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Tag Archives: Kolkata

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Liveability Index 2012

Highlights

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


 

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Bangkok floods – Next, New Delhi ?


Almost all of us have read it. Most have seen footage in TV prime time News while having our drink/dinner. The devastating floods of Bangkok which is more or less unprecedented. http://www.cbc.ca/news/world/story/2011/11/07/thailand-bangkok-flooding.html  But watching Bangkok day after day for the past one month I started to think what if we have one such flood in New Delhi or Mumbai or for that matter  Kolkata ( Calcutta ) in Bengal where the great Ganges flows? I mean if you look at the images it looks similar to many South Asian cities across countries.

Well we have seen floods, in India especially it happens to the hapless villagers in the states of Bengal, Orissa, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Assam more or less every year. Army helicopters to the rescue etc..etc. But with rapid urbanization, especially unplanned, lopsided and utterly dysfunctional Center/State/Local governmental development rules, add to that the people who are mostly uninformed and do not consider Environment, Health & Safety as an important factor in their lives. We too are fast going towards disaster!

If we just take the 2,525 km of the river Ganga into consideration some of the major towns and cities we would encounter are  Patna , Kannauj, Kashi, Allahabad, Murshidbad, Munger, Baharampur and Kolkata. Almost all are growing cities of modern India and are important cultural centers from the past. I can bet my last dollar that the term “Development Rules” would be an alien term to most of the inhabitants in most of these cities/towns. Now, Mumbai & New Delhi is different. Almost all have heard of it but never ever follow it. Sainik Farms, Adarsh..etc etc. The rich & famous of Mumbai & New Delhi are the proud custodians of the most corrupt practices as far as DC rules go. To them I would like to quote form the News papers about Bangkok –

“Floodwaters encircled two industrial estates in the east of Bangkok on Monday and closed in on the center of the capital”.

“It is now only about 7 km (4.5 miles) from the Silom business and entertainment district at the heart of Bangkok.”

“The estate has 254 factories with almost 50,000 workers. Consumer goods giant Unilever Pcl, Johnson & Johnson, Isuzu Motors and Honda Motor Co all have plants there. Honda, which was only just recovering from Japan’s earthquake in March, has suffered more than most.”

“Bang Chan, another estate north of Suvarnabhumi airport, is also threatened. With 93 factories and about 13,000 workers, it is home to food firms such as Nestle SA and President Bakery Pcl, which makes buns for McDonald’s”

Should one notice the above quotes – Industrial Estates, Commercial Districts, Cars, McDonald’s.. just like any big city of India.

Just like any big city of India which has not listened to saner voices warning of development near or on flood planes close to the river/sea.Where the Architects / City planners have either not cared or were forced to bow down to the Political masters. Politicians have only one agenda – power for self. Greed & Corruption are mandatory requirements for most. Almost all are literate but hardly any educated enough to have the wisdom to understand the long-term ramification of lopsided planing.

The banks of Yamuna (Jamuna) both on the banks of Delhi & Noida (UP) have been over exploited. The greatest shocker was to find the games village being built on the flood-plane ( dry river bed ) during the last Asian Games. Mumbai too keeps on encroaching the salt pans & mangroves. Maharashtra now has started chewing up the western ghats in the grab of Lavasa. The ghats are principal to Monsoon. Without them we will not be able to experience rain-fall as we know now. But who cares!

Now Bangkok does. When the flood is over, the why and how will be looked into; the report will not surprise any environmentalist because we already know the reasons. Its time the citizens of cities around the world start “google-ing” Sustainable Cities. Our salvation lies there.

 

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