Tag: Nature

Nature-al Instincts

Nature-al Instincts

Ecosystem \’e-ko-sis-tem\ n: Any group of living and nonliving things interacting with each other.

According to this definition, we are all a part of an ecosystem. A city, in spite of its concrete development and high density human population, is still an ecosystem. We are surrounded by nature everywhere – birds, insects, animals, trees, plants, clouds, atmosphere, lakes and other water bodies and many more living and non-living   things around us. But how often do we stop and think about it? Every morning when you look up in the sky, you’ll find hundreds of small and large birds crisscrossing the sky, but how many types of species can you identify? Do you ever stop and wonder which lakes supply water to you?   What about trees and their impact on attracting rain? Our busy urban life disconnects us from nature. But NGOs such as HOPE, Hariyali and Jidnyasa consistently work to remind us gently that we’re an inseparable part of the ecosystem.

The city, as an ecosystem, is in fact an ideal classroom for science as Jidnyasa Trust showed us by organising a bio-diversity camp for city students. 20 enthusiastic participants, all college students between 16 and 21 years, toiled for six hours every day for seven days to learn about the ecosystem they inhabit. Every evening, from 5 to 8 pm, the participants would sit through an audio-visual presentation followed by a field trip the next morning from 6.30 to 9.30 am. The camp was made possible by several experts who work in the sphere of environment protection. Dr Sanjay Deshmukh, world renowned expert on conservation of mangroves, and Dr Madhuri Pejawar, principal of Bedekar College, also known for her work in the same area, explained the importance of mangroves to the ecosystem. Hema Gupte and Amol Patwardhan from HOPE helped them in bird-watching and nature trails. While the audio visual lessons were at the Jignyasa-run Science Exploratory at Court Naka, the field work included trips to Yeoor and Thane Creek, which is on the verge of dying. The trip to the creek was particularly adventurous as the group embarked on a two-hour boat-ride from Vasai Bridge and then made a one-hour trek on the other side of the creek.

To assist participants on bird-watching Jidnyasa also circulated a small booklet authored by Hema Gupte. Manasai Apte, one of the participants, said, "We were enthusiastic throughout the camp and as we gathered vital information about the ecosystem and also the importance of maintaining a healthy balance."

Just like the 20 campers got up and close with nature, the rest of us can do too. Simply resolve to spend some time to contemplate the beauty that surrounds us, the miracle of trees growing, flowers blossoming, birds chirping and rain falling. Develop a habit of appreciating and respecting nature. Commit to memory what the legendary US architect Frank Lloyd Wright once said, "I believe in God, only I spell it N-A-T-U-R-E."

The Reach of Science
At 9 am today, DD national will telecast a special documentary called Vigyan Gaatha (Maharashtra’s Science Glory) produced by Jidnyasa Trust. The documentary will highlight the reach of science and technology and its impact on rural areas. Conceived and directed by Rajiv Shah and assisted by Santosh Deodhar and Balchandra Bhave, the documentary is part of the Year of Scientific Awareness, which the government of India is observing and of which Jignyasa was appointed as state coordinator.

Surendra Dighe, Managing Trustee of Jidnyasa revealed, "The documentary captures the tremendous spread of science and technology in rural Maharashtra and to what extent it has managed to change the habits and approaches of the villagers." The documentary covers four villages including Kadam Wadi, which was declared as Ideal village by the Maharashtra Government and which enjoys 100 per cent literacy. What the documentary reveals is extraordinary – for instance, willage women draped in traditional saris working on computers, or innovative methods of producing and conserving energy. Dr Anil Kakodkar, chairman of Atomic Energy Commission took a personal interest in this documentary by donating Rs 1 Lakh towards underwriting the cost of production. So make sure you switch the idiot box at 9 am today.

The 20-minute documentary seems to have impressed DD officials also, since they have now given their go ahead for a second part of documentary. This one will focus on the role of science and technology on health and agriculture. The cleaning of Masunda Lake is also likely to feature in the second part. We’ll keep you updated on this one.

In a Perfect Setting

In a Perfect Setting

We had waited in anticipation for the wet spell the whole of July. When it finally arrived in early August, we didn’t waste any time and set out for the eagerly awaited annual trek to Yeoor Hills. We were six of us, each an ardent lover of adventure, hungry to grab a slice of nature. We hopped inside a TMT bus that took us to the village, where we left all our belongings except for one haversack that contained food and water. The sky was overcast, creating just the right mood for a trek of this sort. We could feel the vibes of the wilderness from the moment we began our long walk towards the forest.

As it is with friends, we were cracking jokes and laughing our way to the waterfalls. Yet, as we progressed towards our destination, I began to feel disconnected with the rest of the group. While I continued chitchatting with my buddies, a sense of quiet comfort enveloped me. I sensed that there was magic in the air.

The path cuts through dense forest. All through our journey, we could hear faint sounds of several streams. After walking on the muddy terrain for about 45 minutes, and crossing one rather forceful channel of water, we could finally sight the spot where we would be camping. But to reach there, we had to walk through a broad stream of clear water, and several mini-waterfalls right in the middle of the forest-mountain, over thousands of small pebbles, rocks and soil. One has to be particularly careful while walking on these smooth rocks, which have been rendered rather slippery due to the continuous flow of water.

Since we had started out early, the place was still deserted. But I knew that soon there would be flocks arriving. So I urged our people to search another spot. None of them agreed as they thought it was too risky to venture into the unknown jungle, especially since newspapers had reported many deaths in the area recently. But I wasn’t deterred and decided to go surveying the place all alone, despite the disapproval of my friends.  

Soon the explorer in me took over and I found myself delving deeper into the forest-hills. After navigating for a while through the uneven, often slimy rocks, I got to a place that I call perfect setting: two streams flowing from opposite directions merging into one, enclosed by tree-covered hills on all sides. The feeling I had there was compelling and I decided to spend some time in quiet contemplation.

As I observed the beautiful surroundings and inhaled the fresh air, I could hear the reverberation of many different sounds. Birds chirping, water rushing through the rocks, splashing me frequently, and the cool gusts of wind. I felt in touch with that universal energy, the source of all that is, the divine intelligence that we call God.   It was a blissful experience – so serene yet so energising.   As I sat on one of the rocks, the words of Dr. Wayne Dyer flowed through my mind: We are not human beings having a spiritual experience; we are spiritual beings having a human experience.

My retreat was soon disturbed by the callings of my friends, who had begun to get worried about me. I saw them approaching towards me. But I still had some time with myself and I decided to savour these wonderfully tranquil moments so that I could recall them once I left.

I spent the rest of my trip with my friends, but there was a feeling of detachment. I had left a part of me in that perfect setting – the part that is my invisible, spiritual self.

Walking the wild side

Walking the wild side

Imagine walking through the wild terrain among thick tall trees with sunlight piercing the denseness of the jungle. Imagine camping near a beautiful alpine lake and swimming in its refreshingly cool waters. Imagine observing wildlife from close quarters during daytime and gazing at brilliant stars of the Milky Way during nighttime. If you are a keen naturalist or someone who likes adventure travel in wilderness areas, then this must sound really exciting.

A few days back, twenty two young boys and girls (fifth to ninth graders) set off for a nature trek similar to one described above. Organised by Thane’s Blue Whale Nature and Science Club, the trek lasted four days and made the young minds richer. Their journey began at Lonavala, from where the group walked fifteen long kilometres to reach Rajmachi, a hilltop village surrounded by forest. That night, Vikas Bhat held a star gazing session. Equipped with a telescope, he revealed facts about the various planets and stars. He also discussed the Big Bang theory and the current zodiac constellation.

The next day, Sriram Kohli and Chandrakant Bedekar taught the children the exciting technique of rappelling, which, for the uninitiated, is the art of descending from a fixed height (usually rocky mountains) using a rope. Later that day Ranganath Vare, conducted a session on snakes. He discussed the various types of snakes and revealed the method of identifying the poisonous from the non-poisonous ones. He even demonstrated the technique of catching snakes. The day ended with a fire camp.

The following day, it was time for some bird watching (the jungle variety!). The entire group was broken up into smaller sub groups and they dispersed in various directions. Silence is extremely important when observing wild birds so as not to scare them away. Once again, wild life expert Vare, identified the different species of birds, while the trekkers looked in awe. On the last day, before heading back to Thane, group leader Sriram Kohli demonstrated the purpose and usage of hiking equipment.

At the end of an adventure trek, one is physically tired, but is mentally and spiritually refreshed and ready to take on the world. That’s because nature has the power to recharge your emotions.

If you too are interested in unwinding, you may contact Sameer Sawant from Blue Whale Nature and Science Club on 5374953

Shock-O-Block
Each day, electricity lights offices, runs machines and equipment and operates plants. But, each year contact with electricity kills or injures hundreds of thousands of people. In recent years, electrocution has risen to be the third major cause of death due to industrial accidents. In Maharashtra alone, more than 1500 deaths occur due to electric shocks.

You can never tell when contact with electricity will be fatal, but you can be sure it will always hurt. Ignorance of basic electrical principles and misuse of electrical equipment often results in accidents such as electrical shocks, burns, fires, explosions and sometimes even death. What most people fail to realise is that its not just monstrous industrial equipment that can kill or injure. You can also be killed by a shock from an appliance or power cord in your home. Despite these obvious dangers, electrical energy is perhaps the most taken-for-granted form of energy.

Last week Thaneites witnessed an electrical safety awareness drive being carried out at Thane Railway Station. More than ten thousand "dos and don’ts" leaflets were distributed among the public. A motor-cycle rally was also taken out, educating residents, shop-owners and industrial workers in the city. Banners, posters and placards were put up at prominent locations. All this was a part of the state-wide "Electrical Safety Week" programme being observed by the Energy and Labour Department of Government of Maharashtra. Large and reputed organizations such as TATA Power, Hindustan Construction Company and Otis Elevators supported the campaign by sponsoring the various parts of it.

The safety week campaign aimed to propagate tips on safe and correct usage of electrical appliances and machinery. Qualified persons held demonstrations on how to put out electrical fire, how to treat an electrocuted person etc and also gave other useful guidelines.

The message of this campaign was clear: To protect yourself, your family and coworkers, always practice electrical safety.

For more information on electrical safety, you may contact:

Office of Electrical Inspector
Wagle Estate
11th Road,
Near Passport Office,
Thane (West)
Tel: 5821848

FACT FILE Some Dos & Don’ts of Electrical Safety (Issued by PWD, Govt. of Maharashtra)

  1. Use I.S.I marked or Quality Control certified materials and appliances.
  2. Get wiring and earthing (grounding) tested periodically by a licensed electrical contractor.
  3. Use fuse wire of proper capacity or use M.C.B. of proper capacity to avoid danger of overload or short circuit.
  4. Use E.L.C.B. to avoid accidents from earth leakage current.
  5. Use 3-pin plugs for all appliances
  6. Use only one plug in one socket.
  7. For fire due to short circuit, first switch off main-switch. Do not use water. Use dry chemical type fire extinguisher.
  8. Do not hang clothes on the electric wires.
  9. Do not allow children to fly kites in the vicinity of high tension overhead electrical transmission lines.
  10. Do not use pump-room, lift machine room and meter room as a storage room.
  11. Do not handle electrical appliances with wet hands.
  12. Do not put bare wires in the plug socket.
Humane Project

Humane Project

Money donation for good causes is a great thing to do. But donating blood to save precious lives is perhaps the noblest of all donations.

For those who are wary of blood donation for the fear of contracting undesirable diseases, please note that improvements to the blood collection process have made giving blood today safer than ever. In addition to the mini medical examination, which makes sure donors are healthy, a new needle is used for each blood donation, and once it is used, the needle is destroyed.

In fact, studies suggest that blood donation is a healthy practice as each donor passes through the mini medical test – there have been cases when high blood pressure among certain individuals has been discovered during the process of blood donation. Preliminary studies have also found that heart attacks and other cardiac problems were less common in men who had donated blood compared to men who had not.

Now that you are aware of the rewards that accompany blood donation, you may want to make your self available for this noble deed. Fortunately, the Rotaract Club of Thane East (RCTE) has pioneered a project called "Lifeline" – an enduring blood donation drive for the benefit of the poor and the needy. The RCTE has committed itself to help those in dire need of blood and cannot afford to pay massive sums that are needed to buy blood.

Manish Kotwani, member of RCTE says, "We have tied up with Pooja Blood Bank in Mulund, wherein we deposit the bottles on an ongoing basis and these bottles would be mobilized to help the poor & needy on a 24/7 basis. In this endeavor, we would be able to serve the community better if we are able to get help from responsible citizens."

So if you or any of your friends are interested in donating blood, please contact Manish Kotwani on 540 1004 or email thane-east@rotaract.org

Trunk Call
Kahlil Gibran, one of the greatest poet-philosophers humankind has seen, wrote "Trees are poems that the earth writes upon the sky. We fell them and turn them into paper, so that we may record our emptiness".

Nature lovers in Thane would be happy to know that Thane Municipal Corporation has taken up a tree counting and surveying drive in Thane city. Along with M/s Environment and Biotechnology Foundation, the TMC has already surveyed eighty thousand trees over ten wards.

Commenced on March 15, 2001, this massive crusade aims to collect detailed information about the city’s trees so that they can protect endangered species, improve the quality of others and weed out degenerating ones.

The survey will collect information based on several interesting parameters. Class, species, genus etc. will provide botanical information. The survey will also determine the age of the tree using a scientific approach. In fact, this campaign has helped find trees that are as old as one hundred fifty years. Other parameters of information such as height, area of growth (forest, road, private property, lake etc.) and medicinal quality would also be recorded. Areas that have potential for tree plantation would be noted too. Students of Botany would benefit greatly from this kind of data.

But perhaps the most important information that this campaign would provide will be that of the optimum number of trees required for tackling the grand problem of pollution. The authorities plan to use this vital information to create and enforce laws on tree-destruction.

The project is expected to get over in June 2002.

The Fake Terrorist

The Fake Terrorist

Mistrust among the people is growing, as was amply demonstrated in a BEST bus recently. It was about 4:30 pm and the 496 Ltd. had begun its journey from Thane Flyover to Andheri Station. When the bus reached Mulund Check Naka, a passenger noticed an "abandoned" suitcase lying on the front seat. The conductor inquired with the passengers if the suitcase belonged anyone of them. When nobody owned it up, fear began enveloping the passengers.

Soon, everyone was heard discussing what action should be taken. One passenger suggested that the bus be taken to the nearby fire station. Another proposed calling the police. Few passengers even tried to recollect if they had seen the "terrorist" slipping away. Patience was running out and the bus was finally evacuated at the Bhandup Police Chowki stop and the conductor informed the police station. A constable came to investigate but even he refused to take the "risk" of touching the bag.

The "case" was finally solved when a man from the next 496 Ltd. got down and came running to claim the bag. It turned out that he had mistakenly left his suitcase behind as he got off from the bus at the Thane flyover, which was the last stop.

A worthy Successor
Padmashri Padmaja Phenani-Joglekar is a household name amongst music lovers in Maharashtra. Last week, Thaneites had the privilege of listening to some vintage Marathi songs in her inimitable voice. She was at The Gadkari Rangayatan as part of a charity show.

During the show, the compere narrated an interesting anecdote about Padmajaji. Reporters at the New York Airport once asked Lata Mangeshkar which singer in her opinion was fit to be her successor? Lataji replied without hesitation, "There’s only one: Padmaja Phenani".

Recently, at a function in New Delhi, Padmajaji recited a few poems of Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee. The PM was present too. The compere asked Padmajaji if she was nervous and overwhelmed by his presence. Ever humble and witty, she replied that India was indeed lucky to have such a sensitive poet-leader and that his presence and encouragement was re-assuring.

Once she started singing, she closed her eyes, as she usually does, lost in her melody, completely oblivious to her distinguished audience.

Wonder Kid’s Compassion
Amey Gawand’s compassion towards animals is really touching. This physically challenged child from Thane is extremely clever and won numerous competitions. His school friends have nicknamed him "the wonder kid" after Times of India carried a story on him last year with the same title.

When Amey was 6 years old, he created a profound impact on his father. Dr. Gawand, a self-professed, hard-core non-vegetarian, was preparing himself for his regular dish of chicken and meat, when Amey walked up to him and asked him a few straight-from-the-heart questions:

"Dad, can you give life to anybody?" "No", replied his father. "Then what right do you have, to take anyone’s life?"

"Fish, chicken… did they come and trouble you?" "No", said the doctor. "Then why do you trouble them?"

"Dad, I have seen small chicks gather under the hen for protection. This shows that they have a family. Would you like it, if someone troubles your family?" "Of course not, son" replied his father. "Then why do you trouble them?"

"If you really crave eating flesh, try eating tigers and lions. Why do you go after the helpless ones?" Dr. Gawand did not have an answer to this one.

Soon afterwards, he voluntarily left eating non-vegetarian food. His son’s questions had hit him real hard.

A hope for nature lovers
Of its many drawbacks, urbanisation’s toll on environmental balance is perhaps the biggest. But nature-lovers in Thane still have HOPE. Instituted by the Rotary Club of Thane, Here On Project Environment or HOPE, as its popularly known, is an active club of nature loving beings.

Don’t be too surprised if you see people of all ages, enthusiastically planting mangroves near the Kalwa Bridge. HOPE regularly organises such plantations, which go a long way in restoring and maintaining an ecological balance

A club dedicated to the environment, HOPE holds meetings every Saturday, between 7 and 9 in the evening. Environment experts, forest officers and HOPE members talk about their experiences and discuss future projects to deal with pollution, global warming, tiger conservation, illegal forest trade and more. These meetings are open for all and HOPE encourages nature-conscious Thane citizens to attend these meetings.

From time to time, HOPE also organises Nature treks and Workshops to teach new skills such as nature photography and garbage recycling.

The ever-increasing amounts of work in such fields require more dedicated members and HOPE invites collegians, housewives, retirees, and others with some free time to spare to come forth and join the organization. For more information, contact Shyam Ghate at 5422493.

"Good Health for Thane"
Yoga, which is enjoying growing popularity in the western countries, is also gripping Thane-ites. This can be gauged from the success of the Teachers’ course for Yoga conducted by Ghantali Mitra Mandal. This certificate course has initiated thousands of Yoga Teachers around the city since 1971. Young and old, from all walks of life, attend this course and then go on to spread the knowledge elsewhere.

The 10-week covers all the major aspects of Yoga, including history of Yoga, meditation, diet, the various asanas and pranayama etc. The organisation also holds focused programs on obesity, asthma, blood pressure and other stress related health problems.

Based on the tremendous success of these programs, the organization extended them new centres such as Gadkari Rangayatan, Sahyog Mandir and Shiv Malti Sabahgruh. The objective of the organization is to make the course and the programs available to as many people as possible.

Yoga is synonymous with stress reduction, and if practiced regularly, it is a very powerful healing and transformational tool. For those who wish to take the course or attend any of the programs conducted by the organisation, they may contact Ghantali Mitra Mandal at 5361349.