One lakh saplings to be planted under ‘Green Cover for Kochi’ programme

With an eye on earning carbon credit for Kochi, the civic administration will undertake mass planting of saplings in the city. The programme, titled ‘Green Cover for Kochi’, is one of the initiatives announced in the annual Budget of the corporation presented on Saturday. One lake saplings will be planted under the programme.The project, for which Deputy Mayor T.J. Vinod has earmarked Rs. 10 lakh, will be implemented with the support of residents associations, Forest Department, and educational institutions.‘One Individual-One Tree’ is another campaign that exhorts residents to plant at least one sapling each in the city.

Again, the civic body is pinning hope on residents associations and educational institutions for implementing the programme. The budgetary support for the initiative will be Rs. 5 lakh.Though the corporation has not been successful in enforcing rainwater harvesting in houses and other buildings, the Budget makes it mandatory for all buildings with area of 2,000 sq.ft and above.Besides, bio-gas and solar water heating units will be made mandatory for houses, the Budget says. The civic body has promised 10% tax rebate for such houses. The rebate can be taken up in consultation with the State government.Meanwhile, the corporation has decided to continue its campaign for setting up bio-gas units in city households in the next financial year too.An allocation of Rs. 40 lakh will be utilised for setting up such units.In yet another initiative, the Budget proposed documentation of public wells, ponds, and other waterbodies in the city and steps for improving the quality of drinking water available in ponds and other waterbodies. The financial allocation for the project is Rs. 10 lakh.

 

A conservation programme for Mangalavanam, titled ‘Mangalavanam Restoration Programme’, has been proposed in the Budget. The project will be implemented as part of the Smart City project, and the civic body will spend Rs. 25 lakh on it.A project for linking solar power generated from panels installed at houses to the power grid has also been envisaged in the Budget. An exhibition centre featuring solar power projects and allied areas will be established.

Perumbavoor case spurs club to build house for a poor family

In the wake of the rape and murder of a law student in her ramshackle hut at Perumbavoor in April last year, a club in Thalassery decided to build houses for those staying in unsafe dwelling units.

The first house constructed at Moozhikkara, near Kodiyeri, by Kiwis Club was handed over to the beneficiaries by Revenue Minister E. Chandrasekharan at a function here on Sunday. The initiative was appropriately titled ‘Aniyathikkoru Veedu’ (a home for sister).The club, which is involved in social welfare activities of the region, built the house for the four-member family of Suresh Babu, who is paralysed and bedridden.The key was received by Bavitha, daughter of Suresh Babu.

“The house at Moozhikkara is the first of our initiatives to construct houses for families living in unsecured dwelling places,” said club secretary Mohammed Nourif. The club plans to construct 20 such houses, he added.The 540-sq ft house comprising two bedrooms, a hall, and a kitchen was built on the plot where the family of Suresh Babu lived in a shed-like structure with a plastic sheet as roof.

‘Organic home’

 

The house was designed by architects of De-Earth, a Kozhikode-based architecture firm which specialises in eco-responsive housing projects. Sheetal Sameer of De-Earth said the house was eco-friendly and low-cost. Laterite stones and mud blocks were used for the construction of the ‘organic home.’The club, with a membership of 3,000 persons at Thalassery, collects donations from members, including those working in the Gulf countries for humanitarian activities. A few years ago it launched water conservation activities by reviving defunct wells and renovating ponds in and around Thalassery.

Memchoubi on a mission to preserve Manipur’s folk culture

Beneath the socio-political turmoil that the northeastern State of Manipur has been known for, lies a land with a rich indigenous culture. To Manipuri writer Thounaojam Chanu Ibemhal, it is the survival of this land that matters, over and above the storms that shake it up.For the past few decades, Memchoubi, as Ms. Ibemhal is known, has been exploring the mythology and folk culture of Manipur, reviving stories and imageries found in old scriptures and folktales.Recipient of the Kendra Sahitya Akademi award and the Manipur State Kala Akademi award, among others, her published works include poetry, short stories, literary criticism and travelogues.

Talking to The Hindu on the sidelines of the Northeast and Southern Writers’ Meet, organised by the Kendra Sahitya Akademi on Saturday, Memchoubi was solemn yet hopeful as she shared her reflections on the current political situation in her State.“Do not speak to me about the BJP and Congress,” she said, “for both are only concerned about their business.” The fact that the Chief Minister of the new BJP government was earlier a member of the Congress party vindicates this, according to her.While the people of Manipur vote for one or the other, in the hope that support from New Delhi would bring about economic development in the State, what they actually need is to stand on their own feet and to develop an independent economy, she said.

On Irom Sharmila

 

When asked about Irom Sharmila, Memchoubi's face lit up. “I have been fighting on her behalf!”She may have only got 90 votes in the Assembly election, but it is the birth of a promising new journey, according to Memchoubi. That Sharmila would fail the election, however, was a foregone conclusion, the writer said, since the Manipuri people, who held her sacred, were shocked by her ‘descent to the dirty field of politics’.“Elections are like festivals in Manipur, since it is typical for candidates to pay voters, who then go shopping with that money.” But if Sharmila considers her failure a stepping stone, and perseveres in her journey, then one day she may hopefully succeed in changing the mindset of the voters, Memchoubi said.

Simi Stephen and Anu Smith emerge winners in The Hindu MetroPlus ‘Heels on Wheels’ contest

Zooming past twisty streets and historic landmarks in search of answers to cryptic clues, they acquainted themselves with the city from a much different angle.Even the sweltering heat did not deter these intrepid women riders from criss-crossing the city as part of Maruti Suzuki - The Hindu MetroPlus ‘Heels on Wheels All Women Treasure Hunt Car Ride’ held here on Sunday. The adventure game, which was flagged off from Crowne Plaza, saw the participants — in 75 teams of two — taking off in cars and cracking clues to reach the finishing line.The ride was flagged off by Ajay Kumar, senior manager, sales, Maruti Suzuki, from Hotel Crowne Plaza at 9.45 a.m.

Balancing speed with composure, the teams covered around 40 km in the city on two routes — Fort Kochi and Kakkanad — and found answers in new and old landmarks and two Maruti Suzuki showrooms to complete the race.Finally, the team of Simi Stephen and Anu Smith emerged the winner, while the duo of Shyla Eapen and R.S. Renu became runners-up. The team of Sona Smith and Lashmi K.B. finished third.

Big prizes

While the event brought in fun for the participants, the first three winning teams had massive prizes to take home. The first prize carried a cash award of Rs. 25,000, while the first and second runners-up were presented cheques for Rs. 15,000 and Rs. 10,000 respectively.

Excited over the win, Simi Stephen said the event was full of fun and frolic. “This was our third appearance in the event, and it is getting better every year. It was really thrilling to work around potential clues and make instant decisions, all this while negotiating narrow lanes and anticipating the next clue,” she added.

From searching for forgotten landmarks to hints at unknown locations, the clues sent everyone helter-skelter. The participants, though glad that the hunt spanned areas they were familiar with, were left equally embarrassed as they had not noticed the little things in their neighbourhood.It took the teams a combination of word power, knowledge, and team power to come up with the answer - ‘REFRESH’, a word denoting the refreshed look of The Hindu .

 

Besides the treasure hunt, the participants were also judged on their outfits, and the duo of Renjini Menon and Chitra were selected as the best dressed team.Convening at Crowne Plaza in the afternoon, some participants got up on stage to exhibit their talents. Giving away the prizes, actor Unni Mukundan applauded the spirit of the participants.“You have all done an amazing work. Even the hot sun could not deter you from going in pursuit of completing the task. I wish more powers to you,” the actor said to a huge round of applause.

Separate authority to regulate construction sought

Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) State president Kummanam Rajasekharan has called for a stop to all constructions in Munnar and sought separate rules aimed at protecting its ecology.He was talking to reporters after visiting the land allegedly encroached upon by Communist Party of India (Marxist) leaders in Munnar town. He said over 500 acres of government land had been encroached upon by the land mafia. He said the government had no proper records on Revenue land and those under government agencies. This, he said, had prompted the ‘mafia’ to encroach upon the land. Mr. Rajasekharan demanded an inquiry by the CBI to bring to book the real encroachers. If the encroachment upon land and illegal constructions continue to be permitted, the ecology and climatic conditions of Munnar would soon change. This was what happened in Ooty, he said and added that in order to avoid a natural catastrophe, a separate authority should be created to sanction construction activities in Munnar.

Mr. Rajasekharan alleged that there was a move to shift the Devikulasm Sub-Collector who had intervened in land encroachment cases.A large stretch of land had been encroached upon at Ikka Nagar and the area should be declared ecologically sensitive, he added.Mr Rajasekharan said there were provisions for the Union government to intervene considering the ecological sensitivity of Munnar. A report will be submitted the Centre detailing the land encroachments and illegal constructions in Munnar and adjoining areas, he said.The BJP leader also visited areas on the banks of Muthirapuzha River where illegal constructions have been reported and at Pallivasal where a rock fallen from a hilltop had damaged boundary wall of a resort.

Kochi-Muziris Biennale has catapulted the city to the global cultural map

The morning of December 12, 2012 was thick, almost uncertain, as a weary troop of artists got into a huddle in the courtyard of Aspinwall House, a rundown 19th century sea-facing building complex that lay supine by virtue of having remained shut for years on end in the otherwise vibrant urban topology of Fort Kochi.

Its spectral vistas had looked dazed, as if suddenly resuscitated back to life, even as the artists winched up a multicoloured flag marking the opening of a newly-founded art carnival, Kochi-Muziris Biennale (KMB).The odds were heavily stacked against the event – as litigations, cash crunch, hostility from a section of local artists, scepticism over the unfamiliar, and lampooning by the art orthodoxy made it a tall order.

The opening scene, no less than chaotic with work still in progress, fuelled further doubts about its sustainability. A fatigued Bose Krishnamachari, who along with fellow artist Riyas Komu, captained the project and also curated the opening edition, walked up to this correspondent and said: “Even if it were to close tomorrow, we can be proud that we managed to fight the odds to open India’s first biennale.”Much water has flowed under the Calvathy bridge since. With days now for the closure of its third edition curated by Sudarshan Shetty, its main venue is being spoken of with awe around the world.

“It’s the Arsenale of Kochi, the mother space in every sense. It’s to KMB what Arsenale is to the Venice Biennale,” affirms Mr. Komu, secretary of the Kochi Biennale Foundation (KBF) and KMB director of programmes.Globally, it has become the face of the KMB. So much so, that the Government of Kerala has now promised to obtain it from its private owners to make the ancient spice trade hub, and the adjoining Cabral Yard, into a permanent cultural centre, which will anchor the biennale and host art events and cultural exchanges during the non-biennale period.

 

Tourism Minister Kadakampally Surendran recently announced that Aspinwall House is best-suited as a permanent locale for the KMB, a ‘perfect model of cultural tourism’ whose ongoing edition has already logged a footfall of over five lakh visitors comprising local people, domestic tourists and art enthusiasts, and foreigners, including the who’s who of the contemporary art world.