Tuesday, 25 December 2012

Extinction of species: We have lost 30 per cent of animal and plant species in the last 100 years


2012 in retrospective - Defence in India: The year 2012 witnessed India surging ahead on the Defence front and emerging as the new regional super power. The successful test-fire of the Agni 5 intercontinental ballistic missile and development of modern support systems for soldiers gave India a definitive advantage over other major developing nations

By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad: The year 2012 witnessed India surging ahead on the
Defence front and emerging as the new regional super power. The
successful test-fire of the Agni 5 intercontinental ballistic missile
and development of modern support systems for soldiers gave India a
definitive advantage over other major developing nations.

A major chunk of this success cake goes to Hyderabad, which played a
pivotal role in the development of the missile system and capacity
building in new strategic areas. The induction of a submarine, static
sensor and an inshore patrol vessel at Visakhapatnam and a Coast Guard
station at Krishnapatnam early this year also boosted the defence
capabilities on the marine side.

Various DRDO labs in Hyderabad provided the backbone technology for
the success of the missile programme. The Research Centre Imarat
produced navigation, control and guidance, imaging infrared and radio
frequency seekers among others, while DLRL and other laboratories
provided the electronic support.

Agni 5, launched on April 19, has pushed India into the elite club of
nations possessing long-range ballistic missile. The missile hit the
pre-designated target in the Indian Ocean 5000 km away. The missile’s
range is just short of being called intercontinental weapon. The
success achieved through Agni 5 propelled the Defence Research and
Development Organisation (DRDO) to concentrate more on the Agni
series, resulting in the flight test of 4000-km range Agni 4 missile
capable of carrying nuclear weapons. Incidentally, it was launched on
September 19 from a road launcher.

All the missiles in the Agni series were successfully flight-tested.
India also exhibited its missile prowess through 350 km range
surface-to-surface strategic missile Prithvi 2. Dhanush missile was
fired from a naval ship, giving the Navy an upper hand in the region.
Earlier in the year, BrahMos block III version was flight-tested with
a speed almost three times that of sound.

The year also registered the development of a two-layer Ballistic
Missile Defence capability against missiles with range up to 2000 km
class. Both the exo and endo atmospheric interception were
demonstrated with great precision.

The country’s air defence system too got a boost with the induction of
medium range, multi-target Akash missiles. Tests related to long-range
surface-to-air missile were also encouraging.

In the case of anti-missile tanks, DRDO scored a point with the Nag.
It is a fire and forget anti-tank missile. The helicopter-mounted
version, Helina, was tested twice this year.

The other milestones in the Defence sector during 2012 were light
combat aircraft for the navy, airborne early warning and control
system, unmanned aerial vehicles like Nishant, Rustom-1 and 2, Lakshya
2, and Netra, strengthening in the field of electronic warfare with
3-D radar technology and main battle tanks like Arjun MK-2.

Monday, 24 December 2012

Climate Change Reversal: Developed nations buying carbon credits from the poor in India: For the first time in Asia, tribal-farmers from Andhra Pradesh get money for carbon credits directly from the World Bank

By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad: Illiterate tribals of Visakhapatnam, Vizianagaram
and Srikakulam districts have something major to celebrate on the eve
of the New Year. They have generated about 80,000 carbon credits
through afforestation on barren lands. Developed nations like Canada,
Spain and Luxemburg have now lined up to buy these carbon credits from
the tribal-farmers, paying each of them Rs 2500.

For the first time in India, tribal-farmers will get money for carbon
credits directly from the World Bank. The carbon credit cheques will
be distributed in Visakhapatnam on December 26. Poor tribals from
Rayagada, Koraput, and Kalahandi districts of neighbouring Orissa are
also the beneficiaries of the World Bank’s BioCarbon Fund.

About 1500 tribals had turned barren and wastelands including hilly
tracts spread over 1600 hectares into lush green social forests by
growing teak, Pongamia, mango, cashew, neem and Casuarina trees. The
green cover has resulted in the generation of 79,811 carbon credits.
This in other words means they have nullified the ill climatic effect
of 79,811 tonnes of carbondioxide or other green house gases released
into the atmosphere through human activity.

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)
mandates that developed nations should purchase carbon credits. One
carbon credit equals to permit to release one tonne of carbondioxide.
Armed with the purchase of carbon credits generated by the tribals of
Andhra Pradesh, the governments of Canada, Spain and Luxemburg have
secured the legal right to emit green house gases to the extent of
credits they had bought.

Sai Kishore Nellore, executive director, Veda Climate Change Solutions
Limited, which mobilised the tribals for the massive afforestation
programme, told this correspondent that they had entered into
partnership with the BioCarbon Fund of the World Bank and a local
industry, JK Paper Mills, Rayagada, to generate carbon credits and
trade them with the developed nations. The Centre for Integrated Rural
Development of Gitam University, Visakhapatnam extended the technical
support.

“We have created a unique institutional mechanism whereby small and
marginal farmers would be able to participate in the international
carbon markets under the UNFCCC. We have realised the carbon revenue
and will distribute them to the beneficiaries. This is for the first
time that the World Bank is giving away cheques directly to people
under Emission Reduction Purchase Agreement,” Sai Kishore said.
Canada, Spain and Luxemburg will in turn fund the World Bank for the
credits purchased.

The tribal-farmers have brought degraded lands to life, helping to
control soil and water erosion, besides producing raw material for
housing, construction, and industry. The reforestation activities have
also generating high-quality greenhouse gas emissions removals that
can be measured, monitored, and verified. A World Bank team inspected
the green cover before finalising the payments.

Incidentally, this is also the first project in Asia to release the
revenue to farmers as part of the Clean Development Mechanism of the
UNFCCC in the afforestation/reforestation large-scale sector. “The
tribal-farmers have addressed the most challenging issue of our times
namely climate change mitigation, while improving their personal
living standards,” he added.

Bakrid animal precautions: The next time you sacrifice sheep or goat during Id-ul-Adha festival, make sure that you purchase a healthy animal, free of viral infections. If possible, get it examined by a veterinary doctor

By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad: The next time you sacrifice sheep or goat during a
major religious festival or event, make sure that you purchase a
healthy animal, free of viral infections. If possible, get it examined
by a veterinary doctor. Health experts, faced with frequent cases of
Orf virus, have now called for precautionary measures to prevent the
transmission of the disease to humans.

The finest and unblemished animals are generally bought for ritual
sacrifice. Today, however, people mostly buy lambs, which are cheaper
and more plentiful but also highly susceptible to Orf virus
infections. This change in buying practices has created a large market
for possibly infected animals and an associated potential health risk
for persons who butcher and prepare the animals, researchers warn.

Orf virus causes painful skin problems in humans lasting up to eight
weeks. It may even cause death in people with compromised immunity.
Orf virus is endemic to India and several other countries. There are
frequent cases of Orf infection in animals in India, though human
cases go unreported due to poor diagnostic facilities in hospitals for
this virus.

According to a report published by the Centers for Disease Control,
USA, human infections of Orf virus surfaced in France during Bakrid
this year. Similar cases were reported during the festival last year
in the USA, Belgium and Jordan. Human Orf cases are also common during
Passover and Easter observances when some prefer lamb sacrifice.
Infections are also reported in household meat processing or animal
slaughter during non-festival times too.

The CDC has called for a special care while handling sacrificial
animals during major festivals, besides creating awareness among
physicians, slaughterhouse workers and common people participating in
sacrificial rites.

Orf virus is a zoonotic disease and mostly handled by veterinarians.
Many general physicians cannot easily diagnose the cases of human
infections.

Clinical and research virologist Dr A Nougairede, who dealt with the
recent five cases of human Orf cases in France during Bakrid 2012,
reported in the latest issue of the CDC’s journal, Emerging
Infectious Diseases, that there should be appropriate measures to
prevent animal-to-human transmission of the virus.

“Persons who handle animals should wear non-permeable gloves, avoid
exposure of open wounds, and meticulously wash skin wounds with soap
and water after handling animals.
Animals with Orf virus lesions should be disposed of in a safe manner.
Physicians, including dermatologists, should be informed of the
potential for Orf virus infection, a heretofore under-diagnosed
disease, and suspected infections should be confirmed by microbiology
laboratories,” he said.

Saturday, 22 December 2012

Nutritious cashew apples will not go waste now: Gitam University develops technology to preserve cashew apple juice

By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Dec 21: Everyone loves crunchy cashew nuts but when it comes to eating the highly nutritious cashew apple, not many would prefer it. Apart from its astringent taste, the cashew apple is highly perishable and thus it ends up in the garbage bins before reaching the market.

But now a team of researchers from Visakhapatnam, known for its cashew orchards, has developed technology to convert cashew apples into tasty, perservable and nutritious juice. The team has removed astringency from the juice. This will save thousands of kgs of cashew apples from going into the garbage bins and help people to derive health benefits from it.

AP is one of the major cashew-producing states with 1.65 lakh hectares under cultivation in Guntur, Krishna, East and West Godavari, Srikakulam, Visakhapatnam, Nellore and Prakasam districts. About 65 tonnes of cashew is produced in the country, with AP contributing about 10 tonnes. Visakhapatnam district alone produces about three tonnes of cashew.

"Cashew apples are highly nutritious, possess therapeutic and medicinal properties. These are considered as a good source of reducing sugars, vitamins mainly vitamin C (contains six times higher than that of orange), minerals, amino acids, carotenoids, phenolics, organic acids and anti-oxidants. Traditionally, these fruits are used to cure a number of chronic diseases like scurvy, diarrhoea, uterine complaints, dropsy, cholera, rheumatism, and sore throat infections," said research scholar Uma Talasila. She developed the technology under the supervision of Dr Shaik Khasim Beebi, associate professor, department of biotechnology, Gitam University, Visakhapatnam. The research was funded by the Department of Science and Technology under fellowship scheme for women scientists.

They said apart from its nutritional and medicinal value, the juice could also be utilised as fermentation medium for the production of value added products like as ethanol, single cell protein and hyaluronic acid, which has an important function in the body.

"Unfortunately, cashew apples are considered as an agricultural waste and by-product of cashew nut production. About 90 per cent of cashew apples are disposed of at harvest due to high perishability, astringency, short shelf life and lack of proper preservation techniques," they said adding that their technology helps in clarification of the juice to make it palatable and perservable. It will reduce the load of microbes and increases the shelf life.

Improved shelf life of cashew apple juice makes it feasible for the year-round availability. Preservation of cashew apple juice increases utilisation of these nutritious fruits, which are otherwise discarded in the fields. "This will also generate employment among rural communities and is expected to derive benefits during off-season," they pointed out.

Friday, 21 December 2012

Decoding the Mayan Calendar: Why the world did not end today - December 21, 2012

By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Dec 20: For sure, the world will not end on December 21.
This is for the simple reason that major communities and groups in the
world have their own calendar, and the end or beginning of a
particular calendar will not spell doom for the world.

Some calendars are perpetual without an end, while others are cyclic,
repeating at a particular interval. For instance, the Telugu calendar
is sexageneric, repeating every 60 years. Then there are calendars
purely based on the moon phases (lunar), sun (solar) and based on both
moon and sun (luni-solar). A few calendars follow the planet Venus.

“The Hindu calendar is still long way to end. The Kaliyuga, the last
epoch of the universe, began only recently if we consider the total
age of the earth. There are many millennia left for the Kaliyuga to
end. How can there be a doomsday without the end of Kaliyuga. There
cannot be an abrupt end,” points out Mudigonda Gopi Krishna of MGK
Numerology and Research Centre.

According to senior astro-psychologist Dr SV Nagnath, the end of the
calendar of some community or group will not have any impact on other
communities. “A calendar is meant for counting days, months and years.
In fact, the Mayan calendar will not end on December 21. Like the
Telugu calendar they have a periodicity, but with a longer cycle of
more than 5000 years. One such cycle ends now and a new cycle begins
for the Mayans,” he clarified.

Muslim scholars too do not believe that the world will end with the
conclusion of the Mayan calendar. “No doubt, Muslims believe in the
doomsday. But we do not know when it comes. Only God has the knowledge
of the doomsday. We cannot predict or guess it,” clarifies Islamic
scholar Hafiz Syed Shujath Hussain.

Dr John Carlson, director of the Centre for Archaeoastronomy, USA,
refutes the stories about the Mayan prophecies. A NASA statement
quotes Dr John saying, “The whole thing was a misconception from the
very beginning. The Maya calendar did not end on December. 21, 2012,
and there were no Maya prophecies foretelling the end of the world on
that date."

The Mayan civilisation once flourished in the rain forests of the
present day Mesoamerica. According to Maya theology, the world was
created 5125 years ago, on a date, modern people would write "August
11, 3114  BC."  At the time, the Maya calendar looked like this:
13.0.0.0.0. On December 21, 2012, it is exactly the same: 13.0.0.0.0,
the NASA statement said, adding in the language of Maya scholars, 13
Bak'tuns or 13 times 144,000 days elapsed between the two dates.

Forget Windows and Linux, new computer operating system (OS) for India: Faced with the threat of cyber hacking, India is now developing its own computer operating system, which will minimise the cyber onslaught and fight malware


By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Dec 20: Faced with the threat of cyber hacking, India is
now developing its own computer operating system, which will minimise
the cyber onslaught. The indigenous operating system will be ready by
2015.

Dr Vijay Kumar Saraswat, director-general of the Defence Research and
Development Organisation (DRDO), told reporters on the sidelines of
the Pearl Jubilee International Conference on Navigation and
Communication (Navcom 2012) here on Thursday that several Indian
research organisations including the DRDO were involved in the
development of the operation system. This will be India’s own
operating system, he added.

Explaining the need for an indigenous operating system for India, Dr
Saraswat pointed out that imported operating systems are prone to
computer worms and may cause damage to the vital data stored. “One of
the major elements of cyber security is having our own operating
system because we are dependent on imported operating systems. Whether
it is based on Windows or Linux, the operating system is likely to
have malicious worms,” he said adding that it was essential that India
developed its own operating system.

The two-day Navcom-2012 is conducted by Osmania University to mark the
30th anniversary of its Research and Training Unit for Navigational
Electronics. Dr Saraswat said work on the operation system had already
started. “We are 18 months into the programme and we hope to complete
it in the next three years,” he said adding 150 engineers are involved
in the mega project.

The DRDO chief said the operating system would be purely indigenous
and no foreign collaboration was involved.

Dr Saraswat pointed out that India was also developing regional
navigational satellite system, which would be ready soon. As many as
seven such satellites would be launched till 2015. It would have 20
metres accuracy.

G Sateesh Reddy, deputy director of Research Centre Imarat, said India
had been involved in research in development of advanced navigational
systems. “India now ranks in the list of developed nations as far as
defence technology is concerned,” he added.

Dr Saraswat also emphasised the need for development of indigenous
radio sets without depending on foreign nations for imports.

Dr Avinash Chander, chief controller, R and D, DRDO, said India would
develop atomic gyroscope for future interplanetary missions.

Inside the mind of a rapist: Genes, environment and anti-social personality disorder make a deadly concoction of a criminal brain

By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Dec 20: What makes a man rapist? As the nation debates the
need for death sentence for rapists, geneticists and psychiatrists
point out that it is a deadly concoction of genes, anti-social
personality disorder and environment that brings out the animal in a
man to commit serious crimes like rape.

The environment factor adds fuel to the fire hidden in people with
crime genes and anti-social personality disorder. Medication and
counselling can check people carrying crime genes or affected by
personality disorder from committing crimes. The environment factor
can only be controlled through stringent laws and fear of severe
punishment.

Research studies conducted by the city-based Centre for Cellular and
Molecular Biology (CCMB) revealed that certain people carry certain
changes in the gene called androgen receptors (AR). It is the short
repeat of CAG (cytosine, adenosine and guanine) in the gene that makes
a person prone to crimes like murder and rape. Psychogenetic analysis
of a rapist’s mind reveals that it is the environment that plays a key
role in activating the genes and anti-social personality disorder in
the person.

On an average, the CAG repeats 21 times in normal people and 18 or
less number of times in those with criminal bent of mind. CCMB senior
scientist Dr K Thangaraj conducted the first-ever study on criminals
from Indian subcontinent involving about 400 people convicted for rape
or murder and both. “Our study suggested that reduced CAG repeats in
the AR gene are associated with criminal behaviour,” he pointed out.

Senior psychiatrist Dr MS Reddy of Asha Hospital told this
correspondent that environmental factors like alcohol and drug abuse
give a potent combination to people carrying the crime genes or
anti-social personality disorder. “They also hold the notion that they
can easily get away with the crime. When a human is alone, he is a
gentleman. But in a mob, he takes to mob mentality, particularly if he
is under the influence of intoxicants,” Dr Reddy added explaining the
factors behind the gang rapes.

Dr Minhaj Nasirabadi, consultant psychiatrist and professor of
psychiatry, Apollo Hospitals, blames incidents of rapes and other
crimes on what he called “modelling” wherein those with a criminal
bent of mind watch other criminals go scot-free. “There should be the
fear of law. When people with anti-social personality disorder see
influential people like politicians subverting law, they become bold
and commit the crime,” he said.

Experts argue that the confidence of not being caught should be
defeated with strong legislations and stringent punishments to rein in
people with crime genes and anti-social personality disorder.
Medication and counselling works only to some extent and unless the
environment factor is controlled, crimes continue to take place, they
warn.

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Fuel alternatives: The Krishna-Godavari basin could soon turn out to be the new source of “shale gas”, which holds promise as the future fuel for humanity for at least 200 years

By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad: The Krishna-Godavari basin could soon turn out to
be the new source of “shale gas”, which holds promise as the future
fuel for humanity for at least 200 years.

The KG basin is one of the few places identified in India for
exploration and exploitation of shale gas. The total potential of
shale gas in the country is estimated to range between 600 trillion
cubic metres and 2000 trillion cubic metres. Shale gas is a natural
gas trapped within shales or fine-grained sedimentary rocks. Besides
the KG basin, shales are also present in the Cuddapah Super Basin in
Andhra Pradesh and other places spread over the country.

The city-based National Geophysical Research Institute (NGRI) and the
Geological Survey of India have been carrying out research studies to
identify news sources of shale gas to boost the natural gas production
in the country. The shale gas resources are several times more than
the natural gas resources.

Oil and natural gas experts and geophysicists from different parts of
the world will converge on the NGRI on Wednesday to discuss the latest
scientific strategies to explore and exploit shale gas. Identification
of shale gas gains significance in view of fast depletion of
conventional energy resources.

The International Energy Agency (IEA) has identified shale gas as one
of the alternative energy resources whose economic potential is more
than two times the projected production potential of natural gas.
According to NGRI scientists, India has a large number of sedimentary
basins with proven shale gas reservoirs and the oil industry has taken
positive strides towards exploration and exploitation of shale gas
that could contribute to the energy security of the country.
Prospective blocks are being identified for detailed exploration and
development in the near future.

India has a large number of sedimentary basins with proven shale gas
reservoirs. KG basin is one of them. The other sites are Cambay basin,
Assam-Arakan basin, Damodar Valley and Cauvery basin. The
international conference at NGRI will discuss among other things the
geological, geophysical and geochemical aspects of shale gas
exploration, micro-seismic imaging, drilling, completion and
production technologies and environmental hazard in shale gas
exploitation.

Shale gas is also found in “unconventional” reservoirs like coal bed
methane, gas from tight sandstones and gas hydrates.

According to a document of the Pandit Deendayal Petroleum University,
shale gas exploration by Oil and Natural Gas Commission (ONGC) at
Raniganj in Assam showed encouraging results. “The initial results are
encouraging but one has to wait for some more time to ascertain
whether shale gas production is commercially viable or not,” it
pointed out. However, IEA believes that half of the shale gas
resources could be exploited.

Antisense technology is fast emerging as the future of medical science for treatment of a number of diseases including cancers, heart problems, malaria, typhoid and genetic disorders

By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad:  Anti-sense technology is fast emerging as the
future of medical science for treatment of a number of diseases
including cancers, heart problems, malaria, typhoid and genetic
disorders.

Eminent geneticist and biotechnologist Dr Krishna Dronamraju, who is
also director of Foundation for Genetic Research, Houston, USA, points
out that the novel anti-sense technology holds great promise for a
diverse populous country like India. Anti-sense technology is so
called because it creates confusion in the genes by fighting against
their “sense”. For instance, if a particular gene plans to create
trouble in the body in the form of cancer or a genetic disease, it can
be confused using the anti-sense technology. The confused gene or set
of genes will not be in a position to trigger major health issues.

Dr Krishna is currently in India to participate in the centennial of
the Indian Science Congress (ISC) scheduled for early next month in
Kolkata. The theme of this year’s ISC is the future of science in
India. He will present a paper, which will focus on nano-science,
human gene therapy and synthetic biology and the promise they hold for
the future of life sciences in India.

“We can also introduce the anti-sense technology at the early foetal
stage to prevent congenital problems. Diabetes, blood disorders and
mental health issues can also be tackled through this promising
science, which is fast catching up,” Dr Krishna pointed out.

He told this correspondent that the menace of malaria, which continues
to claim 30 lakh people globally every year, could be eradicated using
either anti-sense methods or human gene therapy. Through human gene
therapy, immunity could be built up in the body against the malarial
parasite (Plasmodium). If this happens, mosquitoes will not be able to
transmit malaria to human beings.

“Alternatively we can target the malarial parasite or the mosquito
itself. We can alter the gene sequence of either of them to make them
ineffective against human beings. Research is going on in the USA and
the UK,” he added.

He said the human gene therapy, which was neglected till recently, was
now gaining prominence. Earlier, scientists concentrated on genetic
and rare diseases but now they have changed their focus to treat even
common diseases through gene therapy. They are also concentrating on
foetal gene therapy.

Rating India at five on a scale of 10 for scientific temper, research
and innovations, Dr Krishna regretted that basic sciences had been
neglected in the country. A country with billion-plus people should
not neglect pure sciences and the governments should encourage
students to join courses in basic sciences like biology, chemistry and
physics.

Transdermal delivery of medicines: Extracts from capsicum, clove, cinnamon, Tulsi and Aloe vera are now turning out to be the potent novel molecules that will help revolutionise the latest medical technology of no-hassle drug delivery through the skin

By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad: Extracts from capsicum, clove, cinnamon, Tulsi and
Aloe vera are now turning out to be the potent novel molecules that
will help revolutionise the latest medical technology of no-hassle
drug delivery through the skin.

Skin is now increasing turning out to be the new medium of delivery of
drugs for effective and long-lasting activity of the medicine. Giving
a boost to the delivery of drugs through the skin, a team of
researchers from Visakhapatnam has taken up a comprehensive research
on herbal extracts. The herbs include capsicum, ingredients of garam
masala, oil obtained from holy basil and pulp of Aloe vera.

Delivering drugs through the skin is a challenging task. The skin does
not allow the medicine to pass through it to enter the blood stream.
Pharmaceutical companies have been adding chemicals (skin penetration
enhancers) to drugs to outsmart the skin’s defensive barrier and allow
the drug to enter the systemic (blood) circulation. But these
chemicals are harmful and cause side effects.

The research team from the department of pharmaceutics, Gitam
University, Visakhapatnam, has now taken up further research on herbal
extracts to overcome the problem of negative effect of conventional
skin penetration enhancers. They have zeroed in on clove and Tulsi
oil, Aloe vera pulp and capsaicin obtained from Capsicum. These herbal
extracts are harmless and do not cause any side effects.

“Although many chemicals have been evaluated as skin penetration
enhancer in human beings and animals, to date none has proven to be
ideal. They should be non-toxic, non-irritating and non-allergic. The
action should be immediate and the effect should be both predictable
and reproducible. They should have no pharmacological activity within
the body. When removed from the skin the barrier properties should
return,” said Prof Padilama Suresh, dean and principal, Gitam
Institute of Pharmacy.

One of the researchers, Rabi Narayan Parhi, said the herbal extracts
are cheap and safe. “We are evaluating some of these herbs. Animal
studies are currently underway”. Novel skin penetration enhancers
offer potential advantages in delivering broad range of therapeutic
agents, ease and speed of administration, and sustained therapy
through specifically designed controlled release products like skin
patches.

An increasing number of drugs are being added to the list of
therapeutic agents that can be delivered to systemic circulation
through the skin. Commonly available dosage forms for the topical
application are creams, ointments, gels and patches. The health issues
that can be addressed through skin drug delivery include those related
to heart, pancreas, and wide range of infections.

India has now taken up its fight against "hidden hunger". For the first time ever, Indian scientists will look into the major health problems created by “hidden hunger” or deficiency in micronutrients

By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad: India has now taken up its fight against "hidden
hunger". For the first time ever, Indian scientists will look into the
major health problems created by “hidden hunger” or deficiency in
micronutrients.

A vast majority of people in the country suffer from health issues
related to lack of sufficient quantity of micronutrients in their
daily food. Deficiency in micronutrients is responsible for
complications that may reduce physical output and mental agility.

Six major scientific research bodies in India have joined hands for a
critical review to unravel the medical and health mystery of hidden
hunger and the long-term health impact on individuals suffering from
deficiency in micronutrients. The mega exercise involves the Indian
Council of Medical Research, the Department of Biotechnology, the
Department of Science and Technology, the Indian Council of
Agricultural Research, the Defence Research and Development
Organisation and the Indian National Science Academy.

“Several micronutrient deficiencies have been identified in India,
with varying degrees of severity. Micronutrient deficiency is referred
to as the hidden hunger since it is not an obvious killer or crippler,
but extracts heavy human and economic cost. Micronutrient deficiencies
are complex in their origins,” points out senior scientist Dr GS Toteja.

The health issues involved are anaemia, bone health and osteoporosis,
non-communicable diseases, lifecycle approaches, maternal nutrition
and adverse birth outcomes like low birth weight. Micronutrients like
iron, vitamin B12, other B vitamins, vitamin D, calcium, magnesium,
chromium and zinc are important for healthy and disease-free living.

The new research exercise will take systematic reviews of the
magnitude of the problem with relation to these micronutrients for
valuable insights into potential strategies. Based on the outcome of
the research studies, the Union Health Ministry will initiate
approaches like supplementation programs, fortification of salt,
cereals and oil, bio-fortification and food-food fortification (diet
diversification), and enhanced agricultural production of healthy
pulses and millets through soil and agricultural science.

Research studies by the city-based National Nutrition Monitoring
Bureau reveal that cereal-pulse based Indian diets are qualitatively
deficient in micronutrients particularly iron, calcium, vitamin A,
riboflavin and folic acid. About two-thirds of preschool children
consume less than 50 per cent of the recommended daily allowance or
iron, vitamin A and riboflavin.

Tell your own story through maps: New mapping system to allow you to report Hyderabadi issues

By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad:  Hyderabadis will soon have an online mapping system
to tell the story of their shrinking lakes, uncleared garbage spots,
overflowing sewage, forgotten landmarks and the culinary joys hidden
in the bylanes of the city.

They can also add maps to their city tales and share them with others
thanks to an innovative project, Hyderabad Urban Lab, a community hub
designed for researchers, activists, students and the common citizens.
It is a highly customised mapping system for Hyderabad and enables
people of common interest to form into a community and highlight their
problems and suggestions with the help of localized maps.

Though Google maps allow much of this, the interactive platform
developed by a team of city entrepreneurs serves as the medium for
social change. The map stories could be about virtually anything that
concerns the people.

The mapping platform enables user groups to enter and retrieve spatial
data about the city, and comment on it. “Maps are tools.  They help us
see the city and show it to others. They help us tell stories about
the city. We are making a tool for us to tell map stories in mailing
groups and on blogs. We are building a platform for people to make
maps of their own and share them with others with similar interests
and what’s more, put text and images and audio and video on the maps,”
says Anant Maringanti, a city-based geographer involved in the project.

On an experimental basis, a group of students of the University of
Hyderabad in the last two months collected spatial information on
around 400 data points on trash and sewage sites on campus. The data
points are supported by photos and videos uploaded by students.

“The University of Hyderabad literally sits on three major watersheds.
There is the problem of sewage leaking out from the hostel and the
nearby Gachibowli stadium. The data collected by the students will
help in knowing the exact damage caused to the campus environment. We
can thus initiate remedial steps,” Anant pointed out.

Friday, 14 December 2012

12-12-12: Something special to remember the human bonds and love across the globe

By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad: This December 12 (12-12-12) may not have any
scientific significance, but scores of people around the globe
including Hyderabad made the day memorable through short video
films on their experiences with fellow human beings, animals and
nature. It was a 24-hour time capsule of human moments on the
earth on this numerically special day.

A number of Hyderabadis registered with the www.onedayonearth.org
that provides a unique platform to document the world’s story for
short-filmmakers, students and other inspired citizens and to record
the human experience over a 24-hour period on December 12. Hundreds of
people from across the world participated in similar two events
earlier on 11-11-11 and 10-10-10.

This time Hyderabadis, who have registered with the “One day on earth”
project, documented education, human bonds, labour, begging,
sanitation and city’s water bodies. This December 12 was the third
simultaneous filing event occurring in every country of the world. The
United Nations and over 100 nonprofit organisations are also part of
this unique programme.

“One Day on Earth, a grassroots online community of filmmakers,
creates a unique geo-tagged video archive as well as an annual feature
film. Together, we showcased the amazing diversity, conflict,
tragedy, and triumph that occur in one day,” said the event organisers.

The global collaborations result in a feature length documentary and a
shared archive of diverse media, detailing both the joys and struggles
of everyday life. The past two events yielded a combined 7,000 hours
of footage in over 90 languages and created a growing online community
that now has 30,000 members. The worldwide community has also been
activated to distribute the final film, including the production of
screening events in over 160 countries, breaking a world record for
movie premieres.

Subhash Rawat, one of the Hyderabadis involved in the project, said
“I filmed it for the first time. I was not clear what to shoot but showed love

and relation”. Sashikanth Pochimcharla will film nature
while A Sridhar Kumar concentrated on friendship. S Mujeeb
launched a campaign through his short video film on the need to
adopt beggars and end begging.

Another Hyderabadi, Amar Mitra, focussed his film on truth and
beauty. “It is a perspective and if we do not change our attitudes,
and be the same selfish… and do not fight evil, worse things will
happen,” wrote Vikas Krishna in his post.

Daksh 'Duck' Srivastava of Delhi captured culture but since it is
not a festival time, he looked for something different in the
outskirts of the national capital. “Fusion of old and new... hmmm…
something to ponder on”, he added. On the other hand, Tina Mukerji
Mehta filmed the temples of Maharashtra.

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Mother's Care

Mother's Care
Minnu The Cat & Her Kittens Brownie, Goldie & Blackie

Someone with Nature

Someone with Nature
Syed Akbar in an island in river Godavari with Papikonda hills in the background

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Recognition by World Vegetable Centre

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Under the shade of Baobab tree
At Agha Khan Akademi in Kenya

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Gateway to the Southern Hemisphere

Convention on Biodiversity

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