Pithoragarh is a small picturesque city in the Himalayan state of Uttarakhand. What’s unique about this place is, they celebrate the festival of Harela where saplings are planted and taken care of. This is precisely from where Harela Society, the NGO derives it’s name. Based in Pithoragarh, this environment conscious organisation started five years back and one of the primary motto was to imbibe a sense of consideration for the nature.
People were negligent about the wellbeing of their ecosystem and they needed to be motivated to strive towards a better ecosystem is what led to them create this organisation. There were areas, mainly tourist spots which were heavily affected by the nonchalance of the local residents. A group of environment-friendly youth got together to bring a change in the mental conditioning of the people. It brought in an innovative model to influence people into being environment conscious. They infused photography and an environment awareness to achieve an eco-friendly approach for the city which would lead to a sustainable ecology for one and all. To condition their mentality towards a sustainable mindset, the founders of Harela organised photowalks for the local youth and imparted learnings about the environment, flora-fauna and wildlife. This gradually made the youth and children conscious about their surrounding, thereby teaching them about reconciliation ecology. Reconciliation ecology is the science of inventing, establishing and maintaining new habitat to conserve species and diversity in places where people live, work and play.
Harela began with the mission of conserving the nature with the help of community participation, traditional knowledge about the local ecology and applied science. Harela has positively contributed in creating a sustainable ecosystem for Pithoragarh. They have collaborated with several schools to plant over trees which are taken care of on a regular basis. They also have brought in innovation models which are profitable and original in essence.They have modelled innovations and initiatives that aim at tackling environmental issues which are mutually exclusive in nature for Pithoragarh. Some of the initiatives taken up by Harela have been listed below:
An organic colour which has been manufactured from Rhododendron flowers, this product was conceptualised, manufactured and distributed as a flagship project of Harela Society. Containing no chemicals, this product added tinge of colour to the vivacious festival but did not add up to the chemical levels.
This initiative brought in a blend of filmmaking and environment consciousness. Through Enviroscope individuals and students were asked to send self-documented short documentaries on environmental issues of their surroundings. Turning up to be a huge success, this initiative successfully helped in locating the environmental issues like deforestation, planting seeds of creativity and logical thinking among school children as well.
They developed an innovation model by creating a small scale biodegradable compost unit which is being developed by their research and development centre. The compost will therefore be distributed among farmers as manure. Non-biodegradable waste will also be collected and segregated under this model. Turning plastic wastes into handicrafts is another model which is being looked into by the research and development team of Harela Society. Entrepreneurship and upcycling are the two motives which are being aimed to be merged through this project.
Apart from these Harela also plans to work extensively for the cleaning Yakshavati river bed with the help of their strong team of volunteers. The river walk ensured that the river bed is cleaned up which was choking on all the sewage and filth accumulated from the city. A documentary named Save Yakshavati was also shot to generate awareness among people to save the source of drinking water for more than 50% of the city.
Snake bite mitigation
Snake bite mitigation is also another activity which they have undertaken extensively. This involved educating localites about uses and nature of antivenom and spreading awareness among people so that snake bites can be dealt effectively without causing any harm to the victim.
HUG A TREE, another initiative taken up by Harela Society aims at creating a sense of belonging for their environment among people. Harela functions on three levels, volunteer based, modelling research, innovation and core conservation activity. When The Logical Indian spoke to Manu Dafaali, the Secretary of Harela, he said, “We had used photography as a bait and today we have over two hundred volunteers and more sixty dedicated regular ones.” The interesting part is how this organisation went about their way of sensitizing people. The primary target group is school children and youth who are mobilised and sensitised about several environmental issues. Original, affordable and easily multiplicable innovation models are being researched by their R&D team. Long term and short term interventions are their mode of bringing about a change in the society. Upon asking where does Harela stand, five years down the line, Manu said, “Harela should be able conserve anything and everything. We want spread awareness about the fact that conservation is an integral part of existence.”
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