Tuesday, 26 June 2018

Stepping into a dream: A week in Manali

Throughout this past week, my colleague and I had the opportunity to tour Manali, Himachal Pradesh, doing research for components of our work in environmental conservation. I have titled this piece “Stepping into a dream” as that is exactly what it felt like to get off of the bus in Manali; Throughout this article, I plan to describe what makes Manali so incredibly unique as a tourist destination, the challenges it faces, and ways in which we (as tourists) can minimize our personal impacts and ensure this beautiful location remains in tact for future generations.Manali is a resort town located in the Kullu district in the mountains of the Indian state of Himachal Pradesh. At an altitude of 2,050 m in the Beas River Valley, most of the commute from Delhi consisted of frightening bus rides up narrow, switchback trails into the mountains. Manali is quite the dreamland for any adventurer; Famous for a paragliders, farmers and mountaineers, Rachel and I decided to get a fix of exhilaration through a four-day trek we took through the Hampta Pass. Reaching a total altitude of 3,200 m, the trek was easily one of the most beautiful experiences we have ever had. Each morning, we would wake up to a cup of tea overlooking stunning, snow-capped mountain peaks, wild horses, flowing rivers and the soft singing of birds. In the mountains the air is fresher, the thunder is louder, and the stars are brighter. Having only visited New Delhi prior to this trip, it was difficult to believe that Manali was even a part of the same country. With World Environment Day having just past on June 5th, we thought it would be appropriate to explore some of the environmental marvels that India has to offer. To say the least, we were not disappointed.
         This point can be even more emphasized from an environmental perspective. Manali’s selling point is its natural environment, and therefore, it would not take long for one to note the lack of litter, smog, and traffic in Manali compared to India’s capital. A study of Air Quality in 175 cities across India, done by the National Ambient Air Quality Programme, shows the following differences between air quality in Delhi and Manali throughout 2015:[1]
Intrinsically tied to air quality is Himachal Pradesh’s forest area, classified into 16 different types and covering 22.20% of its geographical area.[1] These forests are occupied with a variety of biological communities and biomass, over 224 glaciers[1], and 1,746 species of medicinal plants. [2]The most astonishing part about our trek through Himachal Pradesh was that we only saw a fraction of the biodiversity that this beautiful state has to offer.

         With a great environment comes a great responsibility. The Himachal Pradesh State Pollution Control Board is the first of its kind in India; A board constituted specifically to mitigate pollution of all types, the HPPBC is “a nodal agency for planning, coordination, prevention, and control of pollution.”.[3] The Board website includes an environmental data bank, environmental standards, reports, publications, and public hearings. The Board has eleven regional offices, which all cater to the diverse requirements of environmental monitoring, surveillance and analysis.[4]
         Yet, the beauty of Manali and surrounding Himachal Pradesh must not disguise the environmental concerns that still plague this area, despite its seeming like a utopia. The biodiversity of H.P., and the impending endangerment of many species in the area can be mainly attributed to deforestation, which is caused by several factors included in an article published in the ICEDOL Journal by Ajay Kumar. The article calls attention to the expansion of tourism, increase in forest fires in the area, and the undertaking of development activities, among other factors contributing to deforestation, and therefore, a loss in biodiversity.[5] Furthermore, the high preference of medicinal plants grown in the Himalaya region leads to illegal extraction from the wild for trade; This practice is not only harmful to the species themselves, many of which are on the brink of distinction despite being notified as a protected area. Beyond this, the practice of illegally trading medicinal plants impacts the many tribal communities who reside in the Himalayan region, and depend on these plants for medicinal purposes.[6]
         Even still, clearer and more devastating impacts of climate change can be seen in the recession of glaciers in the H.P. region over the years. Deglaciation in the Beas basin between the periods of 1976-2006 resulted in approximately a 11.6% loss, with the number of glaciers increasing from 224-236 due to fragmentation.[7]
         So, as a tourist, adventure-seeker, hiker etc. wanting to visit Manali, how does one appreciate their surroundings without leaving a negative impact on them? Through connecting with locals and doing some secondary research, I’ve come up with a few tips:

1.       Admire from afar: While the views are beautiful in Manali, it is primarily because, for the most part, they are untouched. Appreciating and photographing wildlife, plants, flowers etc. is totally okay! Picking them or destroying them for photo-ops or campfires? Not so much.
Take only photographs, leave only footprints: This one is pretty self-evident, but considering the amount of litter (and even waster) I saw on some of the trails, it is worth noting. Leave 1.       packing space for garbage you create during your treks, and always dig your waste hole far away from water sources!
2.       Ask local, shop local, trek local: The villagers of Manali care more about their home than any traveller passing through. Put your questions, dollars and interest in the local economies, and sustain the very fabric that makes Manali such a magical place! Besides, the locals know the trails like the backs of their hands.
3.       Respect the mountain: Enough said.

While Manali is a paradise to those who love adventure and scenery, we often forget that paradise must be maintained by someone. We are so grateful to have had the opportunity to visit this beautiful place, and look forward to seeing how HPPBC continues to conserve it in the future!



Wednesday, 20 June 2018

4th International Yoga Day -2018

Happy Yoga Day !
Yoga is not only a form of exercise to improve out physical health but it is also becomes a genuine spiritual practice. Making us mentally & physically awake.Yoga helps us to understand one’s self, once we understand that, we are close to God & super natural powers.
Yoga is a dynamic participation in one’s life. It motivate & inform us to bring harmonious relationship between all other living beings and bring more closer to one’s self and super natural power.
Quote “Yoga not only bring healthy body & mind but also bring wisdom” –Gaurav Kashyap .

Friday, 15 June 2018

Altruistic Volunteering

While most people volunteer in order to help others, they’ve likely experienced positive feelings or even a “helper’s high” at the same time. Who volunteered with some regularity lived longer, but only if their intentions were truly altruistic. In other words, they had to be volunteering to help others—not to make themselves feel better.Now, a new study has found that volunteering can not only improve the volunteers’ sense of self, but can reduce their risk of mortality.The study, the first meta-analysis to look at the association between volunteering and mortality, was published in the journal Psychology and Aging.

Mental health benefits of volunteering. 
Studies have shown that volunteering helps people who donate their time feel more socially connected, thus warding off loneliness and depression. But I was surprised to learn that volunteering has positive implications that go beyond mental health. A growing body of evidence suggests that people who give their time to others might also be rewarded with better physical health—including lower blood pressure and a longer lifespan.
Adults over age 50 who volunteered on a regular basis were less likely to develop high blood pressure than non-volunteers. High blood pressure is an important indicator of health because it contributes to heart disease, stroke, and premature death.
It’s impossible for this study to prove that volunteering was directly responsible for the lower blood pressure readings. People who volunteer may be more likely to do other things, like eat a healthy diet or exercise, that lower blood pressure. But the results are in line with other findings on the topic.
The benefits of volunteering
How might volunteering contribute to lower blood pressure? Performing volunteer work could increase physical activity among people who aren’t otherwise very active, says lead study author Rodlescia Sneed, a doctoral candidate in social and health psychology at Carnegie Mellon University. It may also reduce stress. “Many people find volunteer work to be helpful with respect to stress reduction, and we know that stress is very strongly linked to health outcomes,” she says.

As with any activity thought to improve health, researchers are trying to identify the specific characteristics of volunteering that provide the greatest benefit.
Quote: "Altruistic volunteering is the real essence of volunteering" - Gaurav Kashyap

Edited By -Gaurav

Thursday, 14 June 2018

Volunteering & Social Events Can Extend Lifespan

Religious people may live on average four years longer compared to their atheist peers, a study of obituaries in the US has found. The four-year boost — found in an analysis of over 1,000 obits from around the US — was calculated after taking into account the sex and marital status of those who died, two factors that have strong effects on lifespan
“Religious affiliation had nearly as strong an effect on longevity as gender does, which is a matter of years of life,” said Laura Wallace, a doctoral student at The Ohio State University. The study, published in ‘Social Psychological and Personality Science’, found that part of the reason for the boost in longevity came from the fact that religiously affiliated people also volunteered and belonged to social organisations, which previous research has linked to living longer.
“The study provides persuasive evidence that there is a relationship between religious participation and how long a person lives,” said Baldwin Way, an associate professor at Ohio State.
The first study involved 505 obituaries published in the ‘Des Moines Register’ in January and February 2012. In addition to noting the age and any religious affiliation of those who died, the researchers also documented sex, marital status and the number of social and volunteer activities listed. The results showed that those whose obit listed a religious affiliation lived 9.45 years longer than those who did not. The gap shrunk to 6.48 years after gender and marital status were taken into account.
The second study included 1,096 obituaries from 42 major cities in the US published on newspaper websites between August 2010 and August 2011. In this study, people whose obits mentioned a religious affiliation lived an average of 5.64 years longer than those whose obits did not, which shrunk to 3.82 years after gender and marital status were considered.
However, while volunteering and social events can extend lifespan, the researchers believe they aren’t the only factors. Lifestyle guidelines, such as abstaining from drinking alcohol or taking drugs, could explain the boost, as well as practices which ease stress, such as praying or meditating.
This is the latest research to point to religion having life-boosting effects. In 2016, a study published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine suggested that regularly attending religious services can increase lifespan. AGENCIES


Happy Eid Mubarak ! :)

Eid Mubarak !To Everyone ! May Allah's blessings light up the path and lead to happiness, peace & success .

Wednesday, 6 June 2018

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Tuesday, 5 June 2018

Happy World Environment Day -2018 !

Beat Plastic Pollution ! Go Green & Save Our Environment !!

World Environment Day 2018

This year world environment day 2018 theme is Beat Plastic Pollution .Plastic is giving slow poison to our environment everyday. before it is to late ,we should stop using it .We have to adopt and use bio-degradable product and Eco -friendly product . If we really want to make our environment safe for our future generations . It's never too late to start so from today onwards lets say no to plastic bags!On World Environment Day ,Let's join together to beat plastic pollution and make our city plastic free. Please Do not ask for polythene bags while doing shopping ,Use you Eco Friendly hand bags like Jute or home made hand bags .

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The Thorn in India’s Environmental Side: Open Defecation and a Review of Swachh Bharat

Happy World Environment Day from all of us here at HEEALS! In honour of this important day, this blog post will reflect on India as this year’s global host for World Environment Day, with specific focus on The Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation’s “Swachh Bharat Mission”, and it’s goal of making India Open Defecation Free (ODF) by 2019.

India is the open defecation capital of the world, with just under half of the population - 564 million people - unable or unwilling to use a toilet.[1] Beyond the obvious and devastating impacts that this has on Indian health, open defecation is a serious environmental concern for several reasons. Human waste introduces toxins and bacteria into the ecosystem that cannot be broken down in a sustainable time, relative to the amount that they are released. This buildup of microbes harms aquatic systems and the life that occupy them. Open defecation also contributes to eutrophication, preventing light diffusion and oxygen from reaching life underwater. Above the surface, even the smell of human waste in excess pollutes the surrounding air.[2] One often hears of open defecation from the perspective of it's health impacts, and for good reason; However, regarding open defecation from an environmental lens provides a more nuanced and complex perspective to the issue.

On October 2nd, 2014, the Prime Minister of India launched the “Swachh Bharat Mission” with the objective of facilitating a clean and ODF country over a five-year time span. The strategy for implementing this massive task includes augmenting the institutional capacity of districts to allow for behaviour change activities at the grassroots level. The program also intended on providing more flexibility to states, so as to incentivize local communities based on individual context and maximize coverage.[3] The mission places priority on facilitating behaviour change, as many rural communities are unaware of the health and environmental impacts of open defecation, and therefore see it as more convenient than using a toilet.

So, with just over a year left until the projected “ODF India”, let’s explore how the project has performed; The Swachh Bharat website suggests the facilitation of 17 ODF states since 2014, with a grand total of 73,680,690 household toilets built since October 2014.[4] The mission has reached 62.48% of its goal, and while nowhere near the projected 100% ODF, one must commend the mission on having made it this far. With a population size like India’s, making any claim for completeness - especially regarding something as ingrained in society as open defecation - is quite unlikely to be achieved. Nonetheless, 62.48% is quite significant. The five districts with the highest ODF coverage are ordered as follows: A & N Islands, Arunachal Pradesh, Chandigard, Chattisgarh, and D & N Haveli.

Now for the projects downfalls. For a project that claimed to give more autonomy to individual states, there is a significant gap in the project implementation that leaves Low-Income States (LIS) behind. The four listed LIS - Assam, Bihar, Jharkhand and Uttar Pradesh - lack the same progress as their neighbouring states in terms of ODF districts. For example, of the 33 districts in Assam, only 11 were declared ODF, and the verification information is not listed on the website. In Uttar Pradesh, only 7 out of 75 states were declared ODF, and of those 7, only 2 were actually verified ODF.[5] This is in comparison to states such as Haryana, Gujarat and Chattisgarh, where 100% of districts were both declared and verified as being ODF.

While it makes sense to contextualize local realities by regulating Swachh Bharat at a state level, it does not help to ignore state capacity in the process- without aiding Low-Income States reach the same level of progress as those more capable, Swachh Bharat becomes less of a national mission, and more of a fragmented mission open to states who are able to implement it properly.

This World Environment Day, let us reflect on our own individual capacities to do better for our world, and take these capacities into account in our advocacy work. Let us raise each other up in the process of creating a better and more sustainable planet. Happy World Environment Day!

WASH and Menstrual Hygiene Intern Coordinator



Tackling Plastic Pollution

At HEEALS, one of our main concerns is keeping our environment healthy. We’re living in an age where single-use plastics are everywhere, especially in the hot months when people switch from their paper cups filled with teas and coffees to cold beverages in plastic cups. We wanted to write a special blog post for World Environment Day – especially because this year India is the host and the theme is “Beat Plastic Pollution.” To be totally honest, doing the research for this blog post was devastating, and showed me personally how much more informed I need to be about environmental issues and how much more I need to be doing. So, without further ado, here is a fact list that will break your heart.
·         While India has a lot of visible plastic pollution, there is actually less produced here per capita than in most other countries- and by a long shot too. On average, Indians use 24 pounds of plastic in a year, and when you think about how light plastic is, you realize that this is quite a lot. On the other hand, Americans are using an average of 240 pounds of plastic per year- and while I couldn’t find the numbers for Canada it would be safe to guess that it’s around the same amount.

·         A plastic bag can take up to 1000 years to decompose. A plastic bottle takes around 500 years. A foam cup can take between 50 and 100 years.
·         Throughout the world, 20,000 plastic bottles are purchased every single second. That’s 1,728,000,000 plastic bottles purchased every day- adding up to a grand total of six hundred and eighty billion, seven hundred and twenty million every year (680,720,000,000).
·         Trash on beaches and in oceans often get carried north by the water currents and eventually wash up onto Arctic shores. In 2017, Dutch scientists found an average of 575 pieces of garbage per 100 metres of beach on Jan Mayen Island, dubbed the “most remote” island in the north of the Atlantic Ocean. By comparison, they found only 375 pieces/100m on Dutch beaches, even though these areas see an immensely greater number of humans every day.
As devastating as reading these facts can be, it’s important to remember two things: (1) the world can’t be expected to change overnight, but (2) we all have a role to play in conserving the environment and no effort is too small. This can mean bringing a reusable bottle or thermos next time you go to Starbucks, or carrying your empty plastic bottle a little further until you get to a recycling bin rather than just a trash can. It can mean writing to politicians and business owners, starting initiatives if you have those positions of authority, and teaching kids young about the importance of keeping our Earth clean.
In India right now there are some really cool initiatives going on. The organization ExtraCarbon will pick up your recyclables for you and even pay you for them as well! Unilever has developed a method that will allow us to recycle PET bottle indefinitely, with none of the health and safety concerns that have been present in the past, and in areas of India there are even roads being made out of recycled plastic!
HEEALS has also been doing some work in the recycled plastic sector. We have a “Say ‘No’ To Plastic” campaign promoting the use of reusable bags over plastic ones and have a catalogue where you can purchase recycled hand-made jewelry and crafts to support the NGO. We also have a partnership with BlueHorse Group, who make and sell eco-friendly and organic products. If you want to know more about what HEEALS is doing to help the environment and learn how you can get involved, reach out to Gaurav Kashyap, director, at

WASH and Menstrual Hygiene Intern Coordinator