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Sunday, August 31, 2014

August sees 4th lowest rainfall since 2000




Entire Month Records Only 418MM
After witnessing an arid June and a record-breaking rain in July , Santa Cruz has gone back to a dry August. If the rainfall figures for the month are anything to go by , then August could hold the title for recording the fourth lowest rain of around 418mm since the year 2000.Weathermen opine that the "break monsoon", a phenomenon that is known to be present every monsoon season, has lasted longer this year, thus giving August less rain though the island city and the sub urbs witnessed moderate to heavy showers on Saturday .

June this year recorded very meager rain of barely 87.3mm while July rainfall was abundant and the suburbs were seen record ing 1468.7mm of rain. But since the beginning of August itself the rain during the entire month was not as expected considering the July rains had built high expectations.Throughout the month of August one saw a few occasional spells of rain occurring in the suburbs and island city.

V K Rajeev, director of the regional meteorological department in Mumbai said, " August has witnessed subdued rainfall activity and no active weather systems were seen, which are known to give the city rain. The break monsoon phenomenon does not last for any fixed period of time. However this year the monsoons are yet to revive from it."

Since 2000, less rainfall in the month of August was recorded in the year 2013, 2012 and 2009. Meanwhile August 2010 recorded the highest rain of 1036.5mm in the past 14 years. August 17 of the same year had received the highest one day rainfall with 158.2mm Even the first day of Ganpati did not witness not much rainfall and in the 24 hours from August 29 to 30, one saw Colaba record 4mm of rain and Santa Cruz 2.4mm.

A few spells of rain or thundershowers have been forecast for the next 24 hours--from August 30 afternoon onwards. So far out of the season's required rainfall during the four months of monsoons, the island city has already received 85.88% of the rain while the suburbs have recorded 88.46% of the rain required.

However, the seven lakes that supply water to the city have a good stock so far with 13.62lakh million litres. This is the highest water stock the city has as on date if compared to the past five years. The reason for it could also be the addition of one more lake namely Middle Vaitarana, which alone has contributed to 1.93 lakh million litres of water to the total water stock.






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Friday, August 29, 2014

Grain bowl staring at severe drought




Rain Deficit Grew In Last 20 Days, May Not Improve
The failure of the monsoon over large parts of the country in August has raised the spectre of 2014 being declared a drought year.

As of Thursday , the overall deficit was 18%, with ab out 36% of the meteorological subdivisions facing moderate to severe drought.

A drought year is declared when the nationwide monsoon shortfall is more than 10%, and 20% to 40% of the country faces drought conditions. Rain Spotting, P 15 India's grain bowl belt of Punjab, Haryana and western Uttar Pradesh is reeling under a severe drought, with a major monsoon bailout looking unlikely at least in the next week or so.

Punjab and Haryana have run up rain deficits of 65% and 66%, respectively, and are currently the only two states where rainfall has been categorized as `scanty' -that is, 40% or less than normal since the onset of monsoon on June 1.Western UP is only slightly better with a current shortfall of 58%.

IMD defines severe drought in a subdivision if it recieves less than 50% of normal rainfall.

In at least 26 districts across this belt, rainfall has been less than 30% of normal. This includes Barnala in Punjab which has received just 10% rain and Rohtak which was got 11%.

While IMD had predicted that the region would end up with the worst rain deficit in the country, the situation turned critical in the last 20 days. This is when the monsoon weakened, including a seven-day spell from August 15 when it went into a break because of a sustained weather disturbance in the Indian Ocean.

During this weak phase, central and northwest India went largely dry while the east, northeast and the coastal belt continued to get rain. The rain deficit in central India grew. But in Punjab, Haryana and western UP, an already bad monsoon year became worse.

The outlook for the next week or so doesn't look too good. "While this region received scattered rains on Thursday due to the southward shift of the monsoon trough, there is at the moment no strong system in the vicinity that can cause persistent rain," said B P Yadav, director, IMD.

Met officials said a substantial dent in the rain deficit of northwest India can come only if a succession of low pressure systems forms in the Bay of Bengal strong enough to reach so far inland. Thus far, these systems mainly benefitted central India during the active monsoon phase from mid-July to August first week.

The growing deficit has belied IMD's expectations as well. The department in its latest monsoon forecast barely a month ago, had predicted near normal rains for August and September. While downgrading the overall monsoon forecast to 87% (from 93% predicted earlier), it said the two months together were likely to get 95% rainfall of the long term average (with a model error of 8%).

That forecast appears optimistic now. As of August 28, the all India weighted average rainfall for the month stands at 207.9mm against a normal of 261mm for the entire month. This means the deficit, with three days of the month remaining, stands at more than 20%. The rain gap in northwest India as a whole, stands at 34%.



Friday, August 15, 2014

Indians' craving for salt leading to a rising number of strokes in country



Restricting It Must Be Part Of Policy Planning, Say Docs
Almost 1.65 million people across the world die due to heart problems brought on by excess intake of salt, said a research analyzing populations from 187 countries.

The paper, published in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) on Thursday, found that the average consumption of salt across the globe was 3.95gm per day , nearly double the 2gm recommended by the World Health Organization.

A separate Indian study released a few days ago--the INDIAB study of the Indian Council for Medical Research--found that the mean salt intake in urban India was 7.6gm per day , much higher than the global mean.

"It is well known that salt or sodium is a risk factor for heart disease and stroke," said endocrinologist Dr Shashank Joshi, one of the lead authors of the INDIAB study .
Considering that one in four Indian adults suffers from high blood pressure, one can gauge the extent of heart problems caused by salt.

The highlight of NEJM's study , conducted by a 100-member team of academicians led by Tufts University , is that it's the first to quantify the effect of excess sodium on cardiovascular diseases. The final conclusion was that in 2010 alone, around 1.65 million across the world suffered fatal heart problems aggravated by their high sodium intake.

To arrive at the conclusion, the study--funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation--analyzed existing data from 205 surveys of sodium intake in 66 countries. The effects of sodium on blood pressure and of blood pressure on cardiovascular diseases were determined separately . The researchers then combined these findings with the current rates of cardiovascular diseases around 187 countries to estimate the number of cardiovascular deaths attributable to sodium consumption above 2gm per day .

"This important study reiterates that excess salt intake is equivalent to tobacco intake in terms of human disease and death. India ranks high on the list of countries with excess salt intake and resultant cardiovascular disease and deaths," said senior Delhi-based endocrinologist Dr Anoop Misra. He felt that a reduction in salt intake is not possible without legal restrictions and policy changes. "Salt restriction should be at the top of health policy planning to contain hypertension and heart disease," he added.

The INDIAB study on the prevalence of diabetes and hypertension in India published two weeks ago found that Indians have a "salt-preponderance". "We crave salt. We not only reach for packed namkeen stuff and dishes high on salt, we also take hidden salt in pickles, papads, etc," said Joshi.

The explosion of hypertension in the country is higher than diabetes.
"The number of Indians suffering stroke is rising. One of the causes is our high salt intake," said Joshi.

The NEJM study found that four out of five global deaths attributable to higher than recommended sodium intakes occurred in middleand low-income countries. The research team also said the 1.65 million deaths meant that nearly one in 10 of all deaths from cardiovascular causes worldwide was due to higher salt ingestion. It concluded that strong policies are needed to reduce dietary sodium across the world.

Maha On Sodium High The INDIAB study of the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) released data last fortnight, showing the mean salt intake in urban areas was significantly higher than that in the rural areas (7.6gm per day against 6.8gm per day).

The mean salt intake was highest in Chandigarh (8.3gm per day), followed by Maharashtra (7.2gm per day), Tamil Nadu (6.8gm per day) and Jharkhand (5.9gm per day).






Saturday, August 9, 2014

1 in 5 patients of rain-related ills runs fever, gets infections




Insurance claims for monsoon-related diseases have been steadily rising, with fever--that trivial sounding symptom of many diseases--emerging as the single most common reason. One medical insurance company claimed that infectious diseases or monsoon-related ailments--ranging from viral fever to typhoid--made up for almost a third of all its claims.

Seeking medical insur ance reimbursements is no longer limited to emergencies of the heart and brain; come monsoon, claims for infectious diseases take centre stage.

V Jagannathan from Star Health and Allied Insurance Co said there is a notable spike in claims due to infectious and vector-borne diseases during monsoon.

Data available from ICICI Lombard General Insurance, one of the largest insurers, showed treatment costs over three years have jumped for most monsoon-related ailments. "The average claim for fever and common infections has increased by around 20% per annum," said ICICI Lombard's Sanjay Datta.

Statistics show one in five patients down with rainrelated illnesses suffered from fever along with infections.
Around one in seven such seasonal patients sought hospitalization for gastroenteritis.

ICICI Lombard's Sanjay Datta said while the average claim for treating fever and common infections has risen 20% per annum, the treatment cost for respiratory tract infections rose 18% and 12% in 2012 and 2013, respectively .

The data shows the maximum claimants are either from the pediatric age group or the most productive 26 to 35 years bracket. "Over 3,000 claims in the last three years came from those in the 26-35 age group and over 1,500 for the 0-5 age group," said Datta.

George C (name changed) was last week surprised to get a bill of Rs 90,000 for his father's hospitalization, which included a two-day stay in the ICU. " After tens of tests, the doctors told me his blood pressure fluctu ations were the result of an infection," he said. George is worried how he would have footed the bill for fever if not for his insurance policy.

Doctors say this increase in the cost of treating monsoon-related illnesses is mainly a reflection of the patient's delay in seeking treatment. "Most cases

of fever or even malaria don't need hospitalization. It is only when the symptoms cannot be controlled for three to four days that the doctor advises hospitalization. Hospitalization means it's serious and needs insurance cover," said Dr Gustad Daver, medical director of Sir H N Reliance Foundation Hospital in south Mumbai. Incidentally, most rain ailments haven't yet seen a spike this year. "We are seeing the usual number of malaria, dengue and typhoid, but there isn't a surge yet. Leptospirosis is the only disease that seems to have increased," said intensivist Dr Khusrav Bajan from Hinduja Hospital, Mahim.








Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Message from all faiths is loud and clear: It's the biggest act of giving



`Donating Organs Can Help Overcome Death Anxiety, Make People Feel Better Connected With Life'
Religious beliefs are considered one of the biggest hurdles preventing people from donating organs. Yet, a look at how different faiths view the giving of organs -to save and improve lives -calls the bluff on this perception.

Truth is most religions are open and straightforward on the issue.
The Puranas, for instance, cite many instances of people cheerfully donating their body parts organs. In Peria Purana, Kananappa Nayanar offers his eyes to Lord Shiva.

Despite this, many are worried that donating organs may impact the soul. As Sri Sri Ravi Shankar says: "Do not worry about the soul.
You'll certainly not be born blind in your next life if you pledge your eyes after death this time."

Sri Sri labours on the point that organ donation is a "sacred offering, a noble gesture". People are often misled by `beliefs' (read superstitions) that have no space in any religion, he says. " As far as belief systems go, if religion contradicts science, go with science."

He invokes the Gita to explain.
"What does Krishna say in the Bhagvad Gita? In the last chapter (Chapter 18, Verse 63), he says: If you are faced with a challenge or doubt, think over it. If your logic accepts it, accept it. Ponder over it fully , then do as you like." Expounding the power of reason, Sri Sri urges followers to heed Krishna's words to Arjuna on the battlefield: "Reason it out, discuss it, think about it in entirety , don't leave any aspect out. Then do as you like."

In short, if logically you are comfortable donating organs, do not let vague religiosity influence you.

Sri Sri suggests a scientific approach to religion. The underlying point being: We should make ourselves useful and of service, in life and death. As far as belief systems go -if religion contradicts science, science should prevail.

"You donate your organs after death for someone's benefit -this is scientific; there's nothing wrong in it," says Sri Sri. "If your religion says, you'll go to hell if you donate your organs, I'd say: Stick to science.
Not only has the recipient of the organ benefited, but also his family and community . When a blind person gets to see, he becomes independent, confident and is able to help himself and others."

Continuous Charity Organ donation is an act of value worthy of reward. In fact, some religions say an artificial transplant is no substitute for a natural organ transplant.

In Islam, organ donation is believed to be sadqa jariyah, that is, continuous charity . For example, if a blind person receives another's eyes after the person's death and can see, that is sadqa jariyah, because even after death the benefits from his donation continue to be received by another. Organ donation signifies living with the spirit of compassion, say scholars. The donor loses nothing, but gives others something precious -the gift of life. There is a saying: `The measure of life is not its duration, but its donation'. This could well apply to organ donation.
The Big Connect Spiritually speaking, when deciding to pledge organs some have reported experiencing a larger connect with humanity . By pledging their organs, they say it's easier to de-link themselves from the body and focus on the soul.

A Delhi psychologist recounts his experience in dealing with the ageing. "We tend to be possessive about our physical form," and the very thought that our bodies will be cut post-death and body parts utilised to give life to others can be repulsive and scary . Yet, as we mature, psychological wellbeing is heavily dependent on the ability to extend ourselves beyond the self and body .

"Till the time we are obsessed and identified exclusively with our body , we remain anxious about ageing and mortality . Donating organs in reality can help overcome death anxiety . A 71-year-old gentleman was depressed by the idea of death. Once he decided to donate his organs and told his family , he reported positive changes in his personality. He lost his preoccupation with illness, and his fear of death reduced.
He became calm and joyful. He began to say , `When I think that my organs will give life to someone, I don't feel alone. I feel connected to life. I find myself as part of a large chain or web of life.' " Then there's the story of a teacher whose doctor went out of his way to treat him though the teacher couldn't pay his bills. The teacher felt grateful and to express this, decided that rather than subject his body to useless rituals post-death, it should be given to a medical college to help students become good doctors. Noble cause, yes, but as leading theologists say , it's still not easy.

On God's Duty A lighter take on the Bible says Adam was perhaps the first organ donor -after all, "God took a rib out of Adam and created Eve" (Genesis 2:21). Christianity views organ donation not only as a moral deed, but also as commendable, even recommending it as a religious duty .

At the forefront in pushing the issue, have been the papal heads.
"Transplants are a great step forward in science's service of humankind.... There is need to instil in peo ple's hearts, especially in the hearts of the young, a genuine appreciation of the need for love that can find expression in deciding to become an organ donor," said late Pope John Paul II in August 2000, adding that systems and regulations must be in place so that organ donation does not get commercialized.

The Catholic Church teaches: "Organ transplants are in conformity with moral law... Pledging one's organs to be donated after death is a noble and meritorious act and is to be encouraged. It is not morally acceptable if the donor or his next of kin hasn't given explicit consent. It is not morally admissible to bring about the disabling mutilation or death of a human being, even to delay the death of others."

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI said: "Organ donation is a special form of witness to love.... In a period like ours, often marked by various forms of selfishness, it is ever more urgent to understand how the logic of free giving is vital to a correct conception of life.... As Jesus taught us, only whoever gives one's own life can save it (Luke 9:24)."

Grow With Religion There was a time when Jewish law prohibited organ donation and transplantation as procedures were not in place, or matters were still at an experimental stage. Today , that is not the case. Rabbis and scholars across the spectrum of Jewish life have upgraded their views on this.
Organ donation from a dead body is seen as an act of saving life, pikkuah nefesh. Organ donation from a living donor is fine too as long as it does not significantly risk the donor's life; then it is a mitzvah kiyumit, praiseworthy . One of the most compelling arguments for organ donation is the love, mercy and compassion involved in such an act. Saving a life is a fundamental imperative in Judaism, says Rabbi Malekar.

That said, all faiths advise abundant caution to ensure that organ donation retains the spirit of charity .
For that, education plays a big role, says Sri Sri, who has pledged his eyes. For starters, the family must be taken into confidence that one has pledged to donate an organ or organs so they can peacefully do the needful when it's time.








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Chembur resident gets state’s first e-challan




A Chembur resident has become the first person in the state to be issued an e-challan. He was sent the challan for a traffic violation committed in Navi Mumbai, as his vehicle had stepped on the zebra crossing at the NRI Junction, Palm Beach Road. The offence was recorded on a CCTV at the crossing.

Traffic police surprised motorists with a quiet launch of the CCTV-based e-challan system in Navi Mumbai Municipal Corporation's jurisdiction last month. The drive began with Palm Beach Road, where 24 cameras have been installed at nine locations. "We sent 15 e-challans through registered post. CCTV footage is

used to identify the car number and owner using data updated by the transport department,'' said DCP (traffic), Vijay Patil.

"E-challan will improve discipline among drivers," said K L Prasad, police commissioner,

Navi Mumbai. The city has 262 CCTVs and the police commissioner's office has asked the civic body to install another 400.

While the CCTVs capture traffic images in which the vehicle number is identified, the

command centre at the police commissioner's office takes a screenshot and also keeps the video clipping as evidence. An e-challan is prepared and posted with a covering letter from the traffic inspector. While the e-challan includes an image of the vehicle committing the violation, the covering letter provides details of the offence, the location and the option to pay a compounded fine or approach the court. At present, the fine can be paid at the CBD traffic chowky on the Sion-Panvel highway. It has to be paid within seven days from the receipt of the letter or the department forwards the case to the jurisdictional court at CBD Belapur.

"An online payment gateway will be soon be operational. The defaulter can then pay the fine online," added Patil.

"Delhi too has an evidencebased challan. I am sure it will enable greater compliance," said Rajesh Agarwal, the state government's principal secretary (IT), who chaired the CCTV committee.



45,000 Indians in countries hit by Ebola




As the Ebola fever death toll crossed 932, the government on Wednesday said 44,700 Indians were living in African countries affected by the virus and there was a possibility of them returning if the situation worsened. In a written statement in Parliament, health minister Harsh Vardhan said travellers coming from or transiting through affected countries to India would be tracked. The government also advised against non-essential travel to west Africa, the epicentre of the outbreak. P 14 Lagos: The death toll of the Ebola epidemic neared 1,000 on Wednesday as fears rose that the disease is now taking hold in Africa's most populous nation of Nigeria after a second death among seven cases in Lagos.

The spread of the disease comes as the World Health Organization (WHO) met in an emergency session in Geneva to decide whether to declare an international crisis.

The latest official toll across west Africa hit 932 deaths since the start of the year, it said on Wednesday , with 1,711 confirmed cases, mostly in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. The death of a nurse in Lagos, a megacity of more than 20 million people, came as 45 deaths were confirmed across west Africa between Saturday and Monday , with aid agencies saying the terrifying tropical disease is out of control.

In Liberia's capital, Monrovia, where the dead have been left unburied on the streets or abandoned in their homes, Presi dent Ellen Johnson Sirleaf appealed for divine intervention and ordered three days of fasting and prayer.

And in Sierra Leone, troops were sent to guard hospitals to "deter relatives and friends of Ebola patients from forcefully taking them from hospitals without medical consent", a presidential aide said.

Suspected Saudi patient dies in Jeddah hospital A Saudi national, who fell ill after returning from Sierra Leone, died early on Wednesday in his hospital isolation ward where he was being tested for the Ebola virus, said the Saudi health ministry. The 40-year-old returned on Sunday from Sierra Leone and was then hospitalized in Jeddah after showing symptoms of the viral hemorrhagic fever. AP




Sunday, August 3, 2014

53 trees fell in 24 hrs due to rain last week, activists blame BMC




Last Wednesday turned out to be one of the worst days for Mumbai's green cover, with 53 big trees falling in a matter of 24 hours even as heavy downpour lashed the city.

Besides, the city loses an average of 15-20 trees every day. Experts blamed the civic body for the alarming rate at which trees are uprooted here, pointing out poor maintenance and the fact that the authorities did not give trees enough space to spread their roots by concretizing everything around it. Weak trees crashing down are also a threat to residents. On July 30, a 32-year-old man, Santosh Pande, died when a tree collapsed on him at Jogeshwari (E), where he had halted his bike to answer his cellphone.

He died on the spot.

"Trees these days are tilting and falling because they have no place to grow. With the authorities concretizing and

putting paver blocks really close to the roots, there is absolutely no space for the roots to spread themselves. It is important that at least one-metre area be left free around a tree.

But since that never happens, trees grow weak at the roots and fall. It is unfortunate that someone died because of that," said Stalin Dayanand, environmentalist and project director of NGO Vanashakti.

Sunish Subramanian,

founder of Plants and Animal Welfare Society (PAWS), has a different view. "Many a time, developers deliberately damage the roots by pouring chemicals so that trees wither away after a few weeks. That way , they can clear the path for their parking lot or compound or entrance to a building," said Subramanian. He added that the BMC did plant thousands of saplings in the monsoon but no one knew about their survival rates. "No one knows what happens to that tree that have been planted or transplanted," he added.

Joint municipal commissioner S S Shinde, who is in charge of the gardens department, however, claimed that the BMC trimmed tree branches to avoid collapses.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Kosi flash flood fears prompt evacuations




Flood warnings were sounded in Bihar's Saharsa and Purnia divisions on Saturday , with people alerted between the east and west embankments of Kosi to move to safer places. This was after Saharsa district magistrate Shashi Bhushan Kumar made on-spot assessment of the danger to Kosi's embankments after heavy flow of water into the river from Nepal side.

A massive landslide took place on Saturday following heavy rain in Jhure in Sindhupalchok district in Nepal. The landslide is blocking the water flow into the Kosi and the authorities there, to prevent flooding, were planning to detonate the blockade. Should this happen, a sudden gush of water is inevitable which would flow down into an already swelling river on the Indian side.

The Indian embassy in Kathmandu has informed the National Disaster Management Authority about the likely discharge of 25 lakh cusecs of water post blast. In either case, 40% of the discharge will gush into Bihar. The water will take about 12 hours to hit the Kosi barrage which has the capacity of sustaining pressure of only eight lakh cusecs. The flood, if it occurs, would affect a popula , tion of 1.5 lakh in Bihar's eight districts, including 50,000 peo ple in 22 panchayats of Supaul district alone. Bihar has begun to evacuate people from the vil lages within the embankment area in 22 panchayats of Supaul district and 7 other districts.

Cloudburst flattens over 30 houses

Dehradun: Over 30 houses were flattened by a cloudburst in remote Mori village in Uttarakhand's Uttarkashi district late Friday. However, there were no casualties as all villagers were away at the time of the incident, state chief secretary Subhash Kumar said on Saturday.



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