2 more in the can!

I’ve just finished editing a couple more stories that I shot in February for Earthrise, an environmental solutions series on Al Jazeera English that I’ve been reporting and producing/directing for recently.

For the first report I went to Bhubaneswar, the capital of the state of Orissa in eastern India. I was last there in 2004 when I was making Land First, a documentary about land rights. A lot’s happened since then. Now Bhubaneswar is one of the country’s fastest growing cities. But it’s got a massive problem because it’s running out of energy, largely due to climate change. Drastically reduced rainfall has resulted in poor monsoons – the last good one was in 2007 – and that’s a disaster for a place that depends on hydroelectric power.   There should be water in this river…..


The city’s tackling this power crisis head on.  It’s started to make government buildings energy-efficient and has encouraged the use of compact fluorescent lights in the markets and public spaces around town. These use 80% less energy than conventional bulbs, and they last ten times longer and look great too – at night the city sparkles with them.    The idea’s catching on and they are being used more and more widely throughout Bhubaneswar.   It was marriage season when we were filming and, as we were going back to the hotel one night, we came across a wedding procession illuminated by CFLs.   With typical Indian hospitality we were invited along and weren’t allowed to leave until we had danced our socks off and eaten copiously.

Wedding CFLs


Picking up some Bollywood moves

For the second report I went to Bangka Island in Indonesia. For over four centuries the island has been mined for its tin. It takes 30 years for mined land to become fertile again. Flying over the island in a small plane I had a birds eye view of the scars left behind. It’s pockmarked with mines and the mining pools are now the lurid colour of swimming pools.

Mining wounds


And here’s a view of a working mine from back on the ground.

Tin mine on Bangka

This land looks like it’s beyond repair doesn’t it? But, in the midst of all this devastation, there’s a hugely inspiring venture that shows that something can be done.  A group of businessmen who used to be involved in tin mining decided to transform 300 hectares of ruined mined land into a garden. 5 years and hundreds of tonnes of cow dung later they’ve created Bangka Botanical Garden. From an abandoned wasteland, the area’s now been transformed into a lush, productive and self-sustaining oasis. All the produce grown and raised here – fruit, vegetables, dung, fish, beef cattle – are sold and the profits ploughed back into the garden, except for the milk from the resident dairy herd which is given free to local school children.

Wildlife is coming back too.   There are now 200 species of fauna and 2000 flora, including 5 crocodiles and several monitor lizards (who really led us a merry dance around the garden as we tried to capture them on camera!).

Morning Lotus




Both reports will be aired in the next season of Earthrise which starts March 31st 2012 on Al Jazeera English.

In the meantime, here’s one I did earlier…..about transforming rubbish into power in Sao Paulo, Brazil.