Category Archives: Nature/Science/Technology
India could be facing its ‘greatest human catastrophe’ ever
As crops and farmers die, experts blame a man-made “drought of common sense” for the drying up of Southern India’s Cauvery River, once a lifeline to millions. Insight investigates.
INDIA: Much of the once bountiful and lush-green rice fields was reduced to a dry, yellow-brown landscape, after successive years of scanty rainfall and severe drought.
For farmer Mr Vijayakumar, 52, the rice crop was his family’s sole source of income. Hit by the double whammy of crop failure and mounting debts, he took a lonely walk to the edge of his two-acre rice field in Tamil Nadu in January this year.
There the tough, rugged man, used to the hard toil of a farmer for decades, hanged himself from a nearby tree.
“He was constantly worrying about the debts,” said his wife Vijayakumari, who is now struggling to cope with the loss of her husband and their escalating debts. “His mind was never at peace. He kept saying that there were so many debts to repay and he was worried about how his only son was going to manage all that.”
Mr Vijayakumar had borrowed from moneylenders to pay for his daughter’s wedding and for fertilisers for his crops which didn’t grow, she told the Channel NewsAsia programme Insight.
He is just one of roughly 350 farmers who have died in Tamil Nadu in recent months, according to unofficial estimates. In the past 20 years, more than 300,000 indebted farmers in India have committed suicide – many due to family debts, reported The Hindu newspaper.
PEOPLE ARE LOSING HOPE
Years of scanty and inadequate rainfall have led to the drying up of water reservoirs and village water bodies in southern India, especially the grain-growing regions of Tamil Nadu which is facing its worse drought in 140 years.
Water activist Dr Rajendra Singh said: “We have not seen a drought of this intensity before. People have lost hope in life and are committing suicide.”
“People are leaving the villages and moving to the cities… They don’t have food to eat and water to drink. There is no fodder for the livestock,” added the winner of the Ramon Magsaysay Award and the Stockholm Water Prize.
Watch: A human tragedy unfolding (5:57). See the full Insight special here.
The once-mighty 800km Cauvery River, a major lifeline in southern India on which millions of farmers depend, has turned into dust tracts in several sections before it trickles down to the Bay of Bengal.
Dense forests once helped to retain water on the hill slopes, enabling slow percolation into the streams that feed the river. But widespread deforestation along the Cauvery Basin has led to soil erosion and a reduction in rainfall.
Scientist and environmentalist Dr Vandana Shiva pointed out that the region gets only four months of rain during the monsoons, during which in ideal circumstances, the water would be naturally stored in the humus and earth of the forests.
“But if you don’t store it, the rain comes, causes a flood, and you have a drought,” she said.
“The second reason is that there is an over extraction (of water) beyond the capacity of the river. That extraction is leaving the river dry.”
SMALL RIVERS DRYING UP
Dr Shiva also blames the government’s ambitious scheme that aims to link Indian rivers by a network of reservoirs and canals, with dams diverting the flow from areas with a water surplus.
She said: “There’s this assumption that you can have bigger and bigger cities and you can divert water from hundreds and thousands of miles away.
To take all the rivers in India and divert them to the cities and industrial areas – all rivers will die.
Critics argue that damming the rivers will cause coastal erosion, deforestation and the displacement of people, and exacerbate the impact of climate change.
Dr Singh pointed out that the introduction of centralised irrigation systems and large dams have led to serious soil erosion. while the over-extraction of underground aquifers depleted the water table.
“There was no more water to be drawn from under the ground, and the water at the top flowed away with the soil, causing erosion and silting,” he said. “All the small rivers are dying.”
Bauxite mining has also wreaked havoc and contributed to a collapse of groundwater levels.
Environmental activist Mr Piyush Manush said that the rampant extraction of bauxite – from which aluminium is produced – from the Servarayan Hills has led to an environmental disaster.
Bauxite absorbs rainwater and slowly releases water into the streams. But the extraction of bauxite has left the hills bare and arid. “If the hill is undisturbed, the bauxite and other minerals inside act as a sponge to absorb water and release it slowly.
“Now, if you chop the hill for bauxite, the hill gets hardened with exposure to sunlight. And once it hardens, it loses that sponge effect,” he said.
DEBT DESPERATION AND SUICIDE
Faced with the water crisis and their crop failures, desperate farmers have turned to money lenders for loans to buy food, seeds, fertiliser and equipment.
These money lenders charge exorbitant interest rates and as debts pile up, farmers often find themselves unable to cope with the pressure. Some think that by killing themselves, they can save their families – but moneylenders don’t stop hounding the survivors.
“We still have debts that we haven’t been able to repay. None of our debts have been cancelled,” said Madam Vijayakumari.
Not far from her village, another rice farmer Mr Ashokan, 55, was also troubled by the same thoughts of crippling debt and destruction of crops.
He went to the bank to get another loan to buy pesticides and fertilisers, but collapsed and died while standing in line. His widow, Madam Vedhavalli, believes he died due to the stress of his crop failures.
In April, distressed and angry drought-hit farmers from Tamil Nadu took to the streets of Indian capital New Delihi to protest, demanding farm loan waivers. A few state governments have conceded, agreeing to waive their loans amounting to hundreds of millions of dollars.
But farmers like Mr Gnanaprakasam, 59, in Samudayam village still feel threatened, with upstream states like Karnataka refusing to share Cauvery River’s water with neighbouring Tamil Nadu.
Water wars broke out after Karnataka refused to comply with India’s Supreme Court ruling that it release more water, leading to violence on the streets, reported the Hindustan Times. If Karnataka doesn’t accede, Mr Gnanaprakasam said:
The districts of Thanjavur, Tiruvarur and Nagapattinam will transform into deserts. All the crops will be destroyed.
“Farmers and labourers will leave the village without a choice. That’s already happening now. Many farmers have lost their lives. They have died out of shock. Some have committed suicide.”
FOR NOW, A COMMUNITY SOLUTION?
Dr Singh, also known as India’s Water Man, has been fighting an uphill battle to revive water bodies and rivers in the semi-arid region of Rajasthan for more than 30 years. He has set up more than 8,000 water tanks and revived seven rivers in Rajasthan.
In Alwar district, about 200km from Delhi, he has used path-breaking water conservation techniques to bring water back to more than 1,000 villages. He believes local water preservation and community-driven water management systems are the only ways to end the “terrible disaster”.
The solution to this is community-driven decentralised water management. This is a solution that the government is not looking to implement. They are only looking at large dams and centralised irrigation systems – which are the main reasons for this drought.
Dr Sunita Narain, director general of the India-based research institute the Centre for Science and Environment, believes that Tamil Nadu needs to augment its water supply through a decentralised water harvesting system. This means building water tanks, and going back to the traditions of harvesting water, restoring and recharging every lake and pond in Tamil Nadu.
She also thinks that the state needs to move away from water intensive crops such as sugar cane.
“Third, make every industry and city in Tamil Nadu water-wise, so you use less water and you recharge and recharge every drop of water the Singapore way. It has to be a combination of all three,” she said.
For the farmers’ widows like Vijayakumari and Vedhavalli, it may be a case of too little, too late.
“Saving the Cauvery River is akin to saving the lives of the farmers,” said Ms Vedhavalli. “We are afraid to go ahead with anything now. We can’t depend on the rain for anything.
“Rain only comes occasionally. At times, when there’s too much rain, we suffer from floods. Now we are facing drought.”
Watch the Insight special on ‘India’s Dry Rivers’ here.
Imagine if someone cancels your ID (mark of the beast)…you will be nothing…no buying,no selling…no nothing i.e unless you become a willing slave and obey orders.
One of the most powerful right that one has is FREEWILL. Just saying NO may suffice.
Revelation 13:16-17King James Version (KJV)
Rev-13-16″16 And he causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads:
17 And that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name.
….“If anyone worships the beast and his image, and receives his mark on his forehead or on his hand, he himself shall also drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out full strength into the cup of His indignation.
He shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. And the smoke of their torment ascends forever and ever; and they have no rest day or night, who worship the beast and his image, and whoever receives the mark of his name.”
In some areas of the world, payment systems that require palm scanning or face scanning are already being tested. We have entered an era where biometric security is being hailed as the “solution” to the antiquated security methods of the past.
We are being promised that the constant problems that hackers are causing with our credit cards, bank accounts, ATM machines and Internet passwords will all go away once we switch over to biometric identification.
And without a doubt, we have some massive security problems that need to be addressed. But do you really want a machine to read your face or your hand before you are able to buy anything, sell anything or log on to the Internet?
Do you really want “the system” to be able to know where you are, what you are buying and what you are doing at virtually all times?
In this day and age, identity theft has become a giant problem. Being able to confirm that you are who you say that you are is a very big deal. To many, biometric security presents a very attractive solution to this problem.
For example, the following is a brief excerpt from a recent Fox News article entitled “Biometric security can’t come soon enough for some people“…
In a world where nearly every ATM now uses an operating system without any technical support, where a bug can force every user of the Internet to change the password to every account they’ve ever owned overnight, where cyber-attacks and identity theft grow more menacing every day, the ability to use your voice, your finger, your face or some combination of the three to log into your e-mail, your social media feed or your checking account allows you to ensure it’s very difficult for someone else to pretend they’re you.
Almost everyone would like to make their identities more secure. Nobody actually wants their bank accounts compromised or their Internet passwords stolen.
But there is a price to be paid for adopting biometric identification. Your face or your hand will be used to continually monitor and track everything that you do and everywhere that you go.
Here is some more from that Fox News article…
Friday, we made Ryan King the most verified man in Brooklyn.
“Verified,” a fingerprint-recognition device chirped back at Ryan after he placed his finger on the reader.
“Verified,” a facial-recognition device said to Ryan after scanning his face.
Ryan works at the American headquarters for FingerTec, a Malaysian company replacing PINs, usernames, and typed passwords with fingers and faces we don’t need to memorize.
“You can’t copy someone’s fingerprint unless you chop it off,” Ryan said, “which wouldn’t work because it has to be attached to a hand.”
For now, biometric security is not being forced on people. If you want to avoid it, you can.
But eventually, once it has been adopted on a widespread basis, banks and government agencies will start requiring it.
And it is easy to imagine a day when none of us will any longer be able to buy or sell anything without submitting to biometric identification.
In fact, an “alternative payment method” involving hand scanning is already being tested in southern Sweden…
Hand scanning has become an alternative payment method for people in a city in southern Sweden, researchers at Lund University said Monday.
Vein scanning terminals have been installed in 15 shops and restaurants in Lund thanks to an engineering student who came up with the idea two years ago while waiting in line to pay.
Some 1,600 people have signed up already for the system, which its creator says is not only faster but also safer than traditional payment methods.
“Every individual’s vein pattern is completely unique, so there really is no way of committing fraud with this system,” researcher Fredrik Leifland said in a statement.
“You always need your hand scanned for a payment to go through.”
But before biometric identification is widely used for payment systems, we will probably see it implemented in a whole bunch of other ways first.
For instance, biometric scanners are already being used in dining halls on college campuses all across America…
Hand geometry readers have been fairly common on campus for years but more recent deployments are leveraging fingerprint and even iris biometrics to link students with transactions.
Physical access is the hallmark biometric application but the technology has been gaining popularity in food service and other sectors to expedite transactions.
The social stigma attached to biometrics is also being lifted, as students are becoming more comfortable with the technology, says Brian Adoff, executive vice president at NuVision.
The inclusion of a fingerprint scanner on the latest iPhone is just one indication that the younger generation is comfortable with biometrics.
“Administrators have a greater fear of the technology than students,” says Bob Lemley, director of software development at the CBORD Group.
“Students are growing up with the technology so they don’t think about it as much as the older generations.”
Georgia Southern University can attest to that fact. The school deployed iris biometrics at its dining hall and only two students out of 5,400 refused to enroll, says Richard Wynn, director of the university’s Eagle Card Program.
Young people tend to be less alarmed by this technology, and so that is where it is being pushed.
If you can believe it, biometric scanners are even going to be used at Six Flags amusement park this summer…
A new scanning system at Six Flags sounds like it’s from the future, but the biometric scanner aims to make faster entrances for season pass holders.
When guests arrive at the front gate for the first time of the season, they will present their voucher and a scanner processes an image of their fingerprint, assigning a unique set of numbers that are used to validate the pass holder’s card each visit.
The first visit should take only about 20 seconds to set up the card, as opposed to the additional time of taking a photo and getting it printed on the card, according to spokeswoman Elizabeth Gotway.
This kind of reminds me of the new “MagicBands” at Disney parks that I have written about previously. You have probably seen the television commercials featuring them by now.
Disney seems to think that parents and kids will have no problems wearing RFID tracking devices that allow them to buy stuff and monitor wherever they go. If you want to see what Disney has to say about these “MagicBands”, you can do so right here.
Our world is becoming stranger with each passing day.
Incredibly, biometric identification is even being used in Africa to keep track of who is being vaccinated…
In fact, some biometric solutions are helping solve vaccine delivery issues in Africa which has been hampered by ineffective tracking and reporting.
Today, a biometric vaccination registry helps to ensure that millions of young children receive the vaccine that is needed to save their lives.
And by knowing “who” has been vaccinated, these precious life-saving drugs are not wasted by over-vaccinating some and missing others entirely.
This technology is going to keep spreading, and it is going to become harder and harder to avoid it.
And it is easy to imagine what a tyrannical government could do with this kind of technology. If it wanted to, it could use it to literally track the movements and behavior of everyone.
We are already starting to see the establishment of massive biometric databases. One of these is the FBI’s facial recognition database that is a part of their “Next Generation Identification” program.
It [was] projected that the FBI compiled 52 million of our “face images” by the year 2015. Given enough time, eventually I am sure that they would have all of our faces in their computers.
And one day, this kind of technology will likely be so pervasive that you won’t be able to open a bank account, get a credit card or even buy anything without having either your hand or your face scanned first.
When that day arrives, what will you do? That is something to think about.