Great things are not done by impulse, but by a series of small things brought together – Vincent Van Gogh

Posts tagged ‘environment’

Stench of Garbage Breaks Up a Reverie

DSC_9846I remember my village of Saligao as idyllic. In so many ways it still is. Gentle rolling hills full of cashew trees, a sprawl of a thousand slopping roof houses and the soft sight of green paddy fields making waves in the breeze. Coconut trees dot the village and drainage trenches that turn to streams each monsoon. It’s a calm village, full of a gentle people, each busy with trying to carve out an honest living.

DSC_9757 DSC_9833I remember the hills of Saligao the most, for that’s where folks took their goats and cattle for grazing and that’s where you went to snack on the rich fruits of cashew and Jambuls. As little kids, you looked up into those huge trees and imagined vampires and ghosts. Those solid tree trunks took on menacing shapes. We scrambled up and down smaller trees, and I remember playing house as the goats grazed on the rich grass. There were flowers of varied hues and fruits that looked pretty, but you dared not eat. As we played, we could hear the incessant thud of wood being cut, then, villagers relied heavily on this hill for firewood. I remember the night air filling with the eerie howl of foxes and wondered if like the grandmother in red riding hood, they could get near enough to devour us.

DSC_9847Each cashew season, we went into the hill to sneak out a few cashew seeds which we carefully dried out and roasted. On a rainy day the fragrance of roasting nuts filled the neighbourhood and it was delicious. Cashew juice is also extracted to make alcohol, but before the process of fermentation begins, it makes for an interesting, non-intoxicating drink.  I remember taking glass bottles and going up to buy ‘niro’ as we call it.

Sometime later the hill was fenced off. The forest department took over, cattle and goats were prevented from going there to graze, guards prevented people from cutting stacks of fire wood and new trees were planted. The green cover got denser, we could now hear the distinct call of peacocks, and those who saw them admired their large, rich plumage. It seems rabbits thrived, the wild boar, once excessively hunted returned to feast on the succulent cashew. The endangered monitor lizards roamed free, the dwindling foxes were back again in large numbers. In the thick foliage of creepers, wines and massive trees one can hear the call of many species of birds. Yes, it’s idyllic or almost, for a decadent industry crept in, unobtrusively and nonchalantly like a breeze, it is a so called clean and green industry, it is glamorous on the outside, but a cesspool on the inside and it is called Tourism.

DSC_9784 DSC_9736My village boarders the world famous village of Calangute, better known for its crowded beach, and when the tourists have come and had their fill at the hotels crammed into a few kilometers of space, trucks of waste find their way closer into my relaxed, sleepy village. The garbage has been dumped on the crown on my idyllic village for over a decade now, unsegregated, rotting, untreated, all types of waste. An abandoned quarry that is alight all year round, sending up plumes of smoke in the middle of a picture perfect scene of thick grass filled with morning dew, scampering rabbits, chasing foxes, scuttling birds, languid water buffalo and mud-puddling butterflies.

The stray dogs and scavenging raptors have made the garbage dumping ground a war zone, the rising clouds of smoke has injected toxins into the air, and the fly ash has seeped through the red laterite rock and contaminated our famed, medicinal Salmona spring. Yet local people with no access to any other means of portable water continue to consume it, even as the contamination seeps further into the ground. The people protested, albeit feebly and the garbage dumping continued, unabated, year after year, leveraging the unassuming loopholes in the law and the superficiality of boundary lines.

Now the famed village of Calangute is tired of the charade and wants to wear its pride and forex contribution to the state coffers on its sleeve. No more sneaking into your village with our stinky trucks of garbage they say. We are going to ride in with pride and as victors; we are going to dispose of our waste at a modern day ‘garbage treatment plant’, and they have brought their Goebbel’s along with their magical bottles of star dust.

Pictures of Saligao courtesy Nagaraj P

Pictures of the garbage site courtesy  Dean D’Cruz

ImageAnd the script is not new here. It is exactly what the capital city of GoaPanjim did to the tiny, exuberant village of Curca, not so long ago. Under the guise of a World Bank funded project, day in and day out, they strong armed their way in, with trucks carrying tons of waste. Feel privileged, it’s from the capital city, it’s the waste of the elite they seemed to taunt, as they dumped their contents into an open abandoned stone quarry on the crown of the village. A tiny vermi composting unit stood in a corner, a farce and façade rolled in one.  And then I looked on at what was to be my first glimpse of proverbial hell, a little hut of rag pickers amidst the swirling smoke of burning garbage, as dirt smeared folk rummaged through massive stacks of garbage, trying to eke out a nasty living.

So I need no soothsayer or fortune teller to tell me how this is going to end. It’s a well-worn script and it’s going to be played out with a foretold conclusion. My village of Saligao is going to be the newest goat at the sacrificial alter of tourism or development, however you want to see it.

There are always those with miserably short memories, there are always those greedily yearning for those pieces of silver, and there are always those who arduously pave the way to hell with their good intentions, I think this lot will win, against the prophets who have not been acknowledged for many decades in their own village, and will not be now. And my village of Saligao will live on in a corner of my mind, a little of it dying each time a new truck comes by and empties its rot onto the softest grass and putrid pungent stink fills the crisp clean air, and the reverie of a wonderful village is broken.

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A Regular Lousy Thursday

I never thought I would ever be cribbing about the weather in Bangalore. It’s always been cool, moist, pleasant, a hint of cloud, just enough to keep the harsh sun away. The massive green rain trees, embrace the city in their thick foliage and most people like me, who think they have come to Bangalore only to work, end up falling in love with it. We never leave, do we?

But the last few days have been terrible. Dry and hot, scorching if you should venture out in the noon, your skin needs constant moisturizing; your lips constantly dry and crack, leaving you fishing for your lip balm ever so often. You feel thirsty, and for someone pampered by Bangalore’s pleasant climate, it all seems weird and insufferable.

Rain, rain, rain is what we need, but then it will make the place worse, oh I don’t care, it will also cool down this city which seems to be on a simmer. We keep looking skywards ever so often, looking for the faintest hint of rain filled clouds, but none appear.

Has this got to do with global warming, all those cars and two wheelers swarming the city, all those huge rain trees being mercilessly felled and towed away overnight, those wide gaping holes that bring in the hot sunlight. Maybe those neo age dooms day predictors are not ‘rabid, anti development environmentalist’ after all. Maybe there is a hint of truth in what they say, are saying.

On a Thursday, it’s not the weekend yet and you’re kind of worn out by the first three days of the week already. The lousy dry, hot weather, the chapped lips and dry skin, all seem to collude and conspire to make your day hell. Thursday was dragging by ever so slowly, its early evening, I simply could not keep the lethargy at bay and I so wanted to huddle under my desk and snooze off to sleep. That’s when I got a bright idea, how about some coffee.

I keep coffee for special occasions, like when I have a blistering headache, have had a disturbed night and am nodding off at work, or simply to get rid of my lethargy. So I strode up to my office cafeteria on the third floor. “Prakash, half cup coffee” I yell. Prakash finds this request really amusing, as usual. “Half cup mam?” he usually responds, how joking, half pandering to a cantankerous request. To be fair to him, it is a rather stupid request. The coffee cups are actually those tiny white ceramic cups that have been especially designed for the coffee guzzlers of South India. To prevent them from dying of a caffeine overdose, have coffee but at a controlled pace, is the mantra. How the hell does one make half a cup of coffee in that tiny mug? But that’s a feat best left to Prakasha’s measurement skills. “Yes Prakash, half a cup”. Here is when Prakash’s sadist side really shows up, but then, this is just my perspective, all guys are bullies, but they would rather call it charm. So Prakash, drops in a dash of milk after the coffee decoction he keeps in a flask, “is that enough mam?, “a bit more Prakash”, “OK mam?”, “a little more … ok stop, I don’t think I can have all of that”, and Prakash shakes his head in amusement.

I take my cup and head out on to the terrace. “No ways am I planting my rear on any of those chairs”, I say to my colleague, “have been sitting at my desk all day, I need a breath of fresh air.” That’s when the cool breeze of 5.00 p.m , brushes up to me, tussles my hair, caresses my cheeks. The sun is down on the horizon; I look at the neighbor’s mango tree nearby, in full bloom, and packed with tiny mangoes just emerging from the flowers.  I hope we are able to rob some when those mangoes become big. The pomegranate tree is also full of tiny fruit, the green around is soothing, the breeze is calming, the wide open expanse of space that spreads out in front of our third floor terrace. Ah, how it revives my drooping spirit!

Save the Frogs Campaign- Goa

Frogs in Goa: Frequently Asked Questions
amazon-horned-frog
Are frog populations in Goa really on the decline?
Yes they are. Bio-indicators as well as studies conducted by herpetologists and amphibian specialists in Goa confirm that frog populations are falling, just as it is in the rest of the world. Globally, frogs are disappearing at an increasingly rapid rate than creatures have ever done in the past 65 million years.

While studies in 1999 and 2002 were conducted by amphibian specialists in coordination with International agencies like the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN), basic surveys and compiling of checklists have also been done by researchers at the Goa University’s Department of Zoology, the Goa Forest Department and others.
There is however, a need for long term monitoring of Goan frog populations as frogs found in Goa.

What are the reasons for this decline?
A number of threats to frogs exist, however, in Goa the chief threats are:
1. Catching, killing and consumption of frogs at the onset of the monsoons. Frogs end their aestivation after the first rains and come out to breed. This is when they are at their most vocal, and hence easy to track down and catch. And as most of the frog-hunting is done before the frog can breed, this has a drastic effect on the future populations of frogs.
2. The widespread use of fertilizers and pesticides in agriculture. Flooded paddy fields are a hotspot for frogs, and since frogs absorb water through their skin, they are particularly vulnerable to the toxic effects of residual chemicals in our fields.
3. Habitat destruction – filling of fields, clearing of forest cover are a few of the main reasons. Encroachment of forests by human activities such as mining, construction, etc have caused entire resident populations to disappear within a short period.
4. A significant global trend that is threatening frog populations as a whole worldwide include climate change, global warming, introduction of invasive species and spread of disease from farmed to wild frog populations.

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Are some species more vulnerable than others?
Yes. In Goa, the Indian Bullfrog (Hoplobatrachus Tigerinus) & the Jerdon?s Bullfrog (Hoplobatrachus Crassus) are the ones most prized for their meat due to their large size. The Indian Pond Frog and Grass Frog are also occasionally hunted.

Burgeoning demand at restaurants illegally serving frog dishes have ensured that a pair of frog legs can fetch as much as Rs. 65-70 for the poacher.

Due to their falling populations, the Indian Bullfrog and the Jerdon?s Bullfrog are now on the Government of India?s Schedule-I list of threatened species as well the international IUCN Red List of animals that are facing a high risk of global extinction.

Ok, but why do I have to stop eating frog? What?s in it for me?
A lot more than you think?
Eating frog meat is very dangerous to human health. Due to the massive toxic pesticide residues that accumulate in the fat deposits of frog meat, consumption of frogs can trigger paralytic strokes, cancer, kidney failures and other deformities. Besides frog meat being contraband, frogs are usually killed in unsanitary conditions.
Frogs are like the pulse rate or the blood pressure of the Goan environment. Frogs are a crucial part of the ecosystem and a vital link as predator and prey in the food chain. If frogs go extinct, the ripple effect on the ecosystem will be felt by us all.
Frogs and tadpoles are voracious eaters, and consume millions of mosquitoes and mosquito larvae every year. One of the suspected reasons for the increase in cases of malaria and other vector borne diseases in Goa is the decline in the number of frogs.
The increasing incidents of snakes being found in urban & semi-urban areas is also being linked to the decline of frogs, their natural prey, and their subsequent shifting to alternate prey like rats that are more readily found in populated areas.
In Goan mythology frogs are believed to bring prosperity and good rainfall.
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Are frogs protected by law?
Yes. The Government of India in 1985 declared a ban on catching and killing of wild frogs under the Wildlife (Protection) Act 1972. This means that any person or restaurant found catching, killing, selling, serving or eating frog meat violates the provisions of the act. This would attract stringent punishment with a fine of Rs 25,000 and/or imprisonment upto 3 years. In 2008, 10 persons were detained and fined under this act.

So what can I do to help save the frog?
Firstly, stop eating frogs yourself and discourage others from doing so. If there is no demand for frog legs, frog-catchers simply won?t catch them. Secondly, if you come across people hunting frogs or restaurants serving frog meat, report it to the police (100/108) or any of these Forest Department officials, preferably the one closest to where you are ?

ALL GOA
9423 889 890 (DCF Panjim Devendra Dalai)
9422 437 333 (CCF Richard D’Souza)
9422 388 188 (ACF Dr. Francis Coelho)
9422 437 237 (CF Yogesh)
NORTH GOA
9422 437 137 (DCF North Goa Shambhu)
2374 406       (FTS Valpoi)
9423 316 280, 2228772, 2220736 (RFO Campal Amar Heblekar)
EAST GOA
9423 314 824, 2935800 (RFO Bondla Deepak B)
9423 055 919, 2612211 (RFO Mollem S. Gawas)
9422 059 237 (RFO Bhironda Prakash Salelkar)
SOUTH GOA
9822 587 607 (ACF South Goa Anil Shetgaokar)
2750 246       (RFO Margao)
9822 157 139, 2965601 (RFO Cotigao Paresh P)

After reporting to the authorities, contact WildGoa volunteers at 9823-171-312 or 9890-936-828 (South Goa) and 9922-642-059 or 9822-522-119 (North Goa) who will record and follow up your complaint with the forest officials.
frogs
Who is Involved with the campaign
Save the Frog Campaign is coordinated by WildGoa, a Goa related network of Wildlife enthusiasts and NGOs. This awareness and enforcement campaign has  been on for the last 4 consecutive years and is supported by the Goa Forest Department a number of local as well as International organizations including Amphibian Ark, Save The Frogs International, Botanical Society of Goa, Organic Farming Association of India, GOACAN, Earthworm, Green Essentials, WWF-Goa, Nisarga Nature Club, Vivekananda Environmental Awareness Brigade, & Mitra. For more information do visit www.savegoafrogs.org or email info@safegoafrogs.org To contact us, you may call us at the WildGoa volunteer phone numbers mentioned above.

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