Stuff I Do

Experiences and Encounters in Pune

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!


Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments »

The Avian Ritz

Posted by Sanskriti on May 21, 2010

By Anusha

The Avian Ritz

Painted by Anusha last week, on a nostalgic warm summer evening with cool jazz and dark chocolate …remembering our life and times at the old house in Aundhgaon … parties at John’s place, the red ants in the compost pots on the terrace, the drumstick tree in the neighbour’s house and the crows that nested there regularly.

The correct place for this painting is the Sparrows story.

Posted in Biodiversity, Places in Pune | 2 Comments »

Actions to Address Air Pollution

Posted by Sanskriti on April 24, 2010

By Ananya Kaginalkar and Girija Bhapkar

CEE’s Earth Care page in Sakal Young Buzz, March 2010

Ananya and Girija bicycle a lot and use solar water heaters at home.

Vroom…..cough, cough! Vroom… ..cough, cough! This is the condition of most of us city dwellers. Even if we step out of our houses for some fresh air we are immediately engulfed by pollution. This is what set our minds ticking and my partner Girija Bhapkar and I decided to take up ‘Air Pollution’ as our topic for our Environment Studies project with a desire to do ‘something’ about it.

Read on …

Try the Causes of Pollution game on kidsRgreen

Posted in CEE's Earthcare Page in Sakal Young Buzz, Pollution, Uncategorized | Leave a Comment »

Shelter Amongst Trees

Posted by Sanskriti on April 22, 2010

Time seems to have stopped here. This patch of green in the heart of the city is contiguous with Bel Bagh, which is like a sacred grove. There were several gardens in the old city … Hirabagh, Vishrambagh, Ramanbagh, Tulshibagh etc., which now have only shops and buildings. The old houses in Jogeshwari Lane are mostly gone, and tall buildings now surround Hematai’s patch of green, where she lives with her brother, Suhasji. She says, “I was born here and have been living in this house since 1940. With these new constructions around, my house is now a fortress!” Dr Hema Sane was the first woman lecturer of Botany in Pune, in 1962. She retired in 2000, as Head of Dept of Botany, Garware College. She is also an M Phil in Indology. She has authored several textbooks, monographs, scripts and popular articles on plants in and around Pune.  Talking about the changing biodiversity of Pune, Hematai says, “Dr Vartak would lead nature walks for studying and collecting plant specimens in the Mutha river bed. Even up to the 80s we would find a couple of species of orchids there. They are gone now.” About her own life and her house, she says, “My life is rich not with things, but with my experiences and my friends, these trees, Rangutai the cat, and the birds. Another thing I cannot live without is music which my radio brings me.”

Dr Sane’s place is here on wikimapia

These photographs were taken as part of the ‘Living in a Changing Environment‘ photography workshop conducted in Pune by Prof Stefan Koppelkamm and Mr Peeyush Sekhsaria, and organized by Max Mueller Bhavan, Pune and Maharashtra Cultural Centre.

Posted in Biodiversity, Community, Development Plan, Places in Pune | 3 Comments »

Paintings last evening

Posted by Sanskriti on April 14, 2010


OrchidWine by Anusha

And mine …

Green Hibiscus

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Living in a Changing Environment

Posted by Sanskriti on April 10, 2010

Photography Exhibition curated by the Maharashtra Cultural Center and the Max Mueller Bhavan

8 April to 8 May 2010 at Max Mueller Bhavan, Boat Club Road, Pune 411 001

The exhibition shows photographs of Bhagyashree Bhutada, Prasad Dabke,  Snehal Date, Sanket Deshpande, Rainer Hoerig, Arul Horizon, Pooja Joshi, Meghana Kulkarni, Shamin Kulkarni, Sanskriti Menon, Sujit Patwardhan, Vikrant Thakar

The exhibition unites twelve personal perspectives of the city of Pune. Some of the photographers take you on a discovery tour to places which contribute to the identity of their city threatened by the dynamics of urban development and neglect. Others take a critical look at the ubiquitous billboards which dominate the appearance of large parts of the city and at the new urban lifestyle symbolized by glass and concrete buildings which are neither adapted to the climate nor to the architectural and cultural context. The photographers hope that this exhibition will make a visual contribution to a discussion about the future of their city – a discussion they feel is necessary and urgent.


The photo-exhibition is the result of a week-long workshop conducted by Stefan Koppelkamm and architect and photographer Peeyush Sekhsaria. Stefan conducted the Places I Like photography workshop in Bangalore in August 2009, and through the facilitation of MMB Pune, we were able to have the workshop in Pune too.

For me, the photo workshop was a way of exploring the old city. We walked about Tulshibagh, Mandai, Kasba, Tambat Ali, Laxmi Road, Narayan Peth looking at paars, changing uses, buildings being pulled down, new buildings replacing old, mandirs subsumed within new buildings, deep stumbhs now standing neglected, little curving lanes, ferns on old crumbling slim red brick walls, shop signs in chalk … We also had thali lunches, nira, kairi panhe, Dharwad pedhe, hot pattice from New Poona Bakery.

Our photos capture some of this flavour and tell stories about Pune.

Pooja’s photos about the brick kilns outside Pune have a story deeper than what is immediately evident. The location of the kiln was probably a farm, now its just a piece of real estate, already sold for construction. The top soil was probably sold separately to another kiln. And so the city and the built environment expands and eats up the surrounding farm land.

Rainer captures the old and the new; physical structures of glass and chrome replace mud and straw huts though remnants of the village are still strewn about. You wonder what became of the people whose village it was. In another photo, the Bombay-Pune road is the setting for the crossing of the Wari that pre-dates the structures in the background – the British water tower and the modern glass-chrome mall. Some collective memories endure and are longer-lived than buildings.

Snehal’s photos of Taljai celebrate the green patches left in our city, though the skyline of the city just beyond tells you just how vulnerable these patches are. Sujit’s photos of shops and vendors in the old core city speak about a type of economy very much alive, vibrant and colourful – but does the key-maker or the Amrutulya know that Pune’s City Development Plan also speaks about a vibrant economy, but that it might mean a very different economy and a very different perception of ‘vibrant’. These little, ‘low-value’ economic activities have no place in the modern city which measures its success by the foot falls in the malls. Vikrant comments on the larger-than-life bill boards and their empty promises.

Arul and I have more personal yet generic stories to tell – of particular people, and the changes in the city seen through their lives. Prasad captures the dull red gleam of the Tambats’ lives. The Mandai that, with its dark, musty and mysterious light, could be a child’s ‘I Spy’ delight – Bhagyashree yearns to see it full of people and life again.

Other photos also show dilapidated structures, beautiful no doubt, but maybe unsafe? A change in land-use, and an increase in the FSI limit will decongest the old core, but de-congest it of what and for what? To replace it with more glass and chrome? Perhaps the photos can be the reason or the excuse or the backdrop for a wider dialogue on what is our city about, whose lives are at stake, and whose vision is shaping the structure of the city and the destiny of its people.

My photos.


Glimpses of the Workshop


Pooja, Peeyush, Stefan

Sujit, Bhagyashree and Snehal compare cameras

Sujit, Bhagyashree and Snehal compare cameras

Rainer and Stefan

Prasad, Stefan, Peeyush


Posted in Community, Development Plan, Heritage, Places in Pune, Uncategorized | 4 Comments »

Towards a Climate Change Adaptation and Mitigation Policy for Maharashtra: Urbanization

Posted by Sanskriti on March 16, 2010

Presented at Yashwantrao Chavan Pratishthan, Mumbai on 6 March 2010


Access full paper CCAM 4 March 2010


Rationale /overview for the theme

Maharashtra is among the states with the largest urban populations in India. Till 1991, Maharashtra was the most urbanised state in India among the 16 largest states in India with a population of 78 million. In 2001, with regard to the urban population, Maharashtra ranked second with a share of 42.4% urban population next to Tamil Nadu with a share of 43.9% of urban population. In absolute numbers, according to the 2001 census, 10.5 million was urban population out of a total population of 97 million. The economic and industrialization policies of the state are also further encouraging a shift from agriculture to other sectors that are urban-based, with the objective of economic growth.

Given the large populations that cities host, and the higher energy consumption associated with cities, it is clear that urban areas need special attention while developing state-level strategies to address climate change related issues.

Cities have a critical role in addressing vulnerability, protecting people, preparedness, and resilience. Satterthwaite and Dodman (2009)[1] suggest that while cities are often implicated in discussions on climate change, making cities the culprit misses the fact that a significant proportion of GHG emissions are caused by consumption patterns of middle and upper income groups. Also, it misses the role that well-planned cities have in achieving a healthy habitat and a good quality of life with low GHG levels. A more nuanced approach is therefore necessary.

Certainly reductions in green house gases (GHGs), the sources of which include industrial production, transport, buildings, waste, etc are desirable. However, there is a lot of variation regarding quantity of GHG emissions between different cities. Some cities in high income countries show lower per capita GHG levels than their national averages in Europe and North America e.g. New York and London, especially because of the investments made in public transport and disincentives to private transport. As Maharashtra takes up large transport infrastructure projects, it would be useful to look at what cities like New York and London are doing now to improve mobility while reducing the carbon footprint. In accordance with the National Urban Transport Policy, cities in Maharashtra need to develop a multi-modal approach to mobility with emphasis on public transport and non-motorized transport facilities.

Most cities in Maharashtra have inadequate provision of municipal services. Supply of water, waste-water treatment, solid waste management and preservation of gardens and green areas are among the core municipal services and amenities. These are essential to maintain healthy living conditions and have a key role in disease prevention, which is one of the ways to build resilience. While support is being made available through the JNNURM for improvement in the provision of basic services, a lot remains to be done on the ground.

Livelihood support and micro-credit enable individuals and families to develop a solid economic base which can also help them to be more resilient to shocks caused directly or indirectly due to climate change. A large proportion of the jobs of the urban poor is generally in the informal sector. Some of these informal sector jobs provide services that are ‘low carbon’ and need to be upgraded and supported in various ways. For example, transforming the work conditions of rag-pickers and including them in improving municipal waste management systems can achieve multiple benefits. Not only does the sector provide employment, it also promotes recycling. Work conditions can be improved by mandating source segregation, allocating spaces for neighbourhood composting and sorting of dry recyclables etc. and also encouraging the setting up of facilities for material recovery and recycling in and around urban centres.

Another way of enhancing urban resilience is by adopting pro-poor strategies to address lack of access to decent housing, sanitation, health care, schooling, political voice, etc.

The major tools for city planning are development plans or master plans, development control rules and building codes. Changes are needed in the practices of town planning to take into account strategies for disaster risk reduction (DRR), extreme weather events, space allocation for core services delivered in ‘low carbon’ ways, etc. Building codes to promote ‘low carbon buildings’ should no longer remain voluntary and incentive based, but should become mandatory.

Another important facet is the need for information to support decision making. The reporting framework, as well as the processes of use of city State of the Environment (SoE) reports need strengthening so as to include monitoring of local action taken related to addressing climate change impacts. The SoE reporting process in any case needs strengthening to be useful in the exercises of municipal planning, budgeting and implementing programmes and projects.

City governments and civil society also need to develop mechanisms to greatly enhance public participation. Effective institutions and mechanisms of democratic governance provide the basis for a society to act in concert to face stresses. Participation of citizens in preparation of master plans, annual ward level and sectoral budgets, neighbourhood infrastructure related decision, participatory monitoring and evaluation of development projects are some areas that require a much more open attitude by municipal administrators as well as elected officials.

While there are specific tasks that need to be done within cities, an overall macro policy of climate-change sensitive urbanization in the state also needs to be developed. Urbanization in the state should be planned considering the environmental CARRYING CAPACITY of the region.

[1] Satterthwaite, David and David Dodman (2009). ‘The Role of Cities in Climate Change’ in State of the World 2009. World Watch Institute

Posted in Climate Change | Leave a Comment »

Wonderful Wetlands

Posted by Sanskriti on February 20, 2010

2 Feb is World Wetlands Day. The theme for 2010 is ‘‘Caring for Wetlands, an answer to climate change’. More at

It was 9 am when the three of us embarked upon a boat ride on the Thane creek. The boat reached the mud flats in the mouth of the creek and the sight of thousands of birds on the banks greeted us. There were wading birds like Redshanks, Greenshanks, Stints, Godwits, Plovers, Flamingos, Herons and Egrets. Hovering over the water in search of prey were Terns, Gulls, Marsh Harriers and Kites. As volunteers for the ‘Asian Waterfowl Count’ or AWC, our job was to count the water birds at the creek in the stretch we had selected.

Read the full article by Laxmikant Deshpande (click on ‘Archive’ if reading after Feb 2010).

Try the Wetland Quiz

Posted in Biodiversity, CEE's Earthcare Page in Sakal Young Buzz | Leave a Comment »

A Day in the Life of a Wastepicker – short skit

Posted by Sanskriti on February 4, 2010

Anusha and Yoshita decided to explore solid waste management in Aundh as their EVS project for Std IX. They interviewed the people who collect from their apartment blocks, asking where they take the garbage and what they do with it. They visited the sorting area in Anand Park, in NCL and also spoke to two people sorting waste on the pavement outside Chaitraban. They were just typing up their findings, when an English oral test was announced for which they were expected to perform a 2 minute skit. Since they couldn’t find an appropriate skit (2 minutes and 6 characters) on the internet, they wrote up one based on their SWM findings. I thought it worked out quite well so it became the Earthcare article for 29 Jan.

Cities need to provide spaces for sorting recyclables, for the safety of the people who handle waste and for cleaner neighbourhoods

Also, a facebook chat find (how Web 2.0 has changed our lives!) was a poem on poachers by Yash Deshpande, Std X  …

See Earthcare page in Sakal Young Buzz

check the Archives link on the same page if the latest article has replaced the article referred to above)

Posted in CEE's Earthcare Page in Sakal Young Buzz, Waste Management | Leave a Comment »

Workshop on a Biodiversity Management Committee for Pune

Posted by Sanskriti on December 31, 2009

Nestling between the Deccan plateau and the Sahyadris or the Western Ghats mountain range, Pune has a variety of natural and semi-natural areas – rivers, streams, wetlands, forested patches and gardens. This green cover and natural areas are part of our city’s unique landscape and character, and make our city beautiful and livable.

Indian traditions include nature conservation everywhere. Several Indian cities have many large banyan, peepal trees that have been recognized as keystone resources. Cities also shelter large wild mammals like monkeys. Pune, in particular, with its hills, lakes and rivers has within the city limits, patches of natural forests, peafowl, barking deer, wild pigs, large flocks of migratory waterfowl etc. The culture of respect of the natural right of all living creatures to exist should not be eroded among city-dwellers.

The Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC), Forest Department, other government agencies, corporate groups, academic institutions, schools, several citizens groups and individuals are active in biodiversity conservation in many different ways. Their efforts can be strengthened by many more citizens taking actions as individuals and in collective ways.

Cities have not traditionally been the focus of biodiversity conservation efforts. Attention has been concentrated on protected areas, sites of rich biodiversity, endangered species, the role of traditional resource management strategies by communities directly dependent on biodiversity for livelihood and other reasons, etc. However, the importance of engaging cities in biodiversity conservation was recently recognized by the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (see Decision IX/28 Promoting engagement of cities and local authorities). It states that the accelerated rate of urbanization, particularly in developing countries, increasingly concentrates decision-making and resources in cities, thereby creating opportunities for better resource management at the city-level.

People generally readily recognize the aesthetic and environmental conservation values of biodiversity. However, the direct livelihoods and survival related needs of some groups using biodiversity or bio-resources in urban areas are not so well known or understood. Some examples are fuel wood, grazing, collection of tamarind or other fruits, flowers, leaves etc. Recognition of the different values and dependence people have in relation to biodiversity in Pune is an important aspect for improved management. A consideration of both social and environmental dimensions and especially a consideration of the needs of marginalized groups is in line with notions of ‘sustainable development’.

This prize-winning photo by Alexander Fedorov Kyrgyzstan at the ACCU ESD Photo Festival depicts how all members of Kirghiz families join in the weaving of woolen blankets; very much like the tradition of gongali weaving by Dhangars who pass through Pune and depend on bio-resources, but are increasingly displaced by urbanization. (see more about this photo at the end of the post)

In order to discuss these aspects of biodiversity conservation and to get a better understanding of how setting up a Biodiversity Management Committee might help in conservation, CEE organized a workshop on 22 Dec in partnership with Intach and Eaton Technologies Pvt Ltd. Dr Yellappa Reddy, Chair of the Biodiversity Management Committee of Bengaluru city was a key speaker. Such committees are required to be set up by all local self-government bodies, as stipulated in the Indian Biological Diversity Act 2002. Prof. Madhav Gadgil chaired the workshop. About 30 representatives of NGOs, government organizations, government officials, and college students participated in the workshop.

Prof. Gadgil in his opening remarks introduced the Indian Biological Diversity Act 2002 and Rules 2004 and emphasized that the Act gives power to local bodies including Municipal Corporations to take concrete actions for biodiversity conservation and management. An active and vibrant city like Pune must form a Biodiversity Management Committee, as mandated by the Act.

Dr. Reddy informed about the functioning of the Bengaluru Biodiversity Management Committee (BMC). The BMC was formed in 2006. There are 9 members in the committee mainly experts in field of zoology, botany, veterinary sciences, health, pollution, planning etc. An Assistant Conservator of Forest level officer deputed to the Bengaluru Municipal Corporation is the Member Secretary of the Committee.

In the past two years, biodiversity documentation activities have been carried out in 50 electoral wards with the help of college students. A small financial support has been provided through various agencies to these students to undertake activities. Thus, fifty ward-level Biodiversity Registers have been developed. Findings from these registers have been widely publicised through the local media. After the problems related to particular habitats or areas were identified, the remediation/ follow-up was done with Municipal Corporation to take action. Other agencies like Bangalore University have also been involved to develop a Biodiversity Park in the city. The office of the Lok Ayukta has been approached to help with cases where action from government agencies needs to be expedited. One example where the Lok Ayukta helped was in directing the BMC to demolish a bus stand that was causing water logging.

After Dr Reddy’s talk, presentations were made on various ongoing biodiversity conservation initiatives in Pune.

Mr Sanjay Pathak, IFS, Conservator of Forest Pune Division shared the experiences of Urban Joint Forest Management efforts in three reserved forest areas in Pune city.

Rohit Nayak spoke about the voluntary work of the  Clean Earth Movement for soil and moisture conservation, tree plantation, awareness etc on the Baner hill. He emphasized scientific planning, involvement of technical people and volunteers and preference to local varieties of plants for plantation as the main elements of their work.

Shri Jagzap, Tree Officer Pune Municipal Corporation shared the experiences of the Pune Tree Authority’s work in Pune. Tasneem Balasinorwala of Pune Tree Watch shared the experiences of their campaign to save trees using Urban Tree Act provisions and involving people to use the Act effectively. The group is now suggesting changes in the Act based on their experiences and advocating for the same. She emphasized that to use such legal provisions effectively, voluntary groups should closely work with government agencies implementing such acts. Their efforts to take experts in Tree Authority along with Local Corporators has helped in bringing transparency of authorities work and improved collaboration between various municipal departments like road, transport and the Tree Authority.

Eaton Technologies Pvt. Ltd who partly sponsored the event shared their work with communities in and around Pune on issues of health, environment etc.

Bhavana from Ecological Society shared their efforts related to ecosystem restoration and for developing short courses on ecology and economics.

After these presentations, an open discussion was held to discuss about the opportunities for conservation that BMC formation would provide, the mandate and roles of BMC, how to involve colleges and other educational institutions and the need to approach the municipal authority with suggestions for the same.

We  decided that a paper would be developed through further discussions (both online and physical) with citizens groups, government departments, researchers to gather suggestions for the mandate, structure, role of BMC and to approach the municipal corporation in the coming months to discuss formation of BMC. The draft text of this paper will be placed on the Pune Tree Watch blog for comments.


About Ala-Kiyiz

Photographer: Alexander Fedorov, Kyrgyzstan

Far back in the past, humans understood that warm clothing, blankets and carpets could be made of wool. Keeping up the old traditions of processing wool, every Kirghiz family makes a carpet called Ala-Kiyiz when preparing the bride’s dowry. Making such a s carpet is like a festival, because all members of the family, both young and old, take part in it. Everyone has something to do – to dye the wool, stencil, and then to walk on it. Every carpet has its individual pattern telling the ancient history of the nation.

Posted in Biodiversity, Culture and Sustainability | 3 Comments »