Air pollution increases risk of childhood obesity and diabetes

A few days back I saw thick black smoke emanating from an illegal roadside garage and stopped to see what was happening.
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Illegal roadside garage emitting carcinogenic fumes

I was shocked to see two men from a roadside garage burning wires made of copper and insulated with PVC, apparently to extract the copper.

In the bargain they were spreading carcinogenic fumes over a residential area housing thousands of citizens blissfully unaware of the deadly air they were breathing.
What are the dangers, you may wonder?
There is increasing evidence for the role of environment in pathogenesis in many diseases. Children below 5 years of age and adults older than 50 years are most at risk. A global assessment of the burden of disease from environmental risks by the WHO has shown that 23% of global deaths and 26% of deaths among children under five are due to modifiable environmental factors. The harmful effects of air pollution on respiratory health are well-known to us and well-established. Air pollution has been linked to many non communicable diseases such as cardiovascular diseases, obesity, cancers and type 2 diabetes.
A new study has again underscored the dire need for a healthier environment. This study has suggested that  exposure to ambient air pollution may contribute to development of type 2 diabetes through direct effects on insulin sensitivity and β-cell function. The study reported in the January 2017 issue of the journal Diabetes showed that exposure to elevated concentrations of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and particulate matter (PM 2.5) had adverse effects on longitudinal measures of insulin sensitivity, β-cell function, and obesity in children at high risk for developing diabetes.
So what can you do?
Here is what I did.
I went to the people burning the wires and asked them what they were doing. They said they were burning wires to extract copper, and this was the first time they were doing this.
I told them the dangers of burning such things, not only on their own health but also on the health and lives of thousands of people staying around.
They immediately doused the flames with water.
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Caught and educated

As a good steward of the environment, and a citizen of this nation, be alert and do your bit wherever you are. You will be blessed by the living God who sees everything and is no respecter of persons, dear reader.
Jesus would surely not approve of or tolerate any evil in the area where he lived. I consider myself to be an ambassador for Christ, and take responsibility for what is going on in the area where I live. So I do my bit to tackle any evil or injustice when I see it.
If each Indian were to do so I am sure India would be a much better place to live in, and future generations will be grateful.
God bless you and India.
Do post what you have done to encourage others.

Explorers kids Dance @ Christmas 2016

In celebration of the wonderful birth of Jesus Christ, King of Kings who became a human being and entered our world 2000 years ago, these children performed a beautiful dance.

Performed by children who are part of the Explorers club of Sunday school of Living Hope Church, it was choreographed by Divya and Racheal.

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Enjoy the wonderful performance!

 

Mumbaiites continue to breathe poor quality air, except in Borivali

As a citizen of Mumbai and a medical doctor, I am very concerned about the quality of air we breathe. The Hindustan Times reported today that the city continued to have poor air for the second day in a row.The pollutant-measuring indicator air quality index (AQI) fell from 224 on Monday morning to 220 by the evening, both falling under the ‘poor’ category. There was no change in minimum temperatures from Sunday, which was 4.5 degrees Celsius below normal.

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The System for Air Quality Weather Forecasting and Research (SAFAR) predicted an AQI of 220 for Tuesday as well. An AQI between 101 and 200 falls under the ‘moderate’ category, while that between 201 and 300 is ‘poor’ and beyond 301 falls into the ‘very poor’ category.

The Santacruz weather station, representative of Mumbai, recorded the night temperature at 16.4 degrees Celsius, similar to Monday and November 11, which has been the lowest November night temperature since 2012. The night temperature at Colaba, representative of south Mumbai was recorded at 22 degrees Celsius, a degree Celsius below normal.

Officials from the weather bureau said the current wind pattern over the city has led to cool temperatures and a decline in air quality. “From late Saturday night onwards, cool winds from the north-western parts of the country has led to a cooling effect,” said KS Hosalikar, deputy director general, western region, India Meteorological Department. “As a result, due to the process of inversion, cool temperatures have allowed pollutant particles to settle close to the surface. We expect these conditions to continue till Wednesday.”

Meanwhile, day temperatures were more than 2 degrees Celsius above normal as Colaba and Santacruz, both recorded 35.6 degrees Celsius as the maximum temperature. “During the day, the winds are not strong and this has allowed temperatures to rise. However, cool winds during the night are leading to a fall in temperatures,” said Shubhangi Bhute, director, Regional Meteorological Centre, IMD. “The gap between day and night temperatures can lead to health issues such as cough, cold and fever,” Bhute added.

On Monday, Malad was the most polluted location with an AQI of 307 (very poor), followed by Navi Mumbai at 303 (very poor). While majority of the locations in Mumbai recorded ‘poor’ air quality, Borivli had the cleanest air with an AQI of 132 (moderate).072813_1339_4.png

As part of a citizens Forum called the New Link Road Residents Forum, http://www.newlinkroad.wordpress.com we have been pro active to ensure that Borivali and its near by areas are free from man made sources of pollution. We wish that more readers would be encouraged to take steps to combat this menace.

Choosing between a Smart or a Green city?

I asked a few people, including myself, to imagine what a smart city would be like for those of us living in 2016:

It should take us from point A to B in the shortest time possible, automatically deciding for us which route to take.

  • It should provide free and fast internet either wired or wi-fi access, of course, in every nook and cranny.
  • It should have charging stations in every public place to charge our power hungry smart devices
  • It should of course have electricity 24X7
  • It should enable seamless connectivity of all transport methods
  • All devices, cars, trains, buildings and people should be able to communicate with one another
  • Intelligent planning of facilities
  • Self-repairing roads, drains, and what not…etc etc

This picture of a smart city sounds like a tall order for us living in Mumbai, even though it is the commercial capital of India! It also sounds extremely power hungry.

But can a city be both green and smart?

What do I mean by a green city? It would be somewhat like a forest. For starters, a green city ecosystem, like a forest, is a scientific and design miracle. Each and every component is recyclable. Forests produce more oxygen than they consume, are carbon sinks and earn huge carbon credits silently, and they mutually help one another to thrive and grow, not just survive! The parts of this ecosystem are self-propagating, require almost zero maintenance, have sophisticated feedback looks both positive and negative, are self-diagnosing and self-repairing, adjust their position and growth as per various variables like the temperature, sunlight, wind, water availability and nutrients.

Wow, now that simple forest sounds really smart when you look at it in that way!

 

Okay, but no one can stay in forests, right? So what is the next best option? How about something that looks like this?

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Imagine a smart and green city of dreams…

 

A city that is both smart and green? Some would dismiss this as a utopian concept, but I am confident that given enough freedom, creativity and encouragement, the future generation can create living spaces that are at once green and smart.

Let us see where we can start if we really wish for our city to be smart and green. I feel there are three very important pre requisites if we really wish to create a smart and green city:

Firstly, there has to be basic value and respect for human life and a recognition that life has a purpose. If life does not have a purpose, one might as well live in a filthy slum, who cares.

Secondly we must be humble enough to admit that there are designs in nature from which we can learn. The field of bio-mimetics has produced some extremely clever inventions by copying what God has created in his marvelous creation.

Thirdly there must be a culture that respects and encourages creativity, honesty and truth.

In such a city, there is no end to the possibilities that can be created, and a smart and green city would indeed be a reality. Hope we in India can reach that stage sooner than later.  Jai Hind!

Real Heroes of Mumbai

I have seen a few heroes and heroines in reel and real life. Often the reel heroes seem larger than life and get a lot of adulation because of what they are seen to be doing. But here I want to present to you one man, Nandakumar Pawar, who in my opinion is a real hero of Mumbai.

He hails from the indigenous Koli fishermen community from Bhandup in the north-eastern suburb of Mumbai. They are traditional fishermen. He, along with a few likeminded friends, has done remarkable work in conserving the wetland systems of Mumbai that are so vital for its survival. Stalin D. of Vanashakti is his mentor and hero. I hope to cover Stalin in another blog.

The November 2015 flooding of Chennai is still fresh in the public mind as I write this, and the importance of preserving the natural wetlands is now becoming more evident to the common man, but public memory is short and the greed of developers is endless. That is why I thought of putting up this post, so that more people are aware of this hero of Mumbai. The floods and devastation caused in Chennai was mainly due to wetland destruction and rampant construction on natural drainage areas.

 

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Figure 1 Nandakumar Pawar and the wetlands of Mumbai

Nandakumar Pawar and his NGO the Ekveera Pratisthan has crusaded for the preservation of wetlands and fought not only greedy developers and politicians but even at times people from his own community who tried to erect illegal structures in the mangroves! The indigenous knowledge he has is based on real experience and he showed me the foolhardiness of trying to do mangrove replantation.

Mangrove replantation is being sponsored by several well-meaning Corporates. But what they are actually doing is damaging the existing wetlands.

Nandakumar showed me an area of intertidal grasslands in between the mangroves. These are important areas for birds as they provide resting and roosting places, where these birds lay their eggs and hatch their young. Some NGOs with funding from Corporates have converted part of this grassland into a mangrove replantation zone, but very few of the mangroves have survived! That happened also because the nursery supplied them with Ceriops Tagel species which cannot grow on hard ground.

Stalin from Vanashakti explained “We are replacing each and every saplings with avecenia marina and all will survive..and these grass lands are getting inundated due to seal level rise and mangroves are growing even in places where we or anyone else has not planted”

By the inundation of intertidal grasslands by rising sea water, with the subsequent destruction of their nesting sites, now birds have no place to go, and are deserting this patch as well.

I gained a new appreciation for the wisdom of God in creating all these different areas within the wetlands, including sparse and dense mangroves, intertidal mud flats and grass lands, and creeks where the tide flushes the entire system twice a day. Each is essential for the other and add to the beauty of the whole wetlands. Wetlands do not mean only mangroves, as Nandakumar repeated.

He also showed me the water being pumped out of the Sewage Treatment Plant [STP] at Bhandup Mulund Pumping station.  He was not at all happy with the quality of the water, and from the colour of the water I could make out that all is not well indeed.

Yet by God’s grace there are quite a few birds in other areas of Bhandup creek. I marvel at the resilience of these wonderful creatures. Nandakumar took us out on a boating expedition into the Thane creek where we took these pictures.

 

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Dr. Mathew with Nandakumar and friend

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Black headed Ibis

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Flamingoes looking worried

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Shocking sight: water covered with all sorts of garbage

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Flamingoes taking off

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Koli Fishermen in action

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What a mess we have made of our beautiful coast

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An elegant bird high up on the mangroves

 

 

We came back from the short boating trip with a determination to do our best to bring back Mumbai’s real heroes to the limelight and make more people aware of the wetlands and how we can preserve them and indeed the city of Mumbai for our future generations. Thank you Nandakumar, you have been a real inspiration to me.

Please let me know how you would like to contribute to this effort. I am part of the New Link Road Residents Forum, which is a group of likeminded individuals in Borivali Dahisar in North West Mumbai who are interested in preserving the environment and wetlands our area is blessed with. www.newlinkroad.wordpress.com is our blog.

 

Rewarding robbers

Imagine that you are assigned a spacious official bungalow as part of your job. Someone comes and occupies a part of your living room. He builds a tent, and you ignore him or probably even ask him to pay you some money for it. After many years, he has now built many more rooms in your living room.

Now imagine your boss walking into your home. What do you think he will do? Of course those people living in your living room who would be rightly called encroachers would be asked to leave your room by your employer. That is natural justice. It is perfectly understandable even by a child. Not only that, imagine what would happen to you? You would be immediately dismissed from your job, no doubt about it! You would be called crazy to even think that your boss would reward these encroachers with a bungalow!

Now when you compare this with what is happening to encroachers who have been caught occupying land belonging to others including the Government, you wonder who is crazy!

12 Dec 2015 Hindustan Times (Mumbai) Shailesh Gaikwad shailesh.gaikwad@hindustantimes.com writes:

Slum dwellers may get homes on Centre’s land

State government is in talks with the railway and defence ministries for rehabilitation of slum dwellers on land owned by them in Mumbai

The state government is in talks with Centre for insitu rehabilitation of slums on land owned by Centre’s departments and agencies such as the Railways, Defence, Mumbai Port Trust (MbPT) and Mumbai airport.

“We are in talks with the railway and defence ministries for rehabilitation of slum dwellers on l and owned by them in Mumbai. The response from both the ministries is positive,” said Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis in reply to a debate on the pending issue of resettlement of slums on airport land initiated by Mumbai legislator Parag Alavani in the state Assembly on Friday.

The government is also seeking a legal clarification on the cut-off date—on whether it is January 2000 or December 2000 — to check for the eligibility under the slum rehabilitation scheme.

“The high court decided it should be 2000, but we want a clarification on whether it should be January 1, 2000 or December 31, 2000,” said Fadnavis. If the deadline is fixed at December 2000, a few lakh more slum dwellers will become eligible for free rehabilitation under state’s slum rehabilitation programme. The ruling BJP wants the decision to be taken ahead of the civic polls in Mumbai in early 2017.

The defence ministry has given its in-principle approval for rehabilitation of slums on their land in Mumbai, said Fadnavis, adding that railway minister Suresh Prabhu has asked the state government to submit a fresh proposal after which a model is likely to be worked out soon.

Officials from the state housing department said the state is planning to prepare a model which will ensure rehabilitation of all slums on lands owned by the Centre in Mumbai. Besides defence, lands belonging to the railways, Mb PT, airport and Life Insurance Corporation (LIC) have also been encroached upon.

The state wants the Centre to allow in-situ development of the slums, as often slum dwellers oppose resettlement away from their current dwellings.

It is also seeking the Centre’s permission to resettle some of slum dwellers to salt pans, which fall under the no-development zone.

“We are discussing how we can compensate the Centre for the land. It could be in the form of land elsewhere or in the form of floor space index (FSI), which it can use elsewhere,” said the official.

The expansion of the Mumbai airport is stuck owing to the failure of the authorities to clear the land which has been encroached upon by slums and issues pertaining to the rehabilitation of slum dwellers.

Following a legal dispute between MIAL and HDIL, the two companies have gone into arbitration.

Union civil aviation minister Ashok Gajpathy Raju had in July 2014 directed that a fresh rehabilitation plan be prepared. Raju has given a nod for in-situ rehabilitation of slum dwellers.

The state government will soon take a decision on the same, Fadnavis said.

Now you decide who is crazy. Is it not us the honest tax paying citizens of India, who have to bear this craziness, of our land and precious public lands which were supposed to be taken care of by these Government organisations, being gifted to these robbers and encroachers?

Hats off to the citizens of Mumbai for our tolerance of this nonsense.

 

Slums burn while Politicians pave the way for even more disasters

Yesterday there was a huge fire in an illegal slum colony in a northern suburb of Mumbai called Kandivali. Over 2000 shanties were burnt, fortunately there were only two casualties. The strange fact was that these were all illegal settlements, many of them owned by local politicians, who have even gone to the extent of further dividing a small 10 X 10 feet hutment into two just to get two names on the list so that when there is a slum rehabilitation project they will be eligible for two concrete and cement flats or apartments in a tower meant to rehabilitate the slum dwellers.

This is an extract from the TOI: “How do we go on now? “was the question on most lips at Kandivli’s Damu Nagar where around 2,000 hutments were destroyed in a blaze on Monday afternoon. Two people died and 11 were injured after a massive fire in the slum, which officials said spread after cylinders in the shanties exploded. Its cause is yet to be determined.

“The fire started around noon, probably due to a cylinder blast in one home, and then spread quickly. There were several explosions as many residents had LPG cylinders” said additional commissioner, north region, Fatehsinh Patil. Local corporator Ajanta Yadav said the fire could have started after a woman tried to set herself ablaze during a fight with her husband.

As the slum is on the slope of a hill, fire-fighters broke a brick wall at the bottom of the slope to lay down large pipes that could carry water uphill. It was impossible for engines to drive up to the narrow clusters of hutments. Many people initially ran up the hill to save themselves, but once the fire was doused began the search for missing relatives, especially children due to return from school at the time. Rinku Gupta, who was in Damu Nagar for a meeting on Monday, said he counted 27 explosions while trying to run for his life.

Sutte, like many of Damu Nagar’s older residents, had paid Rs 7,000 to the forest department which owns the land. “The department conducted a survey of Damu Nagar two decades ago and offered to relocate us to Chandivli for a one-time payment. We paid but only a few have been relocated so far” said Subhash Wavhal, a resident.

N Vasudevan, chief conservator of forests, said families could not be shifted out of Damu Nagar as the rehab homes are yet to be made available to the forest department. Over 33,000 families had paid to be shifted out of the area, but many were yet to pay. Till date, 12,000 families from Sanjay Gandhi National Park have been rehabilitated at Chandivli. Vasudevan said they would make an estimate of the families who were eligible and affected by the blast.

 


Unfortunately, despite all these tragedies, it seems that greed has blinded the Corporators of Mumbai so much that they are all set to pass this absolutely absurd order: The BMC is all set to increase the permissible height of slums from 14 feet to 18 feet. The civic house will discuss “the desirability of giving permission to slums prior to 1995 to increase height” when it meets on December 14. The new permissible ceiling will almost double the number of shanties in each slum pocket. This means that there will be even more crowding and congestion in these slums, putting to risk even more lives. When will our greedy politicians ever learn? http://www.mid-day.com/articles/bmc-to-increase-legal-height-of-slums-to-18-feet-before-civic-polls/16750178. The BMC elections are just over 12 months away. Interestingly, the current height of 14 feet was set after corporators pushed a similar proposal through under the same circumstances in 2011 — one year before the previous BMC election.

Another concern is that the decision will only end up aiding developers. Activists said increasing the height will enable builders to appropriate FSI to build more high-rises. Amit Maru, a slum rehabilitation activist, said builders will use the density of these slums to get more FSI for sale component flats when redeveloping the shanties. “Right now under redevelopment, only the person who stays on the ground floor of a shanty gets a home,” said Maru. “But if the upper floors are legalised, then the builder will show density, will get higher FSI and other incentives to construct taller buildings for sale. Also, the BMC should clarify how many people will benefit when a slum is redeveloped. Is it going to be only the people on the ground floor, as it is currently, or will those in the higher floors also get a redeveloped flat?”