Bishnoi: World’s only community to follow ‘eco-religion’ founded in 15th century

In this award-winning photograph by Himanshu Vyas from Hindustan Times that won IFRA Gold Award for News Photography, a Bishnoi woman is suckling a fawn.

For centuries, the Bishnoi have sworn by the preservation of plants and animals. Some have even lost their lives to defend this cause. Today, the textile industry in Rajasthan is threatening their future.

“To lose one’s head is better than to lose a tree,” according to a Bishnoi proverb.

The “eco-religion” was founded in the 15th century, when a farmer, who is now known as Guru Jambheshwar, retreated after a long drought and formulated 29 tenets according to which the farmers of the Thar Desert region should live their lives.

The word bis means 20, whereas noi means nine. The tenets revolve around personal hygiene, basic health, social behavior, the worship of God, biodiversity and good animal husbandry. They include a ban on the felling of green trees.

“The Bishnoi are a caste within the Hindu caste system,” explains Dr Pankaj Jain from the University of Texas. “They are strict vegetarians and do not kill living beings. Nature is holy to them.”

However, the lives of the half million or so Bishnois who live in India’s western state of Rajasthan are currently under threat.

The hundreds of small and medium-sized textile companies in the city of Jodhpur have polluted the Loni River, which is essential for keeping the sacred forest of Khejarli green and allowing the wild animals that are central to the Bishnois’ beliefs to graze.

“Nothing grows here anymore,” complains Balaram Bishnoi, a farmer from the village of Doli. “The land is dead. I had vegetables, crops and sesame – all kinds of things. Now not even grass grows anymore. The land has dried out completely.”

He and several other farmers have filed a suit against the region’s textile industry and are currently awaiting a verdict.

Read the full article in DW: India’s first environmentalists continue the struggle

Claude Alvares ko gussa kyo nahi aata !!!

Goa’s star resort Cidade-de-Goa vs. Goa Foundation – ‘Batting’ for 20 years (& counting)

Axe Hanging on Goa’s pride Cidade De Goa Resort & Spa

Dr. Claude Alvares, Director Goa Foundation: This is not a fight for environment between me and Cidade.

Dr. Claude Alvares, Director Goa Foundation: This is not a fight for environment between me and Cidade.

Journalist, Author, Academician, and Environmental Activist Dr. Claude Alvares from Goa is one soul never satisfied. An activist who really bites Dr. Claude has been chasing a five (or seven) star holiday resort in Goa since a couple of decades now and yet not quenched. He has bitten the hotel promoters on their (unabated) mining front as well.

Cidade-de-Goa, a starred hotel owned by one of the many influential (read controversial) miners and a local cable news channel, is built in such a manner on the Vainguinim Beach that from every room you can step onto the beach.  Now this particular patch where lies the picturesque suites of the hotel may not at all be affected, if it has to demolish all the existing structures coming in this 4000 disputed area.

So, where lies the problem? Is it the unshakable ego which is encouraging the influential philanthropist miner to deny the people of Goa to access the beach or is it that, beneath the disputed property lies a gold mine, which Dr. Nandakumar Kamat, another globally renowned environmentalist,  speculates to be in abundance in North (especially in & around this hotel) Goa??

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None of the successive governments have gathered enough political will to act in this matter as this hotel serves all equally well irrespective of any party affiliations or nationality. If news reports are to be believed, many suites in this hotel have hosted thousands of coup attempts, intra-party or otherwise, government formation negotiations, witnessed many receptions in the honor of visiting delegates of all political parties, their leaders, other influential global citizens and government functionaries of  India and the world.

If the Supreme court judgement goes in favour of Goa Foundation, will the beach front property of the hotel will have to be demolish or just some part of the back-office?

Claude says:

If the Supreme Court rules in favour of the petitioner, only 1000 area comprising of the administrative block ( backoffice of the hotel)  will have to be cleared for the public to access the beach, but since a building is constructed on the disputed portion around 4000 sq.mts. Floor Space  will be down the earth.

Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)’s Manohar Parrikar and Parivar had in past objected to the amendment rushed by the then Congress Govt. to undo the Supreme Court Judgement to demolish all that come in this 4000 sq.mts.  His senior party colleagues read long studied paper in the Goa Legislative Assembly about the hotel dispute. Now, the whole “company” is in power in Goa and can again rake up this issue  in public interest, but they would have to do this at the risk of damaging their friendship with the captain of the hospitality industry in Goa.  Claude is still hopeful, as the axe still hangs on the opposite head.

When contacted Claude about his Cidade de Goa pursuit, upset but hopeful about the whole affair, he said:

“ It will be difficult & embarrassing  for the Manohar Parrikar govt (even if he wants to favour Cidade de Goa), again to resort  to one more amendment to restore the disputed portion of the hotel after the forthcoming outcome of the Supreme Court case.  Nevertheless, Goa Foundation ( Claude is a Director) will take this case to its logical end in public interest.

This is not a fight for environment between me and Cidade. Many people critical of Cidade are also involved. Many people fought to get the access to the beach restored: we (Goa Foundation) only represented their case. I do not like things personalised.”

Recently Claude Alvares reminded everybody once more about the whole episode by posting the details of the dispute on his facebook page. He wrote:

“ Remember the Cidade de Goa case? We fought the case for ten years in the Bombay High Court, won, then fought the appeal for another ten years in the Supreme Court and won. The High Court and Supreme Court both insisted that the public pathway to the beach would remain forever open. That we have now got. But the Courts also asked the owners to demolish some 4000 sq.mts of hotel premises built illegally. Government of Goa (whore) rushed an amendment act in the assembly and undid the SC judgement. So we inaugurated a fresh run of litigation. The SC was to hear the matter on 17.4.2011. Went to Delhi. Came back with nothing since the case came up before another bench which said it should go back to Justice Singhvi’s bench in July.”

His sister Angeli Alvares, a bird lover and a communication specialist with the UN, consols her brother  by

 Let it be Claude…With so much poverty in our country, it seems too wasteful to demolish 4000 sq mts of a hotel and they’ve been settled in for so long. Nearly everyone in Goa has some illegal sections to their house…..better if you ask for a fine amount and use it for saving the environment or getting some of the trash all around Goa removed!The politicians all go to Cidade to have free drinks on the house and so you’ll be wasting your precious time against this convivial wall.”

Joel Morais, a friend comments:

That’s real INDIA. Jai Hind.  Let us get set ourselves to celebrate another anniversary of India’s Freedom.”

Paganini Fernandes, a social activists in Goa says,

We are famous for this phenomenon. Allowing an illegality to happen, it takes long and then that becomes entrenched or takes root. The humanitarian aspect is focused, how to displace people and the government afford to accommodate, and so many lives depending on that illegality. But in this particular case, does it not amount to a clash with the judicial process? Does that amount to a contempt of the SC? A layman would say carry out the directions of the court and then amend whatever you have to amend…finally which is the supreme authority? Probably something on those lines will also happen.

Kumar Kalanand Mani, owner of a Gandhian NGO “Peaceful Society”, also sympathies with Claude. He comments,

 Justice delayed, justice denied. So painful.

Confident of the outcome and consequences of the court dispute in this regard, Jos Peter D’Souza another friend passes an interesting but rational comment:

 Hey Claude, I remember the day of the SC judgment ordering the demolition. I was in the HC bar room with Norma (your better half). I also remember telling her that morning not to celebrate, nothing is going to come down. Though, frankly, I was expecting a famous ‘review’ petition.”

David Hogg, CSO of Naandhi Foundation, extends his moral support. He says:

I think you need to keep persistent pressure and never give up. I recall loudspeakers in kodaikanal where even when CPAK won a HC order the church, in collusion with the mosque, kept violating the law. But new more enlightened police officials got posted and conespeakers were banned. The situation now is vastly improved. Dogged persistence pays…That said demolition is tough even with court orders – the Hotel Pleasant Stay of Jlalitha fame still stands, degrading, uninhabited but undemolished…



No green thumb needed with electronic plant pot

Electronic Plant Pot

Who needs a garden when you’ve got an electronic plant pot to grow you flowers? Check out the Click & Grow system, which allows users to grow flowers, basil, and tomatoes with only 4 AA batteries and a bottle of water.

The concept of a garden is appealing to many of us, but the idea of taking the time to care for a full garden? Not so much. For those of us who have busy lives and are lacking a green thumb (I’ve even killed a cactus or two), there aren’t many options. At least that’s what we thought until we saw the brilliant Click & Grow ($70), designed by Mattias Lepp. With a combination of aeroponics, hydroponics, sensors, processors, and software, Lepp created a electronic planting system that requires neither soil nor gardening talent. Each Click & Grow starter kit comes with the pot itself and a Busy Lizzy (impatients seeds) flower cartridge. Users then insert 4 AA batteries, fill the pot’s reservoir with bottled water, and place the pot in a place that receives indirect sunlight. After just two weeks, your plant should start to grow.

Users will have to refill the pot’s water reservoir about once every month, but the pot will display a notification so we’re hoping that most people can handle that kind of mild responsibility. The Click & Grow system is reusable as well. If you’d like to change out your plant, all you have to do is replace the cartridge, fill the reservoir again, and your magic plant will begin growing. The seed cartridges are available for about $10 in variations like French Marigold, Mini Tomatoes, Chilli Pepper, and Basil Mix. Whether you consider yourself a garden type or not, there’s nothing quite like having fresh flowers or useful plants like tomato and basil in your home to brighten things up.