FES team helps Indian tsunami vicitms

Members of York’s Faculty of Environmental Studies who have been working in areas of India affected by the Dec. 26, 2004 tsunami, are mounting a special presentation to raise awareness of the need for assistance in India’s Chennai (formerly Madras) region.

Right and below: Images from the Pallavan Nagar slum, which was battered by the tsunami. The photos were taken by Naina Shah, who is with the non-governmental organization Exnora. Shah is working with the team from FES that has been on location in Pallavan Nagar.

Faculty and student project team members will be making the presentation about the communities of Pallavan Nagar and Anju Kudasai on Tuesday, Jan. 11 on the first floor of the HNES building

There will be an ongoing slide show from 10:30am until 3pm. In addition to the slide show, there will be two presentations taking place at 11:30am and 2pm. A team member will be present throughout the day to provide additional information and to answer questions.

Since the disaster, little information has been forthcoming about damage suffered in the Chennai region. The Pallavan Nagar slum, a community of about 325 households located on a beach in north Chennai, was hit hard by the tsunami. The community is extremely poor, living in thatch huts with no toilet facilities, no protected water supply and no solid waste collection. The community is subject to all sorts of environmentally related diseases and has endured recurring outbreaks of cholera. The livelihood of the community is largely supported by fishing in the Bay of Bengal.

The recent tsunami destroyed a series of shops on the ocean side of the squatter settlement and washed away about 50 huts. Initial reports indicated that 10 people working the shops and two children playing by a temple near the sea were killed in the disaster. The tsunami also destroyed and damaged boats and fishing nets that provide a meagre source of income for much of the community.

Pallavan Nagar is one of two vulnerable communities (Anju Kudasai is the other) with whom an interdisciplinary team of researchers from Canadian and Indian universities and collaborating non-governmental organizations, led by Martin Bunch, professor in the Faculty of Environmental Studies at York, have been working as part of a longstanding project called “An Adaptive Ecosystem Approach to Managing Urban Environments for Human Health”. The project has operated a participatory approach to building capacity in these two communities to deal with their poor environment and health situation. Both communities were affected by the recent tsunami.

People who wish to make donations to assist these specific communities to rebuild in the aftermath of the tsunami can make their donations through the not-for-profit NGO “Network for Ecosystem Sustainability and Health”. (NESH does not yet have charitable status, so tax receipts cannot be issued.) Funds collected will go entirely to assist the slum communities concerned but the actual destination of the money will depend on decisions made by the community groups associated with the project, in conjunction with the NGOs working with them. (In this kind of project outsiders do not make decisions on such matters independent of the wishes and intentions of the local participants.) Donations to these communities will be coordinated on the ground in Chennai by FES project team members.

For more information on Tuesday’s event, or on how to make donations to assist Pallavan Nagar and Anju Kudasai communites, contact Martin Bunch by e-mail or at ext. 22630.