RSS

Tag Archives: sustainable development goals

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.

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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.

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,