The second edition of the annual bird festival was inaugurated at the Buxa Tiger Reserve on Saturday.
The state forest department and Siliguri-based Himalayan Nature & Adventure Foundation (HNAF) are jointly organising the event.
Forty bird lovers and experts from different parts of Bengal and even from Delhi are participating at the four-day fest.
The Buxa Tiger Reserve is rich in avifauna and the fest is unique as it aims to bring together eminent ornithologists, researchers and bird enthusiasts from the region. “It (the fest) offers an opportunity to explore nature’s avifauna in this region alongside the rich biodiversity and wilderness of BTR,” Ravikant Sinha, the principal chief conservator of forests (wildlife) of the state, said after inaugurating the fest.
The fest will also help foresters to make a checklist of the birds available in the reserve, generate awareness among people about conservation of birds and study their habitat, said foresters.
Last year, 127 species of birds were sighted during the fest. They included rare birds like the mountain imperial pigeon, Rufous-bellied hawk eagle, Silver-eared mesia, Jerdon’s baza, Sultan tit, Brown dipper and wreathed hornbill.
“We want to highlight the avian population in Buxa, which is no less attractive (than the animals) . We have plans to make it a state-level festival in the coming years. The Buxa Hills are comparatively undisturbed and we hope more species will be sighted this year,” said Sinha.
source: http://www.telegraphindia.com / The Telegraph, Calcutta,India / Home> West Bengal / by Anirban Choudhury / January 07th, 2018
Two youths in Jalpaiguri have achieved success in combined fish and vegetable farming through an old technology and earned accolades from officials of the district administration who are now planning to showcase their success as an example before farmers.
Arkaprabha Das and Subhadip Mitra have introduced aquaponics, a technology where water is used both for fish and vegetable farming, on a one-bigha plot near Canal More under Kharia panchayat of Jalpaiguri Sadar block, 8km from the town.
With assistance provided by the Fish Farmers’ Development Agency and the district administration, they have come up with the project.
They have dug four ponds, measuring around 30ft by 15ft with a depth of 5-6ft, where they are farming different species of hatchlings like pabda (Indian catfish), punti (swamp barb), telapia (Indian tilapia), shingi (stinging catfish), magur (walking catfish) and chitol (clown knifefish).
“In these ponds, the growth of fishes would be high as compared to other ponds measuring around four-five bighas of land. In those ponds, it takes around six to seven months for fishes to grow but here, the fishes would be of similar sizes within 75 days,” said Das.
Unlike other ponds where the water is stagnant, the water here, which is mixed with the waste released by fishes, is channelized through pipes, which have holes above. On these pipes, the duo have planted marigold shrubs and flowers are also growing on those pipes.
“Due to presence of nutrients in the water, the flowers are also growing steadily. We are then diverting the water to bed (a flat structure) where the water is flown through pebbles. The water here is getting purified while we have planted vegetables on the bed, which are getting the nutrients,” he said.
From this bed, the water is being shifted another bed, known as flowing bed. There, though the water has been kept covered, flowers, strawberry and chillies have been planted above the cover.
In course of the process, ammonia from water is being removed and nitrogen compounds present in it help in growth of plants. Also, the water, while being diverted back to the ponds carries fresh oxygen, which helps in growth of fishes.
“It is old technology but is hardly used by cultivators,” said an official of the district fisheries department.
“We feel aquaponics should be largely used in our state. It can expedite production of fishes, vegetables and flowers. In total, around Rs 5 lakhs or so has been spent for the project. We will keep on helping them in the initiative,” Somnath Chakraborty, the chief executive officer of Fish Farmers’ Development Agency, said.
Rachna Bhagat, DM, Jalpaiguri, said they will showcase the success story among cultivators of the district.
“It is a unique project. We will apprise other cultivators and those who are into fish farming, about the technology,” she said.
source: http://www.telegraphindia.com / The Telegraph, Calcutta,India / Home> West Bengal / by The Telegraph Correspondent / January 06th, 2018
Registry Building, a derelict colonnaded structure with louvered screens, caught in the clasp of myriad tree roots at the corner of the Strand, declared as condemned by the civic body, is the focal point of an initiative in Chandernagore for the former French colony to reconnect with its built architectural heritage.
Friday will see the launch of Know Your Indo-French Heritage, a week-long multidisciplinary workshop that is taking place within the ambit of Bonjour India, a celebration of Indo-French partnership in innovation and creativity across the country, organised by the French Embassy and Institut Francais.
“It is a collaborative workshop designed for the restoration of French-built heritage which will not survive unless people are proud of the town’s assets and realise that this can be a source of economic growth,” said French consul general Damien Syed, who reiterated his distress at the state of dereliction of the French heritage structures.
Students from Jadavpur University, Chandernagore College and The Confluence Institute for Innovation and Creative Strategies in Architecture, Lyon, will meet at Chandernagore College on Friday. “They are expected to come up with innovative design solutions as to how public spaces in the town can be better utilised. One of the outcomes of the workshop would be a sustainable business model for the reuse of the Registry Building. IIM Nagpur will collaborate on that,” said Aishwariya Tipnis, a conservation architect who has worked to identify the heritage buildings in Chandernagore. Seven buildings from her list, including the Registry Building, have recently been selected for notification as heritage structures by the state heritage commission.
All ideas from the workshop will be exhibited on the Strand as part of the closing ceremony on January 12 for the public as well as French ambassador Alexandre Ziegler to see. “We will also launch a crowd-funding initiative which will possibly be a first in India for restoration of a building,” she said.
Four heritage adda sessions will take place involving eminent residents like lighting wizard Sridhar Das and representatives of heritage businesses like confectioner Surya Kumar Modak.
France will be the partner country this year at the state government’s Bengal Global Business Summit. “For the first time, we will have a delegation of nine or 10 companies,” said Syed. This is a significant development after the pullout of a French joint venture from the Haldia port which was blamed on strong-arm tactics by an entrenched lobby close to the ruling establishment. The then ambassador Francois Richier had raised the matter with the state government during his city visit in 2014.
source: http://www.telegraphindia.com / The Telegraph, Calcutta,India / Home> Calcutta / by Special Correspondent / January 05th, 2018
Preserving Art Deco architecture in the city is uniquely challenging because it is so commonplace, residents take it for granted.
In 2015, author Amit Chaudhuri started a movement to preserve ordinary Bengali homes in South Kolkata. The architecture of these homes, Chaudhuri said, was unique and its destruction would be a disaster. His movement and the pressure group that he created, Calcutta Architectural Legacies, has helped to shine a light on the kind of buildings that ordinary Kolkatans do not think of as constituting heritage.
“When we speak of Calcutta’s architecture, we usually mean the colonial institutions that the British erected,” wrote Chaudhuri. “Or the aristocratic mansions of North Calcutta built by Bengali landowners. But the houses I’m speaking of were built by anonymous builders for middle-class Bengali professionals: lawyers, doctors, civil servants and professors.” Chaudhuri also notes that a lot of these houses have in common, the presence of Art Deco elements such as “semi-circular balconies; a long, vertical strip comprising glass panes for the stairwell; porthole-shaped windows; and the famous sunrise motif on grilles and gates”.
Art Deco is so common in South Kolkata that most people are intimately familiar with it without even realising it. These neighbourhoods were the focus of a walk on December 5, led by Jawhar Sircar, the former CEO of Prasar Bharati. The walk was organised by the International Council on Monuments and Sites, an interdisciplinary, global network of architectural and archaeological heritage experts. “Jawhar Sircar has had a deep engagement with South Kolkata’s Art Deco style and advocated for it on various public forums,” said Kamalika Bose, urban conservationist and co-ordinator of the ICOMOS programme. But the focus on these architectural curiosities also raises a question – why did a 1920s European architectural style find so many takers in 1950s and 1960s Kolkata?
A modern style
Styles rarely evolve in a day, but the definitive moment for Art Deco that experts point to is the International Exhibition of Modern Decorative and Industrial Arts, held in Paris in 1925. Fifteen thousand exhibitors from 20 countries presented to 16 million people a highly decorative “style modern”, using fine craftsmanship and expensive materials. Even the name “Art Deco” is an abbreviation of the title of the exposition. This style would spread rapidly around the world, from skyscrapers in New York to ocean liners that crossed the Atlantic. It can still be seen today, in structures such as the Chrysler Building, the General Electric Building and the American Radiator Building of New York. But while American skyscrapers were the largest and most visible examples of the style, Art Deco encompassed almost all forms of the visual arts, architecture and design, including painting, sculpture and even typography.
In Kolkata, the sole example of the Art Nouveau style, which preceded Art Deco, is the Esplanade Mansions opposite the Raj Bhavan, built in 1910. But there is little evidence to suggest that the Art Deco buildings seen in the city today evolved from here. In an age without internet, trends caught on through magazines, which meant that Asia lagged a decade behind Europe. Art Deco’s dominance in the West ended with the beginning of World War II, but here in India, the earliest Art Deco structures were built in the 1930s and the style would continue well into the 1960s in Kolkata. Mumbai is known to have the world’s second-largest collection of Art Deco buildings but what makes South Kolkata’s Art Deco homes unique is the fact that they are more a result of jugaad than formal architectural decisions.
Among the earliest examples of Art Deco in Kolkata are Victoria House, now the headquarters of the Calcutta Electric Supply Corporation, built in the 1930s and Reid House on Red Cross Place, built in 1941. But the icon of the city was the Metro Cinema Hall. Designed by Thomas White Lamb and built by Metro Goldwyn Mayer, Metro Cinema stood on Dharmatalla crossing, one of the city’s nodal points. With its waterfall-style columns and grand staircase, Metro became the building that a new class of up-and-coming Bengalis wanted to ape.
The building boom in South Kolkata began around the same time with large numbers of people moving out of the North, or later moving to West Bengal post-Partition. While these people were affluent, they had nowhere near the astronomical sums of money needed to construct the lavish mansions of North Kolkata. Buildings in the north followed the pattern of rooms arranged around a central courtyard. This placed an emphasis on communal space. But with changing sensibilities putting a greater stress on personal space, this style was thought of as both wasteful and outdated.
Scenographer and artist Swarup Dutta has taught design for a decade and closely studied the evolution of Kolkata’s architecture. He points to a peculiarity in the law in Bengal, which allows civil engineers and draftsmen to file the plans for a building, as opposed to architects, who would be required in other states. This was good news for homeowners, since architects would charge between 2% and 5% of construction cost, says former civil servant Jawhar Sircar. The demand that Bengalis made from their civil engineers, aka “contractors”, Sircar says, was, “amake Metro style baadi baniye dao” – build me a house in the Metro style. Because civil engineers were concerned with the technical side of construction, instead of the aesthetic, their response was to present their clients with a collection of templates. These would then be tweaked according to each client’s needs. Since the buildings in areas like Hindustan Park and Lake Temple Road all came up around the same time, and used the same technique, entire neighbourhoods ended up looking like variations on a theme.
Why is it important to save these buildings? Chaudhuri says in an interview, “In a city like Kolkata, what we embrace, what we celebrate it for, is its modernity. It’s a form of existence that teaches us to look and experience life in a certain way…as exemplified by these non-heritage residential buildings which form these astonishing residential neighbourhoods that have art deco features as well as traditional features and European provenances.”
But saving them is proving to be a challenge for a number of reasons. With economic stagnation in the east, the younger generation have had to move out in search of work and many homeowners now no longer have the means to maintain the houses they are living in. With the buildings being worth much less than the land they stand on, a developer’s offer is difficult to refuse.
But the greatest challenge is to get ordinary Kolkatans to think of these buildings as special. “You don’t notice them,” said restoration architect James Simpson who was also a part of the ICOMOS walk, “because for you, they are commonplace. But once you know what to look for, these buildings keep popping out at you.” If anything, Chaudhuri’s initiative has at least managed to put these buildings in the spotlight. Three friends, Manish Golder, Sidhartha Hajra and Sayan Dutta have begun a project to document these buildings on Instagram. Their handle, @calcuttahouses, now has more than 2,000 followers. Chaudhuri hopes his campaign will make people “look at these buildings again – something we’ve stopped doing for a number of reasons”. Whether that will be enough, remains to be seen.
source: http://www.scroll.in / Scroll.in / Home> Magazine> Archtecture/ by Deepanjan Ghosh / December 12th, 2017
• A famous tea company in Calcutta traded in indigo in British India. That’s how its office on RN Mukherjee Road, Nilhat House, got its name.
•Opium and indigo growers were locked in constant rivalry before 1859
• Evidence of indigo dye has been even found in the remains of the Indus Valley civilisation
Such nuggets from history made up writer Jenny Balfour-Paul’s hour-long Bengal Club Library Talk, organised in association with The Telegraph, on November 8.
Balfour-Paul, who has researched indigo for decades, traced its history right from the early evidence to the exploitation faced by farmers in pre-Independence Bengal.
The session was peppered with anecdotes, humour and photographs of travel that she undertook since 2000 to bring together the indigo story.
The highlight of the evening was shots of a handwritten journal by 19th century British explorer Thomas Machell, who got the author inspired in the first place.
Machell had lived in Calcutta and worked in several indigo plantations in the 19th century. His journal traced his experience and the culture of the time, in the form of correspondence to his father in England.
Balfour-Paul shared with the audience how she found Machell’s journals by accident. “I was in the British Library surfing through old books and records when I found this valuable piece of history. It was the word indigo that made me reach out for it,” she said.
One line in the handwritten diary had particularly caught her eye. “I wonder if anybody will find these journals in the 20th century in a dirty library…” Machell had written. “I thought I was meant to find it,” added Balfour-Paul.
The author decided to travel to all those places where Machell had visited more than 100 years ago. She juxtaposed snaps taken during her visits to Calcutta, Bangladesh and also the Marquesas Island in French Polynesia with the British explorer’s illustrations.
Visits to Calcutta brought out some lesser-known facts. “Tea company J Thomas & Co would auction indigo. No wonder their office was called Nilhat House,” Balfour Paul said.
Another story was about her hunt for Machell’s grave. “Two of his journals are missing and I am still putting together the last six years of his life. I was not sure where he had spent his final years,” Balfour-Paul added.
India made Machell ill. He had left its shores for his native Yorkshire only to come back again. “My daughter and I went places in search of his grave, till we realised he had died near Jabalpur. One rainy day in Jabalpur we almost got ourselves arrested as we went grave hunting,” laughed the author.
She has documented many of her tales in her book, Deeper than Indigo: Tracing Thomas Machell, Forgotten Explorer.
source: http://www.telegraphindia.com / The Telegraph, Calcutta,India / A Staff Reporter / Saturday – November 11th, 2017
In 2016, Sanjay Dutta and his team seized 14 leopard skins, 500 pieces of leopard and tiger bones, two rhino horns, live geckos, seven skins of clouded leopard and 11 jars of snake venom.
In the forests of North Bengal, timber smugglers and poachers are in trouble. A 39-year-old forest ranger has come to be known as the ‘Forest Singham’ (lion of the forest) after having arrested hundreds of wildlife and timber smugglers.
As a ranger, Sanjay Dutta is in charge of 3,304 hectares of forest in the Belacoba range of Jalpaiguri district. The Chicken Neck area, a narrow strip of land lying adjacent to the international borders with Nepal, Bangladesh and Bhutan is especially known as a haven for poachers and smugglers. But with 15-20 seizures and 70-80 arrests a year, this has also become a happy hunting ground for the law enforcers.
In 2016, Dutta and his team seized 14 leopard skins, 500 pieces of leopard and tiger bones, two rhino horns, live geckos, seven skins of clouded leopard, 11 jars of snake venom and a cache of arms and ammunition.
In April this year, Dutta was made the head of a special task force set up to check wildlife smuggling in the forests of all the eight districts of north Bengal.
“Dutta has made numerous seizures and nabbed many offenders. He must have set a record by now. He is hardworking and brave and he has developed a network. Also, he maintains a very cordial relation with local people,” said M R Baloach, additional principal chief conservator of forest, West Bengal.
A resident of Jalpaiguri, Dutta had to abandon his dream of becoming a police officer when his father, also a forest ranger, died at the age of 48. Dutta joined the department when he was only 18.
Ten years ago he was shot by timber smugglers while he was chasing a gang along the Teesta canal. One of the guards accompanying him was killed.
In 2016 Dutta became the only Indian recipient of the Clark R Bavin Wildlife Law Enforcement Award given by Animal Welfare Institute of Johannesburg. But Dutta missed the ceremony because he could not afford the trip to South Africa.
In view of the threat to his life, Dutta, a father of two, is provided with security personnel but that has not deterred him from staying in touch with people. He has set up a primary school in the Lodhabari forest area. He partly funded it with the Rs 25,000 cash award he got from the state government. Dutta arranged for another Rs 1.2 lakh from the joint forest management committee and started the school.
Over the years, Dutta, has helped many poor people, cancer patients and school children. Local people try to return the favour and love. Jyotshna Roy, head of a self-help group for women in Lodhabari said, “We have never seen a forest officer like him. He does not mind taking loan to help people in need. On Bhaiduj he was given ‘bhaiphota’ by 50 women.”
“With Dutta around, we know the forests are safe,” said Tula Mohammed, president of Hiramari Joint Forest Management Committee.
Visitors to the forest are frisked by state armed police (SAP) personnel. Fifteen of them work with Dutta. Shiv Sambu Som, an assistant sub inspector of SAP, said, “Working with Dutta is a new experience. He takes care of the staff and other employees. We don’t mind putting in extra hours to assist Dutta in nabbing offenders.”
“Dutta always leads an operation from the front,” added Lalit Tiwari, a forest department beat officer.
The Forest Singham however remains grounded. “I am no hero or celebrity. I love to work for the people and that’s what I do,” he told HT.
source: http://www.hindustantimes.com / Hindustan Times / Home> Cities> Kolkata / by Pramod Giri, Hindustan Times / November 07th, 2017
A sculpture garden on the history of Bengal will be inaugurated by minister Firhad Hakim at New Town’s Eco Park on Wednesday.
The garden will have 12 murals that will focus on important individuals and their contributions to the country and society, as well as on different phases of the history like Shri Chaitanya, Battle of Plassey, Raja Ramohan Roy, renaissance in Bengal, Bankimchandra, the awakening of Bengal in India, Swami Vivekananada and his activities, Santhal rebellion, Indigo Movement, Subhash Chandra Bose and the Azad Hind Fauz, Shri Arobindo, Lalan Fakir, Kazi Nazrul Islam, Rabindranath Tagore and the Visva Bharati movement, Satyajit Ray and his world of films
The garden will also have 52 portraits, including Shri Chaitanya Mahapravu and Begum Rokeya and will have a light and sound show explaining the story in each of the relief panels.
The show will keep the audience moving from one panel to another in groups. There will also be benches for the elderly and children.
source: http://www.timesofindia.indiatimes.com / The Times of India / News / by Suman Chakraborti / TNN / September 21st, 2017
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.
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
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
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