Documentary films on environment and development

BY TERI| IN Community Media | 30/06/2003
The Tata Energy Research Institute has produced seven documentary films for the use of those working on environmental issues.






The following films are available from TERI.

Seven more will be completed  by the end of  2003.







1.  An Area of Darkness


An Area of Darkness focuses on the tragedy of life without electricity in rural India. It talks of the massive challenge ahead as millions live in darkness after sunset. But there is a glimmer of hope in the darkness.  Initiatives by local communities are now showing that there is light at the end of the tunnel.


The film shows how villagers who have waited for decades to get power have finally turned night into day generating electricity through renewable energy.


After all, the best reason to think that a happier energy future awaits the world`s poor comes from the grass roots. Contrary to conventional wisdom, people in rural India do care about cleaner energy and are even prepared to pay for it. However, people have to be helped to climb the energy ladder. Decades of experience have shown that even though governments may be well intentioned, it will not succeed in using renewable energy unless it has the nod of the people benefiting from it.



2.   Taj Mahal- Beyond the Love Story-


The Taj Mahal, one of the world’s greatest architectural masterpieces, may be under threat. Many engineers and environmentalists contend that airborne pollution will gradually destroy the Taj unless something is done to protect it or deal with the rising pollution around it.


The Indian government is determined to protect the Taj. But, the Taj is in Agra, one India’s most chaotic and polluted cities. The fumes and chemicals harming the Taj comes from thousands of vehicles, diesel generators, small factories, foundries and refineries.


Residents of Agra are forced to use highly polluting diesel generators, as the power supply is erratic. To protect the Taj, the government is prepared to close these factories, foundries and refineries though millions of jobs are at stake.


"Taj Mahal: Beyond the Love Story"  raises a question: In a poor country like India, can livelihood needs be more important than protecting a monument?


3.  Daughters of the Soil


Utter the word farmer and the image that immediately comes to you is of a man ploughing a field. But the grim reality is that women form a large part of the agricultural workforce and often end up doing more work than men.


Women produce 80 % of the world`s food. Yet, women have been seen as incidental to the entire business of agriculture. Women are the backbone of Indian agriculture. They are lost behind the myopia of society that has not yet credited them for their work or intellect.  Stark gender divisions keep them away from enjoying the fruits of their efforts.


Women handle some of the toughest of jobs on the field, while men are happy with mechanical jobs. Instead of lauding their contribution, society has ignored women- even thrown stumbling blocks in their path if they attempted to empower themselves. Women have been taken for granted. "Daughters of the Soil" raises an important point. Women who are farmers should be seen as farmers, not agricultural laborers.



4.   Learning to Dream Again


"Learning to Dream Again" shows how life in a community can change if a forest gets protected and regenerated. Villagers who live on the fringe of forests need not be told that forests are their lifeline. 


Numerous stories from various parts of India underline the fact that forests cannot be saved by force and regulation.  The way out is to involve local people to protect it and nurture it. The only sustainable way of conserving forests is to make them equal partners in the process.


The film traces the relationship communities have with their forests. What comes alive is the concept of Joint Forest Management where villagers and the foresters work together to protect forests.


5.   Water ignites life and hope


"Water ignites life and hope" takes a critical look at the grim water scenario in the country. It signals the need for communities to conserve and manage water judiciously before the situation gets out of hand. India has some inspiring stories of  water harvesting and management by local communities. One of them is in Jhabua district in Madhya Pradesh where the villagers have started a massive movement for water conservation. Life in Jhabua took a new turn after the water table rose and the area became green and healthy once again.


The film also shows how farmers in Mahur village of Pune district formed water councils or pani panchayats.  The idea was to ensure a fair distribution of water. After all, everyone had a right to water. But no farmer, however big or rich would get more water than he needs for basic survival. Water intensive crops like sugarcane were banned though it could have been a money spinner-there was no space for greed. The film shows how communities have to be given charge to manage their water resources.


6. Global Warning!


Global Warning! focuses on the challenges of climate change. This is one issue that is going to determine the future of mankind challenging the world and its people. Deforestation, industrialization, lavish lifestyles and many other changes have resulted in rising temperatures. Soon, rainfall patterns may change. Sea level rise could threaten millions all over the world. 


Countries like India whose economies are largely agricultural and heavily dependent on rainfall could be the worst affected. Climate change will threaten all life forms on earth including plants and animals. It could also alter the natural habitat and sustainability of forest ecosystems. These changes could impact health,  livelihoods, industry, biodiversity, soil and water resources. India has successfully used some solutions to adapt.


Developing countries that are battling population growth and poverty are the most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. Reducing greenhouse gas emissions is one of mankind’s toughest challenges today. But we are losing out on time. We need to work now to combat the effects of climate change. Tomorrow, would be too late.


7.  To their credit


Can a loan of Rs. 500 make a difference?  Watch this film to realize how small sums of money giving out by self help groups of women are converting life in the Indian countryside. They are using the concept of Micro finance to farm out small loans to needy and poor women, who are too poor to qualify for traditional bank loans. In India, micro finance has worked largely through women’s self-help groups. These are formed with simple rules- save, accumulate and give loans to each other. Micro finance has become a new weapon for poor and illiterate women to put the exploitative moneylender out of business.


"To their credit…" shows how women have emerged as the real victors of the micro finance movement.  They confidently interact with banks, secure loans and promptly repay them. Naturally, banks are ecstatic.  Easy access to capital has encouraged women to look at life with a new spirit of enterprise. Many are laughing on their way to the bank as they revolve the profits to expand their business. They have learnt to deal with the harsh, organized world.



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