In the year 1924, Dr. H.I. Marshall, Principal of the Theological  Seminary Hill, Insein, Burma(Myanmar)visited U.S.A and on his return in 1925 to Burma he visited Andaman islands. His cousin Mr. Ferrar was the Chief Commissioner of Andaman and Nicobar islands. It was then that they discussed and planned of bringing some laborers to the islands for clearing up the forest for settlements and for that they wanted hardworking, honest and efficient people capable of doing hard core job. He asked Rev. Dr .H.I. Marshall who knew the Karens well to bring down some families to the islands under the settlement scheme. Mr. Ferrar placed some conditions for the people to be brought down i.e. they must be faithfull, landless and good cultivators. This good tidings was carried back to Burma (Myanmar) by Rev. Dr.  H. I. Marshall and was published in the Karen newspaper called “Hsah- Tu- Gaw” meaning “Morning Star’’. Mr. Ferrar also promised to give free ration for one year and free land for settlement and cultivation purpose. The land of course was covered with forest and for settlement they had to clear it. This good tidings spread out like a wild fire among the Karens in Burma (Myanmar). Responding to the news  Rev. Lugyi , Rev. Pan Bu and Rev. Samba decided to bring some families to the Andaman Islands to see the possibilities and the opportunities of settlement. In April 1925, the Karens landed at the Andaman Islands by a ship called Maharaja. The 12 families who agreed to come to the Andaman Islands were mostly landless and poverty stricken families. They are: 1) Saw U San Bwe and his family. 2)            Saw U Theh To Noe…’’. 3)                Saw U Po Tau…. “. 4) Saw U Tain Bout….”5).             Saw U Pho Byaw…”. 6) Saw U Mya Lain…”. 7) Saw U Gwa Doe….”. 8) Saw U Pho Tha….”. 9)       Saw U Pyaji….”. 10) Saw U Paan…”. 11) Saw U pho U….”. 12) Saw u ko ...”


The 12 families initially were put up at Carlo Island which the Karens called it as “Kalolo”, a few distance away from the present Mayabunder, North Andaman. They stayed there only for 10 days and later they were shifted to a place in the interior of Mayabunder and they called it “Webi village” meaning “the hidden city” because they believed that the thick jungles will always protect and keep them hidden from enemies and they could work peacefully. The Karens were given free rations for a year and they even got lands for settlement and cultivation purpose. Mr. Ferrar was pretty cordial and kind towards the Karens and provided their need accordingly. After having settled in their new found land, Mr. M.R. Smith, a forest officer (Divisional forest officer) gave them the opportunities to work in the forest as lumber man. Women and children were asked to stay and work within the vicinity of their home.

In 1926-27 again few more families were brought down to the Andaman Islands and were obliged with the same opportunities and facilities and they witnessed the Japanese invasion as well. Recounting their associations with the Japanese this is what they had to say:

Saw Jawsein (Joseph)


Music is a food to the soul and this man and his entire family are blessed with a talent to sing melodiously and they are known for their musical talents. At 94, he still holds good memories of his association with the British and the Japanese during the pre independence era… Joseph is pretty old and hardly able to walk, but his former days with the Japanese in the Andaman Islands are still fresh in his memory. He had a cordial relation with the Japanese and they even made him their interpreters, he even spoke their language and was asked to sing a Japanese song on New Year. Although he could not remember the meaning of the song anymore he is still able to sing in Japanese language. Ask him about the treatment towards Karens by the Japanese, he would smile and say “The Japanese were not rude with the Karens and no one was killed by the Japanese, may be because we look alike”. He supported the Japanese during the war between Japanese and the English, after the Japanese retrieval from the islands he worked as a spy for the British Government. Whenever the ship from Rangoon (Yangon) docked at Mayabunder, he would go up and inspect if the ship is carrying any dangerous goods.

“I would go up to the ship and tell the others if I scratch my ear it means there is something and they would come and inspect, most of the time it use to be drugs and they were seized”. After the British left the islands he worked as forest labourer for a year with a pay of Rs.25.

According to those who witnessed the Japanese invasion in the Andaman Islands, they were never ill-treated by the Japanese but had to oblige to the orders of the Japanese. There was a particular time during the Japanese invasion, the Karens had shortage of food and had to survive barely with a morsel of food that too boiling a handful of rice with leaves and stalks of colocasia. They used to get itching in the throat and they were starving, but the quality of a Karen is to have patience to endure any misfortune or challenges in any form. They witnessed the bombings and firings between the two parties and they would hide under the shades of the thick green forest while tending to the needs of the Japanese. Their villages were not attacked as the English knew their settlement and did not wish to harm them. Even the Japanese had told them to remain neutral and neither support any of the party. They told them to go and hide in their own village.


The word “Karen” was coined by the British. Burmese called them as “Kayin” meaning “polite and good hearted”, whereas the Karen called them “pwa- kanyaw”, which would literally mean “easy convincible people” hence they can put up with anything. Every week the Karen women had to take bags of rice and thatched leaves and hand it over to the Japanese. Since the Karens were minority and they were in a foreign land, they could not do anything but silently endure whatever came their way.

Thus the Karen settlement began to grow in numbers and spread out into 8 villages namely:

1) Webi village (hidden city) originally named by the Karens

2) Lataw village (in Karen leh Toh, meaning “Go Up”

3) Lucknow village (formerly called “Burmadera”- Burmese settlement area)

4) Deopur village (formerly called “Base-Camp”)

5)  Karmatang 9 village

6)  Karmatang 10 village

7)  Borang village

8) Chipo village

The last village i.e. ‘Chipo Village’ was founded by two brave women Machi and Popo, who on their quest for livelihood with a small dinghy rowing against the tide and storm reached this shore. They found it so adaptable that they decided to stay back. Later on they came back to the village and took some more families with them and thus “Chipo” was born and became another abode for the Karens. Honouring their bravery and quest the place was named after them. Sadly they are no more today but their great saga goes on.

With the Karens settlement in the Andaman Islands today their population has grown to 3000 plus. The present generation Karens are very much indebted to those who took the initiative in bringing down their forefathers to the islands and today the karens of Andaman islands are free from torture. They do not have to run helter and skelter from enemies and it is because of the wise decision taken by their forefathers.


The Karens call the Andaman Islands as “A land of paradise” because of the peaceful environment and peaceful co-existence, unlike their counterparts in Burma who are under constant threat and torture from the Burmese military junta. The Karens of Andaman Islands can peacefully go to bed and wake with a happy heart, whereas the Karens in Burma (Myanmar) are living a life of slave under the tyrant rule of the Burmese.

Although they are a minority in India yet they have not forgotten their culture and traditions. Karens in the Andaman Islands are mostly protestant Christian.  At present there are intermarriages with other communities in the Islands and some have converted to other religions too. Karens are by nature very artistic, they love music, dance and singing, they are experts at diving, trekking and fishing. They are also very good at sports and they love football.

Karens are also known for their beauty; Susan Ahluwalia (married to a Sikh- Naval officer) became the cover girl of the Femina magazine published in the year July 24th 1970 by ‘The Times Of India’ publication. She was born on 16th August 1947 in the Andaman Islands to a Karen mother and an Anglo-Jewish father (ex-serviceman of British India Army).


There are many young talented musicians, singers and artist in the community but the only thing that lacks is support sharpen and utilize the skills they posses. If given an opportunity these young talents could make the Islands proud and the nation at large.

Karens have adapted to the Islands with ease and they are contributing to the Islands development in some way or the other. Majority of the Karens are agriculturist and they earn their livelihood by fishing, and hunting. Very few of them are into the government services like Educational Department, Forest Department, Electricity Department, Police Department, Health Department and other private business and entrepreneurship.

Karens are socially and economically backward. Very few are well educated and are in a better position. For those who can afford education expenses manage to put their children in good schools. The rest are forced to attend government school and in the process many drop out half way. There are some who are brilliant in studies but because due to poverty cannot afford higher studies.

Karens are by nature peace loving, if you wrong a Karen once, twice or thrice he will forgive you but if you accuse him of something he has not done then the outcome is definitely a bad blow. Karens are close knit family and they stay together even after marriages. Both men and women are equally treated and there is no difference in status unlike other communities. They work together in field and household chores and carry with them their beautiful culture, tradition, customs and beliefs which they wish to pass on to their future generations. Among them are their colorful bamboo dance, ethnic dressing style, beautiful songs, mouth watering cuisines, folk dance, folk songs and stories.

Given that the Karens have been considered as Other Backward Classes (O.B.C) but holding an O.B.C certificate alone would not do any good to them unless some special reservations are made. As competitions get tougher; with the kind of poor background it becomes next to impossible for this community to stay abreast in the race. If left and ignored they might become silent sufferers and will not be able to come at par with the rest and gradually would be lost in their own promised land.

The Karens are already dominated by the fears of them losing their identity in the midst of this advancing world. They may be too naïve and shy to claim for their rights, but still in their hearts they wish for a change in their community.

Like every Indian, Karens too have a desire to be treated equally like the rest. They too wish to be heard and not ignored. Time has come to ask ourselves whether we are being fair towards the Karens?

Now that they are officially Indian citizens, isn’t it the responsibility of the Indian Government to take care of them and see them grow? 


While just about everyone who’s anyone waxes eloquently about green movements and their love for trees, there’s little being done at grass-root level. Remember the tree which fell opposite Inox at Mumbai’s Nariman Point leaving a gaping hole in the pavement. After that happened, all was forgotten. A Right To Information application to the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation’s (BMC) garden department and tree authority had revealed that of the 26,039 trees felled from the period between April 2008 and March 2011, 14,877 were cut for ‘development’ while the rest 11,162 trees felled as they “obstructed traffic.”

Now, according to the Maharashtra (Urban Areas) Preservation of Trees Act, two trees must be planted for every tree cut or the uprooted tree must be transplanted. So, the 14,877 trees cut for ‘development’ should have been followed with replanting of 29,754 trees. According to data furbished by the BMC, only 5,604 trees have been planted from 2008 to 2010 and, experts maintain, not more than 5,000 were planted in the 2010-2011 period.

 For the trees felled for ‘obstructing traffic’, the BMC has – on its part - planted 22,037 trees. By the ‘must replant two as rule’ logic, if 26,039 trees were felled in the said period, 52,078 trees should have been planted in strict accordance with the Act.

There are a few loopholes and snags which need to be resolved in order to ensure the purpose of the Act is fulfilled in principle and practice. Like, at the time of handing over the occupation certificate, a thorough inspection of the developed site does not occur. This should be preceded by a strict survey by the Tree Authority and the garden department authorities which must ensure the requisite numbers of trees are replanted by the developer.

Also, that the developers don’t quite maintain the trees planted in place of those felled is evident in the fact that the deposit of Rs 2,000 - as laid down by the Act, for each tree cut to be refunded only if the tree planted in place grows satisfactorily – is not claimed at all. This indicates developers aren’t planting the trees being felled in the name of ‘development.’

New York, incidentally, despite having more high-rises than Mumbai, has an average of five trees per person. Back home, in 2009, over 2,000 trees were ‘required’ to be felled for the Middle Vaitarna Dam project and there was a proposal to cut 111 trees for the Mahatma Gandhi swimming pool in Mahim also, 1,000-odd trees had to be felled for the Bhandup Water Complex.

In the name of development, roads are widened to accommodate parking and sidewalks / pavements reduced as “very few pedestrians anyway use them,” leading to existing trees barely being able to hold on and…eventually die! There is a proposal to cut down two rain trees outside the Catering College at Dadar because they were a ‘nuisance,’ and ‘caused accidents’. This, despite the fact that the trees have been standing there for nearly a century and there was no report of anyone crashing into those trees.

A sea of residents opposed the proposal and High Court intervened ensuring the trees were not felled. Sadly, in the name of making the city green, a lot of cooperative housing societies and landlords ‘create’ green spaces where there exist none in development plans only to boost their realty prospects. The presence of a slum near a residential structure has direct relevance to the selling price affecting it adversely. Concurrently, the presence of a ‘garden’ or a green patch provides the prerequisite boost to sellers who can pitch for a bit more.

However, in green spaces created for vested interests, there’s little by way of initiative in ensuring they are maintained well.

CITY REGISTERS TREE FALLS EVERY YEAR It’s during monsoons that hit Mumbai when most of the trees buckle under the onslaught of rains, some breaking, others getting completely uprooted.

Following the first showers, traffic moves at snail’space dodging branches and trunks that swoop precariously weighed by the rainfall, onto the city’s roads. “It’s sad that the authorities never foresee this well in advance,” says Mumbai-based Charni Road resident and environmentalist KabirKartik. “When they go about pruning trees branches throughout the year around anticipating rains and subsequent tree-falls, they presume that they’ve solved the issue and trees won’t fall but they always,” he says.

But, as history has it, the first week of rainfall in Mumbai fetches umpteen tree-falls, subsequent commuting issues for vehicle owners and traffic-jams. What makes matters worse it the inbuilt risk of a tree falling on a moving vehicle or an unassuming pedestrian. Not that it deters the civic authorities in any manner. Year after year, dozens of trees buckle under the onslaught of heavy rains and gusty winds that accompany showers. Like B.Com student Devyani Mehta who studies in a Churchgate-based college, there’re scores of unwary pedestrians and two-wheeler riders who’re caught completely off-guard when a tree, among the rows interlining lanes, cracks and falls bang in the middle of the road.

ChandrakantHalkar’s six-month-old Toyota was smashed by a tree that collapsed on it while it was parked near Electric House during last year’s downpour. “After having driven it so carefully on road during the first rains, considering it gets so slippery and dangerous, it was the last straw for me when a tree fell on it while it was parked!” says an astounded Halkar. “The hood of the car is smashed even its windshield shattered with the impact,” rues Halkar.

 “Our college street, interlined with tall trees looks beautiful but once it rains, the entire scenario changes,” says a South Mumbai Jai Hind College student. “Trees that fall in the middle of the road following the first rains usually create a huge traffic issue for vehicle-owners who’re either pushing their two-wheelers through the branches or driving through them in their cars while avoiding pedestrians too,” she says. While NGOs and resident societies go gung-ho over turning Mumbai into a cleaner, greener place, it’s imperative to ensure that the trees planted don’t get out of shape and are maintained well. The surging number of trees that fall during the monsoons only indicates the fact that there is absolutely no upkeep for the trees once they are planted.

The onus of their upkeep rests on the civic authorities as well as societies / residents planting the trees. Nobody is held responsible for the fall of a tree during monsons or otherwise. Till then, the onus lies on the Tree Authority.

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In olden days, the area or land used for agriculture was high and the population it feed was less. Our forefathers used only the 'muck' as fertilizers and have enjoyed a healthy life by consuming a healthy food of quality and quantity. Muck is nothing but the moist farmyard dung or soil containing decaying plants, vegetables etc. or manure. Those days there were no fertilizers, pesticides, growth inducers or promoters to avoid pests or to increase the crop yield. Though, we have to accept the truth that our previous generations were healthy than what we are now, after modern science and technologies with introduction of new chemicals to kill insect pests and promoters for fast crop growths. The present system of agriculture has achieved an increased yield compared to older farming practices. But, the chemicals that we use for the crops not only affect the health of consumers (we) but also destroys the nature of the soil forever. Sometimes, over use of pesticides poison the land and nothing else will grow thereafter. So, what we can do to avoid this chemical accumulation in soil ? 1. Analyse your soil nutrients that is of less cost, so you will come to know which nutrient is deficient in your soil. 2. Do not go for repeated cultivation of same crops. For example., If you cultivate paddy in your field, once you harvest, sow some cereals and other pulses that are nitrogen-fixing crops. Crop rotation is the replenishment of nitrogen through the use of green manure and will improve your soil structure and fertility of the soil. 3. Go for organic methods of soil enrichment such as muck-spreading. They are actually cheap than any other growth promoters available in the form of chemicals in market. It even have the power to rejuvenate the soils destroyed by chemical intensive agricultural practices. 4. A recent and widely used method in organic farming is the soil re-mineralisation using finely crushed rocks (rock dust) that contain minerals and trace elements. The rock dusts are rich in silicon, potassium, sulfur, manganese, phosphorus, zinc, calcium, copper, cobalt and other necessary elements for soil enrichment and crop growth. Appropriate use of these methods will certainly give fruitful results in quality crop production as well save our earth from chemical pollutants. 

Contributed by: Dr. J. Benjamin Franklin, Scientist, NIOT, Port Blair.


Lichens, what are Lichens? These are the small round patches, slightly off colored green in the bark of trees in your backyard. They seem profuse in wet months and become dry patches during the summer.

Lichens are actually a combination of a fungal partner (mycobiont) and an algal partner (phycobiont). The fungal filaments surround and grow into the algal cells, and provide the majority of the lichen's physical bulk and shape.

Lichens can grow in soil, rock, or even the barks of trees.  It absorbs certain mineral nutrients from any of these substrates on which it grows, but is generally self-reliant in feeding itself through photosynthesis in the algal cells. Thus, lichens growing on trees do not feed on them like parasites on the trees.

Lichens are indicators of the health of an ecosystem in tropical regimes like our islands, the more the lichen load (in trees etc.,) the more robust is the nutrient cycle of that ecosystem. Several studies have shown serious impacts on the growth and health of lichens resulting from factory and urban air pollution. Because some lichens are so sensitive, they are now being used to quickly and cheaply assess levels of air toxins in Europe and North America.

Andaman & Nicobar Islands have a healthy ecosystem, when compared to other parts of our country. Lichens were seen even in the barks of road side trees of Port Blair city until recently. Though it still exists, of late it seems that Lichens are disappearing from the city limits. This is a matter of concern as they indicate the health of our eco system.

- Amlan Dutta, Ecologist

Pest control is one of the major problem in agriculture. Pesticides are widely used chemicals in the world for more than half a century to control the pests or insects that prevent the crops and on the other hand destroy, repel or mitigate any pests. Insects not only kill the crops but also sometimes humans by acting as a disease carrying agent. However, during the past decade, the use of chemicals increased steadily in the developing countries to enhance food production and to control vector-borne diseases. Although the use of most of the pesticides such as technical DDT and HCH were banned worldwide, illicit use of these chemicals still exist among few farmers and also regionally. In addition, the accumulation of these chemicals in the earth remain for a long-term, polluting the top soil. DDT is a well known, persistent and highly lipid soluble organochlorine pesticide. It was widely used to fight insect-borne diseases like malaria until legislative restrictions were imposed following the manifestation of ecological impairment. The low chemical and biological degradation, lipophilic nature and hydrophobicity have led DDT to accumulate into the biological tissues. In 1996, the World Health Organisation (WHO) assessed the acceptable daily intake for DDT from number of countries and found India as a largest consumers of DDT in terms of daily intake. In India, DDT has been used to control malaria since 1946. Due to awareness towards environment, measures were taken to control the use of this pesticide. The DDT applied for agriculture, not only accumulates into the sediment, but also contaminates water resources and through bio-chain it gets more concentrated (bio-magnification) and finally reaches humans. Especially, the coastal marine environment receives considerable input of DDT from various anthropogenic sources such as direct discharges or indirectly from river flows, runoff, as well as from long-distance transport through the atmosphere. The pesticides that reaches ponds, rivers, coastal oceans due to rain and runoffs affects the egg and sperm development, accumulates, initiates mutations in animals living in the aquatic environment. The concentration of DDT has significantly reduced after the ban on use of it in the year 1970, although it still remains as various of the environment such as air, sediments, fish and mammals and becomes a threat to human health. In humans, it is stored in the body fat and is excreted in the milk and reaches the infants from the time of birth. As, DDT persists for a long time in the community, the fear on adverse effects in future generations, metabolism and growth also exists. In India, we expect the day of real ban on the use of such chemicals like DDT. The use of such chemicals not only diminish the quality of the product but also the health of ours and future generations.

Contributed by: Dr. Arockiya Vasanthi, Scientist, NIOT.