You may login with either your assigned username or your e-mail address.
The password field is case sensitive.


A plastic world: A video on how we need to rethink the toxic effects of our increasing plastic intake

Dianna Cohen is a multi-media visual artist, painter and curator who creates two-dimensional and three-dimensional works using recycled plastic bags. She is a strong advocate for a plastic free world and works to reduce plastic pollution and its toxic impacts on humans, animals and the environment.

An urgent need to rethink plastic-It is toxic for our environmnet, our oceans and us ( Source of video: Inktalks)

Diana Cohen works towards a plastic free world. She emphasizes that plastic lives forever- it may be broken down, but cannot be completely degraded. It has seeped into the environment and in the oceans. It covers the sea floors, creates garbage ‘islands’ and floats in the water columns giving rise to ‘plastic soup’. Turtles mistake these diaphanous plastic for jelly fish, whale autopsies show plastic in their stomachs - all marine life is affected by this seemingly omnipresent element.

Plastic pellets , called nurdles , usually made of recycled plastic, end up in oceans and act as a magnet for all various kinds of persistent organic pollutants, chemicals and pesticides, which stick to them. These are eaten and ingested by the entire marine chain. Fish have been found to have up to 50 pieces of plastic stuffed in their tiny bodies. In the middle of the Pacific ocean, in the albatross  nesting grounds over 200,000 of them are dying with stomachs full of plastic debris. In India, cows stomachs too have been found crammed with plastic bags.

Today we use huge amounts of plastic, thinking them essential to our daily needs. Not only is it polluting our land and our oceans, preparation of plastic use certain chemicals, which have been found to be linked to various illness, even affecting babies in vitro. Rivers are choked, ocean floors covered. Plastic reduction is an urgent major global problem that needs to be resolved today.

She laments that we are producing billions of tons of plastic every year, so a simple cleaning of the debris would just be a small drop in the bucket.

We need to turn off the faucet on how we actually use this stuff. We need to understand that plastic is toxic to the environment, the oceans and us. We need to end this global dependence of disposable plastic at school, home, work and all spheres of our lives.


Biodiversity informatics in India - A bird's eye view

Biodiversity information management using informatics techniques began in 1970s and since then there have been several initiatives by taxonomists, researchers and curators across the world. A recent workshop in Bangalore highlighted some of the ongoing initiatives in India to map the country's vast biodiversity resources, both from the government as well as the research community.

On 19 and 20 January 2013, the city of Bangalore hosted researchers in biodiversity informatics, taxonomists, herbarium managers and curators, representatives from biodiversity portal initiatives and young graduate students, in a workshop that examined advances in information technology that enable open, net-based access to India’s biodiversity information. The workshop titled “Indo–US Biodiversity Informatics”, was organized by ATREE, Bangalore in collaboration with India Biodiversity Portal (IBP), Encyclopedia of Life (EOL), the Western Ghats Portal (WGP) and Strand Life Sciences.

Milk Weed butterfly - Blue Tiger

A "Milkweed" butterfly also called Blue Tiger, unpalatable to predators - India is a host to a spectacular number of butterflies: approximately 1,800 species and subspecies (Image courtesy:

India Biodiversity Portal (IBP) was launched in 2008 by ATREE and its partners, to establish an open access biodiversity information platform for India. It has features such as a map module, species module and a citizen science module. The Portal was designed to facilitate user interaction and participation. 

The Encyclopedia of Life (EOL) was also launched in 2008 to provide access to information on every species in the world. EOL is a significant global resource for descriptive information about living organisms. It has built collaborations and partnerships with similar initiatives around the world.

What is biodiversity informatics ?

Biodiversity informatics is the application of informatics techniques to biodiversity information for management, presentation and analysis. It typically builds on a foundation of taxonomic information stored in digital form which is useful for viewing, analysis and for predictive modelling

Biodiversity informatics began in 1970s with the first computerisation of taxonomy database in the US. This progressed further in 1990s with the development of search tools in 1990s including the Species Analyst from Kansas University, the North American Biodiversity Information Network NABIN, CONABIO in Mexico and others. Later in 2004, the journal "Biodiversity Informatics" commenced its publication. Several international conferences through the 2000s, have brought together biodiversity informatics practitioners across the world.

Some major issues in biodiversity informatics

Though the field of biodiversity informatics is nearly 4 decades old, there are several issues that are still worrying taxonomists all over the world. One major issue is that of absence of a comprehensive master list of recognized species of the world in real time. Another is of multiple representations of same species including spelling errors. The issue of achieving a consensus on the classification of an organism is another very big issue which is causing problems in biodiversity informatics system design. Much of the data comes from primary sources such as surveys conducted by professionals, students and amateurs. Mobilising this primary data regarding the distribution of species in time and space is a difficult task.

Summary of important workshop sessions

The workshop presented some very interesting initiatives both from the government of India as well as research community in the country on developing species pages, streamlining taxonomy and so on. 

Dr. Venkataraman from the Zoological Survey of India who was one of the speakers at the workshop, presented the biological diversity of India from past literature, museum records and other lesser popular/ limited access sources of information

Map showing endemic tree species in Western ghats, India

Map showing the distribution of endemic (local) tree species in Western Ghats, India (Image courtesy:

Dr. Sameer from the Indian Institute of Remote Sensing, Dehradun presented the Indian Bio-Resource Information Network (IBIN) programme of the Department of Biotechnology, GoI, being implemented in collaboration with University of Agricultural Sciences (UAS) and Indian Institute of Remote Sensing (IIRS). This programme provides data on specialized topics and is being collected and collated by different partners across the country, such as medicinal plants (UAS), maps and checklists (ATREE), chromozome data (Kolkata University) etc. The model works on integration of work being done by others by bringing them on board as collaborators.

Dr. Binay Panda from Ganit Labs presented on how DNA bar-coding is effective in identification of species and how this is replacing the traditional morphology-based methodology.

Even with all these issues being faced by this field / sector, there has been significant advancement in this field. The workshop served as a good reflection point on the current status of biodiversity mapping in India and in the United States of America.

Interested ?

If you are interested in biodiversity conservation or if you are an amateur taxonomist, then you can be a part of some of these initiatives. Here's one way you can get started.


Evaluating groundwater reforms in India based on administrability, equity, and sustainability - A research paper in Texas International Law Journal

This paper in Texas International Law Journal evaluates groundwater reforms in India based on three criteria: administrability, equity and sustainability.

The paper starts with a brief introduction on the over dependence on groundwater in the country for various purposes. The heavy reliance on groundwater is attributed to the country’s unique climate and how it affects India’s largely agrarian economy. Further it states that annual groundwater extraction rate is the highest on earth: an estimated 200 billion cubic meters per year. Firstly, the erratic monsoon trends drive most farmers to rely on irrigation to support their crops and groundwater is the largest sources of irrigation. Secondly, expanding industries, such as textiles, construction companies, and bottled water plants, are also heavy users of groundwater.

The paper then goes on to elaborate the emerging groundwater crisis, which is most evident in the dry regions of the country. The drop in the water tables has a harsh effect on impoverished farmers many of whom depend on small tubewells for groundwater access. The quality of water also becomes an issues of equal concern along with seas water intrusion. Following, this the author evaluates the reforms to India’s groundwater governance system based on three criteria:

  1. Administrability refers to the ability of the government to achieve actual implementation of a given policy.
  2. Equity measures the extent to which the reforms operate fairly between different segments of the society.
  3. Sustainability conveys whether a policy successfully balances the rates of present resource consumption with “the capacity of ecological . . . supply, over a long period of time.

Finally the paper concludes by making key policy recommendations that are necessary to institute a more effective groundwater system, which are as follows:

  • To construct a system that elevates institutional transparency and democratic participation
  • To eliminate duplicative regulatory bodies
  • To reform basic groundwater rights structure

Click here to read the full paper.


Well-being quotient in India: A report on the disparity & diversity in the quality of life across various districts of the country, by TATA Strategic Management Group

What is the quality of life that we lead? Is it based on the standard of living, the social structure or does it lie beyond these material comforts? This report deals with 2 major indicators- the well being of the individual household and the female security concept, to gauge the well being of 588 districts in the country.

To reach a consensus on the well being of districts across the country, 2 indexes have been calculated using the per capita expenditure as a surrogate for incomes. These are:

Well Being Index (WBI): Measures the well being of an individual householdWBI-State wise

Categories on which WBI is calculated:

  • Home amenities : Type of home (pucca / kaccha), primary source of energy for lighting, electricity units consumed, expense on domestic servant /cook and LPG, ownership of air cooler/ conditioner
  • Kitchen facilities : Primary source of energy for cooking & ownership of appliances/white goods like stove, pressure cooker & refrigerator
  • Education: Expense on education
  • Entertainment : Expense on entertainment & ownership of radio, television, VCR/VCP/DVD player, tape recorder, CD player and personal computer
  • Communication: Expense on landline telephone and mobile, ownership of telephone instrument and mobile handset
  • Transportation : Expense on conveyance, ownership of personal transport vehicles like bicycle, motor cycle, scooter, motor car and jeep
  • Healthcare : Institutional and Non-institutional medical expense

Salient features

  • There is a wide disparity and diversity across districts within the same state
  • Peninsular and the north Indian states rated as average or better and central and eastern states are average or worse off.
  • Chennai, Mumbai, North Goa, Bangalore and Ernakulum districts take the top 5 positions.
  • Goa, Delhi and Pondicherry are the 3 top tier states
  • The eastern and north eastern states are in the bottom tier with Chattisgarh, Assam and Bihar trailing at the end
  • A comparison between the WBI of 2010 & 2013 shows that the north eastern states of Nagaland, Mizoram & Assam and J&K show a huge decline, while most states from peninsular India, West Bengal and Orissa show improvement

Female Security Index (FSI) : Measures the well being, status & treatment of women

FSI Pictorial representation

Categories on which FSI is calculated:

  • Gender ratio in 0-6 years age group
  • Incidences of Rape
  • Dowry deaths

Salient features of the FSI

  • The Nilgiris, Pondicherry, Kaikal, Sivaganga and Mahe districts take top 5 top positions
  • Clear divide between North India & South India
  • Uttaranchal and HP in North India are average or better
  • Worst ratings for districts in Punjab, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh, West UP and North Rajasthan
  • Pondicherry, Nagaland and Kerala are the safest states for women
  • Punjab, Madhya Pradesh and Haryana are the worst in terms of women security
  • Metros and mini- metros conspicuous by their absence in the top 20 safe districts
  • Amongst the urban agglomerations, Chennai safest while Delhi NCR ranks at the bottom
  • Delhi NCR earns the dubious distinction of highest rape cases and dowry deaths
  • Comparison over 2010 shows that UP & Punjab show huge decline, while Rajasthan, Maharashtra & Jharkhand show slight deterioration

Tata Well Being Report

Features of WBI and FSI

  • There is no apparent correlation between the Well Being Index and Female Security Index
  • Southern states are the only ones faring well on both Wellbeing and Female security
  • In-spite of a better WBI score, Delhi, Punjab & Haryana fare low on FSI

The following person can be contacted to obtain complete report:

Raman Kalyanakrishnan, Practice head, Tata Strategic Management Group

Download the complete presentation here:

Download these documents : Size
Well Being in India - Disparity & surprises across districts, TATA (2013)3.25 MB

Residents of Khandwa in Madhya Pradesh, resist public private partnership in their water supply project- A press release by Manthan Adhyayan Kendra

With no single example across the world to cite for successful model of water privatisation, the irony remains that it continues to grow in developing countries. India is witnessing a range of private sector participation in various water schemes, these come under different forms and shapes but the motive remains the same- make profit out water.

Almost all privatisation endeavor in water sector has met with obstacles, Khandwa is no exception! The teething problem of the project doesn't appear to settle as the rising discontent and resistance among people continues to grow.

Read More

Download these documents : Size
Newspaper-clippings-on-anti-PPP-Khandwa.zip2.56 MB

Guidelines for setting up bi-tech wells, which helps in arsenic mitigation- A document by Project Well

Access to arsenic-safe water is spreading in rural pockets of West Bengal. Thanks to the setting up of bi-tech wells by a non-profut organisation- Project Well. Read on to follow the step-by-step guideline to set up a bi-tech well.

Read More


Traditional water purification methods followed in developing countries- A compilation by Encyclopedia of Life Support Systems

What are the different ways through which water can be purified before it can be consumed? Read on to know more about the traditional and household water purification methods followed in rural communities in developing countries.

Read More


Sweet smell of success: Human waste fertilises land & turns farmers wealthy in Bangalore

By spreading human sewage on fields that grow crops, farmers the world over fertilise the soil with rich organic carbon and nutrients in urine and faeces, reduce chemical additives and gather a bumper harvest.

Human excreta is loaded with nutrients, which when disposed off discriminately, increases pollution and leads to a loss of resources. On an average a human being produces some 500 litres of urine and 50 kilograms of faeces a year, sufficient to fertilise plants that would produce more than 200 kilograms of cereals! Scale it up and almost 40 per cent of nutrients in chemical fertilisers could be replaced by the world’s excreta.

Honey sucker trucks

Honey sucker trucks deposit sewage in farms for fertilisation of crops ( Image courtesy: Vishwanath Srikantaiah)

Trucks in Bangalore, deceptively named ‘ Honey suckers’, collect sewage and deposit them in farms that use this smelly, stinking cargo to sweeten their crops. In Mexico city, untreated sewage is piped to Tulla farms, to fertilise it; in Gujarat, farmers compete for the sewage at annual auctions- today farmers realise the full potential & economics of human waste.

Potential of human excreta

An individual produces waste in a year sufficient to fertilise plants that produce 200 kg of cereal ( Image courtesy:

A few more examples are -Israel which uses around 70 per cent of the treated effluent from its sewage treatment works for irrigation and Singapore which uses treated sewage effluent for drinking. Other benefits of this recycling include conservation of phosphate reserves & energy resources, pollution reduction and saving depleting water resources & enormous infrastructure costs.

Dry sewage

Safer sewage: Drying faeces fully before mixing with soil helps kill pathogens ( Image courtesy: Vishwanath Srikantaiah)

The downswing of this trend is the health hazards associated with these crops. To maximise the benefits of recycling sewage onto land without creating health problems, inculcating safe practices for handling faeces and improving hygiene are vital. The best way to grab most of the advantages of nutrient and water recycling without imposing health hazards is to treat sewage before giving it to farmers.

We need to rethink and begin to recycle our faeces and urine as we recycle scarce metals, as for a developing country, the best option, both economically and ecologically, may be the sewage farm.

To read the complete article, click here


Sunlight-cleaned water: Research papers on the advantages, economics and safety issues of treating water through solar disinfection (SODIS)

Solar water disinfection (SODIS) is a simple technique of disinfecting water through solar energy, where transparent containers are filled with contaminated water and placed in direct sunlight for at least 6 h, after which time it becomes safe to drink. This simple, straightforward disinfection method that utilises the abundant, freely available sunlight is low cost, easy to use and sustainable.

SODIS technique

SODIS - a technique to disinfect water through solar energy (Image Courtesy:

A review of SODIS-treated water: From benchtop to rooftop

Most commonly used are plastic bottles (PET) which although cost effective, limit the volume treated – usually less than 2 L per batch. In this regard, noncoloured glass is preferred. However glass is heavy, can be a potential source of injury if it breaks and also places a financial burden on low income groups.

However plastic bottles have the potential to leach compounds into water after exposure to strong sunlight conditions. Researchers have, so far, failed to detect PET plastic photodegradation products or any other harmful or genotoxic substances at concentrations likely to be harmful in solar disinfected water, though concerns about such contaminants remain high.

Some enhancement technologies experimented for SODIS are thermal, heterogeneous photocatalysis, chemical additives, flow reactors and solar mirrors. But these enhancements will only be viable where the benefit in quality, speed and/or treated volume provided by it can offset the additional cost.

On the roof

PET bottles are widely used for SODIS water treatment at low cost (Image

Solar disinfection is at a great disadvantage compared to other household water treatment and storage (HWTS) techniques such as chlorination or filtration, as it does not depend upon a product that needs to be commercially manufactured, hence is not supported by large advertising campaigns by manufacturing giants. This coupled with concerns centring on the possibility that harmful chemicals leach from the plastic after prolonged use, has restricted it’s use by less than 1% of the households using HWTS throughout the developing world.

Consequently SODIS may be most effective as an intervention against water-borne disease for short periods of time such as in the immediate aftermath of natural or humanitarian disasters. It also improves household finances by reducing fuel costs to boil water and illness associated costs. It can be viewed as a “gateway” HWTS intervention facilitating households to access more reliable, but more expensive, point of use household water treatments higher up the waterladder. It has a major advantage as a short term, emergency water treatment in postnatural disaster and humanitarian crisis situations.

To read the complete paper click here.

Assessment of the genotoxicity of SODIS drinking water: Does it damage cellular DNA resulting in mutation or cancer

Though microbially safe, concerns have been raised about the genotoxic/mutagenic quality of solar-disinfected drinking water, which might be compromised as a result of photodegradation of polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottles used as SODIS reactors. This study assessed genotoxic risk associated with the possible release of genotoxic compounds into water from PET bottles during SODIS, using the Ames fluctuation test.

The biological effects and toxicological relevance of compounds at varied concentrations remains uncertai ; some compounds might be released at high concentrations but not necessarily have a genotoxic effect, while others might be found at low concentrations and have a highly mutagenic effect. Therefore, short-term tests were conducted to determine the genotoxic risk presented by leaching of compounds from PET.

The results indicated that genotoxicity was not observed in any of the daily-refill samples that were exposed to SODIS conditions or their corresponding control samples regardless of storage time and UV-A dose received. Based on this study, if users apply the SODIS technique correctly, they are unlikely to experience any health hazards from genotoxins generated by SODIS if they replace their bottles every 6 months.

To read the complete paper click here.

Bactericidal effect of SODIS drinking water

Five bacterial species were examined in this study, a set of gastrointestinal pathogens which cause diarrhoea and enteritis in humans. SODIS is observed to inactivate these waterborne pathogens under real sunlight conditions and is an appropriate short-term emergency intervention against waterborne disease until more-permanent solutions can be put in place.

To read the complete paper click here.

Download these documents : Size
Bactericidal Effect of Solar Water Disinfection under Real Sunlight Conditions (2008)103.57 KB
Assessment of genotoxicity of drinking water that has been solar disinfected in polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottles (2010)213.73 KB
Solar water disinfection (SODIS): A review from bench top to rooftop (2012)1.54 MB

Corporate water wisdom: A video on how a large company can become water wise

How does a corporate resolve its water issues? Issues not just pertaining to adequate water for its large staff, but also the long term sustainability of this replenishable but finite source.

Shubha Ramachandran, a Water Sustainability Consultant at Biome Environmental Solutions, and Madhu Menon , the Chief Finance and Administrative Officer of Tesco-Hindustan Service Centre, talk to Lakshmi about the challenges in managing water as a resource in the corporate world and discuss how a large corporate can become water wise.

A talk on how corporates can be more water wise (Source of video:chaiwithlakshmi

Shubha speaks on how water management is carried out in large corporate setups. She begins by explaining that most of the corporates have offices usually in the periphery of the towns, where usually no city based water supply is present. Hence water dependency is on private water suppliers, the water tankers or through individual borewells that tap groundwater.

The water needs at corporates is usually more domestic in nature. Certain corporate buildings use 160l of water of a total consumption of 400 kl daily demand for merely for cooling towers. She emphasises that the major criterion is how to reduce water consumption? In this instance it could be a choice between a water or an air cooling system, and even a reconsideration of how much cooling is actually required?

The second issue is how employees perceive water in their daily work, are they connected enough to drive down consumption. It is mandatory for corporates to treat water and reuse it in the campus, which is utilised for flushing and gardening, both limiting in nature. Hence what is required further is to find out if this treated water can be used for recharging the groundwater, or sent out the campus for reuse and application or even to conceive a system through which this water could be discharged into the local water body.

Madhu discusses some enterprising ideas that TESCO has initiated in their Bangalore office to reduce water consumption and boost up their recycling chain. They have an aerobic sewage treatment plant ( STP) in the campus that recycles their waste water for landscaping and domestic use. In addition they have added initiatives like smart gadgets that control flow of tapwater, a water harvesting system using existing storm water drains, and constructing storage tanks and recharge pits, close to the borewells. As the lawns guzzle up about half of the water required for landscaping, they are looking at the option of replacing existing flora with a less thirsty, native species.

These initiatives have a far reaching effect, both in terms of the water reduction and the message taken home by each employee. Shubha reiteriates the importance of rainwater harvesting for replenishing the groundwater table. The need is to understand that groundwater is simply not a sump under the surface but a complex entity. The way forward is to involve all the stakeholders, both the community and the corporate, to bring about a wider perspective to manage and understand existing aquifers.

For sustainable water management a deeper understanding of water sources, awareness of water consumption, and engagement of all stakeholders both in the corporate circle and outside it, is imperative to become a little bit more water wise.

This video is sponsored by Arghyam in partnership with India Water Portal, is a part of the ongoing campaign 'Catch Every Drop', aimed at harvesting, reusing and conserving water in Bangalore.


'Catch Every Drop': An initiative to harvest, reuse and conserve water in Bangalore

Syndicate content
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.5 India License.