Prominent in the news now is coral bleaching, especially the almost 90% bleaching of the Great Barrier Reef. That is the world’s largest coral ecosystem and is said to be home to over 600 different types of hard and soft corals and thousands of animal species, including threatened species. Documented by the National Coral Bleaching Taskforce (NCBT) in aerial surveys, observations of more than 500 coral reefs spanning 2,485 miles (4,000 kilometers) showed that the majority of reefs were undergoing extensive and severe bleaching. The concern is that a lot of the corals may not recover because of the duration of the event. The bleaching is because of the expulsion of algae by the corals that cohabit within them. If the temperatures drop soon, then the algae recolonize the coral. Else, the corals too die and soon, there is growth of other algae that simply smothers them.
Groynes at Kovalam May Eat Into Chennai's Beach Space CHENNAI: In a blatant violation of the Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) rules, the State Fisheries Department has dumped large boulders to construct groynes into the sea at Kovalam. While the department on Friday halted the construction, which even includes a road across the Kovalam river mouth to facilitate lorry movement, experts fear that building of the groynes at Kovalam would mean erosion of the Chennai city’s beaches, which lie north of it, in the long run. The illegal construction, which was brought to light by local activists on Friday, had drastically altered the coastline at Kovalam by dumping large boulders to construct groynes into the sea without obtaining the mandatory clearances. This action, activist say, done without proper scientific thinking, would prove extremely counterproductive for people of Chennai in the long-run as the city beaches may witness rise in sea erosion, experts point out.
Every year, over 8 million tons of plastic is being deliberately dumped into the ocean. This is having catastrophic consequences for marine life and their habitat, not to mention the affect it is having on our beaches, coastlines and even our food chain. We are literally drowning in a sea of plastic. Researchers have found that there is roughly 46,000 pieces of plastic found per square mile of the ocean and these can come in all shapes and sizes. It takes roughly 400 years for plastic to degrade and even then it never fully disappears, it just breaks down into microscopic pieces that are mistaken as food by the smallest of marine creatures.
If you would like to learn more about ocean pollution and how it affects marine life, their habitats and mankind, then take a look at the fascinating infographic , created by the team at divein.com at
We live in an increasingly noisy environment. Motorized vehicles on the road, many with loud noisy reverse signals, loud horns and poorly maintained bodies so that as they rumble along, they give off noisy vibrations, the pile drivers digging away into the earth as buildings are built, jackhammers in action as buildings come down. The whine of cutters as granite and marble sheets are cut…and add to that the music blared from parks (supposed to be for the walkers’ benefit, the loud noise from Bollywood and Tollywood ‘item numbers’ booming out from the sound systems in cars... the sources seem endless.
The most obvious impact of noise is raised voices. We have become loud talkers - just to overcome this background noise. It stresses people out- continuous exposure to noise can cause behavioural and emotional stress. Noise leads to increased heart-beat, constriction of blood vessels. Most important, it can lead to hearing loss, sometimes at particular frequencies which unfortunately correspond to our normal conversational sound levels.
Perhaps to solve this, we should move under water, suggested someone. After all, the sound of waves on the beach is always soothing and perhaps if you are able to live inside water, you can escape from all this noise. Surely all that you would have to listen to would be waves rolling and clicks of marine mammals? And even that would probably be muffled.
News Digest March 2016
Conservation of Coast Gets Least Priority at All Levels: “The outcome of implementing CRZ notification has been of no use to ecology or coastal communities spread across 73 districts in nine states,” reveals New Delhi-based Centre for Policy Research (CPR)-Namati Environment Justice (EJ) Programme in its first such study on functioning of the institution for coastal regulation in the country. “Conservation is a low priority at all levels,” said Meenakshi Kapoor of CPR, who was in the city to submit the study’s findings at a seminar on challenges of coastal governance in Karnataka organised in College of Fisheries. She said on the Supreme Court’s intervention, Coastal Zone Management Authority (CZMA) was formed to oversee implementation of CRZ at state and national levels in 1999.
How Kochi Is Strangling the Life Out of Its Mangrove Forests: Cross the Kalamukku Junction of the Vypeen road in Kochi and you are in the Cochin Port Trust area. That’s when you see the mangrove forests on either side of the road. Water-logged areas with several patches of land in between abound in these forests. Look closely and you can spot hundreds of withered trees completely shorn of all branches with not even a leaf on them. For those not familiar with mangroves, one is not sure whether this is how mangroves are supposed to look... are dry patches and atrophied trees part of such a marshy landscape?
Summer has set in early this year as may be seen by the rapidly rising temperatures even though March is just setting in. Water becomes an important concern and hence it was rather apt that the First Dr Pitchai endowment lecture delivered by Prof Rafig Azzam of RWTH Aachen University, Chair for Engineering Geology and Hydrogeology, Lochnerstr, Aachen, Germany, was titled “Steering Mechanisms for Sustainable Land Use and Urban Water Management” on 25th February at the IIT, Madras.
Prof Azzam started by talking about the issue of increasing urbanization worldwide (more than half of the people living in urban areas) and the increasing scarcity of water: physical water scarcity when water itself was not available; and economic water scarcity, when water was apparently available in plenty but not usable for drinking or other purposes because it was polluted and therefore had high cost in treatment. It was interesting to note that usage of water depends often on the income of the country. In high income countries, the usage was low in agriculture and high in industry and vice versa; this resulted in variation in water withdrawals in the different continents. He gave a clear picture of the adverse impacts urban systems had on water - from water having to be brought in from outside, issues of poor infrastructure such as leaky mains that resulted in a loss of precious water, septic tank effluents as well as leaky sewers that contaminated groundwater, reduction in area of infiltration and so on - reminiscent of Prof Pitchai’s lectures given decades ago on water problems of Chennai.
Violations in Coastal Regulation Zone alleged Though there were several issues raised by fishermen at the grievance day meeting convened here on Friday, issues concerning coastal regulation zone (CRZ) violations put forth by environmentalist M. Krishnamurthy hogged the attention. The Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board officials had ignored violations of CRZ norms as municipal waste and untreated sewage were being let into the sea through Buckle Canal in the Threspuram coast, he alleged. To aggravate the situation, marine water was exposed to industrial effluents, which were also let into the sea. But the district administration had not taken any action to prevent the violations, Mr. Krishnamurthy said.
News Digest: February 2016
Centre gives fresh green clearance to Rs 11,370 crore Mumbai Trans Harbour Link. NEW DELHI: The Centre today issued a fresh coastal regulation zone (CRZ) clearance to the ambitious 22-km Mumbai Trans Harbour Link project worth Rs 11,370 crore.
The decision follows a National Green Tribunal (NGT)'s October order that had set aside the Environment Ministry's prior coastal clearance of 2013 to the project and asked it look into the proposal afresh.
Supreme Court says won’t stand in the way of projects of national importance: NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Friday said that it would not be intimidated by names of big investors such as Adanis, and would not stand in the way of national projects such as the Vizhingam port, which is being built on a BOT basis by the group, only for a few hundred fishermen. The top court also echoed a similar pro-development line on the Adanirun Hazira port on the western coast, permitting the port to continue operations while insisting that no further constructions be carried out while it dealt with an NGT order which had quashed its environment clearance following objections from local fishermen.
It is now a month since the floods hit Chennai and northern Tamil Nadu. People are now back at work but the impacts, especially on infrastructure are still evident. The bridge across the river at Saidapet still has sandbags piled in two places while in a third place a big jaali does the work of a railing. So what are the things that we have learnt?
News Digest: January 2016