Pad Yatra: A Green Odyssey

Tariq A. Rather(Media & Communication Officer, PIB, Srinagar), New Delhi, December 12, 2013 (Washington Bangla Radio): The cloudburst in the high altitude cold desert Ladakh, on August 06, 2010 gave birth to the ‘Pad Yatra: A Green Odyssey’, a documentary feature showing trek of unparalleled danger designed to spread the message of environmental compassion by walking on foot.

Official records say that in the 2010 Ladakh floods,  at least 255 people are reported to have died, six of whom were foreign tourists, after a cloudburst and heavy overnight rains triggered flash floods, mudslides, and debris flows. Two hundred people were reported missing in the initial aftermath of the storm, and thousands more were rendered homeless after the flooding caused extensive damage to property and infrastructure. Overall, 9000 people were directly affected by the catastrophe.


Pad Yatra

The 70 minute English-Tibetan documentary film, was included in the “Cinema of the World” section and screened at the 44th edition of International Film Festival of India (IFFI) which concluded on November 30, 2013 at Goa.

The film features His Holiness the Gyalwang Drukpa, who is one of the main Buddhist spiritual leaders of the Himalayas and recipient of United Nations Millenium Development Goals (MDG) Honor- 2010.

Fifty year old world famous Malaysian Hollywood actress Ms Michelle Yeoh, the global ambassador for  ‘Live to Love International’, the non-profit organization that organizes Eco-Pad Yatra, signed on as the Executive Producer for the film. Bollywood superstar Aamir Khan, another ‘Live to Love International’ global ambassador, makes an appearance in the film, when Khan and the Drukpa makes a trip to Ladakh, to create awareness about the needed recovery efforts, after "cloudburst" devastated the area. Daryl Hannah, a high-profile advocate for environmental issues, narrates the film. Another storyteller is Carrie Lee, the director Wendy J.N. Lee’s older sister, who also did the trek with her.

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Pad Yatra Opens in “Little Tibet”

The film opens in Ladakh, J&K also called “Little Tibet”, during the aftermath of 2010 cloudburst in Ladakh wherein several inches of rainfall in the first 60 seconds decimated the area with an apocalyptic cascade of mudslides & flash floods devastating almost everything which came its way.

Pad Yatra is the harrowing adventure of 700 people from various parts of the world including “Kung Fu Nuns” trekking across the Himalayas at altitudes above 17000 feet with a call to save the planet’s “Third Pole”, which is a glacial region now under threat by the climatic chaos associated with global warming. The treks covered a total of 450 miles and half a ton of plastic litter was collected. Hundreds of villages on the way were educated about environmental responsibility like reusing non-biodegradable materials with 50,000 trees planted during the campaign. The film highlights a record-breaking tree-planting effort in Ladakh that made the Guinness Book of World Records, and since the movie has been completed, the community has broken its own record, planting 100,000 trees in another area of Ladakh as part of Live to Love's One Million Trees Project to strengthen the Himalayan environment.

Gyalwang Drukpa and Michelle Yeoh at IFFI-2013

Addressing the media on the concluding day of IFFI-2013, at Goa recently, His Holiness Gyalwang Drukpa & Michelle Yeoh, spoke at length about the objectives of Pad Yatra & the chilling experiences during the trek and making of the film.

His Holiness said that for the generations to come, there is an urgent need to conserve the ecological resources of Himalayas against rampant exploitation and pollution and through ‘Pad Yatra-A Green Odyssey’ and by walking in the Himalayas they tried to connect themselves with the nature. To build a relationship with nature, we need to walk in order to connect with the elements of nature, he added.

He said that the trained “Kung Fu Nuns” were part of the Pad Yatra who traversed the most treacherous terrain on the earth. These nuns have become so physically strong that they can now break bricks with their bare hands, he added.

Known as “Himalayan Guardian” or “Water Protector”, Gyalwang Drukpa said there is a need to live harmoniously with nature and spread the idea of live to love humanity & the nature. He said that he has decided to undertake such Pad Yatras annually in the Himalayas.

His Holiness Drukpa added that the “Eco Pad Yatra” now continues worldwide. He said in 2011 the Pad Yatra took place in Mumbai with 2000 pounds of plastic litter collected and in 2013, the Pad Yatra took place in Sri Lanka.

Expressing his earnest desire to undertake Pad Yatra in Kashmir, His Holiness Drukpa said, “I would love to be part of Pad Yatra in Kashmir provided call comes from there and would like to have cross section of people including all religious leaders, for sending out strong message to protect ecology & environment of the whole globe”. He added that Kashmir having unique beautiful ecology & environment, needs to be protected from environmental & ecological degradation for which sustained awareness campaigns are a must and Pad Yatra could be a medium to achieve the same.

His Holiness clarified that Pad Yatra does not symbolise any religious pilgrimage but is an initiative to strengthen the new green movement in the Himalayas as well as in other parts of the world.

Executive Producer Michelle Yeoh said that after having meeting with His Holiness in London, she was inspired to produce the ‘Pad Yatra: A Green Odyssey’ to show the world the condition of the Himalayan ecology and need of an initiative to work for its protection for the human cause. She said working on such a production was not a simple & smooth affair adding that all those in filmmaking endured near starvation conditions and could barely operate camera during several days of the shoot.

Recipient of the Best Cinematography Award for this film, the cinematographer Mr Ngawang Sodpa, a Buddhist monk from the Himalayas, accompanying the Gyalwang Drukpa at IFFI, Goa, said that often at 17000 feet altitude in sub-zero temperatures, nearly a third of the footage was damaged or completely destroyed due to weather & physical trauma.

Awards & Screenings

Besides the latest screening at the prestigious IFFI, Goa, the film has 10 Best Documentary, Best Cinematography & Audience Awards besides over 30 official selections at film festivals and special engagements around the world, to its credit.

Tailpiece

Pad Yatra has resulted in an unprecedented environmental movement across the Himalayan region and is seen a beacon of hope for the rest of the world. Such walks are needed to move on to protect not only the Himalayan ecology but also everything which comprises of ecology & environment of the globe.

‘Pad Yatra’ could prove a catalyst in initiating a mass movement to conserve and protect the ecology & environment of J&K particularly Kashmir region’s glaciers, rivers, lakes, lagoons, streams, meadows & forests alongwith flora & fauna, for the generations to come.

‘Pad Yatra’ would surely inspire all those already in filmmaking on ecology & environment, to take initiatives on their own to embark on making audiences aware about the need to work practically for protection of the ecology & environment of Kashmir region, through their lenses.