Daily Archives: January 22, 2014

IS YOUR FURNITURE SPREADING POISON IN YOUR HOME?

DSCN3746Formaldehyde is a chemical that can cause serious health damage. It is present in disguise within our homes and usually goes unnoticed. The most significant source of formaldehyde is the pressed wood products that use urea and formaldehyde resins as adhesives. These products generally include particleboard, hardwood-plywood and fiberboard.

Particleboard is used for sub-flooring and shelving in cabinets and furniture.  Hardwood-plywood is used for decorative wall coverings and fiberboard is used for drawer fronts and furniture tops. Fiberboards are significantly higher in formaldehyde emissions than particleboard or hardwood.

This toxic chemical is generally used as a preservative in labs and can lead to serious health problems especially for kids. Cribs, cots and other furniture can release up to 40 parts per billion of formaldehyde per day — enough to cause illnesses like asthma, allergies and even increase the risk of cancer.

People move to greener spaces with a notion of providing healthy living conditions to their families but fail to take care of the smaller aspects, such as formaldehyde emissions, that can pose larger health hazards.

A study shows that formaldehyde emissions in a newly constructed apartment had as much as 23 parts per billion per day of formaldehyde even before the furnishings were installed. This is a staggering 8395 x 10-9 part per billion per year. Imagine that amount of toxicity in your house which is a large part of your indoor environment.

So how do we overcome this? The answer to this lies in the use of furnishings that are free of such toxic chemicals and made with recycled materials that require little or no formaldehyde-based adhesives. Manufacturers like ZED have brought in a range of furniture that is forest-free and use no formaldehyde and so offer zero emission furniture.

Who doesn’t want a healthy life? But how many of us do what it takes to ensure such well-being, for not just one but many generations to come?

It is time now to adopt a chemical-free, toxin-free lifestyle before it is too late to realize.

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IN THE NAME OF DEVELOPMENT

bangalore-city-viewMany real estate projects have come up on and off Sarjapur Road. The area is touted to be the emerging hub of city’s urbanization. A number of development projects are being carried out under the hood of Sarjapur Gram Panchayats and Bangalore Metropolitan Rural Development Authority (BRDMA).

There’s a deal of ballyhoo from these developers on their ‘mega’ size, all the amenities they offer to lure the gullible home-buyer. The truth is not so beautiful. The authorities are looking the other way.  Quietly there’s damage wrought on the rural communities to the city’s fringe.

Acres of agricultural and arable land have been acquired by builder-majors to produce high rise slums that fuel the middle class dream of a home and the small-time investor’s desire to speculate.

A drive down that road will reveal an ugly reality — vast barren fields with concrete dumped. Hardly any patch of green remains. A series of commercial establishments have sprung up.

People have bought homes trusting builders but have forgotten to think of the environmental disaster in the name of development – depleted ground water, acres of dry land, the mushrooming of shanties. Lands lie bare with no cultivation with farmers waiting for the right price.

The question is: who should take the call, the builders or the residents? The solution is surprisingly easy and simple. There has to be a midway that both parties can tread on.

Homes should now be self sufficient and independent of natural resource exploitation. Although very few in number, there are builders like BCIL ZED who have been sensitive to the issue of environmental degradation and have created homes that are eco-friendly.

A green home is one which is free from water resources from the city, has its own power generation capability and a fully developed waste management system that ensures zero export of any type of waste. ​

Rainwater harvesting can reduce water dependency from city supply by up to 15-20 or about 59-60 days in a year. Recycling of grey water from kitchen and washing can be used for landscaping, car wash, and flush tanks. This decreases water consumption by a massive 70%.

Solar powered electrical systems are also picking up with more and more homes being retrofitted with them. A small STP can reduce the waste load on municipal authorities to a major extent.

Builders like ZED, BCIL have their own solar and wind solutions for power generation. They have developed household appliances that consume less power than conventional electronic items. A range of forest free furniture is used in all their homes to ensure no forests are being cut.

Just stirring people’s conscience to build a green home is not enough.

Buyers, residents and prospective buyers must invest in initiatives that don’t just aim at settling a community but developing an ecosystem on the whole. Going energy efficient doesn’t cost much. If you could afford a small car, you can afford a lot of these little things that, in the long run, offer returns that are attractive.

Reduction in your power bills, water bills and smarter air-conditioning with clean air and healthy living environment are obvious dividends. Buyers and builders must drive the bigger aim of a sustainable growth for the city.

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Are your plants getting the right amount of water?

watering-can-old-manTending to a garden is a liberating experience and lets you bring out the eco-philic side of you. Although looking after a garden is not rocket science, care must be given to all aspects to ensure your plants look healthy and fresh. One such aspect that is generally overlooked by most of us is watering the plants. Although it appears to be a simple activity, it is in fact one of the most misinterpreted, often with disastrous consequences for the plant. When understood and carried out properly, it is capable of significantly influencing the relationship with the garden.

So let’s start at the very beginning. While we say “we’re watering the plants”, we don’t water plants, we actually water the soil.

Yes, that’s right. Plants take in their required amount of water from the soil so watering the soil around the root zone (away from the stem) is most beneficial to the soil micro-organisms, and therefore the plant.

Equally critical is knowing that plants need moist soil rather than wet or submerged soil. Moist soil enables the water to break down necessary components in the soil into a small enough size to be absorbed through the plant’s root system. Over watering can lead to loss of nutrients and minerals and also decrease aeration.

Plants should be watered early in the morning and not late in the evening. Plant diseases are known to spread in wet, dark conditions and when we water in the late evening, water tends to stay on the leaves, making the plant more susceptible to catch mildew (a fungal disease). In daytime, if water does get on the leaves, it has a chance to dry out in the sunlight. Also, plants need water mainly during daylight to produce food, so watering early morning would ensure that they are able to carry out their activity.

Gardens are completely dependent on our watering and so it needs to be planned and regular. Erratic watering stresses the plants. Allowing the soil to dry out completely between watering is not a good idea and works only for specific plants. Most plants require consistently moist soil conditions.

How do you water plants?

For an urban home garden, there are several ways to water from the simple bucket and mug or rose-can (can with a shower-head nozzle) to the more planned drip irrigation mechanism.

Adopt a method that is best suited for you and one that does not waste water. As far as possible, try to harvest rainwater. Reuse grey water – i.e. water used for washing clothes or vessels for use in the garden. But remember this is only if we avoid synthetic detergents and use natural alternatives or other powders.

Mulched soil has greater water retention capacity and also provides nutrients. It is best suited for a garden. If you have a rooftop garden, ensure windbreaks to prevent uprooting of plants.

Paying attention to the health of the soil is the most important aspect of a plant’s health. Ensuring a well-proportioned mix of sand, red earth, compost and soil-building material (like cocopeat) is essential to make the soil loose, porous and to increase its water retention capacity.

The needs of each plant are different and so plan your gardening activity accordingly taking care of each plant to have a healthy and lively garden.

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WHERE’S MY WATER?

WaterBangalore is largely dependent on groundwater. The largest source of water in Bangalore apart from Cauvery water is from borewells.

We are pulling water that has been down there for hundreds of years, that is somebody else’s right as much as it is ours. And the breach of this right can be clearly seen with unequal resource allocation.

How do we get Ground water?

We all live above spaces between soil particles and cracks, fissures and faults in the rocks, which are known as aquifers. Water in these aquifers is rainwater that has trickled down and percolated into the earth. The aquifers are spread independent of property or administrative boundaries. Each time we pull out water from the ground, we are possibly denying someone else of their source of water.

The geology of Bangalore, and most of the Deccan plateau, is hard-rock geology. This type of geological setting is composed of three layers- the top soil where the plants grow, the weathered zone below the top soil and the hard rock. The weathered zone is actually crushed version of the hard rock which holds water in the pores and spaces in between the particles.

When it rains and water percolates down, it passes through the weathered zone and then into the hard rock fissures. A large connected set of fissures, in effect one single body of water under the ground, is called an aquifer. Aquifers in the hard rock are called ‘confined aquifers’ as they are under pressure. Water in the weathered zone is shallow and is referred to as shallow unconfined aquifer and they can travel laterally into the soil. Open wells up to depths of around 80 feet in Bangalore were meant to access water in the shallow unconfined aquifers. Over time these have been dried out, except in certain parts of Bangalore. After open wells started drying, people started digging borewells which were going deeper and picking up water from the fissures in rocks – or from confined aquifers. It is important to note that confined aquifers take more time to recharge the unconfined aquifers.

It’s difficult to predict where you get water in deeper confined aquifers.  At depths of 100 to 650 feet, there are a lot of fissures through which water trickles in. There is no way to predict, other than testing each site.

When you dig a borewell and start pulling water out, you are emptying the water in the aquifers which is a finite amount. The process by which water enters into these fissures is called recharge. This can be natural or artificial. Since there is only a finite amount of water underneath, we cannot endlessly keep pumping out water.

As a city, we need to understand how much water is available. This is not an easy task. All the residents in an area need to share where they have dug the bore well, how deep did it go, at what depth did they get water, etc. The data collected across the city can help get a better picture of the city’s aquifers.

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