Community Action 2017

Western Ghats Eco Walk 2017

From the Jog Falls to Shivamogga (156 km), 5th-10th June 2017.

A community action in the form of a participatory walk from The Jog Falls to Shivamogga will be organised by SARA Centre in association with local organisations of the region.

The walk will be interspersed with a series of events during its 6 day period including talks, presentations, performances, and exhibitions by participating environmentalists, grassroots organisations, artists, and local theatre personalities.

This community action is a call for acknowledging, spreading the awareness, and instigating a public discourse on the urgent threats to the environment and the endangered biodiversity of the region today

Shimoga District – Background

The Western Ghats are amongst the few regions of the world that remain active as biodiversity hotspots. The sustenance of this rich biodiversity is crucial not only to the region but to the entire subcontinent.

The agrarian lifestyle practices of the western ghats have certain salient features that are rudimentary to the local environs and the ecology of Shimoga.

Over the last few decades, rainfall is declining at a rather alarming rate, posing a significant detriment to water retention in the region, which is made up of shallow topsoil.

Farming is the primary lifeline of the region and is irrefutably linked to the greater ecological makeup of Shimoga area. The detriment caused by agricultural deforestation in the area is continual and rapid; resulting in significant degeneration of the water table. Moreover the human impact is evidently far too much on the natural habitat.

Community Action

The impacts of  modernization, consumerism, and industrialisation are proving to be counter productive and endanger the local communities as we speak. Widespread and rapid deforestation and the continual loss of rainfall are driving the fact home that these urgencies cannot be ignored anymore.

The Sara Centre is therefore unflinchingly focussed on bringing this knowhow to the local community through its community action programme.

It has become a necessity to articulate to the farmers that coexistence with the ecosystem is the only way forward; and that the need to preserve the regional biodiversity and forestry is paramount today, in order to contain further ecological degradation; and to thereby attempt a community based mitigation of the situation.

Programme Objectives

  • Acknowledging the urgency for environment protection in Shimoga: the programme is aimed at creating awareness about the importance of the Western Ghats and life around it with the primary stakeholders- the farmers. The community action will focus on encouraging the local farmers to take a responsive role in restoring and preserving the ecological balance via investigating and enabling possible self-sustainable mitigations; and reviving local knowledge based solutions to the existing threats that face the region.
  • Reaching out at the micro level: the proposed walk aims to cover approximately 30 kms per day with brief stopovers at every school, village crossing, or public square along the way. All efforts will be made to attract as many people as possible to join in the 6 day walk.
  • Awareness programmes: the 156 km distance would be covered in 6 days. There will be 5-night halts on the way and these nights will be used to engage people from nearby villages to exchange ideas and information on the existing environmental situation of their locales; and to identify possible solutions solutions. There will be talks by environmentalists, artists and local authorities; film screenings on environment, farming and ecology; poster exhibits, and group gatherings; discussions and deliberations etc. during all the night stays .
  • Focus on solutions, actions and implementation of possible large scale plans will be discussed amongst the community. The programme will offer exhibitions and demonstrations of alternative and efficient energy solutions with the view to later have them made available to the people at affordable costs.

Enabling Regional Mitigations and Solutions

People’s Responsiveness

The main aim of the community action to make the local farmers aware that positive change is possible from within the community through the use of local knowledge systems; and thereby to engender a culture of self-dependency and responsiveness towards the environment.
The community action intends to make the community aware of its own strengths for the enabling of positive change, rather than mere dependence on external agencies like civic authorities and governance.

Demystifying the Disparity Between Governance and Community

It is also essential that the community is able to leverage existing government support for environmental conservation. There seems to be a wide gap between what the governance provides and what indeed the community can leverage from government support. By involving the government authorities in the community action a platform will be provided for direct communication between the local farmers and the officials who are in charge of government schemes.
The SARA Centre intends to serve as a vehicle for educating the community on what is already available as government support, but may seem hidden behind a veil of protocol or red tape. The key to effective implementation of government schemes often lies in direct partnering between the civic authorities and the community, and therefore The SARA Centre aims to make this partnering a reality for the farmers and not just remain a distant notion that the government may help them one day.
Since the government has already put in place a number of programs and schemes to contain the situation, the SARA Centre will offer to the people this community action as a means of instigating an active public discourse on government policy; in order to further allow everyone to learn about and leverage vital government support.

Sustainable Solutions

If we manage to bring down the firewood consumption to 25% of the existing mark, it will potentially enable sudden and rapid environmental conservation. There is certainly an urgency to reduce energy consumption from firewood and should be done with an immediate effect in order to arrest and reduce deforestation.
Reducing the usage of firewood for the domestic purpose is possible through a number of available the alternative energy solutions like Solar water heaters, and cookers,
Kitchen waste Biogas chambers, energy efficient water heater boilers and stoves with minimum use of biofuels. This is one of important agenda’s of the community action and will be the mainstay of ensuing discourses throughout the event.
The community action will also offer a number of other solutions e.g.:
  • Encouraging the the plantation of fast growing local trees for the purposes of domestic use.
  • Engaging the Governmental Forest Department to help with right kind of saplings supply.
  • Encouraging the notion of dedicated private forest growing with indigenous fruit bearing species that may attract birds and animals and thereby restore ecological balance.
  • Discouraging the growth of foreign species that have proven detrimental to the local ecosystem (e.g. rubber, acacia, eucalyptus etc)
  • Spreading the awareness of the eco-link and interdependencies between forest and farming.

The Arts as Agents of Change

The SARA Centre’s programmes include leveraging the power of the arts as an agent of change.

Visual Art

The Centre will invite posters from a huge community of national and international artists, designers, students, and academia to contribute their ideas and responses to environmental concerns via posters that will accompany the community action.

It is forecasted that SARA Center will be able to collect approximately 300 posters on environment in order to bring global ideation to the region.

Click here to view the letter of invitation to artists.

Exhibitions & Interaction – prints of the posters will be exhibited strategically throughout the walk, in village schools and public spaces. Artists and curators will facilitate discourses on national and international voices that are active in favour of environmental protection and conservation across the globe.

  • Workshops – along the walk local youth will be invited to engage in poster making workshops initiated and coordinated by artists with the view to enable the local students and youth to express their views and concerns of environment and ecology.

Theatre

  • Local theatre groups and personalities will facilitate a number of activities like theme songs and theatre skits to maintain an atmosphere of festivity, entertainment and collaboration all along the way.

Letter Writing 

  • The participants will engage the community to write letters to the state authorities outlining their concerns, suggestions on environment; and to put down their intentions for conservation and environmental protection. The copies of all these letters will be duly delivered to the concerned authorities.