The Pallikaranai Wetland: Part 2 – The Once Pristine Idyllic Wetland Is Now a Wasteland cum Concrete Jungle!


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Myself By T.V. Antony Raj
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Why am I interested in wetlands? Because I am concerned. My home in Jalladianpet is just 2.5 miles (4 km) from the Pallikaranai wetland in Chennai, Tamilnadu, India.

 My home in Jalladianpet is just 2.5 miles (4 km) from the Pallikaranai marsh.

My home in Jalladianpet is just 2.5 miles (4 km) from the Pallikaranai marsh.

Pallikaranai marshland (Photo : T.V. Antony Raj)

Pallikaranai marshland (Photo : T.V. Antony Raj)

Four decades ago, this pristine idyllic wetland had a water spread of approximately 5,500 hectares estimated on the basis of the Survey of India toposheets (1972) and CORONA aerial photographs (1965). It serves as nature’s primary aquifer recharge system for Chennai city. It harvests rain water and the flood water during monsoons and thereby mitigates the desolation and suffering that floods could cause in low-lying areas in Chennai.

A large area of the Pallikaranai marshland is now a dump yard (Photo:  anidiotstraveldiaries.blogspot.in)

A large area of the Pallikaranai marshland is now a dump yard (Photo: anidiotstraveldiaries.blogspot.in)

Lamentably, over the years, the Chennai Metropolitan authorities without giving any thought to the future recklessly chose to dump over one-third of the garbage, almost 2,600 tonnes per day, of the ever-growing metropolis here in this climactic wetland.

Pallikaranai marsh (Photo: Simply CVR)

Pallikaranai marsh (Photo: Simply CVR)

At present the water spread has shrunk to one-tenth its size due to indiscriminate dumping of city refuse; discharging of sewage; disgorging toxic waste products, etc.

Many nature lovers have photographed the current palpable and saddening state of the Pallikaranai wetland. On June 8, 2013, The Hindu published the article The mired marshby Shaju John. This article was augmented by photographs  captured by him in the post Photo file: The mired marsh.

A significant chunk of non-biodegradable waste is lost in the heaps.( (Photo: Shaju John/thehindu.com)

A significant chunk of non-biodegradable waste is lost in the heaps.( (Photo: Shaju John/thehindu.com)

Thousands of tonnes of trash of all sorts containing non-biodegradable waste find their way to the wetland amidst the dumped refuse.

Fires, lit to dispose off the garbage, are a regular and major health hazard.  (Photo: Shaju John/thehindu.com)

Fires, lit to dispose off the garbage, are a regular and major health hazard. (Photo: Shaju John/thehindu.com)

While traveling along the roads around the Velachery wetland one encounters the unbearable stench emanating from the decaying garbage hillock. Despite the widespread clamour to stop burning rubbish in the dump yard that stifles the air and impairs visibility of commuters, the incessant burning goes on.

The smoke from the garbage heaps chokes the air for miles around.  (Photo: Shaju John/thehindu.com)

The smoke from the garbage heaps chokes the air for miles around. (Photo: Shaju John/thehindu.com)

Despite the toxic smoke rag-pickers, mostly children living in inhospitable slums frequent the garbage dump.

The burning continues despite widespread clamour for alternatives. (Photo: Shaju John/thehindu.com)

The burning continues despite widespread clamour for alternatives. (Photo: Shaju John/thehindu.com)

Continual inhaling of the ever-present malodorous germ and virus bound air, the stifling smoke, polluted and poisoned ground water subject the people living miles around the Pallikaranai wetland to major wheezing and carcinogenic health hazards.

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The incredible rate of development, such as the rampant construction of sanctioned IT parks, the National Institute of Ocean Technology (NIOT) campus, Hospitals, Colleges, high-rise office and residential buildings, the Velachery MRTS railway station, the flyovers, the road connecting old Mahabhalipuram Road (OMR) and Pallavaram, etc., in the midst of the marshland also have immensely contributed to the shrinking of the water spread.

A high rise building (Cognizant Technology) on Velachery Tambaram Road.  (Photo - T.V. Antony Raj)

A high rise building (Cognizant Technology) on Velachery Tambaram Road. (Photo – T.V. Antony Raj)

One of the flyovers constructed  in the midst of the marshland (Photo credit: N. Lalitha and C.R .Sivapradha)

One of the flyovers constructed in the midst of the marshland (Photo credit: N. Lalitha and C.R .Sivapradha)

Velachery MRTS Railway station (Photo - Simply CVR)

Velachery MRTS Railway station (Photo – Simply CVR)

With policies in place to crackdown on poaching, encroachment and illegal waste disposal, there is yet hope for the Pallikaranai wetland.

Pallikaranai marsh, which was once a scenic wetland has lost its charm, mainly on account of rapid urbanisation. (Photo:  M. Karunakaran)

Pallikaranai marsh, which was once a scenic wetland has lost its charm, mainly on account of rapid urbanisation. (Photo: M. Karunakaran)

In 2007, to protect the remaining wetland from shrinking further, 317 hectares of the marsh were declared by notification as a reserve forest by the State of Tamilnadu.

Road connecting old Mahabhalipuram Road (OMR) and Pallavaram over Pallikaranai Marshland, Chennai, (Photo: T.V. Antony Raj)

Road connecting old Mahabhalipuram Road (OMR) and Pallavaram over Pallikaranai Marshland, Chennai, (Photo: T.V. Antony Raj)

Pallikaranai Marsh Reserve  showing the road connecting old Mahabhalipuram Road (OMR) and Pallavaram that bisects the marsh

Pallikaranai Marsh Reserve showing the road connecting old Mahabhalipuram Road (OMR) and Pallavaram that bisects the marsh

Nevertheless, it is the opinion of the scientists and researchers involved in the study of the wetland that an additional 150 hectares of undeveloped region located on both sides of the road connecting old Mahabhalipuram Road (OMR) and Pallavaram that bisects the marsh should also be declared a forest reserve.

However, even now, dumping of garbage by the Chennai metropolitan authorities goes on unabated.

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The Pallikaranai Wetland: Part 1 – Flora and Fauna


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Myself By T.V. Antony Raj
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Last Sunday I posted an article titled “February 2, 2014 is World Wetlands Day.”

Why am I interested in wetlands? Because I am concerned. My home in Jalladianpet is just 2.5 miles (4 km) from the Pallikaranai wetland in Chennai, Tamilnadu, India.

A wetland is technically defined as:

“An ecosystem that arises when inundation by water produces soils dominated by anaerobic processes, which, in turn, forces the biota, particularly rooted plants, to adapt to flooding.”

The primary factor that distinguishes wetlands from other land forms or water bodies is the characteristic vegetation that adapts to its unique soil conditions. Primarily, wetlands consist of hydric soil, which supports aquatic plants

There are four main kinds of wetlands: marsh, swamp, bog and fen. Sub-types include mangrove, carr, pocosin, and varzea. Some experts also include wet meadows and aquatic ecosystems as additional wetland types.

The Pallikaranai Wetland 

City in the background of Pallikaranai wetland (Photo:  anidiotstraveldiaries.blogspot.in)

City in the background of Pallikaranai wetland (Photo: anidiotstraveldiaries.blogspot.in)

Historically, a large part of South Chennai was a flood plain composed of the large Pallikaranai wetland, smaller satellite wetlands, large tracts of pasture land and patches of dry forest.

The Pallikaranai wetland is a freshwater marshland spanning 31 square miles (80 sq Km). It is the Chennai city’s natural primary aquifer recharge system.

Aquifer Storage and Recovery (ASR)

The original expanse of the marsh, estimated on the basis of the Survey of India toposheets (1972) and CORONA aerial photographs (1965) was about 5,500 hectares, which has now been reduced to about 600 hectares. Situated next to the Bay of Bengal, about 12.5 miles (20 Km) south of the city centre, it is bounded by Velachery (north), Kovilambakkam (west), Okkiyam Thuraipakkam (east), and Medavakkam (south). It is the only surviving wetland ecosystem of the city and is among the few and last remaining natural wetlands of South India. It is one of the three in the state of Tamilnadu, the other two being Point Calimere and Kazhuveli.

Map of Pallikaranai Marsh Reserve Forest.

Map of Pallikaranai Marsh Reserve Forest.

The Pallikaranai wetland is one of the 94 identified wetlands in India under the National Wetland Conservation and Management Programme (NWCMP) of the Government of India that came into operation in 1985–86.

The terrain consists of fresh/saline water bodies, reed beds, mud flats and floating vegetation.

Flora and Fauna

This wetland is literally a treasury of bio-diversity that is almost four times that of Vedanthangal bird sanctuary in the Kancheepuram District of the state of Tamil Nadu, India, 47 miles (75 km) from Chennai where more than 40,000 birds (including 26 rare species), from various parts of the world visit during the migratory season every year.

The Pallikaranai wetland contains several rare and endangered species of plants and animals. It acts as a forage and breeding ground for thousands of migratory birds from various places within and outside the country. Bird watchers opine that the number of bird species sighted in the wetland is definitely more than in the Vedanthangal bird sanctuary.

Figures of the number of fauna and flora found in the Pallikaranai wetland differ among scholars conducting research here.

Among the many quiet contributors to the mapping of India’s natural treasures is Dr. Jayashree Vencatesan, Smithsonian Fellow and researcher, and managing trustee of Care Earth Trust. She obtained a Ph.D. in Biodiversity and Biotechnology from the University of Madras. She is best-known for her research work on biodiversity, and studies wetland ecology.

Dr. Jayashree Vencatesan

Dr. Jayashree Vencatesan

In 2003, the Tamilnadu State Pollution Control Board assigned her the task of conducting a detailed study of Chennai’s last remaining wetland – the Pallikaranai marsh, which is suffering from degradation caused by human impact. The study had two components — to document the biodiversity and to map the extent of the marsh to define or identify a viable unit of management.

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In her work “Protecting wetlands” published on August 10, 2007, Current Science 93 (3): 288–290, she states that the heterogeneous ecosystem of the Pallikaranai marshland supports about 337 species of floras and faunas:

GROUP NUMBER OF SPECIES
Birds 115
Plants 114
Fishes 46
Reptiles 21
Mammals 10
Amphibians 10
Molluscs 9
Butterflies 7
Crustaceans 5
Total 337

Birds, fishes and reptiles are the most prominent of the faunal groups.

Dr. K .Venkataraman, Director of Zoological Survey of India (ZSI)

Dr. K. Venkataraman

However, on August 9, 2013, P. Oppili reported in The Hindu that Dr. K. Venkataraman, Director of Zoological Survey of India (ZSI) while discussing the diversity of species in the marshland, as nine species of amphibians, 21 species of reptiles, 72 species of birds, five species of mammals, 38 species of fish, nine species of shells and 59 species of aquatic and terrestrial insects had been recorded, besides a good number of plankton.

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The Pallikaranai wetland is the home to some of the most endangered birds such as the glossy ibis, gray-headed Lapwings and pheasant-tailed Jacana.

Pheasant-tailed Jacana spotted in Pallikaranai Wetland, Chennai (Photo: Sudharsun Jayaraj)

Pheasant-tailed Jacana spotted in Pallikaranai Wetland, Chennai (Photo: Sudharsun Jayaraj)

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Purple Swamphen-Moorhen in Pallikaranai wetland, Chennai (Photo - Sudharsun Jayaraj)

Purple Swamphen-Moorhen in Pallikaranai wetland, Chennai (Photo – Sudharsun Jayaraj)

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FulvourWhistlingDucks (Photo: GnanaskandanK)

FulvourWhistlingDucks (Photo: GnanaskandanK)

Cormorants, darters, herons, egrets, open-billed storks, spoonbills, white ibis, little grebe, Indian moorhen, Black-winged Stilts, purple moorhens, warblers, coots and dabchicks have been spotted in large numbers in the marshland.

Russel's Viper (Source:  umich.edu)

Russel’s Viper (Source: umich.edu)

The Pallikaranai wetland is also home to some of the most endangered reptiles such as the Russell’s viper.

About 114 species of plants are found in the wetland, including 29 species of grass. These plant species include some exotic floating vegetation such as water hyacinth and water lettuce.

Since 2002,  presence of new plants and  reptiles have been recorded.

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Next → The Pallikaranai Wetland: Part 2 – The Once Pristine Idyllic Wetland Is Now a Wasteland cum Concrete Jungle!

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February 2, 2014 is World Wetlands Day


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Myself . By T.V. Antony Raj
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Today, February 2 is World Wetlands Day

Logo of Ramsar Convention on Wetlands

Logo of Ramsar Convention on Wetlands (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

On February 2, 1971, the ‘Ramsar Convention on Wetlands’ was adopted in the Iranian city of Ramsar, on the shores of the Caspian Sea,  to provide the framework for national action and international cooperation for the conservation and wise use of wetlands. World Wetlands Day celebrated for the first time in 1997 made an encouraging beginning.

Wetland wallpaper

Wetland wallpaper (Photo credit: Jon Rieley-Goddard aka baldyblogger)

A wetland is technically defined as:

“An ecosystem that arises when inundation by water produces soils dominated by anaerobic processes, which, in turn, forces the biota, particularly rooted plants, to adapt to flooding.”

In layman’s words, a wetland is a land area that is saturated with water, either permanently or seasonally, such that it takes on the characteristics of a distinct ecosystem.

The primary factor that distinguishes wetlands from other land forms or water bodies is the characteristic vegetation that is adapted to its unique soil conditions. Primarily wetlands consist of hydric soil, which supports aquatic plants.

A hydric soil is formed under conditions of saturation of soil with water, seasonally by flooding, or permanently by ponding (pooling of unwanted water) long enough to develop anaerobic conditions in the upper part. This term is part of the legal definition of a wetland included in the United States Food Security Act of 1985 (P.L. 99-198).

There are four main kinds of wetlands: marsh, swamp, bog and fen. Sub-types include mangrove, carr, pocosin, and varzea. Some experts also include wet meadows and aquatic ecosystems as additional wetland types.

Marsh is a flat, wetland area, devoid of peat, saturated with moisture during one or more seasons. Typical vegetation includes grasses, sedges, reeds and rushes. Marshes are valuable wetlands and maintain water tables in adjacent ecosystems.

Swamp is a low-lying wetland area, found near large bodies of open water, generally in such places as low-lying coastal plains, floodplains of rivers, and old lake basins or in areas where normal drainage has been disrupted by glacial deposits. Swamps are characterized in the northern regions by an abundant growth of rushes and sedge and in the southern regions dominated by trees, such as the swamp cypress, and high shrubs. Swamps can prevent flooding by absorbing flood waters from rivers and coastal regions.

Bogs and fens (in eastern England) are types of mires – an area of wet, soggy, muddy ground.

Bogs receive their water from the atmosphere. Their water has a low mineral ionic composition because ground water has a higher concentration of dissolved nutrients and minerals in comparison to precipitation. Bogs have acidic soil.

Fens, also known as the Fenland(s), are a naturally marshy region in eastern England. Most of the fens were drained several centuries ago, resulting in a flat, damp, low-lying agricultural region. A fen is the local name for an individual area of marshland or former marshland and also designates the type of marsh typical of the area. The water chemistry of fens ranges from low pH and low minerals to alkaline with high content of calcium and magnesium, but few other plant nutrients because they acquire their water from precipitation as well as ground water.

Laguna de Rocha, the largest wetland in the urban area in Buenos Aires, Argentina. (Photo - Martinsnm)

Laguna de Rocha, the largest wetland in the urban area in Buenos Aires, Argentina. (Photo: Martinsnm)

Every continent has its own Wetlands that occur naturally except Antarctica. The Amazon swamp forests and the Siberian peatland are the largest wetlands in the world. Another large wetland is the Pantanal, which straddles Brazil, Bolivia, and Paraguay in South America.

The water found in inland wetlands can be fresh water. The water in wetlands along the coastal shorelines are invariably salty or brackish.

Wetlands have many vital and fascinating characteristics that play a number of roles in the environment while also providing recreational opportunities.

Wetland systems improve water quality, control floods, and buffer coastal communities from erosion vital for shoreline stability.

Wetlands are the most biologically diverse of all ecosystems comprising a wide range of plants and serve as home to diverse animal life – fish, birds, reptiles, insects, etc., and provide essential food and habitat for wildlife. More than half of the fish caught for recreational or commercial purposes depend on wetlands at some point in their life cycles. Wetlands are crucial to 75 percent of world’s migratory birds.

Wetlands can also be constructed artificially to serve as a water management tool in the design of water-sensitive urban areas.

Frankly, much of the report compiled by the world environmental agencies, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the  National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration  (NOAA) do not portend well.

For example, NOAA has authored a report, “Status and Trends of Wetlands in the Coastal Watersheds of the Conterminous United States 2004-2009,” with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that summarized the status and trends of coastal watersheds.

According to the report, the coastal watersheds of the continental United States lost wetlands at an average rate of 80,000 acres a year during the study period. That’s approximately seven football fields, every hour! It’s a 25 percent increase over the previous 6-year study period.

The loss of these valuable wetlands threatens not only the sustainable fisheries and protected species, but also the supply of clean water and stability of shorelines in the face of climate change. Almost half of the population in the United States now lives in coastal counties. Continued loss of coastal wetlands means less protection for those communities in the coastal counties from strong storms, such as Superstorm Sandy.

Key factors in the degradation and loss of wetlands in coastal watersheds can be directly traced to population growth and its associated development — both residential and infrastructure, changes in water flow, and increased pollution.

Imagery from Earth-observing satellites that map changes in wetlands, however, show that while Mediterranean wetlands had been principally used for agriculture, less wetland areas have been changed by agriculture in the past 10–15 years. This  indicates that agriculture expansion is no longer a severe threat and successful agricultural practices can actually support healthy wetlands.

Imagery from Earth-observing satellites that map changes in wetlands, however, show that while Mediterranean wetlands had been principally used for agriculture, less wetland areas have been changed by agriculture in the past 10–15 years. This  indicates that agriculture expansion is no longer a severe threat and successful agricultural practices can actually support healthy wetlands.

Agriculture needs wetlands for water, pest management, pollination and landscape improvement. At the same time, agricultural land acts as a buffer zone around wetlands, protecting them from developing industrial zones and urban areas. This co-habitation shows that wetlands and the agriculture sector are mutually beneficial.

Recognizing this connection, common strategies for wetland and agro ecosystem-conscious management are on global agendas.

Now, 43 years later, the anniversary of the adoption and signing of the ‘Ramsar Convention on Wetlands‘ is being celebrated under the theme ‘Wetlands and Agriculture: Partners for Growth‘.

Paul Ouedraogo,Ramsar Convention’s Senior Advisor for Africa said:

“We need to find the right balance between the economic demands of agriculture and the necessary wise use of wetlands, which benefits both and is indeed essential for each of them.”

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Modern Day Slavery in Brick Kilns in India


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Myself By T.V. Antony Raj

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A Child Brick worker in India (Source: BBC)

A Child Brick worker in India (Source: bbc.co.uk)

A century ago only 10% of India’s population lived in urban areas and now expected to increase to 40% by 2030.

The outcome of India’s economic growth has transformed small trading towns into bustling business centres with multinational enterprises, setting up factories, call centres, software development units, etc., eager to capitalize on high skill labour at low pay.

This stupendous metropolitan and rural boom need factories, offices, apartments, shopping malls, etc., constructed with bricks made of clay burnt in a kiln, as one of the needed primary building material. Bricks are used as filler materials for framework structures as well as to build load bearing structures.

Making the Brick

The process of making a brick has not changed over the centuries or across geographies. Traditionally the main steps followed to make a brick are:

1. Procuring the materials: Clay, the main raw material after mining is stored in the open to make the clay soft and remove unwanted embedded oxides.

Brick field labourer in India.

Brick field labourer in India.

2. Tempering: Clay is mixed with water to the right consistency for moulding. It is then kneaded manually with hands and feet. In certain regions, animal driven pug mills are used.

Brick Making - Tempering (Source: ecobrick.in)

Brick Making – Tempering (Source: ecobrick.in)

3. Moulding: The kneaded clay after rolling in sand is filled into wooden or metal moulds. Sand is used to prevent the brick from sticking to the mould.

Brick Making - Moulding (Sourc: ecobrick.in)

Brick Making – Moulding (Sourc: ecobrick.in)

4. Drying: The moulded clay arranged in a herring bone pattern are placed in the drying area to dry in the sun. To speed up uniform drying and to prevent warping the green bricks are turned over every two days. After two weeks, the green bricks will dry enough ready for firing.

Brick Making - Drying (Source: ecobrick.in)

Brick Making – Drying (Source: ecobrick.in)

5. Firing: The green bricks are arranged in a kiln. Insulation is provided by packing with mud. Fire holes used to ignite the kiln are sealed to prevent heat from escaping. The heat is maintained for a week.

Brick Making -Firing (Source: indianjourneys.wordpress.com)

Brick Making -Firing (Source: indianjourneys.wordpress.com)

6. Sorting: On disassembling, the bricks are sorted according to colour. Colour indicates the level of burning. Over-burnt bricks are used for paving or covering the kiln. The under-burnt bricks are burned once again, or used for building the inner walls of the next  kiln.

Brick Making - Sorting (Source: ecobrick.in)

Brick Making – Sorting (Source: ecobrick.in)

India’s Brick Industry

India’s brick industry – the second largest in the world after China, has more than 150,000 brick production units employing an estimated 10 million workers. The brick kilns that feed the booming construction sector of India are a crucial part of India’s growing economy that contributes around र300 billion to the country’s economy every year. However, the brick workers do not get to benefit much from that amount since brick kilns use forced labour.

Millions of men, women, young boys, young girls, and children get paid meagre amounts that allow them to merely subsist. In many brick kilns in India, bonded labourers working in near-slavery conditions, are on average paid around र150 to produce over 1,500 bricks during a 12-hour-workday. They are paid in advance and are allowed to leave, along with their children suffering from severe respiratory problems, only after six months.

The trade unions, NGOs, and local people do organize and mobilize thousands of workers to fight for increased wages, combat child labour and sexual exploitation. However, these efforts have not achieved much for the welfare of the workers.

Union_Solidarity_International_logo

Over the last two years, Union Solidarity International (USI), a UK-based NGO has been campaigning to improve the conditions of the brick labourers. Andrew Brady of the USI says:

“It’s modern-day slavery. Entire families of men, women and children are working for a pittance, up to 16 hours a day, in terrible conditions. There are horrific abuses of minimum wage rates and health and safety regulations, and it’s often bonded labour, so they can’t escape.”

Prayas logo

To capture international attention on this issue the USI in partnership with the Indian human rights group, Prayas, will launch the Blood Bricks campaign next week. USI and Prayas have been working to organize brick kiln workers into unions. This initiative has already seen 70% wage increase in some areas.

The campaign comes after the Observer’s recent revelations of horrific labour abuses on Abu Dhabi’s new pleasure island of Saadiyat, where new outposts of the Louvre and Guggenheim museums are under construction. The investigation discovered thousands of foreign workers living in squalid conditions, their passports confiscated and trapped until they paid back hefty recruitment fees. Brady says:

“It’s a worldwide issue. We’re merely using India as the example, but we’ve seen the same abuses with projects in Qatar and Brazil for the World Cup and Olympics – iconic projects built on the back of the blood and sweat of bonded labour. It’s time to put an end to this trade in blood bricks.”

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I Wish You “A Happy New Year 2014!”


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Myself By T.V. Antony Raj

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Happy New Year 2014

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January 1 is probably the world’s most celebrated public holiday. In each time zone, as the new year starts at the stroke of midnight, it is invariably greeted with fireworks.

Janus, the Roman god of gates, doors, and beginnings.

Janus, the Roman god of gates, doors, and beginnings.

The first month of the year, January, is named after Janus, the Roman god who had two faces, one looking forward and the other looking backward. The Romans dedicated New Year’s Day to Janus, the god of gates, doors, and beginnings. This suggests that New Year’s celebrations are founded on pagan traditions.

The Julian calendar used in the Roman Empire since 45 BC, as well as the Gregorian calendar also called the Western calendar and the Christian calendar that refined the Julian calendar in 1582 have January 1 as the first day of the year.

Circumcision of Jesus.

Circumcision of Jesus.

Later on, January 1, the New Year’s Day, was liturgically marked the Feast of the Circumcision of Jesus in the Gregorian calendar of Christendom. The Anglican and Lutheran churches celebrate the Feast of the Circumcision of Jesus on January 1, based on the belief that if Jesus was born on December 25, then according to Jewish tradition, his circumcision would have taken place on the eighth day of his life (January 1).

The Roman Catholic Church considers New Year’s Day as a Holy Day of Obligation and celebrates the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God, on this day.

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ALEC Says: “If You Install Your Own Solar Panels Then You Are a ‘Freerider’!”


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Myself By T.V. Antony Raj

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Solar panels on a home.  ALEC will promote legislation planning to penalise individual homeowners who install solar panels.

Solar panels on a home. ALEC will promote legislation planning to penalize individual homeowners who install solar panels.

While everyone wants to go green, an alliance of corporations and conservative activists in the United States called the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), in a sweeping new offensive on clean energy is mobilising to penalize homeowners who install their own solar panels – casting them as “freeriders“.

  • Documents show conservative group’s anti-green agenda.
  • Strategy to charge people who install their own solar panels.
  • Environmentalists accuse Alec of protecting utility firms’ profits
Is this not a shame?

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November 19, is World Toilet Day!


Myself By T.V. Antony Raj

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“Sanitation is more important than independence.”
Mahatma Gandhi (in 1925).

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World Toilet Day

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If you find the images used in this article nauseating, then I have made my point. For us, Indians and other Asians, this is life. We have to live with it.

In 2001, World Toilet Organization (WTO) declared November 19 as World Toilet Day (WTD). Today, over 19 countries observe WTD with events hosted by various
water and sanitation advocates.

In developing countries in Asia and Africa, poor sanitation and water supply result in economic losses estimated at $260 billion annually.

India has more mobiles than toilets

Though a majority of the world’s population has access to mobile phones, one third of humanity do not have access to proper sanitation, including toilets or latrines, affecting the environment, human health, dignity and security, and social and economic development.

We all like food. We spend most of our income on food. We look forward eagerly to what we would eat today for breakfast, lunch and dinner. But, do we ever give thought to what happens as a result of all that food we consume?

In our society and community, it is a taboo and not polite to talk about toilets. We do not want others to see the cleaning and sanitation products we use. So, we hide them. We even hide the sewer system beneath the ground.

Why?

Because one third of humanity (2.5 billion people), or one in three people living in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, do not have access to clean, safe, and functioning hygienic toilets. Therefore, they do not bother to discuss the problem of sanitation. As such, sanitation remains a neglected issue with meager financial investments in water, sanitation and hygiene sectors.

In the developing countries, the cost of inaction on sanitation is high. Due to lack of toilets, men, women, the young, the sick and the elderly have to defecate in the open, in fields, in vacant lots, and even by the roadside during the day and at night. Almost 1 billion people continue to defecate in the open.

Excreting in India

Lack of access to clean bathrooms in schools deters many girls from pursuing their education after they reach puberty. In some regions, due to lack of toilets, girls do not go to school when they are menstruating. Improved sanitation facilities can have a particularly positive impact on the education opportunities of young girls, affected by the lack of privacy and cleanliness during their menstrual period. Also, lack of toilets in schools affect all learners from concentrating in the classrooms, as they have to wait for longer periods before being able to relieve themselves in privacy in a dignified manner.

Without toilets and proper sanitation the environment around homes, workplaces, markets, and hospitals, become sources of infection and diarrhoeal diseases due to millions of tonnes of human excretion.

Due to lack of improved sanitation almost 2,000 children die every day from preventable diarrhoeal diseases, the second leading cause of child deaths in the world. Diarrhoeal diseases caused by inadequate sanitation, and unhygienic conditions put children at multiple risks leading to vitamin and mineral deficiencies, high morbidity, malnutrition, stunted growth and death. Every year 0.85 million children die from diarrhoea. Poor sanitation and unimproved water cause 88% of these deaths. Studies reveal that improved sanitation can help reduce diarrhoeal diseases by about 33%.

Despite the scale of the crisis, sanitation remains a low priority for many governments.

How can we mitigate this situation?

Now, many organisations have started to discuss toilets. Investment in sanitation is becoming a priority in many international communities. Yet, because the topic of sanitation has until now been neglected to a vast extent, they wait for good solutions to the problem. New solutions and approaches to sanitation that should have been tried and tested a long time back, are starting to find support only now.

Progress depends on adequate investment and collaborative action by civil societies, multilateral agencies, academia and the private sector in developing countries by supporting national efforts to improve sanitation for all strata of their society.

To address these issues, in July 2013, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the “Sanitation for All” Resolution (A/RES/67/291) designating November 19 as World Toilet Day, aims to change both behaviour and policy on issues ranging from ending open-air defection (which 1.1 billion people practice worldwide) to enhancing water management.

 Jan Eliasson, Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations,

Jan Eliasson, Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations.

On July 24, 2013, Jan Eliasson, Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations, issued a statement on adoption of the General Assembly resolution ‘Sanitation for All.’

I am delighted and grateful that Member States have adopted a resolution officially designating November 19th as World Toilet Day. I thank the Government of Singapore for its leadership on a crucially important global issue. This new annual observance will go a long way toward raising awareness about the need for all human beings to have access to sanitation.

Despite progress toward the Millennium Development Goals, one in three people do not have a basic toilet. Almost 2,000 children die every day from preventable diarrhoeal diseases. Poor sanitation and water supply result in economic losses estimated at $260 billion annually in developing countries.

Proper sanitation is also a question of basic dignity. It is unacceptable that women have to risk being the victims of rape and abuse, just to do something that most of us take for granted. It is also unacceptable that many girls are pushed out of school for lack of basic sanitation facilities.

This new resolution builds on the General Assembly’s “Sustainable sanitation: the drive to 2015”, agreed in 2010, and adds momentum to the Call to Action on Sanitation that I, on behalf of the Secretary-General, launched in March this year.

I urge every country to accelerate progress towards a world in which everyone enjoys this most basic of rights. I look forward to working with all partners to make Sanitation for All a reality.

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The lack of access to decent toilet is no joke for a third of the world’s people, but a matter of life and death. No other invention has saved more lives than a toilet. Without access to toilets, many women and girls are too embarrassed to go in the open to defecate during daytime and so deny themselves relief until darkness sets in. But, trips to fields or roadside at night, however, puts them at risk of physical attack and sexual violence. So, having a toilet in or near the home lowers the risk of women and girls getting subjected to violence and rape.

Toilets mean safety.

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Price of Bottled Potable Water Around the World


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Myself By T.V. Antony Raj

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Bottled Water

Bottled Water

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Drinking a good amount of water is essential to maintain our health. Water helps us to conserve energy, lose weight, and combat disease by hydration.

Though all bottled potable water cannot be deemed healthier than tap water, in most parts of the world the demand for bottled water is increasing day by day even in regions where tap water is considered safe to drink. New York City offers its residents some of the purest, most delicious drinking water on the planet. Over 1 billion gallons are brought in every day from upstate reservoirs. However, most people in NYC just buy brand-name bottled water.

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Recently, the authorities in the state of Tamilnadu, India, sealed hundreds of plants producing bottled water. Even so, many people in the state still buy bottled waters some of which do not meet the ISI standards and marketed illegally.

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Bottled Water Consumption in Ten Countries (1999 and 2004)

Americans buy an estimated 42.6 billion single-serving (1 liter or less) plastic water bottles each year. People in Western Europe consume almost half of all bottled water produced, amounting to more than 100 liters per person every year.

Bottled Water is already having significant adverse effects on the ecosystem of countries all over the world, especially in developing countries.

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The cost of manufacturing, packaging, and transporting bottled water is more expensive than tap water.

Table 1 lists countries where the average price of a 1.5 liter bottled potable water costs USD$ 1.60 (IND₹ 100.58, EUR€ 1.20) or more. The conversions are at prevailing rates of exchange.

Table 1: List of Countries where price of 1.5 Liter Bottled Water
costs USD$ 1.60 or more.

Country

USD$

IND₹

EUR€

Norway

3.32

208.24

2.49

Australia

2.84

178.24

2.13

Zimbabwe

2.75

172.55

2.06

Finland

2.60

163.03

1.95

New Zealand

2.51

157.36

1.88

Iceland

2.47

154.91

1.85

Venezuela

2.39

149.75

1.79

Guernsey

2.32

145.85

1.74

Sweden

2.29

143.88

1.72

Puerto Rico

1.97

123.61

1.48

Canada

1.92

120.19

1.44

Costa Rica

1.90

119.22

1.43

Papua New Guinea

1.83

114.80

1.37

Hong Kong

1.81

113.32

1.36

United States

1.75

109.80

1.31

Ireland

1.69

106.18

1.27

Brunei

1.61

100.80

1.21

United Kingdom

1.60

100.58

1.20

Table 2 lists countries where the average price of a 1.5 liter bottled potable water costs USD$ 0.50 (IND₹ 31.37, EUR€ 0.38) or less.

Table 2: List of Countries where the price of 1.5 Liter of Bottled Water
costs USD$ 0.50 or less.

Country

USD$

IND₹

EUR€

Sudan

0.50

31.37

0.38

Vietnam

0.50

31.37

0.38

Turkey

0.49

30.93

0.37

Afghanistan

0.49

30.50

0.36

Thailand

0.48

30.03

0.36

Hungary

0.45

28.29

0.34

Egypt

0.44

27.34

0.33

Iran

0.41

25.54

0.31

Syria

0.40

25.10

0.30

Indonesia

0.39

24.77

0.30

Tunisia

0.36

22.75

0.27

Nepal

0.35

21.91

0.26

Algeria

0.34

21.31

0.25

Bangladesh

0.32

20.19

0.24

India

0.32

20.00

0.24

Table 3 is an alphabetically ordered list of 122 countries showing the average price of 1.5 liter of bottled drinking water.

Table 3:  Price of 1.5 Liter of Drinking Water across the World

Country                                                        USD$                IND₹                EUR€

Afghanistan 0.49 30.50 0.36
Albania 0.67 41.80 0.50
Algeria 0.34 21.31 0.25
Argentina 1.28 80.60 0.96
Armenia 0.62 38.61 0.46
Australia 2.84 178.24 2.13
Austria 0.67 41.80 0.50
Azerbaijan 0.79 49.40 0.59
Bahrain 1.33 83.19 1.00
Bangladesh 0.32 20.19 0.24
Belarus 0.70 43.92 0.53
Belgium 1.27 79.42 0.95
Bolivia 1.08 67.69 0.81
Bosnia And Herzegovina 0.68 42.67 0.51
Botswana 1.17 73.52 0.88
Brazil 0.88 55.02 0.66
Brunei 1.61 100.80 1.21
Bulgaria 0.55 34.21 0.41
Cambodia 0.55 34.51 0.41
Canada 1.92 120.19 1.44
Chile 1.36 85.14 1.02
China 0.66 41.20 0.49
Colombia 1.30 81.61 0.98
Costa Rica 1.90 119.22 1.43
Croatia 1.05 65.80 0.79
Cyprus 1.28 80.26 0.96
Czech Republic 0.66 41.63 0.50
Denmark 1.43 89.65 1.07
Dominican Republic 0.91 57.00 0.68
Ecuador 1.00 62.74 0.75
Egypt 0.44 27.34 0.33
El Salvador 0.80 50.20 0.60
Estonia 1.07 66.88 0.80
Ethiopia 0.65 40.91 0.49
Finland 2.60 163.03 1.95
France 1.07 66.88 0.80
Georgia 0.60 37.65 0.45
Germany 0.67 41.80 0.50
Ghana 1.00 62.74 0.75
Greece 1.33 83.60 1.00
Guatemala 1.01 63.62 0.76
Guernsey 2.32 145.85 1.74
Honduras 1.00 62.74 0.75
Hong Kong 1.81 113.32 1.36
Hungary 0.45 28.29 0.34
Iceland 2.47 154.91 1.85
India 0.32 20.00 0.24
Indonesia 0.39 24.77 0.30
Iran 0.41 25.54 0.31
Iraq 0.75 47.06 0.56
Ireland 1.69 106.18 1.27
Israel 1.13 70.79 0.85
Italy 0.53 33.44 0.40
Jamaica 1.44 90.06 1.08
Japan 1.33 83.75 1.00
Jordan 0.58 36.57 0.44
Kazakhstan 0.78 48.97 0.59
Kenya 1.00 62.70 0.75
Kuwait 0.53 33.14 0.40
Latvia 0.85 53.54 0.64
Lebanon 0.80 50.20 0.60
Lithuania 0.77 48.43 0.58
Luxembourg 1.07 66.88 0.80
Macao 1.16 72.85 0.87
Macedonia 0.55 34.42 0.41
Malaysia 0.63 39.41 0.47
Malta 0.73 45.98 0.55
Mauritius 0.80 50.43 0.60
Mexico 0.92 57.42 0.69
Moldova 0.61 38.22 0.46
Monaco 1.05 66.05 0.79
Mongolia 0.51 32.23 0.39
Montenegro 0.67 41.80 0.50
Myanmar 0.53 33.36 0.40
Namibia 1.27 79.62 0.95
Nepal 0.35 21.91 0.26
Netherlands 1.33 83.60 1.00
New Zealand 2.51 157.36 1.88
Nicaragua 1.00 62.74 0.75
Nigeria 0.93 58.62 0.70
Norway 3.32 208.24 2.49
Oman 0.51 31.98 0.38
Pakistan 0.42 26.30 0.31
Palestinian Territory 0.85 53.09 0.64
Panama 1.15 72.16 0.86
Papua New Guinea 1.83 114.80 1.37
Peru 1.00 62.70 0.75
Philippines 0.69 43.56 0.52
Poland 0.64 40.21 0.48
Portugal 0.67 41.80 0.50
Puerto Rico 1.97 123.61 1.48
Qatar 0.55 34.47 0.41
Romania 0.75 47.20 0.56
Russia 0.93 58.08 0.69
Saudi Arabia 0.53 33.46 0.40
Serbia 0.54 33.97 0.41
Singapore 1.20 75.60 0.90
Slovakia 0.80 50.16 0.60
Slovenia 0.80 50.16 0.60
South Africa 1.17 73.44 0.88
South Korea 1.15 72.32 0.86
Spain 0.67 41.80 0.50
Sri Lanka 0.56 34.88 0.42
Sudan 0.50 31.37 0.38
Sweden 2.29 143.88 1.72
Switzerland 1.08 67.97 0.81
Syria 0.40 25.10 0.30
Taiwan 1.02 63.91 0.76
Tanzania 0.94 58.83 0.70
Thailand 0.48 30.03 0.36
Tunisia 0.36 22.75 0.27
Turkey 0.49 30.93 0.37
Uganda 1.00 62.57 0.75
Ukraine 0.73 46.02 0.55
United Arab Emirates 0.54 34.16 0.41
United Kingdom 1.60 100.58 1.20
United States 1.75 109.80 1.31
Uruguay 1.35 84.44 1.01
Uzbekistan 0.53 33.54 0.40
Venezuela 2.39 149.75 1.79
Vietnam 0.50 31.36 0.38
Zimbabwe 2.75 172.55 2.06

Source: Know : Price of 1.5 Liter of Drinking Water across the World

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Are There Snakes in Hawaii?


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Myself . By T.V. Antony Raj

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Studies show that an invertebrate successfully colonized Hawaii once in every 70,000 years, a plant once in every 100,000 years, and a bird once in every million years.

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The Hawaiian Hotspots. (Image from Tasa Graphics)

The Hawaiian Hotspots. (Image from Tasa Graphics)

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Officially and technically, Hawaii doesn’t have any snakes.

Why?

All Hawaiian Islands are volcanic in origin. Over the past 44 million years the islands rose up from the ocean floor due to erupting volcanoes. Even today, the youngest island, Hawaii, is still growing from under.

Hawaii map - Distance from other countries (Source:  Padi.com)

Hawaii map – Distance from other countries (Source: Padi.com)

Hawaii is the most isolated archipelago in the world. The nearest continent, North America, is over 2500 miles (4000 km) away.

The extreme isolation of the Hawaiian archipelago makes it difficult for plants and animals to colonize its islands. The only way for wildlife species to reach the Hawaiian Islands from the rest of the world is to fly or swim across the Pacific Ocean. Chances of surviving the long journey over Pacific by air or sea is virtually small. It would indeed be a miracle to establish a reproducing population on these islands. Since there are no natural predators and diseases in Hawaii, many native plants and animals needed only a few natural defenses to evolve. Studies show that an invertebrate successfully colonized Hawaii once in every 70,000 years, a plant once in every 100,000 years, and a bird once in every million years. This is why it took over millions of years for a very distinct flora and fauna to evolve in Hawaii.

Map of the Pacific Culture Areas (Author : Kahuroa)

Map of the Pacific Culture Areas (Author : Kahuroa)

Before humans set foot in the Hawaiian paradise, there were no large animals to eat plants. Harm to the flora and fauna on the islands began about 1500 years ago when settlers started arriving from Polynesia. Mammals such as pigs, dogs, goats and plants brought by them literally devastated many native ecosystems.

It is illegal to own snakes or transport snakes of any kind to the Hawaiian islands. Anyone possessing a pet snake face up to 3 years in jail and $200,000 in fines. In Hawaii there no natural predators for snakes and large lizards, therefore, if allowed, they could pose a threat to Hawaii’s ecosystem by competing with native animals for food and habitat. Some snake species prey on birds and their eggs, and hence could pose a threat to endangered native birds.

Blind Snakes

Hawaii doesn’t officially have snakes. However, there is one snake that does live in Hawaii, the Blind Snake (Ramphotyphlops hatmaliyeb) likely an import from the Caroline Islands located in Micronesia, an area north of the equator and far west of Hawaii.

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Addison Wynn, a herpetologist at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History who studies the blind snakes on Caroline Islands says:

“They eat termites and small ants, and there are about 240 or so known species in the world. They spend their lives burrowing so their head is blunt and pointed to push their way through the soil. Their rudimentary eyes can only differentiate between light and dark and exist as pigment spots underneath scales on their head.

These new species extend the known range of blind snakes some 2,000 kilometers out into the Pacific Ocean, into areas where we didn’t know they occurred or could ever occur. We just didn’t expect to find blind snakes out there (Caroline Islands) in the middle of the ocean.”

Some other studies that the blind snakes found in Hawaii could have come there from far off Philippines, about 5300 miles (8530 km) away.

So, other than the blind snakes, it is widely assumed that there are no snakes in Hawaii. Sadly, this is not totally true. According to a few reports some snakes have been seen in Hawaii.

Ornate Tree Snake

The Ornate Tree Snake captured at Hickam Hickam Air Force Base. (Photo by  Dr. Allen Allison, Bishop Museum

The Ornate Tree Snake captured at Hickam Hickam Air Force Base. (Photo by Dr. Allen Allison, Bishop Museum)

On May 23, 2013, Military personnel at Hickam Air Force Base captured a foot-long mildly-venomous Ornate Tree Snake (Chrysopelea ornate) in a maintenance bay near the airfield.

Since the Ornate Tree Snakes have the ability to spring from tree to tree, they are also known as ornate flying tree snakes. These snakes are native to South East Asia and related to the brown tree snakes which have devastated the ecosystem in Guam by virtually wiping out the native forest birds. Their diet consists of lizards, mice, bats and birds.

Boa constrictor 

This was a snake found ran over on the mainland. (Photo: National Parks Service)

This was the five-foot long boa constrictor found run over on Pali Highway (Photo: National Parks Service)

On September 22, 2013, a five-foot long Boa Constrictor was run over on the Pali Highway by a motorist. Several inspectors of Hawaii Department of Agriculture (HDOA) went directly to the area where the snake was found. However, they did not find evidence of any other snakes. Russell S. Kokubun, chairperson of the Hawaii Board of Agriculture said:

“Any snake found in the wild in Hawaii is of serious concern. Boa constrictors may grow up to 12 feet, which is particularly troubling for nearby residents and for the environment.”

Rainbow Boa Constrictor 

A non-venomous rainbow boa constrictor

A non-venomous rainbow boa constrictor

At about 7 am on November 5, 2013, Victor Palmeri, found a live two-and-a-half foot long non-venomous Rainbow Boa Constrictor on the Nuuanu Avenue sidewalk fronting the Kukui Plaza condominium. Native to Central and South America, rainbow boas can grow up to six feet long. Rainbow boas are known for their attractive iridescent sheen on their scales in the sunlight. Their diet consists of rodents, lizards, aquatic animals, and birds.

It is not known at this time how these snake found their way to Hawaii.

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Taprobane Island: Part 4 – Victor Alexander Christian Henry George de Mauny


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Myself . By T.V. Antony Raj

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Victor Alexander Christian Henry George de Mauny

Victor Alexander Christian Henry George de Mauny (Source: christies.com)

Count Maurice de Mauny-Talvande had named his son as Victor Alexander Christian Henry George de Mauny who was born on April 19, 1899.

HMS London

HMS London

In 1912, Victor Alexander joined the British Royal Navy as a cadet. When First World War broke out in August 1914, he was appointed to the battleship HMS London, a Formidable-class battleship in the Royal Navy.

Anzac Beach:  4th Battalion landing at 8 am on April 25, 1915

Anzac Beach: 4th Battalion landing at 8 am on April 25, 1915

He assisted in landing the Australians at Anzac Cove as part of the amphibious invasion of the Gallipoli Peninsula in Turkey by predominantly Australian and New Zealand forces on April 25, 1915, and himself spent several days at Anzac Cove.

In 1919, he resigned his commission. He was placed on the Emergency List on March 8, 1919. He went back to Ceylon to work for the Rosehough Tea Company, first as an Assistant and then as an under-manager.

While his father, Count Maurice de Mauny-Talvande, was residing at Weligama in 1931, Victor Alexander resided at “Boxmead”, Turret Road (now Dharmapala Mawatha), Colombo – 7.

On September 8, 1939, mobilised by the Royal Navy, he was appointed to Ramsgate’s naval shore base HMS Fervent as a midshipman.

British troops evacuating Dunkirk's beaches.

British troops evacuating Dunkirk’s beaches.

Victor Alexander was engaged in the evacuation of Allied soldiers from the beaches and harbour of Dunkirk, code-named Operation Dynamo, also known as the Miracle of Dunkirk, France, between May 27 and June 4, 1940. He served on this ship up to June 21, 1940.

He was mentioned in dispatches (The London Gazette of Friday, the 16th of August, 1940). The recommendation states:

Between Noon on 30 May and 0815 Hours on 4 June 1940, Lieutenant De Mauny was continuously engaged under way on evacuation duties without any intermission. He commanded in succession Ocean Breeze, Haig and then as Navigator in a group of Skoots, in Pascholl. He brought back more than 300 troops from Dunkirk beach in surf conditions on two separate occasions and was notably more successful than other small craft working in the same areas. On 31 May, when he was eight hours off the coast, his ship was subjected to continuous air attack. He displayed great devotion to duty under fire, and marked initiative, and was favourably reported upon by his Senior Officers on more than one occasion.

Next, he commanded the drifter Ocean Breeze, and the launch Haig.

Pascholl, a Dutch schuyt

Pascholl, a Dutch schuyt

He served as a navigator in Pascholl, for a group of Dutch schuyts (flat-bottomed sailboat, broad in the beam, with a square stern; usually equipped with leeboards to serve for a keel) that were used to ferry combat soldiers from the shore to the ships.

Promoted Lieutenant Commander on October 1, 1940, Victor Alexander served in HMS Brighton from October 1940 to August 1941.

He then commanded HMS Saltburn, a Hunt-class minesweeper built for the Royal Navy during First World War, but deployed as Royal Navy Signal School’s tender, for training.

At the end of March 1943, he commanded the patrol sloop HMS Mallard, deployed in the North Sea. While serving in this vessel, he was mentioned in The London Gazette of Tuesday, the 11th of December, 1945 and was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, G.VI.R., “For distinguished service during the War in Europe.

HMS Impulsive

HMS Impulsive

Later in the war he served in the battle cruiser HMS Renown, and then the destroyer HMS Midge. He took command of HMS Impulsive in July 1945.

WARSHIP COMMANDS LISTED FOR VICTOR ALEXANDER CHRISTIAN HENRY GEORGE DE MAUNY, RN

Ship Rank Type From To
HMS Saltburn (J 58) Lt.Cdr. (emergency) Minesweeper 25 Aug 1941 1 Jan 1942
HMS Saltburn (J 58) Lt.Cdr. (emergency) Minesweeper 5 Feb 1942 30 Mar 1943
HMS Mallard (L 42 / K 42) Lt.Cdr. (emergency) Patrol vessel 30 Mar 1943 1 Jul 1945
HMS Impulsive (D 11) A/Cdr. (emergency) Destroyer 1 Jul 1945 24 Oct 1945

After the World War II ended, Victor Alexander Christian Henry George de Mauny, DSC, RN, returned to Ceylon and became Chairman of the Rosehough Tea Company.

← Previous: Taprobane Island: Part 3                         Next → Taprobane Island: Part 5

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