Wednesday, December 31, 2014

2014 - a Year of Traveling and Story Telling

Time flies. 2014 too flew away! But it was a kind year. It gave me opportunities to tell the stories that I CARED FOR. And it also got me the greatest of recognitions! Shared here are some of those moments and some of the stories that I told.

January: Telling the story of the forest women

The first month of 2014 took me to the Eastern Ghat mountains of India, to villages that are home to several primitive  tribes including the Koyas and the Kondas whose livelihood depends on hunting and gathering herbs. 

Here, in the dense forest, I met women who are turning entrepreneurs, using renewable energy. They use solar powered driers to dry their herbs and are selling the herbs to a clientele that includes large corporate houses! Here is one of their stories.

February: Inside the first ever LGBT Radio station in India

In February I traveled to Bangalore, and visited the studio of QRadio - a radio station that aired the voices of India's  Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) people. Here is the story that I wrote following the visit.

March : In the land of the rising sun! 

In March the world was celebrating World Water Day. And I was among a fortunate few to be invited  to attend and cover the event at the United Nations University, Tokyo. The event was a great opportunity to understand how, to achieve water security, we also must achieve energy security.

April: Across Telangana - Meeting barefoot water experts!

After returning from the World Water Day event in Tokyo, I was out in the rural districts of  Telangana (Anantapur, Mahbubnagar and Adilabad), meeting farmers who have mastered the technique of water budgeting and who are setting an example of sustainable use of water. 

I wrote two stories following the trip. One of them - And Not a Drop to Waste, later won the First Prize in the All India Environmental Journalism Award.

June: Nizamabad, meeting women sexually enslaved in the name of religion

In our very crooked world, a lot of horrible things are done in the name of religion. Sexually enslaving women is one of them. These women go by different names: davdasis, joginis, matamma and so son. And an overwhelming majority is from the Dalit community. Here is their story

July :  I became the chair of the Community Advisory Board of World Pulse!

What is World Pulse? It's a network of women and it connects women of 190 countries  through digital technology. It advocates for digital empowerment of women. It amplifies the voices of women across the globe. And it's also what I call my second home.

In July, in addition to a voting member of the World Pulses Board, I was offered the chair of its newly constituted Community Advisory Board with 5 fabulous women leaders from across the globe!

September :  Asia Pacific Climate Change Adaptation Forum

September, the United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP) invited me to cover the Asia Pacific Climate Change Adaptation Forum in Kuala Lumpur. So, off I went to Malaysia. It was a great opportunity to hear some of the brightest ideas in adaptation across the region and also meet a number of experts, including Salim  Ul Haque of Bangladesh - a man I so admire! Here is one of the blogs I wrote from the forum.

October : South Korea,  Biodiversity COP

In October,  I was in Pyeong Chang - a mountain town in South Korea, covering the 12th Conference of Parties to the Convention of Biological Diversity (COP). Among many stories I filed during the 10-day summit was  this.

October : All India Environmental Journalism Award

Meanwhile, in Mumbai, they gave me the All India Environmental Journalism Award. It came with a beautiful plaque, a certificate and a cheque of $1000. Here is the story that won me the award.

October : Asian Environmental Journalism Award

And on 30th October, I received my second straight Asian Environmental Journalism Award in Singapore. It was a very special moment to walk up there and receive the award from the minister of water resources, Singapore! Here is one of the blogs that won me the award!

November: A Dutch Fall

In November I was in the Netherlands, refreshing my skills in multimedia and water at the Radio Netherlands Training Center, courtesy  the Netherlands fellowship Program. It was one of the best times I had as a journalist! And it was made special by the group of international journalists who I met there!

December: Along the coast, recalling Tsunami 2004

The Asian Tsunami happened in 2004. It was a December morning. 10 years later, I was there - traveling along the east coast, visiting people and hearing their stories of a disaster,  loss, endurance and resilience.  Here is one of their stories.

And then the year was over! See you in 2015!

Monday, December 29, 2014

10 Years After the Tsunami : How Are the Women?

10 years have passed since the devastating Tsunami happened.  How have things changed on the ground since then, especially for those who bore the brunt of that disaster? In this second part of my photo blog,  I am sharing few photographs of women in the coastal villages that I met.

 The most optimistic picture that I saw was this...

I met this woman - Shivapiriya - near the famous shore temple of Mahabalipuram. She was there with her sister, speaking to a relative on a cell phone. 10 years ago, she didn't have a cell. But today, if disaster strikes, Kavitha is confident that she can reach out someone- anyone -and call for help, no matter wherever she is. No technology alone cannot guarantee safety, not of the climatic kind, but it can sure decrease the level of helplessness, especially for a woman.

And the most depressing picture was this...

Friday, December 26, 2014

In Photos: Life After 10 Years of Tsunami - Part 1

It's been 10 years since the devastating Asian Tsunami happened. How have things changed on the ground since then, especially for those who bore the brunt of that disaster? To find the answer, I recently visited some villages along the east coast of India. Shared here are few glimpses of life I saw there.

 And now there's another shrine - The Tsunami Temple

The Tsunami in 2004 took a lot - lives, homes and assets included - but also gave something. This structure, for example, emerged out of  the sea  next to the famous shore temple of Mahabalipuram  and quickly gained popularity as the Tsunami Temple. Natarajan, a tourist guide told me, 'this is our latest attraction'  and then, "but you can't go there. It's too slippery".   Now, that's a fitting gift of a disaster!

"Tourism matters, tourists matter, we don't"

Prabhakar Sharma sells souvenirs on the beach. After the Tsunami in 2004, the government was quick to restore the Shore Temple of Mahabalipuram, he said. But,  for the owners of over 100 makeshift shops that were also destroyed by the tsunami, there hasn't been any compensation. A bitter Sharma told me this : "The govt invested well into restoring the temple and the facilities for the tourists. But we, the beach traders who sustain the tourists interests, were left to lick our  own wounds. We just didn't matter"

           A new trail of disasters

There is an alarming rate of erosion along the coast and every village has at least half a dozen houses that are in various stages of destruction.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

They said this: Take away messages from CBDCOP12

The 12th conference of the parties of the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (or CBD COP 12) began here in Pyeongchang, South Korea on 5th of October. Since then, I have met and had exclusive interviews with several leaders here. Each of them impressed me with their answers and especially their patience in explaining complicated issues in the most simple terms. You can read the news articles that I filed from the convention on the IPS news site. Sharing  here, below, are some of the statements from each of these leaders that I am calling my take home messages.

Braulio Ferreira de Souza Dias – Executive Secretary, Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD)

We now know what we need to do to prevent biodiversity loss and invasive species. We need to integrate biodiversity into our sustainable development.”

Ibrahim Thiaw – Deputy Director, UN Environmental Program (UNEP) 

"Hope that the member countries would really commit themselves to achieve the Aichi targets. It is a collective commitment that needs to be made. If you go back and don’t match your words with action at the national level, it’s not going to work"

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Hunted Animals to Haunting Ebola: Nothing’s Too Far-fetched

A few months ago, when Ebola outbreak first began, many of us just didn’t care much. It was a strange disease happening in one part of world - West Africa to be precise -that was far away from us. And, so, we didn’t bother to connect to it at all.

Well, things have changed a lot since then, haven’t they? Ebola has gone out and beyond of West Africa, infecting, as we speak, 8,300people and claiming 4,033 lives in places including Europe (Spain) and the US. And it’s spreading. Suddenly we realize, nothing in this world is too unconnected. No place in this world is too far away. And, in this blog of mine, I want to also tell you that nothing is also too far-fetched either, especially when it comes to a crime and its effect on our lives.

Just before I began to write this, I spoke with some scientists  at the 12th Biological Diversity convention (CBDCOP12) who have been studying the link between biodiversity and infectious diseases. They are Catherine Machalaba, MPH,Health and Policy Program Coordinator  of the Eco Health Alliance in New York and  Anne-Helene Prieur Richard, executive director of the Paris-based biodiversity research institute ‘Diversitas’. I asked them to explain how destruction of biodiversity could also lead to the spread of Ebola virus globally. 

Before I get to their answers, let me remind you what we already know: The recent Ebola outbreak started where eating the meat of wild animals (popularly known as “bush meat”) has existed for a long time. Bat soup, Meat of monkeys and other apes are popular dishes in many countries including Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia. 

But, there is a lot of people also buy these animals for their body parts. As a result, a lot of hunting takes place because people want to make money by selling the animals – dead or alive. And it is with this rampant hunting that the threat of spread of a virus like Ebola also increases.

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Ocean Acidification: Do We Give a Fish?

This week – and the next week – I am in Pyeong Chang – a mountain town in the Republic of Korea, covering the 12th Conference of Parties on Biological Diversity (CBD COP). Posting here my views on what’s happening at the venue.  You can also read my news articles from the COP here.

Two years ago, one morning I stood on the beach of  Calangute – a coastal town in western India’s Goa and watched rows of fishing boats returning to the shore. Each of these boats had, wrapped in a large net, the night’s harvest from the ocean. As the fishermen emptied their nets, the sand was instantly covered with a silver carpet of thousands of fish. ‘Blessed wealth of a benevolent sea god’– I remembered whispering to myself.

Today, I am reading a UN scientific report that shows that the blessing and wealth of the ocean is under severe threats, thanks to a rapidly rising level of acidification of the ocean water.

Friday, October 03, 2014

Building climate resilience: Unlock the technology

In 2012, I went to Inner Mongolia to see how local nomadic communities were fighting an advancing desert. I was very fascinated to see how they were building a green wall in the middle of a sandy land. It was then that I heard an expert from the United Nations Convention for Combating Desertification (UNCCD) say, ‘many countries, especially India, have so much of knowledge and technology in their labs. But little of that is reaching the people on the ground. We need to make that happen.”
Putting life back in lifeless sand. In Inner Mongolia, scientists and locals have worked hand in hand to make this miracle happen.
Two year later, today, at the 4th Asia Pacific Climate Change Adaptation Forum in Kuala Lumpur, I heard many experts expressing the same view again – a logical, practical and extremely timely expression.

One of them was Rajib Shaw, a professor of disaster and risk management at Kyoto University.