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Bengaluru | Sep 27, 2019

During the years 2018-2019, India witnessed a few ‘Kisan Long Marches’, where thousands of farmers took to the streets. They marched against state and central governments to alleviate their suffering. Their demands included loan waivers, proper land ownership rights, access to insurance and other welfare schemes, and obtaining a justified price for their crops. The Indian farming community is facing a crisis and farmer suicides are increasing by the day. Does the country’s social and caste structure add to these woes of the farming community? A recent study by researchers has found some insights. The study, published in the journal PLOS One, explored if caste of the farmers played a role in them having access to agriculture-related information. 

General, Science, Society, Deep-dive, Friday Features
Bengaluru | Sep 26, 2019
Fighting floods the 'expert' way

 During the fag end of 2015, Chennai experienced severe floods resulting in the death of about 500 people and economic losses of about INR 50,000 crores. The flooding stranded the city and was termed a 'man-made disaster' resulting from irresponsible water management and rapid urbanisation. The northeast monsoon of the year left most parts of South India marooned, exposing how vulnerable our cities are to such catastrophes. That's when the Office of the Principal Scientific Advisor took a major initiative to develop a real-time, integrated, urban flood forecasting system that was non-existent in our country. Soon after, a team of scientists from various institutes across the country, swung into action to develop the first-ever expert system in India to forecast floods. In a recent study, published in the journal Current Science, the researchers shed light on the development of the automated flood forecasting expert system. 

General, Science, Technology, Engineering, Society, Policy, Deep-dive
Bengaluru | Sep 25, 2019
Have policies to conserve groundwater in Haryana and Punjab worsened Delhi's air?

The city of Delhi has been consistently ranked as one of the world's most polluted cities. As the monsoon ends, haze sets in, with Deepawali around the corner, bringing the entire city to a standstill with low visibility. Besides vehicular emissions, smoke from diesel generators and construction dust, a significant contributor to this problem is the practice of crop residue burning by farmers in Punjab and Haryana. A recent study, published in the journal Nature Sustainability, suggests that groundwater conservation policies, adopted by Punjab and Haryana, have changed the patterns of rice production. These policies, the researchers argue, have led to the concentration of crop residue burning into a narrower period, later in the season.

General, Science, Ecology, Health, Society, Deep-dive
Bengaluru | Sep 20, 2019
India, an emerging hotspot for antimicrobial resistance in farm animals, finds study

Antimicrobials, a class of drugs used in humans and animals to treat diseases caused by bacteria, fungi, and parasites serve as a proxy for good hygiene and make up for the poor husbandry practices in animal farms in low and middle-income countries around the world. However, this dereliction comes with a considerable cost wherein, the overuse of these drugs has led to these microbes developing resistance against the very same drugs used to kill them.  Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) in humans is linked to several animals, especially those that are raised for food. Despite this knowledge, it has received little attention in the world of animal science. A new study, published in the journal Science, has mapped the global trends of antimicrobial resistance in farm animals, with particular focus on developing countries, including India. 

General, Science, Technology, Ecology, Health, Society, Deep-dive
Bengaluru | Sep 19, 2019
High blood pressure? It could be in the air!

The leading cause of death in the world is not wars or famines but cardiovascular diseases, and worse still, we haven't fully understood what causes these ailments. Researchers believe it to be a mix of genetic factors, lifestyle changes, diet and environmental factors like air pollution, noise and our neighbourhood. In recent years, cases of high blood pressure and hypertension, which directly contribute to heart diseases, have increased, and those living in low and middle-income countries are the most vulnerable.  A recent study, published in the journal Epidemiology, aims to examine the associations between long-term exposure to ambient particulate air pollution, and prevalence of hypertension in adults from peri-urban India. 

General, Science, Health, Society, Deep-dive
Bengaluru | Sep 17, 2019
 Bacterial remedy for the toxic pesticide Carbaryl

Carbaryl is one of the commonly used pesticides for agricultural as well as non-agricultural use. But like any other insecticide, higher concentrations of Carbaryl in the soil can have adverse effects on humans and other organisms. The need to completely remove it from the environment or break it down into less harmful substances is of primary importance. Researchers from the Indian Institute of Technology Bombay (IIT Bombay), and Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology (CSIR-IGIB), Delhi, have achieved a significant breakthrough in identifying bacteria which can clean up this pesticide from the environment and understanding exactly how the breakdown occurs.

General, Science, Technology, Engineering, Health, Society, Deep-dive
Bengaluru | Sep 16, 2019
Children from disadvantaged backgrounds may not perceive visual changes in their surroundings, finds study.

The differences in a child’s response to visual changes could point beyond how the brain functions, how it remembers its surroundings and detects changes. It could also indicate the parents education level and their economic status, says a new study. The study, published in the journal Developmental Science, looks into how children from disadvantaged backgrounds perceive visual changes.

General, Science, Health, Society, Deep-dive
Bengaluru | Sep 11, 2019
Indians managing diabetes poorly, and many remain undiagnosed, finds study

India, the world’s capital of diabetes, has an escalating diabetes epidemic. Diabetes, a non-communicable disease, affects about 8.7% Indians today, and this number is predicted to hit 70 million by 2025 and 80 million by 2030. Although the exact reasons for this rapid rise in diabetes in the country are not yet clear, experts blame it on multiple factors. In a recent study, researchers from the USA, Germany and India have investigated the status of diabetic care among Indian adults. The findings, published in the journal BMC Medicine, present a grim picture of diabetes management in different states and socio-demographic groups in India.

General, Science, Health, Society, Deep-dive
Bengaluru | Sep 6, 2019
Where did we Indians come from?

We have all heard of the Indus Valley Civilisation.It is well known for its granaries, drainage systems and systematically planned cities like Harappa and Mohenjodaro. However, not much is known about its rise and fall; although there are various theories. In a pair of new studies published in the journals Science and Cell, a consortium of international researchers, including those from India, have tried to decipher the origins of present-day Central and South Asian people. They have used recent advances in genetics to extract and analyse genetic material (DNA) from the remains of several ancient populations, including people from the Indus Valley Civilisation.

General, Science, Society, Deep-dive, Friday Features
Bengaluru | Sep 5, 2019
“Not just a fever”—What is hampering the elimination of kala-azar in India?

Visceral leishmaniasis, or kala-azar, is an insidious disease that affects thousands of people every year. This illness can be fatal, if not diagnosed and treated on time. However, despite best efforts, India still lags behind in eliminating this disease completely. A recent study published in the journal PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases has investigated the factors that lead to the delayed diagnosis and treatment of kala-azar.

General, Science, Health, Society, Deep-dive