Mountain biking volunteers on sustainability mission in Himachal

Shimla (IANS) Volunteers accompanying over 70 intrepid riders from 17 nations will inform villagers in Himachal Pradesh en route the 15th Hero MTB Himalaya race on issues like clean environment and energy, rainwater harvesting, promoting recycling, sustainable development and quality education, event organisers said on Tuesday.

A 10-member team comprises volunteers from India, Germany, Croatia and Poland, and will visit 26 schools during the week-long trip under the Mission SMILE outreach program.

“Two experts from The Energy Research Institute (TERI) are educating school children and villagers on tapping solar energy,” Mohit Sood, President of the Himalayan Adventure Sports and Tourism Promotion Association (HASTPA), the local club that organises the MTB (mountain bike) Himalaya rally every year, told IANS.

He said the volunteers visited a local school in Gadagushaini on Monday and taught the students and locals about the importance of recycling and rainwater harvesting.

Rally organisers also engage riders for interactions with students in schools along the race route with an aim to enlighten them about the benefits of cycling and issues related to personal hygiene.

“We are identifying at least five villages en route the rally where a rainwater harvesting structure each will be set up with an expenditure of Rs 60,000 by involving local villagers,” Sood said.

Two cyclists from Australia — Graham Maltby and Santosh Tripathi — even initiated a fundraiser to build the rainwater harvesting systems.

“When we decided to come for Hero MTB Himalaya, I was mentioned about Mission SMILE program by Santosh. It was intriguing how it helps students from small villages contributes to maintaining a sustainable environment,” Maltby told IANS.

“We have been thinking about how we can tribute to them and then decided to raise funds through riding. We have raised around Rs 1 lakh from 27 contributors. The major contribution came from the Indian community-based in Brisbane and a few friends,” she said.

Sood said the rainwater harvesting structures would be set up in villages that are facing a water crisis.

This edition, the race has picked up a special initiative and has significantly reduced single-use plastics. Plastic water bottles, spoons, glasses and other utensils have been dropped. At feed stations, cyclists carry their own water bottles and refill using water dispensers, say organisers.

The Hero MTB Himalaya race, touted as one of the toughest across the globe, will be culminating on October 3 at Bir in the Kangra Valley, the world’s most famous paragliding site, after traversing a distance of 500 km.

The foreign riders are from 17 countries, including the US, Canada, Croatia, Britain, Spain, Germany, Portugal, South Africa, Poland, Belgium and France.

According to organisers, the race route, which passes through four districts, is mostly single track, few stretches of motorable jeep tracks, rocky tracks, loose gravel and very small segments of broken tarmac.

There will be an equal amount of uphill and downhill segments in the race.

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