– ICICI Fellow Akshay Nikam (Batch 2010-12)
I entered my hotel room on the morning of 1st Feb 2013 only to find out that my stay was arranged with 2 other mates Mr. Muhammad Helal, a native of Bangladesh working in its Education Ministry and Mr. Baswant from Pune working for CEE (Centre for Environment and Education, an autonomous body under the GOI).
We gathered to spend the next 15 days as a group to attend a CSE (Centre for Science and Environment, Delhi) bootcamp titled “Bootcamp: Where environment meets journalism”.
Not going through all the details, I will briefly touch upon the important learning’s we had and the eye opening facts we came to know:
- We were shown a documentary made by CSE titled “Faecal Attraction” that showed the status of wastewater treatment in Delhi – the problems with illegal shanties and legal buildings sprung up outside of Delhi. We were shocked to know that only 40-50% of the wastewater gets treated the rest is dumped as it is into the Yamuna River. We saw firsthand the dire condition of the Yamuna and the decay of river eco systems.
- We visited some villages of Jaipur and Alwar districts such as Laporiya, Neemi, Thanagazi and Mandalwas to see the excellent work done on water harvesting by the communities themselves with the help of local NGO’s like Tarun Bharat Sangh and GVNML (Gram Vikas Navyuvak Mandal Laporiya). This was done through building anicuts (you can say nano dams) and Chaukas (Rectangle) where in a pit like structure is dug normally 20*5*2 feet to make the water stay in these pits which later gets percolated in the land increasing the groundwater level and moisture content of the soil. They had also kept a separate land and water body for the wild animals and local flora to flourish where no person from the village was allowed to enter.
We visited the Jal Mahal in Jaipur. In 2004 the state govt decided to revive the lake and its palace under a PPP partnership. Thereby tender was floated and it was won by Kothari builders of Jaipur. The contract was that 40 acres of land next to the lake would be given for development of commercial activities to the builders for a 99 year lease period whereby the builder had to deposit Rs. 2.52 crore each year as a lease fee to the state govt with a built in 10% increase. The objective was to have a secure funding for restoring the lake and the palace to its previous pristine beauty and maintaining it. The Kothari builders did a fantastic job of cleaning the lake and restoring the palace. But when they wanted to develop the 40 ha of land some “so called social activists” filed a PIL against the builders calling the whole process rigged. Thereby the court has put a stay on the development work and the fate of Jal Mahal is still hanging in limbo.
After getting a glimpse of the urban and rural eco systems now it was the turn of forests. We thus visited Sariska Tiger reserve in Rajasthan. The intention was to understand the forest eco systems especially the status of the villagers who were moved out of the forests. We saw core 1, 2 and 3 areas (these are based on eco system sensitivity) and some mind boggling flora and fauna. Some of the birds that we saw included Kingfisher, Pintail, Rudy shaleduck, Dabchick, common pochard, coot etc. Local trees that we identified were Peepal, Neem, Jamun, Arjun, Khejadi, Belpathi, Reetha etc.
All I can say is that this trip was one of the most memorable journeys of my life and I would like to express my heartfelt gratitude to CSE for selecting me.