Friday, July 1, 2016

International Plastic Bag Free Day 3 July 2016

All we need to do is to CARRY OUR OWN BAG, to make Darjeeling Hills Plastic Bag Free as part of the global challenge International Plastic Bag Free Day, 3 July ( 

This global challenge is pertinent to us too, "In India 4 million tonnes of plastic is used annually; with plastic or polythene bags being a major part. The toxic constituents and non-biodegradable nature of plastic bags make it visibly one of the most serious concerns for the environment." ( In India, approximately 12 million tonnes of plastic products are consumed every year, according to trade bodies. Nearly 15,000 tonnes of plastic waste is generated per day in the country of which 6,000 tonnes does not even get collected.(Plastic Waste Management Rules 2016 (Environment Ministry)).

​Plastic bags in most instances are a single use product with an extremely short usage time. Internationally, on an average a plastic bag is used for just 25 minutes. Their flimsy nature, lack of segregation and storage at source and physical characteristics make it the least collected waste by the informal recycling industry in India. It ends up contaminating water and soil, the air when it burns, thus affecting our health. It also contributes to landslides.

“There are some environmental problems that are hard to solve, that involve complex economic and social trade offs. The problem of disposable plastic bags is not one of these. It’s simple – just get rid of them. We don’t need them and they aren’t worth the massive problems they cause. There are easy replacements that are better for public health, the environment and the economy.” Annie Leonard The Story of

Darjeeling has in the past banned plastic bags. “The lesson learnt from it is that 'Ban' is just one part of the larger solution and in isolation is not as effective as it was thought to be. A congruence of community awareness and initiatives makes the ban successful as has been the experience in Darjeeling, Sikkim and Delhi. "Plastic ban - Who Cares New Delhi, 23 December 2014”. ( 

Post ban has seen a bigger threat that comes from non-woven PP (polypropelene) bags, that have flooded the market. These bags are essentially plastic bags, even though they look like cloth bags. They have the same ill-effects as the other plastic bags. The Delhi High Court's Judgment delivered on: 28.08.2009 is explicit " non-woven bags comprise of 98.3% polypropylene. Therefore, the conclusion is simple that the end product is nothing but plastic. Since the products manufactured by the petitioner are admittedly bags, they would fall within the expression “plastic bags”."

On the occasion of International Plastic Bag Free we look forward for your commitment and stewardship in the movement to make Darjeeling Hills, plastic bag free. 

Take the lead and share more details from our social media posts:

The movement is being taken forward under the banner of Zero Waste Himalaya, a platform of individuals, Government Organisations, Non-Government Organisations, Faith Based Organisations promoting zero waste principles of waste management in Bhutan, India and Nepal. In Darjeeling Hills the organisations involved are DLR Prerna, WWF India, ATREE, FTF - Mirik, NEPA, Mirik. The group has actively worked with local self government institutions, community groups, educational institutions, faith based organisations and media in promoting zero waste practices in the transboundary landscape.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Permaculture Design Course 2018

Permaculture Design Course in the Darjeeling Hills
Mineral Springs, Darjeeling

24 March to 8 April 2018

The course fees, inclusive of training material, food and lodge:
International Candidates Rs. 39,000
Indian Nationals residing outside Darjeeling but working in India Rs. 31,000
Discounts available for Darjeeling hills’ residents. Please contact for details

Training venue “Mineral Springs, Dabaipani, Darjeeling”

Mineral Springs Dabaipani is an internationally certified organic area and fair-trade labeled collective of 456 small farmers since 2002. The farmers have come under the Mineral Spring Sanjukta Vikas Sanstha since 1996. The collective has been marketing small farmers organic tea in the international market, which is grown as a polyculture crop.

The participants will have home stay accommodations facilities with the members of Mineral Spring Sanjukta Vikas Sanstha. Local food will be promoted during the course for the participants.

Trainers: Rico Zook ( Guest Instructor: members of DLR Prerna.

For further details

Darjeeling Ladenla Road Prerna
c/o Hayden Hall Complex,
42 Ladenla Road,
Darjeeling 734 101,
West Bengal, India.
Phone Number 91 354 2255894

A working knowledge of English is required by the participant. We do not look for academic qualifications for the course, except an interest to be part of a sustainable lifestyle and be the change you want to see in the world.

NB: **** DLR Prerna and Rico reserves the right to admit candidates to the course. Candidates will be notified of their participation on receipt of the completely filled application form.

Full Fee deposit is required to secure your spot in this course. Registration without deposit will only hold a spot in the course until we are filled. If you have not deposited the fee by this time your spot will be given to someone who does make the deposit.

Foreigners please contact Prerna for details.

This course is offered at the lowest possible pricing to make it accessible to as many people as possible. As such a late cancellation can have a significant impact on our budget. For this reason we have the following cancellation policy.

6 weeks or more notice: full refund minus 5% processing fee
4 to 6 weeks notice: refund minus 25%
2 to 4 weeks notice: refund minus 50%
2 weeks or less notice: refund minus 75%

Permaculture Design Course Description

Permaculture is a design system to create regenerative, sustainable systems. Envisioned over 25 years ago by Bill Mollison and Dan Holmgren, from Australia, it has now spread to over 120 countries. Though its conception was as a land based system, its effectiveness has moved it into urban settings and to being applied in various social, political, and economic environments.

Permaculture was created through the synthesis of many design systems, with the emphasis on nature as the penultimate one. Similarly, the insights and value of traditional and indigenous practices and knowledge are acknowledged along with the necessity of molding these with our current understandings and the appropriate technologies of today's world. What Permaculture seeks to do is to create three-dimensional designs that are site specific and sustainable. By bringing together elements (orchard, water system, farmer, cow, etc.), techniques (organic framing, natural building, etc.) and strategies (microclimate, relative placement, etc.) a system is designed or altered based on regenerative relationships. It is these regenerative, beneficial relationships that give a system complexity, three dimensionality, and thus, resiliency.

The world can be looked at as the convergence of many different flows. From ‘natural’ (wind, water, soil, etc.) to human (social, resources, transportation, etc.) to invisible (economic, information, etc.) which interact and create patterns. These flows form our world. Recognizing this, Permaculture teaches Pattern Literacy and Pattern Application. This, along with Sector Analysis (site specific flow mapping), Zonation (a tool for structuring time) and other techniques and tools, Permaculture focuses on creating regenerative relationships that are the key to resilient, sustainable systems.

From its inception Permaculture has quickly spread to over One hundred and twenty countries where farms and other sites are successfully applying its' ideas, techniques and strategies. As further testament to its applicability, Permaculture is now being applied in many urban and suburban areas. In many developed countries these applications hold much promise for dealing with the many issues associated with mass populations.

Permaculture in the last few years has been moving into the invisible structures. In the United States a Permaculture credit union has been formed and 'green' investment firms are using Permaculture principles and ideas to create resilient, sustainable investment systems. Environmentalists and social activists are using Permaculture to give depth and complexity to their approaches to many issues we are dealing with today. These applications are possible because Permaculture is a design system that focuses on relationship and not so much on object.

Permaculture is a multi-faceted, in depth design system that will help us create appropriate, site-specific designs that are both sustainable and regenerative.

Permaculture principles are a list of attitudes, approaches, and actions that are practical and not system specific. These along with certain tools and techniques allow for a holistic approach and interaction with any type of system. As a tool of analysis it is an excellent way to look at existing programs, strategies, and interventions to assess their interactions, linkages, and success'. It is a way to reach an understanding of the various influences and flows involved in a system, be it self help groups, village, or organization. Second, it provides insights and principles by which to intervene or interact with a system. As there is neither a truly independent system, nor sterile 'environment' this aspect is of significant importance. Thirdly, as we have already stated, Permaculture is an excellent approach for designing resilient, site-specific systems, be it disaster preparedness, HIV/AIDS, or women's empowerment.

It is important to understand that Permaculture is not so much about giving you new and improved ideas, techniques, and strategies, though there is some of that. What Permaculture does is allow for a deeper understanding of the situation at hand and, with its principles and strategies, a more holistic, effective way to interact with or design a system.  What Permaculture offers are skills and principles by which we build our awareness of why or why not something was successful. Through this insight we can build on what is successful and modify others to become more successful.

Stepping up another level, Permaculture is an excellent way to weave together the different parts of an organization so that a unity and synergy can be created. In this way unforeseen benefits and ease will raise within the system.

This workshop will present Permaculture with all of these applications in mind. We will focus on land systems with as much hands on work and examples as possible. In addition, many discussions and examples will be explored of possible applications in what are called the 'Invisible Structures', the social, cultural, political, and economic structures that shape much of our world today.

Subjects will include:
        Permaculture Ethics and Principles
        Pattern Literacy and Application (physical and invisible)
        Energy and Flows          
        Sector Analysis and Zonation
        Water; Harvesting, Holding, and Recycling
        Soil, Plants, and Environments
        Agriculture; From Your Doorstep to the World
        The Design Process
        Urban Permaculture
        Permaculture in the Developing Countries
        Permaculture and Organizations

This workshop will culminate with several groups doing a real life design projects that will be relevant to the site of the workshop. Not only will the teaching be about Permaculture, but it will also model it by its structure and the environment we create together in the course.

This workshop will contribute to the enrichment of its site and each of its participants. With the goal of having half international students and half local students this workshop will not only be an opportunity to learn about Permaculture, it will also offer an opportunity to understand we can create a regenerative, sustainable world together.

The person attending the Permaculture Design Course will not only gain theoretical and practical knowledge on Permaculture at the end of the workshop but will be handed a Permaculture Design Course Certificate. This certificate will enable the participant to be a certified Permaculture Practitioner. This course has been specially designed for the many enthusiasts who are unable to invest two weeks at one go in the East Nepal and Darjeeling and Sikkim Himalayas to get certified.
Richard Rico Zook
Permaculture Designer, Consultant and Educator

Richard Rico Zook is a Permaculture designer, consultant and instructor.  He works with private individuals, farmers, villagers and local organizations to create cultural and environmentally appropriate life systems in northern New Mexico, India, Cambodia, and places in between.  Mr. Zook's work focuses on assisting local and indigenous cultures to preserve traditional knowledge and technologies while adapting to and becoming active members of our rapidly globalizing world.  Currently (2011) his year is divided into 6 months in India, 2 months in Cambodia, 3 months in the states, and 1 month in a different place each year.

In India, many of the projects he is involved in are based out of Darjeeling, West Bengal, which is his home for part of the year.  These include a bio-conservation project funded by the Critical Ecosystem Protection Fund (CEPF).  Utilizing a participatory model, DLR Prerna (a local NGO) and Mr. Zook are training five forest villages in permaculture and working with them to internalize and cycle their resource needs, thus minimizing their impacts on the critical bio-corridor in which the villages are located. A team headed by Anugyalaya (another local NGO), and including Prerna, the Catholic Diocese and Mr. Zook, have initiated the design process on a 16 acre Permaculture demonstration and education site.  This process and the design implementation will be a hands-on experience for several local, long-term students of Mr. Zook.  Other projects in the planning stages include: tea worker trainings in Permaculture for improved quality of life (e.g. water processing and cycling for health, home gardens, humanure, etc.); and conversion of a working tea estate to a socially just and environmentally appropriate model.

In south India Mr. Zook works with several private clients whose projects include a university, a healing centre, a children's camp, and assisting local farmers and tribals convert to organic agriculture.  Past projects have included wetlands construction for wildlife, a children's school, and many private consultations on farms and homesteads.  An ongoing focus is the conversion of a traditional family farm into a model of sustainability and Permaculture.  Located 15km south of Udipi in the state of Karnataka Punarvasu Farm annually hosts several work weeks for foreigners and Indians with hands-on learning and cultural immersion.

In Cambodia Mr. Zook is building a network of projects and associations with NGO’s similar to that in India.  He also conducts several trainings for Khmer farmers, as well as assisting in the development of several demonstration sites.  This past year he trained a group of teachers from the Teacher’s College in Siem Reap, and is working with them to develop a curriculum that will become part of the government’s Life Skills Program that is part of the public school’s curriculum.
In Taos, New Mexico (USA) Mr. Zook is working with the Hanuman Temple in creating a 5 acre urban Permaculture farm.  He is also working with the San Cristobal Youth Ranch in converting to a holistic ranch model, as well as interacting with youth campers in educating them with hands-on applied Permaculture techniques and strategies.  At times he provides consultations to private clients. 

Every year Mr. Zook visits new sites, meets new NGO’s, and teaches numerous courses, from 1 day introductions to 2 week design courses with certification, for farmers, villagers, NGO workers, and foreigners.  This year will be the 7th annual Permaculture Design Course in Darjeeling, the longest running course of this type in India.  He is always open to inquiries and requests.  He also accepts qualified apprentices.
In addition to academic and professional credentials, Mr. Zook has spent more than 25 years living in nature, including long-term residencies in California’s Yosemite National Park, the demanding Sangria de Cristo Mountains of Northern New Mexico, and as a homesteader in Northern California wilderness. For more than a decade as Land Manager for the Lama Foundation, a spiritual community and retreat center North of Taos, NM, Mr. Zook designed and transformed the rugged, semiarid high-altitude site that had been decimated by wildfire into one of beauty and productivity. Using permaculture practices and a lifetime of observation and interpretation of the natural world and how to create human harmony with it, he has built a visible and successful permaculture demonstration and teaching site. It is a model of design integrating the needs, resources and yields of community and nature in proactive and abundant ways with respectful and restorative impacts on the environment.

Mr. Zook is a graduate of Sonoma State University, from which he holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Environmental Studies focused on land restoration, with minors in Biology and Philosophy.

For more information about Mr. Zook and his work go to

Darjeeling Ladenla Road Prerna (DLR Prerna) : 2015

DLR Prerna is a Darjeeling based NGO working in the Darjeeling Hills since 1996.
Vision Statement
Darjeeling Ladenla Road Prerna believes in a world that sees the need to live as one family where the environment is preserved and protected, where conscious efforts are made to remove unjust structures while striving to build a just and humane society.
Mission statement
Our mission is to build sustainable human communities in the Darjeeling hills and the adjoining areas by promoting peoples participation, gender equality and living in harmony with the environment.

DLR Prerna has undertaken community development of Harsing Dabaipani and Yangkhoo Busties(Villages), Darjeeling. Mineral Spring Sanjukta Vikas Sanstha (MSSVS) has been established by the communities with 440 families as members in 1996. It is the first certified organic small farmers in Darjeeling, undertaking poly-culture farming and selling tea as Mineral Springs Tea in the international fair trade market. For this experience MSSVS and DLR Prerna is mentioned in the World Resources 2005.

A member of DLR Prerna are accredited organic certifying inspectors with Institute of Market Ecology India specializing on small farmers. 

DLR Prerna has conducted and been part of researches with specific references to the issues of the Darjeeling Hills including the Area and Issue Profile of Darjeeling and Sikkim and Village Level Planning on Developing a Transboundary Conservation Landscape in the Kangchenjunga Complex – Senchel & Mahananda Wildlife Sanctuaries.

DLR Prerna has also managed and implemented all the programmes of Anugyalaya DDSSS from 2001 primarily focusing on small farmers organics and community based disaster preparedness. In 2006 November DLR Prerna phased over Anugyalaya DDSSS as we feel the capacity of the organization has been enhanced to manage her own programme. 

DLR Prerna has been instrumental in community and student campaigns like:
• Clean and Green Darjeeling
• Campaign for the judicious use of plastics
• Clean Darjeeling Clean River Rungeet – focus on Solid Waste Management with the Darjeeling Municipality 

DLR Prerna has been a founder member of the Darjeeling NGO Network, a network of 14 NGOs in the Darjeeling Hills who come together to share expertise and resources and have in the recent times undertaken the campaign, ‘Conserve Water Reduce Your Waste’. 

Since 2008,  DLR Prerna has initiated a community-based sustainable livelihoods option conservation efforts with 5 villages in the fringes of the Singalila National Park, Darjeeling. In 2011 taking the community conservation efforts forward, DLR Prerna is engaging with the Forest Villages, looking at
human wildlife conflict management.  

DLR Prerna is pioneering Permaculture Design Courses in the Darjeeling Hills, offering certified basic course with Mr. Richard Zook as the trainer since 2005. Shorter term courses for farmers are being facilitated by Rico and the DLR Prerna team in the local language.

DLR Prerna is the secretariat of Darjeeling Himalayan Initiative, an advocacy and lobby group linked with the Integrated Mountain Initiative for mountain specific policies. 

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Organising Zero Waste Events

Organising Zero Waste Events
A Quick Guide

:: Paper
·         Invitations
o   Invitations (most) can go by email with explicit instructions not to print.
o   SMS or phone calls also work for some participants.
·         Chart Paper /Flip Charts
o   More use of Green boards/White Boards/Power Points for group work and presentation reduce use of paper and ink.
·         Wrapping paper
o   Conference releases/gifts should be wrapped in recycled /handmade paper and not plastic wrappers.
·         Printing conference reports
o   All materials emerging from the event could be circulated online or circulated amongst participants through pen drives/drop box instead of printing or using CDs.

:: Food and water
·         No throw away plastic, Styrofoam, thermacol or paper products should be used to serve food and beverages
o   No packaged drinking water should be used. Boiled and filtered water kept at strategic places would totally reduce the use of PET bottles. Participants should also be encouraged to bring their own drinking bottle.
·         Food should be sourced as far as possible locally which reduces its carbon foot print and supports local economy.
·         Use locally produced biscuits or other snacks instead of packaged snacks that come in non-recyclable plastics
·         Instead of sweets in wrapping paper local hard boiled sweets could be used removing wrapping paper waste.
o   Additionally possibilities for linking food waste to people who rear pigs/cattle as feed or community compost/bio-gas units can be explored in advance.
o   Rain water and grey water use should be promoted in an event space like a community hall.

:: Stationery
·         Use cloth banner which will also promote local livelihood instead of one - time use flex banners.
·         Encourage participants to carry own stationery such as notebooks and pens. Keep only limited numbers for those who need.
·         Promote local handmade products for welcome kit of folders/ bags or make them from recycled materials
·         Reuse old materials to make name tags OR have name tags deposited for reuse post event

:: Energy
o   Car pools for transfer of participants to venues could be worked out in advance with some planning.

o   Use of electricity during event should be optimised. Promote switching off when not in use.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

3rd July International Plastic Bag Free Day

International Plastic Bag Free Day 
(updated from the article published in Himali Darpan 2014)
Plastic age is what we live in is a common point of conversation in the Darjeeling Hills. Along with it also comes the discussion how this age is not great as the previous age in terms of longevity and health. This is a recognition of challenges we face with this plastic age. "In India 4 million tonnes of plastic is used annually; with plastic or polythene bags being a major part. The toxic constituents and non-biodegradable nature of plastic bags make it visibly one of the most serious concerns for the environment." (

Single use plastic bag - a common feature in our lives
“Plastic carrybags represents a negative attitude to life and nature. It makes people believe “everything is disposable” and “use and throw” is possible. This is unsustainable and criminal. It is a contamination not only to the nature and our culture of sharing and caring.” Shibu Nair, (Thanal

Plastic bags in most instances are a single use product with an extremely short usage time and it makes no sense to make it from a precious finite crude oil resource. Internationally, on an average a plastic bag is used for just 25 minutes. ( Thus use of plastic bags is extremely unfair on the future generations especially when the costs of the bags are externalised in that producers do not take responsibility of the product beyond the retail outlet.  

Now that I have blamed the producers, what of our behaviour and attitude towards plastic bags. We know that it is not good yet are always demanding a plastic bag when we go shopping. It is a common scenario to buy milk in plastic bags, where did our milk cans disappear? The story does not end with our demand, how do we dispose the plastic bag: dump it in the waste vat, roll it down the hill or burn it. The waste vat invariably ends up down the hill and down the hill means clogging jhoras and contributing towards landslides. Some of them end up in the soil, destabilising it, harming precious agricultural land and also entering our food chain. Burning is not a solution, toxic carcinogenic chemical are released which becomes a part of the air we breathe.  This is not how we should be treating our living environment. For a stark documented story of a garbage slide check out the Alaichikhop, Kalimpong 2008 disaster on the Save the Hills blog -

Plastic bag discussions always bring up the topic of 'Ban'. We have seen a number of 'Bans on use of plastic bags in Darjeeling' a couple of times from the Darjeeling Municipality and then the Darjeeling Police. The lesson learnt from it is that 'Ban' is just one part of the larger solution and in isolation is not as effective as it was thought to be. A congruence of community awareness and initiatives makes the ban successful as has been the experience in Darjeeling, Sikkim and Delhi. "Plastic ban - Who Cares New Delhi, 23 December 2014,: It‘s really shocking that in spite of plastic being banned in many states/UTs, including Delhi,  it’s rampantly used by local shopkeepers, fruit sellers, by branded shop owners, and most of all, by the common people." ( the Toxics Link study in Delhi is quoted in the Times of India, "99% city veggie sellers use plastic bags Almost 99% of vegetable and fruit vendors, and 95% of meat and fish vendors contacted during the survey were using plastic bags. The usage was high even among small food joints and dhabas (82%). Out of 834 respondents who were interviewed, 78% of the consumers said they preferred using plastic bags. Even worse, 333 users said they use and throw plastic bags, only 75 said they try to reuse." ( 

Non-woven PP Bag or plainly Plastic Bag
In addition to all the reasons for not using the plastic bag is that many of the bags we use are not food grade which means we should not put our food into it as it contaminates our food. With ban on plastic bags, we see a wave of non woven PP(polypropelene) bags in the Darjeeling and Sikkim Himalaya. The non woven PP bag looks like cloth but do note that this is also plastic and has the same harmful effects. Most people are under the impression that non woven PP bags are made of cloth and manufacturers are also pushing this idea and claiming it disintegrates easily and is eco-friendly and it does not clog drains as it is porous. On the contrary it is worse as it tears up more quickly than ordinary plastic bags so recovery is more difficult. The Delhi High Court's Judgment delivered on: 28.08.2009 is explicit "In the present case, the admitted position is that the non-woven bags comprise of 98.3% polypropylene. Therefore, the conclusion is simple that the end product is nothing but plastic. Since the products manufactured by the petitioner are admittedly bags, they would fall within the expression “plastic bags”. In continuation the Delhi High Court explains, "In any event, the petitioner‟s non-woven polypropylene bags would be covered in the expression “all kinds of plastic bags” as appearing in paragraph 2 of the said notification. Since the non-woven bags are admittedly not bio-degradable, they cannot be used at other places in Delhi also in view of paragraph 3 of the notification dated 07.01.2009. The argument that the petitioner‟s product is porous and that water can pass through the same is of no consequence because that is not the consideration which is to be taken into account while construing the notification dated 07.01.2009. Paragraph 2 of the said notification, as already indicated above, refers to “all kinds” of plastic bags. Once the petitioner‟s product falls within the ambit of “plastic bags”, it is immaterial as to whether it is porous or whether it is a WP(C) 8120/09 Page No. 13 of 13 textile. The petitioner‟s argument that non-woven polypropylene bags are an alternative to plastic bags also does not appeal to us. The nonwoven polypropylene bags are plastic bags in themselves and, therefore, they cannot be a substitute for plastic bags as suggested by the learned counsel for the petitioner." We need to include non-woven PP bags in the 'ban' and stop its use. 

“There are some environmental problems that are hard to solve, that involve complex economic and social trade offs. The problem of disposable plastic bags is not one of these. It’s simple – just get rid of them. We don’t need them and they aren’t worth the massive problems they cause. There are easy replacements that are better for public health, the environment and the economy.” Annie Leonard The Story of Stuff

So all it requires of us is to say NO. No to plastic bags and use alternatives like jute bags, cloth bags, paper bags, milk cans which we used to use just a few years ago. Just this action means that our lives and the lives of the future generations are lived in fullness. It also means that a multitude of living beings in the rivers, seas and oceans have a healthy environment.

Now one might wonder why this fixation on plastic bags. Thin film plastic bags are the least needed product in our lives. For such a thin and light product the environmental damage is tremendous. True one does talk of recycling but where is the recycling chain? Recycling also takes energy which means pollution. Incidentally, recycling does not give us the same quality product but it downcycles it into an inferior product. Also as it is thin and lightweight it takes ages before we reach a point where it makes sense for kabadiwalas to recover it.

So all we need to say is No to Plastic Bags and also tell others about it too in order our lives and the lives of our children become safer.  

On 3rd July International Plastic Bag Free Day let us commit to stop using plastic bags not just for the day but for the rest of our lives and to proactively engage with our families, friends, peers, co-workers and communities and do away with plastic bags.