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February 26, 2008

Visit to Thailand towards attending the International Conference on Managing Wetlands for Sustainable Development at Trang

The workshop on Managing Wetlands for Sustainable Development was organised with a mandate for effective Partnerships and the Need for Co-Management as the benchmark for wetland development. The workshop examined various promising initiatives that have sprung up that take innovative and alternative approaches to the managing and wise use of wetland resources. These include various levels of community involvement and community participation in wetland development and management, co-management arrangements, successful policy incentives and instruments, smart partnerships and other innovative win-win solutions to wetlands management. This conference aided in providing guidance to replicate such successful efforts elsewhere and Kunal from Keystone Foundation benefited from these discussions to replicate sustainable ideas in the greater Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve. Keystone seeks to actively inculcate wetland education modules in the region as well as take steps to document and protect the remaining wetlands. This is a challenging task and would involve training on managing wetlands in active cooperation with respective stakeholders. The workshop promises to institutionalize management ideas into replicable outputs through adaptive management of wetland resources.

Schedule

8th January, 2008 – Arrival at Trang
9th January, 2008 – Programme starts. Some of the key presentations of the day include

Dr. Monthip Sriratana Tabucanon Policy and Measures on Environmental Management in Wetlands areas of Thailand

Dominic Wodehouse Peatlands: Science, Livelihoods and Politics – A Way to Achieve Results

Mrs. Nirawan Pipitsombat Ramsar Sites in Thailand: Best Practice for Biological Diversity

Asst. Prof. Dr. Thummarat Koottatep, Challenges of Wetland Systems for Water Pollution Abatement in the Tropics

Masakazu Kashio Launching of “Mangrove Guidebook for Southeast Asia”


Shimpei Iwasaki Managing fishery cooperatives towards self-development: lessons from coastal India

Bhagwan Raj Dahal Using participatory socio-economic wetland valuation to address wetland management issues at Koshi Tappu, Nepal

Hugh Kirkman Community level monitoring of seagrass beds and how this assists with management

Nik Ismail Azlan Between Homestay and Wetland Mangrove: A Partnership Lesson in Eco-tourism

Uthid Siriarepapong Patterns of Post-tsunami Mangrove Rehabilitation in Ban Nai Rai Community, Tambon Natery, Amphoe Tai Mhuang, Changwat Phung Nga

Harban Singh Sustainable ‘best practices’ of the Ramsar sites of Johor, Malaysia (encompassing sub themes of 1, 2 and 3 namely community participation, research and wetlands and poverty reduction)

Jeevan Ballav Panda Globalization and International Regulation of Wetlands: Time for a Sustainable Approach

Amy M. Lecciones Engaging Multi-Stakeholder Participation in Lake Conservation

Nutjaree Chareinboonwanon A Method of Making Wetland Maps to Store Flooding Water Using Low Altitude Aerial Photos

Jim Enright Utilizing the Ecological Mangrove Restoration Method for Effective, Bio-diverse Habitat Restoration: Post Tsunami Lessons Learned - the Hard Way

Kamaruzaman Jusoff Management of Mangrove Forest Using UPM-APSB AISA AIRBORNE HYPERSPECTRAL


It was a busy day today and I gained lots of impressions on management practices of wetlands around the world and especially in South East Asia. Some of the approaches, especially that of the Mangrove action project was educative, wherein the focus should be on rehabilitation and not restoration.

Day I was a somber reminder that conferences are meant to be serious affairs and we were unleashed upon a barrage of presentations from all and sundry. A number of interesting people have come from FAO, from Wetlands international, from Yale school of Forestry, from several research institutes in Thailand and Malaysia and also Japan. I have met some of these interesting people and have realized that the level of their understanding of issues is high as well as that appreciation of all things from a multitude of perspectives.

Anyways, after the first day of presentations, I was exhausted and looked forward to the dinner which was an exquisite Thai affair.






10th January – Field Trip

We left for the field trip to one of the districts of Trang province. Reaching a mangrove village and taking a small walk inside mangroves on bamboo strung together, I got in the boat with a host of other participants.

A long boat ride on the long tail boat that is common ton the west coast of Thailand in near direct sun rays was memorable, for the mangroves and also for the first view while we entered the sea.

The river meeting the sea, sand banks at every turn, birds all around, Casuarina equisetifolia growing high, mangroves looking rich and the distance the Loh Muk Island. Before I could take in the view, we reached the zone of sea grass – grass growing underwater- wavy to sight, same as grass to the touch…. And tones of it everywhere…. Looking around, somebody told me that the Dugongs which are huge sea animals come to the grass lands to feed….

And then to the large boats. Looking at the Loh Muk island first and then to numerous sheer limestone cliffs, it was a day I may well not forget in a hurry…. Finally, the clear skies beckoned us to the Koh Kradang Island which was STUNNING…. Been to several beaches but none so white ad so clean… glass would not show so many levels of transparency as we were witness to.

Lunch and I wandered off…. Just walking till the end and then walking a bit more…. The cleanest, clearest water and I was walking beside it…… just about beginning to believe that I was here.

At the end of the road, I went snorkeling – watching fish swim by, sometimes a big one. Staying for around 2 hours, I left after all had settled back into the ship, never wanting to lift my foot away from the island.

Back in the boat, saw the Emerald cave where people are towed on a rope and taken to the cave which sparkles like emerald due to a mixture of sun’s rays and some natural events.

Huge landscapes and then we were back to the Pak Meng pier which is close to the Rajamangala University where saw what they say is a small aquarium but to me, at least- was a huge and superbly maintained piece of well thought out infrastructure – looked around and then went for a final trip to the sea. Walked for a kilometer and reached my last limestone karst which was standing at the end of the beach.

Back to the bus, satiated to say the least, we reached Trang and had an evening session with a surprise dinner and a lot of talk…. The surprise was nice, for after the trip - they asked us to join in the evening and discuss what are the future courses of action that can be taken up after the workshop and most people declined as they were too tired or probably delirious after the trip. Some 8 of us went and we were treated to a super dinner....

11th January, 2008 -

Next day was the finale and again the presentations came in a deluge. But today, most were not relevant or useful for me as they were scientific in nature and the language proved to be a real hinderance. My own presentation went off well with several people sayingthat it was very interesting to hear about Keystone's work in the Nilgiris....

Thereafter, the conference soon concluded and I went homewards.

Conclusion

The conference resulted in a formal announcement and some joint programs that are to be implemented by organizations based in Thailand and Malaysia. Also, selected papers will be published in a special journal issue. All the presentations have been put up in the web for gaining more understanding of each others work. Additionally, a mailing list is scheduled to be generated for researchers and managers to share and discuss their experiences in the region. A learning experience of such high scientific quality and efficient managerial outputs would definitely assist in the upcoming proposal to be submitted to IUCN for a project on wildlife and wetlands management.

February 14, 2008

"Jack of all, Master of Myself"

Jack of all, master of none.... that is what we heard since we left the cerelac and moved to eating round soft rotis from dear mom's warm hands.... never be a jack of all because you will never be a master of anything....

22 or more years have passed and I still ponder over this earliest of wisdoms that I was exposed to. I remember that after playing for too long, the first thing I heard when I came home was again that I am putting too much attention into games and less into studies..... Be a jack in your studies and not games - my genial neighbours told me.... An it went on and on and on often..... Through school and college days, jack of all were regarded as slightly lower in the rung as compared to the super specialized IITians, though some of them are seriously way above the league in their being jack of all on earth... Those are the very best in the nation.... gems...

But back to this experience that was brewing in my mind for several years now and it fruited while in college when me and friends jumped into quizzing, theatre, debates, writing and so so many things... the list goes on. For three years, doing so many varied things and doing pretty well in them opened my eyes to much beyond than finding a career... career is fine but one must be able to do tings in his own unique style as well as do them well.... So Jack of all, master of none slowly turned to "Jack of all, master of myself". This principle has ben the defining way of life of several people who have walked the path with me or without, but they have been masters. May not have been good in quiz but were champs in plays, may be stage shy but woould debate with fervour.... Those bunch of several guys taught me that as long as one ensures that he is the master of his feelings, attitudes, surroundings and more, he is unique.....

February 13, 2008

At K Gudi

Returning to B R Hills, every 8 to 10 months is a refreshing change from the life I live. Most visitors come to esacpe from the madding crowds but I land up to enter in the midst of crowds that throng the resort and not escape from them, for I live and work in a small place with virtually zero interaction and even lesser sources of expressing oneself except perhaps for the blog.

K Gudi camp had been earlier managed by my friend Sourabh and now is managed by a new friend, Nahar who is a pleasant person and seems to be enjoying his work. The resort is located in the critical and uniquelly well placed of being inside a sanctuary, probably the only one in India to be placed in such a way. That is perhaps the reason why so many people visit and revisit the place again and again. I met one such person and his companion who have made 30 visits to the camp in the last one year. The camp also receives unique bedfellows - birders, researchers, free riders and so many more that it is more of a circus than a jugle camp. But in totality, it is a mindblowingly beautiful place comparable to none.

This trip was a bike ride, right upto the gate and then some moving around here and there. There were plaenty of occasions to go for safaris, but to Lokesh's angst, I chose not to go for any, primarily because I had found myself some books and was subject to sleep deprivation, the early night.

We loitered around for two days in which enjoyed the small things in life, especially the lime juices that appear out of nowehere in these camps...

Two days hence, took the bike route and drove through a beautiful evening sun that lasted till I reached Theppakadu and then I drove in complete darkness... to my office's field centre in Sigur..

back to home next day, with nothing restored and nothing gained... just another small ride in the larger scheme of things that life throws at us...

February 10, 2008

A Cat and Monkey story

Azam was a silent kind, the one who never took to heart - emotions that would tear apart others into a gobbledygook of mental frenzy. He was also an observer - so much so that his friends always called him Mr. sponge, for his capacity to observe everything around him.

He was witness to a strange incident today and that is what he told me to tell all today.

It was late in the noon when the cat he had been feeding milk to started meowing madly and he had to come out of his house to put an end to all the hullabaloo.... Whoa! he saw a troop of monkeys anxiously staring at the cat and the cat staring at them equally anxiously. Now, he being the observant kind settled down to what he anticipated would be an hour long drama of the animal kingdom.

The monkeys vastly outnumbered the cat - atleast 80 to 1 and besides it was just a house cat and not a tiger in the wild. But it seemed that a wave of silence had engulfed the usually boisterous simians. They were all on the roof and the cat was on an alley close to the neighbors tea field. The saw the cat before she could see them and they hushed into silence when all of a sudden, a rather excitable monkey jumped in front of the cat and startled her. She jumped and landed right back where she stood. Then she took guard and the all the monkeys followed the youthful simian to protect him from a possible war. As they trooped to assist their comrade, the cat began to realise that she was outnumbered and she started shirking back, a step at a time. The monkeys saw this and started hissing at her and she hissed back. Outnumbered, she did a dramatic thing - she began to stalk them, already having scared a few of them. They saw this and this created a general sense of crisis and the monkeys in their effort to escape jumped over one other and a few of them fell on the ground. But in a minute, all but a few brave ones had scampered under the the tea bushes. The cat saw this and stalked even more threateningly, making the rest also run for their lives. She went under the bushes and chased the monkeys and all one could hear was yelling monkey sounds and the sharp hisses that a angry cat shrieks.....

Over in some time, but does it really happen. Will cats always fight back or will they seek to escape especially when there is an entire troop in front of them.... Can't say but Azam claims to have seen this happen and I happen to believe him.