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World Environment Day, time to move beyond the Rhetoric !


While the World once more goes through the motion of conferences and sage advises. As it does every year on World Environment day,the mitigation actions which this day needs to usher in are not moving at the desired speed.

By this I don’t mean to insult the hard work being put by many a sincere person and organization. But the fantastic delusion the believers have about the method in which to approach saving the environment. Frankly speaking I don’t have a clue on what real change in the ground I’ve been able to make, since my becoming a “believer”.

Take for example emails. I believe in EMAILs. They are environmentally friendly so to speak. For every time I blog or write an email, I save a tree in the virgin forest from being cut down…..

A thought I always held until yesterday, while going through the routine motion of reading the newspaper it occurred to me that, every email I send almost all are printed on the other end by the receiver.

Can you ever imagine a top CEO, not walking into his office with his secretary scurrying behind with a ream of printed emails, in order of importance! On which the CEO has to physically sign as stamp of approval or comment upon. Prima facie there is nothing wrong about it. In fact the legal department could quote you chapter and verse as to why a physical signature is so important.

My question therefore, is a simple one. Why do we say that emails are environmentally safer? For with my limited knowledge and logical thinking, the World is deluding itself through these large conferences, packed with VVIP’s; all talking about saving the World. Talking without changing the simple ground realities.

While we rip open the heart of the Planet to extract coal, the wound of an opencast mine and the pollution accompanying it would dirty the shiny shoes and bring sweat in the brows; surely annoy the important CEO who needs the power generated by coal to run his laptop so that he can send out that all important missive, in the environmentally friendly way of E-mails which would then be printed on paper by the secretary of the receiver…..

So what do we learn when we see this video of UNEP?

 

That to create this very video we have simply contributed in destroying the planet a little bit more. For we need to use the very resources and tools which the large corporates have been manufacturing to achieve this message of saving this planet. And this cardinal truth is very well understood by the corporates and their backers. Unless that changes, unless we learn to live our lives in a completely different way it would not be possible to halt the advance of Global Warming!

So do we have hope ? Of course we do. Humans till date have always shown a pragmatic approach to problems. And solutions have been found. And to find the solutions we need to step up the awareness campaign. We have to keep promoting the cause. We have to make the general public aware of the reasons and patterns of the problem at hand. This is when we shall see real changes.

This is already happening in India. Take for example the recent articles given below

South, central & airport areas are Mumbai‘s hottest

Vaishnavi Chandrashekhar –Mumbai Times News  Network

Temperatures Vary By Up To 13°C Within City

Mumbai’s warmest neighbourhoods lie in densely built-up south and central Mumbai and the industrial east, according to new research from IIT-Bombay on the urban heat island effect in the city.Areas around the airport, including Andheri East and Kurla, are also among the city’s hottest zones.

Mumbai Heat Island Effect Surface temperatures in these “heat islands“ may be as much as 8-9 degrees Celsius higher than other parts of the city during the summer, and more than 10°C higher than green areas like the Sanjay Gandhi National Park, says a study by Aparna Dwivedi, MV Khire and B K Mohan at IIT-Bombay’s Centre for Studies in Resources Engineering.In winter, this temperature difference comes down to 4°C. (read more)

The most important paragraphs were in the followup article, mentioning the use of materials for construction…

Land Use Norms Should Also List Materials For Construction

The `urban heat island effect’ is more widespread in the island city as it is more densely built and does not have a national park or adequate wetlands to bring down temperatures, says a recent study .

The “urban heat island (UHI) effect“ refers to the way in which cities become warmer than surrounding rural areas as temperatures are raised by heat-absorbing concrete and asphalt, high population densities, and pollution. The same factors make some urban neighborhoods warmer than others. The study , by Aparna Dwivedi, M V Khire and B K Mohan from IIT-Bombay’s Centre for Studies in Resources Engineering, says Mumbai’s proximity to the sea and exploding urbanization make it highly vulnerable to disasters of climate change.

“Land use guidelines need to be put in place and may also specify the use of materials which bring sustainable development and less UHI effect to Mumbai,“ the authors write in their study . In recent years, studies have found that pollution and the heat island effect may be contributing to a link between urbanization and thunderstorms in cities, including in Mumbai.

This research, part of an ongoing project, has implications for the current debate over the city’s new development plan. Allowing large increases in built-up areas in already dense areas could aggravate the heat island effect, unless planned properly , says Khire. “Some areas would become like an oven,“ he says.

English: Urban heat island Polski: Miejska wys...

English: Urban heat island Polski: Miejska wyspa ciepła (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Dwivedi, an architect and doctoral student working under the guidance of Khire, is studying the growth in heat islands in the city in the past 15 years. “The idea is to look at what factors, from building materials and green cover to pollution and energy use most affect temperatures, and come up with mitigation measures,“ she says. Some kinds of glass, for example, emit more heat than others. Also, glass buildings require air-conditioning, which emits its own heat, reinforcing the heat island effect, notes Khire.(read more).

The same page also carried articles of how pollution affects the heart and the dangerously low supply of water to the city.For an average person a newspaper article has more importance and they view it more seriously than when they hear the same thing from an expert in an conference. It is perhaps because the message reaches to a larger section of the audience, whom the reader knows and can discuss with. While in a conference of Environment and related field only the deeply committed and from the industry would visit; therefore highlighting once more the role of media.

All the stake holders in the UNFCCC conference keep seeking to agree upon actions which will limit the average global temperature increase to 2 degrees Celsius. This could need reductions in greenhouse gases to between 40 to 70 percent below 2010 levels by 2050, and we’re not even close. We know the UNFCCC is meeting in Paris this year December and UNEP in this month is conducting a seminar in Paris. The usual suspects would be there. But what about the public? Somewhere the UN has failed to raise the awareness level of the public. And it is this failure to create a mass movement of some of the actions the public around the world do take, will surely and steadily lead us to doom.

If one would have followed the news papers in India, Mumbai. In the past few months there has been some very vocal actions taken against destruction of forest and forest land. An area called Aaerey Colony which borders the Sanjay Gandhi National Park, was earmarked for creating the Car shed of Mumbai Metro.

While an estimated 9.2 crore commuters ( 10 Crore = 100 million) have already used the Metro since its inauguration last June, the expansion plans have been thwarted due to the opposition of creating the car-shed.

This is a classic example which the Politicians and  Administrators must look at and understand where the program of abate Global warming is failing. On one hand the public wants to have better commuting system. And metro is the way towards the “Smart Cities”, but not at the cost of the Environment.

The Public at large while wanting to live within the modern trappings of City, also want to live in the lap of Nature; as have the ancestors of humans been doing for Centuries. This is the dilemma one has to address. And this can’t be addressed by taking baby steps but strong measures. True there could be a massive socio-political churning, at some parts of the world more acute than in other. But mistakes can’t be cured without pain.

To begin with lets look at some of the agenda the World We Want 2015 should be addressing.

1. Stop manufacturing cars that use Fossil fuel.

2. Insist to member Nations to not allow more than 1 car per family, even if they run on alternative fuel.

3. Promote public transport like Trams and Trains. Electric Bus are a limited option, to be used as shuttle to bring in people to the train and tram terminals.

4. Insist on making all buildings with roof-top Solar. Land is a major issue, beyond a point one will not get land to install utility scale Solar. And its not exactly great idea when the power anyway will be wheeled to the cities. All rural areas too should have solar roof-tops. Design Solar Trees along high-ways. While this will not exactly provide enough power to run the Nation, it would surely limit the use and extraction of Coal & Oil.

We need coal & oil, till the Nuclear fusion takes over or some other better form yet to be discovered. We may perhaps find a way to tap into the limitless Geothermal Energy even in areas where we don’t have the hot-spot. That would perhaps help.

English: Chicago City Hall Green Roof

English: Chicago City Hall Green Roof (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

5. To make it mandatory for every residential building to grow food. If every block is made to grow food, say each building grows something different, the community market would be able to augment more fresh food while at the same time reduce the pressure on farm lands to ever keep growing into the last remaining virgin forests or using pesticides.

Architects must be mandated to design by law areas within the building, for growing food and at the same time Renewable Energy. Rain-water harvesting goes naturally with this.

6. The most important part is to have mandatory laws which make “walk to work” a reality. Unless this part is achieved, the above 5 will not make sense. And this can be achieved easily by creating some pure business districts within the precinct and some mixed used buildings.

India is poised to build 100 Smart cities and retrofit 500 more. The idea of having a Wi-Fi city or some transport system tied to surveillance cameras don’t make the city smart. Neither building Climate unresponsive glass buildings, by blindly aping the west.

Do we ever question about why we keep providing licence for manufacture & sale of Loudspeakers, while at the same time we all get so annoyed with the blaring of horn and loud music ?

War & Peace can’t be in the same space, except in the famous fictitious book….

Our cities and the country can only be in sync with the environment when we start with being human. Rest will fall in place.

Come this year lets start making the Environment more conducive to usher in the Environment Day to come.

 

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Green Business Idea – River Transport within Mumbai & Smart City ideas !


The UN Secretary General, call for a meeting on the 23rd September, to understand what each Country would be doing, in his attempt to lift sagging morale of the environmentalists and continued disinterest of the World leaders for providing time bound doable agenda which would actually translate to abatement of Climate Change, needs all the support one can give.
To blame World Leaders would be wrong, simply because there are very few in the World arena today who have leadership quality. Had it not been so, Syria would not have had a blood bath from which spawned the ISIS. But, selling weapons of Mass Destruction is also good for the Economy. At least in the short-term. For some.

Almost all the industrial sectors are in some way related to and prosper from War! From Gold to Games all profit. Yes, games..almost everyone can take part on the near real episode of glory and gore, without actually dying!

Perhaps it would make a lot of sense if Countries could have a CGI war ! The losing side could have all its real money, converted to bit-con transferred to the winners. As the say, a failed economy is as good as a dead economy! At least the planet & people would remain untouched in the bargain.

But this sadly is not the case across the Middle East or South Europe! Add to that the deadly mix of Ebola and flood and drought!

As many climate change report have more or less predicted what anthropogenic Global Warming would bring about. Armageddon  is perhaps imminent in the near distant future !

So what if the UN Secretary General, provides the World Leaders with another option to boost economy other than oiling the war machine?

What about asking each world leader to adopt a developing or underdeveloped Nation’s city and help transform it into a Climate Resilient City. For the Building Industry too uses almost all the industrial goods and services as does the war machines. So here is another opportunity to boost the Economy and lift the sagging morale of the Environment brigade.

At least in India, they can immediately start on 100 of them !

Then look at the impacts of joining rivers! And cleaning the Ganga ! For in some parts the Ganga still lives. Are we sure we will not uproot an ecosystem, which may be a possibility if it needs to be navigable all the way?

Rivers of Mumbai

And while we are at it perhaps practice cleaning up the smaller rivers first which go from within the megalopolis, to gain first hand experience of which company will do the best?

Mumbai, therefore offers one of the best opportunity to showcase a Eco-friendly transport solution thus making it a  smart city from a sublime mess it is today!

At one stroke of a genius a politician can not only win the hearts and minds of the people for a longer time, but also ensure that the commercial city thanks it with continually filling it’s party coffers! (No politician worth his/her salt would touch anything which does not give for self-aggrandizement. Thus for the greater good so be it).

Let us look at the advantages and possibilities of cleaning up the rivers of Mumbai.

For starters lets count some of the rivers in Mumbai 1. Dahisar River a river in the northern suburbs of Mumbai near the suburb of Dahisar. It originates in the Tulsi Lake in the Sanjay Gandhi National Park in the northern reaches of the city.

2. River Mithi (also Mahim River) is a river in Salsette Island, on which the city of Mumbai is located. It is a confluence of tail water discharges of Powai and Vihar lakes.

3. Oshiwara River begins in the Aarey Milk Colony, cuts through the Goregaon hills, across the Aarey Milk Colony before emptying into the Malad Creek. On the way it is joined by another creek near S.V. Road.

4.Poisar River begins in the Sanjay Gandhi National Park and empties into the Marve Creek and finally into the Arabian Sea.

The Polluted & Choked Rivers of Mumbai

The Dahisar River was once so picturesque that Hindi films were shot here. During 1956-57, crocodiles were witnessed to be residing the river, thus proving that it could harbor life and had a perfectly balanced ecosystem.

The rivers are nothing more than a mere stream when it begins and is contaminated with industrial effluents and sewage.

What we see in Mumbai is more or less happening all over the country and even the world. Rivers are dying. And we all know that great cities around the world are mostly near river banks.

But when I look at the Mega Urbanized Mumbai, which perhaps has all the failures of modern human habitation; I can also find rivers & lakes and a  forest reserve, which overlooks the sea! An extremely rare and perhaps unique combination of diverse ecosystem within a small geographical area.

This is indeed a city worth saving and transforming into a model from were others can learn and follow. How to coexist !

And to transform this city we need a Green Business Idea. After all it is the business hub of India with a sizable Gurjati population, who too can lay claim that business is in their blood just as our P.M Mr. Narendra Modi !

The blue print for it is already there. What we must is implementation in the shortest possible time. And add to it the concept of river navigation. From a quarter away from the point of origin, to keep it safe and more pristine, let water transport begin. With boats which are designed with roof-top Solar to power it.

There would be an immediate appreciation of real estate around the banks of the river, and as stringent laws would apply for better discharge of residential waste water (with complete ban on industrial discharge; or with super efficient affluent treatment); redevelopment, of projects would take place.

The economy would naturally take a boost. By utilizing its rivers for transport. Just as the suburban railways or the Metro which is its new addition. One look at the origin and exit of Mumbai Rivers in the map given, completely proves the feasibility of such a venture.

While the river cleaning action and the operating of ferry would also boost many business, at the same time stringent actions can be taken for CRZ ( Costal Regulation Zone ) violations. One of the moot reasons for CRZ violations is rooted in the concept of having a home facing the water-front! Be it anywhere in the World, a sea or river facing property always fetches a premium. So would all the future properties along the banks of the rivers of Mumbai.

I say future, because the current batch of buildings which are being designed need a serious overhaul and we must build Energy Efficient Buildings which would be Climate Responsive and at the same-time vernacular in design, thus blend form and functionality.

Malabar Hill, Mumbai in 1900’s

Imagine a stretch of real estate, about half a mile deep on both the banks of all the Mumbai rivers, which gives the citizens a feel of living in Goa. Yes! the climate and the feel of Mumbai of the Koli’s must have been pretty much like the holiday paradise.

The average productivity of each Mumbaikar would increase many-fold. Life-style related disease would reduce and pollution would be brought down. With efficient river transport coupled with the already existing suburban rail and metro network, the need for passenger cars would reduce thus leading to de-congested roads.

The areas around the length of the river would have several parks and open spaces which would once again become the natural catchment areas and soak up the rain to create higher underground water table, thus keeping the sea away. And also reduce the potable water crunch Mumbai faces every summer. And if the dredging improves the flow of water current; electricity too can be generated through micro-hydle mechanism. Thus a river alive today would have multiple use to business. While remaining sustainable.

And this idea would resonates so well with the World Bank thinking. As in World Water Week (August 31-September 5), the World Bank has warned that the world’s present ways of producing energy and providing clean water are currently on a collision course.

World Water Week 2014

The Bank says that 15% of water withdrawn from the environment presently goes to energy production, and that  amount will rise to 20% unless there is a rapid shift to sustainable forms of energy. This comes at a time when clean water is becoming an increasingly scarce commodity.

It also warns that climate change will put further pressure on water and energy manage­ment by causing more outages to the water supply and intensifying severe weather events, such as floods and droughts. (read more)

It would also make a lot of business sense to have the City of Mumbai transformed into a Smart City, as it could act as a model for the new cities which we are thinking of building. What would work and what could fail can be easily mapped in this city is a microcosm of the country at large. The fight between nature and man,between conservation and commercialization is so well seen in everyday life of this once beautiful city.

The new capital near the city of Vijaywada which the Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh Chandrababu Naidu is considering to develop. And considering that he is part of the NDA which is headed by our forwarded thinking Prime Minister, who would want to balance Economy and Ecology (although he is suspect of leaning more towards the Economy, presently) the idea that the researchers at Imperial College London have calculated must be brought to fore. The findings suggest many companies investing in projects to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, such as tree-planting programmes or funding green energy in developing countries, may be having a bigger impact than they realise. Each tonne of CO2 offset by businesses brings $664 in additional benefits to host communities….But the paper outlines that purchasing carbon credits from well-managed offset projects not only reduces emissions, but also “creates economic development opportunities, aids environmental conservation and helps improve people’s lives by delivering household savings, health benefits and improving water resources, among other social benefits”.(read more)

So if business is in our Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s blood, I hope he would be able to transfuse some into the cabinet, albeit changing its colour to Green ! And it would not be a moment too soon, as Andhra is a stricken Naxalite state. And farmers too are a distressed lot.

A recent study of the World Bank says that there has been a dramatic decline in honeybee populations. It has received wide media coverage, and not just because it imperils honey production. Agricultural production is also at risk, due to the important role bees play as pollinators. In fact, the value of the services they and other insects provide for the main global food crops has been estimated to amount to $209 billion a year, or 9.5 percent of the value of total global agricultural food production.

In light of the challenges posed by the decline of honeybees – and while the jury is still out on what exactly is causing the decline – the resources farmers have at their disposal to maintain or boost their productivity levels bear thinking about. In fact, even absent this decline, an economic analysis of farming techniques seems appropriate given the profit-maximizing nature of most farm operations. However, very little work has actually been done to look at natural ecosystems and the boosts they can provide to agriculture. (read more)

And there is this last thing which our Prime Minister whom we believe has a sense of National pride would want to showcase at least one of the 100 cities in the C-40 cities campaign. Yes, both New Delhi and Mumbai were signatories which was was mentioned in –Urban Development Rules: How C40 -City rules can make a difference for India.

However, in the City Climate Leadership Awards to be held on 22nd September in New York, India sadly does not figure.While each of the efforts are business opportunities. Or rather Green Business Ideas –

C-40 Cities Award Finalist

C40 Cities Finalists.

 

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Water ! The Fifth (deadly) Element.


The World and all its creatures, it is said are made by 5 Elements.

Aether…Air…Earth…Fire …. &

Water….

And when man forget to respect them …..then Nether manifests !

Aether which is Quintessence…which is about life and light ( enlightenment, knowledge) is engulfed by darkness and death …Nether.

How simple was this wisdom of our ancestors. Till the turn of the industrial revolution, we human remained Civilized. Then we became Developed !

We had natures bounty which was considered as Wealth. Now as modern societies we are grasping at solutions as the riches we accumulated by pillaging nature is slowly slipping away from our grasp.

The incidents of Crop failure poses a grave danger. And they are not one of events. In the recent past we have lost mangoes and grapes to the vagaries of nature.  It also underscores an UN report of 2012 – Worldwide food supply precarious. While to accumulate riches we were using food as fuel. The misplaced idea that clean fuel (ethanol) in auto-mobiles, without manufacturing the auto-mobile cleanly would help in reducing pollution, which leads to Climate Change.

All events and places ultimately add up…nothing in this Global village is unrelated.

Rs.1.6K Cr Worth Crop May Be Destroyed Due To Unpredictable Monsoon

Aug 13 2014 : The Times of India (Mumbai)

Vidarbha orange growers face losses;Snehlata Shrivastav @timesgroup.com. Courtesy Times Of India Publication

The fickle monsoon this year has pushed orange farmers to the brink. Not only has the Mrig Bahar crop (bears fruits from February to April) been affected by upto 98%, the Ambia Bahar crop (October-January) too has taken a hit, with losses of upto 34%. The Mrig variety has been a failure for the past four years; this year’s losses have been the worst in 25 years. Before 2014, the major failure was in 2009 with around 60-70%.Orange growers of the region are pegging losses in the Mrig bahar variety at Rs1600 crore (Rs 1000 crore for Amravati division and Rs 600 crore for Nagpur division).
The crop failure has been caused by the prolonged break of one month in monsoon that prevented flowering. Subsequently , the heavy spell of rains in the second fortnight of July has caused fruit drop in the Ambia bahar crop.
From flowering to fruit, both crops take nine months.
Apart from the losses to farmers, it also means there will be a huge shortage of the unique Nagpur Orange at least from October 2014 to April 2015.
With 78,000 hectares (half the size of Delhi, 80% the size of Mumbai and thrice the size of Nagpur) in the Amravati division and 35,000 hectares in Nagpur division under orange cultivation, the two divisions covering 11 districts produce 13,56,000 tonnes of the fruit annually .
Area-wise as well as production-wise this is about 4550% of the country’s total orange production…..M S Ladaniya, the director of National Research Centre for Citrus -the city based institute which also caters to lemon and sweet lime and grape fruits and Pamello varieties of citrus, said good rainfall in June is a must for the Mrig crop to succeed. If rains are adequate in June not only is the water requirement ideal, the temperature is also maintained for proper flowering. (read more)

Water Kills ! – Drought & Food Crises are effect of Climate Change, underscores the dangers of unsustainable living.This once more has been highlighted.

Although not every person would be reading the IPCC AR 5, or the World Economic Forum report. People do read newspapers in the morning. And some do that with a glass of fresh Orange Juice, Bread Toast & Jam.

But this story is not about the unfortunate turn of events at the breakfast table. Rather, with a predicted loss of 1.6 thousand Crore. We are talking of a sum which Nations allocate as their annual budget. Thus, with this kind of loss. The money or fund would dry up. And in its wake would leave more hungry and destitute at the bottom of the pyramid.

And it would effect the rich too. The much awaited middle class resurgence in the FMGC market would get muted. And the business barons would have to hire more willy MBA’s who would redesign the bar graph to show “profit”. While the legal luminaries and the fixers would try and find that clause in the Environment & Forest law, which can be twisted by the laws framed under the Ministry of Commerce & Trade.To rape and pillage the earth some more. For want of business in this “difficult and trying times”. Created by “force majure“. Should hard working corporates & captains of industry and their supporting political friend suffer due to an “act of God”. Never!

So what, if by their act of misplaced judgement, we as a civilization hurtle towards extinction ! Well the Harrappan Civilization too became extinct. But we still have done fine for ourselves, haven’t we ?

Can’t argue with that line of thought. But the guy who would like to think as above, I’m sure doesn’t believe that calamity would befall upon him. That is the crux of the problem.

For no matter how many report and incidents happen. Climate Change & Global Warming is simply too big for a simple human mind to comprehend fully.

And what one can’t comprehend and fully appreciate. Bringing laws or action plan to mitigate it becomes a huge challenge.

So how do we overcome it?

We must adopt and with stringent force the methods of Green Business Ideas. Sustainability is the idea. We have to change our leaderships mind set form calculating indices of growth from how many Cars were sold in the financial quarter.

CARS sold  = Prosperity ?

I am always amazed at the trade pundits sermons, when they talk in these terms. I’m sure the first 10 richest persons in this world would be able to buy all the cars that are being manufactured in this country at one single stroke of their pen on the cheque book.

But how would that translate into Sustainable Development ?

For even if they were to be bought a piece by the masses, the accumulated fumes from the exhaust, that extra burden on the exchequer on fuel subsidy and the life made a little more miserable in trying to negotiate between haphazard driving and parking will just take us one more step towards destruction!

So why can’t we do the things a little differently. Why can’t we make a program that for every car that is sold two old cars must go for recycling. There parts must be cannibalized. And refitted in the new models. All that would take to make the model work is to have a sale program where the parts of one manufacturer, if dismantled by another is sold back to each other or exchanged. I’m sure the market would find that innovation. And the parts which can’t be reused be melted. Some more thoughts were penned under Green Business Idea : How to build a Mercedes at the price of a Nano!.

Jugaad

Thus in each industry we can find the system of Reuse – Renew – Recycle. It has to be implemented. While the process of rationalization too is brought in.

If we stop ourselves from being conned into buying and more buying of everything, the manufacturing would come to a saner level. For resource depletion is no more a sermon. It is a clear and present danger.

We must ration the resources which are still left with us. Conserve and change the way we live and work.

And that does not mean we can’t have a better life-style.

And the idea of “jugaad” which is synonymous with Indians would truly make the call given by our Prime Minister Shri Narandra Modi, today in his 1st independence day speech – Make in India.

The only thing I would like to add is Make is India but don’t pollute India. Use its talent of Jugaad to refine and salvage the unspent and the unused. The discarded and the unfashionable.

We have to guard against making a China out of India in our race towards prosperity. And help other Nations to learn to innovate within the sphere of Renew- Reuse-Recycle.

The wealth of the nation is in its natural resources.

And Food is one of them! And for food we need water. Which in a skewed climatic conditions can turn into a deadly foe. As said earlier –

Water Kills ! Drought & Food Crises are effect of Climate Change
 
 
 
 
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Posted by on August 15, 2014 in Global Warming & Climate Change

 

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


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

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

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

The bloom turned to gloom later!

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

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

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

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

Pune Landslide Disaster Causes. Graphic Courtesy: Times of India

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

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

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

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

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

And in its death throes kill civilization!

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

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

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

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

Sabka Saath….Sabka Vikas!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dangers of unsustainable development. Courtesy: Times of India

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

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

Wrapped in cellophane that too …

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To begin with we must have stringent development control rules.

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

 

A fragile & beautiful ecosystem.

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

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

Building around nature.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That is when perhaps we shall have an India shining!

 

 

 

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Future Cities -Its time to build the 1st of 100 promised.


The above example to start my argument has been put to ally the fears of those who still think that to live and work in a sustainable environment we have to go back to the stone age.

The need of the hour is to build projects which produce their own water and energy and this is very much possible. It also would give a positive fillip to the traditional business as the building industry is perhaps the only sector which uses all products and thus all sectors have a chance in participating in the development and growth of India.

There would perhaps also be a meeting of minds between those who think development is an anathema to environment as opposed to those who think “NGO’s are the sleeper cells of foreign power out to destroy India’s growth.” (foreign funding of NGO’s)

Let me first introduce you to what the world is thinking and then we shall proceed to what can be done with the knowledge resource and funds presently available. As most often lofty futuristic ideas fail to take-off and the “artist impression” remain as a poster or a screen-saver in some personal lap-top/office desk.

So let’s begin with what the World is thinking.

Vincent Callebaut’s Lilypad -Proposed as a “Floating Ecopolis for Climate Refugees”, which can house around 50,000 inhabitants.

Vincent Callebaut will find a place for himself in the year 2100 when half the coastline in the world have disappeared due to increasing sea surface. (more).

If one looks closely the image has a striking similarity to the coastline of Mumbai. Perhaps the town-planners who are thinking of building the ambitious “Shivaji Statue” off the coast could  increase their ambition to adopt such projects within the original concept. Which at once would catapult them to the pages of history for thinking beyond tokenism.

The Harvard Gazette article by staff writer Corydon Ireland, in March 2013 stated –

By the end of this century, sea levels could rise worldwide by 3 feet or more, inundating coastal cities and spurring catastrophic storms roughly every three years.

In Africa, at least 20 cities — including Cairo, Egypt; Cape Town, South Africa; and Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo — are especially vulnerable to rising seas. At the top of the list is Lagos, Nigeria, a fast-growing, low-lying coastal city of 13 million. By the year 2100, sea levels there are expected to have risen nearly 4 feet.

Houses and roads in Lagos are built on spongelike terrain that was once sandbars, lagoons, and mangrove swamps. Lagos is also riven with a confluence of inland rivers, adding to its vulnerability to flooding. In 2011, intense rainfall flooded homes, overwhelmed sewers, and turned streets into rivers. Hardest hit in such events are the poor. Slums already hold 70 percent of people in Lagos, a city that draws 3,000 more residents every day.

Many in Mumbai would find resonance to the above stated.

A floating oil platform is tugged from the harbor in the northern Russian port of Murmansk.

Now before we start baulking at the idea of designing ambitious projects such as the one shown above and discard them off-hand we must look around ourselves. Have we not already achieved the skills required for building such projects? If we just look towards Bombay High the off-shore oil rig a few miles off the coast of Mumbai, it is more or less a floating city. People work and live on it. And the engineering marvel has reached such a peak that there are many superb rigs off the coast of Scandinavia in the rough and cold Arctic sea. Like this Russian platform in the image.

How wonderful it would be when we would be able to use this technology not to further destroy the World we live in but to limit loss and damage brought about by Climate Change due to our insatiable thirst of fossil fuel.

For should we choose not to do that Nature, would surely make us pay for our follies. And there must have been a reason for the wise of yore to call nature, “Mother”. For she too at first gently admonishes before punishing for repeated mistakes we make.

IMG-20140613-WA0013

Unusually High tide was seen in Mumbai due to the Cyclone Nanauk

This month Nature visited us with a warning sent via Cyclone Nanauk. The unusually high tide, a result of the cyclonic effect; inundated many low-lying parts of Mumbai coast-line.

While there were tourist enjoying the spray of sea-water, the slum dwellers staying in the low-lying shanty towns were left with brakish water in this sweltering summer heat. Bereft of basic drinking water they suffered silently.

Once more highlighting the fact that Climate Change would hurt the poor and the vulnerable the hardest.

It is therefore time we the citizens wake up to the fact that Climate change is a clear and present danger. True natural disasters have been happening without any anthropogenic interventions for millennia and would continue to do so.

All that the scientific evidence has pointed out is that we have with our high fossil fuel dependence accelerated the process.

For those who are still not convinced, need not unnecessary fret. Just get into the bandwagon of “Sustainable growth” as being envisaged by our Prime Minister. It would be a good enough start as any.

For surely everyone wants to live in an integrated city of the future and to build it we need the expertise of all practitioners from all sectors. And if the rules which we think would govern building those cities don’t get diluted and corrupted in the process,we shall truly have a sustainable economy which India could ride upon.

 

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India Votes – at the cost to the environment ?


A view from Davos: climate change action snowballs at the World Economic Forum, Paul Simpson, CEO

Davos! Big debates, big brains, big names,” announced the United Nation Environment Programme’s Executive Director Achim Steiner during the World Economic Forum (WEF). The annual event united 2,500 delegates from over 100 countries for four days in the picturesque Swiss mountain resort of Davos to discuss and debate a range of global issues. Climate change was high on the agenda with no fewer than 23 dedicated sessions, reflecting the latest WEF report findings that four of the 10 biggest risks to the global economy are linked to climate change. Of these four risks, water crises was ranked the highest in the group, placing it third overall behind the risk of financial crises to key economies and high structural unemployment. (Read more)

The opening remarks in the report by Klaus Schwab,Founder and Executive Chairman,World Economic Forum quite clearly indicates that those who are in the know are afraid. Terribly so, on the impacts of climate change. The havoc it would be creating, each disaster more intense in scale and periodicity.

Our lives are changing at an unprecedented pace. Transformational shifts in our economic, environmental, geopolitical, societal and technological systems offer unparalleled opportunities, but the interconnections among them also imply enhanced systemic risks. Stakeholders from across business, government and civil society face an evolving imperative in understanding and managing emerging global risks which, by definition, respect no national boundaries.
Conceptual models are needed to define, characterize and measure the potential negative impacts of interconnected global risks. It is in this spirit that I present the Global Risks 2014 report, now in its ninth edition….

The Global Risks 2014 report highlights how global risks are not only interconnected but also have systemic impacts. To manage global risks effectively and build resilience to their impacts, better efforts are needed to understand, measure and foresee the evolution of interdependencies between risks, supplementing traditional risk-management tools with new concepts designed for uncertain environments. If global risks are not effectively addressed, their social, economic and political fallouts could be far-reaching, as exemplified by the continuing impacts of the financial crisis of 2007-2008. (WEF_GlobalRisks_Report_2014).

The latest Howard Hughes Medical Institute report, researchers show that rising temperatures can cause spread of malaria to areas where the disease had not been endemic historically. Their analysis showed that the distribution of malaria cases shifted to higher elevations in warmer years. When temperatures cooled, the distribution of cases retreated to lower elevations.Furthermore, individuals living in regions where they have not previously been exposed to malaria are more vulnerable than those in endemic regions, who have often acquired immunity from prior infections to help fight off severe disease. (Read more).

On the face value, the above report would not hold much currency for the casual reader, especially in the warm tropical region such as India. But it actually holds a very grave message which should not be ignored especially by the political establishment who have in the run up to the elections making mistakes which would have great repercussions.

The days are not far, when in the guise to save the planet. A country would wage war over another. And the war need not be military. An economic embargo during this fragile socio-economic time would be enough to pull a country to its knees.

By showing Mumbai, the intention is to draw attention to the country as a whole. As a megalopolis Mumbai, New Delhi and other large cities are fast becoming city-states while towns in India are growing in a rapid rate to become mega-cities. While one should always vote for development the catch word should be sustainable development which at the very least remembers that Humans are not the only stake-holders in this planet but are cohabitants. A subset of an ecosystem which needs to flourish as equally as the human desire for prosperity and comfort.

A snapshot of Mumbai

The ills that behests this city is microcosm of this Nation. For Mumbai has all the ingredients which is not easily found in many city-states around the World. Nowhere to my knowledge one can find a large reserve forest; the Sanjay Gandhi National park, where big cats roam. Bang in the middle of a megalopolis we have the ancient monuments, the lakes and rivers, the sea and the mountains. A diverse ecosystem that is packaged into a very small area. And thus the effects of destruction to each habitat can be studied all at once.

Below are some of the most recent ill- developments in Mumbai.

NAVI MUMBAI: Mangroves are being burnt, destroyed and encroached upon in various parts of the city. But Maharashtra Coastal Zone Management Authority (MCZMA) Task Force for Navi Mumbai, comprising top civic, police and government officials, is sitting idle on the notification issued by the state environment department to safeguard mangroves from being further butchered. This inaction is pushing the satellite city into eco-sensitive zone. It is learnt that the task force has never met since its formation on November 22, 2011, to decide the fate of the mangroves. B B Nayak, TNN | Jan 17, 2014, 12.16AM IST

MUMBAI: Congress ministers are not enthused about the proposal to ‘legalize’ illegal structures across the state. A proposal has been made to legalise illegal structures in Thane through the cluster redevelopment model, with a floor space index of 4. There is a similar demand to legalise illegal structures in Kalyan-Dombivli and Pimpri-Chinchwad as well. Thane district is estimated to have at least five lakh illegal constructions.Congress ministers are not in favour of legalising the blatantly illegal structures. “Where is the rule of law? If the government starts legalising structures that have come up without any permission then the message we send across is that ‘it is alright to do so’. What happens to those who follow the law?” said a minister opposed to the proposal. Another minister said if the government approves the proposal, it would give a handy stick to the Aam Aadmi Party. “Those responsible, whether officials, architects or builders are never penalised and there is no deterrent not to break the law,” he said. TNN | Feb 25, 2014, 06.24 AM IST

MUMBAI: The civic body has issued notices to 1,200 societies in the eastern suburbs for not segregating garbage recently. Now, the civic body has left citizens with no excuse to not segregate waste generated in their housing societies. In an attempt to ensure 100% segregation of waste, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation(BMC) issued notices to 1200 housing societies in eastern suburbs on Monday, refusing to accept mixed waste. Linah Baliga,TNN | Mar 5, 2014, 05.47 AM IST

MUMBAI: In a city struggling to keep its coastal greenery alive, around 10 acres of mangroves and wetlands on a plot near Eastern Express Highway have been allegedly systematically destroyed over 10 years, and converted into a regular grassy land feeding on sewage water. The last trace of 25 mangroves on the land, which is right on the highway near Vikhroli-Kanjurmarg junction, was reportedly erased a fortnight ago when “unidentified” people chopped and dried them using chemicals. The land belongs to a private entity, but due to the presence of mangroves and salt pans, it falls under the Coastal Regulation Zone and qualifies as a “protected area”. Two years ago, Maharashtra Coastal Zone Management Authority (MCZMA) recommended reclassification of the land citing an “error” in the coastal zone maps. Chinmayi Shalya,TNN | Nov 30, 2013, 01.23 AM IST.

MUMBAI: The ministry of environment and forest (MoEF), Delhi has refused a state government proposal to regularize 500 buildings, already built without the permission of the Maharashtra Coastal Zone Management Authority (MCZMA) in Mumbai and Navi Mumbai.The proposal, forwarded by the state, had recommended collection of penalties from the developers involved before regularizing their constructions. The buildings are situated in the coastal regulatory zone (CRZ) areas and the builders, in the absence of knowledge of CRZ reservations, had gone ahead with the construction without prior permission from the MCZMA. Chittaranjan Tembhekar,TNN | Dec 12, 2013, 12.21 AM IST

In India’s run up to elections opportunism is ruling the roost. And in-spite of a court order, petty politics is being played yet again. In Indian politics, rule of law is perhaps the last thing that matters. In fact it has been proven again and yet again that the illegal can always be legalized for a few votes more. A shocking report –

Wrong appeasement can never bring “El Dorado” to any party. It only opens the floodgate for more wrongdoing which in time spirals out of control and thus anarchy takes over.

“The Global Risks 2014 report highlights how global risks are not only interconnected but also have systemic impacts….If global risks are not effectively addressed, their social, economic and political fallouts could be far-reaching, as exemplified by the continuing impacts of the financial crisis of 2007-2008….”

One should not forget real politic. And in the World political  arena,  India stands at a lame “developing Nation” slot. With a weak and now perhaps corruption infested defence preparedness. Therefore our politicians should very carefully weigh their options before continuing with their political brinkmanship.

The developed Nations sooner than later would understand that with their continued flirting with Nature, which continues unabated even today; their only hope for salvation would be to limit environmental damage in the developing and under-developed Nations.

It is perhaps one of the most fantastic tool for World dominion, whilst being called a Messiah !

And our politicians are falling right into that trap. By providing the very fodder which super-powers seek to exploit.

It is not too late for Indian politics to mature. We are a vast country with large land-mass. If politicians become visionary and statesmen they can provide better housing, water, sanitation and food security to all.

Instead of legalizing the illegal, they should legislate to develop the city fringes and provide world class connectivity, citizens can live in places further than the present centre of Mumbai and yet be able to enjoy a sustainable life-style within that cluster. And travel comfortably & fast to different parts within the city to enrich their social lives. And by doing this the Indian political class can take India to its rightful place in the World hierarchy as a prosperous and wealthy Nation.

But if the Nations wealth (the environment), is destroyed for petty short-term riches & political gains, the resultant Climate change would make India comparable to many impoverished African countries.

A weak Nation would not stand a chance in front of those who wish to wage either an economic or military war with the country….

And it is the duty of the political parties to understand this simple yet profound truth. For we are once again entrusting the Nations future in their hands.

 
 

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Renewable Power versus Powerful….


If the Nation and the rest of the World wants to come out of the slump of slow economy. It really needs to heed the thoughts of WBSCD and CIICESD at home.

Assessing the Investment Climate for Climate Investments in South Asia

  • As demand for energy grows in South Asia, so do greenhouse gas emissions, which have been rising at about 3.3% per year in the region since 1990.
  • A new World Bank study evaluates the environment for private sector investment in climate mitigation or low-carbon technologies.
  • The study finds that the impact of government frameworks on clean energy investments has been mixed, and there is considerable variation in the approach to low-carbon and clean energy investments.

Recently the Indian  Union Minister for New and Renewable Energy, was in Mumbai to launch the Solar Mini-Grids for Rural Electrification, a road map to 100% Energy access for India by its 75th Independence anniversary.  The research work is a stellar task by Ms. Shruti Mahajan Deorah & Ms. Leena Chandran – Wadia both fellow at the Observer Research Foundation.

While it is true that the amount of energy we need can not come from the roof-tops, another research paper launched at the same meet was the Mumbai Solar Mission, which talks out using every usable roof-top in Mumbai to power the city. A paper compiled by Rishi Aggarwal & Aditya Khandekar of the ORF. As a conceptual proposal it holds the promise of changing the energy map of India.

While what is said in it, is not something new to those who have perused this field for sometime but, as a paper it needs to be made public. Distributed if need be on the news-paper stands for the public to read and debate on it.

With a resounding and passionate speech Dr. Faroukh Abdullah, minister MNRE almost made the dream of achieving perennial solar energy achievable and hope was rekindled. To be quickly lost when the opposition from the officials running the conventional power sector made it amply clear that they would in no way support this fledging industry to prosper and take wings. At least not with its infrastructure support at present.

An aware world supports Renewable Energy, the governments seem to making the right moves. Yet the future of renewable energy looks to be far away from the golden era it should have basked in by now.

So where is it that we are getting this wrong ? Let’s analyse some thoughts..

It is the approach… it has nothing to do with economics. It is the way the Mathematics of it is presented and believed. Pit it against cross-subsidy and subsidised kerosene distributed over a flawed PDS system, it would be a winner!  More on these thoughts can be found under –

1.Green Building Ideas:Using Solar panels as roofing sheet instead of asbestos.

2.Solar Power: the Messiah for the Indian Oil Companies and the Finance Ministry

We still have not come out of the conventional thinking to make this great promise of Solar Power accessible in a way it should.

For starters, to whom does one go in order to understand the dynamics of power distribution and generation ? Obviously to those who have experience in this matter. And they usually are fellows who have devoted their lives in understanding the ways of fossil fuel based energy source. It would be highly unlikely that these experts can give a consistent and coherent advice on Solar.

Further, those who are in active service in the power sector have also the added responsibility to book profits from their area of responsibility. Thus a Coal secretary, or a Managing Director of thermal power plant would not want to waste his/her time in promoting something which is hostile to its business.

Neither would the Power Grid Boss want to give up the transmission lines to host of small players who would want to wheel power from one point to another. It is a tedious task to keep check on what is happening at any given time with the conventional supply, to add the task of evacuating electricity from mini-grids. It requires a certain kind of mindset to do so, and changing mind-set is an all-time barrier challenge.

Thus we keep hearing about Net Metering is about to start and the wait till now has been long drawn. That it would happen is for sure, but we have to wait for that to become a practice Pan India.

For Solar Power to be more powerful than the powerful fossil fuel lobby, it needs the support of the 49% of the India’s electorate – Women! If they want it, no economist can deny them…for in most Indian homes she is the finance minister…and she knows her math! And she is the most powerful.

The tought is beautifully highlighted in this advertisement by Tata Tea. While I endorse the idea of women empowerment, what I want to highlight is the stove on which the protagonist brews the tea..what if the fuel in it came from solar power…an induction stove / hot-plate directly connected to a small solar panel just outside the kitchen window, acting as its window shade, while powering a small UPS to give enough power for day/night operation ! (more on this idea)

 

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Poll tatic is dangerous Politics on Environment


India would be going for polls in 2014. As with any democracy, the preparation is on from all political parties to woo the electorate. That is a healthy sign in participatory democracy. What is not fine is the lurking danger to the environment. At the expense of which populist agenda would make hay. This article would point at some of those agendas.

In Mumbai an Urban disaster is being planned with framing of laws which are myopic at best. Permissions for even taller buildings are on the anvil and cluster development although a noble move does not find the word environment friendly mentioned in its agenda. The most shocking is the idea to regularize unauthorized construction while in others a blind eye is turned on the illegal encroachment knowing fully well that they too in time can claim plea of mercy to be let off on the crimes of omission and commission.

Constructions with no scientific town planning, continues unabated like in the hill station and surrounding of Lonawala. The pace at which this once scenic area is getting paved over, is something which one needs to see to understand the horrors it would create in the future. Narrow village paths remain the same width, while swanky second homes costing millions are being sold.The very beauty for which this hill station was known is changing in its character to resemble some small third grade town. Already we have traffic jams on the main road. Soon it would be honking cars and loud music adding to the cacophony to destroy a heavenly abode gifted by nature to man.

And if the authorities are callous and corrupt, the rich buyers are even more so, for not even one speak out against the dismal infrastructure and rape of the environment. Moral turpitude is a bane of the Indian society from whence the best (read – most callous) sometimes get elected to govern this Nation in some form or the other.

Even the Supreme Court of India directive which could help retain some sense in the Building & Construction industry in Mumbai & its surrounds has become unpopular. While it is true that leaving the prescribed 15% amount of set-back, while constructing is a difficult proposition in the city of Mumbai. It is a well thought out directive.

There is a lot of merit when one looks at the directive which would allow for ground water percolation and reduction of heat island effect in the city, should it be possible to leave some original soil around a tower instead of building on the whole plot and putting some green cover on the top of a podium. And what is even more important is to understand the fact that as Mumbai landmass is in large part a land-fill. By not allowing for ground water percolation we may be creating a situation which would be much more grave than what is understood by those who are opposing the directive.

Moreover the Urban sprawl has spread far beyond the island city and leaving 15% of virgin soil should not be a problem there. Therefore this opposition to the law is detrimental in creating a climate resilient city, which Mumbai must plan for.

The next in the agenda is to announce Navi Mumbai to become an international hub. Without announcing publicly a sound environmental friendly master-plan this would further lead to degradation of the surroundings.

If one would do a survey of the ghost city that is coming up at Ulwe; a few hundred homes are ready but there is hardly any occupancy because the infrastructure is not yet ready to support this new township. With zero environmental norms supervision; construction debris and related waste strew the whole area and its a woeful site to behold during monsoon when all these dangerous pollutant wash towards the already fragile mangrove system. The construction is leading to more unregulated pollution of the environment in the catchment area which will be a problem for ages to come. While there’s none to argue on growth and development, this place originally was and still is in many parts small hillocks, which the machines have torn town to create plots.

A sense of helplessness prevails when the simple green building norms for sustainable site which could have so easily been applied, was not even considered in this area. We could have perhaps got a replica of the famous Banjara Hills of Hyderabad where the architects could have taken delight in utilizing the natural topography. Instead we have drab buildings with fancy names making this place the last choice of the middle class buyer who can’t afford a home within the city and its tier 2 suburbs anymore.

Top that with what is being called the AAP party effect. Now we are going to have a “rationalized” electricity tariff for homes and even commercial establishments. On the face value it seems good. But one needs to just scratch the surface to see the hidden dangers lurking beneath them. And no they are not the 1st in fooling the people. We have the grand old party and their oppositions adopting to similar tactic many times. Let’s understand how.

With production of electricity via conventional (thermal) plants at approximate ₹ 5.17 add transmission and other losses it would perhaps be around 5.30 Indian Rupee.To provide electricity at 20% lower  is a huge burden on the DISCOM’s which are already bleeding.

This would lead to worse operation and maintenance leading to frequent power outages and load-shedding. So in the end, the poor would be buying more kerosene. mostly form the well oiled black market which feeds to politico-mafia and the hard-working middle class would end up using GHG belching Diesel Generators to light up their dream homes.

But that does not deter a politician because as seen in one of the most populous state, they create a VIP constituency and 24×7 power and water at the discounted rate which the “neta” had fought hard to achieve for the “aam admi” is supplied to them.

The aam admi however is supposed to be happy at the paper bill he holds in the hand to read under a kerosene lamp or a DG connected light bulb. And cast his/her ballot on the Messiah party symbol for this “gift”.

While the Social plight would and is apparent, what is not usually apparent is the cost to Environment. Every time a populist ruling is favored mother nature suffers the most. We keep polluting the environment with GHG belching organic fuel. Cutting down natural topography and vegetation which alters the way the land reacts to its surroundings.

And all this when there are saner alternatives present. And have been discussed at length in the past articles.

Renewable Energy and Energy Efficient Building design norms are already in place. What is required is the political will to have them implemented. It is incorrect to say that they are expensive.

They remain expensive due to the bad policies which throws good money on populist agendas. And all for a few ballot more!

What the Nation needs to understand is that populist poll promises do not bring lasting solutions. They only sweep the problem under the carpet. Where its festers to become an even more danger to the society which we leave for the future.

It is understood that even the most corrupt “neta” (politician) does what he does to leave some riches for posterity. But how will their child prosper when the wealth that is earth on which one enjoys becomes unsupportive to life itself?

 

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Sustainable Idea – Going Down Under


The last time I went into a cement & glass in-cased tomb called a corporate head-quarter in Mumbai, I remember that no one was looking out of the window.

The reason for that were several

1. Nothing worth viewing 2. Glass was too dirty to be viewed through 3. Files covered half the window for clear sight 4. Curtains were drawn, which had a hint of cob-web indicating that they are never opened.

Although Cement is one of the most carbon-intensive industries and in 2020 will account for as much as 5 Gigatons of CO2 emissions. The manufacturing of glass is also not less energy intensive.

The fact of the matter is building industry the consumer of all that is produced across sectors is the most energy guzzling sector. And finding new ways may perhaps help us avert the calamities to some extent, although the time to avoid the Armageddon is long past.

Therefore coming back to the opening remarks of this article, I propose that the next batch of buildings we build should go vertically underground. There are many simple reasons for this.

We can begin with trying to be a little more resource efficient in this fast resource depleting Planet.

Almost all  the glass ensconced office towers in India are hermetically sealed tomb from which none peep out, or breath the fresh (polluted) air. In the process we draw upon huge amount of energy to cool a  glass building. A glass building in a sunny climate while looking very European or American also acts as a green house in the classical sense. It simply traps the heat and increases the heat surrounding the building by up-to 19%, in case of Mumbai. (NEERI report 2012)

inhabitat.com – Subterranean Hotel London-Green-Belt

By building underground,(going completely underground although possible; we have examples of defence organizations; would need new science to reduce cost of waste discharge which I am not sure we have  mastered.) the least we could do is cut the cooling needs for  the HVAC and thus also save on water. It would also saving a huge amount of sand, sodium carbonate, calcium oxide, lead oxide, sulphur and sodium sulphate / sodium chloride or antimony oxide  the basic ingredients to make glass.

These materials too need to be mined / extracted / processed which need a lot of energy.  One would be surprised at the mind boggling GHG the above materials produce in there own life-cycle analysis before they help make glass.  2300°C of energy is required to melt the silica to make glass.

Now to look for the second simple reason to go underground.

Selgas Cano Architecture’s Subterranean Work Space

It is a well known fact that Climate change will bring about food crisis, unparalleled in recent history. Therefore must turn to solutions which till now have only been considered as novel ideas. Ideas which have not been practical or possible to accomplish in large scale. Even though examples of such construction is around us within the very modern cities we live.

Imagine having a  HQ deep below while young and earnest farmhands toil away on the roof-top of the building which is situated right at the proposed city centre of the future.

Thus in a single master stroke we could eliminate the plight of the street children and their parents who mostly are landless farmers; at-least in case of India. Moreover cities around the world are facing food shortages as it pushes farmlands away from the city centre in its mad rush to grow bigger and bigger. Roof-top or vertical farming can not achieve the scale of a farmland produce.

Sustainable Homes – tumblr.com

Every-time we build a city, we destroy a village. Along with it the farmlands and natural landscapes. But if we still wish to partially mitigate the effects then we must find ways for both to co-exist. Bio-diversity may well be our last hope to reduce the impact of what is fast approaching.

Coexistence of a City-Village is a must.

We must build more  communities  as the one shown in the image.  Make it mandatory via the UNEP-SBCI for any further development in the still remaining untouched fringes of mega-cities which will get gobbled up by concrete in the next 10 years. This is the perhaps one way through which we can avert the disasters we keep inviting upon ourselves.

Humans always knew how to live in harmony with nature. Somewhere down the line we lost that art. Its time we find it again.

If my readers finds the last image endearing enough for them to think even for a fraction of a second, to wish living in something similar….it proves that Humans are yet to disconnect the umbilical cord from what is Natural.

 

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Planet Earth’s invite – Danse Macabre


Bernt Notke: Surmatants(Totentanz) in St. Nich...

Bernt Notke: Surmatants(Totentanz) in St. Nicholas’ Church, Tallinn. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Dance of Death, also variously called Danse Macabre (French),is an artistic genre of late-medieval allegory on the universality of death: no matter one’s station in life, the Dance of Death unites all.

HFor the first time in human history, the concentration of climate-warming carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has passed the milestone level of 400 parts per million (ppm). The last time so much greenhouse gas was in the air was several million years ago, when the Arctic was ice-free, savannah spread across the Sahara desert and sea level was up to 40 metres higher than today. These conditions are expected to return in time, with devastating consequences for civilisation, unless emissions of CO2 from the burning of coal, gas and oil are rapidly curtailed. But despite increasingly severe warnings from scientists and a major economic recession, global emissions have continued to soar unchecked. (read more)

Geneva, Switzerland – The global disaster conference (UNISDR) brought together more than 3,500 delegates from 171 countries to discuss reducing the risk of natural disasters in the years ahead.

Natural disasters are increasing around the world as the climate changes, costing lives and billions of dollars in damage, and governments need to act to minimise the effects, a conference on natural calamity mitigation heard last month. Parliamentarians, mayors and community leaders met with scientists, NGOs, international agencies and businesses to give input and to question why recent attempts to manage disaster risks haven’t slowed the rising tide of destruction.

The UN has estimated the direct economic cost of disasters since 2000 is roughly $1.4tn, cautioning that the total price tag on people’s livelihoods and the wider economy are never fully counted.

As the thermometer rises, so does the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events.

The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reported last year that droughts and heat waves are growing harsher and longer in many regions, causing deaths, fires and crop failure. When rain does come, it is often more intense, causing flooding and landslides. Meanwhile, rising sea levels increase the height and damage potential of storm surges in coastal areas. (read more)

January 10: Storm caused Flooding, Mudslides across Mississippi and Louisiana
Live blog: Trees down county-wide, with several mudslides reported in Adams County, MS and LA.

February 8: Wildfire in Big Thompson Canyon area, Colorado
A 3-acre wildfire is burning in Big Thompson Canyon area near Alexander Mountain.

March 25: Strong earthquake in Guatemala city
M 6.2 strong earthquake shakes Guatemala city today, the U.S. Geological Survey reported.

April 10: Tornadoes across Arkansas
Tornado in Botkinburg, Arkansas today has injured three people and damaged more than a dozen structures.

May 5: Hail storm in Franklin, Tennessee
Hail storm hit around Decherd and downtown Winchester and covered streets and lawns with hail stones.

June 6: Tropical storm Andrea
A tropical storm warning has been issued along the west coast of Florida from Boca Grande to Ochlocknee River.

While one can read on 80 more in Natural Disasters In United States 2013.  Crossing the Continents we look at some of the 37 Indian Natural Disasters 2013

January 31: Hailstorm in Andhra Pradesh, India
Hailstorm killed at least 9 people in Chevella, Moinabad and Shankarpally area of India.

February 6: Hailstorms in Madhya Pradesh, India
Hailstorms have killed one and damaged crops in 80 villages of Tikamgarh, Chhatarpur of Madhya Pradesh, India.

March 6: Forest fire in Mumbai, India
A huge forest fire has affected the area of the Sanjay Gandhi National Park and a part of Film City (Bollywood) in Mumbai.

April 15: Dust storm in Chhattisgarh, India
Dust storm in Chhattisgarh region of India has claimed lives of at least six people.

May 1: Strong earthquake in Kashmir today
Get update report on this Kashmir earthquake.

June 5: Bihar lightning strikes
Lightning strikes in Bihar, India have claimed lives of at least 27 people including women and children, Disaster Management Department said.

I wonder where would I find such meticulous data for say Burkina Fasso and found this report

Even though previous reports have already highlighted evidence of a relationship between exposure to natural disasters and urban poverty, the complex processes underlying this association still remain poorly studied in West Africa, with little individual empirical data. The objective of this communication is to analyze factors associated with the status of “natural disaster victim” in Ouagadougou, the capital-city of Burkina Faso. On September 1st, 2009, this city experienced torrential rainfall leading to immense water runoffs and floods. Over 150,000 people were severely affected and 50,000 completely lost their homes. It is these people that this study undertakes to examine, defining here “natural disaster victim” as a household that completely lost their home. Modeling data from the Ouagadougou Health and Demographic Surveillance System with logistic regressions, the preliminary results suggest that the migrant status and gender play an interesting role in addition to the poverty index and level of education.

I’m sure of the 150 Nations who read my articles there would be many who would have to reach out to their Google Maps to find this African Nation. But that does not ease the pain of 150,000 people.

HThere are many Nations and Peoples whose carbon-foot print is negligible and have hardly contributed any GHG to suffer the Wrath of Mother Earth. And there are many such Nations in this planet, whom we can’t point out in the Map instantaneously  but  for their annihilation our life styles has  become directly responsible.

One needs to actually ponder at Natural Disasters List April 30, 2013 Which has more or less spanned the entire World and makes the SREX report 2012 almost feel like the  Nostradamus predictions for 2013 come true.

Japan’s earthquake and tsunami of 2011 was probably the most costly natural disaster in history, causing losses of hundreds of billions of dollars. Last October’s Superstorm Sandy cost the United States more than $50bn, while also devastating Cuba, Haiti, and other Caribbean nations. Record wildfires last year in Russia and the US burned through millions of acres, following another unprecedented Russian summer in 2010 when heat waves claimed 55,000 lives.

The world indeed is a global village and both the good and the bad events affects Nations which in another date and era would have thought as an event far away from home and not to be worried about.

That however is fiction- April 27 2013: Japan Tsunami debris hits California:Japanese fishing boat washed by 2011 tsunami has been confirmed as the first piece of debris to reach the coast of California.

In 2005, the Hyogo Framework for Action was adopted to encourage countries to become more resilient in the face of natural disasters. But the Global Assessment Report released at the conference reveals that efforts have had limited success so far.

Global warming

Global warming (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One-hundred twenty-one countries have passed legislation for reducing disaster risks since 2005, and more than half of the governments have made substantial progress in assessing and monitoring the risks their people face. But this has had no discernible affect on disaster losses, which continue to stack up around the world.

Each of the last three years has brought direct economic losses of more than $100bn because of earthquakes, storms, floods, droughts, and other catastrophes. These range from mega-disasters such as the Japan earthquake and tsunami and Superstorm Sandy, down to smaller floods and landslides that strike vulnerable communities, somewhere in the world, on a daily basis.

The Global Assessment Report highlighted that many people suffering the worst effects of climate disasters are not the ones contributing to them. Other than climate change, reckless urban development, the exploitation of groundwater, and deforestation are increasing the likelihood of disasters large and small, and weaken the resilience of communities to withstand them.

Listening  to this IPCC video should  change the minds of even the most callous of Businessmen. Simply because it is going to impact their Business directly much sooner than they think.

Source Courtesy: Al Jazeera; UNISDR; disaster-report.com;guardian.co.uk;reliefweb.int
 

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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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Sustainability can’t grow under a Managing Director.


Every Wo/man wants to leave their foot-prints in the sands of time. But in trying to achieve that very goal we have accelerated our time towards oblivion. We shall try to connect the dots leading us towards that horror.

GLOBE-Net, May 2, 2013 – New research from the Environmental Investment Organisation (EIO), a climate change and finance think tank, shows that the level of public disclosure of greenhouse gas emissions among the world’s largest 800 companies is unacceptably poor. Only 37% of companies are reporting complete data and correctly adopting the basic principles of greenhouse gas emissions reporting. Only 21% had their data externally verified. (read more)

In the recent edition of Energitica India Magazine Ms. Mili Mazumdar; Director Sustainable Habitat TERI asked a very pertinent and thought provoking question – Incentives can lead you to certain points. However, think about this, do you incentivize yourself to breathe fresh air ? (read more)

India Water Portal writes – Contamination from sewage waste, landfill run-offs, pesticides and open drains is the reason for high nitrate concentration in Delhi’s groundwater. Consuming this water can cause many health problems including the ‘blue baby syndrome’ in children. Adults aren’t impacted directly but the fact remains that toxic pesticides are present in most parts of Delhi’s groundwater .Read more at – Delhi groundwater unfit for consumption – Weekly news roundup (April 29- May 5, 2013)

The Times of India (Mumbai edition) 28 Apr 2013 Mumbai – Malathy Iyer : A study by a Navi Mumbai doctor has found a growing incidence of genital abnormality among newborn boys possibly because of increasing exposure to endocrine disruptor chemicals that usually occur in plastic bottles, food wraps, cosmetics, toys, etc.Dr Arbinder Singal noticed an alarming increase -almost 200%-in the incidence of undescended testicles, where the male hormone testosterone is produced. “We found almost 5% of 1,154 full-term newborn male babies had undescended testes,” he said. The last study in India done in 1972 showed an incidence of 1.6%. Singal, a paediatric urologist with MGM Hospital in Vashi, presented his findings at the European Society for Paediatric Urology on Friday. (read more)

In a Country which is obsessed with boys and female infanticide is still rampant, the above news though somber makes a fitting case for the environmental crusaders to argue their case strongly. More so because whether one likes it or not, the effect of poisoning will hit both the rich and the poor alike. More so the rich who can afford to buy biscuits wrapped in triple layer of plastic.

May 6, 2013, 7:25 AM:

For the first time in human history, atmospheric carbon dioxide levels will surpass 400 parts per million, according Scripps Institution of Oceanography, which has been measuring carbon dioxide in the atmosphere at the Mauna Loa volcano in Hawaii since 1958.“The 400-ppm threshold is a sobering milestone, and should serve as a wake-up call for all of us to support clean energy technology and reduce emissions of greenhouse gases, before it’s too late for our children and grandchildren,” said Tim Lueker of the Scripps Institution in a statement.The level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is closely linked to global warming. The more carbon dioxide, the higher global average temperatures have climbed, according to climate science. (This graphic shows how global temperature and atmospheric carbon dioxide levels have been linked in the past 400,000 years).

The reason why we are still in denial mode in almost everything related to sustainability and the ill-effects of Global Warming due to Climate change is very complex. But we will through this article once more try and connect the dots of seemingly unrelated chain of events which would perhaps lead to a disaster so great that mitigation would no longer be possible. And that the situation is almost upon us can be understood through the report above.

But why even after 20 years of continuous efforts by the various arms of the United Nations especially the UNFCCC we have reached this sorry state of affairs ? I would from my personal experience attribute one of the major factor to the designations humans tend to give themselves. While a CEO or MD is supposed to define the scope of work a man is supposed to have within an organization, it is a natural human folly to consider this position; barring a very elite and respected few; as a certificate to rule. Arrogance becomes a part and all that is important is narrow self-interest. This allows for taking decisions which are detrimental to the environment and the society at large while serving to elate the position and power of self using the self-defeating and wrong capitalistic ideas which has led us to this present sorry state. No wonder EIO could only find 37% of Corporates  reporting on their GHG. Business as Usual always comes first. (Business As Usual – a sure-fire guide to kill Sustainable Development Goals.)

Unless a President or a Chairman is made aware that his use of even a simple thing such as air-conditioning and lights in the office has a direct bearing on the environment and health of millions and is made to pay for such luxury; CSR would be a sham which it is in most corporates. (World Water Day – Do you know how much water a light bulb consumes?)The CEO and his/her managers must be made aware that pollution which they do not feel while traveling in closed gas-guzzling SUV’s and drinking bottled water only would not wish away the reality of ground water contamination or keep their newborn child safe from genital abnormality due to plastic poisoning.

Climate change and there related aftermaths would effect one and all.

Washington D.C ! The seat of worlds military and political power. A place were the first citizen and many first among equals reside. And many among those had heard Severn Suzuki speech eons back in 1992 ! And sat smug even 20 years later when she spoke at the Rio  Earth Summit. As one hears her speak it is remarkable to see the body language of many across Nationalities, who had little clue of the storm Sandy growing in the womb of the Atlantic to wreak havoc. A damage so great that the aftermath is still being discovered.

And one of the best examples of it is the related report in Huffington Post Green  04/30/13 12:47 PM ET EDT: Superstorm Sandy released 11 billion gallons of sewage from East Coast treatment plants into bodies of water from Washington, D.C., to Connecticut, according to a report released Tuesday by a science journalism group.(read more).

It is remarkable how Continents apart in New Delhi & Washington D.C ground water is contaminated. We indeed live in a global village. And it is time we recognize that the dangers of climate change and unsustainable living would effect us all.

We all are equally responsible. If one visits the great pacific garbage patch, I’m sure every Nation is represented there in all its ugly mess. The video in the attached link is seriously scary. That this garbage is breaking down into microscopic poisonous particles and getting back into our system may need some more research to be proven conclusively, but the probability that it is being carried back to the land in the belly of fishes or the rain-clouds which helps us till the land for agriculture can’t be discounted.

Humans do what they do; whether right or wrong is because they want to live a life of comfort and luxury. But the havoc they are causing to the environment would make them and is already making them pay a terrible price, as evident from the few reports given above.

But perhaps as a species we change only when the damage is mind boggling in scale. We are perhaps waiting for the incentives we would need to breathe fresh air. Perhaps then it would make business sense to clean up our act.

 

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The false Messiah – the story of Earth Hour to Earth Day.


Come March-April, we celebrate a number of festivals. Some traditional some modern. Earth Hour  & Earth Day are two such.It is time to look at them up close and personal. And see how much have they really affected, when the word is out that we have already lost the battle of limiting the 2°C Global warming. And the rule of Carbon Black has begun.

Earth Hour is a worldwide event organized by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) and held towards the end of March annually, encouraging households and businesses to turn off their non-essential lights for one hour to raise awareness about the need to take action on climate change. The event, conceived by WWF and Leo Burnett, first took place in 2007, when 2.2 million residents of Sydney participated by turning off all non-essential lights.Following Sydney’s lead, many other cities around the world adopted the event in 2008.Earth Hour 2013 is being held on March 23, 2013 from 8:30 P.M. to 9:30 P.M. during participants’ local time.

The genesis of Earth Day is credited to Gaylord Nelson, a U.S. Senator from Wisconsin. After witnessing the ravages of the 1969 Santa Barbara oil spill, and inspired by the student anti-war movement, he called for an environmental teach-in, later called “Earth Day”, to be held on Wednesday, April 22, 1970. Over 20 million people participated that year, and now Earth Day is an annual day on which events are held worldwide to demonstrate support for environmental protection. Earth Day is observed on April 22 each year. The April 22 date was designated as International Mother Earth Day by a consensus resolution adopted by the United Nations in 2009.Earth Day is now coordinated globally by the Earth Day Network, and is celebrated in more than 192 countries every year

Started as  great concepts.These have not been able to achieve much in the Asian and third World Countries, and this is most evident in the horrific and naked truth of the Mumbra Building Collapse. in Mumbai, India. To the uninitiated, just as saving the Tiger can save a forest; adopting Better Building Design leads the way towards holistic sustainability – which is the underlying message of these events.

What happens in India and Indian cities must become important to the international community. Because as a fast growing Nation, instead of becoming a flowering creeper all would love to see, it is turning itself into a poisonous weed. The continued pollution created by Indian cities, would effect the World already reeling under super dangerous shifting of weather patterns and its accompanied intense impacts.

And before the ultra Nationalists start off, let me remind them that Mumbai & Delhi are signatory to the C40 Cities program and many of our towns and cities are getting support from World Bank, USA  & many EU  Nations for its infrastructure over-haul. It is time their investment should matter to them. For, here and now should they follow the link on the building collapse above, it would be obvious to them that their efforts and money are not reaching the intended.

Acting both locally and collaboratively, C40 Cities are having a meaningful global impact in reducing both greenhouse gas emissions and climate risks. Through a partnership with the Clinton Climate Initiative, C40 brings together a unique set of assets and creates a shared sense of purpose. – this charter is no more applicable to Mumbai. It never was. If one walks on any part of Mumbai, one can sense the rot and the dangerous amount of pollution this city is contributing to the planet and its immediate Ecosystem.

One only needs to flip through the pages of a news paper to know that seemly unrelated events are all but different facets of the same. While low fish catch and the subsequent high cost is apparent, the not so apparent medical cost, resulting from eating fish which are treated with the 300 MLD of untreated sewage being dumped into the sea daily. (read more); or the rise in asthma and other chest disease because of a dust storm kicking up far away –

If you experienced low visibility in the city on Wednesday, blame it on a dust storm.11, Apr 2013 DNA
According to IIT Powai’s Centre for Environmental Science and engineering, a dust storm is rising from north-western dessert. Ratish Menon, a PHD student of the centre for environmental science and engineering department of IIT Powai, said: “We have been monitoring the satellite data and models which confirms that the city is witnessing a dust storm from north-western dessert.” He added that though a dust storm activity from Saudi Arabian desserts or India’s north-western region dessert hits the country every year, witnessing it in Mumbai is rare. “Normally such dust activity doesn’t hit Mumbai. This activity increases pollution level and stays for couple of days. We will closely monitor the progress,” said Menon.
However, the weather department denied that the haze was because of dust storm.
NY Apte, deputy director general of Indian Meteorological Department, Mumbai, said, “The visibility has reduced but we cannot call it a dust storm as the winds are not that strong. The condition can be called a haze. It has not been caused by any climatic change but is a result of local heating and moisture, apart from pollution in the air.”
Doctors said the prevailing weather conditions are particularly harmful for asthma patients. “Upper respiratory cases in the city are rising. Since morning, I am seeing many allergic bronchitis patients with symptoms like blocked nose, breathlessness and sneezing. We have also seen a couple of allergic rhinitis cases since morning,” said Dr Udit Thakker, general physician from Parel. Dr Jalil Parker, consulting chest physician, Lilavati Hospital said: “People with respiratory issues should be more careful and take utmost care.”
Doctors advise upper respiratory patients to avoid stepping out of the house. Dr Parker said the people who have sensitive respiratory passage need to take extra precaution as it can trigger an asthma attack. “It is important to cover your nose and mouth with a wet cloth,” said Dr Parker.

When the Country is going through a systemic failure, the edifice are the first to crumble and the poorest of the poor its first victim. Emboldened by the false immortality, as none gets punished befitting the crime; the brazen behaviour moves up-market and whether one likes it or not, South Mumbai will soon see disasters worse than Mumbra, perhaps the farthest and poorest suburb of the Megalopolis.

This disaster would not be limited to being crushed to death by falling walls, but also bubonic plague and every type of wind-borne disease. And add to that the absolute scarcity of water, because some smart high-end homes in the suburb now offers “golf-fields” – a stretch of lovely green grass which increases the water evaporation by 5 times and thus require huge quantity of scarce water to look the lovely green.   But then it is the life-style of the rich Europeans and it should by birth right, be the life style of the “brown Babus”.

It needs intellect to understand that glades and grass are a natural to the European landscape as is the rain-forest to ours. But one can’t play golf in the rain forest. And it is absolutely insulting for the rich to be put in the same class as the poor draught hit Indian farmers. I’m sure no News paper of any repute can show a poor Indian farmer drunk and dead in a swimming pool. It is the prerogative of the rich.

But Nature has a strange way of levelling things. When the million tonnes of plastic garbage the size of a town-suburb, floating in the Pacific  starts to break down even faster than the present ( which is alarming and dangerous ) as is obvious with 7 meter deep of the sea already warmed up. The resulting acid rain would bring into our homes chemicals and diseases which we hardly know about. The Ten Plague of Egypt would revisit. History always repeats itself.

Abatement and Mitigation.

 Abatement refers generally to a lessening, diminution, reduction, or moderation; while

 Mitigation is the effort to reduce loss of life and property by lessening the impact of disasters.

Since  1969 Santa Barbara oil spill, to 2010 BP oil spill   one can safely vouch the ‘Abatement’ has been  safely mummified and buried deep.

As for ‘Mitigation’  we just need to browse through the news clips and images below to know that the World indeed is a global village and that the word MITIGATION is a form of self-denial we humans like to live in and our Political Masters love to dish-out. Because, Capitalism breeds Corruption and it stands at cross-purpose to correct the wrongs.

Bombay (2005) –

The heavy rains that have been inundating the city of Mumbai and it surrounding regions time and again during the monsoons every year indicate that the city is still short of a sound flood mitigation framework. The existing efforts by the city’s governing and planning authorities towards formulating flood alleviation strategies have only been marginally successful in fulfilling their purpose. Moreover, the national disaster management framework released in the year 2004 takes a holistic approach at managing and reducing disasters by suggesting general policies applicable to all the states in the country and not just the Mumbai region in particular. The framework also considers floods only as one of the many natural disasters that it suggests strategies for. It does not provide any flood-specific mitigation strategies so to speak of. (more)

Bangkok (2012) –

Thailand Disaster Prevention and Mitigation Department has issued a warning for heavy flooding and landslide from today to next Monday, Sept 17. People living in Amnatcharoen, Yasothon, Ubon Ratchathani, Si Sa Ket, Phang Nga, Krabi and Trang are said to prepare for worst floods.
Last year (2011), severe floods killed 2800+ people in Philippines, Thailand, Cambodia, Myanmar, Malaysia, Vietnam and Laos. Out of these, 815 people were from Thailand. The question is Will 2012 be a repeat of 2011?
Following Government officials in Thailand, No 2012 won’t be a repeat of 2011 as major dams in the northern and central plains of Thailand are 50 percent lower than last year and at the ready to hold back more runoff from the annual monsoon rains. It has become a hot topic as currently the ancient city of Sukhothai which lies 400 kilometers north of Bangkok is having major floods (more).

Buenos Aires.(2013)

No politician is immune from being badly splashed by last week’s deadly floodwaters but of Argentina’s three top politicians (President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, Buenos Aires Governor Daniel Scioli and City Mayor Mauricio Macri) Scioli arguably stands most to lose. CFK is more or less exactly in the same place as this time last year in the wake of the Once rail tragedy (with even an identical toll of 51 dead for last year’s train crash and the flooding in the La Plata area, although half a dozen deaths in this metropolis need to be added in the latter case) — in other words, having to absorb overall responsibility for lethal infrastructural neglect and making a rather better job of it this year than last by actually going to the scene of the disaster in Tolosa (no doubt spurred by personal family links to the neighbourhood). Macri had a miserable Tuesday with City Hall failings in the national spotlight amid merciless criticism but was soon off the hook as the catastrophic tragedy in the Buenos Aires provincial capital totally eclipsed the disasters of some City neighbourhoods. (more)

While in a weird way one can understand the twisted logic of capitalism and the opportunity such disasters present to the industry both production and services. What is not understood by those who Govern and those who are Governed is that, unless and until we stop the lip services we give to Climate Change due to Global Warming, sustainable solutions leading to overall well-being would not be possible.

We therefore can not just give one day ( Earth Day ) or one hour ( Earth Hour ) for photo-opportunity but dig in our heels and work everyday in creating the right atmosphere in which real and meaning full developments happen. We can no more have battery operated “candle light” dinner designed during Earth Hour in 5-Star hotels; without understanding that the battery and the plastic candle together multiply GHG many times over the conventional candle light. Nor can we satisfy ourselves by conducting and listening to seminars hosted in every part of the planet to mostly inform those, who are already most informed on how to milk the industry of Climate Change business on Earth Day.

It would be better, should we be able to during each Earth Hour offer 1 hour of electricity to the villages surrounding the cities. Which has to be electrified and given sustainable infrastructure the previous year on Earth Day.

The 1 hour of electricity need not come by switching off lights of Iconic buildings around the World during the Earth Hour. That is nothing more than a fashion statement created and conceived with all the best intentions but useless. Some experts say that Earth Hour could result in an increase in carbon emissions and place great strain on electricity grids. Fossil-fuelled power stations could be required to fire up quickly when everyone turns their lights back on, “rendering all good intentions useless at a flick of a switch”.

But WWF maintains Earth Hour is not about saving energy but raising awareness. But perhaps those who switch-off their lights are not aware that, the saved electricity does not reach the 1.3 Billion lives around the Planet.

Simply because they don’t have the tools to receive it. That is a light bulb and the electrical connection to light that bulb !

Further on Earth Day, let those who know what the future holds take the step to go out and stand in the sunlight, out in the open public arena as opposed to an air-conditioned conference room and TEACH in simple language what they know to the “AAM ADMI” (Hindi =common man). In a manner s/he understands, Without the pie-charts and the graphs. Teach them the methods of survival when they and their loved ones, would for want of knowledge spend all their meagre but hard earned money on placebos, thinking it to be cure for their persistent breathlessness.  A breathlessness caused by the deadly smog and haze created by the Carbon Black now suspended in the atmosphere.

We must make aware what Dr.V. Ramanathan the UNESCO Chair Professor for Climate science and Policy at the TERI University spoke eloquently and with great sadness on the 5th April 2013 – We have already dumped enough green house gas to warm the planet by 2.5°C.

Global WarmingThis mask can not be removed by Abatement any-more and for a solution through Mitigation, we just don’t know what would be the consequence if such an experiment is tried. However, it is my firm belief that the Planet is a great healer. and it would heal itself if allowed to do so.

Climate change and global warming is a natural phenomena but the present Human civilization is only accelerating it and would thus meet with the same consequences the Pharaohs did. The supposedly immortals were thrust into oblivion by the mighty Earth.

As briefly mentioned above, the Ten Plague of Egypt were not myth but a result of Climate change. And some scientist claim to have the proof of it. – Archeologists believe that the mythical ten plagues occurred in the ancient city of Pi-Ramses, an Egyptian city on the Nile delta which served as the Egyptian capital during the reign of Ramses the second as Pharaoh (from 1279 BC- 1213 BC)…..Climatologists studying the ancient climate at the time have discovered a dramatic shift in the climate in the area occurred towards the end of Ramses the Second’s reign.By studying stalagmites in Egyptian caves they have been able to rebuild a record of the weather patterns using traces of radioactive elements contained within the rock.They found that Ramses reign coincided with a warm, wet climate, but then the climate switched to a dry period…The scientists believe this switch in the climate was the trigger for the first of the plagues,…(more)

It is time we understand our History and that of Earth too. Then only we shall truly  celebrate the Earth Day 2013.

 

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Business As Usual – a sure-fire guide to kill Sustainable Development Goals.


“Only Rupees Two ?. What about the rent of my roof ? With Mumbai realty prices starting at Rupees 6000/ feet square, I only get to save Rs.2 per KW on my electrical consumption and that too for a measly 20years ? A minimum of Rs 4 should be considered. After all it will be installed on my roof and it makes perfect business sense to bargain for more. After all the investor is doing this for profit and not for charity. It must be business as usual for him.”

With EPC for solar hovering at 8.5 Crore  shaving Rs. 4 out of 10 left us with a number which no investor who is not a buccaneer would touch and no banker would believe in. Especially when the user, does not have to pay a single Paise for the Engineering – Procurement – Construction (EPC) or pay for its Operation & Maintenance (O&M)  of the Solar power plant, but just consume the power produced for the full period of 20 years. And the Return on Investment comes via the tariff the user pays monthly, adjusted over the length of the contract.

In my effort to save the planet from global warming, I was pleasantly surprised when a few RESCO ( renewable energy service company ) approached me with the idea of applying Solar Photovoltaic as an alternate day-time energy source for large commercial establishments. It was like manna from heaven. What more could a practising LEED / GRIHA consultant want ? It would make all my buildings much more “greener” than the other green buildings. It was like a dream come true. Thus I ventured out to increase the ambition of my clients to go for Green Building certification, comforted by the fact that I would accrue more points on the certification scale with use of all that is possible with Solar Power.

Little did I know, that no one would be interested in utilizing such opportunity unless they could bargain for more. It is a typical tendency of all Human today. We always seek more. Even in death we seek more. While our ashes would hardly fill a small Urn, we like to have a few hectare of land as memorial. Everybody wants to build the Taj Mahal; the largest tomb-stone of this planet.

Capitalism and Greed ruled then. It rules now. The only difference is that the Emperor did not have to worry about Global Warming and sinking of the landmass under the sea !

It is therefore imperative that the Business As Usual model changes. Nations must act in unison to delete the present Capitalist meaning of Business as Usual. Simply because we are living in unusual times. This trend is evident even at the UNFCCC meets, which have now become more of a tour operators delight and the host country which wins the next round of meeting, prepares like one does after winning the Olympics, to rake in the moolah that would come from packed hotels; a sure-fire way to end the lean seasons of a city. And the repeated failure to come into concrete agreements since the Copenhagen Summit only lays credence to the alleged fact.

People follow the path shown by their leaders. When industry captains and world leaders apply the fundamentals of capitalism and have through that applications benefited self and the Nation in the past, it is hard for the common man not to practice it in one form or the other. In India, since Independence we have followed and still follow the L1 format. Everything has to be sasta-sunder-majboot ( cheap & best ). That we have a major scam a day and still considered 3rd world proves that we are wrong and horribly so. A few shiny glass buildings in 4 metropolis does not change the facts. All an unbeliever needs to do, is come to Mumbai and while staying in any tall-building wish not to spot slum & squalor. His/her prayers would not be answered.

It is therefore necessary for the leaders to take the responsibility of preaching the SREX Report and also the (IWR) Inclusive Wealth Report in our collective bid to forward the Sustainable Development Goals. (SDG)

Millennium Development Goals Postcards

Millennium Development Goals Postcards (Photo credit: US Mission Geneva)

The Eight paths towards the Millennium Development Goals (MDG)

  1. Eradicating extreme poverty and hunger,
  2. Achieving universal primary education,
  3. Promoting gender equality and empowering women,
  4. Reducing child mortality rates,
  5. Improving maternal health,
  6. Combating HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other diseases,
  7. Ensuring environmental sustainability, and
  8. Developing a global partnership for development

Which one can achieve by applying the SDG’s charter

  • Action-oriented
  • Concise
  • Easy to communicate
  • Limited in number
  • Aspirational
  • Global in nature
  • Universally applicable to all countries while taking into account different national realities, capacities and levels of development and respecting national policies and priorities.

Till now MDG has hardly percolated to the leaves just below the bud, forget reaching the grass-root.

The way I understand it, the Goal – Ensuring Environmental Sustainability should be the first and foremost focus. It needs to be action oriented and not conference oriented. Because conference by default don’t help in communicating easily. It is meant for the class not mass. And the class already aware of the subject are achieving almost everything as envisioned as long as it serves their narrow interest . It is the pace which is hardly comforting even if one accounts for the narrow interest oriented improvements the agenda of the rich promote.

How difficult would it be for the United Nations, to communicate directly to millions of internet users on a sustained basis and engage them on an one-to-one conversation to partake in Sustainable practice? Which directly benefit them, and thus allow them to make informed choices. How difficult is it that the World leaders come together and de-link the process of sustainable living and its practical methods from the BAU model as practised in the present flawed market system ? Why should the IRR (internal rate of return) and RoI (return on investment) be calculated based on a flawed capitalist system where profit always means self aggrandisement?

Why cant the World Bank and Economists innovate the datum through which sustainable tools and its products get measured for its RoI against the IWR ?

The logic is as follows. Should say, the Government of India decide that following MDG goal # 7 – all Buildings, Factories and Commercial  establishments opt for Renewable energy, as viable depending on the location, these are perhaps a few things that is bound to happen.

A) As the power consumption through fossil fuel would reduce, the pressure on the exchequer too would reduce. This is because we can import less oil. Now with the saved petro-dollars the government can implement all the social up-liftment programmes namely MDG goal 1; 2; 4; 5 & 6.

B) Large Hydle-powered dams would not be needed to be built any more and the lush green ecosystem which along with a few hundred villages, and with it the future of villagers would not have to sink into oblivion. This would directly save many from abject poverty and migration to cities to increase the size of slums. In fact the villagers could benefit by having some electricity themselves and improve their lot as mentioned in my earlier article Green Building Ideas:Using Solar panels as roofing sheet instead of asbestos. while the government benefits further.

C) While promoting gender equality requires the discipline and sobriety fast disappearing from our political class, as evident from the comments they have given on media in recent and not so recent incidents of crime against women. Empowering women can also be possible through use of RE, a few ideas on them can be found in my article Renewable Energy – Empowering Women & Saving Forests.And through this too, as explained in the article the government can save on cross-subsidy and full-fill its promises for uplifting its countrymen.

It is business as usual for one political party not to allow an individual politician form a competing party to implement a good idea, which has mass appeal. Simply because in the next round of election the statesman may win against the politician.

Perhaps at the end of 1000 days in 2015, we will know whether we really achieved what was envisaged in the MDG or we still have to look beyond for the Future We Want.

 

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Eco-Construction – Making a Mazdar of Mumbai


Eco-construction would be most successful when India would allow through it rating systems international participation of Nations. Rather than allowing developers to take part in building its future cities with a narrow perspective. In doing so, India shall harbinger dual benefit. The Western Nations can bring in the technical expertise and discipline which India lacks in Infrastructure building, while India would be able to offer the west with the much-needed business to boost its economy into the right trajectory.

The word Sustainable is all-encompassing. In this all stake holders must have equal participation. It is only then that the Future Cities which we need to build would be Climate responsive. When you walk down Mazdar city, the first thing that strikes you is its Architecture. Arab and responsive to that climate. One of the greatest sustainable city in the world chose indigenous design inspirations to create a city of the future.

The world over, especially in the Western cities of New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, London or Paris, one does not find buildings which resemble the Indian Architecture. Barring in Las Vegas where a casino looks like the Taj Mahal, not one architect tries to copy an Indian design.  But, walking the streets of Mumbai, Delhi and the entire upcoming Metropolises in India, one would find unabashed and sometime baseless copy of designs western.

Things have come to such pass, in the effort to outdo each other that prime Developers in India, hire the biggest and the best Architectural house in the World. In all this local Architects and Engineers who partner them learn the craft of excellent western design, while indigenous craft suffers a silent death.

The City of Mumbai

Glass façade is the new ‘in’ look for the architectural landscape of Mumbai but may spell doom for its environment and safety, warn scientists from the National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI). Researchers who set out to study the environmental impact of such structures found that temperatures at one glass façade building peaked as high as 17 degrees Celsius more than its surrounding areas. This was a report in Jan 2012 in one of the leading News papers.

What is most intriguing is that India which has 5 different climatic zones should be an architect’s delight. Simply because they can hone their craft in designing Climate responsive buildings and townships in the climatic zones and not using the standard monotonous design they ape form the west.

While the present designs by it-self are par excellence, they in the long run would turn out to be harmful to the surrounding must be understood by the town planner, developers and designers alike.

It is time EcoConstruction takes root in every state across the Nation.

What must be the parameters of such development? The answers are both simple and complex at the same time. Simple because, we already knew how to design indigenously before globalization happened. And complex because we need to adapt the design method to the ambition and aspirations of the people living in the 21st Century.

Therefore while inspiration can be sought from the great Palaces of the past, they need to cater to the needs and comforts of the modern times. And even when an inspiration may look wonderful, caution must be applied when adopting it because one must remember that some of the features and materials used may not be advisable in the resource depleted present.

So how does one proceed towards creating awareness in Eco Construction? The first step would be to heed the advice of those who know. The greats like Nari Gandhi and Laurie Baker and several more whose legendary designs still rule the hearts and minds of every architecture student in India must be revisited.

We have some of the finest design and building materials which HUDCO has over the years advised upon but sadly due to the market economics and lack of support from various stakeholders, adaptation and propagation of the science of building better is still at its nascent stage.

This leads us to the next best thing available. Over the past few years India has seen an exponential increase in awareness to Energy Efficient Building design, popularly known as Green Buildings. Two rating systems, the MNRE (Ministry of New & Renewable Energy)  driven GRIHA and the CII (Confederation of Indian Industries) driven LEED.  Under both this building rating system, the matrix is designed to cater to some of the most pertinent resource deficiencies. Water, Electricity & building materials have been given its due importance.

However in real practice their presence as of now is too small to impact abatement to climate change. Therefore we need true Eco-construction which applies logical progression to design and development of a project in mass which is understood by the sundry and evolved alike.

It must begin with identifying areas for development of new township on the basis of the topography of land, its bio-diversity management and it must be resource efficient.

Let’s for example we identify a few hundred hectares of land for development, as is done by CIDCO in their plan to make Navi Mumbai. What would be ideal for the town planners is, should they get similar opportunity, they must partner with TERI-GRIHA or CII-IGBC to survey the land and chalk out a master plan for the best use of the total land.

If natural elevations and catchments are looked at from the start, large rain-water harvesting tanks which would double up as common recreation centre could be built. More in the lines of the famous stepped well in the state of Gujrat. The municipal water thus collected could then reach by gravity to the under-ground storage tanks of each building to be built, augmenting their own rain-water harvesting tanks. Thus self-sufficiency in water can be achieved. And for it to remain so, the town’s development density must remain below the maximum water usage parameter by 25%, thus insuring water supply during low rain-fall years.

The next Eco-construction is proper use of available building materials on site. Rocks and soil excavation should be done under a common program where the municipal authorities arrange for transport and reuse of any extra material which a developer of an individual plot may produce. Thus stones could be used as crushed sand reducing pressure on river sand excavation which is a major cause of concern. Further, any fertile top soil or most of the top soil should be collected into a common pool and brought into a previously de-marked zone where they can be used for terraced agricultural farming. This would enable the topsoil from the building foot-prints to be stacked vertically and even with the land use change, dual benefits of agriculture and construction can co-exist.

The reason for this suggestion is because if left to individual developers, practical issues of storage and later use of soil becomes a problem, especially in smaller plots. And as of the rocks, the cost and non-availability of required quantity from crushing rocks found within the plot area makes the suggestion of crushed sand a non-practical one.

The other important issue is building guidelines and adherence to the master plan. Eco-construction would be a success only if the complete infrastructure master plan orients itself to the geography of the zone and town-plan is made as per the topography of the area. It must spread from the macro management to the micro management of each sector demarcated. Otherwise one would find that even after putting in efforts at the master planning and creating guidelines, the final outcome is a mix of bad design and execution which is completely detrimental to the spirit of Eco-construction.

Finally to have successful eco-construction awareness of all stake holders is must. The advantages of retaining bio-diversity and having a balanced eco-system while developing newer areas for human habitation must be explained to all in a sustained manner of a long period of time.

One must bear in mind that the building industry is the largest consumer of all other sectors of the industrialized world, it consumes steel, cement, sand at the basic level and wood, aluminium, glass, textile, leather, paint etcetera and the finishing level. What is most striking is that almost all materials used in a modern building is mined, extracted or harvested for the Earth natural resources. This natural resource in its pristine form usually has a GREEN cover. There is usually a lush green forest or meadow full of beautiful green grass & flowers swaying in the cool breeze before the Bulldozer comes in and rips it apart to extract – iron ore, or axes chop down the trees and huge hydro-power dams flood the region and the beautiful scenic valley is under water, never to be seen again. So we destroy this green.

The environmental movement might be said to have begun centuries ago as a response to industrialization. As universal concern about the healthy and sustainable use of the planet and its resources continued to grow, the UN, in 1972, convened the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment, in Stockholm. While many laws have been passed over a time for industrial pollution, vehicular pollution etcetera, it was soon recognized that the construction activity also needs to have its act cleaned up.

In the words of World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) the building sector could reduce its GHG emissions by 30–35 per cent by 2050 on an economical basis. Economic in this context means that the initial costs would be offset — and in many cases be more than offset — by subsequent energy savings over time. The potential for increased energy efficiency in the building sector has been estimated through a bottom up analysis to identify energy efficiency opportunities in the building sector. For the potential energy efficiency investments a much wider range of options exits. This set, however, generally represents the diversity of existing, mature technologies.

Such codes are best accomplished through collaboration between governments and the building sector, with governments providing regulatory oversight, enforcement and financial support for passive designs, active technologies and disciplines proposed by business. To achieve an energy-efficient world, governments, businesses and individuals must transform the building sector through a multitude of actions, which include increasing energy awareness globally. New buildings that will use more energy than necessary are being built every day, and millions of today’s inefficient buildings will remain standing in 2050.

We must start now to aggressively reduce energy use in new and existing buildings to reduce the planet’s energy-related carbon footprint by 77%, or 48 gigatonnes (against the 2050 baseline), to stabilize atmospheric CO2 concentrations at the level called for by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

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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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The BASIC need to build Resource Efficient & Climate Responsive Cities to avail GCF


When I wrote the article Bangkok floods – Next, New Delhi ? and followed it many moons later with Hurricane Sandy & Cyclone Nilam – “Our cousins would be visiting soon” we had skirted from UNFCCC – Cancun and were preparing to wipe out Doha with the same intensity as Typhoon Bopha,which tore through Philippines leaving 902 dead and 80,000 homeless.

Should the BASIC, LDC & Small Island Nations believe that things would be built on the outcomes of the Kyoto Protocol and the Bali Action Plan; post Doha they need to do some serious review and approach the issue with innovation.  The idea of enhancing the collective ability to discuss climate change under the principles of equity and common but differentiated responsibilities in facing the adverse effects of climate change should be re-written.

If one understands the internal compulsions of EU & USA, it would be clear that “Enhancing the ability of developing countries to undertake nationally appropriate mitigation actions that are supported and enabled by financial resources and technology transfer from developed countries pursuant to the Convention”; – would remain a very clever draft on paper till another clever draft takes its place. After all which superpower wants to create another superpower, that too at its own expense ?

The only way for removal of barriers to technology support and transfer to be provided to developing countries pursuant to the Convention would come when at least in the BASIC countries, which have the most wherewithal and therefore the least chance of being clubbed with the LDC’s and Island Nations; swiftly put in place a loss and damage measurement mechanism along with enhancing operational action on capacity building  with smarter trade treaties with the Developed World. The concept of which I will expand in the later paragraphs.

While China along with India too is unhappy with the lack of commitment and silence from developed nations especially on the question of finances, intellectually property rights and technology transfer and equity. Together they are the next rising stars of the world economy. And everyone including the BASIC members themselves know that. This very reason would limit any serious commitment from the financially troubled EU and the USA.

Add to that the recent comment by President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday – “For Russia to be sovereign and strong, there should be more of us,..I am sure that a family with three children should be the norm for Russia. But much needs to be done to make this happen.” Putin said in his annual speech to the Federal Assembly of both houses of parliament.

By the time the UNFCCC meets for CoP 19 in Eastern Europe, the USA and others would have calculated how much GHG the expected population rise would produce and factor that with the India + China population and throw up their hands in despair. But, if one must be fair, there is truth in this. One of the biggest challenges to Climate change mitigation would be the huge population we India + China possess.

And while we await an innovative idea about how we make a few million Russians out of Indians & Chinese and thus solve the Russian population problem and ours too; we need to seriously prove that our burgeoning population does not harm or come in harms way due to the vagaries of Climate Change.

Almost all Asian and South East Asian Countries have high density population in very small land-mass. So much so that Historical cities, which were built near the confluence of rivers and sea and the deltas have encroached the flood-planes. In the Island city of Mumbai, one would find shanties perched precariously just above the high-tide. Therefore in an unfortunate event of Tsunami or Cyclone loss of life and property is colossal.

How then it be possible to make a difference to the Climate Abatement and solve the crisis of the Cities ?

For that let us look as an example the city of Mumbai. To de-congest it we need to create business centres away form the main city. And to make the business centre successful we need to create residential townships. This is already been set into motion at Ulwe village area of Navi Mumbai, where the  Dhirubhai Ambani Knowledge City complex in Navi Mumbai spread across 135 acre is also earmarked. In an unusual diversification, the Anil Dhirubai Ambani Group will build integrated townships, residences, hotels and commercial spaces through a joint venture with Chinese giant Dalian Wanda Group.

This is a classic example of Sino-India business relationship which would have great bargaining power across the oceans to have technology transfer happen. Should it be developed in the lines of a climate resilient city, which it must, the EU and the USA would be looking to do business with it and would thereby transfer the technology they posses to make it a 100% Green township.

With more such projects encouraged, albeit in less Eco-sensitive zones and with proper diligence to Bio-diversity, none of the issues of technology transfer and related matter especially – …nationally appropriate mitigation actions that are supported and enabled by financial resources and technology transfer from developed countries pursuant to the Convention would matter. Because with each import of the technology transfer done to the developing world, the technology provider would need to discount the price of the plant & machinery or consultancy sought,  to avert climate change. This could be one of the smart trade treaty. Let the BASIC block allow entry of those goods which factor the “rebate” of climate related loss the developing nations have faced and is in line with the – loss and damage measurement doing the rounds at Climate meets.

There is a difference between begging for alms and negotiating the price of a technology which the west anyway need to sell to boost its sagging economy. The position across the table completely changes. There is a lesson which the LDC’s and Island Nations can learn. If they come as a group and provide business opportunities to the BASIC block; by virtue of it’s negotiating power the BASIC would make the west pay their way out of the mess they have created, even in those countries who are to weak too do anything today.

 

 

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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World Habitat Day: Resource Efficient Cities


As part of ongoing events of 1st October, the World Habitat day, I was fortunate to attend the UNEP-SBCI webinar and hear the presentation of Mr. Arab Habolla, Head UNEP, Chief of Sustainable Consumption and Production on the 3rd of this month. On his opening remarks he set the agenda in a simple manner, immediately outlining the gravity of the problem at hand.

Currently Cities occupy only 3% of the Land surface, however the impact it has on the Environment is enormous. Almost 50% of the Global waste; 60-80% of the Global GHG emissions; and 75% of the natural resources are consumed by the Cities. A mind-boggling statistics which parches the throat of any environmentalist. And it could get worse – currently we have 50% of the World population living in Cities. Estimates are that by 2050 AD, it would increase to 80%.

While these data mean a lot to those who are attuned to the problem, my article would once again focus to bring this closer to the average person by relating it to events and then pointing towards solutions, which only a ground-swell and active participation of the populace can perfect.

While I concede that when it comes to the Planet, none of us are “experts”. Its too complex a subject and thus it needs the collective advice from all stream of thought. Economic and Philosophical thoughts leading the stream. However, through this article, I would once more attempt to bring out what is being said at the various forums like the UN; and bring to the common person by relating a series of events which are taking place around them. And by adding the various links to earlier articles, refrain from repeating what I’ve already penned before.

Parel mill lands, Mumbai

Parel mill lands, Mumbai (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Let me begin my argument with this DNA newspaper article Going vertical with a vengeance;  – Areas which were not too long ago dotted with settlements for mill workers now boast of skyscrapers. Given the city’s high population density, developers argue that high-rises are more convenient and hold the answer to our housing problems….Several areas in central Mumbai like Lalbaug, Parel and Sewri, which until a few years ago had settlements for housing mill workers and lower-income groups, have now undergone a sea change. They now boast of apartments which cost upwards of Rs5 crore (50 Million Rupee ). Lower Parel, which was once dotted with textile mills, is now in the middle of a metamorphosis. Old, dilapidated structures are being pulled down to make way for sprawling malls, glossy office buildings and skyscrapers. From the 65-storied Indiabulls Sky and the 75-storied tower at the Jupiter Mills site, to the 80-storied Raheja Platinum in Worli and the 55-storied Lodha Bellissimo at Mahalaxmi, these concrete edifices are soaring into the sky, changing the landscape — and the skyline – of central Mumbai. Architect Hafeez Contractor, the pioneer of superstructures in the city, says, “Mumbai has a population of 20 million and but its area is only 470sqkm. When you are looking at such a large population over a small area of land, vertical is the only way to go.”  He predicts that the city’s population will rise to 30 million in the years to come. “How will Mumbai deal with such an increase [in population]? The only answer is to increase the FSI (floor space index). Only when we do this will the city get on its own feet and earn enough to create the infrastructure that will be needed to sustain this vertical growth.”…..

Business persons do not pause to think that their actions can contribute disaster to the already fragile situation(Sustainable Cities – Why town planning is important )and are using the popular media to influence the members of the public as  how their need for housing would be solved by they creating the high-rise. However, the well written article by Rathod, uses a tounge-in-cheek method to show how wrong this is; while remaining true to his journalistic ethics of reporting without adding his bias – Several areas in central Mumbai like Lalbaug, Parel and Sewri, which until a few years ago had settlements for housing mill workers and lower-income groups, have now undergone a sea change. They now boast of apartments which cost upwards of Rs5 crore.How on earth a common persons dream to own a house be possible if the rate of these flats in the high-rises be 50 Million Rupee? And here the city administrators need to most educate the average person as why Town planning is important. We shall deal with a few recommendations in the later section of this article.

While I do not deny that Vertical Growth and Economy of a city is important, short-sighted irresponsible comments by those who are deemed as experts is not a happy situation. Just as in Medicine, so in Architecture. The architect is responsible not just to his/her narrow interest but must look beyond in creating the social fabric of the society. They can define the culture of a place by their imagination turned into reality. It’s the architect who created a City which inspired a Bard to write one of the most beautiful romance – Romeo & Juliet. And it was another architect who created the “Heaven on Earth” another lasting testimony to Love – The TAJ.

One can benefit and even profit by following sensible approach to design,( Green Business Ideas: Carbon Credits opportunities in Green Townships) however unplanned and short-term greed would make our life impossible, which in the City of Mumbai is not too great to begin with.(Sustainable Development Goals: The dangers of Urban Sprawl and its long-term effects on the National Growth) The dangers which the UNEP chief spoke of are real, this needs to be understood by the authorities at the earliest and most importantly educate the grass-roots on the matter and carry out reforms which are sensible.

English: The Seven Islands of Bombay (Now Mumb...

English: The Seven Islands of Bombay (Now Mumbai) before they were merged to form the island of Salsette. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

And for this the media must highlight the truth constantly, which the DNA Newspaper did by the follow-up article – Better safe than sorry in seismic Mumbai an analysis by Dr V SubramanyanThe uneasiness associated with high-rises stems from the fact that most of Mumbai has literally risen from the sea and has only reclaimed land to offer for construction. Only compacted soil is available for the foundations of such proposed buildings. When earthquake vibrations pass through them, water in the soil gets released, leading to liquefaction. This converts soil into a jelly-like mass.This causes considerable damage to very tall structures.The architects who are in favour of going vertical argue that they build taller buildings on raft foundations, which behave like “a ship, pitching and tossing during a storm, but not sinking” during an earthquake. However, researchers in the University of Pennsylvania had claimed in an article in ‘Discover’ magazine (July 2005) that this much-touted raft foundation only tilts the tall buildings and does not effectively contribute to their structural stability during earthquakes. In ‘Going vertical with a vengeance’ (DNA, September 27), the writer has projected the developers’ argument that high-rises are more convenient and hold the answer to our housing problems, given the city’s high population density. The article also comes out with some seemingly grandiose information that at least a dozen buildings with more than 60 storeys are nearing completion, 50 similar towers are underway and at least 100 buildings taller than 70m (with about 22 storeys) are in different stages of construction. But, it is difficult to share the enthusiasm of the government at its plans to forge an international image for Mumbai through a jagged skyline like that of Manhattan, Hong Kong and Singapore. What has been conveniently forgotten is Mumbai’s high seismicity. The city faces the risk of being hit by an earthquake of sufficient magnitude (6.5), which can knock tall buildings off their bases. This, in turn, imposes indisputable restrictions on the heights up to which skyscrapers can be safely constructed, despite adopting the best earthquake-resistant designs, because experts cannot guarantee the safety of high-rises beyond a certain limit. Charles Correa, a reputed architect and town-planner, does not subscribe to the credo that going vertical is the only solution to our housing problems. He had, in fact, dubbed Mumbai’s skyscrapers “monstrosities” some time ago.

While the above is a challenge which needs to be understood by the policy makers, that the City of Mumbai already suffering from population density, failed municipal administration and has a low liveability index, the problems which one does not easily associate with bad urban planning must also be understood. Quoting from my favoured Newspaper the DNA, I present the article  October heat leaves city sick; Mumbaikars complain of weakness, nausea, body pain and perspiration…The sultry weather has forced many with electrolyte imbalance to rush to the doctor. In simple words, this refers to a disturbance in the level of amount of electrolytes (like calcium, sodium and potassium) that is required for normal health and functioning…  this article underscores what I had written earlier on how unplanned Urban growth affects our everyday life; (Sustainable Living : How to read the seemingly unrelated dots which coalesce together to create disasters) It is time the citizens of Mumbai read up on Bombay (as it was then called)  in the early 1900; even with all the mills dotting the famous central Mumbai which developers want to turn into sky-scraper riddled concrete jungle, which would stifle the already stale air further; people did not get sick in Mumbai and the month of October is actually cool. Pune experiences it till date. Even Vashi in Navi Mumbai experiences it a little’, which soon the concrete jungle of Vashi – Panvel will destroy; unless arrested with planned and eco-sensitive development.

So what must be done ? How do we develop the climate responsive cities which is so required in the present. The answer is not simple. Because it involves many stake holders. And among the stake-holders those whose opinion matter most ( second to People power ) usually tinge their opinion with Economical consideration as supreme over others. This must change. The datum of thinking must begin with ecological considerations which then would bring in long-term economic growth.

Taking Mumbai as an example; the first thing the policy makers must do is by an act of the Parliament bring about change in land laws. ( Affordable Housing: The Simples rules required.)

The City must have a ceiling set on the cost of land. It must not be dictated by the demand vs supply chain. Zone wise each district of the city must have an upper and lower price band. This will make sure that the seller of the land gets the legitimate price while the developer does not have to sell his last shirt to buy it. If the upper limit is set just 20%, chances are the sellers would choose their developer on qualifications other than monetary, such as their track record in sustainable design development etc. The State legislature must qualify a set of developers who submit an affidavit that they shall always comply to sustainable design development. Punitive punishment to the developer and design house, such as barring the developer from conducting any business within the city limits and a monetary fine be levied via extracting the cost it would need to remodel the project as per sustainable standards from the design house.

If an architect does not design incorrect, there is no way a developer can build wrong. The UN must target the young minds through sustained media campaigns.

Further,speculative buying must be stopped. Investors must be barred from real estate purchases of finished flats. They can however invest on the development. This would encourage the development of rental homes. An economic model be devised, where the leesee can have the option of buying the house on the 5th year at the market governed price. Else they vacate and the property is sold. This will give equal benefit to the user, developer and the investor.

For the Developer can hold on to a property which he has not been able to sell, while at the same time be less pressured from the investor, to whom he can pay the interest he gathers via rent.

The Investor normally seeks profit on his investment, so would wait for 5 year to have the value of the property increase, while getting his interest.

The Home seeker, who may not be able to afford to buy a home in a certain locality gets to live, instead of looking at locked-up empty houses booked by investors who would never need to live there.

And lastly and most importantly, The Government would be able to live up to its promise of providing shelter to the citizens and tax-payers who genuinely require housing.

The next step should be freeing up the old city and converting the plots into Bond & Shares. Then developing the area scientifically. Those who would receive areas smaller than what they had, would have the options of using their bonds to buy space,either in the same site or move to another part of the city. Going away to another town to use their bonds would also give them far more return, as the cost of homes beyond Mumbai are less.

Last but not the least should be codifying the development style. Based on the climatic zone, Cities and Mumbai must build only a fixed pattern of structure. The buildings near the coast must not rise beyond 4th floor, while the ones inland can be tall-buildings which adhere to the building norms of the city including taking into account the Earthquake preventions. We all love symmetry, and this extended to buildings too. Venice would not have looked as beautiful today had the town planners allowed monstrous design and construction to happen. Further allowing only 3-4 styles of architecture with special emphasis to indigenous designs would also help assessors quantify the actual cost of the building based on types of material used and amenities given. Thus quality would overtake hype and the Citizens would benefit. Mumbai, can and must understand this and become one of the beacons of C40 cities. India under the UPA-1 had begun well, its time that we carry out the ideas which our PM has -(Green Business Ideas : P.M.Manmohan Singh’s idea of Terminal Market Complex is a superb Green Idea which needs to be implemented) to make our Country and our cities truly climate responsive.

 

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Sustainable Mining should be The BASICs agenda at UNFCCC-Doha.


One of the most vexing questions which need to be tackled in the run-up to UNFCCC -Doha is the agenda of discussion here. The issue of Economically Sustainable Development vs Ecologically Sustainable Development, and how to really boost the RET’s. And how the people must manoeuvre the thought of the leaders towards concrete results.

BRASILIA, BrazilBrazil, South Africa, India and China are urging developed countries to adopt more ambitious goals to reduce global warming.The four countries form the bloc known as BASIC and representatives on Friday ended a two-day meeting to define a common position ahead of November’s United Nations’ climate change conference in Doha. BASIC acts jointly in international climate change meetings.They say developed nations must assume stronger emission reduction commitments under the 1997 Kyoto Protocol that is aimed at stemming pollution and global warming. It has been opposed by the United States. (The Associated Press Published: Friday, Sep. 21, 2012)

Was this ambition to do more about Global Warming anything to do with the report below ? For Politicians too can be affected by death and disease ? Will the world leaders finally wake up to doing something concrete at the grass root level or still devise methods of corporate enrichment, using the bogey of Climate change abatement?

Global warming may be spurring the spread of Cyanobacteria, one of the most primitive of bugs, while causing them to produce greater amounts of toxins, which may affect liver, nervous system and eyes, according to a study. “These toxins may affect the liver and other organs (hepatotoxins), the nervous system (neurotoxins), different cells (cytotoxins), the eyes and mucous membranes, as well as causing dermatitis and allergies,” explains Francisca F. del Campo, study co-author and researcher at the Autonomous University of Madrid. (IANS : Jul 4, 2012,)

MUMBAI: Global warming is expected to intensify extreme precipitation, but the rate at which it does so in the tropics has remained unclear. Now an MIT study has given an estimate based on model simulations and observations: With every 1 degree Celsius rise in temperature, the study finds, tropical regions will see 10 percent heavier rainfall extremes, with possible impacts for flooding in populous regions.”The study includes some populous countries that are vulnerable to climate change,” says Paul O’Gorman, the Victor P. Starr Career Development Assistant Professor of Atmospheric Science at MIT, “and impacts of changes in rainfall could be important there.” ( read rest if of article in Global warming to affect rainfall)

But, when one reads it again, one tends to wonder as to why India which is an equal partner in the fight for Climate change hardly takes centre stage in innovating any movement. That Dr. R.K.Pachauri sits at the top in the UNFCCC, seems to be the only achievement way back in the past when India mattered. Even when the TOI report states below that Mumbai would surely see another flood, sooner than later not a ripple is created in the Media or social circle. Should one read the C40 program, one would understand why such a thing is important. Although India was not the innovator of this program, both Mumbai and New Delhi are signatories. Yet I can bet my last inflation effected Rupee that not many a Citizen in both the Megalopolis know about it. Forget C40 program, I would not know how many in the administration know that you don’t cross the Zebra line, when you stop at a traffic signal. Or for that matter drive in lane.

As alien a concept to the leaders as to the public, the simple fact of driving in lane, can cut a better percentage of fuel consumption in a vehicle, simply because if one can cruise at a standard speed, instead of snaking between vehicles and pedestrians; the clutch and gears are less used. Which saves fuel.  It saves – Money! It also allows for less wear & tear of the roads and the citizens, who having more energy to work and not negotiate roads give that much more to Nation building. And as we well know by nowmoney does not grow on trees“. the dialogue made famous by our head of Government. It was only during the first Iraq conflict – The Desert Storm; that the PCRA had come up with sustained campaign to save fuel. But now our leaders are happy by simply increasing the fossil fuel cost, without an attempt to innovation. Forget innovation, our leaders do not even have the gumption to in-force the laws as simple as road discipline which can save so much of the exchequer. It is a telling commentary on their “ability to govern”.

The reason is simple. While the World is moving towards creating The CEO as statesman; some are more focussed in creating Politicians as CEO’s,  which in the process would be harmful to the Ecosystem as personal profit would become more supreme than National good. In the Essay by Ethical Corporation; The CEO as statesman  – The reach and impacts of today’s global corporations mean that, like it or loathe it, business leaders cannot ignore international relations, and global issues such as sustainable development.

Frankly, I would prefer a Politician to be a CEO, should s/he be able to rise above partisan thinking and innovate methods & laws to develop both business and the ecosystem in a balanced way. I do concede it’s a utopian thought, but wishful thinking is not yet a crime.

Therefore the CEO it would seem, is moving towards actual sensible approach to the problems vexing the planet. Or rather, to do plane speak; that would be the ideal solution. Because, all said and done; barring a very few, most are still applying the same hackneyed idea of business and hoping to succeed in fooling the people all over again. Any business is being sold by using the adage, green without actually understanding the core meaning in it.  By just using the adage, Green to everything that they are doing both the Politician and the CEO is playing with fire.

Reading another report in the DNA newspaper on the recent coal scam; a cold sweat broke when I thought how even this could be turned into a Green agenda! How long would it take for the spin-doctors to say, that the inquiry which has led to de-allocation of coal blocks, has saved huge tracts of virgin forest, while at the same time make a windfall profit by importing Coal ? From whichever Nation it be imported; most presumably another of the BASIC Nation or perhaps Australia. But how does this abate GHG ? It is just transfer of one’s dirt to another country. The faulty basis on which the Koyto Protocol began in the first place; even though the intent behind is was, and still is greater good. So, why not change the datum on the approach to CDM ?

For example,a report suggest; the energy derived from coal in India is about twice that of energy derived from oil, as against the world, where energy derived from coal is about 30% lower than energy derived from oil.

Thus Coal would always stay in the near future as India’s most important energy source. Therefore what must be done to balance the requirement of legitimate human developmental needs, against the odds stacked heavily against use of high GHG producing energy source ? The Green idea I propose here is simple. Declare Coal as the most lucrative CDM revenue earner and open the purse strings of the GCF on this regard. But only one rider must stay. Limit the destructions of life-forms. And have a MRV in place. Be it a rodent, a bird or a tree, document the destruction and make it public.

It is time that the BASIC countries, especially India while raising the issue at UNFCCC- Doha its right to develop; also propose the idea to ban open-cast mining! So, what is the option as opposed to open-cast mining ? The traditional methods off-course! BUT with a difference. Let most of the mining done be robotic. Not only it would save life & limb of humans it would also limit the other collateral destruction related to mining.

The technology is already there to go deep underground,without disturbing what is above. Be it creating the tunnel for the Higgs-Boson experiment in the Large Hadron Collider;  creating underground experiment to find Dark matter or the English Channel Tunnel which not only vindicates my argument but also shows how Public-Private partnership works; extraction of Coal with limited destruction to the ecosystem above must become mandatory. Until we do find the solution to endless clean energy. The balanced approach which India did take  while constructing India-based Neutrino Observatory, which looked into the various aspect of Environment; must also become norm for mining of minerals including coal via underground shafts only. Therefore, I repeat that we know the technology, we have the funds to conduct experiment which are extremely costly; the same approach must be adopted with creating innovative clauses in the existing CDM mandate; and let the balance between Economy Vs Ecology for future growth be the focus agenda at UNFCCC – Doha.

And what could be the real icing on the cake is, the energy which would be required to power these machines can come from CSP installed in close vicinity. Thus large amount of diesel which is required to fire the generators to turn the conveyors would be limited. And the site-offices can easily work with day-time solar power. This would not only encourage responsible eco-system management, but also boots various business opportunities in the nascent RET industry. Adding some more comments I had mentioned in my previous article Green Business Ideas – Abandoned coalfields can boost RE and save forest in India. We the environmentally concious can really make a case to the business viability of the suggestions.

For, without business interest, none would be interested. Even the die-hard activist needs money to buy bread, and for that there has to be a source of income. Let’s not become rebels without a cause, but rebel for the cause of Nature and change the datum of development.

In-fact, it is my direct appeal to WRI, Greenpeace -International; CAN – International and UNEP / UNDP that they support such an initiative. It is time humans start respecting life especially at the UNFCC level. In my article Killing is not a crime,only Murder is; The difficulty of preaching Sustainable Living.; I’ve tried to show how we narrow our focus, while talking of right to live. Unless this changes, real progress towards sustainable economy will  take longer time than we presently have. To save this planet from climate change due to human intervention.

 

 

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Water Kills ! – Drought & Food Crises are effect of Climate Change


 

I begin this article with another excerpt from the WRI blog – The unsustainable use of water and the risks it creates is on the minds of many of the thousands of water experts from the corporate, NGO, and government worlds who convened in Stockholm last week for World Water Week. Teams from the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD), World Resources Institute (WRI), and Water Footprint Network (WFN) convened a seminar called “Towards Sustainability: Harmonising Water Tools for Better Water Governance”.

My thoughts turn towards Cities. A lot has been written about Sustainable cities and how almost all great cities of the World  have originated around the banks of rivers. Mumbai too grew around rivers, and continued to do so till the turn of the Century when we finally turned the Mithi River into a stinking clogged drain and in 2005, she in protest inundated Mumbai. The famous Mumbai floods of 26/7/2005 would forever haunt those who suffered its wrath.

And seven years after the incident, India has learnt nothing. In fact we still alternate between drought and flood every year in some city or other.

The erratic monsoon has led to pest attacks and fungal infestation on as much as 50% of the cotton, soya and paddy crop, aggravating Vidarbha’s agrarian crisis. A fallout of this is a rise in farmer suicides, including five in the last 72 hours, taking the toll to 50 deaths in August alone and 526 in 2012 so far. Report by Yogesh Pawar DNA Newapaper

To those who wonder how the draught in Vidarbha region effects Mumbai, the megalopolis the connection is simple.You see, as a Green Building consultant by profession,I do not have any idea of how to grow grain, pulses or vegetables. Which is laid on the dining table of millions like me. Professionals who only have the power of purchase, but not the skill to survive a single day, should the Farmers perish!  The story is not about a single region but all of rural India which alternates between drought and flood with regular monotony, every year for the past 60 years of Independence ! Water & Food are closely interrelated. And presently it a danger looming large on the face of the civilized World.

Both Drought & Flood are adverse situations, with the potentially destructive power to Kill. The former can suck out the last drop of the precious liquid from any life form by its absence and its over presence can drown and wash away the very existence of civilization.

Global Warming & Climate Change is just about that – the revenge of Water on Civilization. A Civilization which is so callously hurtling itself towards self invited doom, by setting the Global temperature rise by 3.5°C. created by the high-carbon life-style of the Peoples. And it is well understood by the Government of India, which has a detailed study on linking climate change & drought.

It is therefore important for Cities around the Globe to adapt and if still possible mitigate the apocalypse. And among many measures, some of the best are those which the C40 Cities program present ( Mumbai & Delhi are signatories ). Each city in the C40 is unique in its infrastructure and progress in addressing climate change. To the uninitiated; C40 works to empower cities to connect with each other and share technical expertise on best practices. C40 is a network of the world’s mega-cities taking action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. With a unique set of assets, the C40 works with participating cities to address climate risks and impacts locally and globally.

We all are aware of the Mumbai Floods of 26th July 2005. There were severe drought in parts of India between the period 2002-2005. Large tracts of India are prone to droughts. 68 percent of India’s land mass is drought-prone to varying degrees, of which about 50 percent is chronically drought-prone. As per Government of India’s estimate, there are one or two years of droughts every five years in semi-arid and arid regions of India.

If one reads the report on Mumbai water requirement, it would be adequately clear that as the City expands the fresh-water requirement of the city is going to be woe-fully short. While I have commented on water in my earlier article Green Business Ideas – Sell water at the price of petrol – and reap the ‘fringe’ benefits.The idea there was to increase the conservation of water in Rural India.  Now, as the Nation grows, the existing Cities would be under tremendous strain to expand and accommodate, while the second tier cities and towns would be looked at by policy makers to develop as alternate destination to over saturated Megalopolis.  And when we speak of development, in terms of Cities we are talking of expanding the foot-print of the Urban Concrete Jungle. To understand the situation below is a report.

A World Bank report says –  Temperatures have soared in India this summer. The scanty monsoon rains have been unable to replenish reservoirs or recharge diminishing groundwater. Much of the country is reeling under acute water shortages. In water-starved cities like Delhi, those who can afford it pay large sums to private suppliers to fill up household tanks. India’s burgeoning cities, already bursting at the seams, are struggling to provide their residents with basic services. No Indian city receives piped water 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Raw sewage often overflows into open drains, polluting ponds, rivers, and groundwater. Although cities like Delhi receive with 220 liters of water per person per day – much more than Paris, for instance – some 40-70% of this water is lost due to physical and financial leakages.  Consumers bear the brunt of these inefficiencies……There is a clear need to revamp the system. No time can be lost, as India is in the throes of an unprecedented urbanization, the second in the world after China, with a further 10 million people expected to move into the urban areas each year. …… There is a growing realization that creating infrastructure alone will not solve the problem; the management of urban water supply services will also need to be addressed to arrive at a sustainable solution.

The C40 City program, water sustainability has been in the agenda, with some great ideas on containing waste, the case study of Emfuleni, South Africa is a interesting read.

In this article, we shall explore some unusual ways to save the most precious and limited resource – Water. Especially in the Urban setting of Mumbai. My suggestion would be to look at Water a little more closely and with a different perspective. I hope the idea would also be able to attract some thought for the future cities the world is building to house the incoming horde of 9 Million humans by 2050.

Every mega-city which is built has a net-work of services, and among the various services, is the storm water drain. Ideally the town-planners design the drain to discharge the water into the sea, or river.

Ideally there should not have been any human induced Climate Change and Water Crises!

Now that we have established the situation to be dire, how about channelling the storm water back into the under-ground reservoirs?

Aug 9, 2010, DNA Newspaper report –

Geologists expressed serious concern over the unregulated withdrawal of groundwater.

“Indiscriminate and unplanned extraction of groundwater could lead to wells yielding saline water for some time and then drying up,” V Subramanyan, a former geology professor at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), said. “Even the surface streams may lose their water.” It was imperative, said Subramanyan, for a coastal city like Mumbai to retain the state of already existing equilibrium between freshwater and saline water. “Excessive pumping of wells or heavy withdrawal of water through several wells located near each other can disturb this balance,” Subramanyan said. “In either case, the underlying saline water encroaches upon the fresh water column and contaminates it.” SK Gupta, former deputy director of groundwater survey and development agency (GSDA), Konkan Region, said it was important to improve the groundwater levels through rainwater harvesting. Gupta said that preference should be given to ring wells instead of borewells to improve the quality of groundwater. Subramanyan said that recharge ponds should be built to tackle the crisis……

Imagine building a new City where  a network of pipes would be laid, in such a fashion that the surface run-off  ( as in Rainwater Harvesting )  or the excess water which falls on to the streets, pavements and other public places, get collected through a net work of drainage system which instead of discharging the fresh water right back into the sea or river gets collected at the city fringe into artificial lakes  or holding ponds, which then percolates deep into the water table below. The world over fracking is being done in search of gas, for once we can use the technology to replenish ground water and re-charge dried out water table. And this fracking along with holding ponds perhaps can be created around and in the low lying areas of some of the existing cities too, to a certain extent, to stem off emergency situations.

Let’s take the case of Mumbai, the pace in which unplanned Urban development is happening; thanks to a few corrupt builder- politician-bureaucrat nexus. If disaster strikes, either natural or man-made most of Mumbai is not geared in any  manner to bear a long haul situation. What would happen if  we have an earth-quake and the water-pipelines which are feeding Mumbai with water, rupture extensively and compounded with massive sedimentation of the feeder lakes, which may render the waters temporarily harmful for consumption?  In such a situation Mumbai would face unprecedented water crisis.

And the beauty of official apathy and ignorance of the Political class can’t be better summed up than the following report  on the same subject on Aug 12, 2010 DNA News report

….. The water table in south Mumbai is shallow. A rainfall above 500mm is sufficient to fill it to capacity,” Gupta said. The area has already seen rainfall in excess of 2,200mm. “The additional water received in the form of rain is being rejected by the ground. This is causing the run-off,” Gupta added…. The hydraulic department, meanwhile, has begun planning ways to stem the surface run-off. “We will have to ensure that the ground water table declines,” a senior engineer said. One of the measures being discussed is digging an open well near Metro Cinema. “This will help extract 50,000 litres of groundwater daily. As the water table decreases, the aquifer will begin accepting rainwater again,” the engineer said…..

That there was ground-water reject also inversely means that, when there is scant rain-fall the water table gets dry. Therefore as Climate change would be bringing in more drought than rain-fall, the posh South Mumbai, would need to depend on the water being pumped from the lakes 100KM away from Mumbai. Therefore we must think of ideas to recharge and also divert the excess, from the South to the North of the City where water crisis is an everyday struggle. And also create holding ponds, which not only would beautify the city but perhaps assuage  Mumbai by feeding water from within the city limits. And in one brilliant stroke give the villages around the six lakes the first right of use of the water. (Six lakes in and around Mumbai supply water to the city.) Which is dined to them to quench the insatiable needs of Mumbai.

The thought is there, the process are known. It is the implementation that matters. As an old proverb goes – ” A stitch in time saves nine”; so would action taken on ground in an immediate basis would perhaps save many a City from civil commotion in the absence of  Water in the future.

Because, water is saviour when respected but extracts a terrible vengeance if mocked.

Courtesy: http://vidarbha.webs.com/ , http://www.c40cities.org/about, http://www.worldbank.org, http://www.dnaindia.com

 

 

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