Sunday, October 26, 2014

Soils on the hills of granite gneiss near Ranchi also support medicinal plants and flowers.

They are Orchid, Zingiber purpureum and Asparagus racemosus.

Dr. Nitish Priyadarshi



Hill near Bundu on Ranchi-Jamshedpur road.


Medicinal plants have been identified and used throughout human history. Plants have the ability to synthesize a wide variety of chemical compounds that are used to perform important biological functions, and to defend against attack from predators such as insects, fungi and herbivorous mammals. At least 12,000 such compounds have been isolated so far; a number estimated to be less than 10% of the total.

The use of herbs to treat disease is almost universal among non-industrialized societies, and is often more affordable than purchasing expensive modern pharmaceuticals. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 80 percent of the population of some Asian and African countries presently use herbal medicine for some aspect of primary health care.

A large amount of archaeological evidence exists which indicates that humans were using medicinal plants during the Paleolithic, approximately 60,000 years ago. (Furthermore, other non-human primates are also known to ingest medicinal plants to treat illness) Plant samples gathered from prehistoric burial sites are an example of the evidence supporting the claim that Paleolithic peoples had knowledge of herbal medicine.

Medicinal plant materials derived from the same species can show significant differences in quality when cultivated at different sites, owing to the influence of soil, climate and other factors. These differences may relate to physical appearance or to variations in their constituents, the biosynthesis of which may be affected by extrinsic environmental conditions, including ecological and geographical variables, and should be taken into consideration. They grow in wild also depending upon the soil and rock types. Soils cover over the granite gneiss or schist rocks supports some rare and common medicinal plants and flowers depending upon the presence of nutrients in soil derived from parent rocks.

Chotanagpur plateau is one of the oldest landmasses on earth. It is composed of Precambrian rocks which are more than 540 million years old. It is a collective name for the Ranchi, Hazaribagh, and Koderma plateaus. Of these, Ranchi is the largest.


During my recent field work near Ranchi city of Jharkhand State on the hills composed of granite gneiss rocks I came to know that such hills supports medicinal plants also. Hills are covered with soils supporting thick forest. Regionally the area is a part of Chotanagpur Gneissic Complex of Eastern Indian Peninsular Shied.

Ranchi District comes under the sub tropical region and characterized by the monsoon climate. It is a favorable condition for moderate physical weathering and moderate to strong chemical weathering. So the rock fragmentation by physical weathering and mineralogical alteration by chemical weathering simultaneously act to generate soil.

Intensive weathering under tropical humid climate of the granite gneiss rocks has helped in rather quick formation of soils which support forests. Plants extract minerals from the soil formed by mineral rich rocks.

The plants and the flowers in this picture were found in the forest on the slope near top of the hill some 20 kilometers south of  Ranchi city near Bundu. They are Orchid. Zingiber purpureum and Asparagus racemosus. These beautiful plants were found in deep forest on the slope of a hill.

Zingiber purpureum contains the true gingers, plants grown the world over for their medicinal and culinary value. Zingiber purpureum grow in tropical Asia, from India to Indonesia. Zingiber is commonly found in moist, partially shaded evergreen and monsoon forests on soils rich in organic matter, but also in secondary forests, open habitats at forest edges, disturbed sites and bamboo thickets on rocky soils at altitudes up to 3000 m. The rhizomes of zingiber are valued for their aroma and taste. The odour has been described as strong and reminiscent of a mixture of ginger, camphor and turmeric, the taste as hot and camphorous. Zingiber is used throughout tropical Asia for medicinal purposes, primarily as a carminative and stimulant for the stomach, and against diarrhoea and colic. Its effective in fever, headache, cough, stomach aches, colds, constipation, jaundice, Parasitic Worms, rheumatic, medicinal herbs, obesity, minimize stomach after birth. Additionally,it has been shown to exhibit pesticidal and fungicidal activity. The rhizomes of zingiber contain essential oils including terpinen-4-ol, which has been found to be effective against a range of pathogenic bacteria including Escherichia coli, Klebsiella pneumoniae, Salmonella paratyphi, S. typhi and Shigella flexneri.

                                                               Zingiber purpureum

The other medicinal plant on the slopes was Asparagus racemosus.  Asparagus racemosus  (Satavar, Shatavari, or Shatamull) is a species of asparagus common throughout Sri Lanka, India and the Himalayas. It grows one to two metres tall and prefers to take root in gravelly, rocky soils high up in piedmont plains, at 1,300–1,400 metres elevation). It was botanically described in 1799. Due to its multiple uses, the demand for Asparagus racemosus is constantly on the rise. Due to destructive harvesting, combined with habitat destruction, and deforestation, the plant is now considered 'endangered' in its natural habitat.

Asparagus racemosus (Shatavari) is recommended in Ayurvedic texts for the prevention and treatment of gastric ulcers, dyspepsia and as a galactogogue. A. racemosus has also been used by some Ayurvedic practitioners for nervous disorders.

                                                           Asparagus racemosus

The orchids are a large family of flowering plants, the Orchidaceae. They are herbaceous monocots. With an estimated 25,000 different types existing naturally, orchids are of the largest flowering plant families, but they have always carried an impression of rarity.

There are between 22,000 and 26,000 species in 880 genera. They make up between 6–11% of all seed plants. Orchids can be found in almost every country in the world except for Antarctica.
People have grown orchids for a great number of years. They grow orchids for show, for science, or for food (for example, vanilla).

Different cultures throughout history have believed in the healing, disease-fighting and protective properties of the orchid. In traditional Chinese medicine the orchid is used to help cure coughs and lung illnesses. The ancient Greeks associated it with virility, and the Aztecs were said to drink a mixture of the vanilla orchid and chocolate to give them power and strength.


Source of minerals in soil :

Most of the material that makes up soil comes from rocks and minerals. These rocks and minerals are weathered in place or weathered and transported, and become unconsolidated material on the surface of the earth. This material is called regolith. The upper part of the regolith is soil.

Important Primary Minerals
Orthoclase / feldspar
Plagioclase /feldspar
(Ca,Na) AlSi3O8
Muscovite / mica
Biotite / mica
Ca2(Al,e)4(Mg, Fe)4Si6O24

Granite gneiss rocks around Ranchi consist of silica, aluminium, iron, manganese, magnesium, calcium, sodium, potassium and trace amount of phosphorus and barium. Among the above calcium, phosphorus, and potassium are known as macronutrients and others like manganese and iron are known as micronutrients used by plants. Sufficient amount of water is also found in such rocks which is the most essential for the plants growth.

The macronutrients are consumed in larger quantities and are present in plant tissue. Micro nutrients are present in plant tissue in quantities measured in parts per million, ranging from 5 to 200 ppm.

In plants, silicon strengthens cell walls, improving plant strength, health, and productivity. Other benefits of silicon to plants include improved drought and frost resistance, decreased lodging potential and boosting the plant's natural pest and disease fighting systems. Silicon has also been shown to improve plant vigor and physiology by improving root mass and density, and increasing above ground plant biomass and crop yields. Iron is necessary for photosynthesis and is present as an enzyme cofactor in plants. Iron deficiency can result in interveinal chlorosis and necrosis. Iron is not a structural part of chlorophyll but very much essential for its synthesis. Manganese is necessary for photosynthesis, including the building of chloroplasts. Manganese deficiency may result in coloration abnormalities, such as discolored spots on the foliage. There have been reports that aluminium  may serve as fungicide against certain types of root rot.

Soil conditions on this hill can provide plants with adequate nutrition and do not require fertilizer for a complete life cycle.

The biodiversity of Jharkhand is under severe threat due to human induced activities, industries, mining, settlement, development projects and removal of forest products, overgrazing and forest fires. Majority of forest is lost due to industrialization and extraction of minerals from the earth crust. There is an urgent need to conserve the rich biodiversity of the state before the treasure is lost. There is an immediate need for the
in situ conservation of this special habitat,i.e., Chotanagpur Plateau on whole as well as its biodiversity. Being one of the oldest landmasses on earth, the Chotanagpur Plateau might be hiding some unforeseen information concerning the evolution of earth as well as its biodiversity.


A manual of the geology of India and Burma, vol.1, 1973. Geological Survey of India publication, Calcutta, India.


Friday, September 19, 2014

Slide show of Deluge in Jammu and Kashmir, India.

Heavy rainfalls battered the western Himalayas last week due to a clash between monsoon currents and winds from the Caspian Sea. 

Dr. Nitish Priyadarshi


Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Deluge in Jammu and Kashmir.

Inadequate surface drainage and encroachment in the floodplains has caused the floods of Kashmir.

Dr. Nitish Priyadarshi

Heavy rainfalls battered the western Himalayas last week due to a clash between monsoon currents and winds from the Caspian Sea. The Srinagar weather station – in the summer capital of the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir – recorded 250 mm of rain between September 3-6.

For hundreds of million years Kashmir Valley is supposed to have remained under Tethys Sea and the high sedimentary-rock hills seen in the valley now were once under water. Geologists have come to believe that Kashmir Valley was earlier affected by earthquakes. Once there was such a devastating earthquake that it broke open the mountain wall at Baramulla and the water of the Satisar lake flowed out leaving behind latchstring mud on the margins of the mountains known as karewas. Thus came into existence the oval but irregular Valley of Kashmir.

In September 2014, the Kashmir region was hit by heavy floods from torrential monsoon rains. The regions of Jammu and Kashmir in India, as well as Azad Kashmir, Gilgit-Baltistan and Punjab in Pakistan, were affected by these floods.

The cause of the flood is continuous heavy rainfall due to which local rivers broke out into the streets. The areas affected by the flood are mostly districts in south kashmir which include Anantnag, Avantipore and Pulwama.

The main rivers in this region are Ravi, Chenab and Jhelum. These rivers are the tributaries of the Indus. They carry quite substantial discharges during monsoon and also large volume of sediment. They change their course frequently and leave behind vast tract of sandy waste. The major problem is that of inadequate surface drainage which causes inundation and water-logging over vast areas.

The river Jhelum rises from Verinag Spring situated at the foot of the Pir Panjal in the south-eastern part of the valley of Kashmir in India. It flows through Srinagar and the Wular lake before entering Pakistan through a deep narrow gorge.

Floods in Jammu and Kashmir aren’t exactly an uncommon phenomenon, if history and indeed its geography is to be believed. Starting last week, the state has seen an unprecedented amount of rainfall, resulting in its worst floods since 1959. Floods in the state are invariably linked to the Jhelum River and its history of crossing the danger mark, its streams and rivulets overflowing and thereby inundating the “Valley” (south Kashmir) in the process.

In the last 60 years, more than 40 percent of lakes, ponds and wetlands of Srinagar have been encroached upon for constructing buildings and roads. The banks of the Jhelum river have been taken over in a similar manner, vastly reducing the river's drainage capacity.

Jhelum which is a main source of irrigation in the Valley has been marred by extensive siltation in last few decades. In absence of any conservation measures, the river had lost its carrying capacity and led to blockage of its lone outflow channel in Baramulla, posing a risk of floods in the Valley.

The resultant floods – which have killed almost 400 people in India and Pakistan and displaced tens of thousands more – were perhaps inevitable. But they would not have become so devastating if the riverbeds and lakebeds had not been raised by silt, while their banks were encroached upon by ill-planned buildings.

There are three reasons why the floods have caused so much damage:
  • deforestation in the catchment areas of rivers – especially Jhelum, Chenab and Indus – and of streams;
  • unplanned construction of buildings and roads, especially in the floodplains of the rivers and the banks of the lakes;
  • rampant and unchecked dumping of garbage in the rivers and lakes;
Taking the factors that exacerbated the floods one by one, deforestation has long been a major problem in the northern half of the Kashmir valley, in adjacent parts of Pakistan-administered Kashmir and in Gilgit-Baltistan.

Without the roots to hold the soil on the steep mountain slopes, it has all been washing down to the streams in the form of silt, and raising the riverbeds. The obvious consequence – the water carrying capacity of the streams and rivers is much reduced.

Coming to the second reason, for decades the elite in the Kashmir valley has been building fancy villas right on the floodplains of rivers and streams, sometimes even on tiny islands in the middle of the river. The process has been repeated and accelerated on the banks of famous lakes like Dal and Nageen in Srinagar, with some hotels and restaurants even being built with their foundations in the lake – a result of the tourism boom.

As the Jhelum River meanders through Srinagar, every neighbourhood adds its untreated household garbage to the river – once again a recipe for choked riverbeds and lakebeds and for the water to overflow whenever it rains heavily.

Overuse of chemical fertilisers, especially in the fruit orchards throughout Kashmir, also exacerbates flooding. The excess fertiliser gets washed into streams and rivers, where it causes eutrophication, and again leads to algae blooms which choke waterways.

Jhelum meanders in a serpentine way from South to North Kashmir and settles in Wullar, Asia’s largest freshwater lake, before pouring into Pakistan administered Kashmir through Baramulla. Experts said the devastating flood in 1959 caused backwater effects to Jhelum due to low outflows from Wullar Lake in north Kashmir which has been nearly chocked by heavy accumulation of silt and narrow outflow channel.

There are number of rivers, tributaries and nullahs which are joining Jehlum River. For proper water resources management, sufficient amounts of hydrological data are required. But sufficient hydrological data on these rivers, tributaries and nullahs are not available. Some of the reasons behind the lack of the data are:

1) The area is mountainous with some of the world’s highest mountains situated in it.
2) The accessibility of many places is very difficult, especially in the winter season.

Observers are bemoaning that Srinagar is looking like a vast lake. Urban planners, environmentalists or anybody with common sense is not surprised. Without immediate corrective action, the calamity is likely to strike again.


Friday, September 5, 2014

Geology of Pithoria hills near Ranchi city, India.

The hills of Ranchi are generally small isolated residual hills. 
Dr. Nitish Priyadarshi.

 Fig.1. A small hill in Pithoria.

The hills of Ranchi are generally small isolated residual hills. In Ranchi hills are generally steepsided made of massive granite-gneiss. We have also found the hills which are not steepsided but a mere irregular pile of huge boulders were found on the hills especially in Pithoria area of Ranchi district. This is the result of highly jointed elements of granite gneiss.

According to climatic geomorphologist like Tricart qualify such hills as inselbergs. They are steepsided residual hills made of massive granite-gneiss. But close by within a few kilometers or a few hundred meters we have residuals which are not steepsided inselbergs but a mere irregular pile of huge boulders.

The rocks disintegrate along these joints under the hydrothermal and atmospheric effects thus leading to the formation of tors or rounded shapes of these ancient granite rocks are the result of cracking and erosion from exposure to sun, wind and rain. The hill slopes are subjected to complex attack by a variety of erosive weapons, water being the most active agent for the removal of waste material from most of the slopes. 

A tor commonly appears as a pile of rock slabs or a series of slabs standing on end, according to whether the dominant joint system is horizontal or vertical. Weathering proceeds most actively along joint planes, thus reducing an originally solid mass first to piles of slabs and ultimately to a heap of loose boulders. Tors usually overlie unaltered bedrock and are thought to be formed either by freeze–thaw weathering or by groundwater weathering before exposure. There is often evidence of spheroidal weathering of the squared joint blocks. Tors are seldom more than 15 metres (50 feet) high and often occur as residues at the summits of inselbergs and at the highest points of pediments.

Fig.2.  This is a picture of small granite tor near Ranchi city.

Fig.3. Tor like structure on top of Pithoria hill.

  Fig.4. Irregular pile of huge boulders on the top of Pithoria hill.

Fig.5.Irregular pile of huge boulders. They are the result of highly jointed elements of granite gneiss. 

Fig.6. A balancing rock was also seen on the top of the hill. 
A balancing rock, also called balanced rock or precarious boulder, is a naturally occurring geological formation featuring a large rock or boulder, sometimes of substantial size, resting on other rocks, bedrock or on glacial till. Some formations known by this name only appear to be balancing but are in fact firmly connected to a base rock by a pedestal or stem.

Its an erosional remnant rock formation that remains after extensive wind, water and/or chemical erosion. To the untrained eye it may appear to be visually like a glacial erratic, but instead of being transported and deposited it was carved from the local bedrock.