Chat Archives
Chat on "Green Hiking in the Himalayas" dated August 21, 2011
  • Ragini Letitia Singh: Hi. I'm already here
  • Ragini Letitia Singh: Was I supposed to be early?
  • Susan Sharma: Hi Ragini
  • Susan Sharma: That is fine. Hope you did not find it difficult to enter the chat room
  • Ragini Letitia Singh: No :)
  • Ragini Letitia Singh: I was just being paranoid
  • Susan Sharma: Ok. No problem. others will join in slowly I hope
  • Ragini Letitia Singh: I must clearly re-iterate that I am not an expert on ecotourism and can only talk from my experience of working with WWF. I myself am learning as I go along
  • srinivas: have joined in for the chat
  • Susan Sharma: Hi all, ragini shall we start? You can start by giving a small intro about what WWF is doing in the Himalayan region
  • Ragini Letitia Singh: Hi
  • srinivas: is the green hike program the first of its kind in the himalayas
  • srinivas: hi
  • Ragini Letitia Singh: Hi everybody
  • Ragini Letitia Singh: There are a few small initiatives that have been started in the Himalayas
  • Ragini Letitia Singh: But I think Green Hiker is turning out to be the biggest so far
  • Ragini Letitia Singh: It's focus also stems from the conservation work we are doing for the high altitude wetlands
  • Ragini Letitia Singh: So to give a brief introduction to the work we do, here goes
  • Ragini Letitia Singh: About 14-15 years ago, we recognised the high altitude wetlands (at 3,000asl and above) to be in danger
  • Ragini Letitia Singh: These are mainly fed by glacial melt and snow and provide water to everybody downstream
  • Ragini Letitia Singh: These are the wetlands that feed our rivers, so if these get impacted, our whole hydrological system is in danger
  • Ragini Letitia Singh: I'll get to that slowly
  • Ragini Letitia Singh: for sure
  • Ragini Letitia Singh: So in order to save these waterbodies, we started a programme called 'Saving Wetlands Sky-High'
  • Ragini Letitia Singh: We identified the most threatened lakes, which also had the most ecological and cultural significance
  • srinivas: Where any keystone species have been identified, if a preliminary survey had been performed
  • Ragini Letitia Singh: Since unsustainable tourism has turned out to be one of the biggest threats to this fragile ecosystem, we launched the Green Hiker campaign to raise awaress
  • Ragini Letitia Singh: awareness
  • Ragini Letitia Singh: about how vulnerable this region is - because most people don't know or realised
  • Ragini Letitia Singh: realise
  • Ragini Letitia Singh: Second, the campaign aims to encourage tourism practises that are more 'green' and sustainable
  • Ragini Letitia Singh: I think that's a good enough introduction. Now we can start our discussion if anybody has any points to make
  • srinivas: what is the core activities in the campaign program
  • Ragini Letitia Singh: Well, we focus on awareness-raising which is the first and most basic step - to change the minds of people and to inform them
  • Ragini Letitia Singh: Our target audience is tourists, tour operators, hotel owners, taxi unions, government and forest department officials
  • Ragini Letitia Singh: We have conducted training workshops on 'Practising Responsible Tourism'
  • Ragini Letitia Singh: We work with school children too and conduct clean-up drives around the lakes and on trekking paths leading to them
  • srinivas: do these wetlands come under the Ramsar sites
  • Ragini Letitia Singh: Some of them have been identified as Wetlands of International Importance by the Ramsar convention
  • Ragini Letitia Singh: Like Chandertal lake
  • Ragini Letitia Singh: That's one of the sites
  • srinivas: key fauna & flora
  • Ragini Letitia Singh: In India, we are working on Tsomoriri, Tsokar, Pangong Tso, Chushul and Hanle in Ladakh so far
  • Ragini Letitia Singh: We are slowly beginning work in the Pir Panjal wetlands too
  • Sandeep Ghosh.: Good Evening, Friends! The first requirement is at least a practical interpretation of the forest laws governing the wilderness!
  • Ragini Letitia Singh: We are working in J&K, HP, Arunachal, Sikkim and Uttarakhand
  • Sandeep Ghosh.: These laws are as applicable to these lakes sites as they are to other wilderness areas.
  • srinivas: original wildlife at of India has been replaced with recent one in 2003
  • Ragini Letitia Singh: You can check out the National Wetlands Rules that came out in December 2010
  • Sandeep Ghosh.: I maybe wrong so feel free to correct me if any one of you do feel so.
  • Ragini Letitia Singh: These have laid a special emphasis on high altitude wetlands as vulnerable and ecologically important
  • Ragini Letitia Singh: Planning for what?
  • Sandeep Ghosh.: I suppose what Prasanta means is what strategy to follow.
  • Ragini Letitia Singh: Well, I am not assigned to work on strategy, but basically, we work with local governments
  • Ragini Letitia Singh: with whom we share proposals comprising what we want to do in a particular wetland site
  • srinivas: how was the response for the works at Tsomoriri, Tsokar, Chushul
  • Ragini Letitia Singh: And local panchayats wherever they exist.
  • Ragini Letitia Singh: In Arunachal, most of our conservation efforts are in partnership with the Tawang monastery
  • Sandeep Ghosh.: How many people e.g. hikers, tour operators, tourism officers etc are aware of the National Wetland Rules?
  • Ragini Letitia Singh: Well, these are fairly new
  • Sandeep Ghosh.: Including your local panchayats!
  • Sandeep Ghosh.: and do they at all follow what is written within?
  • Ragini Letitia Singh: And it takes time for laws and policies to be assimilated into the system right down to the grassroots level
  • Sandeep Ghosh.: Who interprets these rules and how are they conveyed?
  • Ragini Letitia Singh: There is not as much awareness about laws and policies as there should be
  • Sandeep Ghosh.: Who are the people spreading this awareness?
  • Ragini Letitia Singh: But that's why we are here
  • srinivas: Are there any keystone species in the area
  • srinivas: that is vulnerable
  • srinivas: and listed in Red Data
  • Ragini Letitia Singh: Black-necked Crane
  • Sandeep Ghosh.: fine. I am willing to volunteer, but I must know the rules by heart
  • Ragini Letitia Singh: Snow Leopard
  • Sandeep Ghosh.: and the interpretations as well
  • Sandeep Ghosh.: So help me!
  • Ragini Letitia Singh: Bar-headed Goose
  • Ragini Letitia Singh: Do check out this link -
  • Ragini Letitia Singh: It gives more basic information
  • Sandeep Ghosh.: If U visit the Santragachi Lake outside Calcutta, where I visit regularly then....
  • srinivas: Are there any field treks involved
  • srinivas: as part of the activity
  • Ragini Letitia Singh: In really high altitude areas, we don't find too many amphibians or reptiles
  • Sandeep Ghosh.: u will find many bird species missing which are due to declining nos due to fragmentation of land
  • Ragini Letitia Singh: So they are not our focus species
  • Ragini Letitia Singh: We have a lot of migratory birds
  • Susan Sharma:
  • Ragini Letitia Singh: Birds are our best indicators of ecological decline
  • Susan Sharma: Ruddy shelducks
  • srinivas: and primates - gibbons? are they present at high altitudes
  • Ragini Letitia Singh: Even in our focus area (the high altitude Himalayas), we rely on them to gauge rise in temperature
  • Ragini Letitia Singh: or climate change impacts
  • Ragini Letitia Singh:
  • Ragini Letitia Singh: If you follow these links, you will be able to download our field guides of Ladakh
  • Ragini Letitia Singh: These include flora, birds and mammals
  • Ragini Letitia Singh: This would give you an idea of the kind of biodiversit found in the Western Himalayas
  • Sandeep Ghosh.: What about the scavengers specifically the vultures?
  • Sandeep Ghosh.: I believe they have drastically declined, though from time to time,I do come across....
  • Sandeep Ghosh.: a couple of king vultures everytime i visit Pobitora and
  • Ragini Letitia Singh: Did you see a vulture above 3,000 metres?
  • Ragini Letitia Singh: above sea level?
  • srinivas: so it is aimed from a community ecologist's point of concern
  • Sandeep Ghosh.: scores of king vultures in Kaziranga but
  • srinivas: but it is characterized by floodplains
  • srinivas: if not mistaken
  • Sandeep Ghosh.: No. I have seen them on tree tops at the Mihimukh Area in Kaziranga and at Bagori.
  • srinivas: at an altitude of?
  • srinivas: any idea?
  • Ragini Letitia Singh: Let's drift back to the high altitude region of the Himalayas which is what the focus of the programme and campaign is
  • Ragini Letitia Singh: And also this chat :)
  • Sandeep Ghosh.: approx. 100 feet
  • Ragini Letitia Singh: Do you know about the Green Hiker campaign?
  • srinivas: very minimal i guess
  • srinivas: was not aware of
  • Sandeep Ghosh.: yes I have heard but have a very vague idea
  • srinivas: till i checked out
  • srinivas: in the web
  • srinivas: very recently
  • Sandeep Ghosh.: Ragini, please tell me more
  • Ragini Letitia Singh: You should definitely watch our animation film at -
  • Ragini Letitia Singh: This is one example of the communication material we are producing to reach out to more people
  • Ragini Letitia Singh: You can also sign up for the campaign on the same page
  • Ragini Letitia Singh: I'd like to talk about Manimahesh lake
  • Ragini Letitia Singh: in the Chamba district of HP
  • srinivas: yes you can tell a bit about that
  • Ragini Letitia Singh: Every year, there is a yatra that takes will start tomorrow in full swing
  • Ragini Letitia Singh: We have a team there, who have installed signage asking pilgrims not to litter any place they like
  • Ragini Letitia Singh: They also take up animals like sheep and goats to sacrifice near the lake
  • Ragini Letitia Singh: It's horrible
  • srinivas: and may also about bioodegradables
  • srinivas: in traditional practices we are losing a lot
  • Ragini Letitia Singh: And because of their loudspeakers and loud presence, all fauna around them get disturbed
  • Ragini Letitia Singh: What's most worrisome is that it's located right next to the Kugti Wildlife Sanctuary
  • srinivas: human activities around
  • Ragini Letitia Singh: In fact, there is one route that goes through the sanctuary
  • srinivas: but making it a no sound zone might be difficult
  • Ragini Letitia Singh: Brown bear, black bear - all these are found there
  • Sandeep Ghosh.: What exactly is the aim of green hiker? create awareness about the sanctity of the fragmented wilderness??
  • Ragini Letitia Singh: See, in our country, when religion is concerned, people turn a blind eye to everything
  • srinivas: rite
  • Ragini Letitia Singh: If one practise becomes popular or has been performed since ages, no matter how damaging it is to nature
  • Ragini Letitia Singh: They won't change
  • srinivas: which route do the pilgrims prefer to take
  • Ragini Letitia Singh: Most of these wetlands which we are trying to save have religious importance, so we have to deal with a very tricky issue
  • Ragini Letitia Singh: Well, most pilgrims take the usual route
  • Ragini Letitia Singh: A 14-km tough trek
  • Sandeep Ghosh.: Our job as volunteers is to make these kinds of people aware without causing animosity, right??
  • Ragini Letitia Singh: But there are some who opt for the other
  • Ragini Letitia Singh: Yes
  • srinivas: and proabaly confrontations
  • srinivas: probably
  • Ragini Letitia Singh: We are trying to get the local people on our side
  • Sandeep Ghosh.: i believe so
  • srinivas: were any casualities reported
  • Ragini Letitia Singh: The langar organisers
  • srinivas: of bear attacks
  • Ragini Letitia Singh: The tea stall owners on the way
  • Ragini Letitia Singh: Asking them to ensure that nobody discards rubbish anywhere
  • Ragini Letitia Singh: No, the poor bears come nowhere near the pandemonium
  • Ragini Letitia Singh: Why would they?
  • Ragini Letitia Singh: Which is why we worry for them
  • srinivas: any accidental confrontations
  • srinivas: and people start panicking
  • Ragini Letitia Singh: We're taking away their habitat
  • Sandeep Ghosh.: and pilgrims regularly relieve themselves as well on the way.
  • Ragini Letitia Singh: Not that I have heard of
  • srinivas: such have been most of man animal conflicts
  • Ragini Letitia Singh: I very nearly trekked through the Kugti route this time when I went, but I was advised not to because it was raining heavily
  • Ragini Letitia Singh: And yes, I was warned about the bears
  • srinivas: the animal is blamed most of the times
  • Ragini Letitia Singh: I wanted to go and access what the garbage situation was like
  • Sandeep Ghosh.: assess u mean
  • srinivas: was that done or planning for that
  • Ragini Letitia Singh: Till 2010, there were no toilets. It was horrible then. They would help themselves to all the green areas and make a mess of the place
  • Ragini Letitia Singh: WWF drew attention to this lake and this massive problem in 2008
  • srinivas: how is 2011?
  • srinivas: any improvements
  • Ragini Letitia Singh: Then in 2010, Sulabh shauchalya came into the picture
  • Ragini Letitia Singh: And set up 100 mobile toilets all along the trek
  • Sandeep Ghosh.: that is what i meant by pilgrims relieving themselves in the absence of toilets
  • Ragini Letitia Singh: This has helped a lot
  • srinivas: are there any movement of people at night
  • Ragini Letitia Singh: Yes
  • Ragini Letitia Singh: Some pilgrims move at night too
  • srinivas: then probably leopards
  • Sandeep Ghosh.: hey ragini that is very dangerous in bear country
  • Ragini Letitia Singh: Though most of them camp in the tents set up at the main stops
  • srinivas: clouded leopards
  • Ragini Letitia Singh: I know
  • Ragini Letitia Singh: But religious fervour is very tough to confront
  • Sandeep Ghosh.: and still they indulge in it
  • Ragini Letitia Singh: Saving our wildlife is hardly seen as a valid reason for them
  • srinivas: yes it is
  • srinivas: but the damages that it causes are beyond recognition
  • Ragini Letitia Singh: When we say, we are working to save a wetland, we take everything into account - the biodiversity that depends on it
  • Ragini Letitia Singh: The local communities who draw water and livelihood from it
  • Sandeep Ghosh.: hey folks need any volunteers, man, i can drop everything and go with u, after all it is the humans lives at stake
  • Ragini Letitia Singh: Everybody
  • Ragini Letitia Singh: Have you heard of the Mountain Cleaners??
  • srinivas: no
  • Ragini Letitia Singh: We are supporting them this year
  • Sandeep Ghosh.: how
  • Ragini Letitia Singh:
  • Ragini Letitia Singh: Small group of volunteers
  • Ragini Letitia Singh: The founder is a british lady who lives in Dharamshala
  • srinivas: are they aware of local fauna nd flora
  • Ragini Letitia Singh: Actually Bhagsu in HP
  • Sandeep Ghosh.: the name suggests that they clean up the litter and garbage piled on the mountains
  • Ragini Letitia Singh: They do regular clean up drives and recycle the trash
  • Sandeep Ghosh.: sounds great
  • Ragini Letitia Singh: They took up Manimahesh as a concern area once WWF drew attention to it
  • Ragini Letitia Singh: So since then they come with their garbage bags and clean up the place
  • Ragini Letitia Singh: Very hard working lot
  • Ragini Letitia Singh: Imagine climbing up and down a dangerous mountain with bags full of garbage
  • Sandeep Ghosh.: who takes care of the finances, bcoz funds are needed to conduct such a drive
  • Ragini Letitia Singh: Through Green Hiker, I'm trying to channelise willing volunteers who can help them this year
  • Ragini Letitia Singh: They badly need them
  • Ragini Letitia Singh: The yatra will be starting any day now
  • Ragini Letitia Singh: They have the support of the local administration
  • Ragini Letitia Singh: And somehow find sponsors and donors
  • Sandeep Ghosh.: where are you posted right now, ragini
  • Ragini Letitia Singh: For example, WWF has contributed funds to them
  • Ragini Letitia Singh: I am in Delhi
  • Ragini Letitia Singh: The Delhi office where it all gets coordinated from
  • Ragini Letitia Singh: If you want to volunteer with the Mountain Cleaners, please go ahead
  • Ragini Letitia Singh: The founder is a lady called Jodie Underhill
  • Ragini Letitia Singh: You can write to her at
  • Ragini Letitia Singh: So while WWF-India is working on the awareness raising front, we are also moving on to more action-oriented things
  • srinivas: or with misconceptions
  • Ragini Letitia Singh: I hope everyone here knows a little bit more about WWF's work and the Green Hiker campaign
  • Ragini Letitia Singh: misconceptions?
  • Susan Sharma: Ragini, thanks for all the info, so beautiully put forth.
  • Ragini Letitia Singh: You're welcome Susan
  • Ragini Letitia Singh: I am glad I could elucidate our work
  • Ragini Letitia Singh: I thank you for this opportunity
  • Sandeep Ghosh.: there are whole lot of things i need to know yet
  • Sandeep Ghosh.: but i think time is of constraint and i guess i will have to wait for another day Susan
  • Susan Sharma: If there are no more questions, we will close the chat room
  • Ragini Letitia Singh: If you have more queries, you can always write to me at
  • Ragini Letitia Singh: And join the Green Hiker Campaign too
  • Sandeep Ghosh.: thank you Susan for inviting me to this informative chat session. Good nite/
  • Susan Sharma: As soon as we close, the transcript will be up. Please share the link with anyone you wish to
  • Ragini Letitia Singh: Ok
  • Ragini Letitia Singh: Great
  • Ragini Letitia Singh: Thank you everybody
  • Susan Sharma: Good night and thank you all
  • srinivas: thanks for sharing
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Role of Zoos in Conservation - July, 2011
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Endangered Animals of Sikkim - April, 2007
Citizen Participation in Environmental Issues - March, 2007
Vulture crisis in India - January, 2007
City Parks and Biodiversity - December, 2006
Why is bird census important? - November, 2006
Shooting Wildlife with a Camera - October, 2006
Rain Harvesting - September, 2006
Environmental Education - July, 2006
Tribal Bill - June, 2006
Trekking in the Himalaya Region - May, 2006
Trekking in the Himalayas - May, 2006
Coastal Wildlife - April, 2006
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Offences Against Wildlife - September, 2004
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