2015: The year that was

Taking stock of developments of the year   

 
Last Updated: Thursday 24 December 2015 | 10:35:37 AM

Five entrepreneurs who are revolutionising the way we do business

From food services and shared taxis to sanitary napkin disposers, businessmen across India are busy exploring sustainable ideas to help people
 

Simple, easy and healthy

Shyam Sunder Bedekar, a successful textile dye and chemical trader in Vadodara, is making affordable sanitary napkins and developing India's first machine to hygienically dispose them of More »
 
 

High on nectar

Coconut farmers are happy about the revival of neera at a time when they are facing price fluctuations and monopoly by copra-coconut oil traders. Its demand is rising with advances in food preservation technologies More »
 
 

Shared ride

Various mobile applications that are helping car owners to offer rides to strangers are a big hit now. If odd-even policy gets implemented in Delhi, more and more people might reap the benefits of these apps More »
 
 

Tiffin career

Food business never faces recession. While tiffin services in the national capital region have grown at a phenomenal rate, they have also innovated the ways in which home-made food is delivered to people More »
 
 

Treasure trove of trash

One man's trash is another man’s treasure, so goes the saying. For some entrepreneurs, this has become the new business mantra. From discarded bottles and worn-out tyres to old newspapers and ragged shoes, young professionals are recycling waste as a full-time business with a social message. More »
 

Five disasters that shook us in 2015

Right now, Chennai-India’s fourth-largest city with a metro area the size of Chicago-has been paralysed after being hit by worst rains in 100 years. But that is not the only disaster that hit 2015. A look at some of the natural disasters and crises that marked the year
 

India's second consecutive monsoon failure

Calamity enveloped farmers in most parts of the country that was heading for a weak monsoon. Underlying the crisis were factors like growing unavailability of crops, collapse of public investment, low expenditure level in rural India and the shift to unsustainable practices of depending on farm loans More »
 
 

Chennai's urban floods: a man-made disaster

Tamil Nadu's capital experienced rains that broke the record of 100 years. With more rainfall in store, the city needs to relearn its water management system More »
 
 

After 7.9 shock in Nepal

Nepal was flattened by the 7.9 magnitude earthquake in April 2015. While aftershocks continued to traumatise the country already in distress for months to come, the cost of rehabilitation is estimated at $5 billion or one-fourth of the country’s GDP. More »
 
 

Freak weather and agrarian crisis

Year 2015 was the third year in a row when the rabi season was thrown out of kilter in large parts of India by freak weather. But this is not just one of the weather irregularities that India has faced in the recent past. More »
 
 

Assam's nowhere people

Not only did the state lose more than seven per cent of its area to erosion because of floods, thousands of people were displaced and had to seek refuge in makeshift camps across the state More »
 
 

Five major developments from the world of science

From secrets hiding below our oceans to microbes hiding in our gut, scientists have made some remarkable discoveries this year
 

Decoding the ocean floor

The first-ever digital map of the Earth’s ocean floor, developed by the University of Sydney’s School of Geosciences, shows that ocean basins are much more complex than previously thought of  More »
 
 

Mimicking nature

Scientists are using special characteristics of the body shape of cockroaches to design robots. Such emerging technologies inspired by nature are reducing consumption, enhancing speed, sequestering carbon and much more More »
 
 

Collision recourse at CERN

In the second phase of experiments at the world’s leading laboratory for particle physics, detectors will look at a wide range of phenomena-from Higgs boson and dark matter to the difference between matter and antimatter More »
 
 

New meat culture

At least 30 groups of researchers from universities and private companies are working aggressively to create substitutes for large-scale manufactured meat. Can science fulfill the ever-growing demand for meat? More »
 
 

Bust the gut

Scientists are studying gut microbes in far greater detail to devise therapies to fight obesity. But, in the 1,014 microbes that inhabit an average human’s gut, finding the ones that are specifically associated with thinness is tough More »
 
 

Five recipes you must try next year

Returning to our traditional foods is easier than it sounds. Here is a selection of recipes made with some locally- sourced ingredients
 

Taste the Himalayas

The rolling meadows of the Himalayas are treasure troves of many precious plant species. Of the numerous exceptional plants, Allium sp, locally called faran, is the most sought-after spice of the local people More »
 
 

Versatile vitaliser

Thalkudi is commonly found as a weed in sandy or clayey soils of marshy waste places, ditches, river banks and low-wet areas. Used in many recipes, it is highly valued in the indigenous system of medicine More »
 
 

Purple my tea

Originally from Assam, purple tea has a low caffeine content, and possesses anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and anti-carcinogenic properties that prevent cardiovascular diseases and obesity and diabetes More »
 
 

Seed of balance

The use of fenugreek is as much a culinary practice as it is part of an ethnomedicinal wisdom. While fenugreek greens are cooked along with other vegetables, the seeds are mostly used as a mild flavouring for tadka More »
 
 

Sweet home

Desserts made with natural whole ingredients are the best way to avoid unhealthy market-made sweets. Try using the nutrition-rich sweet potato, apple or jackfruit More »
 
 

These five water sources face more threat than ever

Water is the lifeline of civilisation and symbolises the essence of life. But sadly, pollution and industrialisation are threatening the existence of water bodies-be it the revered Ganga or lakes in southern India. Throughout the country, water sources are gasping for breath.
 

Ganga bazaar

Domestic sewage dumping has turned India’s holy river into a stinking, filthy water body. The Modi government is keen to rejuvenate the Ganga, but foreign expertise alone will not help in saving the river from dying a slow death. According to experts, political will is needed to save the mighty Ganges More »
 
 

Depth of decay

The invasive Alligator weed is threatening the beautiful Kodaikanal Lake in Tamil Nadu. However, other factors are also playing a part in destroying the freshwater ecology. Sewage from oil distilleries and tourist leftovers are the other culprits More »

 
 

Kerala’s protected yet polluted lake

The Ramsar Convention has failed to protect the Ashtamudi Lake which is suffering from pollution and sewage spillage. The lake has shrunk in size after losing 27 square kilometres between 2002 and 2012. A part of Kerala backwaters, the second largest lake in the state has turned into a waste dumping ground  More »
 
 

E-toxic trail

The Ramganga, an important tributary of the Ganga, is full of toxic substances such as arsenic and mercury. The flourishing e-waste industry in Moradabad releases gases, acid solutions, toxic smoke and ash directly into the river More »
 
 
 

Supreme abuse

Waste dumped by pharmaceutical industries in the Patancheru-Bollaram area is choking the lifelines of Nakkavagu stream and other water bodies that act as feeders for the Musi river. A sewage treatment plant at Amberpet releases untreated wastewater into the Musi, polluting 100 villages in its drainage basin. More »
 
 

Five stories of jungles and wildlife

Forests are the Earth’s lungs. They absorb carbon dioxide from the air and release oxygen into the atmosphere. Maintaining forests is important not only for the socio-economic benefits we derive from them, but also for the flora and fauna they support.
 

Forestry, the Mexican way

Mexico’s forest governance is a success as over 70 per cent of the country’s greenery is controlled by indigenous communities. India has a lot to learn from this Latin American country as the former has alienated locals from lands, forests and natural resources. More »
 
 

Indonesian forest fire rages on; refuses to die down

Life in Indonesia and neighbouring countries came to a standstill, following a two-month-long forest fire. Hundreds of thousands of people fell ill and the Singapore government closed schools after air pollution levels reached hazardous limits. More »
 
 

Jungle story

Assam’s Mulai Kathoni, regarded as the world’s only human-made forest, was created by Jadav Payeng. In 1979, Payeng started planting trees on this barren, sandy land. At present, the Mishing community is carrying forward his legacy. More »
 
 

Rare appearance

The Bostami turtles, considered extinct by the IUCN, rose from the ashes after laying eggs near the Tripureswari lake temple in Udaipur in June. For the first time in a decade, 10 baby turtles were spotted on NH-44A during a heavy downpour in the city. More »
 
 

Let the Sangai dance

The Sangai, also called the dancing deer, is a critically endangered species of Manipur. The animal is confined to an area of just 10 sq km. Its territory shrinks even further during the monsoon as water levels rise. According to the 2013 census, only 24 Sangais were added to the population since 2003, with the total adding up to 204. More »
 

The five rights and wrongs from the field agriculture

It was a mixed year for farmers. While artificial glaciers and social protection measures brought a ray of hope, the Marathwada drought and seed deficit in pulses were huge setbacks for cultivators
 

'Farmers in Ladakh are among biggest victims of climate change'

India’s Ice Man Chewang Norphel came to the aid of Ladakh famers with his most unique innovation—the creation of the artificial glacier. Farmers here mostly depend on rivers for irrigation, or at best rely on glacial waters, thus seriously compromising the region’s cropping pattern. More »
 
 

Social protection: a safety net for agricultural households

Investing in agriculture can provide opportunities for generating income and improving nutrition, especially among women and youth in rural areas. This also helps to break the rural poverty cycle. As agriculture is linked to rural poverty, extending the net of social protection programmes can help fight deprivation. More »
 
 

Reaping organic

There is another side to Bengaluru’s IT story. India’s Silicon Valley is turning into an organic farming hub with restaurants serving foodies a taste of the natural. In March 2004, Karnataka became the first state to introduce a policy on organic farming amidst an agrarian crisis. More »
 
 

Marathwada in the grip of drought-like situation

Marathwada’s Beed district witnessed one of its worst agrarian crises this year as a scanty monsoon dashed hopes of a bumper produce and forced farmers to commit suicides. The spectre of drought returned to haunt the region for the fourth consecutive year in 2015. More »
 
 

Missing pulse

FAO has declared 2016 as the International Year of Pulses. India being the largest producer, this should come as good news. But ironically the Indian government has decided to import 5,000 tonnes of pigeon pea from Malawi after facing crop loss and seed deficit. More »
 

Five stories that will put a smile on your face

All was not that worrisome in 2015. From farmers to city dwellers, many showed the way to a better world
 

Sri Lanka first country in South Asia to recycle compact fluorescent lamps

At a time when developing countries are struggling with safe disposal of compact fluorescent lamps, here is how Sri Lanka is leading by example More »
 
 

Straw for income

Instead of burning paddy straw, farmers in Haryana's Panipat district are using it to farm mushrooms. This has not only reduced pollution, but also allowed farmers to make good money by selling the produce More »
 
 

Parademics show the way

The story of how hundreds of villages in Bangladesh have overcome child and maternal mortality 10 years before the Millennium Development Goals' deadline
More »
 
 

Store water in the sky

Three decades after 'ice man' first harvested water in the form of artificial glaciers in Ladakh, Sonam Wangchuk, a young mechanical engineer, has taken the innovation forward. His design has helped many farmers battle water shortage in the cold desert More »
 
 

Roof is the limit

Farming consultancies are cropping up in urban areas as households opt for rooftop farms and gardens for cleaner food and environment. While some of these are somewhat expensive services, there are cheaper options available too More »
 
 

Five books and films that we reviewed

A year is also remembered by the books and movies it produced. A look at some movies and films that communicated development differently
 

Margarita, with a straw: celebration of life

Any conversation around sex is frowned upon in India. What happens when the sexual desires of a differently-abled woman are brought to light in commercial cinema? Margarita, with a straw, was an attempt by director Shonali Bose to start a conversation on the topic More »
 
 

Ideas India

Hindol Sengupta believes that India’s growth is driven by small entrepreneurs, and not large conglomerates. In ‘Recasting India’, he weaves facts, information and anecdotes to establish the importance of new ideas and of the people who execute them More »
 
 

Elephant tales

Elephant experts and writers come together to give experience-based insights on the animal’s psyche in “Giant Hearts: Travels in the World of Elephants”. The book draws parallels between elephant and human behavior and the effects of captivity on the wild animal. Excerpts from the book More »
 
 

Diving in the Arctic

An excerpt from the book “Witness to The Meltdown: Logs of a Science Reporter from the Arctic” is a first-hand account of witnessing scientific diving in sub-zero temperatures. Journalist Dinesh Sharma reports on an international, Arctic-bound scientific expedition that he was a part of, through the book More »
 
 

Wings of ecology

Conservationist Tara Gandhi’s book on human-wildlife conflict in India, titled, Birds, Wild Animals and Agriculture, explains how the farmers lived in harmony with the wild, but the relationship has been strained due to urbanisation and expanding human population. Read on More »
 

Five health crises which hit India in 2015

Unlike 2014, which was marked by a major global outbreak of Ebola, 2015 saw no major global health crises. But the situation was different at home. Here is a look at some.
 

The flu is back

Swine flu raised its lethal head in Gujarat once again. Till last count, there had been more than 7,000 cases of swine flu in the state, with 492 deaths. Worse, health experts fear a major outbreak in the state this winter More »
 
 

Bitten again

The nation’s capital had its date with deadly dengue immediately after the monsoons this year. This seems to have become the norm over the past few years in Delhi. This time, lack of preparedness of the administration is largely to blame More »
 
 

Vaccine of hope

There was a bright spot in the global health scenario this year, with Africa getting its first anti-malarial vaccine. But this was coupled with dismay as India, one of the world’s major hotspots is still struggling to make its own vaccine More »
 
 

Cough resistance

Multi-drug-resistant tuberculosis, the treatment of which in India is plagued by delayed diagnostics and inaccurate treatment procedures, seemed to have finally met its match in an initiative in Manipur More »
 
 

Treated but not cured

Another disappointing health story from India was the emergence of drug-resistant leprosy cases ten years after the country declared itself leprosy-free. The environment facilitates the spread of the disease More »
 
 

Governance: Five hits and misses in 2015

As the National Democratic Alliance government entered its second year of administering, there were several flip-flops in matters of governance
 

Last mile smile

Villages in almost all districts in Jharkhand have formed a community-based monitoring system. Named GARD, the system has been able to bring accountability and transparency in the delivery system More »
 
 

Amendment without correction

On March 20, Parliament passed the Mines and Minerals (Development & Regulation) Bill of 2015. The bill was passed quickly and without proper discussion despite knowing that mining affects the lives and livelihoods of millions More »
 
 

Deserted by policy

Rajasthan's livestock is facing a threat as grazing lands are disappearing fast and state laws are paralysing traditional economic incentives for keepers More »
 
 

Rs 60 crore for 250,000 panchayats

This year, the Centre decided to reduce the Panchayati Raj Ministry’s budget and transfer its schemes to states. This left the ministry bewildered about its job. The states, on the other hand, were caught napping about the devolution of power.
More »
 
 

Maggi-gate: why India must face up to a bigger problem than instant noodles

On June 5, the government issued an order to “withdraw and recall” Maggi noodles from the market as they were found to be unsafe and hazardous. Though the noodles are back in stores now, questions around absence of food safety policies still prevail More »
 

Five views and interviews that were most read

What is news without the views? We list down top five opinion and interview pieces of 2015, where experts offered their arguments and perspectives
 

COP21 and intolerance in Paris

Sunita Narain argues that the only narrative that existed at COP21 was of the rich and developed countries. Anyone who seemed to differ from it was dismissed as an obstructionist. Narain calls this “climate change intolerance” More »
 
 

Who can touch diesel

Diesel is evil, says Sunita Narain, but why is India still lagging behind in regulation of the dirty fuel? Can human health be put at stake to let diesel reign the country? More »
 
 

Tibetan landscape may soon disappear

Michael Buckley is a journalist who has been travelling to Tibet since the 1980s. He talks about the change in landscape and the climate degradation in the region, and explains what or who is causing it. Buckley has authored “Meltdown in Tibet.” More »
 
 

‘Food was grown to keep community healthy’

In an interview to Down To Earth (first with an Indian publication), health ecology expert and author Daphne Miller explains the importance of going back to locally produced food for a healthier community. Miller believes that agriculture and healing need to be in-sync. More »
 
 

Climate change and earthquake hazard

Could the Indian monsoon play a role in causing the devastating Nepal Earthquake of 2015? Roland Burgmann of the University of California explains the connection between the two in an e-mail interview. More »
 
 

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