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Sustainability Living – Role and responsibility of the UN and the World Media


The article below is my attempt to provoke and cajole the media both print and visual to be more responsible and take the lead in spreading awareness of the dangers of Climate Change. It is no more good enough to just report an event as it is happening. But being part of the society and having the might of the proverbial Pen need to be a little more responsible than the rest.

Cyclone Nilam -triggered rains kill 22 in Andhya Pradesh. PTI -Nov 05, 2012

Hyderabad: At least 22 people have died in rain-related incidents in Andhra Pradesh as heavy rains continued to batter several regions under the influence of ‘Cyclone Nilam’. Coastal Andhra Pradesh continued to bear the brunt of nature’s fury as villages and towns were inundated by swollen rivulets.

Standing crops, including paddy, were affected in 2,43,634 hectares. The death toll in rain-related incidents like wall collapse and drowning rose to 22, state disaster management commissioner T Radha told reporters here on Sunday. The government has set up 86 relief camps in which about 68,000 people were provided shelter, he said. 

Quoting form the article Growing Rice,written in the Blog Dobighazameen, 4 – 5 tonnes (one tonne = 1,000kgs) of rice is the yield expected from one hectare of well maintained paddy field. One hectare is about 2.5 acres.

Therefore if I go by what we can grow in the district of Pune,Maharashtra and apply it on the state of Andhra Pradesh; 2,43,634  hectares would have given us a rice yield of – 2,43,634 x 5 = 121,81,700,00 tonnes of Rice.

And this piece of extremely important information gets the place in page 9 of the DNA Newspaper. Which most would skip.

I have yet to read any newspaper which has actually translated this ” Standing crops, including paddy, were affected in 2,43,634 hectares.” into actual damage a common house-wife would understand while standing in the queue of  mofussil India in the hot summer. So I take this task with my limitations as a dyscalculia, please pardon if the change from numbers to words are inaccurate, although I have used an online soft-ware for that too. In Indian parlance we are looking at One Arab Twenty one Crore Eighty one Lakh Seventy thousand tonnes of rice if only paddy is taken into account. Aandhra Pradesh by the way sends large amounts of vegetables to the City of Mumbai.

That is1 Billion tonnes plus of food grain destroyed by just one Hurricane. As mentioned in my previous article,Hurricane Sandy & Cyclone Nilam – “Our cousins would be visiting soon”.the world will be facing more and more climate change induced disasters as mentioned in the IPCC 4th Assessment Report.

Being a lover of fried rice, I could connect to this loss of stupendous amount of rice, I don’t mention the 22 people who died, because none were related to me and its just another statistics hai na? (Hindi = isn’t it). Coming from a capitalistic self-centred society I’m as good as my neighbour is. After all I too need to maintain the famous Chalta Hai ( all is ok ) attitude, even if the next one hits my city Mumbai and living close to the Marine Drive have my hat blown off. Being a little economically well-off gives me this sense of security that no Hurricane / Cyclone can kill me. I get this comfort from the rich and the politicians who live around me.

I can as always give many more examples and statistics of how we should build resource efficient cities and follow the sustainable living methods, but what is most important and is becoming most urgent is the recognition by all Governments the need to Advertise! To spread the message in simple language which most literate but hardly educated populace can understand.

If I may so humbly suggest, it is the time for the UNSC to take cognisance of the matter; is the destruction of a Nation not a matter of utmost security concern? And use its vast economic resources to provide grant to the UNFCCC and UNEP to popularise the concept of Sustainable living and the dangers of not having done so.

In another article by Vivek Kaul in the DNA newspaper, Michael J Sandel one of the foremost political philosophers in his book What Money Can’t Buy:The Moral Limits of Markets argues that we have drifted from being a market economy to being a market society. “….We have drifted from having a market economy to becoming a market society. And the difference is this. A market economy is a valuable and effective tool for organising productivity activity. And market economy has brought prosperity and affluence to countries around the world. A market society is different. A market society is a place where almost everything is up for sale. It’s a way of life in which uses markets to allocate health, education, public safety, national security, environmental protection, recreation, procreation and other social goods”…. (Source:Do we want a society where everything is up for sale?)

Why else a National daily like DNA, could not find front page space to put as Headlines, the news of loss of lives and crops caused by Cyclone Nilam?  A loss which would lead to further inflation and death of the underprivileged in time to come in this corrupt and crony capitalist market economy?

And what is most painful is that India needs the endorsement for moral guidance from the west, as we debunk our traditional way of conducting business for the more “advanced” version.

 

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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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CDM -the Scam & the Redemption


In the absence of any monitoring system under the UN’s Clean Development Mechanism or CDM (see box), DNA has found that several large projects in India that have been declared green and sustainable under the scheme are not only polluting the local environment but were also established by violating various environment laws. However, because of their status, these firms are permitted to sell carbon credits in the market, earning huge revenue in the process. These are the paragraphs from a superb investigative Journalism by DNA corespondent -Gangadhar S Patil.

In his article, Carbon Credit Fraud: How big firms faked green to mint gold he goes on to say – High cost and uncertainty ensure that many genuinely clean and sustainable projects fail to attain CDM status. These projects, handled by small-time developers, fail to attain CDM status because of the high cost involved in the application and verification process. Even if they manage to pass these hurdles, they don’t earn enough carbon credits to attract real traders in the market.

What Mr. Patil, infers is more horrifying than just the manipulation of the scheme to amass wealth, it is down-right criminal, if true.

Absorptions bands in the Earth's atmosphere cr...

Absorptions bands in the Earth’s atmosphere created by greenhouse gases and the resulting effects on transmitted radiation. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Are firms deliberately overproducing greenhouse gases (GHG) for the sole purpose of destroying them in order to earn revenue through the sale of carbon credits under the clean development mechanism or CDM scheme? The first indication is the fact that an analysis of the total carbon credits issued to projects across the globe, including India, shows that over 50 per cent of the total carbon credits issued until July 2012 were for the destruction of a deadly greenhouse gas called HFC-23 (Hydro Fluoro Carbons-23). It is 11,700 times more potent a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide and is created during the manufacture of HCFC-22, a gas used in refrigerators and air conditioners.

In comparison, renewable energy projects like wind, solar and biomass, together, account for less than 30 per cent of the total carbon credits issued in India; the figure is 20 per cent for the world. The CDM scheme allows firms manufacturing HCFC-22 to earn huge carbon credits by destroying its by-product, HFC-23. Since the cost of producing HCFC-22 is lower than the revenue generated by the sale of carbon credits issued for destroying HFC-23, it is possible that HCFC-22 is being manufactured solely for the purpose of destroying its by-product and earning carbon credits instead.

English: Greenhouse Gases

English: Greenhouse Gases (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The second red flag is the fact that despite a sharp fall in the price of HCFC-22 due to supply exceeding demand and steep global economic recession, the production of this GHG has continued to remain at the same level…….Experts are not clear about what is happening to the excess HCFC-22 produced. Some believe that companies could be stocking it; others believe it is being clandestinely released into the atmosphere. As a result, there is no actual reduction of greenhouse gases though the total number of carbon credits issued is huge.

The last sentence would and should give shivers to any right thinking person. However, with the Country governance is doldrums due to the impact of one scam to another, the latest being coal; the knee-jerk reaction the government took this week in boosting the economy would not only impact the rudimentary Sustainable practices, it can erode it completely, with some  corporates muscling in their agenda of “growth” at the cost to the ecosystem.

carbon-Credit-Card

carbon-Credit-Card (Photo credit: charlesfettinger)

Today the greatest unrest is because of Energy requirement, which comes from fossil fuel and with Coal hitting the scam list, it would be difficult for the government to allow mining ( unless strong-arm tactic are used) and feed the critical requirement of the industries. Thus importing coal would gather steam. Which in no way helps in abating GHG, just reduces pollution at ones own door. The second being LPG, now it is well documented that Oil corporations are bleeding due to subsidy, but to stem the flow what is required is imagination not short-term solution.

Further, the increase in LPG price and the cap in its domestic use, would spawn another scam /corruption which now is a default setting among us.

And to stay in governance the Government would be very tempted to turn a blind eye on the misdeeds. So what must be done to balance “growth” and come out of the log-jam which is called “policy paralysis”?

As always, each problem has sustainable solutions; we only need to find them and in this article through the use of CDM.

In a recent debate, to the current situation at TIMES NOW TV, one of the guest in the Panel quoted – ” Darkness is not opposite of Light but the absence of light”.  Resonating the sentiment I would say that the failure of the CDM policy is not the failure of the idea, for the idea in itself is the original “Green Business Idea”  under which heading I have written many a blog and today I rest my arguments with the link to a series of those which directly point to a solution. What is required is to make the system a little more fool-proof. And to this extent the media, with its depth of reach should partner those who walk the path towards sustainability.

It is well documented, that traditionally in India the debt of the Father is paid by the Son. Horrific tales of the Bonded Labour are known to many. But if it’s a sad tale, it also has an opposite side. The side which investors in CDM and the Banks need to see; the honesty of the grass-root citizens of India. Unlike corporate frauds, they pay their debts. At times with their lives.

The Indian as opposed to the pseudo (westernised) Indian, always has paid respect to Nature and if one takes any religious festival of India, Nature is given due importance. In my earlier article Disconnect from ones culture is the root cause of Global Warming & Disconnect from ones culture is the root cause of Global Warming;Part-II Killing Trees; I have tried to document this aspect within the limited knowledge I could gather.

Further, I believe that the concepts which I have attempted to project through many of the articles termed Green Business Ideas, and especially – Renewable Energy – Empowering Women & Saving Forests; Green Building Ideas:Using Solar panels as roofing sheet instead of asbestos. All have the potential to earn CDM benefits. We can call them CER or REC; the money can be international or national but it must be available at the grass-root level. And at the level where innovations make a difference.

Greenhouse gas intensity in 2000 including lan...

Greenhouse gas intensity in 2000 including land-use change. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

While we still need to rip the bowels of our Mother Earth, to feed our insatiable needs, we can actually limit them by creative thought; Green Business Ideas: Solar Panels can save water in the fields for farmers.This very act alone would save thousands of petro-dollars and improve the fiscal  deficit. While at the same time creating millions of jobs in the service and allied industries of the Solar market. While the above thoughts look at the Indian grass-roots, the middle class too can benefit and its mental outlook can be changed with Green Business Innovation : Offices can now print on a E-paper and save forest.;Green Business Ideas: Carbon Credits opportunities in Green Townships.But these too, need the support form the UNFCCC and the Banks which traditionally look at large caps and easy return; which lead to the fraud in the first place.

While the present Mumbai city many not have enough roof-space to generate its own electricity, by making laws for future re-developments and up-coming townships (Green Business Ideas: the missing LEED/GRIHA credits can help boost economy worldwide.) a great amount of job creation and by that default wealth can be generated. The crisis of energy can be tackled and that should be the goal.

Within a span of 10 years, should Sustainable building methods become norm, the government can further cut its fiscal deficit by increasing the energy tariff to what it should be, while encouraging CDM benefits for the common person. The concept is addressed somewhat in Green Business Ideas – Applying Solar OPEX model on Green Buildings will make Grid parity easy.

 The government in its first avatar of UPA-I started well in the path towards sustainability; but partisan politics and myopic views of both the political and corporate masters have not helped in boosting the concept which it came out with (Green Business Ideas : India should promote NSM & NMSH to make NMEEE a success)What it must do is lend its ear to the citizens, who always care for good governance and will stand as a solid wall of support if the benefits from CDM flows directly towards them, instead of becoming another profit-making tool for the unscrupulous corporate entities.

 

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The Last Tree Standing – the story of human “development”


For whom the bell tolls ? The last Tree standing proud and strong in the suburban Mumbai street or Mankind ?

The whole of last week, the DNA  newspaper had stories, which would seem completely dis-jointed from one another, but if you look at it from the prism of Sustainable Living they all are, but indicators of doom which we as People are heading towards. Let me start with links of some headlines which show the maximum indicators of the rot that has crept into human civilization.  The links are from random dates, but I have tried to set them in an order, which I’m sure that those who follow sustainable living would find the logic  and the irony therein. And those who are new into this are welcome to my analysis –

Tree obstructing traffic flow all set to go: In the wake of a DNA report, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has initiated action to remove a huge tree located in the middle of busy Lal Bahadur Shastri (LBS) Marg in Ghatkopar. Following the report about the tree proving to be an obstacle for scores of motorists taking the road (published on May 24), the BMC had issued a 10-day notice on July 7, inviting suggestions and objections from residents over the removal of the tree. However, till Monday, the local N Ward office did not receive any suggestions or objections.

Still in the wild on rehabilitation: It’s been more than 15 years that the Bombay high court ordered relocation of all illegal settlements inside Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SGNP) to accommodations outside park limits. The forest department, however, has failed to rehabilitate even half of the eligible settlers …..

Man-animal conflict unlikely to end soon: It will take at least three years to completely check the man-animal conflict at Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SGNP). Measures such as construction of a boundary wall, rehabilitation of park inmates and establishment of an Eco-sensitive zone to control development at the periphery will not be in place in the next couple of years.  According to data from the forest department, the SGNP has a 92km boundary, of which, 22 will not require fencing due to the naturally formed buffer areas. The fencing of the rest 70km will be done in two phases. Phase one, which is in progress since 2009, 40km boundary is being fenced….

Centre sits on Gadgil report, draws HC ire: The Bombay high court on Tuesday rapped the government for failing to take a decision on the report submitted by the Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel headed by Dr Madhav Gadgil…The panel has made recommendations on conserving and preserving ecologically sensitive areas within the Sahyadri range.

If scanty rain continues, state may cry drought: The Maharashtra government is ready to declare drought following scarce rainfall across the state so far. “There is no doubt that there will be drought this year,” said a top government source…

Cloud seeding answer to water woes:Worried about the low water levels in the lakes, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) is considering cloud seeding in catchment areas in next month as an option. However, a similar experiment carried out by the BMC in 2009 with an expenditure of over Rs 8 crore yielded no results…

Plan ready to deal with deficient rain; Pawar: The country faces challenges in sustaining record food grain harvests as a 22 percent deficit in monsoon rain threatens planting, Union agriculture minister Sharad Pawar said here on Monday. He, however, added that India — the world’s second-biggest rice, wheat and sugar producer — has not reached drought situation and the government is ready with contingency plan to deal with deficient monsoon.

17cr prayer for rain! : Halfway through July, monsoon rains continue to cause concern, with sowing of pulses and rice behind schedule and rainfall still below average for this time of the year –REUTERS …Karnataka muzrai minister Kota Srinivas Poojari is a worried man. The monsoon sky – alternating between grey and blue, but shedding very little rain – has got him worried. But while most of us can do nothing except wait for the rain, the minister, it seems, decided that he has had enough. Poojari is not going to sit idle and twiddle his thumbs any longer. The minister has decided to intervene. How? He has decided to placate rain God Varuna. Karnataka minister leads initiative to hold special puja at 34,000 temples across the state!

Will interlinking of rivers contain floods? : The delay in implementing a plan drawn out by the engineers of the National Water Development Authority (NWDA) has led to the loss of 125 lives in Assam in the recent floods, experts said. The floods caused by the Brahmaputra could have been avoided, had the authorities interlinked the Brahmaputra with the Ganga, said engineer MS Menon and Madhav Chitale, former water resources secretary to the Union government.

Many Moons ago in my anguish I had mentioned – Killing is not a crime,only Murder is;The difficulty of preaching Sustainable Living.

And perhaps the image of the sole tree standing between a widened road, which would be killed ( chopped down) is a cause for glee, as more GHG producing Vehicles can ply without any obstruction, thus  help speed up the process of Oblivion for Mankind !

As one would read, not a single person has come forward to suggest ways to try and save the tree, perhaps by relocating it. All need to read: “Mature Tree Transplanting: A Growing Trend” – ….Amazingly, through the use of carefully executed transplanting techniques, fully grown trees of almost any specie or size can be successfully integrated into the residential or commercial landscape.

One would wonder, what is one tree ? In the natural progression to “development” civilisation has always laid waste the Ecosystem. So what’s the big deal ?

Just look where that high-carbon life-style is leading us, the same news paper screams in its various headlines the scarcity of Water & Food ! Without which the basic foundations of our modern-life comes to a standstill.

Yet, our governments and leaders are in a state of confusion; so much so that to cover their utter lack of understanding of the matter, they  seek divine intervention !  The unholy part being the 17crore would be the foolish tax-payers money. But then we had it coming, its the responsibility of WE, the collective; who still want to remain in deep slumber while the tide of Climate change and Global Warming rises above the nose. How long should the Earth tolerate the myopic self- aggrandized thoughts of Mankind before making its last move of eradicating the menace ?

That the collective citizens (of the world), still can’t connect between the falling apart of the man-made infrastructure and chopping down and denudation of the ecosystem in the most unsustainable manner possible; can be gauged by the news below on the decision taken  by the Assembly ( which is but a manifestation of the same collective )  to continue with GHG intensive Thermal power, instead of finding long term solution of balancing the Eco-system which loses its forest cover  vital for the monsoon cycle to both open cast coal mines and hydro-dams which completely submerges the forest cover;  to sustain completely unsustainable present day Urban sprawl!

Scant rain may cut Tata’s power output: If the monsoon’s scanty performance continues without indicating any possibility of a turnaround in the near future, the Tata Power Company (TPC) will be forced to stop the power generation. Announcing the government decision in the state assembly on Tuesday, deputy chief and energy minister Ajit Pawar said, “While Pune may be hit by the decision, Mumbai won’t face any power shortage as its supply is sourced from power generated by thermal plants.

Nowhere, the  confused nature of mankind is more prominent than in an advertisement by a pump making company; which thinks it’s environmental friendly to shift complete lakes and drown nearby forest which have taken aeons to develop; to sell its product. And make its mark in the sands of time, it would be most happy to help link rivers; without even understanding the ecological impact it would have.  And many such corporation, either without meaning to or knowingly join hands with Politicians to seed the minds of the Citizens in accepting the idea that their owes can be solved by linking of rivers and there arguments would be that they have been following the experts.  An ‘expert’ in a single subject can not understand the complexity of the Ecosystem. Therefore such decisions should have a cross-section of experts from all related fields. The same idea has been run down by many and mentioned by me in this article India to connect all its Rivers

Without the citizens understanding the true meaning of sustainable living and practicing and preaching it, the World which we know and love, the life-style we live in and want to bequeath to our children would be lost.

We must understand the markers of decay and destruction, our unsustainable life-style is causing. And for that, not all need to attend the expert meet at the various United Nation forum but make the effort to change, from being just a literate who can read a News paper to educated who can deduce the situation from the facts drawn out in them.

Each of the News articles show, the dire situation and the almost bursting at the seams situation of Megalopolises in our Country and perhaps similar would be the tales around the World.

Yet we are refusing to learn, to correct past errors. We continue to develop in a lopsided manner, while there is an urgent need  for a thorough study to understand what would be the actual impact of the said “development” holistically. Here we must bring in the thoughts enshrined in the 2012 Inclusive Wealth Report and the Sustainable Development Goals. One must also bear in mind that while we have divided the World into multiple Nations, the Earth is just one globe. So cause in one end would in time show its effect in another. Therefore when we develop  fragile ecosystem we must understand what would that development bring. “Prosperity” can not be in isolation – say   a polythene bag manufacturer may prosper when newer areas are touched by rail, but the resultant discarding of these non bio-degradable product can have a telling effect on the Ecosystem, which was pristine before the rail road was built on it.

Environmental rules are not being used, where it is needed most and in the proper spirit. So that development happens with least harm to the Ecosystem. Man has not learnt to live a Zero-Carbon foot print; perhaps this is to do with our being more intelligent than the other species which inhabit this Earth and have naturally perfected it ! Therefore one must be careful in developing newer areas when existing facilities can always be upgraded thus limiting the harm to the Environment. Cost must be measured as a sum -total of all, here again the need of a panel of experts from diverse field who can see matters from a completely different perspective is most important.

Citizens of the World have been led mostly by a few. The Orator & the Warrior both these breed rose into prominence because they almost always had the most to lose, an orator also would be a Merchant and a warrior could be a King! That they would put self before others is but good business & politics. To be led by a group of few, would always remain true for mankind, but for its very survival its time to look beyond the obvious, lest we are led downhill by those who lead.

Once one of our honorable Chief Minister of the state of Maharashtra had famously said that his governance would change the City of Mumbai to another Shanghai.

The wind smells of change and more …: Shanghai: When the wind blows in one Shanghai suburb, residents can smell the stench rising from a towering garbage dump, feared to be so harmful it can make people vomit and cause birth defects. Now residents of Songjiang district are raising a stink about the future of the landfill, one of a series of recent protests across China as people hold the government more accountable for health and environmental problems…..

The World is indeed a small place and the problems of the modern man is the same everywhere. Therefore its time we connect and be the change.

Courtesy: DNA http://www.dnaindia.com

 

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When wind is owned by a Village : The barriers in RE


The district of Satara, Maharashtra, India has its skyline dotted with wind-turbines. It seems endless, as the train winds down the hilly tract, twisting and turning in its way. Every-time I saw them, a little smile use to creep up my lips, thinking how glorious is the renewable energy story in this state. The state at present is facing severe drought and the cause is attributed to the Wind turbines which is driving the clouds away! Reading the article in the DNA newspaper I could only wonder at the lackadaisical pace of the government in controlling such rumours from spreading. I had heard similar tales in the state of Rajasthan too.

And then there is a policy of wind tax! It is reported that each village council under whose land the installed wind turbine fall, demand Rupees 94,000 per MW annually ! The government has issued a notice that it must pay minimum Rs 15,000/ MW.  I wonder if Wind RE will never be able to supersede  thermal energy price any time soon with this type of barriers. What intrigues me most that I have never heard Government paying fishermen any tax, while extracting Oil from off-shore rigs. Because by that logic, and even more so the waters belong to the fishermen and oil/gas leaks actually kill and loss can be directly and scientifically measured.

English: Schematic diagram of a modern horizon...

English: Schematic diagram of a modern horizontal-axis, three-bladed wind turbine (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

What worries me most is, as people slowly recognise the potential of these as revenue earners for the rich investors, the lack of coherent policy from successive governments to uplift the poor, would manifest into misdirected anger towers these RE power plants. Compound that with unschooled workers in coal/oil agencies who wrongly think, due to lack of information, that very soon oil / coal would lose out to these clean energy  and fearing loss of job, vent their frustration. In a country where it is rumoured that an MLC was against a mini hydro-dam because once “electricity” is removed from the water, it would be useless for the paddy fields as its energy has already been sucked out; we may be staring at massive protest against any future RE projects. And this would be playing right into the hands of the coal/ oil lobby, who may exploit the situation to their advantage. With the World economy in doldrums, and people worried about their immediate needs, a spark of protest in any corner of any country against Wind power could have a domino effect, driving out a potential bridge solution for abatement of Climate change.

But, as the saying goes – “there is no smoke without fire”; it must be probed with complete transparency, if the farmers where compensated well for their land or duped into selling cheap by citing it as useless barren land. No land is useless, which is proven by the tall wind-mill standing on it and “barren” should not have been made a case, because one was not purchasing it for farming, so that argument should not have been put at all !The Government too should use its collective intellect (tall order at times) to define the word “barren” when it is to be used for installing Wind or Solar power. Because, sooner than later the people who are mostly poor villagers; and protecting their interest is supreme in every political parties manifesto; would become wise of the fact and then their protest would be legitimate, even if it takes the ludicrous form of asking a “solar tax” by the logic of the sun falling on their village area!

As for the present Wind technology is facing the heat and just because of the unscrupulous few, a wonderful RET should not be held hostage and the international RE community and especially the Wind RET industry should come up with credible and easy to understand,scientifically proven and approved by the UN messages which advertise the pros and cons of this technology.Else they will be accused  by more people of stealing their wind and driving the rain clouds away !

 

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India to connect all its Rivers


The DNA New Paper today had a fantastic news about how all the rivers of India can be connected to provide water in areas required by diverting the flood waters of one into the other. A fantastic read, given below but raises a few questions which I would like the world community to help answer, because just like air, water to is connected but finally at the Ocean. But if one looks closely at the estuaries, they have marine life unique to the confluence of the river that meets with the sea.  How will by connecting the rivers, the aquatic life and the surrounding fauna & flora of the downstream get affected? We all understand that the Indian sub-continent has various soil types, each with its unique chemical composition. While having canals taking water to great distances for irrigation may not have had any long-term negative effect. If we link two rivers which may have different aquatic life, whether the intermixing would be positive or otherwise need to be studied and if studied reported about.

Abridged text from the DNA paper-

“The perennial problems of drought and flood which ravage the country will be a thing of the past if all major rivers are inter-linked. By inter-linking the rivers, what we do is to transfer the surplus flood waters from Brahmaputra Mahanadi, Ganga and Godavari to water deficient rivers in south India through a network of canals. This will help us in boosting our agricultural production, increase the forest cover and bring down pollution,” Prabhu told DNA. S Kalyanaraman, former director of Asian Development Bank, who undertook 20 years research on ILR said the project would help in generating 40,000 MW clean and green energy. “We can bring in nine crore acres of additional wetland into farming and this will benefit 45 cr people,” said Kalyanaraman.

The normal annual Indian surface water resources are about 68,969 Thousand Million Cubic feet (TMC). Out of this we use only 8,814 TMC, that is 13%. The remaining 87 per cent, (that is about 60,155 TMC), is wasted into the sea every year, say Natarajan and Kallolikar. “The value of one TMC of flood water let into sea in terms of paddy and pulses is about Rs32.5 crore. The total irrigation potential that can be created by utilizing the entire floodwater let into sea is 241 million ha, the production of foodgrain is 1,477 million tones (1,326 million tones of paddy plus 151 million tones of pulse) and the value of total flood water in terms of paddy and pulses is about Rs20 lakh crore (value of paddy is Rs 13 lakh crore and the value of pulse is Rs7 lakh crore) per annum. The value of food grains wasted in the last 61 years in the independent India is Rs1, 220 lakh crore,” Natarajan and Kallolikar said in the paper they submitted to the Planning Commission emphasizing the need to inter link the rivers. Natarajan said if the flood waters of Godavari in Andhra Pradesh is diverted to Mettur Dam in Tamil Nadu, the dam would get filled in ten hours. “Tamil Nadu’s entire irrigation requirements could be met with this water,” he said.

The Indian Space Research Organisation has drawn a blue print for implementing the project with the help of images.

Resonating my thoughts,on 5th March Mr. Subratha Sihna editor in the DNA News paper, wrote in the analysis this piece, which I think almost all who work with water must look at with a degree of seriousness.

Based on a Public Interest Litigation, a Supreme Court division bench in the early 2000s had directed the Centre to implement the controversial river linking proposal involving more than Rs500,000 crore (approximately $110 billion) without bypassing any of the essential procedures in the process by 2016. There was an unprecedented outcry against the proposal from civil society — including a representation to the prime minister by 50 citizens of national eminence. The proposal was put on hold. The present bench of the Supreme Court, in fact, has revived the ‘the instrumentalist vision’ to complete the process; with the caveat of setting up a high-powered committee to ‘implement’ the project.
In unsuitable, arid or semi-arid, agro-climatic regions, excessive water transfer and usage have caused irreversible land degradation. About three-fourth of prime agricultural was lost by water logging, salinity and erosion by 1980. These irreversibly degraded tracts include the command areas of Tapi, Mahi, Chambal, Tawa, and Narmada in western UP and Rajasthan, providing a frightening preview of river linking, whose major thrust is on transferring water into inappropriate terrain. Basically, the concept of surplus or deficit is alien to river basins. Each drop has its use in preserving the river regime and environmental health of the basin.
Fundamental objections to river linking:
1. Linking of rivers violates the natural laws governing the life support system, and natural dynamics; and discounts the bounties provided by river systems.
2. The loss of flood plains and spill basins by human interference has caused devastating floods. River linking shall enhance this situation.
3. Man-made dams, reservoirs, and artificial lakes that are to be project ingredients would rob the rivers of their energy potential.
4. In fact, stupendous energy would be needed for the rivers to jump over the natural water divides and topo-barriers.
5.Rainfall and water availability is regulated by the monsoons, resulting in a highly bimodal annual river flow and moisture regime with consequential seasonal lows (droughts) and highs (floods). River linking shall certainly aggravate both droughts and floods by superimposition of the situation in each of the linked rivers.
6. Such linkages could possibly be thought of in more temperate latitudes with a more homogeneous annual moisture/flow regime. However, the Soviet experience of river diversion has even then been catastrophic, resulting on the devastation of the Aral Sea.
7. A river is not a mere flow channel, but a holistic system encompassing the whole basin — water divide, catchment, valley and outflow point. Any alteration shall affect the whole system and even induce microclimatic changes.
8. Inestimable loss of natural biodiversity, wild cultivars and plant gene banks shall inevitably follow river linking to disrupting the regional food chain operation.
9. Monsoonal rainfall on the degraded catchments shall cause excessive siltation-related problems in the linking systems.
10. Careful scrutiny of the state of environmental health of various rivers should have been first made before clean rivers are linked very filthy rivers.
11.River linking shall inevitably lead to an alteration of the seasonal water availability pattern; and the possibility of upsetting the evapo-transpiration balance.
12. An inevitable change in the cropping pattern from excessively irrigated lands after river-linking shall cause a major increase in methane and other gases that contribute to global warming.
13. Land degradation shall also be inescapably aggravated.
14. The colossal estimated cost will surely jeopardise the national economy for decades and force diversion of funds from the more essential needs of the vast majority of rural poor.
15. The inter-state and international ramifications of shared riparian systems would certainly open the floodgates for a civil war situation and serious discord with India’s neighbours.

Not only is any such proposal for inter-basin transfers totally repugnant to all natural and economic logic, but shall alter the subcontinent’s geographical configuration. In the ultimate analysis, the proposal shall signal the death knell of our river systems that provide the principal source of sustenance; and encompass social, cultural and religious traditions.

The Beneficiaries of River Linking:
The politically important consideration for drawing up the river linking plan was the emergence of major national and transnational industries and rapid urbanization in many of the ‘low water availability’ natural regions of the west and south. It was purported also to help the commercial farming lobby for sugarcane. A case of ‘mortgaging the nation’s future for a miniscule affluent population.

 

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