Day 13 and 14: Worries about the east coast, adapting to mountainous terrain and the need to act NOW
I woke up on Day 13 to a fantastic day and beautiful scenery but my heart hung heavy and I was unable to sleep the previous night on account of the devastating deluge that has drowned Chennai and the coastal regions of Tamil Nadu. The stories of suffering and the enormous impact of Climate Change being felt so acutely by everyone, but particularly the poorest, weighed on me. It is ironic that the cause of all this destruction is the cause that I am walking for. If there ever was a clearer reminder that world leaders need to act in Paris, then this was it. We need to get the message out to them that they need to take a fair, ambitious and binding decision as quickly as possible.
It was on from Coimbatore towards Valparai, walking in the beautiful Annamalai Hill range that was oddly reminiscent of Scotland. I was excited to be visiting one of the oldest tea companies in India, the Bombay Burma Trading Corporation Limited (http://bbtcl.com/tea-plantation/), which was incorporated in 1863. I was received by two of their senior executives Mr.Menon and Mr.Kapoor and welcomed by school children who treated us to an impromptu shower of flowers.
The BBTCL is an amazing company, a forerunner in Fair Trade and sustainable organic farming. They have a view towards enlightened employee welfare. The tea they grow is eighty percent organic and the use of windmills for energy minimises the environmental footprint. As they follow vigorous and robust soil and water protection, they have never faced the issue of landslides. They have just introduced Fair Trade tea in India under the brand name Oothu tea (green and black). They have shifted from conventional, environmentally damaging farming methods to organic farming, meeting the challenge head on.
Day 14 dawned with the news of more devastation across Chennai and the coastal areas of Tamil Nadu, leading to a sombre mood. As I go on with my walk, I carry with me thoughts and prayers for my wife Uma and the rest of the family in Chennai. I was very pleased and excited to be taking the story of my walk to students at the Bharathiyar University in Coimbatore. Bharathiyar is the author of one of my favourite poems, one that keeps my spirits up and eggs me on. He is also one of the leading authorities on issues of social justice and equality - so going to the University named after him to speak at the National Conference on Empowering People - Effective Social Work Approaches and Strategies was a fitting close to these two busy days.
Edited by Shyam Pushpanath and Nisha Sundar