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A toss for nature

A toss for nature

Author: Ambreesh Mishra
Publication: India Today
Date: August 11, 2008

Introduction: The Narmada gets an unusual cleaning agent-eco-friendly coins that can also be offered as tribute.

Flinging coins in rivers out of reverence is an ancient Indian practice that most of us have indulged in. However, it is a tradition that the Reserve Bank of India frowns upon, owing to the high cost of metal and minting process of the coins.

But now environmentalists in Madhya Pradesh have given this hoary tradition a new twist in order to prevent river pollution.

With inputs from metallurgy and water resource experts from IIT Roorkee, Narmada Samagra, a group working to ensure the health of river Narmada across Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat, has minted special coins to clean up the river of its pollutants.

The act will also help save the currency coins, which, the authorities say, are more expensive than their face value.

Through 2007, Narmada Samagra studied the possible environmental link between the religious and social traditions associated with the rivers in the country. One of the popular practices that caught their eye was the tossing of coins in rivers.

"The idea is to look for scientific underpinning to our traditions, which might have been obscured with time," says Anil Madhav Dave, Narmada Samagra's promoter.

"Coins composed of 95 per cent copper, 4 per cent silver and 1 per cent platinum have remarkable curative properties for a river's health," said Dr R. Chaudhary, a professor at IIT Roorkee.

Since platinum sent the cost of coins through the roof, Dave and his team sought another alloy combination-96 per cent copper and 4 per cent silver. In a report sent to Dave, the experts quoted several international studies proving that coins made of copper and silver trigger a copper-silver ionisation process in water bodies.

The electrically charged copper ions attach themselves to the oppositely charged micro-organisms to form electrostatic compounds, which disturb the cell wall permeability and cause nutrient absorption by these organisms to fall drastically.

The copper ions then help the silver ions penetrate the micro-organisms and attach themselves to various parts of their cells. As a result, the life support system of the organism is disrupted.

This therapeutical effect of the coins on the water bodies inspired the group to produce a freshly-minted batch of 500 coins weighing 10 g each at the International River Festival held on the banks of the river Narmada in February.

There are also plans to bring out another batch of 25,000 coins by businessmen from Indore's Sarafa to be sold through traders and select jewellers in the state.

Each 10-g coin will come at a cost of Rs 51, while a 20-g coin will be sold at Rs 101. To prevent Narmada from going the way the venerable Ganges have, the idea of tackling biological pollution with coins is just a beginning.

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