Thursday, December 11, 2008

A letter from a Friend

I received this email today from Prof Leszek Starkel (above), of the Polish Academy of Sciences, Krakow, Poland - who was our Main Speaker and Resource person in the Landslide Hazard Workshop organized by STH in Southfield College, Darjeeling on the 21Nov2008.
STH is proud to be associated with the likes of Prof Starkel, who is one of the world's foremost scientists in Geomorphology.
Dear Mr Rao,

Ten days ago after coming back to Poland I returned to annual reports, editorial work etc and two events turned my mind again to last workshop in Darjeeling and to our Himalaya.On Monday I got your letter and at the Cracov University (one of the oldest in Central Europe), I attended the ceremony of awarding the Dalai Lama by the highest degree of Doctor Honoris Causa.
I like to thank you for invitation and excellent organisation of seminar on landslide. The initiative of Save the Hills is very important and should be extended. In my opinion most of presented papers should be published including also panel discussion. Parallel to that it would be useful to publish more popular book with many figures and photos showing causes and effects of extreme events, scale of damages and ways of protection. Such book should be delivered to all schools, tea
gardens etc.

I wish you and all members of Save the Hills
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year


Leszek Starkel


Comment by praful rao
My thanks again to all those who contributed their time and resources towards making the Landslide Hazard Workshop at Darjeeling "excellent".

Saturday, December 6, 2008

How to corrupt a noble system..

The RTI Act 2005 is one of the most progressive pieces of legislation in our democracy because it empowers the ordinary citizen to question the Govt and the powers that be.
Unfortunately, even this Act which stipulates a time limit of 30 days for questions to be answered has been corrupted...
I had put an application under the RTI Act2005 on 19Aug2008 (SLIDE 1), asking for certain information regarding landslide prevention and fund utilization from the SPIO, Office of the District Magistrate, Darjeeling. Receiving no reply within the time frame assigned I sought the intervention of the West Bengal State Information commission - they did intervene sending this letter, dated 22 Oct2008 (SLIDE 2).
Since the district admin paid no heed to the State Information Commission, I have taken the matter up with Central Information Commission (Slide 3&4) on 05Dec2008... what ought to have taken one month has already taken the better part of three and a half months and I have still not received the answers to my questions!

praful rao

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

The ATREE workshop at Darjeeling

Two days workshop held

By DT Correspondent on November 28,2008

image Darjeeling, Nov 26: A two day seminar held by ATREE ( Asoka Trust for Research and Ecology) brought a league of researchers, scientists, bio-conservationists and NGO workers under one roof to discuss a rather impending issue that seems to loom about the atmosphere. The conservation of bio-diversity and the sustainable usage of the forest was the sensitive issue being floored in the seminar. The group had representatives from South India ATREE Branch, representatives from the North East and Darjeeling Branch as well.

Detailed presentations were made on issues such as reconciling conservation with livelihood, monitoring the ecological conditions of the forest and drivers of ecosystem change, cultural ecology and link to conversation, livelihood strategies of forest dependent communities in Western Ghats, community ownership to sustain natural resource based enterprise, Conservation Education at ATREE on the first day by the team from South India.

On the second day the team from North East and Darjeeling made their presentations on the conservation of the flora and fauna in and around Darjeeling, how to encourage conservation of forest and also encourage people to tap into the resources of nature but in a sustainable way, so as to generate a source of income in these communities. Mr. Suman Rai ATREE Darjeeling talked about how to build working relations, networking and collaboration in such a way that it is beneficial to both parties involved through his personal experience.

Mr. Praful Rao made a rather startling presentation about landslides, which is a great danger to the hills. The presentation was really powerful as it showed real places we know and live in. DLR Prerna also presented it’s progress it is making in the communities it is working, in form of fair trade of tea, fruits. Management of the premium generated from the trade of these products. Also research it conducts to develop environmentally friendly agriculture practices. Mr. Amba Jamir from Nagaland gave an interesting presentation on shifting cultivation, also in a very positive light.

An environmentally charged seminar, where a lot of serious issues were discussed in a very interactive way. There was a constant dialog between the two teams who also sheared their personal experience, also suggesting solution for problems that seem to be persisting in an area though the way they have handled the problem. It was a forum where a lot of knowledge was exchanged from people who have had experience first hand in the field

Ava Rai, DT Correspondent, Darjeeling


Comment by praful rao

As I have repeatedly emphasized in all the presentations I have made - it is good to have these workshops and awareness camps but ultimately they must translate into action on the ground ie our drainage systems will have to be revamped, an aggressive afforestation program must start and so on...