Wednesday, April 03, 2013

Race to save the children with special needs - 2013 Paris Marathon!

I am running in the Paris Marathon on Sunday the 7th of April 2013 in memory of my late father Eric Bremley Lyngdoh to raise money for The Children's Trust in the UK. 

Since I was born on the 3rd of December which is the United Nations' International Day of Persons with Disabilities I identify myself with the mission of this charity that is caring for the welfare of children with special needs. 

Last year on International Day of Persons with Disabilities, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called for new push to improve access to society. 

I have visited The Children's Trust during its Annual Spring Fair and I am very inspired by the pioneering work it has been doing for kids with brain injuries and improving their access to society.  

                      So please dig deep and Donate now!

Friday, October 05, 2012

Blog Action Day 2012 - The Power of We

Thank you so much for taking the time to visit my blog.
In honour of my father who passed away on the 29th of September 2012 after collapsing from a massive heart attack while he was on his routine early morning jog back home in Shillong north east India, I am going to train much harder and run every mile for him. 
He knows that his son is a global nomad who is born free to roam the planet and he was proud of me when I told him that I had decided to run 10 miles in the Great South Run on 28th of October 2012 to support the work of the Born Free Foundation.
He told me to wake up early every morning and train harder since I had just a month left when I spoke to him over the phone yesterday. I just can't believe that he is gone now and I will really miss him dearly.
My father has been running the race for 73 years fighting for what he believed in serving God, Family, Community and Homeland - Now he has passed the baton to me and at 37 I am have to continue racing in his honour. To honour papa the Earth Tiger, I as his son the Wood Tiger will be running wild to save the remaining wild tigers for my little nephew the Metal Tiger.

But the show must go on so I am asking all my friends around the world to please pledge £10 for the 10 miles for me in rememberance of my father who had inspired me to be a runner from a young age. He wanted me to continue supporting the amazing work of this charity which is led by an inspirational woman I respect Virginia McKenna OBE, Founder and Trustee.
Virginia and her team have recently rescued Lions kept in captivity in Ethiopia and reintegrated them in their natural habitat. I am looking forward to working with her in India to protect endangered tiger habitats.
So please dig deep and Donate now. If you are in the UK you can sent a text to 70070 with LION77 £10 

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Blog Action Day 2011

Partnership with Paradise Farm

Food is the topic this year for Blog Action Day 2011 and October 16 coincides with World Food Day. So I want to blog about Paradise Farm which was started in 1996 to promote organic agriculture in Sri Lanka. Due to its links with international institutions and its valuable experience in integrating sustainable agriculture and forestry. Paradise Farm is an ideal partner for Worldview Impact in setting ambitious goals to contribute to organic food production while addressing the reduction of climate change by massive tree planting projects with sustainable methods. We supports Paradise Farm also by promoting its organic green tea in the UK market and encouraging eco and responsible tourism. After a decade of peace negotiations, this is an excellent time to travel and sustain the stabilization and development of the country.

I am proud to be taking part in Blog Action Day OCT 16 2011

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Winged bean, multi-purpose tropical legume

The multi-purpose tropical bean yields tasty pods, which are rich in protein and vitamin A.

Among the tropical beans, known for their protein-rich pods and seeds, winged bean (Psophocarpus tetragonolobus) is considered quite unique because of its multiple uses. A native of South Pacific Islands, Papua New Guinea, it was introduced in India during 1799, and is grown in Assam, Tripura, Meghalaya, West Bengal, Orissa, and other southern States, according to Dr. G. S. Sahu, Assistant Professor, Department of Agriculture at the College of Horticulture, Orissa University of Agriculture and Technology (OUAT), Bhubaneswar, Orissa.

Also known as Goa bean, four-angled bean or asparagus pea, winged bean yields protein-rich pods, and its succulent leaves, tender shoots resembling lacy asparagus, seeds, flowers and tuberous roots are also edible. This robust, climbing herbaceous perennial, which reaches up to 5 metres in height, is also grown in different parts of the Philippines, Indonesia, and Malaysia. The tender pods, which are the most widely eaten part of the plant, can be harvested in two to three months of planting.

The long pods, which can reach up to 50 cm in length, are rich sources of proteins, carbohydrates and vitamin A (300 to 900 International Units). The pods may be eaten raw or used in salads, soups, stews and curries. The immature pods can also be used as peas. The seeds contain 29.8 to 39 per cent protein, 15 to 18 per cent fat and 23.9 to 42 per cent carbohydrate, according to him. The tender top three sets of leaflets can be eaten raw like spinach or cooked as greens. They are rich in vitamin A (20,000 IU), and 5 to 7.6 protein and 3 to 8.5 percent carbohydrates.

The vines produce starchy underground tubers. These tubers are eaten like potatoes, and are harvested 120 to 240 days after planting. The tuber formation is quite common in Papua New Guinea. In the Philippines, however, the tubers are relatively smaller and they are not eaten. The tubers are 2 to 4 cm in diameter and 8 to 12 cm in length. They contain 12.2 to 15 per cent protein (2 to 4 times higher than that of potato and 8 times more than that of cassava), 0.5 to 1.1 per cent fat and 27.2 to 30.5 per cent carbohydrate. This legume does well in humid tropics with high rainfall. It comes up well in loamy soils endowed with adequate drainage.

The plant responds well to organic nutrition and the application of biofertilizers, especially Rhizobium. Being a short-day length-loving plant, it flowers when the day length hovers just above 12 hours. Though, the plant is endowed with an extensive root system, it cannot stand drought conditions.

Courtesy- The Hindu, 26th September '02

Friday, October 15, 2010

Blog Action Day 2010

Earth Report IV: Drinking the Sky

In 'Drinking the Sky', Dutch filmmaker Joost de Haas travels first to the wettest place on earth, then the driest. In Cherapunjee, north-east India during the Monsoon, more than twice as much rain falls in one day than falls on Holland over an entire year. For an extreme contrast, de Haas then travelled to Chile, to the Atacama desert where not a drop of rain falls from one year's end to the next. Both places are populated - and therein lies the intrigue: how do you cope with life in the deluge and life in the driest spot on earth? In a film full of surprises de Haas looks at water management in a couple of places where it really matters.|Start Petition

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Nuclear Power is no solution to Climate Change

Today is Blog Action Day 2009 and I want to argue that Nuclear Power is no solution to Climate Change. The nuclear industry is hoping that concern over climate change will result in support for nuclear power. However, even solely on the grounds of economic criteria it offers poor value for money in displacing fossil fuel plant. Further, with its high cost, long construction time, high environmental risk and problems resulting from waste management, it is clear that nuclear power does not offer a viable solution to climate change. Rather a mixture of energy efficiency and renewable energy offers a quicker, more realistic and sustainable approach to reducing CO2 emissions.

Nuclear power produces CO2

Nuclear power is not greenhouse friendly. While electricity generated from nuclear power entails no direct emissions of CO2, the nuclear fuel cycle does release CO2 during mining, fuel enrichment and plant construction. Uranium mining is one of the most CO2 intensive industrial operations and as demand for uranium grows CO2 emissions are expected to rise as core grades decline.

According to calculations by the Öko-Institute, 34 grams of CO2 are emitted per generated kWh in Germany [4]. The results from other international research studies show much higher figures - up to 60 grams of CO2 per kWh. In total, a nuclear power station of standard size (1,250MW operating at 6,500 hours/annum) indirectly emits between 376,000 million tonnes (Germany) and 1,300,000 million tonnes (other countries) of CO2 per year. In comparison to renewable energy, nuclear power releases 4-5 times more CO2 per unit of energy produced taking account of the whole fuel cycle. Also, with its long development time a nuclear power programme offers no short-term possibility for reducing CO2 emissions.

Nuclear power is unsafe

Problems of security, safety and environmental impact have been perennial issues for the nuclear industry. Many countries have decided against the development of nuclear power on these grounds, but radioactive contamination is no respector of national borders and nuclear power plants threaten the health and well-being of all surrounding nations and environments. There is also the very serious problems of nuclear proliferation and trafficking. The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) view is that if nuclear power were to be used extensively to tackle climate change, "The security threat ... would be colossal"

Nuclear power is unsustainable

Nuclear power plants produce extremely long-lived toxic wastes, for which there is no safe means of disposal. The only independent scrutiny of a Government waste management safety case [NIREX in the UK] led to the cancellation of the proposed test site for nuclear waste disposal. As disposal is not scientifically credible, there is no option other than interim storage of radioactive wastes. This means that the legacy of radioactive wastes will have to be passed on to the next generation. Producing long-lived radioactive wastes, with no solution for their disposal, leaving a deadly legacy for many future generations to come is contrary to the principle of sustainability, as laid out in Agenda 21 at the Earth Summit.
In 1976 the UK Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution warned that it is, "irresponsible and morally wrong to commit future generations to the consequences of fission power on a massive scale unless it has been demonstrated beyond reasonable doubt that at least one method exists for the safe isolation of these wastes for the indefinite future". Over twenty years on, still no such method has been found. Nuclear waste management policies are in disarray and there is growing public opposition to the transport and storage of nuclear waste - as has been demonstrated by the scenes at Gorleben, Germany. Under no circumstances can nuclear power be considered to be sustainable.

Uranium Mining in Meghalaya will violated International Law

Having argued that nuclear power in no solution to climate change I now want to address the hot topic of uranium mining in my homeland Meghalaya in North East India. I am very concerned by the Meghalaya government cabinet decision to allow the Uranium Corporation of India Limited (UCIL) to initiate "pre-project" development programmes in uranium-rich West Khasi Hills in the name development by creating jobs for the poor in my state Meghalaya and to reduce climate change - it really does not make any social, environmental and economic sense to me.

Furthermore, the large scale open cast mining of high grade uranium in West Khasi Hills, Meghalaya is only 5 kms north of international border with Bangladesh. Once the government owned UCIL starts mining on the slopes of our native land it will contaminate the air and water system from our hills that flow down into the productive rice fields that feed millions of poor people in Bangladesh.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Vienna which is the UN's nuclear watchdog facilitates the establishment of international conventions that address environmental issues which may relate to uranium mining and production facilities such as:

1. The Convention on Environmental Impact Assessment in a Transboundary Context.

2. The Convention on access to Information, Public Participation in Decision Making and access to Justice in Environmental Matters.

3. The Convention on the Protection of the Environment through Criminal Law.

If UCIL still goes ahead with uranium mining away then they will violate International Law of cross boundary water and air pollution that will impact the people of another sovereign nation south of our border. But the people of Bangladesh can use International Law to protect themselves and hold the Government of India, the Government of Meghalaya and UCIL responsible for transboundary air and water contamination.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Fast forward to World Environment Day 2050!

Dairy Entry - June 5th 2009: The theme for World Environment Day 2009 is 'Your Planet Needs You - UNite to Combat Climate Change'. It reflects the urgency for nations to agree on a new global green deal at the crucial climate convention meeting in Copenhagen some 180 days later in the year, and the links with overcoming poverty and improved management of forests. But for me a Post-Carbon future would be a time in human history when no more oil is drilled, no more coal is mined and no more gas is piped in our planet. It would also mean a time when the remaining fossil fuels in stock globally are only burned with 100% Carbon Capture and Storage technologies. In a Post-Carbon future I see a world where apart from energy, no fertilizers, no plastics, no drugs, no foodstuffs - nothing will be manufactured from using fossil fuels. Lastly, as President Obama, promised that he will create 5 million new jobs in the new green economy - I see a Post-Carbon future where other politicians and leaders from around the world have come on board following Obama's leadership and within five decades they have together created 500 million green jobs in about 100 countries with a global annual turnover of USD $50 trillion.

Dairy Entry - June 5th 2050: So here I am 75 years old, still fit and strong - celebrating World Environment Day 2050 with my 9 grandchildren and my extended family inside the Lyngdoh Sacred Forest where 395 species of plants have been protected and preserved by my clan for centuries in Mawphlang Village, India. The theme of WED 2050 is 'Indigenous People - Celebrating their Resilience to Climate Change'. I am one of those old indigenous warriors from my Khasi Tribe who like others from across the planet have fought the good fight against climate change and managed to preserve our culture, our identity, our environment and our planet for generations to come. So I am enjoying my life in this Post-Carbon world where the global human population has stabilized at 9 billion, each with an annual carbon footprint of about 1 ton. I recall the time when it all started 41 years ago while I was at the historic climate change negotiations of COP 15 in Copenhagen where world leaders put a price tag on the emissions of carbon and all green house gases. Since then the price of carbon has gone up from $10 to $500 per ton and so over the years we have learned to measure it, price it - like a tax - and this has encouraged people across the planet to produce less of these GHGs. Under international climate law we also introduced legally enforceable ‘caps’ or limits to the amounts of GHGs any one country can emit in the course of a year. This has resulted in the transfer of appropriate clean technologies from the developed to the developing world and over time we have build a global green economy with a non-carbon consuming or emitting energy infra-structure.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Indigenous Candidate for IFAD President

I am proud to inform you that Mr. Phrang Roy from my Khasi Tribe has been nominated as one of the candidates for the next Presidency of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) based in Rome. This rank in the U.N. system is equivalent to the Secretary General. When the IFAD Board meets in Rome he will need the votes from all the members states to support him as their leader.

We need the leaders from US, the UK, the EU, members of the G77 and Small Island Developing States (SIDS) to vote for him. So if any of you have access to the decision makers and politicians of these governments where you are based then please lobby them to vote for our very own Khasi Indigenous Champion for Sustainable Development.

I have know Phrang since I was in high school and I am very proud of him and what he has done to improve the lives of the millions of poor people across the planet through his work with the U.N. system. While he has lived and worked around the world (Africa, South East Asia, India, Europe, the United States etc.), he was born and brought up in our matrilineal community in remote and culturally diverse Meghalaya in North East India where we still naturally embrace gender-equality, diversity and environmentally-appropriate processes of change. With this background of local and global experiences, I am confident that he can lead the recently revamped IFAD to higher grounds.

Knowing Phrang I believe that he can offer IFAD with a kind of leadership that understands the traditional knowledge of the poor and appreciates the potential contributions of emerging sciences and management techniques for achieving sustainable development.

More info on

May the positive force be with our Khasi Warrior! Let us all support his candidacy to the IFAD Presidency.

Friday, January 02, 2009

Mission to Poznan

At the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change meeting in Poznan Stakeholder Forum with the CSD Education Caucus held a side event. This was on the missing 5th Building Block: the need for a fifth working group on education for sustainability – otherwise know as the human dimension. The side event was chaired by Pam Puntenney one of the co-chairs of the Caucus speakers included Bremley Lyngdoh Co-chair of the Education Caucus, Felix Dodds from Stakeholder Forum and Falk Schmidt from United Nations University.

P.J. Puntenney, Environmental and Human System Management, described the development of a sustainable society as a learning processand stressed the importance of good governance, as well as the links between climate change, biodiversity loss, poverty and the financial crisis, where the amelioration in one area may worsen the situation in another. She also stressed that since the late 1990s, climate change scientists have been saying that solutions which worked in the past will not necessarily work in the future, and that the human dimension of climate change mustbe integrated into the strategic policy framework of the UNFCCC.

Felix Dodds, Stakeholder Forum for a Sustainable Future, stressed theneed to move the human dimensions’ agenda for building well-prepared societies to the center stage of the 2012 framework. He expressed concern regarding the lack of proper stakeholder involvement in the climate change process, such as in the work of the Subsidiary Body on Implementation and the Ad hoc Working Group on Long Term Cooperative Action. He proposed the creation of an informal government support groupto prepare a set of detailed recommendations for Copenhagen, to be circulated to all governments.

Bremley Lyngdoh, Worldview Impact, stressed the link between poverty and the environment and the need to test the policies proposed at the international level to see how they work for people at the local level. He also emphasized that the principle of “eco-effectiveness” should prevailover “eco-efficiency,” as the latter would not necessarily prevent pollution. He advocated the localization of environmental curricula, and stressed the crucial role of youth and the engagement of local people in attaining sustainability.

John Takang, UNU-International Human Dimension Programme, described his research, which focuses on the human dimension of global change, namely how humans influence their environment and the resultant impacts of altered environments on human life. He stressed the importance ofresearch to identify the kind of education that is necessary for realizing sustainability and the institutions that are required to cope with global change.

Participants discussed: education and awareness as a fundament building block of sustainable development; the links between poverty, security and the environment; eco-effectiveness principles; and the absence ofresearch on the linkages between climate change and public health.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Element Bremley on MTV SWITCH 2008

Half a billion MTV viewers around the world can now meet five dynamic young innovators in the race to combat global climate change, thanks to a lively and inspiring new series of short films called Element. Produced with the support of Internews, the Element series anchors a new package of films and public service announcements (PSAs) launched on September 11, 2008 by MTV Networks International as part of its global climate change campaign, MTV Switch.

Switch is MTV Networks International's Global Climate Change Campaign. They will be looking for the best ideas and innovations that can help MTV reinvent how people on earth can live in ways that are cool for humans and the planet. The Element series will be made available to MTV’s global network of 165 local TV channels in 162 countries, with a potential audience of 560 million viewers. Five new Element films will be presented to the MTV global audience of 15-25 year olds alongside cutting-edge PSAs on global warming, fresh from a stable of top European and US creative agencies.

In the five-minute pieces in the new Element series, viewers follow the stories of five young individuals who are tackling global warming head-on: Harsha, who won the Australian Young Designer of the Year award for an almost fossil fuel-free, bio-plastic molded car; Bremley, who is fighting deforestation and desertification in his native Northeast India; Courtney, an American living in Oxford, England who manages carbon offsetting projects around the world; Igor, a Brazilian whose urban food gardens are slowly spreading across Rio de Janeiro; and Sepehr, named Iran’s Best Environmental Blogger.

The films will reach global TV and Internet audiences just as the UN is convening vital international negotiations in the run-up to the Copenhagen Climate Summit in 2009. Satinder Bindra, Director of Communications for the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), said, “UNEP commends the MTV SWITCH campaign for commissioning programming that so effectively combines entertainment and real world examples of youth engagement in climate change. It is fascinating to see how many of the young Element entrepreneurs already have their feet firmly in the new carbon economy that UNEP is promoting.”

The Element Climate Change Series is a co-production of the Element Partnership and TVE, made with the support of Internews, the European Commission EuropeAid Cooperation Office, Oxfam Novib and the Com + Alliance of Communicators for Sustainable Development that includes UNEP, the World Bank and the Reuters Foundation.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

White Christmas in Chamonix by the French Alps

This year I decided to spend Christmas with my younger brother Aiban in a winter wonderland called Chamonix. We flew to Geneva from London where we stayed for a few days at a friend's house and then we took the bus across the French border to Chamonix. It was Aiban's first white Christmas and he really enjoyed himself in the snow.

Chamonix is a vibrant alpine town with a wonderful architectural heritage that bears witness to a wealth of history. The Priory, alpine farms, baroque churches, art deco buildings and palaces are from the "Golden Era". The cosmopolitan atmosphere in this small town is both captivating and enchanting.

The high mountain scenery, the majestic ice falls and glaciers in the area took our breath away. We rode on one of Europe's highest cable cars to the top of the mountains and then went on the cog railways that took us on a journey through time. Chamonix is beautiful alpine town where we witnessed 250 years of mountaineering history. We saw traditional villages and hamlets scattered along the 20km long valley and above all a heart and soul, beating to the rhythm of all those that live and love Chamonix.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Visit to Paradise Farm in Sri Lanka

Paradise Farm was started in 1998 with the aim of promoting organic agriculture and forestry. The farm is situated in a traditionally agricultural area in the Kegalle District in Central Sri Lanka. It is presently operating as a demonstration farm with nurseries and multi-cropping of agricultural and forestry plants and processing of organic green tea, fruit, vegetables, herbs and spices. During its 10 years of operation, the farm has generated valuable experience in sustainable agriculture and forestry, and is now ready to engage in larger projects.

The farm was started by Letten Fund, Norway, and Worldview International Foundation, an international NGO specializing in communication on sustainable development, and with consultative status at the United Nations. Paradise Farm is operating as an independent social responsible company registered with Board of Investment, Sri Lanka. I spent my New Year's eve at Paradise Farm listening to a group of frogs singing a chorus to us all night long under the moon lit sky.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Graduating from the London School of Economics

On December 2007 I graduated from the London School of Economics and Political Science. I was lucky to have my younger brother Aiban with me in London who was accompanied by my best friend Tamara. They both came for the ceremonies that took about an hour an half to complete.

Tamara had to rush to work after congratulating me and my brother joined me for a DESTIN cocktail reception on the 6th floor of the old building. There I met my PhD supervisor Tim Forsyth who was on his way to Thailand and Australia after returning from attending conferences in the US.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Engage, Debate and Celebrate in Paris

In September 2007 some 600 international alumni and guests gathered in Paris to engage, debate, and celebrate with the Columbia Alumni Association.

The weekend’s centerpiece was a daylong series of discussions entitled "Who Are We?: A CAA Forum on Globalization, the Arts, and the Media," featuring academic and professional luminaries on the most pressing issues of the day.

The discussion on Globalization was chaired by Lee C. Bollinger '71LAW, President, Columbia University which included Susan Fuhrman '77TC, President, Teachers College, Columbia University, Jeffrey Sachs, Director, The Earth Institute at Columbia University and Joseph Stiglitz, Nobel laureate and University Professor, Columbia University as presenters.

Lee C. Bollinger said "Forces are reshaping our world, and we as academics—as teachers and researchers—must find our way into this new world to find the issues that need our attention."

He later introduced the keynote speaker saying "There is a yearning in the world for people who can speak to the world—not just to their own countries or to a few countries but actually try to speak on behalf of citizens around the world."

The keynote address was given by Kofi Annan, Nobel laureate and seventh Secretary-General of the United Nations who said "Have you ever wondered what would have happened if the Universal Declaration of Human Rights had been declared before the 30s, before the World War?"

It was wonderful to meeting Kofi Annan and his wife again this time in Paris. I was accompanied by my best friend Tamara who came for the weekend gala celebration in Paris all the way from Basel, Switzerland. We had a blast in Paris and also met my good old SIPA buddies who came flying from across the globe to join the grand Paris celebration.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Shashi Tharoor for the UN’s Top Diplomatic Job

Knowing Kofi Annan, it is fair to say, that he is a thorn in the side of President George W. Bush, at least the liberals in the United States find satisfaction in this of course. But the Nobel Peace Prize winner, originally from Ghana, who has been the Secretary General of the United Nations since 1997, won’t be the UN’s boss forever. So who will replace him in 2007? Well the New York Times reports:

“The early scramble to see who will fill the shoes of Kofi Annan has begun, with states and regions trying to bring one of their own into the position of Secretary General of the United Nations and all the bully pulpit privileges that come with it. The latest Iranian attempt, floating the candidacy of President Khatami for the position, was seen, at Turtle Bay, as a diversion. But it also stirred the pot in the hallways, and as world leaders gathered here for a week of meetings, some wonder whether it is too early to ask: Who will be Mr. Annan’s successor? More than anything, the early maneuvering for the position, which will become vacant at the end of 2006, underlines the chaotic method of selecting someone for the high-powered position. To be successful at this stage of the race, one has to feed the rumor mill.”

At the UN, where Mr. Annan is held in high regard, many believe that, as one official put it, “he raised the bar.” And so they assume his replacement has to be someone of stature no more junior than a Foreign Minister. Others assume that Mr. Annan has set another trend: a Secretary General from the ranks of the institution itself. One such candidate whose name is whispered around the halls of the world body is the Under Secretary General for public information, Shashi Tharoor, an Indian-born, British-educated writer with a Hollywood flair whose name is being floated. With what sounded like a well-honed non-denial of his candidacy, Mr. Tharoor told the New York Times: “The Secretary General is barely halfway through his second term. We all have a great deal of work to do to fulfill what remains to be accomplished in this term, and we’re all concentrating on that. I am certainly focused on that.”

On the morning of 29th September 2000 after our daily briefing with Indian Ambassador to the UN, Kamelesh Sharma and the members of the parliamentary delegation at the Permanent Mission of India to the UN, I walked across to the UN headquarters two blocks down the road on 1st Avenue and 43rd Street. It was there that I first met Mr. Tharoor as we shared an elevator going up to the UN Security Council Chamber. I was on my way to listen to my hero President Nelson Mandela, as he was due to brief the Security Council on the peacekeeping operation in Burundi and to report back to the head of my national delegation, Mr. N. D. Tiwari who is the current Chief Minister of Uttranchal. While on the elevator Mr. Tharoor noticed my official red governmental UN identification and other security clearance to enter the chamber after which he asked me what a young man was doing on India’s national delegation. I told him that the day before on 28th September 2000, I had delivered my official youth statement to the 55th Session of the UN General Assembly as India’s first youth ambassador. He then congratulated me, gave me his business card and asked me send him a copy of my statement. It was an honour to have met him at that time. Mr. Tharoor is a great supporter of young people and I have listened to him give a couple talks and once shared a panel with him as well. In addition to being a good UN official he is a fine author. While some argue that he may not be ready for the prime time, I would say that Mr. Tharoor is ready to take on the world body as its youngest Secretary General in its history. I have never seen him display the hard edge that might be needed for the job, but not all good leaders need such a hard edge.

Indeed, while Asia contends that its candidate must become the next Secretary General, some groups disagree. At an inter-regional meeting recently, some members of New Europe contended that while the Burmese U Thant’s term ended as long ago as 1971, one region has never had a secretary general: Eastern Europe, which once was the Soviet bloc. Shashi Tharoor is Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information and has led the Department of Public Information (DPI) since January 2001. In this capacity, he is in charge of the Organization's communications strategy, with particular responsibility for ensuring the coherence and effectiveness of the United Nations' external message.

Prior to joining DPI, Mr. Tharoor served as Director of Communications and Special Projects in the Office of the Secretary-General and as Executive Assistant to the Secretary-General (1997-2001). As Special Assistant to the Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations (1989-1996), he assisted two successive heads of United Nations peacekeeping operations in managing the challenges of unprecedented growth and evolution in peacekeeping at the end of the cold war. From 1991 to 1996, he led the team in the Department of Peacekeeping Operations responsible for the United Nations peacekeeping operations in the former Yugoslavia. In 2003, the Secretary-General appointed him United Nations Coordinator for Multilingualism.

Mr. Tharoor's United Nations career began in 1978 on the staff of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Geneva. He was Head of the UNHCR office in Singapore (1981-1984) during the peak of the Vietnamese "boat people" crisis.
Mr. Tharoor is also the author of eight books, as well as numerous articles, op-eds and literary reviews in a wide range of publications. He is also the recipient of several journalism and literary awards, including a Commonwealth Writers' Prize.
In January 1998, Mr. Tharoor was named by the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, as a "Global Leader of Tomorrow". Mr. Tharoor is an elected Fellow of the New York Institute of the Humanities and a member of the Advisory Board of the Indo-American Arts Council.

Born in London in 1956, Mr. Tharoor was educated in India and the United States, completing a Ph.D. at 22 years of age in 1978 at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, where he also earned two Master's degrees. He was awarded the honorary degree of Doctor of Letters in International Affairs by the University of Puget Sound, United States. Shashi Tharoor is the father of twin sons.

India on 15th June 2006 has nominated UN Under Secretary General Shashi Tharoor for the post of UN chief while seeking support of Asian countries to the principle of regional rotation for the key post. Under this principle, the next UN head should be from Asia when the present Secretary General Kofi Anan demits office. A final decision on the candidate for the top UN post is expected by October. Mr. Tharoor is the first Indian to be nominated for the post. The government’s decision was based on the fact that Mr. Tharoor has impeccable credentials and meets with India's desire to have the august body headed by "a person with strong commitment to UN reforms and the interests of the developing countries".

Our country has already approached other UN member countries through diplomatic channels to seek support for Mr. Tharoor's candidature. I believe that India should get the support, given Mr. Tharoor's internationally acclaimed stature and the fact that under the principle of regional rotation the next UN secretary general should be from Asia. Having had the opportunity to hear Shashi Tharoor speak on various occasions, I must say that I am thoroughly impressed by his clarity of thought. Personally I found him to be highly intelligent and scholarly, while humorous and a sensitive humanist at heart. I am really optimistic of him getting elected as the UN’s Top Diplomat. It would be a greatest honour for the world’s biggest democracy to send its own to head the world body.

Monday, May 29, 2006

A little knowledge is a dangerous thing!

In response to the articles that came out on the Meghalaya Guardian and Nongsainhima on May 20, 2006 and on Mawphor on May 22, 2006, I would like to clearly clarify to my dear fellow citizens that I have not violated any law or ruling of any court and therefore I cannot face Contempt of Court proceedings. With respect to our Honorable Mr. H. S. Shylla, who is neither a qualified Environmental Lawyer nor a Nuclear Scientist, I firmly disagree with his opinion that “There is no harm done should UCIL undertake the uranium mining project.” I must remind him that there is a saying that “A little knowledge is a dangerous thing.” Secondly he must understand that he is neither my Academic Supervisor nor the Head of my Department at the London School of Economics and Political Science, and therefore he has no right to interfere with my independent research and findings. So for the benefit of our simple people especially those living in the villages, I would like to kindly request Mr. Hispreaching Son Shylla to please STOP preaching the wrong message to us all and leading our people astray. I really wonder who is advising him and misleading him with such incomplete and incorrect information. I have found Mr. Shylla to be very passionate about what he believes in, but I only wish that he would see that Renewable Energy is more sustainable than Nuclear Energy in the long run. If he could only channel his thoughts on renewable energy in the right direction then I strongly believe that our people would be really happy and satisfied with his leadership.

Now let me clarify what the ruling is all about. In response to the Writ Petition (C) No. 188 of 1999 filed by Dr. B. L. Wahdera against the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) and the Uranium Corporation of India Limited (UCIL), the Supreme Court order that came out on April 15, 2004 states “In view of the affidavit, filed on behalf of respondent No. 3-Chairman, Atomic Energy Commission, that adequate steps have been taken to check and contain the radiation arising out of the uranium waste, we do not find any merit in the petition. It is, accordingly dismissed.” Well, any layman can see that there is no mention at all in the ruling, which guarantees that uranium mining is safe. As a matter of fact it is clear that the Apex Court has taken into consideration that there are indeed dangers arising out of the uranium waste. However, it seems that the adequate steps that have been taken by the DAE and UCIL to check and contain such radiation have satisfied the Apex Court. All the supporting documents are loaded on my website at for further reference.

I have consulted with my lawyers at the Supreme Court of India and also got feedback from my colleagues who are International Environmental Lawyers in the United States and the United Kingdom and they have all confirmed to me that it is not possible for any Court in any Land, let alone the Supreme Court of India, to rule that uranium mining is 100% safe. Going by science, it is known whether the technique used for extracting uranium is open cast or ordinary mining, exposure to radiation poses a serious threat to miners and the people living around the mines, because radioactive materials are absorbed from the dust into their bodies. Surveys at uranium mines in New Mexico have shown, as long as there is uranium in the dust, the internal exposure of the miners will progress to increasingly harmful levels. Radon, a radioactive gas, is produced from the decay of Uranium-238 or Thorium-232. The gas is released during mining, and radioactive particles attach themselves to the dust. When the dust is inhaled those particles are absorbed through the lung leading to an increased risk of lung cancer. Therefore no court can ignore these facts to say that uranium mining is safe. Our Supreme Court has recognised the 'Right to Health' as part of our Fundamental Rights guaranteed by the Constitution of India. Everyone therefore has the right to a clean and safe environment.

Again I want to stress that based on the findings of Dr. Gordon Edwards from Canada, when we extract uranium from the ground, we dig up the ore, we crush it and we leave behind this finely pulverized material of radioactive waste, called uranium tailings. As Dr. Marie Curie observed, 85 percent of the radioactivity in the ore remains behind in that crushed rock. How long will it be there? Well, it turns out that the effective half-life of this radioactivity is 80,000 years. That means in 80,000 years there will be half as much radioactivity in these tailings as there is today. And as these tailings are left on the surface of the earth, they are blown by the wind, they are washed by the rain into the water systems, and they inevitably spread. In addition, as the tailings are sitting there on the surface, they are continually generating radon gas. Radon gas is about eight times heavier than air, so it stays close to the ground. It can travel 1,000 miles in just a few days in a light breeze. So how far is Shillong from the proposed mines? And as it drifts along, it deposits on the vegetation below the radon daughters, which are the radioactive byproducts, including polonium. So that you actually get radon daughters in animals, fish and plants thousands of miles away from where the uranium mining is done. It's a mechanism for pumping radioactivity into the environment for millennia to come, and this is one of the hidden dangers of uranium mining.

As regards to the Jaduguda minefields are concerned, the facts cannot be ignored. Pushing the truth under the carpet will not serve public interest. In the first paragraph of my article “Uranium Project: To mine or not to mine” I have clearly stated that my analysis is purely based on the existing scientific data and the research done by other world famous scientists and scholars. The particular quote “Around 30,000 people live in 15 villages within 5 km of the Jadugoda complex and they are paying for India's nuclear capabilities with their lives” that Mr. H. S. Shylla has taken out from my article to accuse me of undermining the Supreme Court is in fact the direct opinion of Dr. Buddhi Kota Subbarao, a famous Nuclear Technology Scientist, who is a former Indian Navy Captain and now a Supreme Court advocate himself. So is this celebrated Supreme Court advocate in Contempt of Court? When I spoke to him about being threatened of Contempt of Court, he told me “If you have written something in the public’s interest and exposed the false claims of the Department of Atomic Energy, I do not see how it can constitute to Contempt of Court.” I have also consulted with Captain J. Rama Rao, a retired naval office in the Indian Navy who is leading the Movement Against Uranium Project (MAUP) in Andhra Pradesh and he told me that even the Chairman of the Planning Commission of India and the Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Vienna have both stated that uranium mining has health implications on the people in and around the mines. Captain Rama Rao also stated that if Mr. Shylla threatens me with Contempt of Court then he should also charge all the people who spoke about the direct links between radiation and health hazards mentioned above including himself and Dr. Subbarao. If so be the case then the BBC, NDTV, Greenpeace International, South Asians Against Nukes, Movement Against Uranium Mining, Jharkhandi Organisation Against Radiation among hundreds of other organisations should also be charged with Contempt of Court for speaking the truth about the health hazards of uranium mining in Jaduguda. It may be mentioned here that my mentor Late Mr. B. B. Lyngdoh the former Chief Minister of our Uranium–Rich Meghalaya, told UCIL, “KEEP OFF” as he did not want to jeopardize public health by rushing into hasty decisions. Therefore Captain Rama Rao also told his people in Andhra Pradesh and those living in Nalgonda district in particular, to tell UCIL, to “KEEP OFF” the Nagarjuna Sagar Reservoir. Like my mentor, I also want UCIL to “KEEP OFF” our land. If they want to dig our uranium by force then they can do so over my dead body. What really worries me is why our present government is cold and silent about this hot and loud uranium issue. There is a saying that “Evil thrives when the Good do nothing.” So are we all going to be silent spectators? What do our church leaders have to say on this matter?

I have seen that Mr. Shylla has been showing off his ‘Yellow Cake’ pictures from his visit to Jaduguda. If it was really so safe then I wonder why UCIL did not pack it for him with some raw uranium ore as a souvenir which he can place on his dining table. That way he will always remember his great trip to the mines when he eats his meals every day while being exposed to radiating uranium. Then if he thinks that Radon gas is safe to breath then maybe he could consider using Radon gas for cooking in his kitchen instead of LPG. Nothing may happen to him immediately, but I wonder how he would feel if one fine day he were to become a victim of radiation and a father of deformed children. Look at the picture of these little deformed Khasi boy and girl who were victims of the uranium mining and radon gas living in Phlangdiloin. They have huge heads but their feet are so small so they cannot walk until now. So would you dare to look into the eyes of the father and mother and say to them that uranium mining is safe for their kids? How would you feel if the all mothers in the villages near the proposed uranium mines also gave birth to these kinds of deformed babies?

Mr. H. S. Shylla keeps mentioning about the Indo-US nuclear deal even though he has no clue about US foreign policy and global politics. After living 5 years in the US and after having studied International Law and Politics at Ive-league Columbia University in the City of New York, I know for a fact that in America, business interests dictate foreign policy in almost all fields including the civilian nuclear technology. In India, foreign policy assiduously builds the image of Indian nuclear establishment. The latest proof of this fact is the ongoing debate before and after Indo-US joint agreement of July 18, 2005 between President George W Bush and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in Washington DC, and the separation agreement on March 2, 2006 in New Delhi to separate civilian and military nuclear pursuits in India. The truth is that the US wants to make money by selling the disposable enriched uranium and weapon grade plutonium derived from the dismantling of some of their nuclear weapons, as nuclear fuel for power plants. Such is the case with Russia also. While supplying oil, the seller can at the most dictate its price and nothing more. But while supplying the nuclear fuel, the seller not only dictates its price but also can demand many more commitments from the buyers. As an environmental economist, I would say that the cost benefit analysis in Indian context does not show justification for building more nuclear power plants. They are expensive to run and build, and the decommissioning is also an expensive business. The present generation has no right to pile up for the future generations, the financial burden arising from decommissioning and the multiple dangers from the unsolved problem of nuclear waste disposal. My dear fellow citizens the opportunity cost is just too high for our unborn kids to pay. They would be cursing over our tombstone when we are dead and gone.

I would like to conclude by saying that I do respect the ruling of the Supreme Court of India even though the precautionary measures taken by the DAE and UCIL are debatable. But I really disrespect the misuse of power and misguidance of our people by the CEM of the KHADC by hiding under this ruling. My strong recommendation is that Mr. H. S. Shylla should complete his further studies first, before he can be qualified to judge and classify other hard working people’s research as baseless allegations which can only lead to utter confusion. Only then he will be able to have the wisdom and courage to say NO to the people who are misleading him and using him as a scapegoat while they hide themselves from the public eye. I think that maybe some people high up there with a remote control are making ‘Simple Shylla’ dance to their music for their own selfish benefits. However, I am glad that he has woken up and agreed to finance the filing of the review petition for the anti-uranium mining lobbies at the seminar organized by the Meghalaya Tribal Teachers Association (MeTTA) on May 27, 2006.

My challenge for him now is that, if he really wants to be the hero of our people who will be remembered as a legend who dug up the real truth about the dark hidden secrets of uranium mining in India, he himself should be the petitioner on behalf of the people he represents. In return I will recommend the best Supreme Court lawyers who are experts on this issue to work with him. But in order for this to happen we need an independent and unbiased body of experts representing different stakeholders to do the transparent investigation in Jaduguda and other mining sites. My next challenge for Mr. Shylla is to organise a surprise and unrestricted visit for a fresh team of experts to go to Jaduguda on a fact-finding mission. If he can accomplish both these challenges then he will certainly make history in India, the largest free and democratic country on earth!

Last but not the least, I demand that Mr. Shylla gives clarification on his unscrupulous allegations in the Shillong Times and other local papers on May 30, 2006 accusing me of working as a CIA & MI6 agent who is trying to destabilize the country. He has no clue about my contribution for my country and the world in the past 31 years of my existence. Does Mr. Shylla have his own double agents who send him classified information from the CIA & MI6? I really feel disgusted by such false and misleading information from a leader who prides himself by bringing a bad name to the institution he represents. My dear fellow citizens isn’t this an ultimate betrayal of our way of life, our people and our land?

Friday, April 21, 2006

My field trip to the wettest place on earth

I reconnected with my good old mate and colleague from school, Peter Marbaniang when I visited his home to deliver the Hapa book sent by his cousin Karen David who is based in London. Later in the week I went for a field trip to the village near Sohra to meet the members of the Self Help Group that he has been working with for about a year. To get to the village people have to climb down 5000 steps and it takes about an hour to get to the bottom of the mountain near the river. The SHG consisting of 10 males in the village with Peter's help have been able to build a shop cum storage facility on the top of the mountain near the road side to sell the local products that they make in the village.

Peter is helping them to create market linkages for their products so as to benefit the whole village. There are about 250 people in the village and it is the most under developed one compared to others in the area. Anyway I had a great learning experience from my journey with Peter and we have decided to raise awareness about the hardship faced by the villagers and to get more support for them from the government and other concerned funders.

We also visited the office of the Khatarshnong Social Organisation (KSO) and met its dynamic founder who has made a huge impact in the development of the 46 villages in the surrounding area since he got started back in 1990. We later had lunch in the Sohra market and we were so lucky to have a beautiful clear blue sky above us with no sign of rain in the wettest place on earth. On the way back to Shillong we drove through a nature park that was inargurated by the Governor of Meghalaya recently. It was really a beautiful spot with great potential for eco tourism.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Meeting the UN's Deputy SG Mark Malloch Brown

The Chef de Cabinet to the Secretary General of the United Nations, Mark Malloch Brown delivered the Third British Council lecture in London on 9 March 2006, which I was invited to attend. The lecture was on the theme: The United Nations in the 21st century 2006.

Mr. Brown said to understand the challenges that the UN faces this century, we need to go back to the end of the Cold War and to the extraordinary period of globalisation that followed it. He stated that during the 1990s we saw a dramatic integration of world economies, not just around trade, but around information flows and capital flows and even cultural flows. He said that in some ways it seemed we had reached a moment where international organisations had their epiphany: that they had found their moment in the sun and the world order they had been calling for, often as lonely voices during those cold war years, had finally come about.

Hence, he suspect for all of us, who believe in these organisations, there has been a real sense of surprise and dismay at the fact that, 15 years later, nearly all of these organisations are in a profound crisis of legitimacy, mandate and purpose. Not just the United Nations, but he thought it would be fair to say at the European Commission as well, NATO even, the IMF and the World Bank. Mr. Brown said if all of these organisations are struggling to recover lost ground with public opinion in member countries, to reconnect with those they're seeking to help, reconnect with the governments that must support them, one must seek some common roots, some common explanations for why we see this crisis in the very international organizations.

Mr. Brown mentioned three new pillars that the UN needs to focus are development, security and human rights, and that the new UN needs major management reform. He said that nothing symbolises this issue of an institution still too closely held down by its 1945 roots, than the management and institutional arrangements of today’s United Nations. He stated that the UN spends some $2 billion a year and there’s something $18 billion a year devoted to development, humanitarian and peacekeeping work around the world, all of it done in hugely difficult circumstances.

He said that for the UN Secretariat proper, with an assessed contribution funding scheme and huge intergovernmental involvement in the management, it has not changed with the times. Mr. Brown said that today in the peacekeeping operations alone the US has more than twice as many civilian staff, UN staff, as they have in the Secretariat in New York. He argues that whereas the Secretariat in New York is in some ways more often like a kind of comfortable, tenured university world with 3% vacancy rates and some people sitting in the same jobs for years and even decades at a time, out in the field it’s a very different story. He said that the people in the field are not able to have their families with them, and are disadvantaged in terms of the financial package they're offered and as a consequence the UN has 30% vacancy rates in the field and in critical functions such as procurement, 50% vacancy rates.

Mr. Brown wants to change the whole structure of the organisation, its management systems, its investment in people, the way they develop their leadership, the way they run things in terms of their global IT system – in short the way the whole operation works -- to one which reflects this new global operational reality.

After his lecture I asked him a question about the possibility of the UN having a rapid action force or a standing army of blue helmets under the direct command of the Secretary General in the future to prevent conflicts around the world. Mr. Brown answered saying that the UN depends on developing countries to provide the troops needed for peacekeeping operations that are paid by developed countries. But it would take a while for the members states to agree on contributing enough troops to serve under the UN flag and to be ready for deployment within short notice. Later I continued the discussion with him in depth. I also reminded him about the story he stayed at Columbia University on a panel with Jeffery Sachs about the development hawks in New York with sharper beaks. He remembered the event and laugh at the reminder. Before he was taken away by the people from the BBC, he gave me his business card and asked me to keep him posted on the finding from my own research work at the London School of Economics.

Meeting the World's Banker James Wolfensohn

The former President of the World Bank, James Wolfensohn delivered the Ninth Commonwealth Lecture in London on Thursday 2 March 2006, which I was invited to attend. The lecture was on the theme: The Future Role of the Commonwealth: A Bridge Between an Emerging Three-Speed World.

In his lecture, Mr. Wolfensohn outlined how sweeping changes to the global economy over the next 40 years could produce three distinct but interconnected spheres of varying levels of wealth and development, presenting the Commonwealth with new opportunities but also added challenges. According to Mr. Wolfensohn, developed high-income countries will form the first tier. They will continue to be some of the wealthiest countries on the planet but may slowly lose their economic dominance to the second group of countries, which would include Brazil, China, India and Russia. This second tier will be home to almost half of humanity and could become the new centre of economic power. The third tier will be made up of those countries held back by political, social, and institutional factors. These countries will struggle with widespread poverty but will remain an integral part of the global economy and world social order.

Mr. Wolfensohn said that the Commonwealth could bridge the gap between the different levels of development among its member countries by finding a common ground through shared values. He said the Commonwealth could address the disparities between the high, middle and low-income countries through close collaboration based on a shared heritage of history, language and values. He stated that high income Commonwealth developed countries such as Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the UK will continue to enjoy a major share of global economic growth, while middle income countries such as India, Malaysia, Nigeria and South Africa will enjoy healthy growth in their gross domestic product. Low income and poor countries may languish in poverty if faced with low economic growth but high population growth. Adding to this situation is the disparity in the volumes of foreign direct investment and trade among countries that fall into the three different tiers of development. Mr. Wolfensohn pointed out that these factors have a role in determining the level of equitable growth and social justice that in turn affect global stability.

Strong leadership, accountability and eradication of corruption can make a difference in a country's progress, said Mr. Wolfensohn. Apart from these, having the know-how, coupled with strategic planning and implementation of development programmes, can enhance the growth process. Educated and healthy populations are also critical factors, he added. Mr. Wolfensohn stressed that the Commonwealth has tremendous strengths that can be drawn from its association of 53 countries with close to 2 billion in total population. He commended the Commonwealth for its work that is targeted at promoting peace and democracy, human rights, the rule of law, good governance, public sector reform, gender equality, education, health and trade to advance sustainable development.

After his lecture I asked him a question about what he would do differently to address the interlinking issues of Poverty and Environment if he could go back on a time machine to 1995 when he joined the World Bank. He gave me a 5 min long answer stating the fact that he was not able to do much in that sector and wished he had got more time to deal with the nexus of Poverty and Environment, especially in the least developed countries. He did mention the mainstreaming of the Poverty and Environment linkages and that the World Bank Institute was developing new training programmes to sensitise development professionals globally how to address these two interlinking issues at the same time.

We later continued our discussion over a glass of red wine at the reception that followed with his wife Elaine who also went to Columbia University and recognised the Columbia pin on my jacket. James later gave me his business card and asked me to look him up when I crossed over the creek to New York. What impressed me was that he learnt to play the cello at 40 and is a great lover of classical music. After he left the World Bank in June 2005, he was appointed Special Envoy by the Quartet for the Gaza Disengagement, which comprises the United States Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice; the Russian Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavtov; the European Union High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy, Javier Solana and United Nations Secretary-General, Kofi Annan.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Flying to Meghalaya where the clouds come home

I left my research tower at the London School of Economics after sending the 2nd draft of my thesis to my supervisor on the 29th of March. I took the last Piccadilly train to Heathrow international airport at mid night. I got the early 6am Air France flight out of London via Paris to Delhi the next morning and spent the night waiting for my check in time at Terminal 2. Thank God I had the wonderful company of a nice girl from Bogotá, Colombia who was determine to keep me awake while having a great conversation with me in Spanish. Well I must say it was nice way to brush up my language skills again in the early hours of the morning. It was a nice quick sail across the English Channel to Paris and then we had to say goodbye and run to catch our connecting flights heading in different directions. I was so tired on the Delhi bound flight and went straight to dreamland the moment we took off from Paris.

It is great to be back home in India where it is much warmer compared to cold and wet England. The journey home from Delhi to Meghalaya was beautiful flying parallel to the mighty Himalayas on my left. I will be resuming the 2nd stage of my fieldwork in West Khasi hills district and collecting household survey data from 5 more villages in the Riangdo cluster. I hope to collect at least 100 interviews and since each one takes about 3 hours, I guess I got 300 solid hours of work ahead of me. I plan to be back to base in London my the 27th of June, just in time for my PhD seminar due at 2pm GMT. Below are some pictures of my homeland Meghalaya. More updates later!

While I was home I also had a great interview with the legendary Lou Majaw our home grown rock 'n' roll star!