Stuff I Do

Experiences and Encounters in Pune

Nature Trail at Pashan Lake

Posted by Sanskriti on January 28, 2017

On 26 January 2017, a Nature Trail was organized for students at Pashan Lake.

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Nature Trails are a part of the project for awareness about urban ecosystems and bird education taken up through Garden Dept and Indradhanushya, and being implemented by CEE along with Ecological Society and others.

The trail and onsite activities on 26 January were arranged for 30 students from Tara Mobile Creche. Students have been given a specially designed ‘nature observation notebook’.

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The trail and activities were conducted by educators from CEE, Ecological Society as well as the nature educators oriented last month.

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Posted in Biodiversity, Ecosystems, Nature Education, Places in Pune, Uncategorized | Leave a Comment »

Sustainable Consumption and Production – a role for ESD  

Posted by Sanskriti on July 4, 2014

Note developed for a panel discussion on ‘Sustainable Consumption, Production and Trade and Education for Sustainable Development’, with special reference to a civil society perspective, as part of ‘Education is the Key –Towards a Global Post-2015 Agenda for Sustainable Development’, International Conference on Education for Sustainable Development, organized by GIZ, Engagement Global and the German Development Institute, on 16 June 2014, Bonn.

“Consumption and Production” covers a wide range of human activity, from extraction, industrial and agricultural production, waste management, recycling, and formal and informal economies. The parts of the jigsaw that will transform production-consumption systems include supportive policies, funds and financing mechanisms, technology, implementation infrastructure, trained people etc. Education can be a driver for the creation of each of these. ‘Education is a driver of drivers’, as suggested by Kartikeya Sarabhai, Director CEE. This brief note seeks to place a few ideas for Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) in relation to some aspects of production and consumption in a developing country context.

Increase consumption to meet basic needs

An important element in ESD is that there are multiple perspectives about issues. For example, the understanding about consumption in a developing country context is different from that in the developed world. The general or ‘Western’ view of Sustainable Consumption and Production (SCP) is that consumption must be reduced and or qualitatively/sustainably modified. This view is certainly valid for the developed world, and also the more affluent segment in the developing world. However, the concept of Sustainable Consumption must also include the idea that basic needs are adequately met. This is not yet the case for a large proportion of the population in the developing world. For instance, one in every three malnourished children in the world lives in India. About a quarter of India’s population does not have assured access to electricity or clean energy. So, sustainable consumption is also about increasing consumption so that basic needs can be met.

Increasing consumption is an opportunity to promote Green Enterprises

The need to increase consumption presents an opportunity, since the manner in which the needs will be met could drive the creation of more sustainable modes of production and consumption. The buildings that might house slum dwellers in the future have not yet been built. The increased access to electricity or clean energy need not be from coal power plants but from grid-supported renewable energy systems.

There is a substantial opportunity here for green jobs and green enterprises; and by extension, for technical and vocational education and training (TVET) to respond to the need for trained people who will create and work in green enterprises. Hopefully, the new TVET will not only be about specific technologies but also about the social-ecological contexts in which new green enterprises would take shape. The rationale for green enterprises must be not only that they succeed as businesses, but also that they increase human well-being and are environmentally appropriate. This cannot come from the conventional methods of technical and vocational training, and ESD professionals have a role here to make it more holistic.

Strengthening the Informal sector is an opportunity

Apart from the creation of new systems for delivering goods and services, the developing world must also concern itself with the systems we currently have. It is particularly important to recognize the presence of a large informal economy as an opportunity.

For example, rag-pickers, itinerant scrap collectors, scrap shops etc form a large informal economy that provides waste management and material recovery services in most cities of developing countries. While informal sector workers play an important role in recycling, they do so in hazardous work conditions and this is a huge social cost. However, by making their work conditions safe, dignified and fair, providing adequate social and welfare measures, it may be possible to enhance their livelihoods while also enhancing the efficiency of materials recovery. An example is the case of SWaCH in Pune, India where the municipal authorities have supported the creation of a cooperative of waste collectors. Such efforts could lead to triple bottom line gains.

Similarly, mobility services are provided by cycle rickshaws in many developing country cities. Instituting welfare measures for cycle rickshaw pullers, improving the design of the rickshaw and creating some value added services like ‘dial a rickshaw’ can improve work conditions and livelihoods. Combined with measures like car-free areas, better public transport, the cycle rickshaw can provide low carbon mobility services. This has been done in the Eco-cabs initiative in the town of Fazilka, in Punjab, India. This could be another example of triple bottom line gains.

Developing country efforts for sustainable production/ consumption must thus look at how the informal sector that produces goods and services may be supported so that their lives and livelihoods become better, while also providing better, low carbon goods and services to society.

ESD has an important role!

ESD has an important role and the potential to inform, train and create new consumption and production patterns.

UNEP in its publication Global Outlook on SCP Policies: taking action together, describes how Civil Society Organizations have had a key role in shifting consumption and production patterns towards more sustainable alternatives. The role includes advocacy, policy dialogue, influencing extraction/ primary production and business practices, capacity-building etc. NGOs and civil society organizations are active at the grassroots, as well as international coalitions.

Initiatives like SWaCH Pune and Eco-cabs Fazilka could be developed, scaled up, adapted in many other cities through ESD work. This is not easy, since certain popular perceptions about the informal sector may need to change. The relationships that local governments have with individuals and organizations of the informal sector are sometimes adversarial since informal occupations are seen as ‘encroaching’ upon formal urban space. New laws such as the recently passed Street Vendors Act in India are the result of advocacy over the last few decades. To implement it across cities in India will require innovative techniques that bring different actors together in a conducive, inclusive and effective manner to design locale-specific solutions. It will require an exploration of values, of understanding different points of view, of imagining different possibilities. This is the stuff that ESD practitioners could be experimenting with to help design new ways of production and consumption.

People and organizations too have to have many competencies, as agents in transforming production-consumption systems. They need to be able to monitor their physical and social environment, identify issues and risks, access deeper knowledge on these, be able to advocate their own views and experiences, be able to engage other actors and learn their views and empathize with them, try and see the bigger picture, negotiate the trade-offs and arrive at new ways of doing things, and then do the whole thing again, and again!

Clearly, ESD professionals must support civil society actors in developing such competences, and help create or facilitate situations that support civil society in taking actions. Sustainable Consumption and Production is not only about technology and technology transfer. There is a lot of discussion on technology-transfer, but hardly any on ESD for SCP, or ESD for appropriate transfer and uptake of technology, or on how transformative, multi-stakeholder learning and action can happen to change consumption and production patterns and systems.

The SDG Goals and targets currently being formulated for ‘Sustainable Consumption and Production’ must go much beyond seeing the role of Education only as an exhortation directed at Consumers, appealing to a sort of moral sense to consume less or choosing better by paying attention to labels, though both these are important elements of the range of what consumers can do.

ESD in the SCP sector can help by engaging many different types of stakeholders in systemic changes. ESD agencies and methods that enable multi-stakeholder learning, joined up horizontally and vertically, could provide the ‘systemic-ness’ needed in the transformation of Production and Consumption.

These processes need to be deliberative and dialogic, inquiry based approaches, strengthening individual and collective agency. ESD professionals need to be able to develop appropriate learning methods and landscapes to help create systemic changes in consumption and production systems.                

References

International Energy Outlook, ud, Energy Access Database at http://www.worldenergyoutlook.org/resources/energydevelopment/energyaccessdatabase/ accessed 15 June 2014

Sarabhai, K (January 2005), It is not just “development” that needs to be redefined… at http://www.ceeindia.org/esf/esf.asp, accessed 15 June 2015

SUMNet, ud, Eco-cabs in Fazilka, at sumnet.in, accessed 15 June 2014

SWaCH, ud, History of SWaCH at http://www.swachcoop.com/swachpune-history.html  accessed 15 June 2014

UN Sustainable Development Knowledge Platform, 2 June 2014, Introduction and Proposed Goals and Targets on Sustainable Development for the Post2015 Development Agenda, at http://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/content/documents/4044140602workingdocument.pdf, accessed 10 June 2014 (version of 2 June 2014)

UNEP (2012), Global Outlook on SCP Policies: taking action together.

Unicef, ud, Picture in India: Nutrition at http://www.unicef.org/india/children_2356.htm  accessed 15 June 2014

 

Posted in Sustainable Production and Consumption | Leave a Comment »

Biodiversity in Urban Areas – Beyond Appreciation

Posted by Sanskriti on September 14, 2013

Sanskriti Menon[1] with inputs from Savita Bharti2 and Thomas Hoffmann3

My neighbourhood pond

There is a pond at the end of the lane where I live. Once, my friend Anchal and I, in our effort to improve waste management, gathered up the neighbourhood children to clean up the garbage accumulated in the pond. They put on gloves and removed several kilograms of plastic, thermocol, broken glass, etc. Anchal, not only a waste management enthusiast but also a trekker and photographer of birds and butterflies, was suddenly excited. She had spotted Flapshell Turtles in the pond! Though Flapshells are common across India, to see some right here in our neighbourhood in Pune was a treat.

Soon the children were quietly observing the drama before their eyes. A shikra sat on a high branch nearby, keeping a keen eye out for prey. A kingfisher perched on a tree at the other edge. And on an electrical wire sat a row of green bee-eaters, some of which flew out occasionally in a rapid sortie and darted back to the wire, usually with a fly or bee in the beak. Some purple moorhens disappeared into the reeds. And frogs could be seen peeping out of the water and then again diving under. What other treasures had the garbage been hiding? The garbage clean-up activity became a nature experience. Later, the children put up a sign saying ‘Gulmohur Park Flapshell Turtle Sanctuary’.  

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Flapshell Turtles in Aundh, Pune. Photo by Ashish Kothari

The sign faded with time, and the ink finally washed away in the rain and the children grew up and moved on. But I like to think that they had a learning experience to remember. For me at least, the place changed from being a derelict, mosquito-ridden, disease-spreading bit of swamp to a mysterious, living emerald jewel gleaming in the sunlight, a beautiful secret place in the neighbourhood.

School children and young people in cities have a very important role related to urban nature.

Firstly, they have to learn about the biodiversity around them (such as lakes, rivers, small or large natural and semi-natural patches of vegetation, etc.), how we make use of such natural elements, their status, and how we currently manage them. Secondly, they have to find new ways of managing cities so that other species as well as human beings have a better life, in the context of global climate change.

Students have to acquire the abilities or competences to undertake this learning and investigation. Teachers, of course, have individual preferences for the methods that may be appropriate in this context. Biodiversity monitoring using quadrat studies, species identification, bird watching, field trips, projects such as creating herbal gardens, plantation, are especially popular. Such nature experiences can form the foundation for life-long appreciation of and respect for nature.

Now over 50 per cent of the human species lives in urban areas worldwide, and in India, already over 31 per cent. Teachers therefore must build on the values of nature appreciation and go beyond these to help students explore practical ways to reduce our impact.

Learning about urban biodiversity

It helps to first list out concepts that students may explore through activities and projects. Box 1 provides a starter list of ‘Essential Learnings on Urban Biodiversity’, which one could add to.

The concept of City Biodiversity Indicators also provides a useful framework to study urban biodiversity and guide positive actions for restoration and management. It has been recently developed under the Convention on Biological Diversity and relates to three main components:

  1. Native biodiversity in the city (which should be protected)
  2. Ecosystem services provided by biodiversity in the city (which should be enhanced)
  3. Governance and management of biodiversity in the city (which should lead to the above)

Students should be able to appreciate the ‘systemic nature’ of the interactions between ecosystems and humans. We may re-design cities and the patterns of use of biodiversity according to our current understanding. However, we must keep in mind that human society and its knowledge, technologies, patterns of use of resources keeps changing, and in recent times, these are changing quite rapidly.

Similarly, we must keep in mind that biodiversity is also evolving and changing. Climate change is a major factor that is driving changes in the nature of ecosystems and interactions between species, for example due to changed monsoon patterns. Changes in seasons, in the time of flowering of plants, time of arrival of migratory birds, or numbers of certain types of insects present in a specific season are some of the visible changes people are already observing.

Schools could consider being involved in SeasonWatch, which is a citizen volunteer network that monitors the seasons as revealed by trees. Participants help to document the timing of flowering, fruiting, and leaf-flush of roughly 100 tree species. The collective data can show how this timing may be changing as the climate changes. SeasonWatch is run by the Citizen Science Programme at the National Centre for Biological Sciences, Bangalore.

Try Activity 1 (below) as a way to show how the activities of human society impact habitats and species. What is the role of human knowledge, policies, ways of functioning, designing or implementing infrastructure, etc? Can these be changed to benefit habitats and species?

The concept of ‘Green Infrastructure’ is one direction for practical ways of enhancing ecosystem services in the city. Rivers and streams, soil, grasslands and forests are natural ‘green infrastructure’ or assets that make cities livable. Human-created wetlands, habitats for particular species, assistance in migration or breeding, re-forestation or re-vegetation, green roofs or green walls are human-made green infrastructure. Where possible, cities could shift to green infrastructure to provide the services citizens need. This can be for sewage treatment through managed wetlands, composting organic waste, networks of green walkways for pedestrians and cyclists, urban agriculture as a source of food, income and recreation, green roofs for cooling buildings as well as for food and composting. Students could study the ways in which natural assets or human-created green infrastructure is contributing to quality of life of citizens in urban areas and take up action projects to create such assets.

There is enormous creative thinking, experimentation and innovation to be done to reduce our impact on nature, and teachers and students can and must be part of it.

Box 1 – Essential Learnings about Urban Biodiversity – Starter List

  1. One way of studying and interacting with biodiversity is by using the ‘ecosystem benefits or services’ approach.
  2. Historically, many cities have evolved near rivers or water sources, using ecosystem services already available there.
  3. As cities have grown, the growing demand for space and resources has tended to degrade or destroy the ecosystems cities are dependent upon.
  4. Cities impact biodiversity and ecosystems, at the local and regional levels by directly drawing resources or by physical modifications (such as when creating infrastructure), as well as at the planetary level by drawing resources from distant lands, and generating emissions that contribute to climate change.
  5. Humans have consciously modified biodiversity in urban habitations by introducing and cultivating selected species, such as in parks and gardens, and pets.
  6. Urban areas may have higher biodiversity, due to increase in the types of habitats and niches, and introduced species than the surrounding natural and semi natural regions.
  7. Human-created habitats resemble certain types of natural habitats (for example buildings and bridges resemble rock faces or cliffs) and certain species have adapted to such human created habitats (such as swifts, swallows and blue rock pigeons).
  8. Urban environments typically have high air or water pollution levels, dry or arid conditions, heat islands, and species that are able to tolerate such conditions may persist or thrive in larger numbers in urban habitats.
  9. Humans can create their own habitats, infrastructure (such as through ‘green infrastructure’) and use resources in ways that benefit both other species and humans.
  10. Green infrastructure may be defined as an interconnected network of green or natural spaces that conserves natural ecosystem values and functions and provides associated benefits to human populations.
  11. Add more …

Activity 1

  • Observe the concept map given here
  • Make different sequences starting from ‘people’ and ending in ‘species’
  • Give examples to illustrate the sequences.
  • Identify any activity in your own experience that impacts the environment and build up the rest of the sequence.

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Here is one flow sequence: People construct institutions that undertake activities that impact habitats that support species. 

Here is an example to illustrate this sequence: Students in a Pune school have formed an eco-club that undertakes garbage clean-ups to restore a wetland that supports migratory birds.

Another example: The government created a policy that supplied cheap bamboo to paper factories in Uttara Kannada that led to over-extraction of bamboo in the district and depleted the local forest. 

The diagram above shows that people impact habitats and species. Can you think of ways in which habitats and other species affect humans?

Note: This activity is from ‘Environment and Sustainable Development’ for Std XI, Maharashtra State Board of Secondary and Higher Secondary Education, 2012; the concept map template has been developed by Dr Madhav Gadgil for the NCERT Handbook on Environment Education. The Maharashtra textbook is based on the NCERT Handbook.

ESD to Support the CBD

On October 19th 2012, on the last day of the Eleventh Conference of Parties of the Convention on Biological Diversity (COP 11), the highlight for the ESD community was the signing of an MoU between the CBD Secretariat and the Centre for Environment Education, India (CEE) to work together in developing and implementing an educational strategy and plans of action that are supportive to the objectives of CBD, the strategic plan and the Decade on Biodiversity, and the objectives of education for sustainable development. The task includes collaboration on foundational research, engaging relevant partners and stakeholders for wider sharing of information, learning, implementation and scaling up.


  1. Sanskriti Menon heads the urban programmes group at CEE in India. She is also involved in curriculum development and textbook writing for EE in the state of Maharashtra.
  2. Savita Bharti is a Programme Officer at CEE, responsible for bringing out Education for Change, a periodical magazine on EE and ESD, as part of the Environmental Information System (ENVIS) of the Ministry of Environment and Forests, Government of India.
  3. Thomas Hoffmann is a Geographer, a member of the GIZ supported ESD ExpertNet, a teacher trainer and a school teacher.

This article first appeared in Teacher Plus, Vol.no. 10, Issue no. 10, October 2012, in a special pullout on biodiversity. 

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Shekru Mahotsav and Sahyadri Fortnight

Posted by Sanskriti on June 30, 2013

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Shekru, or Indian Giant Squirrel. Photo by Thomas Hoffmann

A Shekru Mahtosav is being organized on 1 July 2013 in Pune. This festival marks the beginning of the Sahyadri Fortnight from 1 to 15 July. The initiative to declare 1 to 15 July as Sahyadri Fortnight by the Environment Dept, Govt of Maharashtra is to commemorate and celebrate the inscription of Western Ghats sites as World Natural Heritage by UNESCO last year. This first Sahyadri Fortnight focuses on Shekru or Indian Giant Squirrel. Shri Sanjay Deotale, Environment Minister and Shri Sachin Aher, Minister of State for Environment, Smt Valsa Nair Singh, IAS, Secretary, Environment Dept, Govt of Maharashtra will be present on the occasion. The Shekru Mahotsav will take place at Yashada in two sessions from 9 am to 1 pm and 2 to 5 pm.

Students and teachers from about 30 schools that are part of the Western Ghats (Sahyadri) Special Eco-clubs Scheme of Environment Dept, Govt of Maharashtra and located in the Sahyadris from Nashik to Sindhudurg and Kolhapur will participate in the Shekru Festival. The Scheme is implemented by Centre for Environment Education (CEE). Shekru Festival is being arranged by CEE on behalf of the Environment Dept, Govt of Maharashtra.

Students would participate in games, quiz and an exhibition on the ecology of the Giant Squirrel, threats and conservation efforts. In the afternoon, a slide show, talk by experts and presentations will be made about the projects that schools will be taking up in the Sahyadri Fortnight till 15 July.

The Western Ghats are the habitat of the Indian Giant Squirrel, the State Animal of Maharashtra. Kas Plateau and Koyna Wildlife Sanctuary in Satara District, Chandoli National Park in Sangli District, and Radhanagri Wildlife Sanctuary in Kolhapur District are the sites in the Western Ghats in Maharashtra inscribed as World Heritage Sites by UNESCO in July 2012.

___________________________________________________________

For more information contact: Avinash Madhale, CEE, Pune. Cell: 9881466529. Email: avinash.madhale@ceeindia.org

Shekru Mahotsav

Objectives

Shekru Festival aims to:

  • Enhance awareness and knowledge about Shekru or the Indian Giant Squirrel among students of the Sahyadri Eco-clubs
  • Initiate action projects through school eco-clubs for the conservation of Shekru
  • Plant and care for trees that are part of the natural habitat of Shekru
  • Enhance understanding about the importance of Shekru and to increase the popularity of Shekru, the State Animal of Maharashtra, which gives the message of nature conservation to all

Under the Western Ghat (Sahyadri) Special Eco-club Scheme, eco-clubs have been set up in 246 schools in 63 Talukas of the 12 Districts in Maharashtra that have a segment of the Sahayadri mountain range.

Of these, 30 schools from Pune, Ahmednagar Satara, Raigad, Nashik. Kolhapur, Sangli district will be taking up a variety of activities to celebrate Sahyadri Fortnight from 1to 15 July 2013. These would include awareness activities about Shekru, the State Animal of Maharashtra, its protection and conservation, presentations to the community about Shekru, collection of seeds, nursery preparation and plantation of tree species necessary for its survival, survey of the area around the schools to assess the habitat, especially checking for tall trees, tree canopy, sacred groves, etc.

About Shekru

Shekru is the State Animal of Maharashtra. Shekru or Shekra (scientific name Ratufa indica, common name Indian Giant Squirrel) belongs to the squirrel family. The Indian Giant Squirrel is rust coloured and much larger than the commonly seen five-striped squirrel. It is found in the moist forests of the Western Ghats, especially on tall trees such as banyan, wild mango, kinjal, hirada, beheda etc.

However, today, the natural habitat of Shekru is vanishing or getting degraded due to a variety of reasons, such as conversion of forest lands to agriculture, housing or industrial lands, building of dams, monoculture plantations, logging for timber, hunting, etc.

Shekru is present in Maharashtra, mainly in Bhimashankar (Pune district), Phansad Ajoba mountain range, Mahuli, Vasuta region, Chandoli National Park (Sangli district), Radhanagri Wildlife Sanctuary (Kolhapur district), Melghat Tiger Reserve (Amravati district), Tadoba National Park (Chandrapur district).

Physical Features

The weight of an adult Shekru is about 2 to 2.5 kilos, and length of the body is 2.5 to 3 feet, including the tail. Its eyes are red and it has whiskers on its face. The coat is rust or brown coloured on the back. The belly or underside and front legs are usually lighter cream coloured. The head may be brown or beige with a white spot between the ears. The tail, longer than the main body, is a distinctive feature.

Life cycle and Behaviour

Shekru is a solitary creature. The male and female come together during the mating season. The female produces 1 or 2 off-spring once in a year in December-January. Shekrus build 6 to 8 nests for the protection of the young. The nests are round or spherical and made of twigs and leaves, which are usually on the thinner branches of tall trees where predators find it difficult to reach.

Shekru can leap from one tree to the other at distances of 15 to 20 feet.

The average life span is about 15 to 20 years

Food

Its diet includes mainly different types of fruits, seeds, flowers, leaves and bark of a variety of plants available in his habitat

Food Plants and Nesting Plants

Food plants: Anjani, Hirada, Beheda, wild Mango, Phansada, Jackfrruit, Chandada, Ambada, Moi, Jamun, Ombal Vel

Nesting plants: Anjani, Ambada, wild Mango, Beheda, Nana, Satveen, Kinjal

 

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How Safe is Our City?

Posted by Sanskriti on July 12, 2011

This is the original text in English of my article that appeared in Sakal on 12 July 2011, the 50th anniversary of the Panshet dam breach. The Sakal article (in Marathi) is at this link.

I grew up in IAT on one bank of the Khadakwasla Lake and went to school in NDA, on the other bank. My school bus went by the road adjoining the Khadakwasla dam and every day we would see the huge broken pieces of the old dam which was breached in 1961 when the upstream Panshet dam failed. Fortunately, there was no loss of life in that event of 50 years ago.

But, the population of Pune then was about 6 lakhs; there were hardly any slums and not so many people living in or near stream and river courses. Pune today is a highly dense, much built-up city.

With monsoon patterns becoming erratic due to Climate Change, Vijay Paranjpye says it is quite possible there might be an episode of 2-3 days of heavy rains in the catchment areas towards the end of the monsoon when the five upstream dams are 90% full. Planned discharges from the dams may cause flooding in Pune and this time round a much larger population would have to be evacuated.

Pune is on the verge of three types of disasters according to Sufi Pore, Former Director Disaster Management Training Institute, Mumbai, and who is on the UN list of disaster incident commanders. The number and intensity of earthquakes near Pune is increasing. Their epicentre is typically near Katraj. A stronger quake would affect Khadakwasla and Panshet dams. Another vulnerability is the number of tankers carrying hazardous chemicals, gas, acid on Mumbai-Bangalore highway. In the past, accidents have happened requiring evacuation in a radius of 5 km. If such an accident happens near Chandni Chowk, evacuation would be quite difficult. A third vulnerability is related to terrorist attacks, including biological weapons such as viruses. Even in epidemics, the capability for quarantine is limited.

On this day, the 50th anniversary of the Panshet dam failure disaster, it is pertinent to ask some questions: How prepared is our city to face disasters? Are we taking any preventive steps?

As per the National Disaster Management Act 2005, the District Disaster Management Authority is the main body for planning, coordinating and implementing the measures for disaster management in the district. Urban local bodies have a role too. The PMC has recently set up a Disaster Cell which has prepared a Hazards Response and Mitigation Plan focusing on fires (available on the PMC website). Mr Ganesh Sonwane, in charge of the Cell, says that training, capacity building and awareness efforts are underway. Plans have been made for enhancing the capacity for fire hazard handling equipment and personnel. But are these plans for hazard mitigation adequate?

Recent flooding events present mixed experiences. On the one hand we have read about heroic rescues by the Disaster Response Teams. We also get advisories on TV, radio, newspapers and over sms when planned dam releases are to take place. But I have also interacted with residents along the Ram Nadi who had flood water rising in their houses in a matter of minutes at night last year. No flood warning had been issued, and no officials came to their aid on the day of the flooding. The walls along the campuses of NCL, IITM and the defence estates act as mini dams for rain water rushing down the Chatushringi to Chandni Chowk range. Every monsoon we see flash flooding in these parts even with just a day of heavy rains. We witness landslides every year.

Clearly, our city is at risk. So what should be done? Architect and green building consultant, Anagha Paranjpe says that hazard mapping at the micro level should be done indicating areas prone to flooding, landslides, subsidence as well as congested areas etc. For risk reduction, we should respect the right of way of streams and rivers and the no-development zones on their banks. Of course, people living along the Ram Nadi will say that we don’t care whether you call it a stream or a river, the fact is that we are facing floods and marking a line on a map does not change that reality. Such actual experiences of the community must be taken into account when making micro-level hazard maps rather than sticking only to the theory of planning.

The master plan for the old city limits is being revised. While it is much delayed, this delay presents an opportunity to still try and integrate risk reduction measures in the master plan such as marking out no-development zones and rehabilitation of people living in risk-prone areas. There has to be recognition that the push for conversion of more and more open spaces including hills and wetlands into buildable zones often means increased risks to life and property.

The eco-housing policy that mandates rain water harvesting in every construction after the year 2000 should be reviewed. Geo-hydrologist Dr Himanshu Kulkarni, who is on the committee on sustainable ground water management set up by the Planning Commission, says that all areas of the city are not suitable for rain water recharge. In some places, due to the peculiar nature of the underlying basalt rock, harvesting rainwater and putting it into the ground can cause structural problems for buildings and may even lead to collapse. Instead of the current practice, a comprehensive and scientific aquifer management plan is needed which should be made after identifying the groundwater recharge zones and discharge zones in the city.

The national policy on disaster management recommends increased responsiveness towards vulnerable groups like slum dwellers, school children, poor households, construction workers, migrants etc. They call for conducting community‐based risk and vulnerability assessments and awareness drives through Residents Welfare Associations, traders and industry associations, NSS, schools etc. A clear disaster risk reduction strategy may not be available from the civic authorities. But we citizens should certainly demand for it. Strong democratic and participatory processes at the community level will enable people to be disaster prepared and we can all contribute to making our city a safer place.

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Dr APJ Abdul Kalam launches Paryavaran Mitra in central region

Posted by Sanskriti on January 7, 2011

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The Handprint – what the fingers signify

Posted by Sanskriti on October 14, 2010

Today Arun Wakhlu and Anupam Saraph and I met. We spoke about many things: Pachamama Alliance, Awakening the Dreamer, Poorna Pune, The Pune Wiki, TED and TEDx Pune, DevNadi and the power of individual action and contribution, the Earth Charter and EC + 10 conference in Ahmedabad, code of ethics, the Pune ESR, Ecological Footprint, The Handprint Actions for Sustainability, Indradhanushya, Clean Green Mela, the need to reflect and connect, existing connections, and need for more connections …

From all this came five points as one interpretation of the Handprint, and what each of the fingers might signify:

  • Be Positive and believe in yourself, says the thumb
  • Honour your commitments, abide by the agreed-on ethic, says the index finger
  • Our actions have to be in tune with environmental sustainability, says the middle finger, and as it is the tallest, it also means that we recognize the environment is bigger than all of us and the basis of our life
  • Reach out and connect, and our actions have to be in tune with social justice, says the ring finger
  • My contribution counts, and I will devote some of my personal time every day/ every week and also where possible align my social, work/ business life to working for environmental sustainability and social justice, says the little finger

🙂

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Photography for Environmental Awareness

Posted by Sanskriti on September 15, 2010

Inviting Entries for the Srushti Mitra Award

The Srushti Mitra Award, instituted by the Environment Department, Government of Maharashtra, and managed by Centre for Environment Education seeks to promote environmental awareness and  to recognize the most inspiring, creative entries in various categories (click here for award details). The awards include a citation and honorarium (ranging from Rs 1000 to Rs 10000 in various categories).

Photographs can be powerful tools for social change. They have led to outrage against war and mobilization to fight pollution, to realizing the wonders of nature.

Some organizations use photographs as a major campaigning method. For example, the Blue Earth Alliance believes that “The link between compelling documentary photography and our collective motivation to change attitudes, behaviour, even policies – is strong”. Blue Earth has helped raise almost a million dollars for important issues such as lack of open public spaces, disappearing traditions of fishermen, the role of grandmothers in AIDS-ravaged Africa etc.

Sanjay Sondhi, who gave up his career in a multinational engineering company to pursue his love for nature photography, especially of butterflies, moths and other insects, says, “The excitement of capturing the hidden mysteries of nature with the click of a shutter has given me a lifetime of pleasure! And equally thrilling is the sharing of photos with friends afterwards!”

Photography requires patience. Sanjay describes a typical experience, “The butterfly flitted by and settled on a flower. Up came my camera, as I slowly approached the magnificently coloured insect. I lined up myself to photograph, I squeezed the shutter, and off it flew! A blank shot! How many times have I been through this! The hits and the misses. The thrill of capturing nature on film (and now in pixels) and sharing them with people who have not been so fortunate has given me (and hopefully, others) a lifetime of pleasure.”

Even though he is now a regular writer for newspapers and magazines, Sanjay says his photographs help him convey what his words cannot. He says, “Nature photography is the balm for the concrete-lined eyes of today’s urban world!”

Photo: Small Leopard in Meghalaya by Sanjay Sondhi

Inspired? Send your entries for the Environment Photographs category in the Srushti Mitra Award before 30 September 2010

For more details: The Srushti Mitra blog

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Clean Green Mela

Posted by Sanskriti on June 25, 2010

26 June 2010, Swojas Anand, Anand Park, Aundh, Pune

10 am to 2 pm

CEE and SWaCH are organizing a neighbourhood mela … get to know clean-green stuff happening around you, learn about solutions to make our neighbourhoods more livable

Clean Green Mela

  • Games and activities for children: Web of Life, Waste Segregation, Ropes n ladders, Whats in my compost pit, Tree of Life, Patch Painting
  • V-Collect: Bring your stuff for re-use and recycling – old clothes, toys, utensils, electrnic items
  • Compost Demo: How to start a compost pit and tips to care for your compost pit
  • Paper bag making demo
  • Talks by Dr R Joshi, Aundh Ward Medical Officer and SWaCH
  • Exhibition by EcoExist, SWaCH and CEE of products made of recycled material, books etc
  • Film show
  • Act Now Poster exhibition

Entry is free … Do Come!

And if you’d like to organize this mela in your neighbourhood, get in touch!

Here are pictures of an earlier V Collect, organized in Pushpak Park Aundh (click for slide show)

Pushpak Park

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A special book launch at a special bookstore

Posted by Sanskriti on June 21, 2010

Sahyadri Adventure by Deepak Dalal, illustrated by Anusha, at Twist n’ Tales

Anusha, Deepak and Janaki, Twist n' Tales, 20 June 2010

Yesterday, Janaki gathered family, friends and neighbours, in an intimate and warm event at Twist n’ Tales to launch Deepak’s new double book Sahyadri Adventure. The books are illustrated by Anusha. Many things were special about yesterday – the store, the author and the illustrator!

Janaki has always wanted Twist n’ Tales to be a neighbourhood bookshop, and that is what it is. Its what you want a bookstore to be. Not a mall. Janaki knows her books and the community of readers; people meet here and strike up friendships. Deepak, a frequent visitor at TnT, writes wildlife adventure stories for children. I first met him when I moved to Pune, and my mentors and friends, philosophers and guides, Meena and Mamata, suggested I meet him, and I did. We are neighbours too! And when Deepak was telling Janaki last year that he needed an illustrator for his new book, it was Janaki who suggested that he ask Anusha.

Deepak remembered all the little doodles – mainly birds – that Anusha has been doing when we all met over coffee with Ashish, and said … ‘why not?’. And so began a new neighbourhood collaboration right here in Aundh.

Wasn’t easy with over 40 drawings to do, with school work, jamming and band practise. Deepak was always encouraging, but firm that she give her best, and its because of him and Aditi Deo’s (also in Aundh!) technical guidance that Anusha’s talent has blossomed. I’m so proud!

Here is a page from the book with Anusha’s illustrations …

Half-title Page from Sahyadri Adventure

See also twistntales: Launch of Deepak Dalal’s new book!

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