Trying to bring back the energy in ROB would require us to be focussed on one goal and to work towards it. Even after having miles worth of email discussions and meetings devoted to figure out how to reinvigorate ourselves, the one common agreement that emerged and kept resurfacing, was that we needed something to work towards. We reminisced on how enthusiastic we were last year when we worked towards the Big Clean Up on January 30th, 2010. Be it organising a concert to raise funds for the Clean Up or putting up posters or having small clean ups building up to the big event, our energy was palpable because we could see where we were going. However clichéd, that the journey becomes quicker, easier and more inspiring when we know where we are headed, still holds true and always will, especially when it involves a team. And that is how our Dustbins On the Beach Campaign (DOB as we fondly call it) was born.

To have dustbins on the beach had always been on the ROB agenda, but it was always hovering in the background. Right from day one, we had clearly understood and consciously made it known to the others that cleaning up is not we intend to do. Metaphorically yes, but not in its literal sense. Through the clean ups we wanted to show the public that it was dirtying; we wanted to spread awareness and also give them guilt trips.

But where will they put the garbage in? Sadly, the beaches don’t have dustbins. What’s the point in spreading awareness when there is no way to put the awareness to use? But somehow, we kept postponing taking up the issue of putting dustbins on the beach, because we always seemed to have other things to do. In our last meeting, we decided that DOB is all we shall focus on till January 30th, by when we would try to get the  Corporation to install dustbins on the beach.

We decided to send a petition to the Corporation urging them to take note of the fact that our beaches lack basic sanitation facilities such as absence of dustbins and toilets. Petitioning on the beaches, in our own schools and colleges, we managed to get 1010 signatures. And still counting. Initially we did have problems with dates not working out and even after a week into deciding that we’ll collect signatures we hadn’t managed a single one. Time and schedules were just lame excuses we shamefully leaned upon. How much time does one require to circulate a sheet of paper in one’s own classroom?

We had decided to announce a competition to invite entries for dustbin designs – practical ones unlike the failed penguin and rabbit models. And announce we did, with some funky posters designed by Kau. But we failed to advertise it aggressively the way we would have advertised a
cultural fest in our colleges. Result – the dustbin contest was a failure with even the ROBers failing to participate, even though a few had pledged to put their engineering minds to use.

But when Hande joined us again, the DOB mantra caught us and…we happily gave in.

Petitioning, garbage audit, press releases, flash mobs, the clean up – we got a series of events that would help build the momentum for the ROB campaign lined up. And guess what? The excitement and relentlessness was back!

Having got the petitioning going, we did our garbage audit successfully, though this also missed its original deadlines. The thought of Nity standing on the beach, on the day set for the garbage audit, all by himself, without a clue that the audit had been cancelled for want of  participation of required number of people, still makes us cast our eyes downwards in guilt. But this guilt also taught us the importance of planning and co-ordination, resulting in a successful audit whose data will soon be made available to the media along with the survey we conducted to gauge people’s opinion on the cleanliness of the beach and their responsibility towards it.

The survey happened the day after the audit, and people still turned up – a sign of the re-infused enthusiasm.

We are now all set for the Big Clean Up on the beach on Dec 18th, to mark ROB’s anniversary. The cleanup will be dedicated to spread the message of “the missing dustbins”. And to make the clean up successful in terms of turn out, ROB will be organising a flash mob on Dec 11th – a little teaser for our clean up.

ROB is all about democratising the beaches, about reclaiming it and establishing our rights on it. But before that we should ensure that we inherit a clean beach. Who wants a garbage dump for a beach?

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It took me almost 40 years to discover the most astonishing place I have ever been to, and it was lying  there … right under my nose !
I have passed it by a million times and always turned my nose up at it, unable to bear the smell and the debris floating on the river.
However, when I turned forty four and losing more than just my hair, I discovered the joy of rowing .

Gliding past the bridges of  the Adyar on our racing sculls, I enter a world of wild, yet tranquil beauty. The Theosophical Society on one side and the island on the other, with fish jumping out of the river into our boats; Like some magical, lost kingdom, right in the heart of the city !

We row all the way to the broken bridge and back. Watching the birds in their hundreds roosting along the banks. And on days when  we have dallied a bit and the sun is going down, we watch the fruit bats over TS in their thousands, venturing out on their nightly sorties! Or catch the eerie call of the fox or a glimpse of spotted deer.

But a pall of gloom hangs over this magical place. The TN government with its Adyar Poonga plans have declared this an ‘Eco Creek’. The same government also plans to build an elevated corridor across the broken bridge. If this is allowed to happen, one of the most sacred places in the city will become  just a memory that some of us will cherish !

So how do you get there?

You’ll have to row under the  bridges of Adyar with me!

Not so gently, I’m afraid.

Or walk Northward from Elliot’s beach, along the shore, till you reach the Broken Bridge.

And how can you help ?

Join ROB and help some Mangrove saplings.
And strengthen the movement against the Elevated corridor .

Krishnamohan Ramachandran,

ROB

The Fight for the Planet

February 27, 2010

Every once in a while you might go outside for a walk. On the way, you might sit down, empty your mind, and take in all the beautiful images, tranquil sounds, and sweet scents created by mother nature. A little lizard might crawl by your hand. You might hear the lovely voice of a songbird. The wonderful scent of a rose might fill your nostrils. These are the marvels of the Earth’s many ecosystems… gifts that may soon go away.

Now, close your eyes, and imagine the future of the Earth. Flying cars? Nope. Magnificent chrome robots? None. Fancy spaceships flying at the speed of light? You wish. What you would see is a world laid to waste. Large pieces of coastal land would be flooded with high seas, now filthy with trash and toxic materials. The skies would be black with smog. The rivers that we get our water from would be either dried up or poisoned. Areas that once contained lush forests teeming with life would be dead, dry wastelands, with almost no animal life in sight. And worst of all, our very own species would be nearing endangerment, starving and thirsty because of the lack of food and water. This could be the future, caused by humanity’s worst enemy, ourselves.

For a long time, the planet has been a victim of mankind’s “progress.” At first, humanity was just another species, just a little more intelligent. Then, they started to form into small tribes, and in just several thousand years, they managed to spread what they call development all over the face of the planet. Beautiful, green, forests were torn down to make way for farmland, houses, and great big cities. Countless amounts of animals were killed, and plenty of species became extinct. And when all this was finished, the new people who came to live in these areas started abusing the land even more, throwing garbage everywhere, introducing invasive species, and ultimately hurting the ecosystem even more without thinking about the consequences of their actions. All of this happened so that the human population can continuously grow and live in the lap of luxury.

Some may ask, why should we care more about animals and other wildlife? I’ll give you some good reasons.

First of all, humans aren’t mini gods, superior to animals in every way. Just like us, animals can feel pain and fear, and they need places to live, which we are taking away. Would you like it if aliens came to our planet, burned whole cities down, put mines, farmland, and their own cities in their place, and drove us away to various “undeveloped” areas, only to come and repeat their actions again and again until there was nothing left for us. You would probably hate it, and feel the same way that those innocent animals did.

Second of all, when human development attacks the environment, it not only hurts the planet, but us as well! The many trees we cut down absorb carbon dioxide, one of the gases that causes global warming, a process that traps heat in the earth, causing glaciers in the polar ice caps to melt, increasing the sea level. We release many tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere with cars, factories, power plants, and other polluting machines and buildings, so trees help clean up our mess. Also, you may not know it, but many animal species help us as well. Bees help pollinate flowers, creating more plants and  the fruit we eat. Mosquitoes spread malaria, killing millions every year, but frogs help keep the mosquito population in check. And even if a certain species doesn’t seem to help us directly, the extinction or mass extermination of a certain species can cause a destructive chain reaction that can cause an environmental crisis of unimaginable proportions. For example, a staple of the otter’s diet is sea urchins, which eat kelp and other algae. If the otter population in a certain area started to decrease, sea urchins would thrive, and attack the kelp supply in the area. Kelp is also an important food source to many other aquatic animals such as fishes, and with the kelp supply decreasing, the fish population would start to decline as well, including the fishes that we eat. In conclusion, unsustainable human development is a destructive force that is both a threat to the planet and a threat to the human race.

Now that you know about the dangers that we bring to ourselves, take a look at an area that could soon become an example of this. In the bustling city of Chennai, in India, there are many beaches facing the Bay of Bengal itself. These beaches attract people all over the city to play at game booths, go on rides, splash in the waves, build sand castles, or just hang out. To add to that, this coast is home to many fishermen who depend on the sea and its life to make a living. Apart from people, the beaches are home to much wildlife, with crabs and bivalves digging in the wet sand and Olive Ridley sea turtles, an endangered species, surfacing to lay their eggs in the sand. However, these wonderful places could soon be desecrated by the monsters we call the government.

The Tamil Nadu government is proposing to build a road built on pillars going overhead along these beaches. This expressway will run along the coast within city limits and then loop around the city along all its waterways, costing Rs. 4000 crore (40,000,000,000 rupees). Its purpose is to “beautify” the beach and congest the city of traffic. However, there are many faults in this idea, faults that could hurt the city instead of helping it.

This project will do the exact opposite of what it is meant to do. Instead of beautifying the beach, it will badly impair the beauty of the Chennai coast both by hurting the ecosystem and crowding the area. To add to that, the many cars that come to the area will not decongest traffic in the city, but instead will bring many more cars to the beach road, making it unusable. Besides all the harm it does to the city, it will also harm the marine wildlife there. The cars will release much chemicals and spill oil, which will poison the organisms inside and outside of the waterbodies, such as the turtles that nest there. They will also bring noise pollution, soil erosion, and adverse effects on drainage systems, which keep the city clean.

This project may also affect the lives of common people. The road will uproot several fishing hamlets along the coastline, destroying the peaceful lifestyles of the poor fishermen, not to mention killing off the fish, their primary source of income. The tar and concrete will also radiate more heat, increasing the temperature by at least 3 or 4 degrees, one of the last things that the blazing hot city needs. Also, if a natural disaster such as a tsunami or a cyclone occurs, it could uproot the structure, damaging the lives of hundreds of thousands of people living on the coast. This project is a true example of horrible human development, one that hurts the people and the ecosystem.

If you think this is bad, then have no fear, go ahead and stop this. On the beaches of Chennai, there are multiple protest demonstrations going on, and you can be a part of it. To find out how, contact ‘Save Chennai Beaches Campaign’ and you will get the info on the upcoming protest demonstrations and other ways you can be a help. Together, we will stop this destructive programme.

Since the dawn of man, our species has been expanding its power over the face of the planet. Already, we have destroyed much of the wildlife on Earth, and this “development” is not stopping anytime soon. However, the common people have the power to push this back. If we join together as comrades in arms, we can form a line that the big corporations with their heavy machines cannot cross.

We don’t need money or influence, all we need is numbers. Come, let us rise up and fight for Mother Earth!

Naren Pradhan

Naren Pradhan

Editor’s Note – If you are interested in contacting Save Chennai Beaches campaign, please call Sharada at – 9600040682

Adopt A Baby

February 21, 2010

You know how new moms are. New dads too. But more so new moms. They can’t stop talking about their babies. So please bear with us, while we hold forth for just a few more months about our new babies. The mangroves near Broken Bridge, I mean. Today, they are all of 21 days old. They’re looking good, despite the unhealthy load of trash that is threatening to suffocate them.

Just three days back, I was at Sri Venkateswara College of Engineering at the inauguration of their environment club called CARE. Across the road from the low-key and very unlikely but pleasant architecture of this college is the Chembarambakkam Eri (lake). It is the spillover from this lake that makes the Adyar River that empties into the Bay of Bengal at Broken Bridge. The trash thrown along the winding river’s watershed finds its way through streams and canals and nullahs into the river, and eventually ends up along the river banks. A lot of what doesn’t dot the banks of the river upstream ends up near the Broken Bridge.

Today, five enthusiastic ROB volunteers (all new moms and dads of the mangroves) — ranging in age from 10 to 45 — did a perfunctory clean-up of the Broken Bridge shores. They collected four bags of trash (thermocol and slippers, carrybags and old clothes) in less than an hour before realising that they were out of their depth. More people, more trash bags and more gloves were needed.

Now we have an appeal. Any body wanting to be a mangrove parent can be part of the regular clean-up every Sunday between 4.30 and 6.30 p.m. Garbage bags and gloves will be provided. Come clean up some trash. Adopt a baby mangrove. See it grow to adulthood. After all, all the trash comes from upstream, and we all live upstream.

Check the website for updates. But this much is set. Every Sunday, at least a few of us will be there at Broken Bridge cleaning up between 4.30 and 6.30 p.m. Spread the word. There are many mangroves waiting to be adopted.

Nityanand Jayaraman

ROB

Star of the Sea

January 9, 2010

That, according to Berty Ashley is what Stella Maris means. (Also according to wiki and latin translations).

And that is where we all were today. Long hours of plotting went on behind closed doors and windows. Unearthly howls were reported by terrified neighbours. Eerie music and flashing lights…
Well, that was actually the disco party at the Taj. But ROB came pretty close as well.

And we sure attracted attention in Stella! Sid and Krish’s song (with enthusiastic backup by other ROBbers) was a resounding success. (Pun, geddit? Sigh. Never mind.)
Moving on- Nityanand Jeyaraman was the judge for the Debate held at Aquilae (It’s what they’ve called their culturals). The topics had the participants stymied for a while. One doesn’t often see topics like ‘Annual Beach Clean Up by NSS students- solution or problem?’, ‘Corporate Social Responsibility- eyewash or sincere effort?’ and ‘Is student activism key to capturing the essence of democracy’ as topics for a debate. Not all three together!

But they were- and defended/fought for quite well by the participants. Nity seemed in his elements asking people questions that really made them stop and think and defend their stance, as opposed to rattling off arguments they’d prepared minutes ago.

ROB volunteers floated around Stella- the white, be-turtled t-shirts could be seen dotting the grounds very prettily. The ROB stall, selling the same (t-shirts not volunteers) did pretty good business.

There was a low table covered with t-shirts and the Bhopal Calendars as well as information on the aftermath of the Bhopal gas leak.
Strung up between trees were the Robbers’ photographs of the beach, hanging between the ROB banners.  Very attractive,  (We Robbers seem high on aesthetics!) attention grabbing- and likely to stay in your mind!

The Robbers from Stella did a great job co-ordinating this outreach and ROB as a group responded marvellously.

A huge thanks to Stella Maris for allowing us a stall in the culturals! And a huge round of congratulations to the volunteers responsible for today. From where I was sitting (pretty much all over the college :D) we did great!

Akhila, ROB

Look! It’s A New Year!

January 2, 2010

Hello everyone!

Happy New Year, from the ROB team. Have a great one. Have a clean one. Have a sustainable one.

The ROB team has been caught unawares by the ‘holiday-season’ feeling that one gets around this time, and so has been quite unproductive over the last few days. We’ve just been doing nothing, but hanging out with friends and family.

But onto work, now. We have several deadlines to meet, for our outreach programs to meet. We’re also getting a song ready, so that’ll be fun!

More news soon.

ROB

Yesterday was the JYG concert, at Spaces, No.1 Elliots Beach Road. Let me just take a second off to thank everyone who came… the event was a HUGE success. The show on the whole went off without a hitch.

The show itself started about half an hour or so late, but the initial trio+Sid (JYG) on guitars was spectacular. Goosebump-inducing harmonies, and voices. The mood was pretty much set when these guys dimmed the lights, and started crooning.

After they finished their set, Ameet & co. walked on stage, to thunderous applause, and proceeded to matter of factly blow everyone away, proving again, why they are where they are.

We had about 400, 450 people attending the event, and managed to fit all of them into the arena/auditorium. The sound was fantastic, and the band even better.

There was a little side-entertainment, by way of NDTV Hindu holding up everyone in the door, while the camera man was desperately trying to get his journalist in the frame, and get her heard, all while trying to communicate with the big shots in the studio over the sound of Junkyard nailing their songs. Both reporter and camera-man were red in the face and puffing at the end of the whole ordeal, and gave up, just taking a bit of video of the band playing.

The band also graciously agreed to sing a song about the beaches, with Ameet singing tongue-in-cheek ‘Save the bee-ches’.

On the whole, an absolutely rocking evening. Both for the us (organisers) and audience, and band and everything.

Finally, a big thanks to Sadanand for letting us use this space, yet again, for absolutely no cost, and bearing with all the annoyances of everything.

Krishna, ROB