Blazing an Ecotrail....
Geetha Srinivasan the dynamic nature conservationist, the avid trekker and wild life photographer, former Chairperson of WWF India- Maharashtra & Goa, VP Nilgiris Wild Life & Environment Association and Convener of INTACH ( Nilgiris Chapter) in conversation with Mala Biswas, Associate Editor of Ecotrail. Geetha is the wife of Dr. M.R. Srinivasan, Nuclear Scientist who was awarded the Padma Vibhushan recently. The Srinivasans have settled in the Nilgiris in their 150 year old ancestral home. She is President of The Niligiri Library which she is currently restoring. The Srinivasans have two children Raghuvir and Sharada and 3 grandchildren.

What inspired you to become so involved�with nature education and the conservation movement?

I am one of those lucky people to have been exposed to Nature at a very early age. We used to spend our summers at Ooty at my grandfathers sprawling bungalow and often go trekking to Doddabetta. I still remember the awe and wonder when I saw a giant toad stool on the forest floor and the enchanting dappled sunshine which filtered through the trees. The Nilgiri Wildlife Biosphere was rich in wildlife. I vividly remember seeing a sambhar jumping across the bonnet of our car and for a heart stopping moment he was suspended in mid air. Recently I attended the 150th year of the Bishop Cotton Girls High School in Bangalore where I studied. I used to cycle to school through the verdant cantonment areas. As centre forward for the hockey team many a time I used to carry a hockey stick as I cycled,admiring the beauty of nature.

The seven years that I spent at the Madras Atomic Power Project at Kalpakkam also to a large extent shaped my environmental sensitivity. At that time all around were vistas of emerald green paddy rippling in the breeze. One of the Life changing experiences that I have witnessed is the �Kheddah� in the former princely Mysore State. As guests of the Maharajah we sat in a privileged position. It was before the Kabini Dam was built and many tame elephants were used to herd the wild ones across the river. I witnessed the last Kheddah. All these experiences have made me hands on environmentalist.

What do you see as the High points when you were the Chairperson of WWF-India and later as the Vice President of the of Nilgiris Wildlife & Environment Association?

Looking back, one of the high points of my Chairpersonship of WWF India was meeting my good friends Mala, Ranjan, Dr. Punetha and Svetlana! Along with these four musketeers, I was able to achieve quite a lot in my three years tenure.

One of the highlights was filming of �Man, the endangered species� along with Benoy Behl. I still remember the golden sunrise at Radhanagari Black Buck sanctuary! Another memorable event was the exhibition at Jahangir Art gallery to raise funds for WWF India where eminent artists contributed their paintings. We also successfully planted more than five hundred trees in Tarapore which have grown very well!

The encounter with Prince Philip, whom I met at the opening of the new building of WWF-India in Delhi, was charming. Litttle did I realize that years later, I would meet him again in the Nilgiris. After we had settled down in our ancestral home in Ooty I got a frantic phone call from Mr. Soli Godrej, President WWF India .He wanted my husband and me to spend the day with Prince Philip at Bandipur. A meeting was held along with forest officials from Karnataka, and we spent a pleasant day. That evening there was a banquet at Lalith Mahal Palace. Prince Philip being a ladies� man sat with all of us. As the women got up to have their second helpings, Prince Philip who is known for his acerbic wit said, �I am sure you ladies must be watching your figures!! All of us plopped back into our seats!

The Nilgiri Wild Life and Environment Association of which I was Vice President for more than fifteen years is one of the oldest associations in India founded by the Duke of Buckingham. One of our highpoints was the awareness campaign on the evils of plastic pollution. The campaign against plastics won the Rajiv Gandhi conservation award along with a citation and Rs 1, 00,000/ in prize money. The other achievement was the guineas award for tree planting, where 300 volunteers participated in planting indigenous trees.

Recently I was invited to meet the standing committee of parliamentaries on science and technology and environment. I enlightened them about the evils of parthenium and lantana which are choking the Mudumalai tiger reserve and requested funds from the compensatory a forestation fond bill 2015, for talking some of these problems, and for solid waste management to be done in a scientific manner.

How will outdoor camps impact the students in their understanding of our environment?

Nature is the ultimate Guru, and no student can be complete unless he participates in outdoors camps. I still rember sleeping in a tent at the Mount Kailas base camp before starting on the �Parikrama� the next day. I peeped out and there in the clear attitude of the trans Himalayas was the most beautiful Milky Way that one could see. The galaxy was like the translucent veil of a beautiful and the stars were the sparkling diamonds. Similarly, I still remember walking back from Amaranth yatara along with my daughter Sharada. It was a full moon night and to see the snow capped Himalayas in the moon light was truly awesome! Outdoor camps for students are character building as well as build confidence and self esteem. I remember walking many years ago in Masai Mara in Kenya with only a Masai warrior carrying a spear. It was truly exciting.

Whether a student wants to purse entomology botany, zoology or any other from environmental sciences, outdoor camps are where the learning process starts. With responsible teacher�s proper safety equipments and precautions a visit to an outdoor camp can forever change person and how he perceives life. Outdoor camps are particularly important for all our students in urban sprawls. As a gentleman from the north east once told me his daughter looks at an earthworm and thinks its a snake! Last but not least, outdoors camps are not only for students who want to pursue environmental studies. They should be made compulsory for all students as they built character and integrity, and should be encouraged for people from all age groups, since they build up self reliance, and a certain philosophy of life.

How can schools take up the serious environment challenges and prepare the gen next?

Schools are the best place to take up environmental challenges and prepare our future citizens to be conversation oriented. In all schools, environmental education should be compulsory subject, along with hands on projects and outdoor enrichments where students get dirt under their finger nails. One good example is a junior school in Ooty where children are encouraged to keep the road and approach clean, especially prevent plastic pollution. The Government has taken up the Ganga action plan in right earnest. Schools can also be stake holders in the purification of scared Ganga by informative communication on the progress of the project and its significance. While polluting in very easy, nature takes a long time to regenerate. After all cleaning up the Thames took more than 50 years.

Last year through Rotary I held a seminar Nirbhaya �Seminar on the girl child. We trained 250 teachers on how to look after the girl child in school and gave them certificates. Similarly teachers have to be trained, from all disciplines on teaching Gen next to face the future environmental challenges.

Last but not the least a tricky question!! Your Husband Dr. M.R. Srinivasan, was the Chairman of Atomic Energy of India and the Scientific�Advisor to the Government of India. Did you both come into conflict on�conservation issues?

Over the years there has been no major conflict of interest between my husband Dr. M.R. Shrinivasan and myself. In an over populated country like ours where change brings about larger issues, Iam also convinced that clean nuclear energy maybe the viable option. Besides after living in the Nilgiries Dr.M.R.S has also become more environmentally conscious and conservation oriented.

Therefore, it was quite alarming when atomic energy commission of which he is also a member passed the India based Neutrino observatory to be situated at Singara where the Tamil Nadu electricity board also has a Hydro-Electric power plant, the pykara ultimate stage Hydro Electric Project (PUSHEP).

The project was to be located in the buffer zone of the Mudumalai Tiger Reserve, and was not very far from the core area. The project was aimed to build a world class laboratory to study nutrious from various natural and lb sources, and also study fundamental issues in particle are filtered out INO planned to drill 2.38 kilometres into the Singara Hill to house the 100 kiloton iron detector. Haring an esturated construction period of 5 years, it would involve transporting huge amounts of machinery through the forest roads, from the rail head at Mysore, generate enormous of debris, noise pollution, and a sudder sport in population around the construction scte At that point of time i was Vice president of the Nilgiri wildlife and Environment Assn. (The collector was the Ex.officio president) and we formed the NBR alliance an alliance of like minded organisations working in the Nilgiries Biosphere Reserve. We had a meeting at the collectorate and at various platforms; we brought fouth the issues of damage to the Flora, Fauna and the fragile eco-system of the Bio-Sphere reserve.

Fortunately good sense prevailed in the A.E.C board, where Dr.Srinivasan spoke about environmental damage due to the project, and it was shifted to another site at Theni near Madurai.
Event Name :- Takmak Fort Trek

Date :- On 15 August, 2015

About Location :- Takmak Fort is to the north east of Virar, on a hill at a height of 2000 feet and it provides some amazing views of the confluence of the Tansa and Vaitarna rivers to the west of the fort, and of Vandri Lake near Vajreshwari to the north-east. This fort was constructed in the 12th century by King Bheemdev. Later on, the fort was conquered by the Sultans. King Shivaji might have won this fort along with Kohaj & Asheri (Which remains an assumption till date). After King Shivaji, the fort went under Portuguese supervision. In 18th century the fort was used as
a jail by the British government. While demolishing the hill & cisterns on fort, necessary care has been taken so that fortcan’t be restructured.

Height :- 2000 ft approx
Type of Trek :- Medium
Age :- 8 to 50 years
Trekking Time :- 3 - 4 hrs (approx)
Road Distance / Travel time :- Approx 90 Km; Approx 2 hrs

Cost :- Rs.650/- per person (including 14.00% tax), Rs.650 + Rs.500 per person extra for private non-ac bus, tolls, parking, service tax = Rs.1150/- per person(Bus can be organised for a minimum group of 15 pax)

Cost ncludes :- Includes Trailblazers expertise, simple breakfast, lunch, taxes Cost valid for group size 25, any change in the numbers of person will result in a revised cost. Cost subject to change.

Cost does not include :- Non AC transportation, tolls, Taxes (based on option chosen), Forest littering deposit fees and fines, any other item not mentioned in Cost Includes.

Reporting Time & Place :- 6.30 am Dadar east near Pritam hotel

Dress Code & Things to Carry :-

  • Quick dry full pants, no jeans please!
  • Long sleeved quick dry T-shirt / Jersey etc
  • Foot wear : Strong, comfortable shoes for walking in the most essential requirement for a nature walk (please avoid canvas shoes)
  • 1 extra pair of comfortable casual clothes + 1 plastic bag for wet clothes
  • Raincoat/windcheater
  • Mosquito Repellent
  • All the above items should be packed in a water proof backpack. Please travel light

Cancelation Policies :- Withdraw 10 day prior � 75% refund, Withdraw 5 days prior � 50% refund, Withdraw within 4 days � 0% no refund.
Early bird benefits to encourage early registrations.
Enrol 15 days prior � free gift / Trailblazers souvenir.

Payment Policies :- Online cash deposite to below account, On the spot payment (*condition apply) If number goes below 14 then no privet bus to the trek, then it will be mass transport. Check payment before 1 week of the trek.

Bank Details :- ACCOUNT NAME : TRAILBLAZERS ADVENTURE TRAVEL PVT. LTD.
BANK NAME : IDBI BANK LTD.
ACCOUNT NUMBER : 0753102000001328
BRANCH : VASANT VIHAR, THANE (W), MAHARASHTRA.
BANK IFC CODE : IBKL0000753

Contact Details :-
Pankaj :- 9833552283
Trailblazers Office :- 022 25891490
Event: Blood Donation Drive
Date: 28th June, 2015
Location: Edenwoods, Thane

Details: India needs 12 million units of blood annually but collects only 9 million units which means deficit of 3 million units. In a step towards filling this gap, Trailblazers Foundation organized a Blood Donation camp on 28th June 2015 in partnership with Indian Red Cross Society, Bombay. Many people rolled up their sleeves to donate blood and help maintain the blood supply and prevent a shortage. About 26 units of blood were collected during this drive. Although 26 units are negligible in front of the massive figure of 3 million units but a single step towards the goal reduces the distance.
Trailblazers Foundation has taken its step, now it�s your turn. Trailblazers Foundation appeals to all the readers to donate blood whenever and wherever possible.
Event:�Career planning for rural youth in Mahuli
Date:� 2nd June, 2015
Location: Mahuli Village

Details: Trailblazers Foundation has adopted Mahuli Village and during the discussion with villagers the need of career guidance to the students came up. Soon after that Trailblazers Foundation announced a career guidance workshop for the students of secondary and high school students. The workshop was conducted at the right time on June 2, 2015 just before few days from the declaration of SSC results. Students from nearby villages also attended this workshop. About 50 students got benefitted from this workshop.
An expert and career consultant addressed the students and enlightened them about various education and career options.