In my constituency in Bareilly I find cows being taken regularly and openly to Rampur to be killed illegally. I have made squads of boys and they started catching the trucks. The cows were given to a local gaushala. This gaushala is on land given by the government and is run by a committee of traders, lawyers and society bigwigs. They are given donations by the local market associations to look after the cows. No one ever checks their work.

One day, I asked the boys to check the health of the cows we had put into the gaushala. They didn't find them. There were some milking cows in a shed. A sweeper told us that the animals were regularly sold to the butchers of Rampur -the people we were saving them from in the first place. There was no doctor, only a few people whose job was to milk the cows and distribute the milk to the traders. The money from the market association went into the pockets of the committee members -as did the thousands of rupees from the cow sale.

These are good Hindus. The ones, who have little mandirs at home, go to the ramlilas and keep the nauratna fasts.

I was furious. I asked the District Magistrate to investigate. No registers of entries were found, slips of sale, registers of food bought, milk taken out, salaries given. The place was filthy.

The DM ordered the committee to be removed and punishment after a formal investigation. They paid the Chief Veterinary Officer who in any case would have given them a clean chit as he had never done his duty by going to the gaushala so he said the cows had probably died. Hundreds of them, and only the non milking ones? The committee members approached the local MLA who kept asking for them to be let off as “everyone makes mistakes". The DM surrendered and said that the Gaushala committee of Lucknow should take a decision. I had an official brought out. She was fed and sent back and till today has not written a report. These worthies are still there. The selling may have stopped - but now they have found another way to steal money. They simply refuse to take in animals.  I will deal with them after the elections.

This is the story of 75% of gaushalas in India.

One of the worst cases is the gaushala in Agra. I have films and photographs of dying cows, their eyes pecked by crows. 500 animals pushed in there. No one makes it beyond a week. The committee has made a marriage house on part of the land and rent it out every day. Huge amounts of noise and filth and the smells of meat emanate from it. The committee pockets the money, takes the milk and the animals die of food, overcrowding and filth.  There is a small enclosure for milking cows and the two employees’ only job is to milk them and deliver the milk to the committee members. Repeated complaints to the Agra Commissioner, inspections, have all resulted in nothing because the head of the committee is the owner of the largest selling Hindi paper in Uttar Pradesh.

In some cases the gaushala is run by the administration themselves as in Indore and the cows do not last more than 2 days. They are caught by the local municipal employees who drag them by their legs into tractors and throw them into the enclosure where they lie there with broken legs till they die. There is no food or water as the man on the desk pockets the amount. The government gaushala in Jaipur during the BJP regime killed 33,000 before the press found out. No one has been penalized till today.

I have received many serious complaints about the Srikrushna Goshala in Jharsuguda, Orissa. The Committee has sold part of the government land for a market complex and pocketed 78 lakhs. Some part has been made into a marriage hall. The cows are not given water and their feed is old. On one day 87 cows died from eating fungus filled chara.  Old cows which are supposed to be kept by the gaushala are thrown on to the road or sold to butchers. In 2005 the gaushala was given Rs 8 .7 lakhs for making a cowshed. Till today the gaushala has no sheds and the cows are exposed to sun and rain. From Kutch I have received a detailed list of irregularities on the hundreds of gaushalas dotting Gujarat. These gaushalas are supported by the state government and receive generous grants from Gujaratis all over the world.

Here are some of the points: I enumerate them because the gaushala in your area probably does the same.

1. The gaushala refuses to take sick and disabled cows or to use an ambulance to rescue these.

2. The gaushala refuses to take buffaloes even though they are exactly the same as cows in giving milk etc. They refuse to take bulls or bullocks.

3. The institution will not keep registers of animals. If they are government aided they increase the number in order to get more grants. If they are unaided, they couldn't be bothered to record their animals

4. Most sell animals supposedly to villagers but these are really middlemen for butchers. The gaushala people pretend that they do not know where the animal is going. No entries are made in any registers about the adopters. Money goes into their pockets.

5. No medical facilities are available. Most gaushalas just have a few attendants. If an animal collapses, it is left there till it dies. Some gaushalas use government vets who come when they have time.

6. No cleaning is done. If the cow dung is sold, it is picked up; otherwise the animals stand in their faeces and urine leading to foot rot.

7. No proper food is given. No one knows how to mix dry hay and green fodder. The gaushala operates on whatever it gets free or least expensive. Thousands of animals die in agony of bloat. Much of the hay is funguses because it is kept for months in unclean godowns. Water is given sparingly and many die of thirst.

8. The gaushala is an overcrowded prison for cows. The cows are kept out in the heat and cold. They die of heat stroke or cold. The sheds are few and used for milking cows only.

9. Most gaushalas convert part of the land given to them into commercial premises and appropriate the money. That is why there is such competition to sit on a gaushala committee.

10. Many companies enter into deals with gaushalas and pretend to contribute vast sums to get the income tax deduction under 80 G or 35 AC. Most of the money is then returned to the “donor" with a small amount kept as transaction fee by the gaushala committee. Many institutions set up gaushalas simply to convert their profits and avoid taxes.

11. Gaushala take agricultural land from the government to grow fodder for the cows. This is either not done or it is used for non-agricultural purposes.

12. Many gaushalas have luxurious marbled living quarters used by the management and as guest houses. They are made out of donations.

13. Many gaushalas take their old cows out supposedly for grazing and then abandon them there. The cows wander into the fields or villages.

When I was minister I made a law that no gaushala was allowed to milk cows. Milking cows would be put with motherless calves. But the gaushalas in Haryana are all large dairies with milking cows and missing calves- which means they have been sold to the butchers. There is a Haryana person who goes from gaushala to gaushala and takes money to inject old cows with a mix of hormones which he guarantees will make them give milk again. He has a line of customers.

Are there any Hindus left in India?

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Rosy ringed Parakeets are most common illegally traded birds in India. Every other week scores of beautiful Indian parakeets are rescued by People For Animals volunteers and brought to Sanjay Gandhi Animal Care Centre. They are taken off trains and tops of buses, hundreds cramped into square cane boxes with split levels. The bottom layer is barely 6 inches tall and the birds are squatting, many of them with broken legs and wings covered with the faeces of the top layer birds. The boxes are covered by gunny bags and many die from suffocation. Many will never fly again – if they recover. 

Every month lakhs of parakeets are taken from their nests and transported all over India. Only 10 % remain alive after a month. This is a vicious and illegal trade and within a few years there will be no parakeets left in India. When the parakeet goes, so will much of our Indian heritage.

Today’s children have no idea what a sparrow is, so the word “chidiya” evokes no images. The wild boar, once considered a scourge, is gone: I have not seen one for ten years though state government keep bringing out illegal fiats asking people to kill them. The vulture is as legendary as the dinosaur.  And now it is the turn of the Rosy ringed and the Alexandrine Parakeet. In Hindu mythology, Kama is the god of love, a beautiful youth riding on a parakeet. Its green feathers represent fertility. Its red beak represents the earth before the rain and the green feathers represent the green earth after the rains. Red represents unfulfilled desire and green represents joy and fulfilment. 

In Uttar Pradesh, the village love songs call the parakeet Sua or Suganva and request them to carry message from distant lovers. In many folk songs, girls request their lovers to bring them Sua pankhi  (parrot green) odhni (veil/chunni). In many South Indian temples, the Goddess holds a parakeet in her hand. This is the gentle form of Devi, a contrast from her more fierce form where she is associated with tigers and lions. Both Kamakshi of Kanchi and Meenakshi of Madurai, forms of Parvati, hold parakeets.  In this form she is the love-goddess or enchantress who charms Shiva and transforms the hermit-god into a householder, thus ensuring a participation of god in worldly life. The parakeet has strong romantic connotations. Small wonder then, that one of the earliest collections of erotic stories in India is known as Suka-Saptati or 70 tales of the parakeet.  

Like the one thousand and one Arabian Nights of Scheherazade, spent in telling stories to the sultan Shahayar to save her life, Suka Saptati are the tales told by a parakeet to a lonely wife.   Before leaving on a trading expedition across the seas, a merchant asked his wise mynah to take care of his wife. The wife, Padmavati, lonely and influenced by a wanton woman, decides to take a lover. As she prepares to leave the house, her pet mynah admonishes her for behaving so. Enraged, the wife wrings the mynah's neck. 

The parakeet uses a different tactic. He begins by approving her intention, saying that pleasure is indeed a goal of life and in the absence of her husband she should take a lover.  But he asks, should she be caught with her lover, does she have the brains to get out of the situation?  Intrigued, Padmavati asks the parakeet what she should do.  The parakeet tells her a story about adulteresses and Padmavati stays home.  This continues over 70 nights, until the merchant returns.  Prompted by the parrot, Padmavati confesses to her husband, who forgives her and the parakeet extols the virtue of understanding and forgiveness. 

The story Suka-saptati has been translated in many languages. In Persian, it is called Tuti-nama or parrot-tales. In one version, the husband returns after being informed of her adultery by the self-righteous and vengeful mynah. He kills his wife, not realising that, thanks to the parakeet, she has never cheated on him. In despair, he becomes an ascetic. The stories even reached Europe. In one Italian version it is said that the parrot turns into a prince and seduces the merchant's wife.

For me, the soul of India is the monsoon, the mango tree, the shimmery green parakeet and the rice field, the call of the koel, the mud of the river Ganges in full spate. Take any of these away and I will feel widowed again, lost in an alien land. Please don’t buy the parakeet. Report all sellers to the police and free the birds after beating up the illegal sellers as you would an anti-national terrorist caught setting fire to your area.

Maneka Gandhi

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More and more pedigreed animals continue to pour in to my hospital with the same type of diseases. When we check we find that several dogs suffering from the same disease – like hip dysplasia – have come from the same breeder. I have him raided. We find three females all pregnant by their brother. Inbreeding or incest is defined as the use of close relations for breeding such as mother to son, father to daughter, brother to sister. It is taboo in most cultures for good reason.  Genes carry the map of who you will be and what diseases you will suffer from. Let us suppose you carry the ‘bad” gene of a disease. You mate with someone who does not have the disease.  Bad genes are usually recessive – which means they are weaker than good genes. So when the bad gene is mixed with a good gene it has less than a 50 % chance of affecting your child. But if you were to mate your brother, your child would have a much stronger bad gene as both of you are carrying it.

Which communities have the most physical problems? Parsis, Muslims, those small sects and clans that marry first cousins. One group that has been intensively studied is the Ashkenazim, or Eastern-European Jews in whom exist a large number of genetic diseases especially of a neurological nature. In Finns, 39 genetic diseases unique to the nation have been identified. These are known as the Finnish Disease Heritage (FDH) and most commonly affect the eyes and nervous system.   A close relationship between parents increases the risk of miscarriage, stillbirth and early death of children as a result of weakened immunity against disease. 

The same thing applies to animals. Inbred animals lose their ability to produce antibodies to fight diseases. Suddenly whole species can be lost to infections that would have little effect on a normal animal. Scientists have produced laboratory animals, strains of mice, rats, and other animals that are so inbred as to be genetically identical. Each animal in one of these strains is the identical twin (aside from sex) of every other animal of that strain. These animals must be kept in a nearly sterile environment, because their immune systems are not capable of fighting off any diseases. The cheetah was reduced by habitat restriction, overhunting to a very small number of individuals. All cheetahs now come from this very small gene pool. A virus can take them to extinction as they have no resistance and currently they are being decimated by feline infectious peritonitis, which has a disease rate in domestic cats from 1%–5% but 50-60% in cheetahs. Asiatic lions in Gir have the same problem. The population is a few hundred and there is no mechanism for preventing inbreeding.

In the prides, most lionesses are related to one another. The alpha males of two neighbouring prides can be from the same litter; one brother may come to acquire leadership over another's pride, and subsequently mate with his 'nieces' or cousins.  Wolf packs and Giant Pandas suffer from the effects of inbreeding. This has led to poor fertility and high infant mortality. As Panda populations become more isolated from one another (due to humans blocking the routes which Pandas once used to move from one area to another), they have greater difficulty in finding a mate with different genes. The worst inbreeding problems exist in the animals that humans “ use”.

Animal breeders have a set goal in mind: to make the animal bigger, fatter or smaller, a colour, one that gives more milk etc. So they repeatedly breed animals with each other and kill those that do not have these traits till they get what they want. Dogs, cats, cows, pigs, geese, chickens – practically all the animals that are used by man have been tampered with in this way. The result is much weakened species’ with a host of diseases. (Now you know why 60 % of the world’s antibiotics are fed to animals.)  

Till today, attempts to produce highly productive inbred lines of domestic livestock have met with little success. Although occasional high performance animals are produced, inbreeding generally results in an overall reduction in performance. This reduction shows in many ways. The most obvious effects of inbreeding are poorer reproductive efficiency including higher mortality rates, lower growth rates and a higher frequency of hereditary abnormalities. This has been shown by numerous studies with cattle, horses, sheep, swine and laboratory animals. The greater the degree of inbreeding, the greater the reduction in performance. 

What happens when cows are inbred? While intensive inbreeding of Holstein cows led to higher yields of milk in twenty years, the cows themselves became more and more delicate and had much higher health costs. Studies done on cattle Ayrshire, Brown Swiss, Guernsey, Holstein, Jersey, and Milking Shorthorn showed that for every increase of 1% level of inbreeding  those animals gave 65 less pounds of milk, 2 pounds  less of butterfat, and 2 pounds less of protein. When Dexter cows were inbred severely deformed, dead foetuses were typical and often necessitated surgical intervention to save the cow. Research with swine shows that for each 10 percent increase in inbreeding, there is a decrease in the number of pigs born per litter. The most experimented on species has been the dog.

Dogs have been bred for  diverse purposes as hunting big game, retrieving small game, guarding homes, herding sheep, racing, dog-fighting, finding criminals, sniffing out drugs, guiding the blind, fishing, rat hunting, keeping humans company, drawing sleds and even for food, fur and as living hot-water bottles. They have been adapted to the needs of the elderly, solitary apartment dwellers, large families, farmers and fashion conscious socialites. From a base of two breeds , they are now more than 300, and ranging in size from 90 kg in weight and 90 cm high at the shoulder down to a height of 15 cm and a weight of 1 kg. Now dogs suffer from a number of genetic diseases common in particular breeds. Rottweilers suffer from a neurological disease known as neuroaxonal dystrophy, while ceroid lipofuscinosis, hereditary myelomalacia, hound ataxia and spongiform leukodystrophy are neurological diseases seen in cocker spaniels, Afghans, beagles and Labradors .  Bred for size, big dogs have shorter life spans than small dogs because their size tends to put strain on their cardiovascular and skeletal systems. Problems such as hip dysplasia and achalasia in the German Shepherd and patella luxation are more common in certain breeds. The flat faces of bulldogs and boxers cause breathing difficulties, and breeding for round heads has resulted in pugs requiring surgical intervention when birthing. Pure-bred dogs, having less variety in genes are generally less resistant to disease than mixed-breed dogs.

How can you tell if a breed or line is inbred? Reduced fertility in both sexes. Small litter sizes and high puppy mortality. The loss of a large proportion of dogs to one disease.  Highly inbred dogs also display abnormalities on a regular basis ranging from simple misaligned jaws to blindness and cancer. Many species disappear. For the 300 species of dogs that you see today, thousands of breeds have died out because they were malformed and sick. Many, like the Alsatian are on their way out. Dog breeders are motivated by short term profit rather than the health of the animal. 

In cats inbreeding has given rise to domestic breeds such as the Manx which is tailless. Its problems are small litters, stillbirths and spinal abnormalities. Other cat problems are many toes on each foot; dwarfism. One breed which was almost lost because of inbreeding is the American Bobtail. Breeders tried to produce a bobtailed cat with white boots and white blaze, but only succeeded in producing unhealthy cats with poor temperaments.  The rules governing colour and pattern which had turned large, robust cats into small, delicate creatures had to be abandoned.

Most animals have evolved mechanisms to avoid inbreeding of any sort. Pack animals like lions, monkeys and dogs, kick young males out to prevent them from mating with female relatives. Even fruit-flies have a sensing mechanism to avoid too close inbreeding. Unfortunately man discovered artificial insemination and created a Pandora’s Box of disease and suffering in the animal kingdom.

Maneka Gandhi

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I went to Delhi ’s most visited mall Select City , since we have a weekly stall for puppy/kitten adoption. The owner took me on a tour of the mall and pointed out a star attraction- a fish pedicure.

I have rarely seen anything more disgusting. People put their feet into a tub of small live fish who chew off the dead flesh of the heels and underneath the toes.  Man’s ability to be cruel and ridiculous seems to have no limits.

When I came home I looked up this bizarre practice on the Net and found that it started in 2006  in Japan but is now being done in many countries  with all sorts of people making a quick buck from beauty parlours to ‘street traders’ at markets with storage boxes full of fish. In 2008 it started in the United States and in 2010 in U.K.

The fish being used is the Garra rufa or the toothless Reddish Logsucker. Garra rufa is native to the river basins of the Northern and Central Middle East, mainly in Turkey, Syria, Iraq and Iran. Since it has been “discovered” for this gruesome trade, it has become so overfished that Turkey has banned it for export – and so it is an illegal smuggler’s fish.

The fish is touted as a tool to treat patients suffering from various skin disorders including psoriasis and eczema. The spas say that the fish will consume the dead and diseased areas of the skin, leaving the healthy skin to grow. This is not true. Filtration systems of tanks that have been analyzed have shown blood and healthy skin as well.

But before I get to the medical aspect, let me tell you about the cruelty aspect.

Fish need a stable environment, with the correct water quality and temperature range. In the ocean or river the fish can swim to a clean environment. But confined to a tub, they are exposed to smelly, grimy feet, nail polish, creams and lotions which leach into the water. Similarly, chemicals used to disinfect tanks and to clean patients' feet beforehand are potentially extremely toxic to the fish.

Garra rufa eat dead skin but only small amounts. But this is not their food. They eat like other fish do : they forage for algae – particularly green algae, small water fleas, woodlice, shrimps, rotifers - microscopic invertebrates with a wheel-shaped crown of projecting threads, and protozoa , insect larvae, freshwater worms and  tardigrades -tiny water animals with a short body and four pairs of stubby legs. The skin-feeding behaviour manifests only under conditions where the food supply is scarce and unpredictable. The fish must be starved to eat skin, which is extreme cruelty. Here they are eating dead human skin all day long. It is not uncommon to see a number of dead fish floating in each tank, with the primary cause of death being ammonia and nitrate poisoning or overfeeding.

Garra rufa fish belong to river basins, they do not belong in barren tanks inside artificially lit salons or in buckets in malls. People set up fish pedicure businesses with little or no experience in caring for the large quantities of fish that are required to run the business. In a few months all the little creatures are dead.  

If cruelty to these river basin fish does not interest you, what about severe risks to your health? Many countries and 14 states of the USA and Canada have banned the practice as unsanitary and dangerous. It is neither a medical nor a cosmetic procedure. Fish pedicures are just revenue enhancers for struggling salons and unscrupulous entrepreneurs.

In the UK, the Health Protection Agency issued a statement in October 2011 warning that fish foot spas could potentially spread blood borne viruses such as Hepatitis and HIV if infected clients bleed into the spa water and if someone with a cut or abrasion were to use a tank containing traces of blood from an infected person with cuts? Inspection teams found fish tank water contained a number of harmful micro-organisms and that infections could be transmitted from fish to person (during the nibbling process) and person to person via the bacteria which multiply in water. The report said: Infections could spread through open sores or blisters. People with weak immune systems or underlying medical conditions like diabetes. Bacteria that cause salmonellosis and legionnaires’ disease could come through broken skin. Staphylococcus aureus might infect people’s skin if they have eczema or psoriasis. A bacterium called Mycobacterium marinum, which is associated with fish tanks and non-chlorinated swimming pools, could cause boils if transferred into broken skin. Fungi are known to survive on inanimate surfaces for prolonged periods and could be passed on by infected clients walking around barefoot.

The report recommended that people who should not have a fish pedicure as they may increase the risk of infection or pose an infection risk to other clients are:

-have had their legs waxed or shaved in the previous 24 hours as they may have tiny cuts.

-have any open cuts, wounds, abrasions or broken skin on the feet or lower legs

-have athlete’s foot or warts, psoriasis, eczema or dermatitis ,diabetes, hepatitis B, hepatitis C or HIV, have bleeding disorders or take anticoagulant medication (for example, heparin or warfarin)  

While salons say they use ultraviolet lights and filters to keep the tanks clean but how do you sanitize epidermis eating fish? Even if the fish are changed for each person, no one has a limitless supply and no fish are killed after each nibbling session. Due to the cost of the fish, salon owners are likely to use the same fish multiple times with different customers, which increases the risk of spreading infection. Do fish spas provide their clients with medical information on potential risks? Are client’s feet examined both before and after treatment to make sure they are free from cuts and infections? Staff should log that these checks have been performed. Are feet thoroughly washed and rinsed before a pedicure to minimise the number of micro-organisms transferred into the tank. If bleeding occurs is the tank drained and cleaned thoroughly. Indian officials have been very negligent:

Since the fish are Turkish how did they get into India? Do the owners have any customs certification or CITES permission since this fish is protected in its home country and export is banned. Imagine someone keeping a Sumatran tiger in their shop. The first question would be how it came into the country. The same principle applies to fish.

A fish is a live animal. It has to be kept in a licensed aquarium or a meat/fish shop and is subject to rules. It certainly cannot be kept in a beauty parlour or mall shop that has not been licensed to sell or use fish.

Since Garra rufa are expensive, some salons are using another type of fish, the Chinese Chinchin, which is often mislabelled as Garra rufa and used in fish pedicures. This grows teeth and can draw blood, increasing the risk of infection

Environmentally Garra rufa is a threat to native plant and animal life if released into the wild. Many misguided salon owners simply pour live fish into drains or ponds after they have "used" them.

Maneka Gandhi

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The 17th Karmapa, of whom I wrote last week has on his site an instructional list for Buddhists, Kagyu Monastries and Centres. The list is truly inspirational and further increases my respect for the Karmapa for honing in on the right things and recognising the influence of the Net and using it. I do not have place in the column for all 108 but I will put down some and you should look up and follow the rest. This is what I call religion. 

ONE HUNDRED AND EIGHT THINGS YOU CAN DO TO HELP THE ENVIRONMENT. Produced during THE FIRST CONFERENCE ON ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION for Kagyu Monasteries and Centres, March 21st – 25th 2009, Vajra Vidya Institute, Sarnath , India .

1. Make aspiration prayers. We make aspiration prayers for all sentient beings. This should also include the Earth, which sustains us and gives us life. We can pray for a more harmonious world where humans recognize how their actions have harmed the Earth and change their behavior. 2. Read, discuss, and develop an understanding of environmental issues and how they affect you and your community. 3. Go vegetarian. Not only will you practice compassion for all sentient beings, but you will decrease the resources you use up. It takes about 100,000 litres of water to produce 1 kilogram of beef but only 750 litres of water to produce 1 kilogram of wheat. 4. Live simply. Practice your vinaya vow and live as simply as possible, without unnecessary possessions. 5. Educate people on environmental values. Whenever possible, teach stories and Buddhist traditions that illustrate harmony between people and nature. 7. Use less paper. A lot of trees are cut down simply to produce paper. Even a small choice such as printing on both sides of the paper makes a big difference. 9. When making offerings, make healthy choices. Buy fruit rather than sweets, or plants rather than cut flowers.

ACTIVITIES YOUR MONASTERY OR NUNNERY CAN LEAD WITHIN YOUR COMMUNITY…1. Create a mandala of nature. It should be a special place in your monastic lands that is an offering of all the wonderful things in nature; flowers, trees, water; recognizing that the earth itself is an offering. This will be in keeping with our own Kagyu tradition since Tsurphu monastery is known as the celestial palace and even as Chakrasamvara’s mandala. If you do not own enough land for such a project, please consider a rooftop garden.

3. Don’t buy many vehicles. There is a trend right now that senior lamas should have a car but this is not necessary. Keep in mind how harmful vehicles are for the environment; they emit carbon and contribute to global warming greatly.  11. When a new monk or nun joins the monastery or nunnery, have them plant a tree sapling as part of their commitment to serve the world. Their commitment should extend to taking care of the sapling until it becomes a tree.

12. Monasteries that need timber for building materials should oversee the planting of at least twice the number of trees that are used. 13. Encourage people who put up many prayer flags to string the prayer flags up instead of using one bamboo pole per flag. 14. Designate a sacred space on the monastery grounds, which can bring you closer to nature. Put prayer flags around a spring source, or a grove of trees, or a large wilderness area with a beautiful view, and encourage the monastic community to use it as a meditation ground. 15. Plant trees in severely degraded areas. Set up the practice of planting trees in areas where there are many landslides and above the slippage area. 16. Work with the local forestry department or an environmental organization to select the right kinds of trees for planting. Select varied species of trees that are indigenous to the area. This means that the trees will be more likely to survive. 17. After selecting the area, plant the tree saplings mixed with half-grown and fully grown trees. This will provide a more natural habitat and encourage wildlife species to thrive there as well. It is not enough just to plant a sapling; you must take care of it as it grows into a tree. 18. Keep the area protected from livestock and minimize the extraction of resources (fodder, thatch, medicine, etc.) for a few years.

21. Encourage community management of forests. If there are common property lands nearby that are degraded, work with local communities and environmental NGOs to establish sustainable community forestry. 22. Speak out against illegal timber cutting and trade. Forests belong to the entire community, not the people who cut them down. 23. Use recycled paper whenever possible. Pechas and other books regularly used by monasteries can be printed on recycled paper. 24. Use biogas as an alternative to fuel wood. In areas where people still depend on wood as their primary source of fuel, they should examine biogas as an alternative. Simple biogas plants can also address the issue of human waste and animal waste disposal. 25. Learn about the wildlife that exists in your area. Include these animals in your aspiration prayers and in your teachings. 26. Teach local communities to feel reverence for all life. 27. If you are in a heavily forested area, protect existing wildlife. 28. If you know of people who hunt or participate in illegal wildlife trade in your surrounding communities, advise them against killing endangered species. 29. Don’t buy fur, ivory, or other endangered-animal products. By buying these things, you are personally contributing to the extinction of an entire species. 30. If you can influence local communities to give up wearing the fur of tigers, leopards, and otters, do so. There are fewer than 1,500 tigers left in India now. 31. Think twice before using traditional medicines. Although we are vegetarian, we often consume meat products when we take traditional medicines. Even worse, many of these medicines are made from endangered-animal products. Look for alternatives before taking these medicines. 32. Don’t buy coral. Coral is a living organism found in the world’s oceans; it provides a home for other living things such as fish and crabs. Due to global warming, coral species are already under great threat, and if they disappear, much of the biodiversity in the oceans will be lost.

33. Don’t throw garbage into rivers! Remember that the river continues thousands of miles further and may be the only source of drinking water for millions of people. 34. In areas near a water source, designate a boundary and keep the area clean of waste products and livestock faeces. 36. Plant vegetation on the banks of rivers and lakes to protect them and to improve the quality of the water. Lakes and rivers covered with a layer of green algae are usually suffering from too many nitrates, which are found in fertilizers and pesticides. Protect them by planting river reeds and plants that are native to the area. 37. If monastic grounds are used for farming, encourage organic farming using few pesticides and fertilizers. Instead, promote the use of manure and compost products. Most pesticides and fertilizers are washed away into nearby water areas when it rains. 39. Recreate wetlands. Wetlands are nature’s filtering system for polluted water; it naturally purifies contaminated water. If you used to have marshes in surrounding areas, allow for some water diversion and plant locally found wetland plant species. 48. In dry areas, harvest rainwater. Capture some of the rain that falls on your roof by connecting a water barrel to a downpipe. This water can be used in the garden. If properly designed and filtered, you can also use rain-harvesting tanks for drinking water. 50. Reuse the water that is offered daily on all monastery altars. Monasteries can conserve a lot of water by using the water from offering bowls for watering gardens and plants. 51. In cold climates, design new buildings to face south so that rooms most used by monastic bodies during the evening have the most light and heat during the winter. Create large windows to maximize light and heat. 52. In hot climates, use shading to cool down buildings. Plant trees on the south side of the monastery to provide more shade. Use climbing plants on trellises/frames on the hottest side of buildings at least 15 centimetres from the wall. 54. Plant a “green roof.” Place corrugated tin sheets over the cement so that soil is not directly on the cement. If they are placed at an angle, the rainwater can slope down toward the roof drains. On top of the sheets you can plant a garden. A green roof will cool down the building because the plants will absorb the sun’s rays. 57. Landscape around new buildings. Plant deciduous trees (trees that have leaves in the summer and none in the winter) on the south side to provide summer shade and winter sun. 59. Plant trees or hedges around monasteries and between them and the road. The vegetation will capture most of the dust from the road before it reaches the building. 61. Create your own vegetable gardens. It is important from both a health and an environmental standpoint to eat more leafy green foods. Growing your own vegetables will also help young monks and nuns better understand interdependence between ourselves and nature. 62. Plant fruit trees and bamboos. This will bring many benefits to you. Plant fruits that are naturally found in that area. 66. Use energy-efficient lighting. Use low-energy compact fluorescent bulbs, which use only 1/4 the energy of incandescent bulbs. 67. Use lighting efficiently in main shrine rooms. Usually all the lights in the main shrine room are turned on during teachings, but often this is unnecessary if the central area is well lighted. 75. For dark rooms on the top floor or in shrine rooms, set up sun pipes. Sun pipes are like sheltered chimneys with reflective interior surfaces that direct light from the outside into dimly lit areas in a building. 76. Use solar energy in areas where sunlight is plentiful and consistent. Solar energy is used all over the Tibetan Plateau and Himalayas for heating water, producing light, and producing heat. Simple technology such as solar kettles and solar panels can be adapted easily. 77. Explore the possibility of wind energy. Wind energy is clean technology .You can use this type of energy for pumping water, grinding grain, or producing electricity. 83. Use natural materials such as earthen cups and leaf plates for public events.86. Recycle silk khatas. Instead of selling brand-new silk khatas, charge devotees a small amount of money to offer a clean recycled khata to Rinpoches instead. Since the production of silk involves killing silkworms, this is also beneficial Dharma. 87. Set up a compost project for the monastery kitchen. Create bins or establish an area that is covered with old carpet or plastic sheeting to retain moisture and heat. Add equal amounts of green matter like plants and vegetables and brown matter like paper and twigs. Turn the compost every few weeks to make sure it decomposes properly and does not produce methane. Compost can be used in the monastery’s gardens instead of fertilizer and can be sold to local farmers. 94. Create a class in your shedra on environmental protection. Invite local NGOs or environmental experts to give lectures or to lead practical activities that young monks and nuns can get involved.

Maneka Gandhi

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