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Water Scarcity & India+BIOPIRACY + SWINE FLU + BIOFUEL+Global Economic Crisis

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  • Indian Society For Sustainable Agricultur
    NEWS Bulletin from Indian Society For Sustainable Agriculture And Rural Development ...   1. India may head towards drought if weathermen s forecast turns
    Message 1 of 2 , Jul 1, 2009

      NEWS Bulletin from Indian Society For Sustainable Agriculture And Rural Development



      1. India may head towards drought if weathermen's forecast turns true 

      2. Export of virtual water needed, river linking is last resort : IWMI


      3. Biopiracy by seed MNCs


      4. Swine flu pandemic : Who is to be blamed ?  


      5. Butanol fast emerging as nextgen biofuel  


      6. Indian trade unions and NGOs call for new global economic order



      India Meteorological Department forecasts below normal rains
      India may head towards drought if weathermen's forecast turns true
      El Nino may play spoilsport
      Publication Date  24/6/2009 8:18:42 PM(IST)  
      Some parts of India may experience drought this year as the country’s official weather forecasting agency, India Meteorological Department (IMD) has lowered its expectation and said that the nationwide average cumulative rainfall in the four-month monsoon season which began in June would be below the normal range.
      Quantitatively, the monsoon rainfall for the country is likely to be 93% of the long period average with a model error of +/-4% and coefficient of variation of 10%. The LPA rainfall over the country for the period 1941-1990 is estimated at 89 cm. As the IMD has cautioned about a model error of +/-4%, the quantitative rainfall may slip down to 89% of the LPA – a situation which may invite grave consequences.
      Earlier on April 17, this year, the IMD making an initial forecast for the South-West Monsoon had said that countrywide average cumulative rainfall in the season would be 96% with a model error of +/-5%.
      The scaling down of the expectation to 93% of the LPA is significant when the monsoon system has suffered a setback and its advance over Orissa, Maharashtra and north Andhra Pradesh has been delayed by about two weeks and by about 10 days over Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, south Madhya Pradesh and south Gujarat. As a result in the first month of the season till June 22, the average cumulative rainfall over the country is less by 52% that over northwest India is less by 41% that over central India is less by 75%, that over southern peninsula is less by 23% and that over northeast India is less by 53%.
      According to area categorisation, northwest India consists of Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Punjab, Rajasthan, Haryana, Chandigarh, Delhi, Uttaranchal and Uttar Pradesh. Northeast India consists of Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya, Assam, Nagaland, Manipur, Mizoram, Tripura, Sikkim, West Bengal, Bihar and Jharkhand. Central India consists of Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Maharashtra, Goa and Orissa. Southern peninsula consists of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Lakshadweep and Andaman and Nicobar Islands.
      The rainfall over northwest India, which is the granary of country, is likely to be 81% of its LPA (61.2 cm) with a model error of 8% - this means the rainfall here may slip down to 73%. The coefficient of variation in this region is 19%. However, IMD’s forecast of rainfall over central India raises some hope. It has said that the rainfall over this region would be 99% of its LPA (99.4 cm) with a model error of +/-8% and coefficient of variation of 14%.
      The rainfall over northeast India is likely to be 92% of its LPA (142.9 cm) with a model error of +/-8% and coefficient of variation of 8%.  The rainfall over southern peninsula would be 93% of its LPA (72.5 cm) with a model error of 8% and coefficient of variation of 15%.
      The IMD has predicted that the countrywide rainfall in July, this year would be 93% of its LPA (29.3cm) subject to a model error of +/-9% and coefficient of variation of 13%. In August it would be 101% of its LPA (26.2 cm) with a model error of +/-9% and coefficient of variation of 14%.   
      The IMD while making its forecast has taken inputs from several global agencies. The latest observations and forecasts from both dynamical and statistical models suggest high probability (about 60%) for El Nino conditions to appear during the monsoon season. El Nino phenomena is the warming of the Pacific waters above the normal range which causes drought in many parts of the globe. The probability for neutral conditions prevailing over Pacific is about 40% and that for La Nina conditions (cooling of Pacific waters below normal) is negligible. La Nina causes excess rains.
      Finally, the analysis of the forecast data shows some parts of the country may experience acute water stress condition or drought. The situation look critical for northwest India, particularly Punjab and Haryana – the granary of the country.
      The secretary in the Union ministry for earth sciences, Dr Sailesh Nayak said that IMD and Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology have planned experiments on cloud seeding and find out which type of clouds can cause rainfall in the process. This project would come out with concrete results within two years. But two years would be a long wait. It is time that government come out with appropriate contingency plans to deal with the current situation.
      Global climate change casts its dark shadow


      Export of virtual water needed, river linking is last resort : IWMI


      Efficient water use needed for ensuring food security






      By: ASHOK B SHARMA on: Wed 17 of June, 2009 10:55 GMT (2 Reads)


      Water is essential not only for maintaining ecological security, but also has a key role in ensuring food, feed and fibre security. Its domestic and industrial uses also cannot be underestimated. The ongoing global climate change has already begun casting its dark shadow on the availability of water resources. The director general of International Water Management Institute (IWMI), COLIN J CHARTRES in an exclusive interview to ASHOK B SHARMA called for efficient management and use of this essential resource with a view avoid the impending crisis of food and feed security. IWMI is one of the 15 affiliated institutes of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR). Here are the excerpts of the interview ---


      Q : Water is likely to become scarce in the days to come and some believe that the next major conflict in the world will be on water rights. What do you feel ?


      A : I think there may be small regional controversies around water resources. We can avoid major conflicts through careful planning, management and efficient use. Productive use of water can be ensured if we aim at higher crop yield per unit of water, efficient use of water in homes and industry, recycling of water, preventing pollution of water bodies and ground water, artificial recharging of ground water. Improving storage may range from solutions such as large dams, medium size reservoirs to revitalizing the tank systems.


      Q : What can be the possible impact of the ongoing global climate change on water resources ?


      A : Climate change is likely to have adverse impact on most of the developing countries and emerging economies located in the tropical and sub-tropical regions. Some of areas may witness short-duration monsoon season and higher intensity storms. Other areas may have more climate variability and greater drought frequency. Areas dependent on snow melt may have significant decreases in water availability in the long term. All these issues will require adaptive strategies with a view to maintain food security. IWMI has developed a Strategic Plan 2009-13 to meet these challenges.


      Q : What are the possible ways for maintaining food security ?


      A : Globally we expect there will be 2.5 billion more mouths to feed by 2050. We need to double grain production to meet the needs of food and animal feed. This will need twice the amount of water we presently use in agriculture. Optimal use of water should be promoted through policy. Institutional and regulatory reforms. If possible incentives should be given to farmers to grown crops that require less water like oilseeds and coarse cereals in water scarce regions. Rice and sugarcane and paddy that require more water should be grown in areas that have abundance of rain and water. The surplus of water intensive crops grown in these regions can be transported to water deficient areas to meet their requirement. This is called “the virtual export of water”. Governments of rain deficient region should also resort to importing water intensive crops instead growing them under strain.


      Q : Do you support actual export of water by way linking river basins ?


      A ; River linking should be the last resort. It is feasible from an engineering but we need to look very closely at the socio-economic and environmental costs of the region losing water and the economic benefits of the regions gaining water


      Biopiracy by seed MNCs
      Stop patenting climate resistant crops : Navdanya
      A report on Biopiracy of Climate Resilient Crops released



      By: ASHOK B SHARMA on: Mon 15 of June, 2009 12:52 GMT
      New Delhi: Biopiracy of traits of climate resilient crops by leading seed multinationals can endanger the income and livelihood of farmers, more particularly in the developing world said a report compiled by a civil society organization, Navdanya.
      In tune with the proposals made by the Group of 77, China and other developing countries at the recently concluded 30th meeting of the Subsidiary Body for Implementation (SBI 30) at the climate change talks in Bonn, Navdanya has appealed that climate-friendly technologies should be excluded from patenting.
      The report – Biopiracy of Climate Resilient Crops – has documented drought resistant rice varieties grown by farmers from generations to generations in different parts of India, including Uttarakhand, West Bengal, Kerala, Karnataka and flood resistant rice varieties grown in Assam, West Bengal, Orissa, Kerala and Karnataka. Quoting the Guinness Book of Record, the report mentioned Mehite Kenye La rice as the tallest grown paddy in the world which grows up to 2.55 metre or 8.5 feet.
      The report documented salinity resistant rice varieties grown in the Sunderban area of West Bengal alongwith the mangroves, Orissa, Kerala, northern Karnataka. It also mentioned some of the diverse aromatic rice varieties and rice varieties having therapeutic values and unique characteristics.
      The Navdanya report expressed concern over the biopiracy being done by leading seed multinationals by getting broad patent rights over climate-resistant traits of conventional crops from different patent offices across the world. German company, BASF has acquired 21 such patent rights. Another German company, Bayers has five such patent rights. Ceres Inc of US which partners with Monsanto holds four such patent rights. The reports also mentioned other seed companies holding such patent rights like Dow, DuPont?, Evogene, Mendel Biotechnology, Monsanto, Syngenta, Agrigenetic, Mycogen, Agrinomics, Pioneer Hi-Bred? International, Plant Research International BV.
      “Climate resistant traits are found in many crops conventionally grown across the world, particularly in tropical and sub-tropical countries. These crops are traditionally bred by farmers. The seed multinationals are robbing the farmers of this traditional knowledge and patenting the traits. Some of them are trying to develop second generation genetically modified (GM) crops based on these traits,” alleged Vandana Shiva of Navdanya.
      According to Shiva GM crops have failed to provide food and nutritional security.. The claim of pest control has turned out to be a hoax. The failure of Bt cotton was an example she said and added that Bt cotton cultivation has placed farmers in heavy losses and brought them to acute point of distress.
      In 1994 Navdanya along with its sister organization, Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology (RFSTE) filed a legal opposition against the USDA and WR Grace patent on fungicidal properties of neem (no 436257 B1) in the European Patent Office (EPO) at Munich, Germany. The patent on neem was revoked in May 2000 and it was reconfirmed on March 8, 2005 when the EPO revoked in entirety the controversial patent and adjudged that there was “no inventive step” involved in the fungicide patent.

      In 1998 Navdanya opposed the patent right given to the US company, RiceTec? over basmati rice vide patent no 5663484. On August 14, 2001 the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) revoked the patent on basmati rice. On January 27, 2004, RFSTE alongwith Greenpeace and India’s leading farmers’ organization, Bharatiya Krishak Samaj the patent right given to Monsanto over the Indian wheat landrace, Nap Hal wide patent no EP 0445929 B1. The patent was revoked by EPO in October, 2004.#

      It is time to act
      Swine flu pandemic : Who is to be blamed ? 

      India not spared by the dangerous virus




      Publication Date  20/6/2009 8:26:58 PM(IST)  
      India entered the global swine flu map with the first detection of a confirmed case on May 17, 2009. A 23-year old non-resident Indian who flew from New York to Hyderabad via Emirates Airways to meet his grand parents was tested positive for the deadly Influenza A – H1N1 – virus. Since May 17, 2009 the number of such cases of swine flu infected travellers to India increased to 30 by June 19, 2007.


      The World Health Organisation (WHO) has declared the outbreak as global pandemic and till June 19, 2009 there had been 44287 H1N1 confirmed cases and 180 human deaths as  the deadly virus already engulfed several regions of the globe including Argentina, Australia, Austria, Bahamas, Bahrain, Barbados, Belgium, Bermuda, Bolivia, Brazil, British Virgin Islands, Bulgaria, Canada, Cayman Islands, Chile, China, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, Estonia, Finland, France, French Polynesia, Martinique, Germany, Greece, Guatemala, Honduras, Hungary, Iceland, India, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Jordan, South Korea, Kuwait, Laos, Lebanon, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Mexico, Morocco, Netherlands, Netherlands Antilles Curaçao, Netherlands Antilles, Sint Maarten, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Norway, Oman, Panama, Papua New Guinea, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Romania, Russia, Samoa, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Slovakia, South Africa, Spain, Sri Lanka, Suriname, Sweden,  Switzerland, Thailand, Trinidad and Tobago, Turkey, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, Isle of Man, Jersey, United States of America, Uruguay, Venezuela, Viet Nam, West Bank and Gaza Strip and Yemen.  Mexico, the epicentre of the current pandemic recorded number of confirmed cases at 7624 and deaths at 113.


      Aware of the consequences of the pandemic countries have imposed quarantine checks at international airports.. Though the WHO has not suggested any travel restrictions the global tourism is doubly impacted by the pandemic and recession.
      India had earlier suffered the impact of the incidence of bird flu three times with the poultry industry taking a beating and ban imposed on Indian poultry imports by different countries. In recent times, the world had suffered the outbreak of SARS, Anthrax apart from that of bird flu and therefore needs to be careful to prevent such incidences.
      Swine flu virus, unlike the bird flu virus, has caused more human deaths. This is not the first time the world is witnessing the incidence of swine flu. It was first detected in 1918 at a US military camp Funston, Fort Riley when troops were preparing for vaccination programme. It was declared pandemic when pigs became sick at the same time as humans and was commonly known as Spanish flu which killed 500,000 Americans and 40 million people worldwide. In February 1976 the death of a soldier at Fort Dix in US confirmed the presence of swine flue virus. However, the virus was not reported to have spread beyond Fort Dix. In September, 1988 swine flu virus was found in pigs in four states in US and within a year it spread to pig population in the country. It killed one woman in Wisconsin and infected at least .hundred of others. In August 20, 2007 Philippines department of agriculture investigated the outbreak of swine flu in Nueva Ecija and Central Luzon and raised hog cholera red alert.
      However, despite such past outbreaks, many questions about its origins, its unusual epidemiologic features, and the basis of its pathogenicity still remain unanswered. Experts believe that the cause of 2009 swine flu which was detected in La Gloria in Veracruz State in Mexico has a different strain of H1N1 virus.
      The US Administration’s Center for Disease Control (CDC) on its website has said : “Swine Influenza (swine flu) is a respiratory disease of pigs caused by type  A influenza virus that cause regular outbreaks in pigs. People do not normally get swine flu, but human infection can and do happen.. Swine flu viruses have been reported to spread from person-to-person, but in the past, this transmission was limited and not sustained beyond three people.”
      According to some scientists swine virus having new strains might have become virulent by randomly mutating through the process of natural selection and become virulent.  The other possibility is that the virus might have been bio-engineered for production of vaccine and might have escaped from the lab due to human error. The WHO is investigating an Australian researcher’s claim that the virus have been created due to human error. Among global leaders, the Indonesian health minister, Siti Fadilah was quick in saying; “I’m not sure whether the virus was genetically engineered but it’s a possibility.”
      Some believe that the origin of the new strain of swine flu virus was due to the unhygienic conditions and concentration of about 950,000 pigs in the commercial farm of Granja Carroll in La Gloria in Mexico, a subsidiary of the US company, Smithfield Foods, the world’s largest pork producer. However, the World Organisation for Animal Health – OIE – reported that this strain has not been isolated in pigs. Acting under the pressure from the global meat industry, the WHO has stopped calling the pandemic as swine flu. It has now preferred to call it H1N1 pandemic.  The pork industry is suffering heavy losses as the initial news of the spread of swine flu led to slaughter of pigs in Egypt and dip in global exports.
      Even though new vaccine strains have not been developed to counter the deadly virus, the global pharma companies like Roche, Gilead, Glaxo SmithKline are making a killing through the sales of antivirals like Tamiflu and Relaxin. The US Administration has already opened an emergency window in its authorisation system to allow Tamiflu and Relaxin to be used more widely on flu sufferers than allowed. Even the small vaccine producers like Biocryst and Novavax are hiving for profit. India, however has moved with caution. It has only stockpiled Tamiflu and has not authorised its retail sales. “Indiscriminate use of this drug by the public could result in the virus developing resistance to this only known treatment of the H1N1 influenza,” an official advisory said


      New technology to produce bio-butanol from agri wastes

      Butanol fast emerging as nextgen biofuel  


      Will it address environmental concerns ?




      Publication Date  21/6/2009 12:57:09 PM(IST)  
      In the search for next generation bio-fuels, butanol produced by fermentation of agricultural products and wastes has emerged as a promising hope for the alternative fuel in future.


      Limited experiments suggest that butanol is an alternative fuel for spark ignition (SI) engines. But cost competitive production technologies have to be put in place and detailed material compatibility studies on the effect on human health have to be done before it can be used as an alternative transportation fuel on a commercial scale.


      Butanol is a four carbon alcohol. Recently, butanol produced by fermentation, know as bio-butanol  can be mixed in higher ratios with gasoline or diesel without phase separation and for use in existing cars without the need for retrofit as the air-fuel ratio and energy content are closer to that of gasoline as the air-fuel  ratio and energy content are closer to that of gasoline. 


      Butanol could gradually replace gasoline as well as diesel due to its high energy content, miscibility, better combustion characteristics, low volatility and other positive qualities, experts say


      According to Mritunjay Kumar Shukla of the Dehradun-based Indian Institute of Petroleum kinematic viscosity of butanol is several times higher than that of gasoline and about as viscous as high quality diesel fuel. Latent heat of vapourisation of butanol is less than half of that of ethanol; an engine running on butanol should be easier to start in cold weather than one running on ethanol.


      Its Stoichometric A/F ratio is 11..2 which allows butanol to function in a standard engine where gasoline is used. The Stoichometric A/F ratio of gasoline is 14.7 while that of ethanol is 9. Butanol’s energy content is about 105,000 Btu per US gallon while that of gasoline is about 114,000 Btu per US gallon. In effect butanol has about 92% of the energy of gasoline. Shukla was recently in Delhi on the occasion of the 6th International Bio-fuel Conference organized by Winrock International India (WII).


      Additionally as butanol has a very low vapour pressure point (RVP) of o.3 and a high flash point (FP) of 37 degree Celsius it is very safe fuel to use in high temperatures. Consequently butanol is a very versatile fuel and fuel extender in both gasoline and diesel engines.


      However, not much studies have been done regarding engine and vehicle testing of butanol. According to Shukla it was demonstrated in June 2006 that n-butanol can be used either 100% in unmodified 4-cycle ignition engine or blended up to 30% with diesel in a compression engine or blended up to 20% with kerosene in a jet turbine engine.


      Laboratory experiments were conducted for evaluation of vehicular performance and tailpipe emissions from butanol/gasoline and ethanol/gasoline at AFLAD, Indian Institute of Petroleum, Dehradun on a 4-stroke motorbike (Bajaj Caliber 115) on a chassis dynamometer. Commercially available gasoline fuel was used for taking the baseline data of test vehicle – 99.9% pure ethanol and 99.9% pure butanol were used for preparing blends of 5% and 10% of ethanol with gasoline and butanol with gasoline. All the alcohol blends showed reduction in mass emission of HC, CO and NOx. CO mass emission was found to be lowest with 10% blended butanol. HC mass emission was lowest with 5% blended ethanol.


      However with all the alcohol blends value of HC mass emission were found to be comparable.  Slightly higher NOx mass emission was observed red in case of butanol blends. All the butanol blends offered a smooth engine operation. Better fuel efficiency was observed with butanol blends over ethanol blends.


      However, environmental concerns still remain. Human inhalation exposure to butanol-1 (20-50 ppm) is irritating to eyes, nose and throat though no systemic effects occur at this exposure level. There is no report of carcinogenicity with butanol-1 and it is classified under Group-D chemicals by EPA.


      Release of n-butanol to soil may result in volatilisation from soil surface and biodegradation is expected to be significant. As n-butanol may not bind strongly to the soil and is, therefore, likely to reach the groundwater level.  Vapour phase n-butanol in the atmosphere is expected to react with photo chemically generated hydroxyl radicals with a half-life of 1.2 to 2.3 days.


      Most common bio-butanol  production process is acetone-butanol-ethanol (ABE) fermentation developed by the Russian scientist and later Israeli president C Weitzman at Manchester University by producing a bacteria which later came to be known as C. acetobutylicum.


      Apart from the ABE route there are EEI’s Dual Immobilised reactors with continuous recovery process using two different types of clostridium strains and UK’s Green Biological’s advance technologies utilizing thermophilic strains. Besides there are emerging technologies for hydrolysis of cellulose using mineral acids, enzymes followed by fermentation of c5/c6 sugars to bio-butanol, Sangi hydroxyapatie (HAP) catalyst for dehydrating bio-ethanol to butanol, gasification of various biological materials to make syngas to produce bio-butanol and CO2 to fuel GTL technologies.


      UN Conference on World Financial Economic Crisis
      Indian trade unions and NGOs call for new global economic order
      Urged for waiving off IMF, World Bank debts






      By: ASHOK B SHARMA on: Tue 23 of June, 2009 13:37 GMT

      On the eve of the United Nations Conference on the World Financial and Economic Crisis and its Impact on Development slated to be held in New York from June 24, country’s trade unions and civil society organizations have demanded that India take a firm stand by urging for replacing the ailing global financial architecture by a new one embodying principles of economic justice and equitable Development.
      They have also said that the Indian government should send a responsible minister to participate in this crucial global conference and not just send some officials.
      In a joint letter to the Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, the Deputy General Secretary of All India Trade Union Congress, H Mahadevan, J John and G Manicandan of Centre for Education and Communication, Sumit Chopra of All India Agricultural Workers’ Union and Ashok Chowdhury of National Forum for Forest People and Forest Workers have said : “the global financial and economic crisis is structural in nature and that the current free trade paradigm is a major part of the problem. The financial crisis has shown that free markets and free trade cannot correct themselves. Therefore, we urge you to Work towards an end to liberalized trade in risky financial products and the deregulation of financial service providers, which has been made possible under the WTO General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS).”
      They have also called for rejecting the position that conclusion of the Doha Round of negotiations would be a solution to the crisis. On the contrary, continuing liberalization of the financial sector of national economies through the GATS and the free trade agreements (FTAs) would only serve to worsen the crisis. Once the financial services were liberalized, the foreign banks would refuse to provide credit to small farmers and local industries and would finance mega and resource extraction projects which would be detrimental to environment, they said.
      The trade union leaders and civil society organizations called for strengthening the role of the United Nations in overall global economic governance and crisis resolution and to coordinate global institutions like the WTO, World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF). They alleged that the earlier draft circulated for the UN Conference on the World Financial and Economic Crisis and its Impact on Development had called for a setting up of new Global Economic Council and this provision alongwith other proposals suggested by noted economist Joseph Stiglitz were deleted in the subsequent draft at the instance of the rich nations represented by G-7.
      They alleged that the present draft was modeled on the lines of the G-20 approach which cannot solve the problem as “G-20 was acting as a shield to protect the interests of G-7” The World Bank and IMF conditionality have stifled growth in poor countries the debts should be waived off. The new global economic order should aim at people’s participation in shaping economic policy, food and energy sovereignty, universal access to essential services and public utilities, protection and promotion of human rights including that of indigenous people, women and children. The United Nations should be domocratised with equal voting rights for member countries.#

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