February 14

  • Move for US-aided research on Ganga pollution

  • Environment groups warn of forest destruction by Indonesia pulp firms

  • Acid Rain and environment

  • Canada could declare salt toxic to the environment

  • Move for US-aided research on Ganga pollution


    PATNA: There is a move for US-aided research on the chemical and biological effects of pollution on the Ganga.

    Mohammad Omair of the Centre for Great Lake and Aquatic Science of the University of Michigan (USA) is leading the bid to carry out this mega research project. He is currently gathering samples from different parts of the entire stretch of the river. "The project is in its preliminary stage, and if it is carried out, I am not in a position to say how much time and money it is going to take," stated Omair while speaking to Times News Network on Wednesday.

    His project will involve stations being set up along the entire stretch of Ganga and sophisticated equipment being brought from the USA.

    Omair hopes that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) at Ann Arbor town in Michigan will finance the project. He will be joining hands with noted environmentalist R K Sinha of Patna University, who has done pioneering work for saving the Ganga dolphins from becoming extinct.

    A native of Patna, Omair has been living in the USA for the last 45 years. The idea of carrying out a comprehensive research on the chemical contamination of the Ganga and planktonic flora and fauna is based on a short-term research he did in Patna almost six years ago.

    He collected water samples from the Ganga on December 27, 1996 at Buddha Ghat in Patna. The samples were subsequently sent to different laboratories of the University of Michigan and to scientists at the NOAA for analysis. The results were alarming. The concentration of mercury was approximately 40 times higher than the permissible limits. The level of lead was also nine times higher. "In the USA, the level of mercury is not even half of this level and yet a few species have been lost," he pointed out while insisting that the river is getting increasingly polluted and may cause serious health hazards in future.

    Omair said Lake Erie, one of the five largest lakes of the USA, became dead biologically due to dumping of toxic wastes by industries. "It was due to the efforts of scientists that the lake could be brought back to life," he stated.

    Omair drew worldwide attention to his work made public in 1999 when he found disturbing mysterious tumours in some of the smallest creatures (zooplanktons) swimming near the shore of Lake Michigan. Since then his lab has been receiving samples from all over the world as scientists feel that the small creatures are a critical link in the food chain. "What effect these tumours are having on plants and animals in rivers and even on humans consuming fish is yet to be found out," he maintained.


    Environment groups warn of forest destruction by Indonesia pulp firms


    Large areas of natural forest hl Indonesia will be destroyed by 2007 due to logging by the country’s two largest pulp producers, two environmental groups warned in a report released Monday.

    The Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) and the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) said a study showed two indebted Indonesian pulp producers Shlar Mas Group and Raja Garuda Mas Group - planned to clear almost 500,000 hectares (1.23 million acres) of forest from Riau province by 2007.

    "Indonesia’s largest pulp producers... rely heavily on unsustainable sources of fiber, much of which is obtained through the clear-cutting of natural forests," said CIFOR policy scientist Christopher Barr in the report.

    Barr said the industry’s seven-fold expansion since the late 19X()s had proceeded far more rapidly than efforts to secure a sustainable supply of raw materials through the development of industrial pulpwood plantations.

    Of the 120 million cubic meters (156 million cubic yards) of wood estimated to have been consumed by the pulp industry during 1988-2000, only 10 percent was harvested from the industrial plantations, the report said

    The groups said both Sinar Mas and Raja Garuda Mas have claimed that by 2008 all of their wood will be coming from sustainably managed plantations. But the WWF-CIFOR study projects that they are likely to fall far short of this target.

    A spokesman for Raja Garuda Mas refused to comment, saying he and other company staff needed to study the report. A Sinar Mas spokeswomen could not be reached.

    Barr said both groups plan to clear large new ares in Riau on Sumatra island despite a yovernment moratorium on new forest conversion since 1998..

    "Both producers will face significant shortages of legally and sustainably harvested wood for at least the next seven years, and quite possibly well beyond," he said hl the report.


    Acid Rain and environment

    Saumya Sri Chaturanga Aloysius

    Acid rain is a direct consequence of industrial activity. Sulphur dioxide rises from burning fossil fuels and reacts with water to produce sulfuric acid. As well, the nitrous oxides found in pollution are converted into nitric acid. These substances then fall to Earth as rain and snow. The landing area of acid rain is affected by weather pattern and wind. Acid rain might fall up to 500 km away from where it wets actually produced.

    Sulfuric and nitric acids are detrimental to all plant life. Acid precipitation burns plants causing them to turn yellow and die. If this phenomenon occurs in a concentrated area, entire forests, and the life they support, can be killed. Because of acid rains forests are now dying in several industrialized regions of the world, including Germany, Scandinavia, India, Russia and the United States.

    Acid rain also destroys the ecological system of lakes and rivers. In some countries due to acid rain, there are lakes where no ecological life can exist and where human recreational activities are prohibited. In regions where people depend on fish for survival, acid rain can cause many serious problems.

    Aside from killing off entire ecosystems, acid rain is also causing the corrosion of several important national treasures and buildings as well as the weathering of structures vital to transportation systems, such as bridges.

    Measurements over large areas of North America and Europe have shown that rain is often ten times more acidic there than normal. Thousands of lakes have been affected in Canada, Scandinavia, Scotland and the United States - and in many of them all fish have been killed. While acid rain used to be a problem only in developed countries, that issue is emerging in countries such as Brazil, China, India and Jamaica.

    The problem of acid rain is an example of the interconnectedness of all environmental issues. It starts out as a waste problem (carbon emissions), then turns into an atmospheric problem (carbon and chemicals in the air), and then finally ends up a forestry and land use problem (deforestation and desertification due to dying forests) as well as a water problem (high acid levels in lakes)


    Canada could declare salt toxic to the environment


    The millions of tons of salt spread on Canada’s highways each winter could soon be declared toxic for the environment by the federal government.

    "The idea is to put in place better procedures" to minimize the amount of salt used, said Rohert Che-nier, who is in charge of evaluating chemical prod-ucts for the Environment Ministry.

    A recently-published study shows that chloride ions, which collect in the rivers and ground water after the snow melts, modify the ecosystem and negatively affect the algae and fish. Problems occur when the salt is spread too thick and stored salt that is unprotected from the elements.