WORLD ENVIRONMENT DAY: Delegates of ‘Save The Hills’ meet Governor and MP for long-term strategy on landslide situation in the fragile Darjeeling Himalayas – The only organisation genuinely concerned about the fast deteriorating environment in the Hills with no help from the Bengal Government for the required funds, a concept alien to the plains of Bengal ?!!
By our Special News Correspondent
Darjeeling, June 5, 2010: With the unprecedented devastation of Cyclone Aila in the Darjeeling Hills in May last year and the onset of monsoon this year, a 7 member ‘Save The Hills’ delegation met the Darjeeling Governor, HE MK Narayanan at the Raj Bhawan as well as Darjeeling MP Stalwart Jaswant Singh on June 3, 2010 in Darjeeling to appraise them about the deteriorating landslide situation in the Darjeeling Himalayas.
In a circular sent, Rtd Wing Commander Praful Rao, President of Save The Hills, (an NGO concerned with monitoring landslides and creating awareness in the region) wrote: “We apprised them (The Governor and the MP) about the landslide situation in the Darjeeling Himalayas and the necessity for a long term, holistic strategy to manage the most serious environmental hazard facing the hills of Darjeeling.”
“In the PowerPoint presentation we showed in detail the hazardous/vulnerable areas around our major towns, discussed the factors which are causing the surge in the incidents and severity of landslides and also deliberated on the possible solutions,” Mr Rao wrote.
”I am glad to inform you that our young representative from Chibo/Pashyor village (a badly affected village in Kalimpong), Mr Zion Lepcha could speak during the meeting and present a petition on behalf of his people to (the) dignitaries,” Mr Rao’s circular concluded.
Commenting on a recent news item published by the Telegraph on “800 tourists evacuated in Sikkim” President of Save The Hills, Praful Rao, commenting on his website: http://savethehills.blogspot.com wrote, “The state of Sikkim and Darjeeling district both lie in the most landslide prone parts of the country.”
“What is worrying about (the) above news is that the monsoons haven’t even reached us and these landslides are the result of pre-monsoon showers. With the arrival of the monsoons, a little later this month we will still have 4 months of rain ahead of us,” Retd Wing Commander Praful Rao, concluded.
MEANWHILE FROM THE TELEGRAPH BRIEFS
Mudslide hits houses
Gangtok, June 4: Thirteen houses were damaged and crops were destroyed in a series of landslides triggered by heavy rain in East Sikkim last night.
The houses were damaged at Padamchey in Pakyong subdivision, Sumin and Kamery in Rangpo block and Kumrek in Gangtok subdivision. A.B. Karki, the subdivisional magistrate, East Sikkim, who had toured the affected places this morning, said the bridge at Kumrek had been damaged by the slides and the road passing through the area would be opened by the evening.
A road connecting Singtam and Makha in East Sikkim also caved in because of the torrent and the agencies concerned were directed to complete the repair in two days.
Forest project tastes success – Strawberries find place in Darjeeling hills – but with non bio-degradable ‘styro-foam and plastic’ packaging, lacquer bamboo packaging too expensive and alien a concept for mass production in Bengal ?!!
BY AVIJIT SINHA
Siliguri, June 4: From Mahabaleshwar to Darjeeling, strawberry has travelled a long way. Visit Labdah and green fields splashed in red greet you. Not only that, every household is busy packing the juicy fruits plucked from organic farms.
Labdah, at 4,500ft on the fringes of Senchal Wildlife Sanctuary, is fast emerging as a strawberry-producing village. Experts said the soil condition in Labdah was just right for the fruit — acidic and grainy.
“But that we came to know after producing the crops. In 2007-08 under a pilot project seedlings worth Rs 10,000 were distributed among farmers,” said Sumita Ghatak, who had spearheaded the project when she was the divisional forest officer (DFO) of wildlife I. Recently she has been transferred to wildlife II.
Labdah, near Ghoom, is under wildlife division I.
“Our intention was to see whether strawberries can be grown in this area,” she said. Strawberries need moderate sunshine and has to be protected from frost.
With the onset of the season, which is usually between December and April, the fruits appeared. This prompted the forest department to move ahead with the project. “In 2008-09 we could not do much because of certain factors including the political situation in the hills,” a forester said.
The next year, foresters distributed seedlings worth Rs 1 lakh among farmers and members of eco-development committees in the village.
“An expert from Pune held a training workshop for the cultivators and taught them strawberry farming and merchandising techniques,” Ghatak said.
By April, all the produce had been sold in the local market. Strawberry is grown in Mahabaleshwar in Maharashtra and parts of Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Delhi.
“From next year, the cultivators will have to pay one fourth of the money needed to buy seedlings. The amount will increase by 25 per cent every year. From the fifth year, the cultivators will bear the total expenditure,” Ghatak said.
Padam Prasad Rai, a farmer, said: “There are a number of bakeries, sweet shops and ice-cream factories that use strawberries. If we can merchandise properly, there is great scope.”