps: Better features than Google Earth

Syed Akbar
Hyderabad: Bhuvan, Isro’s answer to Google Earth, has just got
better. The Isro’s geoportal is now loaded with new features that make
the Google Earth obsolete as far as earth observation data about India
is concerned. In fact, it has overtaken its international rival in
several features.

The new Bhuvan provides information not only about the earth, but also
about what lies beneath it, in the form of hidden minerals resources.
The new thematic services facilitate users to select, browse and query
the thematic datasets from Bhuvan. One can download the information
for personal use.

The Bhuvan team has included digital land use, land cover (LULC)
facility, which provides data and statistics about any district, city
or state in India. One can get information at the click of mouse on
urban and rural lands, mining, agriculture, fallow and uncultivable
lands, shifting cultivation, forest cover, grass lands, salt-affected
and ravenous lands, sandy soils, barren rocky areas, water bodies and
wet and waste lands. It also gives data on how much of land is under
what type of utilization and whether the land under agriculture or
forests had increased or decreased over the years.

For instance, the digital LULC shows that only 0.09 per cent of land
in Andhra Pradesh is under evergreen and semi-evergreen forests. The
rest of land under the control of the forest department is either
forest plantations or deciduous or scrub jungles. About eight per cent
of the State’s land is uncultivable and is affected by salinity and
rocky terrain.

Unlike in Google Earth, Bhuvan has introduced a discussion forum
wherein people can hold discussions, converse, participate and brain
storm ideas. The National Remote Sensing Centre in Hyderabad
constantly updates the information about the natural resources in the
country obtained through remote sensing satellites. To begin with, the
thematic data at present is based on the satellite info obtained
during 2005-2006. The data will be updated in the coming days,
according to the Bhuvan team.

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Air Pollution Tolerance Index: Many fruit bearing trees falling to stress from industrial, automobile pollution

Syed Akbar
Hyderabad: Contrary to popular belief that trees fight
pollution, several species of plants including cashew, tamarind,
guava, mango, custard apple, gulmohar, banyan, sapota and Jack fruit,
are falling prey to heavy air pollution in the industrial city of
Visakhapatnam.

Researchers from the departments of chemistry, and environmental
studies, GITAM University, Visakhapatnam, have found that many plant
species have been experiencing “physiological changes” due to heavy
air pollutants before exhibiting visible damage to leaves. The content
of chlorophyll has come down in many trees affecting the delicate
process of converting carbondioxide into oxygen. It has also affected
food preparation by the trees, and thus reduction in their fruit yield
and growth.

Of the 29 trees studied, only six fell under the “moderately tolerant”
to air pollutants category. None of them is tolerant to chemicals
present in the air. Only those trees that are tolerant to heavy air
pollutants are capable of fighting pollution in industrial belts, and
reducing its impact on human beings, animals and other plants. The
research was conducted separately by N Srinivas and others from
department of environment studies, and A Sunil Dadhich and team from
the department of chemistry.

Peepal, jujube, amla, cassia, lemon and neem are moderately tolerant
to pollution. A majority of trees fall in the sensitive category. This
means growing these trees in industrial belts and highly polluted
areas will do more harm than good to the environment.

“Trees can be used as both passive biomonitors and bio-mitigators in
the urban industrial environment to indicate the environmental quality
and to ameliorate the pollution level in a locality. Air pollutants
can directly affect plants via leaves. The level of injury is high in
sensitive species and low in tolerant ones,” they pointed out.

The teams studied the content of chlorophyll and ascorbic acid,
relative humidity, pH and air pollution tolerance index (APTI) of
trees selected. The results were compared to those obtained from trees
growing in less polluted localities. They found that the total
chlorophyll and ascorbic content was higher in trees from less
polluted areas, as compared to the trees growing in industrial areas.

Highly active anti-retroviral therapy (Haart) fights co-infection in people living with HIV, AIDS

Syed Akbar
Hyderabad:  In a major relief to people living with human
immunodeficiency virus (HIV), a team of Indian researchers has found
that a combination of anti-retroviral drugs will help in drastic
reduction of opportunistic infections. Combination of two or more
anti-retroviral drugs will bring down the infection events by as much
as 96.59 per cent.

Combination therapy, also called highly active anti-retroviral therapy
(Haart), not only fights the HIV, but also helps in controlling
opportunistic infections like tuberculosis, oral Candidiasis and
Herpes Zoster. Since HIV brings down the immunity levels, a number of
infections tend to create problems, tuberculosis being the leading
health issue in people living with HIV. Effective delivery of Haart
will help about 30 lakh people living with HIV in the country. The
drugs used under Haart by the National Aids Control Organisation have
been found to be effective in checking opportunistic infections.

The research team led by Dr S Srirangaraj and Dr D Venkatesha has
found that six months of Haart has brought down the infection events
by 96.59 per cent. Moreover, the risk of developing an opportunistic
infection within six months of Haart initiation was only 5.56 per cent.

Stating that there is not much data from India on relative frequencies
of specific opportunistic infections in different regions, they said
the study revealed tuberculosis as the leading co-infection with 53.4
per cent of patients suffering from it. This is followed by oral
Candidiasis in 27.2 per cent, and Herpes Zoster in 14.7 per cent
patients.

They emphasized the need for appropriate TB control measures on a
massive scale all over the country to bring down the level of
co-infection in HIV and other immune-suppressed individuals. The
researchers suggested that people diagnosed with HIV and having a CD4
count of less than 200 should be screened for tuberculosis. The
research study revealed that people with a CD4 count of less than 200
are mostly susceptible to TB.

Mystery on dinosaur disappearance resolved: Krishna-Godavari basin provides the clue for extinction of giant reptiles, other animals

Syed Akbar
Hyderabad: The Krishna-Godavari basin near Rajahmundry has now
helped scientists solve the age-old mystery of disappearance of
dinosaurs and other animals, 65 million years ago.

A team of scientists from the USA and India collected samples of dead
plankton (microorganism) from the oil wells of the Oil and Natural Gas
Commission in the KG basin and subjected them to paleontological
studies. The results showed that dinosaurs and other animals were
wiped out of the earth, not because of a single meteor strike, but due
to intense volcanic activity in the Deccan region.

There were at least three major volcano eruptions in the Deccan, which
led to intense flow of lava, heavy dust and poisonous gases like
carbondioxide and suphur dioxide. The gases surrounded the earth
killing a majority of animals including the giant reptiles.

The volcanic eruption had its impact right through the present day
Mumbai and Hyderabad to Rajahmundry and down. The Indo-US team
comprised Dr Gerta Keller of Princeton University, and PK Bhowmick, H
Upadhyay, A Dave, AN Reddy and BC Jaiprakash, of the ONGC. The
researchers collected the plankton from the sediment trapped in the
Deccan lava flows, the largest flows on earth, near Rajahmundry. They
reject the prevailing theory that the extinction was caused by a
single large meteorite.

“Marine sediments from Deccan lava flows show that the population of a
plankton species widely used to gauge the fallout of prehistoric
catastrophes plummeted nearly 100 per cent in the thousands of years
leading up to the mass extinction,” Dr Keller told this correspondent.

"Our work provides the first one-to-one correlation between the mass
extinction and Deccan volcanism," she added.

The marine sediments preserved between lava flows from the second- and
third-phase eruptions contained evidence of the KT
(Cretaceous-Tertiary) boundary, a thin, worldwide geological layer
that marks the mass-extinction event. The activity wiped out nearly
100 per cent of planktonic foraminifera and ultimately initiated the
Cretaceous-Tertiary mass-extinction event. A less severe third
eruption phase occurred roughly
300,000 years after the mass extinction and kept the Earth nearly
uninhabitable for another 5,00,000 years.

According to the  researchers, the number of species evolving remained
low, and existing species dwarfed during the 5,00,000-year period
after the mass extinction. New, larger marine species did not appear
until after the third phase when Deccan eruptions went dormant.
Gradually, life began to recover as the atmosphere became less
poisonous.

Higgs Boson: The search for the elusive God Particle

Syed Akbar
Hyderabad:  The elusive God particle or Higgs Boson is likely
to be discovered in the next 12 months if it exists, says Dr Sridhara
Rao Dasu, senior physicist from Wisconsin University.

God particle is considered the source of the universe and a search for
it began 30 years ago. The mystery surrounding the universe can be
unraveled if the so-called God Particle, if it at all exists, is
discovered. Even as interest around the God particle gained momentum
after the Large Hadron Collider was set up in Europe, the USA had shut
down its Fermilab, which had been unsuccessfully searching the elusive
particle for quite long.

Dasu, who graduated from a city college, is now associated with the
Higgs Boson search team. He has been analyzing the data generated from
God particle search experiments in the USA and Europe.

“By end of 2012 we may be able to establish if Higgs Boson really
exists. We have gathered a few hints, but are yet to arrive at any
concrete conclusion. Once we find the God particle we should be able
to establish that it does not spin,” Dr Dasu said.

Delivering a lecture on the elusive God particle at BM Birla Science
Centre here on Thursday, Dr Dasu, who arrived in the city after
participating in the latest experiment, said scientists have now
zeroed in on the range between 115 to 130 gigaelectron volts to find
the Higgs. “We have now generated four times more data from various
experiments and are now analyzing it. However, the most interesting
region remains as elusive as ever. This makes our finding inconclusive
as of now,” he said adding that they may be able to find it by
December 2012.

Miracles in the deserts: Indian scientists, farmers to make Africa the future granary of humanity

Syed Akbar
Hyderabad:  Indian scientists and farmers have geared up to
play a major role in converting barren Africa into a granary of future
food needs of humanity.

The Indian agricultural experiment, which pushed the country from
“begging bowl” to “granary godowns”, will be replicated in Africa to
boost agricultural production in the backward continent. “In the next
few years we hope Africa will be able to feed itself, and then it will
grow to feed the world,” said Ms Idit Miller, vice-president, Growing
Partnerships for Africa (EMRC).

The city-based International Crops Research Institute for the
Semi-Arid Tropics (Icrisat) is going to set up five agricultural
technology business incubators across the African continent to boost
agricultural growth there. “Africa has many untapped reserves while
India has many success stories from agriculture. Vast stretches of
land in Africa are yet to be utilised to their potential. If Indian
seed companies go there, new crops can be introduced,” said Dr Kiran K
Sharma, principal scientist, Icrisat, and chief executive officer of
Agribusiness and Innovation Platform.

He said small innovations by Indian farmers and research strategies
and technologies by local scientists could be put to experiment in
Africa. Officials of African governments and African farmers on
Thursday interacted with Indian teams in the city to build a road map
for the future granary in the continent. Icrisat and EMRC conducted a
business-to-business meeting between Indian and African teams to
explore business opportunities in agriculture as part of the 2nd
Africa-India Agricultural Economic Mission.

Dr Kiran emphasized the need for India-Africa agricultural
coordination in research. He said India has 11 technology incubators
in agricultural universities and ICAR centres, the largest number of
such centres for any country in the world. The success rate for is as
high as 90 per cent in these centres. They are now being linked with
one another for transfer of technologies.

 Citing an example how small farmers could turn into producers of
branded seeds, Dr Kiran said about 70 farmers trained at Icrisat are
now able to produce seeds of legumes like groundnut, chickpea and
pigeon pea and selling them to other farmers. These high quality seeds
produced through natural pollination are now being commercially grown
in fields for the first time, and the results are quite encouraging.

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Syed Akbar at the 11th Conference of Parties to the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity