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Category Archives: Susutainable Buildings & Climate Initiatives

Climate Change and Urban Resilience – The Role of Green Building Councils


NEW YORK, 24 June 2013UNISDR Chief Margareta Wahlström today welcomed a proposal that “resilient cities” should be one of ten top global priorities in the post-2015 development agenda.

Ms. Wahlström said: “UNISDR has been running the Making Cities Resilient Campaign for three years now and our experience of working closely with both capital cities and small municipalities tells us that urban resilience needs to be at the top of the global development agenda. Many Mayors and local governments around the world are leading the way in reducing risk.” The UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network (UNSDSN), led by the eminent economist and adviser to the UN Secretary-General, Prof. Jeffrey Sachs, has set out ten goals in an Action Agenda for Sustainable Development in the form of recommendations for Sustainable Development Goals. One of the ten goals — Goal 7 — is to “empower inclusive, productive and resilient cities”. Under this goal, one suggested target (Target 7c) is to ensure the integration of “climate and disaster resilience into investments and standards”.

The world’s governments agreed last year at the historic Rio+20 Summit to adopt universally applicable Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) in 2015. To support this agreement, the SDSN has mobilized global technical expertise to identify ten “priority challenges” or potential goals, each accompanied by a set of targets, which can guide global efforts to achieve sustainable development during the period 2015-2030.

A stand-alone goal on cities will serve to “mobilize and bring together the efforts of multiple actors and stakeholders such as local authorities, national governments, businesses, knowledge institutions and civil society across a range of urban issues such as disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation”, according to the Report. “It is essential that the world rallies around a post-2015 global goal to advance urban resilience and minimize creating new disaster risks and adding to the economic losses caused by increased exposure to natural hazards.” From 2011 to 2020 alone, investments in urban development are projected to increase by 67 per cent globally. Much of this new urbanization will unfold in hazard-exposed regions threatening global resilience and sustainability unless governments and businesses start incorporating disaster risks into decision-making. The recently released report by the Secretary-General’s High Level Panel of Eminent Persons on the post-2015 agenda also echoes the SDSN report’s emphasis on addressing urban challenges. In no uncertain terms, it proclaims: “Cities are where the battle for sustainable development will be won or lost. “The recommendations of the SDSN and the High Level Panel reports are expected to serve as critical inputs to the deliberations that governments are undertaking to decide on a development roadmap that will go into effect in 2015.

This monsoon season when Uttarakhand was devastated by the mighty land-slide that followed a cloud burst; our Political leaders were quick to lay the blame on the opposition and patting their own back as how they have only let a few thousand die,( about 5000+ & about the same numbers missing) while saving 110,000.

5600 dead. Montserrat island which is a British Overseas Territory has a population of 6000. That would leave a population of 400 – the population of Vatican is 500. (read least populated countries of the World )

The Falkland Islands  archipelago located in the South Atlantic Ocean has a population of 4000. An entire foreign Nation’s population + 1500 and yet our Political masters have the guts to argue and make the matters petty as was seen in several TV News channel. Disregarding the gravity, refusing to learn nothing from it. And none even mentioned Climate Change.

This monsoon season while our Political leaders, mull over grave impacts on Law and Order situations which they claim to have averted, by sacking an Honest and Upright officer who took on the mighty sand mafia…

Similar mud slinging, but the most sinister part observed by the common man was not a single Political stalwart made a comment…

For they know not that the officer was not only doing her immediate duty but was by her act saving the Nation from a calamity which is waiting to happen.

Whenever there would be unregulated exploitation of Mother Nature, her vengeance – terrible and devastating would befall on all of us!

While righteous anger and angst is understandable, before we the “common men & women” spite the politician-mafia nexus must look deep within ourselves.

Will the need of that much of extra sand diminish if we agree not to do the “interior decoration” of our homes every 5 years just to show that we have arrived ? Tearing down the fine polished Italian marble floor which just 5 years ago one was swooning and fawning over while giving that house-warming party?

Will the need for that much of extra sand diminish if we agree not to by that second home ( actually the 3rd or 5th ) which we will hardly ever occupy just because it is – oh! so far away from the madding crowd…in the lush green vale full of fresh air……which the bulldozer of the promoter would destroy and we too with our smoke belching SUV’s.

Just as we all are directly or indirectly involved in the devastation of forests. Our ever more demand for fine wooden furniture, carved wood main-door and that perfect wooden flooring makes us partner to the crime.

How difficult is it to understand a situation like the Jamuma river angry and uncontrollable thundering down from the Himalayas to wipe out a large swat of New Delhi, the so called city of the Rich and the Powerful ?

It is not for no reason our ancestors revered Nature as Mother Goddess. Just as a mother would, she nurtures..she admonishes again and again…her intensity of punishment increase in direct proportion to the level of unruliness. Uttarakhand was a warning, just as Hurricane Sandy was. If we keep on ripping her belly and banks, we will pay for it.

The UNISDR – Making Cities Resilient cannot happen without understanding who the stake-holders are. And the most important stakeholders do not live in the cities. But in the far-flung country side between rivers and mountains from where the bounty of Nature is pillaged to feed the Cities. 

The problem is that without development the modern human civilization would wallow in decadence and perish. Creating chaos far greater than what is now. This fact can’t be denied or ignored. But solutions which are there must be presented in a proper way.

This is where the role of the Green Building Councils comes to play. They are a consortium of Business organization who wishes to make a difference. Who can make a difference.

The approach, in my understanding has to be two pronged. The first is to abate the destruction and the second is to mitigate it.

To abate the situation of people wanting to build more just because they can afford to must be stopped. Now legally no one can do that, but socially it is possible. By engaging thought leaders and socially popular personalities the Green Building Council must show and rightly so..that the Taj Mahal, the Czars Palace, the Vatican and many more would not have retained the “wow!”  Factor had the owners of these amazing buildings changed the interior décore every 5th year.

The simple though of antique is good must be made popular and fashionable at the same time. It can and will save a lot of environmental damage. While the manufacturing industry may suffer a slowdown initially, the service industry especially operation & maintenance would get a boost. We must argue the fact that their can never be “sunshine” everywhere at the same time. Inflation in currency or depression both give equal opportunity to growth.

What is opportunity for some can be misfortune for another. Capitalism however smart, still in some way follows the laws of Nature. The Carrot – The Rabbit – The Snake – The Mongoose each have a different perspective on opportunity and misfortune.  But if the rabbit lets even a little of the carrot uneaten the plant can regenerate back to life.  It is called Sustainability.

That is the art Business must adopt.

This brings us to the next solution – to create a conducive environment where waste plastic and other discarded material or composites can be used (10 Cutting-edge, Energy-efficient Building Materials). The business industry has already come up with some ideas,  what is required is to make them popular and indigenize them where ever possible. Some ideas are very futuristic(10 Building Materials from the Future), but if the Green Building council along with the CIICESD or the WBSCD come together, even these products may get created from recycled products or waste.

The infrastructure industry must make mandatory use of Composite materials and the implementation of cutting-edge technologies, such as nanotechnology,(read more). This is perhaps the only way we can limit the dependency on traditional building materials.

Moreover, there must be a legislation that industry use composite materials made of waste plastic to build their factories and warehouses. And slowly but surely try to reduce the size of the garbage island using (How the oceans can clean themselves: Boyan Slat at TEDxDelft). Once the idea is understood by all and sundry that money can be made business will surely boost the concept the clean technology propogators have been trying to introduce. (Green Business Ideas : Tall Buildings made from waste plastic is possible & its LCA is cheap – a builders delight and boon to Environmentalist)

It is one thing to be ruffled by the inconsiderate manner some people try and exploit nature for short term gains. To reverse the trend the mind and heart must think sustainable.  It is only then the world’s governments which agreed last year at the historic Rio+20 Summit to adopt universally applicable Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) in 2015 would act.

It is only then – “Many Mayors and local governments around the world are leading the way in reducing risk.” may also become true in India and around Nodia, Uttar Pradesh. (read more)

 

 

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World Bank – would you use second hand furniture ?


Two News articles of relevance needs to be understood from a context other than what is reported.

New Delhi/London: Global warming could lead to more droughts, water scarcity, extremely hot summer, severe flooding, and poor food production in South-Asia, including India, a World Bank report said on Wednesday.
Mumbai and Kolkata will see a “rise in the sea level, tropical cyclones and riverine flooding”. Water scarcity will plague the Western Ghats. There will be “increased droughts over north-western India, Pakistan and Afghanistan”. If there would be “unprecedented” hot summers, there would also be “extremely wet monsoons”.
“An extremely wet monsoon that at present has a chance of occurring only once in 100 years is projected to occur every 10 years by the end of this century,” the report said. It also projected a rise in severe floods and “severe tropical cyclone impact” within the next 25 years. Muthukumar S Mani, World Bank’s senior environmental economist, released the report in the national capital here. “What has happened in Uttarakhand is tragic but there is no science right now through which one can link that to climate change. But due to climate change such unusual events would become normal.” Onno Ruhl, World Bank’s country director, said what is more worrying is “climate change would hit the poor hardest”. He said what is needed for India is “sustainable development”, renewable energies, improved water management among others. The report estimates that by 2050s, with a temperature increase of 2-2.5°C, water for agriculture in the river basins of the Indus, the Ganga and the Brahmaputra will reduce. A rise of 2°C in global temperature would mean India’s crop yield would go down significantly by the 2040s. (With agency inputs)
Food, water supplies to be hit.

United Nations: Global warming of 2 degrees Celsius threatens African food production and Asian water supplies “in our lifetime,” hurting the poorest first, the World Bank said.
That increase may be reached in 20 to 30 years, while a 50-centimetre gain in sea levels may be “unavoidable” by 2050, the bank said in the report on how the poorest nations will be affected. The UN is seeking to keep warming to 2 degrees since the 1800s. “In sub-Saharan Africa, food shortages will become more common,” Rachel Kyte, a bank vice president for sustainable development, told reporters. “In South Asia, shifting rain patterns will leave some areas underwater and others without enough water for power generation, irrigation or drinking.” The study builds on an investigation released by the bank in November that said the planet is set to warm by 4 degrees by 2100. It increases pressure on policy makers to cut greenhouse- gas emissions blamed for global warming as envoys from more than 190 nations work to craft a new climate treaty by 2015. “In Southeast Asia, the loss of coral reefs would reduce fishstocks, leave coastal communities and cities more vulnerable to increasingly violent storms and landslides, and impact tourism,” Kyte said. The bank’s spending to help nations adapt to effects of climate change doubled in 2012 to $4.6 billion.
The report is the latest attempt by World Bank President Jim Yong Kim to make the institution a bigger participant in the fight against global warming.—Bloomberg

Now that the dust has settled down on the devastating landslide in North Indian state of Uttarakhand. The do’s and don’t the responsible and the reprehensible has been laid thread bare….

Sitting on a teak wood handle chair across a pine wood desk in my study which is tastefully done with rose wood panelling, I wondered and was equally annoyed as the TV anchor who thundered that it is only the politicians and bureaucrats who were responsible for the massacre. And those responsible must be held accountable. I fully agree to that but…

While that may be true, it was not the complete truth and the experts who were trying to explain that fine point incurred the wrath of the Anchor, because he alone knew the absolute truth and that was the gospel the Nation wanted to know, such is his self-righteous belief. But was he alone in this reaction? If we look into ourselves we all have the self-righteous belief that it is only the elected representatives and the administration which is responsible for all things that is required to run a civilization.

Buildings with spurious materials and with utter disregard to rules are built; from simple traffic rules to complex environmental issues are swept away by the Indian populace every time and every where. The so called honest Indian is not honest at all. Honesty and discipline can’t be selective. Disregarding traffic rules and building by-laws when it comes to self while blaming the Politicians for the bad governance must be condemned strongly.

Tigers are killed because some humans believe that eating them would be beneficial. Trees are chopped because some humans believe that without them fine homes can’t be built. Tree logs are smuggled because without a polished Burma Teak floor, a style statement can’t be made about how rich the human is. The Panda is near extinct because without fine paper to write upon the CEO can’t work. The fashion concious can’t be seen wearing the same dress & accessories twice.

Be it Gold, Marble or Coal if there would be no irrational demand, exploitation beyond rationale can’t happen. If there can’t  be rationing of product and produce each human can consume a I have proposed in Green Business Idea: Sustainable Trade Practice is possible; (without some “rights” group controlled by “wrong” conglomerates  disrupting such saner thoughts),  The Danse Macabre, which I wrote before just weeks before the Uttrakhand  disaster will remain forever true.

I choose the word civilization over a nation because, it is the mind-set of human race that needs to change if we need to survive.

And that has to start with the office of the World Bank and the United Nation and their ilk follow the Reduce – Reuse – Recycle principle in earnest.

 

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Sustainable Idea – Going Down Under


The last time I went into a cement & glass in-cased tomb called a corporate head-quarter in Mumbai, I remember that no one was looking out of the window.

The reason for that were several

1. Nothing worth viewing 2. Glass was too dirty to be viewed through 3. Files covered half the window for clear sight 4. Curtains were drawn, which had a hint of cob-web indicating that they are never opened.

Although Cement is one of the most carbon-intensive industries and in 2020 will account for as much as 5 Gigatons of CO2 emissions. The manufacturing of glass is also not less energy intensive.

The fact of the matter is building industry the consumer of all that is produced across sectors is the most energy guzzling sector. And finding new ways may perhaps help us avert the calamities to some extent, although the time to avoid the Armageddon is long past.

Therefore coming back to the opening remarks of this article, I propose that the next batch of buildings we build should go vertically underground. There are many simple reasons for this.

We can begin with trying to be a little more resource efficient in this fast resource depleting Planet.

Almost all  the glass ensconced office towers in India are hermetically sealed tomb from which none peep out, or breath the fresh (polluted) air. In the process we draw upon huge amount of energy to cool a  glass building. A glass building in a sunny climate while looking very European or American also acts as a green house in the classical sense. It simply traps the heat and increases the heat surrounding the building by up-to 19%, in case of Mumbai. (NEERI report 2012)

inhabitat.com – Subterranean Hotel London-Green-Belt

By building underground,(going completely underground although possible; we have examples of defence organizations; would need new science to reduce cost of waste discharge which I am not sure we have  mastered.) the least we could do is cut the cooling needs for  the HVAC and thus also save on water. It would also saving a huge amount of sand, sodium carbonate, calcium oxide, lead oxide, sulphur and sodium sulphate / sodium chloride or antimony oxide  the basic ingredients to make glass.

These materials too need to be mined / extracted / processed which need a lot of energy.  One would be surprised at the mind boggling GHG the above materials produce in there own life-cycle analysis before they help make glass.  2300°C of energy is required to melt the silica to make glass.

Now to look for the second simple reason to go underground.

Selgas Cano Architecture’s Subterranean Work Space

It is a well known fact that Climate change will bring about food crisis, unparalleled in recent history. Therefore must turn to solutions which till now have only been considered as novel ideas. Ideas which have not been practical or possible to accomplish in large scale. Even though examples of such construction is around us within the very modern cities we live.

Imagine having a  HQ deep below while young and earnest farmhands toil away on the roof-top of the building which is situated right at the proposed city centre of the future.

Thus in a single master stroke we could eliminate the plight of the street children and their parents who mostly are landless farmers; at-least in case of India. Moreover cities around the world are facing food shortages as it pushes farmlands away from the city centre in its mad rush to grow bigger and bigger. Roof-top or vertical farming can not achieve the scale of a farmland produce.

Sustainable Homes – tumblr.com

Every-time we build a city, we destroy a village. Along with it the farmlands and natural landscapes. But if we still wish to partially mitigate the effects then we must find ways for both to co-exist. Bio-diversity may well be our last hope to reduce the impact of what is fast approaching.

Coexistence of a City-Village is a must.

We must build more  communities  as the one shown in the image.  Make it mandatory via the UNEP-SBCI for any further development in the still remaining untouched fringes of mega-cities which will get gobbled up by concrete in the next 10 years. This is the perhaps one way through which we can avert the disasters we keep inviting upon ourselves.

Humans always knew how to live in harmony with nature. Somewhere down the line we lost that art. Its time we find it again.

If my readers finds the last image endearing enough for them to think even for a fraction of a second, to wish living in something similar….it proves that Humans are yet to disconnect the umbilical cord from what is Natural.

 

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Green Business Idea – Collaborate not Compete to get off the Eco(nomic) crisis


As globalization and technology draw the world together, they create opportunities for innovation that are as great as any in the past three centuries. They create the potential for a second revolution in productivity — but one in which we no longer need to trade ecological assets for economic ones. –The Two Deficits, Part Four

This is one event which almost every super-market shopper has faced. You go out looking for your favoured item and you are always spoilt for choices. Every time there is a better tooth-paste or shampoo or cereal.  Look for an ice-cream and there are dozens vying for your attention. Same with Cars and motorbikes or clothes.

Thus one can divide the products into Food & Processed food, Clothes & Ready-made clothes, Transport & Personal Transport etcetera. Essentially all fall into certain basic categories which can be classified into FOOD-CLOTH-SHELTER, the pillars of modern Economics and foundation of civilization. (explained in my other article)

So if you buy a potato chip…you are buying processed food and just that. Potatoes which have gone through the same process of being selected from a farm, cleaned, cut, fried and added with the desired flavours and packed.

The machinery being used by one manufacturer would perhaps be of the same make of that of the competing brand and they both are purchasing potatoes from the same region, thus the soil and other climatic conditions of growing the product is almost the same or similar. And the packaging is also almost coming from the same source, petroleum or paper pulp.

Yet each similar product claiming that it is unique. Some obviously are. Most aren’t. The only product which can claim to be unique every-time even when being manufactured in the same region are the ones we get naturally. I rest my case with the humble chilly.

And it is this Biodiversity which we need to protect and preserve. Else no brand can claim that they have “spice” in their flavour for their would be nothing to spice up sooner than later.

There is a move called The Lorax. A movie I would request the more knowledgeable to acknowledge byI screening it in Davos 2014.A movie which has been able to capture how desire turn into greed and how we Humans have lost the focus of why we started to work in the first place. It was primarily for sustenance of self and dependants. Which in turn was to give us happiness – safety – security.

While the protagonist at the end is able to save the World by saving a species from extinction, I do not know if many amongst us would like to place our bets on saving the Human species when we meet for the World We Want 2015.

“Why this children film and not Al Gore‘s – An Inconvenient Truth?” some would ask. Simple !  If we had achieved the goal in our life-time then the Millennium Development Goals would not have been mooted. It would have been a subject in History for our children to study.

“Problems are inevitable in any development program; failure is not.” –  Fail- Safe Management; A World Bank Publication.

Continuing from my last , where it is more than evident that Business are suffering and going to suffer severely in the coming years, innovation is the only adaptation choice we are left with. The doubters can read on the unprecedented flood of Central Europe posted barely a few hours ago.

The Green Business Idea  I’m about to suggest will be full of problems and as with many of my ideas half-baked and not thoroughly researched. Only soul-searched.

Brand shown here is only for literary purpose only.

Let’s talk of Potato Chips as an example. I do not know how many brands are there in the World but the Top 20 Potato Chip Brands have similar or different info-graphics showcasing that their brand is the best. And has World dominion.  What I do know however is that there always would be a Numero uno (first) and a Numero último (last). And there would also be some which are Numero acabado or terminado ! Because they could not compete in the cut-throat competition of the fickle consumerist modern society we call the modern civilization. Failure has nothing to do with quality (at times) but perceptions and trend and many micro & macro factors. Ask any cell-phone manufacturer. Or concept car maker. Or even a steel company.

So does that mean that the people who are rendered jobless are not worthy or the potato which made the chip not natural ? It is neither. When you are given a finite resource – man & material; there is so much you can do.

Try eating a full 7 course lunch just after having a hearty break-fast.Or try eating the same hearty break-fast say of farm – fresh apples in a non apple growing season.You can’t! Apples you will get, but they won’t be farm-fresh but freshly frozen.

Same happens for labour, what was achieved on this date can’t be achieved on the same date next month or next year. And even if it is attempted; not by the same set of persons. Some may not be around any more.

Thus with finite resources and finite work opportunities what we have led ourselves into is what in Hindu Mythological term is called – “Chakravuyu”. One in which to enter is easy but to come-out is difficult. When I say difficult I mean just that. Not impossible. As explained in the Mahabharata, when one is guided by the inner conscience of self and is of stead-fast mind devoid of greed and complete surrender to duty the chakravuyu can be broken as it was by Arjuna.

Equality and Equal opportunity can always prevent grief. And for that we need to collaborate. And it can be sustainable.

If we create only 4 hours of work per person with the same amount of pay or less ( as foretold – a difficult situation ) we almost eliminate joblessness.

Joblessness is a huge strain to the economy in form of payout of dole, social security etcetera.

Jobs of the people who are out of work, for example from a recently closed European TV company. Surely there would be experts in that pool who can fill in the shoes of those who need to put 14 -16 hours a day working for another TV studio, somewhere in another European or Asian or American Nation. And although having jobs; are equally miserable because of lack of time for self and family.

This misery manifests into anger and discontentment and is vented by protest and lock-outs demanding higher wages; knowing fully well that there aren’t any option of having a better time management and a better life. So the least they can do for their kith and kin is earn a few dollars more with an almost mirage like hope that money would make things better and give them a better life.

Imagine if we had 4 hours shifts.

For the same job we could have 6 people employed. That is an decrease by 6 times the unemployed ratio. A huge sociopolitical pressure can get released. It also allows for social engineering wherein population control as well as population management would be possible. Simply because when people are content, they readily accept radical ideas. (Sustainable Living and Climate Initiative: Socio-Political Decisions can have a profound effect on it.)

In the similar fashion instead of a Potato chip company on its way of becoming International giant – Giants by default trample everything that comes underneath it – becomes a benevolent benefactor and employs or buys the full produce from the near defunct smaller company at a fair price ( a price which that company would have naturally got had it been profitable) and or allows them to sell the lead produce with transfer of technology (with guaranteed non breach of secrecy contract). This way the giant does not have to grow its “very own” potato and thus destroy a paddy field and perhaps the livelihood of those with it. And compound the already fragile food scarcity issue.

And

Every season we allow for a certain amount of produce of a particular crop be produced internationally. Pooled at a common source and distributed as per demand amongst Nations above and beyond a standard quota which is equal for all. We thereby (hopefully) would not have Wheat rotting in the open storage pens, we would not have hunger and neither would there be a strain in giving the Minimum Support Price. (a very difficult problem but not impossible to solve).

It can be done for minerals and metals  too. Thus the service and manufacturing sectors of all hues can slowly and surely be able to reduce its destructive and unsustainable foot-print.

However, this would only be possible if Nations have able Governance and non-corrupt Government. India can’t presently take the lead. But by mooting this idea in the International fora can at-least be seen as a serious player in the goal to attain Sustainable Living and abating Climate Change as per the MDS vision.

 

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Planet Earth’s invite – Danse Macabre


Bernt Notke: Surmatants(Totentanz) in St. Nich...

Bernt Notke: Surmatants(Totentanz) in St. Nicholas’ Church, Tallinn. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Dance of Death, also variously called Danse Macabre (French),is an artistic genre of late-medieval allegory on the universality of death: no matter one’s station in life, the Dance of Death unites all.

HFor the first time in human history, the concentration of climate-warming carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has passed the milestone level of 400 parts per million (ppm). The last time so much greenhouse gas was in the air was several million years ago, when the Arctic was ice-free, savannah spread across the Sahara desert and sea level was up to 40 metres higher than today. These conditions are expected to return in time, with devastating consequences for civilisation, unless emissions of CO2 from the burning of coal, gas and oil are rapidly curtailed. But despite increasingly severe warnings from scientists and a major economic recession, global emissions have continued to soar unchecked. (read more)

Geneva, Switzerland – The global disaster conference (UNISDR) brought together more than 3,500 delegates from 171 countries to discuss reducing the risk of natural disasters in the years ahead.

Natural disasters are increasing around the world as the climate changes, costing lives and billions of dollars in damage, and governments need to act to minimise the effects, a conference on natural calamity mitigation heard last month. Parliamentarians, mayors and community leaders met with scientists, NGOs, international agencies and businesses to give input and to question why recent attempts to manage disaster risks haven’t slowed the rising tide of destruction.

The UN has estimated the direct economic cost of disasters since 2000 is roughly $1.4tn, cautioning that the total price tag on people’s livelihoods and the wider economy are never fully counted.

As the thermometer rises, so does the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events.

The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reported last year that droughts and heat waves are growing harsher and longer in many regions, causing deaths, fires and crop failure. When rain does come, it is often more intense, causing flooding and landslides. Meanwhile, rising sea levels increase the height and damage potential of storm surges in coastal areas. (read more)

January 10: Storm caused Flooding, Mudslides across Mississippi and Louisiana
Live blog: Trees down county-wide, with several mudslides reported in Adams County, MS and LA.

February 8: Wildfire in Big Thompson Canyon area, Colorado
A 3-acre wildfire is burning in Big Thompson Canyon area near Alexander Mountain.

March 25: Strong earthquake in Guatemala city
M 6.2 strong earthquake shakes Guatemala city today, the U.S. Geological Survey reported.

April 10: Tornadoes across Arkansas
Tornado in Botkinburg, Arkansas today has injured three people and damaged more than a dozen structures.

May 5: Hail storm in Franklin, Tennessee
Hail storm hit around Decherd and downtown Winchester and covered streets and lawns with hail stones.

June 6: Tropical storm Andrea
A tropical storm warning has been issued along the west coast of Florida from Boca Grande to Ochlocknee River.

While one can read on 80 more in Natural Disasters In United States 2013.  Crossing the Continents we look at some of the 37 Indian Natural Disasters 2013

January 31: Hailstorm in Andhra Pradesh, India
Hailstorm killed at least 9 people in Chevella, Moinabad and Shankarpally area of India.

February 6: Hailstorms in Madhya Pradesh, India
Hailstorms have killed one and damaged crops in 80 villages of Tikamgarh, Chhatarpur of Madhya Pradesh, India.

March 6: Forest fire in Mumbai, India
A huge forest fire has affected the area of the Sanjay Gandhi National Park and a part of Film City (Bollywood) in Mumbai.

April 15: Dust storm in Chhattisgarh, India
Dust storm in Chhattisgarh region of India has claimed lives of at least six people.

May 1: Strong earthquake in Kashmir today
Get update report on this Kashmir earthquake.

June 5: Bihar lightning strikes
Lightning strikes in Bihar, India have claimed lives of at least 27 people including women and children, Disaster Management Department said.

I wonder where would I find such meticulous data for say Burkina Fasso and found this report

Even though previous reports have already highlighted evidence of a relationship between exposure to natural disasters and urban poverty, the complex processes underlying this association still remain poorly studied in West Africa, with little individual empirical data. The objective of this communication is to analyze factors associated with the status of “natural disaster victim” in Ouagadougou, the capital-city of Burkina Faso. On September 1st, 2009, this city experienced torrential rainfall leading to immense water runoffs and floods. Over 150,000 people were severely affected and 50,000 completely lost their homes. It is these people that this study undertakes to examine, defining here “natural disaster victim” as a household that completely lost their home. Modeling data from the Ouagadougou Health and Demographic Surveillance System with logistic regressions, the preliminary results suggest that the migrant status and gender play an interesting role in addition to the poverty index and level of education.

I’m sure of the 150 Nations who read my articles there would be many who would have to reach out to their Google Maps to find this African Nation. But that does not ease the pain of 150,000 people.

HThere are many Nations and Peoples whose carbon-foot print is negligible and have hardly contributed any GHG to suffer the Wrath of Mother Earth. And there are many such Nations in this planet, whom we can’t point out in the Map instantaneously  but  for their annihilation our life styles has  become directly responsible.

One needs to actually ponder at Natural Disasters List April 30, 2013 Which has more or less spanned the entire World and makes the SREX report 2012 almost feel like the  Nostradamus predictions for 2013 come true.

Japan’s earthquake and tsunami of 2011 was probably the most costly natural disaster in history, causing losses of hundreds of billions of dollars. Last October’s Superstorm Sandy cost the United States more than $50bn, while also devastating Cuba, Haiti, and other Caribbean nations. Record wildfires last year in Russia and the US burned through millions of acres, following another unprecedented Russian summer in 2010 when heat waves claimed 55,000 lives.

The world indeed is a global village and both the good and the bad events affects Nations which in another date and era would have thought as an event far away from home and not to be worried about.

That however is fiction- April 27 2013: Japan Tsunami debris hits California:Japanese fishing boat washed by 2011 tsunami has been confirmed as the first piece of debris to reach the coast of California.

In 2005, the Hyogo Framework for Action was adopted to encourage countries to become more resilient in the face of natural disasters. But the Global Assessment Report released at the conference reveals that efforts have had limited success so far.

Global warming

Global warming (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One-hundred twenty-one countries have passed legislation for reducing disaster risks since 2005, and more than half of the governments have made substantial progress in assessing and monitoring the risks their people face. But this has had no discernible affect on disaster losses, which continue to stack up around the world.

Each of the last three years has brought direct economic losses of more than $100bn because of earthquakes, storms, floods, droughts, and other catastrophes. These range from mega-disasters such as the Japan earthquake and tsunami and Superstorm Sandy, down to smaller floods and landslides that strike vulnerable communities, somewhere in the world, on a daily basis.

The Global Assessment Report highlighted that many people suffering the worst effects of climate disasters are not the ones contributing to them. Other than climate change, reckless urban development, the exploitation of groundwater, and deforestation are increasing the likelihood of disasters large and small, and weaken the resilience of communities to withstand them.

Listening  to this IPCC video should  change the minds of even the most callous of Businessmen. Simply because it is going to impact their Business directly much sooner than they think.

Source Courtesy: Al Jazeera; UNISDR; disaster-report.com;guardian.co.uk;reliefweb.int
 

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World Environment Day – the don’t practice but preach day!


AHow many times does it happen to almost all of us that we listen to a captivating lecture or a documentary or even a film and connect to it completely ? While walking out of the hall, you almost bond with complete strangers and some have animated discussions on the subject while reaching the exit gate, exchange contact details and as the vehicle you sit in moves, start the process of completely forgetting about the episode and focus on the day ahead ?

This is what happens to all of us especially those who have taken upon themselves to do public good….that is become a Politician. Everyday most of them think how they can do some good for the public, especially in India. And the World Environment Day is no different.

One can not fault any person and especially those who have taken upon themselves to do public good be focused in doing good in one sector alone. They need to focus in all areas lest they be seen as partial. Therefore in a prelude to the Environment Day our thoughtful leaders did think of doing some more good. And as an observer of the good our leaders bestow upon ourselves,this article would try and record them with a perspective.

CMumbai, is a city which is situated in the western coast of India, and very close to the famed Western Ghats, which the UN incidentally has declared as a very fragile and varied ecosystem which needs to be protected. And our thought full leaders both at the Centre & State who’s heart beats for the äam aadmi,(common man)  always eager to eliminate poverty, can not but come up with gem of ideas to improve the lot of the people, even at the cost of throwing away all the recommendations which the Ministry of Environment and Forest ( MoEF ) may have put.

It was mooted sometime ago that the city of Mumbai must become World class and some even wanted it to be better in comparison to Shanghai in China. As to why a city from China was chosen as an example instead of EIU’s 1st ranked Melbourne Australia, which is still considered to be the top most when we rank it in the liveability index simply beats me.

DThe Economist Intelligence Unit Liveability Survey liveability index rates each city on a scale of 0-100 based on 30 indicators, grouped in five categories.  Weights ranging from 10 to 25 percent are assigned to each category to determine the overall rating.  The EIU’s categories, weights and indicators are as follows:

  • Category 1: Stability (25%) (prevalence of petty and violent crime; threat of terror, military conflict and civil unrest/conflict)
  • Category 2: Healthcare (20%) (availability and quality of private and public healthcare; OTC drug availability; general health indicators adapted from the World Bank)
  • Category 3: Culture & Environment (25%) (climate; corruption; social/religious restrictions; censorship; sports/culture availability; food and drink; consumer goods and services)
  • Category 4: Education (10%) (availability and quality of private education; public education indicators adapted from the World Bank)
  • Category 5: Infrastructure (20%) (quality of road network, public transport and international links; availability of good quality housing; quality of energy and water provision; quality of telecommunications)

The overall Liveability Index 2012 is an integration of categories such as demographic, education, health and medical standards, safety, housing option, socio-cultural-natural environment, economic environment, and planned environment. It identifies those areas where progress is being made or maintained and areas where we need to be vigilant and allocate resources in order enhance its prosperity levels. In addition, it has taken a holistic approach in order to gauge the status of liveable cities in India by taking into consideration both, urban and rural factors. A city is termed as liveable if it provides a favourable living environment to its residents and indirectly benefits the people who visit it. The favourable environment comprises of various measurable factors such as, presence of quality education and health institutions, planned environment, appropriate infrastructure, safety of the people, strong administration etc. It has to do with answering questions like ‘can I live here happily with my family’? This goes beyond quality of life which is merely a single construct and a part of liveability. Similarly, for corporates who require well-connected roads, regular supply of power, skilled employees etc. for their business processes.

While none of our cities figure in the World top ten, by comparing our cites internally….

Liveability Index 2012

Highlights

  • New Delhi losses out by scoring high on the crime parameter.
  • Chennai grabs the numero uno position by beating Delhi, which was stable with its 1st rank for the last two years
  • Hyderabad is spotted at 2nd position and gained two positions
  • Other two top metros, Mumbai and Kolkata slide down from their previous ranks and are placed at 3rd and 7th position respectively
  • Kolkata arises as the city with the best supporting infrastructure in terms of residence, drinking water, source of lighting etc.
  • Major positive as well negative shifts are noted in the ranks of few cities such as Vijayawada, Gurgaon, Kozhikode, Varanasi, Ludhiana, and Puducherry etc.
  • The index provides insight into the quality of life available to people and provides evidence on the future state of the city in terms of its liveability.

South Indian cities dominate the top ten cities slot as Nagpur, Pune, Nashik, Madurai and Bengaluru exhibited a lot of improvement and have significantly risen from their previous low ranks. (more).

EWhile New Delhi could be considered as the King of Indian cities,where I schooled from and Mumbai the Queen where I found my livelihood, seeing the lopsided development which has no direction makes one wonder as had it not been for the people of this city and some very concerned and able people especially those who are connected to the Advanced Locality Management created by Mr. Verien Merchant in 1996 and supported by many around the city. This beautiful city would have sunk.The ALM Warriors (read more) as they are called are the need of the hour and not only in saving this city from filth but also in the process save the environment from degrading further.

The onslaught on Mumbai by vested interest is ceaseless. Plans to usurp an open space (The Royal turf club)  in guise of developing it into an world class park for the public is nothing but a sham. Because, it is but obvious that there would be some commercial activities planned around it which would be controlled and captured by those who are in power. One needs to look into the history of encroachment and the Builder-Mafia-Politician nexus to believe otherwise.

FNo urban planning is Eco-friendly because we have the unflinching ability to pour concrete in every square-foot of open space we get in our hands in the name of development. Preservation of eco-system which has been undisturbed for the last hundred year since the development of the city as important as preserving the lively hood of more than many poor labourers who maintain the said open space presently. While none can be against a proper approach to development; evidence show that the administration can not be trusted to safe-guard what belongs to the Planet first, its people later and to the rulers never!   An open green patch of land!

Read The Green Roots of Turkey’s Urban Unrest.- The street protests that spread from Istanbul to some 60 cities around Turkey in recent days have focused on a broad range of grievances, particularly what some see as the unresponsive nature of the government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. But the initial spark was a government plan to uproot hundreds of trees and turn a park abutting Istanbul’s Taksim Square (interactive panoramic view) into a shopping mall.

The most important factor is that open spaces allow percolation of water & growth of trees which provides us with the much needed oxygen and controls the much dreaded carbon. And without ground water & air their can not be life.

The tragedy is we have set goals such as Environment Day, Earth Hour which starts and stops within the 24 hours of its arrival for most. And for our administrators it is but just a notation in their day planner, wherein a short half-hour or half-day function suffices with a meaningless gesture amongst equally hollow sound of applause.G

But that applause would soon be met with a deafening silence. As the elixir of life – Water ! becomes more dearer by the day due to the short sighted polices of those who are meant to govern.

One must pause to understand that civilization rose to its pinnacle on the fundamentals of  FOOD – CLOTHING – SHELTER. That is the basis of modern economics. In  Hindi we say – Roti (food); Kapada (cloth) aur (and) Maakan (shelter)

{Roti denotes sustenance without which life is impossible; Kapada denotes clothing but also captures the essence of the service and manufacturing industry while Maakan takes care of the infrastructure sector}

But human greed wants to mirror this datum into SHELTER – CLOTHING – FOOD.

Somewhere in the development of modern humans the mental make-up took a turn for the worse where developmental agenda started focusing less on sustenance and sustainable practices and more on self aggrandizement. The hoarding of riches outstripped the need to preserve wealth.

Environment is about sustainability and the planet we call Earth became sustainable to support life in a long-drawn continuous process. The next time we should declare the beginning of the Earth & Environment Year ! And follow it through till each city-town-village of our Country and the World can safely vouch that the day of a better Environment has begun.


 

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The false Messiah – the story of Earth Hour to Earth Day.


Come March-April, we celebrate a number of festivals. Some traditional some modern. Earth Hour  & Earth Day are two such.It is time to look at them up close and personal. And see how much have they really affected, when the word is out that we have already lost the battle of limiting the 2°C Global warming. And the rule of Carbon Black has begun.

Earth Hour is a worldwide event organized by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) and held towards the end of March annually, encouraging households and businesses to turn off their non-essential lights for one hour to raise awareness about the need to take action on climate change. The event, conceived by WWF and Leo Burnett, first took place in 2007, when 2.2 million residents of Sydney participated by turning off all non-essential lights.Following Sydney’s lead, many other cities around the world adopted the event in 2008.Earth Hour 2013 is being held on March 23, 2013 from 8:30 P.M. to 9:30 P.M. during participants’ local time.

The genesis of Earth Day is credited to Gaylord Nelson, a U.S. Senator from Wisconsin. After witnessing the ravages of the 1969 Santa Barbara oil spill, and inspired by the student anti-war movement, he called for an environmental teach-in, later called “Earth Day”, to be held on Wednesday, April 22, 1970. Over 20 million people participated that year, and now Earth Day is an annual day on which events are held worldwide to demonstrate support for environmental protection. Earth Day is observed on April 22 each year. The April 22 date was designated as International Mother Earth Day by a consensus resolution adopted by the United Nations in 2009.Earth Day is now coordinated globally by the Earth Day Network, and is celebrated in more than 192 countries every year

Started as  great concepts.These have not been able to achieve much in the Asian and third World Countries, and this is most evident in the horrific and naked truth of the Mumbra Building Collapse. in Mumbai, India. To the uninitiated, just as saving the Tiger can save a forest; adopting Better Building Design leads the way towards holistic sustainability – which is the underlying message of these events.

What happens in India and Indian cities must become important to the international community. Because as a fast growing Nation, instead of becoming a flowering creeper all would love to see, it is turning itself into a poisonous weed. The continued pollution created by Indian cities, would effect the World already reeling under super dangerous shifting of weather patterns and its accompanied intense impacts.

And before the ultra Nationalists start off, let me remind them that Mumbai & Delhi are signatory to the C40 Cities program and many of our towns and cities are getting support from World Bank, USA  & many EU  Nations for its infrastructure over-haul. It is time their investment should matter to them. For, here and now should they follow the link on the building collapse above, it would be obvious to them that their efforts and money are not reaching the intended.

Acting both locally and collaboratively, C40 Cities are having a meaningful global impact in reducing both greenhouse gas emissions and climate risks. Through a partnership with the Clinton Climate Initiative, C40 brings together a unique set of assets and creates a shared sense of purpose. – this charter is no more applicable to Mumbai. It never was. If one walks on any part of Mumbai, one can sense the rot and the dangerous amount of pollution this city is contributing to the planet and its immediate Ecosystem.

One only needs to flip through the pages of a news paper to know that seemly unrelated events are all but different facets of the same. While low fish catch and the subsequent high cost is apparent, the not so apparent medical cost, resulting from eating fish which are treated with the 300 MLD of untreated sewage being dumped into the sea daily. (read more); or the rise in asthma and other chest disease because of a dust storm kicking up far away –

If you experienced low visibility in the city on Wednesday, blame it on a dust storm.11, Apr 2013 DNA
According to IIT Powai’s Centre for Environmental Science and engineering, a dust storm is rising from north-western dessert. Ratish Menon, a PHD student of the centre for environmental science and engineering department of IIT Powai, said: “We have been monitoring the satellite data and models which confirms that the city is witnessing a dust storm from north-western dessert.” He added that though a dust storm activity from Saudi Arabian desserts or India’s north-western region dessert hits the country every year, witnessing it in Mumbai is rare. “Normally such dust activity doesn’t hit Mumbai. This activity increases pollution level and stays for couple of days. We will closely monitor the progress,” said Menon.
However, the weather department denied that the haze was because of dust storm.
NY Apte, deputy director general of Indian Meteorological Department, Mumbai, said, “The visibility has reduced but we cannot call it a dust storm as the winds are not that strong. The condition can be called a haze. It has not been caused by any climatic change but is a result of local heating and moisture, apart from pollution in the air.”
Doctors said the prevailing weather conditions are particularly harmful for asthma patients. “Upper respiratory cases in the city are rising. Since morning, I am seeing many allergic bronchitis patients with symptoms like blocked nose, breathlessness and sneezing. We have also seen a couple of allergic rhinitis cases since morning,” said Dr Udit Thakker, general physician from Parel. Dr Jalil Parker, consulting chest physician, Lilavati Hospital said: “People with respiratory issues should be more careful and take utmost care.”
Doctors advise upper respiratory patients to avoid stepping out of the house. Dr Parker said the people who have sensitive respiratory passage need to take extra precaution as it can trigger an asthma attack. “It is important to cover your nose and mouth with a wet cloth,” said Dr Parker.

When the Country is going through a systemic failure, the edifice are the first to crumble and the poorest of the poor its first victim. Emboldened by the false immortality, as none gets punished befitting the crime; the brazen behaviour moves up-market and whether one likes it or not, South Mumbai will soon see disasters worse than Mumbra, perhaps the farthest and poorest suburb of the Megalopolis.

This disaster would not be limited to being crushed to death by falling walls, but also bubonic plague and every type of wind-borne disease. And add to that the absolute scarcity of water, because some smart high-end homes in the suburb now offers “golf-fields” – a stretch of lovely green grass which increases the water evaporation by 5 times and thus require huge quantity of scarce water to look the lovely green.   But then it is the life-style of the rich Europeans and it should by birth right, be the life style of the “brown Babus”.

It needs intellect to understand that glades and grass are a natural to the European landscape as is the rain-forest to ours. But one can’t play golf in the rain forest. And it is absolutely insulting for the rich to be put in the same class as the poor draught hit Indian farmers. I’m sure no News paper of any repute can show a poor Indian farmer drunk and dead in a swimming pool. It is the prerogative of the rich.

But Nature has a strange way of levelling things. When the million tonnes of plastic garbage the size of a town-suburb, floating in the Pacific  starts to break down even faster than the present ( which is alarming and dangerous ) as is obvious with 7 meter deep of the sea already warmed up. The resulting acid rain would bring into our homes chemicals and diseases which we hardly know about. The Ten Plague of Egypt would revisit. History always repeats itself.

Abatement and Mitigation.

 Abatement refers generally to a lessening, diminution, reduction, or moderation; while

 Mitigation is the effort to reduce loss of life and property by lessening the impact of disasters.

Since  1969 Santa Barbara oil spill, to 2010 BP oil spill   one can safely vouch the ‘Abatement’ has been  safely mummified and buried deep.

As for ‘Mitigation’  we just need to browse through the news clips and images below to know that the World indeed is a global village and that the word MITIGATION is a form of self-denial we humans like to live in and our Political Masters love to dish-out. Because, Capitalism breeds Corruption and it stands at cross-purpose to correct the wrongs.

Bombay (2005) –

The heavy rains that have been inundating the city of Mumbai and it surrounding regions time and again during the monsoons every year indicate that the city is still short of a sound flood mitigation framework. The existing efforts by the city’s governing and planning authorities towards formulating flood alleviation strategies have only been marginally successful in fulfilling their purpose. Moreover, the national disaster management framework released in the year 2004 takes a holistic approach at managing and reducing disasters by suggesting general policies applicable to all the states in the country and not just the Mumbai region in particular. The framework also considers floods only as one of the many natural disasters that it suggests strategies for. It does not provide any flood-specific mitigation strategies so to speak of. (more)

Bangkok (2012) –

Thailand Disaster Prevention and Mitigation Department has issued a warning for heavy flooding and landslide from today to next Monday, Sept 17. People living in Amnatcharoen, Yasothon, Ubon Ratchathani, Si Sa Ket, Phang Nga, Krabi and Trang are said to prepare for worst floods.
Last year (2011), severe floods killed 2800+ people in Philippines, Thailand, Cambodia, Myanmar, Malaysia, Vietnam and Laos. Out of these, 815 people were from Thailand. The question is Will 2012 be a repeat of 2011?
Following Government officials in Thailand, No 2012 won’t be a repeat of 2011 as major dams in the northern and central plains of Thailand are 50 percent lower than last year and at the ready to hold back more runoff from the annual monsoon rains. It has become a hot topic as currently the ancient city of Sukhothai which lies 400 kilometers north of Bangkok is having major floods (more).

Buenos Aires.(2013)

No politician is immune from being badly splashed by last week’s deadly floodwaters but of Argentina’s three top politicians (President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, Buenos Aires Governor Daniel Scioli and City Mayor Mauricio Macri) Scioli arguably stands most to lose. CFK is more or less exactly in the same place as this time last year in the wake of the Once rail tragedy (with even an identical toll of 51 dead for last year’s train crash and the flooding in the La Plata area, although half a dozen deaths in this metropolis need to be added in the latter case) — in other words, having to absorb overall responsibility for lethal infrastructural neglect and making a rather better job of it this year than last by actually going to the scene of the disaster in Tolosa (no doubt spurred by personal family links to the neighbourhood). Macri had a miserable Tuesday with City Hall failings in the national spotlight amid merciless criticism but was soon off the hook as the catastrophic tragedy in the Buenos Aires provincial capital totally eclipsed the disasters of some City neighbourhoods. (more)

While in a weird way one can understand the twisted logic of capitalism and the opportunity such disasters present to the industry both production and services. What is not understood by those who Govern and those who are Governed is that, unless and until we stop the lip services we give to Climate Change due to Global Warming, sustainable solutions leading to overall well-being would not be possible.

We therefore can not just give one day ( Earth Day ) or one hour ( Earth Hour ) for photo-opportunity but dig in our heels and work everyday in creating the right atmosphere in which real and meaning full developments happen. We can no more have battery operated “candle light” dinner designed during Earth Hour in 5-Star hotels; without understanding that the battery and the plastic candle together multiply GHG many times over the conventional candle light. Nor can we satisfy ourselves by conducting and listening to seminars hosted in every part of the planet to mostly inform those, who are already most informed on how to milk the industry of Climate Change business on Earth Day.

It would be better, should we be able to during each Earth Hour offer 1 hour of electricity to the villages surrounding the cities. Which has to be electrified and given sustainable infrastructure the previous year on Earth Day.

The 1 hour of electricity need not come by switching off lights of Iconic buildings around the World during the Earth Hour. That is nothing more than a fashion statement created and conceived with all the best intentions but useless. Some experts say that Earth Hour could result in an increase in carbon emissions and place great strain on electricity grids. Fossil-fuelled power stations could be required to fire up quickly when everyone turns their lights back on, “rendering all good intentions useless at a flick of a switch”.

But WWF maintains Earth Hour is not about saving energy but raising awareness. But perhaps those who switch-off their lights are not aware that, the saved electricity does not reach the 1.3 Billion lives around the Planet.

Simply because they don’t have the tools to receive it. That is a light bulb and the electrical connection to light that bulb !

Further on Earth Day, let those who know what the future holds take the step to go out and stand in the sunlight, out in the open public arena as opposed to an air-conditioned conference room and TEACH in simple language what they know to the “AAM ADMI” (Hindi =common man). In a manner s/he understands, Without the pie-charts and the graphs. Teach them the methods of survival when they and their loved ones, would for want of knowledge spend all their meagre but hard earned money on placebos, thinking it to be cure for their persistent breathlessness.  A breathlessness caused by the deadly smog and haze created by the Carbon Black now suspended in the atmosphere.

We must make aware what Dr.V. Ramanathan the UNESCO Chair Professor for Climate science and Policy at the TERI University spoke eloquently and with great sadness on the 5th April 2013 – We have already dumped enough green house gas to warm the planet by 2.5°C.

Global WarmingThis mask can not be removed by Abatement any-more and for a solution through Mitigation, we just don’t know what would be the consequence if such an experiment is tried. However, it is my firm belief that the Planet is a great healer. and it would heal itself if allowed to do so.

Climate change and global warming is a natural phenomena but the present Human civilization is only accelerating it and would thus meet with the same consequences the Pharaohs did. The supposedly immortals were thrust into oblivion by the mighty Earth.

As briefly mentioned above, the Ten Plague of Egypt were not myth but a result of Climate change. And some scientist claim to have the proof of it. – Archeologists believe that the mythical ten plagues occurred in the ancient city of Pi-Ramses, an Egyptian city on the Nile delta which served as the Egyptian capital during the reign of Ramses the second as Pharaoh (from 1279 BC- 1213 BC)…..Climatologists studying the ancient climate at the time have discovered a dramatic shift in the climate in the area occurred towards the end of Ramses the Second’s reign.By studying stalagmites in Egyptian caves they have been able to rebuild a record of the weather patterns using traces of radioactive elements contained within the rock.They found that Ramses reign coincided with a warm, wet climate, but then the climate switched to a dry period…The scientists believe this switch in the climate was the trigger for the first of the plagues,…(more)

It is time we understand our History and that of Earth too. Then only we shall truly  celebrate the Earth Day 2013.

 

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World Water Day – Do you know how much water a light bulb consumes?


By 2030, researchers estimate that the disparity between national water demand and reliable water supply will be nearly 50%. Currently, India has a total water demand of around 700 billion cubic metres, of which almost 85% is used for producing food. In another 17 years, India will have only half the water it needs, thanks to global warming and population explosion. On the World Water Day on March 22, the need to focus attention on the importance of freshwater and advocating sustainable management of freshwater resources will be of pivotal importance. If we consider even the most cost-effective solution to reduce water scarcity, it will require an annual spend of nearly Rs35,000 crore by 2030, according to ‘Charting our water future: Economic frameworks to inform decision-making’, a report by global management consulting firm McKinsey & Company.The report stated that India would require investments to the tune of Rs8 lakh crore over the next 20 years to provide basic infrastructure services like water, waste water and solid waste management. In India, just about 64% of urban population is covered by individual water connections compared to 91% in China, 86% in South Africa and 80% in Brazil. Allocation of Rs15,260 crore has been made in the Budget towards clean drinking water and sanitation as against revised estimates of Rs13,000 crore. A DNA News report by Dilnaz Boga.

While reading this under my study light, I looked up and started thinking – how much water does my light drink? I found some interesting answer under Saving Electricity, on water consumption to produce electricity (more information can be found in EIA page ). While I would not be able to verify the facts noted as under, even believing them to be accurate to some extent, presents a very sombre scenario.

Water Consumption by different types of Power Stations to produce electricity

  • Solar plant with dry cooling:  80 gallons per  megawatt-hour
  • Nuclear plants (with closed-loop cooling):  700-1100 gallons per megawatt-hour
  • Nuclear plants (with open-loop cooling):  25,000-60,000 gallons per megawatt-hour
  • Coal-fired plants (closed-loop):  500-600 gallons per megawatt-hour
  • Coal-fired plants (open-loop):  20,000-50,000 gallons per megawatt-hour
  • Biomass (crops grown for the purpose of fuel):  40,000 to 100,000 gallons per megawatt-hour
  • Natural gas fracking:  2-10 million gallons per well

This information required some chilled soft-drink and potato chips and lowering the temperature of the A/c. After all I have attended so many conferences on climate change, I have by now got used to the habit of consuming good food & drinks in luxury. How else can one solve the pressing issues of water scarcity and its related fall-outs like war and riots? Hunger and malnutrition caused due to drought and famine too requires a chilled pineapple juice in a PET bottle to be addressed properly.

Now let’s do some simple maths – 1 gallon = 3.78 litres (US- liter). As on July 31, 2010, and as per the Central Electricity Authority the total installed capacity of Coal or Lignite based power plants in India are 87093.38 MW.

So the water required to produce this electricity  87093.38 x 2268 liters = 19,75,27,786 litres.(assuming all are closed loop consuming  600 gallons/MW) Presently we have around 111 Thermal power plants which are coal/lignite based.

While it can be argued that water is recycled most of the time. That the coal, nuclear, Bio-mass, Natural gas fracking power plants  require water can not be denied. And it is impossible to stop the leakages. Some of it will have to escape, thus requiring continuous replenishment. Even Solar thermal requires water, though it can be called a saint in comparison to the others.

Thus a huge amount of water is not reaching the fields of a drought hit farm, or recharging the wells to quench the thirst. So with every drop of electricity produced we are removing vast amounts of water from the natural water cycle. This must be clearly understood.

India has an installed power generation capacity of 2,10,950 megawatts of electricity, according to government figures. And as per various estimates, India’s power generation meets only 90% of total demand.

TableAs the demand for electricity for a resurgent India is bound to increase, the thermal power plants have to increase their capacity or new plants would be needed to be set up. Same would be the case for Nuclear, Natural Gas, Bio-mass and Natural Gas Fracking.

With the table given, it is easy to the calculate how much water is required to produce electricity, which most of us waste. The common person needs to understand that Energy & Water are interlinked. Just as it is inside the body of a human. Without water, one has to die. Similarly without water we shall have no electricity. Until Renewable Energy, especially Solar PV and Wind mature to cover the demand supply gap. But this is not happening any time soon.

It is a choice in front of the intelligent animal named “human” to decide which is more important. To quench its thirst or thirst for more power to light up the ugly, unsustainable city which it habitats. The situation soon would be a choice of one or the other, unless we change the way we live. Sustainable design and living is no more an option but a necessity.

In my opinion, to celebrate World Water Day, municipalities all over the World  should announce 1 day of no water supply. This would make each and every citizen sit up and take notice of the school children walking down the streets holding placards on how to conserve water. The Police should arrest water thieves, a common thing in India & many other Asian countries and parade them in front of the media before putting them in jail. It is only then the seriousness of the problem be understood by the people. If at all.

For as long as city dwellers get their share of fresh-food and water supply, they care a damn from whose mouth it has been snatched. Thus, we will find people continue to throng so-called Holy men doing the unholy act of wasting water in cities of states which are in grip of severe drought.It is the mindset of the people which needs to be changed with sustained practical approach towards sustainable practice.

And one such idea could be by educating the people in a more grass-roots approach. We all need a home to live. And most in India aspire to own a home.

This could start with the building industry. The building industry consumes 40% of the world’s energy needs and 60% of all waste stems from it.

The Indian Builders Association has been seeking the Infrastructure status from the Government for a very long time. The Government could moot a law that in exchange of giving into that demand, the top management of all big and small builder and related stake-holder companies must go for certified & comprehensive Green Building training.

India practices two wonderful Energy Efficient Building design certification program through IGBC & GRIHA. Since its inception in 2001 IGBC, which practices the Indian version of LEED has 1,972 registered buildings and 149 projects are with GRIHA which opened in 2007. (source: Click here).

It is too small a number to effect a reverse change in the Global Warming and Water & Energy conservation. But if developers are made to attend Orientation Workshops as is organised by Centre for Science and Environment along with those by TERI -GRIHA and CII-IGBC. And without whose valid certificate one would not be given the licence to build, we may still be able to make the desired change we want in our effort to conserve Water and Energy.

This would automatically percolate to the public, the home/office buyers who would be bombarded by the green information in every brochure the developers distribute. And when the public starts to use the facilities and notice the difference it makes to their lives, the mission would have achieved its target.

And for once I believe this not to be a wishful thinking but a doable project. All that is needed is support from those who can influence the decisions of Governments.

 

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Green Business Ideas – Innovations that can make a difference


A new partnership launched on 19 February 2013 by four UN agencies aims to support 30 countries over the next seven years in building national green economy strategies that will generate new jobs and skills, promote clean technologies, and reduce environmental risks and poverty.The four UN agencies – the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the International Labour Organization (ILO), the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) and the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) – will provide a comprehensive suite of green economy services that will enable countries to transform their national economic structures to meet the growing demands and challenges of the 21st century. – (read more).

The Indian Budget for year 2013-14 was presented to the Parliament. With Fiscal deficit seen at 4.8 point of GDP in 2013/14; Gross market borrowing seen at 6.29 trillion rupees in 2013/14 and major subsidies bill estimated at 2.48 trillion rupees from 1.82 trillion rupees of which Petroleum subsidy is seen at 650 billion rupees in 2013/14 – Innovation is the need of the day.

Quoting the finance Minister – Growth is a necessary condition and we must unhesitatingly embrace growth as the highest goal. It is growth that will lead to inclusive development, without growth there will be neither development nor inclusiveness. However, I may sound a note of caution. Owing to the plurality and diversity of India, and centuries of neglect, discrimination and deprivation, many sections of the people will be left behind if we do not pay special attention to them. As Joseph Stiglitz, Nobel prize-winning economist, said, “There is a compelling moral case for equity; but it is also necessary if there is to be sustained growth. A country’s most important resource is its people.” We have examples of States growing at a fast rate, but leaving behind women, the scheduled castes, the scheduled tribes, the minorities, and some backward classes. The UPA does not accept that model. The UPA Government believes in inclusive development, with emphasis on improving human development indicators. I hope this Budget will be yet another testimony to that commitment. (Read full text)

While TV news channels, were filled with experts talking about the pro and cons. Not once did I hear and it may be my failing; any one mention about the National Action Plan for Climate Change Control. The Finance Minister briefly touched upon. And neither did anyone consider, Stiglitz – “compelling case of moral equity” – to be connected to the aspect of environment. Every budget talks of Sustained growth, NOT Sustainable growth.

While it would earn us some votes, when we say – ” a Country’s most important resources is its people” the real truth is – Every Countries most important resources are its Natural resources! And the ability of its people to use it sustainably.

As long as a Country is able to sustain its reserve of minerals, water, flora and fauna it shall be wealthy.  And this is the most important resource which the people of any country need to be called developed & a super-power.

However, any MBA with a background in Economics and Law would find this hard to understand, simply because they have been trained in a way where the datum to measure success is different. While this catastrophic error in the modus of learning and business conduct has been recognised and thus the Inclusive Wealth Report and the Stern Review; the percolation of the thought from mind to matter is yet to make the desired impact. As is clear from the 2013 Budget India presented.

If we combine the UN agenda as revealed in the opening paragraph to the brief mention the FM took, it is evident that –National Innovation Council; can and should stand up and be noticed. Both the agendas of UNIDO & UNITAR  can be addressed through it. While UNEP and ILO shall get a great boost.

It has the potential to be a game changer if participation to it becomes fashionable. Yes, it is an important marketing tool. Just as it is fashionable to be in the Social media, and thus its popularity, one must create the desire for the youth to be a member of the NIC. It must be made into a must have. The media should run a program which says ” have you given your idea for sustainability to NIC ? ” Are you one of the cool guys & gals who do?  ”  – Revolution can be created. The media has done it, it’s time it does so for the Country and the Planet.

And one does not have to be from the Science stream, to innovate. The Gujrat Chief Minister. Mr. Narendra Modi, was not explaining an invention, when he spoke at the India Today Enclave 2013 .But the ideas he gave of improving railways, or achieving sustainable urban /rural  development are innovations in itself. The magic of Mr. Modi is not his politics ( most Indian’s are indifferent to politics and politicians ) but his grass-root approach to problems affecting the people. His ideas can be implemented both by individuals and the governments. This is the most endearing mantra. The mantra many politicians may be having but due to their love of politics have not brought them to fore, to the public; and thus be recognised as a statesman.

Gujrat is perhaps the only one which understand the potential of innovation quicker, and it is something the Government at the Centre and other States must understand. The people of India are not in love with petty politics and are almost everyday innovating and giving ideas which matter; as is evident from the article by R.N. Bhaskar posted in the DNA News paper on 13th March 2013 –

India has plenty of sunshine. It has many people. Consequently, it has very little land per inhabitant (see table).
Any policy regarding solar power must, therefore, take into account the twin advantages of people and sunlight. And this is where India appears to have forgotten something important – rooftop solar. The Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission was right to harness solar power targeting a capacity of 20 GW by 2022. There have been significant successes as well: During the past five years solar tariffs have fallen from `19/kWh to `6.52/Kwh in the last round of reverse bidding in Andhra Pradesh. At this rate, solar power tariffs should reach grid parity before 2017.
But the Mission does little to harness the power of households. To understand this, consider India’s population of 1.2 billion. Assume five people to a household. That gives us 250 million households. To be conservative, let’s take just one-fifth this number, 50 million, as households with rooftops.
As Avinash Patkar, advisor, technology, Tata Power, explains, even a conservative figure of 200 square feet per rooftop (village rooftops can be significantly larger), with 100 watts of installed capacity per square metres, gives us a 2 kW system per rooftop. The 50 million households will thus have a combined capacity of 100,000 MW. That should give us an annual output of 1,600 kW/hour of installed capacity.
Critically important, this can be done without using up large tracts of land. Today, there is a growing suspicion that many solar farms have been put up because of the land factor.
Each household thus becomes both producer and consumer. The household consumes freely his own rooftop’s power but also earns when he sells surplus power to the grid. Since the distance between the solar panels and the households isn’t great, there will be huge savings in transmission (capital and recurring) costs. Once installed, maintenance costs are minimal. The savings would be massive for rural household electrification.
Some grumble about the capex involved. At around Rs 100/W, each rooftop would require investments of Rs 2 lakh. Collectively, the country would have to invest around $200 billion, or `10.84 lakh crore, (100/W x 2,000 W per household x 50 million households).
But large land tract solar producing are already spending that much. Moreover, considering the increased gas tariffs that the Rangarajan Committee is willing to pay to private gas producers this is a better way to create energy capacity. Finally, `2 lakh per household isn’t much, especially if it can be done on a public-private-partnership basis. Thus, India could save on energy import bills and have an environmentally friendly solution.
Some policymakers have begun to respect this concept. In November 2012, the Punjab government decided to make rooftop solar compulsory for all buildings, public or private, especially for houses constructed over an area of one kanal and above plots in the urban estate. It began to partly introduce what Germany did ten years ago, and revolutionised the solar power industry. But more on that next week.

The article & Mr. Modi vindicates what many were writing  and some of those thoughts are reflected in Green Building Ideas:Using Solar panels as roofing sheet instead of asbestos; Green Business Ideas – Applying Solar OPEX model on Green Buildings will make Grid parity easy;Green Business Ideas: Solar Net Metering can help provide solar power in the night. And many such thoughts are posted everyday. Yet we do not find any real movement from the government of India to implement the thoughts in the scale and urgency it warrants.

But, when inaction can happen, even on ideas given by the Chief Minister of a State; especially in the matter of sustainable development and renewable energy; the situation is dire indeed. Development can’t be hostage to partisan politics especially if it has a direct bearing on the well-being of the planet. Lets’ for once stop thinking for the well-being of Humanity – the singular cause of all the devastation – and focus on the development of the Eco-system. A guide for Dummies is already found – The Story of Stuff – on You Tube; by TIDES Foundation. But it is the second part which is more interesting, The Story of Change – which actually shows us how we can turn the tide in favour of sustainable development goals.

It is indeed sad, as said by Bittu Sahgal in the gripping speech he gave at the Delhi Sustainable Development Summit 2013 ( the video of which one can find in my blog under – Must watch) – we do not have enough anger to drive the change we require to save ourselves from Extinction.

Clay Cooker

If anger can’t save us and it won’t. Innovation and especially green innovation will. The only way forward today is to innovate a Green Business Idea every day and encourage the ideas which are already there, by bringing them into the main stream. If one visits the website of National Innovation Foundation, other than finding a pressure cooker made of Clay, featured here, one would also find some amazing products, which have yet to become main stream.

Natural Water Cooler

Perhaps with help of CIICESD and the likes we may see products like the Natural Water cooler, The Natural Water Cooler is a low cost, energy efficient, environment friendly water cooler that is based on the principle of heat exchange. It cools water naturally according to the external temperature and humidity.The technology has tremendous potential in dry and hot climatic conditions (i.e. tropical) and where electricity is not available. The use of copper tubes for flow of water has health benefits too.

If there is one thing I would like to see large corporations to use, and perhaps it can begin with the next UNFCCC meet, is the refrigerator which keeps vegetables cool and does not require any electricity to do so.

Clay Refrigerator

Why do the inventor of these products never get a Noble Prize? They should be probably the frontrunners for the Peace Prize, if not technical innovation, as these inventions could save and limit the use of many natural resources which are depleting towards oblivion. And there scarcity could lead to strife.

These ideas captures ones imagination as to how Sustainable practice can be implemented in the modern life-style, while living with the technology and materials which were developed by the early human civilization. Who knew how to be one with Mother Nature.

One can argue and it would most probably be true, that these products may not achieve the economies of scale. And would also have technical imperfection when matched against the perfection the GHG producing/consuming modern  appliances. However, if one begins to change the datum of acceptance, to what is comfort and what is luxury, things may begin to look up. Further, the perfect machines of today were not the same when the were first conceived. Ford does not make the Model -T any more.

Already in the practice of LEED / GRIHA buildings we talk about thermal comfort and have understood what is optimum use. Yet the practice of it is limited. This can only change when the pundits of advertisement partner with the inventors to give the spin it requires to become popular & high-fashion and thus in time norm. And it should not be very difficult. because barely 60 years ago almost every house hold in India, cold water came from an earthen pitcher and cool air was mostly through passive cooling design, which still stand the test of time in the Palaces of India.

The innovators in India are simple people. Ordinary yet extra-ordinary is their approach. Especially the innovator of this simple product. A flower pot created out of cow -dung. In one simple stroke the inventor has captured methane, prevented GHG and given a 100% recyclable product. A lesson the west can learn to clear their cesspool.

A genius who would perhaps not even see the steps of the mighty UN. But someone whom India should hail as an hero. Because it is people like them who can solve the Global warming issue in a sustainable way.

Gopalbhai Surtia hails from Gujrat. So did Mahatma Gandhi.

 

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Business As Usual – a sure-fire guide to kill Sustainable Development Goals.


“Only Rupees Two ?. What about the rent of my roof ? With Mumbai realty prices starting at Rupees 6000/ feet square, I only get to save Rs.2 per KW on my electrical consumption and that too for a measly 20years ? A minimum of Rs 4 should be considered. After all it will be installed on my roof and it makes perfect business sense to bargain for more. After all the investor is doing this for profit and not for charity. It must be business as usual for him.”

With EPC for solar hovering at 8.5 Crore  shaving Rs. 4 out of 10 left us with a number which no investor who is not a buccaneer would touch and no banker would believe in. Especially when the user, does not have to pay a single Paise for the Engineering – Procurement – Construction (EPC) or pay for its Operation & Maintenance (O&M)  of the Solar power plant, but just consume the power produced for the full period of 20 years. And the Return on Investment comes via the tariff the user pays monthly, adjusted over the length of the contract.

In my effort to save the planet from global warming, I was pleasantly surprised when a few RESCO ( renewable energy service company ) approached me with the idea of applying Solar Photovoltaic as an alternate day-time energy source for large commercial establishments. It was like manna from heaven. What more could a practising LEED / GRIHA consultant want ? It would make all my buildings much more “greener” than the other green buildings. It was like a dream come true. Thus I ventured out to increase the ambition of my clients to go for Green Building certification, comforted by the fact that I would accrue more points on the certification scale with use of all that is possible with Solar Power.

Little did I know, that no one would be interested in utilizing such opportunity unless they could bargain for more. It is a typical tendency of all Human today. We always seek more. Even in death we seek more. While our ashes would hardly fill a small Urn, we like to have a few hectare of land as memorial. Everybody wants to build the Taj Mahal; the largest tomb-stone of this planet.

Capitalism and Greed ruled then. It rules now. The only difference is that the Emperor did not have to worry about Global Warming and sinking of the landmass under the sea !

It is therefore imperative that the Business As Usual model changes. Nations must act in unison to delete the present Capitalist meaning of Business as Usual. Simply because we are living in unusual times. This trend is evident even at the UNFCCC meets, which have now become more of a tour operators delight and the host country which wins the next round of meeting, prepares like one does after winning the Olympics, to rake in the moolah that would come from packed hotels; a sure-fire way to end the lean seasons of a city. And the repeated failure to come into concrete agreements since the Copenhagen Summit only lays credence to the alleged fact.

People follow the path shown by their leaders. When industry captains and world leaders apply the fundamentals of capitalism and have through that applications benefited self and the Nation in the past, it is hard for the common man not to practice it in one form or the other. In India, since Independence we have followed and still follow the L1 format. Everything has to be sasta-sunder-majboot ( cheap & best ). That we have a major scam a day and still considered 3rd world proves that we are wrong and horribly so. A few shiny glass buildings in 4 metropolis does not change the facts. All an unbeliever needs to do, is come to Mumbai and while staying in any tall-building wish not to spot slum & squalor. His/her prayers would not be answered.

It is therefore necessary for the leaders to take the responsibility of preaching the SREX Report and also the (IWR) Inclusive Wealth Report in our collective bid to forward the Sustainable Development Goals. (SDG)

Millennium Development Goals Postcards

Millennium Development Goals Postcards (Photo credit: US Mission Geneva)

The Eight paths towards the Millennium Development Goals (MDG)

  1. Eradicating extreme poverty and hunger,
  2. Achieving universal primary education,
  3. Promoting gender equality and empowering women,
  4. Reducing child mortality rates,
  5. Improving maternal health,
  6. Combating HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other diseases,
  7. Ensuring environmental sustainability, and
  8. Developing a global partnership for development

Which one can achieve by applying the SDG’s charter

  • Action-oriented
  • Concise
  • Easy to communicate
  • Limited in number
  • Aspirational
  • Global in nature
  • Universally applicable to all countries while taking into account different national realities, capacities and levels of development and respecting national policies and priorities.

Till now MDG has hardly percolated to the leaves just below the bud, forget reaching the grass-root.

The way I understand it, the Goal – Ensuring Environmental Sustainability should be the first and foremost focus. It needs to be action oriented and not conference oriented. Because conference by default don’t help in communicating easily. It is meant for the class not mass. And the class already aware of the subject are achieving almost everything as envisioned as long as it serves their narrow interest . It is the pace which is hardly comforting even if one accounts for the narrow interest oriented improvements the agenda of the rich promote.

How difficult would it be for the United Nations, to communicate directly to millions of internet users on a sustained basis and engage them on an one-to-one conversation to partake in Sustainable practice? Which directly benefit them, and thus allow them to make informed choices. How difficult is it that the World leaders come together and de-link the process of sustainable living and its practical methods from the BAU model as practised in the present flawed market system ? Why should the IRR (internal rate of return) and RoI (return on investment) be calculated based on a flawed capitalist system where profit always means self aggrandisement?

Why cant the World Bank and Economists innovate the datum through which sustainable tools and its products get measured for its RoI against the IWR ?

The logic is as follows. Should say, the Government of India decide that following MDG goal # 7 – all Buildings, Factories and Commercial  establishments opt for Renewable energy, as viable depending on the location, these are perhaps a few things that is bound to happen.

A) As the power consumption through fossil fuel would reduce, the pressure on the exchequer too would reduce. This is because we can import less oil. Now with the saved petro-dollars the government can implement all the social up-liftment programmes namely MDG goal 1; 2; 4; 5 & 6.

B) Large Hydle-powered dams would not be needed to be built any more and the lush green ecosystem which along with a few hundred villages, and with it the future of villagers would not have to sink into oblivion. This would directly save many from abject poverty and migration to cities to increase the size of slums. In fact the villagers could benefit by having some electricity themselves and improve their lot as mentioned in my earlier article Green Building Ideas:Using Solar panels as roofing sheet instead of asbestos. while the government benefits further.

C) While promoting gender equality requires the discipline and sobriety fast disappearing from our political class, as evident from the comments they have given on media in recent and not so recent incidents of crime against women. Empowering women can also be possible through use of RE, a few ideas on them can be found in my article Renewable Energy – Empowering Women & Saving Forests.And through this too, as explained in the article the government can save on cross-subsidy and full-fill its promises for uplifting its countrymen.

It is business as usual for one political party not to allow an individual politician form a competing party to implement a good idea, which has mass appeal. Simply because in the next round of election the statesman may win against the politician.

Perhaps at the end of 1000 days in 2015, we will know whether we really achieved what was envisaged in the MDG or we still have to look beyond for the Future We Want.

 

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Green Business Ideas for the future Cities


During my recent visit to Birla Institute of Technology & Science, (Goa campus) I was given an opportunity to talk to a class of students on the synergy between Renewable Energy & Future technology with its potential business applications. Not being an expert in any of the subject, I considered the path of least resistance. That is to put forth a few Green Business Ideas and with the talent pool BITS has, if there would be any viability in my ideas, they would perhaps be the best bet to make them happen.

By default, I have never attempted to invent the wheel. It needs a superior mind to be the inventor. But, I have some confidence in exploiting a tool to its maximum benefit by tweaking it just a little. Thus, a few thoughts came into my mind.

On my last invite to BITS – Goa, I was fortunate to meet some of the best minds of the country which inspired me to come up with a thought which I penned down as Solar Laptop & Mobile : In your store by next summer? While researching for my impending lecture this time around, I found that the idea has already been implemented.(article). Not in the exact way I had written about but we already have a piezoelectric laptop and jogging shoe. And  among many inventors some of the protagonists are Indians too. The only feather missing was the name of a primer Indian institute. Its time the Indian Engineering students change that. However I was  glad to find young achievers in a lesser known Nagpur institution the Nuva College of Engineering when it came to the piezoelectric shoe (article). Here I found people who are already doing parallel research and achieving the same concepts.

I am not sure how many young minds in India are even aware of The National Innovation Foundation.? As with every meaningful governance tool, it too languishes in a dusty corner with no real attempt by the Ministry of Science and Technology to promote it among the masses in a sustained and populist way. If one sees the site, some of the products although brilliant, have not found currency in the fast modern megalopolis simply because most innovation have not reached the market, barring an amazing few.

The need of the hour is that we have a constant dedicated media, specially a visual media which keeps showcasing the excellent Green Ideas which is being thought the world over. If India can achieve this one single act, I’m sure that brilliant young minds would showcase more and more concepts of efficient living. It would and should become a platform for exchange between the academia : business doing a greater good to this resource depleted planet.

It is said that Ideas can save a life, believing in this I put forth a few more ideas to the students at BITS – Goa.

The first thing I said was that one could revisit the piezoelectric powered lap-top and see if they could harness  the ambient light emitting form the screen into small photo-voltaic panels fitted just above the key-board space. And can a battery also be developed which could convert the waste-heat into power? True the initial contraption may be an extension (accessory) rather than a part of the computer, but it would help extend the charge thus reducing drawing of power from the grid.

The concept could perhaps be extended to large computer Server Rooms. Server rooms by default have to be kept cool 24x7x365 thus a huge drain on electrical power to run air-conditioners. Therefore can it be possible that the heat being exhausted by the server fans be directed to a metal plate which has its other end super cool, thus inducing a current, which then forms part of the energy demand of the air-conditioners ?

While in 2009 Maxell did created a near recycled battery and also conceptualized the reverse supply chain, not much traction is seen on it. Simply because we always lack the money and might to do a good thing. The other day, while discarding a dozen coin cell / button batteries from my child’s toys I was deeply disappointed that none were rechargeable. And there was no shop or scrap-dealer ready to take them. Simply because they have no resale value, weighing between 1.9 gram to 2.6 gram the 10 pieces could have hardly moved the scale to excite a scrap metal vendor. However if the same calculation is applied as I did in the article Green Business Ideas – CDM methods for Steel Production.the result too would be in million tonnes of steel.

I wondered if the promoters of POSCO steel plant which is facing the ire of the Odisha villagers would consider, the idea of innovative recycle. But then we are always happy to rip and rape life-style and virgin land rather than think sensibly. After all most of us are intelligent human devoid of silly sentiments of saving Earth. We are smart enough, when the time comes to relocate to another living planet in the Universe! So what if we don’t have the address, we can always ask it from the doomsday cults who keep sighting aliens.

Bio-degradable batteries

So the next best Idea which young achievers could look at is bio-degradable cells. Already there is a lot of research on-going but I’ve yet to see a button battery which is bio-degradable. The thought itself is so exciting, because different branches of engineering students, within the campus can group together to devise the perfect tool.

Perhaps they could design a Mobile phone or adopt one of the path-breaking concept of a Grass -phone but add more piratical concepts and look to at it. Then engineer the battery area in a way so that button cells are no longer  required but the ones which are bio-degradable can be used. Even the new lithium-ion batteries which are paper-thin and bio-degradable need to be developed further to be made for mass consumption and cheaper. Which then can be applied to the host of  futuristic smart phone designs which are already being showcased. And to add on to the technology of Mobile phones there are two more areas of research. The first one is to develop an “App” which can control the cell-phone camera; when detached from the phone and stuck to a wall or placed on a table to shoot self-portraits. It is almost a necessity, which almost all cell-phone users must have faced one time or the other. The detached camera can be controlled for zoom and focus via blue-tooth while the applications helps set that perfect screen-shot with the desired back-ground. No more waiting for strangers to click ones photo, blurred or shaken and missing some vital elements the photographer would have wanted !

The second more closer to my thoughts is a simple layman friendly mobile phone application which could measure the ambient light in a room and rightly advice, post keying in the information as to how many lights and at what temperature the Air-conditioner should be set, vis-a-vis light transmission from the windows at day-time and the out-side temperature prevalent. This would make sense even in LEED certified building as because complete automation of lighting controls on an hour to hour basis is not yet prevalent and not all homes have the automation facility which one may find in offices, which are more given to better energy management.

While it can not be denied that institutions world over have some of the most brilliant innovations happening, the Indian scenario needs to improve further. As is the case of the piezoelectric driven laptop, where the Indian scientist are doing the research in Australia; we need more scientist doing research in India itself. It is only then we shall be able to have products which are cheaper and more affordable to the masses.

Ideas like piezoelectric should find currency and support from both business and government alike because the seer population of India would be a boon to such renewable energy development. It is time we have people looking at the applications of piezoelectric as the west is doing so actively.

And here the role of institutions become important in terms of indigenous design and development.

 

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Eco-Construction – Making a Mazdar of Mumbai


Eco-construction would be most successful when India would allow through it rating systems international participation of Nations. Rather than allowing developers to take part in building its future cities with a narrow perspective. In doing so, India shall harbinger dual benefit. The Western Nations can bring in the technical expertise and discipline which India lacks in Infrastructure building, while India would be able to offer the west with the much-needed business to boost its economy into the right trajectory.

The word Sustainable is all-encompassing. In this all stake holders must have equal participation. It is only then that the Future Cities which we need to build would be Climate responsive. When you walk down Mazdar city, the first thing that strikes you is its Architecture. Arab and responsive to that climate. One of the greatest sustainable city in the world chose indigenous design inspirations to create a city of the future.

The world over, especially in the Western cities of New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, London or Paris, one does not find buildings which resemble the Indian Architecture. Barring in Las Vegas where a casino looks like the Taj Mahal, not one architect tries to copy an Indian design.  But, walking the streets of Mumbai, Delhi and the entire upcoming Metropolises in India, one would find unabashed and sometime baseless copy of designs western.

Things have come to such pass, in the effort to outdo each other that prime Developers in India, hire the biggest and the best Architectural house in the World. In all this local Architects and Engineers who partner them learn the craft of excellent western design, while indigenous craft suffers a silent death.

The City of Mumbai

Glass façade is the new ‘in’ look for the architectural landscape of Mumbai but may spell doom for its environment and safety, warn scientists from the National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI). Researchers who set out to study the environmental impact of such structures found that temperatures at one glass façade building peaked as high as 17 degrees Celsius more than its surrounding areas. This was a report in Jan 2012 in one of the leading News papers.

What is most intriguing is that India which has 5 different climatic zones should be an architect’s delight. Simply because they can hone their craft in designing Climate responsive buildings and townships in the climatic zones and not using the standard monotonous design they ape form the west.

While the present designs by it-self are par excellence, they in the long run would turn out to be harmful to the surrounding must be understood by the town planner, developers and designers alike.

It is time EcoConstruction takes root in every state across the Nation.

What must be the parameters of such development? The answers are both simple and complex at the same time. Simple because, we already knew how to design indigenously before globalization happened. And complex because we need to adapt the design method to the ambition and aspirations of the people living in the 21st Century.

Therefore while inspiration can be sought from the great Palaces of the past, they need to cater to the needs and comforts of the modern times. And even when an inspiration may look wonderful, caution must be applied when adopting it because one must remember that some of the features and materials used may not be advisable in the resource depleted present.

So how does one proceed towards creating awareness in Eco Construction? The first step would be to heed the advice of those who know. The greats like Nari Gandhi and Laurie Baker and several more whose legendary designs still rule the hearts and minds of every architecture student in India must be revisited.

We have some of the finest design and building materials which HUDCO has over the years advised upon but sadly due to the market economics and lack of support from various stakeholders, adaptation and propagation of the science of building better is still at its nascent stage.

This leads us to the next best thing available. Over the past few years India has seen an exponential increase in awareness to Energy Efficient Building design, popularly known as Green Buildings. Two rating systems, the MNRE (Ministry of New & Renewable Energy)  driven GRIHA and the CII (Confederation of Indian Industries) driven LEED.  Under both this building rating system, the matrix is designed to cater to some of the most pertinent resource deficiencies. Water, Electricity & building materials have been given its due importance.

However in real practice their presence as of now is too small to impact abatement to climate change. Therefore we need true Eco-construction which applies logical progression to design and development of a project in mass which is understood by the sundry and evolved alike.

It must begin with identifying areas for development of new township on the basis of the topography of land, its bio-diversity management and it must be resource efficient.

Let’s for example we identify a few hundred hectares of land for development, as is done by CIDCO in their plan to make Navi Mumbai. What would be ideal for the town planners is, should they get similar opportunity, they must partner with TERI-GRIHA or CII-IGBC to survey the land and chalk out a master plan for the best use of the total land.

If natural elevations and catchments are looked at from the start, large rain-water harvesting tanks which would double up as common recreation centre could be built. More in the lines of the famous stepped well in the state of Gujrat. The municipal water thus collected could then reach by gravity to the under-ground storage tanks of each building to be built, augmenting their own rain-water harvesting tanks. Thus self-sufficiency in water can be achieved. And for it to remain so, the town’s development density must remain below the maximum water usage parameter by 25%, thus insuring water supply during low rain-fall years.

The next Eco-construction is proper use of available building materials on site. Rocks and soil excavation should be done under a common program where the municipal authorities arrange for transport and reuse of any extra material which a developer of an individual plot may produce. Thus stones could be used as crushed sand reducing pressure on river sand excavation which is a major cause of concern. Further, any fertile top soil or most of the top soil should be collected into a common pool and brought into a previously de-marked zone where they can be used for terraced agricultural farming. This would enable the topsoil from the building foot-prints to be stacked vertically and even with the land use change, dual benefits of agriculture and construction can co-exist.

The reason for this suggestion is because if left to individual developers, practical issues of storage and later use of soil becomes a problem, especially in smaller plots. And as of the rocks, the cost and non-availability of required quantity from crushing rocks found within the plot area makes the suggestion of crushed sand a non-practical one.

The other important issue is building guidelines and adherence to the master plan. Eco-construction would be a success only if the complete infrastructure master plan orients itself to the geography of the zone and town-plan is made as per the topography of the area. It must spread from the macro management to the micro management of each sector demarcated. Otherwise one would find that even after putting in efforts at the master planning and creating guidelines, the final outcome is a mix of bad design and execution which is completely detrimental to the spirit of Eco-construction.

Finally to have successful eco-construction awareness of all stake holders is must. The advantages of retaining bio-diversity and having a balanced eco-system while developing newer areas for human habitation must be explained to all in a sustained manner of a long period of time.

One must bear in mind that the building industry is the largest consumer of all other sectors of the industrialized world, it consumes steel, cement, sand at the basic level and wood, aluminium, glass, textile, leather, paint etcetera and the finishing level. What is most striking is that almost all materials used in a modern building is mined, extracted or harvested for the Earth natural resources. This natural resource in its pristine form usually has a GREEN cover. There is usually a lush green forest or meadow full of beautiful green grass & flowers swaying in the cool breeze before the Bulldozer comes in and rips it apart to extract – iron ore, or axes chop down the trees and huge hydro-power dams flood the region and the beautiful scenic valley is under water, never to be seen again. So we destroy this green.

The environmental movement might be said to have begun centuries ago as a response to industrialization. As universal concern about the healthy and sustainable use of the planet and its resources continued to grow, the UN, in 1972, convened the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment, in Stockholm. While many laws have been passed over a time for industrial pollution, vehicular pollution etcetera, it was soon recognized that the construction activity also needs to have its act cleaned up.

In the words of World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) the building sector could reduce its GHG emissions by 30–35 per cent by 2050 on an economical basis. Economic in this context means that the initial costs would be offset — and in many cases be more than offset — by subsequent energy savings over time. The potential for increased energy efficiency in the building sector has been estimated through a bottom up analysis to identify energy efficiency opportunities in the building sector. For the potential energy efficiency investments a much wider range of options exits. This set, however, generally represents the diversity of existing, mature technologies.

Such codes are best accomplished through collaboration between governments and the building sector, with governments providing regulatory oversight, enforcement and financial support for passive designs, active technologies and disciplines proposed by business. To achieve an energy-efficient world, governments, businesses and individuals must transform the building sector through a multitude of actions, which include increasing energy awareness globally. New buildings that will use more energy than necessary are being built every day, and millions of today’s inefficient buildings will remain standing in 2050.

We must start now to aggressively reduce energy use in new and existing buildings to reduce the planet’s energy-related carbon footprint by 77%, or 48 gigatonnes (against the 2050 baseline), to stabilize atmospheric CO2 concentrations at the level called for by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

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Sustaining Mumbai – making possible, the impossible.


English: Sustainability chart

English: Sustainability chart (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Following up on my thoughts expressed in earlier articles Green Business Ideas: Carbon Credits opportunities in Green Townships.and Sustainable Development Goals: The dangers of Urban Sprawl and its long term affects on the National Growth has become important once more because of the recent developments which are taking place in the Realty Sector of Mumbai Metropolitan Region and Maharashtra. And similar development must be happening around the country can not be discounted. Governance is a political art, which requires a person while practising politics to become a Statesman. Sadly the time of Statesmen of Indian politics have long gone. Today we are burdened with most who have no foresight. And those who do are not making much difference because of the overwhelming odds. While many by now are aware of Sustainable Development Goals,very few understand it. Therein lies the problem. Sustainable development is holistic and all encompassing and approaching it must take all stake-holders into account in every step of the way. National policies must get formulated based on a singular principle of development which is the same at Union and Federal level devoid of vote bank politics. And the most important thought which all must understand is the inter-connectivity of events. Nothing can happen is isolation. Seemingly diverse subjects happening in different parts of the Globe are inexplicably related, not obvious to casual observation. The sentiment of which I had tried to capture in Sustainable Living : How to read the seemingly unrelated dots which coalesce together to create disasters.

With the general elections around the corner in 2014 and the debilitating fiscal deficit due to populist measures carried on too long, India Inc. is poised dangerously to make mistakes detrimental to Climate Change abatement. Mistakes not because it would want to do so as a deliberate act; but because short-term economic gains which make for “good development” would take precedence over common sense. While there is no escape that Economic development brings in prosperity, it also brings in the Acid Rain and Ozone Hole in its wake. Facts no Economist or Corporate Czar or Government can deny as fiction. And which is further vindicated by the article recently published by World Resource Institute: New National Climate Assessment Shows America on Course for Unprecedented Warming: A new federal report reveals alarming statistics on climate change. According to the 3rd National Climate Assessment, released in draft form today from the U.S. Global Change Research Program, the world could warm by more than 12°F by the end of the century if action isn’t taken to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. “The evidence is clear and mounting,” said WRI’s president, Andrew Steer, in response to the report. “The United States sits at the center of the climate crisis. Record heat is devastating crops, rivers are drying up, and storms are bearing down on our cities. Climate change is taking its toll on people and their economies, and will only become more intense without a strong and rapid response here in the United States and around the globe. It’s not too late to take action, but given lags in policy and geophysical processes, the window is closing.” This assessment comes on the heels of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) announcement earlier this week that 2012 was the hottest year on record for the contiguous United States. According to NOAA’s National Climate Data Center, the country saw 356 all-time temperature highs (and only four all-time lows) tied or broken and experienced 11 extreme weather events each causing more than $1 billion in damages.

What India must do, is to fall back on its infinite wisdom and believe in its people to bring about Economic prosperity balanced with Ecological sensitivity which is inherent in the Indian culture. And its Corporate Czars schooled in the western model of “prosperity” & “development” take the care to adopt the best practices inherent in the western model while indigenising  the path to progress. Only then India can become the torch-bearer in  ways mentioned in the recently published  Inclusive Wealth Report 2012.

And to begin, we can adopt sensible design approach in developing the satellite cities around the megalopolis of Mumbai. And also at the same time improve the living conditions of Mumbai. We must at all cost not try make a Shanghai out of Mumbai, but a climate resilient Mumbai. It is no secret that while China can be called the next economic giant; in the markets of India flooded with cheap Chinese goods, one would never find a vendor giving a guarantee on any Chinese product. Thus India, must learn to be wary of the fast and shiny “growth” of China and try not to emulate it. And that applies to developing future cities too.

Pollution at dangerous levels in Beijing
Beijing: Dense smog shrouded Beijing on Saturday, with pollution at hazardous levels for a second day and residents advised to stay indoors, state media said. The municipal environment warning centre issued an alert advising the elderly, children, and those suffering respiratory or cardiovascular illness to avoid going out or doing strenuous exercise. Those who did venture out wore face-masks for protection, with visibility low and the sun hidden in the smog.

This could easily be happening in Mumbai or New Delhi ( which too is very highly polluted) in the immediate future if development measures are not taken in accordance to the ecological consideration. While the unfortunate news of Beijing is no cause for glee and may not completely be due to bad urban planning. The fact that Urban Planning plays a major role can not be discounted. What India needs to do, is already known to many experts. And there lies the problem. The people are not aware of it. And as long as there is no participation form the people, the governments would not make it main-stream. Thus the need to advertise and spread awareness on Sustainable Living becomes more urgent as we climb closer to the 2°Centigrade Global rise in temperature. While some basic collections of ideas from WBCSD are mentioned in Building A Low Carbon Economy with Energy Efficient Buildings We begin with a few suggestions which we can easily implement and in the shortest possible time to make the City of  Mumbai a Climate resilient city.

The Underpass Hawking zone:

FS

Example : Fashion Street Underpass Hawking Zone at Church gate Mumbai

Let us begin with de-congesting our city foot-paths from ill-legal hawkers. The very word “ill-legal” causes confusion. How can poor and needy people earn an honest lively-hood, if not sell their wares in the busy city streets ? It is hard and at-times frustrating work to just earn enough to eat. And good governance must cater to providing equal earning opportunity to all. But before the corrupt governance authorities start patting each others back, while collecting “hafta” ( protection money a la Mafia style ) they must ensure that the city which is choking in its own filth and squalor gets a new lease of life. Existing  & new municipal laws must be applied to get rid of the menace of squatters on public space while providing them with alternate means within the same area which Mumbai planners are mulling now and should be supported only if planned properly, within the existing City and rules framed to cater to such eventuality at the design stage itself for upcoming Urban centers . The concept can be repeated in many places in the suburbs too. Thus keeping the popularity and thereby the business potential of the place intact while correcting the wrongs in Urban planning. One must bear in mind that the flea market is symbiotic to all the eateries and entertainment centre within its geographical proximity as youth often take these outings to as a package deal – shopping -cum- cinema – cum – fast-food. Which has a direct bearing on the economy. Thus sustainability is a complex system which needs to be understood from all aspects.

Example: De-congesting Andheri Suburban Station and Terrace Farming

Example:De-congesting Andheri Suburban Station and Terrace Farming

The same concept can also be applied around the rail stations and if possible the rail ministry itself should promote above the tracks or above the platforms the vegetable markets & shopping areas, run by the illegal and “legal” hawkers encroaching the city foot-path and spilling over the foot over-bridges and streets. Railways would mint profit from the vertical space it owns. Not only by selling of vegetables but also growing some of it, It would provide direct employment opportunities to the land-less farmers who come to the city losing their land due to various reasons. The hands that feed the Nations must never be lifted to beg for alms; if we really want it that way, then we must act towards doing so. And in the process we shall also be de-congesting the streets, especially near the Dadar suburban station where nearly a third of the street is packed with fruit, vegetable and flower sellers; which the administration turns a blind eye to, while vehicular movement suffer and belch more noxious GHG fumes in the process. Imagine creating such facilities every 5th station along the Western, Central and Harbour suburban rail lines. The greenery itself would reduce the heat-island effect. And in the process also remove from the city roads quite a few smoke belching tempos, carrying stale vegetables, improve direct contact between consumer and farmer, thus earnings of the lot improves and sustainability wins.

Bus Depot

Example: Vertical Farming over Dindoshi Bus Depot

But we all know that just the rail stations and the space above the platforms would not suffice feeding a hungry city. We would require more space. And that space is available right at the centre of the city, waiting to be exploited by the municipal authorities.The Bus Depots. Mumbai has bus depots both large and small dotting the city. All one needs to understand is that the vertical space can be utilized for the betterment of the society while bringing in some hard currency to the B.E.S.T undertaking. Taking one of the big bus depots in the suburb, the Dindoshi bus depot at Goregoan as a pilot project, we can create vertical farms similar to the ones Singapore is building with great success. Why do we need to wait to import the technology ? When IIT- Bombay is just a few miles away?  That the Government of most Asian Nations are goofy, is understood; but we have some of the top notch Corporate Czars residing in this city and a few do dabble in the fresh food market. They must take the opportunity before Wal-Mart comes up with a proposal.

Parking

Example: Elevated foot-path with hawkers gallery and parking space underneath in Bandra suburb.

While the above will take care to some degree the pressure on fresh-food and vegetables, Mumbai being a dynamic city which keeps growing, the pressure on infrastructure is enormous. And the most telling is transport. We have to find ways to de-congest the city streets. While to some extent people do use VoIP to do their business, for Mumbai the government of the day must utilize the idea of virtual office. VoIP – “Skype” the new medium to reduce Global Warming ?While it would certainly reduce traffic on the roads, it would still not solve the problem of parking. The idea mooted earlier, of providing extra FSI ( floor space index ) to developers who allow for municipal car parks, as usual got mired in corruption and controversy. With hardly any relief to the problem it was supposed to address. The principal reason being two-folds. First, it is dependent on the location of the building vis a vis a congested road and second availability of re-development along those congested area to the developer. Thus we have buildings far and few which can cater to the requirement. So, the next best thing we can do is create elevated foot-paths and then allow for parking under it.

Bandra

Example: Underground hawking space, for displaced hawkers in new city areas.

While we must find solutions to the existing city of Mumbai, we must not let the city fringe become hostage to the same mess, Mumbai is facing. All the warning signs are already available, if one looks at the up-coming development around a SEZ and proposed International Airport of Mumbai. Why we have this mess has been mentioned in the article Sustainable Development Goals: The dangers of Urban Sprawl and its long term affects on the National Growth.and I quote : The common person does not think twice before littering the street or not buying from illegal vendors who occupy most of Mumbai foot-paths and foot-over-bridges. In fact it is a welcome sign, to have the first illegal grocery, tea/cigarette kiosk next to the new building  which comes up in far-off locality. Any architect, who has worked in far-off sites, would empathise with me at the relief one gets when a small tea & cigarette shop opens up opposite the construction site across the road; where one can relax the tired limbs and have a “cutting-chai”. ( chai = tea). This happens because when a developer goes to the Urban fringe and builds a township, the State does not cater to the welcoming opportunity the private developer creates for up-liftment of local business and does not match it in pace with infrastructure and innovative schemes which can create proper commercial zones especially de-marked for the urban poor who find an opportunity to do an honest business. These local semi-urban populace do not have the money to buy into the commercial areas, if built by the developer. Their shops usually come up as shanties while the township is under construction to cater to the labourers and even the engineers. But this relief turns into grief for the citizens in time as no infrastructure, such as roads, drainage systems, waste-disposal or safety measures are built around them.

Residential construction is at break-neck speed, at Ulwe, whereas infrastructure development will put a snail to shame. Ditto goes to far-sightedness. While one enters the road towards Ulwe, one notices locals sitting along the road-side selling food and other wares. Presently these shanties are few, Soon all free land would be encroached upon, the well-oiled system of hafta will begin, while another portion of the city and its citizen suffer. It is here that the administration take into account all the possible urban design options and cater to the needs of all section of society. The faster we understand that sustainable practice can not be sacrificed or evaded, the better it would be for the City and the country. Else it would not be very far in the future that living in Mumbai would be next to impossible and that would affect the economy of this country directly.

 

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Green Business Ideas – Less known inventions may have answers to CDM


Once in a lifetime, the World sees a sea-change and the Civilization as we know it takes a quantum leap. Historians mark it later as an ‘age’. We are familiar of the Stone Age, Bronze Age, Iron Age, the Industrial Age, the Atomic Age and presently

The Climate Change & Economic Meltdown Age.

Both can be averted, should the Pundits of KP2 understand what should be considered as a true clean development project and allow for financial support.There has been amazing inventions which cut across all sectors – Housing, Transport, Food, Clothing, Energy Efficiency.

We must herald in the Renewable Energy Age.

While most of them can be found under the search term “future”; what is most important is that there were some which once could have been termed as future but now been relegated to the failed past. Now that they have failed during their launch does not necessarily make the invention a failure. It was more of an marketing and economic failure than the failure of the invention itself.

Segway

It 2009 Segway the inventor of the battery operated 2 wheel transport system came up with the P.U.M.A. along with GM and it was supposed to be launched in 2012. With hardly a fortnight left in the year, it is obvious that success did not kiss the feet of this invention. Just as the Segway is more of a tourist attraction than a serious alternate Urban transport even in India and other Asian countries where if popularised (By adding a bicycle seat and more ergonomics. Once past the novelty factor, one seriously looks for a little comfort)  and given a  rebate in price many would definitely opt for, albeit with a little nudge from the Government as mandatory, at least in the seriously congested Burroughs of our Mega Cities. We could begin especially in the High-street market areas, where parking becomes a serious problem and can be avoided to a great extent, yet help commuters negotiate the distances which they otherwise would want a transport too.

Piezo Electric tiles

The next which allures me is the Piezoelectric tiles. Till date we have only six locations where it has been effectively used. Where as the potential of this is so huge. Especially again in India and Asia as a whole where density of population is immense. In my article Green Business Ideas :Bombay can produce 2MW / day of Electricity by just adding Piezoelectric tiles on railway stations.would indeed be a great CDM idea, and I’m sure Indian scientist could definitely indigenize what the UK, US, Hong Kong and Japan are using at their walk ways and metro rail stations.

Combining this with the piezoelectric parking lot, which the west is seriously looking into we in India could solve a great extent of our electricity problems. As in the megalopolis of India, the density of population which is a bane for most Urban development project would become a boon. In my limited understanding, the National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC) would greatly benefit should we allow the piezoelectricity to be harnessed in the same manner as in JNNSM. A public-private partnership where the energy generated by the populace is given back to them for common good. It would also help reduce the enormous load the existing power plant have in its effort to supply to the City at the cost of a village. As an egalitarian society we must not just strive for  equality but also seen to be doing so,

Moreover, it makes perfect business sense and CIICESD, which is in the front-line for sustainability in business must make it their case and make aware the opportunities in piezoelectricity to the enterprises under its membership.

Moving onwards we have extremely superb potential in Felix-Solar panels. While it is true that a wide application is happening with it, what I don’t see as an Energy Efficient Building designer the application of it in India’s swank and energy guzzling glass buildings.

The most innovative Green Business idea for it was to build a curtain with it. Which MIT did. But if we want efficiency we need to design it as we would do with a standard SPV installation, giving it the same inclination while facing south. To be exact louvred blinds and place it inside the glass wall. It would not only act as a shading device but also capture the sunlight and convert it into energy much more efficiently than the concepts presently available. In fact almost all the prime business districts of Nehru place in New Delhi, Nariman Point in Mumbai and the new centres of Gurgoan and Bandra-Kurla complex in these cities can avail the advantage. And it is most suited for south facing windows. And in-fact in some cases it is the only solution because the roof area is usually taken up by host of plant and machinery required for a modern building. Those with large East-West facing glass buildings need not despair as solution for them too are available, which by far would be the most innovative if implemented.

This concept would also be most useful for Hospital and Hospitality which have many windows which can be put on good use. Imagine the south wall of major hospital having solar louvres ? It is already being done in the west. The power generated can directly of-set the cost of cooking food for the in-patients. Which also consumes CNG. While one can always argue the RoI of piped gas to that of Solar, but we are talking of Climate change mitigation not a business proposition. And for business proposition we already have the RESCO’s offering Solar PV solution in OPEX format.

 

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The BASIC need to build Resource Efficient & Climate Responsive Cities to avail GCF


When I wrote the article Bangkok floods – Next, New Delhi ? and followed it many moons later with Hurricane Sandy & Cyclone Nilam – “Our cousins would be visiting soon” we had skirted from UNFCCC – Cancun and were preparing to wipe out Doha with the same intensity as Typhoon Bopha,which tore through Philippines leaving 902 dead and 80,000 homeless.

Should the BASIC, LDC & Small Island Nations believe that things would be built on the outcomes of the Kyoto Protocol and the Bali Action Plan; post Doha they need to do some serious review and approach the issue with innovation.  The idea of enhancing the collective ability to discuss climate change under the principles of equity and common but differentiated responsibilities in facing the adverse effects of climate change should be re-written.

If one understands the internal compulsions of EU & USA, it would be clear that “Enhancing the ability of developing countries to undertake nationally appropriate mitigation actions that are supported and enabled by financial resources and technology transfer from developed countries pursuant to the Convention”; – would remain a very clever draft on paper till another clever draft takes its place. After all which superpower wants to create another superpower, that too at its own expense ?

The only way for removal of barriers to technology support and transfer to be provided to developing countries pursuant to the Convention would come when at least in the BASIC countries, which have the most wherewithal and therefore the least chance of being clubbed with the LDC’s and Island Nations; swiftly put in place a loss and damage measurement mechanism along with enhancing operational action on capacity building  with smarter trade treaties with the Developed World. The concept of which I will expand in the later paragraphs.

While China along with India too is unhappy with the lack of commitment and silence from developed nations especially on the question of finances, intellectually property rights and technology transfer and equity. Together they are the next rising stars of the world economy. And everyone including the BASIC members themselves know that. This very reason would limit any serious commitment from the financially troubled EU and the USA.

Add to that the recent comment by President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday – “For Russia to be sovereign and strong, there should be more of us,..I am sure that a family with three children should be the norm for Russia. But much needs to be done to make this happen.” Putin said in his annual speech to the Federal Assembly of both houses of parliament.

By the time the UNFCCC meets for CoP 19 in Eastern Europe, the USA and others would have calculated how much GHG the expected population rise would produce and factor that with the India + China population and throw up their hands in despair. But, if one must be fair, there is truth in this. One of the biggest challenges to Climate change mitigation would be the huge population we India + China possess.

And while we await an innovative idea about how we make a few million Russians out of Indians & Chinese and thus solve the Russian population problem and ours too; we need to seriously prove that our burgeoning population does not harm or come in harms way due to the vagaries of Climate Change.

Almost all Asian and South East Asian Countries have high density population in very small land-mass. So much so that Historical cities, which were built near the confluence of rivers and sea and the deltas have encroached the flood-planes. In the Island city of Mumbai, one would find shanties perched precariously just above the high-tide. Therefore in an unfortunate event of Tsunami or Cyclone loss of life and property is colossal.

How then it be possible to make a difference to the Climate Abatement and solve the crisis of the Cities ?

For that let us look as an example the city of Mumbai. To de-congest it we need to create business centres away form the main city. And to make the business centre successful we need to create residential townships. This is already been set into motion at Ulwe village area of Navi Mumbai, where the  Dhirubhai Ambani Knowledge City complex in Navi Mumbai spread across 135 acre is also earmarked. In an unusual diversification, the Anil Dhirubai Ambani Group will build integrated townships, residences, hotels and commercial spaces through a joint venture with Chinese giant Dalian Wanda Group.

This is a classic example of Sino-India business relationship which would have great bargaining power across the oceans to have technology transfer happen. Should it be developed in the lines of a climate resilient city, which it must, the EU and the USA would be looking to do business with it and would thereby transfer the technology they posses to make it a 100% Green township.

With more such projects encouraged, albeit in less Eco-sensitive zones and with proper diligence to Bio-diversity, none of the issues of technology transfer and related matter especially – …nationally appropriate mitigation actions that are supported and enabled by financial resources and technology transfer from developed countries pursuant to the Convention would matter. Because with each import of the technology transfer done to the developing world, the technology provider would need to discount the price of the plant & machinery or consultancy sought,  to avert climate change. This could be one of the smart trade treaty. Let the BASIC block allow entry of those goods which factor the “rebate” of climate related loss the developing nations have faced and is in line with the – loss and damage measurement doing the rounds at Climate meets.

There is a difference between begging for alms and negotiating the price of a technology which the west anyway need to sell to boost its sagging economy. The position across the table completely changes. There is a lesson which the LDC’s and Island Nations can learn. If they come as a group and provide business opportunities to the BASIC block; by virtue of it’s negotiating power the BASIC would make the west pay their way out of the mess they have created, even in those countries who are to weak too do anything today.

 

 

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Green Business Idea: Finding CDM opportunity in the Dumps.


Sustainable Development Goals. Sitting in front of my computer I was thinking about how would I be able to express my inner most feeling. As to why we must live sustainably.

Why is it that the UNEP – SBCI trying so hard to popularise the concept of sustainable growth and climate responsive cities. And why is it that we as the inhabitants of this Planet not able to tune into the cause and effect our “way of life” creates for this planet. What more can we do to create the mass hysteria required before the end of UNFCCCDoha to achieve all that every environment conscious person, whether standing alone or in group want. The 4°Centigrade warning by the World Bank has not really affected many.

Looking at the screen saver, my conscious mind wavering and disturbed slowly became tranquil. Just like the tranquillity of the waterfall, which although in continuous motion is unperturbed and in peace with itself and the surrounding it nourishes with life-giving water. And I thought of – Garbage !

Tons and tons of rubbish. So much garbage that the mind becomes numb, as opposed to tranquil. But why is it so ? After all it is we, who create the garbage not nature. Then why are we not at peace with it. Why is it that we cringe at the site of this man-made collection ?

The answer if we seek is simple. It is not natural. And what is not natural, Humans who after all are part of Nature can not co-relate to it. Garbage creation is unique to Human, no other animal species in its quest for daily existence creates garbage. There is a lesson to re-learn from this piece of information. A lesson Human, as it became more “advanced” forgot. We continue to destroy vast tracts of green scape. Whatever we touch ultimately turns into an ugly unholy mess. While we claim to be made as an image of the most holy, God himself.

Why do Humans generate waste ? And other animal species don’t? To understand this we must in simple terms understand the basics of Human nature. An intelligent social  ANIMAL. Somewhere deep in our genetic code, there could be an unconscious response mechanism which gravitates us towards the Lush Green Forests. The most primeval thought would be surely be that we co-relate forest with plentiful food and shelter ( as in our earlier avatar as Chimpanzee) within the tall shady trees.

And then our “intelligence” takes over and we build Concrete shelters and Plastic bowls to aid us in living and eating in comfort. And in the process we end up surrounding us with Garbage. Especially non Bio-degradable waste. If I be the judge of it, I would hand it over to the “Developed Nations” jointly in teaching all Nations around the World how to live a waste-full life .”Presentation” is everything. From decorating a food-plate to decorating oneself, the capacity to create waste is mind-boggling. And the “ambassadors” of wasteful living the “Fashionistas” & their followers need some lesson in frugality. And perhaps if they can be converted to consider frugality as a “trend”. The World would surely survive.

Go to any Fashion Event or Product Launch and see what I mean by waste. It is pure GHG. While the likes of us can never rub shoulders with the Who- is -Who (idiot) list; we are made part of the wasteful living too –

Garbage Island

Garbage Island

Just unpack your latest Mobile phone or Laptop. When was the last time we returned the packaging of our Super costly Pen or Watch back to the Company ? Did one really need the packet of the Pen which we would ultimately put in our shirt pocket or would stay in the pen stand on the writing desk. Rarely used in the era of Tablets ? And please see if you can find the package your tablet came in for that matter. There is a difference between “functional packing” for shipment and “decorative” packing. I point at the later. Our capacity to generate waste has become so huge that not only are we successfully able to deface pristine landscape we have even managed to pollute the mighty ocean. In fact I proudly add to it while unpacking my new Cell phone. First the cellophane, then the cardboard carton, which has highly toxic printed image of the phone within. And No ! I would not want the store to give me an unpacked one and neither would the store ask for the package to be shipped back; to be sent to the manufacturer for reuse. That dirty word. How can a rich upwardly mobile south Mumbai living personality like me do anything with “reuse”. It’s so offensive. In fact we laugh at people who refuse to send us enormous boutique of flowers, wrapped in cellophane and other decorative tit-bits, on any of our celebrations. That we promptly trash it post party and don’t have any clue what happens to it is another matter. After all I am a responsible Citizen minding my business!

https://i2.wp.com/envacapstone.wiki.usfca.edu/file/view/gpgpbackground.gif/66763595/gpgpbackground.gifWe have actually created an Island of waste The Great Pacific Ocean Garbage. And if things continue as usual probably the United Nation would have to declare a new Island state with the usual suspects laying sovereignty claims on it ! If one wants to enjoy the horror of it just tap the You Tube link in this blog’s video section – Grabage Island. And another link here. We also have added more Garbage into the ocean when the Tsunami struck Japan. And with the likes of Hurricane Sandy  & Nilam visiting America and Asia alike, we will only be adding to this garbage. That it is leading to toxicity of the sea to a dangerous level and affecting marine life is obvious. But what is not so evident is that what would be the long-term effect of this to the Climate Change ? Water currents and waves, wind and rain all form a complex chain of events initiated by the Sun. What is the change in reflective or absorption pattern of the Sun over the Ocean, polluted to such a vast area by filth? Will it be changing patterns in the weather ? Will the filth be sucked up in some giant Hurricane and carried within the vortex of the mega storm and dumped over some fine city ? The chances I would say are very likely. Just as likely is the breaking down of this enormous filth through chemical reaction into harmless and some very harmful toxics which would be and perhaps is causing some air & water-borne problem, which the powers that be are already aware of but not willing to discuss. Because, it’s the job of academicians to find the truth and hand it over to the politicians who by the default of who they are, add the spin & gloss to serve their narrow interest ( all politicians have ever wanted from the days of Pharaohs is to have a memorial in public land with public money when they die, civilization be dammed). It has always been true and will perhaps be till we as a civilization find the way to make Logic a religion and Politicians extinct.

But as my wishful thinking may not happen in my life-time, I would do what is available with me, suggest another simple Green Business Idea. My request to the academicians, climate scientists, NGO’s and the Peoples who love to live in this beautiful and Only Living Planet is to shake their respective governments and municipal agencies to adopt PYROLYSIS and this must happen in the UNFCCC Doha COP18. Although a very common process in the Chemical Industry and many large fully continuous pyrolysis plant are functioning, mostly recycling tyre, the potential which catches my eye are –

1. Biochar is also being considered for carbon sequestration, with the aim of mitigation of global warming.The solid, carbon-containing char produced can be sequestered in the ground, where it will remain for several hundred to a few thousand years.

2. Anhydrous pyrolysis can also be used to produce liquid fuel similar to diesel from plastic waste.

The ongoing Climate change negotiations at COP18 Doha, has the opportunity to change the tide towards sustainable living should the stake holders want. Of the many wonderful suggestions which get presented by many, my appeal to those who CAN make the difference on how we use our WORLD RESOURCES is to convince governments all over to encourage Pyrolysis plants as Micro,Small & Medium scale Industry. With especial emphasis on the Micro of the MSME basket.

The beauty of a Micro industry is that it would hire the rag-pickers, the scavengers. The most vulnerable and the economically weaker section of the Indian society. People with the most flexible back, as opposed to my stiff one which does not allow me to bend while walking the filthy streets of Mumbai and pick-up the rubbish strewn around my posh home and imported shiny car. Perhaps the recent comment – “While it may look inappropriate for me to be saying this, Mumbai should do something about the filth and squalour around,” said mayor of London Boris Johnson. Would shake up the Municipal corporations in doing something about the filth in earnest. While bio-degradable waste, is a menace too, barring the chance of causing Bubonic plague. Perhaps a good thing, as the city of Surat in Gujarat which suffered this last, is cleaner today. However, the root of the plague is recorded to have come form Wadwani tahsil, Beed district, Maharastra .

But the real change will come when we would add “value” to the filth especially plastic waste. There is evidence of this in Navsari near the city of Surat itself. A young girl had been able to create a small system spending hardly a few thousand rupee, which could convert 3kg of plastic waste to around 2 litre of liquid fuel. As per the girls claims, she had done this as a school project. If considered true, then it is one of the most fitting example of Women Empowerment and Climate Change abatement wrapped into one. And if supported by the GEF, a true CDM which actually benefits the Planet and the People as opposed to the what has happened in the 1st crediting period of the Kyoto Protocol.

PryolisisConsider, the vast possibilities, shop-keepers of Mumbai & rest of India, who think nothing of allowing their employees or clients from throwing the plastic wrapping and packaging right into the streets; Pan masala or “gutka” (tobacco) chewer ; would no more carelessly throw away the packets & sachet leading to clogged drain but hoard them to be sold to the pyrolysis industry. And the best part, with the tonnes of already stashed plastic the municipal corporations already own, they are almost sitting on an Oil Bank. And that is not the only thing that is produced via PYROLYSIS as is shown in the table above.

The Mumbai Municipal corporations can lead by example and clean-up the stench emanating local railway lines and city streets and in the process solve the humongous problem of fast depleting garbage dumping areas.

On 12th Nov DNA Newspaper an article by Eknath Makne readsEven as the city struggles to dispose 6,500 metric tonnes of waste generated daily, the civic body seems to be in no hurry to upgrade the dumping yards. Violation of municipal solid waste rules, 2000, has added to the stink. It’s high time the BMC pulled up its socks and citizens played an active role in ensuring a litter-free city….The MSW rules (management and handling), 2000, make it mandatory to segregate waste at source. The rules stress dumping of waste in stages like collection, transportation, processing and disposal. The rules were framed based on recommendations made by a panel appointed after a Supreme Court order in connection with 1994 plague epidemic in Surat…..In its 2012-13 budget tabled in March, the corporation had proposed to install 20,000 litter bins of 6.5 litre capacity each across 10,000 locations in city. But the plan will take a few more months to materialise…The municipal corporation’s apathy is seen in the piling garbage in parts of the city. The civic body is supposed to pick up waste from collection points thrice a day. The lack of adequate number of vehicles and compactors has posed hurdles, allowing garbage to accumulate. “Garbage is being picked up after every two days in our area only because we pursue it regularly,” said Nikhil Desai, a resident of King’s Circle. “If we don’t, it rots on the street for 15 days.”….The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has 650 vehicles to collect garbage and requires 300 more compactors. It has invited tenders for dumpers/vehicles to collect garbage from administrative wards. It expects to get the vehicles by June next year. Kanjurmarg yard is not the only example of mismanagement of solid waste in a city, which is growing by leaps and bounds. Lack of processing units waste has added to the poor management of the city’s solid waste. The promised bio-methanisation unit at Mulund dumping ground and composting plant at Deonar site was put it place. But without they being operational, it has added to the city’s garbage woes…..Activist Harischandra Pandey, a resident of Borivli, asserted that participation of the citizens was needed to attain the clean-city tag. “You can’t blame the BMC if you yourself are not adhering to norms,” he said.  Rajkumar Sharma, president of a Chembur-based Advanced Locality Management (ALM), too feels social audits are necessary for a proper execution of the clean-up plan.

While it is evident that Activists and the Municipal corporation are aware of the problem, the solution can not come unless it is converted into a tangible economic benefit for the Citizens. Once we add value to the garbage, it would be rare indeed, to see it going “waste”. In fact some enterprising Indian would find a way to collect all the rubbish out there in the The Great Pacific Ocean Garbage, by building a floating rig and starting producing “off-shore” PYROLYSIS oil ! And as for the bio-degradable waste ? Well we surely can be producing enough methane gas to pipe it for good use somewhere.

It is not enough for us to think in terms of Business as Usual and scale things up. What is important is to find proven technology and scale them down so that the 6 Billion become direct users. Now to me that is large-scale.

 

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Green Business Ideas – Banking on World Banks dire warnings!


As always, my limited knowledge in all things makes me strive for simple solutions to vexing problems. In this article too, I would try to wake the powers that be to start a movement of the masses, and not publishing reports which only the educated ( markedly different from the literate ) read.

World Bank fears devastating 4.0 degree warming – By Shaun Tandon (AFP)

WASHINGTON — The World Bank warned last Sunday that global temperatures could rise by four degrees this century without immediate action, with potentially devastating consequences for coastal cities and the poor.

Issuing a call for action, the World Bank tied the future wealth of the planet — and especially developing regions — to immediate efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions from sources such as energy production.

“The time is very, very short. The world has to tackle the problem of climate change more aggressively,” World Bank President Jim Yong Kim said on a conference call as he launched a report conducted for the global lender.

Even if nations fulfil current pledges, the study gave a 20 percent likelihood of a four-degree rise by 2100 and said that a three-degree rise appeared likely. UN-led climate negotiations have vowed to limit the rise of temperatures to no more than two degrees.

The dire warnings were designed to encourage bolder action, but the report did not focus on potential steps.

Identifying one area, Kim called for less reliance on coal, which is the dirtiest major form of energy but is politically sensitive in the United States and China due to industry jobs.

The report was carried out by German-based Climate Analytics and the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research. The World Bank said it did not consider the study a substitute for next UN-backed scientific assessment on climate change expected in 2014.

In another related article – Forest Conservation is Key to Food Security Terry Sunderland, senior researcher with the Center for International Forestry Research, CIFOR, based in Bogor, Indonesia said biodiversity contributes to food security on many levels.

“We are now dependent on only 20 crops for our food security.  At any one time, it is estimated that over 2,000 crop species contribute towards human food security, and 95 percent of food consumed is based on only 20 of those.  A few of those–rice, wheat, and maize–contribute to more than 50 percent of global food consumption. By narrowing our genetic base in terms of food, we are exposing ourselves to enormous risks, particularly with climate change.  He said widening our bio-resources not only provides nutritional benefits to humans but also provides more resilience to the dramatic effects of climate change.”

The U.N. estimates the world population will reach 9 billion by 2050, bringing with it a greater demand for food. Growing appetites could lead to greater deforestation as more trees are felled to make room for agriculture. The report recommended smarter agricultural practices to bring greater productivity on existing agricultural land.

There is a proposed U.N. mechanism to protect forests and ease climate change. It’s called REDD, which stands for Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation in developing countries. The U.N. says REDD relies on the technical expertise of the Food and Agriculture Organization, the U.N. Development Program and the U.N. Environment Program. One of the goals is to include indigenous peoples and forest-dependent communities in policy making.

I waited these 6 days since Sunday last, to see the effect of the dire warnings! It did not even find a mention in the so called best News Channels ( which is watched by the “aam admi” = common man; also called the mango people by the rich & corrupt). Climate change report is too boring. Unless it changes into a deadly storm killing and damaging millions !

Digressing a little from the subject of my article, but perhaps equally pertinent, I could not help but notice that most News channels carried the recent escalation between Hamas & Israeli army. Each bombing the other, and having the potential of creating another War in the region, already strife – torn.

I wrote an article long back, asking the UN a simple question Will UNEP lose to UNSC to avert Global Warming? The way things are, I don’t think we have any statesmen left in the UNSC to join the dots which would lead them to the concerns of UNEP. My request to the readers is that when s/he reads the contents of the crackers which is the subject of this article, to pause and take the effort to browse the internet on what would be the contents of a real bomb, which are being dropped by all the Peace loving Nations, some at the behest of Noble Peace Prize winners in the bid to keep peace in this World.

While the Environment effects of War are well known by the UN and in a bid to curb this it has printed on quality paper many a resolutions, distributing multiple copies; I present two of them in a little more greener format. The first link from the UNHCHR and the  second link from an article named Environmental effects of Warfare by Lenntech, which is a must read shows how almost all of us know the misery War brings to the environment. The effect, War has over Water – Air – Soil are mind boggling. Yet, Nations after Nation amass Weapons of mass destruction and in the event of a conflict, destroy standing crop which could feed millions.

What is the cost of War to Sustainable Living ? The Avaaz Foundation, has raised some of the most pertinent questions  through “Six shocking facts of everyday life” on one particular place/region; however it is true in some form or other all around us. Although we don’t have the luxury of time and must tackle all problems pertaining to environmental degradation at once, we still need to educate the common person. The final architect of change. Because, sustainable living is a little more complicated than walking on a Green Carpet instead of a Red one to collect the best motion picture award for an environment documentary.

I would use the warning from the World Bank, to focus on the trade and business of Fire Crackers,( the demo version of the trade and business of armaments) . As it is the concern of loss of trade & business (on a more permanent basis, should the world sink underwater)  which has made the World Bank say what it has.

This image is as published in a DNA article  which the Avaaz Foundation released during “Diwali” or Deepawali (festival of lamps) a Hindu festival which once meant celebrating the conquest of good over evil and symbolically lighting a lamp to dispel darkness. And so it was celebrated till China invented the Firecrackers !

Now, each year thousands of Indians burn huge amount of money with determined purpose and glee to pollute the environment in every imaginable way possible. And although sporadic, but consistently beat up any Non – Avaaz  ( Avaaz in Hindi means Noise ) lovers who dare to protest. After all according to firecracker industry sources the high-street value of the industry should be over Rs 8,000 crore.

So every year India in the matter of just 2 days burns up Rs 8,000 crore to create pollution which directly and indirectly affect the life and limb of People and Planet. The article Risks in organised fireworks sector,  although sombre is just a tip of the ice-berg of problems associated with manufacture and use of firecrackers. Quoting a paragraph from the article –

Sadly, while in the past firecrackers were used mainly during Diwali it has now become de rigueur for almost every festival that is celebrated across the country. Even weddings, birthdays and other social events see the bursting of noisy firecrackers.
Successful candidates in elections — to parliament, state assemblies, local bodies, or even university and college posts — also believe in ‘celebrating’ their victories by bursting firecrackers. They are also burst by fans to celebrate the Indian cricket team’s victories both at home and abroad.

Courts in India have directed the authorities to impose a ban on the lighting of firecrackers after 10 pm, but these are observed more in the breach. Since the bursting of firecrackers has now become a national pastime, the police simply ignore the violations.

It becomes clear, that when money comes into play law is the first causality. Next, comes ignorance. With literacy being the main focus and not education, we have many literate buffoons sadly elected to legislate laws which they hardly themselves understand.

So how do we address this challenge? As usual, we convert it into a Green Business Idea. While I am not surprised that India does not have any calculation on the GHG emission caused by Firecrackers, and as bursting of fire-crackers is a World phenomenon ( Chinese are indeed the best businessmen); I found in an article posted in TreeHugger the annual U.S. emissions from fireworks: 60,340 tons!

If we assume this as India’s emission and bring into perspective Rs 8000 crore. We have an idea to propagate. Say we divide 60,340 / 8000 = 7.5 crore per tonne.We have the potential to earn Rupees 7.5 crore per tonne in abatement of bursting fire-crackers. I have deliberately not used the CDM method of calculating GHG emission  because it is so complex that the common man would simply give up and never would agree to “pay” the DOE. And why should they? In fact we can activate the miners club for mineral management and insist that better money be paid to those mine owners who do not allow the precious minerals dug up at the cost to the ecosystem be blown up thus. ( enlarge image to read the contents of a fire-cracker, its amazing what we do to our planets resources)

What if the concerned World Bank devices an instrument based on the assumed business worth of the fire-cracker industry; to measure the impact of GHG city wise in India and grants the Municipal organisation money each year for every GHG producing fire-cracker not burst? And also create a cess of say 20% to rehabilitate the workers and the industry owners towards sustainable business practice? Maybe the dire consequences of a 4°C could just be averted.

Sustainable Business is the best business. What we need is a Green Business Idea for every environmental problem present. Hope someone would draw the attention to my idea to World Bank President Jim Yong Kim. It could just have a chance to become a real tool perhaps, in the hands of better men.

 
 

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Hurricane Sandy & Cyclone Nilam – “Our cousins would be visiting soon”.


In the video section of my blog you will find a time lapse video of Hurricane Sandy. Around 2:14 minutes into the video, the lights of New York go out. Till then it is business as usual. Single mindedly producing GHG by consuming humongous amount of electricity produced by coal / oil fired thermal plants.

An Article by Ryan Patterson, USCAN Operations Director says –Both Presidential campaigns were put on pause this week as Hurricane Sandy converged with extraneous weather patterns and battered the East Coast with unprecedented force, prompting National Wildlife Federation climate scientist Amanda Staudt to describe the effects of climate change as akin to ‘putting hurricanes on steroids.’ This fatal event contributes even more evidence to the annals of climate change data, and some media have connected the storm to climate disruption, such as Bloomberg Businessweek, which ran a front page article titled It’s Global Warming, Stupid and CNN, which ran a story called Experts Warn of Superstorm Era to Come. Unfortunately, top politicians have not followed suit and have failed to publically connect the dots to climate change, which is dispiriting at best and unethical at worst.

With less than a week to Election Day, it is important to think about how we found ourselves in the position where key decision-makers are not substantially addressing climate, despite broad efforts by climate change activists. I will argue here that a band of carbon billionaires have effectively influenced public opinion and national and state legislation on climate change using a three-pronged strategy that funds think tanks, Astroturf campaigns, and legislative outreach…..(Source: Climate Action Network).

In 1988, UNEP and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) came together to create the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which has become the pre-eminent global source for scientific information relating to climate change.  The main international instrument on this subject, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) was adopted in 1992.  And its Kyoto Protocol, which sets binding targets for 37 industrialized countries and the European community for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, was adopted in 1997. In 2002, the World Summit on Sustainable Development was held in Johannesburg, South Africa, from 26 August to 4 September 2002, to take stock of achievements, challenges and new issues arising since the 1992 Earth Summit. It was an “implementation” Summit, designed to turn the goals, promises and commitments of Agenda 21 into concrete, tangible actions. 2005 – 2014 is  the UN Decade of Education for Sustainable Development  and Agenda 21 is a comprehensive plan of action to be taken globally, nationally and locally by organizations of the United Nations System, Governments, and Major Groups in every area in which human impacts on the environment.

In 2012 with only 1 year 2 months to 2014, my Blog article What is Agenda 21 written to help propagate the great UN vision got a sum total of 5 HITS between 12th November 2011 to 6th March 2012.

Not that I did not try pasting the link to the article in my other blogs, especially the ones I title as Green Business Ideas. I doubt if even the kith and kin of CM Sheila Dikshit of New Delhi and Ex Mayor Shraddha Yadav of Mumbai, who were the signatories of the C40 Cities ( Urban Development Rules: How C40 -City rules can make a difference for India.) have even heard of these wonderful United Nations driven goals, leave alone the common people in my Country.

I have a decent 99 HITS to the C40 article, taking my efforts to spread sensible living to a mere 104 persons in total of 6 Billion people in this planet. I hope the UNFCCC has been doing better. Given it has been at it since 1988.

While Noble Rabindra Nath Tagore wrote – Jodi tor dak sune ….( A superb poem which tells you to walk alone towards the path of truth, irrespective of the following you get ). Unfortunately the time of the Mahathma Gandhi; who did walk alone; has changed.

Truth is what the Corporates tell you, through their selected mouth piece Politicians and media Barons. But Mother Nature has this silly habit of knocking down the tall claims made by tiny self-centred human. Every time. So when both Mitt Romney and Barack Obama chose not to mention the “C” word, Hurricane Sandy felt offended and came visiting and sent cousin Hurricane Nilam to India, to remind the Annex II countries not to feel to smug about the disaster hitting the most uncooperative Annex I country in the Kyoto Protocol.

In my (4 HITS received till date, clearly underscores how unimportant a news it is compared to Hollywood / Bollywood actors affairs, which get a media frenzy) article Sustainable Development is urgent : IPCC’s special report on Climate risks I presented the SEREX report a few points I would highlight below –

EXPOSURE AND VULNERABILITY

1.Exposure and vulnerability are dynamic, varying across temporal and spatial scales, and depend on economic, social, geographic, demographic, cultural, institutional, governance, and environmental factors (high confidence).

2.Settlement patterns, urbanization, and changes in socio-economic conditions have all influenced observed trends in exposure and vulnerability to climate extremes (high confidence).

DISASTER LOSSES
1.Economic losses from weather and climate-related disasters have increased, but with large spatial and inter-annual variability (high confidence, based on high agreement, medium evidence).

2.Economic, including insured, disaster losses associated with weather, climate, and geophysical events are higher in developed countries. Fatality rates and economic losses expressed as a proportion of GDP are higher in developing countries (high confidence).

3.Increasing exposure of people and economic assets has been the major cause of the long-term increases in economic losses from weather and climate-related disasters (high confidence).

4.Long-term trends in economic disaster losses adjusted for wealth and
population increases have not been attributed to climate change, but a role for climate change has not been excluded (medium evidence, high agreement).

The report touches on many aspects in great detail and was published as the 4th Assessment Report of IPCC last year. I would want people to pause at the digit 4th. The 5th report is on its way.

Wonder how much that would help the common persons who are lead as sheep to the slaughter house by the willy Politician – Corporate out to make a quick buck. After all disasters do help in the business of rebuilding. What fun! Too bad, loss of life and limb happens. But statistics show far greater people die in their sleep don’t they?

Exposure and Vulnerability; Disaster losses. one can almost feel the despair and frustration of all those who have burnt the proverbial mid-night oil to compile a Report, detailed and accurate as humanly possible to help the Leaders of this World to address Climate change with Vision and Statesmanship.

$1 trillion in infra at any cost, Singh tells his 77: Prime minister Manmohan Singh on Thursday told the 77 ministers in his cabinet the government’s target of $1 trillion investments in infrastructure over the next five years “must be met at any cost”.That translates into Rs53.71 lakh crore, or more than Rs10 lakh crore a year, over the 12th Plan period of 2012-17…….“To do so, we will have to overcome the constraints that currently deter or slow down this investment.” The prime minister listed fuel supply arrangements, security and environmental clearances and financing difficulties among the constraints and said the growing gap between demand and supply of energy had emerged as a major roadblock to development.
I can almost hear the chain saws gnawing at the last remaining forest cover, to reach for the coal beneath. “Development at any cost” the new Indian Mantra.

The Stern Review states that climate change is the greatest and widest-ranging market failure ever seen, presenting a unique challenge for economics.The Review provides prescriptions including environmental taxes to minimise the economic and social disruptions. The Stern Review’s main conclusion is that the benefits of strong, early action on climate change far outweigh the costs of not acting.The Review points to the potential impacts of climate change on water resources, food production, health, and the environment. According to the Review, without action, the overall costs of climate change will be equivalent to losing at least 5% of global gross domestic product (GDP) each year, now and forever. Including a wider range of risks and impacts could increase this to 20% of GDP or more. The Review proposes that one percent of global GDP per annum is required to be invested in order to avoid the worst effects of climate change. In June 2008, Stern increased the estimate for the annual cost of achieving stabilisation between 500 and 550 ppm CO2e to 2% of GDP to account for faster than expected climate change.

It is said that unless we stop and reverse the Global temperature rise by 2017, we shall be locked into a high carbon growth for the next 50 years with Climate related disasters and its related abatement cost dogging the civilization, with millions in life and property is lost.

Yet, the World Leaders blinded by myopic vision, site economic gurus who unfortunately are born of a flawed economic system, who go back to the time when that flawed system was in its nascent stage and showed false growth and prosperity. By this I mean the dawn of the Industrial Revolution. The vast untapped resources were not yet exploited and thus the impact of “pollution” an unknown term then. And it had not manifested itself with the terrible consequences which we see now. While the Revolution is singularly responsible for the growth of Human understanding in every field, including the impacts of human induced climate change, applying the same economic measures and datum now is nothing short of foolhardy in the present circumstances.

Now is the time for us to search for leaders who would be able to stand tall and proud as Gandhi. Leaders not afraid to walk the path away from the beaten track. And should that be a problem then we still can walk the path  the Mahatma showed in his concept of a Sustainable Village or Gram Swaraj.

Visionaries are not born every day and civilization which forget the thoughts of visionaries do so at their own peril. While it is easy to catalogue the devastation of a Katrina or a Sandy or a Nilam, what is of profound importance now is that the United Nations must through its good offices bring around the USA, Canada, Japan and others who talk of not ratifying the KP-2 or any similar or better economic idea which might just be able to hold off the cousins of Sandy & Katrina from visiting too soon.

Perhaps UNFCCC-Doha may after all see the birth of a new Economic order born out of respect for the Ecology.

 

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Green Business Ideas: Solar Net Metering can help provide solar power in the night.


In the Indian Express Newspaper on the 19th October, a news caught the eye of one of my friend and client, for whom I’m designing a Green township. Rooftops as Energy FarmsGujarat has launched a pilot project where rooftops of homes and commercial establishments are being rented out to generate solar power that is fed into the state grid, translating into a source of income for property owners and greening electricity production.

The State of Gujrat, under CM Narendra Modi is quite tuned to the Climate change and understands the need to engage the common person in creating an energy surplus state. With each house-hold given the incentive of Rupee 3/- via the Grid interactive system. Starting with Gandhinagar, the program of giving ‘carbon credits’ to five more cities have been approved by the Gujrat government. One hopes the rest of India would follow this sensible way of boosting the energy issue, without courting controversy.

Net metering is an electricity policy for consumers who own (generally small) renewable energy facilities (such as wind, solar power or home fuel cells) or V2G electric vehicles. “Net”, in this context, is used in the sense of meaning “what remains after deductions” — in this case, the deduction of any energy outflows from metered energy inflows. Under net metering, a system owner receives retail credit for at least a portion of the electricity they generate. (Source: Wikipedia)

In simpler words, When your home is equipped with a renewable energy source (such as wind or solar power), it sends the excess energy that’s generated back into the grid to power other homes. While you’re away, your house is generating energy but you’re not using it. Net metering ensures the energy you generate at home doesn’t go to waste. An electrical converter called an inverter turns the DC (direct current) power coming from your renewable energy source into AC (alternating current) power, which matches the voltage of the electricity flowing through the power line. If you’ve generated more energy than you’ve used at the end of the year, your electric company may pay you back for the extra power. Net metering can be measured over the month or year. Annualized net metering provides a more accurate measurement because it takes into account your changing energy usage and production over the four seasons. ( Source:How Stuff Works).

This week Tamil Nadu opened up the GBI –The scheme of generation-based incentive (GBI), essentially aimed at covering domestic consumers, will be administered jointly by the Tamil Nadu Energy Development Agency (Teda) and the Tamil Nadu Generation and Distribution Corporation (Tangedco). Included in the recently unveiled Solar Energy Policy, the scheme envisages providing Rs. 2 per unit for the first two years; Re. 1 per unit for the next two years and 50 paise per unit for the subsequent two years.

While it is good to see that the state after state is awaking to the solar policy and even looking at giving a return, what they also need to look at is innovation. The most important factor is who would be the beneficiary of this GBI ? Will it actually elevate the suffering of the needy? Who guarantees that the surplus power thus created would eventually given back to the very locality which is providing the roof-tops? With states having shortfall in their generation, it would be easy to send the power for commercial use and thus encourage more commercial enterprises to set shop; having found assured power. This is most possible because commercial power brings in more profit to the electric company. The other profitable venture is from the rich residential area where the tariff is decent. However, the rich and the upper middle class in megalopolises, live in tall sky-scrapers where open roof-top is a premium. But they require system which is minimum 5KW. Here the price becomes steep even if space can be found even for most upper middle class consumers.

The roof-tops which is available & most need the power belong to the tier-II cities middle class and the rural poor, who are already finding hard to make ends meet. With, the cost per watt peak between INR 50/- to 120/-  which per Kilo Watt translates to One Lakh Twenty thousand, is not something every “Aam Admi” ( aam = common; it also denotes – Mangoes) can aspire to purchase and that is something our policy makers have not thought about. A person who uses only 5kwhr of power or 5units a day is not someone who could or need to spend Rupee 1.2 lakh or $ 2232. Therefore, it could be easy for the unscrupulous to capture vast rooftops, set up the solar and skim the poor roof-top owners. Imagine, the economically weaker section providing their collective roof-tops at the city fringes and receiving Paise Ten of every Rupee envisaged in the scheme, while the rest the “investor” pockets. It is not that such eventuality would not have been thought by the policy makers, but who would be monitoring? In the “scam a week” India of today, every utopian idea can get bastardized easily.

But, here is the way one may improve the concept and provide the power to one and all especially the middle class, who are a fairly large consumer as a group staying in class 1 cities like Pune, Bangalore and the likes where roofs; unlike Mumbai are still available in size large enough to cater to a decent solar power generation. One can also add New Delhi as the megalopolis which can afford and need the solar to stem the power outages in Summer.

There are already RESCO‘s who have been supporting my concept of OPEX Solar and the only thing they are interested is in banking the extra-generation and availing it when required from the DISCOM. Here they are wanting to put up the system which generate power during the day which is enough to cater to the needs of that very roof owner for a 24hour period.

The solution is simple. Say for example, a restaurant requires 100Kw and consumes 40KwHr during the daytime and 60KwHr in the night. As solar does not function in the night, ideally they would require a battery bank to store the power. However, if the surplus 60Kw is sent to the grid and in the evening the grid supplies that much power back to the establishment, then in effect the restaurant is running its operations on 100% Solar power. Same can be thought for residential areas which are large consumer of power.

The Grid can benefit in many ways –

1. It can charge a fee say between 2 to 5% ( similar to wheeling charges ) from the RESCO.

2. During the daytime when peak demand makes it difficult to manage, the extra solar power coming to it would ease the pressure and can be sold at commercial rate while eliminating the chance of a Grid collapse.

3. It would also help them not to short-change the rural and the urban poor, by being able to cut down on their load-shedding hours, which in certain places is 6 hours or more. Which would eventually help the countries growth.

What we require are policy which are driven from the Centre and applied equally by all states. The incentives which are envisaged are good. Let that be given to the RESCO’s who find it un-viable to provide the services to the rural and urban poor, whose tariff does not allow the companies to have a IRR which is acceptable. A decent  tariff is INR 7.50. Therefore if the state gives the extra INR 3.00 on the tariff of INR 4.50 which is the tariff in some places, almost all the roof of India would see a solar panel within 3 years.

 

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Sustainable Development Ideas:Building Sand Castle.


Rampant illegal sand mining across the Narmada valley on land acquired by the Narmada Valley Development Authority (NVDA) from oustees of the Sardar Sarovar Project (SSP) is not only threatening the delicate ecological balance of the area but could also reduce the project life of the dam. While truckloads of sand is being mined without any permission, the activity also contravenes the Narmada Water Disputes Tribunal Award of 1979, which expressly states that land acquired for the SSP may be used only for agriculture or for reservoirs.The project life of the SSP, meant to irrigate 18 lakh hectares of land in Gujarat, 75,000 hectares in Rajasthan and 37,500 hectares in Maharashtra, is expected to be reduced because the mining is in the dam’s submergence areas, environmentalists say….In response to a Right to Information application, the NVDA has stated that it has not leased any land. “Thus, any mining activity on their land is illegal,” says social activist Medha Patkar , who has repeatedly raised the issue with the ministry of environment and forests (MoEF) over the last two years. The collector’s report even named members of the sand mining mafia of the Badwani district, but no prosecution was initiated. One complaint by the NBA to Union minister for environment and forests Jayanthi Natarajan in August said the government is on one hand spending crores of rupees for “catchment area treatment” that is mandatory as per the environment clearances issued to the SSP, and on the other hand is a mute spectator to hundreds of truckloads of mud, the topsoil discarded by sand miners, is being thrown into the reservoir. This could seriously affect the lifespan of the project, the NBA complaint pointed out. (Source:Sardar Sarovar Project hit by illegal mining)

We Indians like many other Countries, will have to wait for our “spring” to diminish the rampant corruption as prevalent today in all walks of life. The Indian Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF), the interlocutors for India at the UNFCCC will sit with eroded moral high-ground at Doha; that much is certain.Unless India wakes up and educates the total spectrum of consumer of SAND on how to conserve and sustain.

However, this article would focus on the collective responsibility of all and more so of the UNEP – SBCI to device methods to stop this madness.  Let us begin with understanding the cause and effect of SAND, before I propose my thoughts to “balance out the inequalities” before we can arrive at a more permanent solution.

SAND as we know, has its most use in the Building & Construction Industry. Manufacturing of Brick and Glass and many other uses. The lesser known  Beach nourishment to Hydraulic Fracturing equally require large amount of sand. Thus Sand’s many uses require a significant dredging industry, raising environmental concerns over fish depletion, landslides, and flooding. Countries such as China, Indonesia, Malaysia and Cambodia ban sand exports, citing these issues as a major factor.

Sand like water is both a friend and a foe. Just as water quenches ones thirst and can also drown everything; uncontrolled development leads to creation of too much of sand; i.e. it can render a place into a Desert. According to UNEP, about 36 million square kilometre, or one third (1/3) of the land on the earth, and one forth (1/4) of total population are affected by desertification. Among that, the land suffered from desertification in Africa is counted 10 million square kilometer.  In 1977 people met at the U.N. to discuss the problem of desertification. They came out with a Plan of Action to Combat Desertification which was a written document. The plan was not put into affect immediately though, because of both lack of financial and government support. In 1992, the U.N. met again and this time they developed the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification. This document started being used in 1996. Affected developed nations need to donate to affected but not developed nations like Africa. This plan will help nations in need of money develop a plan to stop desertification. (Prospects and Problems, 2004)

The world’s great deserts were formed by natural processes interacting over long intervals of time. During most of these times, deserts have grown and shrunk independent of human activities. Paleodeserts, large sand seas now inactive because they are stabilized by vegetation, extend well beyond the present margins of core deserts, such as the Sahara. Desert fringes often are a mosaic of micro-climates. In these marginal areas, human activity may stress the ecosystem beyond its tolerance limit, resulting in degradation of the land. By pounding the soil with their hooves, livestock compact the substrate, increase the proportion of fine material, and reduce the percolation rate of the soil, thus encouraging erosion by wind and water. Grazing and the collection of firewood reduces or eliminates plants that help to bind the soil. “India, with a burgeoning, high resource-dependent population on land that is 32 percent degraded and 24 percent more – or 82 million hectares – in the process of being degraded,  – Brij Mohan Singh Rathore, joint secretary in India’s Ministry of Environment and Forests.

“Humanity is the only desert-making species and we’ve been degrading usable land at one percent per year,” says Luc Gnacadja, executive secretary of United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD). “Land degradation is the missing link to sustainable development, land degradation costs 11 percent of global GDP today,” said Gnacadja. “If it makes sense to the world today to be carbon neutral, in not striving for a degradation-neutral land are we not being senseless?” he asks.

So what if the problem of one is made into profit of another? Let us explore an idea which with proper thought, especially by Ecologists, Entomologists , Botanist and Zoologists sitting across economists and trade-pundits could be put into action.

We all know that The Building & Construction Industry account for nearly 60% of the Sand consumption. As the development and growth of cities continue and as per UNEP-SBCI data, nearly 80% of the population would live in Cities by 2050 AD we are looking at an explosion of construction to meet the demands of housing and trade. With resource getting dearer by the day, illegal sand mining will take up horrendous proportions, leading to major environment catastrophe, unless innovation are looked at.

And one such innovation could be importing of Sand from the Sahara and Sub- Sahara region to India and perhaps all the BASIC countries,where growth would be exponential as is being predicted by the World Bank and United Nations.

The concept if made workable would not only provide the building material; while we find alternative materials for building and designing our cities. (some of which I have already mentioned in the article –Green Business Ideas : Tall Buildings made from waste plastic is possible & its LCA is cheap – a builders delight and boon to Environmentalist) We would be able to stop immediately the sand-mining but most importantly the desertification of some of the regions such as the Sahelian Region in Africa and the Kutch and Barmer region closer home in India.

The best thing that may come out of this Green Business Idea is that, the UN and other local bodies which are fighting a hard battle to stop desertification would get the boost from the trade & business sector as the much needed money to keep the “green ridge line” intact. As beyond green ridge, sand dredging trucks can keep scooping up the sand which keeps crawling towards habitation. However care must be taken that between the green line and the desert only a depth of a Kilometre is allowed for the dredging to happen and not allow the trucks to venture beyond and ruin the eco-system that is out there. For deserts are alive too.

Before I end, I would like to leave this thoughts to all my compatriots in the environment and green building sector  and that is –

While we all may be talking of “GREEN BUILDINGS” through certification processes such as LEED or GRIHA, unless we move towards innovation, we would very soon not have the building materials to build the very designs we are happy making. It is one thing to become redundant due to unforeseen circumstance and quite another to have an ostrich approach to the problem which would effect the livelihood of many. Because, all said and done the Building & Construction industry is the single largest consumer of all the produce from every trade and industry sector. Therefore it is imperative that Architects innovate, Developers accept and most importantly the Government of India, must make importing of Sand whether from within the country ( intra-state ) or from Africa. It is very easy to identify, sand extracted from river and seas. These must be made economically un-viable to the sand collected from the deserts. This could become the sure-fire way to solve the problem of Sand and Desertification.

Courtesy: http://desertificationb.tripod.com/id1.html ; http://pubs.usgs.gov/gip/deserts/desertification/;  http://www.green.go.jp/green/gyoumu/kaigai_e/03.html

 

 

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World Habitat Day: Resource Efficient Cities


As part of ongoing events of 1st October, the World Habitat day, I was fortunate to attend the UNEP-SBCI webinar and hear the presentation of Mr. Arab Habolla, Head UNEP, Chief of Sustainable Consumption and Production on the 3rd of this month. On his opening remarks he set the agenda in a simple manner, immediately outlining the gravity of the problem at hand.

Currently Cities occupy only 3% of the Land surface, however the impact it has on the Environment is enormous. Almost 50% of the Global waste; 60-80% of the Global GHG emissions; and 75% of the natural resources are consumed by the Cities. A mind-boggling statistics which parches the throat of any environmentalist. And it could get worse – currently we have 50% of the World population living in Cities. Estimates are that by 2050 AD, it would increase to 80%.

While these data mean a lot to those who are attuned to the problem, my article would once again focus to bring this closer to the average person by relating it to events and then pointing towards solutions, which only a ground-swell and active participation of the populace can perfect.

While I concede that when it comes to the Planet, none of us are “experts”. Its too complex a subject and thus it needs the collective advice from all stream of thought. Economic and Philosophical thoughts leading the stream. However, through this article, I would once more attempt to bring out what is being said at the various forums like the UN; and bring to the common person by relating a series of events which are taking place around them. And by adding the various links to earlier articles, refrain from repeating what I’ve already penned before.

Parel mill lands, Mumbai

Parel mill lands, Mumbai (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Let me begin my argument with this DNA newspaper article Going vertical with a vengeance;  – Areas which were not too long ago dotted with settlements for mill workers now boast of skyscrapers. Given the city’s high population density, developers argue that high-rises are more convenient and hold the answer to our housing problems….Several areas in central Mumbai like Lalbaug, Parel and Sewri, which until a few years ago had settlements for housing mill workers and lower-income groups, have now undergone a sea change. They now boast of apartments which cost upwards of Rs5 crore (50 Million Rupee ). Lower Parel, which was once dotted with textile mills, is now in the middle of a metamorphosis. Old, dilapidated structures are being pulled down to make way for sprawling malls, glossy office buildings and skyscrapers. From the 65-storied Indiabulls Sky and the 75-storied tower at the Jupiter Mills site, to the 80-storied Raheja Platinum in Worli and the 55-storied Lodha Bellissimo at Mahalaxmi, these concrete edifices are soaring into the sky, changing the landscape — and the skyline – of central Mumbai. Architect Hafeez Contractor, the pioneer of superstructures in the city, says, “Mumbai has a population of 20 million and but its area is only 470sqkm. When you are looking at such a large population over a small area of land, vertical is the only way to go.”  He predicts that the city’s population will rise to 30 million in the years to come. “How will Mumbai deal with such an increase [in population]? The only answer is to increase the FSI (floor space index). Only when we do this will the city get on its own feet and earn enough to create the infrastructure that will be needed to sustain this vertical growth.”…..

Business persons do not pause to think that their actions can contribute disaster to the already fragile situation(Sustainable Cities – Why town planning is important )and are using the popular media to influence the members of the public as  how their need for housing would be solved by they creating the high-rise. However, the well written article by Rathod, uses a tounge-in-cheek method to show how wrong this is; while remaining true to his journalistic ethics of reporting without adding his bias – Several areas in central Mumbai like Lalbaug, Parel and Sewri, which until a few years ago had settlements for housing mill workers and lower-income groups, have now undergone a sea change. They now boast of apartments which cost upwards of Rs5 crore.How on earth a common persons dream to own a house be possible if the rate of these flats in the high-rises be 50 Million Rupee? And here the city administrators need to most educate the average person as why Town planning is important. We shall deal with a few recommendations in the later section of this article.

While I do not deny that Vertical Growth and Economy of a city is important, short-sighted irresponsible comments by those who are deemed as experts is not a happy situation. Just as in Medicine, so in Architecture. The architect is responsible not just to his/her narrow interest but must look beyond in creating the social fabric of the society. They can define the culture of a place by their imagination turned into reality. It’s the architect who created a City which inspired a Bard to write one of the most beautiful romance – Romeo & Juliet. And it was another architect who created the “Heaven on Earth” another lasting testimony to Love – The TAJ.

One can benefit and even profit by following sensible approach to design,( Green Business Ideas: Carbon Credits opportunities in Green Townships) however unplanned and short-term greed would make our life impossible, which in the City of Mumbai is not too great to begin with.(Sustainable Development Goals: The dangers of Urban Sprawl and its long-term effects on the National Growth) The dangers which the UNEP chief spoke of are real, this needs to be understood by the authorities at the earliest and most importantly educate the grass-roots on the matter and carry out reforms which are sensible.

English: The Seven Islands of Bombay (Now Mumb...

English: The Seven Islands of Bombay (Now Mumbai) before they were merged to form the island of Salsette. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

And for this the media must highlight the truth constantly, which the DNA Newspaper did by the follow-up article – Better safe than sorry in seismic Mumbai an analysis by Dr V SubramanyanThe uneasiness associated with high-rises stems from the fact that most of Mumbai has literally risen from the sea and has only reclaimed land to offer for construction. Only compacted soil is available for the foundations of such proposed buildings. When earthquake vibrations pass through them, water in the soil gets released, leading to liquefaction. This converts soil into a jelly-like mass.This causes considerable damage to very tall structures.The architects who are in favour of going vertical argue that they build taller buildings on raft foundations, which behave like “a ship, pitching and tossing during a storm, but not sinking” during an earthquake. However, researchers in the University of Pennsylvania had claimed in an article in ‘Discover’ magazine (July 2005) that this much-touted raft foundation only tilts the tall buildings and does not effectively contribute to their structural stability during earthquakes. In ‘Going vertical with a vengeance’ (DNA, September 27), the writer has projected the developers’ argument that high-rises are more convenient and hold the answer to our housing problems, given the city’s high population density. The article also comes out with some seemingly grandiose information that at least a dozen buildings with more than 60 storeys are nearing completion, 50 similar towers are underway and at least 100 buildings taller than 70m (with about 22 storeys) are in different stages of construction. But, it is difficult to share the enthusiasm of the government at its plans to forge an international image for Mumbai through a jagged skyline like that of Manhattan, Hong Kong and Singapore. What has been conveniently forgotten is Mumbai’s high seismicity. The city faces the risk of being hit by an earthquake of sufficient magnitude (6.5), which can knock tall buildings off their bases. This, in turn, imposes indisputable restrictions on the heights up to which skyscrapers can be safely constructed, despite adopting the best earthquake-resistant designs, because experts cannot guarantee the safety of high-rises beyond a certain limit. Charles Correa, a reputed architect and town-planner, does not subscribe to the credo that going vertical is the only solution to our housing problems. He had, in fact, dubbed Mumbai’s skyscrapers “monstrosities” some time ago.

While the above is a challenge which needs to be understood by the policy makers, that the City of Mumbai already suffering from population density, failed municipal administration and has a low liveability index, the problems which one does not easily associate with bad urban planning must also be understood. Quoting from my favoured Newspaper the DNA, I present the article  October heat leaves city sick; Mumbaikars complain of weakness, nausea, body pain and perspiration…The sultry weather has forced many with electrolyte imbalance to rush to the doctor. In simple words, this refers to a disturbance in the level of amount of electrolytes (like calcium, sodium and potassium) that is required for normal health and functioning…  this article underscores what I had written earlier on how unplanned Urban growth affects our everyday life; (Sustainable Living : How to read the seemingly unrelated dots which coalesce together to create disasters) It is time the citizens of Mumbai read up on Bombay (as it was then called)  in the early 1900; even with all the mills dotting the famous central Mumbai which developers want to turn into sky-scraper riddled concrete jungle, which would stifle the already stale air further; people did not get sick in Mumbai and the month of October is actually cool. Pune experiences it till date. Even Vashi in Navi Mumbai experiences it a little’, which soon the concrete jungle of Vashi – Panvel will destroy; unless arrested with planned and eco-sensitive development.

So what must be done ? How do we develop the climate responsive cities which is so required in the present. The answer is not simple. Because it involves many stake holders. And among the stake-holders those whose opinion matter most ( second to People power ) usually tinge their opinion with Economical consideration as supreme over others. This must change. The datum of thinking must begin with ecological considerations which then would bring in long-term economic growth.

Taking Mumbai as an example; the first thing the policy makers must do is by an act of the Parliament bring about change in land laws. ( Affordable Housing: The Simples rules required.)

The City must have a ceiling set on the cost of land. It must not be dictated by the demand vs supply chain. Zone wise each district of the city must have an upper and lower price band. This will make sure that the seller of the land gets the legitimate price while the developer does not have to sell his last shirt to buy it. If the upper limit is set just 20%, chances are the sellers would choose their developer on qualifications other than monetary, such as their track record in sustainable design development etc. The State legislature must qualify a set of developers who submit an affidavit that they shall always comply to sustainable design development. Punitive punishment to the developer and design house, such as barring the developer from conducting any business within the city limits and a monetary fine be levied via extracting the cost it would need to remodel the project as per sustainable standards from the design house.

If an architect does not design incorrect, there is no way a developer can build wrong. The UN must target the young minds through sustained media campaigns.

Further,speculative buying must be stopped. Investors must be barred from real estate purchases of finished flats. They can however invest on the development. This would encourage the development of rental homes. An economic model be devised, where the leesee can have the option of buying the house on the 5th year at the market governed price. Else they vacate and the property is sold. This will give equal benefit to the user, developer and the investor.

For the Developer can hold on to a property which he has not been able to sell, while at the same time be less pressured from the investor, to whom he can pay the interest he gathers via rent.

The Investor normally seeks profit on his investment, so would wait for 5 year to have the value of the property increase, while getting his interest.

The Home seeker, who may not be able to afford to buy a home in a certain locality gets to live, instead of looking at locked-up empty houses booked by investors who would never need to live there.

And lastly and most importantly, The Government would be able to live up to its promise of providing shelter to the citizens and tax-payers who genuinely require housing.

The next step should be freeing up the old city and converting the plots into Bond & Shares. Then developing the area scientifically. Those who would receive areas smaller than what they had, would have the options of using their bonds to buy space,either in the same site or move to another part of the city. Going away to another town to use their bonds would also give them far more return, as the cost of homes beyond Mumbai are less.

Last but not the least should be codifying the development style. Based on the climatic zone, Cities and Mumbai must build only a fixed pattern of structure. The buildings near the coast must not rise beyond 4th floor, while the ones inland can be tall-buildings which adhere to the building norms of the city including taking into account the Earthquake preventions. We all love symmetry, and this extended to buildings too. Venice would not have looked as beautiful today had the town planners allowed monstrous design and construction to happen. Further allowing only 3-4 styles of architecture with special emphasis to indigenous designs would also help assessors quantify the actual cost of the building based on types of material used and amenities given. Thus quality would overtake hype and the Citizens would benefit. Mumbai, can and must understand this and become one of the beacons of C40 cities. India under the UPA-1 had begun well, its time that we carry out the ideas which our PM has -(Green Business Ideas : P.M.Manmohan Singh’s idea of Terminal Market Complex is a superb Green Idea which needs to be implemented) to make our Country and our cities truly climate responsive.

 

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