RSS

Tag Archives: Sustainable living

Sustainable idea: Habitat -III; can it deliver what Habitat -I & II could not?


Habitat is an ecological or environmental area that is inhabited by a particular species of animal, plant, or other type of organism.It is the natural environment in which an organism lives, or the physical environment that surrounds (influences and is utilized by) a species population.

Habitat III is the Third United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development, to take place in 2016.

Habitat III will bring together cities, governments, civil society, the private sector, education institutions and interest groups to review urban and housing policies affecting the future of cities within an international governance architecture and to generate a ‘New Urban Agenda’ for the 21st century which recognizes the ever-changing dynamics of human civilization.  Habitat III will benefit from recent experiences of cities and their partnerships with different stakeholders, including city-to-city partnerships, private sector participation and engagement of different types of grass-roots federations that demonstrate the potential to create greener, more resilient and more liveable cities. – (more).
And that is where the problem lies. Modern Humans can not build shelters to house themselves without displacing each and every other living stake holder of this Planet. Whenever Human civilization has thrived, there has been habitat loss.This systematic loss is now manifesting itself with so much force that many more need to understand the true meaning of sustainable living.
It is therefore imperative that we interpret the meaning and form of Habitat, from the perspective of a common man. And that includes and most importantly so the Politicians, who sitting in the governments are the chief ratifiers of policy. Politicians at best are social scientists. Those who are qualified usually draw their strengths from finance and law. Thus the concept of Habitat which should be based on the ecological and the environmental gets confused with shelter for Humans in the eyes of the uninitiated.This has gone unnoticed all but by a few environmentalists until now. Therefore  there is a lot to be done.
While it’s good to follow the golden rule of – ” once you don’t succeed, try try try again !”
One must notice that we are given only three chance. There is never time for the fourth, as Armageddon is upon us by then.
Habitat -III  in its true sense must being to mean -” the only habitable planet in this Universe”. EARTH.

While the intent of United Cities and Local Governments (ULGC) in noble, as with every United Nation linked program; support for propagation of its ideas must be intensified. It must begin with advocating the ills of present form of unsustainable Urban living to what must be the ideal. And for that it must showcase the ills of the present, while bring out the solutions to fore which can be easily understood and adopted by even the most disinterested citizen of that city.

When we achieve that. The original Habitat (  Gaia read Earth ) may just give us the one last chance, we so desperately need; to continue leaving our footprints in the sand of time for a little while more.

That we are destroying the habitat, is understood by some. Heard by many and being acted upon by a very dedicated few. However to make this into a mass movement we need to conclusively and continuously prove how our present habitat  & life-style is destroying us. Each link tells us a story. What is needed is that the story be read not only by those who already know. But forced upon those who don’t care to.

Blaring sound during Ganpati forces seniors, kids to take precaution to avoid health hazards

Rise in sea temperature may attract jellyfish to city shore

Second dengue death in two weeks in city, blame game on

Locals on a mission to clear mess near Muchalla college

Lack of space derails NMMC’s stray-sterilisation programme

Now, top floor residents’ nod must to install mobile tower

Ten tonnes of floral waste collected during first visarjan

Thirsty cities, parched villages

BEST buses claim 37 lives every year: Cops

Unable to conceive? Blame it on stress, say Mumbai doctors

Mumbaikars are stressed out.– these are news headlines which hit the Newspapers of the city of Mumbai with a monotonous regularity.

Mumbai or the city of Bombay as it was called by the British is indeed a “maya nagari”.  Maya in the Hindi language means illusion.

Just as the birth of this city, which seems solid but is just a land-fill between seven shallow islands surrounded by the Arabian sea. So is the lives of those who live here. For the outside world it is all pomp and show of Bollywood (Bollywood is the informal term popularly used for the Hindi language film industry based in Mumbai (Bombay), Maharashtra, India.) but those living mostly sweat it out like a Slumdog; while dreaming of becoming a millionaire.

Maya!

CityNotice any residential project advertisement in any media in Mumbai. And one would never fail to find  picturesque images surrounding the proposed project in all sides. Even if the project is situated in the heart of the city of Mumbai !

 In the quest of living around scenic countryside we keep building on top of the same ground which attracted us with its pristine untouched beauty.

There is a saying – “you can’t eat a cake and keep it too.”To live alongside nature one must respect what is natural. Be one with Nature.

NA plotsBecause a healthy Habitat can not be built of carcass of the dead. By destroying an ecosystem, the indigenous flora & fauna, to expect Gaia to cheer for our well-being is a misplaced thought.

The end result is and always will be Maya – the illusion !

ugly city

 

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: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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 ?

 

 

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

Will religion succeed in averting Global Warming ?


 

As recent reports  are confirming that the Arctic Ice is melting to unprecedented levels. Nations are rubbing their hands in glee as they wait to capture large tracts of hereto untouched and unreachable areas for commercial exploitations of oil, gas and minerals. That overt War is a possibility and the covert war must have already started, can not be overlooked.

And all these while odes are being sung on the dangers of Global Warming and Climate Change at the UN level !

The day the first drill for gas exploration touches the Arctic, its would be time to pack up the UNFCCC. There would be no need for such an organization which can not do what it was set up for. But the failure would not be of that organization alone. It would be of the total human race, which would have allowed such a thing to happen.

While I have always conceded that the change to more cleaner and sustainable energy is necessary, that it can’t happen overnight is fully understood by any serious environment advocate.

But surely we must have a NO GO ZONE !! All the signatories of the various climate related treaties and those who have acknowledged the UNFCCC’s 4th Assessment report know the dangers of exploiting the polar ice caps. So what is it that there is complete disconnect between action and words ?

Within the limited understanding I have, I would like to delve for once into the mind of the human race and perhaps we may still be able to find the answer we all seek – To live and let live.

Krishna, Jesus, Vardhaman Mahavir, Mohammed, Buddha, Guru Nanak – All taught tolerance and sustainable life style. Take any religious text and the message on Sustainable Living is clear. All faithful would swear that they walk the path of their Lord God. If it was so then where did the message of Sustainable Living go wrong in our quest for modern Civilization ?

Perhaps the root cause of this can be found in the present day economic model we follow. That it was imperfect, is obvious had the grand masters of Economics read the religious texts. But they did not and so here we are with a Warming Globe which is completely man-made instead of the natural cycle the Earth followed for millennia.

Stating from the Hindu religious texts, of which I’m most familiar – Hinduism primarily does not denote a religion… it is always considered a way of life! Hinduism primarily stands for truths of life… the essence of life!

It is better to strive in one’s own dharma than to succeed in the dharma of another. Nothing is ever lost in following one’s own dharma. But competition in another’s dharma breeds fear and insecurity.” ~ Krishna from The Bhagavad Gita

On a larger scale, dharma means “the essential order of things, an integrity and harmony in the universe and the affairs of life that cannot be disturbed without courting chaos. Thus it means rightness, justice, goodness, purpose rather than chance.”  ( Courtesy – http://personallifemedia.com)

Those who eat too much or eat too little, who sleep too much or sleep too little, will not succeed in meditation. But those who are temperate in eating and sleeping, work and recreation, will come to the end of sorrow through meditation.Still your mind in me, still yourself in me, and without a doubt you shall be united with me,Lord of Love, dwelling in your heart. ~ Krishna from the Bhagavad Gita  ( Courtesy – http://www.scribd.com)

Gandhiji not only gave India its freedom but also gave the world and us a new thought on non-violence and sustainable living. His teachings and experiments are more valid today than ever before, especially when we are trying to find solutions to worldwide greed, violence and runaway consumptive lifestyle which are putting a very heavy burden on the world’s resources. (Courtesy -http://www.nariphaltan.org).

We all need this Earth to survive and thrive. With myopic vision the only thing we shall achieve is our own Extinction.


 

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on September 12, 2012 in My Thoughts

 

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Affordable Housing: The Simples rules required.


Prototype residential housing system

Prototype residential housing system (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In India, we have a unique habit of expressing ourselves. We mean what we say but it is not necessary that the meaning would be what the person hearing it understands. The most superb example is – “Affordable Housing“.

A million Dollar house is affordable; obviously otherwise how do those luxury homes sell all over the World ?

A million Rupee house is also affordable to many in India.The only problem being if it is being built in Mumbai, Maharashtra you would just get a 100 square feet.

Now before you think that is the carpet area, please don’t be naive. One needs to deduct the built-up and super built-up area from that. Surely one can’t deny the logic that there is an expense both in man and material to make the stair-case, the boundary wall, and the rest of the common services which say would be around 33%(actual data vary depending on typology and other regulations and guidelines). And this expense needs to be recovered. No sane person can grudge that to the developer. So the actual room carpet area, or the liveable area would be  67 ft2 in size. ( By the way in some cases the super-built up and built up has been shown as high as 55% too. I refuse to take it into my debate as the area it leaves as carpet is too embarrassing )

Now what one can do with 67ft2? So you need to multiply this 7 times to get 469ft2 which an Indian middle class family can just squeeze into. But once you do that it is no longer affordable.

So how can we end this debate? If at all ?

Frankly it requires a few simple things –

1. Political will to pass laws which are truly beneficial to the public, rather than create a web of sly rules which ultimately help in lining the pockets of those who wield the administrative power and the coterie of  unscrupulous builders.

2. A expert panel comprising the best from the structural, civil & architectural field, who should make a ready reckoner on what should be the actual cost of construction for the basic core and shell of a building. And this should be revised periodically.

3. Make specific development plans for each area and fix price of land based on it. There should be a maximum and a minimum price set for land and it should no more be left to be governed by the free market forces.

Once the cost of construction becomes uniform, it would be easy to monitor quality of construction, deduce the correct price depending on the amount of  work done and above all help the government truly frame policies which would ultimately lead to making of ‘affordable’ housing.

The next step should be educating the citizens (builder, politicians and administrative personnel are citizens too) in Sustainable living. For as long as there would be buyers for badly constructed housing colony which do not follow the five basic principles taught by Mahatma Gandhi on sustainable living, we would be trapping ourselves in creating situations which would forever keep the dream of affordable housing for all as just that – a dream. Therefore as I had mentioned in my earlier article town planning in accordance to the principles of Agenda 21 and follow the agreed criteria of C40 Cities to which Mumbai is a signatory, the dream of affordable housing would come true, not because cost of construction would become cheaper but the standard of living of the citizens of this bountiful city we call Mumbai ( Bombay) would vastly improve.

 

Tags: , , ,

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.

 
 

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

Green Business (Innovative) Ideas: Simple one are the most profound.


There are some images which once you see, it stays for ever. The one here had a similar effect on me. Simple, practical and affordable. Innovative and Walking the talk. A solution for the common person by a common person who rises to be another Earth Champion with this one act.

The architect (http://imgur.com/) of this concept tells us through this  machine the numerous things a user can do with it at one time. Go green; go-healthy; go-wealthy ( by cutting down on the gas/electric power of a lawn-mower) and maintain the lawn too. ( the kid version shown here helps harassed Moms too, while getting the job done). In one of my articles a few months back I had mentioned that the common person in the USA and other Western Nations could become the game changer in saving the climate, should they be able to identify with the cause.  And the best part is that the developed nations have the wherewithal to make the change happen, much more than in poorer nations, where the fight for daily survival  is primary.

That the poor innovate more is beyond doubt. Examples of that are many, but just like the ‘water bulb’ the innovation from the poor or developing nations hardly makes an impact in reducing the GHG, unless scaled up for the developed nations. Also one must be cautious about how the innovation is being presented. For example, the Hammocks were developed by native inhabitants of Mexico for sleeping. Made out of natural fibres they were innovative and eco-friendly. Today Nylon hammocks are probably more of an environment menace as would be many such products which when taken out of its context and purpose have become.Same goes even with a concept. While every environmentalist advocate that connecting to nature is important for humans, it takes an altogether different meaning, far removed form the true purpose, when a noisy crowd of tourist, pay a hefty sum of money to the ‘resorts’ to live by nature. They leave discarded plastic and other waste, live irresponsibly using chemical insecticide, and swat anything that crawls into their air-conditioned ‘huts’ considering strangely the creatures as intruders, and a danger to their safety. While the reverse has historically been true.

This other from the pages of inhabitat.com shows how profound can be an impact in the lives of fellow humans, if the privileged just give a little thought. How many by-cycles and broken chairs we discard without a thought. What if these are collected by schools and the children of the privileged fashion similar chairs in their SUPW ( some useful productive work ) workshops ?Each such endeavour makes the Earth a little more Greener.And if this idea is scaled properly, a small scale industry can be set up thus providing yet another example of Green Business Ideas.

This idea although has been panned by the original publishers because of use of  Styrofoam, which I too concede as not an environmentally sound choice. I would still give it another chance under the dictum of Reuse – Reduce- Recycle. By reusing these boxes, which one find in various shapes and sizes to grow plants, the use of plastic pots are diminished. In Asian countries like India where we hardly have scientific  process of separating and discarding waste and with the ever growing market for consumer goods, Styrofoam has already penetrated into the heartlands. Finding a better use to it would increase the chance of keeping the plastic and glazed earthen pots at bay, by a small but important fraction. But one thing is a given. Put a price tag on it, however cheap, Indians who by default preserve things against destroying and discarding, even the Styrofoam pots will have a longer life in its new avatar.

 

Tags: , ,