Tobacco-free cities


Smoking between Poverty and Mortality

The global tobacco epidemic kills nearly six million people each year, of which more than 6,00,000 are non-smokers dying from breathing second-hand smoke. Unless we act, the epidemic will kill more than eight million people every year by 2030.
More than 80 per cent of these preventable deaths will be among people living in low- and middle-income countries, where the burden of tobacco-related illness and death is more.
Every year, on May 31, the World Health Organisation (WHO) and partners mark the World No Tobacco Day highlighting the health risks associated with tobacco use and advocating for effective policies to reduce tobacco consumption. The theme for the World No Tobacco Day 2013 is ‘Ban Tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship’. The ultimate goal of the day is to protect the present and future generations not only from these devastating health consequences but also against the social, environmental and economic scourges of tobacco use and exposure to tobacco smoke.
Tobacco products are made entirely or partly of leaf tobacco as raw material, which are intended to be smoked, sucked, chewed or snuffed. All contain the highly addictive psychoactive ingredient, nicotine. Despite the overwhelming evidence of the harmful effects of smoking, tobacco use has increased in developing countries and become one of the most profound global health challenges.
Tobacco has been used in India for centuries. The early forms of tobacco were limited to chewing tobacco leaves or smoking tobacco. Today, several products made of, or containing tobacco, are available in the market. Nicotine is a drug found in tobacco which is highly addictive. Over time, a person becomes physically and emotionally addicted to, or dependent on, nicotine. Tobacco use is one of the main risk factors for a number of chronic diseases, including cancer, lung diseases and cardiovascular diseases. Despite the known health problems associated with tobacco use, adolescents continue to initiate and develop regular patterns of tobacco use.
Globally, adult tobacco consumption is strongly associated with poverty, with those in lower socioeconomic classes using tobacco at higher rates.  Although there are many factors contributing to predicted tobacco use, socioeconomic status is the single greatest predictor.
In India, only 20 per cent of the total tobacco consumption is in the form of cigarettes. Bidis account for the largest proportion, at about 40 per cent of the total. Bidis contain higher concentrations of nicotine than both filtered and unfiltered cigarettes and have equally deleterious effects on health.  Also, due to extensive use of chewing tobacco, India has the most cases of oral cancer in the world, with 83,000 incident cases and 46,000 deaths annually. These cancers are steadily increasing and occurring more frequently among younger people. A recent research has demonstrated that smoking increases the risk of death among patients with tuberculosis (TB) and causes 200,000 extra deaths due to TB. An estimated 65 per cent of all adult Indian men and 33 per cent of adult Indian women use some form of tobacco.
Millions of people in India use chewing tobacco. With India undergoing a tremendous economic and epidemiologic transition, tobacco consumption is increasing rapidly among urban youth. Nearly all tobacco use begins during youth and young adulthood. These young individuals progress from smoking occasionally to smoking every day. Secondhand smoke is the smoke that fills restaurants, offices or other enclosed spaces when people burn tobacco products such as cigarettes and bidis.
The World Health Survey (WHS) conducted by the WHO has found that 46.7 per cent of poor men smoke in India as against 21.8 per cent of rich men. In developing countries, many of the poorest smokers spend significant amounts of their incomes on tobacco instead of basic human needs such as food, shelter, healthcare and education. It is because smoking regulates mood, manages stress and copes up with the strains of material deprivation.
 An adult tobacco survey in India done recently by the Health Ministry and the WHO found that smokers in India spend an average of Rs 399 on cigarettes and Rs 93 on bidis monthly.  According to the Planning Commission of India, as many as 354 million people or 29 per cent of the population currently live below the poverty line, which is defined by a monthly income of anything below 672 rupees for rural India and 859 rupees for urban labourers.
Smoking is, therefore, a powerful mediator of the association between poverty and mortality. This is because the poor and less educated are less aware of the health hazards of smoking and, thus, more likely to adopt this harmful practice.
There is no safe level of exposure to secondhand tobacco smoke. In adults, secondhand smoke causes serious cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, including coronary heart disease and lung cancer. In infants, it causes sudden death.
Despite increased efforts in tobacco control over the last several decades, smoking continues to be the number one cause of preventable diseases and deaths. Furthermore, tobacco is directly related to and contributes to poverty. According to the WHO, tobacco use contributes to huge economic losses for individuals, families, communities and entire countries.
Tobacco also creates economic costs that extend beyond the direct cost of related illnesses and productivity losses, including healthcare expenditures from active and passive smokers, employee absenteeism, reduced labour productivity, ?re damage due to careless smokers, increased cleaning costs and widespread environmental damages.
Tobacco users have higher medical expenses due to tobacco-related illnesses and tend to die at younger ages, leaving their families with loss of income, medical bills and other expenses related to their illnesses and deaths.
The immediate and long-term benefits of smoking cessation extend to men and women of all income and education levels but are more pronounced among low socioeconomic status (SES) adults. While cessation may seem near impossible for many low SES individuals, there are several effective tools that can control use. Tobacco control policy can have a significant impact on reducing smoking rates and health consequences of smoking among low SES individuals. There is a need to continue raising awareness and remind people of the law. Ultimately, governmental leadership at state and city levels would be crucial to the ongoing success of the smoke-free law.
Every person should be able to breathe smoke-free air. Smoke-free laws protect the health of smokers and nonsmokers. Mass media campaigns can also reduce tobacco consumption by influencing people to protect nonsmokers and convincing youths to stop using tobacco.
It is high time to control smoking for low-income people. Smoking is bad for physical and mental health. Many poor people with depression smoke as they find no alternative for relax and entertainment. When a person smokes, a dose of nicotine reaches the brain within about 10 seconds. At first, nicotine improves mood and concentration, decreases anger and stress, relaxes muscles and reduces appetite. But this effect is short-term. Smoking puts one at even greater risk of physical ill health. Any short-term benefits that smoking seems to have are outweighed by the higher rates of smoking-related physical health problems such as lung cancer and heart diseases. Nicotine replacement therapy can help smokers stop smoking and they should think of better opportunity of livelihood.
 A number of countries have legislations restricting tobacco. The Government of India has launched the new National Tobacco Control Programme (NTCP) to implement the anti-tobacco laws and sensitise all stakeholders, which would reduce the prevalence of smoking among the lower socioeconomic groups. Besides, a comprehensive ban of all tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship is required for all people to live a tobacco-free healthy life.

Biodiversity: Similipal

The current decline in biodiversity represents a serious threat to human development. Biological resources constitute a capital asset with great potential for yielding sustainable benefits. Protected areas that are created to preserve biodiversity are in critical condition due to excessive anthropogenic pressure.
Urgent and decisive action is needed to conserve and maintain genes, species and ecosystems for sustainable management and use of biological resources.
The United Nations has proclaimed May 22 as the International Day for Biological Diversity (IDB) to increase understanding and awareness of biodiversity issues. Water is essential for life. No living being on planet Earth can survive without it.
It is a prerequisite for human health and wellbeing as well as for preservation of the environment. ‘Water and Biodiversity’ is the theme for International Day for Biological Diversity (IDB) in 2013. The theme has been chosen to coincide with the United Nations designation of 2013 as the International Year of Water Cooperation.
Designation of IDB 2013 on the theme of water provides parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and to raise awareness about this vital issue and to increase positive action.
 Biodiversity is the degree of variation of life forms within a given species and the ecosystem. The greater the variety of species, the healthier becomes the biosphere.
Human activities have altered the world’s terrestrial, freshwater and marine ecosystems throughout history. Over the last 50 years, there has been a substantial and largely irreversible loss in the diversity of life on Earth. The number of species at risk of extinction is 16,306 species of plants and animals listed as threatened globally. This clearly reflected the loss of biodiversity.
The biodiversity of an area influences every aspect of the lives of people who inhabit it. Their living space and their livelihoods depend on the type of ecosystem.
 The quality of water we drink and use, the air we breathe, the soil on which our food grows are all influenced by a wide variety of living organisms, both plants and animals, and the ecosystem of which each species is linked within nature.
Biodiversity conservation and management are a worldwide concern. In India, there is increasing interest and concern for biodiversity conservation in biosphere reserves.
These biosphere reserves have been set up by expanding and merging the isolated, preexisting national park and sanctuaries under the control of Forest and Wildlife Departments to meet the objectives of biodiversity conservation and management. 
 These biosphere reserves are areas of terrestrial and coastal ecosystems promoting solutions to reconcile the conservation of biodiversity with its sustainable use. The idea of `Biosphere Reserves’ was initiated by the UNESCO in 1973-74 under its Man and Biosphere (MAB) Programme. Biosphere reserves constitute the main goal of the whole programme.
The Indian National Man and Biosphere Committee identifies and recommends potential sites for designation as Biosphere Reserves, following the UNESCO’s guidelines and criteria. The Biosphere Reserves are different from wildlife sanctuaries and National Parks as the emphasis is on overall biodiversity and landscape rather than on specific species.
In a biosphere, there are three different zones: core area, buffer zones and transition zones. The core areas are the most heavily protected sites where the ecosystems remain relatively untouched. They are the areas designated mainly for conservation, and the only human role in these areas is for observation and nondestructive research. The buffer zones surround the core area and are open to people to visit. However, people cannot inhabit these areas.
They are mainly used for recreation and ecotourism. Transition zones are the areas in the biosphere where towns would be located if there were any. The people living in these towns are usually management agencies, scientists, cultural groups native to the area and farms and fisheries (biosphere). The people who live in the towns are usually responsible for managing, sustaining, and developing the biosphere.
The State of Odisha is quite rich in natural resources and has several biodiversity hotspot areas. It has varied and widespread forests harbouring dry deciduous, moist deciduous forests as well as mangroves with several unique, endemic, rare and endangered floral and faunal species.
Odisha ranks fourth amongst State/Union Territories of the country in terms of area under forest cover. The total forest area of the State is 58, 135 sqkm, which is 37.34 per cent of the State’s geographical area and about 7.66 per cent of the country’s forests.
Similipal located in Odisha’s Mayurbhanj district, with its dense green forests, hilly terrain, broad open valleys, plateaus, grasslands and rich biodiversity, has the unique distinction of being a Tiger Reserve, a National Park, a Wildlife Sanctuary, an Elephant Reserve and a Biosphere Reserve. Semi-evergreen to dry deciduous forest types (1,076 species of plants including 94 varieties of orchids) provide suitable home for a variety of fauna. Important and rare wildlife include tigers, elephants, leopards, Sambars, spotted deer, peacocks, pythons, cobras, lizards, etc. It is the richest watershed in Odisha, giving rise to many perennial rivers. Gorgeous Barehipani and Joranda waterfalls are of great attractions. The Barehipani waterfall is located at the centre of the National Park. It is one of the tallest waterfalls in the country, at a height of 399 m. The falls are the most beautiful sites at the National Park. The rich biodiversity, the physical and topographical features of Simlipal constitute a unique and delightful destination for scientists, nature-lovers and tourists.
The Biosphere Reserve is an international designation by the UNESCO for representative parts of natural and cultural landscapes extending over large areas of terrestrial or coastal ecosystems or a combination thereof.
The Government of India initiated a Centrally-sponsored scheme on Biosphere Reserve in 1986. The goals for biosphere reserve management are to facilitate conservation of representative landscapes and their immense biological diversity and cultural heritage.
 These are the most appropriate means of protecting the landscape with its total biodiversity.  So far, 15 Biosphere Reserves have been established all over the country across different bio-geographical regions. Similipal was notified as the eighth Biosphere Reserve in 1994. 
This biosphere reserve is unique in terms of its varied topography, geologic formation and rich biological diversity.
The forest ecosystems of the Similipal Biosphere Reserve are experiencing disturbances of various magnitudes.
 People affect biodiversity in both direct and indirect ways. Agriculture and animal husbandry alter the biological diversity by destroying or modifying the native biota. Activities of these people may generate threats that cause major obstacles in biodiversity conservation in Similipal. The specific threats are the loss of biodiversity due to collection of timber, firewood, fire and hunting of wildlife. Special attention should be given to different components of the biosphere reserves like landscape, habitats and species.
The Similipal Biosphere Reserve is also an ideal habitat for approximately 600 plant species. The illegal and unscientific collection by local people has led to a drastic reduction in the number of medicinal plant species. and many species of such plants are becoming rare and are included in the list of endangered plants. 
The best way to protect Similipal’s biodiversity is to protect its habitats. In order to facilitate and coordinate the research programmes and identify the critical gaps in research efforts on the Similipal Biosphere Reserve, the State Government enacted the Odisha Biological Diversity Rules, 2010.
The implementation of the rules and the biosphere programme would seek to make a sustained impact on the overall scenario of biodiversity conservation. The conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity also requires full and effective participation of local communities.

Wetland degradation


The World Migratory Bird Day (WMBD) was initiated in 2006 and is an awareness-raising campaign highlighting the need for protection of migratory birds and their habitats. In the second weekend each May, people around the world take action and organise public events such as bird festivals, education programmes and bird watching excursions to celebrate the WMBD.
This year, the day will be celebrated on May 11-12 with the theme “Networking for migratory birds”. The WMBD is expected to connect the world and bring together organisations, governments and dedicated people to protect migratory birds for future generations. The day works as a network to increase public knowledge about migratory birds and their importance and also connects groups of people to share, celebrate with and learn from each other.
This year’s theme also highlights the need to cooperate and network amongst organisations and people to conserve migratory birds. Since the migration routes often cross many nations and even entire continents and oceans, an effective management strategy requires joint action in the form of international cooperation. Collective conservation actions by nature conservation organisations, scientists, governments and the general public are needed to ensure survival of the migratory birds.
The survival of migratory birds depends on the availability of well-connected habitat networks along their migration routes. This year’s theme aims to emphasise both ecological networks and the networks between organisations and individuals and their mutual importance for long-term conservation of migratory birds.
Suitable habitats are vital for migratory birds as they provide the areas necessary for feeding, resting and breeding. These birds travel huge distances, sometimes comprising thousands of kilometers. However, human activities, directly or indirectly, damage these sites through habitat fragmentation and degradation, thereby posing a threat to the bird species. Many sites that birds depend on are under threat from human activities, posing a grave risk to their species. Direct human activities such as land reclamation and deforestation as well as indirect human influences such as climate change damage these sites through habitat fragmentation and degradation. Large numbers of important sites have already been damaged, or lost entirely. Consequently, conservation of the remaining important sites is crucial for protection of the migratory avian species.
In many parts of the world, wetlands are under threat of degradation or disappearance. Vast water body and biodiversity is a major factor for visit of thousands of birds from different regions of the world. Along with this, climate change is emerging as the greatest threat to natural communities in most parts of the world’s ecosystems in coming decades. Bird species are great indicators of climate change. It is affecting birds’ behaviour, distribution and population dynamics and is implicated in a complete breeding failure in some populations. The problems faced by bird populations worldwide, especially by migratory birds that may be travelling up to tens of thousands of miles, mean that drastic changes in any single world region could push a wide variety of the species out of existence.
Migratory birds visit most part of India and are not confined to a few areas. With a view to escaping severe cold in winter and also in search of food, the birds travel from the remote lands like Siberia, Mongolia, Caspian Lake, Baikal Lake, Ladakh and the Himalayas foothills to visit the wetlands in India. In comparison to other Indian wetlands, maximum numbers of migratory birds are seen in the Chilika lagoon in Odisha. The Chilika Lake is the largest lagoon in Asia spread over three coastal districts of Puri, Khurda and Ganjam. It is connected to the Bay of Bengal. The water spread area of the lagoon varies between 1,165 sqkm in monsoon and about 906 sqkm in the pre-monsoon period.
Ornithologists feel that early snowfall and scarce food might have led the birds to migrate to the Chilika. Experts this time felt that the abundance of food and favourable weather attracted birds to the Chilika as the lagoon’s location on the coast in the tropical zone spares it from extreme temperatures. The Chilika catchment enjoys a typically tropical climate with an average annual maximum temperature of 39.9°C and a minimum temperature of 14.0°C. It is bounded by hills and hillocks. The Chilika is recognised as one of the most important wetlands in the world because it is home to a phenomenal variety of birds. It has always been potentially able to provide excellent hospitality to the birds with favourable weather, food and shelter. There are many island sanctuaries in the Chilika with the island of Nalabana as a major attraction. Nalabana is a lowlying marshy island of about 35 km2, covered with low vegetation. Designated as a bird sanctuary, it forms the core of all tourist attractions in the Chilka region due to the presence of variegated flora and fauna.
The lagoon hosts over 160 species of birds in the peak migration season, the winter. The birds travel possibly up to 12,000 km to reach the lake. The lagoon is at present facing the problems of an overall loss of biodiversity.
The ecological character of the lake is influenced by hydrological regimes and is vulnerable to changes due to anthropogenic as well as natural factors. The lake has gone through tremendous ecological changes since last decade. It had been facing problems like siltation, shrinkage of area and choking of the inlet channel, which led to decrease in the salinity gradient, proliferation of freshwater weeds, followed by a decrease in fish productivity and an overall loss of biodiversity.
The growth of chemicals-based industries in the catchment areas, agriculural intensification in the Chilika basin and the spread of prawn-culture ponds have increased pollution and eutrophication of the lake.  The presence of toxic-heavy metals including mercury, lead, copper, chromium and nickel in the lake has been reported. In addition to its impact on fishing, the growth of weeds has contributed to drastic reductions in the bird populations, particularly noted near Nalabana.  Deforestation in the Chilika basin and hunting are also contributing to this decline.
Due to the degradation of wetland habitats, the populations of various bird species are dwindling in the Chilika. In 2010 and 2011, the number of birds visiting the lake were 9, 24,578 and 8,83,072, respectively. In 2012, birds numbering 8,77,322 flocked to the lake which is  less by  5,750 compared to the previous year, as per the latest bird census. This may be due to the rise in temperature. Another reason may be that the depth of the lake has decreased. If this trend continues, the numbers of birds will reduce in the coming years. This decline, in turn, has resulted in a substantial decrease in international tourists and ecotourism, which used to contribute greatly to the local economy.
In the Chilika, bird conservation requires a continuous adaptation based on the review of changes in various components of ecological character of the wetland. There is a need for ecosystem conservation and sustainable resource development and livelihood improvement supported by institutional development, communication, education and public awareness. Ecosystem conservation would comprise catchment conservation, water management and biodiversity conservation. Siltation is the major problem of the lake. There is a need to reduce this load by suitable plantation and watershed development programme in the catchment areas.
The State Wildlife Organisation in collaboration with the Chilika Development Authority (CDA) has taken several steps for protection and conservation of the local and migratory birds. Besides, awareness and cooperation of the local people are highly essential. Public awareness and concern are crucial components of migratory bird conservation. Citizens who are enthusiastic about birds, informed about threats and empowered to become involved in addressing those threats, can make tremendous contributions for migratory bird conservation of the Chilika Lake.