by Cyrus Vakil (Faculty)
Photo by Oscar Akerburg
Photo by Oscar Akerburg
DAY 4 was planned around the themes of biodiversity and sustainability. The afternoon began with a slideshow of campus fauna by Sharada Vakil. All photographs displayed were taken by faculty over the years, on campus. The diversity of fauna explained why the Sahyadri region, in which the College is nestled, is ranked among the top 20 ecological hotspots in the world. Birds and reptiles made the greatest impression on students and their predatory habits were discussed. The importance of not walking barefoot in the dark was stressed: snakes will avoid humans till trodden on!
Kurush Canteenwalla spoke next. An award-winning documentary film-maker who has also taught Film part-time at MUWCI (2006-2009), Kurush talked about predatory behaviour of a different kind – illegal mining in the Goan Sahyadris. Though it was not known to the audience at the time the subject was very topical. Earlier this week the Indian Supreme Court has suspended all mining in Goa till environmental clearances are checked.
The last and most detailed presentation was by Farhad Contractor, who has worked with local communities to complete over 800 water harvesting and water-table recharging projects in India, mostly in Rajasthan and the Himalayan foothills. Given a brief to generate momentum for a water harvesting program on campus, Farhad spoke of the cost and the ethics of drawing water from the riverbed and pumping it up the hill. Given the high rainfall at MUWCI (>2000mm/year) Farhad argued that check dams and storage wells at strategic points on the slope had the potential to make the campus self-sufficient in water.
Farhad offered a number of examples and visuals from Western Rajasthan and Kutch where communities overcame chronic water shortages through water harvesting, even though the rainfall there is only 250-400mm/yr and gradients are much lower. Farhad’s talk turned out to be the best-attended event of the four-day celebrations and was followed by lively Q&A and discussion. The debates included whether rainwater was fit to drink without further treatment, the ethics of having a swimming pool and growing lawns and crops atop the hill, and whether check dams would hurt or help the rice valley below.
On Saturday we have invited a guest to speak to the college on an important topic: "Rain water harvesting to make our campus sustainable". The session started at 4pm and was very relevant for the school.