VENITA GOMES | NT BUZZ
Many a times, the work of authors, writers and researchers are often influenced by their surroundings, experiences and research. Sima Kamat’s books are a result of over 30 years of experience in academics. Her three books ‘Freshwater wetlands’, ‘Ahar Darpan: Balanced, Dietary, Vegetarian Formulations’, and ‘Medicinal plants and their traditional uses’ were published over the past three years, her latest being the one on medicinal plants.
The books about wetlands and medicinal plants were fuelled by the drive to conserve these vital resources in the state and to spread awareness among the public; also, to initiate measures to conserve them.
wetlands of Goa
Sima has been involved in researching freshwater wetlands since 1986. Her fascination led her to unravel the intricacies of abundant aquatic flora, and hence while pursuing her PhD degree she also researched wetland conservation. Her research spread over 70 wetlands on the banks of all the major rivers of the state. She tried studying the distribution, ecology and conservation of macrophytes and microphytes.
During her research on wetlands Sima found that certain elements including the increase in human population and economics activities were a threat to wetlands. “In the case of wetlands in Cacora, Mullem and Xeldem, on account of easy availability of canal water, sluice gates of the wetlands are not closed by bunding hence the streams flows out of the wetlands. As a result narrow channels have been carved on the beds of the wetlands by running water. Secondly, in many cases due to non availability of proper drainage and sewage treatment facilities the sewage from the settlements adjacent to the wetlands or upstream flow invariably into the wetlands, such as those around Bicholim, Vasco, and Margao which have turned into sewage drains. This is a similar case in vicinity of industries which release effluents contaminated with toxic waste,” She says.
She observed that residential colonies and associated commercial complexes along the entire coast of North and South of Goa had destroyed most of the wetlands and ponds of natural origin. When asked to comment whether, she believes that wetlands in Goa are neglected, she says: “While conducting our research in the year 2004 we prepared a satellite map wherein we located 70 wetlands. Now, we are in the process of re-surveying the said wetlands to record fresh data regarding the surviving and the extinct wetlands. This data may shed better light on this issue.”
Why eat healthy?
Sima previously worked as vice principal and head of botany department in the year 1986. She felt the need to write her second book ‘Ahar Darpan’ owing to her experience and curiosity to know ‘why?’ “As a lecturer I had instances where I had many students who would often faint during laboratory work especially in the morning hours. Most of them were girls. Though I am neither a physician nor a dietician, out of curiosity I decided to probe into the matter. I realised that there was a need to modify the traditional vegetarian recipes without significantly altering their taste in order to improve their nutrient content. My research on developing such recipes with affordable ingredients and balanced dietary value prompted me to write this book,” she says. The book focuses on the need to upgrade our diet and improve biological value of its proteins and to ensure adequate inclusion of vitamins and minerals.
She feels this book is an eye-opener for students, homemakers and any person who wishes to know about life sciences and the nutritional requirements for the human body. “The book also talks about popular vegetarian recipes which were eaten seven decades back in coastal regions of Goa and Maharashtra. I tried modifying them and also stated the reasons for their modifications,” Sima says. The book also talks about certain social restrictions for Hindus at large on the use of ingredients, preparation methods and consumption of the various recipes on religious days back then and some of which even continue today.
Medicinal value in plants
Her latest book ‘Medicinal plants and their traditional uses’ is a detailed survey book on medicinal plants of Goa. “The major highlights of this book is that it provides the readers with botanical names, vernacular names, and description of the plants, medicinal properties, medicinal uses, general precautions and dosage of 250 plants after consulting reliable sources,” says Sima.
During her career, Sima published several papers in international journals and also undertook ‘Documentation of Medicinal Plants of Goa’ in 1994, funded by WWF, New Delhi. She also completed her research project on ‘Conservation of Sweet Water Bodies of Ponda and Tiswadi Talukas’ funded by WWF, Goa.
Her journey as a writer does not end here, she wishes to publish three more books including one on sustainable lifestyle.