Society

Community leaders discuss critical aspects of Land & Forest conservation and Rights in Tata Steel Samvaad

24.11.2020, New Delhi: Samvaad, a one-of-its kind pan-India tribal conclave organised by Tata Steel Foundation, recently concluded bringing together tribal communities from across the world virtually. More than 3,000 people of 114 tribes from 23 states of India, 5 Union Territories and 17 countries including Sri Lanka, South Africa, Nepal, Kenya, Philippines, Thailand and Tanzania among others participated in the programme.

Designed to facilitate an exchange of traditional and emerging conservation practices, the third day of the seventh edition of Samvaad saw a melange of conversations on digital platforms. Most critical amongst these was the discussion aimed at deepening an understanding of the constitutional laws for conservation of Land and Forest Rights. Several experts from the field came together to discuss ways in which the tribal communities have been using the natural resources optimally and presenting exemplary models of co-existence.

In another session, Indian and international healers, including Dr Bhushan Patwardhan, Professor G. Hariramamurthi, Dr. Unnikrishnan Payyappallimana and Dr. Sarin N S, came together to discuss ways to take tribal healing practices to a larger audience and creating a balance between modern and traditional medicinal practices.

At the Action Research Collective, researchers and academicians came together to various issues related to land and water. Padma Shri Simon Oraon, popularly known as the Waterman of Jharkhand, shared his experience of conservation of resources. Himanshu Kulkarni, Executive Director and Secretary, Advance Centre for Water Resources Development and Management (ACWADAM), Pune, shared about how one should look at action research keeping in mind data, research along with having an on ground connect.

As a part of film screening at Samuday ke Saath, Mr Chentai Khiamniungan’s “Strength in Diversity”, audience got an opportunity to interact with the filmmaker after the screening. His discussion on the film based on the agricultural practices of Nagaland gave deep insights into traditional agricultural practices and how knowledge has been passed to the younger generations. As many as 120 school students also joined the session and interacted with the panelists.

In another impressive show, artists from Changpa tribe from Ladakh performed the Jabdo dance, the Bhutia tribe from Sikkim expressed their appreciation towards nature by singing and dancing to the Tashi Shabdro Song. Rathwas from Gujarat, Malavettuvans from Kerala and Kinnauris from Himachal performed auspicious dances of their festivals and the Oraon tribe from West Bengal heralded rainfall through the Asari Ropa Angnai Dance. The evening also witnessed a blend of alt-folk-rock by the Featherheads band that attempted to inspire and resurrect the dying culture and traditions of Tangkhul Nagas, once followed by their ancestors.

At the artisans’ masterclass, Dinabandhu Soren and Renuka Bodra from Ho tribe, Odisha connected with us digitally to impart the basics of Gond and Saura paintings.

The Samvaad ecosystem has brought together more than 30,000 people from 117 tribes across 27 states of India and 18 countries in the last 6 years. The concept of regional Samvaad was initiated in 2016 with the objective of reaching out to more tribal communities in the hinterland and factor unheard voices therein.

National Water Award to Water Warrior Uma Shankar Pandey of Jakhni, Jal Gram fame

17.11.2020, New Delhi: Convener, Jalgram and Sarvodaya Activist, Uma Shankar Pandey has been awarded with the most coveted Water Warrior Award in the 2nd National Water Awards, 2019 ceremony organized by the Ministry of Jal Shakti, Government of India. Pandey has been instrumental in converting water stress Jakhni village in Mahua Block of Banda district in Bundelkhand to the first “Jal Gram” (water village) of India. The work has been recognised as one of the most successful community based participatory water management.

In the virtual award ceremony was chaired by the Vice President of India, Shri M. Venkaiah Naidu; on 11th November 2020, Union Minister of Jal Shakti, Gajendra Singh Shekhawat presented a cash prize of Rs. 1.5 Lakh and a citation to Uma Shankar Pandey.

On this eve Minister of State for Jal Shakti, Rattan Lal Kataria; Secretary, Ministry of Jal Shakti, U.P. Singh; DG NMCG, Rajiv Ranjan Mishra, and other officials were also present on the occasion.

Pandey says he was inspired by a clarion call of the Former President Late Abdul Kalam to create Water Villages. They adopted a policy “Farm water in the farm, Village water in the village”. As soon as the first rain came, the fields were filled. Then the water moved towards the ponds. One after another, all the 6 ponds in the village got filled. Side by side, 30 wells of the village also became alive with increased water level. Pandey says they developed and raised the mounds between two fields on about 2470 bighas of land. A slogan 'khet par med, med par ped' (ridge on the farm, tree on the ridge) got very popular. Planting trees in the village has a significant role in the water cycle. As a result of water storage in the fields, the groundwater level increased and subsequently there was an increase in agriculture and farming. He says, today, water level has now increased up to 10 – 15 feet and wells don’t run dry even in the months of May and June.

Tamil Nadu was the top state in overall water conservation efforts, whereas Maharashtra adjudged the second-best, and Rajasthan settled for third position. In the same category, Mizoram received a special award.

SILENT BUT NOT QUIET: Protest by young citizens of Gurugram to save the Aravalli

25.09.2020, Gurugram: Aravallis are one of the oldest fold mountains in the world. The people of the National Capital Region have the honor of being surrounded by the lush Aravalli forest that grants them protection from pollution, desertification and offers them water security by recharging ground-water.

The Bandhwari landfill is an illegal encroachment on 30 plus acres of Aravalli land in the middle of eco sensitive Aravalli forest. This dumpyard now receives 2000 tonnes of unsegregated waste from Gurgaon and Faridabad everyday. The leachate spill from the pile of 30 lakh tons of waste is contaminating the groundwater and putting wildlife and nearby human-settlements in serious danger. The biodiversity in this region is particularly vulnerable as the stretch of Aravalli Forest between Bandhwari and Damdama acts as a wildlife corridor between Asola Bhatti Sanctuary in Delhi and Sariska in Rajasthan. The government's solution to the garbage problem is all set to compound it further. A proposal to set up a Waste-To-Energy Plant next to the landfill has been approved. The WTE will not only deplete the already dwindling forest but also intensify air and water pollution in the region.

As part of the GLOBAL CLIMATE STRIKE on 25th of September 2020, a group of young urban and rural citizens of Gurugram participated in a silent protest against the proposed WTE plant. Aged from 7 years to 22 years, the youngsters visited the Bandhwari landfill site to voice their concerns regarding this regressive plan. Calling it a "Waste of Energy" instead of "Waste To Energy", the children said that since Bandhwari and all other landfills across the country receive unsegregated waste, it is of very low calorific value which renders it almost useless to be converted into energy. This is the reason why WTE model has consistently failed in our country. They also spoke about the noise, air and water pollution that would be caused by the plant and consequent dangers it would pose to humans as well as wildlife.

“Bandhwari Landfill is fast competing with Ghazipur landfill to become the biggest garbage mountain of North India. The monstrous pile of garbage contains a highly toxic mix of plastic, metal, glass, sanitary and biomedical waste,” stated Garvit, a 18 year old college student.

According to the February 2020 report of the Central Pollution Control Board, the RDF produced at Bandhwari was found to have high moisture content (when derived from fresh waste) and ash, leachate and mud content (when derived from legacy waste), making it unfit for incineration in the WTE plant.

"The Environmental Clearance for the WTE plant was obtained on the basis of a faulty Environmental Impact Assessment Report submitted by the Municipal Corporation of Gurugram to the Ministry of Environment. In the report, the mention of an ongoing litigation was conveniently omitted. No mention was made of groundwater contamination or of a 2017 report by Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) confirming the presence of pollutants such as manganese, boron, chloride and nitrate. In the absence of canal water, the people of Bandhwari continue to depend on groundwater for drinking, cooking and washing. In light of all this information, it is very clear that the MoEFCC was not given the real picture and hence the Environmental Clearance granted for the WTE plant be cancelled." demanded 16 year old Anushka.

Already reeling under the threat of a pandemic which has been proven to be related to loss of forest cover and biodiversity, the children urged the government to scrap the WTE Plant proposal and also asked for the removal of the massive landfill from the forest and restoration of the green cover.

“The landfill site being so close to Mangar Bani, which is the last remaining patch of Aravalli Native Forest, and being situated in the middle of a wildlife corridor poses a grave threat to the wildlife. Confirmed presence of Leopards, Hyenas, Jackals, Palm Civets, Porcupines makes it imperative to protect this stretch of land by removing the landfill." reiterated Ayana Chaudhary, a 13 year old Gurugram school student..

“We demand strict enforcement of Solid Waste Management Rules by the Municipal Corporations of Gurugram and Faridabad and replication of the Indore Model to tackle the existing legacy waste. Segregation at source and decentralized composting would prevent 80% of the waste from reaching the landfill,” said Jai Nakra, a 17 year old.

Haryana, with a meagre 3.62% forest cover and the tag of having 6 of the 20 most polluted cities in the world cannot afford to lose anymore forest land OR have another pollution causing unit.

Meenakshi Lekhi lauds Navjiwan RWA's women empowerment & Plastic-free initiatives

10.09.2020, New Delhi: Meenakshi Lekhi, Member of Parliament, Lok Sabha, New Delhi congratulated Navjiwan RWA on completion of one year of free distribution of biodegradable Sanitary pads and bags to over 150 lesser privileged women and girl children. Lauding the initiative she said this is not only an environment friendly movement but also a huge encouragement and empowerment for these women.

Addressing the gathering she remarked Navjiwan RWA's working should be certified as 5-Star RWA, and said all other RWAs should learn from here. She expressed great satisfaction over the arrangement considering the social distancing factors, sanitization and everyone present with appropriate precautionary measures such as face masks.

Dr. Ruby Makhija, General Secretary, Navjiwan RWA has announced that the program has been renewed for another year. On the eve, Mrs. Lekhi distributed the first month supply on 9th September 2020.

Mr. Bipin Garg, President, Rotary Club South East and Mr. Samrat Yadav, Secretary, Rotary Club South East were present on the event as Rotary Club South East is supporting the coming year's supply.

Last year, Mrs. Meenakshi Lekhi launched in the programme and distributed biodegradable Sanitary pads and bags to 200 economically weaker women and girl children. On the event, she described plastic pollution lucidly before the gathering, she elaborated that 15 – 20 years ago, the use of plastic was not so bad. Within these last 2 decades, plastic has become over-utilized. Plastic does not degrade even up to 600 years. Due to the wrath of plastic pollution soil microbes and bacteria cannot degrade the plastic, which leads to worsening soil fertility. She further explained that plastic is imported from China, which strengthens its economy and weakens India’s environment and health.

It is noteworthy that according to a report the Menstrual Hygiene Alliance of India (MHAI) has approximated that there are 336 million menstruating women in India, of which 36 percent use disposable sanitary napkins — that total to 121 million women. The number of sanitary napkins used per menstrual cycle — at a conservative eight-plus that for the year, implies that India has 12.3 billion disposable sanitary napkins to take care of every year, the majority of which are not biodegradable nor compostable.

Talk of Tree Man in the Monsoon

@sanjayakmishra

29.07.2020

Unlike China, India being another populous country has a very less tree population. As per last studies India has 28 trees per person as compared to China’s 102 trees per person. However, according to an Indian Institute of Science (IISc) 2014 report, the ideal tree-human ratio should be seven trees for every person, and India has more than that. Nevertheless, greenery attracts human, naturally. The monsoon brings natural greenery throughout. Tree plantation is a very common nationwide feature during monsoon. Environmentalist Vishnu Lamba, known as the Tree Man of India, says every day is Environment Day. In a press release by Shri Kalpataru Sansthan, it is communicated that the campaign led by Lamba has connected millions of youth from 22 states of the country. For the first time since independence, he toured 22 states of the country and sought the families of more than 56 revolutionaries and gave the message of environment across the country by performing works such as the birth of martyrs and planting saplings at sacrificial sites.

Inspired by the film 'Paan Singh Tomar', the interesting personality, Vishnu Lamba raided the ravines of Chambal, stretching from Chambal to Chitrakoot, for nearly two years and linked the former infamous dacoits with his campaign. As a first time in the world, many previously infamous dacoits including Malkhan Singh, Gabbar Singh, Renu Yadav, Seema Parihar, Mohar Singh, Jagdish Singh, Pancham Singh, Saru Singh, Pahlwan Singh, Balwanta took oath to protect environment in a ceremony of held in Jaipur on 20th March 2016. This act has a wider significance and should be spread throughout the nation. It is often stated that jail inmates do a lot of plantation. But the negatively inflicted persons present inside the society also needs similar responsibility, which may be instrumental to bring them back in mainstream social lifestyle.

Do’s and Don’ts and Precautions at the time of Disaster

08.05.2020

Disaster, both natural and man made, creates chaos and panic. It is important to maintain calm and focus on life saving. The following steps could be helpful:

1. Do not panic, evacuate calmly and quickly perpendicular to wind direction through the designated escape route

2. Keep a wet handkerchief or piece of cloth/ sari on face during evacuation

3. Keep the sick, elderly, weak, handicapped and other people who are unable to evacuate inside house and close all the doors and windows tightly.

4. Do not consume the uncovered food/ water etc open to the air, drink only from bottle.

5. Change into fresh clothing after reaching safe place/ shelter, and wish hands properly.

6. Inform Fire & Emergency Services, Police and medical services from safe location by calling 101, 100 and 108 respectively.

7. Listen to PA (Public Address) System of the plant/ factory, local radio/ TV channels for advice from district administration/fire/health/police and other concerned authorities.

8. Provide correct and accurate information to government official.

9. Inform others on occurrence of event at public gathering places (like school, shopping centre, theatre etc.).

10. Don’t pay attention to the rumours and don’t spread them.

11. Do not smoke, lit fire or spark in the identified hazardous area.

12. Sensitize the community living near the industrial units and they should be more vigilant about the nature of industrial units and associated risks.

13. Keep the contact numbers of nearest hazardous industry, fire station, police station, control room, health services and district control room, for emergency use.

14. Avoid housing near the industries producing or processing the hazardous chemicals, if possible.

15. Participate in all the capacity building programmes organized by the government/ voluntary organizations / industrial units.

16. Take part in preparing disaster management plan for the community and identify safe shelter along with safe and easy access routes.

17. Prepare a family disaster management plan and explain it to all the family members.

18. Make the family/ neighbours aware of the basic characteristics of various poisonous/ hazardous chemicals and the first aid required to treat them.

19. Adequate number of personal protective equipments needs to be made available, to deal with emergency situation.

20. Prepare an emergency kit of items and essentials in the house, including medicines, documents and valuables.