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PM Modi’s 100 New Cities – will they be cause for celebration or mourning?


Through the following paragraphs, I would make a humble attempt for the average person to understand and take forward the ideas which ultimately shapes their lives.

I am an admirer of our Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The first time I had the opportunity to be present at a meet at the Taj Mahal Hotel Mumbai, for the Vibrant Gujrat project, I was sure he would be the Prime Minister.

And every time I zip through the New Free way from South Mumbai towards Pune, I feel glad that we had the Mr. Manmohan Singh as our PM. Who brought us economic prosperity!

The bloom turned to gloom later!

And while the present Government has won a thumping victory based on the “development agenda”. The development seems to be no different than a mindless race towards accumulating riches. We hope for saving the wealth of the Country.

As a Nation and a Citizen we have the right to develop and prosper. Nature is bountiful and Human, God’s greatest creation from time immemorial has learnt to use the resources for its growth.

But when our mother breast feeds us, nourishes and cares for us. Makes us strong and able adults. Do we throttle her, maul and maim ? As a thanks for her good deed?

Then why do we do so with Mother to all of us. The sustainer of Life. Our Mother Earth?

Pune Landslide Disaster Causes. Graphic Courtesy: Times of India

What would have been the last thoughts of those who were buried alive at Rudra Prayag and recently close to home near Pune? As mud slowly forced down the lungs of the wretched innocent?

A child whose only wish perhaps was to grow up and mend the thatch of his leaking home – not of buying the 60th floor of a high-rise, built using materials ripped and pillaged from the very surrounding the disaster happened ?

When one does not use the river sand to re-lay another fine Italian marble in his posh home…he saves young engineering students from being washed away due to the acts of the unscrupulous sand-mafia!

When one is happy to reuse and retrofit his old wooden floor & furniture, instead of seeking a new look in the study…she helps save the old parents praying for the well being of their children at the feet of Shiva!

Whenever we stop paving over the farm-lands and refuse to buy a “Non-Agricultural” plot, we stop the vulnerable Sahyadri, the Vindhyachal, the Nilgiri from dying.

And in its death throes kill civilization!

To protect Humanity…we need to build Green. And when we say Green, it must not be a green wash. (Govt’s devpt’projects to blame for tragedy: Experts).

And by building Green..we shall abate Global Warming & Climate Change.

For no panegyric text, no law ever made…has denied prosperity!

But all seem to have but forgotten..it advocates prosperity for everyone.

Sabka Saath….Sabka Vikas!

Inclusive growth does not mean a Hindu-Muslim-Sikh-Isai-Bahai-Jew & Parsi! As we like to be identified as instead of Humans. ( perhaps due to the continued erosion of Humanity?)

But also those we foolishly call beasts! And with every animal we save, in the process a tree, a shrub…an ant and a moth survives!  For they all work together to make this Planet a better World to live in!

Something we knew before we “modernized ourselves”. For where else but in India we recognize the efforts of an ANT and build a temple to honour it.The ant hill Shiva- linga at Erumbeeswarar Temple. (this yet again underscores the important of remembering ones’ culture Disconnect from ones culture is the root cause of Global Warming )

Therefore if we need to build the 100 cities, which I strongly advocate that we do. We must build sustainably.

We must preserve the green that is the cover of mother Earth. Green is the colour of the plants which bear fruit, gives us air to breath and in the bosom of the forest which provides natures bounty, gave birth to Man!

Green Building is not a fashion statement. It’s our birthright!

It is a choice between life and death! And today and evermore we must choose to Live & Let Live.

Dangers of unsustainable development. Courtesy: Times of India

And to do that we have to change our mindset. Thus let us begin from understanding the basics, without which we will never be able to build sustainably. And create the Climate Resilient Cities, which we need so much.

To begin with, how many of us can actually recognise the trees or name the flowers other than the bunch of flowers we buy at exorbitant prices in high end boutique shops? Which are discarded as soon as the “air kiss” gets over !

Wrapped in cellophane that too …

How many of us remember when was the last time our children or we could recognise at first glance – a tree or shrub which produces the grains we eat or the fruits that are now more often put in beauty products than on a food plate ?

When we get disconnected from nature and what is natural, it is little wonder that we forget the age-old wisdom of putting importance to Roti – Kapada – Makaan !

The wise choice of sequencing  Food – Cloth – Shelter , in that order transcends both the Oriental & the Occidental World. It is of little consequence as to which civilization first mooted the idea…for if during the time of the Mahabaharata, we called ourselves “Aryans” and if they originated in Europe, then it proves beyond doubt that the world as a whole were far more intelligent and in sync with nature than we can aspire to be.

Thus when we build the 100 cities we must insure that the city grows its own food. It can be done by using the fertile soil of the building foot-print and placing every last bit of it on the roof-top or terraces, or better still make terminal market complexes which can be over the railway tracts or bus depots. Perhaps a combination of all would be the best formula.

And the best part is it would not make a farmer landless…

To grow food we require water. In fact all great Civilization and City Kingdoms grew near the banks of river or ocean. When we start to bottle water in plastic packs or it gushes out at the twirl of the tap..the disconnect from reality begins to manifest upon us. It is further compounded by the foolish yet well meaning laws that as water is the basis of life it must be either provided free or at a very nominal cost.

But, gone are the days when water used to quench a thirst, bathe a body or sow a seed. Now it is more required to fill a bottle of fizz and wash ones car. Or turn a turbine through a jet stream of steam…raised to its vapour form by ripping out Coal from the bowels of Earth. In an effort to satiate the insatiable thirst for POWER ( ? ), human have forgotten that water is a nourisher of life.

Flooded Mumbai after record-breaking rainfall. Courtesy: Times of India

And when you forget a life force & have a skewed development agenda…she comes back as a Tsunami or Flood wreaking havoc in her wake. Or simply moves away leaving parched land..fast turning into desert.To those who live in Mumbai, counting the days to rain is almost an annual ritual.

Because without rain the water bodies which provides the much needed succour simply can’t be replenished. And at the same time the rain brings with it untold misery for the citizens.

So how do we make the New Cities so as to not suffer the same misery which the current cities in India face ?

To begin with we must have stringent development control rules.

While it would take a collective will of the people to re-develop the existing Cities. The mistakes of not catering to the water needs in the new cities must be made into a crime punishable by law.

 

A fragile & beautiful ecosystem.

Lastly, where do we build our Cities and what material should be used to build them ? I find it amazing when developer after developer without giving a thought to the consequences to the ecosystem design projects in complete contravention to the lay of the land, the contours, the local populace. Every advertisement talks of connect with nature. And how one would live in harmony with it.

Each one of us would love to be in this place. But few amongst us would want to share it with the green glade, the birds & bugs ..the ant and the earthworm..the brush and the tree..the frog and the snake…animals and plants which have co-existed in perfect harmony to help nature sculpt this picture perfect place of tranquillity and peace.

Building around nature.

As I said earlier, human have the right to live a modern life-style, within an Ecologically sensitive area. Provided they follow the law which would make them build right. And most importantly learn to co-habitat with the surrounding.

Very few modern architect or developer would keep the place as it is and work along it to create space for man.They would develop it as it should be according to them. Because it is not easy to live with nature when everyday of our concious life, the commerce crazy community craving for riches vie for your attention on everything that is unsustainable in the long run..

An untrained and gullible mass considers the life-style preached by these false messiah as gospel.

Thus if we indeed need to build those 100 cities our Prime Minister has mooted let them be the dream cities which would stay behind as his legacy. Of having balanced growth of India with Sustainable Development of this planet.

Laws need to be mooted which prevent development of Urban spaces in present agricultural land. Prevent expansion of existing city sprawl into the life saving mangroves. And to achieve that the first thing which the Prime Minister must build, much in the lines of IIT’s in each state, are a University of Developers.

In this university of developers make mandatory attendance of all those who want to put a project. Be it Housing or a Coal mine. Airport or a Dam. And make them learn the laws of nature. The cause and effect of each decision which they would take for the project they would want to promote – 50 years from hence!

Allow them then to alter the situations towards the least harmful. For modern human can’t develop any further today without causing some harm. Such is sadly the truth. And the answer to which perhaps remains with those wiser. And may take this tread of an idea to the Utopian state it should belong.

And to those who having crossed the passage above consider this suggestion a waste…India & the World (25 Examples of Off the Grid Homes + Green Architecture) has already started working towards this idea.

We can build cities which are in sync with nature in a much larger extent than is currently practised.

What we need is a vision which many of us in this country hope this Prime Minister & his Cabinet has. We need not have to build upon fertile soil and forest but spread the Cities to those vast swathe of arid and semi-arid lands.

To areas where uncontrolled mining and logging has decimated the land and laid it bare and waste. To those areas connected by bullet trains and express ways; waterways and air ( at times a gas filled Zeppelin can undo the carbon foot print) and making mandatory for captains of Industry & Commerce to shift at least 6% of their operations to any 3 cities of their liking within the 100 spanning the country. We would attract a sizeable population of skilled citizens to spurt life into the new cities.

And as the roots of civilization begins to take shape, the local populace would benefit.

That is when perhaps we shall have an India shining!

 

 

 

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Green Bussiness Idea: Sustainable Trade Practice is possible.


Driving the circular economyIn the recently concluded Accenture Sustainability 24 Webinar, closed loop recycling was given its due weight-age. The beautiful explanation  in info-graphics must be shared for one and all in this planet to understand the importance of sustainability. As one reads through this article while the graphics scrolls side by side (click to enlarge graphics) one would be amazed as to how easy it is to understand that we are at the very edge of entering a resource depleted world.

A BBC Special report on Thursday, 25 October 2007 gave State of the planet, in graphics with these comments – Globally human populations are growing, trade is increasing, and living standards are rising for many. But, according to the UN’s latest Global Environment Outlook report, long-term problems including climate change, pollution, access to clean water, and the threat of mass extinctions are being met with “a remarkable lack of urgency”. Global Environment Outlook [21.9MB]

The implications of this is evident from the various events which are unfolding is bits and pieces between then and 2013 AD. If seen from a perspective, one can easily see that as resources become scarce and traditional monopolies erode, regional and international tensions are bound to grow. And the tragedy is that sustainable practices would become the first casualty. Simply because it is perhaps the only sunshine industry in this despondent atmosphere.

China solar panel imports investigated by European Union &  China files EU solar subsidy complaint with WTO are just a few headlines on anti-dumping and protection news in the BBC webpage.

As long as the paradigm of Business and Trade remains entrapped in the archaic mode, our lifestyle will not let us stop from consuming 5 times of what is available to live sustainably. Even while we clearly understand that we are living in a shrinking world Graphicof resources.

While in Germany the primer company Solar World is anxious at the way the state of China is helping its domestic industry to produce cheaper Solar panels thus foreboding doom for stellar Solar PV company; somewhere in Britain nascent industries which make the balance of systems for the SPV’s are happy at the rise of the Dragon and would in no way want anti-dumping laws to be initiated against China.

Thus there are no easy solution out of this.That is if we still continue to follow the same patterns of Trade & Politics since Marco Polo.

However, we don’t need to and can’t afford to do any more.

While I can’t even think of suggesting Economics or Socio-Politics to the masters of the game, I do believe that at times simple ideas become the stepping stone of success. What is needed is to pick up the best created by the masters themselves and apply some innovation.

If we look at the idea of the Public Distribution System (PDS); better understood in India as ration shops and the concept of MNREGA we perhaps could create an idea which can at least be a fair attempt to slow down the depletion of resources until better model of adaptation and mitigation is developed in this rapidly warming Globe to give us the chance to live Sustainably.

The Circular economy advocates in the graph alongside show how from Minerals,Metals to Fossil fuel we are looking at an increase of consumption of 118% in just a span of 20 years (AD 2010-2030 ).

GraphHow this exponential increase would effect the planet is well documented in the 3 graphs above. The human ecological footprint is way above the straight line of the Biocapacity of this planet.And that straight line was created by Nature in a complex chain of event which we are still “researching” on.

With this piece of evidence I would reinforce my humble thought that, its time we think of a global rationing system. From Minerals to Metals to Fossil Fuel. It is time to put a stop to this mindless Business As Usual model.

Let us explore and expand the idea further.

The word Execution has very ominous meaning.

And some gentlemen have played their part in the destruction of this Planet very well in their Avatars as CEO’s. It is time when, we yank those CEO’s who should actually be the “Chief Environment Officer” as was mentioned during the Sustainability 24 – 2013 Webinar; than Chief Executive Officers. And make them responsible for the preservation and judicious use of  resources which are finite.

And let the Academicians and Scientist, instead of Trade & Political pundits of all Nations sit and decide the quantum of Quota which should be applied to de-pressurise the planets resource utilization.

Once they have achieved this, let the Corporates and MSME’s come in a common platform to innovate and scale up the process of  R’s. Reuse -Recycle-Refuse-Regenerate and thus like a Phoenix rise from a linear economic model to that of a Circular economy.

Additionally we must through the help of UN make this a true ONE WORLD than just a lyric in a song. To do that we can start by stopping to  count human population and poverty Country wise.

It is time we talk of Human population and poverty in global perspective rather than roll out the demography of a Country. Why should there be a rule of one child per couple in one country while there are no such limitations in another? Do we count insects, birds, fishes and other animal species in such a fashion?

Does it not occur to the most intelligent of animal species that the impact of Human is no more localized? If we have 9 Billion people with only, say as few as 500,000 in some Arctic country and a Billion in another, does it really mean that the one with higher demography is consuming it’s own resources more and the country with less population has limited impact on the consumption of produce within its own geographical limits and beyond? It is the Human species which has created a Political boundary into a Geographical one.

The planet and its forces do not conform to it. Read up on any Earthquake or Tsunami.

It encompasses all and everything from Minerals, Metals to Fossil Fuel and Life itself. No one Nations owns one over the other. No one Nations has aplenty while it is scarce for the other.

And  the Geographical boundary begins and finishes with the Sphere itself.

And to retain that life which till date is understood to be found only in this Sphere called Earth, we must ration its resources.

Production of each and every goods must be based on a quantum per year. Recycling and consumption of recycled products by each country in equal measure should be mandatory. No hand -outs to so called Third World Country, while the rich retain the right to plunder.

The issue of trade and economy can be addressed by the WTO quite well. Never was there a time when one country has not felt aggrieved and the other supposedly advantaged, in the polarized World we live in. And never will it be possible to think rationally until we actually become United as a Nation. Understand the power as well as the limitation of being ONE.

Sustainability can be practised and the concept of Circular Economy can truly succeed only if each Nation agrees to follow a rotary format of what it can produce and consume every five to ten years cycle. Shorter or longer cycle can be put in place depending on the type of industry and its gestation period.

And the most important aspect perhaps for success of such ideas is that of Human resources. Why should there be competition say for example, amongst IT professionals of one Nation with that of the other? Why can’t the Countries on whose share development of IT and its related products fall, pool all the best Human Resources across Nations? And here too individual professionals can be rotated based on the numbers, thus giving each a guaranteed employment such as in MNREGA, which I mentioned above at the start.

This model would insure equity in participation from all Nationals in making this World a better place to live in while in the process Wealth instead of Riches can be created.

If there would be even an iota of rational thinking in this process, I would request all those who can think and act better to reach out and make it happen.

 

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Insurance Agencies will be the best Advocates for Climate Change Abatement in near Future.


 

Kyoto Protocol participation map 2010.Green in...

Kyoto Protocol participation map 2010.Green indicates countries that have ratified the treaty; Dark green are Annex I and II countries that have ratified the treaty; Grey is not yet decided; Brown is no intention of ratifying. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The effect of Climate Risk on Business would perhaps be an important agenda for  discussions by Nations at the UNFCCC’s Rio+20 summit. As more and more damage to property, once predicted becomes reality the seriousness of addressing the issue would perhaps be more stronger in this CoP 17. But we all know of Nations which are still reluctant to be a part of the KP2 ( Kyoto Protocol ) or any other sensible treaty. Under this scenario, although it might sound a little unconventional, I think the champions for sustainable living would be the Insurance companies. For they have the most to lose when disaster strikes.

And for insurance companies in India, it would be worse. Let us understand this in perspective.

Location of Fukushima Tokyo=Metropolis

Location of Fukushima Tokyo=Metropolis (Wikipedia)

In Japan post Fukushima people are learning to become Sustainable as reported in this article from WRI. The “Fujisawa Sustainable Smart Town (Fujisawa SST)” is a smart choice, which I hope will be followed by others around the World. That a disaster of this magnitude was needed for Japan to think differently is sad. Natural calamity no one can predict with absolute accuracy, but one can always learn from the collateral damages and not repeat the same mistakes. Japan, the only country which  has experienced the horrors of Nuclear Bomb, to have chosen Nuclear Energy   which nearly brought back the potential of a similar scale of disaster;  reminds me of a Quote which was under the entry arch of my School, which said in  old English  –

He who knows, that he knows not; is a Child – Teach him

He who knows not, that he knows; is asleep – Awake him

He who knows not, that he knows not; is a fool – Shun him

He who knows that, he knows; is wise – Follow him

I will put Japan under  my quote above – He who knows not, that he knows; is asleep – Awake him. And I thank the Japanese people from all sane Humankind for having woken up from its slumber. (hopefully TEPCO too).

But today my story is not about Japan, neither about Germany which post Fukushima has closed down their Nuclear plants to be part of my quote above which says – He who knows that, he knows; is wise – Follow him.

This article is purely focused on India and its brethren who fall under the quote – He who knows, that he knows not; is a child -Teach him.

Before I carry this forward – I would make it very clear that I am proud to be an Indian. But not proud of its present political class. Under which general administration and ordinary living has suffered to such an extent that corruption has become norm. Corruption does not have to be financial all the time. Not adhering to simple traffic rules is also corruption. Having political arrogance where saner and cautious advise are not heeded to is also corruption. Every-time I see the video on Fukushima disaster, I watch with wonder the fantastic discipline the Japanese people had, even at the face of the disaster. That speaks volumes for the quality of administrative discipline and strength of character.

I live in Mumbai and within the second high risk zone of 75 KM. If one looks at this map  from Green Peace, which points to each Nuclear Plant on this planet, zooming in on India and clicking on the yellow dot will make ones mouth go dry.  Should disaster strike, we do not even have an exit route from Mumbai. Just one bridge connects the island of Mumbai close to the suburb of Chembur, called the Vashi bridge. No hovercraft, no steamers – no ferry service. God forbid if disaster strikes the isle of Mumbai, the mass exodus which would be more of a mob, will kill more than the disaster itself in the first 24 hours. And we have many more Nuclear plant sites. And unplanned growth all around.

I am not against Nuclear Power, I am against the possibility of facing the havoc of Nuclear disaster, should climate change creates situations where storms and tsunami become more and more prevalent. It is one thing to have death and destruction of a generation due to natural calamities, while it is completely different to suffer for generations from Nuclear fallout, which may happen due to damaged caused to a Nuclear facility in an earthquake / tsunami.

While I have pointed out the possible danger of a Nuclear accident, this article is about all the calamities and its resultant effect India shall face, due to effects of Climate change. While it is true, that India has come up with some super positive steps like NAPCC. We have much to accomplish, along with the whole World, while the time is running out. The Stern Review predicts that unless the World changes into low-carbon development from the high-carbon economic model we all currently follow, climate related disasters would increase and its mitigation could cost 20% of the World GDP, year on year post 2020. For densely populated India, which is also a growing economy, many new insurance instruments hereto not applicable are becoming norm. From simple insurance of remembering your important numbers to more complex health, property and corporate ones. Climate induced calamities would bring in untold economic loss.

This naturally brings into fore the insurance companies which need to compensate for losses which would occur. The year 2011 disasters, which occurred  world over,  is covered in this video and it gives one an idea of the scale of economic loss and the compensation which needed to be doled out. If such occurrence happen again and again as is the forecast, it would leave may Insurers penniless, which they would naturally not let happen. Therefore they would do what some have already done – CDP signatories are the banks, pension funds, asset managers, insurance companies and foundations. With USD 78 trillion, it has and will have lot of influence as time progresses to steer Nations into more sensible Sustainable life style. In time regional groups and sub-groups would be formed amongst local insurance players, all with the agenda of abating climate change and this would reach to the very grass-roots of society.

In my opinion, once again Ecology would be rescued by Economy, which ironically has been one of the principal cause for the human induced disasters we face today.

 

 

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Renewable Energy – Formula for Cheaper Hospital bills and Cleaner Air


Hospitals require enormous amount of energy to run. No hospital which take care of critical illness can have even for a moment not have power supply .  So  the light bulbs, fans and small exhaust and most importantly those plug points holding the mobile chargers. Yes! the Mobile charger, though individually does not amount too much power load, when multiplied a few 1000 times it matters! And trust me no ward waiting upon a patient  in the hospital wants his Mobile battery to be out of charge! These along with Computers care clubbed into the LDP, while the Air-conditioners, Di-humidifiers and filtration plants along with hot-water boilers is connected to the HDP. In engineering terms used in my country we say LDP & HDP ( light and heavy-duty power  ). And above all the breathing apparatus, operation theater machinery are  critical activities that can’t be stopped even for a Milli second. Therefore hospitals are designed with huge diesel generators for back up power.

Diesel generators ( even the “greenest” one ) belch fumes and make noise. What could be more ironical than Health Care which is supposedly to remove pollution ( as all disease can be termed ) form the Human body is perhaps inadvertently becoming party to Climate Change. This I’m sure no self-respecting and thinking Health care professional anywhere  around the World would want.

Renewable Energy can be the Messiah  for this, yet it is too costly today for all well-meaning Health Care institute to afford. And Government subsidy is not the answer. Because subsidy is not sustainable unless it has a practical back-up plan. So what can be done ? The answer in my humble opinion is simple. Take it to the people.

Everyday there are thousands of patients who visit hospitals and are cured of their malaise; thankful for a new lease of renewed life many donate to charity, some donate to the hospital. If this simple idea is taken forward and ( with a clear and transparent with proper accountability – especially for India ) each patient were to be asked to donate say between 1% to 10% of the total Hospital fee as Renewable Energy Cess, within a span of say 5 years almost all Health Care Units would perhaps become near self-sufficient in their daily requirement of Energy.

And why would the public pay up ? Simple again, convert each persons donation  into some kind of equity, so every time s/he visits and pays the RE cess, s/he becomes a partner to the energy plant. Now as the energy plant would reduce the overall energy bill the hospital pays over time, an expense it passes on to its consumer ( read patient ) the patient should benefit through a rebate on his/her bills! It’s a win-win situation for all. And it could be  modeled on other service industries too !

The State/Country benefits; the consumer & hospital benefits and most important  the Earth Breaths a little better !

True the problem of space for installing Renewable Energy Plant near the Hospitals may not be possible to solve at most time, this is where the Government subsidy should focus. To wheel in the power created by the RE power plants afar, through its established Grid and not charge the hospitals for it.

It would be also freeing up the traditional Grid power supply and thus create a ‘surplus’ for the Government to supply power to other areas and help Emerging Nations to develop further and for Developed Nations the idea could help in reducing their GHG emissions.

 

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