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Vol. 12 No. 1 - February 2006 

Report on Deliberations of Third International Conference on

Plants & Environmental Pollution (ICPEP-3)

*R.S. Tripathi, R.D. Tripathi, Kamla Kulshreshtha,

Nandita Singh, K.J. Ahmad & S.V. Krupa

The fast pace of industrialization, galloping demand for energy and reckless exploitation of natural resources during the last century have been mainly responsible for aggravating the problem of environmental pollution, which is now set to pose serious threat to biodiversity and ecosystem processes.

The widespread poverty, illiteracy and burgeoning population in most of the developing countries have further confounded the problem, and have caused environmental pollution at a pace which was unimaginable only two decades earlier. The threat of global warming is now being felt across the world, and geographical or political boundaries are no longer relevant in the present scenario. When it comes to the hazards of environmental pollution, there is only a very thin dividing line between developed and developing countries, as the impact of most of the environmental problems is all pervading.

Keeping in view the enormity of the problem and with a view to highlight its impact and to seek possible solutions, and in pursuance of the recommendations made during the Second International Conference on Plants and Environmental Pollution (ICPEP-2) held in February 2002, the ICPEP-3, was organized by The International Society of Environmental Botanists and National Botanical Research Institute Lucknow during 28th November to 2nd December 2005.

The Conference provided a vibrant forum for serious discussions and deliberations on the burning problem of environmental pollution, and the role of plants as bio-indicators of pollution and its remediation. The other important environmental issues that were deliberated upon during the Conference included biodiversity conservation, ecosystem degradation, eco-restoration, sustainable development, climate change and effects of pollution on agricultural crops, food production, forest and human health.

The entire global community has a vested interest in supporting and sustaining any move for the protection of environment and biodiversity conservation. Taking cognizance of this, several National and International Scientific Organizations supported and co-sponsored ICPEP-3.

Leading experts from different R & D institutions of India and other countries were invited by the organizers to participate in this Conference.

The deliberations during the Conference revolved around the following themes:

  1. Bio-indication and Bioremediation

  2. Environment and Biodiversity

  3. Environmental Education, Mass Awareness and Legislation

  4. Environmental Impact Assessment

  5. Environmental Biotechnology

  6. Contemporary Environmental Issues.

  7. Plant Responses to Environmental Pollution

  8. Climate Change, Plant Productivity and Food Security

The Conference was inaugurated by His Excellency Shri T.V. Rajeswar, the Governor of the State of Uttar Pradesh on the afternoon of 28 November, 2005 at the Convention Centre of King George's Medical University, Lucknow. The colourful inaugural function was attended by over 500 guests including delegates from some 30 countries and distinguished citizens of Lucknow. The Chief Guest, His Excellency Shri T.V. Rajeswar, lighted the traditional lamp to kickstart the function. Dr. P. Pushpangadan, the then Director of the National Botanical Research Institute and President of International Society of Environmental Botanists (ISEB) welcomed the guests and delegates.

Dr. K.J. Ahmad, the Secretary of International Society of Environmental Botanists (ISEB) introduced the members of the Executive Committee of ISEB to the audience. Dr. R.D. Tripathi, Organizing Secretary of ICPEP-3 explained the genesis of the conference and Dr. Kamla Kulshreshtha, the other Organizing Secretary of ICPEP-3 proposed the vote of thanks.

Prof. Sagar V. Krupa, University of Minnesota, USA and Prof. Erwin Grill, Technical University of Munich, Germany, who were the guests of honour also addressed the gathering and lauded the objectives of the conference.

H.E. Shri T.V. Rajeswar in his address expressed his deep concern about the problem of environmental pollution, which was adversely affecting the global environment.

The inaugural function was followed by a 'High Tea', at the green, well manicured lawns of the Convention Centre which provided a salubrious environment to the delegates and guests for a chitchat during the tea party. It was followed by a colourful cultural programme of music and dances presented by students of Bhatkhande Music University, Lucknow.

The glittering inaugural function was followed by absorbing Scientific Programme that commenced at the main Auditorium and Conference Hall at NBRI Campus on the morning of 29th November and continued till 2nd December mid day.

The Conference was attended by over 400 delegates, representing R & D organizations, from India and around 30 countries. The scientific programme was divided into 8 technical sessions each of which was largely attended and lively. In addition to the technical sessions, a poster session was also organized in which a large number of delegates presented their valuable scientific results.

Technical Sessions Highlights

Most of the technical sessions were held concurrently in two halls, and the plenary and special lectures were delivered in the Auditorium of NBRI. Some of the highlights of the various technical sessions are mentioned as under:

Session I

In Session I dealing with “Bioindication and Bioremediation” Dr. Margaret Greenway from Australia discussed the role of macrophytes in nutrient (soluble inorganic nitrogen and phosphorus) removal using constructed wetlands. Prof. Erwin Grill from Germany discussed the role of PCS enzyme in detoxification of heavy metal by phytochelatin synthesis and also in detoxification of xenobiotics by catalysing the cleavage of GS-conjugates. A well known scientist from Japan Prof. Yoshikatsu Murooka, discussed a novel bioremediation technique called symbiotic engineering for heavy metal using symbiosis between leguminous plants and Rhizobia. Nodule-specific expression of metallothionein gene (MTL4) and Arabidopsis PC synthase (AtPCS) in mesorhizobium increased the ability of cells to bind Cd+ by 9-19 fold. In the presentation of Prof. Norman Terry from USA, the role of constructed wetland and genetically engineered plants in phytoremediation of Se and other trace elements was highlighted. He showed that overexpression of gene such as PCS, and ATP sulphurylase increased the uptake of Cd, and overexpression of selenocysteine methyl transferase, gene responsible for Se hyperaccumulation, gave good result. Dr. E.G. Alirzayeva from Azerbaijan discussed the ability of plants to accumulate toxic metals growing in metal contaminated areas. Artemisia spicum, Orgusia sibirion, Gamanthum piosus, Atriplex tatarica, Kallidium cospicum, Bassia hyssopsifolia, accumulated good amount of metal. In another presentation Dr. Oleg Blum from Ukraine reported the use of plants in phytodetections of ambient ozone toxicity. Ukraine clover and tobacco showed visual toxicity symptoms after 10-14 d- exposure. A number of scientists from India participated in the session and presented their valuable research work. Dr. Ram Chandra from India showed the accumulation and tolerance of heavy metals by aquatic plants such as Typha, Phragmites and Cyperus.The concentration of heavy metals in plant parts was 20 times greater than that in distillery water as reflected by his results. Dr. Anjum Farooqui from India, on the basis of palynology, mineralogy and geochemistry, established that late Pleistocene marine and terrestrial palynomorphs in Changanacherry (Kottayam district, Kerala) are good palaeoclimatic and palaeoshoreline indicator. Dr. U.N. Rai from the host organization presented his work dealing with the integrated phytoremediation techniques for the removal of metals from industrial wastes. He mentioned that several chromate tolerant bacterial strains isolated from tannery effluent showed high Cr accumulation potential and also some aquatic plants like Hydrilla verticillata, Pistia stratiotes and Vallisneria spiralis can reduce the level of Cr from tannery effluents. Dr. C. Retnaningdyah from Indonesia discussed the scope of use of river benthic microinvertebrates as a bioindicator of detergent pollutants in terms of acute and sub-acute toxicity. Dr. M.A. Rzepka from France presented his findings on the assessment of air quality in industrial area using plants like tobacco, Petunia hybrids and Tradescantia by monitoring the biomarkers such as GSH, MDA and SOD. Dr. S.A. Salgare from India discussed the monitoring of herbicide toxicity using pollens of Phaseolus aureus as indicator. Dr. Angela Schlutow from Germany presented the BERN (Bioindication for Ecosystem Regeneration towards Natural Conditions) model, which enables to assess the current regeneration ability, to quantify the critical limits and critical loads of natural and semi-natural plant communities, to determine the dynamic change of vegetation structure in the past and future. Ms. A. Tabatabaee from Iran showed that four marine bacteria isolated from east Anzali marsh sediments of Caspian sea accumulated good amount of Cd, Ni and, Vanadium and are resistant to these heavy metals. Thus they could serve as good agent for bioremediation. Dr. D. Cuny from France presented the paper dealing with the effects of atmospheric nitrogen and ammonia on epiphytic lichen communities. All the studied sites showed better growth of the nitrophillous species. Dr. R.D. Tripathi from NBRI showed accumulation of heavy metals by various aquatic plants including Hydrilla, Bacopa and Ceratophyllum. He emphasized the role of PCs in metal detoxification and mentioned that the research work on cloning and overexpression of PC Synthase gene to enhance phytoremediation potential is in progress. Dr. M.N. Dandigi from India discussed the role of Typha latifolia in treatment of municipal wastewater in a constructed wetland.

Session II

In Session II on “Environment and Biodiversity” Prof. R.S. Tripathi, INSA Senior Scientist, NBRI, India delivered the lead lecture on “Sacred groves of north-east India and their significance in conserving biodiversity”. He mentioned that several sacred groves are in existence in northeast India since time immemorial and are considered to be the relic of the original forest vegetation. Many sacred groves are still undisturbed having dense canopy cover. They serve as the treasure house of biodiversity. Over the past few decades these sacred groves which were protected on the grounds of religious and cultural beliefs have been undergoing degradation, although out of ca. 80 sacred groves of Meghalaya studied by him and his associates, 57.5% are still in good condition. These sacred groves are extremely rich in floral and faunal diversity. The species content of these sacred groves are very high. They contain several valuable medicinal and other economically important plants. Some of the endangered taxa are to be found only in the sacred groves. He highlighted the existence of several regeneration guilds in the sacred groves which ensures the coexistence of a large number of primary and secondary successional tree species. He emphasized that these sacred groves need to be conserved by external interventions as the religious beliefs and taboos, which were central to sacred grove conservation have been eroding fast. He mentioned that if the religious beliefs and traditional wisdom contributing to forest protection could be suitably integrated with modern scientific management practices, these sacred groves could become a very useful model for biodiversity conservation. He suggested several measures for the conservation of sacred groves and argued that there is a strong need to perpetuate and promote the concept of sacred groves.

Besides the lead lecture, there were invited lectures by Dr. Gautam Ganguly (University of Burdwan, West Bengal) on spatial distribution of pteridophytes in southern Sikkim, by Dr. (Mrs.) Prafulla Soni (FRI, Dehradun) on Floristic composition of iron ore mine areas of Saranda-Bonai forest range in Jharkhand state, by Dr. Dolly W. Dhar (IARI, New Delhi) on biodiversity analysis of cyanobacterial germplasm, by Dr. P. Pothiruckit-Prachyanusorn of Thailand on biodiversity and bioactivity in hydrocarbon contaminated sediments and by Dr. Anil K. Goel of NBRI, Lucknow on the importance of Indian plant diversity as a vital source for new ornamentals.

Session III

This post lunch session on “Environmental Education, Mass Awareness and Legislation” was chaired by Prof. S.V. Krupa, University of Minnesota, USA. The lead lecture was delivered by Dr. Margaret T. McGrath of Cornell University, USA on “Communicating Air Quality- Plant Effects Science to the Public and User sector”. During her lecture she emphasized the need for increasing the awareness about the impact of pollutants on the environment while learning how to do scientific research. She mentioned that hands-on activities and visuals, such as plants with injury and pollutant monitoring equipment, are more effective educational tools than written documents. She mentioned that communicating effects of air quality on plants should target children, parents and teachers. According to her, the US National Parks provide an ideal opportunity to educate adults as well as children about impact of air quality on plants. She also laid emphasis on the need for ground level ozone bio-monitoring.

Besides, three invited lectures were also delivered during this session. Dr. Bandana Bose (BHU, Varanasi) made presentation on multiple effects of nitrate seed treatment on germination growth and yield on maize, wheat and mustard. Dr. D. D. Kadam (Kolhapur) spoke about Neem.

Session IV

Session IV on “Environmental Impact Assessment” was chaired by Prof. Gregor. The lead lecture was delivered by Dr. L.D. Emberson of University of York, U.K. on “Assessing the impacts of air pollution on crops in south Asia and Southern Africa”. She emphasized that current levels of air pollution and particularly the general level of ozone are contributing significantly to crop yield losses in parts of South Asia and may be adversely affecting the crop productivity in Southern Africa. She mentioned that although the impact of air pollution on crop productivity has been adequately studied in India, there is lack of such studies in other South Asian countries making it difficult to develop dose-response relationships that could be used to perform risk assessments for this region. She postulated the need to maintain and expand the Air Pollution Crop Effect Network (APCEN), which comprises a network of air pollution effects practitioners, atmospheric modellers, socioeconomic experts and policy makers.

Session V

The Session V on “Environmental Biotechnology” was chaired by Prof. Erwin Grill and Co-chaired by Dr. Rakesh Tuli. Prof. Boris Chevone in his lead lecture discussed the role of ascorbate in plants in response to ozone. A new gene VCF1 controls foliar ascorbate level resulting in ozone tolerance in young leaves. Genetic enhancement of ascorbate may produce plants that are more resistant to oxidative stress. Prof. Arun Goyal from USA discussed the carbon concentration mechanism in plants and algae including carbon transporters. He discussed a novel approach on identifying and characterizing inducible membrane inorganic carbon transporter. A genetically engineered active inorganic carbon transporter system may reduce photorespiration. In another lead lecture, Dr. Rakesh Tuli from NBRI discussed the importance of insect-resistant transgenic plants in pollution abatement in view of greater use of pesticides in India. Some transgenic crops like cotton, pigeonpea, chickpea, castor, groundnut and tomato are being developed jointly by NBRI and other institutions. Dr. Usha Mina from New Delhi presented her findings on the effect of transgenic plants on soil biodiversity and soil processes. Transgenic plant products that they release in soil may affect soil biota (invertebrates and microorganisms) and soil processes. Dr. Rana Pratap Singh from Lucknow presented his paper dealing with organic matrix-based, cost-effective, eco-friendly, slow release fertilizer. He emphasized that these fertilizers release nutrients especially nitrogen in form of ammonium up to 45 days after application and enhance productivity and quality of produce in wheat, rice and other crops. Dr. Neeta Sharma from Lucknow discussed the eco-friendly technique for management of post-harvest disease using yeasts.

Session VI

In the Session VI on “Contemporary Environmental Issues” Chaired by Prof. R.S. Tripathi, Dr. Yash Pal Kalra (Northern Forestry Centre, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada) in his lead lecture emphasized the need for standardizing the methods for analyzing soil and plant samples. The analytical techniques should be developed for specific requirements of the users. He also presented the efforts made by soil science laboratories in Canada. The lead lecture was followed by five presentations covering different aspects relevant to the theme of the conference. The presentation was made by Dr. Mridula Chauhan (India) on application of spectrometric data in identification of radioactively contaminated water sources such as Mahanadi and other rivers. Dr. A. Ghosh from Central Rice Research Institute (CRRI), Cuttack talked about the environmental concerns related to excessive use of nitrogenous fertilizers, and impact assessment and risk management of nitrogenous fertilizers with reference to rice cultivation in India.

Dr. S.K. Datta (NBRI, India) discussed the role of gamma ray irradiation in inducing mutation and mentioned that a large number of promising varieties have been developed in different ornamentals, particularly Chrysanthemums and Rose by Floriculture Section of NBRI. Dr. V.P. Kapoor (NBRI, India) made presentations relating to natural dyes extracted from different plant species and discussed the positive attributes of eco-friendly plant-derived chemicals for use as textile dyes.

During the morning session (Chairman: Dr. Y.P. Kalra, Canada), the lead lecture of the theme “Contemporary Environmental Issues", was given by Dr. H.M. Behl, Scientist, NBRI. He discussed adverse effects of indiscriminate use of fertilizers and pesticides on soil properties, which leads to reduction in production. He emphasized on a paradigm shift in tilling land, agricultural practices and food consumption pattern by the society. He suggested that least tilling of land, organic cultivation and minimum use of pesticides could contribute to sustainability in agriculture.

Dr. Rodiyati Azrianingsih of Indonesia presented her paper on the biology of Cyperus brevifolius, an invasive species having a large phenotypic variability which confers an adaptive advantage on this weed and makes it highly successful in different geographical regions. She discussed its life history, phenotypic variability and response to soil water contents.

Dr. Neerja Srivastava gave an account of ethnobotanical importance of some weeds of Kota district of Rajasthan. Dr. O.P. Pandey delivered a lecture on “Neotectonic uplifting of Hyderabad granitic region and environmental pollution”. He explained the theory and highlighted the role of underlying geo-processes like neotectonic uplifting in contaminating water bodies. V. Prasad of Nepal gave an account of UV effect on Chlorella vulgaris and discussed how the effect could be minimized by sodium dithionite and sodium chloride.

Samantak Mani from of Tata Motors, Lucknow showed how the effluent treatment techniques at their factory are successful in separating oil from the effluent.

Geeta Shrestha Vaidya of Nepal presented her paper on the use of organic matter made from locally available plant materials such as Lantana etc. She also discussed how its efficiency can be increased through micorrhizae.

Dr. O.N. Tiwari of Imphal discussed the effects of cyanobacterial toxins on aquatic organisms including mammals. The presentation by Suchita Jain focused on the biodiversity of Ranthambhore National Park of Rajasthan and the importance of National Park in biodiversity conservation.

In an invited talk Dr. Fiona Marshal from UK presented the findings of her collaborative research with Prof. Madhoolika Agarwal of BHU, Varanasi on the heavy metal contamination of vegetable crops in Varanasi and Delhi. According to their findings in the samples of spinach and cauliflower collected from the market and field sites, the mean heavy metal levels exceeded the limits of Prevention of Food Adulteration (PFA) Act for Cu, Cd and Zn. However, Pb did not exceed the PFA limits.

Dr. B.K. Tiwari from Shillong presented the results of a long term research carried out in collaboration with Prof. R.S. Tripathi on the ecology of coal mining areas in Jaintia hills of Meghalaya. He discussed the changes in soil properties, microbial population and plant diversity during natural recovery of coal mine spoils in Jaintia hills. He mentioned that coal mining has caused the shrinkage of agricultural and forest area, deterioration of water quality in streams and rivers, increase in respiratory diseases and vast income disparity. After 14 years of natural recovery the number of plant species and microbial population increased and physico-chemical characteristics of soil improved. It was mentioned that the people of the area have taken a number of initiatives for the ecorestoration of the landscape damaged due to coal mining.

Dr. Laszlo Makra of Hungary discussed the relationship between twelve meteorological parameters with daily pollen concentrations of twenty four species over Carpathian Basin in Hungary.

Dr. Nikhil Kumar of NBRI, Lucknow presented the evolution of fully protected cultivation technology of betel vine in subtropical India.

Session VII

In the Session VII on “Plant Responses to Environmental Pollution” Prof. J.N.B. Bell from UK talked about the influence of air pollution on plant fungal diseases. He established that air pollution reduced the severity of biotrophic fungi. Prof. R.B. Muntifering from USA discussed the interaction of tropospheric ozone with elevated CO2, NOx, NH3, N2 and SO2 under different meteorological conditions and showed how the plant nutritive quality could be affected by such interactions. The magnitude of total economic impact of ozone to ruminant livestock, and wildlife is a function of cumulative effect of plant yield and nutritive quality. Dr. S.B. Agarwal from India elucidated the role of ethylene diurea in assessing impact of ozone on growth and yield of wheat and mung-bean. EDU alleviates the unfavourable effects of ozone in both crops. The treated plants maintained higher levels of pigment, protein, ascorbic acid in foliage as compared to the non-treated plants. Dr. V. Calatayud from Spain emphasized the effect of ozone on physiology of endemic Mediterranean plant, Lamottea dianae. Ozone exposure caused significant reduction in CO2 assimilation, water use efficacy and an increase in intracellular CO2 concentration without any significant decline in stomatal conductance and maximum quantum efficiency of the photosystem II. He showed that CO2 fixation capacity by Rubisco and maximum RuBP regeneration capacity declined in the treated leaves. These changes demonstrate that ozone induces senescence. Dr. Swadesh Malhotra from NBRI talked about the possibility of improving the quality of essential oils using different soil conditions and agro-techniques. Dr. S.N. Mishra from Rohtak demonstrated that putrescine, a di-amine, alleviates the growth of Indian mustard under salinity by inducing the level of nitrogenous metabolites and nitrate reductase activity. It also suppressed free radical generation which hampers plant growth under stress condition, through inducing antioxidant enzyme system. Dr. B.B. Panda from Berhampur, Orissa presented an account of adaptive responses induced in root meristem (Allium cepa) or embryonic shoot (Hordeum vulgare) by Cd, Al, H2O2, paraquat and salicylic acid to three different types of genotoxins namely malic hydrazide, ethylmethanesulphonate and methylemecuric chloride. The findings showed the possible involvement of a H2O2-independent signal transduction pathway in the underlying adaptive response to genotoxic stress. Dr. I.P. Pandey from Dehradun presented a paper on the impact of environmental pollution in Doon Valley on plant growth and development. Dr. Nalini Pandey from Lucknow discussed the changes induced in the roots of green gram in response to Ni toxicity over a period of 16 days and showed that oxidative damage was related to the magnitude of Ni accumulation in the roots. Dr. A. Poorkhabbaz from Germany showed the changes in morphological and anatomical characteristics of two urban trees (Platanus orientalis and Fraxinus omas) by the deposition of heavy metals due to air pollution in Mashhad town in the Province Khorassan, Iran. Dr. J. Sakalauskaite from Lithuania demonstrated the tolerance of radish plant to ozone. A dose-dependent response of the plant was observed on O3 exposure. O3 inhibited various biochemical processes but plants quickly regenerated by induced homoestasis. Dr. Manjula K. Saxena showed that salicylic acid, which is an important constituent of Lantana camara has a strong potential to kill water hyacinth. The results of an experimental study indicated that salicylic acid killed water hyacinth at 10-2 and 10-3 M concentration. Dr. S.M. Singh from Bareilly evaluated the impact of three types of vermincompost transformed from three different organic wastes (biocon, dairy and pharmaceuticals) using the worm Eisenia fetida on the germination of radish and mung seeds and showed that vermin composts have favourable effect on germination. Dr. Leena Trivedi (Ahmedabad) studied the interactive effect of Cu and Cd on yield and mucilage content of seeds of Isabgol and on various biochemical parameters of Isabgol spikes. Cu and Cd inhibited all the biochemical parameters and when given in combination, they had a synergistic effect. Ms. Fozia Bashir from New Delhi showed in her presentation that deltamerithrin induces oxidative stress in Glycine max plants in a dose-dependent manner and altered ascorbate glutathione cycle.

Session VIII

In the Session VIII dealing with “Climate Change, Plant Productivity & Food Security”, Prof. Sagar Krupa from USA discussed the issue of food security in the world in the context of continuously increasing population and changing climate. He stated that deteriorating air quality and changing climate will play a critical superimposing influence on how our future will be shaped. Dr. Geetika Sirhindi, Patiala presented her findings on the physiological responses of coniferous plants growing in botanic garden in northwest India and showed adaptive changes in response to the weather conditions. Dr. H. Pathak from New Delhi presented the Denitrification and Decomposition (DNDC) model and discussed its ability to simulate the emissions of methane, N2O and CO2 from Indian rice fields under various agronomic management, soil and climatic conditions. Dr. Yue Ming from China in his presentation on the effect of UV-B radiation on physiology, growth and quality of Gentiana macrophylla showed an increase in gentiopicroside content of the plant due to UV-B radiation. However, there was no significant effect on the growth and chlorophyll content. Dr. D.C. Uprety from New Delhi told about the establishment of a simple cost-effective MID-FACE facility at Indian Agricultural Research Institute, New Delhi to meet the needs of agriculturul science community of the South-Asian countries. The facility has been established by IARI and NPL, New Delhi, India in collaboration with Italian group of scientists. He presented the findings on the response of Brassica and rice to elevated CO2 under water stress conditions and concluded that elevated CO2 ameliorated the adverse stress on growth and water relations in both crops.

Special Session on Air Pollution and Crops

ENVIS-NBRI, in collaboration with Regional Air Pollution in Developing Countries (RAPIDC) organized an Air Pollution Crops Effect Network (APCEN) 'start-up' meeting at National Botanical Research Institute, Lucknow on November 29, 2005. This meeting was intended to disseminate information about phase III on the crops component of the RAPIDC progamme. About 30 delegates of ICPEP-3 Conference attended this meeting.

Dr. Lisa Emberson (Stockholm Environment Institute) gave an overview of the RAPIDC programme and mentioned that the project on air pollution and crops is only one of the several projects that are being carried out within RAPIDC, which aims to investigate all aspects of air pollution in developing countries. The main aims of the phase III of the project were also described by her.

Dr. Patrick Büker (Stockholm Environment Institute) gave a comprehensive overview of the bio-monitoring campaigns that are proposed for the crops project and will be piloted at few sites in India.

Dr. Madhoolika Agrawal (BHU, India) described the impacts of air pollution on crops from the South Asian perspective.

Dr. Mieke van Tienhoven (APINA) described the limited evidence of impacts that exist in Southern Africa. In fact, maximum modeled one-hour surface ozone concentration identified areas in Zimbabwe, South Africa and Mozambique with ozone concentrations well above 60 ppb.

Dr. H.M. Behl and Dr. Nandita Singh (NBRI) offered the ENVIS-NBRI website (www.envisnbri.com) as a location for a dedicated website to collate information on key crop studies showing air pollution impacts. Several participants stressed the importance of addressing the existing links between assessing air pollutant impacts on crops and climate change in the ongoing work of APCEN. The wealth of expertise in assessing air pollution impacts on crops that exists within India was highlighted and the potential of colleagues in India to act as the foci for capacity building exercises in neighbouring South Asian countries was seen as having the potential to offer huge benefit both to the RAPIDC project and also in providing policy-relevant information on the regional scale.

Special Lectures

In addition to the lead lectures, oral presentations and poster sessions, following three special lectures were delivered: Prof. Huner of the University of Western Ontario, Canada emphasized that the effects of global climate changes in the biosphere are difficult to assess. He described a new research facility located on the Campus of University called Biotron, which is dedicated to experimental climate change research on organisms as diverse as plants, microorganisms and insects.

Dr. H.M. Behl of NBRI, Lucknow emphasized the strategic potential of biodiesel as a non-conventional source of energy. He analyzed the current scenario from scientific, technological, commercial and economic viewpoints, with particular reference to developing countries like India. He proposed a road map for holistic development. He mentioned the significance of biodiesel in environmental management and employment generation. He was optimistic that biodiesel will be indispensable energy source in running automobile in the world.

Dr. P. Pushpangadan, the then Director of NBRI in his lecture, discussed the future agenda of environmental biodiversity. He stressed that the biodiversity is on decline at all the levels and geographical scales, however, a targeted strategic plan, involving the management of protected areas and natural resources and pollution prevention programmes can reverse this trend. Achieving the 2010 biodiversity target requires not only a redoubling of efforts but a firm commitment to act according to the priorities identified through a strategic plan. The conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity need to become an integral element of planning, policy and practice for all economic and social sectors of society.

Poster session

There was an enthusiastic participation of delegates in presenting their research findings through the posters. The poster session was inaugurated by Dr. P.V. Sane, Former Director of NBRI. In total 117 posters were presented. The presentations were rich in research content. A team of experts was requested to select two best posters for the purpose of giving prize. The poster on “Ozone and crops in Mediterranean climatic condition” presented by M.J. Sanz of Spain (Authors: M.J. Sanz and S. Krupa) was awarded the first prize and the poster on “Immature Pea Embryo Response to Variable Manganese in Tissue Culture” presented by Sapna Awasthi of Lucknow University (Authors: Nirmala Nautiyal and Sapna Awasthi) was awarded the second prize.

International Society of Food, Agriculture and Environment, Helsinki, Finland offered to provide one year free subscription of their publication, 'International Journal of Food, Agriculture and Environment' to the two winners of the best poster prize.


A valedictory function was organized after the scientific sessions on the afternoon of 2nd December 2005 wherein Dr. P. Pushpangadan, Dr. P.V. Sane, Dr. K.J. Ahmad, Dr. R.D. Tripathi and Dr. Kamla Kulshreshtha expressed their views about the outcome of the conference. Prof. S.V. Krupa and Prof. Erwin Grill, who were the guests of honour and some of the distinguished delegates from different countries also expressed their appreciation and thanks to the organizers of the Conference.


The following recommendations were formulated at the final plenary discussion session of ICPEP-3 for strengthening and widening the activities of ISEB:

  • Seek funding through national and international institutions to strongly support and sustain the scientific and educational efforts of ISEB.

  • Initiate ways at the outset, to develop strong international research collaboration and information exchange among scientists to address common environmental issues. A relevant exemplary operative model for addressing such issues between different countries already exists within the United Nations Commission of the European Communities (UN-CEC). ISEB should explore ways to establish links with the CEC efforts.

  • Develop a strong mechanism to promote environmental education among young people (e.g. school) and environmental literacy among the public, particularly in the user sector, through outreach. India can provide the leadership in developing geographic institutional networks for disseminating the needed information. That can be achieved by initiating local science fairs for young people (e.g. school children), increasing the support and opportunity for graduate and post graduate students to highlight their research work, organizing regional workshops focusing on specific environmental issues and collaborating with the media sector to attract attention of the public and the policy makers. An added strength in that direction is the ongoing outreach programme initiated by the Eco-Education Division of NBRI (National Botanical Research Institute) at Lucknow.

  • In a systematic fashion, map the specific types (e.g., occurrences of critical levels of ground level ozone and particulate matter in the air, soil and water pollution by industrial effluents) and geographic magnitude of various environmental problems where considerable gaps exist in our current knowledge for developing countries. In addition to observational studies, these objectives can be achieved through the use of simple, but elegant proven methods (e.g., use of passive samplers for quantifying air pollutants and the use of sensitive indicator plants and other biota for identifying measurable adverse effects). Such an effort is a prerequisite for environmental risk analysis and assessment, cost-benefit relationships and development of mitigation policies.

  • Develop collaborative research efforts, both regionally and globally, to define the adverse effects of environmental pollution on food and crop productivity and quality. Such activities, in addition to the specific local questions, must be holistic and integrative within the context of multiple stress factors (both non-biological and biological) identified within the framework of local and global climate change. In that context, research efforts should be initiated to determine the extent to which air pollution may be exacerbating other better-known stresses of crops (pathogens and pests).

  • Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) and heavy metals are major environmental problems, both in the developing and the developed countries. Production and application of pesticides and the presence of pesticide residues in crops as well as in the atmosphere is a grave health hazard. Organic cultivation is the only viable and lasting solution to this problem and it should be encouraged and promoted at all levels. Experts present at the conference highlighted the significance of organic cultivation and use of bio-pesticides, bio-fertilizers, etc. It was recommended that R&D efforts in the area should be strengthened and India should provide a leadership in that direction, with active participation by the members of ISEB.

  • Develop ways to control or prevent the presence of invasive alien species and promote the preservation of native biological diversity. In that context, the 'Farmer's Right'' model of India can serve as an example. Of additional consideration are the issues of "Ethno-botany'' and critical importance of sustaining medicinal species in overall sustainable development of ecosystems.

  • Develop and evaluate the comparative success of various cost-effective pollution mitigation strategies appropriately suited for acceptance by the local community. Examples include bio-remediation of salinity (responsible for major crop losses in semi-arid and irrigated agriculture) and phyto-remediation of soils and surface waters contaminated by industrial waste (responsible for the transport of toxic chemicals in the food chain). Here, application of rapidly evolving methods of biotechnology offers much promise. To address the issue of food security associated with the growing populations in the developing countries, biotechnology also offers the mechanism to develop crop cultivars for food production on marginal lands. The overall outcome should be the transfer of successful methods to the user community for implementation.

  • Organize the Fourth International Conference on “Plants and Environmental Pollution, ICPEP-4” during next 3-4 years to exchange information on the progress of work, based on the aforementioned recommendations. Emphasis should be on invited state-of-the-art reviews by recognized experts, focusing on specific themes, with in-depth discussions, followed by opportunities for young scientists to showcase their research. The overall proceedings of the conference should be used as another mechanism to promote awareness among the public and the policy makers.

Satellite Session

Session on Herbal Drugs and Environmental Pollution

A satellite session was organized by the Botany Department of Jamia Hamdard (Hamdard University), New Delhi, on the 4th December 2005. The day-long seminar, focusing specially on medicinal plants in relation to environmental pollution, was inaugurated by the then Chairman, University Grants Commission, Prof. V.N. Rajasekharan Pillai. Speaking on the occasion, Professor Muhammad Iqbal, Convener of the seminar, welcomed the delegates, referred to the environmental and botanical research carried out at Jamia Hamdard, elucidated the theme of the seminar and thanked the International Society of Environmental Botanists (ISEB) for holding the Satellite Session at Hamdard University. Prof. Sudhir K. Sopory, Group Leader in Plant Molecular Biology at the International Centre for Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology, New Delhi was the Guest of Honour, and Dr. S. Ahmad, Vice-Chancellor of Jamia Hamdard presided over the function. They underscored the significance of evaluating the impact of environmental factors on the medicinal properties of plants and emphasized upon the need for using modern technologies for augmenting the efficacy and credibility of our traditional medicines, which already have stood the test of time.

The first Session of the invited lectures was chaired by Prof. R.S. Tripathi (NBRI, Lucknow) with Prof. S.V.S. Chauhan (B.R. Ambedkar University, Agra) as the co-chair. The speakers included Prof. P.S. Srivastava (Jamia Hamdard, New Delhi), Prof. P.K. Gupta (CCS University, Meerut), Prof. C.K. Varshney (Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi), Dr. A.H.A. Frooqui (CIMAP, Lucknow) and Prof. Norman Terry (Berkeley, U.S.A.).

Professor P.S. Srivastava spoke on herbs, environment and productivity, laying emphasis on the role of proteomics in studying the abiotic stress-related variations in metabolites of medicinal plants. Prof. P.K. Gupta highlighted the role of molecular markers in relation to the estimation of genetic diversity and the determination of marker-trait associations in lemongrass (Cymbopogon). The markers developed from multigene families were expected to prove more useful than those developed from single copy gene. Prof. C.K. Varshney spoke on ozone pollution and its effects on plants. He mentioned that ozone and ethylene diurea not only affected the growth and physiology of medicinal plants, but also the quality and quantity of their metabolites. Dr. A.H.A. Farooqui explained that understanding the gene to metabolic networks in primary and secondary metabolism can lead to identification of gene function and improve the production of secondary compounds. Prof. N. Terry talked about the use of plant-based systems for cleaning up polluted environments elucidating specially the use of medicinal plants in remediating the polluted industrial or agricultural waste.

In the poster presentation session, 52 posters were displayed. A free and frank interaction between the presenting authors and the visitors was the hallmark of this session. A panel of evaluators inspected all the posters and identified three of them for the first, second and third prize.

The speakers of the second session of invited lectures included Prof. R.S. Tripathi (NBRI, Lucknow), Dr. Carly Stevens (Lancaster, UK), Dr. László Lévai (Debrecen, Hungary), Dr. Esmira Alirzayeva (Baku, Azerbaijan) and Prof. K.K. Baruah (Tezpur, Assam), Prof. Tripathi spoke on the ecology of mine-affected areas of Meghalaya. He gave a detailed account of the ecological degradation of the landscape of Jaintia Hills district and loss of several valuable medicinal plants. He presented the salient findings of a comprehensive study on the natural recovery pattern of the coalmine spoils. He mentioned that most of the soil properties improved and plant diversity as well as soil microbial population increased considerably after 14 years of natural recovery of the coalmine spoils in that area. Dr. Stevens showed the negative impact of nitrogen deposition on the species richness and soils of grassland in the UK. Prof. Lévai spoke on the use of bacteria containing fertilizers as a tool to reduce the environmental pollution. Dr. Alirzayeva spoke on phytoremediation of contaminated soils in Azarbaijan using several medicinal plants like Artemisia spp. (A. fragrans, A. scoparia, A. arenaria, A. szovitsiana, A.caucasica), Argusia sibirica, Gamanthus pilosus, Atriplex tatarica, Kallidium caspicum, and Bassia hyssopsifolia. Prof. Baruah highlighted the allelopathic effect of medicinal weeds of the rice-growing environment in the upland rice agroecosystem. Prof. P. Pardhasaradhi (Delhi University) gave his observations about the seminar on behalf of the participants. The second session was chaired by Prof. W. Husain (Aligarh) and Dr. R.P. Singh (Lucknow) was the co-chair. Professor Singh gave away prizes for the three best posters.


We are grateful to Dr. P.V. Sane, Ex-Director NBRI, Dr. P. Pushpangadan Ex-Director NBRI and Dr. Rakesh Tuli, President ISEB and Director NBRI for providing constant guidance, advice and support during and after the Conference. We also wish to record our thanks and gratitude to senior officials of ISEB and Members of Apex Committee ICPEP-3 including Drs. B.P. Singh (Advisor), S.C. Sharma (Vice-President), Prakash Chandra (Treasurer), H.M. Behl (Executive Editor) and Prof. N.K. Mehrotra (Member) for their organizational support and help.

We are grateful to Prof. Muhammad Iqbal, Head, Department of Botany, Hamdard University, New Delhi for compiling report of the Satellite session.

We are also grateful to Er. Jamal Masood for his consistent guidance and advice.

The technical support provided by Messrs D.B. Shukla, D.K. Chakraborty and Vijay Yadav is gratefully acknowledged.

*Prof. R.S. Tripathi is INSA Senior Scientist at NBRI, Lucknow, India; Drs. R.D. Tripathi, Kamla Kulshreshtha and Nandita Singh are senior scientists at NBRI; Dr. K.J. Ahmad, former Scientist 'G' & Emeritus Scientist, NBRI is the Secretary of ISEB and Prof. S.V. Krupa is at the Department of Plant Pathology, University of Minnesota, St. Paul, U.S.A.

This document has been reproduced from the archives of EnviroNews - Newsletter of ISEB India.

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