Monday, 22 June 2009

Important archaeological finding left un-attended

A finding of historical importance left un-cared

Anakkara along River Nila is becoming a site of great importance because of many recent findings. So this morning we decided to go and find more details that that is available online. Idea was to meet the local Panchayat president, meet the owner of the place ( the land belongs to a private school that is constructing massive buildings in the vicinity). With such an important finding, we were expecting proper protection for the area, ensuring that no further damage is done to the location. Instead all we could see was a thin coir rope tied around a radius of about 5 metres. That's it! The following pictures were taken today and the text in quote is from two articles that came out in The Hindu 10 / June / 2009 and 21 / May / 2008

"The archaeological excavation at Anakkara in the district gave evidences of first excavated Iron Age habitation-cum-burial site in Kerala. Carbon dating of charcoal fragments and physical anthropological studies of bones would give more information on the chronology and life pattern of people lived in this area."

"Archaeologists have discovered a pre-historic necropolis (cemetery) with megalithic cairn circles dating back 2,500 years, many post holes that probably point to the ancient practice of excarnation, a 'wood-henge'-like ritual monument and a site of primitive astronomical intelligence at Anakkara, near Kuttippuram in Malappuram district."

River Nila flows in the background of the escavated site.

"Excavations at the site, a laterite plateau atop one of several primary hills overlooking the Ponnani river at Valayangad in Anakkara grama panchayat, have revealed three chamber tombs containing burnished black and red ware, black bowls and some iron objects commonly seen among megalithic grave goods. Archaic features of the burial type and the conspicuous absence of non-local artefacts among the interred objects suggest that the find is around 2,500 years old. Valayangad literally means the burial place with cairn (stone) circles, derived from the ancient necropolis of cairns. "

The three burial rooms refered in the press reports

"Interior of the stone circle is divided into three chambers using granite boulders. In this, two chambers were excavated and in each chamber large burial urns with burial goods like iron implements, bone and pots were noticed. Special features of the burials are the occurrence of a hanging lamp and the burial goods were found kept in the river sand at the bottom of the urn, possibly indicating some sort of rituals associated with riverbanks."

In less than 100 metres away from the 'escavated burial ground, laterite stone cutting is going on un-disturbed. It was in a similar site that workers came across "caves" and gets reported to the Archaeological Survey of India. If this finding was in some other countries, I can't imagine this happening. Reckless Government, reckless people?

The tiller was working hardly 20 metres away from. Wonder what all they might have crushed away ! Look at the massive construction going on in less than 60-100 metres away from the burial site?

Saturday, 20 June 2009

Irresponsible NGO campaign

Independent UK review :The Barefoot resort features 18 environmentally sustainable, rustic cottages set against a jungle backdrop
Survival International accuses Barefoot group of endangering the lives of the entire Jerawa people and of potential genocide!

On 16th June 2009, we received several forwarded emails from friends and colleagues about a press release from Survival International titled, "Celebrity resort threatens isolated tribes". This was of concern for us at and The Blue Yonder as the Barefoot Group is one of our partners in business. We have recommended them to our guests , they impressed us by sharing their credentials and initiatives as a responsible service provider. We have been working together and a campaign accusing one of our partners as 'irresponsible" and worse, accused of threatening the survival of the Jarawa people of the Andaman Islands came as a shock.

" Survival believes that by constructing at Collinpur, you are endangering the lives of the entire Jarawa tribe. If a serious epidemic were to strike them then your company could be responsible for their genocide. We urge you to abandon all plans to build a hotel in this location" (read the direct letter from Survival International)

We approached Samit Sawhny (Managing Director) of Barefoot asking if the accusations were correct or not and if Barefoot had a statement to make. The well-documented reply that we received from him makes us quite sceptical about the real intention of Survival International and we believe that this issue has to be brought out in the public domain.

We urge you to read the contents in the links Press Reports from Survival International and Responses from Barefoot.

Based on Survival International's accusatory and ill-worded press release and Barefoot's response, this appears to be a malicious campaign by an NGO based on sheer ignorance, carelessness or ... We have seen many businesses in the travel industry that would fit into the domain of being irresponsible. We have also seen many travel companies, accommodation providers and governments being accused by NGOs of being irresponsible. We want to stand by one of our partners who is engaged in a legally and responsibly managed business. Campaigns based alone on emotions and celebrity name-dropping (like Kate Winslet) can bring in sound bites, but should lose credibility if the facts are not right.

We would like to hear your opinion: Can NGOs freely accuse any business of wrong doing, without substantiated research and evidence? Aren't NGOs accountable for their words and actions? Doesn't responsibility apply to NGOs as well, or is this confined only to private business and governments?

We would like to hear your voice on this topic! Join us on the forum to discuss the responsibilities of NGO campaigners.

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

TBY featured twice among '500 new ways to see the world'

Cover page: edited by Jeremy Smith and Richard Hammond

Discusses 500 experiences and different ways to travel. This book lets you discover various adventures from sleeping in houseboats in Kerala and witnessing the zebra migration in Botswana to taking the train-hotel from Paris to Madrid. It offers information on the best hotels, resorts, and tours run by people who are passionate about what they do.

Pic: Kerala scenes, Kathakali performance, practicsing Kalaripayattu, peppercones growing in the sun

The following excerpts are from the book
" To really discover the heart of Kerala, you need to leave the beach, jump off the houseboat or troop down from the hills to the banks of the River Nila, where a variety of traditional activities are on offer with The Blue Yonder...."

"The Blue Yonder take guest to see people who make dolls like this"
"The largest state in India, Rajasthan is also one of the most beautiful and exciting - home to colourful markets, welcoming cities, vibrant music and delicious cuisine. The royal palaces that pepper the state feature heavily on tourist itineraries, rich , decorative and intricate, they epitomize the luxury and decadenance of the Raj. But for those who want to go behind the scenes, India-based travel company The Blue Yonder runs custom-made trips that allow you to explore what really makes Rajasthan tick. "

Friday, 12 June 2009

Pre-historic cemetery discovered along River Nila

A 'wood-henge'-like ritual monument, discovered at Anakkara, near Kuttippuram in Malappuram district. Photo from The Hindu
Archaeologists have discovered a pre-historic necropolis (cemetery) with megalithic cairn circles dating back 2,500 years, many 'postholes' that probably point to the ancient practice of 'excarnation,' a 'wood-henge'-like ritual monument and a site of primitive astronomical intelligence at Anakkara, near Kuttippuram in Malappuram district. Experts believe it is a promising site to study the Early Iron Age culture in Bharathapuza (River Nila) basin). Read the detailed news report in The Hindu.

Wednesday, 10 June 2009

New appeal to support Cyclone Aila relief in Sunderbans

© REUTERS/Andrew Biraj
Two weeks ago Cyclone Aila ravaged eastern India and Bangladesh. In the Sunderbans, the scenic islands and mangrove forests set in the Gangetic delta, the wind, the tidal waves and the flood destroyed or damaged over 500,000 houses. Over 150,000 people lost their homes, fields, work equipment and livelihoods. Many of them lost their breadwinners or other family members.With the disaster killing their cattle and rendering their farmlands saline and infertile for many months or even years, it is a very grim outlook for the people here.

In India and Bangladesh an estimated five million people are affected in one way or the other.Heavy monsoon rains are predicted in few days to come - a grim forecast considering that many of the affected families are left with no proper shelter.To prevent more floods, the local communities with support from the government, military and NGOs have been desperately trying to repair embankments to prepare for the monsoon.Still effective disaster management is not on track yet.

There is a lack of basic necessities like water, staple food and medical assistance. While some delta islands have received relief items, many others have got nothing. Health workers fear that lack of water and sanitation facilities may lead to outbreak of epidemics. Already there are cases of diarrhoea. Children will go hungry on under-nourished.

The media grossly under-reported the impact of the disaster and failed to predict its aftermath. It was actually a precursor another calamity with the fierce annual monsoon rains imminent.In a rapid response to the appeal of our local partners in the Sunderbans, The Blue Yonder, and Help Tourism have set up the Cyclone Aila Support Group to help local communities in peril in the Sunderbans Region. Our local partner, the Association for Conservation and Tourism (ACT), was in the field during and immediately after the cyclone and is currently stretching its resources to reach out to people at the earliest.The Cyclone Aila Support Group has partnered with the well-known Charities Aid Foundation - India (CAF India) to help manage an accountable and transparent fund raising process. The ACT and the West Bengal Voluntary Health Association (WBVHA) are co-ordinating relief efforts on the ground.

The Cyclone Aila Support Group is committed to supporting the long-term rehabilitation of the Sunderbans region and we need all your support - for now and for the future!We urge governments, public and private organisations, and fellow human beings to wake up to this disaster and the impending tragedy that is about to unfold.

Kindly support the people in need!!

How you can make a difference?
Rs 50 or one euro: Drinking water for five families for one day.
Rs 50 or one euro: Epidemic protection for one week
Rs 250 or five euros: Buys 10 flashlights to protect against snakebites and accidents
Rs 500 or 10 euros: Food for 50 people for one day
Rs 500 or ten euros: Enough food supply for one family for two weeks
Rs 2500 or 50 euros: People in a small village do not have to sleep under open sky
Rs 5000 or 100 euros: Transportation and supplies with one boatWe can make a difference!Check the website for more updates from field and on how to donate efficiently.

Monday, 8 June 2009

Partnership with Ethical Travel Portal

Our OCT 2009 trip in association with Ethical Travel Portal (ETP) is featured in the The trips we are running for ETP is to introduce travellers to the finer dimensions of Responsible Tourism. It's not only a holiday based on Responsible Tourism, this is more an indepth analysis of Responsible Tourism organised in a way where travellers can learn from practitioners. Literally these are meaningful engagements from which they can learn and practice it elsewhere.

Linda Veråsdal - Founder of ETP was inspired by RT initiatives in Gambia and India during her MSc in Responsible Tourism. Linda is also currently compiling a report on the travellers spending pattern in the beach destination of Gokarna in India.

For those who wish to join the group, please contact ETP.

Wednesday, 3 June 2009

Sponsor the banner - help raise funds

As part of fund raising initiatives to support the victimes of Cyclone Aila that has created havoc in the lives of people living in and around Sunderbans region of West Bengal, we are looking at various sponsorship opportunities. The banner on the home page is available for sponsorship. This sponsorship can help us re-build a health centre, or provide shelter, clean drinking water, and help re-build the dykes that has been completely destroyed in many parts of Sunderbans.

This initiative is supported by The Blue Yonder, and Help Tourism.

Looking forward to your support.