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The Pallikaranai Wetland in Chennai: Part 2 – Now It Is a Concrete Jungle!


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Myself

By T.V. Antony Raj
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Why am I interested in wetlands and writing about them?

Because I am concerned.

My home in Jalladianpet in Chennai, Tamilnadu, India is just 2.5 miles (4 km) from the Pallikaranai wetland. Now, this once pristine idyllic wetland and many other smaller wetlands, pasture lands and patches of dry forest in Chennai are being transformed into concrete jungles!

That is why I am concerned.

I am not an environmentalist per se. I am just a layman. I seek protection of our natural environment from changes made by harmful human activities. I yearn for improvement in the quality of our surroundings worldwide for the benefit of our present and future generations.

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 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.

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The Pallikarani wetland serves as nature’s primary aquifer recharge system for Chennai city. It harvests rainwater and the flood water during monsoons and thereby mitigates the desolation and suffering that floods could cause in low-lying areas in Chennai.

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).

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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)

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

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Pallikaranai marsh (Photo: Simply CVR)
Pallikaranai marsh (Photo: Simply CVR)

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Now, 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 marsh” by Shaju John. He has augmented his article with photographs captured by him in the post-Photo file: The mired marsh.

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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)

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

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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)

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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.

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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)

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

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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)

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Air samples from the Perungudi garbage dumping yard registered the highest number of chemicals found in any Indian sample. The air contained cancer-causing and other harmful chemicals.

People living miles around the Pallikaranai wetland continually inhale the omnipresent malodorous virulent air. They suffer the stifling smoke. They have no other alternative than to use the polluted and poisoned ground water. These factors subject them to major wheezing and carcinogenic health hazards.

On June 15, 2012, a concerned Jaison Jeeva uploaded the following video on YouTube. It shows the fire accident that happened at the garbage dumps in Pallikaranai. The incident caused physical and mental disturbance to the people in the vicinity.

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There is an incredible rate of development in the Pallikaranai wetland. The sanctioning of many IT parks has resulted in countless high-rise office and residential buildings.

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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)

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The campus of the National Institute of Ocean Technology (NIOT), Engineering and Dental Colleges, and Hospitals have been built on the marshland.

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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)

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Velachery MRTS Railway station (Photo - Simply CVR)
Velachery MRTS Railway station (Photo – Simply CVR)

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All these encroachments have led to building infrastructures such as the Velachery MRTS railway station, the flyovers, the road connecting old Mahabalipuram Road (OMR) and Pallavaram, etc., in the midst of the marshland.

Sadly, all these rampant developments have shrunk the water spread.

With policies in place to crack down on encroachment, illegal waste disposal, and poaching, there is still hope for saving the Pallikaranai wetland.

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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)

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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.

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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)

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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

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Even so, 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 Mahabalipuram Road (OMR) and Pallavaram that bisects the marsh should also be declared a forest reserve.

An official release on Friday, June 9, 2006 the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB) underscores the need to protect the rare species of fauna and flora in the ecologically important wetland of Chennai.

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Dumping sewage into the Pallikaranai marshland.
Dumping sewage into the Pallikaranai marshland.

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To retain the groundwater recharging potential the TNPCB banned the dumping of garbage and discharge of sewage and industrial effluents into the Pallikaranai marshland. The TNPCB directive states that untreated sewage should be discharged only into the sewage treatment plant operated by Metrowater at Perungudi. The TNPCB warned that violators of its directions would be Penalized without prior notice under section 15 (1) of the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986.

On June 10, 2006, The Hindu in an article titled “Dumping banned in Pallikaranai marsh” said:

The punishment under this section involves imprisonment for a term, which may extend to five years or with fine, which may extend to Rs.1 lakh, or both. In cases of repeated violation, the penalty involves additional fine, which may extend to Rs. 5,000 for every day during which the contravention occurs, after the conviction for the first violation.

Further, if the violation continues beyond a period of one year after the date of first conviction, the offender is liable to be imprisoned for a term that may extend to seven years. According to the press note, the basis of the directive is a routine inspection of the Perungudi dump site and the marsh zone by the TNPCB, which found that unsegregated garbage along with other wastes emptied into the marshland by the Chennai Corporation and other local bodies as well as private agencies. This garbage is burnt by ragpickers, causing nuisance to the residential areas and setting off air-pollution. The inspection also observed that untreated sewage collected from nearby areas in tanker lorries was being discharged into the marshland.

The TNPCB has also constituted a Local Area Environment Committee to protect the marsh. The public can refer any complaint on discharge of sewage or solid wastes into the marsh area by any agencies to this committee through the District Environmental Engineer, TNPCB, Tambaram (Phone 22266239). The Pollution Control Board’s announcement comes just days after a non-governmental initiative released the results of a recent study on air quality.

In April 2008, the Madras High Court directed the State Government of Tamilnadu to remove all encroachments on the Pallikaranai marshlands. The Madras High Court also directed the Chennai Corporation not to allow the four municipalities – Pallavaram, Madipakkam, Kottivakkam and Valasaravakkam – to dump garbage at Perungudi after April 30, 2008.

On April 3, 2008, The Hindu in an article titled “Court directive on Perungudi garbage dump” said:

Passing interim orders on two writ petitions, the Bench said the State Government should not permit any construction activity on the marshlands. The court appointed a six-member expert committee, with Sheela Rani Chunkath, Chairperson, TIIC, as its convener to inspect the Perungudi Municipal Solid Waste Yard, CMWSSB treatment plant and the surrounding areas and submit a report regarding the suitability of the present site for usage and the continuance as a municipal solid waste ground and sewage treatment plant; to review compliance of various legislations, guidelines, rules and regulations in relation to dumping of solid waste and discharge of sewage; to review the earlier studies done by various agencies, and the measures taken and proposed to protect the Pallikaranai marsh and render suggestions for restoration and protection of the marsh.

The committee would also suggest measures for remediation of the land, ground water, flora and fauna in the marsh and Seevaram, Pallikaranai, Thoraipakkam and Perungudi villages. It would also consider the cumulative aspects of dumping of garbage, discharge of sewage and conversion of the marshlands to other use and suggest scientific alternative methods of dumping of garbage and discharge of sewage in the light of the methods in other countries.

The committee would conduct public hearing to ascertain the views of the residents of the four villages. The report should be made within six months, the Bench said.

Pending receipt of the report, the Chennai Corporation was directed not to permit their trucks to dump garbage on either side of the road and to remove the garbage already dumped on either side of 60 Feet Road abutting the residential areas and also the 200 feet road, within four weeks. It should demarcate the area of 200 acres which had been allotted to it by CMWSSB and further demarcate 106 acres which was actually used for dumping waste. Security at the dumping site should be increased to prevent incidents of fire. Appropriate scheme for segregating biodegradable and non-biodegradable wastes should be evolved and submitted to the court within three months.

The Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board in its report in respect of the landfill at Perungudi submitted that the Chennai Corporation had not complied with the Municipal Solid Wastes (Management and Handling) Rules, 2000.

Seven years have passed since then, but even now, dumping of garbage and sewage in the Pallikaranai marshland by the Chennai metropolitan authorities goes on unabated.

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← Previous: The Pallikaranai Wetland: Part 1 – Flora and Fauna

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Save the Wetlands


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Myself . 

By T.V. Antony Raj
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Logo of Ramsar Convention on Wetlands (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Logo of Ramsar Convention on Wetlands (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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

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

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Technically a wetland is 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 saturated with water, either permanently or seasonally, such that it takes on the characteristics of a distinct ecosystem.

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 primary factor that distinguishes wetlands from other landforms or water bodies is the characteristic vegetation 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  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 that maintain water tables in adjacent ecosystems.

Swamp is a low-lying wetland area found near large bodies of open water in such places as low-lying coastal plains, floodplains of rivers, and old lake basins or in areas where glacial deposits have disrupted normal drainage. An abundant growth of rushes and sedge characterize swamps in the northern regions. Trees, such as the swamp cypress and high shrubs dominate southern regions. Swamps can prevent flooding by absorbing floodwaters 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 natural marshy regions in eastern England.

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.

Most of the fens drained several centuries ago, became flat, damp, low-lying agricultural regions.

The water chemistry of fens ranges from low pH and low minerals to alkaline with high content of calcium and magnesium. ,

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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)

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Water in wetlands along the coastal shorelines is invariably salty or brackish. Water found in inland wetlands can also be fresh water.

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 diverse of all biological ecosystems. They comprise a range of plants that provide essential food and habitat for various wildlife such as fish, birds, reptiles, insects, etc.

The wetlands are pivotal to 75% of world’s migratory birds. More than half of the fish caught for recreational or commercial purposes depend on wetlands at some point in their life cycles.

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 an area about seven football fields every hour, and a 25% increase over the previous six-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 are 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 cohabitation 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.

Paul OuedraogoRamsar 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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The Five Days of December 1952 When the Killer Smog Blanketed London.


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Myself 

By T.V. Antony Raj

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Smokestack belching dense dark smoke.
Smokestack belching dense dark smoke.

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The modern fight against environmental pollution around the world owes much to the tragedy that befell Greater London, about 63 years ago. The haphazard use of coal brought the country to the brink of a frightening black disaster on December 5, 1952.

During the Industrial Revolution, from about 1760 to around 1840, there was a transition to new manufacturing processes. The main factor in this transition was the change from wood and other biofuels to coal.

Indiscriminate use of coal drove Britain, the most powerful empire in the world. Tall smokestacks became the symbols of the industrial age in Britain. The appalling use of coal in industries, for generating electricity, heating homes, for cooking, etc., was frightening. Trains, boats, iron, steel, everyday items used coal. In London, it was like millions of micro-volcanoes erupting all at once. It was as if London was eating coal to survive.

People were burning large quantities of poor quality coal and emitting pollution at low elevations. The pollution from home chimneys was double the amount of the industries.

In the Victorian era, London was well known for its romantic fog that covered the city for 90 days each year for decades. But as the years passed by, this romantic fog and the smoke and fog turned into a poisonous cloud of smog (smoky fog) during each winter. In his book “Reminiscences of Sherlock Holmes” Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (18591930) wrote:

In the third week of November, in the year 1895, a dense yellow fog settled down upon London. From the Monday to the Thursday I doubt whether it was ever possible from our windows in Baker Street to see the loom of the opposite houses. … But when, for the fourth time, after pushing back our chairs from breakfast we saw the greasy, heavy brown swirl still drifting past us and condensing in oily drops upon the windowpanes, my comrade’s impatient and active nature could endure this drab existence no longer. He paced restlessly about our sitting- room in a fever of suppressed energy, biting his nails, tapping the furniture, and chafing against inaction.

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A view  of Battersea Power Station in 2012 from River Thames.
A view of Battersea Power Station in 2012 from River Thames.

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Construction of the first phase, the A Station of the Battersea Power Station, began in March 1929. It first generated electricity in 1933, but was not completed until 1935. The total cost of its construction was £2,141,550. It burned approximately 10,000 tons of coal each week to supply one fifth of the electricity for the entire city of London.

Washing off the accumulated soot in London.
Washing off the accumulated soot in London.

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Slowly, with time, London became completely covered in soot.

In late 1952 an unusual cold cinch had gripped London for weeks. On December 5, 1952, the day the disaster began, Londoners awoke to find a clear sky, but coal fireplaces worked overtime to fight the chill in the air. As the day progressed, a light veil of fog began to blanket the city. In the afternoon, the fog mixed with the thousands of tons of soot being pumped into the skies of London by million or more coal stoves, home chimneys, from local factories and industrial smokestacks began to turn a sickly shade of yellow and settled in the London basin.

Smog was nothing new for Londoners, but on that day, this thick sulfurous yellow “pea souper” quickly thickened into a poisonous brew, unlike anything the city had ever experienced before. A high-pressure system parked over London caused a temperature inversion. The air about a thousand feet above the surface, warmer than that at ground level kept the smog under the clouds and prevented it from rising. And, there was no breeze to disperse and dissipate the soot-laden soup.

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The Killer Smog That Blanketed London, 63 Years Ago (Source: history.com)
The Killer Smog That Blanketed London, 63 Years Ago (Source: history.com)

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For five days from Friday, December 5 to Tuesday, December 9, 1952, the Great Smog paralyzed life in London. Poisonous smog closed down all establishments.  Day became as dark as night.

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People found it difficult to breathe the murky air.
People found it difficult to breathe the murky air.

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People found it difficult to breathe the murky air. The smog was so dense that residents of the Isle of Dogs section of the city reported they were unable to see their feet as they walked. It was as if they needed a blind person to lead them home.

The dense smog crippled all transportation. Boat traffic on the Thames came to a halt. Bus conductors holding flashlights and torches walked in front of the double-deckers to guide drivers. Flights were grounded, and trains canceled. Only the Underground was in service.

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The ambulance drivers had to rely on the police and people holding live burning torches s to show them the way.
The ambulance drivers had to rely on the police and people holding live burning torches s to show them the way.

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London was completely silent. Only sirens of ambulances which brought those whose lives were in danger to the hospitals was heard. The ambulance drivers had to rely on the police and people holding live burning torches to show them the way.

Even at mid-noon, automobile drivers and motorcyclists turned on their headlights. They hung their heads out the windows in a futile attempt to inch ahead through the yellow gloom. Many abandoned their vehicles.

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Traffic police used large lamps to light themselves up to avoid getting hit by vehicles.
Traffic police used large lamps to light themselves up to avoid getting hit by vehicles.

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Traffic police used large lamps to light themselves up to avoid getting hit by vehicles.

A greasy grime covered exposed surfaces. Pedestrians with their faces and noses blackened by the smog tried not to slip on the greasy black ooze that coated the sidewalks.

People wore face masks to go to shopping, to walk their dogs. Students wore face masks to go to school.

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People wore face masks even to kiss.
People wore face masks even to kiss.

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People wore face masks even to kiss.

Fearing the children might get lost in the smog, authorities advised parents not to send their children to school.

Fearing the children might get lost in the smog, authorities advised parents not to send their children to school.

Criminals emboldened by the thick dark smog resorted to purse snatching and burglaries and then vanished into the cloaking darkness.

Birds lost in the fog crashed into buildings.

Breeders fashioned improvised gas masks for their cattle by soaking grain sacks in whiskey. Eleven prize heifers brought to Earls Court for the famed Smithfield Show choked to death.

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All weekend soccer matches were canceled.
All weekend soccer matches were canceled.

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All weekend soccer matches were canceled. However, Oxford and Cambridge, carried on with their annual cross-country competition at Wimbledon Common. As runners materialized out of the thick haze, the track marshals shouted continually, “This way, this way, Oxford and Cambridge.”

Since the smog seeped even inside closed buildings, movie theaters closed down as the yellow haze made it impossible for the audience to see the screen. The opera houses too put up their shutters as the audience could no longer see the performers on the stage due to the acrid smog.

The unparalleled admissions to hospitals and the great number of pneumonia reports overwhelmed the medical authorities.

Sadly, the Great Smog was not only a nuisance, it was also lethal for those with respiratory and cardiovascular problems, the elderly, the babies and the infants. Amidst coughing and the wheezing, death came silently to London. The smog literally choked thousands to death. Deaths from bronchitis and pneumonia increased more than sevenfold and the death rate in the East End increased ninefold.

Eventually, the siege abated on December 9, 1952 when cold winds from the west swept the toxic smog away from London and carried out to the North Sea. Yet, the detrimental effects lingered on, and death rates remained above normal into the summer.

Initial reports estimated that upwards of 4,000 died prematurely in the first week of the Great Smog. The mortality rate remained high for a couple of months after the Great Smog. People realized the impact of the deadly Smog when the undertakers ran out of caskets and the florists out of flowers and bouquets.

There were 12,000 unexplained deaths and additional deaths during the episode and in the two months after the abatement of the peak smog.

A preliminary report not finalized yet attributed these later deaths to an influenza epidemic. New evidence shows that only a fraction of the deaths could be from influenza.

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The lungs of the dead confirmed that they died due to prolonged exposure to black carbon.

The lungs of the dead confirmed that they died due to prolonged exposure to black carbon.

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Thorough examination of the lungs of the dead confirmed that they died due to prolonged exposure to black carbon, a by-product of burning coal and a short-term overexposure to a high concentration of fine particulate matter containing heavy metals.

Initially, the British government was reluctant to act in the wake of the Great Smog.

The Coalition for Clean Air calculated the concentration of pollution in London at the time. They concluded that it might have surpassed the current pollution in China by a large margin even though PM2.5 was not measured at the time. During the Great Smog, the concentration of sulfur dioxide was 190 times higher than the WHO standard.

Following the investigation, the British Parliament passed the Clean Air Act of 1956, which restricted the burning of coal in urban areas. The Act authorized local councils to set up smoke-free zones.

The public received grants to convert from coal stoves to alternative heating systems.

It took years, for London to transit from its primary source of heating coal to gas, oil, and electricity. During the transition period, deadly smogs occurred periodically, such as one that killed 750 people in 1962. But none of them reached the scale of the Great Smog that descended upon London on December 5, 1952.

In the 1960s, after the Great Smog in London, other countries began to reduce and control their use of coal.

Now, India, a country suffering from severe air pollution is also on a similar footing. Soon, India will become the world’s second largest consumer of coal. Yet, as of today, India has not yet set standards for emissions of important pollutants in its industries.

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The International Women’s Day 2015: Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action


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Myself . By T.V. Antony Raj

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Woman is the companion of man, gifted with equal mental capacity… If by strength is meant moral power, then woman is immeasurably man’s superior… If non-violence is the law of our being, the future is with women… – Mahatma Gandhi

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International Women's Day 2015 (Photo: UN Women/Fernando Bocanegra)
International Women’s Day 2015 (Photo: UN Women/Fernando Bocanegra)

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On March 8th every year, the day originally known as the International Working Women’s Day, people around the world celebrate International Women’s Day (IWD).

In 1975, during International Women’s Year, the United Nations began celebrating International Women’s Day on March 8th. Two years later, in December 1977, the United Nations General Assembly recognized the role of women in peace efforts and development and urged an end to discrimination and increase support for women’s full and equal participation. To this to effect, the General Assembly adopted a resolution proclaiming a United Nations Day for Women Rights and International Peace observed on any day of the year according to their historical and national traditions by Member States.

The Beijing Platform for Action

The International Women’s Day 2015 celebrated globally today will highlight the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, a historic roadmap signed by 189 governments 20 years ago that sets the agenda for realizing women’s rights. While there have been many achievements since then, many serious gaps remain.

On this day, the focus is on upholding women’s achievements, recognize challenges, and pay greater attention to women’s rights and gender equality to mobilize all people to do their part. The Beijing Platform for Action focuses on 12 critical areas of concern, and envisions a world where each woman and girl can exercise her choices, such as participating in politics, getting an education, having an income, and living in societies free from violence and discrimination.

To this end, the theme of this year’s International Women’s Day is the clarion call of UN Women’s Beijing+20 campaign “Empowering Women, Empowering Humanity: Picture it!”

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Actions speak louder than words!


Myself 

 

 

BT.V. Antony Raj

This is my 1000th post on "Impressions"!
This is my 1000th post on “Impressions”!

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 The Pardoning of the Sinful Woman

In the gospel of Luke, the story of the pardoning of a sinful woman (Luke 7:36-50) illustrates the axiom that “actions speak louder than words.”

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Jesus is anointed by a so-called sinful woman (Source: musicademy.com)
Jesus is anointed by a so-called sinful woman (Source: musicademy.com)

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A Pharisee named Simon invited Jesus to dine with him. On entering the house of the Pharisee, Jesus reclined at the table, the normal posture of guests at a banquet.

On learning that Jesus had come to the house of the Pharisee, a woman of that town who lived a sinful life, came there with an alabaster jar of perfumed ointment.

Weeping, she fell down at the feet of Jesus and wet them with her tears. Then, she wiped his feet with her hair, kissed them and anointed them with the perfumed ointment.

When the Pharisee saw this, he said to himself, “If this man was a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what sort of woman she is – that she is a sinner.”

Jesus understood his thoughts and said, “Simon, I have something to say to you.”

“Tell me, teacher,” Simon said.

“Two people owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii, and the other owed fifty.”

At that time, one denarius was the normal daily wage of a laborer.

“Neither of them had the money to repay his loan, so the moneylender forgave the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?”

Simon replied, “I suppose the one whose larger debt was forgiven.”

Jesus said, “You have judged rightly.”

Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? When I entered your house, you did not give me water to wash my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. As my host, you did not greet me with a kiss, but this woman, from the time she entered this house, has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not place oil on my head, but she anointed my feet with perfumed ointment.”

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What is Ash Wednesday?


Myself 

 

 

BT.V. Antony Raj

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Ash Wednesday Service in Westminster Cathedral

Photo credit: Catholic Church (England and Wales)

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According to the Christian canonical gospels, Jesus Christ fasted for 40 days in the desert, where he encountered the temptations by Satan. So, the solemn religious observance of Lent originated as a mirroring this event. Hence, Christians fast 40 days as preparation for the Easter Sunday, the day of the resurrection of Christ. In Latin, Lent is referred to by the term Quadragesima (meaning “fortieth”), in reference to the fortieth day before Easter.

Today is Ash Wednesday, a day of fasting. In Western Christianity, it marks the start of the 40-day period of fasting, the first day in the season of Lent.

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An 1881 Polish painting of a priest sprinkling ashes on the heads of worshippers  by Julian Fałat (1853 - 1929).
An 1881 Polish painting of a priest sprinkling ashes on the heads of worshippers by Julian Fałat (1853 – 1929).

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Ash Wednesday derives its name from the practice of blessing the ashes made from palm branches that were blessed on Palm Sunday of the previous year, and placing them ceremonially on the heads of the participants. The Ash is either sprinkled over their heads or more often  a visible cross is marked on their foreheads to the accompaniment of the words “

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Father Ken Simpson burns palms Tuesday as students from St. Clement School in Chicago look on. (CNS/Karen Callaway, Catholic New World) (Custom)
Father Ken Simpson burns palms Tuesday as students from St. Clement School in Chicago look on. (CNS/Karen Callaway, Catholic New World) (Custom)

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Ash Wednesday derives its name from the practice of blessing the ashes made from palm branches that were blessed on Palm Sunday of the previous year, and placing them ceremonially on the heads of the participants. The Ash is either sprinkled over their heads or more often  a visible cross is marked on their foreheads to the accompaniment of the words “Repent, and believe in the Gospel” or “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return” based on Genesis 3:19

By the sweat of your brow
you shall eat bread,
Until you return to the ground,
from which you were taken;
For you are dust,
and to dust you shall return.

In Western Christianity, during Lent, every Sunday is regarded as a feast day to commemorate the resurrection of Jesus  Christ on a Sunday, and so fasting is considered inappropriate on that day. And so, Christians fast from Monday to Saturday (6 days) for 6 weeks and from Wednesday to Saturday (4 days) in the preceding week, thus making up the number of 40 days.

Many Western Christians, including Catholics, Lutherans, Methodists, Anglicans, and Presbyterians observe Ash Wednesday. However, not all Catholics observe Ash Wednesday. Eastern Catholic Churches, do not count Holy Week as part of Lent, and they begin the penitential season on Monday before Ash Wednesday called the Clean Monday. Catholics following the Ambrosian Rite begin it on the First Sunday in Lent.

Throughout the Latin Church, the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church and in the Maronite Catholic Church, the Ashes are blessed and ceremonially distributed at the start of Lent. In the Catholic Ambrosian Rite, this is done at the end of Sunday Mass or on the following day.

Here is today’s reading in the Church for Ash Wednesday. It  is the continuation of the sermon on the mount. Jesus warns against doing good in order to be seen and gives three examples. In each, the conduct of the hypocrites is contrasted with that demanded of the disciples.

Teaching about Alms-giving

[But] take care not to perform righteous deeds in order that people may see them; otherwise, you will have no recompense from your heavenly Father.

When you give alms, do not blow a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets to win the praise of others. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward.

But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right is doing, so that your almsgiving may be secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you.

–  (Mathew 6: 1-4)

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Teaching about Prayer

When you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, who love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on street corners so that others may see them. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward.

But when you pray, go to your inner room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you.

In praying, do not babble like the pagans, who think that they will be heard because of their many words.

Do not be like them. Your Father knows what you need before you ask him.

“This is how you are to pray:

Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as in heaven.

Give us today our daily bread;
and forgive us our debts,
as we forgive our debtors;
and do not subject us to the final test,
but deliver us from the evil one.

If you forgive others their transgressions, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your transgressions.

– Matthew 6:5–15

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Teaching about Fasting

When you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites. They neglect their appearance, so that they may appear to others to be fasting. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward.

But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, so that you may not appear to be fasting, except to your Father who is hidden. And your Father who sees what is hidden will repay you.

– (Matthew 6:16-18)

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The Golden Words Meryl Streep Lives by!


Myself 

By T.V. Antony Raj
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Meryl Streep in July 2008
Meryl Streep in July 2008

“I no longer have…”

The following quote “I no longer have the patience…” has been floating around in social media and even today on Facebook. Sadly, these golden words are erroneously attributed to one of my favourite American actresses Meryl Streep.

These words were really penned by a young man, a Portuguese self-help author/life coach José Micard Teixeira, and not by Meryl Streep. The actress tends to live by these words and I, agree with these golden words of José Micard Teixeira which I want to share with you.

José Micard Teixeira
José Micard Teixeira

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“I no longer have the patience for certain things,
not because I’ve become arrogant,
but 
simply because I reached a point in my life
where I do not want to waste more time
with what displeases me or hurts me.

I have no patience for cynicism, excessive criticism
and demands of any nature.

I lost the will to please those who do not like me,
to love those who do not love me
and to smile at those who do not want to smile at me.

I no longer spend a single minute on those
who lie or want to manipulate.

I decided not to coexist anymore
with pretense, hypocrisy, dishonesty and cheap praise.

I do not tolerate selective erudition nor academic arrogance.

I do not adjust either to popular gossiping.

I hate conflict and comparisons.

I believe in a world of opposites and that’s why
I avoid people with rigid and inflexible personalities.

In friendship, I dislike the lack of loyalty and betrayal.

I do not get along with those
who do not know how to give a compliment
or a word of encouragement.

Exaggerations bore me
and I have difficulty accepting
those who do not like animals.

And on top of everything
I have no patience for anyone
who does not deserve my patience.”

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Are You Addicted to Unwanted Calories?


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Myself . 

By T.V. Antony Raj
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Photo: ALAMY
Photo: ALAMY

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There are people who eat plenty of sugar and sugar products. Worldwide people are consuming sugar equal to about 500 extra calories per day. That is just about what you would need to consume if you wanted to gain a pound a week. No wonder we have many obese men, women and children around us.

Perhaps they think that the lack of sodium or fat in sugar makes it less harmful. They harbour a false notion that the risk of excess sugar consumption is less than that of having too much saturated and trans fat, sodium or calories in their diet. Some even espouse the adage “what you don’t know won’t hurt you.”

Many people know that excessive sugar in the diet is not good for healthy living and consume it in recommended amounts and place it at the top of their list of “foods to avoid”.

Sugar specifically promotes obesity. In the past 30 years, the rate of childhood obesity has doubled and the rate of adolescent obesity has tripled. The main factor is fat accumulation in the trunk of the body. One cause may be the wide consumption of fructose-laden beverages. In 2010, a study in children found that excess fructose intake (but not glucose intake) caused visceral fat cells to mature that set the stage for obesity at a young age leading to heart disease and diabetes.

Dietitians and nutritionists have established that four grams of white granulated sugar is equal to one teaspoon of sugar. The recommended daily allowance from The American Heart Association is no more than six teaspoons a day for the average woman and no more than nine teaspoons for the average man. And, an average American consumes about 27 teaspoons of sugar per day.

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Amount of sugar in Coca-cola (Source: tribesports.com)
Amount of sugar in Coca-cola (Source: tribesports.com)

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A typical sugar packet in the United States contains two grams of sugar. Coca-Cola contains 10.6g or five sachets of sugar per 100ml – so that’s 31.8g or 16 sachets in a 330ml can, and 26.5g or 13 sachets in a 250ml can with absolutely no nutritional advantage?

To curb rising obesity, some sectors want drinks having high sugar content taxed in the same way as cigarettes.

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Jeremy Paxman speaks with James Quincey, president of Coca Cola Europe on  BBC Newsnight.
Jeremy Paxman speaks with James Quincey, president of Coca Cola Europe on BBC Newsnight.

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In the following video, Jeremy Paxman with his forthright and abrasive interviewing style speaks to James Quincey, president of Coca-Cola Europe about the sugar content in their regular Coke on BBC Two’s Newsnight.

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Segregation in the United States Still Lingers on…


Myself

By T.V. Antony Raj

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A sign in Jackson, Mississippi which reads 'Waiting Room For Colored Only by order Police Dept.', 25th May 1961. (Photo by William Lovelace/Express/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
A sign in Jackson, Mississippi which reads ‘Waiting Room For Colored Only by order Police Dept.’, 25th May 1961. (Photo by William Lovelace/Express/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

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Some say that the United States is a country that tolerates other nationalities. Does it really?

Some states of the United States still incarcerate a high proportion of blacks than apartheid South Africa did. Today the black-white wealth gap in the United States is greater than what it was at the peak of apartheid in South Africa in 1970.

On rare occasions, individual citizens challenged public segregation in the United States, but their effirts had minimal impact on civil rights issues. In some locales, in addition to segregated seating in buses, it could be forbidden for stores or restaurants to serve different races and nationalities under the same roof.

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Rosa Parks, an international icon of resistance to racial segregation.
Rosa Parks, an international icon of resistance to racial segregation.

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In December 1955 in Montgomery, Alabama, Rosa Parks refused to move to the back of a bus for a white passenger. Parks’ civil disobedience sparked the Montgomery Bus Boycott. This act of defiance by Rosa Parks became an important symbol of the modern Civil Rights Movement, and Parks became an international icon of resistance to racial segregation.

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Sureshbhai Patel (Source: huffingtopost.in)
Sureshbhai Patel (Source: huffingtopost.in)

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In Alabama, where the vestiges of segregation still linger on, Indian citizens have to be careful while walking on the streets. The case of the 57-year-old Sureshbhai Patel clearly illustrates the attitude of the white segregationists. And, sadly, it is the guardians of peace, who resort to brutality.

The following video includes a footage captured on the morning of February 6, 2015 by the dash cam of a car, shows an inglorious scene of two Alabama police officers using  disproportionate force and slamming a frail Sureshbhai Patel to the ground. Sureshbhai Patel was out strolling near his son’s house in Madison, Alabama. He had arrived only the previous day from India to see his 17-month-old grandson. Sureshbhai Patel is now partially paralyzed and hospitalized in a city hospital.

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 Madison City Policeman Eric Parker, who assaulted the 57-year-old Sureshbhai Patel (Source: dlatimes.com)
Madison City Policeman Eric Parker, who assaulted the 57-year-old Sureshbhai Patel (Source: dlatimes.com)

The police officer Eric Parker, who assaulted Patel has been arrested for third-degree assault. Madison City Police chief Larry Muncey has offered apologies to Patel and his family and has said the Federal Bureau of Investigation will look into the incident.

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Blessed Joseph Vaz: Part 18 – The Last Days and the Death of the Apostle


Myself. 

By T.V. Antony Raj

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Image source: blejosephvaz.wix.com
Image source: blejosephvaz.wix.com.

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During the last months of 1709, Joseph Vaz suffered from a peculiar kind of  fever, which subsided for a short time and then recurred with renewed force. Though  weak, during the periods when the fever subsided he visited the Mission. He went even as far as Kottyar on the southern coast. He had no proper lodging there. Years of continuous work and hardships fatigued him and broke his constitution.subsided he visited the Mission. He went even as far as Kottyar on the southern coast. He had no proper lodging there. Years of continuous work and hardships fatigued him and broke his constitution.

In January 1710, Joseph Vaz became seriously ill and there was no physician to attend to him. As soon as he felt a bit better, sent him off on a bullock cart. After eight days, he reached Mahanuwara.

In the capital, he was given good medical attention. After careful nursing, infections and fever left him, but he was found himself weak. Though he regained a bit of strength, his legs were partly paralyzed.

He asked Father Jacome Goncalvez to come to the capital and entrusted him with the care of the Catholics.

Inspite of partial paralysis, Joseph Vaz never ceased to work. He could no longer go on distant excursions as before. People saw him daily on the streets of the capital, dragging himself in extreme pain with the help of a stick. He visited the sick in their houses.

Every morning sitting in front of his door, he taught children Catechism. When his sufferings did not allow him even to do that, he spent the whole day in prayer.

Though Joseph Vaz recovered, he was weak. From then on, he was unable to leave the Church premises again, but whenever a call came to attend the sick and if Father Jacome Goncalvez or any other priest was not there, then he would immediately set out, but carried in a dooly (a kind of litter suspended from men’s shoulders, for carrying people or things; a modified stretcher).

On one occasion, when the bearers were descending a hill, he fell off the dooly. He was unconscious when the bearers picked him up. They brought him back to the church. He suffered body pain for about four months. He bore his illness with great fortitude.

In spite of his illness, Joseph Vaz undertook eight days of spiritual exercises prescribed by the Oratorian Rule. He considered himself a great sinner. He received the Sacrament of Penance every day as well as Holy Communion.

Joseph Vaz realized that it was time to resign from office, both as Vicar General and Superior. From then on, he spoke of death only.

On January 15, 1711 Joseph Vaz wrote the order of change of charge from him to Father Jose Menezes.

On the morning of January 16, 1711, Joseph Vaz wanted to make his confession. He dragged himself to the church as usual, attended Mass, received Holy Communion and went through his daily spiritual exercises. That day, he requested a stunned Jacome Goncalvez to have the holy oils ready for the last anointing.

When Father Goncalvez anointed him, Joseph Vaz made all the responses to the prayers for the sick and the dying. He kissed the crucifix which Pope Clement XI had sent as a gift to him through Monsignor Charles Thomas Maillard de Tournon, the Papal Legate. He requested Father Jacome Goncalvez to send the Crucifix to the Oratory in Goa.

Fathers Goncalves and Miguel Francisco Ignatius de Almeyda asked Josep Vaz to give them a message that they could etch on their stricken hearts. After a few moments of thought, the dying priest said in Sinhalese:

“Remember that one cannot easily do at the time of death what one has neglected to do all his life. Live according to the inspirations of God.”

Just before midnight on Friday, January 16, 1711, Joseph Vaz expired with Fathers Jacome Goncalves and Miguel Francisco Ignatius de Almeyda, beside his deathbed.

The young King Vira Parakrama Narendra Sinha, greatly affected by the death of his friend, the saintly priest Joseph Vaz declared a three-day mourning. He ordered all Catholics of his Court to attend the funeral. Many Catholics came from Colombo and other parts of Ceylon to attend the grand funeral.

After a solemn funeral ceremony, the body of the great Missionary was laid to rest in front of the high altar in the church he had built on the shore of the Bogambra lake.

Later on, a rumour spread that the Oratorian priests had exhumed the body of Joseph Vaz and had taken the remains to Goa. This distressed the King. However, Father Jacome Goncalves opened the tomb in the presence of a few nobles of the Court and show them that the body was still lying there.

King John of Portugal bestowed the highest praises on Joseph Vaz  in a letter dated April 11, 1726. He called him:

“The model of Missionaries, a great servant of God, and founder of a truly apostolic Mission.”

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← Previous: Part 17 – The Apostle of Ceylon and the New King of Kandy

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