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Poll tatic is dangerous Politics on Environment

24 Jan

India would be going for polls in 2014. As with any democracy, the preparation is on from all political parties to woo the electorate. That is a healthy sign in participatory democracy. What is not fine is the lurking danger to the environment. At the expense of which populist agenda would make hay. This article would point at some of those agendas.

In Mumbai an Urban disaster is being planned with framing of laws which are myopic at best. Permissions for even taller buildings are on the anvil and cluster development although a noble move does not find the word environment friendly mentioned in its agenda. The most shocking is the idea to regularize unauthorized construction while in others a blind eye is turned on the illegal encroachment knowing fully well that they too in time can claim plea of mercy to be let off on the crimes of omission and commission.

Constructions with no scientific town planning, continues unabated like in the hill station and surrounding of Lonawala. The pace at which this once scenic area is getting paved over, is something which one needs to see to understand the horrors it would create in the future. Narrow village paths remain the same width, while swanky second homes costing millions are being sold.The very beauty for which this hill station was known is changing in its character to resemble some small third grade town. Already we have traffic jams on the main road. Soon it would be honking cars and loud music adding to the cacophony to destroy a heavenly abode gifted by nature to man.

And if the authorities are callous and corrupt, the rich buyers are even more so, for not even one speak out against the dismal infrastructure and rape of the environment. Moral turpitude is a bane of the Indian society from whence the best (read – most callous) sometimes get elected to govern this Nation in some form or the other.

Even the Supreme Court of India directive which could help retain some sense in the Building & Construction industry in Mumbai & its surrounds has become unpopular. While it is true that leaving the prescribed 15% amount of set-back, while constructing is a difficult proposition in the city of Mumbai. It is a well thought out directive.

There is a lot of merit when one looks at the directive which would allow for ground water percolation and reduction of heat island effect in the city, should it be possible to leave some original soil around a tower instead of building on the whole plot and putting some green cover on the top of a podium. And what is even more important is to understand the fact that as Mumbai landmass is in large part a land-fill. By not allowing for ground water percolation we may be creating a situation which would be much more grave than what is understood by those who are opposing the directive.

Moreover the Urban sprawl has spread far beyond the island city and leaving 15% of virgin soil should not be a problem there. Therefore this opposition to the law is detrimental in creating a climate resilient city, which Mumbai must plan for.

The next in the agenda is to announce Navi Mumbai to become an international hub. Without announcing publicly a sound environmental friendly master-plan this would further lead to degradation of the surroundings.

If one would do a survey of the ghost city that is coming up at Ulwe; a few hundred homes are ready but there is hardly any occupancy because the infrastructure is not yet ready to support this new township. With zero environmental norms supervision; construction debris and related waste strew the whole area and its a woeful site to behold during monsoon when all these dangerous pollutant wash towards the already fragile mangrove system. The construction is leading to more unregulated pollution of the environment in the catchment area which will be a problem for ages to come. While there’s none to argue on growth and development, this place originally was and still is in many parts small hillocks, which the machines have torn town to create plots.

A sense of helplessness prevails when the simple green building norms for sustainable site which could have so easily been applied, was not even considered in this area. We could have perhaps got a replica of the famous Banjara Hills of Hyderabad where the architects could have taken delight in utilizing the natural topography. Instead we have drab buildings with fancy names making this place the last choice of the middle class buyer who can’t afford a home within the city and its tier 2 suburbs anymore.

Top that with what is being called the AAP party effect. Now we are going to have a “rationalized” electricity tariff for homes and even commercial establishments. On the face value it seems good. But one needs to just scratch the surface to see the hidden dangers lurking beneath them. And no they are not the 1st in fooling the people. We have the grand old party and their oppositions adopting to similar tactic many times. Let’s understand how.

With production of electricity via conventional (thermal) plants at approximate ₹ 5.17 add transmission and other losses it would perhaps be around 5.30 Indian Rupee.To provide electricity at 20% lower  is a huge burden on the DISCOM’s which are already bleeding.

This would lead to worse operation and maintenance leading to frequent power outages and load-shedding. So in the end, the poor would be buying more kerosene. mostly form the well oiled black market which feeds to politico-mafia and the hard-working middle class would end up using GHG belching Diesel Generators to light up their dream homes.

But that does not deter a politician because as seen in one of the most populous state, they create a VIP constituency and 24×7 power and water at the discounted rate which the “neta” had fought hard to achieve for the “aam admi” is supplied to them.

The aam admi however is supposed to be happy at the paper bill he holds in the hand to read under a kerosene lamp or a DG connected light bulb. And cast his/her ballot on the Messiah party symbol for this “gift”.

While the Social plight would and is apparent, what is not usually apparent is the cost to Environment. Every time a populist ruling is favored mother nature suffers the most. We keep polluting the environment with GHG belching organic fuel. Cutting down natural topography and vegetation which alters the way the land reacts to its surroundings.

And all this when there are saner alternatives present. And have been discussed at length in the past articles.

Renewable Energy and Energy Efficient Building design norms are already in place. What is required is the political will to have them implemented. It is incorrect to say that they are expensive.

They remain expensive due to the bad policies which throws good money on populist agendas. And all for a few ballot more!

What the Nation needs to understand is that populist poll promises do not bring lasting solutions. They only sweep the problem under the carpet. Where its festers to become an even more danger to the society which we leave for the future.

It is understood that even the most corrupt “neta” (politician) does what he does to leave some riches for posterity. But how will their child prosper when the wealth that is earth on which one enjoys becomes unsupportive to life itself?

 

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