• Navy set for operation clean-up

  • Tree felling will be made punishable

  • New source of environmental pollution

  • Cloud seeding should be a regular feature: Expert

  • Oxygen helps repair damaged tissues: Study

  • State Industries Minister Deep Chand Bandhu dies

  • Navy set for operation clean-up


    MUMBAI: About 2,000 officers and sailors from the Indian Navy will remove garbage from the beaches and waterways along the west coast on Saturday as part of the International Coastal Clean-up operation, Rear Admiral Nirmal Verma said.

    The cleanliness drive will extend from Gujarat to Goa, he said. The families of naval staff will also take part in this exercise, he added. Approximately 400,000 people from over 100 countries took part in the exercise last year, Rear Admiral Verma said.

    "They cleaned 12,400 miles of shoreline and collected 3.6 million kgs of trash,’’ he said. Divers collected 105,328 kg of litter. Participants found 259 animals entangled in the debris and fishing lines.

    The navy has formed teams to clean up all Mumbai’s beaches. The rear admiral said a survey had already been completed to determine the quantum of work. The police and BMC have been told about the drive, he said.

    This cleanliness drive originated in the US in 1985 when that country’s Environment Pollution Agency joined hands with the Centre for Environmental Education to conduct a study of plastic marine garbage.

    The agencies set up the Ocean Conservancy Agency and organised the first beach clean-up in 1986. The drive has now spread to 110 countries, Rear Admiral Verma said.


    Tree felling will be made punishable

    By P. Oppili

    CHENNAI SEPT. 17. Felling trees will soon become a punishable offence in urban areas. A draft legislation — `Tamil Nadu Preservation of Trees Act' — has already been prepared.

    Under the law, the Government will constitute a Tree Authority in all urban and rural areas. Initially the law will cover six Corporations and later it will be extended to rural areas also, say official sources.

    The Tree Authority in urban areas is expected to include the Mayors, District Forest Officers/Wildlife Wardens, honorary Tree Wardens, Commissioner or the Chief Executive Officers, besides a Councillor.

    The Principal Chief Conservator of Forests will have the powers to appoint tree officers in the rank of Assistant Conservator of Forests in a Municipal Corporation and Range Officer in a township to take penal action against those who fell trees.

    Carrying out a census of the existing trees and obtaining the number of trees from private houses, specifying the standards of the number and kind of trees in each locality, planting and transplanting of trees for construction of new roads or widening of existing roads are some of the duties prescribed for the Authority.

    Those who wish to fell a tree may have to apply in writing to the tree officer. After inspecting the tree and conducting an enquiry, the officer will accord or deny permission.

    However, permission will not be refused to fell dead, diseased or wind-fallen trees, which pose a threat to life and property. Trees obstructing traffic and those damaged or destroyed by fire, lightning or due to other natural causes can also be removed.

    Deeming clause

    Interestingly, if the tree officer fails to acknowledge the receipt of application from an individual within a specific time from the date of receipt, permission shall be `deemed to have been granted'.

    The tree officers are likely to be entrusted with powers to arrest a person without warrant, provided he is reasonably suspected to be connected with any of the offences enumerated under the Act.

    The Government may empower an officer to impose a fine not exceeding Rs. 5,000. But the fine shall not be less than 25 per cent of the value of the property seized.

    Contravention of any provision of the Act is likely to attract substantial penalty with imprisonment, the sources say.

    The Protection of Trees Act is already in existence in six States. Tamil Nadu is the third State in south India to bring in legislation to stop illegal felling. The implementation of the Act is expected to be entrusted over to the Forest department, say the sources.


    New source of environmental pollution


    PLATINUM, PALLADIUM, ruthenium, osmium, rhodium and iridium are called platinum group elements (PGE). These metals find their applications in diverse fields such as jewellery, industry and pharmaceuticals. Particularly platinum and palladium find extensive use in chemical industry as catalysts.

    One of the prominent applications of these elements, especially platinum, palladium and rhodium in recent times is, their use in automobile catalysts.

    Catalytic converters designed to catalyse the removal of harmful pollutants from vehicle exhaust gases were first introduced in cars in USA and Japan in mid 1970s.

    In Europe, autocatalysts have been made mandatory on all new cars since 1993 while in India it is from 1996. The first autocatalysts were oxidation catalysts, which convert harmful carbon monoxide (CO) and unburnt hydrocarbons (HC) to harmless carbon dioxide (CO{-2}) and water.

    These catalysts primarily used a mixture of platinum and palladium since PGE are considered exceptional catalysts for these reactions. The focus of regulation then turned to oxides of nitrogen (NO{-X}).

    Because oxidation catalysts have little effect on NO{-X}, a `three-way catalyst' that simultaneously oxidizes CO and NC while reducing NO{-X} to nitrogen was introduced.

    The most commonly used `three-way catalysts' fitted to cars contain platinum, palladium and rhodium, the latter doing the job of reducing harmful NO{-X} to harmless nitrogen.

    Although different designs are possible, most converters basically consist of a monolithic honeycomb support made of cordierite (a phase of 2 MgO 2 Al{-2}O{-3} 5 SiO{-2}) on which the so-called wash-coat is supported.

    The active metals platinum, palladium and rhodium in various combinations are contained in this wash coat along with oxides of rare-earth elements acting as stabilizers.

    Although use of catalytic converters in automobiles is beneficial to the environment, they also represent a new source of pollution.

    It is generally accepted that thermal and mechanical conditions during car operation under which such devices work (including abrasion effects and high temperature chemical reactions with oil fumes), can cause release of significant amounts of platinum group elements (PGE) into the environment and eventually affect human health.

    In fact, it has been observed that these catalytic converters produce the emission of PGE-containing particulates into the environment. There have been reports that the concentrations of platinum increased upto 20 times the background values in some soils adjacent to major roadways.


    Cloud seeding should be a regular feature: Expert

    By Our Special Correspondent

    GADAG, Sept. 17. Cloud seeding should be used for tackling drought whenever it occurs, according to Arun Patil, member of the committee formed by the Government for monitoring the project.

    He told this correspondent that the success of Project Varuna over the past one month showed that cloud seeding could be taken up when required. Dr. Patil is the Principal of the Rural Engineering College, Hulkoti.

    "All of us were tense on the day the project was launched. We had no idea how cloud seeding worked in practical terms, although there were several theories on its success. The wait for rain after the seeding of the clouds was agonising. When reports of rain came within 15 to 20 minutes, we heaved a sigh of relief,'' he said.

    On September 10, the panel members were passing through Ranebennur en route Hubli from Davangere. They observed that clouds were gathering in the sky. The cloud-seeding aircraft just flew across and it rained heavily. "We celebrated the occasion by getting ourselves drenched,'' Dr. Patil said.

    Cloud seeding is done in the areas around Bangalore with the aid of a ground-based radar at Jakkur. In North Karnataka, which is outside the range of the radar, it is taken up on the basis of visual clues. Dr. Patil said people called up with information about gathering clouds in their areas. The information received from the rain-gauge centres was collated the next day to study the impact.

    He said the technology had been found to be workable, and it was time a study was taken up on its impact on agriculture, drinking water supply, and hydrology. The idea of weather modification was conceived last year, but it was not taken up then because of the delay in securing information.

    By the time, the Government systematised the arrangement for experimenting with the scheme and formed the 10-member monitoring committee this year, much of the preliminary work had been done. "We started the process a bit late in the year because of the time taken to float global tenders, get quotations, and approve the party," Dr. Patil said.

    He said the key element in the exercise was the study of cloud characteristics for determining the moisture content, temperature, upward/downward draft, and nuclei contents. The deficit in moisture content could be made up by using hygroscopic (water absorbing) material such as common salt. The nuclei content could be modified by using silver iodide as in Project Varuna. The project was planned after getting weather data from satellite sources, namely Meteostat and the NOAA. Another important factor to be determined was the draft to determine whether seeding had to be done above or below the cloud.

    Dr. Patil said it was wrong to call the rain obtained through cloud seeding artificial. It was "real rain" induced through weather modification.

    Asked why the technique had not been tried before in the State and elsewhere in the country, Dr. Patil said that it was owing to the lack of awareness about it.

    It was only in the State that the problem of poor rainfall was seen from the perspective of the farmers and a bold step was taken to go ahead with the experiment.

    Dr. Patil has been working on the scientific aspects of Parjanya yaga performed to propitiate the rain god. He is trying to find out the chemical composition of the material used for performing the homa and analyse the smoke to find out whether any rain-inducing material was let into the air. He has talked to the experts on the yaga at Gokarn.


    Oxygen helps repair damaged tissues: Study


    WASHINGTON: Scientists have discovered a new mechanism that will enable the heart to repair tissues damaged by an attack. A study, published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry, has revealed that oxygen is the trigger that helps specific genes in heart cells called cardiac fibroblasts transform these cells into myofibroblasts - cells that are critical to wound healing - after an attack.

    The scientists believe that these newly formed myofibroblasts help new tissue grow, replacing damaged ones.

    The first step in treating a heart attack survivor is to quickly remove the clot blocking a coronary artery, which caused the attack. This allows a sudden rush of oxygen-rich blood to flow into damaged tissue around the site of the primary injury.

    The rush of oxygen activates oxygen-sensitive genes in cardiac fibroblasts, and these genes respond by turning cardiac fibroblasts into myofibroblasts, said the study's lead author Chandan Sen, associate director of the Dorothy M. Davis Heart and Lung Research Institute at Ohio State

    "Now that we have identified the mechanism in this band of cells, we may be able to develop therapies that target these healing cells, thus enhancing their ability to replace the tissue damaged during a heart attack," Sen noted.

    "It is important to appreciate that the heart has a built-in, healing component. Focusing on this healing band of tissue at the perimeter of the damaged site is likely to provide effective therapeutic solutions," he added.

    The researchers exposed fibroblasts taken from mouse hearts to a sudden rush of oxygen, a situation that mimics suddenly exposing heart tissue with a poor blood supply to more oxygen once a clot has been removed. The sudden rush of oxygen transformed mouse heart fibroblasts into myofibroblasts.

    "Myofibroblasts go to work after you cut yourself. They have muscle-like properties and try to contract and close a wound. These are robust cells - they remain at the damaged site even when all of the heart muscle cells have died", Sen explained.


    State Industries Minister Deep Chand Bandhu dies


    NEW DELHI: The state industries and environment minister Deep Chand Bandhu died in Apollo hospital at 9.45 pm on Wednesday.

    He was suffering from meningitis and multiple organ failure.

    The minister was on leave for almost a fortnight. Bandhu was an old hand in Delhi politics and was expected to play a pivotal role in the coming elections.