Profile: Harela Society

Harela Society, formed by a group of radical and humble thinkers, believes in spreading awareness about environmental conservation amongst communities, with a focus on young people in Uttarakhand.

Harela helps imbibe a sense of consideration for nature by developing small-scale models that can be locally replicated. Formed in 2012, the Harela Society believes in forming local archetypes of reconciliation of ecology supporting sustainable development. Inspired by the Harela Festival, an inspiring example of reconciliation which helps in restoring the natural balance of the environment and prevent soil erosion, hence the name. Reconciliation ecology is the science of strengthening, establishing and maintaining new habitat to conserve species and diversity in places where people live, work and play.

Formed in 2012, the Harela Society believes in forming local archetypes of reconciliation of ecology supporting sustainable development. Inspired by the Harela Festival, an inspiring example of reconciliation which helps in restoring the natural balance of the environment and prevent soil erosion. Reconciliation ecology is the science of inventing, establishing and maintaining new habitat to conserve species and diversity in places where people live, work and play.

Name of organisation: Harela Society

Year of founding: April 2012

District / State of operation: Pithoragarh (Uttarakhand)

Contact person: Manoj ‘Dafaali’ Matwal

Harela seeks to network with Community Based Organizations (CBOs), government agencies, groups and individuals working for similar goals of conservation and revitalization of the environment by imparting the understanding of ecological reconciliation and scientific information among the stakeholders by using and managing natural resources. Subsequently, the organization attempts to gather and promote the use of traditional knowledge in the benefit of nature and people and ensure the spreading of knowledge and experience earned through the work for global use.

With more than 150 volunteers working with the organization currently, Harela has done a commendable job in fighting forest fires, particularly the one in 2016, by initially providing the otherwise inadequate fire department with manpower. Harela seeks to spread awareness among the locals regarding the forest fires, train them adequately to fight these fires and provide them with the required equipment to make them more effective. The locals still believe that these forest fires are a blessing in disguise for a better fodder production. Whereas, in reality, due to these forest fires, all seeds burn out along with a loss of roots which help in vegetative propagation of grass. It is also thought that forest fires recycle many elements like Potash, Sodium Oxide, etc back to the soil. But due to rain in the hilly slopes, everything gets washed off, making the soil more infertile. Along with the loss of trees, small bushes, shrubs and grass cover due to the forest fires, there is also a huge amount of loss of surface soil because of the rain. Forest fires also are a huge reason behind global climate change, glacier melt and cloud bursts.

Apart from this, Harela also volunteers in animal rescuing during disasters, particularly in Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand. With a MoU with Wildlife Trust of India and International Fund for Animal Welfare, Harela seeks to train their team members in this and form a professional team that will conduct disaster operations in times of despair.

Fagun and Enviroscope

Fagun, an organic colour manufactured from Rhododendron flowers, was distributed as a flagship project of the Harela Society during the Hindu festival of Holi. Sans chemicals, fagun added a sense of organic joy to the vivacious festival without harming the environment. A part of the revenue earned from the sale of the product was contributed to the regeneration of Rhododendron plants. Diyas were made during Diwali, the festival of light, from thrown out bottles and paved the way for local community participation and employment generation with sustainability.  

This initiative called Enviroscope sought to merge the art of filmmaking with environmental consciousness among young people. Individuals and students were asked to send self-documented short documentaries on environmental issues relating to their surroundings. It went on to become a huge success in terms of participation as well as in locating key environmental issues like deforestation, encouraging creativity and logical thinking among school children.

It is not an easy task to motivate the youth, but the Harela Society has sought to bring together music, photo walks, wall painting, theatre and environment through various activities. And while conducting these activities like regular cleanups, disaster management practices, and relief work during disasters, animal rescues and water stream revival campaign, various environmental issues are introduced and conservation becomes the focus point. 

Waste Management, River Walk and Snake Bite Mitigation

By developing an innovation model through creating a small scale biodegradable compost unit which is being distributed among farmers as manure, Harela plans to collect and segregate non-biodegradable waste. Turning plastic wastes into handicrafts is another such model which aims at waste management. Apart from these, Harela also plans to work extensively for cleaning up the Yakshavati river with the help of their strong team of volunteers. The river walk ensured that the river bed is cleaned up which is brimming with sewage and waste. A documentary named “Save Yakshavati” was  shot to generate awareness among people regarding the issue which is the source of drinking water for more than 50% of the city.

Snake bite mitigation was another activity undertaken extensively to educate and spread awareness among the locals about the uses and the nature of anti-venom and how a person can be saved from snake bites without actually harming the victim.Huh A Tree is the most recent attempt the by Harela Society to create a sense of belonging among the people and recreate the connection between the environment and mankind. The primary target group remains school children and youth who are mobilized and sensitized about several environmental issues. Innovative, affordable and efficient models are being researched and carried out by the R&D team.

Bolti Deeware was another simple yet effective way of spreading awareness among the people with paintings done by students on issues like forest fire, cloud bursts, pollution in our streams, etc. Wall painting has provided a permanent space to emerging ideas and thoughts while encouraging creativity, teamwork and beautification of the city along with a permanent message on conservation.



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