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Green Business Ideas – Abandoned coalfields can boost RE and save forest in India.


Through this article, an attempt is being made to be on the top rung of the IWR-2012. We as a Nation must understand the meaning of Wealth as opposed to Riches. As the World reels in the clutch of economic depression; of its own making through continued myopic vision of the leadership, India my beloved nation is gearing up to tear away the last remaining virgin forests in the name of “development”. That development is a fundamental right of humans, the right of live of all living beings (trees, animals and even moss, lichen and bacteria)  and their importance in keeping this world alive can’t be discounted. As always, I abhor unlawful protest and mindless activism, but would attempt to find an idea for mankind to earn more riches but in the process create & preserve the natural wealth of the Nation.

In the recent report published, it is stated that the USA is abandoning RET for cheaper Gas. Many companies especially in the Solar PV business have closed shop.This is primarily because, people will adopt technologies which are cheaper. To this argument I have only one question to ask, is Gas renewable energy? It is not and it has its own set of problems, both ecological as well as geopolitical. Thus if the sum-total is added up, Gas is not cheaper as it is presented via a series of complex mathematical calculations. These calculations are made by “experts” who have no expertise on the environmental and ecological consequence. Neither are the experts on the physiological impact it would bring in the long term on the Peoples who, addicted as they are to fossil fuel go into depression, for want of continuous supply of the same. Every middle east upheaval can be attributed to this fear of change in the absence of another addictive fossil fuel, Oil. On whose slippery ground the modern civilization stands today. As far as I know in the India context, we are having a major Geopolitical tension with our Northern neighbours, who seem to be claiming a sea zone for itself. Although War is also a form of ‘renewable’ action, I don’t think it is sustainable and green, just as the shale gas for which we are going into so much trouble.

While we have some time unlike the USA, to really have an impact from gas; we surely have created a World record recently – by having the largest grid failure in the history of the civilized world. And this has renewed the baying for more coal field allocation, which is fatal to the preservation of the Ecosystem.

A modern Nation, with weak infrastructure is a recipe for disaster, as it becomes vulnerable to external malicious attacks. Imagine if we are in a grid-lock, with all  critical systems off-line ( although external defence may have back-ups but civil defence in disarray would only cause problems) and disaster strikes. Either natural or man-made, the resulting mayhem is to scary to discuss.  And this is exactly the matter which the mandarins at the Capital must be discussing. The sudden explosive actions across the Nation to increase electric tariff and diesel price, points to the direction that the last remaining saner voices within the administration are being heard and untenable subsidy may be on the way out.

The danger however is that, historically politicians across the world have a very myopic vision but superb oratory skill. And with this Devil – gifted skill, they would convince the Nation that “coal-gate scam” is actually a boon. And we must allow to rip the heart of Mother Earth ever more and extract coal, to fuel our thermal power plants and thus produce more electricity. And a few more Nuclear plants would actually ease the pain .

Environment be dammed! Already preparation are on to create a sham of the Madhav Gadgil report on the western ghats, which suggests detailed recommendations and suggestions on preservation of the Ecologically sensitive region which has even got the UNESCO status. ( details in DNA news).

But, as in all problems my beloved Nations faces, in this Great National Blackout too I see a fantastic Green Business opportunity. Together we the people, the environmentalists and the think-tanks can help our Corporate Czars, perhaps members of CIICESD and WBCSD to build upon the renewable energy options and reap the benefits. Before we delve into it let us first understand coal.

Coal is perhaps one of the most important discovery which catapulted the human civilization to its present form. Coal has various grades Lignite, Sub-bituminous coal,Bituminous coal, Steam coal, are mostly used for industrial purpose, where as Peat, Anthracite, Graphite have also found use in residential heating, agriculture and making lubricants and most importantly the Pencil . However the primary use of coal lets say to keep it simple, is for two basic purpose – It is primarily burned for the production of electricity and/or heat, and is also used for industrial purposes such as refining metals. The five largest coal users – China, USA, India, Russia and Japan – account for 77% of total global coal use. Coal & Oil along with their derivatives are here to stay and no amount of protest would stop its use and extraction completely. Let us not for a minute, forget that even the rudiments of protest which we as environmentalists are advocating & sharing via electronic media today would  be possible if the production of coal is stopped abruptly. Because we are using the very infrastructure built via use of coal.  Over the ages, with knowledge which we had during that time, coupled with complete absence of any form of protest against pollution; we have built this modern high-carbon life style completely dependent on one form of carbon or other.

However, if concerted action is taken we can within an acceptable and accelerated time-frame perhaps be able to switch over to more cleaner and renewable options which are already available in the alternative energy basket. And the way forward may be the idea I’m about to present. It would in no way be perfect, but just a seed of thought which I’m sure people with expertise can work on. And coupled with the renewable energy mission our country is attempting to take, we may just be able to increase  that scope. Especially Solar, Hybrid Solar  and Solar thermal power stations. And I propose another type of idea that which may be named – Geo-thermal + Hybrid solar, if it finds currency among the experts. And to this I appeal CAN-International, WRI and Green Peace International to find the experts who could make this possible.

Having established that Coal ( as is oil & gas ) is  a fuel, we need to see where it is being used. Again to keep it simple, we will take the largest consumers namely – 1. The Steel Plants  2. The Thermal Power plants.

In India, our steel plants come under the banner of Steel Authority of India (SAIL) and they are situated in the city of  Bokaro, Bhilai, Rourkela and Durgapur. To begin with let’s see look at the area a steel plant requires and what are the allied industries within it or at close proximity. Clicking on the image one would be able to zoom into the Rourkela Steel plant, Odisha.  On one end you would notice the Slag dumping ground and exactly opposite between the CISF grounds and the Diesel Colony railway station, a massive coal yard. The coal to this plant comes from  the once beautiful place around the now famous Mahanadi Coal fields thermal power plant area  around the historic IB river valley between  Jharsuguda, Brajrajnagar and Belpahar. ( “Bel” = wood apple + pahar = hill, one should know that there are no more hills because the open cast mining has ripped this place apart ) and the the iron-ore from the last dense forest cover of Kiri Buru. A place so beautiful that it could have made one of the best hill-station of that region, if humans had not found iron -ore there.  While my limited knowledge can’t find the alternate to steel, it is however a different matter about how we can limit the use of coal.

To begin with, let us switch the use of coal as being envisaged for thermal power plants  in the  steel plants too. And use Solar Photo Voltaic to the extent possible. As the supply of coal becomes more and more scarce, the massive land area within the Steel plants which has to stock up coal  can easily be converted into land for Concentrated Solar Power panels. Coal is required as a fuel, to be burnt in blast furnaces to produce heat to produce steel. Now if we can still provide the heat through heating coils, which are powered by CSP, the job can be done. The fundamentals would be more or less the same which is being advocated by NREL Coupled with heat recovery units and in time other innovations, CSP may well be able to supply the electricity required for night-time operations too, perhaps with Nickel–iron battery (NiFe Batteries) which are reborn and  presently showing promise better than the Lithium-ion batteries. But it is obvious that the land required to produce the amount of electricity needed will not be sufficient within the plant premise. For this I would like to draw our attention to the following.

The attached     table    on degraded and wasteland  from a research paper by Indian  Council  of Agricultural Research and National Academy of Agricultural   Sciences       (double click on image for full report) shows that we have an average of 133.95 Million Hectares of degraded and wasteland. A detailed and easy to understand report it warns of the impending food crisis and climate change due to the continuous degradation of land. Excerpts – Forests occupy about 19.4% of the total geographical area of the country against the ideal requirement of 33%…. Per capita availability of inelastic land resource is rapidly declining in  relation
to annual population growth of 1.4% in the country.  Increasing GDP growth is expanding urbanization and industrialization and, therefore, more and more of agricultural lands are being utilized for non-agricultural purposes. The complex interplay of natural and anthropogenic processes compounds problems of land-use planning further. Maintaining and enhancing productive potential of our land resources is vital for progressive introduction of sustainable technologies, and thereby resilience in crop production….This challenge must and needs to be met in the face of the changing consumption patterns, impacts of the climate change and degradation of the finite land and water resources. Management of land resources, in general, and potentially cultivable lands in particular, encompasses, crop production methods that will keep pace with country’s food needs, sustaining environment, blunting impacts of climate change, preserving and enhancing natural resources, and supporting livelihood of farmers and rural population in the country. Thus, there is a pressing need for enlarging area under arable lands, by the way of reclaiming degraded lands for sustainable intensification of agriculture, in which crop yields can be increased without compromising and yielding to adverse environmental impacts and without reducing area under forests…. Land degradation, like climate change, is an anthropogenic induced process and poses biggest threat to sustainable livelihood security of the farming communities across the country. All of these factors combined with increased rate of land degradation are contributing towards decline in agricultural productivity leading to food insecurity. Since land resources are finite, requisite measures are required to reclaim degraded and wastelands, so that areas going out of cultivation due to social and economic reasons are replenished by reclaiming these lands and by arresting further loss of production potential.
In all this dark and doom, one can see that India’s democratic foundation is strong and its institutions work. Only the reports which can actually make a positive impact gets buried in Crony Capitalism and narrow political agenda of a few. That there is a rot in the cart of apples is evident, therefore the better ones are in grave danger and need all the more to connect to the pulse of the people and do the right thing.

And if the recent buzz is to be believed we are going to lose a massive forest cover sooner than later for mining coal for feeding our thermal power and steel plants. And this can be reduced if not stopped.

And that would be to identify the completely degraded land and set up Solar plants in them to offset the needs of the power and steel industry. According to the Wasteland Map of India–NRSA data, land which comes under Physical degradation that is – Mining and industrial waste 0.19 million hectares; Water-logging (permanent surface inundation) 0.88 million hectares; and as per Salt-Af fected Soils Map of India,CSSRI, NBSS & LUP, NRSA and others, land under Chemical degradation ie; Exclusively salt affected soils amount to 5.44million hectares.

If one visits the coal -belt area between Durgapur Steel Plant and Asansol ( Burnpur steel from British era ) and halt at Andal junction, one would find huge tracts of waste land, where not even a single blade of grass grow. While underground mining is relatively better for the ecology  but how far biological reclamation is possible needs to be understood, as this Newsletter of ISEB India has touched upon.  Therefore one suggestion could be that solar power plants be installed in these degraded land. Even the permanent water logged abandoned mine areas and contaminated water from the mines which are run-off can be taken into good use by converting them into the mini-source of water, which is what in the form of steam runs the turbines of a thermal power plant to generate electricity.

And the most important innovation would be to tap into the heat of the smouldering underground fire which these vast mine fields have ignited.By using Geothermal Technology. It is a phenomena found World wide and I can not fathom how the great corporate Czars have not yet thought of exploring this heat to electricity and earn a Noble Prize in the process.

The Greatest Green Business Idea till now would be that with one deft stroke, where-ever possible ( everything is possible if economics do not come in the way, just as it does not when a Nation hosts the Olympics, spending billions on stadia which would hardly see the same amount of use, ever again ) degraded land especially near Steel plants and Thermal power plants need to install CSP. And capture the latent heat from the vast burning underground coal fields to supplement the night-time requirements.   A strong policy which looks into the aspects of support as required by this fledgling RET industry must be given. And for those who are wondering how to capture the heat from the burning coal-fields just read-up on geo-thermal technology.

As mentioned in my earlier article, the private sector is already geared up to meet this challenge and some of the players would jump into the opportunity of Build Own Operate and Transfer model (BOOT).  The challenge is would the media house and the top environment NGO’s take this matter up to create a crescendo of public awareness, thus making the government take action !

Note:  The images used have their original urls attached to them (and the articles therein are a must read) as are underlined links which contain the complete story to support this article. These images are only for representation purpose, however if the idea in the article helps recover any waste land for good use, I shall be grateful.

 

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Sustainable Living : How to read the seemingly unrelated dots which coalesce together to create disasters


In the long forgotten text-books, it was written that the Earth is a hospitable planet and various types of flora and fauna are found such as – trees, shrubs, insects, fish, birds, tigers, elephants, humans, chimpanzee  etc. And the animal known as human are the most intelligent among all (?). However, the actions of Human today puts some serious doubts on this self-professed claim.It is only through sustained campaign to create awareness among the primary stake holder – the human, that reversing the dangerous Climate Change phenomenon is possible.

With the tags like – Government, Politicians, Corporate and Citizen, the populace of all Nations confuse themselves and rarely do we use the tag –Human on ourselves, which otherwise would help connect us directly to the Ecosystem and help in addressing the problem of Global Warming & Climate Change as a collective.

Continuing the thoughts in  my articles on sustainable development especially the last ; Sustainable Development Goals: The dangers of Urban Sprawl and its long term effects on the National Growth I would once again reiterate my appeal that common person must associate in understanding the development rules and identify their actions as part of the problem. The markers of the impending problems are seen in bits and pieces, but by joining these dots one can trace the history of the reason of the problems and learning from them similar problems can be averted.

So let us see once again how seemingly unrelated events are part of the same issue, the subject here again being  Sustainable Urban Development. The image by alongside, is of the article published in today’s DNA Newspaper. The tag says – “two motorcycle-borne youths carrying a plastic drum to store scarce drinking water negotiate a huge rain-inflicted crater… ” in the one of the suburban roads of Mumbai City.

The other news is an excellent report on the reality of the just received UNSCO status of the “Western Ghats”;

The DNA article by Akshay Deshmane reads “Here,projects pip ecology”Even after the Western Ghats made it to the World Heritage List, the state is hesitant to use the status to safeguard the fragile ecology. It has raised objections to recommendations of Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel as it would mean stalling major projects. The 160,000sqkm Western Ghats, which are older than the Himalayas, has been included in the prestigious World Heritage List. On July 2, the world heritage committee of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) recognised 39 sites of the Western Ghats as being among the rare natural heritage spots in the world. Of the 39 sites, six are in Maharashtra.

UNESCO noted that the Western Ghats are among the world’s eight hotspots of biological diversity. Its forests include some of the best representatives of non-equatorial tropical evergreen forests anywhere and are home to at least 325 globally threatened flora, fauna, bird, amphibian, reptile and fish species.
But the Maharashtra government is far from happy because now it has to follow the recommendations of the Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel (WGEEP). It has raised objection to three-tier eco-sensitive zones (a crucial aspect of the report), the ban on new licences for mining and quarrying, the ban on diversion of forest land and decommissioning of thermal power plants. In other words, the most important recommendations for conservation have been opposed.
Maharashtra, like other states, has tried to delink the Unesco tag from the recommendations made by the WGEEP to save the fragile ecology of the mountain range. The state took this stand a week before the Union environment and forests ministry planned to announce its views on the controversial WGEEP report……

It is really amazing to see that how the consumerist high carbon economy model has completely distorted our thinking. And especially of those who actually wield the power of change. It is really a sobering thought, to know that the future of mankind are in the hands of those who either do not know or care enough about the direct link between prosperity and sustainable economy.

Today, the woe-full image of the common person negotiating a pot-holed road in search of water is a telling warning of the things to come, should we not wake up to reality and look for solutions beyond our narrow immediate needs. The image so vividly showcases multiple problems of  Urban planning gone wrong. When, people do not try to look beyond their narrow needs and allow paving over the catchment areas and most importantly agricultural land which provide us with food and also store ground water; ‘re-claim’ land by filling over lakes and water body, to build ugly and chicken-coop type buildings, which the builders pass off as “dream homes” wherein actuality they become nightmares for the people who spend their life’s saving in buying into them and get trapped in a locality which has bad-roads; as landfill, catchment areas by default will spew groundwater and the soil by default of being soft sink every monsoon thus creating craters and water logging; but there would be no potable water because the  the “Western Ghats” would be decimated alongwith the fragile ecosystem of the rain & “rain-shadow” areas . Thus ending the cycle of natural replenishment of fresh-water bodies, the details explained via this link.

But it would not end there because the unique biodiversity of the western ghats have some of the best herbal medicinal plants which have been recognized by  World Health Organization, which plays an important role in the health care of about 80 percent of World population in developing countries and who depend largely on traditional medicines. This too would be lost. While the ‘developed’ Nations populace shell off million of dollars on herbal heath-care, we are all geared up for ‘development’ by decimating our Natural capital ! It is time we hold up the mirror of truth to one and all and explain that ‘development’ needs ingenuity. Development techniques which has brought the Earth to such a sorry state can not remain the model for growth and prosperity. Its time to pause and understand the Inclusive Wealth Report 2012, Millennium Development Goals and the Sustainable Development Goals.

And to this effect Media, both print and electronic can play a major role. The pen of a seasoned journalist can create the magical revolution which can only be paralleled by an orator. And the Earth needs both !

 

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Sustainable Development Goals: The dangers of Urban Sprawl and its long term affects on the National Growth


The Monsoon in India, is delayed and it is predicted that we shall have scanty rain-fall this year. Every sign of Climate change, which have been predicted are happening. In the USA, the unprecedented power outages and heat wave are prime time News.  Perhaps if in the last 20+ years the World had listened and shifted to a better Economic model, than the “grow quickly rich – and throw everything else into the ditch!” Corny capitalism; things would perhaps be improving by now.

But how does the common person know they are the part of the problem? And how can they help?  Through this article I shall try to weave seemingly different News articles which have been published in various Indian News papers,in the immediate past  and try and show how we still are going horribly wrong at every turn and the efforts of a few, be it in the Governance of the Nation or NGO’s; are not being able to make the desired impact.

English: topographic map of India

English: topographic map of India (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We all know that at long last the “Western Ghats”; have been accorded with UNESCO recognition. It would bring cheer to many environmentalist, who are deeply concerned with the destruction of this fragile eco-system. However, how much it would be able to help in the ground is something we have to wait and see.

The weekend News papers in India‘s, usually carry features on property. Having been caught up to the developments around UNFCCC Rio+20 agenda, I had not been paying too much attention to them. But over the last weekend the barrage of “up coming” once in a life-time bargain ‘second homes” caught my eye. All these projects are beyond the limits of the megalopolis of Mumbai by a minimum of 150 Km. Most are either on or close to hill stations atop the Western Ghats range, or industrial zones, which are situated in the valley of the ghats. The examples I would like to give here are two – one a hill station, Lonavala and the other an Industrial estate area – Roha. Both are close to Mumbai.  Roha is located in Raigad district in the state of Maharashtra(INDIA). Many big companies have their manufacturing plants there like – Pepsi, Clariant, Sudarshan Chemicals, Excel, Unichem Laboratories etc. It is only 120 km south-east of Mumbai, and with a population of over 40,000 it is only natural that in time, the big builder/ developers would like to set up residential townships, the likes which are found in and around Pune and Mumbai.

The town is surrounded by natural beauty, as it is part of the western-ghats. When I had gone during my “project manager” days in the early 2000, I had worked on a project there. It is a beautiful place, small industrial town, nestled in the valley of the Ghats, which is more or less self-sufficient, but at one time industrial air-bone pollution was at the extreme. Now, we are going to have another danger, far bigger looming around this area. And that, sadly is “development”.  For, if you type into your computers – “Development rules in the district of Raigarh, Roha taluk”; nothing is found.  A vague Environment & Forest Notification is all you find.

No maps clearly demarcating which are industrial zones, forest areas, residential and commercial zones can be found easily. If you notice, you would rarely find a guide-map of the locality you reside; in New Delhi you have them at the entrance of each residential colony. In Mumbai and rest of India its a rare sight. Even if one types “development rules of Mumbai”; a 1999 pdf is available from MMRDA preceded by many latest news talking about amendments.  Compare this by typing -development rules of New York USA.

A country which prides itself on its IT strength, does not have any information, which the common man can find at a click of a button. To keep abreast or simply familiarize oneself of the laws, so that should one find wrong-doing like finding a park area being constructed /encroached upon or an earmarked residential area  or a natural drain, being paved over for creating a shopping complex ; spot it and make aware the authorities to take action. Of-course we have the Right to Information Act, but I’m sure there is no information available or worthy enough to look into of various places which are not large Cities or Towns of India. And even the large towns and cities do not have at times complete information or information which is easily available. The apathy and incompetence, almost seems like a deliberate act to help in corruption. And the loss is always going to be to the Nation and its people.

Last week, in Mumbai a 24 year old girl died due to tree falling over her during a sudden squall. Today the DNA newspaper carries a statistic under the heading –Tree falls claim 21 since 2005. The other news was –Rain fill lakes with 3 days of water supply for Mumbai. Disjointed as they may seem, these two are interlinked not only to each other, but also the the paragraphs above.

Just as in the beautiful lush-green surroundings of  the hill station of Lonawala, unplanned townships are coming up in many locations. Farmlands are getting changed into residential and commercial areas. While there is planning within the perimeter of the projects, infrastructure is never given precedence. Neither are there any strict laws laid down to deter littering. If one looks at the city of Mumbai, in the early 1980’s the now congested suburbs were farmlands and mangroves. Catchment areas essential for groundwater recharge and prevention of flooding, which slowly started to get converted into township, with scant regard to town-planning in the proper sense. Today we have encroachments, super-bad roads and clogged drains; most of the buildings require high maintenance from water proofing and salt water corrosion.

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.

Similarly the shady-tree which once helped the labourers and engineers to have  a momentary relief while sipping into the tea, soon gets surrounded by shops and most of the ground, right up to the bark gets paved over. The tree starts to die, and then one rainy day it falls, taking along with it life of an innocent bystander. The newly built suburban rail station looks exactly the same as all suburban rail-station around Mumbai, filthy and difficult to negotiate through the illegally constructed shops and haphazardly parked vehicles.

Water supply is scarce and come summer, the citizens of this once new town become desperate for potable water. Ground water gets depleted as most of the catchment areas get paved over and constructed upon much before the “development rules” comes into force.

Farm fresh vegetables and live-stock which were once easily available become a distant dream for most as due to land-use change most fertile land are lost. The word “green” becomes a mockery as maximum one finds in patches atop utterly destroyed local ecosystem are some  “Chinese” grass lawns, bottle palms and a few decorative flowering shrubs.  For a water body, a swimming pool is considered a great gift from the developers and accepted with great pride by the residents. Some standard advertisement goes –  live by the river side with lush greenery and natural surroundings. And should one inspect – 9 out of 10 projects would have no safety features, or advisory of how not to litter or degrade the natural surrounds.

Every-time I see the images of a super expensive and super large hill-station township, which got created in the recent past, breaking almost every environmental law as reported in the news. I feel very disappointed. My fear, is not the development of a hill-station as I’m not against development; but if it is at the cost of the eco-system then we are staring at a lot of trouble. And it is around a fresh water lake. With almost zero civic sense in most of us, imagine what can happen, if strict precautions have not been taken by the developer; as each home owner post the mandatory “Griha Pravesh Pooja” would,  giving scant regard to the environmental hazard, dispose the ritual materials right into the lake, tied in a plastic bag, so that it helps pollute the once pristine lake a little more.

The concept of dust-bins, public urinals and civic sense advisory board, along with clean-up marshals or policemen to penalize offenders, is alien in most areas of India.  Therefore if anyone has visited the lake city of Udaipur in the state of Rajasthan or other tourist destinations in India which has a water body, would appreciate what I mean to imply here. And this is also true in the megalopolis like Mumbai, which is also a tourist destination & has a large water body, the legendary Ban-ganga and the Arabian sea; both choking with refuse.

While there is an urgent need for India to “develop”, and we have the right to do so; we as Peoples need to understand the dangers of unsustainable urban living. It is for us to decide the course of growth. With unplanned and unsustainable urban sprawl which would seem as “growth” in economic sense for a short while would actually deplete our resources and would not improve the quality of living. And this in the long run would weaken the Country from all indices of growth. We must adhere to and understand about Sustainable Cities – Why town planning is important.

The World’s Best Places to Live  according to human resources consulting firm Mercer’s, 2011 quality of living survey report looks at living conditions such as economy, socio-cultural environment, politics, education, and the health sector. Rediff.com also did a survey of 15 Best cities of India, but as per world standards – Mumbai is ranked a dismal 117th, New Delhi is ahead at 113th scoring 56.5 and 58.6 per cent, respectively.

And among all the areas of development, I consider Urban development as most important  because without the proper standards of living; which directly affects the overall well-being of the citizens,  the country can not prosper and today  the Indian economic health has not much to cheer about, due to various internal and external factors. Therefore it is imperative we learn our lessons and follow into the path of overall Sustainable Development.

To prove my point (it almost seems to be written in 2012)  below are excerpts from an article published in The South Asian Voice in 2001

As economic growth rates have plummeted throughout the world, India (like the rest of South East Asia) has not escaped the impact. Growth rates have been reluctantly pruned to about 5% for the year, and may have to be revised further downwards if an anticipated post-monsoon pick-up in consumer consumption and industrial manufacturing fails to materialize. While, booms and busts are endemic to “free-market” or capitalistic economies, sections of the Indian media had sought to convey the impression that the switch to greater “market freedom” would result in a continuous economic boom. …..However, it is doubtful if these factors will continue to play as important a role in propelling the Indian economy forward.….There are also several structural impediments to increases in rural incomes. Already India is one of the most densely populated nations in the world. Pressure on land is already very high and existing water resources have been depleting at an alarming rate. Even with a switch to more sustainable agriculture and water-management policies, it is unlikely that improvements in agricultural productivity can take place at previously seen rates.….However, so far, there has not been any serious analysis of the trajectory of the Indian economy or on the policy direction taken by the government. Neither has there been any comprehensive look at the relationship between economic growth rates and improvements in living standards….Consider an article by Jonathon Rowe titled “A misguided quest for ‘productivity'” that appeared in the Christian Science Monitor (June 28, 2001). In this essay, the author bemoans the American obsession with “productivity” without regard for the value of what is produced and whether it contributes to human happiness. “We Americans are not lacking for products. Our basements and garages are groaning. A warehouse industry has arisen to hold all our stuff. Yet they tell us that the benchmark of our economy remains whether we can turn out still more stuff per hour. Is that scientific principle, or fetish?” …….Take the recent fascination with cars. For people to really enjoy the use of a personal car, a country must have enough land for wide roads and large parking lots. And that’s exactly how every automobile ad in India shows off new cars. Cars for the Indian market are shown scurrying along wide and vacant highways in dreamy countryside settings, completely unrelated to the actual Indian reality or experience. After all, some of India’s most scenic destinations aren’t even connected by motorable roads, and virtually all Indian cities are so densely populated that even newer residential and commercial areas are planned with narrow roads and limited parking facilities. There is thus something very surreal about the Indian media’s glamorization of the car……But imagine, if the country produced better means of public transportation. Assuming that a mini-bus costs only three times as much to produce as a car, and assuming that the average mini-bus seats about 30 people (or more) comfortably, there is a ten-fold increase in transportation options…..And this is just one example of a glaring disconnect between economic growth and it’s linkage to all-round social well-being and the overall quality of life. We can also find examples that illustrate the reverse case where an activity may have a low price tag but significant long term social value….Consider how this decade of “liberalization” has marginalized cultural activities that may have a much more profound impact on human happiness, quality of life and social harmony……. – each of these activities may potentially be of much greater value to human health and happiness than their calculation in the country’s GDP….The liberalization decade has not only failed to make such contributions, it has also created an environment where people have stopped appreciating cultural activities. They have also been trained to devalue those activities that can only bring about gains after long gestation periods such as activities in scientific and social research. It is often forgotten that India’s present strength is in no small measure a result of the many direct and indirect benefits of earlier investment in public institutions of higher learning and advanced scientific and technological research.

 

 

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