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Tag Archives: Maharashtra

Who Eats Food Anyway?


Freak Weather Takes Country By Surprise – J&K to Karnataka, rare storm drenches India – Mar 02 2015 : The Times of India (Mumbai)

India is in a churning. In our present Prime Minister we had seen glimpses of a Statesman. But it must be known that even statesmen are human. And they must pause and listen to wiser counsel.

It is not intent alone which would remove the morass of inefficiency, arrogance and corruption that has been the bed-rock of Indian politics in the last 60 years.

But providing equal opportunity to free thinking individuals who are equally patriotic about the cause and country.

Global Warming & Climate Change has been turning hereto truths cast in stone on their heads. It is no more possible to do Business As Usual when the baseline of commerce has changed !

We can no more ignore the call for Sustainable and equitable growth. But more so, we must identify what needs to be grown in the first place. We need to decide now, before the COP21 in Paris, as to where we stand in terms of Sustainability and Biodiversity.

For with all the riches Midas had, it could not quench his thirst !

Through the below series of News articles an attempt is being made that we pause and think – is it a precursor to Apocalypse ?

An unusually potent storm system lashed India over the weekend, bringing copious rain across a large swathe of the country , from J&K to Karnataka, in what Met officials described as a rare occurrence for this time of the year. The system is expected to blow over by Tuesday morning, but not before it drenches most of north and central India, as well as parts of the south, and dumps a few feet of fresh snow in the Himalayas. “There was intermittent, heavy rainfall across large parts of the country on Sunday . Such widespread rain at this time of the year is not ve ry common. The wet weather in north and central India will continue for at least another day ,“ said B P Yadav, director, India Meteorological Department. Between 8.30am and 5.30pm, around 40mm of rain was recorded in Kanpur (UP), Katra (J&K) and Bhavnagar (Gujarat) while Delhi (Ridge), Pachmarhi (MP) and Ratnagiri saw close to 30mm. Ahmedabad, Lucknow, Mumbai, Bangalore and Hyderabad also had wet weather. Experts said the rains were a result of a rare confluence of factors. “It started with a western disturbance (WD) coming over north India, which is not unusual for this time of the year,“ Yadav said. It was a strong WD that induced a cyclonic circula tion over Saurashtra and Kutchh. “Such circulations usually form over Rajasthan.But this one formed at a more southern location, which caused the WD to go deeper into central India and the southern peninsula,“ Yadav said. Simultaneously , winds rushed in from central Arabian Sea, and to a lesser extent from Bay Bengal, intensifying the rain over the region. The WD is expected to move eastwards, taking the wet weather to eastern India on Tuesday and Wednesday . Day temperatures are likely to drop in north and central India, bringing a slight chill ahead of the Holi festival. There were various reports of damage to standing crops due to the intensity of rain.

The city of Mumbai witnessed unseasonal rain for the second consecutive day on Sunday . Weathermen said it was uncommon for February and isolated showers are expected for another 24 hours. Mumbai has not witnessed rainfall in February since 2009; in 2010 there were some traces. The all-time record for February has been 18mm of rainfall on February 6, 1961.

Moong production in Maharashtra is set to drop by a steep 61% and soyabean yield by 59% compared to last year as a result of the sweeping drought that set in nine months ago. While the havoc caused by the recent spell of unseasonal rains is yet to sink in, the drought which preceded it has already hit the production of the state’s main kharif crops. The drought was triggered by scanty rains between June and October 2014, whi ch devastated the kharif crop (June-Sept season). Considered one of the most widespread agricultural droughts in recent years, it has led to massive crop losses. Nearly two-thirds of Maharashtra’s villages reported half the st andard crop yield during the kharif season. Officials said wheat, jowar and chickpea crops were hit by the heavy rain, as were fruit plantations, including mango orchards, vineyards and pomegranate fields. In some cases, harvested crops and seeds were also destroyed. In Nashik, vineyards and areas where the late kharif onion crop was to be harvested have been damaged, while rabi crops such as wheat, jowar and gram across the state are bearing the brunt of the untimely rains. Though farmers in Aurangabad, Beed, Osmanabad and Parbhani completed their harvesting recently , their counterparts in Jalna are set to sustain heavy losses. Sugarcane cutting in western Maharashtra has been stopped since Saturday and harvesting of turmeric has been badly affected in parts of Satara and Sangli districts. The mango and cashewnut trees that were in the flowering stage may lose their fruits to pest infection. Grapes in nearly 60% of the vineyards spread over 60 hectares in Nashik were ready to be harvested while the late kharif onion crop on 46,987 hectares are in the harvesting stage. Both crops suffered extensive damage due to the prevailing weather conditions.The damage to table grapes is expected to bring down the price of export quality produce from Rs 70-80kg last year to Rs 50kg this year.

The damage was extensive, spanning the districts of Pune, Nasik, Amravati, Bhandara, Ratnagiri and Raigad.

Just a year ago, farmers in the state of Maharashtra bore the brunt of strong hailstorms. Over the past few months, 90 lakh farmers were hit by one of the most wide spread droughts witnessed in the state, one which devastated the kharif crop.

It has been raining woes for farmers since Saturday night as a rare confluence of weather systems drenched large parts of the country , flattening standing crops at many places and damaging vegetable fields. The matter was raised in Lok Sabha on Monday , with members seeking special packages for farmers as reports of crop damage came in from Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, MP , Maharasthra, UP and Uttarakhand, among others. As unseasonal heavy rainfall accompanied by strong winds lashed most parts of Punjab and Haryana on Sunday , farmers suffered damage to wheat crops at a few pockets of Sirsa, Ambala and Karnal (in Haryana), as well as Bathinda, Muktsar and Amritsar in Punjab. Sugarcane and vegetables too suffered, said agriculture department officials in Amritsar. The Met department in Chandigarh said Anandpur Sahib in Punjab and Jhajjar in Haryana were the wettest places in the two states, receiving 90mm and 150mm of rain, respectively, till Monday afternoon.

The showers took a heavy toll on crops across Uttar Pradesh. Wheat was hit in east UP while potatoes and tomatoes got damaged in central-west districts. Mango growers in Malihabad, too, complained that the downpour had damaged 10%-15% of the crop. Be sides, they feared an outbreak of a fungus infection due to the untimely rains and the sudden drop in temperature. Monsoon-like-showers made Sunday the wettest March day in Lucknow, with 30mm rain. Kanpur recorded the state’s highest 42mm rain, followed by Hamirpur (36mm) and Banda (35.6mm). Reports from east UP districts like Varanasi and Gorakhpur said the standing wheat crop suffered over 50% loss while other crops including arhar, mustard, pea and gram were also hit.

The downpour in central India could hit the output of Madhya Pradesh’s famous sharbati variety of wheat. The wetness may lead to the crop losing its S factor -shape, size and shine -said experts. The unseasonal rains in Chhattisgarh not only threatened the young chick peas crop in about 4 lakh hectares but also the huge quantities of paddy stocked in the open, state government sources said.

A sudden heavy downpour lashed the metropolis on Tuesday evening, severely disrupting road and suburban train services and inconveniencing lakhs of commuters and office goers.

The downpour caused water logging at various areas in the city. It also led to Central Railway services being disrupted on the Main and Harbour lines. While the Harbour line service was partially shut down between CST and Andheri, and CST to Wadala.The CST to Wadala line has been affected due to a part of the Cotton Green station roof falling on an overhead wire disrupting power supply. On the Main line, service between Currey Road and Byculla station has been hit with slow train services between Parel and Byculla being shut since 7.10 and all slow trains being diverted on to the fast track.(Read)

The above are just a snap-shot of news articles which were making headlines between 2013 till date. The Indian Government which Won a land-slide victory last May; may by this May be fighting to keep food prices from spiralling, much to the glee of the Opposition which being an Indian Political organisation, would do all its best to increase the hardship of the common people, so that they get elected to (mis)rule the next 5 years!

CNN-Unseasonal Rains It is a shame that a primarily agrarian society such as India has had the misfortune to have been repeatedly electing a majority of unscrupulous short-sighted politicians who have sadly over-run the august Parliament of a few remaining statesman and gentlemen. The voices of these patriotic Indians are getting drowned by the din of the self- aggrandized lot.

It is important to assert that we are Indians. And as for the slogan “Make in India” well, when the day of reckoning comes in the guise of unmitigated Natural calamities which are becoming more pronounced day by day; a made in India bread in the hands of the needy would be far more important than any toy of the decadent rich! 

 

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The Midas Touch – Vanishing the air & water; a supreme feat by mankind.


Montreux, Switzerland, April 15, 2013 – A changing climate with more frequent extreme weather events requires today’s businesses to plan for an unpredictable and inconsistent water supply via more sophisticated water management practices, according to a new report released today by the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD).

Water bubble

Water bubble (Photo credit: @Doug88888)

The report, Sharing Water: Engaging Business, emphasizes the crucial role of business in ensuring responsible management of water resources and encourages greater collaboration across sectors. The report finds that leading companies have begun shifting their perspective beyond merely managing operational water use to becoming more conscious of how corporate actions impact local and regional water resources and, conversely, how water resources and watersheds impact business.

“Increasing global demand and the impacts of climate change are placing unprecedented strain on freshwater resources,” said WBCSD President Peter Bakker. “In order to ensure a viable business future, companies are calling for collective management and collaboration at the watershed level to ensure continued access to water supplies among competing demands.”

The report cites alarming findings from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) that, under business as usual, water demand will increase by 55 percent globally by 2050, leaving little scope to meet increasing water demands while respecting the needs of ecosystems. With no improvement in the management and use of freshwater resources, the world could face a 40 percent supply gap by 2030.

With a figure of at least 14,027 in 2011, according to the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), the total number of farm suicides since 1995 has touched 2,70, 940. The State of Maharashtra shows a rise in numbers yet again, logging 3,337 against 3,141 farmers’ suicides the previous year (and 2,872 in 2009)… more.

Now such reports are rarely read by those who stoop low to deliver a macabre joke at the expense of dying farmers. And it is not a singular person who is responsible. The people we choose are the reflection of our own failing. In India, it is the ruling and thriving mindset of almost all.

The reason for this lies in three simple words – Business As Usual.

How does it affect the CEO of a Company ( Nation )  who is also a Citizen of a Country, if the drought and famine which the WBCSD, UNFCCC and the rest keep talking about.  If at the ground level, his/her daughter can still go out to a Water-Kingdom and have a swim, and that too under huge arc-lights in a warm summer night, while the  CEO attends a conference on Resource depletion due to Climate Change in air conditioned comfort ?

How does it affect the CEO that there are villages which are not getting enough water to wash their clothes daily and even have to ration water for drinking;  if his car is getting a wash early in the morning, to keep that shine ?

When one can choose between the dual buttons to flush the toilet, can the embarrassment of not able to maintain personal hygiene for days cross ones mind ?

 Why is not there a single event held on Climate Change right at GROUND ZERO. If Solidarity must be shown then it must be lead from the front. And lets not talk about the NGO’s here.

King  Ashoka the Great lead  the Kalinga war from the front. He witnessed the result of his decision with his own eyes. A destruction so great, a havoc so large that the changes he brought about in his style of rule still flutters with pride  as the emblem of modern India’s National flag.

A man who was born in 232 BCE and a sage who still lives on.

Can the modern CEO, compare ? For is it not his/her wish to see their Empire rule ? What changes can they make if the empathy that is the need of the hour is missing ?

Flickering images of pain and hunger on the silver screen are just that. They fade from the memory of most as quick-silver. What remains in the lopsided, badly mauled and in need of a serious overhaul – the Business As Usual . The By the profit – For the profit – Of the profit policy we have been so diligently following.

It is time for us to sit back like the child we once were and be brave enough to cry -“the King is naked” instead of passing platitudes to peaking of stock market indexes of a Country/ Countries which are going (natural) resource and morally bankrupt. While following catch up with the demons of the past.

While it can be argued that the failings can not be attributed to the élite alone; the premise of such argument is flawed. For there were always two kinds of men.

Those who lead & those who follow. The learned & the literate.

When the leader considers it as BAU to loot the exchequer of tax-payers money; the tax-payer considers non-payment of tax as a sublime and smart way to do business.

Thus infrastructure suffers and sustainable practice become costly.

When a leader stops the traffic while his cavalcade passes by, whilst causing delay even death to citizens, the motorist disregards the traffic signal.

Thus traffic snarl occur, increasing the noxious fumes.

When a leader builds a memorial for those who are long dead by capturing land meant for public good, the follower leaves the poor only with memories of loved ones buried under ill-legal construction.

Thus toxic waste leach the very land we live.

While watching the annual migration at the Serengeti, the regeneration of the ecosystem as it has been doing from time immemorial makes one feel almost like moving in a time capsule back in time. For each generation of the wildebeest have behaved in the same manner as its ancestors before them, and each stake-holder in the game has remained true to the whole picture. Ever-changing yet constant and sustainable. Completing and complementing the Earth natural Ecosystem.

It is all Business -As – Usual. But it is beautiful.

Why can not human, who pride themselves to be in the apex of the animal kingdom not create a system which can be sustainable ?

The answer is simple. We don’t go out there any more.

When you don’t look at the reflection of the Sun over the flowing water of a river every-time you go out to take a bath;

When you don’t look at the tranquil image of the Moon with every sip of water you drink to quench your thirst on a hot day;

When the whispering trees in the breeze does not cool the body of your baby when it goes to sleep; …….

When you stop living and loving Nature –

You end up brushing your teeth with the tap water flowing down the drain. Cook your fresh food till every drop of water it contained ( and thus looked fresh ) has evaporated, adding a little more GHG into the air. Both water-vapour and petroleum vapour.

Wherever we go, we lay waste the Land. The water and even the Air.

We indeed do have the Midas Touch.

 

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Sustaining Mumbai – making possible, the impossible.


English: Sustainability chart

English: Sustainability chart (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Underpass Hawking zone:

FS

Example : Fashion Street Underpass Hawking Zone at Church gate Mumbai

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

Example: De-congesting Andheri Suburban Station and Terrace Farming

Example:De-congesting Andheri Suburban Station and Terrace Farming

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

Bus Depot

Example: Vertical Farming over Dindoshi Bus Depot

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

Parking

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

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

Bandra

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

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

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

 

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Green Business Ideas: the missing LEED/GRIHA credits can help boost economy worldwide.


 

The World over, corporates and politicians have used the bogey of financial crisis and slow economic growth to push wrong agendas, where the Planet and the People have always suffered to Profit a few. Be it building Dams & Bridges, decimating forest and sea-bed, GM food or Nuclear Power, limited understanding and short-term success have historically given way to disaster. It is time to pause and not give in to pressures and the bogey of economic collapse.  And it is specially true for India. Because as an emerging Nation we can use our collective intellect and find new avenues of economic prosperity. Why can we not create our own indices of growth and innovate ?

Quoting a few paras form the DNA News paper

Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan said the state government will urge prime minister Manmohan Singh to scrap a notification which has restricted high-rises and “stopped real estate activity” in the city. Speaking at a function to inaugurate the LBS Road flyover constructed by the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) on Friday, Chavan said the notification issued by the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) said high-rises in the country can only be built along roads which were wider than 30m. “In Mumbai, there are only two such roads,” Chavan said. He said this had “stopped real estate activity in Mumbai” Chavan said while everyone was worried about the repercussions of the global financial crisis on the country, with an impact of the slowdown being evident in many sectors, it was necessary for Mumbai to grow economically as it was the economic capital of the country. “If the country has to weather this (crisis), then Mumbai has to be the engine of growth… So, Mumbai’s infrastructure must be world class,” he added.

While, no one can deny the need for economic boost and given the  high-carbon “chakravyuh” (see definition) we have bound our modern civilization to, without destroying the ecosystem in some form or other, Humans can’t progress. Even towards the ideal low-carbon life-style we all strive for. However, it would be folly to find quick fix or half baked solutions,which would not only add to Climate Change but the effort would in itself be counter-productive, thus leading to a spiralling situations of throwing more effort and precious resources to correct the bad.

Reading further into other related News in the DNA paper one finds – The opening of Kurla flyover will clog the entire Kurla station area as the bridge narrows down to two-lane road on its either side. Residents said the flyover that was opened is originally a part of the Santacruz-Chembur Link Road (SCLR) and should have been elevated.

It does not need a rocket scientist to understand that taking wrong decisions would only lead towards disasters and difficulty for the common person.It is easy for an orator to sway the people in thinking that the recommendations and laws are for the common good, while the truth is completely different. Had it not been so,  towns/ villages  just 100 KM from our great cities would not be still lacking basic amenities.

The MoEF’s recommendation to disallow any high rise on roads less than 30m was not taken by the officials on whim & fancy. Environmental matters are complex. The cause and effects of an environmental disaster are always long term. Flash point do not occur in the blink of an eye, but builds over time which can’t be understood by the common person. And never by those whose sole goal is self preservation.

Let us focus on the article at hand. For Mumbai to grow, we need to build high rises and give into the demands of the builders. While it is absolutely true that the building industry is the single largest consumer of all the industrial sectors and its growth would indeed help boost the economy, I would disagree to the argument that by discarding the MoEF laws we would be doing a service to the Nation and the Planet .

Using many of my previous articles as continuity and support to this article, such as –

Green Townships.;Sustainable Cities – Why town planning is important.

Green Business Ideas: Carbon Credits opportunities in Green Townships.

Urban Development Rules: How C40 -City rules can make a difference for India.

Green Business Ideas : P.M.Manmohan Singh’s idea of Terminal Market Complex is a superb Green Idea which needs to be implemented

I have covered as simply as possible the ways we can develop our country, especially the Building and construction sector  including briefly touching on the subject of Water & Food, without which there would be no cities. And continuing from there I would like to state that we need  pragmatic thoughts to truly make our India a strong and Green Nation. And therefore sharing a few thoughts which I hope, the experts and the influential would find some spark with which they can create a truly brilliant idea to move this Nation forward.

1. It has been stated by some experts that reserved land by MADHA and the Port  Trust of Mumbai should be freed. I disagree, instead with strong laws we must completely make over the dilapidated areas of the old city. With strong laws, which does not allow for any protest, equitable distribution of space must be allocated to those who are presently residing while making room for more.

For example a proper town plan be made, and as per the design allocate  the plots to existing and new citizens.  Irrespective of the size of the earlier tenements all would get  plots or flats as per the master plan. Any legally valid extra space which would have been the property of a citizen in the old town, must then get converted into bonds  and handed to the rightful owner. Which they can in-cash in buying property in other part of the city by the same builder or simply have that converted into cash.

This will enable builders and planners to have the required town planning laws in place, have more 30 meter wide roads to build high-rises alongside open spaces which is for safety & extremely vital to allow percolation of rain-water which would increase the water table. Because with development density the most important factor would be the requirement of water, which is already scarce. I have tried to capture the grim prospect of water in Green Business Ideas – Sell water at the price of petrol – and reap the ‘fringe’ benefits.  but I know that I’m not even close to the  serious situation this one subject demands.

2. The present FSI / TDR laws must be revamped as many seek but, with impetus given to grant higher FSI only in the satellite city of Navi Mumbai and the likes of tier II cities such as  Nashik, Sholapur and Ahemadnagar etc, with great planning and speedy approval of rapid transit systems. While the  transit systems would take time to  develop to the world-class standards, given the vote bank politics, cumbersome and archaic laws and simple lethargy and ignorance of ground realities within various government departments; we can definitely take the IT industry, in which we are the world leaders to the next level.

In the article VoIP – “Skype” the new medium to reduce Global Warming ? the concept which I had suggested is already a hit in the UNFCCC and even the Climate Group responded by providing me an article which shows the use of VoIP  to have a 5 Nation meet, pre Rio+20 summit. Saving huge amount of GHG emission and hard currency.

If we are truly  in the 21st century then why do we everyday travel to and fro from place of work to home and vice versa, especially those who have a desk job? Imagine developing gated townships which would by default have a business / convention centre and the residents of the township need to travel just that distance ( by bi-cycle preferably or walking ) and link up to their HQ offices?

Various distinct benefits can be derived – A] Smaller HQ office, this saves a lot of money for the company. B] Cheaper office spaces in the satellite townships. C] Better retention of talent who otherwise would find the commute difficult and accommodation within the Megalopolis unaffordable. D] Less traffic and pollution.

To give this idea a boost, the government both the state and centre should come up with laws and incentives which encourage these developments. In fact the LEED & GRIHA  green building rating system should incorporate these suggestions  as  credit points, which on achieving or attempting to achieve by the developer/builder,would open various incentives by the State & Centre. And they need not be directly monetary in nature.

3. The incentives which are actually required are already accepted recommendation at the centre. On January 7th 2010 at New Delhi during a stake holder meet initiated by GRIHA & MNRE the suggestion to have a single window clearance for all Green Building 3-star to 5 star  or Silver to Platinum LEED rated building should be 3 months maximum was accepted, this kind of acts can reduce the cost to builders a great extent. However, we do not see much traction at this end. Even the announcement of the then MoEF minister of preferential clearances for Green projects have not found much favour. And there are multiple reasons for that. The economic downturn, unfavourable land use policies and the most important, rampant corruption, which does not let good thing come to pass. Here again, if the public and private sector do rise up to innovation a lot of transparency can happen.

Single window clearance can’t be denied if the developer has been able to fix his designs and plans in accordance to all laws and developed the complete project in 3D and express it in the virtual reality. In the article Green Business Ideas : Virtual World Design can save the real world losses.an attempt has been made to show that how already existing practice can be taken to the next level of innovation and perhaps with active participation of ideas from experts the  3P agenda can truly be achieved :- Planet – People – Profit.

4. Regulation and control where it is most required must be put and decontrol of  building materials like cement/steel with a minimum and maximum price band must be put in place. No free market run, when it comes to development of the cities of India. As for the revamping of the megalopolis, as I have mentioned in my earlier article land prices too must have a cap. An upper limit and a lower limit for plots in different locations must be fixed and that can’t be crossed by law. More on this idea is mentioned in Affordable Housing: The Simples rules required.This would make a level playing field for cost-effective construction and affordable housing. In the flip side the good developers would themselves create sustainable buildings thus a Sustainable city would take shape.

Let all of us understand, and the layman more so, that a building life-span is a minimum 50 years. A bad infrastructure & town-planning today would make the suffering of the citizens  last for 50 more years, are we ready for that ?

 

 

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Sustainable Living : How to read the seemingly unrelated dots which coalesce together to create disasters


In the long forgotten text-books, it was written that the Earth is a hospitable planet and various types of flora and fauna are found such as – trees, shrubs, insects, fish, birds, tigers, elephants, humans, chimpanzee  etc. And the animal known as human are the most intelligent among all (?). However, the actions of Human today puts some serious doubts on this self-professed claim.It is only through sustained campaign to create awareness among the primary stake holder – the human, that reversing the dangerous Climate Change phenomenon is possible.

With the tags like – Government, Politicians, Corporate and Citizen, the populace of all Nations confuse themselves and rarely do we use the tag –Human on ourselves, which otherwise would help connect us directly to the Ecosystem and help in addressing the problem of Global Warming & Climate Change as a collective.

Continuing the thoughts in  my articles on sustainable development especially the last ; Sustainable Development Goals: The dangers of Urban Sprawl and its long term effects on the National Growth I would once again reiterate my appeal that common person must associate in understanding the development rules and identify their actions as part of the problem. The markers of the impending problems are seen in bits and pieces, but by joining these dots one can trace the history of the reason of the problems and learning from them similar problems can be averted.

So let us see once again how seemingly unrelated events are part of the same issue, the subject here again being  Sustainable Urban Development. The image by alongside, is of the article published in today’s DNA Newspaper. The tag says – “two motorcycle-borne youths carrying a plastic drum to store scarce drinking water negotiate a huge rain-inflicted crater… ” in the one of the suburban roads of Mumbai City.

The other news is an excellent report on the reality of the just received UNSCO status of the “Western Ghats”;

The DNA article by Akshay Deshmane reads “Here,projects pip ecology”Even after the Western Ghats made it to the World Heritage List, the state is hesitant to use the status to safeguard the fragile ecology. It has raised objections to recommendations of Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel as it would mean stalling major projects. The 160,000sqkm Western Ghats, which are older than the Himalayas, has been included in the prestigious World Heritage List. On July 2, the world heritage committee of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) recognised 39 sites of the Western Ghats as being among the rare natural heritage spots in the world. Of the 39 sites, six are in Maharashtra.

UNESCO noted that the Western Ghats are among the world’s eight hotspots of biological diversity. Its forests include some of the best representatives of non-equatorial tropical evergreen forests anywhere and are home to at least 325 globally threatened flora, fauna, bird, amphibian, reptile and fish species.
But the Maharashtra government is far from happy because now it has to follow the recommendations of the Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel (WGEEP). It has raised objection to three-tier eco-sensitive zones (a crucial aspect of the report), the ban on new licences for mining and quarrying, the ban on diversion of forest land and decommissioning of thermal power plants. In other words, the most important recommendations for conservation have been opposed.
Maharashtra, like other states, has tried to delink the Unesco tag from the recommendations made by the WGEEP to save the fragile ecology of the mountain range. The state took this stand a week before the Union environment and forests ministry planned to announce its views on the controversial WGEEP report……

It is really amazing to see that how the consumerist high carbon economy model has completely distorted our thinking. And especially of those who actually wield the power of change. It is really a sobering thought, to know that the future of mankind are in the hands of those who either do not know or care enough about the direct link between prosperity and sustainable economy.

Today, the woe-full image of the common person negotiating a pot-holed road in search of water is a telling warning of the things to come, should we not wake up to reality and look for solutions beyond our narrow immediate needs. The image so vividly showcases multiple problems of  Urban planning gone wrong. When, people do not try to look beyond their narrow needs and allow paving over the catchment areas and most importantly agricultural land which provide us with food and also store ground water; ‘re-claim’ land by filling over lakes and water body, to build ugly and chicken-coop type buildings, which the builders pass off as “dream homes” wherein actuality they become nightmares for the people who spend their life’s saving in buying into them and get trapped in a locality which has bad-roads; as landfill, catchment areas by default will spew groundwater and the soil by default of being soft sink every monsoon thus creating craters and water logging; but there would be no potable water because the  the “Western Ghats” would be decimated alongwith the fragile ecosystem of the rain & “rain-shadow” areas . Thus ending the cycle of natural replenishment of fresh-water bodies, the details explained via this link.

But it would not end there because the unique biodiversity of the western ghats have some of the best herbal medicinal plants which have been recognized by  World Health Organization, which plays an important role in the health care of about 80 percent of World population in developing countries and who depend largely on traditional medicines. This too would be lost. While the ‘developed’ Nations populace shell off million of dollars on herbal heath-care, we are all geared up for ‘development’ by decimating our Natural capital ! It is time we hold up the mirror of truth to one and all and explain that ‘development’ needs ingenuity. Development techniques which has brought the Earth to such a sorry state can not remain the model for growth and prosperity. Its time to pause and understand the Inclusive Wealth Report 2012, Millennium Development Goals and the Sustainable Development Goals.

And to this effect Media, both print and electronic can play a major role. The pen of a seasoned journalist can create the magical revolution which can only be paralleled by an orator. And the Earth needs both !

 

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Sustainable Development Goals: The dangers of Urban Sprawl and its long term affects on the National Growth


The Monsoon in India, is delayed and it is predicted that we shall have scanty rain-fall this year. Every sign of Climate change, which have been predicted are happening. In the USA, the unprecedented power outages and heat wave are prime time News.  Perhaps if in the last 20+ years the World had listened and shifted to a better Economic model, than the “grow quickly rich – and throw everything else into the ditch!” Corny capitalism; things would perhaps be improving by now.

But how does the common person know they are the part of the problem? And how can they help?  Through this article I shall try to weave seemingly different News articles which have been published in various Indian News papers,in the immediate past  and try and show how we still are going horribly wrong at every turn and the efforts of a few, be it in the Governance of the Nation or NGO’s; are not being able to make the desired impact.

English: topographic map of India

English: topographic map of India (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We all know that at long last the “Western Ghats”; have been accorded with UNESCO recognition. It would bring cheer to many environmentalist, who are deeply concerned with the destruction of this fragile eco-system. However, how much it would be able to help in the ground is something we have to wait and see.

The weekend News papers in India‘s, usually carry features on property. Having been caught up to the developments around UNFCCC Rio+20 agenda, I had not been paying too much attention to them. But over the last weekend the barrage of “up coming” once in a life-time bargain ‘second homes” caught my eye. All these projects are beyond the limits of the megalopolis of Mumbai by a minimum of 150 Km. Most are either on or close to hill stations atop the Western Ghats range, or industrial zones, which are situated in the valley of the ghats. The examples I would like to give here are two – one a hill station, Lonavala and the other an Industrial estate area – Roha. Both are close to Mumbai.  Roha is located in Raigad district in the state of Maharashtra(INDIA). Many big companies have their manufacturing plants there like – Pepsi, Clariant, Sudarshan Chemicals, Excel, Unichem Laboratories etc. It is only 120 km south-east of Mumbai, and with a population of over 40,000 it is only natural that in time, the big builder/ developers would like to set up residential townships, the likes which are found in and around Pune and Mumbai.

The town is surrounded by natural beauty, as it is part of the western-ghats. When I had gone during my “project manager” days in the early 2000, I had worked on a project there. It is a beautiful place, small industrial town, nestled in the valley of the Ghats, which is more or less self-sufficient, but at one time industrial air-bone pollution was at the extreme. Now, we are going to have another danger, far bigger looming around this area. And that, sadly is “development”.  For, if you type into your computers – “Development rules in the district of Raigarh, Roha taluk”; nothing is found.  A vague Environment & Forest Notification is all you find.

No maps clearly demarcating which are industrial zones, forest areas, residential and commercial zones can be found easily. If you notice, you would rarely find a guide-map of the locality you reside; in New Delhi you have them at the entrance of each residential colony. In Mumbai and rest of India its a rare sight. Even if one types “development rules of Mumbai”; a 1999 pdf is available from MMRDA preceded by many latest news talking about amendments.  Compare this by typing -development rules of New York USA.

A country which prides itself on its IT strength, does not have any information, which the common man can find at a click of a button. To keep abreast or simply familiarize oneself of the laws, so that should one find wrong-doing like finding a park area being constructed /encroached upon or an earmarked residential area  or a natural drain, being paved over for creating a shopping complex ; spot it and make aware the authorities to take action. Of-course we have the Right to Information Act, but I’m sure there is no information available or worthy enough to look into of various places which are not large Cities or Towns of India. And even the large towns and cities do not have at times complete information or information which is easily available. The apathy and incompetence, almost seems like a deliberate act to help in corruption. And the loss is always going to be to the Nation and its people.

Last week, in Mumbai a 24 year old girl died due to tree falling over her during a sudden squall. Today the DNA newspaper carries a statistic under the heading –Tree falls claim 21 since 2005. The other news was –Rain fill lakes with 3 days of water supply for Mumbai. Disjointed as they may seem, these two are interlinked not only to each other, but also the the paragraphs above.

Just as in the beautiful lush-green surroundings of  the hill station of Lonawala, unplanned townships are coming up in many locations. Farmlands are getting changed into residential and commercial areas. While there is planning within the perimeter of the projects, infrastructure is never given precedence. Neither are there any strict laws laid down to deter littering. If one looks at the city of Mumbai, in the early 1980’s the now congested suburbs were farmlands and mangroves. Catchment areas essential for groundwater recharge and prevention of flooding, which slowly started to get converted into township, with scant regard to town-planning in the proper sense. Today we have encroachments, super-bad roads and clogged drains; most of the buildings require high maintenance from water proofing and salt water corrosion.

The common person does not think twice before littering the street or not buying from illegal vendors who occupy most of Mumbai foot-paths and foot-over-bridges. In fact it is a welcome sign, to have the first illegal grocery, tea/cigarette kiosk next to the new building  which comes up in far-off locality. Any architect, who has worked in far-off sites, would empathise with me at the relief one gets when a small tea & cigarette shop opens up opposite the construction site across the road; where one can relax the tired limbs and have a “cutting-chai”. ( chai = tea). This happens because when a developer goes to the Urban fringe and builds a township, the State does not cater to the welcoming opportunity the private developer creates for up-liftment of local business and does not match it in pace with infrastructure and innovative schemes which can create proper commercial zones especially de-marked for the urban poor who find an opportunity to do an honest business. These local semi-urban populace do not have the money to buy into the commercial areas, if built by the developer. Their shops usually come up as shanties while the township is under construction to cater to the labourers and even the engineers. But this relief turns into grief for the citizens in time as no infrastructure, such as roads, drainage systems, waste-disposal or safety measures are built around them.

Similarly the shady-tree which once helped the labourers and engineers to have  a momentary relief while sipping into the tea, soon gets surrounded by shops and most of the ground, right up to the bark gets paved over. The tree starts to die, and then one rainy day it falls, taking along with it life of an innocent bystander. The newly built suburban rail station looks exactly the same as all suburban rail-station around Mumbai, filthy and difficult to negotiate through the illegally constructed shops and haphazardly parked vehicles.

Water supply is scarce and come summer, the citizens of this once new town become desperate for potable water. Ground water gets depleted as most of the catchment areas get paved over and constructed upon much before the “development rules” comes into force.

Farm fresh vegetables and live-stock which were once easily available become a distant dream for most as due to land-use change most fertile land are lost. The word “green” becomes a mockery as maximum one finds in patches atop utterly destroyed local ecosystem are some  “Chinese” grass lawns, bottle palms and a few decorative flowering shrubs.  For a water body, a swimming pool is considered a great gift from the developers and accepted with great pride by the residents. Some standard advertisement goes –  live by the river side with lush greenery and natural surroundings. And should one inspect – 9 out of 10 projects would have no safety features, or advisory of how not to litter or degrade the natural surrounds.

Every-time I see the images of a super expensive and super large hill-station township, which got created in the recent past, breaking almost every environmental law as reported in the news. I feel very disappointed. My fear, is not the development of a hill-station as I’m not against development; but if it is at the cost of the eco-system then we are staring at a lot of trouble. And it is around a fresh water lake. With almost zero civic sense in most of us, imagine what can happen, if strict precautions have not been taken by the developer; as each home owner post the mandatory “Griha Pravesh Pooja” would,  giving scant regard to the environmental hazard, dispose the ritual materials right into the lake, tied in a plastic bag, so that it helps pollute the once pristine lake a little more.

The concept of dust-bins, public urinals and civic sense advisory board, along with clean-up marshals or policemen to penalize offenders, is alien in most areas of India.  Therefore if anyone has visited the lake city of Udaipur in the state of Rajasthan or other tourist destinations in India which has a water body, would appreciate what I mean to imply here. And this is also true in the megalopolis like Mumbai, which is also a tourist destination & has a large water body, the legendary Ban-ganga and the Arabian sea; both choking with refuse.

While there is an urgent need for India to “develop”, and we have the right to do so; we as Peoples need to understand the dangers of unsustainable urban living. It is for us to decide the course of growth. With unplanned and unsustainable urban sprawl which would seem as “growth” in economic sense for a short while would actually deplete our resources and would not improve the quality of living. And this in the long run would weaken the Country from all indices of growth. We must adhere to and understand about Sustainable Cities – Why town planning is important.

The World’s Best Places to Live  according to human resources consulting firm Mercer’s, 2011 quality of living survey report looks at living conditions such as economy, socio-cultural environment, politics, education, and the health sector. Rediff.com also did a survey of 15 Best cities of India, but as per world standards – Mumbai is ranked a dismal 117th, New Delhi is ahead at 113th scoring 56.5 and 58.6 per cent, respectively.

And among all the areas of development, I consider Urban development as most important  because without the proper standards of living; which directly affects the overall well-being of the citizens,  the country can not prosper and today  the Indian economic health has not much to cheer about, due to various internal and external factors. Therefore it is imperative we learn our lessons and follow into the path of overall Sustainable Development.

To prove my point (it almost seems to be written in 2012)  below are excerpts from an article published in The South Asian Voice in 2001

As economic growth rates have plummeted throughout the world, India (like the rest of South East Asia) has not escaped the impact. Growth rates have been reluctantly pruned to about 5% for the year, and may have to be revised further downwards if an anticipated post-monsoon pick-up in consumer consumption and industrial manufacturing fails to materialize. While, booms and busts are endemic to “free-market” or capitalistic economies, sections of the Indian media had sought to convey the impression that the switch to greater “market freedom” would result in a continuous economic boom. …..However, it is doubtful if these factors will continue to play as important a role in propelling the Indian economy forward.….There are also several structural impediments to increases in rural incomes. Already India is one of the most densely populated nations in the world. Pressure on land is already very high and existing water resources have been depleting at an alarming rate. Even with a switch to more sustainable agriculture and water-management policies, it is unlikely that improvements in agricultural productivity can take place at previously seen rates.….However, so far, there has not been any serious analysis of the trajectory of the Indian economy or on the policy direction taken by the government. Neither has there been any comprehensive look at the relationship between economic growth rates and improvements in living standards….Consider an article by Jonathon Rowe titled “A misguided quest for ‘productivity'” that appeared in the Christian Science Monitor (June 28, 2001). In this essay, the author bemoans the American obsession with “productivity” without regard for the value of what is produced and whether it contributes to human happiness. “We Americans are not lacking for products. Our basements and garages are groaning. A warehouse industry has arisen to hold all our stuff. Yet they tell us that the benchmark of our economy remains whether we can turn out still more stuff per hour. Is that scientific principle, or fetish?” …….Take the recent fascination with cars. For people to really enjoy the use of a personal car, a country must have enough land for wide roads and large parking lots. And that’s exactly how every automobile ad in India shows off new cars. Cars for the Indian market are shown scurrying along wide and vacant highways in dreamy countryside settings, completely unrelated to the actual Indian reality or experience. After all, some of India’s most scenic destinations aren’t even connected by motorable roads, and virtually all Indian cities are so densely populated that even newer residential and commercial areas are planned with narrow roads and limited parking facilities. There is thus something very surreal about the Indian media’s glamorization of the car……But imagine, if the country produced better means of public transportation. Assuming that a mini-bus costs only three times as much to produce as a car, and assuming that the average mini-bus seats about 30 people (or more) comfortably, there is a ten-fold increase in transportation options…..And this is just one example of a glaring disconnect between economic growth and it’s linkage to all-round social well-being and the overall quality of life. We can also find examples that illustrate the reverse case where an activity may have a low price tag but significant long term social value….Consider how this decade of “liberalization” has marginalized cultural activities that may have a much more profound impact on human happiness, quality of life and social harmony……. – each of these activities may potentially be of much greater value to human health and happiness than their calculation in the country’s GDP….The liberalization decade has not only failed to make such contributions, it has also created an environment where people have stopped appreciating cultural activities. They have also been trained to devalue those activities that can only bring about gains after long gestation periods such as activities in scientific and social research. It is often forgotten that India’s present strength is in no small measure a result of the many direct and indirect benefits of earlier investment in public institutions of higher learning and advanced scientific and technological research.

 

 

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Sustainable Living – Corruption is the biggest impediment


Some recent events in the past week in India were – Burning down of the “Mantralaya”. Mantralaya is the administrative headquarters of the state government of Maharashtra in South Mumbai, built in 1955;  it houses the offices of the MLA’s of Maharashtra including the Chief Minister. It is said that 75% of fire caused in Mumbai are due to electrical short circuits. To find post investigation, that the Assembly had illegal construction and had violated all fire norms leading to the recent fire disaster is most sobering as it is a telling report on the governance in India.

In India Illegal is so common place that it is difficult to know if that itself is the actual Law or not.  The mind & soul of almost all Indians have become immune to corruption, those who indulge in it and also those who suffer the corruption. Apathy of the Governing class has almost reached the zenith and this would likely to have a direct bearing, not only on the growth of our Economy but is also  detrimental to Sustainable Living. And thus has a direct bearing to the destruction of the Ecosystem.

Illegal shops on pavements and lax laws create traffic problems in Mumbai

How are corruption and sustainable living co-related? How does the common person understand the effect of corruption and bad governance?  Below are some thoughts, which will help readers deduce more such situations –

1. When one travels bumper to bumper in peak office hours,two things happen.

a] The mileage of any vehicle goes for a toss. So the common person is spending more than norm in way of added fuel and maintenance of self (hyper-tension; road rage) and the auto-mobile. It also has a direct bearing on inflating cost of goods and commodity.

b] The pollution level rises, with long term effect on the City and  contributes to the Global warming  & Climate change significantly.

Mumbai

Mumbai (Photo credit: chnswam)

Urban planning usually involves experts who take into account the growth of a city from all possible demographic angles. A city or town  must be planned perfect; one can read more in these two articles – Urban Development Rules: How C40 -City rules can make a difference for India.   Sustainable Cities – Why town planning is important.  As what I wrote in these are but a continuation to the argument I am putting here.

An indecent is happening in Pune, Maharashtra. As reported in the DNA News paper in detail “A residential complex in Kakade City spread over 1 lakh sq mt in Hingne area, Pune, enjoyed many concessions which could put the neighbourhood in danger. Documents procured by DNA under the RTI Act show that the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) shifted the alignment of a road under development plan (DP) and turned a blind eye to what could have been an illegal encroachment on a nullah in the area.”

Pune, India

Pune, India (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

While it is the responsibility of the state to provide employment & business opportunity to all; but by not creating proper infrastructure and maintaining strict laws which should govern utility and facilities & services in a city, encroachment occur on to the public spaces. Violation of Development Laws, which earmark areas as no construction zone, such as catchment areas, natural drainage ( “nullas”) which can not be seen, but via satellite imagery; and allowing illegal construction lead to events such as flooding. The above news today resonate what was told few months back via this article Bangkok floods – Next, New Delhi ?  We keep repeating mistakes which have already proven costly.

English: India Against Corruption - Protestors...

English: India Against Corruption – Protestors in Pune,India. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The World today does not have the time to recover from the errors we have already made and its mitigation is of prime importance. But that can not be possible unless direct co-relation between a young couple buying an apartment, lets say in the area of Pune mentioned above; thus encouraging more such illegal and unsustainable development is made and most importantly communicated to them. The common person must become aware and angry, if this world needs to survive.

Whenever the common man turn a blind eye to an open and abandoned bore-well ; the likes of 5yr old Mahi to die, 70 feet under the ground, close to her home while playing. While we all know about food waste, little thought is given that by having uncontrolled Urban sprawl we are creating a food crisis, as reported by UN which will lead to famine.

Corruption is slowly leading civilisation to Extinction, its time to understand that the laws of Sustainable Living, is all encompassing and not just  passing laws to limit GHG emission here or planting a few trees or building a small  clutch of energy efficient buildings. And neither is it limited to failure or success of a UNFCCC meet.

 

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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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MayDay…Earth Calling…!


1st May – International Labour day is also the raising day for the State of Maharashtra, India. On this day it became officially one of the States in the Union of independent India, post British Raj.  Maharashtra attained statehood on 1st of May, 1960 when the then state Bombay state was divided into two states, Maharashtra and Gujarat on the basis of different languages, Marathi and Gujarati,under the Saurashtra re-organization act.

On this 1 May evening, as an invitee to the Governor House in Mumbai, I had the good fortune to hear his excellency the Governor of Maharashtra speak, before felicitating the Padma Bhusan and the Padma Shree from the State. The  third and the fourth highest civilian award in the Republic of India. Among the regal settings and protocol, what struck me most was what our Governor spoke, especially about food and water. Touching the subject of Climate Change on such an important day, he underscored the thinking of the State as well as the Government of India, which had mooted the NAPCC a few year ago.

Yet, are we doing enough ? And in time ? The answers to my thoughts as I sat in the regal “Durbar” Hall came to me in today’s DNA news paper. Where a few headings stood out –

NABARD‘s lies on restructuring process; The National Bank on Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD) set up to finance agriculture and rural development, has been giving evasive replies to specific questions raised by the Union Finance ministry and the Parliament…. showing that in the primer organisation set up by an act of parliament in 1981, all is not well. Then in the following pages were more grim news –

5 more Vidarbha farmers commit suicide; according to a farmer advocacy group, the total number of suicides by farmers has reached 332 in the four months of 2012.And then a news from the legislative assembly –

Congress MLAs: Government blind to eastern Maharashtra drought; CM urged not to ignore the situation in Vidarbha and Marathwada. And then in the business page a story ran –

India’s Consumer story is ticking well; The result of Hindustan Unilever (HUL), Dabur and Godrej hold out hope because the aam aadmi (Hindi for – common person) is doing his bit to keep the engine of the economy ticking.

What I found ironical is how can such diverse report be published in the same day, talking of the common person in such diverse perspective, one of hope and the other of gloom? What is then to be believed? Are the business predictions which speak of India’s resilient and resurgent economy correct or the fate of poor farmers and the sceptre of drought and famine in the State of Maharashtra incorrect?

In my opinion here lies the danger, the danger of many of us not being able to listen to the distress calls of “Mayday” by both the common person and mother Earth. Because, lulled as many would be from the report of the stellar performance and statements from the captains of industry; the result they hold is more holistic than any region specific. Therefore the bountiful opportunity say the consumers and people of the state of Gujrat project is not necessarily the picture which the poorer and deeply distressed states both in terms of governance and vagaries of climate may project. But this will never get reflected in any Corporate pie-chart or graph; simply because such graphs have not been created, which can project such complex problems in one go. Because had it been so, then the very companies such as Unilever , Godrej and the rest who are truly trying to be Climate responsive would have been measured in their response.

But due to this inaccuracy the message that reaches out to the vast majorities of common persons, who are not affected by famine and drought, is that everything is fine and we can continue to consume and pollute and live irresponsibly. And this most true for those who are live in the mega cities. And it is the mega cities; in which all the political and corporate masters reside and usually keep it insular from all problems should be most afraid. Because when ( “IF” – is a very remote chance) the last chain in the socio-environment snaps, the cascading effect of food and water crises would effect the mega cities most.

We all know that drought is a condition which occurs in absence of water which can not always be attributed to absence of monsoon. I may not be an expert on water but reading about it since I was a school student, I can deduce a very simple fact that, water management is the solution. Monsoon is a natural cycle and it has never failed to arrive in the Indian sub-continent even once in the last 10 years at least. So, if we still face drought in Maharashtra then it is the fault of our governance and utter failure of implementing proper water management solutions.

Mumbai, India

Mumbai, India (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

To understand this, one only needs to pause and look around, such as the city of Mumbai. It does not have a single lake within the town barring the Powai lake, which does not hold sufficient water to feed the total populace, so water comes from outside the city.  All its food comes from miles away. It does not even have  housing colonies, where homes have kitchen -gardens. Or a well from which non-polluted drinking water can be drawn. These were long paved over, and trees cut down. In the tree census report of the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC), it was reported that there is 1 tree for every 9 men in this city of Gujrat. According to the global ratio of total trees per person, there should be 61 trees per person. If this is true, then Mumbai would perhaps have a fraction of a tree per person. And it is an established fact that trees hold ground water and also help reduce heat island effect. Trees are also source of food.

Tough Work, Maharashtra

Tough Work, Maharashtra (Photo credit: Michael Foley Photography)

Therefore in an eventuality of a consecutive wide-spread drought in Maharashtra, the city of Mumbai would be toast. And I do not mean only the heat.With scarcity of water and food, it is but obvious that to supply the very same to the city, the administration would have to deny some to the rural populace. What that can lead to is best left aside, while we earnestly look for solutions. The solutions we require are simple. Climate responsive laws need to be implemented, not just printed and tabled in the assemblies.

But if the answer to it is we are still facing drought in-spite of  implementation of all the recommendations,then Climate change is already staring at us and bringing with it the devastation foretold.

 

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Subsidy on GHG producing products and procedure must stop


Locator map of the state of Maharashtra, India...

Locator map of the state of Maharashtra, India with district boundaries and Admin. divisions (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The State of Maharashtra tabled its annual budget this week. Although on the face of it there is cause for worry, as some measures would bring in more inflationary pressure for the common man; the environmentalist in me was happy. Diesel, Petrol, Plaster of – Paris ( with which large Hindu Deity Idols are cast every year, and immersed into lakes & rivers, polluting them further; thus the idols will be cast with eco-friendly materials now ) have become costly. Electric vehicles have become cheap with no tax applicable. Wow ! Reva electric, I will visit your show-room soon. Yet there are areas which strangely the Government both at the Centre & State, choose to ignore. And that is related directly to our forest cover.

During my recent visit to a food processing factory, for data gathering and understanding the process, (so that I can design a  IGBC  “Green Factory” rated second unit ) I was aghast at seeing tonnes of chopped wood being used to fire up the boiler, which produces hot-water required in drying up the pasta in the moulding machine. Inspecting further I saw them using archaic, bakery kilns which need a lot of wood to produce the heat required, to dry another food product.

I offered to give them a 250KW Solar Photo voltaic pilot under OPEX format, to produce the electricity which would at least reduce the use of wood; it was politely declined. Reason – They presume wood to be cheaper as 1kg is sold to them at a paltry sum of Indian Rupees 2.50 /- , because even if I don’t charge them a dime for the solar panels; instead take a tariff for the electricity generated,  it would work out to be INR 8.50 /- per KW. Which is higher  than the e-DISCOM charging the industries at INR 6.80 /- per KW.

The boiler requires 55 kg per hour x 24 hour x 365 days !

I stood silently looking at the chopped corpses of trees, which were once alive and swaying gently in the breeze while birds and bees sang the welcome song to the newly arriving butterfly, bursting out from the shell of the pupa – hanging under a shady green leaf; and advised, how instead of throwing away the charcoal produced in the process of burning the tree – to use it again; its heat is more intense per Kg/Cal  then the wood.  While silently bowing my head to the trees which even post being killed and burned can help humanity in form of charcoal.

And I was angry. Angry at the system which only gives lip service to the cause of sustainability. Where no real measures are in place to curb the menace of chopping down trees for fire wood ; not for cooking meal of the improvised indigenous people living in the forest { they are persecuted by forest officials, who most ( if not all ) are in cahoots with wood smugglers } but for making pasta for the élite, who live in cities and take out candle light march to make the World aware of “Global Warming” ! Candles by the way is a GHG producing hydro-carbon.  Sad that no real and meaningful progress is being done to educate about  the actual cost of  electricity being provided cheaply by the state through coal-fired Thermal power plants.

While it is true that our modern economy has trapped itself within a vicious circle where we can not find easy answers for achieving a balanced and sustainable growth while maintaining the life-style we have adopted, it is equally true that unless hard measures are taken now,  our life would be styled to that of early cave-men in the near future. And the answer is No, if one is thinking it would be the fate of everyone. It would be only for those who would be unfortunate enough to survive the floods, droughts, famine and War that would be fought between countries for the best water hole !

I grieve,  when our leaders express that they have the mandate of the people towards development  which are inherently high -carbon; and my frustration is directed towards UNEP. Can they not devise a system wherein  they can get the mandate of the grass-root people around the World, which can stand as legitimate in the International court of Law ?  How can we create a sustainable economy when coal fired thermal stations and raw wood is being burnt by million tonnes per day, is considered to be cheaper than renewable or alternate energy ? How difficult is it to get a missed call, a sms and an e-mail endorsement which has some legal standing ? How difficult is it for powerful environmental groups, who have the ears of UNEP, to create an advertisement which all type of media can then carry as their CSR. Can they make more people aware of the thoughts of Buckminster Fuller and many such eminent personalities, who show the way towards transition to sustainable energy management ? thus mobilizing the people in understanding pertinent issues and then conduct a debate as whether the people are ready to burden their shoulders with hard economic choices, for a short term to be able to enjoy sustainable economy forever afterwards. And thus debunk the justification given by the elected representatives, who claim to know what people want ?

I have never for a minute believed that personal prejudice and bias do not creep into policy making. For every Politician & Bureaucrat is human first, not to be affected by the environment s/he must have grown-up in. And most often than not these people have over-riding ambition for self-promotion, before National /International cause, they endorse. And if that self is conditioned to feel comfortable in an environment, hard it is to break away from that familiar life-style which has provided all that they have today. And the familiar life-style sadly is high-carbon economy & the creature comfort it gives us till date.

When people are told that catastrophe would befall in the next 50 to 100 years, they laugh, and say – ‘enough time in hand’. The Taj is 358 years old and every day  hundreds of people travel back in time and come back, when they enter the gates of the Taj Mahal – 300 years is here and present ! So the effects of our inactions today will be felt by our own future generation, not too far in the distant future, for us not to care enough !

Therefore can’t the UNFCCC at the Rio+20, armed with concrete evidence in terms of Peoples endorsement towards a low carbon economy petition the UN to pass a binding resolution for all Nations to comply to green standards ? All  resolutions to bomb a country or pass stringent economic sanctions without a shred of evidence pass smoothly at the UNSC, but when it comes the time for UNFCCC – which has evidence of clear and present danger to the World, no resolution gets passed for economic sanctions on Countries which are doing very little in terms of climate change abatement. The UNEP would always lose out to UNSC in these matters as I had predicted in my previous article. Unless we all join hands, big and small organization, individuals and lay men to lay bare the critical situation we all would face, if lopsided environmental reforms continue deep into 2020, the red-line flagged by the SREX report as point of no return for disastrous Global Warming .

 

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Why Environment Impact Assessment is must for all projects.


The Global Environment Outlook (GEO) integrated environmental assessment (IEA) and reporting processes are led by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). UNEP derives its mandate from the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) Resolution 2997 of 1972, which led to the establishment of the organization. The resolution states in part that UNEP should keep the global environment under review. The UN Conference on the Human Environment whose recommendations led to Resolution 2997 highlighted the importance of environmental assessment and reporting.

Form the above every common man would understand that EIA /IEA is a very important matter. However the Corporate & political class using the same very common man and his “development” needs willingly sideline this every-time everywhere around the World. In this article I will use India and one of its major states – Maharashtra & its capital City Mumbai as an example.

In India states like Maharashtra would like to “fast track” 14 projects which have been languishing for a long time. Why this sudden announcement from none other than the Chief Minister of the state? Simple, its election time and the money bags on whose donations the political parties thrive are not to pleased that their corporate greed has been restrained by such a mundane law like Environment Impact Assessment.

If this is done with the narrow political vision the leaders at present have, it would lead to disastrous consequences for the State and contribute to the Global Warming accelerating the process even further. Here is how.

By mid-century, the scientists say, in some parts of the World; that heat waves could by 5°C hotter. By the end of this century that could be 9°C hotter than they are today. Moreover, it’s no surprise that cities get a lot hotter than rural areas. Metro areas have more roads and taller buildings than the countryside, the better to collect sunlight by day and prevent the release of warmth by night. These distinguishing elements can cause city temperatures to reach greater relative heights — a phenomenon known as the urban “heat island” effect.

The Politicians & the Corporates live and have their HQ is Metro Cities!

Just recently, Australia celebrated a huge achievement, with the passage of the Clean Energy Future legislation that finally puts a price on pollution and gets the Country ready for historical investments in clean, renewable energy, energy efficiency and protection of landscape carbon. Their leaders say that it’s a vote for a new beginning in their campaign for serious climate action, not the end.

Just why did Australia do what it did ? To understand this one must understand the Drivers of Global Warming.

Drivers (including demographic changes, economic and societal processes) lead to more specific pressures on the environment (including land use change, resource extraction, emissions of pollutants and waste, and modification and movement of organisms). These pressures lead to changes of the state of the environment, which are in addition to those that result from natural processes. The environmental changes include climate change, stratospheric ozone depletion, changes in biodiversity and pollution or degradation of air water and soils. These changes lead to changes of the services that the environment provides to humankind, such as the provision of clean air and water, food and protection from ultra-violet radiation. As a result of changes in services and mediated by demographic, social and material factors, there are impacts on human well-being (health, material assets, good social relations and security).

Australia being one of the leading polluters and cause of global warming and suffering the consequences of the Ozone hole have had to respond. These responses include both formal and informal attempts to either adapt to the changes in environmental services or to reduce the pressures on the environment.

India’s global warming foot-print is extremely small compared to the developed Nations and this is why it must become more responsible now and prepare by driving the energy revolution and the opportunity to move to 100% renewable energy, plan in the national interest, make the right investment decisions now and put the right management policies in place. The state of Maharashtra and its leadership should show the way how to address  food, water, energy and climate crises – namely, food security. We need to maximise food production and export by lifting agricultural productivity in the face of escalating climate change and oil depletion. Competition for land and water between agriculture, coal seam gas, carbon storage, urbanisation and land grabs must be resolved.

The Development laws should be designed in such a way that they can guide decisions on land use and encourage decisions that will benefit the climate, our biodiversity and our farmers, indigenous communities and other land managers. It is only then all business can be sustained.

Therefore its imperative that EIA should not be treated as an impediment to growth but a valuable tool to assess the long-term sustainability of the project and thereby its profit for the Corporate and Society at large.

 

 

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