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Nualgi Nano Biotech to save polluted Ulsoor Lake in Bengaluru

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A view of pollution at Ulsoor lake. Photo: mashable.com
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Bengaluru: A novel product developed by Nualgi Nano Biotech (NNB), a low-profile biotech company here, is helping clean up sewage-polluted Ulsoor Lake where thousands of fish were found dead last week owing to depletion of dissolved oxygen.

Ulsoor Lake, famous for army rowing competitions as well as for boating among tourists, was seen covered with thousands of dead fish that left people here stunned.

“Called Nualgi, it is a mixture of micro-nutrients in the form of nano-particles, including silica, iron, and manganese,” said Thothathri Sampathkumar, who founded the company which patented the product in India in 2008.

“‘Nualgi’ triggers the rapid growth of a type of algae called ‘diatoms’ and the oxygen released by the diatoms through photosynthesis quickly increases the dissolved oxygen level of water and thus keeps the pond clean,” Sampathkumar told IANS.

According to Sampathkumar, one kg of Nualgi can treat four million liters of water, adding that the affected fishermen — who have the contract for fishing in Ulsoor lake – have purchased 40 liters of “Nualgi” from his company on March 6 to increase the dissolved oxygen level and stop further fish death.

“We can see the results very soon,” added Sampathkumar.

“Nualgi can be used to grow “diatom” algae in any water including sewage polluted water. The growing “diatoms” absorb carbon dioxide from the air and, by photosynthesis, release oxygen at the micro plant level. The oxygen released helps aerobic bacteria breakdown organics in the water into base constituents, thereby eliminating the stinking odour from the water.

The growing “diatoms” are eaten by zooplankton that, in turn, is consumed by fish. “The fish clean up the lakes of all ‘diatoms’, zooplankton and organics, thus restoring the polluted lakes and water bodies to its original glory,” said Sampathkumar.

According to him, the mass fish death in Ulsoor lake took place, perhaps because the fishermen ran out of their stock of Nualgi or missed its timely application.

The tragedy could have been averted had the authorities installed monitors to continuously record the level of dissolved oxygen (DO) in the lake water and alert them when DO falls below a critical level. These DO monitors, he said, are now commercially available.

“Nualgi has been patented also in the US, Britain, Germany, and South Africa. Five years ago, the three-acre “Duck Pond” in New York state in the US that “was in a highly impaired state with a variety of water quality issues” was restored to normal health thanks to “Nualgi.”

Lake Savers, the US company that tried it out, had acknowledged in an email to Sampathkumar that the water quality of “Duck Pond” showed a “remarkable and sustained improvement” after a single dose of Nualgi application and that “fish productivity and health improved dramatically.”

Encouraged by its successful experiment in New York’s “Duck Pond”, Lake Savers had obtained clearance from the US Environmental Protection Agency for using Nualgi on a large scale in the country.

Nualgi, that requires no skilled labor, is an economical alternative to treat sewage and organic wastes in “eutrophic” lakes and ponds contaminated by nitrogen or phosphorus compounds, such as by laundry detergents, untreated sewage, and fertilizer run-off from agricultural lands.

“Nualgi is being used in many lakes in southern India for the past several years and fishermen are buying the product to increase fish catch in water bodies.

Sampathkumar is hopeful of promoting its use worldwide to revive fresh water “eutrophic lakes” and “dead zones” in coastal regions that are so much deprived of oxygen that they can’t support aquatic life. (K.S. Jayaraman, IANS)

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Maharashtra’s climate action plan yielded disappointments

Broadly speaking, the plan discusses the impact of climate change on six sectors -- agriculture, water resources, health, forests and biodiversity, livelihoods, and energy and infrastructure.

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Climate action plans were not up to the mark. Pixabay
Climate action plans were not up to the mark. Pixabay
  • The Maharashtra climate action plan yields huge disappointments as it failed to recognize crucial issues in its implementation.
  • The issues like air pollution and damage through thunderstorms and lightening were ignored.
  • The plan only focused on six major factors.

Mumbai, Jan 1: Eight years after the Centre’s direction to formulate a state action plan on climate change, and seven years after awarding the contract for a comprehensive vulnerability assessment study, the Maharashtra cabinet has finally adopted a plan on climate change.

Titled ‘Assessing Climate Change Vulnerability and Adaptation Strategies for Maharashtra: Maharashtra State Action Plan on Climate Change, and prepared by The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI), the action plan assesses vulnerability of the state to changing climate and outlines broad and ambitious strategies for building a climate-resilient future.

Rice Farm, Farming, Agriculture, Farm
Action plan focuses on 6 major factors, including agriculture. Pixabay

The action plan, built on high resolution modelling for which TERI entered into a partnership with the UK Met Office, projects changes in temperature and rainfall across the state at a resolution of about 25 km by 25 km for time periods 2030s, 2050s and 2070s — with the average climate during 1970-2000 as the model’s baseline.

An important component of the action plan is the Macro Level Vulnerability Index based on 19 indicators, which has identified the most vulnerable districts in Maharashtra: Nandurbar is the most climate change-vulnerable district, followed by Dhule and Buldhana. Satara is regarded as the least vulnerable district. Ratnagiri and Sindhudurg are also considered less vulnerable to changes in the climate. The state government has announced setting up a panel of experts to oversee the implementation of the report.

India, Mumbai, Bombay, Tourism
Issues related to thunderstorm and lightening were not taken into consideration. Pixabay

But, meteorologists and environment experts aren’t satisfied with the action plan. “The state has taken considerable time to come up with its adaptation plan on climate change. But the plan misses out on some crucial weather events, such as thunderstorm and lightning, that are linked to climatic changes. Air pollution, an important environment factor, is also missing from the plan,” said Akshay Deoras, Nagpur-based meteorologist.

Ashok Jaswal, former scientist with the India Meteorological Department (IMD), Pune, stresses that an effective state action plan should include all direct and indirect climatic parameters.

“Air pollutants are aerosols and have their own different properties. Some are salt-based, whereas others are carbon-based, or dust, or smoke. Some reflect solar radiation, whereas others trap heat,” he said. “These aerosols influence cloud formation, rainfall and the overall climate, and must be a part of the state action plan on climate change.”

Broadly speaking, the plan discusses the impact of climate change on six sectors — agriculture, water resources, health, forests and biodiversity, livelihoods, and energy and infrastructure. It also makes projections for rainfall and temperature in the state; and assesses the future sea level rise. A section in the plan is dedicated to extreme rainfall, flooding and adaptation in the Mumbai Metropolitan Region.

The document shows that temperature and rainfall are projected to increase all over the state with some regional variations. Amravati division (Vidarbha region) and Aurangabad division (Marathwada region) are going to experience greater rise in annual mean temperatures than other parts of the state.

The projected increase in annual mean temperature for Amravati is expected to be 1.44-1.64 degree C, 2.2-2.35 degree C, and 3.06-3.46 degree C in 2030s, 2050s and 2070s, respectively. For the same time periods, the projected annual mean temperature increase for Aurangabad division is 1.44-1.56 degree C, 2.15-2.3 degree C, and 3.14-3.38 degree C, respectively. An increase in temperature is likely to lead to a decrease in yields for some crops, such as rice, sorghum and cotton.

Minimum temperature is also projected to increase, particularly in the divisions of Konkan, Pune and Nashik, which could have an adverse impact on crops sensitive to high night temperatures in the reproductive phase, such as grain growth in rice or tuberisation in potatoes, warns the state action plan.

The government's efforts came up short. Pixabay
The government’s efforts came up short. Pixabay

The action plan notes that an increase in temperature will be conducive to malaria-transmitting mosquitoes in eastern and coastal (Thane and Raigad regions) Maharashtra in 2030s. By the 2050s, a faster rate of parasite development will take place in Aurangabad, Jalna and Nashik districts.

Since a warmer atmosphere has a higher capacity to hold water vapour, it will lead to intense rainfall events with longer dry or low rainfall spells in between. Extreme rainfall is projected to increase in all regions of the state with greater increases in the northern parts of the state.

Meanwhile, parts of south-central Maharashtra are projected to experience more dry days in the 2030s as compared to the baseline. These districts of Marathwada are already prone to recurring droughts and infamous for farmers’ suicides.

“The findings… clearly describe the adverse impacts of climate change on all regions of the state. The report shows the worrying trend of an increase in extreme weather events and heavy precipitation days,” said Parineeta Dandekar, associate co-ordinator of the South Asian Network on Dams, Rivers and People.

“Increased rainfall will lead to heavy flooding, which will have a direct bearing on the state’s water infrastructure. But, the action plan fails to elaborate upon ways to manage the water infrastructure in times of climate change.”

Lightning is listed as a state-specific disaster in Maharashtra, but the state action plan makes no mention of lightning, which is linked to climatic changes. “Rising temperature means more evaporation and high moisture content in the atmosphere, which leads to more thunderstorm activity and an increased incidence of lightning,” explained Jaswal.

A recent study, ‘Distribution of Lightning Casualities over Maharashtra’, has examined lightning deaths in the state between 1979 and 2011 and found 2,363 casualties from 455 lighting events. On an average 72 casualties per year have been reported with significant increasing trend.

“It is shocking that in spite of so many lives being lost each year due to lightning, the state action plan does not even mention the terms thunderstorm and lightning. Unless the plan acknowledges these weather events, how will the state government manage such disasters?” questioned Deoras.

The action plan does take note of the adverse impacts of hailstorm on horticulture crops in the state. For instance, it notes that hailstorms destroyed the grape crop in 2008-09. In 2010, almost 15 percent of the orange crop was destroyed due to rising heat and untimely hailstorm. But it fails to provide pointed information on ways to minimise impact on crops.

The action plan also makes no mention of air pollution. “Not including air pollution in the state climate action plan is a major drawback and the same must be rectified at the earliest,” said Jaswal.

Dandekar stresses on the need for translating action points into swift action. “The recommendations should not remain on paper, but must be included in the various state policies for immediate implementation,” she said. Deoras recommends setting up of a committee to reframe the action plan, by including the above-mentioned points, and then working towards the plan’s implementation by providing specific directions. IANS