heels on fire: Day 11

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Day 11

11th May 2006
Silent Valley, 20km

Today was always going to be a little bit special from a runner’s perspective as we went deeper into Silent Valley, and so it proved to be. Even Stevie and Sudeep succumbed to the burning desire to join in the run.

Silent Valley is remote, and the further you wind and twist your way into the interior, the more the sense of isolation increases. As does the gut feeling that you are entering an ancient land that deserves and demands respect. I had a persistent mental image of signs I had seen many times before at touristy sites stating, ‘Leave only your footsteps behind.’ One should be humble in the presence of stunning natural beauty and character - share and revel in it, but leave it as undisturbed as on arrival. I then saw a sign that I’d never seen before in India stating that the National Park was a plastic free zone. It brought a satisfied smile to my face.

The serene silence of Silent Valley
Spread over 90 square kilometres the Silent Valley is a virgin forest situated in possibly the least violated, extensive patch of tropical rain forest remaining in the Western Ghats. This relative isolation has allowed for the preservation of fauna and flora in the valley over the 50 million years that is believed to be its evolutionary age. It has survived and flourished and become an important ecological oasis. We all agreed that a ‘then and now’ photographic sequence would probably metamorphose into a 'spot the difference competition' if motorcycles and jeeps were excluded. We did run for a good 10 kilometres before sighting a bus. Making the most of this rare freedom we ran three abreast down the winding valley road.

We passed no one for a considerable distance, which made this run distinctly different. This combined with the breathtaking views down into the valley and of the imposing rock faces that touched the clouds above us lent a feeling of total separation. Then my mobile phone in my backpack went ‘beep-beep’! In the blink of an eye both the technological and natural worlds in which we live collided. In the context of the day it seemed poignant, as here in our modern technological world was an example of a simple and sustainable existence.

We also came face-to-face with what can only be described as the wildest of monsters, foaming at the mouth and with eyes that screamed out, ‘I’m bad, you’re mine, all three of you, bring it on!’ In hindsight it was probably our imagination running wild and it could have been just an inquisitive but fearful wild dog or fox.

People seemingly walk further and we passed women carrying jack fruits and bundles of logs on their head. Home made wooden fences marked the perimeter of houses. Rubber trees grew in abundance and we got a glimpse of the how rubber trees are tapped for the sap – the latex. Trees lined the road with protruding coconut shell cups poised ready to capture the latex after the trunk had been tapped in the morning. The collected latex is then poured into trays, hardened with formic acid and then passed through metal presses to produce a sheet of rubber for the market place. In the era of synthetic rubber, it might appear minimalist, but appeared to be a sustainable source of rubber. Rubber continues to be one of the major crops of Kerala. Wonder what the impact of globalisation has been on this?

An eye on the environment

Consciousness of environment and sustainable development appeared to be everywhere. We passed a sign - ‘Fresh Water is Power, Act Now, You Can Help,’ which served to highlight the awareness that water is a precious commodity that needs protecting in order to secure a prosperous future. Despite being a rain-kissed state, certain parts of this state suffer severe water shortages. An article in today’s newspaper predicted a perhaps welcome early arrival of the monsoon, but also a slightly less than average overall rainfall. The authorities claim that the shortage is negligible, but there should be proper methods to utilise the rainwater without allowing it to flow to the seas. It doesn’t go on to explain what these methods are, or should be.
Into a wall of rain

We were to witness for ourselves this early arrival. The temperature noticeably dropped in an instance. A sudden chill that would have made the hardiest of salty sea dogs batten down the hatches rattled our bones. The sky turned a bizarre luminous tangerine colour and we got the feeling that a natural force was about to be unleashed. Having witnessed the alluring power of pristine nature all day and we were now about to witness another powerful facet of nature. Sand from the road swirled up whipping our legs and peppering our eyes, and bits of trees flew over our shoulders. We felt hesitant and excited at the same time and tried to push on as we felt comfortable and in the zone, but it soon became apparent that the only zone we were in was a slightly uncomfortable, unfamiliar and unsettling heavily atmospheric one. We needed to remove ourselves and let the storm do its business. Ten minutes after entering the safety of the jeep it turned pitch black as sheets of tropical rain descended.



At Sun May 14, 04:23:00 PM 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Silent valley and Kerala sound like awesome places!

At Sun May 14, 11:19:00 PM 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Awesome photos. Inspiring stories. I'm staying tuned...

All the best,

Pete's Newfie friend

At Mon May 15, 08:00:00 PM 2006, Blogger mommybazz said...

Great sign!

Our very own Dutch Crown Prince, Prins Willem Alexander, Prins of Oranje happens to be the honorary member of the World Commission on water for the 21st Century and protector of the Global water partnership of the World! Water management is thus an area which has the particular attention of prince Willem-Alexander. The prince visits international congresses and symposia in this area and also acts himself as a participant during these meetings.

The World Commission on water for the 21st Century is an international workgroup of experts in the field of water management, that wants to develop long term vision concerning global water use.

The Global water partnership have been set up by the World Bank, the United Nations and the Swedish translate ministry for development cooperation and from the point of view of integrated water management is trying to translate international environment agreements into concrete projects and programmes. The activities of the prince of oranje have been in this context particularly aimed at the water management in Eastern Europe. Lucky Eastern Europe..

I’m privileged and proud to be a Dutch citizen myself and will definitely read more into this topic. Wondering whether the Crown Prince is aware of the India’s water issue.. So perhaps more insights to share about this later.

This world water vision was presented in March 2000 in The Hague during the second world water forum. The prince was President of this forum.

Beside our crown prince I’m proud to acquaint you with the Dutch Erasmus Centre for Sustainability and Management (ESM).

The Rotterdam school of management (RSM) is the business school of the Erasmus university Rotterdam. The school makes part of the world top in the field of management research and education and is known for its international character and innovative approach. The Erasmus Centre for Sustainability and management (ESM) are part of the factorial of the social sciences of the Erasmus university Rotterdam. The centre includes the education institute ` environment knowledge and the research institute ESM. 21 scientists, among which 6 promovendi are active at ESM. The centre is spread over three research fields: Sustainable Entreprise & Industrial Ecology, Sustainable transport and Sustainable water management. Both education as well as the research centre explores new topics within national and international networks.

Wondering where India fits in..

At Mon May 15, 09:12:00 PM 2006, Blogger Spindrift said...

Hi, I was surfing the internet for something new and here I am at your blog. I'm quite impressed , with how you have put it all together.

I'll be coming back again.


how to birdwatching

At Mon May 15, 09:28:00 PM 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Somebody save the WORLD before mommybass attempts genocide through slow torture!


At Mon May 15, 11:34:00 PM 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

'Genuinely I am enthused by the development aspect. It’s a major challenge. The way I see it we need to get as many people thinking and or chatting about what’s going on in Kerala. How on earth do we create development appeal to not just the recognised like minds who know what NGO stands for, but to the likes of my cousin Thomas who until last night never heard of the term NGO. The thing is, Thomas actually called me to talk about his companies social responsibility programme. Thomas is interested in development, but he hasn’t used the language that we us so freely. Thomas cares about people and for those less well off. Folks, the way I see it we need to somehow ensure that Thomas can engage with what’s happening here. We need to build excitement but not over-load. State the case and let people decide for themselves. If by the end of May through this project Thomas knows something about development I will be happy.'

So tell me what in your opinion it is that I do wrong. So at least I know.

(Pete, 03/15/6)

At Tue May 16, 08:32:00 AM 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Anonymous,

The dream is to open up 'development' discussions to a wider audience in language that is neither exclusive nor laden with abbreviations and terms that few outside of development understand. The challenge is to share understanding, lessons and stories that make sense to the wider audience. Keep it as short as possible and keep it straightforward and understandable.


At Wed May 24, 10:51:00 PM 2006, Anonymous Nick D said...

"but there should be proper methods to utilise the rainwater without allowing it to flow to the seas"

This is a dangerous water resource use objective - any water going to the sea is a waste. This doesn't leave much water to support all of the rivering and estuarine livelihoods that depend on fish and fishing. Coastal ecosystems are nurtured by the life-givng sediments supplied by rivers - but only if water is allowed to flow to the sea.

The challenge is to balance water equity so that upstream users do not compromise the needs of everyone further down the river.

At Fri May 26, 03:34:00 PM 2006, Blogger mommybazz said...

Is this D Nick D., the Big B, whom I once googled on the internet, overwelmed by the massive amounts of results? What a very pleasant surprise.

I regain inspiration and continued my initial plan to contact the Global Water Organisation.

Let's await and see what happens on the discussion forum.

Warm regards,


At Sun May 28, 02:27:00 PM 2006, Blogger macmohan said...

You came so close to Coimbatore City. Silent Valley is really a wonderful place for eco-tourism.

At Tue Jun 20, 10:05:00 PM 2006, Blogger mommybazz said...

Global Water Partnership
Sat May 27, 2006 10:06 pm

How do I clear up what I know about Global water management when I don’t know a thing about it? All I know is that life to me is unthinkable without water. It is my life saviour, my comforter and my best friend, my daily cup of T, my daily shower (s, oops..) and is always there when I most need him (within a finger snap). What is the quality of life without enough plain water within reach?

Why not call in the professional water experts? Why not aiming at the nearest giant as The Global Water Partnership. Whom am I to claim precious time requesting an interview? A nobody, but soon to find out that me and the Giant have one great thing in common. We both care equally. Not less and extremely surprised to further find out that Alterra, somehow connected to the Global Water Partnership stands for ‘knowlegde exchange’. What can I say about knowledge? Global exchange of knowledge as well exchanging knowledge to students or any curious monkey.

Clumsy, but not knowing what it is that I want to ask precisely or what language to use the professionals use so freely either I requested an interview. I was told that it was a Friday and most researchers not in, bummer. Is the private number open to public ( dumb question.. ), I don’t think so, but Arjan van Zoelen was of real great help and contacted the engineer for me, assuring himself that I’m a journalist, painfully telling him not really, actually no. I was told that engineer (Ir.) C.W.J Coen Roest and dr. ir. Hans Boonstra where the researchers to turn to.

Not five minutes later the phone rang and humbled and nervous as I was I tried to explain what it is about the water issue in India I wish to learn about.

First ir. Roest made clear that he is more focussed on agriculture and water. But would try to exchange some of what he does know. The last time C. Roest visited India was in 1995. Hans Boonstra on the other hand still visits India more regularly.

Mr. Roest for a couple of seconds seemed to have been preoccupied by the immense gab between the rich and the poor in India, ..not exactly knowing where to fit this in the story, but instinctively however considered this fact not insignificant. On the contrary, it well could be pretty naïve not to recognise.

Beside the technical questions I also wondered whether it would be possible to roll a bridge between the Netherlands and India. The answer to this question was instinctively disappointing. So it wasn’t much different on the other side of the call either.

India, - mr. Roest proceeded - does no longer consider itself a development country ( needless to say that this is not the disappointing part, on the contrary!! ) and no longer accepts help from just anyone, in particular not a tiny land as the Netherlands ( ‘looks’ indeed can be quit deceptive..). The partnership with India ended 3 years ago.. Perhaps this explains why the Dutch Prince seemingly at present does not have his focus on India’s water issue. There are nevertheless still a few Dutch action committees active in India.

The technical issues

The Global Water Partnership has slowly changed it’s mindset over the years from shaping the waters to us into shaping us to the waters. This change of mindset is a process and not fully crystallised yet.
Mr. Roest; “We should adapt to the waters”.

Mr. Roest suggested movements from below.. There are several small-scale ingenious, innovative as well as inexpensive sustainable solutions and concepts with regard to the issue of polluted water. In particular purifying sewerage water.

- So there was an architect in Bombay, collecting sewerage water and then had it sink in the pounds. Next he would fill the pound with plants to filter the water in order to serve the purpose of agriculture.

- And then there’s a solution called U.A.S.B of a at present retired researcher Lettinga. If one need to know more about the details, just google U.A.S.B and Lettinga and one can’t miss.

Two last questions:

What is your opinion, sir, about planting trees to stop the water from flowing into the rivers with such extreme speed?

Planting trees is being done for two reasons;

1. to protect the ground from erosion and
2. to decrease the extreme speed of the water flowing into the rivers.. as well as the decreasing of a natural disasters such as flood..

Moreover this influences de most natural condition of air in a very positive way.

I see, but what about the disadvantages in conformity with the comment made by Nick D.. as correctly pointed out. In three words rivers need water.

Where there are trees water sticks. I however incline to say that the advantages are greater than the disadvantages.



To dr. ir. Hans Boonstra
Tue May 30, 2006 4:26 am

Zeer geachte heer Boonstra,

Welkome op de site. Het definitieve stuk bestemd speciaal voor u.


“ The development versus environment debates are well comprehended in the context of Kerala, with its unique environmental features including Wetlands and the scenic backwaters. You may be interested to know, that these presently serve as a huge relief to the State Sanitary engineers, who deem it their birthright to discharge untreated wastes into this fragile eco-system!!!!
Kerala also has the distinctive feature of being rain blessed and still short of water. Despite getting an annual average rainfall of 3000 mm which is 2.5 times higher than the national average and having two monsoons spread over six months, the state has been experiencing water scarcity since 1980. Its no surprise to find the State suffering from an acute drinking water shortage. “ – Peter Dulvy –

Within the framework of Global Water Partnership and sustainable water management with regard to the water supply issue India seems to be coping with I have formulated a set of question in order to form an as complete notion as possible of the status quo in India and the crucial question whether it lies within reach to settle permanently with mentioned water issue within manageable time as within a reasonable period.
Hoping mr. Boonstra, you would express yours willingness to give a respond to the set of questions provided below.

'Heels on fire' is mainly an initiative of Peter Dulvy, a runner and his friends Rahul Noble Singh, a writer and Desmond Roberts, a photographer. The principal aim is to highlight development issues along the Heels on fire run across Kerala during the whole month of May 2006. Why such immense action of this magnitude?

Peter Dulvy said..;

“ As we present the stories I am hoping that you can pick up on these vignettes and extrapolate their significance in (simple and understandable) development terms into you and your work and your understanding.

We all look forward to chatting further about development on line. Your message is truly appreciated. This is what I personally am here for. I would far rather run in isolation away from pictures, a video camera and the media. However, fact remains that people switch off on development alone. My impression is that people are tired of the same old discussions and are fatigued by the same broad brush stroke problems. A new approach to educate and draw people in is being attempted through this run. “ – Peter Dulvy -

Under the motto ‘knowledge is power' this might be considered an attempt to clear up as much as we know and to exchange a certain level of global knowledge. Hopefully some of this knowledge will have certain meaning and purpose to the service of Kerala, India.

The hope is

I have hopes for India, the seriously less blessed in particular. May the special extreme, but above all unselfish philanthropic efforts of Peter Dulvy and not less Rahul Singh ( the 'mind over body' raging 'Determinator', - who truly never seem to diminish to amaze me beyond believe.. ), Desmond Roberts and the rest of the HOF team bear and cast off it's fruits over Kerala, beautiful India. This is the thing of Pete Dulvy and friends that I especially support.

The questions;

- What is the relation with Global Water Partnership?
- Does India have water issues?
- What seems to be the issues?
- What solution or advise is there to offer?
- What needs to happen?
- What are the activities at present?
- Which parties at present are involved?
- How much time will be involved to your estimate according to standard notion? Is it to consider on the card of India?
- So I have learned that the Dutch development aid had stopped 3 years ago. Is India at present sufficiently provided with aid or sufficiently independent to within feasible time make head against the water supply issue?
- What is your total impression of van India?
- What is the status quo?
- What are the perspectives?
- What are the possible bottlenecks or apparent restrictions which might stand in the way of an adequate way and within feasible time and within reasonable period the fight against the water supply shortage?

Many special thanks,


Water management
Ir. Dr. Boonstra (autor)
Wed May 31, 2006 1:58 pm

First of all, I have not been to Kerala so far. The most southern states I have been are Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh. As a hydrologist water is my discipline and especially agricultural water (in The Netherlands we call it green water).

Of course, India has also water issues. Either it is too much, too little or too dirty.

The water availability depends on the amount of rainfall minus evapotranspiration (the amount of water used by the vegetation, crops, etc). In The Netherlands we have on an average 800 mm rainfall and 250 mm evapotranspiration in a year. So there is a rainfall surplus of some 550 mm. Kerala has apparently some 3000 mm annually, but I expect that evapotranspiration in Kerala is in the same order of magnitude. So, looking to the amount of rainfall only is not indicative for water availability.

The reasons that there is a water shortage could be explained that rainfall is not evenly distributed: during monsoons a lot of water and in between no rainfall at all (in The Netherlands there is rainfall throughout the year; almost every week). So how the rainfall is distributed over the year is another important indicator.

Looking to the map of Kerala it seems a relatively narrow stretch along the coast, indicating very steep slopes so rainfall will flow fast towards the sea. Most probably also very shallow water bearing layers so rainwater cannot infiltrate into the soil to be used later as groundwater.

So, if there is rainfall there is almost no chance that the rain waters can be stored inland other than in artificial reservoirs and these are not very eco-friendly. Another option is to go for water harvesting in the hilly areas by making cross bunds to retain the rainwater and increase the opportunity to infiltrate and/or building small underground reservoirs. This should be done on a small scale almost by individual farmers.

Using Google Earth I have detected along the coast huge interconnected back waters. According to me it should be possible to use some of these back waters as natural retention reservoirs. They should be closed from the sea by building dams like we have done in the south-western part in The Netherlands. That will be necessary to prevent saline water intrusion from the sea. Even more important is that all municipal and industrial waste water upstream should be purified.

So, in short: yes there are water problems in Kerala but there are also solutions. People should be mobilised to make it an issue so MLA's will eventually intervene. I hope that heels on fire will contribute to raising awareness on this issue.

At Wed Jun 21, 11:01:00 PM 2006, Blogger mommybazz said...

Dear Folks,

I know that this HoF site include HOF's blog will not remain forever and ever, but I am keeping my fingers crossed and truly hoping for a happy end whenever that will be. If not for the HoF daddy’s, then at least for the poorest children truly in need.. On a especially precious forum like HoF’s there should not be any room for selfishness or ego trips non whatsoever. No one should be spared. The interest of making poverty history should always prevail, no matter what.

I had my own personal joys, as well as disappointments and a not insignificant loss, but at least very happy endings over the last couple of days too..

Unless it's about concrete positive developments, this forum, including the audience ..and it’s colour and dept I need to slowly kick off the ‘tuning in HoF habit’. Unless one of you explicit wise keep coming back for more! Have mercy!


DO call immediately even if in the midst of the night if any dams will be built to prevent Kerala’s back waters from the saline water intrusion form sea or when people are actually mobilised to make the water shortage an issue. Or any affective positive actions concerning the tragedy of the how extremely sad sad children especially in New Dehli forced to live on the streets and trained to become professional beggars and sometimes mutilated by the own God damn parents to raise more “earnings” and to increase the “success”. That sort of good things.

Goodbye everybody for now,

Warm regards,


At Fri Jun 30, 03:09:00 PM 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am a fan - very cool stuff!!
ask jeeves affiliate program

At Sat Jul 01, 11:44:00 PM 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Please check the memberlist and notice mr. Screenivas..

Mr. Dr. Screenivas is an Indian hydrologist on a mission to the service of India. Working from Alterra until half july before his return back to India.

Congratulations! Mr. Screenivas couldn't get any acess to the development section of the forum!!

So Cool!



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