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Monsoon Bliss: Drenched in Rain Kutch is a Must Visit (Environmental Feature)

The monsoon brings out a different facet of Kutch, the brown transforms into green

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Kutch
Rann Utsav in Kutch. Pixabay

Bhuj, Sep 09, 2017: White, fluffy clouds hanging low over green hills, little pools of still water teeming with migratory birds and an omnipresent cool breeze — the semi-arid region of Kutch in Gujarat transforms into a completely different avatar during the monsoon.

And although winter — the time detailed as “ideal” to visit this region — shows you a side of hers that’s truly unique, Kutch makes for a pretty picture during the rains, perfect for a rejuvenating holiday.

Nestling on the country’s western border, close to the Arabian Sea, Kutch had recently been in the news for the cyclonic storm-induced thundershowers that lasted five days. Before that, and like the rest of the state, floods had also hit the region in July.

“Heavy showers are normal during the monsoon,” local taxi driver and long-time Bhuj resident Anwar Khatri said, indicating that the heavy rainfall was not out-of-the-ordinary. “But in the last three-four years, we have had very scanty rainfall. The monsoon brings out a different facet of Kutch, the brown transforms into green.”

Kutch occupies an important geographical location when it comes to birds, said ornithologist Jugal Kishor Tiwari, since it falls on their migration route. His organisation, Centre for Desert and Ocean (CEDO), works on wildlife conservation and promotes nature tourism.

And although the winter is a brilliant time to spot a host of migratory birds, one can indulge in some bird-watching during the monsoon as well. CEDO, which is based out of Moti Virani village, some 400 km from Gujarat capital Gandhinagar, organises tailor-made tours of such nature.

A visit to Kutch would however be incomplete without witnessing its rich treasure trove of handicrafts. Ajrakh (block printing), camel leather craft, Bandhni, different forms of weaving, bellmetal craft, Kutch embroidery — the list is endless — and nothing beats the wonder of watching an artisan work on his or her craft.

After the devastating earthquake in 2001, several NGOs took up the initiative of supporting artisans and their art, even reviving some, and helping them find suitable markets to showcase and sell their products beyond the state’s and the nation’s borders.

There are many such NGOs within a radius of 10-15 kilometres from Bhuj — the point you will either fly down to or reach by train — and one can visit their campuses to see some of these exquisite crafts take shape and understand the story behind them from the artisans themselves. Some names to look out for would be Shrujan, Khamir, and LLDC (Living and Learning Design Centre).

About eight kilometres from Bhuj is a village called Bhujodi, which has the Ashapura Crafts Park set up for artisans to display and sell their work. Again, one can meet weavers, tie-dye artists, block printers and others here. Needless to say, it will leave you wanting for more shopping bags to fill!

From the well-known to the lesser known — a monsoon visit to Kutch would also remain wanting without a trip to one of its pristine beaches. Mandvi is the closest to Bhuj and there are many resorts close by with their own private beach enclosures. The high point of the beaches here — Pingleshwar, about 98 km from Bhuj, a hidden gem — is witnessing the marine life. Jelly fish and hermit crabs are a common sight and the multi-coloured sea weeds look extraordinary.

Also Read: History of Rigvedic river Saraswati

If the children are more in the mood for some fun and frolic, Mandvi has ample opportunity for water sports as well — which may be restricted when the weather is grey. But a ride on a camel would more than compensate for that!

With the temperature hovering on the pleasant side of the scale and a constant breeze, one can also opt for some historical sight-seeing. The Aina Mahal, with its blue tiles, Venetian-style chandeliers and walls studded with mirrors, is a must-visit. Next door is the 19th century Prag Mahal, a brilliant example of Italian-Gothic architecture.

As you travel around the place and move on the fringes of the main town of Bhuj, it is difficult to miss the vast expanses of agricultural land with acres after acres of pomegranate plantations, palm groves and cotton fields — all this thanks to drip-irrigation, which has brought about a sea-change in the region’s crop pattern. With the green hills in the backdrop, it’s a sight to behold. Soak it in, for, with the changing season, Kutch will soon reveal a different face. (IANS)

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To Clean Goa Beaches, This ‘Waste-bar’ Exchanges Cigarette Butts, Used Straws For Beer

Goa is one of the top beach tourism destinations in the country and attracts nearly seven million tourists, which includes more than half a million foreigners

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New Year Eve Party
Goa (Wikimedia Commons)

By Mayabushan Nagvenkar

You could be fined Rs 2,000 for drinking beer on a Goa beach, but thanks to an innovative green initiative, 10 beer bottle caps or 20 used cigarette butts can fetch you a beer in Goa, if you exchange them at a pop-up waste-bar. The idea is to engage beach visitors in activities that create awareness about environment and conservation, while also cleaning the beaches.

Conceived by Drishti Marine, a private beach management agency roped in by the state tourism ministry to rein in the garbage menace on Goa’s beaches, the waste-bar is a hang out of sorts, where one can exchange segregated garbage for a drink.

The initiative kicked off on January 30, when the first of the pop-up waste-bars opened up at the Zanzibar shack, located at the beach end of the popular Tito’s Lane in the North Goan beach village of Baga.

“The waste-bar is a win-win concept. It is positive for the venue as it is a positive event that attracts a crowd. You get very happy customers as they feel they contribute to the society and get a free drink for it. And for brands, it helps in positioning,” Noreen van Holstein, who conceptualised the campaign along with Drishti Marine, told IANS.

“People come to Goa for two things: beach and the bar. So let’s give them what they come for – free drinks in exchange for garbage that they collect. This ensures that they become conscious of the waste that is there on the beach and that trash actually has value! They will leave Goa with a positive feeling and a clean beach,” she added.

Calvim Ferry in Goa. Goa can be
Goa has the potential to become the Venice of the East if it taps its intricate network of inland waterways for commuting. Wikimedia Commons

According to Van Holstein, waste-bars kicked-off in the Netherlands years back and the idea is catching on. Apart from cigarette butts and bottle caps, five used plastic straws will get you a bottle of chilled beer or a cocktail.

The waste-bar will pop up in various venues in the next few months.

Goa’s beaches attract nearly eight million tourists annually. Garbage piling up on the beaches in recent years has been a cause for concern and has led to the appointment of a private agency to keep the beaches clean and garbage-free.

Over the last few weeks however, the government’s inability to deal with the garbage menace, especially in areas which are popular with tourists, has been a major area of concern for the travel and tourism industry stakeholders in Goa following a drop in tourist arrivals.

Butterfly Beach, Goa
Butterfly Beach, Goa.

An ongoing tussle between the government and Drishti Marine, the beach management agency tasked with Goa’s beaches clean, has also resulted in slackening in the pace of garbage collection, with the opposition blaming the government for not handling the issue properly, especially during the peak tourist season.

“We ran an extremely successful campaign over 150 days in the last tourist season with the intention of creating awareness on beach clean-up and teach people about the importance of waste segregation. We made a significantly positive impact on that front and hence have decided to run the campaign this season as well,” Drishti Marine CEO Ravi Shankar said.

Also Read- BJP President Amit Shah States The Importance of Having Citizenship Bill

Among other things, the waste items collected during the campaign are used to create various useful items including music instruments during workshops run by the organisation.

Goa is one of the top beach tourism destinations in the country and attracts nearly seven million tourists, which includes more than half a million foreigners. (IANS)