Category: Environment



There are lots of countries which are facing the problem related to handling the e-waste. E-waste usually consists of substances which can bring adverse effects to the atmosphere and hence managing it in a proper way is important. Apart from affecting the environment it can also affect the health of the people. But the main issue is the right utilization of the e-waste and how it can be stored and recycled. Most of the countries do not have proper infrastructure that can help them to manage the e-waste activities. Usually they bury the waste or burn it in open air. Sometimes the waste is led in to waste which can cause water pollution. Hence these are the reasons which affect give us the need to understand the management for better environment.While there are few developed countries which use efficient ways of recycling that are very useful. There is no harm to nature and people can enjoy the fruits of happiness. The developed nations go for latest technologies which render the best services. But on the other hand the undeveloped countries lack the funds and the technology platforms which can bring a difference to the use of e-waste.

The concept of EPR comes into action as it proves beneficial in the long run. Right usage of the e-waste will prove useful as it demanding and the need of the hour. Even the government has tried to take different measures which are long lasting and provide an excellent approach towards e-waste.  The implementation of the latest technology is very important or else the results will not be according to the input. The EPR which is used in the process will prove effective if the right direction is chosen.

The developing countries have some key issues regarding the e-waste which must be kept in mind. The effective management will definitely give the best results for which you are waiting.

Objectives of e-waste handling

In order to deal with the problem of e-waste the government of India formulated some rules that could be effective. These rules were designed with an aim and therefore many things together combine to form an excellent management strategy.

The objectives of the various strategies of e-waste are given below:-

  1. Effective management is important for the reason that it can bring a positive effect on nature. If the e-waste is not handled in the right manner there are chances that it can cause ill effects on health. The handling of e-waste has to be best and therefore it is essential that each and every step is followed one by one to attain superb outcomes.
  2. For the strategy there should be a proper planning. Either the organizations can come forward for the help or even the government can devise some rules for this purpose. There are many strategies which can work but recycling is one of the best one that is followed by many countries as well developed nations. There is less cost involved in this process and beneficial at the same time. Disposal is another option which can be tried to get the right result.
  3. National Environment Act was formed in the year 2006 which devised new methodologies for e-waste handling. As it is a common issue going in many countries hence policies are designed to meet the current needs in the best manner. Emphasis is laid on using the clean technologies as it will make the atmosphere clean and a place to live in.

Proposed Actions

1. Reporting

Every year many industries are set up and the ways of generating the products are improving. Thus a large e-waste is generated which can be harmful. Thus it becomes the duty of the industries to submit a report of the e-waste generated by their industry so that adequate steps can be taken to combat with the problem. Even if they collect the waste the time period should not exceed by 90 days at the maximum.

2. Avoid waste and minimize the sources

Most of the industries generate e-waste and leave it either in waste or by burning it. It is not the right thing as you are polluting air as well as water. The air we breathe in contains harmful gases which are injurious to health. Similarly with water too you can become prone to a number of diseases.

There is a proper hierarchy which is followed in the management system by introducing each level at the right time.

3. Reuse and recycling of the e-waste

There are lots of ways which can be used for recycling but the suitable one is important. Waste exchange centers can be designed where waste can be collected and then proper utilization can be done afterwards.

Proper channels can be planned by which the e-waste can reach to its place. This will not affect the environment and the pollution will be lowered. Even water can be recycled in a number of ways as it has also become a source of problem.

4. Treating the e-waste and improving storage options

There are only 12 states which are initially having the best storage facilities for e-waste. This includes the 25 centers which are managing the activities according to the needs. Storage place is important or else the industries will dump the waste at wrong places. Thus it becomes essential to set up areas for this purpose.

Though it is difficult to decide the site for such things hence the government can render their help to the organizations which are involved in this work.

Escrow fund facility is adopted which is a new platform for the government. It helps in monitoring the problems and finding the solution for it. Even in case of calamities the funds can be utilized to deal with the problem and getting over it as soon as possible.

The central government is taking measures in dealing with e-waste handling and trying to formulate rules for it. Many acts are being proposed along with the changes that can better the rising graph of e-waste mismanagement.

A full text of the E-Waste Rules can be downloaded for free at http://www.moef.nic.in/downloads/rules-and-regulations/1035e_eng.pdf


The Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF), Government of India (GoI) has notified the Plastic Waste (Management and Handling) Rules, 2011 on 4th February, 2011 under the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986. In order to bring greater clarity and to comply with the directions of Hon-ble Supreme Court, MoEF has published the Plastic Waste (Management and Handling) (Amendment) Rules, 2011 on 2nd July, 2011.

The set of rules is a 17 page document and for the ease of the readers, the following are the salient features after the amendment:

During course of manufacture, sale, stock, distribution and use plastic carry bags, containers, pouches and multilayered packaging the following conditions shall be fulfilled, namely: –

  • Carry bags and. containers made of virgin plastics shall be in natural shade;
  • No person shall use carry bags or containers made of recycled plastics or biodegradable plastics for storing, carrying, dispensing or packaging of food stuffs;
  • Carry bags and containers made of recycled or biodegradable plastics and used for purpose of other than storing and packaging foodstuffs shall be manufactured using pigments and colorants as per the Bureau of Indian Standards’ specifications: IS 9833: 1981 entitled “List of pigments and colorants for use in plastics in contact with foodstuffs, pharmaceuticals and drinking water”
  • No person shall manufacture, stock, distribute or sell carry bags made of virgin or ‘recycled plastics or bio-degradable plastics, which are less than 12×18 inches (30X45 cms) in size and less than 40 microns in thickness;
  • No person shall manufacture carry bags or containers or pouches or multilayered packaging from biodegradable plastics unless these meet the Bureau of Indian Standards’ specifications: ISIISO 17088:2008 entitle1 “Specifications for Compostable Plastics”
  • No person shall manufacture; stock, distribute or sell non-recyclable laminated plastic or metallic pouches, multi-layered packagings, and other non-recyclable plastics.

Recycling– Recycling of plastics shall be undertaken strictly in accordance with the Bureau of Indian Standards’ specification: IS 14534: 1998 entitled “The Guidelines for Recycling of Plastics”

Marking or codification– Every manufacturer shall code or mark each carry bag or container made of plastics, so as to ascertain whether it is made of “virgin plastic” or “recycled plastic” or “bio-degradable plastic” as per the following namely:-

  • The manufacturer of recycled carry bags or container shall code or mark each carry bag and container as per the Bureau of Indian Standards’ Specification: IS 14534: 1998 entitled “The Guidelines for Recycling of Plastics” and the end product made of recycled plastics shall be marked as “recycled” along with indication of the percentage of use of recycled material;
  • Each carry bag or container made from biodegradable plastic shall bear a code/mark as per Bureau of Indian Standards’ Specification: ISIISO 17088:2008 entitled “Specifications for Compostable Plastics” and the end product made of biodegradable plastics shall be marked “compostable” or “biodegradable during composting”;
  • Each carry bag or container shall be printed bilingually (English, Hindi or Local language) with the following information namely:-
    • Name and address of the Manufacturer
    • Registration number granted by the concerned State Pollution Control Board or Pollution Control Committee;
    • Size and thickness of the carry bag or container.

Protocols for plastic materials – Determination of biodegradability and the degree of disintegration of plastic material shall be as per the protocols of the. Bureau of Indian Standards listed at the Annexure to these rules.

Registration – The grant of registration certificate will be subject to the following conditions, namely:-

  • Every occupier manufacturing or proposing to manufacture carry bags or containers made of virgin plastics or recycled plastics or biodegradable plastics shall make an application in Form 1 appended to these rules to the State Pollution Control Board or Pollution Control Committee of the Union territory concerned for grant of registration or renewal of registration for his unit, as the case may be;
  • On or after the commencement of these rules, no person shall manufacture carry bags or containers irrespective of its size or thickness or quality unless the occupier of the unit has registered his unit with the State Pollution Control Board or Pollution Control Committee, as the case may be, prior to the commencement of production;
  • The State Pollution Control Board or Pollution Control Committee shall not the State Pollution Control Board or Pollution Control Committee shall not issue or renew the registration certificate to a unit unless the unit possesses a valid consent under the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974 (6 of 1974) and the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981 (14 of 1981) as per the requirements laid down by the State Pollution Control Board or Pollution Control Committee, as the case may be;
  • Every State Pollution Control Board or Pollution Control Committee shall grant registration within thirty days of receipt of application, complete in all respects.
  • The registration granted under this rule shall, unless revoked/suspended or can celled earlier, be valid for a period of three years: Provided that the certificate of registration shall not be revoked or suspended or canceled unless the manufacturer shall be given an opportunity of hearing;
  • Every application for renewal of registration shall be made in the Form 1 appended to these rules at least sixty days before the expiry of the validity of registration.
  • The definition of carry bags has been clarified to mean “bags made from any plastic material, used for the purpose of carrying or dispensing commodities but do not include bags that constitute or form an integral part of the packaging in which goods are sealed prior to use.
  • It has been clarified that the applicability of various provisions of the Rules is to “multilayered plastic pouches and sachets” and not to “multi-layered packaging material”.
  • Exemption granted to carry bags for export purposes has been clarified to be applicable to carry bags exclusively for export purposes, against an order for export.
  • The definition of multilayered plastic pouches or sachets has been clarified to mean pouches or sachets having at least one layer of plastic with one or more layers of other packing material;
  • The meaning of carry bags in white color has been clarified to mean carry bags in natural shade (colorless) i.e. without any added pigment;
  • The concept of deemed registration with SPCBs /PCCs for manufacturer/recycler of carry bags, multilayered plastic pouches or sachets has been introduced. Manufacturers, who have already registered, shall not be required to register again whereas others shall have to register.
  • It has been clarified that plastic material, in any, form shall not be used in any packaging for packing, gutkha, pan masala and tobacco in all forms.
  • The responsibility of municipal authority, manufacturers and the brand owners in setting up of the collection system as per Extended Producer’s Responsibility has been clarified.
  • It has been clarified that the municipal authority may work out the modalities of a mechanism based on Extended Producer’s Responsibility involving such manufacturers, registered within its jurisdiction and brand owners with registered offices within its jurisdiction either individually or collectively, as feasible or set up such collection systems through its own agencies.

 The full notification may please be seen in the Ministry of Environment and Forests’ Website at www.moef.nic in


She might be known as the ‘garbage girl’ of the mountains but her intentions are unquestionably clean. British national Jodie Underhill, 35, is pledged to “leave nothing but footprints” as she leads a team of volunteers to set up waste disposal pits in the heights of Chamba district ahead of a fortnight-long Manimahesh pilgrimage beginning Aug 22. Tens of thousands will undertake an arduous 14-km trek from the Hadsar base camp to the oval-shaped Manimahesh Lake, from where they can see Mount Kailash, believed to be Lord Shiva’s abode. Volunteers of mountain cleaners and anti-waste campaigners can be seen wearing green T-shirts bearing the legend: “Leave nothing but footprints“.

“We have returned to Bharmour town for the second year to run a clean-up campaign at the Manimahesh yatra,” Underhill said. “This time we have collaborated with WWF India as part of its Green Hiker campaign.” The Mountain Cleaners, comprising many foreigners, aim to provide a daily waste collection service at all community kitchens and eateries between Hadsar and Manimahesh during the pilgrimage.

Underhill expressed delight with the improved cleanliness of Bharmour, 65 km from here. “I couldn’t believe my eyes,” she said. “Dump sites have been cleared, an area has been allocated for waste disposal and the Sulabh International staff responsible for cleaning is doing a great job. Recycling has increased and there are a number of waste containers.”

The local administration signed a three-year cleaning contract with Sulabh International last year. The Mountain Cleaners, looking for more volunteers, have set up waste disposal and drop off points along at Bharmour, Hadsar, Dhancho, Gauri Kund and Manimahesh. It has also dug pits for composting biodegradable waste, including paper and food.

The Manimahesh journey on foot starts from Hadsar, at a height of 6,000 feet, and concludes at the lake at 13,500 feet. The pilgrimage concludes Sep 5.

Underhill and her group have also collected non-biodegradable waste dumped carelessly in the mountains surrounding McLeodganj, the seat of the Tibetan government-in-exile, in Dharamsala. Arriving in Dharamsala in 2009 to learn about the Tibetan cause, Underhill was horrified to see the amount of garbage destroying the beauty of the local area and started organising mass clean-ups in the area.

This post has been adapted from a similar post in IANS.


After the continuous news feeds on the radioactive fallout from Fukushima Daiichi following the containment failure and reactor meltdown, this is a special blog on the last known nuclear disaster that took place at Chernobyl, Ukraine in former Soviet Russia. This post is the first in a series of stories from Chernobyl that Charles Q. Choi has written for Scientific American. Choi is a frequent contributor to Scientific American. His work has also appeared in The New York Times, Science, Nature and Wired, among others.

“The face mask and three radiation monitors I’m wearing are grim reminders that I’m at the site of the worst nuclear accident in history. On April 26, 1986, 1:23:44 A.M. local time, explosions destroyed reactor No. 4 at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, releasing approximately 400 times more radioactive fallout than the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima, according to the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Now, almost 25 years after the disaster, the Ukrainian government has officially opened the area up for tourism. But just how safe is the zone now?

Radiation

After the explosions, it was unclear how contaminated the surroundings were, so the authorities declared an arbitrary 30-kilometer distance from the reactor off-limits, and roughly 115,000 people were evacuated from the area. This “exclusion zone” is now open to tourism.

I drove to Chernobyl with health physicist Vadim Chumak at the Research Center for Radiation Medicine at the Academy of Medical Sciences of Ukraine and his colleagues. A car shuttles there every week to collect stool samples from workers to test for any plutonium they might have accidentally absorbed. (Science, like journalism, can be a dirty job, but someone has to do it.)

The world is normally bathed in a low level of radiation. In Kiev, where I started my trip, one normally receives 0.1 millionths of a sievert every hour. This is pretty much the level of radiation we saw on the road on the roughly two-hour, 150-kilometer drive into the exclusion zone, but readings on our dosimeter temporarily climb up to 4.76 millionths of a sievert per hour when our car passes through the old path of the radioactive plume from the destroyed reactor.

How safe this area is now after the accident depends on what radioactive material was released and where it went. There are four kinds of radionuclides or radioactive isotopes that are of special concern at the site. Iodine-131 is rapidly absorbed by the thyroid gland and increases the risk of childhood thyroid cancer. Cesium-137 mimics potassium inside the body, seeking out muscle. Strontium-90 acts like calcium, attracted to bone. Plutonium-239 and other isotopes can stay in the body indefinitely, irradiating organs.

These four materials escaped from the explosions to varying distances, given factors such as their mass and melting points. Iodine-131 and cesium-137 were both very broadly transported hundreds of kilometers, while strontium-90 remained in dust just 30 kilometers from the power plant and plutonium traveled only four kilometers or so.

Iodine-131 decays rapidly, and was virtually gone from the environment after only three months, Chumak says. However, cesium-137 and strontium-90 both have approximately 30-year half-lives, meaning they each take roughly three decades for half their material to decay, and plutonium-239, one the main isotopes in nuclear reactors, has a half-life of more than 24,000 years.

After the disaster, both emergency workers dubbed “liquidators” and natural forces helped to reduce airborne levels of radiation. The liquidators sprayed detergents and latex-like binding solutions from helicopters and automobiles to bind contaminants. The roads were paved to cover radioactive dust, while ploughs flipped soil over to bury polluted soil. Meanwhile, rain helped contaminants migrate down into the ground.

The exclusion zone was possibly safe for tourism “about five years after the accident,” Chumak says. Still, just because one can tour the area does not mean everywhere here is safe to tread. There are hot spots that remain highly contaminated, especially in the path of the radioactive plume. Where tourists are allowed to go and how long they will be allowed to stay will be strictly controlled to keep their risks of exposure down.

And there are some places here that remain too dangerous for tourists to go, such as the sarcophagus.

Inside the sarcophagus

Soon after firefighters extinguished the blazes from the explosions at Chernobyl, workers quickly built a structure of steel and concrete technically known as the Shelter Object but commonly known as the sarcophagus to entomb the remains of the damaged reactor and keep any more contaminants from escaping. It remains one of the most radioactive areas in the zone.

Nowadays, workers here maintain the corroding sarcophagus, monitor the radioactive material inside, and decontaminate what they can. To enter the structure with them, I strip down to only my underwear in a “clean room” and walk in a hospital gown and slippers into a “hot room,” where I put on the pure white outfit given to everyone on site—scrubs, a jacket, trousers, a scrub cap, socks, gloves and a mask with the highest-grade filter available for dust. On top of that I don an overcoat, a hardhat and crusty boots. In addition, I am carrying the radiation badge I had when I entered the 30-kilometer exclusion zone, a second radiation badge I was given when I entered the area of the plant, and a personal electronic dosimeter to tell me exactly how much radiation I am receiving.

(The workers don’t normally wear lead shielding, and neither do I. Although lead can protect against radiation, it slows you down, thus increasing the dose you ultimately receive.)

The maximum dose of radiation that workers here are generally allowed on a daily shift is 0.1 thousandths of a sievert, the level of radiation one gets from a 90-minute transatlantic flight or from four hours watching a plasma screen television, says Vladimir Malyshev, chief safety officer at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. When I am standing right in front of the sarcophagus, the readings leap up to 0.12 thousandths of a sievert per hour, or 1,200 times that seen in Kiev.

After passing an electronic checkpoint—one of a half-dozen or so that I stopped at—I find myself in the dark, gutted remains of the control room for reactor No. 4. Here engineers made the fateful errors that poisoned the Earth.

After returning from the sarcophagus, I leave everything I wore outside in a locker in the hot zone and take a mandatory shower to wash away any potential contamination. I don’t think I’ve ever wanted to be clean more in my life.

Life and wildlife

Although Chernobyl might be safe for a day of tourism, living there is another question. The Ukrainian government did allow people who originally lived in the exclusion zone to resettle on an individual basis. For instance, some areas within 30 kilometers of the explosions are relatively clean, and the elderly would probably not absorb unhealthy levels of radiation in what time they had left, Chumak says.

However, some places remain too dangerous for resettlement. “People might be allowed to live in the 30-kilometer zone, but I don’t expect anyone to live within the 10-kilometer zone, ever,” Chumak says. “There’s some plutonium there.”

Officials there did say I should look out for wildlife in the zone. “A mad wolf attacked six people here recently,” Malyshev says.

The disaster’s impact on wildlife in the zone remains hotly contested. For instance, radiation biologist Ron Chesser at Texas Tech University in Lubbock and his colleagues suggest the area is thriving with life now that humans have left, finding that the wild boar population there has grown 10 to 15 times than what it was before the accident, and that other fauna are often seen in the area, such as wolves, rabbits, red deer, black storks and moose. Their genetic work suggests that any effects of radiation are subtle enough to not lead to any mutations passed down across generations, with the animals perhaps acclimatizing to any damage by boosting their genetic repair mechanisms. As bad as the radiation is, the effects of humans on the environment might have been worse, Chesser concludes.

On the other hand, biologist Tim Mousseau at the University of South Carolina at Columbia and his colleagues have found that species richness of forest birds was reduced by more than half when comparing sites with normal background levels of radiation to sites with the highest levels in the exclusion zone, and the numbers of bumblebees, grasshoppers, butteries, dragonflies and spiders decreased too. Analysis of more than 7,700 barn swallows in Chernobyl and other areas in Ukraine and Europe suggested ones from in or near the exclusion zone had higher levels of abnormalities such as deformed toes, beaks and eyes or aberrant coloration, and recent work also suggests that birds living in areas with high levels of radiation around Chernobyl have smaller brains.

Both teams stand by their own work and suggest the other made errors related to geographic variability.

Tourist attraction?

So what can tourists see at Chernobyl? One can often see and feed giant catfish in the 22-square-kilometer nuclear power plant cooling pond, although during cold weather, the pond is frozen over and covered in snow. In the distance, one can also see a giant radar grid roughly 150 meters high—taller than the Great Pyramid of Giza’s current height—once meant to track any nuclear missiles launched from the United States. “It needed a lot of power, which is why it was near Chernobyl,” Chumak explains.

The city of Pripyat, abandoned after the accident, is frozen in time, with the Communist hammer and sickle still adorning streetlights here. Nature is reclaiming the area, with white birch and green pines hiding many of the blocky Soviet buildings and animal tracks fresh on the snow still covering the ground here in the first week of March.

By a dock near a riverside cafe in Pripyat, the scientists I traveled with started gathering pussy willows, completely unbidden. These flowers bloom under the snow, and the men want to bring them back for International Women’s Day on March 8. “These mean spring,” says physicist Vitalii Volosky at the Research Center for Radiation Medicine in Kiev.

Despite the official announcement, tourism to Chernobyl is nothing new—trips have been going there for about a decade. The recent publicity regarding tourism may have its roots in the economic impact of Chernobyl—even two decades after the disaster, roughly 6 percent of the national budgets of both Ukraine and Belarus were still devoted to Chernobyl-related benefits and programs, according to a 2005 report from the Chernobyl Forum, comprised of eight United Nations agencies and the governments of Ukraine, Belarus and Russia. “There is this motivation there to do what can be done to return some of this land to productive use,” Mousseau says.

Among those who lived through the disaster, the idea of tourism to Chernobyl brings up strong emotions, just as it might for New Yorkers dealing with 9/11. “If we are wise, we will make Chernobyl a museum for humankind just like Hiroshima and Nagasaki,” Chumak says.

Among the younger generation in Kiev, there is real interest in visiting. “My son really wants to go, as do a couple of young students here,” Chumak says.

Still, for others, tourism to Chernobyl holds no attraction. “Personally, every trip I make there is not a positive one,” says physicist Elena Bakhanova at the Research Center for Radiation Medicine in Kiev. “It was a human error, a sign of human foolishness.”

Images: Charles Q. Choi in the control room for destroyed reactor No. 4 at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant; Health physicist Vadim Chumak at the Research Center for Radiation Medicine at the Academy of Medical Sciences of Ukraine in Kiev. He is wearing a respirator mask with the highest-grade filter available against aerosols, to protect against airborne contamination; The entrance to a “hot room” at the facility where workers at Chernobyl change their clothing. In the “clean room,” I took off all my clothing except my underwear. In the hot room, I was given clothing to wear in the sarcophagus; Visitor’s badge and radiation badge. The visitor’s badge has a microchip scannable at electronic checkpoints. The radiation badge is a dosimeter that measures my exposure to radiation—the silver disk on the badge measures the radiation my skin received, while the black bump measured the levels deeper tissues experienced; This giant radar grid relatively close to the Chernobyl nuclear power plant was once meant to track any nuclear missiles launched from the United States. It is roughly 150 meters high, taller than the Great Pyramid of Giza’s current height.


An article published by Dr. Jeff Masters, PhD, Director of Meteorology  of the The Weather Underground Inc. indicates that the current weather pattern existing over Japan and the Sea of Japan favors the reduction in the radioactivity fallout. The opinion presented is of Dr Jeff Masters’ and I have not verified the authenticity of the study.

“If there is going to be a major nuclear disaster with massive release of radioactivity into the atmosphere from Japan’s stricken Fukushima nuclear plant, today would be the best day meteorologically for this to occur. The low pressure system that brought rain and several inches of snow to Japan yesterday has moved northeastwards out to sea, and high pressure is building in. The clockwise flow of air around the high pressure system approaching Japan from the southwest is driving strong northwesterly winds of 10 – 20 mph over the region. These winds will continue through Thursday, and will take radiation particles emitted by the stricken reactors immediately out to sea, without lingering over Japan. Since high pressure systems are regions of sinking air, the radiation will stay close to the ocean surface as the air spirals clockwise over the Pacific. The contaminated air will remain over the ocean for at least five days, which is plenty of time for the radiation to settle out to the surface.

The above Surface weather map for 8am EDT today, taken from the 6-hour forecast from this morning’s 6 UTC run of the GFS model. A high pressure system to the southwest of Japan, in combination with a low pressure system to the northeast are driving strong northwesterly surface winds over the country. Image is from our wundermap with the “Model” layer turned on. The lines are sea-level pressure (blue contours, 4 mb interval) and 1000 to 500 mb thickness (yellow contours, 60 m interval). Thickness is a measure of the temperature of the lower atmosphere, and a thickness of 5400 meters is usually close to where the dividing line between rain and snow occurs.

Thursday night and Friday morning (U.S. time), the high pressure system moves over Japan, allowing winds to weaken and potentially grow calm, increasing the danger of radioactivity building up over regions near and to the north of the nuclear plant. On Friday, the high departs and a moist southwesterly flow of air will affect Japan. These southwesterly winds will blow most of the radiation out to sea, away from Tokyo. Southwesterly winds will continue through Sunday, when the next major low pressure system is expected to bring heavy precipitation to the country. Beginning Thursday night, the sinking airmass over Japan will be replaced a large-scale area of rising air, and any radiation emitted late Thursday through Friday will be carried aloft towards Alaska and eastern Russia by this southwesterly flow of rising air.

Ground-level releases of radioactivity are typically not able to be transported long distances in significant quantities, since most of the material settles to the ground a few kilometers from the source. If there is a major explosion with hot gases that shoots radioactivity several hundred meters high, that would increase the chances for long range transport, since now the ground is farther away, and the particles that start settling out will stay in the air longer before encountering the ground. Additionally, winds are stronger away from ground, due to reduced friction and presence of the jet stream aloft. These stronger winds will transport radioactivity greater distances. I’ve made trajectory plots for the next three days assuming two possible release altitudes–a surface-based release near 10 meters, which should be the predominant altitude in the current situation, and a higher release altitude of 300 meters, which might occur from an explosion and fire from a Chernobyl-style incident. Given that the radioactivity has to travel 3000 miles to reach Anchorage, Alaska, and 5000 miles to reach California, a very large amount of dilution will occur, along with potential loss due to rain-out. Any radiation at current levels of emission that might reach these places may not even be detectable, much less be a threat to human health. A Chernobyl-level disaster in Japan would certainly be able to produce detectable levels of radiation over North America, but I strongly doubt it would be a significant concern for human health. The Chernobyl disaster only caused dangerous human health impacts within a few hundred miles of the disaster site, and the distance from Japan to North America is ten times farther than that.

The above figure is a five-day forecast movement of plumes of radioactive air emitted at 10 meters altitude (red line) and 300 meters (blue line) at 18 UTC (2pm EDT) Wednesday, March 16, 2011 from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. The plumes spiral clockwise around the high pressure system to the southwest of Japan and stay near the surface. Images created using NOAA’s HYSPLIT trajectory model.

The above is a five-day forecast movement of plumes of radioactive air emitted at 10 meters altitude (red line) and 300 meters (blue line) at 18 UTC (2pm EDT) Thursday, March 17, 2011 from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. The plumes initially spiral clockwise around the high pressure system to the southwest of Japan and stay near the surface. By Saturday, though, the plumes get caught in a southwesterly flow of air in advance of an approaching low pressure system. Ascending air lifts the plumes to high altitudes, where winds are stronger and rapid long-range transport occurs. Images created using NOAA’s HYSPLIT trajectory model.

The above is the five-day forecast movement of plumes of radioactive air emitted at 10 meters altitude (red line) and 300 meters (blue line) at 18 UTC (2pm EDT) Friday, March 18, 2011 from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. The plumes get caught in a southwesterly flow of air in advance of an approaching low pressure system. The plume emitted near the surface (red line) stays trapped near the surface, but the plume emitted at 300 meters is lifted to 3.5 km altitude by the rising air associated with the approaching low pressure system. Images created using NOAA’s HYSPLIT trajectory model.

The source of this publication is http://www.wunderground.com/blog/JeffMasters/article.html?entrynum=1764 by Dr. Jeff Masters.

Tsunami – Harbour Wave


This is a blog in memory of the Tsunami that struck the North East coast of Japan on 9th March 2011. Though many of the readers might be knowing what a Tsunami is, I felt that this would give more impetus on how a tsunami is generated and what makes it so destructive. The entire text is available in the web, including the pictures from where I have sourced them.

The principal generation mechanism (or cause) of a tsunami is the displacement of a substantial volume of water or perturbation of the sea. This displacement of water is usually attributed to either earthquakes, landslides, volcanic eruptions, or more rarely by meteorites and nuclear tests. The waves formed in this way are then sustained by gravity. It is important to note that tides do not play any part in the generation of tsunamis, hence referring to tsunamis as ‘tidal waves’ is inaccurate.

Tsunamis can be generated when the sea floor abruptly deforms and vertically displaces the overlying water. Tectonic earthquakes are a particular kind of earthquake that are associated with the earth’s crustal deformation; when these earthquakes occur beneath the sea, the water above the deformed area is displaced from its equilibrium position. More specifically, a tsunami can be generated when thrust faults associated with convergent or destructive plate boundaries move abruptly, resulting in water displacement, owing to the vertical component of movement involved. Movement on normal faults will also cause displacement of the seabed, but the size of the largest of such events is normally too small to give rise to a significant tsunami.

Drawing of tectonic plate boundary before earthquake

Overriding plate bulges under strain, causing tectonic uplift

Plate slips, causing subsidence and releasing energy into water

The energy released produces tsunami waves

Tsunamis have a small amplitude (wave height) offshore, and a very long wavelength (often hundreds of kilometers long), which is why they generally pass unnoticed at sea, forming only a slight swell usually about 300 millimetres (12 in) above the normal sea surface. They grow in height when they reach shallower water, in a wave shoaling process described below. A tsunami can occur in any tidal state and even at low tide can still inundate coastal areas.

While everyday wind waves have a wavelength (from crest to crest) of about 100 metres (330 ft) and a height of roughly 2 metres (6.6 ft), a tsunami in the deep ocean has a wavelength of about 200 kilometres (120 mi). Such a wave travels at well over 800 kilometres per hour (500 mph), but owing to the enormous wavelength the wave oscillation at any given point takes 20 or 30 minutes to complete a cycle and has an amplitude of only about 1 metre (3.3 ft). This makes tsunamis difficult to detect over deep water. Ships rarely notice their passage.

When the wave enters shallow water, it slows down and its amplitude (height) increases

As the tsunami approaches the coast and the waters become shallow, wave shoaling compresses the wave and its velocity slows below 80 kilometres per hour (50 mph). Its wavelength diminishes to less than 20 kilometres (12 mi) and its amplitude grows enormously, producing a distinctly visible wave. Since the wave still has such a long wavelength, the tsunami may take minutes to reach full height. Except for the very largest tsunamis, the approaching wave does not break (like a surf break), but rather appears like a fast moving tidal bore. Open bays and coastlines adjacent to very deep water may shape the tsunami further into a step-like wave with a steep-breaking front.

The wave further slows and amplifies as it hits land. Only the largest waves crest

When the tsunami’s wave peak reaches the shore, the resulting temporary rise in sea level is termed ‘run up’. Run up is measured in metres above a reference sea level. A large tsunami may feature multiple waves arriving over a period of hours, with significant time between the wave crests. The first wave to reach the shore may not have the highest run up.

About 80% of tsunamis occur in the Pacific Ocean, but are possible wherever there are large bodies of water, including lakes. They are caused by earthquakes, landslides, volcanic explosions, and bolides.

If the first part of a tsunami to reach land is a trough—called a drawback—rather than a wave crest, the water along the shoreline recedes dramatically, exposing normally submerged areas. A drawback occurs because the water propagates outwards with the trough of the wave at its front. Drawback begins before the wave arrives at an interval equal to half of the wave’s period. Drawback can exceed hundreds of metres, and people unaware of the danger sometimes remain near the shore to satisfy their curiosity or to collect fish from the exposed seabed.

Natural factors such as shoreline tree cover can mitigate tsunami effects. Some locations in the path of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami escaped almost unscathed because trees such as coconut palms and mangroves absorbed the tsunami’s energy. Environmentalists have suggested tree planting along tsunami-prone seacoasts. Trees require years to grow to a useful size, but such plantations could offer a much cheaper and longer-lasting means of tsunami mitigation than artificial barriers.


And … action! We’ve reeled in a cast of green-themed flicks; pop some popcorn, see what made the cut, then play critic in the comments section at the bottom of the page. This is a list of all those movies made with environment and environmental issues as the backdrop.  There were several others which I wanted to list out, but again the order is entirely subjective.

An Inconvenient Truth (2006)


Mr. Gore went to Washington, and we all know how that turned out. But when Al hit Hollywood, it was a different story altogether.  An Inconvenient Truth let the former veep shout his climate message from the proverbial rooftops. Who would have thought a documentary about a politician with a whiz-bang computer presentation would make such an impact, let alone win a couple of Academy Awards? But Gore’s star turn changed climate conversations forever.

Erin Brockovich (2000)


Julia Roberts lends star power — and plenty of cleavage — to this based-on-a-true-story epic of wronged Californians rallying against a shady corporate polluter. The title character, a stereotype-bucking, working-class mom, transforms her professional inexperience into an asset, helping to coordinate one of the largest class-action lawsuits in U.S. history.

Winged Migration (2001)


Before penguin peregrinations became all the rage, this documentary captured the grandeur of nature by following the migrations of more than a dozen bird species, spanning four years, 40 countries, and all seven continents. French filmmaker Jacques Perrin, working with a 450-person crew, used planes, gliders, helicopters, and hot-air balloons to capture the impressive journeys, which make waddling across ice look like child’s play.

The China Syndrome (1979)


Released just two weeks before the infamous Three Mile Island meltdown in Pennsylvania, The China Syndrome tells the fictional story of a reporter who stumbles on a cover-up of safety hazards at a nuclear power plant. The film stars Jane Fonda as the determined TV journalist and Jack Lemmon as an earnest whistleblower, roles that earned them Oscar nominations for best actress and actor.

Silkwood (1983)


More nukes and news outlets: Based on a true story, Silkwood delves into the circumstances surrounding the suspicious death of Karen Silkwood, a metal worker at a plutonium processing plant who was on her way to meet with a New York Times investigative reporter about negligence at the plant when she died in a one-car accident. Meryl Streep and Cher reaped Oscar nominations for their acting, and Kurt Russell got critical acclaim too.

A Civil Action (1998)


Call it Erin Brockovich, East Coast style: A gripping true-life legal drama about polluted water, corporate malfeasance, and one Boston lawyer’s personal and professional gambles to take down the bad guys, A Civil Action won over audiences and critics alike, and was nominated for two Academy Awards. Plus: John Travolta as a suave legal eagle. What’s not to love?

Gorillas in the Mist: The Story of Dian Fossey (1988)


Shedding the shoulder pads of the same year’s Working Girl, Sigourney Weaver plays naturalist Dian Fossey in this based-on-actual-events film. Fossey studied and passionately defended Rwanda’s mountain gorillas for more than 20 years before she was mysteriously murdered. Weaver won a Golden Globe and was nominated for an Oscar for her performance.

The Day After Tomorrow (2004)


Audiences around the world clung to the edges of their seats throughout this big-budget summer disaster flick, wondering if Dennis Quaid would be able to trek through a climate-changed, storm-ravaged landscape to find son Jake Gyllenhaal. OK, that’s not true — they mostly chuckled at the overblown drama and bad script. Nevertheless, the film was a rollicking good ride that acted as a catalyst for climate discussions in the mainstream media two years before An Inconvenient Truth.

Chinatown (1974)

A Roman Polanski film-noir detective flick starring Jack Nicholson and Faye Dunaway, Chinatown, was adored by critics, won an Academy Award in 1975 for best original screenplay, and was nominated for 10 other Oscars. In addition to the expected murder, adultery, and deceit, its plot revolves around dams, drought, agriculture, land grabs, and L.A.’s precarious water supply.

Hoot (2006)


Based on a young adult novel by Carl Hiaasen that earned the prestigious Newberry Honor in 2003, Hoot, centers on the lives of three kids who are willing to do whatever it takes to save a local population of endangered burrowing owls, facing down crooked politicians, land developers, and bumbling cops. Jimmy Buffett produced the film, and Luke Wilson stars as a bumbling cop.

The End of Suburbia: Oil Depletion and the Collapse of the American Dream (2004)


In a year dominated by the ultimate fantasy film, Lord of the Rings, this clear-eyed, frighteningly prescient documentary took a real-life look at the impending end of cheap oil. The End of Suburbia explores how dry oil wells will impact the U.S. economy and the much-cherished, resource-intensive American Dream. It’s enough to make you want to move to Middle Earth.

Blue Vinyl (2002)


This acclaimed documentary begins with filmmaker Judith Helfand discovering a severed ear in a field — no, wait. Wrong movie. This one starts with Helfand trying to convince her parents to get rid of the blue vinyl siding on their house, sending Helfand and fellow documentarian Daniel B. Gold on a journey to the U.S. vinyl capital in Louisiana, then to Italy and beyond to talk with experts, doctors, and activists about the ubiquitous and harmful plastic.

Happy Feet


A hit with the kids, this Oscar-winning animated film capitalized on the penguin-mania inspired by the staggeringly successful  March of the Penguins. Its heavy-handed message (human activity is messing with the food chain) was made digestible with the help of a whole lotta foot-tappin’ fun.

Who Killed the Electric Car? (2006)Narrated by Martin Sheen, Who Killed the Electric Car? is part murder mystery, part documentary, tracing the rise and premature fall of the electric car in the United States. The must-see for alternative-transport enthusiasts features interviews with Tom Hanks, Mel Gibson, ex-CIA chief James Woolsey, and others.

Fire Down Below (1997)


A fast-paced action flick starring Steven Seagal and Kris Kristofferson, Fire Down Below features big-time polluters frightening rural townsfolk into shutting up. That is, until undercover federal agent Jack Taggart (Seagal) comes to town to expose the truth and kick some — um, sense into the dirty corporate scofflaws.


Before the Chernobyl disaster of 1986, there was Mayak — Soviet Union’s worst nuclear accident until the 1986 disaster in Ukraine. The Mayak nuclear complex has been the source of the serious contamination of a huge territory in the Ural area in the 1950s exposing about half a million people to radiation, some of them to more than 20 times the radiation suffered by the Chernobyl disaster victims. The source of the information is Reuters.

An abandoned glue factory is reflected in Techa river in the village of Muslyumovo in Russia’s Ural mountains.

The village is located in one of the country’s most lethal nuclear dumping grounds. The Mayak nuclear complex located 30 kms from Muslyumovo, currently processing foreign radioactive wastes, dumped 76 million cubic metres of highly radioactive waste into the Techa river from 1949 to 1956.

A woman walks as the sun sets in the village of Muslyumovo.

Mayak is one of the biggest nuclear facilities in the Russian Federation and is also notorious as the source of the serious contamination of a huge territory in the Ural area in 1957, kept secret by the Soviet regime for over 30 years.

A man walks next to his old house in the village of Muslyumovo.

The lack of environmental responsibility in the past and the poor working conditions have led to additional contamination of the surrounding lake district and severe health hazards and accidents.

A new cemetery is seen in the village of Muslyumovo.

Many areas are still under restricted access because of radiation. Over the past 45 years, about half a million people in the region have been affected by radiation exposing some of them to more than 20 times the radiation suffered by the Chernobyl disaster victims.

A sign forbidding the gathering of mushrooms, picking berries and fishing is seen in front of an abandoned school in the village of Muslyumovo near the Mayak nuclear complex.

The plant’s original mission was to make, refine, and machine plutonium for weapons. In the early years of its operation, the Mayak plant released quantities of radioactively contaminated water into several small lakes near the plant, and into the Techa river, whose waters ultimately flow into the Ob River.

A local resident suffering from childhood disability including epilepsy and cerebral palsy sits in his house in the village of Muslyumovo near the Mayak nuclear complex.

The worst nuclear accident in the area occurred on 29 September 1957 resulting in a non-nuclear explosion having a force estimated at about 75 tons of TNT, which released some 2 million curies of radioactivity over 15,000 sq. miles. Subsequently, at least 200 people died of radiation sickness, 10,000 people were evacuated from their homes, and 470,000 people were exposed to radiation.

A man disassembles his old house to move it under a relocation programme to the new place in the village of Muslyumovo.

Half a century later, Mayak is still one of the most radioactive places on earth, and the accident continues to have a devastating legacy.

A woman is reflected in a puddle in the Novomuslyumovo village, built under a relocation program 1.6 km away from the old village of Muslyumovo.

Even today residents of the Ural Mountains village of Muslyumovo, reportedly, are drinking radioactive water.

A view of the village of Novomuslyumovo, built under a relocation program 1.6 km away from the old village of Muslyumovo.

Muslyumovo is the only settlement left along the banks of the contaminated Techa river. Several other settlements were evacuated following radioactive discharges from the upstream nuclear reprocessing plant in the 1950s.

Greenpeace measuring water from Techa river outside the village of Muslyumovo.

That alpha-particles were found in Muslyumovo water worries environmentalists since alpha-radiation is not something that could be a natural occurrence. Its presence indicates that the water contains plutonium, the stuff weapons are made of. The most poisonous artificially produced material has ended up in the water table.

Top Polluters


With the ongoing Climate Summit at Cancun, Mexico, the onus is on reducing the pollution and look out for cleaner technologies. Focus would be on countries like China, India, Brazil who are surging ahead in the development. This is a small blog dedicated to the issue…..

The world’s top 10 polluters, ranked by their absolute and per-capita greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, according to the International Energy Agency: Absolute emissions (carbon dioxide equivalent — million tonnes per year, 2007 data)

China: 6027 Million Tonnes of Carbon Dioxide Equivalent per year: Although, China officially overtook the US as the world’s biggest CO2 emitter, research has shown that almost a third of Chinese carbon emissions are the result of producing goods for export.

In November 2009 China announced that it will reduce its carbon intensity — the amount of carbon dioxide emitted for each unit of GDP — 40 to 45 percent by 2020, compared with 2005 levels. However, given its high economic growth rate, China’s emissions will continue to rise rapidly for at least a decade.

United States Of America – 5769 Million Tonnes of Carbon Dioxide Equivalent per year: USA drew worldwide criticism for failing to adopt the greatest international agreement for the reduction of greenhouse gases, The Kyoto Protocol, accepted by nearly every other country. The US has 4% of the world’s population but produces about 25% of all carbon dioxide emissions.

Recently the White House said that the United States was ready to pay a “fair share” of 10 billion dollars a year in climate aid to developing countries as part of a deal at the upcoming climate summit in Copenhagen.

Russia has increased its efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in an encouraging development before United Nations climate talks in Copenhagen. Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said his country would try to reduce greenhouse emissions by 25 percent by 2020, not by 15 percent as was planned before.

India – 1324 Million Tonnes of Carbon Dioxide Equivalent per year: Four days prior to the Copenhagen climate summit, India announced that it will reduce its emission intensity by 20-25 percent by 2020 from the 2005 level. India’s emissions intensity is already lower than other emerging economies and had decreased 17.6 percent between 1990 and 2005.

Japan – 1236 Million Tonnes of Carbon Dioxide Equivalent per year: Japan, the world’s fifth-biggest greenhouse gas emitter, announced in June this year that it will target a cut in emissions by 15 percent by 2020 from 2005 levels. However the goal was criticized as inadequate by environmentalists and industry officials.

Japanese businesses argue that their factories are already among the world’s most energy-efficient and that the country will struggle to cut greenhouse gas emissions further. Japan has one of the strictest environmental protection laws in place.

Germany – 798 Million Tonnes of Carbon Dioxide Equivalent per Year: Current issues: Emissions from coal-burning utilities and industries contribute to air pollution; acid rain, resulting from sulfur dioxide emissions, is damaging forests; pollution in the Baltic Sea from raw sewage and industrial effluents from rivers in eastern Germany; hazardous waste disposal; government established a mechanism for ending the use of nuclear power over the next 15 years; government working to meet EU commitment to identify nature preservation areas in line with the EU’s Flora, Fauna, and Habitat directive.

Canada – 572 Million Tonnes of Carbon Dioxide Equivalent per year: The province of Alberta is Canada’s top polluter as of May 2007. The province, with 10% of Canada’s population, contributes 40% of climate-warming gases of the country. It is where seven of the top ten polluters of the country is located, including Syncrude and Suncor. Because half of all emissions in Canada are from industries, environmentalists target them instead of consumers.

Great Britain – 523 Million Tonnes of Carbon Dioxide Equivalent per year: The nation has met Kyoto Protocol target of a 12.5% reduction from 1990 levels and intends to meet the legally binding target and move toward a domestic goal of a 20% cut in emissions by 2010.

By 2005 the government reduced the amount of industrial and commercial waste disposed of in landfill sites to 85% of 1998 levels and recycled or composted at least 25% of household waste, increasing to 33% by 2015.

South Korea – 488 Million Tonnes of Carbon Dixoide Equivalent per Year: South Korea announced its first greenhouse gas reduction target in November 2009, pledging to cut emissions of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases by 4% below 2005 levels by 2020.

South Korea is one of the world’s largest greenhouse gas emitters. In 2005, the country released 590 million tons of the greenhouse gases blamed for dangerously warming the globe. If no action is taken to cut emissions, South Korea is expected to produce 813 million tons of greenhouse gases in 2020.

Mexico – 437 Million tonnes of Carbon Dioxide Equivalent per Year: The environmental issues that plague Mexico include scarcity of hazardous waste disposal facilities; rural to urban migration; natural fresh water resources scarce and polluted in north, inaccessible and poor quality in center and extreme southeast.

The nation also has raw sewage and industrial effluents polluting rivers in urban areas; deforestation; widespread erosion; desertification; deteriorating agricultural lands; serious air and water pollution in the national capital and urban centers along US-Mexico border.


Second in the series in memory of the Bhopal Gas Tragedy is this story (which came out in 2002 on the disaster’s 18th anniversary) of Mr. V. Anand,  Ex-ADRM/BSL/CR, Now GM/SR  a railway employee on that fateful night, on what he saw………

”Eighteen years have gone by since the Bhopal Gas tragedy.  The victims of the biggest industrial accident are yet to receive succour.  “The Bhopal Gas Tragedy “ has been lost in the collective consciousness of the nation. Yes, life has to go on – we must light candles and offer prayers for the victims – but do spare a thought for those who lost their lives in their devotion to duty.

I am talking of the “unhonoured,” “unwept” and “unsung” railwaymen who stood like “boys on the burning deck” and kept the wheels of Indian Railways turning.

Third of December 1984 dawned like any other day at Bhusaval Junction the heart of Central Railway operations.  It was a pleasant bracing winter morning and it was  “…business as usual….”     The 00-00 hours to 08-00 hours  shift in the Control Office was busy tying up the loose ends of the previous day’s operations and gathering information to plan the day’s work.  The telephone lines were buzzing from different directions and all the ‘control boards’ were busy like the proverbial beehives.  North bound trains towards Itarsi Junction, South bound trains towards Mumbai, West bound trains towards Surat and East bound trains towards Nagpur marked their progress on the control charts.

But wait!  the Itarsi line was fading.  Those were the days when railway communication was mainly through the overhead telegraph wires.  Optic Fibre Cable was still in its infancy.  It was the pre Sam-Pitroda days and telephone instruments were a luxury.  There were no STD facilities and what was called a “lighting call” took a couple of hours to materialise!

At first the Bhusaval Control Office shrugged off the lack of communication with Itarsi as routine,  but when the silence continued it was disquieting.   The railways still had their more than 100 years old MORSE instruments functioning and there was a class of railwaymen which is extinct now called ‘Signallers’ who used the DOT-DASH-DOT method to raise Bhopal.  Finally the headquarters control office at Mumbai confirmed that there was something seriously amiss at Bhopal which in those days was an area controlled from the Jhansi Railway Divisional Office.  Communication to Bhopal was via Itarsi.

By about 6-00 a.m it was evident that a disaster had struck Bhopal.  No trains were leaving Bhopal and those which entered just seemed to have disappeared into a ‘black hole’ till the yard was full and no more trains could be admitted.

The initial reports were almost flippant – “…. some evil fairy has struck and sleeping sickness has overtaken Bhopal….”   Wild rumours started spreading.    In the aftermath of the 1984 riots the militant Sikh organisations were blamed for everything.  

Black 3rd December brought the news that people had been dropping dead like flies in Bhopal and those who could manage were scrambling into trains which were running away from Bhopal.  There was a mass exodus with the Government functionaries abandoning Bhopal and commandeering whatever vehicles were available.

As the next shift railway workers streamed in at Bhopal they saw the horrifying sight of their colleagues slumped over at the workspot.  Signalmen and Stationmasters in the busy NISHATPURA yard which was the epicentre of the gas leak had collapsed with the signal levers still in their hands.  Since the signals did not turn green the engine drivers, died in their cabs dutifully waiting for the signals.  Clerks at the booking windows had keeled over with the ticket boxes and the cash safe wide open.  The only redeeming feature was that the deadly gas had struck without fear or favour and even thieves dare not enter Bhopal!

Back at the Bhusaval Control Office the full impact of the happenings at Bhopal was still sinking in.  Plans were made to send medical aid and manpower to Bhopal to restart the operations.

In the glorious tradition of Indian Railways not one employee questioned the decision to send people to Bhopal.  Whenever there is a disaster, man made or natural, it is ingrained  in railwaymen to rush to the scene of the disaster and none will quit his post till the job is done.  The last civilian to leave Tezpur when the Chinese invaded India in 1962 was the Station Master!

Meanwhile, rumours had spread that a second wave of  poisonous gas, even deadlier than the first one,  had broken loose and the steady  exodus further swelled due to the  rush of the panic stricken residents.

While these streams of humanity were going out of Bhopal, there was one band of railwaymen going towards Bhopal.  In retrospect one may say “Fools rushed where angels feared to tread,”  but at that point of time the Railwaymen and women of Itarsi, 90 kms. from Bhopal banded themselves  together and set off in a caravan of road vehicles to the illfated city of Bhopal.  Unmindful of the people exhorting them to go back, the unsung heroes armed with food and medicine, wended their way to Bhopal.

Nobody knew exactly what had happened except that some gas had engulfed Bhopal and as the sun rose the gas diffused and finally dispersed leaving in its wake thousands of humans choking, coughing and blinded.  The “council of war” at the Bhusaval control office decided that a relief train should start immediately. On the presumption that only a nerve gas could disable people so rapidly, all the stocks of ATROPINE were commandeered along with hundreds of vials of eye drops.

The Special Train carrying a multidisciplinary team of railway employees including doctors and para-medics, covered the distance of 302 kms. from Bhusaval to Itarsi in 3 hours flat.  When we reached Bhopal we were informed that the Government Administration had finally got their  act together – probably shamed into action by the railwaymen who had proceeded from Itarsi.

We were told to organise relief operations in the Itarsi civil hospital. We found that the ATROPINE vials and “Visine” eye drops were useless.  I still do not know whether there is an antidote to METHYL ISOCYANATE – the poisonous substance which had annihilated everyone near the Union Carbide Factory in Bhopal.

The sight at Itarsi was something straight out of Dante’s ‘Inferno.’  Dozens of men, women and children were writhing in agony and we watched them in horrified helplessness. Death was a welcome relief to the victims,  their eyeballs swollen red and bursting, every breath bringing agony to their burning lungs.  The screams of the tortured bodies were in different languages.  As train after train went past Itarsi discharging  the bodies of the victims of the monstrous gas, the famous cliché that “from Kashmir to Kanniyakumari Indian Railways is one” was poignantly apparent as we tried our best to soothe the victims in whatever language we could speak.  Faced with their end these poor souls uncomplainingly requested that their next of kin should be informed and their belongings taken care of.  I still cannot forget the poor blinded Malayalee boy holding my hands imploring me to convey some important news to his mother in Kerala. 

The dying wish of a TTE (Travelling Ticket Examiner ) was that his settlement dues should be expedited and his family cared for. In his delirious death he kept apologising for abandoning his train and pressed the reservation chart into the hands of another railwayman. His sightless eyes failed to reveal that it was a doctor. 

There was no way for postmortem to be performed and all the death certificates were signed with the words  “Cardiac arrest  due to unknown causes”.

The railways raced back to normality within 24 hours of the accident.  Hundreds of railwaymen still bear the physical and mental scars of that black day.

When I joined the Railways I was asked to make a daily prayer that there should be no fatal railway accidents in my career and I do not have to remove mangled bodies from a train wreck.  I never expected that I would live to see so many dead and dying humans around.

While we continue to pray for their souls, let us salute the railwaymen who tenaciously clung to their workspots and rushed to the scene of disaster.”