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Lok Awaas Yatra Nothern Region

by Bhairab Giri Goswami posted on 2010-12-07 16:26 last modified 2010-12-08 10:43
The fourth Yatra through the hilly Northern Region is being organised between 6th – 10th December 2010 covering Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand. The Yatra, this time with two trails focuses on issues of hilly geo-climatic zones and attempts to draw lessons particularly on the use of new and renewable energy sources for habitat. The Yatra is looks at the changing climatic conditions and disaster vulnerability of these regions and attempts to draw wisdom from traditional habitat practices in an increasingly fragile ecological context. The Yatra thus visits projects focused on energy generation using organic and renewable sources – solar, biogas, biomass, traditional water mills and others. It also visits centres promoting the development and commercialization of low energy construction technologies and learns from pilot initiatives on structural retrofitting of buildings as eco- tourism.

Himachal Pradesh Trail-Day3

Posted by Bhairab Giri Goswami at 2010-12-09 13:11
India, is such a land of diversities. Goes the cliché. It becomes more and more evident as you see different parts of the vast country. The topography, the food, the culture, the people.

The beautiful landscapes have to be seen to be experienced. The car manoeuvring snake-like winding roads, with a rock cliff on one side and a gaping valley on the other. A stream gushing some where below. The sound of flowing water rising above the drone of the engine and the tyres displacing small rocks off the roads. Then as the covering of trees clears, one can see the water flowing, making white frothy formations over rocks coming in its way.

On all days, we have broken the fast with ‘Paraathas’, of different flavours of course. The lunch has been at different places, so the quality of food also has been different on all days. Same goes with dinner. But a common point for all meals is that they are invariably followed by steaming tea. Tea, with some spices to keep you warmer. Another speciality we tasted today at the Great Himalayan National Park, was ‘Seddoo’. A momo like steamed preparation which has a rich filling consisting of apricots, groundnuts etc etc. Unlike a momo, the skin of this one was much thicker. Most of us said they could not eat one full, but I managed to eat two. Another difference with momo was, it is supposed to be eaten with desi ghee. And you have to do that fast or else the ghee will harden on your plate.

As for the culture and the people, it is too early to say anything. One needs to stay and interact more with the locals to understand the culture. One thing that I did mark was that the people are generally more cordial. Especially compared to the kind of behaviour we are used to in Delhi.

Another thing noticed was a school in progress in Jibbi. All children lined up for the assembly in a sunny, flat piece of land and began the day with some exercises. Prayers followed, beginning with “Vande Mataram” and a prayer that went, ‘agar kissi ka achchha nai kar sakte to bura bhi mat karo’. Then one of them who seemed to be the eldest muttered ‘attention-stand at ease’ a few times. The others moving about their legs at will. Then classes began. In the same piece of land. Under the winter Sun. The benches lined up in rows. How the teachers decided which class was supposed to do what, was a question that remained unanswered as we had to move on to our next stop. It was a great idea nevertheless. To study, and beat the winter chill at the same time.

The chill is getting on to me now(though its much better than yesterday, when the fingers had started turning blue with the cold). More for tomorrow, which promises to be another hectic day.


Himachal Pradesh Trail-Day3

Posted by Bhairab Giri Goswami at 2010-12-09 13:09
The trip is getting exciting day by day. We learnt in the morning that the bridge through which we were supposed to go to Mandi had collapsed due to an over loaded truck passing on it. Also, that the alternate route to reach Mandi would take us almost an entire day.

In the morning we saw the water mill used for grinding grains in the Jibbi village. We then visited the Great Himalayan National Park. This was an amazing place. We had the himachal dish for lunch - “Sidu” and ghee. It had an amazing taste. We then moved around the National park and interacted with the locals.

We had to shift the luggage from our mini bus to the two other vehicles. Which then took us further to the collapsed bridge. We had to unload the entire luggage; take the luggage and cross the river through the stony way and again reload the luggage in another bus. But we all totally enjoyed this.

In short, had an adventurous day.

Uttarakhand Trail: Day-Three

Posted by Bhairab Giri Goswami at 2010-12-09 13:06
As well as the other days, wednesday started out very well: Got up around 7:30, got freshened up and had my morning ritual; a walk by the lake, watching the fog and the sun rising.

This was the first night where I had a hole nights sleep without waking up a dozen of times. So I guess I am beginning to sort of adjust to the new environment.

We then went to our first destination which was higher up the mountains than earlier, where I got to experience a little bit of mountain sickness: a tiny bit of nausea and a bit blocked ears. But not near enough to complain about. So I guess there should be no problems in the Himalayas tomorrow.

After yet again some long bus-drives we went to see a couple of schools and last a center for green technology innovations. Maybe it would be worth considering making less packed schedules to make room for more time to relax and process the experiences. Tonight we had some time off for this purpose and it most definitely helps you getting prepared and mentally ready for the next round of experiences.

Since we have to get up around 04:00 in the morning/night I will end my blog here and head for bed.

- Anders

Uttarakhand Trail: Day3

Posted by Bhairab Giri Goswami at 2010-12-09 13:05
A night spent in pain and attempts made in vain to suppress it. I twisted my ankle last night and I had advice pouring in from all quarters on how to heal it. Heeded some and prepared to spend the day limping through the sites. The cold didn’t help much either, but staying behind and missing the Yatra was not an option anyway.

We first had a morning presentation by Mr. R.K. Mukherjee on the pros and cons of vernacular architecture and the constraints people faced in using the local techniques. Inaccessibility to local materials, it appears, is a great hindrance to the traditional construction techniques which predominantly employ the use of local stone, pathal and a lot of timber. Government restrictions on their use were an important policy issue that needed to be addressed in order to bring these back to popular use.

It was an interesting and detailed presentation that also set the base for the visits planned for the day. Techniques have been developed to retrofit existing stone constructions to improve their seismic resistance. These were to be demonstrated at a school in Thano. The building was a 120-year old structure made with random rubble masonry in mud mortar. The very fact that the building was still standing was a great testament to the quality of the construction work of that time, the building having withstood many earthquakes and heavy rains and what not. It also silenced any critics of the stability of traditional masonry techniques. Simple measures employing the use of steel reinforcement and very basic techniques helped increase the life of the building manifold and saved the money that would have otherwise been spent in constructing a new building.

A similar effort could be seen at another school in Khurbura which was a brick-masonry structure. With minor technical changes owing to the difference in brick and stone masonry, it was obvious that such retrofitting techniques could be applied to any new or old construction with tremendous implications. It was an interesting learning experience about the traditional construction practices of the region. Mr. Mukhejee was an emphatic speaker and answered all questions patiently and satisfactorily.

The next stop was at the UREDA Technology Park which explored various options for tapping renewable energy sources and practical applications of the same. Unfortunately most of the techniques that we could see there were rather ordinary and no breakthrough applications could be seen. Neither were most technologies suitable for large-scale application. Also I felt that the team there was unable to answer some relevant practical questions, which was a little disappointing. It was good exposure for the local people however, who had not had any access to such information before. The fact that they were listening, but not accepting those innovations was also very apparent. All in all, I felt it wasn’t a very useful visit for any of the Yatrees.

Tomorrow we leave for Dharamshala, and we’re all bracing ourselves for some extreme temperatures. The regional seminar should be interesting with both the groups having seen a variety of solutions for problems of the same kind. Hoping for some more learning in the seminar, but not so excited about the 12-hour bus drive all the way to Dharamshala. Also hoping that hot water won’t elude us there as it has in Dehradun! Looking forward to a couple of more exciting days ahead…

-Mohak Gupta

Uttarakhand Trail: Day3

Posted by Bhairab Giri Goswami at 2010-12-09 13:04
The third day of the yatra was interesting and dealt particularly with issues related to the rural housing. The day started with R.K. Mukerji’s presentation on “Housing Scenario in Uttarakhand taking traditional building technologies forward”.

The lecture was quite informative and it talked about the pros and cons of the traditional raw materials versus the RCC Slabs. The major issue, which was highlighted to us, was that the houses in this region no longer are constructed with the help of local raw materials due to the lack of time and demand. It requires a longer time to procure the local raw materials as compared to the cement and stones. As a result of which, the masons who construct houses with these local raw materials are getting diverted to other occupations and the skill is dying. A vicious circle has been created which has become very difficult to break.

However, several non-government organizations are taking steps to revive back the traditional building technologies. Later we visited two schools, where the buildings have been renovated with the help of the local raw materials. The names of the two schools were Thano Primary school and Khurbura Primary school. The schools are Government owned. These schools are very old and one of them is almost 120 years old. After the renovation the buildings have come into a good shape and are being used by the school authority as class rooms. This stands out as an illustration that with the help of the local materials a pucca house can be constructed and further which would be more helpful in averting the earthquake disasters than the ordinary cement and stone built houses.


Himachal Pradesh-Day Two

Posted by Bhairab Giri Goswami at 2010-12-08 14:45
Place: Jibbi
Atmosphere: Clear sky dotted with innumerable stars. Many many more than you will get to see in Delhi.
Altitude: Around 3000m
Temperature: 2 degrees below zero. I think they should start measuring temperature in Kelvin, here in these parts. 271oK looks hot!!

Wooden floors with a green carpeting makes for a cozy room. One though needs to think twice before drinking water, for then, arises the needs to relieve. Which, I can assure you is an experience in itself. The bathroom is an open balcony, which is attached to the room.

At the ATC, we saw a prototype Trombe wall, a thermosyphonic air heating panel, a window box heater, at HimUrja we saw a central blower, all for heating up rooms. WHY DID NOT THEY USE ANY OF THESE HERE??

A few lines dedicated to the driver who brought us here. A young fellow with a love for cheesy Hindi songs (ones like ‘mera dil jiss dil pe fida hai, ik bewafa hai..’). And one who seems to know every third person on the roads. Though his driving skills are never in doubt. The way he is negotiating the curves gives one the creeps sometimes. At one point in our journey yesterday, we missed a turn. So, we had to turn back from a dead end. The ease with which he negotiated the turn, while we panicked, was an example of the safe hands (and feet!) we are in.

Himachal Pradesh-Day One

Posted by Bhairab Giri Goswami at 2010-12-08 14:43
The first thing that strikes in Shimla is the chill. Even with three layers of warm clothes, I was shivering. A hot cup of coffee did a world of good.

The day began with ‘mooli paratha’ and ‘achaar’. Registration of ‘Yatris’ was to begin by 9.30. So, we rushed to the conference hall of Indian Institute of Himalayan Studies. A small but well-equipped room.

The presentation introducing ‘Lok Awaas Yatra’ was attended by the ‘Yatris, DA (Delhi and Shimla) and research officers of IIHS. Mr.Bansal, head of IIHS was the guest of honour.

After lunch, began the never-ending journey to Koti village. The roads are treacherous and all of us had to taste the soil of Shimla, such was the dust in the air. The journey took us almost 5 hours, 5 hours of jumping about in the bus.

But the visit to Koti was worth the journey. One has to see to believe that a small village, tucked away in a corner of the hills of Himachal, having a population of hardly 500, has invested so much in terms of non-conventional energy and development of basic rural infrastructure.

The winter night had started creeping in by the time we left Koti, with all its darkness and chill. At 11.30pm, after a whole day’s rumbling about, simple roti-subji with a glass of piping hot tea never tasted better. And at 1am, the bed never felt warmer.

Uttarakhand Trail: Day two

Posted by Bhairab Giri Goswami at 2010-12-08 14:41
Tuesday I got up around 7:30. The range in temperature here means that it is very cold in the morning and by nighttime and then suddenly in the afternoon as the sun breaks through it gets very hot. Which means that you have to be prepared for both cases. Again I had a nice start of the day. Some background chanting, cool and fresh morning air and all through some very inspiring and comforting surroundings that in everyway is healthy for the mind.

We left around 9:30 for the first visit – Chharba - one of the many very charming and cosy villages we have visited so far. These visits have already made a great impact on me, and since everything is in Hindi I have taken up the responsibility of being the photographer instead, which gives me the opportunity to explore the villages and the environments more on my own, and thereby create more fulfilled pictures of the places.

I am beginning to accept that everything is in Hindi and thereby re-define my view of this entire trip and my participation in it. I am becomming more of an observant of cultural practices and learning-processes instead of a documentarist of the actual knowledge that these field- trips are meant to provide. This role of being a foreigner on all possible levels and hereby to widness all the social and cultural processes taking place during a trip like this has shown to be very rewarding e.g. regarding human behaviour and in the context of teamworking, and on the personal level regarding my self-awareness. And as I am also beginning to get the hang of some of the dilemmas and querys the rural areas are facing, questions and critics regarding the technologies, there production, utilisation and distribution furthermore are beginning to come to mind.

One of our last visits of the day was in a walking distance, which suits me very well! There is no doubt that walking/trekking the actual indian rural areas provides you with more insight of the actual conditions than sitting in a bus the entire way to the destination. I am therefore looking forward to the mountains and hope that there is more of this come.

- anders

Uttarakhand Yatra

Posted by Bhairab Giri Goswami at 2010-12-08 14:39
Today was a day of new experiences and learning for me. I have gained an insight on the developmental works taking place in northern rural India.

The day started with the Visit to Chharba Village where we saw the functioning and construction of Biogas Plants. It was an extremely informative half an hour session, where I gathered the information related to the functioning of the plants and the efforts that goes into its construction. The economic value of these biogas plants is significant to the extent that the gas generated from them meet the needs of the family and their cost on LPG has almost cut down. Thus, the usage of non-renewable source of energy lighting up the chulhas of the northern Villages was quite exciting to me. Not only is the technique environment-friendly but also economically beneficial to the village people.

The next stop on the line was Barotiwala Village where we saw “The Gharat”. It can easily grind wheat to flour of around one quintal. Apart from that it can also crush the cotton for making quilts and generate electricity for the household consumption. Recently a computer centre would be opening in the village with the help of this machine, where the children can learn and use the computers. This machine completely works on water power.

A similar kind of experience can be seen in the Donkwala village. Reaching Donkwala was quite an adventurous experience as we had to cross a small canal on foot. The water was cold but had a smashing experience of crossing the canal with algae all around my feet.

Visiting Fatehgram Village was of great learning to me. The village has got a full make over and has been reconstructed with the help of HESCO, Doon School, Dehradun and the local people. The village, few years back did not even have a road to communicate to the outer world, however, now is standing as an emerging village. This is perhaps a very good illustration of how communities together can bring a change. The beneficiaries were asked to give their labour and in union with HESCO and Doon School, today the village has good houses and flaunts its luxurious amenities.

Apart from building good habitat, the HESCO has also concentrated on the livelihood generation system and trained various members of the villages in food processing, Bee keeping, vermi-composting, Poultry and bakery.

We visited another Food processing unit. This unit initially took help from the HESCO in getting themselves trained in various kinds of food processing and acquirement of some funds in the form loan. Now they have a flourishing business of various food processing goods like Squashes, Honey, etc. They also deal with ayurvedic medicinal plants and sometimes distribute it free of cost to the poor people. They also provide training to the other rural counterparts and encourage them to take up these kinds of jobs.

The day ended with an interactive group discussion in the Meeting Hall of HESCO, after returning from the long day journey. All the yatris are taking lot of interest in knowing the innovative technologies and they are quite actively participating in the whole process. The day was long, however quite interesting.

Looking forward to the 3rd day of the Yatra and expecting it to be as interesting as it was today.


Uttarakhand Trail: Day2

Posted by Bhairab Giri Goswami at 2010-12-08 14:33
Woke up to a new day, a bright sun, the beautiful mountains and the quaint sound of mantras from the temple. Went to take a bath assured of hot water supply, but decided to make do with cold water when the immersion rod failed to raise the temperature of the water even after 20 minutes. Breakfast was nice and simple. It was nice to see the ice finally breaking between the Yatrees, all from such different backgrounds over a cup of tea. Even more encouraging and fun was watching Jaypalji, one of the locals who was part of the team, trying to teach Anders the Hindi words for everything he was eating. He did pretty well though.

Some changes in the schedule and we were heading to Chharba very soon to check out biogas plants set up in the village. The intervention in this field is very successful since NGOs grant almost two-thirds of the cost of the biogas plant and there is no visible shortcoming in the entire scheme at all. The plant rids the household of all the gobar from their cows, which they would have had to stack somewhere in their farms, provides them with free gas for cooking and also excellent-quality compost for farming. It is, in every way possible, a win-win situation. The only addition we could think of was if there could be provisions for vermi-composting in the same setup. Otherwise, for any family who has enough cows/buffaloes who defecate enough to run the plant regularly, and about Rs.5,000 to invest, a biogas plant is the way to go.

During this same time, we met the masons who usually built the biogas plants, toilets, etc under the various NGO projects. We were told that they are an 80-mason strong outfit called the Kumaon Karigar Samiti. They all deposited Rs.100 each every month in the Samiti bank account, and they have in fact been doing so for the past 7-8 years. The sad part however was that the masons were not very sure of who their leaders were and had no clue about what was to be done with the money they had saved. Formation of the group was the first step, but they need guidance on how things should proceed, and what a great opportunity they have.

Our next stop was a village called Barotiwala where we were shown a gharat, something that would haunt us for the entire day that was left. It is a turbine built over channeled water streams, and was used for generating some bit of electricity, but most predominantly for grinding wheat and corn. HESCO had helped the owner of the gharat to upgrade from a fragile wooden turbine to a cast iron one, immediately increasing his output by almost 10 times. The plan now is to replace this setup with even better technology imported from Germany. This would be used to run the grinding machine, a cotton-filling machine and also a computer centre next to the gharat while increasing the machines’ capacity to almost commercial levels. All this is done absolutely free of cost which disturbs me a little, but more on that later.

We then proceeded to Fatehgram, a very small village of about 10 families resettled by HESCO in collaboration with Doon School, where students were brought to do the baseline survey and work towards the rehabilitation of the village. Here too 2 gharats had been upgraded by HESCO. All the kaccha houses were brought down and pakka houses were built for the families. The family contributed local materials such as sand and aggregate and provided the unskilled labor component - for their own house and for each of the others. It was an interesting community project and the difference was apparent in the houses and the general living conditions in the town. A food processing unit has been setup, goats and/or chicken was given to all the families and a fish pond was built to encourage fish farming, and also there was an attempt to develop a turkey farm.

As great as it all may sound, there were several problems with this project. In a nutshell, one could say it was a rather un-sustainable model. The houses that were built were poorly constructed in terms of quality of masonry work, which was done in cement blocks, made by the villagers themselves. The more appalling fact was that there was no effort to promote an eco-friendly approach towards construction, as this was a brilliant opportunity to showcase such technologies and encourage their use in the neighboring areas. The fish pond that was built was done without much sensitivity towards the local conditions. There have been no benefits from it ever since it has been built. Fish eggs are brought every year, the rains come, the tank overflows and that’s the end of it. If not that, the plastered tank ends up raising the temperature of the water inside and the fish die. Similarly for the turkey initiative, the temperatures of the region are not conducive to the breeding of turkeys, and sadly the project has never been able to take off.

But even if they had worked, had the village had a thriving fish pond and a booming turkey population and beautiful houses, I believe there is something terribly, terribly wrong with giving away stuff free of cost to anyone, be it the impoverished villager or a rich brat, simply because one cannot totally appreciate the importance of anything unless they themselves have earned it, in any way. Being impoverished is no qualification. Perhaps this was the reason one could see the infrastructure in place, but no real community spirit towards making it all work.

Back for lunch at the HESCO campus, we were set to proceed for the most fun experience on the Yatra so far. The village Donkwala was walking distance from the campus, but with a slight problem. The team needed to walk through rice fields, and cross a river to get to the destination. The river was shallow and it was not at all painful to walk on the not-so-comfortable stone river-bed and not at all slippery on the algae covered rocks. If anything, it was fun. The landscape was beautiful, but the village itself was a little disappointing as the same sentiment as Fatehgram could be felt there as similar work had been done by HESCO for a gharat and attempts had been made for turkey and fish farming.

Next we visited a nursery/food processing unit set up in Ambiwala. It was a welcome change after the overdose of gharats we had been subjected to all day. This enterprise was setup by a couple who appeared highly motivated and very content. They had had help from HESCO and FRI, but it was nice to see their enthusiasm towards gaining that support and working hard to make things better. Starting from a simple food processing unit, they had proceeded to include vermi-composting, bee-keeping, micro-insurance and a wonderful nursery growing herbs and medicines. It seemed wrong however, that FRI had not made any attempts to develop any more such enterprises anywhere in the region.

After leaving Ambiwala, we were revolted to find out that we being made to visit another gharat in the heart of Dehradun. Left with no choice, we did visit it with hostility, seeing what we had seen more times than anyone should be made to see in a single day, and proceeded quickly towards ‘Water-Wise’, a HESCO shop that sold all its products and also served hot, tasty dumplings. Anders, who had surprisingly never had them before, was quite shocked by how hot the sauce was and how some of the team members were pouring the sauce on their dumplings as if it was hot chocolate.

All in all, an interesting day - lots of observations, lots of good and bad initiatives and the wonderful walk through the countryside. I only wish we had had more time at some of the places, especially during the walk, we always seemed to be in a hurry to get to the next stop. That apart, fabulous Yatra and even more interesting destinations beckon! Updates soon. Adios!

Mohak Gupta

Himachal Pradesh Trail-Day2

Posted by Bhairab Giri Goswami at 2010-12-08 12:39
Temperature – “Minus” 2 with no heater in Ghibi (Village in Banjar, Himachal)
You can’t feel anything. It’s as if you have no hands, no legs and no nose. Really wonder how people can even think of staying here!

We were served with a warm glass of water as soon as we came to the hotel. We learnt that our hotel was changed at the last moment, as there was no water in the previous hotel where booking was done. The water had frozen in the pipes. After having dinner, we moved to our rooms.

The location of the hotel is amazing with a stream in the front. We can listen to its sweet sound but have no guts to open the door and see it.

Also, during the day, we had a visit to the HimUrja building, where we saw how solar technologies were used for heating rooms(blowers connected to solar panels) and water(solar heaters). We also came to know that the Govt. Is giving 90% subsidy for promoting solar technologies. We also had a visit to Appropriate Technology Centre in Sundernagar, where we saw some interesting technologies to conserve heat of the building in hilly areas. The most interesting was the fuel made of pine needles.

I am in no condition to write anymore, my hands are totally freezing. But will have to say this is an experience of lifetime. Guys you are totally missing all the fun. :)

Himachal Pradesh Trail-Day1

Posted by Bhairab Giri Goswami at 2010-12-08 12:37
The first day of Yatra began with registration and the introductory session at the Indian Institute of Himalayan studies (Shimla). After having lunch we set ahead for an almost never ending journey with dusty roads and a humpy-bumpy ride. From 2pm to 7.30pm for a village (Koti) which is 75kms away. But all of this felt worth, when we saw the village. A very beautiful and clean village. I could name this as a modern village with the luxuries of city life and gthe simplicities of hilly regions. Their common areas were well lit with solar street lights.

We also saw homes which were 200-300 hundred years old, which was amazingly warm from inside. The house was made from ‘Katkhuni’ technology, a specialty of this region. It was made using wood and stone (no mortar of any kind was used). They had a Bavri/Sheesha, a storage area where rain water was collected. They say it is as pure as sheesha(glass). They have some apple trees in their backyard garden and the view from there was amazing. Lights of other villages twinkling like stars and covering the whole mountain.

Another interesting thing found was that people had chulhas in their front rooms to keep them warm and also cook food simultaneously. We were served with hot tea(which tasted a lot different) and biscuits.

In all, it was a great experience. We froze on the way back and reached the hotel at 1am.

The uttarakhand Trail of northern regional :Lok awaas yatra

Posted by Bhairab Giri Goswami at 2010-12-08 10:52
The uttarakhand trail of northern regional Lok awaas yatra – Har awaas prakriti ke paas started from the HESCO campus at Shuklapur village of Dehradun. The temperature was almost 5 degrees in the night and in the morning. But the day started pretty well. After a long- long time I met almighty god forcefully by one muni ji at the campus temple of
HESCO, which was really pretty good.

I am proud to share with you that at inaugural session of uttarakhand trail I had shared the platform with Shri Sundar lal bahuguna ji and Dr Anil P joshi and where we exchanged the ideas and views on eco-habitat and its processes and the themes of the yatra. It’s altogether a different experience for me and the yatris of lok waas yatra. After a few hours of discussion with the yatris and students of the government poly technique institute of Dehradun I was quite amazed
to see that the amount of interest in eco habitat and its different components as a whole and the need of the moment was only an awaas which is environment friendly.

While discussing with bahuguna ji and knowing his concept of A3 – Authority, Afforestation and Alternatives for habitat was amazing.Over the lunch (quiet good afternoon meal which was full of pahari taste) I came to know about to explore the possibility of locally available material which at the present uttarakhandi people cannot go
for it just because of the state government policies and its implications.

We moved to Central building research institute after the lunch where Dr dave and his team was eagerly waiting for the yatris even we were 2 hours late due to the rapidly growing traffic jams in Dehradun – new delhi route. Dr dave appreciated Development Alternatives for the intiative of yatra and promoting the alternate technologies across
world. The rural technology park was amazing and the yatris were thrilled about CBRI’s research and innovation work.
Its really cold and my fingers are freezing like anything and don’t have hot waters* too. Will update soon with yatris next moves till then SHABBA Khair and shubh ratri.

Jai hind
Yatri - Rizwan

Fourth Lok Awaas Yatra

Posted by Bhairab Giri Goswami at 2010-12-07 16:18
The journey to the fourth Lok Awaas Yatra in the series of five has taken an impressive opening. The inaugural seminar was attended by two prominent figures like Shri Sundar Lal Bahuguna Ji and Dr Anil Joshi, Founder HESCO. Apart from them there were members of Development Alternative groups led by Rizwan Uz Zaman, Mr. RK Mukerji from TARN and the Students and teachers of Government Polytechnic College.

The seminar was quite informative and interactive. Shri Sundar Lal Bahuguna ji explicitly mentioned about three important features to be dealt with while planning for the rural habitat.
First was the emphasis to be given on the Local Raw Materials, second was the minimization of energy usage and third was the minimum usage of land. According to him a rural house should be made up of local raw materials, with an architecture which would require minimum energy usage. When building a house the concept of scarcity of land should not be forgotten.

His explanation regarding the above three points was quite thought provocative. After listening to his lecture it seemed to me that the paradigm of environmental determinism which was being negated vehemently by the paradigm of Possibilism long back, is again making its way again.

In the afternoon after the inaugural session, we left for the visit of Central Building Research Institute, Roorkee. They gave us a very warm welcome. After a small meeting we walked around the Rural Technology Park with their officials who showed us their designs and talked about their innovations on rural housing.

Synchronization of the minds of the environmentalists and that of the possibilism is very important while building and constructing the rural habitat in India.


Uttarakhand Trail

Posted by Bhairab Giri Goswami at 2010-12-07 16:16
After arriving at the campus Hesco sunday around 24:00 we got settled in our room and I was looking forward to a good nights sleep. Conditions are good, the health is even better and the cold seems to be something I am more than used to; so no problems there. So far at least.

Monday morning we woke up to the sound of mantras being chanted, which was a new and interesting experience and most deffinitely a good way to begin the day.

After being introduced to the temple and thereby the morning ritual the first introduction-meeting was to begin. Apparrently not understanding Hindi has been a bigger issue so far than I first had imagined. The participants spoke and discussed in Hindi, the presentation was in Hindi and so on, which left me pretty much in the dark. But of course the team will fill me in little by little so no worries.

After the introduction-meeting, next stop was CBRI. Because of the some misundertandings I thought we were going to a village but instead I suddenly had ended up in the middle of a meeting (In Hindi) were again I was left pretty clueless about what was going on:)

That I am a lagging behind so far of course was to expect, so I will just try and keep up with the pace and with the help nessecary from the team, which of course they are more than willing to provide, I am looking forward to the days to come.

Since I am still pretty much in the dark regarding todays infos, learnigs, agendas and so on I will end my blog here, and hope that I little by little can pick up the peaces and become the ressource that I came here to be. Otherwise everything is good and I am enjoing experiencing the environment here, the fresh mountain-air, the silence in comparrison with Delhi and the entire experience in general.


Uttarakhand Trail: Day1

Posted by Bhairab Giri Goswami at 2010-12-07 16:12
Reaching the HESCO campus late last night, after a fair bit of searching and losing our way and driving around in the wilderness with nowhere to go, we were just beginning to feel lucky for having reached safe and sound when we realized that our place of stay was in fact right beside the forest and very close to the river. Although that might evoke rather romantic notions of fancy riverside rooms (which weren’t so) and a beautiful campus (which it was), the simple, harsh truth for us at that very moment was that we were freezing to death! However, sans the luxury, the rooms were as comfortable as we could want them to be.

Spent the night well tucked in and woke up fresh. Strict instructions from Dr. Anil Joshi, the man behind all the activities at HESCO, did not allow us any breakfast without a visit to the temple first. The temple was a small, unassuming structure right next to the river and was not even visible from too far away. Its presence, however, could be felt in the soothing mantras playing inside. Went there, said our prayers and having finally qualified to eat some food, moved for breakfast.

The opening session began post-breakfast and went rather well. Dr. Joshi was very enthusiastic and spoke with a lot of passion about the environment. It was exciting to find out that Shri Sunderlal Bahuguna, someone we’ve only read about in books, actually stayed in the same campus. He too attended the session and interacted actively with students from the Government Polytechnic. The students were very confident and asked intelligent, relevant questions. It was encouraging to see them take an active part in the dialogue and not just be mute spectators, as happens in a lot many college events. This interaction and the discussions that ensued delayed lunch and we got late for our visit to CBRI.

We ended up reaching CBRI quite late and there wasn’t enough time to go through the entire proceedings as planned, so we skipped the presentation and headed for the Technology Park after brief introductions. The tech park was quite interesting, and most of the innovations displayed there could very well be replicated in most parts of the country. The visit was rather hurried because it was getting dark, but we managed to cover all that they had to show.

One of the cars broke down on the way back which delayed us even further, but did give us a chance to have a nice cup of tea at the banks of the Ganges. Having washed off as many of our sins as we could manage with all our clothes on, we moved on, the traffic of two cars stuffed into one, and reached the HESCO campus safe and sound, but cold and hungry. As before, the staff at the campus did not disappoint and had the food ready within 15 minutes.
Had a good meal, had a good day, and now going off to sleep hoping tomorrow is even better! Adios!

Mohak Gupta
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