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Vol. 17 No. 2 - April 2011

Remembering the Late Dr. Prakash Chandra

By: Dr. P. K. K. Nair*

It was with a feeling of shock and disbelief that I received the news of the sad and sudden demise of Dr. Prakash Chandra. Dr. Chandra was a charming personality with impeccable integrity, and academic acumen, as I knew him personally for nearly 3 decades. An event of significance has been his performance of a totally new assignment of developing a unit at NBRI on “Aquatic botany” which he built up, demonstrating the value of aquatic plants to science and Society. At that time he might not have realized that he was founding an area of Wetland research, which today is a high priority theme in Environment Research and Development all over the world.

An academic aspect of aquatic plants is in the evolution of plant kingdom as a whole and there is much new knowledge that needs to be generated from the area of reproductive biology, as for example the Podostemaceae. The aquatics are the only plant group that survived through geological time and continued to the present day, which alone explains the importance of the aquatic system in the survival of biological resources.

The economic value of aquatics is yet not fully understood and this offers opportunities for new research, although the presently available information on the value of blue green algae in nitrogen fixation, and of other plants in food and medicinal product development provide information on the beneficial value of the resource.

With the rising awareness on climate change and its impacts on human living, the wetland system and its resources are of key interest. The system is the reservoir of pollutants from run-off agro-residues, at the same time as forming the site for the emission of noxious gases like methane, a constituent of the trace gases associated with the climate change phenomenon.

The coastal districts of India are vulnerable to marine water flooding as a result of sea rise, and to the human sufferings in its aftermath. The index value of aquatics including bryophytes should not be underestimated as an index of the mechanisms for tiding over the climate change phenomenon. Thus, the dimensions of the research base laid by Dr. Prakash Chandra at a premier institution like the National Botanical Research Institute, at least two decades back could be a pioneering contribution of inestimable magnitude in the agenda of sustainable development in an era of climate change. I offer my prayers for the late Dr. Prakash Chandra, who, in effect will continue to be a living module for all the time to come.

*Director, Environmental Resources Research Centre, (former Deputy Director & Area Co-ordinator, Morphology & Palynology Division NBRI) P. B. No: 1230, P. O. Peroorkada, Thiruvannthapuram-695 005, E-mail - [email protected]

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

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