Archive Page 2

Celebrate Earth Day at Creart

Celebrate Earth Day at Creart

Celebrate Earth Day at Creart

Creart invites you to the launch of four international ec0 clothing brands to celebrate Earth Day on 18 April 2009 from 5:30pm at 53 Rue Suffren (1st floor), opposite the Alliance Francaise, in Pondicherry, South India.  You will see clothing made from organic cotton, and clothing, furniture and jewelry made from recycled materials.  You can also support Pondy Citizens’ Action Network‘s Save Our Beach campaign with the purchase of an organic T-shirt!

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Benefit Dinner for PondyCAN! – 14 March 2009 at 7pm

PondyCAN Benefit Dinner

Pierre Elouard and Satsanga are hosting a benefit dinner for Pondy Citizens’ Action Network (PondyCAN!) on Saturday, March 14 at 7pm at the Satsanga Annex at 54 Labourdonnais Street.  The benefit will go to fund PondyCAN!’s efforts to bring back the beach in Pondicherry and the neighboring areas of Tamil Nadu, including Auroville.

In addition to dinner, there will be an introduction to PondyCAN!’s activities by Probir Banerjee, President of PondyCAN!, a screening of a short film:  “Save Our Beach”, musical performances (fusion, classical Brazilian, reggae) and giant puppets!

Tickets are Rs. 600.  Please join us if you are in Pondicherry.  If you cannot be at the dinner, do consider a donation for PondyCAN!’s Save Our Beach project.

Vysial Street Restoration Project receives Award of Merit 2008

Poster for Award Ceremony

Poster for Award Ceremony

14 February 2009

The UNESCO Asia-Pacific Heritage “Award of Merit 2008” for cultural heritage conservation was awarded to the Government of Puducherry for the Vysial Street Restoration. Lieutenant Governor Govind Singh Gurjar received the award certificate from Moe Chiba, Program Officer for Culture, UNESCO, New Delhi.

Lt. Governor, Govind Singh Gurjar, speaking at the award ceremony

Lt. Governor, Govind Singh Gurjar, speaking at the award ceremony

Congratulations to INTACH, Pondicherry, for preserving a stretch of Vysial Street (Rue Calve Subbraya Chetty) between Rue de la Cathedrale (Mission Street) and Mahatma Gandhi Street in the “Tamil Town”, an area where the traditional continuous verandas (thalavaram) and semi-public benches (thinnai) have survived. Twenty traditional facades were restored and an additional four houses redesigned to fit in with the streetscape.

Vysial Streetface

Vysial Streetface

Shuddham and PondyCAN! President Probir Banerjee Honored for Excellence in Social Service

Probir Banerjee Receives an Award from Puducherry Lieutenant Governor Govind Singh Gurjar

This morning, in a Republic Day ceremony at Pondicherry’s Indira gandhi Stadium, Lieutenant Governor Govind Singh Gujar honored our dear friend and colleague Probir Banerjee for his extraordinary devotion to voluntary service to the people of Pondicherry.

Probir serves as the president of both Shuddham, the innovative NGO pioneering simple, effective solid waste management strategies in Pondicherry, and of PondyCAN! (Pondicherry Citizens Action Network), which fights for critical environmental protection and advocates a farseeing program of integrated regional planning. He works tirelessly and selflessly to staunch the erosion of quality of life in our town and to assure that its future will be healthier, happier, and sustainable.

There were two interesting aspects to the Republic Day ceremonies award from which speak volumes about Probir’s impact on the well-being of his community. First, of the two-dozen-or-so awardees felicitated the Lieutenant Governor, Probir alone was honored for social service. Other honorees were policemen, intellectuals, athletes, students, and educational institutions. Second, the event program, which contains a lengthy exposition of the LG’s development agenda for the coming year contains the following item:

To keep pace with the developments, the Government could hardly afford to ignore environmental protection. Sustainable development is the watchword and toi ensure that development is not made at the cost of environmental degradation, the Government of Puducherry has constituted a committee to campaign and implement a “Clean and Green Puducherry” policy. The Ousteri Lake has been declared a protected place for avian fauna. The Governmentis willing to re-examine its policies toward the prevention of coastal erosion.

Most of these ideas reached the Governor’s Palace for the first time in a series of meetings, led by Probir, introducing the new head of the Union Territory government to the work of Shuddham and PondyCAN!. The stated willingness of the Government to take a serious look at Pondicherry’s massive, development-induced coastal management disaster represents a major policy shift. The politicians and administrative bureaucrats in Pondicherry have long supported port development and hard-structure “defenses” to coastal erosion in the form of seawalls and groynes, notwithstanding the patent stupidity of this approach. It’s not clear that the Lieutenant Governor’s good intentions can alter the destructive course they have set. But the mere fact that the question is on the public agenda illustrates the effectiveness of the work of Probir and PondyCAN! in less that two-short years.

So, as you celebrate Republic Day, spare a thought for Probir Banerjee – a kind of present day freedom fighter whose struggle is just beginning to etch its way into the national consciousness.

PondyCAN! Did!

Gingee Bazaar Architectural Rendering

Pondicherry Citizens Action Network (PondyCAN!) has a rather ambitious agenda: to effectuate long-range, integrated regional master planning which will preserve, restore, and enhance this once-beautiful, rapidly despoiled, utterly unique heritage town and its surrounding natural resources, and place them within a small-radius network of symbiotic economic hubs. Some of our endeavors are far more modest, however. One recent effort involved dissuading the Pondicherry Municipality from constructing a massive concrete market block at the top of the central canal which divides the French and Tamil districts of the historic Boulevard Town.

The Public Works Department had designed and sent-for-bid an architecturally abominable, two-story, air conditioned, concrete structure to house the few dozen ragamuffin vendors who sell fruit, vegetables, flowers, and fish on what is now a patch of tree-shaded dirt ground at the same site. The PWD plan would have accommodated 120 vendors in a bloated footprint extending street-to-street-to-street-to-street, with neither footpaths nor parking areas. It would have visually and physically have choked on of the area’s few remaining open spaces.

Working with architects from the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH), Pondy CAN! made a detailed study of the project and developed a new design for the proposed structure. With the help of our Legislative Assembly Member, we lobbied hard for the new plan, which incorporated open-walled, tiled-roofed, vernacular architecture and systems for recycling, collection of organic waste for composting, public toilets, and other public hygiene improvements. Our plan accommodates 60 vendors, physically separating the fish mongers from the fruit and vegetable sellers and providing segregated veg and non-veg wash facilities.

And we won!

The Government of Pondicherry has just announced that the new Gingee Bazaar, built according to our design, will commence construction next month.

Continue reading ‘PondyCAN! Did!’

India’s National Action Plan on Climate Change Released

Our vision is to make India’s economic development energy-efficient. Over a period of time, we must pioneer a graduated shift from economic activity based on fossil fuels to one based on non-fossil fuels and from reliance on non-renewable and depleting sources of energy to renewable sources of energy. In this strategy, the sun occupies a center stage, as it should, being literally the original source of all energy. We will pool our scientific, technical and managerial talent, with sufficient financial resources, to develop solar energy as a source of abundant energy to power our economy and to transform the lives of our people. Our success in this endeavour will change the face of India.

On 30 June 2008, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh released India’s National Action Plan on Climate Change, which was prepared under the guidance of the Prime Minister’s Council on Climate Change.

The Plan focuses attention on 8 priority “national missions”:

1.  Solar Energy
2.  Enhanced Energy Efficiency
3.  Sustainable Habitat
4.  Conserving Water
5.  Sustaining the Himalayan Ecosystem
6.  A “Green India”
7.  Sustainable agriculture
8.  Strategic Knowledge Platform for Climate Change

Ministries have been directed to submit detailed implementation plans by December 2008 to the Prime Minister’s Council on Climate Change.

The full text of the Prime Minister’s speech on the occasion of the release can be found here.

Mired in Garbage

Garbage dumped in Thengaithittu

Garbage being burned in Thengaithittu. Photo by T. Singaraveluo, The Hindu

The residents of Thengaithittu and Uppalam villages have been living with the pollution, environmental degradation and biodiversity loss of illegally dumped garbage in and around the Thengaithittu River and along the main road leading to Thengaithittu for years. An article in today’s Hindu quotes the Municipal Councillor for Ward 39 in Thengaithittu saying:

“Vehicles of both private contractors and the municipality dump the garbage here. The site allotted for garbage dumping is at Karuvadikuppam, but they do not go there owing to the distance factor.”

Pleas to local government authorities to stop the dumping have gone unheeded. The article, by Serena Josephine M, titled “No end to garbage dumping here” reports:

…the officials said it was unauthorised dumping of garbage and private contractors were doing it without the knowledge of the authorities. “We had issued strict instructions to the private contractors not to dump the garbage at Thengaithittu. But they dispose of the garbage during nights,” an official said.

Ah, what can a government do when its own contractors break the law?  And if it is done during the night, how can the government know about it?

Residents have filed complaints, stopped trucks, and even raised money to clean up the mess last year, but the dumping continues. Government officials offer a solution when a Rs. 47 crore (approximately US$ 11 million) proposal for an “integrated solid waste management project” submitted by the Puducherry (Pondicherry) government is approved by the Central government.

No point enforcing the law until you have a more permanent solution in place no matter how long it takes, eh?  Who can blame the contractors for taking shortcuts at the expense of the citizens?  After all, they can save so much more money if they don’t have to drive all the way to the legal dump at Karuvadikuppam.  What’s a little smell, ruined wetland habitat, loss of biodiversity, and mosquito-borne diseases?