Archive for August, 2008

Bihar Floods – How to Help

The Central Government of India has sanctioned Rs. 1,000 crores (US$ 228 million) to be released from the National Calamity Contingency Fund; the European Union announced that it is sending food aid and other relief materials worth 1 million euro (US$ 1.5 million); Britain has diverted 150,000 pounds (US$ 273,000) of an existing fund to provide clean water, shelter and sanitation to 10,000 families in up to 20 camps; and the US has offered US$100,000 to the Prime Minister’s National Relief Fund (which has yet to account for the funds to be used for survivors of the Tsunami in 2004) for immediate assistance to the flood victims in Bihar.

There are the usual calls to donate money to the Prime Minister’s National Relief Fund or the Chief Minister’s (of Bihar) Relief Fund.  There are also urgent requests from NGOs for volunteers, food and other relief supplies, and donations.

Those in the US can make tax deductible contributions to Association for India’s Development‘s (AID’s) All India Relief Fund or to Goonj, for their Rahat Floods program.

AID is a “volunteer movement committed to promoting sustainable, equitable and just development” in India.  AID will be focusing on the following in Araria, Bihar:

  1. Rescue operations.
  2. Providing food, medicine and shelter.
  3. Fodder for animals.
  4. Removal of carcasses.
  5. Safe drinking water.
  6. Monitoring expenditures by the State.

Goonj has been working extensively in Bihar through its grassroots partners, with a special focus on the annual floods for many years now. Anshu Gupta, the Founder/Director of Goonj has asked for the following:

Material Support Dry ration, Medicines, candles & matchbox, torch & batteries, utensils, tarpaulin, feeding bottles, buckets, ropes, bedsheets, all kind of usable clothing & footwear. ( For the list of collection centers, please log on to

Logistical Support

  • Transport support to reach the material to effected areas
  • Space for collection centers
  • Facilities for local pickups
  • Transportation of material from different cities to GOONJ processing centers in Delhi, Chennai & Mumbai

Needed- large quantities of –

  • Rice, Chiwra, biscuits, packed eatables
  • Water purifier tablets
  • Basic medicines
  • Sarees and children’s clothing
  • Tarpaulins or thick polythene
  • Bedsheets
  • Export surplus/cotton cloth for making sanitary napkins
  • Mosquito nets
  • Stoves, cooking and water storage untensils/buckets
Financial support-
Donations in India– Please send cash/cheque/draft in the name of GOONJ and send it to GOONJ.., J-93, Sarita Vihar, New Delhi- 76 (Kindly send your full name & address with the contribution for receipt/accounting purpose. ( All donations to GOONJ in India are tax exempted u/s 80 G of IT act.)
Overseas donation can reach us through Cheque (in the name of GOONJ with your full particulars) or by wire transfer with an information on
Rotate it ( valid only for overseas donations ) through Wacovia Bank, New York swift code- 2000193008933, GOONJ, A/C No- 2591101004644
Bank- Canara Bank, H block, market Sarita Vihar, New Delhi- 76
Contact- GOONJ
H.O DelhiJ-93, Sarita Vihar, New Delhi- 76 Tel.- 011-26972351, 41401216
GOONJ Mumbai– Mr. Rohit Singh Tel.- 9322381600, Email-
GOONJ Chennai– Ms. Padma Tel.- 9842665320, Email-
“Do spread the word, talk to your friends & relatives, help us to organise campaigns in the offices, residential areas and schools.”
A team led by Pervin Jehangir, Medha Patkar and Raj Kumar will be heading to Bihar soon and are looking for the following:
Immediate Relief Needs:

  • Clothes: In Good condition, for adults and children of all ages, – bed sheets, woolen clothes, umbrellas, rain coats etc.
  • Medicines: A list of the requirements is attached
  • Financial help: Necessary. Please withhold for a very few days, until we are able to give you the account details of where the money must be sent.
  • Volunteers: We would also need to have many young and active volunteers, who have the experience of working in situation of calamity (such as Tsunami,. earth quake etc).
“We will soon be leaving for Bihar with a team. Those who want to volunteer and are willing to work hard, in a situation of challenge and adjusting to whatever conditions are most welcome.”
The medical list includes:
  • Ciprofloxacin tablets and infusion
  • Levofloxacin tablets
  • Chloromyecetin capsules and injections
  • Ceftriaxone Injections
  • Chloroquine tablets and injections
  • Metronidazole Chloroquine tablets, suspension and infusion
  • Paracetamal tablets and suspension
  • B Complex tablets and syrup
  • Phensedyl DM cough syrup
  • Ranitidine tablets and injection
  • Antacids tablets and suspension
  • Cetrizine tablets and syrup
  • Ibuprofen tablets
  • Dexamethasone injections
  • Hydrocortisone injections
  • Deriphyllin injections
  • Electrol, Glucose and ORS Powder
You may contact Pervin Jehangir, Medha Patkar and Raj Kumar at the following numbers:  022-22184779, 09820636335, 07290-222464, 09424385139

Bihar: Let Them Eat Rats

“Eating of rats will serve twin purposes — it will save grains from being eaten away by rats and will simultaneously increase our grain stock,” said Vijay Prakash, an official from the state’s welfare department.

This statement, reported by Reuters and carried widely by many news agencies on 18 August 2008, seems even more absurd in the wake of the worst floods Bihar has seen in 50 years. Estimates range from 2 to 2.5 million displaced as remote villages in the poorest state in India were inundated by water when an embankment on the Kosi River burst near the India border in Nepal on 18 August.

Jitan Ram Manjhi, Bihar’s Caste and Tribal Welfare Minister, said rat meat was a healthy alternative. “We are very serious about implementing this project since the food crisis is turning serious day by day,” said Manjhi, who has eaten rats.

And if exhorting Biharis rich and poor to eat rats to mitigate low grain stocks and rising prices was not insult enough, it seems that state and central authorities are partly responsible for the breach in the Kosi River.  According to an editorial in the Hindustan Times on 27 August, under a 1954 treaty with Nepal, India is responsible for the safety and maintenance of the river’s embankments.

The pressure on the embankments of the Kosi River from heavy silt build-up was reported by Indian and Nepali water engineers in 1997, who predicted a major disaster should the embankments collapse.

Officials now report that villagers are eating uncooked rice, flour or cornmeal mixed with polluted water as they have no means of cooking the food.  No mention of rats.

Road Trip

Duffey Lake, Sea to Sky Highway, between Lillooet and Pemberton, BC

Duffey Lake, Sea to Sky Highway, between Lillooet and Pemberton, BC

Listening to the news or hearing the weather reports on CBC radio always brings me face-to-face with my ignorance of the geography of British Columbia (and of the rest of Canada, for that matter).

“A 33-year-old man has been identified as the victim of Wednesday’s fatal shooting in Chilliwack…”

“Rain forecast for the Peace…

“The Peace”  –  what or where is that?  Chilliwack?  (Love that name!) “Where the heck is Salmon Arm?” I ask.  Mark shrugs and says, with a guilty look on his face:  “we really need to explore BC.”

So, when a friend from Burnaby (the neighboring town to the east of Vancouver, and part of the Greater Vancouver Regional District, or Metro Vancouver) brought us two maps from AAA, one of “Greater Vancouver” and one of “Alberta/British Columbia”, we decided to drive to a conference that Mark was contemplating attending in Edmonton, Alberta (the neighboring province), stopping for reconnaissance visits to Jasper and Banff National Parks.

Our route:

Day One, 1:30pm.  We got onto the Trans Canada Highway (Hwy. 1) at Burnaby and traveled west, through the other Vancouver suburbs of Coquitlam, Surrey, Langley, and Abbotsford, and past the city of Chilliwack(!), to Hope (population 6,667).

From Hope, we veered northwest on the Coquihalla Highway (Hwy. 5), which follows the Coquihalla River, passing the “town” of Merritt to Kamloops, an ugly, industrial “city” (population 79,000 – 10 times the size of Merritt (population 7,595) and just slightly larger than Chilliwack) located in a beautiful setting surrounded by rivers (the confluence of the North and South Thompson Rivers, lakes (Kamloops Lake) and mountains.  (Most of our route followed river valleys dotted with lakes.)

From Kamloops, we headed west again on the Trans Canada Highway, passing Chase, Sorrento, Salmon Arm(!), and Sicamous (houseboat capital of Canada), stopping for the night at the beautiful  town of Revelstoke, in Mount Revelstoke National Park.

Revelstoke, Mount Revelstoke National Park, BC

Revelstoke, Mount Revelstoke National Park, BC

Day Two.  After breakfast at the Modern Cafe in Revelstoke, we continued on the Trans Canada Highway, through Glacier National Park, passing Golden and Field (in Yoho National Park), and crossed the border into the prairie province of Alberta (“Wild Rose Country”), stopping for a look-see and late lunch at Chaya, a mom & pop Japanese noodle joint in the town of Banff, in Banff National Park.  Moving on, we passed the town of Canmore on our way to Calgary (the largest city in the province of Alberta and home of the Calgary Stampede).

Buses in Banff, Banff National Park, AL

Buses in Banff, Banff National Park, AL

From Calgary (without stopping), we took the Queen Elizabeth II Highway (Alberta Hwy. 2), passing the town of Red Deer (where Tib, in his younger days, shot his first moose), to Edmonton, where we spent the second night.  From our hotel room in downtown Edmonton (the only night we did not sleep in our rented KIA Rio), we could see the night lights of the oil refineries across the North Saskatchewan River.

Day Three, 5:30pm.  After the conference, we left Edmonton via the Yellowhead Trail (Alberta Hwy. 16), past vast stretches of forests and farmland (mostly hay) and the town of Edson to Hinton, where we stopped for our third night.  Had dinner at the cute-looking Olympia Greek Restaurant, where, alas, our meals tasted like airplane food.

Day Four. Foregoing another meal in Hinton, we entered Jasper National Park around 10am and went in search breakfast in the town of Jasper. Sadly, the sweet and savory goods at the Bear Paw Bakery did not measure up to what you can get at the bakeries we frequent in Vancouver. Got some maps of hiking trails around Jasper from the historic Jasper Information Center and decided to do a short hike to Patricia Lake, via Cottonwood Slough.  Took a quick swim in the buff in Patricia Lake before heading back to town and hitting the road.

Jasper Information Center Historic Site, Jasper, AL

Jasper Information Center Historic Site, Jasper, AL

Patricia Lake, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Patricia Lake, Jasper National Park, Alberta

From Jasper, we took Icefields Parkway (Hwy. 93) south along the Athabasca River, stopping to see Athabasca Falls and past the Columbia Icefields, into Banff National Park.  In Banff National Park, we stopped at Bow Pass (the highest road pass in the four mountain parks) for a brief hike up to view glacier-fed Peyto Lake before stopping at the fabled Lake Louise.

Peyto Lake, Banff National Park, Alberta

Peyto Lake, Banff National Park, Alberta

From Lake Louise, we picked up the Trans Canada Highway again and headed back to Revelstoke for dinner.  Another disappointing meal, this time at Nomad Cafe, recommended for its “fresh” food.  Instead of spending another night in Revelstoke, we decided to continue driving, past towns we had already seen in the daytime, to Kamloops.  From Kamloops, we headed north on the Cariboo Highway (Hwy. 97), skirting Kamloops Lake, stopping at the intersection of the roads to the Savona Dump and the Savona Cemetary for the night.

Savona, BC

Savona, BC

Day Five.  From Savona, we continued on the Cariboo Highway, passed dry brush and sage bushes, to just north of Cache Creek, where we picked up the Sea to Sky Highway (Hwy. 99), heading south.  Instead of stopping at Lillooet for breakfast, we pushed on to Pemberton, where we had yet another disappointing meal at the Pony Espresso. Another stop in Whistler Village, where we watched the charming and amazingly talented trial rider, Ryan Leech, give a demonstration of his skills as part of the Crankworx mountain bike festival.  Then down through Squamish and the breathtaking views of Howe Sound, through North Vancouver, across the Lions Gate Bridge, and back home by early afternoon.

All in all, a spectacular drive.  You can skip Calgary and Edmonton and go as far as the Canadian Rocky Mountain parks on the Continental Divide just past the border of British Columbia into Alberta – a network of national and provincial parks that are listed as one of the UNESCO World Heritage sites.  Most of the highways follow river valleys, from which you are rewarded with views of pristine rivers and lakes.  There are lots of well-documented sites where you can stop along the way to learn about the regional geography, flora and fauna.

Big Horn Sheep, Icefields Parkway, Alberta

Big Horn Sheep, Icefields Parkway, Alberta

We were lucky enough to see some big horn sheep and mountain goats (all without their winter coats) along the Icefields Parkway, and just missed a siting of a black bear cub near Jasper (eager and foolish tourists chased the cub away from the road).  Along the Trans Canada Highway, I saw one white-tail and one mule deer.

Mountain pine beetle damage, British Columbia

Mountain pine beetle damage, British Columbia

One sight that stayed with us throughout British Columbia was forest upon forest of brown trees, devasted by the infestation of mountain pine beetle.

Other points of interest?  Radio stations and their frequencies are listed as you approach towns on the Trans Canada Highway.  All garbage and recycling containers are bear-proof, and bear warnings abound. And Revelstoke, Jasper and Lake Louise have excellent public toilets located in the center of town.

So now, I know where Chilliwack and Salmon Arm are.

“The Peace?”  The Peace River Regional District is an area in northeastern British Columbia, closer to Alaska than it is to Vancouver.


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