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Sunday, March 29, 2009

‘We must change attitudes towards crisis management’

    The paper said the BMC establish a Directorate of Civil Defence reporting to the municipal commissioner, which will reach the scene of crisis accompanied by ambulances, para medics and fire brigade. "One of the major responsibilities of the DCM and DCD would be to know the locality where they are situated. It would assure citizens that help help is available immediately when disaster strikes,'' it said.    "We need to take steps to change our attitude towards security,'' said the report. The white paper has recommended that police administration establish a directorate of crisis management (DCM) under the police commissioner, which will be ready to handle any emergency and reach the scene of crisis within the shortest time. The police personnel should be trained in the latest weapons and familiar with modern methods of communications. It also suggested organising a second tier of home guards who would assist where manpower is more important than weaponry. A voluntary service corps comprising young people from the society be set up, which can help in gathering intelligence.     The white paper is based on suggestions by officials involved in handling the aftermath of 9/11 in the US and 7/7 in the UK. The inadequacies pointed out by these experts included emergency preparedness, state-ofthe-art weaponry, coordination of different disaster management agencies and chain of command and control.

Mumbai: A white paper on 'Crisis Management in Mumbai' prepared by the Citizens' Action Group and Bombay First has called for a two-fold plan for changing public attitude towards security and general preparedness of the authorities in the wake of the 26/11 attack.
    "We have the police, a disaster management department in the Mantralaya as well as in the BMC and appropriate chains of command. Still, no one believes that we can effectively handle another emergency,'' said the report.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Painted path leads to safety

After spending months trying and testing different formulae in his Goregaon laboratory, Madhav Sawant has invented what he likes to call 'light-emitting paint'. The 47-year-old mechanical engineer has been busy demonstrating his invention in dark rooms. "After absorbing incident light (light from surroundings) for two hours, this painted wall can emit light for eight hours,'' he says, pointing to a glowing wall coated with the invisible paint. At Rs 230 to Rs 800 per sq ft, the paintis manufactured from earth minerals and according to Sawant serves a dual purpose—disaster management and energy conservation.
    Organisations like Mumbai's World Trade Centre have expressed an interest in the product because of its disaster-management properties. "Aisles, underground car parks and stairways can be marked with it so that in an emergency, when there is a power outage, people have a light backup,'' says Sawant.
    One of the first steps of disaster management is switching off electricity after which visibility becomes a major problem. During 9/11, the lights went out after the first tower was hit, but 18,000 people were successfully evacuated in less than two hours because of the photo-luminescent directional signage systems that led them to the exit route. It inspired Sawant to create a similar paint.
    Even Thane Municipal Corporation's city engineer K D Lala wants Vitava Tunnel and Mumbra flyover to get the safety stroke of paint. "Light
from the headlights of cars will charge the paint and it will in turn give out light,'' says Lala.
    The tile project, funded by the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research and National Research Development Corporation, is in its initial stages. Sawant along with a few scientists is studying the possibility of developing wall tiles shaped to emit concentrated light. "After being charged, the wall tiles should be able to illuminate a room to even assist reading,'' explains Sawant who wants to do his bit to save energy.
    Last year, Sawant invented a water-carrying vessel for village women called the jalpari which distributes the weight of the vessel on both shoulders.

The invisible paint absorbs light by day and reflects it at night; (left) Madhav Sawant


How to heat up your home efficiently
Open curtains during the day to let sunlight in to your home. Close doors, windows and curtains when trying to keep heat in

How to save power when heating water
Switch off your electric hot water unit if you're going away for a week or more. Set the heating temperature between 600C and 650C. Set your bathroom hot water temperature to 500C-550C to decrease the risk of scalding. Installing a solar-boosted hot water unit can save you up to 90% of costs

Turn off the computer screen if it wont be in use for more than 10 minutes. Energy star computers with a sleep mode consume up to 80% less energy than conventional computers, with laptops up to 90%

Microwaves can cook food three times faster than a standard oven while using up to 70% less electricity Use the least amount of water when steaming Where possible, cook food with a lid on Thaw foods completely before cooking Only boil as much water as you need in a kettle
An electric kettle consumes less energy than boiling water on a stove Only pre-heat oven if necessary Pressure cookers require only half the energy as standard ovens The temperature of your fridge should be set between 30C and 40C whilst your freezer should be set between -150C and -180C Defrost your freezer if required as it restricts the flow of cold air Fridges should be kept out of direct sunlight where possible
Turn lights off when leaving a room Turn power off at the power point when an appliance won't be used for a few hours or more
Energy efficient lamps consume up to 75% less energy than incandescent ones and can last up to 8 times longer. Other ways to save power around the home as a general rule, larger appliances use more energy Leaving TVs, VCRs, DVDs, and stereos on stand-by mode can generate up to 150 kilograms of greenhouse gas per year. Front-loading washing machines are up to 15% more energy efficient than top loading machines
How to save water in the bathroom
Fix dripping taps Use cold water where possible Use the bathroom plug when shaving or washing

Mumbai Will Join The Rest Of The World On Saturday In Switching Off Lights For 1 Hour


Mumbai Will Join The Rest Of The World On Saturday In Switching Off Lights For 1 Hour To Save Power And The Planet

Aamir Khan, Sachin Tendulkar, Amitabh Bachchan and one billion others from 1000 cities— Helsinki, Nairobi, Las Vegas and the like—around the world have promised to switch off their lights for 60 minutes as part of the WWF Earth Hour movement to spread awareness about global warming.
    Dismiss it as mere symbolism at worst or laud it as a massive effort at sensitising people to save their planet before it's too late, the movement that began as an experiment in Thailand in 2005, then took off in Sydney in 2007, the idea has many takers who will put off the lights for 60 minutes from 8.30 pm local time in every country on Saturday. "Earth Hour, aims to highlight the voice of the people of the world and represent a visual mandate for meaningful policy on climate change,'' a WWF official said.
    The idea is not new to Mumbai. On December 15, 2007, a local campaign called Batti Bandh was organised by an enthusiastic group of young professionals. Groups of citizens came together during the outage to sing songs, hold candlelight dinners and organise games as gestures of solidarity. Leading from the front, pre-teens and teens went from house-to-house asking bemused housewives and elders to turn out the lights. Batti Bandh may not have bee very successful in terms of reach—Mumbai's sky
line did not dim—but it did create awareness about energy saving.
    City-based greens welcomed the WWF initiative and said the gesture will go a long way in creating awareness about climate change. "We should internalise this practice rather a public demonstration every year. By switcing off lights one hour every day we can shut down 50 thermal plants. The impact of climate change will be huge but unfortunately policy makers are not interested in making it a part of their poll agenda,'' said Bittu Sahgal editor of Sanctuary magazine. "The 26/7 floods were just a curtain raiser. We are just on the brink of a huge environmental disaster in the coming years," he warned.
    Agrees Debi Goenka, of Bombay Environmental Action Group (BEAG) which has been fighting an almost losing battle to save the last stretch of mangroves in the city. "The WWF initiatve maybe just a symbolic gesture . But we need to begin somewhere. The youth should come out in large numbers and support the green cause or we may face yet another 26/7 soon,'' he said, adding the last remaining open spaces in the city are being usurped by builders.
    Sahgal said the increase in private transport has only added to
the woes. "We need better public transport system which can reduce pollution levels,'' he said.
    Rishi Agarwal, of Mangrove Society Of India, Mumbai, said though in October 2005, the Bombay High Court had passed an order disallowing construction within 50 metres around mangroves it
has been blatantly violated. "I will take this issue to the people,'' said Agarwal who is contesting in the Lok Sabha election from Mumbai North-west as an Independent.
WWF has made an effort to link up and bring all manner of players on board: from celebrity to corporate. Some of South Mumbai's tallest buildings have signed on—Air India building at Nariman Point and the two RBI towers will join monuments like the Sphinx, the Acropolis in Greece, the Empire State Building in New York and the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur in darkness. Fifty corporates have promised to be part of the campaign including hotel groups like ITC and the Taj, banks like ICICI, Standard Chartered and HSBC, and tech giants such as Wipro, Google and HP.
WWF members in Mumbai will host cultural programmes at the Bombay Port Trust Garden in Colaba—a street play, folk dance and an acoustic music concert, followed by a human chain.
Climate activist and the author of Carbon Planet, Mukund Aparajit said, "The impact may not be measurable but it certainly helps spread awareness about the cause and how by bringing about lifestyle changes one can decrease carbon emissions.''


The Earth Hour is a campaign started in 2007 by World Wide Fund for nature (WWF) to create awareness about climate change and environmental problems by switching off lights for one hour
It was based on an idea successfully implemented in Thailand in 2005, and later in Sydney in 2007. It achieved worldwide participation in 2008 when 400 cities went dark
This year 1 billion people from 1000 cites in 75 countries, including India, will participate.
WWF says 2009 is a critical year in terms of the political decisions that will be made at global climate negotiations in December 2009.

Book: The Long Thaw: How Humans are Changing the Next 100,000 Years of Earth's Climate
Climatologist David Archer makes a grim prediction — if we continue to pump carbon dioxide into the atmosphere at alarming rates, seas are likely to rise by 50 metres.
Film: The Age of Stupid
It's 2055 in Franny Armstrong's film. An archivist (Pete Prostlethwait) who works in an Arctic that has melted, watches news and documentary footage from 1950-2008 and wonders why the world didn't halt a meltdown when it could have. Website: http://www.wwfindia.org/help/ greenliving-tips/ Send e-greetings instead of cards and water your garden early morning or late evening to avoid evaporation. These are just a couple of tips from a list of ways to lead a more eco-friendly life on World Wide Fund India's website.

UN Body Calls for Cooperation to Reduce Risk from Asian Disasters

25 March 2009

The United Nations is facilitating cooperation to lessen damage from disasters that plague the Asia Pacific region.  The U.N. committee on disaster reduction is meeting for the first time in Bangkok, with delegates from 25 countries attending.

The U.N. committee opened three days of meetings Wednesday, aimed at strengthening cooperation in the Asia-Pacific region on disaster prevention.

Noeleen Heyzer says time for cooperation is now
Noeleen Heyzer says time for cooperation is now
Noeleen Heyzer is executive secretary of the U.N. Economic and Social Commission for the Asia Pacific.

She told some 180 delegates at the meeting that the time for cooperation is now.

"The Asia Pacific experiences 42 percent of the world's natural disasters, with a disproportionate 65 percent of its victims," Heyzer said. "A person living in our region is four times more likely to be affected by natural disasters than someone living in Africa and 25 times more likely than someone living in Europe or North America."

Heyzer says, in 2008, almost a quarter of a million people died in the region from natural disasters - 97 percent of global casualties.

Two major disasters made up the bulk of those deaths.

China's Sichuan earthquake in March killed an estimated 87,000 people, while Burma's Cyclone Nargis in May killed an estimated 140,000.

Burma's military authorities delayed acceptance of foreign aid for days, which critics say caused needless deaths and suffering.

The U.N. meeting in Bangkok is attempting to speed up both aid and information to those in danger from natural disasters to help reduce death tolls.

Heyzer says government spending on the global financial crisis can also help reduce risks.

"Current government stimulus packages associated with the financial crisis offer an incredible opportunity to redirect policy and promote a more inclusive, sustainable development," she said.

The three-day disaster reduction meeting will discuss early-warning systems and the best way to cooperatively handle disasters, when they strike.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009


After 26/11, Mumbai's voters are keen to keep their date with the polling station. With 36 days left, collectors in the city and suburbs are taking measures to ensure that voting in Mumbai remains peaceful and smooth

The collectorate has opened two telephone lines – 26513682 and 26513683 – where voters can call with queries. The numbers are toll free. "Operators will also help voters register their names and find if their names exist in the voting list. Two more lines will become operational soon," said N P Jadhav, deputy collector (election). He added that operators will attend calls between 10.30 am and 5 pm.
Jadhav added that closed circuit television cameras (CCTVs) will be installed at polling booths prone to trouble. "If there are any untoward incidents, CCTV footage will be used as evidence," said Jadhav. City collectorate I A Kundan added that 450 sensitive polling booths in South Mumbai – including Bhendi Bazar, Antop Hill and Ganesh Muthi Nagar in Colaba – have been identified. Cops will be deployed to prevent untoward incidents.
    Kundan said his staff has been removing illegal banners, posters and flags. "If a
candidate wants to put up banners and paint private walls, he will have to get an NOC from the owner of the plot. Only then will we will give him permission," he said. Jadhav added that this year his department would take photographs of voters. "These pictures will be printed next to their names in time for the next election. Then it will be easy for us to identify voters and curb fraud," he said.
The EC is going to appoint micro ob
servers to monitor bogus voting. This is in addition to its earlier three observers – general, expenditure and law and order. Each will be entrusted with two assembly constituencies.
    If the voting percentage at a particular booth was above 75 per cent in the previous polls and a candidate got a similar percentage of votes, observers will ask for micro observers to be appointed at the booths. They will camp at the booths to monitor the voting and send a report to the Election Commission of India.
Jadhav said they had conducted training programmes for eight DCPs, 24 ACPs and 65 police inspectors. "We informed them about the model code of conduct and what crimes are common during the polls and under what sections should the accused be booked," he said. "We will arrange separate training programmes for them and also train them in how to instruct voters to use the electronic voting machines."


BMC estimates an average of one crore litres of water is used daily for bathtubs, has launched a campaign to prevent further wastage

 The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has asked residents of elite areas and guests of five-star hotels, to avoid using bathtubs to bathe. The BMC says the city wastes approximately over a crore litres of water a day, due to this. The civic body, therefore, launched a campaign urging people not to use bathtubs, in its Jal Mela – project to educate people about water conservation – that began on Tuesday.
    Santosh Korlekar, chief of the BMC's hydraulic department said they want to run an awareness campaign to reach every bathtub user in the city. "We will use FM radio, newspapers and ask our staffers to ensure that the 'no more baths in bathtubs' pamphlets (that will be created soon) reach all elite residents. We will also display posters, charts and other information at all 24 ward offices," said Korlekar.
    People use bathtubs, mainly in elite areas such as Malabar Hill, Napean Sea Road, Carter Road, Juhu, Nariman Point and some parts of Colaba.
    Another civic official said that they have done a survey and assessed that if people respond to their campaign positively, then the
BMC will able to save over a crore litres of water every day. "There are around 10,000 families who use bathtubs to bathe, in the city. Each person uses at least 200 to 230 litres of water in a bathtub, at one time. Besides this, nearly 50 luxurious hotels in Mumbai have bathtubs. This, in a city where people suffer for a litre of water. In the summer, we will face an acute water shortage. The BMC presently receives 3,400 million litres of water every day (MLD), and the demand is 3,800 MLD," he said.
    "We will also conduct competitions and have decided to give awards to those who save water. Peoples' involvement is more important for the success of the campaign. People should imbibe certain habits for the betterment of the city," said Korlekar.
Actress Katrina Kaif welcomed the idea saying, "If there is a water crisis, then we should come forward and co-operate with the BMC to save water."
    Vinod Shekhar, Congress corporator from Colaba said, "People should not bathe in bathtubs, as this consumes a lot of water. The BMC should also ensure that the saved water is utilised properly."

Mumbai :This Monsonn may witness biggest high tides, higher than any seen in the last 100 years

Bad tide-ings for city this monsoon

; BMC claims its evacuation plans are in place


    The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has once again made tall claims about evacuation plans for people residing in low-lying areas. It is after 100 years, that Mumbai may witness the most number of the biggest high tides this year. The situation on 23-24 July, 2009 may be even worse than 26 July 2005, if the city experiences heavy rains.
    "We have readied plans to evacuate people from low-lying areas this year. We have identified 80-90 chronic spots, of the total 248 spots in the city, where it floods every year. The evacuation plans for the people in these areas are ready, but if the high tide coincides with heavy rains, we can do very little," said Kishore Gajbhiye, additional municipal commissioner.
    It may be recalled that on 26 July, 2005 the maximum rainfall the city had recorded was 944 cm, with a high tide of 4.48 meters, while 23 and 24 July this year will witness the biggest high tides of the century, which will be 5.01 and 5.05 respectively.
    This year, the BMC has concentrated on evacuation plans under the disaster management plan for the monsoon. "If we shift people well in advance, it will be wiser than allowing the area to flood and then rescuing them. We will alert the people of concerned area minimum eight hours before it gets
flooded," said Gajbhiye.
    The civic administration has studied the whole city, and tabulated every detail with maps according to the area, population, approximate response time and the shelters in each wards. Each ward will have a minimum of five shelters which will be the municipal schools of that area. Wards like G-South, GNorth, E, L, S, T, H-West, R-South, R-North are chronic flooding spots.
    "We will place the flow meters at least 4 kms away from the flooding spots. If the level rises at the that point, the lower lying areas will be alerted with sufficient time to take people safely to the shelters," said S S Shinde, Joint Municipal Commissioner.
    The BMC has also started cleaning nullahs and desilting work to avoid water-logging. Most of the hutments on nullahs and along the Mithi River have also been cleared to avoid any casualties.

Do not panic and spread rumours Do not move out of the house unless very urgent Don't hesitate to call 108 for any information on the rains Compile all necessary official documents in a file and keep it handy Citizens residing on ground floors should keep their belongings at heights Park your vehicles on high ground, where there is no water-logging.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Train railway staff in first aid’

HC-appointed committee pays surprise visits to 10 suburban railway stations to check on emergency medical facilities for commuters, puts forth list of eight suggestions

Just two days ago, Nalasopara resident Najma Shaikh went into labour aboard a local train and
    was forced to wait for over 30 minutes on a platform at Grant Road station before an ambulance could reach her. As the baby continues to battle for his life, the case plays up concerns raised by social activist Sameer Zaveri last year, when he moved the Bombay High Court demanding a review of the appalling lack of medical facilities at railway stations.
    Incidentally, Zaveri's PIL came up for hearing on Thursday, and an HC-appointed committee submitted a list of suggestions for the Railways which, if implemented, would ensure that there are no more incidents like Najma's.
    Amicus curie (friend of the court) advocate Jamshed Mistry submitted a detailed report of the facilities that need improvement at suburban sta
tions as well inside local trains. Between March 7 and March 14, the committee – appointed by Chief Justice Swatanter Kumar – paid surprise visits to at least 10 railway stations on the Western and Central lines.
    Though the petition will once again come up for hearing on March 26, here are the eight key suggestions put forth by the team:
    The court should direct railway authorities to take victims to the nearest private or public hospital, located not more than five kilometres from the accident site.
    Every single station must have more than one ambulance, even more so if there are frequent accidents there. In addition, each station must have two first aid kits and one stretcher.
    The helpline number – 9833331111, which is common to both Western and Central railways – must be more prominently displayed at stations and inside trains.

    The Railways should train officials and helpers/hamals in administering first aid – and conduct sufficient refresher courses – so that an injured commuter can be given some treatment until an ambulance arrives.
    Every platform should have large signs indicating exactly where a commuter can avail of first aid as well as directions to ambulance parking.
    There must be better communication between the GRPF and RPF, so that there are no administrative delays in transporting a victim to hospital.
    There should be fencing between two platforms; the height of platforms should be increased; and foot overbridges must be constructed on every platform.
    The format of the printed memo used to report accidents should be changed to include the time and the signature of the GRP officials who assist in taking the victim to hospital.

One of the suggestions by the HC-appointed panel is that accident victims be taken to the nearest private or public hospital, located not more than five kilometres from the accident site

Monday, March 16, 2009

ATLANTA: Plan for emergencies and limit their effect

By Charley English Saturday, March 14, 2009

It's an understatement to say that when a tornado struck downtown Atlanta a year ago this weekend that people were a bit surprised. Most had never expected a tornado to follow a path down some of the city's major thoroughfares, blowing out windows and signs and causing millions of dollars in damage. But that's exactly what happened.

Taking the element of surprise out of a disaster —- natural or otherwise —- is exactly what a business continuity plan is all about. No one can predict when or where a tornado will hit. No one can say for certain whether a fire might strike your business, or whether an influenza pandemic could make a large percentage of your employees sick and unable to work for an extended period of time. But a business continuity plan can help you be prepared to handle each of these situations, minimizing their negative impact on your employees and your bottom line.

What is involved in creating a business continuity plan? Plans may vary widely from one business to another, depending on location, size, industry and many other factors. But they all address the same central question, "What needs to happen to keep our business operating in the wake of a disaster?" The more completely you answer that question when you are putting together your plan, the better prepared you will be and the better your chances of quickly and completely recovering from a disaster.

Start by learning about the emergencies that may impact your business. Next, take a close look at your business operations. What functions are essential? How would they be affected if your employees couldn't get to the office, or your building was closed for an extended period of time? Develop processes and checklists to stay up and running in the face of a variety of emergencies. Then make sure that your employees understand what to do in the event of a disaster or other emergency.

If you own or operate a small business, you may think that you don't need a business continuity plan, but nothing could be further from the truth. According to the Small Business Administration, small to medium-size businesses are most vulnerable in an emergency, making preparedness even more important. In a small business environment, an employee often plays multiple roles. Losing one employee could mean losing the capacity for several critical job functions. By planning ahead and cross-training employees, you can ensure that multiple people are prepared to handle your businesses essential operations in the wake of a disaster.

With tornado season upon us and hurricane season following soon after, Georgia could be in for some unpleasant surprises in the months ahead. Make sure your business is ready. Visit www.ready.ga.gov to find out how to create a business continuity plan and for information about emergency preparedness.

> Charley English is director of Georgia Emergency Management Agency, Office of Homeland Security.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

New micro-sensors to sniff out explosives

Washington: Researchers have discovered a way to detect explosives based on the physical properties of their vapours and are readying the

technology, which utilises micro-sensors, for field testing. "Certain classes of explosives have unique thermal characteristics that help to identify explosive vapours in presence of other vapours," said Thomas Thundat, Oak Ridge National Lab (ORNL) and University of Tennessee researcher who conducted the study with colleagues at ORNL and the Technical University of Denmark.

This technology is not only capable of detecting explosives in traces but also capable of distinguishing between explosive and non-explosive chemicals, and differentiating between individual explosives such as TNT, PETN, and RDX, said an ORNL release. Thundat and others have been working on explosive sensors for years. Typical sensors use ion mobility spectrometers, which ionise tiny amounts of chemicals and measure how fast they move through an electric field.

While these instruments are fast, sensitive and reliable, they are also expensive and bulky, leading many researchers in the last few years to try to find a cheaper and more portable device for detecting explosives. Much of this research focuses on micromechanical devices - tiny sensors that have microscopic probes on which airborne chemical vapours deposit. When the right chemicals find the surface of the sensors, they induce tiny mechanical motions and those motions create electronic signals that can be measured.

These devices are relatively inexpensive to make and can sensitively detect explosives, but often have the drawback that they cannot discriminate between similar chemicals - the dangerous and the benign. They may detect a trace amount of TNT, for instance, but they may not be able to distinguish that from a trace amount of gasoline.

Seeking to make a better micromechanical sensor, Thundat and his colleagues realised they could detect explosives selectively and with extremely high sensitivity by building sensors that probed the thermal signatures of chemical vapours. These findings are described in the latest issue of Review of Scientific Instruments, published by the American Institute of Physics (AIP).

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Mumbai gets a City Panchayat based on Sahbhaagi, Yes We Can

Mumbai: From garbage dumps and pot-holed roads to terror strikes and floods, it is ultimately the ordinary Mumbaikar who is hit at every level by shoddy governance. Every day, Mumbai seems to get that much more difficult to live in.
    If, as a citizen, you are tired of feeling helpless as you watch your once-beautiful city sink steadily on every front—from civic to social—this is your chance to be part of policy making in a grounded and specific way.
    The Times Foundation announces a unique and broad-based campaign for Mumbai city called Sahbhaagi. Sahbhaagi, whose motto is 'Together We Can, Together We Will', is a platform that takes forward the acclaimed formula of PPP or Public Private Partnership. The idea is to set up an inclusive City Panchayat with intellects from various fields such as government, citizens groups, corporates, academics, NGOs and the media.
    Launched by the Times Foundation, this urban grassroots citizens' initiative draws it inspiration from Mahatma Gandhi and the Panchayati Raj. At the heart of this
movement is the belief that the citizen's participation is vital in every sphere of governance. Whether it is internal security, health care, drainage or poverty, the common man can put forward solutions.
    So how exactly will Sahbhaagi function? Basically, the Ward Level Committees (WLC) in the city's 24 wards will be given a booster shot. These committees were set up a few years ago to encourage private initiative, but have since fallen by the wayside and rarely if ever meet to debate issues of im
portance. Sahbhaagi will infuse fresh energy into the WLCs by choosing five responsible and dedicated citizens from each ward to be part of these committees. Therefore, all those interested in being citizen activists—especially women and the youth—can apply by filling in a simple form available on www.lead.timesofindia.com.
    Municipal commissioner Jairaj Phatak and sheriff Indu Shahani have already signalled their support.
    A panel of eminent citizens will go through the applications and after a rigorous screening process, the Sahbhaagites will be chosen. Later on, the project will be extended to other parts of India.
    The second tier of Sahbhaagi involves the setting up of a highpowered panel called the Steering Committee. This Committee will have on board influential individuals from different sections of society who will function as mentors or city fathers of the panchayat.
    The Mumbai Sahbhaagi project takes a leaf out of Delhi chief minister Sheila Dixit's book. Dixit's capable command of the capital was made possible by her outreach to the private and non-profit sector
through bhagidhari who worked in tandem with the state government to implement policy at various levels. Under Dixit's watch, Delhi became cleaner and greener and the positive change propelled her into her third term as CM.
    Decoding the City Panchayat message at a spiritual level, Art of Living guru Sri Sri Ravishankarji said that it is only when different forces function in harmony and unity that we can hope for the betterment of human life. Gurus from various fields have given sahbhaagi their blessings and support.
    For too long, Mumbai has suffered from a lack of civic patriotism on the part of its people. This is probably because the citizen feels that being at the bottom of the food chain, he or she has no role worth the mention in policy making. The sooner this myth is busted the better—in a democracy, the citizen can in a real way help shape policy. For starters, we can do this through the power of the vote. In the forthcoming elections, we can vote for candidates who believe in the bhaagidari ideal. Sahbhaagi is a forging of alliances. After all, all we have is us.
    (For details check www.lead.timesofindia.com)

City doctors warn women smokers of future hazards

Mumbai: The fact that tobacco use may lead to oral and lung cancer, heart disease and tuberculosis, among others, is well known. However, it may also cause several reproductive hazards in women, say city doctors.

    With an increasing number of women turning to smoking or tobacco use in some form, they stand at a higher risk of these hazards. "Most women start off as young girls when they believe smoking is glamourous,'' said the director of Salaam Bombay Foundation, Padmini Somani. A study by Healis Sekhsaria Institute for Public Health involved over a thousand pregnant women resident in eight primary health centre areas in the city. Of these, 17% used smokeless tobacco (80% used mishri, others used Gutka, few chewed tobacco with betel quid).
    The study also suggests that women who smoke regularly are at a risk of several reproductive hazards like low birth weight, lower gestation periods and higher rate
of still borns. Dr P C Gupta, director Healis said, "Birth weight decreases by an average of 100 gms and gestation period by at least six days.'' He added that anecdotal data suggests that on an average college students and upper-middle class women turned to smoking while in the more traditional segments turned to smokeless tobacco. "While tobacco use is dangerous for both men and women, the risk is higher for women since their reproductive functions are different and are badly affected,'' Dr Gupta said.
    The cessation rates amongst women however are rather encouraging said Dr Surendra Shastri, head
of the preventive oncology department at Tata Memorial Hospital. "Of the 16% smokers who opt for counselling and behavioural therapy to quit smoking, 24% are women. On the other hand, almost 50% women opt for cessation involving pharmacotherapy along with counselling and behavioural therapy,'' he said.
    "While smoking women are common in professions like the BPO industry and media, several models smoke to maintain their ideal weight. What they don't realise is how harmful the method is and the risk involved,'' he said. The largest form of tobacco use in India, he said, was through bidis.

Strong enforcement of the smoking ban seems to be the key to creating a smoke-free public place, said the youth and speakers at the Global Youth Meet on Tobacco Control. While the consensus amongst the delegates was to discourage the portrayal of tobacco use in films, Neena Prasad, the Bloomberg Global Initiative (BGI) to reduce tobacco use said monitoring tobacco use and offering help to quit smoking was in order. "Awareness amongst youngsters and ban on smoking can go a long way in cutting down consumption. Bans alone can cut down consumption by 6%,'' said Monica Arora of Hriday-Shaan, an NGO working towards tobacco control. TNN

Corporates pledge to kick the butt

Mumbai: Corporate India came out in strong support of the ban on smoking in public places on Monday, with 60 corporates pledging to stub out cigarettes on their office premises. The movement, which was flagged off as part of the 14th World Conference on Tobacco or Health, got a boost when Union health minister A Ramadoss announced that he would soon make organisations that weren't smokefree ineligible to bid for government tenders.
    "We will soon bring in a rule that those corporates which aren't smoke-free can't bid for government tenders. This will strengthen the health ministry's notification,'' Ramadoss said.
    While the hospitality industry has effectively enforced the ban on smoking in public places, that came into effect on October 2, 2008, many offices lag behind in compliance. Nearly 81% employees who smoke admitted to finding an alternative place to light up at their workplace, found a survey.

    On Monday, corporates, including Barclays Capital, JP Morgan, Elder pharmaceuticals, Mariott Hotels, Reliance Industries Limited, besides associations such as the Confederation of Indian Industries and the Indian Association of Occupational Health (IAOH) signed the Mumbai declaration to promote no-smoking as a workplace initiative. "Our aim is to get as many industries as possible to acknowledge the ban on smoking on their premises as part of their corporate governance before October 2009, one year since the ban,'' said Dr Srinath Reddy of the Public Health Foundation of India which is spearheading the initiative to turn offices smoke-free by providing sensitisation programmes for HR professionals as well as support to help employees quit.
    Dr Shyam Pingle of the IAOH said his or
ganisation had found that smokers wasted nearly 5 to 20 minutes of work hours on each smoking break. "They take more sick leave too,'' he said. "The corporate sector needs not just a ban, but an entire eco-system that enables employees to kick the habit,'' said Ranjit Shahani of Novartis.
    Ramadoss promised to help offices, even financially, to set up cessation clinics, even if it was a cluster of offices having one.

Smoking comment leads to man's death
Mumbai: The Powai police on Sunday arrested a 32-year-old man after he allegedly beat a man to death. The two had a scuffle after the deceased, Arjun Mali allegedly commented on the accused, Nandkumar Khaire's, smoking habits. Khaire punched Mali on the chest and abdomen that killed him. Cops arrested Khaire, a hotel employee, on charges of murder. TNN
TIMES IMPACT: Taking cognizance of a TOI report which recently stated that pollution levels in Mumbai's hookah bars had gone up after the ban on smoking in public places, health minister A Ramadoss pointed out that hookah bars, too, were prohibited from allowing smoking on their premises. "I will strongly advise the Maharashtra government to close down the bars,'' he said. Anti-tobacco activists echoed Ramadoss' concerns and said the civic body should act on his advice. "The BMC has turned a blind eye to hookah parlours and should act on Ramadoss' diktat,'' said Vincent Nazareth of the NGO Crusade Against Tobacco. TNN

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Videogame Technology Helps With Disaster Planning

By Kristen Philipkoski Email 02.23.09
Muttshack's David Friedman used Depiction to create this map, which he then used to coordinate animal rescue efforts during hurricane Gustav.

Thanks to disaster-simulation software inspired by videogames, David Friedman has a new family member: Jordan, a yellow Labrador retriever puppy. The software helped emergency workers in Louisiana rescue Jordan — and 15,000 other stranded pets — during Hurricane Gustav.

"Going by boat across a flooded field and parking lot, I saw this little yellow thing in a tree floating in the river," Friedman said, a disaster-response coordinator with animal-rescue organization Muttshack. "It was this little yellow puppy."

Volunteers like Friedman patched together an escape route for the animals using a disaster-preparedness simulator called Depiction. Friedman combined his amateur radio skills with simulations he had already created of the Baton Rouge area to map open roads, even without an internet connection. Volunteers picked up animals at 19 locations and coordinated 133 tractor trailers.

It's just one example of how disaster-modeling software can help responders create rescue plans in real time. During Katrina, some emergency workers used Google Earth Pro to map evacuation routes. Others have used MapPoint and XMap in crises.

But according to emergency workers, Depiction is the cheapest ($90, compared to $1,000 and up for other systems) and easiest to customize with local logistical information. The software can integrate aerial images from Google Earth or other sources, spreadsheet data, infrastructure maps and river-depth charts.

Depiction can be used to plan for disasters ahead of time, but it's also useful for collecting and organizing data during a crisis. Citizens can e-mail reports from the field, and emergency workers can feed other data directly into the software to find alternative routes when downed power lines, flood waters or landslides block roads.

"Because it has all these layers of data, with one program I can see all of my resources at once," said Friedman, a longtime emergency volunteer.

It's no coincidence that the software's birds-eye view sounds like something straight out of a computer-strategy game. Depiction founder Mike Geertsen hails from Microsoft's games unit, where he was a product planner for Flight Simulator and later train sims.

When government agencies started asking to use Microsoft's simulation platform to depict real-life situations, Geertsen saw a business opportunity. But getting the business plan approved within Microsoft was a bureaucratic challenge, so he set out on his own in 2005. He raised $1.5 million in angel funding and has gathered a staff of 14.

Geertsen has seen his platform technology used in a variety of ways, and has heard suggestions for more. Depiction has helped Red Cross volunteers evacuate victims and get supplies and rescue teams to rural areas. It has tracked flooding along the Snohomish River. A potential investor imagined it could simulate salmon runs in the San Francisco Bay Area, which are at their lowest level in decades. In the video below, Depiction is used to predict the effect of rising sea levels on Manhattan.

Mike Dinn, a real estate consultant in Cincinnati, Ohio, believes Depiction will help mitigate the real estate crisis. By plugging in census, employment and other data, he's using Depiction to help banks decide what to do about newly acquired large properties. The software helps him guide developers trying to choose the best building locations.

"Depiction plus my background allows my clients for the first time to see like radar what these market positions are," Dinn said.

Monday, March 2, 2009


Although you may not realize it, simple table salt has a great number of uses other than simply seasoning your food. The following list will give you sixty uses of salt, many of which you probably didn't realize:  

  1. Soak stained hankies in salt water before washing.
  2. Sprinkle salt on your shelves to keep ants away.
  3. Soak fish in salt water before descaling; the scales will come off easier.
  4. Put a few grains of rice in your salt shaker for easier pouring.
  5. Add salt to green salads to prevent wilting.
  6. Test the freshness of eggs in a cup of salt water; fresh eggs sink; bad ones float.
  7. Add a little salt to your boiling water when cooking eggs; a cracked egg will stay in its shell this way.
  8. A tiny pinch of salt with egg whites makes them beat up fluffier.
  9. Soak wrinkled apples in a mildly salted water solution to perk them up.
  10. Rub salt on your pancake griddle and your flapjacks won't stick.
  11. Soak toothbrushes in salt water before you first use them; they will last longer.
  12. Use salt to clean your discolored coffee pot.
  13. Mix salt with turpentine to whiten you bathtub and toilet bowl .
  14. Soak your nuts in salt brine overnight and they will crack out of their shells whole. Just tap the end of the shell with a hammer to break it open easily.
  15. Boil clothespins in salt water before using them and they will last longer.
  16. Clean brass, copper and pewter with paste made of salt and vinegar, thickened with flour
  17. Add a little salt to the water your cut flowers will stand in for a longer life.
  18. Pour a mound of salt on an ink spot on your carpet; let the salt soak up the stain.
  19. Clean your iron by rubbing some salt on the damp cloth on the ironing surface.
  20. Adding a little salt to the water when cooking foods in a double boiler will make the food cook faster.
  21. Use a mixture of salt and lemon juice to clean piano keys.
  22. To fill plaster holes in your walls, use equal parts of salt and starch, with just enough water to make a stiff putty.
  23. Rinse a sore eye with a little salt water .
  24. Mildly salted water makes an effective mouthwash. Use it hot for a sore throat gargle.
  25. Dry salt sprinkled on your toothbrush makes a good tooth polisher.
  26. Use salt for killing weeds in your lawn.
  27. Eliminate excess suds with a sprinkle of salt.
  28. A dash of salt in warm milk makes a more relaxing beverage.
  29. Before using new glasses, soak them in warm salty water for awhile.
  30. A dash of salt enhances the taste of tea.
  31. Salt improves the taste of cooking apples.
  32. Soak your clothes line in salt water to prevent your clothes from freezing to the line; likewise, use salt in your final rinse to prevent the clothes from freezing.
  33. Rub any wicker furniture you may have with salt water to prevent yellowing.
  34. Freshen sponges by soaking them in salt water.
  35. Add raw potatoes to stews and soups that are too salty.
  36. Soak enamel pans in salt water overnight and boil salt water in them next day to remove burned-on stains.
  37. Clean your greens in salt water for easier removal of dirt.
  38. Gelatin sets more quickly when a dash of salt is added.
  39. Fruits put in mildly salted water after peeling will not discolor.
  40. Fabric colors hold fast in salty water wash.
  41. Milk stays fresh longer when a little salt is added.
  42. Use equal parts of salt and soda for brushing your teeth .
  43. Sprinkle salt in your oven before scrubbing clean.
  44. Soaked discolored glass in a salt and vinegar solution to remove stains..
  45. Clean greasy pans with a paper towel and salt.
  46. Salty water boils faster when cooking eggs.
  47. Add a pinch of salt to whipping cream to make it whip more quickly.
  48. Sprinkle salt in milk-scorched pans to remove odor.
  49. A dash of salt improves the taste of coffee.
  50. Boil mismatched hose in salty water and they will come out matched.
  51. Salt and soda will sweeten the odor of your refrigerator.
  52. Cover wine-stained fabric with salt; rinse in cool water later.
  53. Remove offensive odors from stove with salt and cinnamon.
  54. A pinch of salt improves the flavor of cocoa.
  55. To remove grease stains in clothing, mix one part salt to four parts alcohol.
  56. Salt and lemon juice removes mildew.
  57. Sprinkle salt between sidewalk bricks where you don't want grass growing.
  58. Polish your old kerosene lamp with salt for a better look.
  59. Remove odors from sink drainpipes with a strong, hot solution of salt water.
  60. If a pie bubbles over in your oven, put a handful of salt on top of the spilled juice. The mess won't smell and will bake into a dry, light crust which will wipe off easily when the oven has cooled


Sunday, March 1, 2009

First official day of summer, March 1


First official day of summer, March 1, sees temperatures five degrees above normal; hotter days ahead


    After an unusually mild winter, summer has made a sizzling entry in the city. On March 1, the first official day of summer, day temperatures across the city soared up to 37º Celsius, five degrees above normal. But the hot spell started two weeks ago, says the Regional Meteorological Centre (RMC), which has since recorded temperatures far above normal.
    On Sunday, the minimum temperature recorded at the meteorological department's Santacruz station was around 20º C – two degrees more than the usual. The maximum was around 37º C, which is five degrees above normal for this time of year.
    "As per the classification of seasons this year, March-May has been marked as summer. As compared to last year, the temperatures are five degrees higher because of the western disturbances, a weather system that makes the climate
cloudy, prevents temperatures from dropping and increases humidity," said Sathi Devi, director of the Mumbai Meteorological Station.
    The weather centre said the mercury will continue to rise for the next two days, with a forecast of a maximum of 36º C and a minimum of 20º C. However, this isn't the worst ever: in
March 1956, temperatures in the city were as high as 41º C.
    Prof Kapil Gupta, associate professor at the department of civil engineering at IIT-Bombay, said that in addition to the western disturbance, other factors at the local level also contribute to rising temperatures: "There are several other reasons based on urban heat island phenomenon that add up to this unbearable climate change. The green belt in the city is supposed to absorb maximum amount of heat. But the concrete jungle in the city is growing. Concrete is a good absorber of heat, but it absorbs heat in the day time and releases it during the night. Plus, the increase in the use of air-conditioners too adds to the heat. The air-conditioner cools the interiors but releases heat into the atmosphere."

‘Blame your kid’s bad posture on the bag’

Ranjani Rajendra I TNN

Mumbai: Children with drooping shoulders, slouching backs and backache are not uncommon these days. Physiotherapists blame it on the heavy school backpacks they carry for most of the day.
    When Ayush Khera (name changed), 14, complained of chronic backache, his worried mother suspected a serious problem. He was referred to a physiotherapist, who told him that it was his heavy backpack that was responsible for all the pain.
    Shivangi Borkar, head of the physiotherapy department at Hinduja Hospital in Mahim said many of her patients with postural problems and backache are aged below 15. "The problem lies in the heavy backpacks children carry these days. With the ever-expanding syl
labi, the number of books is increasing and so is the load on their spines. To make matters worse, children tend to carry their bags on one shoulder, due to which the load is distributed unevenly,'' Borkar said. When undue strain falls on the back, it can lead to poor chest expansion, decreased lung capacity and poor stamina, she said.
    Physiotherapists suggest that a backpack should never weigh more than 10% of the child's body weight. "The heavy load causes them to lean forward to battle the pain in their shoulders. This in turn leads to postural problems,'' said Ali Irani, head of physio
therapy unit at Nanavati Hospital in Vile Parle. Physiotherapists say that the wrong backpack can lead to several problems, such as bad posture, tired muscles, spinal problems, scoliosis and, if unchecked, severe ailments like a compressed spinal nerve.
    They suggest exercise and yoga to combat back problems. Tadasan, which stretches the entire body, is highly recommended. Incorporating 45 minutes of physical activity could help children battle these problems. "Care should be taken when choosing a backpack,'' said Borkar. She also suggested that schools provide children with locker facilities to ease their burden. Irani said, "Schools must appoint a physiotherapist to help children with postural problems. If the body is fit, the mind will also stay fit.''

Rigid spinal support that helps children adopt good posture and puts less strain on growing spines
Wide U-shaped padded straps to relieve pressure on the back muscles
Padded waist straps to distribute the weight from lower back to hip region
A balanced load that is aligned with the child's natural axis

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