Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Green Valley Clean up

After a very interesting and informative talk on Garbage management by the Waste
Consultant, Clinton Vaz, organized at Earthworm, your neighborhood ecostore, on 21st
May at 7: 00 p.m., the actual cleanup was undertaken by a small but enthusiastic group on Sunday 24th May.

The Group comprising of residents and non residents of Green Valley met at 8: a.m., put
on their yellow cleanup gloves, picked up cartons and sacks to collect garbage in and set
off to start collection.
The areas/street outside Rochelle’s home were tackled by Rochelle, Rashmi and Rhea;
the areas around Bhobhe Residency was covered by Kenneth and young Christopher (who did a fantastic job of picking and carrying heavily laden carton of junk) and Amit; The
Vergese kids, Ethan and Amanda (despite their late arrival the night before from their
holiday, jumped in to help) along with Devdatta and Madhura took on the far end of
Green Valley.
Roopa cleaned up around Earthworm area and Nirmal helped some and then
photographed, delegated and strolled everywhere surveying the area and preparing the
next plan of action! Ahmed the garbage contractor of Panaji municipality and his helper
came from Panaji to go into the deeper parts to collect garbage, segregated it and
packed off the garbage collected.

We found
Loads of plastic…unlike popular notion that ‘someone from outside dumps the stuff’ we realized that most of the garbage came from the residents itself.
Thermacole, plastic bags, plastic bottles were found and surprisingly each group found loads of dumped broken/unbroken glass bottles.
Loads of Garbage was seen dumped at the corners of roads.. under the bridge was littered so heavily and so deep that it would take a whole 2 weekends to make it look even a bit more presentable.
MOSTLY, We all realized that the TWO HOURS WERE NOT SUFFICIENT to clean up Green Valley. We decided that a task well started should not be left half done!
So……We would like to continue our clean up for the next 3 consecutive Sundays too. And then on a monthly basis. The Timings remain the same 8:00 a.m. to 10 a.m. Please do join in … More hands make clean work.

Please do not forget to thank Kenneth, Rochelle, the Vergese kids and Christopher for giving you a cleaner surrounding!! Thanks to Rhea, Devdatta, Madhura, Amit, and Rashmi who do not live in Green Valley but have helped clean it up for us.

How you can contribute to Keeping Your Valley Clean

Do not litter around your residential area (in particular) and Green Valley(in general) and please do not be passive if you see anybody else littering and request them to pick up their garbage.

Pick up any garbage you see lying around whist going for walks. Don’t wait for someone else to do it. Worst still, do not tolerate or get used to seeing it around you. ( you can come and pick up a set of gloves from earthworm for this exercise)

Separate your wet (biodegradable) waste from your dry waste (non biodegradable) that is paper, plastic, thermacole, tetra pack, glass. All these can be separated AT SOURCE that is in your home right at the time of discarding itself. The good news is even the smallest bit of plastic, paper etc. can be sent for recycling if put away neatly.

Do not burn your waste (biodegradable or non biodegradable) especially plastics as they release toxins which we all inhale.

Compost your biodegradable waste. There are many ways of doing this. You can visit Earthworm for solutions/suggestions for composting.

Sensitize your hired help not to throw your household garbage in the valley. Tell them about the Green Valley Residents Cleanup.

To know how to send your dry waste for recycling please call earthworm, we can give you telephone numbers of waste collectors to come and collect your separated dry garbage from your home on a weekly/monthly basis.

Join us in our clean up whenever you can. It keeps the spirits up and keeps all of us motivated, especially the kids who have jumped to the cause.

Please contact us at Earthworm 9766358343/ 2410871 to find ways to contribute to Keeping Green Valley clean.
Or email us
264/79 (2) 1st Floor, Green Valley, Alto Porvorim, Bardez, Goa- 403521

Amphibians Road Kills poster

Saturday, May 23, 2009

The Russell’s Viper-a awe inspiring species

It is 11.30 in the night and I am standing against a mud wall of a small warm home in the village of Aldona. With a headlight on my forehead and a thumping heartbeat, I tune in to the environs. I must admit that it is very eerie to hear a pressure cooker whistle like sound at this hour, especially from under a wooden bed where stacks of Rice bags and large aluminum utensils seem to share space with one of the most commonly feared and revered of Indian reptiles that has crawled our world. I stoop down to and focus my headlight in the direction of the sound to reveal a breathtaking coiled wonder, one that sends a shiver of excitement down my spine- as here I am face to face with the Russell’s Viper (Daboia russellii), and a huge specimen at that.
Locally known as Kusdo or Ghonas, this large thick set ground dwelling viper is crepuscular in nature-i.e. active at dawn and dusk and is found near human habitation very often due to its fondness for rodents and their like. Besides which it has been known to feed on birds, lizards, frogs and even crabs on some occasions. A sluggish slow snake, capable of a fast strike when disturbed or threatened, the coloration of a Russell’s Viper varies from deep brown to brownish yellow with a set of three dark brown rows of spots that are lined with white edges and meet to form what is commonly known as ‘chain markings’, a sign that helps laypersons stay away from this snake when encountered in the neighborhood! The head is a triangular and broader than the neck, a sign of this species belonging to the Viper family while the tail is short and abrupt! While the skin is rough and the scales are strongly keeled, it is still in demand as the color patterns on the skin make it a target for skin dealers to be used for illegally manufacturing purses and shoes, a practice that has now ceased thanks to the inclusion of this species as a Scheduled species. But despite this, at a local level, Russell’s vipers are often killed as they are feared to cause death instantly according to the locals.
The individual I rescued from under the bed at Aldona measured a little less than a meter, and was definitely a female ( scalation proved that), and while the largest record for Goa is a 1.5 meter female, male Russell’s Vipers grow up to a meter in length.
Russell’s vipers are also unique in nature as they are viviparous which means they give birth to live young ones numbers ranging from anything between 8 to 60 individuals during the months of March- July.
Capable of fast strikes as mentioned earlier, the Russell’s vipers prefer to forewarn intruders and predators with their loud hissing and strike only as a last resort. The venom is a mixture of haemotoxic as well as neurotoxic venom and affects the blood vessels and to an extent the central nervous system, causing muscle pain and stiffness coupled with bleeding from the area of the bite. And while these are symptoms that appear for a Russell’s viper bite, the fact remains that the bite is cent percent curable with the administration of Anti venom serum provided it is treated with utmost urgency. Considered to be part of the Big 4- i.e. the 4 venomous common snakes of India, the Russell’s viper venom is also used in medical research today.
It is here that I would also like to mention that one of the beacons of Indian Snake venom and allied research, Dr. R C. Kankonkar passed away recently and was cremated at Sada in Vasco. His work on the venom and its local necrotizing of the Russell’s viper and the efficacy of the Haffkine Institute Poly venom on Indian snakes is considered as a path breaking scientific work for the country as far as modern day toxicology is concerned. I offer my silent prayers to this great scientist and guide for our generation and hope to receive his blessings through his pioneering work for the reptiles of our land as well as the human population that lives in harmony with them.
I leave the small Aldona home by expressing my gratitude to its residents for not having killed the snake and hope that this species will continue to help us keep the rodent population in check thereby rendering a yeoman service to the urban ecosystem at large.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Amphibians in decline- the national and state scenario.

The Save our Frogs Campaign in Goa is gathering momentum with support from all quarters and while nature lovers ecologists and concerned citizens are joining hands with the Goa Forest Department to create awareness and conserve Indian Bull frogs in particular and all other frog species in general.
It is however important to look at the national scenario too so that we realize the seriousness of the issues at hand concerning Amphibian diversity and about the declining amphibian populations that are now in dire straits.
According to the IUCN Red List of Threatened species, at least 1,856 amphibian species are threatened with extinction, representing 32 percent of all known species worldwide

Scientists fear that more than 50 amphibian species worldwide have already become extinct over the last 15 years alone, which includes over 18 species from South Asia
alone. This high rate of decline of amphibian species across the world provides an indicator for the health of natural ecosystems in all regions and is a cause of concern.

Currently there are approx 427 species that are considered Critically Endangered (CR), 761 are Endangered (EN), and 668 species are Vulnerable (VU) worldwide. In India an Assessment of Amphibians under the Conservation Assessment and Management Plan (CAMP) workshop conducted by Biodiversity Conservation Prioritization Project, India has listed 32 species as Critically Endangered, 71 species as Endangered, 52 species as Vulnerable and 9 species as Near Threatened species. Over 63 species were listed as Data deficient as no research data was available on them.

While 63 percent of Indian amphibians are endemic to India, i.e. found only in the country 37 percent are considered non-endemics and are found across the world besides the country. The Western Ghats is considered as one of the richest areas of endemism as far as amphibian diversity is concerned followed by North East India and Sri Lanka. Goa’s forests are part of the Western Ghats landscape and the need of the hour is to conserve and protect these forests for amphibian conservation.

Threats for amphibian species in India include habitat destruction, fragmentation, and agricultural practices like shifting cultivation, pollution, pesticides and human consumption for meat. The laws that protect amphibian populations include the Wildlife Protection Act, the Biodiversity Act and the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act besides others.

The Jerdon’s Bullfrog, poached for its meat in Goa is listed as Near Threatened while the Indian Bull frog, another victim of large-scale hunting is listed as Vulnerable. The Malabar Gliding Frog, an endemic species of South Asia found in Mhadei Wildlife Sanctuary and the Mollem National Park is listed as a Near Threatened species. Amongst other species found in Goa the Beddome’s Leaping frog is listed as Vulnerable while the Jerdon’s Narrow mouthed frog is listed as Near Threatened on a global scale.

The need to intensify policing as well as create awareness amongst the masses of the state as well as national scenario with regards to declining amphibian populations is the need of the hour. It is now a known fact that these lesser known life forms play an important role in every ecosystem and are key indicators of monsoonal patterns, climate change and habitat quality besides a host of other dynamics that influence our environment. It is important that we thus aware that our survival depends on their survival and this is the only way forward.

Saturday, May 2, 2009




The International Day of the Frog celebrated at ‘Earthworm’

The International Day of the Frog was celebrated at ‘Earthworm’ on the 28th of April as a part of the ‘Save our Frogs’ campaign 09. A Photo exhibition of based on the theme ‘ Amphibians of Goa’ was organized in the display area of Earthworm from 10.00 am to 9.00 pm to create awareness of the diversity of amphibian species that have been documented in the state of Goa so far. A section of exhibition space was also dedicated to visitor’s views and suggestions on the ‘Save Our Frogs’ campaign and this elicited a good response from the guests.
In the evening, a Power Point presentation cum talk was delivered by Nirmal Kulkarni on the topic ‘Amphibian Diversity of Goa’. He highlighted the key species that were threatened due to illegal hunting and trade as well due to loss of habitat especially in the state of Goa. The highly interactive 2-hour session saw an attendance of students, wildlife enthusiasts and media persons who also participated various issues related to amphibian conservation and biology.
The refreshment break saw visitors speak intensely about various issues including garbage management, habitat destruction in the Pilerne lake area and the role of the Forest Dept in the ‘Save our Frogs’ campaign. The need to come up with a planned campaign with the support of the media and official agencies was unanimously agreed amidst sips of natural Kokum juice and cake.
A Quiz on Amphibians was later conducted by Rajiv and Tallulah D’silva and received an overwhelming response from the guests. The informal event saw participants learn many previously unknown facts about frogs and toads in general.
Earthworm plans to continue the ‘ Save our Frog’ campaign along with other like-minded groups and individuals in the state and hopes to make a difference by doing so. We also plan to organize various small events and talks before the monsoons to strengthen the ‘Save our Frogs’ campaign.
Believing in the ripple effect, Earthworm also hopes that more groups and organizations across the state organize unique events to create awareness of this important issue and help stabilize amphibian populations across the state of Goa.
For more information contact Earthworm at-