Author Archives: anu04

The BIG day

Day 7, Having worked through the night both for the presentation and our dance, we got up a little later than usual, in time for our final rehearsal for the presentation.  With a little more correction to our recommendations and compilations we were finally ready for the big show.

Dressed in the British Council T-shirts, we gathered at the conference hall, where all the VIP’s including the Maharaja of Jodhpur Gajsingh ji, Members of ‘Wells For India’, Scientists from CAZRI and AFRI, Deputy Director of British Council Charlie Walker and our very own Reesha Maam and Guru Sir. Then began the round of presentations, at the end of which the chief guests expressed their pleasure in organizing such camps and its importance.

Following this formal gathering was the cultural show, where a group of native singers had come in to entertain the guests. As we were nearing the end of the camp, both happiness and sadness took on high and all of us started displaying our own talents in dancing (can be better called spinning) to the native tunes.

After the Maharaja left started our own party, which proved that even our dance rehearsal was a success and this party lasted all night resulting in us skipping our breakfast the next day. We had to finally split up, but the learning during this camp was not only the subject of climate change but also friendship and teamwork. In the end we were all sure that this camp will certainly encourage us to do further work in our own fields and we would help each other to bring an environmental change in our society.

Prajitha T, International Climate Champion, India

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Agro-Forestry

Day 6,  From day one, we had started off with lectures that were punctuated with field visits on the same topic. But day six had something different for us. Our field visit and our lectures were combined and we were taken to the Central Arid Zone Research Institute (CAZRI) and Agro Forestry Research Institute (AFRI), where the scientists showed us the various projects that they were involved in to improve the lifestyle of the people of Rajasthan.

At CAZRI , it was the solar energy based products that served to be the beginning of a very exciting visit. Here were products ranging from candle making machines to dryers to heaters, all based on solar energy, which could be purchased by the villagers due to its affordability.

Next, we were introduced to the process in which desert plants, which are facing extinction, are being conserved. The  efforts taken to make Julie Flora (a plant found in plenty in this desert) economically viable were showcased. After our visits, Dr.M.N.M.Roy, Director, CAZRI, briefed us about CAZRI and the projects they were involved in.

At AFRI, Agro-Forestry was the major topic. The process of growing forest plants in the agricultural fields in a condition which will benefit is agro-forestry. It is this aspect that AFRI has been trying to implement in the lands of this desert.

The evening was spent in an effort to prepare our presentations that we would be presenting to the Maharaja of Jodhpur the next day. The fun part was our preparation for a small dance that we wanted to present for ourselves and our mentors of course.

With heavy conclusions to our presentation and recommendations clouding our minds, we waited for the big day to arrive.

Prajitha T, International Climate Champion, India

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The Blue City

Day 5 was a trip to Mehrangarh Fort in Jodhpur. The drive up to the fort begins to reveal the majestic presence it holds across the city. We were met by our guide for the day. The foundations of the fort were laid in 1459 by Rao Jodha and it has never been invaded. The fort is therefore considered one of the mightiest forts of all time and one of the most spectacular forts in South Asia. The fort was donated by the maharaja as a public building and has since been turned into one of the best museums in India. The tours included the beautiful Period Rooms, impressive collections of palanquins, elephant howdahs, cradles, paintings, weapons …the magnificent heritage of the Rathores of Marwar – Jodhpur.

The terraces of the fort offer a view across the blue city – the maze of buildings in the old town painted in a distinct blue which provides the eye with a vision fitting to the fort that overlooks it. The indigo blue paint not only reflects sunlight to keep the homes cool but also act as mosquito repellents.

Part of our tour  included an explanation of the water harvesting system of the fort, past and present.  We were guided through the old town, again shown the old water management systems. These are no longer used within the city following the connection of the Indira Gandhi canal to provide the city’s water.

The narrow streets of old Jodhpur were bustling and vibrant. The International Champions were dazed by the interaction between, humans, animals and vehicles.  A dose of ‘retail therapy’ was needed after such a packed week so we explored the many shops offering local textiles and handicrafts. A great day for all.

Jessica McQuade, International Climate Champion, UK 

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Mining!

Day 4  dawned with an insight into the main income generating industry of Rajasthan, Mining, by Mr.M.S.Rathore.With around 64 minerals in its earth, it provides employment to a majority of the population here. He went on to explain that illegal mining has been a reason for both exploitation of human resources and the loss of bio-diversity around the mining site.

Under the impacts of mining, health is the most important. The safety measures that are provided by the company are not effective and even if it is effective, the people do not follow some of the safety instructions due to lack of awareness. This is one major problem that needs to be addressed. Also the method of mining is still traditional which has increased the intensity of impacts.

With the knowledge of mining strong in our minds we visited the Balsamand Lake to visually understand the repercussions of mining when it is done illegally. Apart from learning the history of the lake which involved a human sacrifice, we learnt that one of the channels of this lake is to be revived soon because of water scarcity in the area of Balsamand. This gave us an insight into the effect of the people becoming dependant on the Indira Gandhi Canal for water. Next we had a look into a sandstone mine which was close to the lake and how it had affected the natural channels and the catchment area of the lake due to illegal mining.

Once back to the resort we had another NGO, ‘Wells For India’, like Jal Baghirathi Foundation, address us about the similar kinds of work they were doing for the poor in Rajasthan. This presentation delivered by Dr.Max Wilson , Chairman trustee, Wells for India, reinforced the ideas of traditional water harvesting and enabling desert greenery apart from providing sanitary and some technological supports to the poorest of villages. ‘Wells for India’, started by two Britishers, had changed the lives of the villagers to such an extent in the last 25 years that we could understand the barriers which they had to cross to achieve all this. In one word, ‘Inspiring’ will be the best word to describe our experience.

The end of the day signified that any new solution should only supplement the existing traditional methods and should not replace it.

Prajitha T, International Climate Champion, India

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Renewable Energy – Our Future!

Day 3: The day began with a lecture by Dr. PBL Chaurasia, Principal,VyasEngineeringCollegefor Girls,Jodhpur, on the scope of renewable energy sources, with a focus on solar energy. Dr. Chaurasia has carried out research at Fuel Cell Laboratory,UniversityofBermingham.

We learnt that while India has 17% of the world’s population it has an electricity consumption of 2%. At present,Indiahas an installed capacity of 1,85,500 MW and the National Solar Mission envisages to achieve solar power of 20,000 MW by 2020. According to Dr. Chaurasia, “Thar Desertalone has the solar potential to meet the entire power requirement of the country.” He introduced us to various innovative solar devices like solar candle making machine, solar still, solar PV pump and integrated solar device (heater, cooker, dryer combined). We also came to know about an innovation called passive cool chamber- a refrigerator which runs without electricity (Rs. 5000). It works on the principle of evaporative cooling, keeping the vegetables and fruits fresh for 3-5 days and milk products for 3-5hrs.

For the next session, Mr. Vikas Balia a corporate lawyer spoke about industrial pollution and economic growth. He began by speaking about the textile industry of western Rajasthan, and how the hand processing units use harmful chemical dyes which the treatment plants are unable to treat. However he felt that, “Conservation without growth holds no meaning; shutting down industries is not an option, they may just shift to another place.”

He observed that currently there is market failure in allocating resources efficiently. So, he advocated technology led solutions and an equitable distribution of cost for environmental conservation. Along with this, Mr. Balia proposed that policy makers should adopt a holistic approach and that law should be aligned with economics, to do away with regional imbalances.

In the afternoon it was time to visit a recharge well (beri) in Judia. We were accompanied by a camel which caused much amusement to the champions! 

Next we visited Suzlon’s monitoring station at Balesar to learn about wind turbine generators (WTGs). The station monitors the 91 WTGs owned by various companies that generate a cumulative power of 140 MW. We enquired the cost and found out that 1MW WTG amounts to roughly Rs. 6 crore with an operational cost of Rs. 15,00,000-16,00,000. The power generated is fed into the state grid and the companies are paid for it by the government. We felt very fortunate to visit one turbine, equal in height to a 25 storey building.

Some myths were dispelled here, such as wind turbines cause noise pollution and being the cause of death for birds.

The surrounding picturesque landscape at sunset provided the perfect ambience to retrospect on the day’s learning.

Reading of the day: ‘The Rational Optimist’ by Matt Ridley (Recommended by Mr. Vikas Balia)

 Preeti & Rozita, International Climate Champions

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Rain Water Harvesting = Water for all

Day 2 of the camp began with an extremely positive insight into how an arid saline wasteland could be transformed into a vast green campus with 15 lakes. This impossible task had been achieved at the Aravali Institute of Management by its inspiring Director Mr. Varun Arya, an alumnus of IIT and IIM. “This change that was effected within 6 years involved a lot of political and societal struggle”, said Mr. Arya as he explained about how they had used the traditional water harvesting system of Jodhpur. “Through this system we could fill up 6 lakes during a single rainfall”, he added. The process involved setting up saline resistant plantations, removing the existing English Babool (a plant which causes infertility of soil) apart from rain water harvesting. The lecture inspires that anything is possible with the right passion and compassion.

Mrs. Kanupriya, Project Director at Jal Bhagirathi Foundation (JBF)was the second speaker of the day and she explained the work done by her organization and how water is an integral part of the culture of Marwar region of Rajasthan. JBF works with over 300 villages in rural Rajasthan to revive traditional rain water harvesting structures to achieve water security. Two documentaries; ‘Rain for Change’ and ‘Water for All’ were screened on the same. It was incredible to know how access to a reliable supply of water had brought tremendous socio-economic improvements in people’s life including sanitation and increased enrolment of girls in schools.

In the afternoon we visited a village Shivnagar in Pali district, Jodhpur where a resource management plan and water harvesting system had been implemented by JBF.  A group from the community greeted us with a Tikka, jaggery and big smiles. We were given a tour of the Talab, where rainwater had been collected via the catchment area, with details of the structure and how the salinity of the water decreases during the summer. When we arrived at the village, the children were the first to run up, curious to know who had arrived.

Interestingly, the village had a lady Sarpanch who had been empowered through the support of the Jal Bhagirathi Foundation to an extent that she also helps the development process through a number of other villages. We also saw the social map of the village drawn on a wall as part of the PRA (Participatory Rural Appraisal) exercise conducted earlier. This marked the houses which had toilets, the houses below the poverty line and other resources in the village such as the community centre.

At the end of the day we were mesmerized by the idea that- An area with just 200mm of rainfall can have access to clean water all year round just by reviving the traditional systems of water harvesting.

Digu Aruchamy, Prajitha T (International Climate Champions India) and Jessica McQuade, International Climate Champion UK

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International Climate Champions from UK, China, Bangladesh and India at Jodhpur

After about three hours of flying across three states we arrived at Jodhpur , and our entry into the Water Habitat Retreat was flagged by the royal appearance of the building which served to be a visual treat for us. This structure which was once the hunting palace of the Maharaja is now a representation of the traditional water conservation mechanism with one of the largest catchment areas. With a lake and an annicut to keep us company through our stay, our learning will turn out to be a more visual.

We were given basic information about the city of Jodhpur by Mr.Karni Singh, Director of Mehrangarh Fort Trust. We then proceeded for a ‘Water Walk’ which basically was to enlighten us about the various water conservation systems of Jodhpur that were present within the campus. We were assisted by Mrs.Kanupriya, Project Director of Jal Bhagirathi Foundation, an NGO which is reviving traditional Water harvesting systems in Jodhpur. Apart from the technical explanations we also came to know about the history of the palace and various other interesting stories which included haunted areas in the campus.

The day ended with a briefing on what we would be experiencing in the coming week and we dispersed with high expectations on what is in store for us.

Digu Aruchamy, Prajitha T (International Climate Champions India) and Jessica McQuade, International Climate Champion UK

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Save Tomorrow, Today

The Conference of the Parties (COP) is the governing body of the Convention, and advances implementation of the Convention through the decisions it takes at its periodic meetings. The Conference of the Parties has been held in 16 countries with Climate Change being an increasingly important issue across the world. The last two conferences in Copenhagen and Cancun respectively have caused quite a stir among the nations resulting in various heated discussions and some successful policy implementations.

COP 17 was held at Durban, South Africa this year in the month of November. This place apart from being rich in its bio-diversity is now also looked upon as a country with opportunities for economic development. With on-going climate negotiations all over the world this event is much awaited among environment enthusiasts and policy makers it was an event of huge magnitude and great significance.

The negotiating process on climate change revolved around the sessions of the Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC (COP), which meets every year to review the implementation of the Convention. The COP adopts decisions and resolutions, published in reports of the COP. Successive decisions taken by the COP make up a detailed set of rules for practical and effective implementation of the Convention. There were always moments which demanded absolute attention tracking the policies and changes every country has made or is about to make.

Thousands of participants, including government representatives and observer organizations, have attended previous climate change conferences. The sessions in Durban attracted over 20,000 participants, including some thousands of government officials, and over 10,000 representatives of UN bodies and agencies, intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations, and around 4000 accredited members of the media. The UN Climate Change Conference in Cancun last year had over 11,800 participants.

Participation in COP 17 and CMP 7 was restricted to duly nominated representatives of Parties, observer States, accredited observer organizations and accredited press/media. Those Parties to the Convention that are not Parties to the Protocol may participate as observers in the meeting of the Parties.

All Conferences to date have had a high-level segment attended by anywhere from 70 to 100 ministers and senior officials, usually at the end of the session. The high-level segment normally includes an opening or welcoming event with some head of state participation and is partly attended by the Secretary-General of the United Nations.

Arriving during the second week of COP had its own advantages and disadvantages. While I missed the numerous discussions and meetings I made it just in time to attend the launch of ‘Momentum for Change’ providing me the opportunity to carefully listen and gain perspective from the plenary chaired by UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon, President of South Africa Jacob Zuma and UNFCCC Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres marking the initiative of the United Nations system. This conference as a whole was a great platform to meet leaders and negotiators from all over the world sometimes playing a huge role in the decisions you make. I also had the opportunity to meet and interact with Mrs.Jayanthi Natrajan, Environment minister of India.

While many sit back and start to think of this conference as ‘just another conference’ which is over hyped , one might want to come take a look at the magnitude of this event and the support of the youth that spreads around like wildfire keeping the momentum at a progressive pace. Yes, there are many setbacks- but out of this imperfection there lies a level of agreement with thousands of youth wanting their voices heard. Being part of an event of such a huge scale only made me want to go back to my own country and provide them with the vision and knowledge I gathered here and share my experience.

Shruti K N, International Climate Champion, India
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In Durban…

Its been a rare privilege and great learning experience. I have been involved in various activities all over Durban, some have been such a great experience where I met key people.
On 25th at the opening session of COY7, I conducted a workshop on “Building Grassroots Groups”.  I spoke about my experience with starting up an organization. I was grateful that people really appreciated my talk, and asked me to present the again on the following day (26th) at COY. I presented again to a much bigger and a much diverse audience and went into details using my own experience and some that I had gained from the workshop in  Bangalore. I used stories of Climate Champions in India to motivate them to fight for their cause. The event was received with much warmth and appreciation and I was humbled  by their kind words.
On the 27th, we went on the Climate Train. The much anticipated event saw the Executive Secretary Ms Figueres, Ms June Joseph-Langa, CEO of Indalho Yethu (SA’s main Environmental Agency) and the Mayor of Durban. I interacted with Ms. June and she invited me to hold a workshop for young South African kids aboard the Climate Train!. It was a great honour indeed and I will be conducting them next week.
On 28th, I attended the session chaired by Dr, RK Pachauri, Director of TERI. The session focused on “Response of Indian States to Climate Change: Development of State  Action Plans against Climate Change. I asked Mr. Pachauri the following question: ”Thank you for the opportunity Sir. My name is Saket, I am the British Council’s Climate C hampion from India. I have been keenly following the development of State Action Plans on Climate Change. How in you’re opinion can young people take part in development and implementation of such policies?”  I later managed a photo with him as well!.
Climate Champions and the Climate Caravan were hosted for a business leaders dinner on 28th night. I met up with British Council representatives, Mr. Sundru Pillay, the project manager of the Climate Train, Mayor of Durban and several other key partners of the British Council in South Africa.  Mr. Pillay (who is also the President of Lions International) invited me to deliver a guest speech at the Annual meeting of Lions Clubs International (South Africa) to be hosted aboard the Climate Train on December 2, 2011.
I spent a day on 29th, doing workshops with school children in Durban. Kids had come in from all over Durban. It was very delightful experience seeing  how seriously going green is being taken in Durban :) Nguyet from Veitnam and I conducted a quiz where we divided them into groups name Methane, Carbon Dioxide and Carbon Monoxide and asked them to draw their sources. The other team then had to guess. Following this, was a short quiz designed to raise awareness about the intricacies of Climate Change. We planted a sapling with them as well!.
I was invited to a dinner marking the launch of WWF’s book on “Towards a Greener Economy” in association with NedBank on 29th evening. The exclusive event saw a panel discussion chaired by the CEO of WWF, CEO of Nedbank and a prominent ecologist. The session focused on major challenges faced by the world current economy and how we can achieve 100% renewable energy by 2050. Amongst several notable people I met was Mr. John Smith, one of the negotiators with UK delegation and the Director of Climate Change Initiative of the British High Commision of SA. He was keenly interested in my project and encouraged me to continue my endeavor. We discussed about India’s stance and the future of Kyoto Protocol.
On 30th, I was invited by the Manager of eThikwini Municipality to be a part of the Climate Change Learning Exchange which had representatives from 13 different countries like Germany, France, China, Ghana, Somalia, Norway, Taiwan etc. And I was also the youngest member there! The event was attended by several government representatives with a panel discussion on “Climate Change Adaptation”. It was perhaps one of the most amazing experiences at COP17. We were doing case studies and then building strategies to solve the key challenges highlighted by the case study. It was such a learning experience solving key problems along with policy makers from around the world. On the sidelines, I met with the Deputy Director of French National Bank, and discussed the future of Carbon Markets.
On 1st, I was invited by Ms. June Josephs-Langa, CEO of Indalho-Yethu to attend a breakfast meeting marking the launch South Africa Youth Chapter on Climate Change. The meeting was attended by representatives from various organisations from all across Africa. The afternoon was followed by the Webex session with Christiana Figueres  I attended with other champions. I met with the team of official Indian negotiators in their country office as well.  In the evening I was invited to attend a Gala dinner hosted by Ms. Maneka Gandhi and the Director of the movie 11th hour. The theme was “Going Vegetarian”. The event was attended by Government negotiating team from India, and several other key people. I was interviewed by the media present there, who wanted me to talk about my work on Climate Change. Executive Director of EmpowermentWorks (an international NGO)  was very appreciative of my work, and was very keen on collaborating with my project!
Saket is at Durban attending COP17 as part of the British Council delegation.

Saket Dave, International Climate Champion, India

 

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From India to Durban – Champions head to UN Climate Talks

With Dr. R.K.Pachauri

After an exciting week of reading up and getting ready for the Climate talks being held in Durban, South Africa. I am finally here to a land where Gandhiji began his initial fight for freedom. It gave me some inspiration about the kind of fight, we youth were participating in – to make this world sustainable. Our work reflects “Satyagraha” – or peaceful protest, analysis, advocacy and that is exactly how we work. We have patiently learnt, engaged, and inspired the masses with the nuances of the issue and policy implication of Climate change and climate talks. Another very important reflection I had was of his principle of Swadeshi – which is reflected in our grassroots actions. Seven champions from around the world – Indian, Greece, Vietnam, Italy and South Africa gave a presentation at the Conference of youth (COY) , which is a preparatory three day youth event leading to the climate change talks under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
The climate champions spoke about their respective projects and how to build a grassroot project and integration of our work under the aegis of – British Council. We were a diverse group of people not only in terms of nationality but also in terms of our projects. We conveniently integrated our message under trust, support and unity towards making this world a more beautiful and sustainable.

The President of the Conference of Parties hosted a fantastic welcome reception for the attendants of the negotiations. Five of the champions attended the reception which was filled with good food, drinks and welcoming South African music and dance. Quite a grand welcome! We met, Dr. R.K.Pachauri , who congratulated each of the champions on the fantastic work being done back home and that negotiations were just a political excuse and that we champions and grassroots work were the real “champions” of the Climate and people trying to save the climate.

The British Council climate booth in the Workshop area is also attracting a lot of people interested in knowing about our work and the message British Council gives. The postcards from around the world, giving a message of sustainability is particularly giving a colorful aura to the booth.

The champions also went to schools in Durban and gave various workshops on climate change, ideas for projects and a small preview of policy talks. The children were very excited and wanted to know more about how they could participate in greening the world. Thus the journey of educating and engaging began.

Talking of journey, another incredible initiative by the South African government which was supported by British Council in South Africa was the Climate Train which passed the entire length of the country through its rural areas, promoting awareness of climate change and also initiated tree plantation and waste management projects. The champions welcomed the train to the Durban station which was attended by the Mayor of Durban, Executive Secretary of UNFCCC and other dignitaries.

It’s been a busy first few days of the Durban talks and journey as climate ambassadors and when people ask about what we do, we say “ Inspire, Engage, Educate”  indeed.

This is the message from us champions to the people and the UN climate talks!

Priti Rajagopalan, International Climate Champion, British Council India

Priti is a young environmental policy and negotiation enthusiast from India with a plethora of experience in climate adaptation in Bangladesh, climate finance, Flexible mechanisms and low carbon transportation modelling. In her spare time she likes to make funny faces in fogged mirrors.

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