After witnessing the harmful effects of chemical farming, Subash Palekar, a B.Sc in Agriculture, developed the Zero Budget Natural Farming model.
‘Krishi ka Rishi’ is the title farming communities across the country have bestowed on Subhash Palekar. This agriculturist is the creator of the ‘Zero Budget Natural Farming’ model, a method that has been creating waves in the farming community in India.
Palekar was born on 2nd February, 1949 in Belora, a small village in the district of Amravati, Maharastra. The son of a farmer, his interest in farming led him to pursue a B.Sc in Agriculture from Nagpur.
By 1985, however, Palekar began to notice a drop in yield; one that only got worse with each harvest. Curious about the sudden change, he began to look into the reasons for the decline. Three years of intensive research led him to the conclusion that chemical farming was the culprit. Palekar learnt that the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides led to a decrease in the fertility of the soil, wrecked havoc on the ecosystem of the area and also led to long-term health problems for those who consumed the fruits, gains and vegetables harvested under such conditions.
Shocked by the harmful effects of chemical farming, Palekar began the hunt for less-destructive alternatives. Thus began the journey of Zero Budget Natural Farming in India.
From 1986 to 1988, Palekar’s quest for natural farming techniques led him to the study of forest vegetation. It was here that he discovered the natural system at work in forests which allowed them to develop and nurture themselves, while maintaining healthy ecosystems. After careful research of the system, Palekar began to mimic the techniques he had witnessed, in his own farm. For a period of six years, from 1989 to 1995, he experimented and verified different techniques, before consolidating them into the ‘Zero Budget Natural Farming’ technique.
Zero Budget Natural Farming, as the name implies, is a method of farming where the cost of growing and harvesting plants is zero. This means that farmers need not purchase fertilizers and pesticides in order to ensure the healthy growth of crops.
Below are some of key learnings from the Zero Budget Natural Farming method:
It is believed that plants only receive 1.5% to 2% of their nutrient requirements from soil; the remaining is absorbed through water and air. Given that 98% of the nutrients do not come from soil, using fertilizers is not prudent.
We often come across huge trees in forests, their branches heavy with the weight of countless fruit despite the lack of fertilizers and pesticides. These trees are proof that plants can and do grow healthily without any chemical help.
The reason we do not witness the same in our farms is because the micro-organisms that convert raw nutrients into easy-to-digest form have been destroyed by the use of poisonous chemical fertilizers, insecticides and pesticides. Cultivation of soil by tractor has already proved to be detrimental to these micro-organisms.
Since these micro-organisms help convert nutrients into a digestible form that plants can absorb and use, it is critical to revive them in our farms. This can be done by using cow dung from local cows.
Cow dung from local cows has proven to be a miraculous cure to revive the fertility and nutrient value of soil. One gram of cow dung is believed to have anywhere between 300 to 500 crore beneficial micro-organisms. These micro-organisms decompose the dried biomass on the soil and convert it into ready-to-use nutrients for plants.
Over six years of research, Palekar found that:
1. Only dung from local, Indian cows is effective on the soil. Dung from Jersey and Holstein cows is not as effective. If one is falling short of dung from local cows, one may use dung from bullocks or buffaloes.
2. Dung and urine of the black coloured Kapila cow is believed to be the most effective.
3. To get the most of the cow dung and urine, ensure that the dung is as fresh as possible and that the urine is as old as possible.
4. An acre of land requires 10 kilograms of local cow dung per month. Since the average cow gives 11 kilograms of dung a day, dung from one cow can help fertilize 30 acres of land.
5. Urine, jaggery and dicot flour can be used as additives.
6. The lesser milk the cow gives, the more beneficial its dung is towards reviving the soil.
More than 40 lakh farmers across the country have benefitted greatly from Palekar’s teachings and his method of natural farming. Palekar spends 25 days a month sharing his knowledge of farming through seminar, lectures, workshops and field visits. Chief Ministers of Andhra Pradesh and Kerala have also requested him to spend ten days a month in their states, in order to help their farmers develop healthy farming habits.
In 2016, in recognition of his work and the impact he was creating, the Government of India conferred Palekar with the prestigious Padamashri Award. Palekar also made history for being the first active farmer to receive the award.
Palekar’s Zero Budget Natural Farming has undoubtedly made an indelible mark on farming in India.
Residents of Bangalore are up in arms about the proposed felling of 112 trees in the Jayamahal area to make way for a steel flyover to help reduce traffic congestion in the city. Is there no way in which these large, old trees can be saved from sure death?
Urbanization and development are an inevitable part of living today. Road widening and building of flyovers has to happen in every city, but, this comes at the cost of losing green cover. Though transplantation and translocation of trees is an age-old activity the world across, it is rarely looked to as a solution before a tree is brought down.
In 2009, when the Hyderabad-Vijayawada highway was being built, the existing road needed to be widened. A large number of trees were cut down for this and no one from the general public raised an objection.
Moved by this unfortunate incident, Ramchandra Appari, a resident of Hyderabad, decided to do something to stop the indiscriminate felling of trees.
Ramchandra, supervising the translocation work
“During a random conversation with a friend of mine in Australia I mentioned my feelings about this to him. He introduced me to the idea of tree translocation and after doing a lot of reading about it, I set up the Green Morning Horticulture Services Private Limited, which offers professional help in landscaping and tree translocation,” says Ramchandra, the managing director of the company.
While reading up and learning more about the process of tree translocation, Ramchandra found that knowledge about this practice has been around since 2000 BC. Ancient Egyptian pictographs depict men transporting trees, with their roots, in large containers. The Egyptians, supposedly transported large trees by ships from different parts of the world and transplanted them in Egypt.
“It is indeed amazing that a solution to the felling of large trees exists with humans for many centuries now. It is heartening to know that in most countries, the world over, trees are not cut down but are instead translocated. However, for some reason, in India, this is not popular as yet,” continues Ramachandra.
We all know that trees play a very important role in protecting the lives of all other living beings found around them.
Uprooted tree, with roots packed, being moved by a crane.
Most of our activities generate plenty of carbon dioxide and other harmful gases that pollute the atmosphere, and it is only trees that can convert these gases into oxygen and help counter the ill-effects.
Trees take many years to grow and once fully grown, many species can live for more than a hundred years. The loss of even one tree in a vicinity can cause an imbalance in the natural wealth and health of the surrounding area.
“In India, apart from Hyderabad, tree translocation is being done in certain parts of Gujarat and in Bangalore too. Trees like gulmohar, neem, jamun, mango, pepul and other ficus species can be easily translocated. To date, our company has translocated some 5,000 trees and we can easily say that we have achieved a success rate of 80%. The process is slow and takes time and what makes it expensive is basically the need to hire earth movers, cranes and trailers,” adds Ramachandra.
Tree translocation is a tedious process, which has to be done very carefully. Once the tree is identified, the earth around the roots (at least 4 feet in diameter and depth) is dug and the roots are treated with chemicals to help in the transportation.
After a week the tree is lifted with a crane and the roots are packed up in a large jute bag, making a root ball out of them.
A tree being lowered into the trench in the new location.
The tree with most of its branches pruned, is then transported in a trolley to the new place, where a root ball trench has already been made and the soil has been treated with anti-pest and anti-disease chemicals. The tree is planted in the new trench, and for the next couple of months requires close monitoring.
Recently, in the stretch planned for the Hyderabad Metro Rail, around 800 trees had to be translocated. This major project was taken up by the company and almost all the trees are thriving in the new locations. To try and maintain some sort of balance in the vicinity from where a tree has been uprooted, the company generally tries to plant the uprooted tree as close to the place where it has been uprooted from.
However, if this is not possible, a 5-year-old tree is planted in the vicinity and the full grown uprooted tree is planted elsewhere.
A ficus tree translocated to a large garden.
“The expenses for translocation of the trees mainly depends on three factors: the size of the tree, the number of trees that the client wants to translocate and the distance from where the tree is being uprooted to the place where it has to be replanted. We have once charged Rs. 6,000 for a 15-year-old tree and even charged Rs. 1.5 lakh for a 100-year-old one,” says Ramachandra.
With cities across the world rapidly losing green cover, there is an urgent need for more research on the viability of tree translocation, and it is becoming increasingly important that we take steps to save each and every full-grown tree.
About the author: Aparna Menon is a freelance writer, writing for various newspapers for the past 10 years. Her main fields of interest are wildlife, heritage and history. A keen traveller, she loves to read and write and does a lot of art work too.
A Michigan State University research team has at last made a truly transparent solar panel — a innovation that could soon usher in a world where windows, panes of glass, and even complete buildings could be used to produce solar energy. Until now, solar cells of this kind have been only partly transparent and generally a bit tinted, but these new ones are so transparent that they are almost indistinguishable from a usual pane of glass.
Previous claims toward transparent solar panels have been deceptive, since the very nature of transparent materials means that light must pass through them. Transparent photovoltaic cells are almost impossible, in fact, as solar panels produce energy by changing absorbed photons into electrons. For a material to be completely transparent, light would have to travel uninhibited to the eye which means those photons would have to pass through the material wholly (without being absorbed to produce solar power).
So, to attain a truly transparent solar cell, the Michigan State team made this thing called a transparent luminescent solar concentrator (TLSC), which employs organic salts to absorb wavelengths of, light those are at present unseen to the human eye. Steering clear of the fundamental difficulties of making a transparent photovoltaic cell permitted the scientists to harness the power of infrared and ultraviolet light.
The TLSC projects a luminescent glow that has a converted wavelength of infrared light which is also invisible to the human eye. More traditional (non-transparent) photovoltaic solar cells frame the panel of the main material, and it is these solar cells that transform the concentrated infrared light into electricity.
Versions of previous semi-transparent solar cells that cast light in colored shadows can generally achieve proficiency of about 7%, but Michigan State’s TLSC is projected to attain a top efficiency of 5% with additional testing (presently, the prototype’s efficiency reaches a mere one percent). While numbers like seven and five percent efficiency appear low, houses featuring fully solar windows or buildings made from the organic material could compound that electricity and bring it to a more useful level.
Scientists on the Michigan State team believe their TLSC technology could span from industrial applications to more manageable uses like consumer devices and handheld gadgets. Their main priorities in continuing to develop the technology seem to be power efficiency and maintaining a scalable level of affordability, so that solar power can continue to grow as a major player in the field of renewable energy.
During Ganeshotsav, Mumbai’s noisiest festival, the highest recorded noise level dropped from 123.2 decibels (dB) in 2013 to 116.4 dB in 2016 and Dussehra levels fell from 103.4 db to 98.9db. Janmashtami and the Mahim fair were slightly noisier.
When this year began, Mumbai was India’s noisiest city. In the eleven months that followed, its people campaigned, its court passed orders and its government acted to shake off this dubious distinction.
By Diwali, two locations — in Andheri and Powai — were named India’s quietest during the festival.
The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), which had named Mumbai the noisiest in February, was now praising the city’s anti-noise campaigners and calling the fight against noise pollution a ‘citizen movement’.
And, Diwali was not the only time the results were seen.
During Ganeshotsav, Mumbai’s noisiest festival, the highest recorded noise level dropped from 123.2 decibels (dB) in 2013 to 116.4 dB in 2016 and Dussehra levels fell from 103.4 db to 98.9db. Janmashtami and the Mahim fair were slightly noisier.
“More than any of the enforcement authorities, the credit has to go to the people of Mumbai for standing up for change and making the city a better place. We only were successful in convincing the people of the need to reduce noise,” said Satish Gavai, principal secretary, state environment department. Gavai added, “The celebration of festivals or even small joys of our daily life has nothing to do with making noise.”
The awareness campaigns aside, a series of court orders ensured the dramatic drop in noise by the end of the year.
In a move that will have long-term implications for over 5,400 acres of salt pan land in the city, the Centre has decided to shut down salt departments across the country , including Mumbai.The decision comes at a time when the state government has plans to open up large chunks of these eco-sensitive sprawls in Mumbai for “affordable housing“. For over a decade, builders have been eyeing salt pans for development, claiming that salt production is negligible. Activists have warned of an environmental disaster.
The Centre has ordered that the Salt Commissioner’s Organisation, headquartered in Jaipur, be shut in a phased manner, according to a note issued by the department of industrial policy & promotion last July . The Centre’s decision to shut down the salt commissionerate will impact over 61,370 acres in nine states, including over 13,000 acres in Maharashtra, out of which over 5,400 acres are in the city.The organization currently has five regional offices in Mumbai, Chennai, Ahmedabad, Jaipur and Kolkata, besides field offices to monitor production, distribution and supply of salt.
Sources said in Mumbai, there were complaints of corruption, high-handedness and vexatious litigation against officials of the salt department who have filed dozens of “frivolous” cases against salt pan owners.They said in several cases, officials allegedly misused the Public Premises Eviction Act against private owners, who have been in possession of salt lands for decades. One owner said he had to approach the Supreme Court to get an FIR quashed against him.
The DIPP note, accessed by TOI, said work of the salt department, including collection of data of salt production, will now be handled by its economic adviser. The shutting down of the Salt Commissioner’s Organisation was recommended by the Expenditure Reforms Commission.
Last month, the Union industry ministry asked for the addresses, contact numbers and emails of salt manufacturers. “The ministry wants to obtain the names and addresses of all the salt manufacturers that have the maximum privately owned salt works and land. Though the Deputy Salt Commissioner’s Office in Mumbai has all the details, officers claim they don’t. This is a ploy by the Central government to send noticessuits easily and in bulk,“ said a Mumbai-based salt land owner.
India is the 3rd largest saltproducing country after China and the US. When India attained Independence in 1947, salt was being imported from the UK and Aden. Today , the department claims it has not only achieved self-sufficiency , but exports surplus salt. The production of salt during 1947 was 1.9 million tonnes; its increased 10-fold to 22.2 million tonnes during 2011-12.
But in Mumbai, said BJP MP Kirit Somaiya, salt production stopped decades ago.The state government is eyeing large chunks of salt pans for development. One of the plans is to build 1.5 lakh houses to rehabilitate project-affected persons and slum dwellers. It also wants to build houses for middle and higher income people to solve the affordable housing crisis in the city.
Allegations abound, however, that hidden in the proposal to create public amenities is a plan to commercially exploit salt pans to build towers and malls. Environmentalists remind that the lands constitute Mumbai’s last oxygen reservoir and should be left untouched.
The sprawling salt pan lands act as a natural buffer along Mumbai’s coastline and are part of a contiguous ecosystem which includes estuaries, wetlands and mangroves. They are free of human habitation and afford the last few tracts of open space and clean air available around the city. Any move to change the status quo with regard to their management and custodianship must be viewed with caution and questioned in public interest. Given that the state has eyed salt pans in the past for development and it’s never had a creditable record in environmental conservation, there is no reason for civil society to let its guard down.
ePaper, The Times of India (Bombay), Oct 05 2016, Page 2 :
Sign the petition asking for Unilever to clean up the mercury poisoning in Kodaikanal: http://www.jhatkaa.org/unilever/
Written by Chennai-born rapper Sofia Ashraf and set to Nicki Minaj’s “Anaconda,” the video takes an undisguised jab at Unilever for its failure to clean up mercury contamination or compensate workers affected by its thermometer factory in Kodaikanal.
Sofia Ashraf is BACK with a brand new video! This time she’s challenging some of Unilever’s biggest misleading statements regarding the company’s mercury contamination of Kodaikanal, India.
Last year, Sofie’s super viral parody video ‘Kodaikanal won’t’ made international waves that forced Unilever CEO Paul Polman to respond promising quick action. It resulted in Hindustan Unilever (HUL) compensating 591 of their ex-workers in Kodaikanal, many of whom had been devastated by mercury poisoning.
That was a massive victory but we only won half the battle. Unilever is yet to clean up the harmful mercury contamination inside and near their thermometer factory, which continues to slowly poison forests and water bodies in the area.
Watch the video, and then share it on social media to help it go viral. Just like last time.
Countering Unilever’s misleading claims and setting the public record straight is an important step in ensuring that the company’s mercury mess in Kodaikanal is cleaned-up to a high standard.
This Residential Community Saved a Lake, Recharged Groundwater and Is Planting 1000 Trees Every Year
Here is how a residential community in Bangalore, Akshaya Nagara, has created an enviable living environment for its residents.
Akshaya Nagara is a rather unassuming residential layout in Bangalore. It did not even fall under the Bengaluru metropolitan civic body, BBMP, until recently. This means it did not receive any of the public facilities like water supply, sewage drain pipes or garbage collection service that other residential areas receive. Even today, Akshaya Nagara is not a beneficiary of the centralised Cauvery water supply and is solely dependent on bore wells.
However, the residents of Akshaya Nagara decided not to lament about these issues or wait for the authorities to solve their problems. They took it upon themselves to find sustainable solutions and create an enviable living environment for themselves.
It was over a decade ago that the ground work for the development of Akshaya Nagara began. The layout had a rare blessing – a lake. But it could not really be called a blessing then. Although the lake has historical relevance from the times of Begur royalty and is located at the heart of the layout, it was filthy because all the sewage water from the layout used to flow into it. It was also a spot for open defecation. In fact, the stench, filth and overgrown weeds made the lake and its surroundings so unbearable that it was on the verge of being abandoned. But the scenario was totally reversed by the dedicated work of the residents of Akshaya Nagara.
In 2004, a retired bank official named Ramesh Kumar began mobilising interest among the residents about the need to save the lake and the surrounding environment.
Ramesh Kumar speaking to the residents of Akshaya Nagara
The first aim was to stop all sewage from getting dumped into the lake. Since Akshaya Nagara was not part of BBMP, it was not eligible for any funds from the civic body. The residents decided to build the sewage drains by themselves. Every house contributed towards the fund and the job was begun. The local MLA could not help but notice the dedication of these residents and decided to help them with the funds.
The newly laid pipes helped ensure there was no more sewage flow from Akshaya Nagara layout into the lake.
Akshaya Nagara Lake
After this big achievement, the residents went on to the next pressing issue – water supply. The layout’s water supply depends entirely on bore wells. Ramesh Kumar and his team were convinced that the underground water reserves need to be replenished constantly. They started building storm water drains to channelise the water into the lake. They also dug up over 60 rain water pits near the layout, specially layered using charcoal and sand, so that the rain water percolated into the ground.
Most of the buildings in the layout practise rain water harvesting. “We save every drop of water in Akshaya Nagara and ensure that our bore wells are recharged. Even during this peak summer, none of our bore wells failed us,” says Ramesh Kumar.
Over the last decade, the population of Akshaya Nagara increased and maintaining the lake became difficult. The lake again attracted weeds, debris, garbage and, of course, open defecation.
Last year, a few youngsters saw a lone old man clearing a dirty patch of land near the Akshaya Nagara lake. It was Ramesh Kumar. Curious as to what he was doing and why, they started to talk to him. He told them, “I want to save this lake.” The youngsters were so inspired by his dedication that they decided to start efforts anew to revive the water body.
They formed a team of volunteers and named it ‘Akshaya Nagara Kere Sutta Mutta’, meaning, ‘Akshaya Nagara Lake and its surroundings’.
Ramesh Kumar with the volunteers of Akshaya Nagara Kere Sutta Mutta
Volunteers from the layout got together every week. They cleaned the lake, de-weeded it and fenced it.
Volunteers de-weeding the lake
They levelled the land around the lake to make a beautiful walking path. They said no to concrete blocks for the path and decided to keep the natural mud trail. They planted saplings all along the lakeside and installed benches for people to sit on. As a result of their hard work, the area has been completely transformed.
Today, over 400 people walk and jog around Akshaya Nagara lake every day! A yoga class is held on the lakeside.
Over the last 12 years, the residents have been planting trees in Akshaya Nagara. The tree-to-person ratio in Akshaya Nagara is 1:1 – one tree for every resident, while the Karnataka state tree-to-person ratio is 1:6.
The volunteers planted 1000 trees in the last one year. They have committed to planting another 1000 trees every year in the area around Akshaya Nagara.
Every week, the residents of this layout devote their time and efforts to maintaining the Akshaya Nagara lake. But they are not stopping at this – they have started working to save the next lake in the vicinity, Yelenahalli lake!
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