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Half of India vulnerable to alien invasive plant species: Study

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Picture credit: blenderartists.org
Picture credit: blenderartists.org

Kolkata: According to a new study, nearly half of India’s total geographical area is prone to invasion by alien plant. It shows that biodiversity hotspots in India are “especially vulnerable” and limiting human interference in remote forests is necessary.

Scientists from North-Eastern Hill University (NEHU), Shillong, have created the first pan-India catalogue of regions most susceptible to invasion and identified the ‘hotspots’.

‘Hotspots’ are regions that are climatically and geographically most suited for alien invasive species – species which colonise, spread and invade new territories.

“Almost half of the total geographical area of India is prone to invasion by alien plant species with moderate and high levels of climatic suitability,” Saroj K. Barik, co-author of the study and a professor at the Centre for Advanced Studies in Botany, NEHU, told IANS.

In India, alien plant species constitute 40 percent of the total plant diversity, of which 25 percent are invasive (such as Siam weed, bitter vine, water hyacinth and mesquite).

Alien invasive species threaten the biodiversity hotspots, he said.

Key findings show most ecologically sensitive regions of India, including the biodiversity hotspots, islands, coastal forests, freshwater swamp forests, mangroves and protected forest reserves, croplands, rangelands and village biomes coincide with the identified ‘invasion hotspots’, indicating their vulnerability to alien plant invasion.

Barik said more than half of the geographical areas of Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Dadra and Nagar Haveli, Daman and Diu, Goa, Kerala, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Odisha, Pondicherry, Tamil Nadu, Tripura and West Bengal are at “high risk” of being invaded by alien plant species.

Some of the major port towns such as Mumbai, Ratnagiri, Panaji, Nagapattnam, Chennai, Kakinada, Paradip, and Haldia fall within the identified invasion hotspots. Such areas provide suitable habitats for colonisation of alien invasive species after being introduced through shipping routes.

The study (using modelling and GIS data), carried out by Barik, D. Adhikari and R. Tiwary of NEHU is published in ‘PLoS One’ journal and contributes to the comparatively little studied genre of ecological invasion.

Additionally, it sheds light on the fact that remote forest areas with high tree cover and low human population are “unlikely” to be invasion hotspots. This stresses on the necessity of minimum human interference, said Barik.

“Delineating the areas climatically suitable for invasion by diverse species would enable us to gauge the extent of damage the invasive plants can incur to the native biodiversity, assist to identify areas threatened by invasion and facilitate formulation of appropriate policy for their control and management,” said Barik.

Worldwide, alien invasive species cause an estimated annual economic loss of $314 billion in the agriculture and forestry sectors, of which India’s share is around $116 billion.

(IANS)

 

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Diesel Exhaust Converted Into Ink by Indian Innovators To Battle Air Pollution

Supervised by young engineers, workers at the start-up company Chakr Innovation in New Delhi cut and weld sheets of metal to make devices that will capture black plumes of smoke from diesel generators and convert it into ink.

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representational image. VOA

Supervised by young engineers, workers at the start-up company Chakr Innovation in New Delhi cut and weld sheets of metal to make devices that will capture black plumes of smoke from diesel generators and convert it into ink.

In a cabin, young engineers pore over drawings and hunch over computers as they explore more applications of the technology that they hope will aid progress in cleaning up the Indian capital’s toxic air – among the world’s dirtiest.

While the millions of cars that ply Delhi’s streets are usually blamed for the city’s deadly air pollution, another big culprit is the massive diesel generators used by industries and buildings to light up homes and offices during outages when power from the grid switches off – a frequent occurrence in summer. Installed in backyards and basements, they stay away from the public eye.

“Although vehicular emissions are the show stoppers, they are the ones which get the media attention, the silent polluters are the diesel generators,” says Arpit Dhupar, one of the three engineers who co-founded the start up.

The idea that this polluting smoke needs attention struck Dhupar three years ago as he sipped a glass of sugarcane juice at a roadside vendor and saw a wall blackened with the fumes of a diesel generator he was using.

It jolted him into joining with two others who co-founded the start-up to find a solution. Dhupar had experienced first hand the deadly impact of this pollution as he developed respiratory problems growing up in Delhi.

An Indian girls holds a banner during a protest against air pollution in New Delhi, India, Nov. 6, 2016.
An Indian girls holds a banner during a protest against air pollution in New Delhi, India, Nov. 6, 2016.

A new business

As the city’s dirty air becomes a serious health hazard for many citizens, it has turned into both a calling and a business opportunity for entrepreneurs looking at ways to improve air quality.

According to estimates, vehicles contribute 22 percent of the deadly PM 2.5 emissions in Delhi, while the share of diesel generators is about 15 percent. These emissions settle deep into the lungs, causing a host of respiratory problems.

After over two years of research and development, Chakr has begun selling devices to tap the diesel exhaust. They have been installed in 50 places, include public sector and private companies.

The technology involves cooling the exhaust in a “heat exchanger” where the tiny soot particles come together. These are then funneled into another chamber that captures 70 to 90 percent of the particulate matter. The carbon is isolated and converted into ink.

Among their first clients was one of the city’s top law firms, Jyoti Sagar Associates, which is housed in a building in Delhi’s business hub Gurgaon.

Making a contribution to minimizing the carbon footprint is a subject that is close to Sagar’s heart – his 32-year-old daughter has long suffered from the harmful effects of Delhi’s toxic air.

Motorists drive surrounded by smog, in New Delhi, India, Nov. 8, 2017.
Motorists drive surrounded by smog, in New Delhi, India, Nov. 8, 2017.

“This appealed to us straightaway, the technology is very impactful but is beautifully simple,” says Sagar. Since it could be retrofitted, it did not disrupt the day-to-day activities at the buzzing office. “Let’s be responsible. Let’s at least not leave behind a larger footprint of carbon. And if we can afford to control it, why not, it’s good for all,” he says.

At Chakr Innovation, cups, diaries and paper bags printed with the ink made from the exhaust serve as constant reminders of the amount of carbon emissions that would have escaped into the atmosphere.

There has been a lot of focus on improving Delhi’s air by reducing vehicular pollution and making more stringent norms for manufacturers, but the same has not happened for diesel generators. Although there are efforts to penalize businesses that dirty the atmosphere, this often prompts them to find ways to get around the norms.

Also Read: Exposure to Traffic-Related Pollution Poses Threat of Asthma in Kids

Tushar Mathur who joined the start up after working for ten years in the corporate sector feels converting smoke into ink is a viable solution. “Here is a technology which is completely sustainable, a win-win between businesses and environment,” says Mathur. (VOA)