Protecting Rooftop of the World : The Himalayan Glaciers

     Didi Trek pic

               We were just beside the Gangotri Glacier from where one can see Mt Shivlinga in the backdrop. 21 years back in May 1997, this pic was taken, where I’m standing first from the right side in blue jersey.

              We were the group from National Adventure Foundation, Nagpur chapter, who went for a trekking expedition from Gangotri pilgrim town to Gaumukh Glacier, the origin of river Ganga. It is about 25 kms trail on the left side of the mountain along river Ganga, providing beautiful landscape from all sides. We completed this memorable journey in about 5 days. Each day we would start trekking early in the morning till noon, when we would camp down at a specific spot for night halt. On the final day we climbed and crossed the Gaumukh Glacier at the right side and reached a small valley called Tapovan, which is the base camp of Mt Shivlinga. After camping here for two days we returned back to Gangotri town.

              Before reaching Gaumukh we noticed that on both sides of the mountains in which river ganga is flowing, there were huge marks stretching back for several kms, giving ample proof that Gangotri Gaumukh glacier like most other glaciers in the Himalayas is retreating back. Today after 21 yrs if I happen to visit Gaumukh , I’m sure the glacier must have receded back to a couple of hundred meters back.

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The Himalayan Glaciers which stretch east from the northern Afghanistan, Pakistan and India through Nepal & Bhutan and into the neighbouring Tibetan plateau and China, are the source of fresh water for nearly four billion people in Asia. The melting of snow in the Arctic and Antarctic due to global warming is reported frequently but the melting of Himalayan glacier has gone largely unreported.The Himalayas are in fact “The Third Pole“. They feed the giant rivers of Asia that support half of the world’s population.

Three major rivers – Indus, Ganges and Brahmaputra, arise in the Himalayas and flow directly into India and then into Pakistan or Bangladesh. The rivers like Yangtze, Yellow, Mekong, Irrawaddy and Salween arise in the Tibetan Plateau and flow directly into China before continuing into Myanmar, laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam. These rivers provide water for drinking, washing, fishing, irrigation and industry. They have also been the source of many local and international disputes, about their quality and flow from one community into another, within and across the borders.

The natural habitat and the way of life of the people in the Himalayas are seriously affected by the forces of modernization and climate change. In the popular tourist spots of Ladakh, Nepal and Bhutan there is increased transport mobility and distribution of goods due to the new roads. But there is little awareness of the plastic that litter around. There are no means of disposing of this waste which is flowing into the regional rivers, the primary source of drinking water. In addition the rapid melting of glaciers, caused by warm weather is responsible for drying up of springs and river streams also used for drinking water.

Therefore local governments along with NGOs have to work together for water and river conservation practices by involving community participation. Implementation of plans of integrated solid waste management have to be established beyond city limits of all towns located in the Himalayan region.

More than 700 million people in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh get their water from rivers that come from the Himalayan glaciers. These glaciers like others in the world are at risk of melting because of increasing temperature and erratic weather patterns. Glaciers depend on heavy precipitation to replenish ice on an annual basis. As monsoons in the India are disrupted, ice vanishes.

As the Glaciers melt rivers flood, people, crops and livestock drown and hydroelectric plants are disrupted. And the weaker monsoons mean less rainfall for the country as a whole resulting in drought.

There are about 1,98,000 glaciers in the world and India contains 9000 of them. But these glaciers are mostly unexplored. Other countries have invested far more in scientific expeditions than India. The lack of research prevents the country from fully understanding the state of it’s glaciers and the risk their loss pose.

Kedarnath calamity is a proof of long ignored threat by melting Himalayan glaciers. Ladakh at an altitude of 9800 feet also has been facing extreme weather conditions including rare and catastrophic flash floods, made worse by rapid deforestation that has removed nature’s flood defense mechanism. In August 2010,  flash floods in Ladakh damaged 71 towns & villages and claimed 225 lives. And flood in 2014, killed more than 550 people in Kashmir region around Jhelum river. These incidents have been termed as “Himalayan Tsunamis“.

There was an expectation that Indian glacier would hold up better than others because they rely on monsoons as opposed to snowfall. but this hope appears to have been misguided. ice is receding at an alarming rate at some crucial glaciers. India has been ranked the most vulnerable country to climate change. Millions of people in the country are vulnerable to dangerous levels of flooding, drought and extreme local storms.

Climate change will accelerate as global emissions continue to rise. There is some hope that worldwide economies are gradually reducing their dependency on fossil fuels and generate energy through  solar, wind and hydro-power.

Himalayan ecosystem can also be saved and sustained by developing carbon sinks through afforestation. Melting of Himalayan glaciers and increased siltation in river downstream are the impact of global warming.

Protecting the Himalayan glaciers, rivers and the countless communities that depend on them is a colossal challenge. But community efforts can be strengthened to monitor the quality of these waterways and their abundance, that sustain nearly half of the world’s population in Asia.

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Trauma Of The Girls While Growing Up

In the Autumn season in India, Navratri celebration is going on, during which Hindus worship Goddess Durga, epitomising the triumph of good over evil. On certain days like Ashtami and Navami, i.e on eight or ninth day of Navratri, girls till the age of 10-12 those who haven’t attained puberty, are invited at homes where a ritual of [Kanyabhoj] is conducted. These girls are given ‘aarti'[worshipped first], their feet decorated with ‘aalta'[liquid vermilion], then are provided feast and finally small gifts. This is the only time they are given such special treatment. As soon as the celebration ends everything will be back to normal.

Munni or Mona, get up early, tidy up your bed, bring milk packet or newspapers lying outside home, water the plants at balcony, fill up the buckets in the bathroom before the tap goes dry and many other small tasks imaginable are heaped upon girls as young as 7-8 years old, and that too before going to or after coming back from school. The adults in the home of a normal Indian household, apart from parents, grandparents, uncles and aunts[in case of a joint family] constantly keep yelling at the girls and make them run around to do this or that,bring this or that or be like this or that. Almost all the girls are subjected to social conditioning since very young age. Instead of raising them lovingly often we force upon our wishes to these hapless girls, instilling a fear in them that one day they have to leave their parents home and live in their sasuraal[in-laws home].

Even the looks of a girl can have an adverse effect on her self-esteem, her psyche. Thinking nothing would affect them, they are taken for granted and are taunted according to their looks, whether they are dark, fat or too short or have uneven facial features. In India, in some communities or sections of society, even in today’s times a family wishes their daughter to be fair-skinned. And if the tone of the color is slightly dark or if there is some bodily defect, then God forbid her. Parents consider that this would hamper their daughter’s marriage chances. So the whole thing about adult behaviour towards young girls boils down to the fact that they must be ideal marriage material till youth.

According to the economic condition of a family, the girls are taught what to do and what not to do. In a poor socio-economic condition, they are told to do almost every household chores from cooking to cleaning, apart from paying attention to her studies also. Whereas a rich girl maybe excused of all the household activities in the presence of plenty of domestic helps, apart from home tutors to help them in their studies.

But the young boys in any socio-economic condition of a family are barred from doing any of the household jobs, in fact they are a pampered lot.
A boy as young as 5-6 years old would get best of toys, best of clothes, shoes or even food cooked according to their choice. Unlike girls, they are just not used to take orders but to give orders to fulfil their wishes and even express their anger if wishes are not granted. But the girls are told to receive anything offered with no choice at all, they are also taught to be submissive and dare not express their opinion or angst.

Such differences in the upbringing of male and female child only leads to resentment among the girls. There is a marked difference in the way of communication too. Boys might be consulted while buying a mobile, a TV set, a two-wheeler or even a car. A girl’s choice of something as simple as curtains, while in the market, would be brushed off. Boys would be given more attention and importance when they speak out compared to girls, who in all possibility get ignored, when they do have something to say. In the patriarchal society, like mothers girls too are not involved in the decision making processes.

Indeed its a traumatizing experience for an average girl to get harped from a very young age to the teenage life, through social restrictions like to come home early, to dress decently, avoid talking to boys, not to be loud in public and so on, in order to conform to society. Why just girls, boys too must be taught at very young age to share home responsibilities, not to be loud in public, respect girls and women at home and outside, in order to conform to society and become better citizens.

Of course, all boys and girls while growing up have different environment in their homes, depending upon the love and care they get from their elders. The more progressive and educated the parents are, the more chances there are that children of both the gender get equal treatment, roles and opportunities for themselves, apart from studies also in the field of sports or any kind of creative activity.

Though there have been cases where both the parents have been illiterate farmers, daily-wage laborers, auto-drivers or even domestic helps. But their children especially girls managed to bring laurels to their families by becoming doctors, C.As, IPS and IAS officers. Here the parents only gave hope and encouragement to their kids for a more secure and bright future in stark comparison to their present living condition.

Therefore, education and awareness all around us is the best solution to stop the regressive practice of sculpting young minds of the girls, who are expected to be perfect to the fault. After all girls when they grow up, have to manage not just their homes but also their careers they are trained in. Thus, while growing up they must feel special and be given equal importance to, just like boys. So, it becomes the foremost duty of the parents, the school teachers and the society in general, to guide and present ideal role models for their kids, so that they lead a happy and dignified life in future.

True stories of two courageous tribal girls

This time I’m presenting two distinct stories which can inspire anyone to face the hurdles in life head on.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          STORY – 1                                                                                                                                                                                                Dheera  Manjhwar, a 16 years old girl from Jhilpa village, Kartala forest division, had gone in the jungle along with her friend to feed their goats. In the evening while returning home, both came face to face with an elephant.                                                                                                                                                                                                Seeing the jumbo, her friend escaped from the spot, while Dheera could not as she was wearing lugri [ a form of saree ]. Meanwhile, that elephant broke a branch from a tree and hurled towards her,  which made her fall down. Advancing towards her, just when it was about to put its foot on her, Dheera got an idea.                                                                                                                                                                                          She took out her saree  tucked in her skirt, and with the support of a stone which she found when she had fallen down, quickly threw it towards the trunk. The saree got entangled on the jumbo’s head and covered its eyes, forcing it to tear it away for some moments. Taking opportunity of that moment, Dheera ran away from there.                                                                                     According to Pranay Mishra, SDO Kartala forest division [district-Korba, state-Chhattisgarh, India], its very rare that someone escapes right under an elephant’s foot, under such close encounters. He said, “The way Dheera has shown courage is commendable and will let other villagers take a cue from this incident and protect themselves.” Apart from Korba, districts of Jashpur, Sarguja and Ambikapur also have seen a rise in the incidents of jumbo menace in the recent years.                                                                           This incident was reported in the Hindi daily “Patrika”[Raipur], in the month of March last year.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       STORY-2                                                                                                                                                                                                   No teacher dared to step in this Maoist affected zone of Sukma district [state-Chhattisgarh, India]. Yet tribal girl Maya Kashyap of small town Dornapal has become the first from the region to make it to a medical college, that too without any coaching or a clue to where her admission fees would come from.                                                                                                                                                                                                      “It was a childhood dream to become a doctor”, the soft-spoken girl told TOI, “I am glad I have come this far”.                                                                                                           To give you an idea why its such a big deal for a tribal girl to get a medical seat, there are just 3000 children enrolled in primary education in  Dornapal- that too in hostels. Village schools, like the one in which Maya studied , hardly ever gets to see a teacher. Barely a handful make it to high school, college is a faraway dream and the gender ratio is abysmal 746. And to make it even harder for the 19 year old , bare survival has often been hard for the family, after her father died nine years ago.                                                                                                                                                             She secured 154 rank among STs and 12,315 in the state in   NEET this year and has taken admission in Ambikapur Medical College. In May 2018, Medical Council of India had approved 100 MBBS seats for this college.                                                            “For as long as I can remember, I’ve wanted to be a doctor.  After my father died, it almost became impossible for me to continue with my studies. But I never gave up”, Maya said.                                                                                                                                    When she cracked NEET, her family was overjoyed, but also worried about arranging the medical fees. Her elder brother took a loan from a friend and her sister-in-law Ratna Kashyap collected money from the relatives.                                                     Remembering the tough times, she said,”My mother had to take care of 3 siblings, besides myself. They too were in school, I had to make do with Rs 500 a month. I faced a lot of hardship for preparing for NEET, but as I was goal oriented, I managed to overcome all hurdles”. She didn’t take any coaching  to get into the medical college.                                                                                                                                                              “I want to return to my area and serve my people. The interior regions are deprived of even basic medical facilities,” she said.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            This account was reported by Vijay Singh Thakur on 25 August 2018 in TOI [ Times Of India ], Raipur edition.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                So in the first story, the girl managed to come out alive from the evident death, due to sheer presence of her mind. Manjhi got the idea of throwing a piece of cloth with a stone towards the elephant’s trunk or head, in the nick of time. The jumbo got blinded, otherwise it must have trampled its feet on her, for sure.                                                                                                                                                                                          While the second story portrays the struggles and determination of a young girl , whose dream is to become a doctor and serve the people in her area, which has remained backward for years. Despite all odds Maya managed to secure admission in the medical college. After reaching this far, I am very sure that she will remain a devoted student throughout and pass the degree of MBBS with flying colors.                                                                                                                                                                    Hence these two stories made a lasting impression on me, about girls who refused to surrender to their fate and have instead become a winner in the end. There comes a time in every individual’s life to prove himself or herself strong and not succumb to the pressure in a given circumstance. Manjhi no doubt was very brave enough to take a fast decision to save her life, on the other hand Maya had the consistency and faith in herself to train herself in the field of medicine, to be of service to the needy people. So we all must strive to give our best shot according to our capabilities to lead a happy, fulfilling and enriched life.  After all you live only once, isn’t it.

     

 

My experiences of being an MS patient

Multiple Sclerosis is a neuro-degenerative illness affecting the central nervous system.  It all started in January 2008, when I went down with typhoid fever for 3 weeks. When the fever left, I had become very weak physically and so was my immunity. It took me one whole month to recover. I had resumed doing household chores, even going to market riding my two-wheeler.                                                                                                                              But, in the first week of March, for the first time in my life I experienced muscle weakness in my body, especially in the right side upper and lower limbs. I was loosing the gripping sensation of my right hand’s fingers and had to drag my right foot to move forward. After visiting 3 different doctors in 5 days I finally met Dr Sanjay Sharma, a Neurologist then based in MMI hospital Raipur. He thoroughly checked my sensory and motor reflexes with his hammer and advised me to get admitted in the hospital immediately. That very night I was put on an I V drip drip, which continued for next 4 days. Physiotherapy was done for all the limbs every day. After discharge, within 15 days my right leg was back to normal while my right arm and fingers took a month long time to recover.                                                                                       Then in the beginning of April, I experienced extreme spasms in my body. Except for my right hand, rest of the three limbs tightened and wrenched for few seconds to a couple of minutes, at the slightest body movement. I again visited Dr Sharma, who gave me another dose of medicines, which still did not give me any relief. So this time he referred me to get treated in New Delhi. Within few days I along with my husband Digvijay Singh Thakur and my sister-in-law’s husband Dr Lakhan Singh boarded a flight together from Raipur to New Delhi, from where we went to City hospital, a branch of Sir Gangaram hospital. Here we met Dr Rajeev Ranjan, a Neurologist who is also a friend of Dr Lakhan Singh, who immediately got me admitted in the City hospital after initial checkup.                                                                                                                           I V drip of injectable steroid was started, for 5 days along with physiotherapy. X-ray, sonography, ECG tests along with CSF test and eye checkup were also done. Vision of both my eyes were fine at that time. It was found out that there was UTI and the extreme spasms or tremors triggered from my spine. After 5 days stay, I was discharged and back in Raipur the tremors gradually subsided within 10 days through medicines.                                                                                                                                       My life was back to normal for only 15 days. After a day of having slight fever, on 7th May I experienced urine block,as no urine passed out since morning and I kept drinking water at regular intervals. At 8 pm I was admitted in a hospital, where I was catheterized. I got immediate relief, but staying there for next 3 days only worsened my condition. Fever was rising day by day,  on 2nd day I could sense slight blurring of vision in my left eye, on day 3rd I felt total weakness in both my legs. After my complete checkup and some discussions among doctors, it was decided that I should be shifted back to New Delhi for further treatment.                                                                So on 12th May I was admitted again in the same City hospital, New Delhi. My both lower limbs had become numb waist below [power 0], strength in upper limbs was fine [power 5] and vision in my left eye was blurred. MRI scan showed lesions from dorsal to lumber sections of my spinal chord. This time the doctors here confirmed that I was suffering from MS, and this was my 3rd relapse in 2008.  This time the I V drip diluted with  steroid went on for two weeks and physio was increased to twice a day. I was discharged a month later on 12th June.                                                                                                                                                                    From May to August end, for nearly 4 months I was confined to wheelchair. Meanwhile rigorous physiotherapy done by Dr Saurabh Chandrakar, led me to stand up once again in the beginning of September. Slowly within two weeks I was able to walk again and on 3rd week I could even climb up and down the stairs with a hand on the  railing. Now this was a fantastic recovery. I resumed going back to the gym,  walking on treadmill, doing cardio or weight training to strengthen my upper body or doing leg press for lower limbs, all under the watchful eyes of a trainer cum physio there. I actively went to the gym for about 5 months, from October to February 2009.                                                                               Then in March 2009, I faced a relapse when one of my lower limbs became weak. I continued walking for just three more years, from 2009 to 2011, gradually I was losing the strength and balance to walk properly. And in November 2011, nearly 7 years back I faced  a relapse during drug trials carried out on MS patients in Sir Gangaram hospital, New Delhi. This was 2nd time that I lost power in both my legs, apart from loss of trunk balance. So I could not sit properly without hand support.                                                                                                                                                  Since then[Nov 2011] to at present 2018, I’m again confined to a wheelchair for movement, as my upper back, arms and shoulders are quite strong. In between I have survived 3 horrible bedsores.  1st bedsore was just below my spine, another two were in my buttock  areas. During one  such bedsore I slipped into septicemia and in another bedsore, the hip-bone above my left thigh bone got dislocated. So I’m unable to even stand on my feet.                                                                                                        At present there is constant tingling sensation and muscle tightness in the lower limbs as well as my back. I had lost control over urine and bowel movement long back. So the problem of UTI has remained for over 10 years. With strong antibiotics, I do get relief from infection which resurfaces within few months. Due to constant threat of bedsores and growing movement problems, I have remained catheterized since two years.                                                                                                                                     Apart from all the Neurologists, Surgeons and Physiotherapists who have attended me, I’m also most grateful to the nurses who took great pains in finding veins in my forearms, for smooth flow of I V drip and other injections.                                                                                                       I get tired easily, whether physically, mentally or even emotionally. So I try not to exert myself in any way and stay as relaxed as possible. I feel most refreshed only during early morning hours. So I make use of this time doing breathing exercises, reading and writing. At daytime I do little bit of chores like dusting or cleaning, moving around my wheelchair in the home. And to run the household, I have the loving support of all my family members, domestic helps and daytime caretaker.                                                                                      Even from my present  condition, I do have hope to recover one day to some extent. As I firmly  believe that where there is hope,  there is a sunshine, where there is will, there is a way.