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Why Climate Talks are mostly just that….


  • The combined average temperature over global land and ocean surfaces for October 2014 was the highest on record for October, at 0.74°C (1.33°F) above the 20th century average of 14.0°C (57.1°F).
  • The global land surface temperature was 1.05°C (1.89°F) above the 20th century average of 9.3°C (48.7°F)—the fifth highest for October on record.
  • For the ocean, the October global sea surface temperature was 0.62°C (1.12°F) above the 20th century average of 15.9°C (60.6°F) and the highest for October on record.
  • The combined global land and ocean average surface temperature for the January–October period (year-to-date) was 0.68°C (1.22°F) above the 20th century average of 14.1°C (57.4°F). The first ten months of 2014 were the warmest such period on record.

International talks to deal with a particularly potent greenhouse gas took a cautious step forward on Wednesday, as India and a host of other countries agreed to “informal discussions.”…Under contention are hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) — gases that, pound for pound, can trap up to a thousand times more heat than carbon dioxide when released into the atmosphere..

Indian Environment Minister

Prakash Javadekar, the environmental minister for India — the country that lead the previous opposition — laid out the issues that would have to be addressed to reach a final agreement. These include the way patents, intellectual property law, and other confidentiality agreements prevent India and other developed countries from making full use of new technology, as well as the fact that developed countries like the United States are historically responsible for the vast majority of HFC emissions. The talks, according to Javadekar, would need to be based “on the principle of grace period — that is differentiated responsibility, financial assistance, including that for research and development, technology transfer without the clause of confidentiality.(THINKPROGRESS Posted on November 21, 2014 at 11:08 am).

The above paragraph underscores the classical problem Modern Civilization, based on a flawed capitalistic idea faces. It is impossible for any Nation, to remove from the mindset of the populace  whence from, the elected representative are ultimately chosen to govern; not put profit before people. Our present day Economist along with Social Scientists have a lot of work to do. Undo the mind-set which is attuned to reward and recognize  “Crony Capitalism” as achievements.

No Nation is bereft from it…it’s the hangover from the British Empire. While every Empire be it Roman, Chinese, Mayan or Magadha Empire while expanding and consolidating must have wreaked havoc. The Modern European Empires had the Industrial revolution to help it wound the Earth very dangerously, in the process of acquiring riches. Thus the plunder of Earth resources reached its zenith.The resulting fallout is now known as Climate Change.

While the present Civilization no more address a modern day Business Conglomerate C.E.O as “Emperor”; that Presidents and Prime Ministers of Nations are made and unmade by them are no state secret. And unless the Emperors of today are made aware that they would lose all they have conquered..and also have the possibility of dying a horrible death caused by Ebola, little will change at the negotiating tables of the 21st Conference of the Parties on Climate Change 2015 in Paris.

In 2009 at Denmark the UNFCCC’s COP-15 rode on similar hopes. There was a new President of the USA. An African American and the World Environmentalist hoped spectacular achievements. But…..

On Friday 18 December, the final day of the conference, international media reported that the climate talks were “in disarray” Media also reported that in lieu of a summit collapse, only a “weak political statement” was anticipated at the conclusion of the conference. The Copenhagen Accord was drafted by the United States, China, India, Brazil and South Africa on 18 December, and judged a “meaningful agreement” by the United States government. It was “taken note of”, but not “adopted”, in a debate of all the participating countries the next day, and it was not passed unanimously. The document recognised that climate change is one of the greatest challenges of the present day and that actions should be taken to keep any temperature increases to below 2 °C. The document is not legally binding and does not contain any legally binding commitments for reducing CO2 emissions.

In January 2014, documents leaked by Edward Snowden and published by Dagbladet Information revealed that the US government negotiators were in receipt of information during the conference that was being obtained by spying against other conference delegations. The US National Security Agency provided US delegates with advance details other delegations’ positions, including the Danish plan to “rescue” the talks should they flounder. Members of the Danish negotiating team said that both the US and Chinese delegations were “peculiarly well-informed” about closed-door discussions: “They simply sat back, just as we had feared they would if they knew about our document.” (Wikipedia2009 United Nations Climate Change Conference )

The Paris UNFCCC’s COP-21 meeting will mark a decisive stage in negotiations on the future international agreement on a post-2020 regime, and will, as agreed in Durban, adopt the major outlines of that regime. By the end of the meeting, for the first time in over 20 years of UN negotiations, all the nations of the world, including the biggest emitters of greenhouse gases, will be bound by a universal agreement on climate. In order for the agreement to come into effect in 2020, at the end of the second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol, subsequent COP meetings will work on finalizing its details.

On 26 May 2014, Narendra Modi was sworn in as 15th Prime Minister of India.In 2009 the World was enamored by the superb oration of President Barack Obama of the USA. The World today fetes PM Narendra Modi as the Messiah of the economic woe’s that faces India and in the process of transforming India perhaps he would be able to help the World in general.

As an Indian it would make one proud. But, as an ENVIRONMENTALIST one is not so sure. Because much like President Obama, the pressure to perform and uplift the economy quickly, makes Prime Minister Modi to walk the same beaten track. A track trail blazed by Crony Capitalism ! with scant regard other than lip service to Climate Change abatement. And hiding behind cleverly worded text that pass legal scrutiny. Not because of it being legally sound but more so because the legal itself was crafted to suit the escapists.

 A President and a Prime Minister understands Realpolitik !

The term Realpolitik is sometimes used pejoratively to imply politics that are coercive, amoral, or Machiavellian. Something that has become norm is the past century

BUT…

it is politics or diplomacy based primarily on power and on practical and material factors and considerations, rather than explicit ideological notions or moral or ethical premises. In this respect, it shares aspects of its philosophical approach with those of realism and pragmatism.

We already know the way, what is needed is the political will. And to give strength to the political will It is also the duty of the citizens of the Nations which are today poised to impact what text would be written at the end of CoP21 to help their Head of State –

One is to show the way,

Yes! Trillions.For insects and plankton however tiny have life.
Summer flower blooms in hot, sultry November
Nov 30 2014 : The Times of India (Mumbai) Richa Pinto Mumbai:
Greens Worried As Unusual Weather Seems To Have Confused Nature.A Nerul (Navi Mumbai) resident was recently surprised to see a flower that generally blooms in the month of March in his backyard a few days ago. With the October heat phenomenon stretching till the last few days of November this year, it looks like even nature seems to have got confused.

But, to make people notice the change we have to make it into a Financial Change issue. Lets see how it has impacted the finance or if we use the politically sensitive word “budget” of the common man.To understand this we must understand the average Indian mind.

While Mumbai has been witness to a peculiar warm October, which meteorologist consider as “normal”; November sees temperature with in the 20’s. A high of 29°C to a low of 24°C can be experienced. This is more or less the temperature which allows the budget concious middle class to shut down & cover up their Air-Conditioners as the ambient temperature required for a good-night sleep is naturally available. However this November the hum of AC’s can be heard around the city at night.

This has an immediate impact on their monthly budget, which leaves them confused and angry while trying to make ends meet. At the same time the power companies have to cope with prolonged power shortages due to peaking of demand, thus their is more planned “load-shedding” in the rural areas to compensate for the same. Which leaves the already short-changed rural folks more disenchanted from the system and government of the day.

Should such climate anomalies continue…elected governments may fall. And the opposition would also not want to put their head into the chopping block.

This last piece of information hopefully would help change the mindset and manner of those who choose to “dedicate their lives in the service of the people.”…be that India or the USA !

 

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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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Renewable Energy – Empowering Women & Saving Forests.(Redux)


During the recently concluded UNFCCC , COP 17 at Durban, that Climate change is a clear and present danger with Humankind pushing the limits of the Earth’s ability to cope with man-made pollution, was well documented by each Nation which spoke at the Plenary. And it was underscored with a grim report by the IPCC -4th assessment draft.

English: Adapted from a portion of Figure 1 in...

The year 2017 from where Human Economic progress will be trapped into a high carbon growth, which would compound and complicate the situation into a series of worst case situations year on year, each year causing great socio-economic suffering. The Stern Review details it for those who want to know more.

It is also mentioned, the worst of Climate change, caused due to unprecedented pollution the Human race produced in its quest to find a “safe – healthy – prosperous” life style; would affect those who neither had/has the means nor the thought process to live such life-styles; the indigenous people in the Brazilian rain-forest, the ethnic groups in wild and still  beautiful  and untouched Africa and the “poor” Nations and  economically weaker class of the societies.

While it is true that when one measures “development”  through the all-pervasive Capitalist Economic theory the World follows in its trade; the definition of poor would be a Man or Nation with no “money”, “cash” or whatever the experts like to call it. However today, one must pause and think on the terms “Rich” & “Poor” in the Climate change context.

Fresh Air, Clean & Sparkling Rivers, Beautiful Blue Sky, Lush Green Meadows, rich and varied Flora & Fauna are (strangely! – they don’t have the money to pay for such nice things, one might say ) with the POOR and UNDEVELOPED or UNDERDEVELOPED Nations, States, Provinces.

And what is most striking is that the RICH just don’t have it around them anymore. They need “treated & bottled”  Water, “filtered and air-conditioned” Air;  Zoos, which one needs to drive down ( provided one is in town/ else a planed tour itinerary during holiday season ) and an “all expenses paid” incentive ticket  to fly to these very underdeveloped/undeveloped  provinces & Countries to have a glimpse of the Blue Sky. Even virgin snow is hard to come by as by morning layer of sooth from Car exhaust ruins its colour.

It’s perhaps time that the UN & IMF, World Bank and those snooty Credit rating Companies, redefine which are the Bankable and Rich Nations.

Having said that, let the present so-called “Rich & Developed Nations“, be pressured by the right thinking citizens of those countries to save the very things they all want – Safe, Healthy & Prosperous life-style. And we just have SIX years  left to move the clock back-wards to meet that.

So what is it, in my opinion that needed to be done ? Simple, help the poor with their livelihood . Each day thousands of Women & Girl Child walk miles to fetch potable water & fire-wood. This happens in almost all South Asian & African Countries. It perhaps true for parts of South America too.

Many sea /river societies in Africa find sustenance through trade in Fish. The big and fresh catch is usually traded with the agents of Multi Nationals for pittance. The smaller catch is then sold in the local market, where it’s “smoked”  over burning wood. This practice over the years has decimated the forest around these societies. And many such examples have been documented across nations. Soon even these Least Developed Nations and societies would have no tree cover, being poor and economically weak finding the right solution would not be  easy. It would be next to impossible and the first of Climate Change Refugees would be getting ready for exodus, creating further aggravation.

But among all these gloom, there is hope. A ray of hope and a whiff of opportunity – Renewable Energy; namely Solar & Wind.

With the Green Climate Fund, a nascent reality; the LDC’s must create Program of Activities which is similar to what is now on going in India. TERI the think- tank institute headed by Dr. Rajendra Pachauri himself, has a program called “lighting a billion lives”. Here Solar powered lanterns are given to villages across India.

Gaushala, Goshala run in Nabha and its attache...

Earlier on India has/had a program under which Bio-gas which is produced from cattle manure ( Gobar -gas ) and piped  into homes for cooking. Now this is a finite resource because it is quantity dependent. It is therefore successfully implemented in villages which have cattle rearing as their primary business. In the State of Gujrat, India; its a great success, as AMUL created a business revolution around dairy and animal husbandry is a roaring business there.  However not every village can have cattle which would be producing to fulfill the requirements of energy for the entire village. Therefore the use of RE mostly Solar, or a Wind + Solar Hybrid could be the solution for each and every village. Not only in India but in Africa &  other countries too. By devising a Solar Tree ( roof top if applicable or possible  ) and drawing cables to each and every house hold in the village, electricity could be provided. Add cheap yet sturdy induction stoves and you are giving these societies a chance.

Why induction stove one may ask. Simple, as per the report from the Department of Energy United States, an induction stove is nearly 90% efficient in sending the heat where it is required the most – to cook the food. Whereas in a butane / propane , the gas we find in LPG cylinders, only 40% is efficiently used for the purpose of cooking. The rest heats up the stove, pan and the air around the flame.

Now considering that 1 kiloliter of LPG = 7.4 KWHr ( kilo watt hour) of energy and 1 kilogram of LPG = 12.68KWHr. And BTU ( British Thermal Unit ) a measure to calculate heat. Lets look at an example given below to support my idea of a “Solar Stove”.

Domestic gas in India contains – 14.2 kilogram = 180.05 KWh of energy

BTU/Hr = 180.05 x 3412= 614330.60 BTU/Hr

Gas heating efficiency is 40% only. Therefore 40% of 614330.60  =  245732 BTU/hr is actual usage from one LPG cylinder.

Induction heating efficiency is 90%.

Say  a SPV of 2kWp x 5 solar hour  = 10kWh, of energy. ( In India we have an average of  5 hour of good Sun-shine ) which can be stored.

Now if we use an induction stove of 2.2Kw rating and draw the solar energy

Induction of 2.2 kW= to a gas burner rated at almost 16,000 BTU/hour; ( Refer:Induction Cooking:Selecting a Unit )

Therefore total energy received per hour = 10 /2.2 = 4.5455 x 16000 = 72,728 BTU / Hour is actual usage.

Now any expert would tell you 72,7288 BTU is a lot of cooking heat with a very nominal drawing of energy.

a 30-inch four-element induction unitThe rule of thumb from gas-energy values: induction-element kW times 7185 equals gas in BTU/hour.

This is just with a 2.2 Kw induction stove, naturally a higher rated induction hob would provide far more energy.

The least-expensive 30-inch (four-element) induction cooktop has:

  • a 1.3-kW small element (between 9,000 and 9,500 BTU/hour),
  • two elements of 1.85 kW each (well over 13,000 BTU/hour), and
  • one element of 2.4 kW (over 17,000 BTU/hour).

The least-expensive 36-inch (five-element) induction cooktop has:

  • a 1.2-kW small element (8,500 BTU/hour),
  • a medium element of 1.8 kW (13,000 BTU/hour),
  • a larger element of 2.2 kW (16,000 BTU/hour),
  • and two elements of 2.4 kW (over 17,000 BTU/hour).

The very highest-power gas burner to be found in the residential market is 22,000 BTU/hour, and that’s a sort of freak monster, whereas a 3.6-kW and 3.7-kW element–which is around 26,000 BTU/hour of gas!–is found in many induction cooktops.

From the above calculation one can see that at village level where food is only cooked for sustenance, the energy used by each house hold would be at a minimum. If the Solar panel & stove is sized properly as per the societal needs in each society  across Nations, two most important changes would perhaps take place.

1. The Girl child & Woman would no more need to chop down trees for fire-wood, thus help heal the immediate environment.

2. No smoke from fossil fuel would be emitted into the atmosphere.

So this concept if implemented rightly, might just begin to turn the tide as Worldwide some 2.7 billion people rely on traditional biomass for cooking and heating, and 1.4 billion have no access to electricity.

So what’s with the electricity? Well if the 1.4 Billion were never introduced to the  oil and coal based electricity we would to Earth that much good. And now that we know the effective use of a new kind of Solar Stove; with cooking time reduced and need a minimum, may be some of that Solar power from the solar tree could light up a LED lamp in the village home.

And if we bring it to the cities, with the price of commercial LPG at Rupees 1600 / cylinder of 19kg. We may find some economics in this too, while reducing the subsidy burden for the Government.

Are the signatory of Kyoto  Protocol listening?

 

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Sustainable Cities – Why town planning is important.


A recent article on the Times of India read -” Now New Delhi has its first sky-scraper“. Because it is an extremely important subject I would like to discuss this matter with all its pro & cons especially form an Indian context, however the points I would like to raise perhaps would have at least a south-east Asia resonance, if not Pan Developing Nations.

As a practicing Sustainable Architect and Climate enthusiast the first thing I would like to put out to the “common man” is – know your built space! By that I mean to say that its time each one of us who live in this Planet must get some rudimentary knowledge about Sustainable living. Not having any knowledge can not be an excuse any-more especially for the literate mass. It is just like living in a Country and not knowing the Law of the land.

I mean, would one expect to be excused by the legal system, should one commit an offense, by simply putting forth an argument that s/he was not aware of the law? Is it not the duty of the Citizen to know the law of the land, or if going to a foreign country familiarize oneself with the law of that land? It can be as mundane as the driving rules to as complex as work-place code of conduct.

Similarly, if you buy a flat built by an unscrupulous builder, who has broken every rule in the book, seeking redress from courts under the pretext that one was unaware will not wash any more. As is the case in point of “Aadarsh Housing Society” in Mumbai, India.

If one is wondering why I am talking of Law etc, whereas the topic heading is “Sustainable Cities”; and what it has to do with sustainable living? let me explain in the following paragraphs.

Skyscrapers are extremely complex to build. It is in the realm of advanced engineering and therefore for the layman it would not be possible to look for and point out defects / flaws in the construction , leave aside the even more complex calculations of FAR/FSI ( floor area ratio / floor space index ) which are required by the local building laws of the land.

So it is very easy for an unscrupulous builder/developer to build projects which flout norms that may put the end-user at grave risks down the line both legal & physical. All these are more possible in building Skyscrapers than lets say Bungalows or Row Houses; as the end-user by default has a degree of control over all the built space within the plot and it is also easy for them to understand the building by-laws.

One would wonder why we have building codes? ( given some of them are down right stupid, made by even more unscrupulous politician & bureaucrats to harass honest builders and get bribe, but that’s a different topic )

The graphical scheme of the Detailed urban pla...Well to answer that, we need to understand town planning.

Given the Geography of a place, town planners calculate how much density of population would that Town/City be able to sustain without overloading.

First, the Master Architect appointed looks into the direction of wind flow, the source and quantity of water supply and other climatic conditions such as soil condition, temperature, humidity and rainfall.

Based on them a broad-based building code is decided. Here is what a code does –

1. Availability of Clean Water & Air: When a town is designed with parks and open spaces, (by open spaces I mean unpaved areas, like a garden patch within a residential or commercial complex) the ambient temperature of the town remains more or less normal. Just as rocks heat up more than earth, large expanse of concrete ( read-rock ) heat up more than the surrounding earth or water.

Therefore the architect decides that the development should emulate as far as possible the natural geographical state. In doing so the air remains ambient and flows freely from one end of the City to another, blowing in its wake the various man-made air pollution away from the City. Further rain-fall is able to percolate through  the open spaces and keeps the ground water level steady. This helps in sustainable growth of trees and plants and this makes the City look serene and beautiful.

2. Ease of access: A town is planned within a certain grid. The grid can be rectangular, circular or a combination of both. It does not happen by ad-hoc. A balanced and equitable building function type is taken into account. It means that a residential block would be designed close to a school plot, play-ground, a place of worship, Fire-station, Police out-post. Then a little further down say a mile, one would find the Gas station, Mall, Cinema and Hotels & Restaurants. Adjoining this but away from the residential space, the commercial district plots are envisaged. The Bank, Post office, Office complexes etc.

This type of planning is done to avoid a few basic things like, Noise pollution, Vehicular congestion and general ease of access to each and every modern facilities without compromising on the quality of life.

3. Health & Safety: The town-planner also decides the width of the main roads and the by-lanes,with full knowledge of what would be the growth of the city over time. It decides on the offset the building must leave from the edge of the road it faces and the other 3 sides ( this in turn decides the floor space index). This is done with the understanding that when the building would be built within the plot, it would require space to keep its building materials, post construction the very same can be a soothing garden patch. The back and the sides allow for sunshine and proper ventilation to the internal space.

But most important of all it takes into account hazards like fire and Earthquake. No town planner with an iota of sense would want that the fire from one building lights up the one adjoining it, neither s/he would want debris falling from it hit the main-road and block it. Which can cause further damages and more harm with life-saving vehicles like ambulances & fire-brigades not able to reach disaster struck sites.

4.Population Control: They take into account the increase in population over time and that to help in deciding the height of the buildings. Skyscrapers can house more than 300-500 families. Multiply each 4 times, as a cluster family would generally contain parents & two children. Add to that the support staff and then look at the amount of resource each skyscraper would require in terms of water and electricity. Now by restricting the height of buildings or allowing only a limited number of building type in each district of a city, a town-planner tries to keep the city sustainable in terms of water & energy demand.

They also thus encourage new towns and cities to develop in a more uniform manner thus allowing for the overall development of the Country. So a good town-planning brings about all the Sustainable practices which Green Building exponents like LEED / GRIHA / BREEAM etc preach, which is also endorsed by UNEP-SBCI.

But all this is, just as of now – fiction!

Cities like Mumbai, New Delhi and others are doing exactly the opposite of all that I have written. Even  the new upcoming Tier -II & III have no proper plan in place.

Why is this happening ? The reasons are predominantly – Ignorance of the layman; Systemic corruption and lack of Leadership from Policy makers.

In India, as perhaps in the rest of the world; policy makers are more often than not, politicians. Now, in India its most easy to brush aside the lack of leadership from the politicians by painting them as Corrupt; it need not always be the case.

In general an Indian politician, in my opinion ( I may be very wrong ) usually have the background of education ( if any) in Law, Commerce or other fields of Arts. Rarely if any would come from a Science stream.

Thus by default they have their training in inane arguments just to prove themselves right; look at everything purely on the basis of profit & loss in commercial terms; or have poetic ideas of how they can uplift the masses from their sufferings.

But, Architecture is Engineering and a Scientific bent of mind is needed to understand and then make the Citizen of India understand the perils of unplanned Vertical Cities.

 

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