Page 1

Vol. 1 Issue 1 April-May-June A quarterly magazine for children published by the Karnataka State Pollution Control Board. Meant for free circulation to educational institutions and school children.


‘Food’ is the theme in this WED 2013

he World Environment Day is here again. There are dozens of special days for various environmental issues throughout the year but most popular one is the World Environment Day (WED). People all over the world enthusiastically take part in free environmental services on June 5th. Some plant tree saplings, some clean up nearby river banks or sea shore. Some take up a procession against air pollution and some may take up recycling of discarded goods. What would you do? This year you were asked to do something related to food. Because ‘Food’ is the theme for this WED 2013 . Every year UNEP (United Nations Environment Program) gives a single global theme so that a special thrust is given on that particular aspect all over the world. This year the theme is Food. The slogan given by the world body this year is “Think.Eat.Save’’. What does it mean? We all waste some food once in a while. Some people waste a lot, almost every day. Hotels, hostels, canteens discard huge amount of food. Nobody thinks much about it. But food is precious. Wasting food means wastage of huge amount of water, energy, human labor, fertilizers, pesticides and land. One third of all the food is already wasted before it reaches us. Some are lost in transit. Some rot in the storehouse, some are eaten by pests. Whatever we discard in our plates also add to the problem of garbage. We know how big a problem it is in

cities like Bengaluru. The rotting food items emit methane gas which in turn heats up our planet. Meanwhile millions of poor kids go hungry every day. Some hundreds of thousands of children become obese because of excess consumption of unhealthy food. Both are unpalatable truths! That is why we must Think. Think before we eat. Save before we cook. And that is not just on the 5th of June. For the humans of this planet every day should be environment day!

Every Day Is Environment Day!

Quote-unquote: An advanced city is not a place where the poor move about in cars, rather it’s where even the rich use public transportation” --Enrique Penalosa, Mayor of Bogota

Battle of the Beetles

see last page

Wonder of the wasteland


seeds or mustard oil. The seeds are highly poisonous. Accidental consumption of the contaminated oil can result in a disease called ‘dropsy’ with loose motion, headache, nausea, swelling of legs and even glaucoma. That means it can even permanently damage the eyes. Argemona Mexicana There have been ou may have seen this cases of accidental beautiful prickly plant on the or sometimes roadside these days. Hardly a even deliberate foot tall with bluish green leaves and a adulteration of bright yellow flower , this plant grows mustard oil with where no other plant can dare grow. argemone oil.. Just notice its birthplace! It could Such a deliberate be a dumpyard . It could be a heap contamination of rubbles with no trace of soil. It occured in Delhi springs during the hottest part of the in 1998 due to year just before the monsoon. A little which some 3000 people were thunder and lightning and this plant hospitalized , sixty among is there the next morning. You can whom did not recover at all. see it in the crack of a cement path or However not all is bad a metal road or a sand heap. This is about these seeds. It is easy, Argemona mexicana. It is also called rather very easy to grow even in waste Mexican poppy. It is a wonder of the lands. And it is possible to extract wasteland. biodiesel from these seeds. It is a But then there is an ugly side to good adulteration if one adds the this plant too. You can see a yellow processed oil to diesel tanks of buses waxy fluid if you pinch the pod. and lorries. It is quite poisonous. In a couple Besides,there is a colorful side to of months the pods will have tiny these seeds. Its oil is very useful to seeds just like mustard. So much artists. It is called ‘Painters Oil’. Never like mustard that one can easily lick the brush though! mix it with actual mustard and sell [Photo credit: Department of Forests, it for consumption as seasoning Govt of Orissa]



This is the cricket season. Not the one played with bat and ball, but those little creatures that lurk in the fields and make a cacaphony of chirping and singing during rainy season. Can we eat them? The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) says that eating insects is good for us and good for the planet too. They contain lots of protein and are cheap to produce. They also have major environmental benefits. Conventional meat is not an efficient way to get nutrients to our body. To produce 1 kilogram of beef, for example, you need 10 kg of feed, whereas 1 kg of crickets requires just 1.7 kg feed. There is one more advantage: 80 per cent of a cricket is edible compared with just 40 per cent of a cow. According to the FAO calculation crickets are 12 times as efficient at converting feed into meat as cows. By farming

Eat cricket Sleep cricket

2 /Maridumbi

insects, we could get more meat from the same amount of grain, use less land for agriculture and cut pollution. Actually people eat crickets. They are considered as a delicacy in Cambodia, Vietnam. And in Mexican restaurants it is a highly priced cuisine. Who knows, we may one day learn how to grow cricket in a bucket.


hieves are caught by the police. But theycannot do so without timely help from citizens. Shri S R Hiremath is one such citizen who helped the police in catching some big thieves who were stealing our mineral wealth. But Hiremath is not an ordinary citizen. He is an engineer and an MBA graduate from Chicago. It was Hiremath’s stubborn effort that lead to the arrest and imprisonment of some very powerful politicians who were involved in illegal mining of iron orein Karnataka.

as a management consultant to various business houses. While in the US he was always thinking about the poor Indian villagers. He started an organisation called India Development Service in America.

We have heard many ‘rags to riches’ stories. But this is a ‘riches to rags’ story in many ways.

Environmental Leader

S R HIREMATH Sangayya Rachayya Hiremath (68) was born in a village called Belvanki and studied in Dharwad. He was always a top ranking student. With a degree in mechanical engineering he went to the United States and obtained MS as well as MBA degrees while working

One fine day he decided to quit his successful career and come to India to serve the poor. He came back to India in 1980 and settled in Medleri, a small village of shepherds. He started a rural service organisation called Samaja Parivartan Samudaya (SPS)

in Dharwad. He taught the Medleri villagers how to rear sheep and how to weave better blankets. There were health problems in villages along the bank of the river Tungabhadra because of pollution from a polyfibre factory at Harihar. Hiremath taught the villagers how to fight the polluting factory. That was 30 years ago. Now the factory is far less polluting. Hiremath also went to Court against uprooting of natural forests around Kusnur and won. He was given Indira Gandhi Paryavaran Puraskar by the then Prime Minister of India. At all India level he was fighting for the rights of forest dwelling people. Some 30 leading non government organisations under his convenership prevented handing over of nearly two million hectares of natural forests to private companies. His relentless fight against injustice, poverty and pollution has given good social dividends. Karnataka now takes pride in putting behind the bars some very powerful people. For this Shri S R Hiremat was given ‘Citizen of the Year’ award by the Press Club of Bangalore last December. Despite being in the media glare, Hiremath is a very simple, down to earth man. He wears khadi, always travels by 2nd class train, carries his own bag which is always full of files related to social injustice. He does not have his own home or site, does not own a vehicle. We have heard many ‘rags to riches’ story. But this is a ‘riches to rags’ stories in many ways. Hiremath lives in self imposed poverty and sent some very rich people to compulsory simple living.

April-May-June 2013/ 3

wedding waste! Rich




Rich countries waste more food than what is produced in the whole of African continent


ome interesting facts about food wastage:

‘Think’ This is the first part of this year’s World Environment Day slogan: ‘Think.Eat.Save’. There is plenty to think about food wastage. Here are some interesting facts: People in rich countries waste food only after it reaches the plate. There is very little wastage during harvesting, transportation and storage. But the waste-chain starts once the food enters kitchen. Rich countries waste more food (230 million tonnes) than what is produced in the whole of African continent. People in poor countries waste a lot of food before it reaches the plate. There is wastage during manual harvesting (little wastage is okay because the grains scattered

4 /Maridumbi

Bangalore wastes as much as 943 tonnes of good quality food every year in marriage halls (Kalyana Mantapas) alone. In terms of money it amounts to Rs 339 crore! This is enough to feed 2.6 crore people with normal food. This is the result of a survey conducted by researchers from the University of Agricultural Sciences. Every year some 84,960 marriages are held at 531 kalyana mantapas in Bengaluru. About 943 tonnes of high-calorie, high quality food is wasted by the time the party is over. On an average cost of Rs 40 per meal, the total food wastage in the city is estimated at Rs 339 crore,” says the study. It is possible to convert garbage into biogas and use it to cook food. But the Kalyana Mantapas of Bengaluru are yet to set up such a recycling model.

in the fields are eaten by birds). But there is a lot of wastage during packing, transport and storage. Rats and other pests proliferate due to bad management of storehouses. A lot of food gets destroyed by fungus attack. ‘Eat’ Rich people waste a lot of food in their plates. They are reckless because they can afford to be choosy; they have too many items in their menu. They can afford to order a lot of food when they visit hotels and restaurants. Garbage bins at these places are always full.

Obesity is becoming a menace even in India. Many kids eat more than what is required. They consume soft drinks and sugary products. It leads to medical complications. Poor people eat very carefully because every grain is important to them. They waste very little. They cannot afford to cook excess because most of them have no refrigerators. ‘Save’ Wasting food is criminal. Because there are hundreds of thousands of children who do not get enough to



Feasting on Rejected Food It was a big party of 500 delegates. They all ate fabulous tasty meal that was cooked with vegetables rejected by the European stores. The dinner was part of the meeting of Global Ministerial Environment Forum hosted by the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP). The menu included grilled sweet corn tamales, yellow lentil dal and tiramisu payasa. Everyone enjoyed it. The event was held in Kenyan capital Nairobi on 21st February, 2013. The purpose was to show how the rich buyers reject a perfectly healthy vegetables and fruits. Fruit and vegetables were often rejected for cosmetic reasons such as color or shape. French beans had to be exactly the right length, for instance, and any that were too long or too short go to dump yards. The dinner was to show how not to waste food for flimsy reasons.

eat. Every third malnourished child in the world is an Indian. Food production requires many resources such as water, energy, petroleum, land and human labor. Wasting food means wasting of all these important resources. Wasted food is pollution. Because there are no proper garbage disposal system in place, methane

gas from rotting food escapes into the atmosphere. Methane is a very powerful greenhouse gas. It is 23 times more potent than CO2 in causing ‘greenhouse’ effect. Wasted food thus heats up the atmosphere.

Fish: Rotten and Forgotten Every year some 130 million tonnes of fish are netted and brought to land. But due to bad handling an estimated 30 million tonnes go waste. There is very little demand for dead fish in developed countries. They are buried and forgotten. But in our country there is demand for ‘fish meal’ (compost) in coconut farms and in aquaculture yards. Discarded fish could also be converted into biodiesel. One could indeed drive a motor boat using the fish biofuel to catch fish!

April-May-June 2013/ 5

Lessons in Ecology


Keystone Species


ou may have seen huge stone arches in some ancient buildings and forts. There is no cement between the stones! Still they do not collapse because of the special shape of each stone. The most important stone is the one on the top of the arch. It is under least pressure but the moment you remove it the entire arch collapses. That particular stone is called ‘key stone’. There are some species in the biosphere which play the role of a keystone. Banyan, Peepal, Oudumbara (atti) and such species of the Ficus genus give shelter to a large number of birds, insects and animals. If you destroy the Banyan or Peepal tree you destroy a whole lot of animals. Banyan is thus a ‘keystone species’. Peepal is also a keystone species. Have you ever attempted to count the number of species that are dependent on a banyan tree? Try. You could count at least twenty species of birds, some 50 species of small insects. Squirrels, chameleons, snakes, monkeys, goats and even elephants like this tree. The number may well cross 200 if we include lichens, fungi and other invisible living things. Kill one tree and you kill a large number of these creatures. Earth movers and bulldozers don’t care. Do we?

6 /Maridumbi


elcome to cool clouds and tickling drizzle, the rainy season is here! Invisible seeds in the ground sprout on feeling the first raindrop of the season. We see green everywhere. But it is the weed that germinates first! Do you have any plans to grow some saplings of your own? There are various techniques to regreen the earth this season. But even the simplest method needs a handful of seeds. Just carry a pocketful of seeds, any seed will do! Go to your kitchen and look around for some groundnuts or methi or tamarind or chilly or tomato or cummin seeds -even mustard will do! Certainly you will find jackfruit and mango seeds. If you are lucky you may even find some gooseberry (nelli) seeds.

Of Seed Balls


reen ombs! G B

Do you have any plans to grow some saplings of your own?

Seed Broadcasting The first and the most simple one is to walk to an open ground and ‘broadcast’ the seed. That is, just throw the seed randomly. Have you heard of John Appleseed? He used to keep apple seeds in his bag and broadcast them wherever he went. Any wild place, any season. The result is that all over America you can see wild apple trees. They give shade, shelter to birds and animals, prevent soil erosion, attract bees and beetles and do hundred other things. Good things.

Dribbling Seed Balls Simple broadcasting may lead to a lot of wastage of seeds. It is better if you make ‘seed balls’ prior to rainy season. It is not at all complicated. All you need is some red soil or compost, some clay. Make a marble size ball by sprinkling a little water. Bury one seed in each ball and allow it to dry. Keep such balls in your pocket and dribble them in open

Seed balls are fun to make and easy to dribble. You can also use a catapult.

Aerial Seed Bombing We have millions of hectares of wasteland in our country. It takes a lot of manual labor to regreen all that especially if it is a hilly terrain. The easiest method is to carry out aerial ‘bombing’ of seeds using a helicopter or even aeroplanes. Such an attempt was done in Karnataka (in the Western Ghat region) some twenty years ago. Bamboo seeds were broadcast over a stretch of several kilometers. Aerial Green Bombing Why not air-drop actual bamboo saplings instead of seeds? Tiny plants such as bamboo, mango, tamarind, jamun etc can be raised in specially designed pots. (See the sketch far left). These pots can be biodegradable. Such plants descend from the sky like a parachute and penetrate the soft earth upon landing. Thousands of saplings can be planted this way in one such sortie. Instant afforestation!

ground. Such seeds have a better chance of germination because they are not eaten by birds. The seed sprouts on the first shower and grows well because of the little compost and good soil around it. You can roll the wet ball on a sheet containg some very small seeds of flowers like cosmos or marigold. That will form a cluster around the ball. Dry it and just throw the balls as far as you can in the open ground. After a few showers you can see a cluster of tender plants that would turn into a beautiful live bouquet!

Use a Catapult It is fun to use catapult for seed dispersal. Take a good catapult and a pocketful of seed balls. Take some friends too. Climb a small hilltop. A big rock on any open ground will do. Just shoot the seedball in any direction as far as you can. You can do it from your own balcony but don’t let the ball hit any window! If you are in Sweden or Japan you can actually buy a set of catapult and a box of seedballs. But it is more fun if you make the balls with seeds of your choice.

Instant Forest! Big branches of the Banyan tree are capable of regeneration even after they are severed from the mother tree. Take some long branches of a banyan tree that is just felled or fallen due to heavy wind. Plant them in a row 20 feet apart. With green leaves they look like actual trees. Within weeks they start sprouting new leaves and shoots. You have instant forestry there! There are any number of ways to make our ecosystem rich, make the earth happy!

April-May-June 2013/ 7

Nature-nurture story


Battle of the Beetles

anganna was very unhappy. Very angry. His coconut trees were dying one after another. Last week three had dried up, this week two. He cursed those two birds perching on the fronds. He thought it was these crow pheasants (kemboota) which kill the coconut trees. Legend has it that coconut trees die a slow death when these red winged birds urinate on the tender shoots of the tree. Ranganna could see the birds hovering in his coconut grove for the past few weeks. And the trees were dying one after another. He decided to shoot those birds. He sent an urgent message to Nagappa to come with his rifle. Nagappa was a famous shooter. His aim was so perfect that he could hunt down any bird, any animal sitting anywhere on a tree, no matter how tall is the tree. It was his weekly routine to go around the forest with his rifle and bring home a rock pigeon, a flying squirrel, a cormorant or a crane. His family would feast on the dead bird’s meat. But his daughter Laxmi was against such reckless killing of wild life. Studying in a nearby highschool she knew the importance of birds and animals in a forest ecosystem. ‘It is criminal Papa!’ she would snatch the dead bird from her father and cry. She would refuse to eat anything on such days when her papa brought home a wounded or dead bird. ‘We are evolved to protect the wild species, not to hunt them’ she would say. Slowly but reluctantly Nagappa had reduced his hunting spree and was on the verge of giving it up.



But this morning Laxmi was shocked to see her Papa taking out the gun again. Nagappa explained her how these crow pheasants have killed the cocont trees in Ranganna’s garden and that he would shoot only those evil birds and kill nothing else. Laxmi visited the school library and found out why some coconut trees die prematurely. It was a kind of beetle named Brontispa-longissima which kills the coconut, not the red winged crow. The beetle lays eggs inside the tender shoots and the larvae grow into full beetles by sucking the sap of the shoots. The tree eventually dies and a large number of young beetles go to a different tree. The crow pheasant comes to eat the larvae of the `brontispa’ beetles and thus reduce their population. The coconut trees are actually saved by the red winged bird. By the time Laxmi was back from the school her Papa had brought home two dead birds as his trophy. Holding those dead ones and sobbing she explained the role of these farmer- friendly birds. ‘They are there on the coconut trees to dig out the real culprits. And you shot them!’ she cried. Nagappa was stunned. He silently buried the dead bodies and threw the gun away in disgust.

Contact us for free subscription and reaction:

Chairman, Karnataka State Pollution Control Board (KSPCB), 49, Parisara Bhavana, Church Street, Bengaluru-560001 Phone: 08025581383, 08025589112, 08025586520 email:,

Maridumbi Quarterly: Chief Editor and Publisher: Dr. Vaman Acharya, Chairman, KSPCB Editor: Nagesh Hegde, Design and Layout: Apara

Maridumbi8 eng for print