Category Archives: Green Initiatives / Environment

Henry’s Island: A quaint getaway in West Bengal Spending a laid-back weekend close to Kolkata

Long, white beaches and a clear blue skyline is Henry’s Island’s distinct feature

Among the numerous beach destinations close to the eastern Indian metropolis, Kolkata, Henry’s Island is an offbeat choice for those looking for tranquillity.

In a lazy, white sand beach, where red crabs crawl, one could expect to find solitude and solace. Located at a distance of around 130 km from the bustling city of Kolkata, Henry’s Island is home to one such place. An area where government fisheries can be found, this tranquil destination is located close to another popular beach spot, Bakkhali.

Henry’s Island is still undisturbed and unspoilt by the markers of human civilisation – plastic packets, blaring sound systems or abandoned bottles. Pristine white sands are often hued by shifting tinges of red, owing to the crawling crabs, with the occasional fisherman walking by – this is the image that Henry’s Island leaves behind. The entrance to the beach involves a walk through a swamp of sorts, with a line of trees that hides the beach from the rest of the world.

For the traveller, who is looking for an experience that doesn’t involve heavy activity, Henry’s Island plays a welcome host. A watch tower, above one of the two guest houses on the location, is what visitors to nearby destinations frequent most. Views on a clear sky showcase the Sunderbans mangrove, which are located very close to the beach destination. One could also opt to walk around the beach and villages nearby.

Henry’s Island is also a great place to sample some seafood, which is locally grown and acquired. Locals are used to guests coming in to try the food at the Sundari Canteen, which offers the fresh catches. The Fisheries Department of the Government of West Bengal uses area for pisciculture and also takes care of forest conservation.

Getting there

Located some 130 km away from Kolkata, one would expect to reach the place in a matter of a short time. However, the journey by road takes much longer, owing to a change through a ferry which crosses the Hatania-Doania creek, which involves a long wait. There are also direct buses available, but since these buses ply once a day from Kolkata’s Esplanade bus depot, it is better to enquire a day in advance for seats and timing. To save some time, a local train can be taken from the Sealdah station in Kolkata, with a stop at Namkhana station. After this, a boat ferry, which costs a mere rupee or two per person can be taken, and on the other side, buses are available to drop at a location close to Henry’s Island, or one can opt for vans.

Getting to Henry’s Island is a slow journey, yet it provides the perfect window of transition from the busy city into the tranquil paradise. As a spot to unwind, relax, catch up on some reading or simply a chance to spend some time by yourself, Henry’s Island is a weekend getaway from Kolkata that reinvigorates the senses.

source: http://www.mediaindia.euc/ Media India Group / Home> News-India & You> Tourism / by Mehk Chakraborty / May 08th, 2017

Software for tiger watch in Buxa

Alipurduar :

The Union ministry of environment and forests has launched a software to ensure better monitoring of tigers that will be introduced in the Buxa Tiger Reserve by April.

The software has been made in collaboration with the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) and Wildlife Institute of India (WII) for all tiger reserves in the country.

“MSTrIPES”, a hi-tech monitoring system, would be introduced in Buxa Tiger Reserve by April and each beat officer will get an Android phone with the software inbuilt that will help to monitor tigers in the habitat, Ujjal Ghosh, the field director of the BTR, said.

There are 42 beat offices in Buxa with one officer each.

MSTrIPES is a GPS-based software that will provide patrolling protocols and record wildlife crimes.

The software will also handle ecological monitoring and store data related to tiger monitoring.

Ghosh said: “The forest guards will have to fill in information about the area they patrolled and number of tigers spotted daily in the Android phones. This information will be passed by the beat officer to the forest range officer who will forward the same to the division officer, followed by the state government. The state will then pass on the information to the Tiger Control Cell of WII in Dehradun. Through this system, there will be a statistical analysis of data regarding protection and monitoring of the tigers.”

According to a forest officer, the BTR is important to the NTCA because ‘Tiger Augmentation Programme’ would be held here this year.

source: http://www.telegraphindia.com / The Telegraph,Calcutta,India / Front Page> North Bengal> Story / by Our Correspondent / Thursday – February 23rd, 2017

Air to water device produces purer drinking water

Kolkata :

The technical report of the functioning of the air to drinking water converting machine have been submitted by state Public Health Engineering department engineers.

Results from the Central Testing Laboratory have shown that the quality of water that is produced by the machine is many times purer and better than the typical water purifier devices.

The Housing Infrastructure Development Corporation (Hidco) authorities are now planning to install a few such machines in different parts of New Town.

“A sample of water produced from the device was sent to the Central testing Laboratory through PHE engineers to find out how pure the water is. The water has been found to have purer quality than the normal water purifying devices. We are planning to install some such devices in Eco Park and other commercial spots,” said a Hidco official, adding that plans are on to install the device at the Mother’s Wax Museum canteen on a trial basis and a few other places like gate No.3 of Eco Park, police outposts, traffic signal kiosks and places inside Eco Park in phases.

source: http://www.timesofindia.indiatimes.com / The Times of India / News> City News> Kolkata News / by Suman Chakraborti / TNN / February 13th, 2017

Horse carts get life… and a burden

Kulti :

A 50-year-old tanga (horse-drawn carriage) operator in Burdwan’s Kulti had been planning to sell his two horses and look for some other source of income as the business, in which his family has been involved for four generations, had fallen on hard times.

The same was the fate of around 30-odd tanga operators in Kulti town on the Bengal-Jharkhand border.

Pilfered coal being ferried in a tanga in Kulti. The faces of the operators have been blurred. /  Picture by Santosh Kumar Mandal
Pilfered coal being ferried in a tanga in Kulti. The faces of the operators have been blurred. / Picture by Santosh Kumar Mandal

However, the tangas have now got a new lease of life and the horses are back on their feet, ironically though, because they are being used to carry the burden of an illegal trade. Local coal pilferers have chosen the nearly forgotten mode of transport to ferry their booty to brick kilns and depots as tangas are much faster than bullock carts.

The horse-drawn carriage was introduced in Kulti by the British after James Erskine founded Bengal Iron Works.

The journey of the tanga since then has been chequered. From a symbol of glory during British rule, it became a popular mode of public transport. However, with the advent of modern means of transport such as buses, autorickshaws and totos, the tanga lost out.

Earlier, pilferers used to transport coal in trucks. However, because of a crackdown by police, they had chosen bullock carts and bicycles. However, bullock carts are slow and ferrying huge amounts of coal on cycles is a labourious and time-consuming task, prompting the pilferers to choose the tangas.

The owners of at least 30 horse-drawn carts in Kulti town have modified the vehicles so that they can be used to ferry coal. The hoods and seats have been removed to make space for coal sacks. Sources said the tanga owners charge between Rs 200 and Rs 250 for each trip.

Some residents alleged a section of policemen took bribes from tanga owners and pilferers.

Asansol-Durgapur police commissioner L.N. Meena said he did not know that tangas were being used to ferry pilfered coal and dismissed as “baseless” the allegation of bribe.

source: http://www.telegraphindia.com / The Telegraph,Calcutta,India / Front Page> Bengal> Story / by Abhijeet Chatterjee / Wednesday – August 17th, 2016

Eco-friendly transport in Kolkata’s Fort William

Battery-powered rickshaws wait for passengers in the Fort William campus in Kolkata.— Photo: Special Arrangement
Battery-powered rickshaws wait for passengers in the Fort William campus in Kolkata.— Photo: Special Arrangement

Battery-operated rickshaws, locally called ‘totos,’ are now allowed to ply in Fort William, the headquarters of Eastern Command, for civilians to commute in the 177-acre campus. The initiative has benefited those who work in the Eastern Command — both former and current employees — as they routinely visit Fort William, located on the eastern banks of the river Hooghly.

“Electronic rickshaws are immensely helpful. We had to walk a kilometre or two to reach the canteen from one of the main gates,” said Shibnath Ganguly, a retired Air Force staff and added: “It was an arduous walk, especially in the summer.” The e-rickshaws charge a subsidised rate of two rupees from each passenger for each trip.

235th anniversary

The rickshaws ply from 8 am to 8 pm inside Fort William, which completes its 235th year in 2016.

Opened in 1781, the fort, with a formidable arsenal and personnel presence, was named after William III of England. Many civilians, a few thousands in number, stay inside, while scores of employees daily report to their offices offices.“This is primarily a welfare service, not only for the benefit of the public but also for the boys who operate the rickshaws,” explains Col. Richard Fernandes, the Commanding Officer of 12 Garhwal Rifles, who ensures smooth operation of the rickshaw service. The drivers are civilians, selected by the Army, to run four such rickshaws.

“The Army has provided the e-rickshaws. The drivers are not only paid Rs.3,000 every month [by the Army] but also make additional money by providing the service to people,” said Col. Fernandes. The rickshaws are not allowed to go outside the Fort’s campus. However, that is “not a major concern” for Mritunjay Kumar, one of the drivers who covers 50-60 km every day. “I am earning about Rs. 100-150 per day and making about Rs. 8000 each month,” said 19-year-old Mr. Kumar, whose father is a civilian employee of the Army.

The officials believe that the earning of the drivers from the e-rickshaw project, promoted as “an eco-friendly” venture, will go up from localised tourism, as the Vijay Smarak [War Memorial] at Fort William was recently opened to the public.

The e-rickshaws charge a subsidised rate of two rupees per passenger per trip

source: http://www.thehindu.com / The Hindu / Home> National / by Special Correspondent / Kolkata – July 14th, 2016

Nezone-Ok Play in pact to make indigenous e-rickshaws

Kolkata :

City based Nezone Group and leading moulded plastic maker Ok Play has forged a partnership to manufacture indigenous e-rickshaws.

“We have collaborated with Ok Play to manufacture eastern region’s first ICAT (International Centre for Automotive Technology) and Automotive Research Association of India (ARAI) approved e-rickshaw,” Nezone group managing director M L Beswal told .

As steel pipe producer it is forward integration for us as we will be providing the chasis of the e-vehicle, he added.

Calcutta High Court’s direction to the West Bengal government to form a high-power committee to take steps against unauthorized e-rickshaws comes as a boon for us, he said.

According to estimates, over a lakh e-rickshaws are plying across the state, most of which are either built with Chinese components and are unable to meet regulatory requirements.

PSU banks have also approved this product which will help buyers to get subsidised Mudra scheme loan to purchase the vehicle.

This is a complete green vehicle as even components used for body are all UV stable plastic body which is non-polluting, long lasting and edge free, Nezone officials said.

Feasibility is being carried out to make solar powered e-rickshaw as well, Benswal said.

He said if some direct fiscal benefit scheme is offered by the West Bengal government it would help in quick switchover to authorised e-rickshaw in the state.

The Delhi government has announced a subsidy of Rs 15,000 per e-rickshaw. The Maharashtra government has waived registration charges on such vehicles.

Several state governments have waived VAT on e-rickshaws. The union government has reduced central excise to 6 per cent on these battery operated vehicles.
BSM MD SOM

source: http://www.timesofindia.indiatimes.com / The Times of India / News Home> City> Kolkata / PTI / May 26th, 2016

The Butterfly Brigade of Kolkata

Roy teaching students about nature ina butterfly garden
Roy teaching students about nature ina butterfly garden

Arjan Basu Roy has a dream—to turn the City of Joy into the City of Butterflies. Luckily for Kolkata, it hosts at least a hundred butterfly species. Roy and his band of nature lovers are on a mission to transform, restore and conserve the disappearing urban wildlife in the city. As secretary of Nature Mates, one of Kolkata’s foremost nature conservation groups, Roy has overseen multiple conservation projects, the most prominent of them being Banobitan, India’s first open air butterfly garden.

Arjan Basu Roy
Arjan Basu Roy

Nature Mates was formally launched in 2006, but it started much earlier in 1993 when wildlife enthusiast Roy and his schoolmates set up a WWF Nature Club in their school to pursue their interest in wildlife. As part of the school’s nature club activities, Roy and his friends participated in wildlife rescue missions and wildlife monitoring. Growing up with financial constraints meant that Roy could not visit wildlife reserves, nature parks or forests as a child. “That was when I realised that I did not have to go to a forest to see wildlife. I could find it here, in my city, around me. It was then that I started following urban wildlife,” he says.

The club works in tandem with the West Bengal Forest Department in conservation activities. “A healthy butterfly population is an indicator of biodiversity. They are the best pollinators; birds, lizards and frogs feed on them, so conserving butterflies will give opportunity for an entire spectrum of other species to thrive,” says Roy. “This biodiversity can be initiated by everyone. Any area can be transformed into a butterfly habitat—a sprawling garden, a front yard, a terrace or even a balcony. Placing butterfly-friendly plants in a home or garden will augur these colourful biodiversity agents.”

Roy believes that affirmative action to preserve nature makes a bigger difference than protesting or criticising wrong-doings. According to him, token gestures of planting saplings when a tree is uprooted to make way for construction amount to very little in the big scheme of nature. “We offer assistance to builders in relocating trees that would otherwise have been uprooted and replaced by five saplings elsewhere,” he explains. Nature Mates addresses a wide spectrum of conservation activities, including animal rescue, restoring endangered animal species, cleaning wetlands around Kolkata, working with the forest department to set up butterfly gardens, wildlife surveys, installing bird nests, etc.

One of the key contributions of Nature Mates is the research the group undertakes on biodiversity, wildlife conservation. “We present the data in the form of usable information to guide people. This information is made available in English and Bengali to ensure even rural communities can make use of it,” he says.

Over the years, Roy has noticed a change in people’s attitudes that is positively impacting urban wildlife, “but it is very slow, much slower than needed”. To augment this progress, Roy and his team are continuing their mission to improve biodiversity in Kolkata, one butterfly garden at a time.

source: http://www.newindianexpress.com / The New Indian Express / Home> Magazine / by Venkata Susmita Biswas / April 16th, 2016

Part of history for eight centuries, Sen Dighi faces extinction threat

Kolkata:

Its rippling waters tell many a tale and history – dating back to the 12th century. Possibly the oldest waterbody in south Bengal, Sen Dighi in Boral on the southern fringes of Kolkata has survived centuries of negligence, contamination and encroachment. It has seen change of rule, dynasties, eras and witnessed the metamorphosis of the region from a marsh-infested forest land to a thriving habitat. While more than half the waterbodies in the area have vanished and an expanding city has consumed wetlands, Sen Dighi has existed for an incredible 800 years. The 23-bigha pond, a heritage waterbody, now faces a challenge from immersion-induced pollution and its fragile banks are steadily being eaten into by garbage dumps.

A study of its water revealed that the biological oxygen demand of Sen Dighi is high. The water quality has taken a beating ever since the pond was thrown open to immersions and Chhat festivities, according to locals and experts. Even though idols are removed quickly, the residue is enough to affect the water, they say. Perhaps, a bigger threat to the pond is posed by the eroding banks, made unsteady by devotees who have been clearing vegetation along the edges during Chhat. It has led to the uprooting of two trees and another has been left unsteady. These trees are crucial to the survival of Sen Dighi since they have been holding the banks together.

“Over the years, much of Sen Dighi has been lost through encroachment. It is important to protect the pond from pollution and infringement since it is part of our history. We must ensure that Sen Dighi retains its size and its water remains unpolluted,” said Dipayan Dey, chairman of SAFE, a green NGO that is now studying the pond’s water quality.

Around 20 km from Kolkata, Sen Dighi was dug by Ballal Sen, the second ruler of Bengal’s Sen dynasty, in the late 12th century. It must have measured close to a hundred bighas then and was the principal source of water for a large swathe of area to the south of Kolkata, according to Madhu Basu, who has chronicled the history of Sen Dighi. “The city didn’t exist then and it was a practice to dig huge waterbodies that would be taken care of by locals. Almost every house had a tank attached to it. But Sen Dighi stood out due to its size and the fact that it was maintained by the local Tripura Sundari temple that still survives. It is one of the last symbols of the region’s past prosperity,” said Basu, who runs an NGO called Economic Rural Development Society (ERDS).

Over the years, numerous archaeological relics of the Gupta, Maurya, Pala and Sen dynasties have been excavated from Sen Dighi and the areas around it. In the mid-Eighties, Sen Dighi was dried up and cleansed by ERDS. A local body of businessmen took the pond on lease for pisciculture. A part of the money earned from the lease goes to the Tripura Sundari trust. “We dug up numerous relics from the pond. They are now conserved at the Tripura Sundari temple, Ashutosh Museum and a few other places. That was the last time the pond was cleaned,” said Basu, who has penned a book on the history of Boral titled ‘Itihasher Darpane: Boral’.

Locals, on the other hand, pointed out that Sen Dighi is diminishing in size, bit by bit. Documents held by the Tripura Sundari trust mentions the size of the pond as 45 bighas. Less than half of it remains. “Immersions have led to the felling of trees and litter has filled up a portion along the northern bank. If this continues, the pond will get further reduced in size,” said a member of the local Boral Parliament Club that helps the temple trust in maintaining the pond. Basu, who is a resident of Boral, agreed. “Encroachments have always been a threat. With real estate activity being brisk in the area, the future is uncertain for Sen Dighi,” he said.

Till a hundred years ago, the pond would be surrounded by brick kilns. Legend has it that a trader named Maheshwar Shau from Odisha had introduced fish cultivation at Sen Dighi. “Locals got jealous of him and he was killed and thrown into the pond. For many years, people would keep away from Sen Dighi and believed it was haunted,” said Basu.

Green actvists believe immersions should be stopped and Sen Dighi should be cleaned to save it. “If it has to survive, Sen Dighi shouldn’t be used for bathing or washing. Once the water has been cleaned, a pump could be used to pull out water, which can then be used by locals. It would be a shame if Sen Dighi degenerates into a stinking pool like so many around it already have,” said environmentalist AK Ghosh.

source: http://www.timesofindia.indiatimes.com / The Times of India / News Home> City> Kolkata / by Prithvijit Mitra / TNN / February 10th, 2016

Engineer follows his passion to take people to the mountains

Kolkata :

Remember Farhan Qureshi of Three Idiots who left his engineering to become a wildlife photographer. Here is the story of another engineer who left his well settled life to chase his dreams. Saptarshi Roy is a production engineer from Jadavpur University and worked in some of the biggest companies like CTS, Cognizant and Wipro but his passion for the mountains overpowered his sense of security. Farhan had ‘Rancho’ alias Phunshuk Wangdu to motivate him but this self-motivated engineer left his well settled job and started a trekking company to make people become a part of the pristine beauty.

“I completed my production engineering in 2001 and then like any other engineer joined a company through campus interview. In the next ten years I worked with numerous companies. I was never comfortable and went on switching jobs. Finally I felt that engineering is not my cup of tea and started doing something which I liked,” this 38 year old trekker told TOI.

Roy always had a passion for the snow-capped hills and used to run to the peaks whenever he could manage time out of his busy schedule. In 2010 Roy left his job and started a company Himalaya Trekkers – a company responsible to designing customize trekking trips for the people- even for those who don’t have any idea about the ridges and the rifts of the Himalayas.

According to Roy – a trek in The Himalayas is not just a trek; it is an experience that involves all your senses, the sight of snow-clad peaks, the clean smell of mist in the air, smoking hot Momos which melts in your mouth, sound of rugged nature, and the cold touch of the icy wind. “Camping on grassy meadows, beneath the Milky Way sipping on hot coffee in cozy tents with the nature beckoning you with her clarion call to explore is indeed an experience which no hotel room with its walled comfort can offer. Those who live this life will never trade anything for it,” Roy added.

In the last five years Saptarshi has taken more than 500 people to different trekking routes including difficult trekking zones like Roopkund (16000 feet), Pin Parvati Pass (17400 feet), Satopanth Tal (15100 feet), Dzongri & Goecha La (16000 feet) and Sahastra Tal (16400 feet). “We try to provide the real feel of the mountains. As I love the mountains I want the people who travel with us to love the mountains as well,” Roy added.

Going to the mountains has helped Roy to go beyond the corridors of religion, caste and creed. “I have a guide in Kashmir – Altaf. He stays in a small village near Sonmarg. His father Gulam Mohammed has peculiar fascination for the Bengalis particularly for the Kolkatans. Whenever we go to their home they offer us a particular handmade roti along with namkeen chai which I like very much,” Roy added. When asked whether they had faced any hardship, Roy said, “This year in Garwal region we had wait for one hour because there were lots of snow ground bear. They are not dangerous to find them at such an altitude is something great”.

source: http://www.timesofindia.indiatimes.com / The Times of India / News Home> City> Kolkata / by Saibal Gupta, TNN / December 14th, 2015

Urban landscape honour for Eco Park

Kolkata :

The central Housing and Urban Development Corporation (Hudco) has voted Eco Park at New Town as one of the top two projects in the country for innovative planning and design, bringing new accolades for the city in urban landscaping.

The project, developed by West Bengal Housing Infrastructure Development Corporation Limited (Hidco), has won the second position under the `Landscape Planning and Design’ category . The first prize went for the development and revitalisation of Ranmal Lake at Jamnagar in Gujarat.”It is an encouraging recognition for the Hidco planning and engineering team.

The project was inspired by the CM,” said Hidco CMD Debashis Sen. Off the arterial road in New Town, Eco Park is spread over 480 acres, a 104-acre waterbody in its middle.

On July 19, 2011, on her way from airport, Mamata Banerjee reportedly alighted from her car as the waterbody caught her attention. On her instruction, the Hidco converted the area into an ecological garden.

New attractions, such as the Biswa Bangla Haat, a children’s play area, a butterfly garden, a musical fountain, a bamboo garden, a replica of the Ghum station and an adda zone, were added.

source: http://www.timesofindia.indiatimes.com / The Times of India / News Home> City> Kolkata / by Suman Chakraborti, TNN / November 30th, 2015