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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Liveability Index 2012

Highlights

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


 

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Kyoto to Doha: Why Climate abatement talks always fail !


Through this article, we would try to find why we are failing again and again at Climate Change Negotiation for the past 20 years, my comment on the EU and the USA, no way includes the stellar work done by peers and compatriots; of those who are the true crusaders of Climate change abatement. But perhaps this could be used as an introspection on what we as a Human Civilization have become World over. We shall also try to explore how we can find a way forward form a fresh perspective.

Last November news on the Telegraph readAmerica will produce more oil than Saudi Arabia by 2020 and become a net exporter a decade later, according to the International Energy Agency.

As a child, I used to hear my father say. “USA would one day be the largest producer of Oil”. He foretold. His argument was that the USA is conserving its oil while depleting the stock of the Middle East. By becoming the largest consumer of almost everything it would by the laws of market forces rule over the World. ‘There is no need for conquest by force, when one can have agents of greed agree to rape and plunder there National wealth to fill their coffers with Dollars and in a way be an extension of the US way of life‘;he had added.

So while the World filled their Banks with “Bonds” and “Dollars” made of Paper, the US kept the Gold and Silver at Fort Knox and the rich petroleum below.

Thus the USA became a consumerist society and was taught to waste. A well designed social system was put in place, where the people from Cinema and other entertainment were made into “diva” and “Greek god”. Their life-style became fashion statement. With limited intellect and skills beyond looking bodily beautiful, earning huge sums of money for contributing nothing of substance to the well-being of the planet, a whole industry thriving on Narcissism started to become norm for the western World and slowly percolated to the Orient too.

The World society as a whole moved from seeking essential goods and commodities to “must have”. It became an obsession to have a Second – Home, Car, Watch or Pen. So much so that today we have a jingle to a software launch which says – I want to be everything at once. Consistency and common-sense be dammed !

So much so that there are more fruits in a rich man’s shampoo than in the plate of the malnourished. Something the UN on their regular sojourn around the World to eradicate hunger and depletion of forest must ponder upon.

Today the life-style of the West is so pervasive that young impressionable minds believed around the World, with great help from a frenzied media that

  • eating just one bite from a plate-full of food and throwing away the rest was fashionable. It showed that you are not greedy ( anybody who thought that it was a sensible thing to finish the plate was ridiculed to death ).
  • wearing a haute couture dress twice became morally wrong and punishable. Now a woman of substance can’t even wear shoe, hat or a simple glove twice. And if two girls wear the same it is considered a disaster.
  • from food, clothes,bag, boxes, jewellery it percolated down to use and throw pens, watches, camera and what not.
  • Skin and hair must stay as young and supple as that of a new-born. Although I can show the world people with better hair, skin and physical shape working in the paddy fields across India. And yes, 10 times more beautiful than the faces on fashion magazine, without using a single product the big business houses launch.

Waste is bliss. For the corporate whose business Empire grow make sure that someone who can represent their ideas rule the roost in popular media and politics. It is amazing to see how almost every Nation believes that to be hip and happening, one needs to eject ingenious habits and ape that of popular west.

How then can the West suddenly convince their populace to adapt and adopt life-style which requires a low GHG consumption ?

Are the very negotiators not conditioned in life-style diagrammatically opposing to what they need to ratify ? Civilization has always been built on the Ego of Man. Empire and Emperors shaped the destiny of people based on what they perceived as true.

Therefore the interlocutors we need on behalf of the West should be chosen from the likes of CAN International. World Resources, Climate Co Lab of MIT, OXFAM  IUCN, Greenpeace and similar. Else the World as the LDC’s, ALBA’s and Small Island Nations know would not be there soon for them to live upon.

I would like all to pause as the above statement and reflect – Who are the greatest losers of Climate Change? Those which are either too poor to abate or adapt to the severe changes Global warming may bring about. As for the larger Nations, they are comforted by the fact that they can take the proverbial  hit on the chin and still stand its ground.

The psychology is attuned since the Cold War era to believe that, their disaster response system in case of an all out Nuclear War is already there. Surely Climate change would not be that sudden and thus with ample response time they would always be able to save the important plants and animals.

The Super powers by default of who they are; are conditioned to rationalize the words like – Collateral damages; Expendables; Minimizing the percentage of loss; etcetera. Thus, not much ice has been cut in the last 20 years of talks.

And so much so that, on the flip side the Super Storm Sandy has actually help reinforce the “invincibility” factor in the minds of some. ‘Look, our advanced technology and warning system could predict the storm much before it hit us’. Some would argue. ‘And with the superlative discipline and wherewithal in place damage to life and limb was minimum’. Will be the following consolation.

And somewhere, the fat corporate giant would send in their lobbyist to block plans to rationalize the climate talks. After-all there is so much to build back after a disaster. What an opportunity.

And hell no. Not one such business house would want a loss of life (Human only). Each human is always a potential buyer of goods after all. It’s bad for business. But, such things happen. Too bad, life must go on. And that is what the departed would have wanted, they would argue and with much empathy slip the latest house design in the hands of the living, while the insurance guy stands in the queue with the most friendly smile.

One’s emotional response to a situation is conditioned according to the life s/he has lived. Nations are built by people.

It is really funny, if one pauses to think that a religious argument is being forwarded to straighten a business wrong. So to change the mindset of those Nations or groups who do not consider that it is their moral responsibility to shoulder the burden of Climate change. The LDC, BASIC and the ALBA along with the Small Island Nations, speak in the language the EU and the USA government understand. The language of Business.

So while it is difficult to get commitment into the GEF, surely it would not be difficult for the Parliaments of the Nations most vulnerable to Climate change, pass laws of taxing those who would want to conduct business with them. A Cess perhaps ? For that, corruption has to end. But faced with the potential of having their feet wet  or throat parched by and for water; Peoples behaviour can change.

And change in the thinking and mindset of people must happen soon. We can not afford to keep on extending the deadline until the grand-child of Suzuki repeats the speech spoken 21 years ago in yet another UNFCCC meet.

 

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