Envis evaluation workshop begins
THE HINDU [14th JUNE, 2003]
Bangalore June 13. A four-day workshop on "Performance Evaluation of Envis (Environmental Information System) Nodes" began here today. The workshop, organised by the C.P. Ramaswami Aiyar Environmental Education Centre (CPREEC) and the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests, was inaugurated by Harjith Singh, Senior Advisor to the ministry.
Nanditha Krishna, Honorary Director, CPREEC said, "Through the Envis project we hope to utilise the various media at our disposal to work for the conservation of the ecological heritage of India." The centre had been set up to increase consciousness and knowledge about the environment and the major environmental problems facing the country, she said.
A book, "Diversity of Coastal Plant Communities of India", written by researchers from the Botanical Survey of India (BSI), was released by Mr. Singh on the occasion.
Envis was the largest network of its kind in the world, he said. "The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) initially funded the project, before the World Bank took over after seeing the success of this project." The objective of Envis was to promote national and international cooperation for the exchange of environment-related information, Mr. Singh said.
In her keynote address, Indrani Chandrasekaran, Director, Union Ministry of Environment and Forests, said the information available would be shared by all the Envis centres.
"This project aims to promote, support, and assist education and personnel training programmes designed to enhance environmental information and utilisation capabilities," she said.
The workshop is meant for directors, scientists, and project managers of the different Envis centres in the country.
Hydrogen fuel may make Earth cooler: Study
THE TIMES OF INDIA [14th JUNE, 2003]
WASHINGTON: Hydrogen fuel cells, the widely hailed pollution-free energy source of the future, may turn out not to be so kind to the Earth, scientists said on Friday.
Providing the hydrogen needed by all those fuel cells might create a cloudier, cooler planet, with larger and longer-lasting atmospheric ozone holes over the poles, said researchers from the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.
Hydrogen fuel cells are seen as potentially emissions-free energy sources for everything from automobiles to homes, replacing fossil fuel engines and eliminating the noxious pollutants that damage lungs and build up heat-trapping gases cited in theories of global warming.
But in producing and transporting hydrogen needed to fuel the aspiring technology, roughly 10 percent to 20 percent of the gas can be expected to leak into the atmosphere, the report in the journal Science said.
Quadrupling the levels of hydrogen gas -- actually two molecules of hydrogen -- in the air from the current 0.5 parts per million would create more water vapor in the stratosphere as the hydrogen combines with oxygen, resulting in more cloud cover, the report said.
Computer models used by study author Tracey Tromp suggested stratospheric temperatures could cool by 0.5 degrees Celsius, slowing the arrival of spring in the North and South polar regions and expanding the size, depth and longevity of the ozone holes.
Less ozone in the upper atmosphere, which allows more of the sun's dangerous rays to reach the Earth and has increased skin cancer risks, is widely blamed on mankind's release of now-banned chlorofluorocarbons, chemicals used in refrigerants and as propellants.
The ozone layer was expected to recover in 20 to 50 years as chlorofluorocarbon levels ease, though an injection of hydrogen into the atmospheric mix might worsen the problem, the report said.
More hydrogen in the air would likely also have a direct impact on the Earth's teeming surface, as it is a nutrient for microbes, it said.
Flash floods in Assam leave 150,000 homeless
GUWAHATI: Flash floods triggered by heavy monsoon rains have rendered at least 150,000 people homeless in about 130 villages in Assam, officials said on Saturday.
Two districts, Hailakandi and Dhemaji, have been hit hard in the first wave of flooding that began on Thursday night.
Surging waters of the river Barak in southern Assam submerged rows of villages in Hailakandi district, 340 km from the principal city Guwahati, overnight.
"About 130 villages have been inundated, affecting at least 150,000 people," K K Kalita, Hailakandi district magistrate said.
"Heavy rains in the past two days have been adding to the woes of the people."
Hundreds of people in Hailakandi district were taking shelter on raised mud embankments, while scores were staying at schools and other government buildings located in higher areas.
"Thousands of people are staying put in their homes, some constructing raised platforms using bamboo poles, to escape the floodwaters," Kalita said.
"We shall call out the army, if the situation further worsens, to rescue marooned villagers. But so far the situation is not as bad as it sounds."
Floodwaters of the river Jiadhol, a tributary of the main Brahmaputra river, breached an embankment in the eastern district of Dhemaji on Thursday night.
"It is only a matter of time before the floodwaters enter clusters of villages. The mood of the river is threatening," a police official in Dhemaji said.
A Central Water Commission bulletin on Saturday said the Brahmaputra was showing a rising trend all along its course. "The water level of the Brahmaputra is expected to rise in the next 48 hours," it said.
Last year, some four million people were rendered homeless in Assam during high floods caused by the surging grey waters of the Brahmaputra.