Jim Carmem Memorial Fund
For the last nine months we have been supervising the work of three women, Mary, Kutti and Arputhadam. Their work is keeping the upper reaches of the Pambar stream clear of garbage. Apart from keeping this large residential area clean, they have prevented this waste from being washed into the Pambar Shola, one of the most renowned stretches of forest in the Palni Hills. It is notable for its endemic flora which occur on the streamside where the garbage would accumulate. The late Fr Matthew immortalised this Shola with these words in 1995. “Pambar Shola perched on the edge of a precipice, with the falls cascading for several hundred metres is witnessing the last ditch battle for the survival of a number of plant species, the sentinels of a bygone age – Pambar Shola is truly a living fossil, a relic among relics.”(A shortened version)
Jim Carmem, a former pupil of Kodaikanal International School, loved to fish in the wild pristine streams of the high remote Palnis. His family in the USA have to date made this fitting tribute to Jim’s memory possible. We are very close to exhausting this fund, so we are appealing to everybody for help to keep this work going. The ladies daily pay is about equivalent to two pints of beer in London and maybe four in Bangalore or Rs 1,85,000 or £1850 a year. This still represents a significant contribution to their families incomes.
The Pambar Shola has been at the heart of our eco-restoration work over the last thirty years. Keeping its cascading waters clear of garbage was and remains our last great challenge in its conservation.
You may well ask why the civic authorities are not on top of this problem. There is partly a generational problem, our elders “waste” of the past was either edible, compostable or clearly recyclable. However young people are organising themselves across India (check out for example “The Ugly Indians” online, and at last public sanitation has become a political issue and as we noted recently (see appendix 20.04.15) many local people are co-operating with our efforts. If we can exceed our target we would like to purchase a few smart monkey proof bins. Some village councils, for example Pallanghi, have already done this with great effect. Unfortunately we have no village council of our own.
Donations in Rupees can be sent by cheque made out to Vattakanal Conservation Trust. If in foreign currency made out to the Palni Hills Conservation Council, Jim Carmem Memorial and sent to our project office address. Appendix with photos on following pages.
The Jim Carmem Memorial
Pambar Stream Cleaning Project Update
Robert Stewart & Tanya Balcar
Its now more than 6 months since three women have been working on cleaning the upper Pambar steam. They have removed a phenomenal amount of accumulated waste. One of the really positive results of their work is that many people, perhaps even most, have responded spontaneously and now no longer treat the stream as a waste conduit. We have eliminated and turfed over two major stream side dumps. Dumping at these two spots has not stopped completely. Two bins (one we recently negotiated) have been removed from these localities and relocated elsewhere.
Kutti, Mary & Arputhadam
The stream ladies as we call them, bag up the rubbish and we jeep it away to an empty bin elsewhere in town. The lack of waste infrastructure is particularly acute in the upper Pambar catchment area and we need to press the Municipality/Pollution Control Board to address the problem.
A pile of rubbish waiting to be bagged up and taken away
A positive development. Two bins, always overflowing, have been removed from outside two large schools who now seem to be processing their waste within their grounds.
Rubbish lorry at Pambar Shola
The Pambarpuram Joint Forest Committee now has a lorry of its own and is frequently in use collecting rubbish. Last January we joined up with the Forest Department and dozens of local students for a day long clean-up of Pambar Shola itself. The stream running through the Shola is of course the object of the project. Despite some recent heavy rain, no upstream rubbish has been washed into the Shola. There is much more about Pambar online. The reports about the mercury poisoning of the Shola are somewhat exaggerated as the outflow from the factory that was closed 14 years ago is beyond the Sholas boundaries.
Students helping us to collect the rubbish in the Pambar
Bombay Shola, which we also regard as part of the project area, was also recently cleaned up in a similar programme over two days. The FD has also recently expanded the area of forest they keep clean (picnic spots) employing more permanent staff.
School students helping in the clean-up in Bombay Shola
In general there is a sense that Kodaikanal is finally coming to grips with its garbage crisis that has grown over the years. Our website is still headed with the name of Arjun, who put it together – http://arjunkolhatkar.wix.com/garbage-clean-up
Beulah Kolhatkar is organising a group from Auroville to come and talk to our local schools about “Garbology” which will hopefully create a lot more awareness amongst the children. We are also trying to link up with an NGO from Dindigul which is particularly focused on cleaning streams and rivers
Crumbling infrastructure – a bin with a huge hole in the bottom! This bin is located higher up the Pambar catchment area, an area we plan to tackle in the near future.