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Dissemination of information on microorganisms and its application in environmental management through net enabled technology
N. Godhantaraman & N. Munuswamy
ENVIS Centre, Department of Zoology
University of Madras
Guindy Campus
Chennai - 600 025.
Email: enviscoordinator@gmail.com
Information is a vital tool for any decision making process for Environmental Management. Environmental Information System (ENVIS) is one of the largest network on environmental information. The inception of ENVIS programme and its network with premier educational and research organizations and NGOs provide national and international environmental information to policy makers, academia, researchers and the general public throughout the country.
ENVIS Centre on 'Microorganisms and Environment Management' is one of the thrust areas which is mainly responsible for the collection, collation and dissemination of information/literature/technology on the biodiversity of microorganisms and its potential applications in environmental clean-up activities. Microbes are ubiquitous in nature and are being exposed to the continuous release of more and more recalcitrant xenobiotic compounds into the environment. Despite their various crucial roles in the biosphere, the catalytic potential of microorganisms in nature is enormous. However, lack of awareness of the use of microbes in environmental clean up activities is due to the lack of facility to access desired up-dated information on microorganism through net-based technology. In realizing these facts, the ENVIS Centre has developed a web-site with a huge database on microorganisms and its various activities in environment management. This was done in order to disseminate the resources for the benefit of user community and to achieve better sustainable development. This will eventually create healthy un-polluted environment for mankind
In general, environmental management has become a major and serious issue for all nations. On careful analysis we found that global population explosions was clearly responsible for the increase of various toxic pollutants in the environment and subsequent environmental degradation. In order to meet their basic requirements to lead a comfortable healthy life, mankind is fully exploiting the natural resources using modern technology and also putting tremendous pressure on air, water and land resources. Mushrooming of various industries, automobiles, etc., is also resulting in discharge of hazardous substances, chemical wastes etc., into the environment, causing health hazards and environmental degradation. Besides that, many novel synthetic compounds (xenobiotics) have been introduced into the environment through human activites. Many of these compounds are toxic to living systems and communities. They seriously disturb the aquatic and terrestrial habitats and cause heavy ecological damages, and distraction of major indigenous biota. At this juncture, it is very difficult to control or degrade these pollutants by a single organism or biological treatment, although different biological treatment methods have been proposed to restore the degraded environment. Among them, microorganisms have the potential to degrade and reduce the various pollutants through the processes of biodegradation and bioremediation
Biodiversity of microbes
Microorganisms inhabit virtually every niche in the biosphere and they are the most adaptative group of organisms that are able to survive in almost all environments (e.g. Antarctic region, thermal vent ecosystem etc.). Microorganisms form a vast community with a diversity of protozoa, algae, fungi, bacteria and viruses that are well associated with all plants and animals, being also responsible for their well being. Many of them are beneficial to human beings, and used in almost all industries such health care products, drug industry, food industry, agricultural sectors etc
In marine ecosystem, these organisms provide links in the food chain, providing energy or nutrients to all higher organisms, in addition to decomposition and material recycling. Marine viruses may also play an important role by controlling the over growth of harmful bacterial populations which cause heavy damage to the marine food chain. Thus, microbes are essential for the maintenance of aquatic life
Microorganisms and environment management
Despite their various crucial roles in the biosphere, the catalytic potential of microorganisms in nature is enormous and they are able to degrade various pollutants and wastes which cause serious environmental degradation. Using microbes in environmental clean up activities is of significance. They are called as 'anti-polluters' that metabolize toxic substances and remove recalcitrant compounds present in the pollutant. They are also required for the biogeochemical cycles that recycle chemicals between living organisms and the physical environment
Bioremediation and biodegradation are the processes where in microbes degrade and recycle materials that pose dangers to the community and the ecosystem/environment. The key players in bioremediation are bacteria (e.g. Pseudomonas sp bacterium, methanotrophic bacteria), that are virtually everywhere. It is a biological process and globally recognized as effective and environmentally sound technology to clean up or remove hazardous wastes, mixtures of organic contaminants and restore our environmental quality for sustainable environment management. Moreover, this is the only technique where multi disciplinary approaches such as chemistry, microbiology, geology, environmental science and engineering, chemical engineering, soil science and biotechnology are involved. Hence, bioremediation technique may help to solve complicated environmental problems and other countless problems caused by environmental pollutants.
Biodegradation is another process in which microorganisms or their enzymes breakdown the toxic chemical substances into smaller non-toxic substances. Through microbial biodegradation, petroleum hydrocarbons can be degraded in the oiled coastal ecosystems (e.g. Pseudomonas sp. and Raulstonia sp.Planococcus halophilus). Earlier studies indicate that microorganisms have the capacity to degrade 10 tons of oil per/day in the oil polluted area.
Application of information technology in environment management
Information technology is a fascinating area which brings social changes as well. The introduction of new information technologies into a broad range of human activities seems to have an impact on human communication and the structure of human organization. Use of information technology in any field of studies has become a vital skill in today's world. Spreading knowledge and sharing information are essential components in any field. As mentioned earlier due to the growing economic pressure and industrial revolution, our environment is facing serious problems. The degradation of environment by a variety of pollutants has drawn the attention of the scientific community, policy makers and the general public, to restore our environment for sustainable management. Awareness is being created by spreading knowledge and information on environment and related issues on a global scale. Information technology offers links to many sources of information on environmental issues, sustainable management and remedial measures
Due to increase of industrialization and rapid economic growth, we are facing many issues such as global warming, climate change, high carbon emission, sea level rising, ecological imbalance, loss of biodiversity, tsunami disaster, etc. It is important that all nations need come together to frame appropriate strategies/polices to restore the environment. In the past, there has been many conventions/treaties/programs such as Rio de Janeiro conference on environmental management; Agenda 21, Kyoto Protocol, Global Carbon Project, where each country has framed appropriate program to address various environmental issues
Environmental Information System (ENVIS)
India is a leading economy power in the Asian region giving due importance to both industrialization and environment management. The Ministry of Environment & Forests, Government of India is implementing various programs for creating environmental awareness and management plans to conserve our vast fragile terrestrial as well as aquatic environment. Environmental Information System (ENVIS) is one of the world's largest networks on environmental information. The inception of the ENVIS programme and its network with premier educational and research organizations and NGOs are providing national and international environmental information to policy makers, academicians, researchers and the general public throughout the country. Under this network, there are 78 Centers on different thematic areas and working with the common objectives of collection, collation, storage, retrieval and dissemination of environmental related information to larger user community through the use of Information and Communication Technologies
The ENVIS Centre functioning in the Department of Zoology has developed a web-site (www.envismadrasuniv.org; www.dzumenvis.nic.in ). This website has many features such as counter action, referral services, discussion form, conferences, e-resources, research reports. It has also annexed its services with web-links to organizations both national and international & with government departments working on the assigned subject area (see the first page view of the ENVIS web-site). It also provides links with all ENVIS partners functioning in various Universities, research institutions, Government and non-Governmental organizations in different thematic areas. The ENVIS Centre has developed databases on the thematic area such as reference/abstract database, experts directory database of microbiologists, bibliographic database, database on research activities on microbes (Ph.D thesis, research projects, reports, monographs/manuals). Further we have created a database on the biodiversity of microbes (isolation, habitat, ecological significance) and marine microbes.
>In order to involve the participation of local community, general public including younger generation on environmental management activities, the ENVIS Centre has successfully developed a separate web-site (www.envismicrobes.org) in vernacular language (Tamil) to create awareness among the local people. This will help them to understand the basic concept of microorganism and its importance on environment management
Outline of ENVIS activities and Services to user community
The ENVIS Centre strives to provide valuable information, up-to-date references, technological applications and solutions on the assigned subject area to user community through online and offline services. The outline of our ENVIS activities and services are as follows:-
  • Building up a good collection of books, reports and journals in the particular subject area of environment
  • Establishment of a data bank on some selected parameters relating to the subject area
  • Coordination with the Focal Point for the supply of relevant, adequate and timely information to the users
  • Bringing out newsletters in specific subject area for wide dissemination
  • Referral Services
  • Abstracting Services
  • Documentation Services
  • Publication of ENVIS-Centre Newsletter
  • Compilation and publication of abstracts and other documents on 'Microorganisms and Environment Management '
  • Establishing linkages with all ENVIS Centers and other relevant organizations
  • Providing information on forthcoming conference/symposia/jobs related information on its assigned subject area
  • Query and Answering services
  • Press clipping services
The Role of Microbes on Environment Management - Future Research Areas
Emphasis has to be made especially on microbial diversity, the largest untapped reservoir in the biosphere. Through biotechnological applications, microorganisms can be used for the discovery of new biotechnology products essential for pharmaceuticals, synthesis of new enzymes, chemicals and new organisms that carry out novel processes. A team of Japanese researchers have proved that microorganisms are able to control the global warming by removing the carbon di oxide from the atmosphere. This will help maintain the level of atmospheric carbon di oxide. Thus carbon di oxide can be reduced sufficiently in the atmosphere
Study of the biodiversity of microorganisms and its potential applications, provide large scope for development of new strains through genetically engineered microbes/recombinant DNA technology. These unique combinations may be able to degrade complicated pollutants prevalent in the environment. Further, creating awareness among general public and providing up-dated information on biodiversity of microorganisms and its various applications are essential to our society for a sustainable eco-friendly and pollution free environment.
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