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Category Archives: Global Warming & Climate Change

A note to UN Climate Champion, PM Narendra Modi.


It is not that, there is no progress in the last 25 years, there is indeed more awareness that Climate Change is a problem which needs to be tackled. But that awareness has come more from civil society and NGO’s who have been able to bear a certain amount of pressure for the governments to act. However, when it comes for the governments to take the onus and do better, they have always hidden behind the glib text, to show more than what happens at the ground level.

This article shall attempt to point at the dangers & alternative opportunities that lie in the wake of the new political discourse that is taking place in India vis a vis; Climate Action. India is going through a great change in its political and social space. Any government which would come into power must fully align with the spirit of the 3 crucial agreements namely – The Paris Agreement, The Sendai Framework & The Sustainable Development Goals.

But before we begin let us remind ourselves that we the people have been given a seat at the CoP24. Now we need to add some more of them in CoP25 if a change is to come.


Together with the UN, Sir David Attenborough has launched a climate action campaign inviting people around the world to share their thoughts on climate change. Thousands of influencers from around the world are joining him by inviting their social media followers to use the hashtag #TakeYourSeat to gather people’s experiences and opinions.


To start with, let us look at some of the points mentioned in the 2018 IPCC Special Report on Impacts of Global Warming of 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.

B. Projected Climate Change, Potential Impacts and Associated Risks:

B.1 Climate models project robust differences in regional climate characteristics between present-day and global warming of 1.5°C, and between 1.5°C and 2°C. These differences include increases in: mean temperature in most land and ocean regions (high confidence), hot extremes in most inhabited regions (high confidence), heavy precipitation in several regions (medium confidence), and the probability of drought and precipitation deficits in some regions (medium confidence).

B.2 By 2100, global mean sea level rise is projected to be around 0.1 metre lower with global warming of 1.5°C compared to 2°C (medium confidence). Sea level will continue to rise well beyond 2100 (high confidence), and the magnitude and rate of this rise depend on future emission pathways. A slower rate of sea level rise enables greater opportunities for adaptation in the human and ecological systems of small islands, low-lying coastal areas and deltas (medium confidence).

In the cacophony of the largest democracy of the World, the above two paragraphs have not even figured in any major Newspaper, TV or social media which is consumed by the general public at least in a consistent enough manner.

Around the World, each political party are coming up with their own “development” agenda which looks more like electoral appeasement than a real long-term plan of action.

The Modi government which came into power on the development plank has also got trapped into the discourse that has been the bane of India’s development in the last 70 years! That PM Narendra Modi got selected for the UN Champion of the Earth Award makes it all the more important that his government which is most likely to continue for another term is able to understand all the aspects beyond the obvious. It is only then good governance is possible. And India can be the torch-bearer on Climate Change Abatement & Mitigation.

Let us discuss four Mumbai related projects to see how the development discourse which should have by now turned towards Sustainable Development Goals, is not up to mark.

1.The New International Airport at Navi Mumbai ( New Bombay); 2.The Metro Yard at Aaery Forest area, 3.The Coastal Road project & 4.The Shivaji Statue.

The thing that one finds in common with all the four projects at a glance is the huge environmental impact it will have on the ecosystem. And how the complete governance machinery has been able to bulldoze its will to prove otherwise. Stating it as a public requirement while giving lip service to the recommendations from expert environmentalists who know better.

It is not that we do not need to develop, but why is it that Economic considerations always surpass Ecological considerations? Why does it become too costly & unviable to take measures which are ecologically sound while designing a project? This is a question we must answer.

The New International Airport at Navi Mumbai:

NAVI MUMBAI AIRPORT IGNORES CLIMATE RESILIENCE
The development of the Navi Mumbai airport will lead to the destruction of the local wetland ecosystem (Photo by Hiren Kumar Bose)

https://indiaclimatedialogue.net/2018/11/21/navi-mumbai-airport-ignores-climate-resilience/

Although cities rely on the countryside for their survival, the rural areas are often ignored and neglected. Faced with expanding its infrastructure, urban planners set their sights on swathes of forest, mangroves and wetlands. There has been no attempt to understand the extent to which new investment in infrastructure is resilient to the changing climate requirements. Emerging economies like India is investing billions in durable infrastructure every year. However, it has often failed to take into account future climate change in their planning. This leads to high risks of loss and damage. The NMAI project, planned to ease the traffic of the burdened Mumbai international airport, is one such endeavour where climate-related issues have not been taken into account in the planning specifications.

There are two thoughts that get comes to the mind, could the government not have tried to decongest the existing airport by removing encroachments and illegal construction? And a bit controversial as it may sound, demolishing certain parts around the city-airport & redesigning the area by relocating the project affected people with proper compensation? While also making an attempt to extend the air-strip at the Juhu airport, again by not attempting to take the sea but along the coast. By realigning the airstrip and allowing smaller aircraft & private jets to operate from there. I confess I may be completely wrong in this assessment as I am not an aviation expert, however, when one looks at the image below of both the airports, the runways are not exactly identically aligned. That perhaps gives me the hope that things could still have been done.

However, if one looks closely at the slums in an around both the airports, well that is a lot of space for expansion! Maybe an alternative solution could have come out? And the ecology of Panvel at Navi Mumbai may have been left untouched.

The Metro Yard at Aaery Forest area :

This Garden of Eden has been earmarked by the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) and the Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation (MMRC) for constructing a metro car shed over an area of 28 hectares. This will lead to the uprooting of 2,298 trees. According to MMRDA, 2,044 of these trees could be transplanted, but the rest of the 254 trees would have to be cut down. While inadequate knowledge is dangerous, so is the habit of a simplistic way of looking at things. For instance, trees are just a unit of complex ecosystems. Even if we manage to successfully transplant trees outside, what happens to the layers of complexity in the habitat matrix that renders Aarey its veritable uniqueness?  Aarey was once a part of the deciduous stretch of forests, now restricted to the adjacent Sanjay Gandhi National Park and hillocks. With the coming of the Aarey dairy co-operative, the thickness of the forests was broken up to create open ecosystems of grasslands, scrubs, marshes and water bodies, giving refuge to an interesting assemblage of species. The large open para grass fields are feeding grounds of Munias, Drongos and Egrets which have been cleared for the metro car shed. The drains that nurture these grass pastures are home to native fish species, crabs, shrimps and Checkered Keelback water snakes that are protected under the Wildlife Protection Act, by virtue of being Schedule II creatures.

Yet again, Economic consideration won over ecological considerations. The question that comes into mind is if one looks up North of the place labelled Aarey is Nagri Niwara Cooperative Housing Society. Adjacent to it is a patch of barren land. Why could this area not have been selected? If Metro which is an engineering feat, crisscrossing the length of Mumbai, why the shed could not have been placed somewhere off-track, so to speak?

As an engineer, I understand design challenges, cost escalation and the horrible state of affairs to get anything done in Indian cities. But, once more the cries of the other living beings of this planet are simply ignored – uprooting of 2,298 trees! imagine if these were human lives!

The Coastal Road Project:

One look at the above image and the advantages versus the disaster is obvious. But what is more dangerous and not being put forth is the fact that the coastal road would change the Development Plan of the Mumbai City to a large extent.

The Coastal Regulation Zones rules have recently been amended. Let us have a look at that before I point to the crux of the problems by highlighting a few paragraphs below.

Cabinet approves Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) Notification 2018:

FSI allowed as per current norms in CRZ areas Greater opportunity for Development of densely populated rural areas Tourism Infrastructure for basic amenities to be promoted CRZ clearance streamlined No Development Zone of 20 meters for All Islands Special importance to All Ecologically Sensitive Areas Special focus on Pollution abatement

Salient Features:

(i)         Allowing FSI as per current norms in CRZ areas: As per CRZ, 2011 Notification, for CRZ-II (Urban) areas, Floor Space Index (FSI) or the Floor Area Ratio (FAR) had been frozen as per 1991 Development Control Regulation (DCR) levels. In the CRZ, 2018 Notification, it has been decided to de-freeze the same and permits FSI for construction projects, as prevailing on the date of the new Notification. This will enable the redevelopment of these areas to meet emerging needs.

One look at the size of the land which is being reclaimed, the gleam in the eyes of the builder-politician lobby is obvious. And they have patience. They will let about 10 years pass by, which is the amount of time needed to fill up the bonanza of extra FSI they would receive with the change of CRZ due to the coast being pushed further back.

Once that happens & with woeful lack of space for further expansion some “development” would be allowed on the reclaimed land, which at present are being promised to be left as “open space” as shown in the illustration above. And to justify it, we already have the CRZ’18 notification para (i) -“redevelopment of the areas as per emerging needs”.

(iii)       Tourism infrastructure for basic amenities to be promoted: Temporary tourism facilities such as shacks, toilet blocks, change rooms, drinking water facilities etc. have now been permitted in Beaches. Such temporary tourism facilities are also now permissible in the “No Development Zone” (NDZ) of the CRZ-III areas as per the Notification. However, a minimum distance of 10 m from HTL should be maintained for setting up of such facilities.

While Toilet Blocks & Drinking Water Facilities & Waste Management facilities should be allowed, it would be a disaster to allow Shacks etc to come up around the Marine drive coastline. The unscrupulous would point to clause (iii) in its whole form. One must be careful and DP laws of the city must over-rule such situations from occurring in the future.

(iv)      CRZ Clearances streamlined: The procedure for CRZ clearances has been streamlined. Only such projects/activities, which are located in the CRZ-I (Ecologically Sensitive Areas) and CRZ IV (area covered between Low Tide Line and 12 Nautical Miles seaward) shall be dealt with for CRZ clearance by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change. The powers for clearances with respect to CRZ-II and III have been delegated at the State level with necessary guidance.

This is classic. Now, the developer-mafia doesn’t really need to go all the way to New Delhi. Their work can easily be justified at the local level citing para (i)! One wouldn’t be the least surprised to know that those who would be giving clearance would be Neta’s whose qualifications would be basic with no or little understanding of the complexities of Ecology.

(v)       A No Development Zone (NDZ) of 20 meters has been stipulated for all Islands: For islands close to the mainland coast and for all Backwater Islands in the mainland, in wake of space limitations and unique geography of such regions, bringing uniformity in treatment of such regions, NDZ of 20 m has been stipulated.

This was surely done with Mumbai in mind. But when a Tsunami comes, or there is a storm surge, the maximum impact is within 500Mt. There needs to be a Hazzard line drawn up. The Hazard Line is an advanced warning system that helps to not only prevent deaths but also save crores in property loss.

What is most amazing is that India was supposed to get a Hazzard Line in 2015! A Hazzard Line is the line that demarcates the coastal area that is at high risk from flooding, coastal erosion and emerging threats like sea level rise. It would help the 13 coastal states and Union Territories be better prepared for disasters like cyclones and storm surges.

Further, with no serious action and awareness program created till date, the Sendai Framework on Disaster Risk Reduction to which India is a signatory has been completely set aside on this matter.

(vi)       All Ecologically Sensitive Areas have been accorded special importance: Specific guidelines related to their conservation and management plans have been drawn up as a part of the CRZ Notification.

One would be amazed at how the law enforcement agencies as well as the government agencies who but are humans with a designation and duty would pass by the very roads which are encroached, the playgrounds which have been usurped by the greedy developer or slums & even by that famous “paan” from a pavement shop opposite an upmarket eatery, very well knowing that it is illegal. Then one fine day they would wake up and give a demolition order!

Therefore the question is, who would enforce the strict guideline? When the damage is already done?

(vii)      Pollution abatement has been accorded special focus: In order to address pollution in Coastal areas treatment facilities have been made permissible activities in CRZ-I B area subject to necessary safeguards.

Just recently there was a hue & cry about single-use plastic with the Government of Maharashtra coming down heavily on the manufacturers, who were lackadaisical for years on the ruling. Plus single-use plastic is freely available all across the city and state. Therefore para (vii) inspires no confidence.

The point that needs to be understood with the Coastal Road, which is facing huge legal & social challenges is to try and decongest Mumbai. To create a Development plan which matches the carrying capacity of the Island City & take the hard measure to shift out people towards Navi Mumbai townships. Places like Palava City, Ulwe etc can absorb the flab that is within Mumbai. It would be a win-win situation for all. While human tendency would be to resist. As there would be legitimate fears of loss of livelihood and lifestyle. Politics especially dirty politics would come into play. But, all these can be tackled with honest intention and scientific approach.

The 1st step would be to remove illegal encroachments, be it homes, shops or any other. The 2nd would be to create by enacting laws which compel business districts to come up in a uniform manner allowing people to shift to the newer locations.

Costs can be calculated, losses can be estimated and compensation can be built around it. It would cost far less than to undo the damages which are sure to happen should development without proper thought is taken up. No one is denying that the job of the government is easy. But it is easy to talk to experts and stakeholders without an eye towards the next election result. For good has a tendency to prove itself. And it would always bring in the desired price.

The only thing is to inform and explain it to the people in a proper manner.

The Shivaji Statue:

Courtesy: Rediff.com

Somehow development and politics have got confused in the midst of building statues around the Nation. While it is true that to boost economy job creation is must & in that process one creates projects which have the ability to cater to all sectors of industry and trade. The Shivaji Statue project could have avoided & can still avoid controversy & greater damage to the marine ecology, but by shifting the location of the Statue. It would be the best face saver if the location from the midst of the sea is shifted to the Elephanta Caves island, which is already a tourist destination & it would perhaps be easier to safeguard the ecosystem around the already human settlement areas.

To end, let us go back to CoP24 and re-read the words that were spoken –

Patricia Espinosa, the Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), said that “COP24 will be Paris 2.0.”  

However, the best summing up of the event was by Dr Joeri Rogelj, a lecturer in climate change at Imperial College London’s Grantham Institute, talking to Carbon Brief;

“Under the Paris Agreement, emissions and proposed emissions reductions will be regularly compared, added up, and assessed in light of their adequacy for limiting warming well below 2C and 1.5C. This requires common rules for emissions reporting. But instead of requiring countries to adhere to scientifically robust methods, the final Katowice text now allows countries to use ‘nationally appropriate methodologies’, which, in all likelihood, will only be used to do some creative reporting and portray emissions of specific countries in a better light than they are. This is particularly an issue in the land-use sector.”

With a year almost over and as we are moving closer to the next CoP the events that have taken place doesn’t inspire much. We can once more safely assume that Climate Change Mitigation and Adaptation requirements have been pushed under the carpet.

Just as it has happened for the last 24 times and we can not have really much hope that the 25th CoP will be any different. Unless the people who would be making the policies are not those who are governing the Nation as political parties. The complete process has to be de-linked from the political agenda and directly controlled by a world level ombudsman. Maybe such a thought must find its place in the deliberations that would take place in Chile.

 
 

SDG#15: Life on Land (?)


With the grand event of UNFCCC CoP24 coming closer. It is that time of the year when Politicians would be high or rhetoric & poor on delivery.

As usual, evidence on the above inference would be from experience from events happening in India.

We begin with the City of New Delhi which at present is reeling under severe air pollution, both due to the annual crop burning as well as the bursting of fire-crackers. The severity of the situation is best shown by News18 images some of which I will be posting alongside.

rashtrapati-bhawan

This image shows the Rashtrapati Bhawan ie; the Presidential Palace. The wings of the building North Block & South Block houses the HQ of Defence, Finance, Prime Ministers Office etc. Which means we are looking at the Nerve Center of Indian Administrative Power.

But it was the Supreme Court, which came out as the custodian of Environment, by virtually banning fire-crackers & crop-residue burning. Yet the honourable SC has been made a laughing stock! Nothing was done by the great political leaders, of all the great & grand parties of India which swear on their Gods that they are the messiah of the citizens of India. When they can’t fix issues in New Delhi, it would be foolish to imagine that any administration really works in other state capitals. We need not even mention the villages and small towns. It would simply add insult to injury.

Why have our political leaders and administration not been able to tackle this annual issue? What is the reason for those who know the subject in depth not been given the platform by our over-the-top, TRP seeking media to spread the message, to educate and prevent this annual disastrous event from taking place, instead of talking about it as an annual ritual after it has happened? We would never know.

indian-authorities-brace-for-worst-air-pollution-season-3However, an attempt will be made through this article to explain in the easiest language possible about the dangers of pollution.  So that the common men can relate to it. What we see in the image here is hay being burnt in the fields of Punjab and a thick smoke envelope the entire area. Crop residue has always been burnt when New Delhi was called -Dilli, & perhaps if we can get the historical records at the time it was called Indraprastha. So what has changed which causes such a havoc? To understand it we have to look at many factors.

The growth of Urban areas, which never took into account geographic or historical data. Things like wind direction, rainfall pattern, forest cover, catchment areas nothing has ever been considered. What was forest land a few hundred years ago became land for cultivation, as trees were felled to satisfy the ever-growing populations as Dilli became the Capital of the Mughals and then the British. With Independence, came the need for Green Revolution, and the leaders brain-washed into considering everything western to be superior went into the use of pesticides and herbicides completely contrary to the Organic way of farming (which we are again adopting, form the West!). So today when we are burning the crop residue we are also releasing into the air the poison we put into our food!

So, when the Punjab Farmers Defy the Government Ban, ( click the link to know more) they must also be explained that they must not just look at it from the point of view they have, which is mentioned in the article but to safeguard their own lives too.

morning-haze-envelops-the-skylineThen we schooled ourselves into the architecture which is completely western in form and function. Tall glass buildings, with utter disregard to wind-flow patterns, to such an extent that the wind flow within the city slowed down allowing dangerous fumes from unregulated use of automobiles, factory etc. What was once industrial district became part of new urban living areas, while the old well designed urban areas got haphazard building permissions for mixed use.

Today we have a problem, which can not be easily solved. There are economic and social considerations to be factored in. Add to that the political compulsions and vote bank politics and we all know that there will not be a decent solution coming anytime soon.

Suggested Solution:

But by next winter, should the governments both state and centre want, pollution from both crop residue and fire-crackers can be stopped. The governments must map out the farms and make a law where the rich farmers would have to buy composting machines as well as air-purifying machines. These would be made available on low interest in easy EMI to them. While to the subsistence farmers, community composting machines, as well as rental air-purifiers, can be supplied, via NGO’s or CSR. Crop residue burning can be staggered in places where the supply of the machines can’t reach in the initial learning time.

As for fire-crackers, a sustained political campaign, maybe even using the Ramlila actors, messages must be spread pan India that Deepawali meant lighting of clay lamps. The alien concept of fire-crackers which crept into it as tradition must be removed by the sustained evidence-based scientific approach. 

The Science and technology ministry should gear up with support form innovative startups to find better solutions. 

The next point we must now tackle is sensitivity to effects of pollution and how it leads to climate change. We will begin with a very simple fact, which many may not even think or know about. It is only then the affirmative actions we all seek would happen, as without a groundswell of support nothing ever gets done.

buildings-are-partly-visible“High levels of pollution found in many of the world’s major cities are having negative effects on plants and insects, according to new research from the University of Sheffield.”[read more] Science Daily published the above report on 9th November 2018. “…plants exposed to high levels of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) — similar to levels recorded in major urban centres — are able to better defend themselves against herbivorous insects…Results from the study show that insects feeding on these leaves grew poorly, which suggests high levels of air pollution may be having cascading negative effects on communities of herbivorous creatures.”

Anyone with basic school education has read about pollination knows that insects & herbivore animals play a super-major role in germination and growth of plants and fruits. With all the money at one’s disposal, the “Midas Touch” still stands true. We may all rave and rant about culture and traditions, political compulsions but we forget that the basis of life is to have clean air-water-food.

It was the 3 basic pillars which created the civilization and we live in the Holocene Epoch, of the Quaternary Period, in the Cenozoic Era. Yes, era and epoch & period aren’t words we need to remember in History books. We all are actually living in one!

The point is, will there be someone left, to read in their History book about our Era or we are the last of the Human Civilization? Before the Armageddon which has already hinted its arrivals with fire-storms [click to know more] and hurricane wipe us out?

 

 
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Posted by on November 11, 2018 in Global Warming & Climate Change

 

SDG#2 No Hunger?


Climate change is one of the major causes which will cause food insecurity. This is known to almost all the governing agencies in India & abroad.

But the common person can not understand this. For them it is policy failure and ineptitude of the governments who are supposed to provide with succor. Although that being partly true, if the present government still fails to address the problem of climate change and educate its citizens to address the challenges of hunger not only from the perspective of responsible consumption (SDG#12, will deal with separately) but also trying to balance it with the environmentally friendly activities to develop a variety of forests like, Agroforestry, Social forestry, Farm forestry, Community forestry, Extension forestry etc. The Goal of Zero Hunger is set to fail.

This article shall look at what hasn’t really changed in the behavioral pattern, especially in India to be able to achieve this stupendous goal by 2030. Before we begin exploring let us understand the correlation between hunger and climate change.

The United Nations Reports on Indian Nutrition & Food Security: With nearly 195 million undernourished people, India shares a quarter of the global hunger burden…….The government has large food security and anti-poverty programmes but there are critical gaps in terms of inclusion and exclusion errors. Women and girls are particularly disadvantaged. Despite the achievement of national food self-sufficiency, new challenges have emerged: Slowing agriculture growth, climate change, land degradation and shrinking biodiversity. Large tracts of farmlands in India have become barren due to imbalanced fertilizer use and excessive use of a single fertilizer, urea. ……..With a five-fold increase in food grain production from 50 million tonnes in 1950-51 to about 250 million tonnes in 2014-15, India has moved away from dependence on food aid to become a net food exporter. In 2016, the government launched a number of programmes to double farmers’ incomes by 2022……..They include the National Food Security MissionRashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana (RKVY), the Integrated Schemes on Oilseeds, Pulses, Palm oil and Maize (ISOPOM)Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana,…..The government has also taken significant steps to combat under- and malnutrition over the past two decades, such as through the introduction of mid-day meals at schools, ……The National Food Security Act (NFSA), 2013, aims to ensure food and nutrition security for the most vulnerable through its associated schemes and programmes, making access to food a legal right. [Read More]

My arguments begin by reading between the lines of the above report. The lines I have marked in red shows how fragile is the system presently. And it will take years of sustained efforts before we can turn the clock back. Barren lands do not become fertile in one season. It takes at least a decade before the natural balance is restored.

The erstwhile Planning Commission had created the ‘development agendas’. Mostly they were copies of the western thoughts. They did not have any ill intentions. But the result is for all to see. The “Green Revolution”, which yielded bumper crops. DDT is now considered a confirmed poison. Yet with years of schooling to use pesticides have now made the simple farmers reticent to let go these dangerous health hazards. When farmlands were declared as Non-Agricultural patches for the Urban Sprawl & Industries came upon forest lands, in the name of Development. We took one more step in the wrong direction.

As per government data, independent India lost forest area in the following manner:

4696 million hectares forest land to non-forestry purposes,

0.07 million hectares to illegal encroachment,

4.37 million hectares to cultivation,

0.518 million hectares to river valley projects,

0.141 million hectares to industries and townships, and

0.061 million hectares to transmission lines and roads.

If we read the analysis by Wakeman Neutron, published in Legal Bites: Farm Crisis and Unrest in India – Case Study Farmer’s Agitation, it says;

The major causes of the agrarian crisis are unfinished agenda in land reform, quantity and quality of water, technology fatigue, access, adequacy and timeliness of institutional credit, and opportunities for assured and remunerative marketing. ….The per unit area productivity of Indian agriculture is much lower than other major crop-producing countries. This is a major impediment in enhancing the farm income. Out of the gross sown area of 192 million ha, rainfed agriculture contributes to 60 percent of the gross cropped area and 45 percent of the total agricultural output….Adverse meteorological factors add to these problems. [Read in detail]

In spite of Prime Minister Modi declaring Agriculture as one of the prime focus agenda for development & despite bumper monsoon and a good harvest in the year 2016-17 the country has and is continually witnessing farmer’s agitation.

With a sea of agitating farmers swamping Mumbai and pressure mounting, the BJP-led Maharashtra government Monday accepted almost all demands of the farmers, including their right to till forest land and extension of farm loan waiver to those who had borrowed between 2001 and 2008. [The Indian Express

This unprecedented pressure made the policymakers take a very dangerous and wrong decision once again. And its fallout will be an unmitigated disaster in the years to come.

The previous Union Minister of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) wrote in his will before his sad demise on May18th 2017 – “Do not erect a memorial when I die, but plant a tree if you loved and respected me,”

Mr. Anil Madhav Dave had reasons to be worried.

Between 1880 and 2013 India lost about 40% of its forest cover. Today, 24% of its area is under forests or 7 lakh sq km, according to government data. The area under forest and tree cover has grown by 5,081 sq km between 2013 and 2015. A rise in forest and tree cover may seem like a reason to celebrate but a careful look at the state of forests shows the government has many promises to keep before the woods are lovely, dark and deep. To revive forests will take more than a public campaign to plant trees.

With an ever-increasing population, people are compelled to cultivate on the same plot of land more frequently as there is very little forest area available. Forests are also being converted to permanent settlements.

The quest for Sustainable Development Goal #2 to be true within the timeframe of 2030 AD seems impossible in the face of such unprecedented challenges.

In our quest to eradicate hunger in the short term, we are destroying the very diversity which allows for food to grow. Food is both plant and animal life. Nature is so beautifully balanced that each is dependent on the other for survival. When we start to destroy the basic bio-diversity by cutting down the forest to grow a particular type of crop. The crop yield would go up for a short while but then we will face the same challenges as mentioned above. And by now even a 5th-grade student knows that without forest there is no rain.

Therefore, if we wish to actually strive for Zero Huger we need to educate the people and make them participate in mitigation and adaption to Climate Change.

 

 

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India is set to fail the Sustainable Development Goals


A recently published study by the Joint Research Centre (JRC) – the European Commission’s science and knowledge service – analyses the interaction between  and heat. The novelty of this study is that it looks not only at temperature but also  to estimate the magnitude and impact of heat waves. Heatwaves amplified by high humidity can reach above 40°C and may occur as often as every two years, leading to serious risks for human health. If global temperatures rise with 4°C, a new superheat wave of 55°C can hit regularly many parts of the world, including Europe. 

The study analyses changes in yearly probability for a high humidity heat waves since 1979 under different global warming scenarios. If  increase up to 2 C above pre-industrial levels the combined effect of heat and humidity (known as apparent temperature or Heat Index) will likely exceed 40°C every year in many parts of Asia, Australia, Northern Africa, South and North America. Europe will be least affected by up to 30% chance of having such strong heat wave annually.

However, if temperatures rise to 4°C a severe scenario is on the horizon. Scientists predict that a new super- will appear with the apparent temperature peaking at above 55°C- a level critical for human survival. It will affect densely populated areas such as USA’s East coast, coastal China, large parts of India and South America. Under this  scenario, Europe is likely to suffer annual heat waves with an apparent temperature of above 40°C regularly while some regions of Eastern Europe may be hit by heatwaves of above 55°C. (Read more )

Lipponen, a researcher at the Finnish Meteorological Institute, used publicly available data from NASA to demonstrate the rising temperatures across the world.

In light of the numerous reports of negative impacts of climate change, UNFCCC Executive Secretary Patricia Espinosa urged participants of the annual Munich Security Conference to consider climate change as a “security story” with far-reaching implications for global peace and stability.

In preparation for the 23rd session of the Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC, the UN University Institute for Environment and Human Security released a series of reports on how SIDS could get adaptation support, including help to migrate, under the Paris Agreement on climate change.

The above information is nothing new to the initiated and neither does it come as a surprise to the Political class of the World. Why else we would have been meeting up like clock work every year under the aegis of UNFCCC? And once more in less than 100 days, we meet at CoP23.

Yet when we look at the ground situation in India. The only narrative that we see is political. The noise is one of divisiveness, corruption & apathy of the governing class and neglect and ignorance of the people.

The only ray of hope lies with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who like many of his predecessors ( not all ) actually wants to lift India from the rut it has put itself in and considers that as status quo.

But how does one man alone change the narrative of a Nation?

While it is true that recent survey shows him as the most popular, with slightly diminishing returns. It is not because the NDA which he governs has done everything supremely. But more because many still believe in the person. Rather than the government. When people vote in State elections, Municipal elections they vote for PM Modi & not for the person who stands for the election. The wins of many MP, MLA, MLC is the direct aura of Narendra Modi, which kinds of blinds the vision of the voter, who otherwise would not even look at the ordinary achievements of these politicians who are no better than the ones defeated. And a couple of them even worse than them.

The PM began with taking up the broom & try clean up the filth in and around cities. But has failed to remove the filth of lethargy from the peoples. He is as the polls predict the best chance India has. Therefore it is all the more important that the Sustainable Development Goals don’t fail under his parties rhetoric of Good Governance.

We are a people who love the cacophony of posturing and politics instead of implementation of policy. We love to blame the politicians ( and rightly so to a very large extent) but don’t for a minute reflect that it is us who choose our representatives and they come from the very society which has forgotten its roots and have no pride in our traditions or culture. We are a Nation where a very high number have no civic sense, ethics or moral compass. While the remainder belongs to a class which has no influence to change the mindset.

Disconnected are the urban class and Disoriented the rural folks.

This allows the unscrupulous to bend every policy which would truly make India into a great Nation, to something they can use for their own narrow personal gains.

So much so that the narrative of a Shining India is slowly turning into a “Signing India”. Almost all the MoU’s which are being signed have headed nowhere. The states which copied the ideas of our PM to promote them have as of now not really made an impact. In a way, it should have.

Here is a test to prove it – If one still finds traffic violation, double parking, encroached footpaths and people throwing garbage all around, in-spite of CCTV installed all around. In the cities of New Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Kolkata. Not to mention the toxic froth spewing lake in Bangalore. 

Then India as a whole has failed! She voted for change. Which can’t be brought about by bringing in the same set of people into governance through the back door whom the people had rejected.

The country voted for change in 2014. And every State & Municipal elections thereafter!

A few good people at the Center can not govern India. We need the same mindset of people at the grass-root level. Sadly the NDA government equals the UPA government at this level. The apathy and inefficiency along with the latent corruption are slowly reducing the impact of all the good initiatives which India needs to take to fulfil its Paris Agreement Obligations.

The apathy & mindset of the lower rung in governance will not allow for any Sustainable Development. And Climate Change is a clear & present danger leaving us with very limited time.

Let us analyze The Global Goals vis a vis India. And see where we stand so that a course correction can be done by those who have the wherewithal and influence to do so.

spc20sdgs-globalgoalsforsustainabledevelopment-05207220dpi

Goal 1: No Poverty; Goal 2: Zero Hunger; Goal 3: Good Health and Well-being

These are goals which can’t be achieved 100% anywhere in the world. It was not possible when God’s walked the planet and will not be when AI – Robots would.

Having said that, in the Indian context, it is not just the population but the methods used which push people towards poverty.

In ancient India, there was the Varna system. A class where based on IQ and financial capacity a person was either a Teacher, a Warrior, a Tradesman or a Peasant. This combined with lower population increased the well-being amongst most. And this idea must be explored in the modern context. Sans Politics. A difficult but not impossible task.

Inequality is created when a person of a certain skill set is made to work on areas in which the persons simply can’t excel because they lack either in Physiological, Psychological or Financial strength, which makes it extremely difficult for them to train and apply the methods required to succeed and reach the higher echelon.

We have landless farmers coming into the city and do menial jobs such as security guards or sweepers etc. A person who would excel in cultivating the best wheat which a bread manufacturer, who perhaps employs them as menial labour, would never be able to. This tends to keep the poor always at the bottom of the pyramid, with hopelessness staring at their future.

This is simply because we lack the idea of creating urban farmlands which would enable the farmer to live within a city and yet find a job which he is skilled for. That such urban agriculture would have umpteen benefits can be discussed later.

India is always found to provide knee-jerk solutions more out of political compulsions rather than a long thought policy. It provides sops via loan waiver etc but has still not thought that under the PM mission for “Skill India”, it should first identify the aptitude of the people and then train them to excel within that sphere. We are trying to skill most of the farmers into everything to do with Urban India.

Skills like – Housekeeping, Shuttering Carpenter Solar Installer, Apparel, Machining, Refrigeration and Air-Conditioning, Welding, Electrician Construction, 2 Wheeler Repair, 4 Wheeler Repair, Appliances, Fitter, Security, Bar-Bending, Construction-Mason, Plumbing, Kitchen, Front Office Tourism & Hospitality, Beauty Wellness, Healthcare, Retail.

How many generations would it take for a family of a poor marginalized tribal coming from the remote areas of Naxal infested states to become a skilled welder or a retail salesman? When AI is fast catching up and snatching away the traditional jobs of the urban poor, towards whom the Skill India is more targeted? Can’t really be sure poverty can be eliminated by becoming a bar bending or construction Mason. As for Beauty wellness & Hospitality, we have to be real in acknowledging that not many “customers” have the sensitivity to speak with a village bumpkin who can hardly communicate in the “slick city/town language” and is not trendy enough. Which would only lead to depression and failure for these marginalized sections of the society!

Yes, some of the urban low-income groups may benefit from the Skill India program. But it would be more of statistical and optical success good for politics rather in terms of SDG achievements.

The disaster through neglect of rural India, especially Agriculture and its related programs such as watershed implementations can’t be corrected within a short term. It would need a change in approach and mindset of all stakeholders.  But in the short term if India needs to eliminate poverty it must look at Urban & peri-urban farming as a solution and laws made to make it a viable alternative. Food is a fundamental requirement and India has the chance with its young demographic dividend, most of whom live in the rural areas to be the exporter of food and reduce inequalities amongst Nations.

However, it is most unfortunate, that even after years of running from one business house to another, by those who understand the crisis of poverty & food,  almost none have been able to figure out the math of considering Urban Farming as a profitable venture. For it is the “Cost of Land” which is very steep making RoI not very attractive for those who can help. (For the idea of terminal market complex click this link)

The laws of Capitalism is most powerful!

Goal 4: Quality Education; Goal 5: Gender Equality; Goal 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth; Goal 10: Reduced Inequalities

While we talk about education, all we focus upon is literacy. In the pretext of freedom of expression, we dish out out-dated and regressive soap-operas on Television in every regional language across India. For want of TRP, paid media creates false news and debates take place which completely polarizes society.

Cities look like hovels, as no civic sense is instilled within the citizens by the governing council members and the public at large give scant regard to basic cleanliness, driving sense or even bother about illegal construction. In-fact they willingly buy into those very properties knowing fully well that the political dispensation a decade from the present would regularize all that is illegal. This is the fallout of literacy without education. The reason for this can also be squarely attributed to politicians who have understood it to be a tax-free venture open institutions only to loot and also to launder their ill-gotten gains.

While there are no great incentives to be a teacher, in which women at large can excel & is one of the noblest profession. Decent pay and training can work wonders for the future of India.

With the city infrastructure creaking, commuting to work is one of the most stressful events for the common man, whose output shrinks day by day leading to a loss in economic growth.

Political parties are quick in mobilizing workers for disruptive agendas which serve their narrow political gains. But if the same mobilization is done of party workers, block by block, ward by ward of the elected council members to clean up the city and look into the ways by which urban farming can be done. Employ on a weekly rotation basis the unemployed persons who can monitor the basic civic rules amongst the citizens. And spread the awareness into the peri-urban areas of the megalopolises, there is hope yet that the above SDG’s could be met to some extent.

Goal 6: Clean Water and Sanitation; Goal 13: Climate Action; Goal 14: Life Below Water; Goal 15: Life on Land

As long as water would remain the cheapest commodity and education the last priority the availability of clean water is not possible. Couple that with corrupt industrial houses who still consider profit as the only motive in their lives.

While it was reported that the National Green Tribunal had taken strong action and closed down many industries in the start of this year, they are up and running with only cosmetic changes applied to the sewage treatment. These companies have the money and the legal minds to fight it out in courts to circumvent the strict laws so much so that in the state of Maharashtra at Navi Mumbai area stray dogs have turned blue in colour. (Click on the NDTV Report for video.) 

It is not just life below water that is affected by these kinds of pollution but also life on land gets affected. As ground water turns poisonous and unless stringent penalties are taken India would see Minamata Disease.

A simple solution would be to use drones with image sensing radars which can spot pollutants on both land and river. It could also collect water and soil samples through a robotic arm and help authorities to find the right solution.

We are already having CCTV cameras in our towns and city roads. Hovering drones over industrial areas would definitely help in limiting damages towards the planet and it would perhaps be the best climate action taken by the government.

Goal 7: Affordable and Clean Energy; Goal 12: Responsible Consumption and Production

India is blessed by the Sun & the Sea. It’s long coastline and abundant sunshine makes a perfect case to apply Wind/Solar power stations to meet its energy needs of the present and can tap into the wave energy as and when required in the future.

However, this opportunity for abundance hides the fact that large tracts of land are required to install solar power stations. Land at no point of time is devoid of biodiversity nor are there any place on earth where there is no Life on Land. There may not be human or mammalian occupation but micro-organism or invertebrates are sure to exist.

But then we have a proverb – “crushed like an ant”, “trampled the grass”  to prove our infinite strength and that is exactly what we do when we set up the wind or solar parks. Now we are also thinking of apeing some other countries and the thought of floating solar panels has gained currency. But when one covers vast track of water body, what happens to the marine life just under the shade? What would happen to the pond/river/sea bed which would not have the option of sunlight touching it? Would we then not disturb Life on Water?

There is no lesser evil. One must stop this choice between development and destruction. India stands in a unique position which can give it leadership position is showcasing a balance hereto unseen. And I daresay that it would be Prime Minister Narender Modi, should the right ideas reach the PMO.

India by default knows about sustainable living, it has been a way of life which we have forgotten only in the last 30 odd years, in our race to ape the “developed” west. The disconnect of a Nation from its culture is one of the root cause of global warming. A study of the link given above would make many agree that we know how to connect with Nature. What we need is how to do so in the modern concept.

We must declare mandatory Rooftop Renewable Energy, for both green field and retrofit. Yes, city skyscrapers are not of the same height. As of now let them be fed by the green power from already established RE Power Plants. But the Development Plan henceforth shall take into account the Sun Path and build heights across towns and cities would be determined by it. This would enable every roof to carry Solar PV. Roads cutting across cities would be as per the wind pattern determined through computation of fluid dynamics, so that tunnel effect is exploited to the maximum by vertical axis wind turbines which also doubles as street lamp-posts.

We must contain the spread of Powerplants to new areas. We must aim for Net Zero buildings not by deriving smart calculations but by use of vernacular architecture. By instilling pride in Indian Architecture so that we consume less energy and water, to begin with. Only through responsible consumption & production of already fragile and scarce resources, we can hope to survive. To adapt to a changing climate which we are already too late to stop.

The devastating cycle of floods and droughts have begun and no political calculations can stop the downfall of the ruling party when millions die or there is a scarcity of food. The vast majority of voters are the peasant and the blue collared workers. Who can simply connect to one attribute of the adult franchise; if s/he has voted for a particular party it is because they want their livelihood to be cheaper/better. The recent price rise of vegetables has already been squarely put as a failure of Modi Government by them. They will simply throw out the present incumbent irrespective of having the knowledge that the alternative would also not be better. It is their only way to vent frustration and they will use it.

But those who understand governance know that at present continuity is the best hope. We don’t need populist measures but hard risk-taking decisions which the Prime Minister has the gumption to take. Only such actions would help stave off the extreme danger which is already manifest.

Goal 9: Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure; Goal 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities

Goal 9/11 is perhaps the most important in the Indian context as they are drivers for growth. They are the change agents which can catapult the country from a developing to a developed nation.

And therein lies the extreme danger and challenge!

The danger is building cities which would destroy forest and biodiversity, uproot indigenous population and further marginalize the poor. This would surely happen if we use the calculation of Capitalism. Where the only motive is to profit and to a large extent profiteer.

And therefore the challenge, the effort it would take to make truly Sustainable Smart Cities using the best of industry and innovation. Of using products which by themselves have a small carbon footprint and by design would help reduce consumption. They would not come cheap and would, therefore, fail in showing returns on investment in the traditional way of calculation. Where the principal factor is greed, not sustenance.

Mansoor Khan in his book The Third Curve. has rightly looked at the factors; excerpts are given below –

Financial markets are under threat. Growth rates are dropping. 
The age-old remedies prescribed to boost economic growth are proving ineffective, if not outright dangerous. 
Eight years after the 2008 global financial crash, nothing seems to work as per projections. 
But what if the rules of the game have inverted? 
What if economic growth is eluding us for a reason that we have discounted all this while? 
What if there are indeed limits to growth? 
Yes, the Modern Industrial World stands at a crucial and unavoidable turning point. The sacrosanct paradigm of modern economics, namely perpetual growth, is in the process of ending. Our economic growth model makes 2 simple yet amazingly unreasonable assumptions: 
1. That money is the currency that runs the world. In fact it is energy. 
2. That we have limitless energy & other resources on a finite planet.

Each of us must read what he says or hear him speak, to understand what each of us must do to push the government in the right direction.

We, therefore, can not design the mundane cities and call them Smart. We can not afford to use glib mathematical calculations and call buildings “Net Zero” and hang a plaque from some crediting agency whose underlying raison d’être is to promote Business As Usual.

Here is a simple example to prove the charge. India recorded the maximum temperature of 51°Celsius in May this year in Rajasthan. It has already been scientifically established that temperatures are set to rise in India due to climate change, the excerpts of which are at the start of this article. We also know that the mean average temperature of the Indian subcontinent has risen by 0.6°Celsius . This was declared by no other than Union Minister Dr. Harshvardhan on the 5th of August’17.

We also know as per NEERI report, that glass facade increase surrounding temperature by 17-19°Celsius. Yet we have “experts” who with the use of clever and sophisticated software prove that the building is a Net Zero energy emission building. This is not only happening in India but all over the World.

The Global Goals indeed require Innovations. But we are innovating lies! The problem with that is while the pretenders would make some money and the architects of the Paris Agreement would pat themselves on their backs.

Earth would neither spare the smooth talkers nor the soothsayers. It would simply extinguish everything. 

Goal 16: Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions; Goal 17: Partnerships for the Goals

August -15th: Climate change will have a negative effect on key crops such as wheat, rice, and maize, according to a major scientific report out Tuesday that reviewed 70 prior studies on global warming and agriculture. (phys.org)

August -18th: Extreme weather events are costing India $9-10 billion annually and climate change is projected to impact agricultural productivity with increasing severity from 2020 to the end of the century. In a recent submission to a parliamentary committee, the agriculture ministry said productivity decrease of major crops would be marginal in the next few years but could rise to as much as 10-40% by 2100 unless farming adapts to climate change-induced changes in weather. (Economic Times)

August -19th: Sending worrying signals to the farm sector, deficient rains in central and peninsular India have taken toll on the ongoing Kharif (summer crop) sowing operation, bringing down the total acreage as on Friday, as compared to the sown area during the corresponding period last year. Oilseeds and pulses are the worst hit. It will increase the country’s import bills if the sowing does not pick up in next two-three weeks. India, in any case, has to depend on imports to meet its domestic demand for these crops. (Times of India)

The Ph ys.org report on Climate change as reported on August 15th’17 juxtaposed with the two local news on India proves that nothing is a “Chinese Hoax” as claimed by a brilliant(?) analyst of world affairs.

In fact, both the Chinese and Indian governments must tone down their political rhetoric and get into actual cooperation to save their peoples from the Danse Macabre of Planet Earth. Unless peace prevails, there would be an atmosphere of mistrust and with the ever severe climate change impacts of drought/flood cycle neighbours would not come to rescue of each other when most needed. Hegemony will not help. We still have but one planet and finite resources. Greed has brought about Climate Change, further lust for an appropriation of wealth would lead to Armageddon. And there is no prize for knowing that Goddess Earth will win.

There has to be Partnership of Nations to ensure that the Global Goals are actually met. It is the need of the hour but real-politics is taking precedence of utopian ideals. While this article is India centric, it does not limit the issues to this Nation alone. For what happens to the Indian continent is true for the whole of Asia and in fact the world. We are failing due in our duty towards the planet. And no amount of platitude and self-praise would help us.
It is time to get real and do Justice to Earth.
 

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Who is VVIP – the Planet or a President? Why Trump Must Go!


As an Indian citizen, who would never immigrate to any other Country come what may, it makes no difference who becomes the next President or Prime Minister of another country.

Global governance expert decries ‘snub’ of Patricia Espinosa as Trump administration considers whether to pull out of Paris climate deal

Global governance expert decries ‘snub’ of Patricia Espinosa as Trump administration considers whether to pull out of Paris climate deal. Patricia Espinosa has been unable to obtain a meeting with the US state department. Photograph: Pablo Porciuncula/AFP/Getty Images

But, when an Executive decision made by a man could endanger the lives of my family & friends due to that man’s personal belief that Climate Change is a Chinese Hoax! Then it becomes a cause for worry!

If the article in the Guardian – UN climate chief unable to secure meeting with US state department is true then the World is in grave danger and while there is nothing a foreign Nation can do to intervene in their Constitution I guess the member countries of UNFCCC should show some spine and do what Uncle SAM has been doing since long!

IMPOSE TRADE SANCTIONS!

I’m sure the Capitalists around the world would snort at this, and some may even think of the choicest abuse! For, the USA is the single largest market in the world which makes economies move….

They should pause for a while and ask not as some Banker or Financial Analyst, but as a simple Human …..

Is it the Planet they live in gives them their next meal Or It is the economic and foreign policy of Nations?

It took more than 20 years, to just arrive at some concessions that the Planet is first! And in less than 20 months we are going to see all that has been achieved unravel? Because, some man who has been given some imaginary powers by some group of citizens written is a piece of paper, which is called the Constitution?

That paper, ink and even the hands that wrote and signed on it are but the product of this Planet.

Just how far are we to sink before sanity returns? Are we willing to let the Small Island Nations drown under the sea while shedding crocodile tears at the UNGA podium?

Let War ravage Nations, as it did in Syria?  Climate Change Helped Spark Syrian War, Study Says – National Geographic

Would at least the British, the closest ally of the USA come forward and put some sense, will their King to be, who believes it to be so?  Is the Syrian conflict linked to climate change? -CNN interview, set sail to America and knock some sense into the erstwhile subject?

To those who fear that all will be lost, if we do not side with this President of the USA! I would within my humble limits point to a few things he has already said and done. He wants America First. That means what is indigenous to America, should be made and consumed in America first. This makes an excellent case for all other Nations around the World to follow suit. And if one looks closely it would actually HELP in saving the Planet.

Say for example Mangoes. This fruit is not indigenous to the USA. Therefore it should not be sold there at all. Likewise, all fruits and vegetables & allied goods and services should not reach the shores of the USA, as the first option. And before economists and government officials throw a fit, here is the argument.

For too long, Politicians and Economists have stood somberly at various forums including Davos and spoken about how to uplift the poor and the downtrodden. Here is the golden chance to be triumphantly victorious at that.When we start to sell our home grown produce first to our own citizens, the cost will go down. There will be less waste due to transportation and it would also reduce the GHG emissions. It would spur growth and prosperity and also create jobs. Is this not what all the pundit profess? Prosperity for all.

But then the argument would be looking at the SENSEX. But why should I? Why should something cost me a 100 when it can be produced at 10 and sold at 30? Do we really need to follow the laws of Economics as it has been taught to us? That we are following a failed model can be best explained by the expert in the video below. And I would request all readers to listen to it.

The Third Curve by Mansoor Khan.

Economics as we know it has helped destroy this planet. And as has been so eloquently explained in the talk that nature follows a bell curve, let’s there for rest assure us that the idiocy which we see unfolding in the USA foreign policy with regards to climate change will end when the correct measures are taken by the World at large.

 

 

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8th November 2016 & The Paris Agreement


India which signed the CoP 21 Paris Agreement in 2015 December ratified it with much fanfare on 2nd October 2016. The birthday of Mahatma Gandhi, who can, without a doubt, be called not only the father of the Nation. But also perhaps the visionary who saw that Sustainable Development is the only way towards the progress of the human civilisation.

As the Earth Patriot, I wanted to pause and see the difference, the long awaited Paris Agreement make. For with the Paris agreement in place,  I presumed that there were no more doubts left and the routine Earth Day, Earth Hour & so many other events, that have been created over the years, would not just be empty gestures, as they were turning out to be,  but real change on the ground would be felt.

I was not looking at the big changes that would shape the future but the smaller ones which make the building blocks upon which a future stands.

As always, I can not talk about other Cities and Nations, but briefly, touch on certain events that may happen there which would impact my Country too.

Filmed on December 5th, 2016..the below Video captures many thoughts which are best spoken by someone who is regarded as an authority in the field rather than some passionate novice, which I consider myself to be on many a subject I feel strongly about.

Just as Poor Nations, Small Island States & Developing Nations point towards the USA and the rich EU Nations in particular for the calamity that has manifested, similarly its the large Indian cities of New Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Kolkata & fast catching up with them are Hyderabad, Bangalore, Ahmadabad, Chandigarh, Lucknow, Bhubaneswar & others who pollute and pillage the National wealth more than what should be their fair share.

If one were to take a sample survey of the lifestyle of the well-to-do in these cities, they match with those living in New York or London.  It is but the citizens of these mega-cities who should have been in the forefront of change..for they are the direct contributors to climate change in this Anthropocene Era. And they must be held accountable and make the changes required towards fulfilling the goals envisaged in the INDC’s submitted as per the Paris Agreement by India at the UN.

Industrialists & Entrepreneurs of all sectors, with deep pockets, somehow can not believe that they need to pay back to the Planet from which it extracts and is trying their level best to circumvent the situation. Either through bribery or through lip service. And the biggest tragedy for the planet is that they have and even now would succeed.

And one of the major cause would be an event that happened on the 8th of November 2016.

November 8th, 2016 was not just any ordinary date. Two events unfolded. One in India and the other in the USA. But both the events impact India.

In the history of human civilisation, 8th Nov’16 would go down as the day when the USA elected someone who could destroy planet Earth, not by utilising any Nuclear Bomb but by utilising his intellect or rather choosing not to on a particular subject which affects the whole World!

While it is known that the Brain has the superpowers yet to be discovered by modern science, we might be at the threshold of experiencing the horrors of someone extremely powerful, refusing to apply them when it comes to Climate Change.

The most dangerous aspect of this event is a thought no one is seeming to ask is, would the United Nations (here representing the World leaders) sit back and allow a person’s personal belief on Climate Change bring the World to the brink of disaster?

Will the death of Island Nations and the drowning of its people consider as a genocide? Should the USA buoyed by Climate Change denial, increase it’s GHG emission manifold & other countries follow suit? Or a Natural Disaster?

When we have a superpower Nation and its supreme leader as a Naysayer to Climate Change, the damage it does to 22 years of hard work by the UNFCCC is enormous.

Let us then link it to the events that unfolded on that day in India and see how dangerous it can become for my country should the balance of powers between climate change believers and deniers change.

The anti-corruption drive of Shri Narendra Modi, by demonetizing the ₹500 & ₹1000 Notes have no parallel in the history of the World. A brilliant master stroke is what many including me believe it to be. For, whether or not the corrupt would be punished for failing to pay taxes, the humongous amount of cash having come back into the system would make many a Government INDC programs into a reality.

But if we have Mr Donald Trump convince the World that it does not agree to the Paris Agreement but it could be the death knell of Swacch Bharat Yojana!

Swacch means Clean. It not just means clean municipal drains. It also denotes Clean Air, Water & Food. It could also denote a transparent and clean way of conducting sustainable business to attain the goals envisaged in the Agenda 30. The UN Sustainable Development Goals, which is the bed-rock of the INDC’s the years of effort given to achieve the Paris Agreement stands threatened.

But when you have a Naysayer in Mr Donald Trump, whose background is also that of a builder. Yes, we have Trump Towers in India too. And certain high-end residential projects are being built in Joint venture with his company, Green Building and Sustainable Development goes for a toss!

Indians, especially city-bred have the propensity to drool over anything that is Western. Harrods and Hollywood have more credibility than Hindi Cinema & Himalayas.

So, it would not be surprising to see the much maligned [ and rightly so in most cases if not all ] builders working towards “Smart Cities” & AMRUT Towns & Adarshgrams which completely divorces the idea of sustainable development practice, barring the lip service it has been giving. And this lip service has nothing to do with the conscience to make a social commitment but to garner any and all government incentives. The Water stressed peri-urban and rural landscape could suffer more and this would have an enormous strain on the social order, which is shimmering at the best of times.The cities of India are as parochial as is the society. A sprawling ugly forever expanding juggernaut which keeps pushing the marginalised to oblivion while at the same time its unplanned and ugly buildings consume energy in every form from this resource deficit planet.

But when the attention is diverted by someone sitting across the Ocean with Presidential Decrees which have ramifications in the immediate socio-economic fabric of my country. Better building design and other INDC programs would take a back seat while the Nations looks for solutions as of how to safeguard its position as the biggest software solution provider & other goods and services which churn the economy.

As certain set drivers of Indian economy are set to change, it would be impossible for the Government to focus on the good work of the INDC’s but take a step backwards by the pressures that would be created by the unscrupulous to allow them to continue with Business As Usual.

But before I end this page, it would be important to state that even though the policies of the President of United States may be bringing to end the Status Quo, the World has been in for so long. There is a glimmer of hope within his inward-looking policies, should he but agree to the Climate Change Agreement and endorses it.

And those advantages I would present in the next article.

 

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


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.