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India is set to fail the Sustainable Development Goals


A recently published study by the Joint Research Centre (JRC) – the European Commission’s science and knowledge service – analyses the interaction between  and heat. The novelty of this study is that it looks not only at temperature but also  to estimate the magnitude and impact of heat waves. Heatwaves amplified by high humidity can reach above 40°C and may occur as often as every two years, leading to serious risks for human health. If global temperatures rise with 4°C, a new superheat wave of 55°C can hit regularly many parts of the world, including Europe. 

The study analyses changes in yearly probability for a high humidity heat waves since 1979 under different global warming scenarios. If  increase up to 2 C above pre-industrial levels the combined effect of heat and humidity (known as apparent temperature or Heat Index) will likely exceed 40°C every year in many parts of Asia, Australia, Northern Africa, South and North America. Europe will be least affected by up to 30% chance of having such strong heat wave annually.

However, if temperatures rise to 4°C a severe scenario is on the horizon. Scientists predict that a new super- will appear with the apparent temperature peaking at above 55°C- a level critical for human survival. It will affect densely populated areas such as USA’s East coast, coastal China, large parts of India and South America. Under this  scenario, Europe is likely to suffer annual heat waves with an apparent temperature of above 40°C regularly while some regions of Eastern Europe may be hit by heatwaves of above 55°C. (Read more )

Lipponen, a researcher at the Finnish Meteorological Institute, used publicly available data from NASA to demonstrate the rising temperatures across the world.

In light of the numerous reports of negative impacts of climate change, UNFCCC Executive Secretary Patricia Espinosa urged participants of the annual Munich Security Conference to consider climate change as a “security story” with far-reaching implications for global peace and stability.

In preparation for the 23rd session of the Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC, the UN University Institute for Environment and Human Security released a series of reports on how SIDS could get adaptation support, including help to migrate, under the Paris Agreement on climate change.

The above information is nothing new to the initiated and neither does it come as a surprise to the Political class of the World. Why else we would have been meeting up like clock work every year under the aegis of UNFCCC? And once more in less than 100 days, we meet at CoP23.

Yet when we look at the ground situation in India. The only narrative that we see is political. The noise is one of divisiveness, corruption & apathy of the governing class and neglect and ignorance of the people.

The only ray of hope lies with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who like many of his predecessors ( not all ) actually wants to lift India from the rut it has put itself in and considers that as status quo.

But how does one man alone change the narrative of a Nation?

While it is true that recent survey shows him as the most popular, with slightly diminishing returns. It is not because the NDA which he governs has done everything supremely. But more because many still believe in the person. Rather than the government. When people vote in State elections, Municipal elections they vote for PM Modi & not for the person who stands for the election. The wins of many MP, MLA, MLC is the direct aura of Narendra Modi, which kinds of blinds the vision of the voter, who otherwise would not even look at the ordinary achievements of these politicians who are no better than the ones defeated. And a couple of them even worse than them.

The PM began with taking up the broom & try clean up the filth in and around cities. But has failed to remove the filth of lethargy from the peoples. He is as the polls predict the best chance India has. Therefore it is all the more important that the Sustainable Development Goals don’t fail under his parties rhetoric of Good Governance.

We are a people who love the cacophony of posturing and politics instead of implementation of policy. We love to blame the politicians ( and rightly so to a very large extent) but don’t for a minute reflect that it is us who choose our representatives and they come from the very society which has forgotten its roots and have no pride in our traditions or culture. We are a Nation where a very high number have no civic sense, ethics or moral compass. While the remainder belongs to a class which has no influence to change the mindset.

Disconnected are the urban class and Disoriented the rural folks.

This allows the unscrupulous to bend every policy which would truly make India into a great Nation, to something they can use for their own narrow personal gains.

So much so that the narrative of a Shining India is slowly turning into a “Signing India”. Almost all the MoU’s which are being signed have headed nowhere. The states which copied the ideas of our PM to promote them have as of now not really made an impact. In a way, it should have.

Here is a test to prove it – If one still finds traffic violation, double parking, encroached footpaths and people throwing garbage all around, in-spite of CCTV installed all around. In the cities of New Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Kolkata. Not to mention the toxic froth spewing lake in Bangalore. 

Then India as a whole has failed! She voted for change. Which can’t be brought about by bringing in the same set of people into governance through the back door whom the people had rejected.

The country voted for change in 2014. And every State & Municipal elections thereafter!

A few good people at the Center can not govern India. We need the same mindset of people at the grass-root level. Sadly the NDA government equals the UPA government at this level. The apathy and inefficiency along with the latent corruption are slowly reducing the impact of all the good initiatives which India needs to take to fulfil its Paris Agreement Obligations.

The apathy & mindset of the lower rung in governance will not allow for any Sustainable Development. And Climate Change is a clear & present danger leaving us with very limited time.

Let us analyze The Global Goals vis a vis India. And see where we stand so that a course correction can be done by those who have the wherewithal and influence to do so.

spc20sdgs-globalgoalsforsustainabledevelopment-05207220dpi

Goal 1: No Poverty; Goal 2: Zero Hunger; Goal 3: Good Health and Well-being

These are goals which can’t be achieved 100% anywhere in the world. It was not possible when God’s walked the planet and will not be when AI – Robots would.

Having said that, in the Indian context, it is not just the population but the methods used which push people towards poverty.

In ancient India, there was the Varna system. A class where based on IQ and financial capacity a person was either a Teacher, a Warrior, a Tradesman or a Peasant. This combined with lower population increased the well-being amongst most. And this idea must be explored in the modern context. Sans Politics. A difficult but not impossible task.

Inequality is created when a person of a certain skill set is made to work on areas in which the persons simply can’t excel because they lack either in Physiological, Psychological or Financial strength, which makes it extremely difficult for them to train and apply the methods required to succeed and reach the higher echelon.

We have landless farmers coming into the city and do menial jobs such as security guards or sweepers etc. A person who would excel in cultivating the best wheat which a bread manufacturer, who perhaps employs them as menial labour, would never be able to. This tends to keep the poor always at the bottom of the pyramid, with hopelessness staring at their future.

This is simply because we lack the idea of creating urban farmlands which would enable the farmer to live within a city and yet find a job which he is skilled for. That such urban agriculture would have umpteen benefits can be discussed later.

India is always found to provide knee-jerk solutions more out of political compulsions rather than a long thought policy. It provides sops via loan waiver etc but has still not thought that under the PM mission for “Skill India”, it should first identify the aptitude of the people and then train them to excel within that sphere. We are trying to skill most of the farmers into everything to do with Urban India.

Skills like – Housekeeping, Shuttering Carpenter Solar Installer, Apparel, Machining, Refrigeration and Air-Conditioning, Welding, Electrician Construction, 2 Wheeler Repair, 4 Wheeler Repair, Appliances, Fitter, Security, Bar-Bending, Construction-Mason, Plumbing, Kitchen, Front Office Tourism & Hospitality, Beauty Wellness, Healthcare, Retail.

How many generations would it take for a family of a poor marginalized tribal coming from the remote areas of Naxal infested states to become a skilled welder or a retail salesman? When AI is fast catching up and snatching away the traditional jobs of the urban poor, towards whom the Skill India is more targeted? Can’t really be sure poverty can be eliminated by becoming a bar bending or construction Mason. As for Beauty wellness & Hospitality, we have to be real in acknowledging that not many “customers” have the sensitivity to speak with a village bumpkin who can hardly communicate in the “slick city/town language” and is not trendy enough. Which would only lead to depression and failure for these marginalized sections of the society!

Yes, some of the urban low-income groups may benefit from the Skill India program. But it would be more of statistical and optical success good for politics rather in terms of SDG achievements.

The disaster through neglect of rural India, especially Agriculture and its related programs such as watershed implementations can’t be corrected within a short term. It would need a change in approach and mindset of all stakeholders.  But in the short term if India needs to eliminate poverty it must look at Urban & peri-urban farming as a solution and laws made to make it a viable alternative. Food is a fundamental requirement and India has the chance with its young demographic dividend, most of whom live in the rural areas to be the exporter of food and reduce inequalities amongst Nations.

However, it is most unfortunate, that even after years of running from one business house to another, by those who understand the crisis of poverty & food,  almost none have been able to figure out the math of considering Urban Farming as a profitable venture. For it is the “Cost of Land” which is very steep making RoI not very attractive for those who can help. (For the idea of terminal market complex click this link)

The laws of Capitalism is most powerful!

Goal 4: Quality Education; Goal 5: Gender Equality; Goal 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth; Goal 10: Reduced Inequalities

While we talk about education, all we focus upon is literacy. In the pretext of freedom of expression, we dish out out-dated and regressive soap-operas on Television in every regional language across India. For want of TRP, paid media creates false news and debates take place which completely polarizes society.

Cities look like hovels, as no civic sense is instilled within the citizens by the governing council members and the public at large give scant regard to basic cleanliness, driving sense or even bother about illegal construction. In-fact they willingly buy into those very properties knowing fully well that the political dispensation a decade from the present would regularize all that is illegal. This is the fallout of literacy without education. The reason for this can also be squarely attributed to politicians who have understood it to be a tax-free venture open institutions only to loot and also to launder their ill-gotten gains.

While there are no great incentives to be a teacher, in which women at large can excel & is one of the noblest profession. Decent pay and training can work wonders for the future of India.

With the city infrastructure creaking, commuting to work is one of the most stressful events for the common man, whose output shrinks day by day leading to a loss in economic growth.

Political parties are quick in mobilizing workers for disruptive agendas which serve their narrow political gains. But if the same mobilization is done of party workers, block by block, ward by ward of the elected council members to clean up the city and look into the ways by which urban farming can be done. Employ on a weekly rotation basis the unemployed persons who can monitor the basic civic rules amongst the citizens. And spread the awareness into the peri-urban areas of the megalopolises, there is hope yet that the above SDG’s could be met to some extent.

Goal 6: Clean Water and Sanitation; Goal 13: Climate Action; Goal 14: Life Below Water; Goal 15: Life on Land

As long as water would remain the cheapest commodity and education the last priority the availability of clean water is not possible. Couple that with corrupt industrial houses who still consider profit as the only motive in their lives.

While it was reported that the National Green Tribunal had taken strong action and closed down many industries in the start of this year, they are up and running with only cosmetic changes applied to the sewage treatment. These companies have the money and the legal minds to fight it out in courts to circumvent the strict laws so much so that in the state of Maharashtra at Navi Mumbai area stray dogs have turned blue in colour. (Click on the NDTV Report for video.) 

It is not just life below water that is affected by these kinds of pollution but also life on land gets affected. As ground water turns poisonous and unless stringent penalties are taken India would see Minamata Disease.

A simple solution would be to use drones with image sensing radars which can spot pollutants on both land and river. It could also collect water and soil samples through a robotic arm and help authorities to find the right solution.

We are already having CCTV cameras in our towns and city roads. Hovering drones over industrial areas would definitely help in limiting damages towards the planet and it would perhaps be the best climate action taken by the government.

Goal 7: Affordable and Clean Energy; Goal 12: Responsible Consumption and Production

India is blessed by the Sun & the Sea. It’s long coastline and abundant sunshine makes a perfect case to apply Wind/Solar power stations to meet its energy needs of the present and can tap into the wave energy as and when required in the future.

However, this opportunity for abundance hides the fact that large tracts of land are required to install solar power stations. Land at no point of time is devoid of biodiversity nor are there any place on earth where there is no Life on Land. There may not be human or mammalian occupation but micro-organism or invertebrates are sure to exist.

But then we have a proverb – “crushed like an ant”, “trampled the grass”  to prove our infinite strength and that is exactly what we do when we set up the wind or solar parks. Now we are also thinking of apeing some other countries and the thought of floating solar panels has gained currency. But when one covers vast track of water body, what happens to the marine life just under the shade? What would happen to the pond/river/sea bed which would not have the option of sunlight touching it? Would we then not disturb Life on Water?

There is no lesser evil. One must stop this choice between development and destruction. India stands in a unique position which can give it leadership position is showcasing a balance hereto unseen. And I daresay that it would be Prime Minister Narender Modi, should the right ideas reach the PMO.

India by default knows about sustainable living, it has been a way of life which we have forgotten only in the last 30 odd years, in our race to ape the “developed” west. The disconnect of a Nation from its culture is one of the root cause of global warming. A study of the link given above would make many agree that we know how to connect with Nature. What we need is how to do so in the modern concept.

We must declare mandatory Rooftop Renewable Energy, for both green field and retrofit. Yes, city skyscrapers are not of the same height. As of now let them be fed by the green power from already established RE Power Plants. But the Development Plan henceforth shall take into account the Sun Path and build heights across towns and cities would be determined by it. This would enable every roof to carry Solar PV. Roads cutting across cities would be as per the wind pattern determined through computation of fluid dynamics, so that tunnel effect is exploited to the maximum by vertical axis wind turbines which also doubles as street lamp-posts.

We must contain the spread of Powerplants to new areas. We must aim for Net Zero buildings not by deriving smart calculations but by use of vernacular architecture. By instilling pride in Indian Architecture so that we consume less energy and water, to begin with. Only through responsible consumption & production of already fragile and scarce resources, we can hope to survive. To adapt to a changing climate which we are already too late to stop.

The devastating cycle of floods and droughts have begun and no political calculations can stop the downfall of the ruling party when millions die or there is a scarcity of food. The vast majority of voters are the peasant and the blue collared workers. Who can simply connect to one attribute of the adult franchise; if s/he has voted for a particular party it is because they want their livelihood to be cheaper/better. The recent price rise of vegetables has already been squarely put as a failure of Modi Government by them. They will simply throw out the present incumbent irrespective of having the knowledge that the alternative would also not be better. It is their only way to vent frustration and they will use it.

But those who understand governance know that at present continuity is the best hope. We don’t need populist measures but hard risk-taking decisions which the Prime Minister has the gumption to take. Only such actions would help stave off the extreme danger which is already manifest.

Goal 9: Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure; Goal 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities

Goal 9/11 is perhaps the most important in the Indian context as they are drivers for growth. They are the change agents which can catapult the country from a developing to a developed nation.

And therein lies the extreme danger and challenge!

The danger is building cities which would destroy forest and biodiversity, uproot indigenous population and further marginalize the poor. This would surely happen if we use the calculation of Capitalism. Where the only motive is to profit and to a large extent profiteer.

And therefore the challenge, the effort it would take to make truly Sustainable Smart Cities using the best of industry and innovation. Of using products which by themselves have a small carbon footprint and by design would help reduce consumption. They would not come cheap and would, therefore, fail in showing returns on investment in the traditional way of calculation. Where the principal factor is greed, not sustenance.

Mansoor Khan in his book The Third Curve. has rightly looked at the factors; excerpts are given below –

Financial markets are under threat. Growth rates are dropping. 
The age-old remedies prescribed to boost economic growth are proving ineffective, if not outright dangerous. 
Eight years after the 2008 global financial crash, nothing seems to work as per projections. 
But what if the rules of the game have inverted? 
What if economic growth is eluding us for a reason that we have discounted all this while? 
What if there are indeed limits to growth? 
Yes, the Modern Industrial World stands at a crucial and unavoidable turning point. The sacrosanct paradigm of modern economics, namely perpetual growth, is in the process of ending. Our economic growth model makes 2 simple yet amazingly unreasonable assumptions: 
1. That money is the currency that runs the world. In fact it is energy. 
2. That we have limitless energy & other resources on a finite planet.

Each of us must read what he says or hear him speak, to understand what each of us must do to push the government in the right direction.

We, therefore, can not design the mundane cities and call them Smart. We can not afford to use glib mathematical calculations and call buildings “Net Zero” and hang a plaque from some crediting agency whose underlying raison d’être is to promote Business As Usual.

Here is a simple example to prove the charge. India recorded the maximum temperature of 51°Celsius in May this year in Rajasthan. It has already been scientifically established that temperatures are set to rise in India due to climate change, the excerpts of which are at the start of this article. We also know that the mean average temperature of the Indian subcontinent has risen by 0.6°Celsius . This was declared by no other than Union Minister Dr. Harshvardhan on the 5th of August’17.

We also know as per NEERI report, that glass facade increase surrounding temperature by 17-19°Celsius. Yet we have “experts” who with the use of clever and sophisticated software prove that the building is a Net Zero energy emission building. This is not only happening in India but all over the World.

The Global Goals indeed require Innovations. But we are innovating lies! The problem with that is while the pretenders would make some money and the architects of the Paris Agreement would pat themselves on their backs.

Earth would neither spare the smooth talkers nor the soothsayers. It would simply extinguish everything. 

Goal 16: Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions; Goal 17: Partnerships for the Goals

August -15th: Climate change will have a negative effect on key crops such as wheat, rice, and maize, according to a major scientific report out Tuesday that reviewed 70 prior studies on global warming and agriculture. (phys.org)

August -18th: Extreme weather events are costing India $9-10 billion annually and climate change is projected to impact agricultural productivity with increasing severity from 2020 to the end of the century. In a recent submission to a parliamentary committee, the agriculture ministry said productivity decrease of major crops would be marginal in the next few years but could rise to as much as 10-40% by 2100 unless farming adapts to climate change-induced changes in weather. (Economic Times)

August -19th: Sending worrying signals to the farm sector, deficient rains in central and peninsular India have taken toll on the ongoing Kharif (summer crop) sowing operation, bringing down the total acreage as on Friday, as compared to the sown area during the corresponding period last year. Oilseeds and pulses are the worst hit. It will increase the country’s import bills if the sowing does not pick up in next two-three weeks. India, in any case, has to depend on imports to meet its domestic demand for these crops. (Times of India)

The Ph ys.org report on Climate change as reported on August 15th’17 juxtaposed with the two local news on India proves that nothing is a “Chinese Hoax” as claimed by a brilliant(?) analyst of world affairs.

In fact, both the Chinese and Indian governments must tone down their political rhetoric and get into actual cooperation to save their peoples from the Danse Macabre of Planet Earth. Unless peace prevails, there would be an atmosphere of mistrust and with the ever severe climate change impacts of drought/flood cycle neighbours would not come to rescue of each other when most needed. Hegemony will not help. We still have but one planet and finite resources. Greed has brought about Climate Change, further lust for an appropriation of wealth would lead to Armageddon. And there is no prize for knowing that Goddess Earth will win.

There has to be Partnership of Nations to ensure that the Global Goals are actually met. It is the need of the hour but real-politics is taking precedence of utopian ideals. While this article is India centric, it does not limit the issues to this Nation alone. For what happens to the Indian continent is true for the whole of Asia and in fact the world. We are failing due in our duty towards the planet. And no amount of platitude and self-praise would help us.
It is time to get real and do Justice to Earth.
 

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World Water Day – Do you know how much water a light bulb consumes?


By 2030, researchers estimate that the disparity between national water demand and reliable water supply will be nearly 50%. Currently, India has a total water demand of around 700 billion cubic metres, of which almost 85% is used for producing food. In another 17 years, India will have only half the water it needs, thanks to global warming and population explosion. On the World Water Day on March 22, the need to focus attention on the importance of freshwater and advocating sustainable management of freshwater resources will be of pivotal importance. If we consider even the most cost-effective solution to reduce water scarcity, it will require an annual spend of nearly Rs35,000 crore by 2030, according to ‘Charting our water future: Economic frameworks to inform decision-making’, a report by global management consulting firm McKinsey & Company.The report stated that India would require investments to the tune of Rs8 lakh crore over the next 20 years to provide basic infrastructure services like water, waste water and solid waste management. In India, just about 64% of urban population is covered by individual water connections compared to 91% in China, 86% in South Africa and 80% in Brazil. Allocation of Rs15,260 crore has been made in the Budget towards clean drinking water and sanitation as against revised estimates of Rs13,000 crore. A DNA News report by Dilnaz Boga.

While reading this under my study light, I looked up and started thinking – how much water does my light drink? I found some interesting answer under Saving Electricity, on water consumption to produce electricity (more information can be found in EIA page ). While I would not be able to verify the facts noted as under, even believing them to be accurate to some extent, presents a very sombre scenario.

Water Consumption by different types of Power Stations to produce electricity

  • Solar plant with dry cooling:  80 gallons per  megawatt-hour
  • Nuclear plants (with closed-loop cooling):  700-1100 gallons per megawatt-hour
  • Nuclear plants (with open-loop cooling):  25,000-60,000 gallons per megawatt-hour
  • Coal-fired plants (closed-loop):  500-600 gallons per megawatt-hour
  • Coal-fired plants (open-loop):  20,000-50,000 gallons per megawatt-hour
  • Biomass (crops grown for the purpose of fuel):  40,000 to 100,000 gallons per megawatt-hour
  • Natural gas fracking:  2-10 million gallons per well

This information required some chilled soft-drink and potato chips and lowering the temperature of the A/c. After all I have attended so many conferences on climate change, I have by now got used to the habit of consuming good food & drinks in luxury. How else can one solve the pressing issues of water scarcity and its related fall-outs like war and riots? Hunger and malnutrition caused due to drought and famine too requires a chilled pineapple juice in a PET bottle to be addressed properly.

Now let’s do some simple maths – 1 gallon = 3.78 litres (US- liter). As on July 31, 2010, and as per the Central Electricity Authority the total installed capacity of Coal or Lignite based power plants in India are 87093.38 MW.

So the water required to produce this electricity  87093.38 x 2268 liters = 19,75,27,786 litres.(assuming all are closed loop consuming  600 gallons/MW) Presently we have around 111 Thermal power plants which are coal/lignite based.

While it can be argued that water is recycled most of the time. That the coal, nuclear, Bio-mass, Natural gas fracking power plants  require water can not be denied. And it is impossible to stop the leakages. Some of it will have to escape, thus requiring continuous replenishment. Even Solar thermal requires water, though it can be called a saint in comparison to the others.

Thus a huge amount of water is not reaching the fields of a drought hit farm, or recharging the wells to quench the thirst. So with every drop of electricity produced we are removing vast amounts of water from the natural water cycle. This must be clearly understood.

India has an installed power generation capacity of 2,10,950 megawatts of electricity, according to government figures. And as per various estimates, India’s power generation meets only 90% of total demand.

TableAs the demand for electricity for a resurgent India is bound to increase, the thermal power plants have to increase their capacity or new plants would be needed to be set up. Same would be the case for Nuclear, Natural Gas, Bio-mass and Natural Gas Fracking.

With the table given, it is easy to the calculate how much water is required to produce electricity, which most of us waste. The common person needs to understand that Energy & Water are interlinked. Just as it is inside the body of a human. Without water, one has to die. Similarly without water we shall have no electricity. Until Renewable Energy, especially Solar PV and Wind mature to cover the demand supply gap. But this is not happening any time soon.

It is a choice in front of the intelligent animal named “human” to decide which is more important. To quench its thirst or thirst for more power to light up the ugly, unsustainable city which it habitats. The situation soon would be a choice of one or the other, unless we change the way we live. Sustainable design and living is no more an option but a necessity.

In my opinion, to celebrate World Water Day, municipalities all over the World  should announce 1 day of no water supply. This would make each and every citizen sit up and take notice of the school children walking down the streets holding placards on how to conserve water. The Police should arrest water thieves, a common thing in India & many other Asian countries and parade them in front of the media before putting them in jail. It is only then the seriousness of the problem be understood by the people. If at all.

For as long as city dwellers get their share of fresh-food and water supply, they care a damn from whose mouth it has been snatched. Thus, we will find people continue to throng so-called Holy men doing the unholy act of wasting water in cities of states which are in grip of severe drought.It is the mindset of the people which needs to be changed with sustained practical approach towards sustainable practice.

And one such idea could be by educating the people in a more grass-roots approach. We all need a home to live. And most in India aspire to own a home.

This could start with the building industry. The building industry consumes 40% of the world’s energy needs and 60% of all waste stems from it.

The Indian Builders Association has been seeking the Infrastructure status from the Government for a very long time. The Government could moot a law that in exchange of giving into that demand, the top management of all big and small builder and related stake-holder companies must go for certified & comprehensive Green Building training.

India practices two wonderful Energy Efficient Building design certification program through IGBC & GRIHA. Since its inception in 2001 IGBC, which practices the Indian version of LEED has 1,972 registered buildings and 149 projects are with GRIHA which opened in 2007. (source: Click here).

It is too small a number to effect a reverse change in the Global Warming and Water & Energy conservation. But if developers are made to attend Orientation Workshops as is organised by Centre for Science and Environment along with those by TERI -GRIHA and CII-IGBC. And without whose valid certificate one would not be given the licence to build, we may still be able to make the desired change we want in our effort to conserve Water and Energy.

This would automatically percolate to the public, the home/office buyers who would be bombarded by the green information in every brochure the developers distribute. And when the public starts to use the facilities and notice the difference it makes to their lives, the mission would have achieved its target.

And for once I believe this not to be a wishful thinking but a doable project. All that is needed is support from those who can influence the decisions of Governments.

 

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Green Business Idea : Using Manpower & Ox-power to generate rural electricity


Green Business Ideas needn’t be about multimillion dollars of earnings. Although that kind of money does impact lives and can bring in sea-change in thoughts and actions much faster; simple things which look towards the rural landscape should also matter where the earning may be more if the latent advantages are explored. It is also important to indigenise them to the local needs. We would discuss  ideas which belong to different countries but each can work in various Nations. Perhaps it would be the best BASIC country collaboration ever towards sustainable living.

Beginning by mentioning the superlative program hosted by CNN on sustainable living especially the Eco-Solutions  program where it was shown that, water hyacinth a bane for Africa ( & Asia) could be exploited to created products one would usually associate with bamboo or jute. Although weaving with water hyacinth would be natural in the South American countries, attempting to find its commercial use in Africa is indeed wonderful. While the botanists and environmentalist may not agree, citing the commercialization as a bane to their effort to eliminate the evasive weed; one while agreeing to their line of thought could differ in the approach.

English: Water hyacinth

Water hyacinth (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The reason water hyacinth does not grow uncontrolled in the South American continent is because it has natural enemies which keeps it in check. Without such natural control available in the Asian & African continent the water hyacinth has wrecked havoc to the water-bodies. But now the biggest “natural” enemy to everything natural in this planet the honourable homo sapien; once they taste the commercial possibilities of any living or non-living material on Earth, one can bet their last dime that ‘extinction’ is not far away. Therefore one should not worry too much in supporting the poor African women in their attempt to commercialize the water hyacinth. Given the right incentive within a span of 10 years it would become less of a menace; not requiring grants from the UN to keep it under control and more of an opportunity to uplift the poor. If we attempt to think out of the box, sustainable solutions would be easier to come by. And the much needed grants could then go into attempt to rectify wrongs for which easier answer are yet to be found. It is therefore encouraging to see the USA come up with a process to produce Ethanol form water hyacinth at Lake Victoria in East Africa ( vindicating my article –The USA has given some of the top inventions to abate Climate Change.)

It is known to very few that Water Hyacinth can be used to produce Bio-fuel, which can then run a generator to produce electricity. Research on this has been happening across Nations including India, yet not enough media focus and awareness is created to bring it to the grass root level, where it would start to make a difference.

Recently, Oxfam has claimed that the lifestyle of the Maasai tribe in Africa should be embraced as a response to climate change because of their ability to farm in deserts and scrublands.Many Maasai tribes throughout Tanzania and Kenya welcome visits to their village to experience their culture, traditions, and lifestyle. In these tribe cattle plays a very important role too.

There is a great debate in the west about GHG emission form cattle, which is mostly reared for production of beef. With many becoming vegetarians and vegans the debate on consumption and rearing of cattle is still on with respect to their contribution to Global Warming. Those who may not know, in India  practising Hindus consider cattle as sacred. The word “Panjerpol” means an old home for cattle. While the word “Gaushala” denotes a dairy farm. Panjerpol is where devout Hindu’s like to see the cows to go, when their useful life as a milch cow or an Oxen ends, so that they can spend the remainder years in comfort. The charitable trust which I visited is run by some of the most successful businessmen in Pune, Maharashtra,India whose vision is exemplary. Considering every cow as Kamdhenu and all bulls as Nandi the teachings of sustainable living is practised even now.

In the day and age of increased awareness of the benefits of natural fertilizers,using  Cow Manure Fertilizer For
Growing Vegetables, – supply the best bulk form of organic matter to the garden. The fantastic soil conditioning ability of cow manure due to the amount of quality organic matter, that no processed fertilizer can match, is reason enough to use cow manure fertilizer whenever possible to the garden. The soil amending properties of this really great natural fertilizer has to be used to be properly appreciated. In another article Cow Urine Can Cure Many Diseases, the author an Ayurvedic Physician, from Gujrat goes on to say – …The analysis of cow urine has shown that it contains nitrogen, sulphur, phosphate, sodium, manganese, carbolic acid, iron, silicon, chlorine, magnesium, melci, citric, titric, succenic, calcium salts, vitamin a, b, c, d, e, minerals, lactose, enzymes, creatinine, hormones and gold acids.Cow urine treatment and research centre, in Indore (Madhyapradesh, India) has conducted a lot of research in the past few years and reached at the conclusion that it is capable of curing diabetes, blood pressure, asthma, psoriasis, eczema, heart attack, blockage in arteries, fits, cancer, aids, piles, prostrate, arthritis, migraine, thyroid, ulcer, acidity, constipation, gynecological problems, ear and nose problems, abortion and several other diseases. Cow is a mobile dispensary. It is the treasure of medicines. The cow urine therapy is capable of curing several curable and incurable diseases. The holy texts, like atharva veda, charak samhita, rajni ghuntu, vridhabhagabhatt, amritasagar, bhavprakash, sushrut samhita contain beautiful description about these things. It must be noted the late Prime Minister of India Shri Morarji Desai advocated Ayurvedic treatment similar to the one mentioned.

The above sets the stage across two continents on the importance of cattle and hyacinth as two factors which can play an important role in sustainable living in rural areas and thus advocates one of the agendas of the UNFCCC charter.

OX-Driven Electric Generator

The same amount of difference it would make, should the poor and marginalised farmer in India use his oxen to produce electricity. This is yet another aspect I understood on my visit to the Panjerpol near Pune. The article Ox-driven generators set to solve power crisis- BIT Mesra’s non-conventional energy gadget promises to steal show at Udyog Mela reads – An oxen-driven generator set, developed by BIT Mesra’s mechanical engineering department, is set to draw crowds to the forthcoming Jharkhand Udyog Mela 2008 at Morabadi grounds.BIT Mesra has booked a stall in the 11-day fair slated to start from November 15. The fair promises to be a good platform to inform the rural masses, NGOs and, most importantly, agencies working in the field of non-conventional energy about the importance of pollution-free power generating machines. A single unit of such a machine would be able to provide power to at least eight households.

This actually complements an article in another blog Engineering for Change which has devised the same idea by using bicycles –This innovation is one of our Promising Prototypes of IEEE’s Global Humanitarian Technology Conference in Seattle. Bike-powered electricity generators are a practical solution for Indian households. Surveying the country’s energy landscape, with its tight living spaces, expensive land, and far too many people for the power the country produces, bike generators make sense. Venkat Natarajan and his team at Intel Technology India in Bangalore came to that conclusion and they are testing their own low-cost designs.

ISCKON ideas

Developing Green Business Ideas which actually impact the lives of the Undeveloped or the Least Developed Nations must be given priority and WRI, CAN-International, Greenpeace and the likes  should try to make this as an agenda to be showcased at the next UNFCCC meet in Europe. As I have advocated always, it is not important whether we are aware of the possibilities, it is important that the poor and the needy are given the opportunity to exploit so. Water hyacinth covers the serene Vembanad Lake,is as recent a news as October 2012 whereas Biotech Students to Produce Alternate Source of Energy in Surat, published in June 1, 2011 pre-dates the problem taken up by the Times of India news. While BIT Mesra’s Ox-power electricity was showcased in 2008. Actually if one researches further this concept was already in place way back in 1985 and finds mention in Prabhupada News. Had it been encouraged and popularised by the Union and State governments in India, THE GREAT INDIAN BLACKOUT OF 2012 might have been averted. But sensible thinking and foresight is not an Indian thing. We are conditioned for lethargic and knee-jerk administrative reactions.

It is important for the UN to seriously consider taking up a dedicated media space to beam down relevant news and information, as mentioned above on a  24x7x365 basis around the world much like the popular Discovery or National Geographic TV programs. This would at least enable a ground-swell which may see some change for the better in the Developing and Under-developed countries where administrative apathy is rife.

How difficult is it for the media moguls to partner with the UN to launch such ground breaking idea? Something that would benefit the world and encourage people to people contact, thus bringing unto fore new ideas which could perhaps have commercial value? In many of the You Tube links attached to this article one can see so many home-grown ideas which can not get much traction due to want of audience. Some die out simply because the immediate society has no need of it, while it could have been a game changer a continent across; it may perhaps save lives. It can happen even now, in fact it must.

Most of India’s 20 nuclear reactors are on the list of the most unreliable 50 in the world, and villagers near the Tarapur plant have been bearing the brunt of after-effects of radiation. In spite of their complaints, all they’ve got from the govt is assurance of reduced exposure, which is no less risky, finds Dilnaz Boga. Poonam Hambire, a resident of Ghivali village, 12km from Boisar in Thane district, is at the forefront of the anti-nuclear agitation against the Tarapur Atomic Power Station (TAPS). “Women have to come forward as false cases are slapped against the male protesters in Tarapur,” she alleges. Her village lies within the 1.6km radius around one the country’s oldest nuclear reactors built by General Electric in the 1960s. It’s the same model as Japan’s Fukushima reactor. The effects of radiation are obvious in every home not only in Ghivali but also in the neighbouring villages.At Hambire’s home, her eight-year-old nephew’s garlanded photo adorns the wall. “He died of lung cancer, but we couldn’t get his medical reports from the government heath centre. It’s hard to talk about it as his father who is employed at the plant will lose his job. None of the sick villagers get their medical papers,” she claims.

The very argument that India needs to develop and maintain costly Nuclear plants, pales in comparison to the fact that using simple tools, the country under its NEREGA mission can utilize only a fraction of the allocated Nuclear development money and yet bring about enormous social benefit. The most telling; India has unemployed youth in villages who could if given a chance, pedal for 24 hours a day in shifts to continuously produce electricity. Which not only could then be stored and then evacuated into the grid for transmission and distribution but the labour could be paid for by the power companies.

As per the survey conducted by Labour Bureau of the Government of India, 40 Million are unemployed with an Unemployment Rate of 9.4%. The survey was conducted in 28 States/UTs spread across the country in which about 99 per cent of the country’s population reside. It estimates that the population of the country is 1182 million with 63.5% in the working age of 15 – 59 years, however, not everyone who is in the working age is interested in joining the work force, so the worker population ratio is much lower. There are an estimated 238 million households, of which 172 million are rural and 66 million are urban. Out of the total population of the States/UTs covered, 872 million persons (73.8 per cent) live in rural areas and 310 million persons (26.2 per cent) live in urban areas.As per The-Pedal-A-Watt-Bicycle-Generator an average rider will produce between 125 and 300 watts. So even if we consider one-third of 872 million people, the mathematics works out to be a decent amount of power generation + employment scheme wrapped into one. Will the Governments listen ?

 

 

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Sustainable Living and Climate Initiative: Socio-Political Decisions can have a profound effect on it.


When God made Earth – He made night & day. When Man made the machine he created the Day-shift and the Night shift.

The 2009 Sustainable Living Expo in Stonnington.

The 2009 Sustainable Living Expo in Stonnington. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Both created – one was brilliant, the other apparently not so bright. For the human , it has taken centuries to understand that several methods it has adopted for Living is simply not Sustainable. And that is the bottom line – Sustainable Living ! Whether we remind ourselves or not, the primeval instinct to live – eat – be healthy – survive – procreate & protect;  is the only thing we humans have pursued, the methods however, have refined since our cave dwelling days but not necessarily in the right direction.

image courtesy :farm4.staticflickr.com

One good solution that is now being  advocated is  called “Biomimicry” meaning – do what nature does ! It is gaining some traction but sometime with a fundamental flaw – it is unnatural to mimic what is natural in the first place.(  some people are using the pretext of this beautiful concept to legitimise what is fundamentally flawed to begin with) So when we say we are attempting to fly;  humans are not born with the ability to fly; so the air-plane we create for that attempt, and name it biomimicry would itself be unnatural. What the original exponents of “Biomimicry” must have wanted; before it became commercial  & thus bastardized; was simple – all our attempt to live this blessed modern life should be minimalistic when it impacts Nature. To design ways and means to harness natures ingenuity and create through inspired design where possible, machines or habitats with low environmental impact.

But to begin scaling this concept, human must get back to sync with nature once again. Coming back to my opening lines – when we created the 24 x 7 x 365  work culture, we received bountiful results, because Nature had the stock in reserve. Being puny in scale, we thought the supply to be infinite, just like an ant would when entering a jar full of cookies. And in the process created trends and culture which now is becoming difficult to sustain. A glaring example is Europe where austerity measures are being met with hostility.

During the bountiful era, the socio-political environment was that of smug comfort. Standing atop lofty balconies, leaders of the past had the far-sight to see the populace applaud each populist decree made. Sometime as indulgence of a rich parent or out of genuine concern but never without a trace of self aggrandisement were the policies made. And self aggrandisement makes one chose far-sight over foresight. And in India, unfortunately we see this most of the time, the recent reference link to it would be found in my Earth Day article.

Survival of the fittest. It can be argued that, the Human species chose to differ from the rest by having the ability to take care of the weak. That is what separates us from the rest of the species. And here again I would like to point to Biomimicry and show that following the laws of Nature is the best way to do so and not the process we have adopted, for it is a short time solution.

If you just take just one example from many, say the squirrel, you would see that it is social, lives in a community and also takes care of its young and weak. But, all need to forage for their food!  That is something our leaders of the present can model their future policies into. Animals don’t have the concept of dole, free health policy, or even vacation for that matter ! Let us for the sake of argument model a concept thus –

Say, a Nation decides that everybody needs to earn their keep. Every employable person shall have to mandatory  stock up reserve, just like ants do. For, heath benefits by law one must buy health insurance. For food security by law one must make a savings policy.

For the unemployable, the word itself is a misnomer. Say we have a few 1000 doctors who have not got jobs, they line up for dole. Yet there are 1500 post vacant in the constabulary. There can only be two reasons for a doctor for not getting a job. Either s/he is not up to the mark or the post are full. So, let the employment exchange direct them to join the police while a suitable post for their qualification gets vacant. And who knows a good thing may come out of that, imagine a highway car accident where the police have reached before the paramedics, having knowledge in medicine could save a life . One must take up a job. No choice by law to remain idle.

Let them earn their keep. Stock up reserve, not become lax and lackadaisical or become a social out-cast because of not having a job. ‘An idle mind is the devils work-shop’ – a quote from time immemorial.

Emblem of the United Nations. Color is #d69d36...

Emblem of the United Nations. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There may arise a situation where there are more IT-graduates than companies to hire them in a Country. Short-term exchange programs can be created among member countries to lend professional of one field and take mechanics in exchange if so they need. The World today is a village and United Nations we are! ( at least in theory and in the figment of my imagination.)

Yet there would be some, the old & the infirm, who try as they might will not get a job. That is when their beloved Mother land, governed by able leaders with foresight must engulf them in loving Care! And in the long run even during times of austerity manage to hold on to these social programs, simply because it would be smaller in number and thus sustainable.

Surely  it would take time and hard choices need to be made today, to revise and adjust and calibrate the concept into a near perfect one. One which truly merges the best of  Democracy with Socialism without the pitfalls of communism and crony capitalism. Like the populist and sometime ill conceived development programs be it infrastructure or social. Which some time create haves and have nots.

So where does Climate initiative figure in this? one might ask. Again one needs to look into Biomimicry. Everything in Nature grows in its own pace. Nothing happens overnight. Yet Humans try to achieve just that – Success, Wealth, Power et al. So they work 18hrs a day instead of 8. A tired body effects the mind in many ways. Artificial simulation to beat the fatigue and the competing companion takes the human to the very edges of danger, which every religion preaches not to practice – Ego, Greed and Anger.

These vices make human take decisions which have long term impact on the climate. They build hydro-dams in the guise of harvesting power, whereas in reality its the water they want to control and deny prosperity to its neighbouring Country. In the process, they damage their own local eco-system which other-wise would have sustained their Peoples and perhaps help in food security in the future. Or they venture into the fragile Ocean beds (which most understand very little, and those who do, would eventually get sidelined by the political and MBA masters they work for ) in search of power source, when the Waves , Wind & their maker the Sun provides it in abundance. They are the trinity of eternal energy source, which man-kind would never be able to exhaust.

Image Courtesy: http://www.examiner.com

The modern society World over must think of biomimiking a tree. Growing slowly yet surely while standing still in its own place, the tree finds sustenance for hundreds of years without encroaching on others . A jungle is nothing but a crowd, yet they thrive. Mostly by symbiosis. It is almost permanently renewable.

Perhaps it is time for the social scientist to take centre stage and steer the politics in a manner the science of sustainable living dictates.

 
 

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