Bangalore Environment Trust Newsletter, December
Sat, 03/03/2007 - 19:59 — admin
Karnataka Heritage Society : Project on
The Karnataka Heritage Society was set up with the brief of
identifying and preserving the hereditary treasures of the State
whether man-made or God-given. One of its projects concerns itself
with saving the three species of trees of the Ficus family - Ficus
benghaiensis. Ficus religiosa and Ficus glomerata. For most
Indians, the banyan and peepal symbolise and represent the natural
life of our country.
If the aerial roots of the banyan are given an opportunity to
reach the ground, they provide crutches for its old age, and in
fact a new tree grows out of the new roots enabling it to spread
over a large area and survive foi;, thousands of years. A great
banyan tree in the Royal Botanical Garden of Calcutta is the
largest in the world, having been planted in 1782. Another famous
tree in Andhra Pradesh is said to have a circumference of 2000
ft., have over 3000 trunks, under which 20,000 people could take
This is a large tree with an erect trunk, and provides excellent
shade by its widely spreading branches. The leaves are smooth and
heart shaped with a long stalk and a pointed apex. With the
slightest breeze, the leaves are set in sparkling and tinkling
motion and provide a glorious sight. Birds are the agents for
dispersing the seeds, which often mature in the most inhospitable
places like the walls of buildings and rock surfaces. The peepal
is known for the fact that Lord Gautham Buddha obtained
enlightenment under its shade at Bodha Gaya more than 2000 years
ago. Like the banyan, the peepal too is a common tree in Bangalore
and well protected by the local community for its religious
significance. Apart from the religious myths and legends which
surround it, almost all parts of the tree, including its bark,
have some medicinal value.
The peepal too, is capable of reaching a great age. A record in
the Kew Gardens in England, gives the age of a peepal tree at
Anuraghapura in 1852 to be 2147 years old.
Bangalore is fortunate to have a surprisingly large number of
these ficus trees even within city limits, surviving because of
religious sentiment. The Karnataka Heritage Society will attempt
to increase the numbers and qualities of these trees. The risk of
destruction of such trees does not come from the community close
to them, destruction is the result of neglect and casual
mishandling or damage. There are three major sources of danger:
Ill-treatment by the Karnataka Electricity Bcard, the Public
Works Department, the Bangalore Water Supply & Sewerage Board,
who often damage and destroy these trees during their operation.
Damaging of the aerial roots by men and animals and preventing
them from entering the ground.
Danger from developers who are determined to clear the land,
while using their wood for centering for their building
The Karnataka Heritage Society and the Department of Environment,
Government of Karnataka, propose to place a plaque on some of the
more spectacular Ficus trees, both within urban limits and in the
countryside. You are requested to inform the Karnataka Heritage
Society of any suitable tree which needs such protection.
Projects for saving Ficus trees
One of the activities of the recently formed Karnataka Heritage
Society under the Chairmanship of J. C. LYNN is to document the
status and protect the three species of ficus trees in Bangalore.
Officials ignore proven parthenium
BANGALORE: A biological counter-attack to the parthenium
weed that grows close to your home - causing your rhinitis or skin
disease - is available, but was ignored by those in authority in
Parthenium, which is a major cause for the allergies faced by many
Bangaloreans, can be controlled biologically with the help of
another plant, claims a botanist from the University of
Yet, though the seed has been ready for use for over 11 years, the
Bangalore City Corporation (BCC) decided to try it out only three
years ago. Moreover, according to BCC health officer K. Chowdappa,
after setting up a nursery in Bommanahalli to germinate the seed
on a large scale, the BCC has lost track. "I don't know of the
present stock position, " he told The Times of India when
contacted. Dr. Syamasundar Joshi, head of the Botany department of
the University of Agricultural Sciences, says his disappointment
lies not in his work being ignored, but its usefulness being
deprived to the city of allergies. He says, "I have done my work,
but I certainly do not have the resources to take up the extension
and popularisation work which can completely eradicate this
noxious weed from India." A saviour to agricultural crops has
something that can reduce the suffering of the people allergic to
the pollen grains of "congress grass", as the common man calls
parthenium. The method of suppression is very simple says Dr.
Joshi. He had identified another plant called Cassia uniflora, a
native of West Indies and Bahamas, which when grown alongside
Parthenium hysterophorus completely suppresses its growth without
causing any problem to the humans and other plants.
He says: "The parthenium which spreads like wild fire is not only
harmful to crop plants, but also to livestock and humans. It
causes diseases like dermatitis, rhinitis and hay fever in
sensitised humans and causes lesions in the buccal cavity and
ulcers in the alimentary canal of animals grazing on it, in
addition to massive loss of crop." Mechanical and chemical methods
of removal of parthenium are too costly and so, Dr. Joshi thought
of introducing biological control. the cassia shrub suppresses the
growth of parthenium in three different stages, claims Dr. Joshi.
"The cassia plant grown alongside the parthenium impairs the
germination of seeds by releasing a chemical phenolics, which
delays and inhibits the growth of parthenium seeds," he says.
This, he calls seed-to-seed fight.
Cassia does not end the fight there, but continues it as it grows
faster than parthenium and envelopes a larger area, thereby
directly reducing the amount of sunlight available to parthenium,
which Dr Joshi terms as physical fight. The plant continues the
fight with next generation when it releases its seeds earlier than
those of parthenium. "Along with my students, I worked on this
project for over a decade and cassia's reliability is tested
everywhere. We first introduced cassia in surrounding areas of
Hebbal railway station and within a period of two years all we
found was green cassia everywhere and parthenium totally gone." I
have developed a mechanism to get reliable amounts of seeds of
cassia and all the public and government need to do is to take
these seeds and throw them where ever parthenium is growing," he
Cacophony in the Cities at a Cresendo
Roaring engines, blaring horns, pounding machines, howling music
and clamouring people-the only way noise levels in the cities are
going is up.
According to studies conducted by the Central Pollution Control
Board across many metros, noise levels in the cities are way above
the prescribed norms set by the Environment Protection Act (EPA)
In 1987, the Air (prevention and control of pollution) Act of 1981
was modified to include noise in its definition of pollutants. It
defines air pollutants as "any solid, liquid or gaseous substance
(including noise) present in the atmosphere in such concentration
as may be or tend to be injurious to human beings or other living
creatures or plants or property or environment".
Recently the CPCB completed a noise pollution study in the city of
Panaji in Goa. Ms Jyoti Kaur, a 19 year old student was part of
the group of 20 on whom audio metric tests were conducted. The
results showed that after exposure to noise under laboratory
conditions, Ms Kaur's hearing threshold (the sound intensity level
upto which a given sound can be recognised by her) fell by 10
decibels (dB or decibel is a measure of the intensity level of
sound), from what it was before being exposed to noise. After a
rest period however, her threshold returned to normal. This was
the case with 16 of the 20 people. tested, all experiencing
temporary threshold shifts of 10 to 20 decibels. Continuous
exposure to high noise levels can, over a period of time, convert
temporary threshold shifts to a permanent hearing loss says Mr
Khader, who was part of the team conducting the tests.
As part of the EPA, warning levels in industrial commercial,
residential and sensitive (silence zones) areas with respect to
noise that is permissible for the day, has been set at 75 dB, 65
dB, 55 dB and 50 dB respectively.
Panaji being a quiet city, noise levels were found to be within
these limits in all areas, unlike vehicle-infested metros like
Delhi or Bangalore.
Using a noise meter, CPCB found that the average energy of noise
was 73 dB in Delhi's industrial areas, 71 dB in its commercial
areas and 65 dB in the sensitive areas. Residential areas were not
studied. In Bangalore, noise levels were at 78 dB, 76 dB, 67 dB
and 78 dB in the industrial, commercial, residential and sensitive
The reports on Madras, Mumbai and Calcutta also show noise levels
well above permissible limits.
These figures are important when one considers the fact that a 10
dB increase in noise means a ten fold rise in the intensity of
sound. (Intensity of sound is the power of sound per unit area.
Increasing loudness is a result of an increase in intensity of
Exposure to everyday noise has been found to cause a permanent
hearing loss of 8 to 10 decibels by the age of 70.
According to the WHO, high and persistent levels of noise can not
only damage the auditory nerves but also cause high blood
pressure, loss of appetite, peptic ulcers, headaches, increased
irritability, slowing of reactions, asthma, and lack of sleep.
Noise pollution can be reduced by regulating the volume of
traffic, and by designing automobiles and machines that are less
Planting of trees which absorb noise, and sound proofing of walls
are other measures that help reduce noise levels.
Industrial workers need to don safety equipment like ear mufflers.
Most workers in industries that provide protective equipment shy
away from using them saying that they are uncomfortable, claims
Mr. S. Suresh, an environmental engineer at CPCB.
The CPCB has set noise limits for the manufacturing stage of both
automobiles and domestic appliance. In Karnataka, the State
Pollution Control Board is to have an environment inspector
attached to industrial units in order to monitor various aspects
The State Pollution Control Board (SPCB) normally advises the
concerned state government to take action against offending
Come festival time and the peace even in normally quiet areas is
destroyed by the noise of fire crackers and the blaring of music
or talks over the public address systems. The CPCS had called for
a ban on the manufacture and sale of crackers which have an
impulsive or sudden noise of more than 90 dB way back in March
1990. But this ban has gone unheeded.
The use of public address systems needs the prior permission of
the police. According to Mr. Devegowda of the Bangalore City
Police, any person using a public address system without the
permission of the police is liable to be prosecuted. In the case
of people using automobiles that do not conform to norms set by
consensus between the Regional Transport Office and the traffic
police, it is usually possible to prosecute them. These people are
normally taken to task when normal horns and engine silencers are
modified for louder sounding horns and engines which are not
stipulated under the Motor Vehicles Act.
Much still needs to be done to sensitize people to the dangers of
noise pollution. Unlike most other types of pollution which people
recognize as being harmful to themselves, there is a general lack
of awareness of the harmful effects of noise pollution. This has
encouraged public indifference to the daily assault on one's sense
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