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- Maha Upanishad



Aug 04, 2014

India hosts 1st international downhill mountain biking competition

Held in July near Manali at the base of the Himalayas, the competition had 18 participants from across the country, Nepal, Britain and Italy taking on the bumpy, dirt trails for the top prize.


Anil Nair

Images Courtesy: Jigme Bodh and Vineet Sharma

Manali, July 1: India’s only downhill mountain biking competition was held in July at Solang, the race venue and a popular adventure sports spot near Manali.

Top Indian bikers Vinay Menon, Piyush Chavan and Ajay Padval, British rider James Frampton and the team from Nepal reported a week in advance to get used to the hilly terrain and monsoon conditions, says Vineet Sharma, of Himalayan Mountain Bike Network, the competition organiser.

“With mountain biking culture catching up  fast in India and only XC (cross country) races being organized so far, the team of Himalayan Mountain Bike Network decided to have a competition for downhill mountain bikers in India. The participants were highly impressed with the race venue and compared it to other bike parks around the world. Few of them even nicknamed it as a Mini-Whistler. The track was not completely sculpted purposely. Most features were natural and were well appreciated,” Mr Sharma told The Outdoor Journal.

Images Courtesy: Jigme Bodh and Vineet Sharma

Solang, the race venue and a popular adventure sports spot near Manali, was abuzz with activity on race day with curious local onlookers standing along the barricade watching riders zip past and spray dirt all over.

In the amateurs category, India’s Jeewan Jeet Singh Dhillon, an upcoming long distance rider, was the fastest by completing the 2Km run in 5 min and 19 sec followed by Akshay Chaudhary who took 6 min and 28 sec.

Gurman Reen came third with a timing of  7min and 45 sec.

In the expert category Piyush Chavan showed his dark side by completing the run in 4min and 42 seconds making him the fastest downhill mountain biker of India.

Mangal Krishna Lama from Nepal was few seconds behind him and took 4min and 49 seconds. Gautam Taode from India came third by clocking 4min and 53 sec while Piyush Chavan grabbed the Himachal Downhill Mountain Bike Trophy.

Images Courtesy: Jigme Bodh and Vineet Sharma

Trail marking in India for competitions has never been an easy task for the organisers and the Himalayan Mountain Bike Network team also had their share of bloopers with mountain cows removing some of them as they grazed on the slopes.

“The race was made possible with the help of  Woodland, Firefox Bikes, Ski Himalayas and Psynyde bicycle components and the support of  Freerider Mountain Bike Magazine, Big Rush, Havoc Wear, Gravity. The next Himachal Downhill Mountain Bike Trophy will be held in June 2015 during Himalayan Mountain Bike Festival (Manali),” says Mr Sharma.


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Sep 17, 2018

“Frack”-tured Community: Colorado Plans to Alter the Future of Natural Gas Drilling

The grassroots initiative, which Boulder voters will see on the ballot come November, would mandate a state-wide, half-mile “buffer zone” of fracking wells from occupied buildings.



Kela Fetters

Hydraulic fracturing, known colloquially as “fracking”, has been controversial since it became the widespread method of shale gas production over the past decade. The technique involves pumping millions of gallons of highly-pressurized water and chemicals into deep shale formations to proliferate cracks and free gas for extraction. On Colorado’s crowded Front Range, where land is a premium, active wells operate within arm’s reach of houses, schools, and other occupied structures.

Fracking proponents say that the practice has drastically increased U.S. natural gas production, lowered energy prices, and reduced carbon dioxide emissions via displacing coal burning in electricity generation. Opponents of fracking cite many potential health and environmental hazards of the practice including methane leakage, groundwater contamination, radioactive wastewater, and well fires.

significantly more likely to have a low birth-weight baby

According to Colorado Rising, a grassroots non-profit committed to exposing fracking’s health and safety concerns, fracking’s toll on public health outweighs the economic benefits. Research from the Colorado Public School of Health indicates that proximity to fracking operations poses serious risks to health and safety. Among these risks include exposure to cancer-causing toxins such as benzene and air pollutants. An analyses of public health research at the University of Chicago examined correlation between prenatal health and proximity to fracking wells and found that mothers living within a half-mile radius of active wells were significantly more likely to have a low birth-weight baby than mothers who lived farther away. This half-mile radius, incidentally, is the amount of buffer the ballot proposition would require.

The research is preliminary, however, as it cannot definitively prove point-source contamination. To date, no double-blind studies have ever linked fracking directly to low birth weights. But according to spokesperson Anne Lee Foster of Colorado Rising, “Weld County is the most fracked county (host to over 23,000 wells) and has twice the still-born rate of other Colorado counties”. She claims the spike in still-borns occurred in 2009, after a 2008 influx in natural gas drilling. But the list of environmental hazards does not end with carcinogens. The Colorado Rising report also condemns fracking’s environmental toll. Their briefing states that because of methane leakage, “…fracking, transporting and burning natural gas for electricity is likely as bad as or worse for climate change than coal or oil”. The jury is still out on this claim. Granted, fracking is energy-intensive and petrochemical-dependent, but burning natural gas emits half as much carbon dioxide as burning oil or gasoline. Methane leakage in drilling and pipeline transportation is minor, though Colorado Gas & Oil industry officials and public health activists like Colorado Rising disagree on the amount and impact of leakage.

Despite its controversy, there are approximately 50,000 active oil and gas wells in Colorado, many of them concentrated in Boulder and Weld Counties. Under current legislature, fracking operations can take place 500 feet from an occupied home and 1,000 feet from a school building.

do Colorado residents share Foster’s precautionary mindset, or are the economic gains too good to forgo?

Public demand for an expanded mandatory buffer zone from occupied buildings compounded after a 2017 incident in which an open gas line from an operating well leaked into a Firestone home, causing an explosion that killed two. Colorado Rising wrangled over 172,000 signatures for their “Safer Setbacks from Fracking” initiative, which was subsequently approved for November’s ballot. The regulation would underscore the burgeoning research on detrimental public health and environmental impacts of hydraulic fracturing—research that Colorado’s oil and gas industry might call inchoate and inconclusive. It would increase the mandatory buffer zone between oil and gas wells and occupied buildings to 2,500 feet—a move that the Colorado Petroleum Council has deemed “job-killing” and the Colorado Oil and Gas Association has said risks “more than $1 billion in taxes for schools, parks, and libraries, and our nation’s energy security”. And Weld County, situated on potent shale, has benefited from the incursion of jobs and money brought by the industry’s presence in the area.

The future of Colorado’s oil and gas sector is up in the air, and the proposed initiative would significantly reduce the amount of viable drilling land in populated regions of the state. As Anne Lee Foster summarizes, “the general consensus is that negative health impacts are possible, and it’s best to err on the side of caution”. November’s vote will tap into the metaphorical shale deposits of public sentiment towards fracking; do Colorado residents share Foster’s precautionary mindset, or are the economic gains too good to forgo?

Special thanks to Anne Lee Foster, who was interviewed for this piece. The Colorado Oil and Gas Board did not respond to request for commentary.

Cover photo courtesy of Brett Rindt.

Resources and Further Reading: A Denver Post report on fire and gas explosions, political commentary by Colorado Politics, a public health report by Colorado Rising, The Colorado Rising website, A Popular Mechanics article on 10 Most Controversial Claims About Natural Gas Drilling, A New York Times article,

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