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Climate Change Agreement & India’s role towards Planetary Health.

21 Apr

Now that the applause have died down on the historic event of the World finally agreeing on Climate Change in Paris CoP21. And would be ratifiying it on 22 April 2016.

I would be writing down my thoughts on how we perhaps be able to make true the Indian INDC and perhaps even better it.

I do believe that if there is any Government post the one lead by Hon.Smt. Indira Gandhi; it is the sarkar of Narandera Modi which has the guts and gumption to take on the World in its own terms and prove a point or two.

However, there are far two many ills, which needs to be solved before we can actually see the fruits of “Good Governance“.  By good governance alone India can hope to make its INDC a success.

Lets therefore begin with the below text and graphic from the Lancet:

By almost any measure, human health is better now than at any time in history. Life expectancy has soared from 47 years in 1950–1955, to 69 years in 2005–2010, and death rates in children younger than 5 years of age have decreased substantially, from 214 per thousand live births in 1950–1955, to 59 in 2005–2010. But these gains in human health have come at a high price: the degradation of nature’s ecological systems on a scale never seen in human history. A growing body of evidence shows that the health of humanity is intrinsically linked to the health of the environment, but by its actions humanity now threatens to destabilise the Earth’s key life-support systems.

As a Commission, we conclude that the continuing degradation of natural systems threatens to reverse the health gains seen over the last century. In short, we have mortgaged the health of future generations to realise economic and development gains in the present.

Lancet

In this article, we would try and see how the Solutions spelled out in the above can be incorporated into the thinking of India. One must hopefully agree that the INDC, which India has submitted although highlights India’s aspirations is more of a political document than a scientific one and that stands true for most of the Nations which think they will not drown into oblivion in the immediate future.

We all know that the Paris CoP21 is a compromise, with hopes that as the unprecedented calamities which keeps battering the World becomes more intense, better sense would prevail.

Although not a doomsayer or critique of the intent of many in the Super Developed Nations. A faint doubt does persist about the Rich Nations political intent in this regard …realpolitik as we all know would not consider devastations in Uganda in the same scale of that in the USA !

And if a poor country which is strategically placed gets battered, which in all probability will. It is better for the economy of the donor Nations. They can always sell their “technology”. Thus they are not really serious in tackling the Anthropocene Era with a deft hand.

With the report of the recent H-Bomb explosion coupled with the construction of artificial island within the nine dash lines are any indicators of whether Sustainable practices shall win, in the face of Geo-Politics. The prospect is grim.

We just don’t seem to learn and care for our planets health at all. And nothing can underscore it better than the oft repeated manner in which disasters are reported.

I still have not been able to figure out why News anchors give a smile when they say “…a big disaster but thankfully no loss of human life, reported…”! As if its only the Humans whose life matters.

And if looked closely, the death of someone who is rich and/or powerful would be covered for weeks and temples/memorials built which have “flame of honour” burning in perpetuity! No problem with sentiments but if one looks closely, the flames which burn are using fossil fuel ! How sustainable is that?

With this mindset which prevails, let us look at what problems and solutions India needs to provide as per the Lancet points mentioned above.

  1. Learn about Planetary Health.

For India, this one point would have been most easily achieved had we not clamoured for an European education system. But developed our own.

One must concede that it was easier said than done, post Independence when there were many issues to grapple with. Also we must not forget that the founding fathers of modern India post independence were mostly educated by the European system of learning.

But now under a new government, and a proud Indian population which not only has the international thinking but can and will not be averse to gaining knowledge of our own text written and practised in the high centres of learning in ancient Takshishila and Nalanda Universities.

The first lesson we must learn is lessons of sustainable living. The Vedas are the most definite source of learning about sustainable living,it needs to be decoded and made modern. This is one task the HRD ministry must take, without giving it a political colour which would be an easy spin-off should it be given a religious colour. That is the last thing sustainability needs.

No one can deny that the religion of the ancients all over the world began with worship of Nature. Thus the Vedas which talk about nature can not have any colour of religion but the singular and most important religion of all, Life.

The ancients all over the world knew much better the balance of life than we presently do. The knowledge of Vanaspati  which is found in the Vedas would be an interesting read for many modern botanist. Which would prove that knowledge is universal and must be given the chance to thrive.

What is the need to learn the Vedas,one would like to argue ? The first fundamental of Vedas is to respect life and also humility. It also teaches Yoga, which teaches oneself to control the senses or Self-control. Once we have self control our wants would automatically stop at the gate of needs.

That would be the start point of nursing the Planet (by nursing back the Nation) back to its health.

           2.Reduce Food Waste.

There is a very simple method to achieve this. Let there be a voluntary fasting day adopted  (in City based school where the Middle/Rich Class of the population send their Child)   for 1 day in a week every 52 weeks! While schools don’t open all year round the practice of fasting one day must be continued through out the year. Especially to build the child’s knowledge, that hunger is universal. And while holidaying in exotic locales a day without food would keep them grounded to the facts of life. And it is universal knowledge that parents too learn from their children, thus the cycle of empathy shall be complete.

Many of us have not experienced hunger when we were young. We also pamper our children by placing all types of food, within easy reach and almost ready to eat. How then can we as a generation not waste food, when we don’t even know the effort that goes into creating food in the first place? While no one is asking that we turn our children into farmers, but a little knowledge of kitchen gardening would surely help. And such activities can easily be programmed through school curriculum. Not as a one-off visit which many school organise but as a lesson conducted every year.

Innovation and lectures are fine, but when we set in a culture of decadence we are bound to face the problems associated with it.

Many a modern city child / young adult have not seen the trees which bear their most favourite fruit. Nor can they associate with the concept of the humongous requirement of water a paddy or wheat field require; while gobbling down their favourite bread or noodles! Children care, and surely if they were to tour the present day drought affected regions of Maharashtra and other parts of India, they will become stronger individuals.

Neither do they care or made painfully aware when they toss a plate-full of food and quarter full water glass into the dustbin the head count of the dead Indian farmers!

It would be a nice start to have the photographs of our parched fields and equally parched farmers be hung in popular fast food joints and school/college canteens.

Respect and empathy are the first step in reduction of food waste.

           3.Healthy Diets with a low environmental impact

This would perhaps pull down the present government of the day and the next ! What better nexus can their be for corporates who have invested billions in moneys, to have continue with the fast food culture? At one end it brings in easy money at the other end it creates life style diseases which also rake in more money! And if the multinational has interest both in food as well as medicine, the profit margin of the parent company would never go under!

But just as in our Nation, statesmen are born in other countries too. And they have already begun a movement.

Not many have heard of  Slow Food Foundation But that is one way of moving forward for India.In fact it would be perhaps the most easy and right thing to do.

The present P.M Narendra Modi’s Government, which is so beautifully tuned to information technology should and must take it forward. This must become one of the prime targets for the Government. And a political movement built around it would have as much potential to win votes as it would be to save the planet. Thus win accolades from both sides.

 

          4.Better Governance

Kautilya wrote The Arthashastra, the science of wealth and welfare, during the latter half of the 4th century B.C.E.. The Arthashastra contains 150 chapters, which are classified by topic in 15 books. It consists of three reasonably well developed parts: (i) national security issues including a foreign policy, (ii) administration of justice including crime and punishment issues, and (iii) policies related to economic development, taxation, labor management and financial management. ( read more).

According to the Arthashastra, Good Governance comes with peace and order which can be achieved through the collaboration of different factors in a community. While one could profess that equal weight-age should be given to all factors, one would be better placed in today’s context if Bio-diversity gets precedence over others.

Should the government policies be shaped with  the effort of retaining the bio-diversity of a given area, while allowing for industrial estates or gated townships or something in-between. The inherent conflict that would arise from trying to balance both would give rise to INNOVATION !

Yes Innovation, India would give rise to many in the process of challenging the peculiarity each acre of land has in terms of its topography, flora and fauna. When engineering meets with a economic paradigm which is less inclined to instant profiteering but a balanced approach towards long term prosperity heading towards wealth generation instead of riches for a few. It would be the beginning of better governance.

We all know that every village in India requires electricity, without which modern day development is not possible.To achieve this the normal course would be to either adopt the classical methods or balance it with some renewable energy process. Which ever way one looks at it some land would be required and certain amount of construction in a localized area has to happen. And more often than not, it would be found that some villages are still “out of bounds” due to its geographical positioning.

What if instead each family in the villages still seeking to get electricity be provided with a simple by-cycle connected to a dynamo which in turn is connected to a battery. A certain amount of pedalling would generate lets say 2KW of energy, which is more than sufficient for the villages to kick start in joining India of the 21st Century.

And at the same time, the very act can be tagged under MENREGA thus the Indian young and old in just one stroke of a pedal be forever employed !

Now connect them to the innovative minds of a start-up and one would soon see electricity produced in villages being used by the ever hungry cities and towns of India.

In one stroke prosperity can be globalized. That would surely be called good governance.

           5.Use of water more efficiently

With nearly five lakh illegal borewells sucking up Delhi’s ground water, the water table has fallen to alarming 214 feet below ground level in the southern ridge. To worsen the situation, authorities have only managed to register 169 cases against owners of illegal borewells. According to the data compiled by the Central Ground Water Board, fresh groundwater was available at just a little below 20 feet in 1977. But the water level has fallen down by more than 10 times since then in Delhi. Data compiled by the Central Ground Water Board (CGWB), the Ministry of Water Resources show that the water level is depleting rapidly in Delhi. The groundwater table spread over 1,484 square km has declined between 2 metre and 20 metre.The worst-hit areas include most of South Delhi and parts of South West Delhi, covering over 264 square km, where the water table has dropped by as much as 10 metre to 20 metre over the last 10 years. (India Today, July 2014).

The article above are similar to many that get written in India every year. This was chosen for two reason, its fairly recent and talks of the Capital of India. The very nerve centre of Governance {?}

Some of the thoughts and warnings were given in 2015 through this article, but to see that India actually does not care one but needs to but glance through the article and know why even 2017 we shall be in the same situation.

Water Kills ! – Drought & Food Crises are effect of Climate Change

The rampant sinking of bore-wells in every part of the country has in turn has affected the traditional step-well, which was an art bestowed by the culturally rich ancestors. They understood the concept of community living. For if one were to keep sinking bore wells in the highly de-fragmented land holdings with a huge population which India has, with water being a free natural resource to be extracted; ending up with a dried water table in most parts of the country was only but a matter of time. Today the drought we are facing is more to do with highly corrupt governance machinery and apathy of people at large who don’t care for community living.

The solution to this is not the bird-brained idea of linking rivers. Because bio-diversity is not something one should play with. There is no knowledge of what could happen if the Ganga basin is linked to say for example the Godavari basin. This has to be explained in detail. And if there is even 1% of doubt over data, the matter should be rejected.

It does not mean that we can’t provide water in a better manner. The idea of Desalination plant, with the likes functioning in the coast of Tamil Nadu must be replicated fast throughout the coastal length of India and water can be pumped to the Cities and towns alike. Leaving the mineral rich river waters for irrigation purpose.

Without elaborating much,there are already many people who are ready to invest into this. What is required is a government which is ready to listen and come into a Public-Private partnership to make it happen.

Another method of making use of water efficient is to price is correct. I had given some thoughts on this earlier in this article –

Green Business Ideas – Sell water at the price of petrol – and reap the ‘fringe’ benefits.

6.End Deforestation

Absolutely no idea how do we achieve this as long as we require palm oil , coffee, tea and many such consumables which are part and parcel of our modern life along with minerals and wood.

The idea therefore has to be more innovative.Reinvesting our combined intellect to reforest vast swats of open cast mines. Allowing for cash crops to be grown on both sides of railways and road ways. And perhaps on the median of roads too.

Instead of planting flowering trees in city boulevards and parks, trees which are fruit bearing or have medical use should be planted and harvested. It can happen through both the municipal level intervention or private level intervention where the concept of vertical farming can be utilized. It is really the right time to think about hydroponics and vertical farming & bonsai combined. This is perhaps the only way we can help the mission to end deforestation. The You Tube link below will help readers to explore many ideas within program aptly named the Good Stuff.

India’s PM Modi,who irrespective of his achievements on the ground, I have always considered as a visionary. Given a second term at Governance and should he be able to rein in the vested interests, that surround India in every sphere, open cast mining would come to an end.  While he has also agreed to the fact that we can do traditional mining, I found much to my surprise a resonance to my ideas on mining which can be seen in the following article written in September 2012 Sustainable Mining should be The BASICs agenda at UNFCCC-Doha. which I would request my PMO to read along with the following Green Business Ideas – Abandoned coalfields can boost RE and save forest in India. Geothermal is a reality and low enthalpy geothermal heat can be tapped form abandoned coalfields. And to know whether or not it would make a profit. Don’t ask the CFO. Ask those who die of the smoke.

7. Family Planning

As long as we have a fragmented policy in governance which works on vote bank politics there is very little scope for India to have a robust family planning. Law and religion must be disconnected. But it is easier said than done.

The only way this would sadly become possible is due to adverse affect of Climate Change. With food and water scarcity, there will be less and less job opportunities and more and more hunger. In this void the government through NGO support must bring about a balance.

  8. City Planning

Before any Indian city is built town planners must visit the Bio Sphere II.

Once you understand the complex behaviour of the planets ecosystem, it becomes easy to understand what one must not do to fashion the 100 smart cities we are looking to build.

And then we must also know that while everyone asks us to go vertical, the concept of going down has not been explored as much. This article called Underground Urbanism is perhaps something one must read. The author is amongst many who are thinking how to reduce the building foot print. With perhaps one children museum in Mexico being a great example of how things can be done.

As more and more cities in India fail because of bad design and infrastructure, they will but have to mend their was to become climate resilient city.

If the present government can build momentum around the Swachh Bharat, with cleaning not only the cities of filth but wrong design, bad traffic and illegal construction. If only the basic right to be able to walk on a foot path without the incessant blaring of horns. One would consider India has reached a mile stone.

By merely signing and ratifying the CoP21 Agenda, sustainable practice would not happen in India. For that we need to change the mindset. And I strongly believe that the present NDA Government, if it can root out its inefficiencies will be able to deliver on Acche din.

 

 
 

One response to “Climate Change Agreement & India’s role towards Planetary Health.

  1. Colin Flaherty

    April 22, 2016 at 4:11 AM

    We are All supposed to be Earth Patriots putting Earth’s Well Being as top priority,that serves our Own Well being Equally ! That is pure Logic for any True Earth Patriot!

     

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