Tuesday, August 21, 2018

My City My Responsibility - Raksha Bandhan 'Bond with Environment'

Dear All, 

With the Kerala floods making headlines everyday, we all are witnessing the dreadful impacts of ignorance towards our environment and its sensitivity as well as its potential at the same time. According to the Western Ghats ecology expert panel, most of the regions in Kerala facing this disaster were recommended to be classified as ecologically sensitive areas (ESAs). However these recommendations were either rejected or ignored by the government, giving priority to so-called 'development'. Madhav Gadgil, the chairman of committee thus termed this disaster as a man made calamity due to the irresponsible environment policies made by the state governments. 

Metro Pillars under water near Baba bhide bridge
Riverside road under water seen from Lakdipul
We are not far from facing such a disaster in our city, Pune. Areas around Pune, Mumbai, Konkan, Goa fall under the purview of Western Ghats, any illogical and inconsiderate development around these places is going to affect us sooner or later.

Its been raining in Pune since past one week continuously, the dams are full and water from the dams has been released into our rivers. The riverbed is fully covered under water, riverside roads are flooded and hence closed. Pillars being built in the riverbed for the upcoming metro rail are already under water. The city is facing heavy traffic congestion, causing delays in our day to day activities. In order to resolve the traffic problems we are constructing rapid mass transit options like metros, however if we ignore the climatic conditions and environmental flows we are going to create another menace. Pune will also be undergoing riverfront development soon which completely neglects the flooding nature of our rivers. We are underestimating the potential impacts of environment and climate change thus we are bound to face disasters like that of Kerala 2018 and Chennai 2015 soon.... 

Riverbed under water
In this era of changing climate and environment degradation, our very lives are at stake. It would therefore be madness to prioritise 'development' over these concerns! In order to save ourselves we need to advocate for rational environment friendly policies and actions at the central and state level. At the community level we need to be vigilant of all the development activity happening in and around our surroundings and raise voice against any activity that violates the norms of environment.

We also need to be prepared for disasters. Are we as citizens of Pune ready to face floods? Do we have the required infrastructure for giving early warning signals? Imagine if there will be no electricity, our mobiles will not work for more than two days. In such a situation, is there any alternative for us to communicate??? Does our disaster management cell reflect or train or undertake any such workshops or drills anywhere??? If NO, we need to demand such inputs. If YES, we need to review and promote such activities in our community. At an individual level we need to adhere to Eco-friendly lifestyles, reducing our carbon as well as ecological footprint is one of the first steps towards it. 

Just a thought, coming Raksha Bandhan where we celebrate the bond with our siblings, let us reflect upon our bond with our environment and pledge to protect it from irrational developmental decisions in order to save ourselves! 


Pournima Agarkar. 
www.samuchit.com

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

My City My Responsibility - Why Should Anyone Learn Carbon Accounting?

Dear All, 


In my last blog, I introduced our online course on Basic Carbon Accounting that will be launched very soon. In today's blog, let me explain why this is a great opportunity for all of you readers!  

Carbon Accounting is a process of measuring, monitoring and reporting any individual's or activity's or event's or process's greenhouse gas emission in a defined period. Greenhouse gases (GHG's) are the gases that are able to trap heat in the atmosphere that make the Earth's surface warmer, and therefore a habitable place for all living beings. However when the concentration of these gases increases beyond a certain limit, that's when it starts creating a problem leading to what is called as CLIMATE CHANGECarbon dioxide is the main GHG, however there are other gases that contribute to the effect too. While the amount of GHGs in our atmosphere has fluctuated due to natural causes over the billions of years of the Earth's existence, in the post-industrial era, the GHGs have been accumulating in the atmosphere at an alarming rate, due mainly to various human activities fueled by coal and petroleum.

Carbon accounting helps us account for all the GHGs by creating a greenhouse gas inventory of each activity in a systematic manner. It provides a holistic picture of all the emissions and thus enables us to design an appropriate emission reduction strategy. This allows you to set GHG mitigation targets and contribute towards preventing Earth from tipping into a 'hothouse' phase, which will be highly destructive to humans.

With the signing of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change by the world's nations,  post 2020 it may soon become mandatory for businesses to submit or publicly declare their annual carbon account. Already, some of the major corporations in the world are undertaking carbon accounting in their organizations. Reporting carbon annual emissions and the reduction targets is a norm among all major multinational companies. 

Source: http://fortune.com/2017/05/22/climate-change-co2-fortune-100-companies/

All this means is that:

a. If you are a young person at the start of your professional career, having at least a basic understanding of carbon accounting in addition to the other skills required for your profession, will add value to your resume, and make you an attractive candidate to recruit for the best companies in your sector.

b. Once you acquire a basic understanding of the principles of carbon accounting, you can build on the knowledge and become an auditor or a consultant in this sector. China and India are the two leading carbon emitters in the 21st century. There is a tremendous pressure on us to keep our carbon emissions in check, without derailing the story of development. We can only manage what we measure. Therefore, it is only a matter of time before government of India will have to demand carbon accounting data from its industries in order to meet its international commitments and to cement its position as a responsible member of the global community. In the next 10 years or so, thousands of new job opportunities may open up in this sector, and those with an early start and some experience in the bag will benefit the most!

Our online course on Carbon accounting can definitely be a starting point for you. You can build a great career path for yourself, AND contribute to solving the greatest problem faced by humanity today!  

Dr. Priyadarshini Karve & Pournima Agarkar. 



Tuesday, August 7, 2018

My City My Responsibility - Carbon Accounting Online Course

Dear All, 


Regarding action towards Climate change, India has committed to the Paris Agreement in December 2015, where India will have to measure, regulate and report it carbon emissions. In order to have an Climate friendly development, India has submitted its Nationally determined contributions (NDCs) to the United Nations framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The NDCs are climate actions taken by the country considering its socio-economic and environmental conditions for reducing emissions and undertaking measures for adaptation and mitigation of climate change impacts. We understand that, in order to reduce emissions it is important to know how much we are emitting? For the same purpose, all the institutions or organizations may have to measure and perhaps report their emissions to their clients/donors/investors/government agencies, post 2020 when the Paris Agreement will be operational. In order to get the hang of accounting of our own carbon emissions, we at Samuchit have come up with an opportunity for all of you. 

Samuchit is organizing an online training program on Carbon Accounting. The online course will cover all the basics from understanding the science behind climate change, its economics and politics, mitigation and adaptation measures, to carbon footprinting for an individual, or an household or any activity, institution, process or any event considering the scope 1, 2 and scope 3 emissions. Anyone who is involved in working with sustainability or environmental issues like green entrepreneurs, architects, urban planners, researchers, academicians or freelance environment consultants can join this program. Since the course will be conducted in online mode it enables homemakers, work from home professionals as well as full time professionals anywhere in India to access the course. All you need is a laptop or a computer having Microsoft excel and reasonably good internet connection. The course will be divided into five modules, each module will last for a month so accordingly it will take about five months for you to complete the course. However assignment submission within the given time-frame is crucial for accessing the next module, depending on when you submit your assignments, the course may take longer. In that case, there may be additional charges. You will get a certificate at the end of this course. 

So, if you feel that you can contribute to solution to climate change and want to become a climate conscious individual or institution/organization this course is for you. It may not make you an instant expert, but will give you sufficient understanding of the basics to understand what the experts are talking about. 

Kindly send in your entries to me on or before 15th August, 2018 and I will send you the registration form for enrolling yourself in the course or if you have any queries write to me at 
pournima@samuchit.com

Basic online course on Carbon Accounting brochure

Pournima Agarkar. 






Tuesday, July 31, 2018

My City My Responsibility - Eco-friendly Lifestyle Part 2

Dear All, 


As mentioned in the last blog, we are facing the global ecological deficit and Earth Overshoot day is the day which marks a calendar date when we have used more from nature than our planet can renew in a year.
Graph showing earth overshoot days till date
The concept of Earth Overshoot day was initiated as a campaign to raise awareness about our continuous exploitation of the Earth's resources and its renewing capacity. As per the calculations done by Global Footprint Network, in 1970 we crossed the threshold and since then every year we are in a debt towards the Earth. If we are to continue with consumption-centric lifestyle we will require 1.7 Earths i.e practically one more planet to suffice our needs. If we see the past earth overshoot dates right from 1970 to 2018, i.e in the last 48 years the dates have been rapidly shifting from December to August which means that we will soon reach to a time when we will be deprived of some of the Earth's resources at global level if not all.
However, as a country and as a city we have the power to move this date backwards by undertaking small but effective steps now. We need to adopt a lifestyle that is minimalist. Its not about being a miser, its about discovering whats most important for us and adjusting our day to day activities based on this principle. 
By 2050, more and more people will be staying in urban areas, hence it is important for us to have a city that helps us manage our resources well. For instance, we should demand for better and safe roads with efficient public transport, so that we use less of individual vehicles to travel, which will in turn help saving on fossil fuels and lower carbon emissions. Air pollution problem caused majorly due to vehicular emissions will also be reduced. Another resource consumptive activity coupled with enormous carbon emissions is construction. Instead of developing haphazard buildings in every corner of the city, it is important to survey the need for housing demand and accordingly develop affordable housing with basic facilities. These houses can be built using materials that redue energy and water usage. There is a need of research on developing such innovative materials in this sector. Similarly waste minimization and management at the source is one of the most important ways to reduce our ecological footprint which will help us move the overshoot date ahead to an extent. Above all our attitude towards our resources should be just like the way we manage our finances. Otherwise soon we will be taxed for overusing our resources as well!
Individually, we can make a minimalist calendar, where in every month we can reduce or minimize use of our resources. For eg. Discovering the one thing that maximizes your electricity bill and trying to reduce the same by an alternative process or by minimizing usage will in turn reduce your energy consumption and save your money too.

In case if you have any specific ideas on minimalist lifestyles or you are already living a minimalist lifestyle, please write to me so that I can spread the message to maximum number of people. 

Pournima Agarkar.
www.samuchit.com

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

My City My Responsibility - Eco-friendly lifestyle

Dear All,

In my last blog I wrote about the importance of carbon footprint in living a low carbon lifestyle. Earlier I have also written about water footprint and its importance. In today's blog I want to talk about ecological footprint and why it is important for living an eco-friendly lifestyle. Note that water and carbon footprint are the sub sets of ecological footprint. 

Ecological footprint is the measure of human demand on nature's productive resources (for example, cropland, grazing land or sea) and the quantity of waste generated. This demand is compared to the nature's capacity to absorb and generate new resources also known as biocapacity or the supply side. Ecological footprint and biocapacity are expressed in terms of global hectares (gha) per person. Note that keeping our consumption and waste generation rates well below the absorbing and renewing capacity of nature is crucial for attaining Sustainability. However, as per Global Footprint Network the world's average ecological footprint is 2.84 gha per person and the biocapacity is 1.73 gha per person which means that our consumption and waste generation rate exceeds the nature's capacity to renew and absorb and hence we are facing a global ecological deficit. Since we do not have another planet from where we can import resources, we are using resources from our natural capital. Our natural capital is the stock of natural resources that are as yet unexplored like some reserve forests, rivers etc. We are in a race of exploiting more and more natural resources. Because of this excessive exploitation we are about to face the Earth Overshoot day on the 1st of August this year. 

Graphical representation of ecological footprint, biocapacity and ecological deficit

I will be writing more on this and how we can live an eco-friendly lifestyle with these finite resources in my next blog. 

Pournima Agarkar.
www.samuchit.com  



Tuesday, July 17, 2018

My City My Responsibility - Climate Friendly Lifestyle Workshop!


Dear All, 

Group of teachers at the workshop
Till last week I was busy attending workshops on many aspects of Sustainability and stuff...but this time we arranged one :) Samuchit got an opportunity to conduct the monthly Climate Friendly Lifestyle Workshop in R. Jhunjhunwala college, Ghatkopar, Mumbai yesterday. It was a pleasure to undertake the workshop here for the enthusiastic teachers and active students of this college. Great thanks! to Dr. Anil Avhad for organizing this workshop so well. It was good to know that as a college the teachers here understand the need of this subject and since it is not part of the curriculum they are taking tremendous efforts to create awareness among the youngsters and make them responsible citizens of tomorrow
Dr.Priyadarshini Karve presenting
Pournima Agarkar explaining the calculator



Just a brief background of our workshop flow, Dr. Priyadarshini Karve is the main speaker and she explains the science behind climate change, how real it is for us in India and why urbanites need to take the required action. She explains the importance of carbon footprint which is a measure of greenhouse gases that are generated as a result of our day to day activities that directly or indirectly contribute to climate change. Then I run through our carbon footprint calculator step by step so that all the participants get a hang of calculating their own footprint. Since there were around 45 participants in all, we decided to take sample information of a typical middle class family and calculated the footprint. Later we asked all participants to calculate their footprint using own information so that they get to know how much do they contribute to climate change.



Group of students

Its been our experience that after calculating the footprint, all the participants are kind of sad or worried. In this workshop some participants were literally scared of sharing their carbon footprint numbers with us. Since the desired limit is 2 tCo2eq and Indian urbanites tend to have a footprint of 3 to 4 tCo2eq in general or more, its sometimes shocking to know that we are to an extent the cause of the global problem. However, this calculator itself shows the pathway towards a low-carbon lifestyle leading us to the global solution. Generally when we say Think Global and Act Local, we don't really know what needs to be done as an individual locally or what we should change in our day to day lives in order to reduce the impacts of climate change. Our workshop gives you a guideline towards the required actions.  

So if you are curious to know your footprint and want to lead a low-carbon lifestyle tune in to Samuchit's facebook page or website next month or write to me to know about our next workshop! I will be happy to help you. 

Pournima Agarkar.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

My City My Responsibility - Reflecting on #UrbanLab workshop about smart spaces Part II

Dear All, 

In continuation with my previous blog, for the issues that we faced during the quick survey, we had to suggest a prototype of solution. Issues like lack of dedicated spaces, loss of local culture, low awareness levels about municipal initiatives in the area and improper storm water drainage were the highlights of our survey.  




Our prototype design 

Since our group was about creating smart spaces, we created prototype of spaces for the street where we surveyed. The spaces we created included an Art Katta (here Katta means a place where people can meet, discuss, design or just hangout if possible under the shade of trees). Art Katta is a place where people can meet and co-create articles out of waste/recycled material as smart art. Similarly we created a Food Katta for setting up eateries and also like a marketplace for selling/buying of organic fruits and vegetables. We created a bus stop having toilets with access to differently-abled persons. We also demarcated parking spaces for private and public vehicles,  and provided street lights that were designed in the form of a lantern to give it a nostalgic look. Street walls would depict our history through paintings. Instead of creating an open space with trees, we thought of creating a biodiversity park having native trees especially fruit and flower bearing trees to attract more native birds, butterflies, bees and other pollinating insects etc. We included cycle tracks in green colour and walking areas in dotted yellow lines. The whole idea was to give all the spaces aspects of sustainability and usability. For creating awareness, we came up with an app for citizens that could give all the above information about the spaces. Our aim was to connect spaces and people through 3E's which is explore, engage and enjoy. 

Our group photo
Moreover, the whole experience of surveying, brainstorming and co-creating a prototype gave us a good hands-on experience on developing a space, which I feel is one of the most effective ways of learning. However, the experience would have been richer with a more diverse group. So, I feel considering a multidisciplinary approach and involving effective decision making criteria through activities like brainstorming with all the stakeholders is one of the ways that can make our development a better process if implemented in the correct manner. 
The overall learning experience was indeed beneficial for me and I thank IGSI and BNCA for this opportunity. Post workshop, all our inputs would be presented by our coordinators to the concerned local authorities. I am eager to know their thoughts! Will get back when I learn more! I also invite other workshop participants to share their experience/opinions in the comments.

Pournima Agarkar. 

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

My City My Responsibility - Reflecting on #UrbanLab workshop about Smart spaces (Part I)

Dear All,

I would like to share my reflections on a workshop, that I recently attended on Development of smart spaces under the #UrbanLab series of workshop organised by Indo-German Smart Initiative (IGSI) in Pune city supported by Dr. Bhanuben Nanavati College of Architecture (BNCA) and National Institute of Urban Affairs, Delhi. 

I missed the first day, however managed to sync in with a group of creative architects on the second day who were working on creating smart spaces. Our task with this topic was to identify the need and issues related to creating smart spaces and coming up with alternatives. 

Before proceeding further, I would like to highlight that the location where the workshop was conducted was a seminar hall named Bhauudeshiya Bhavan on baner road a municipal initiative for social development. This place apparently had NO USABLE TOILETS as good as having no toilets which I think is a basic need for any community space. The space for toilets was demarcated but not built. There was enough parking space, though! I wonder what's the intention of designing a community place without a provision of a functioning toilet??? In this era of Sustainability where we talk about inclusive designing having toilets for all the members of the society considering the differently-abled persons, senior citizens, women etc..This particular community space lacked providing a basic feature that too in an area which is being developed under the smart city area development scheme. (Note: The organizing team was completely unaware of this aspect and some last minute scrambling had to be done to deal with the problem.) 

Anyway, I was glad to have a group where all of us believed in understanding the NEED of creating a smart space in the first place, instead of just creating something for the sake of it. Also I understood that creating a smart space was not only about creating something new, its also about making optimum usage of any existing space.

Interviewing the local milk supplier
For instance, consider roads. The basic features a road should have is a proper storm water drainage system, access to parking spaces, usable cycle tracks, walkable footpaths, solar powered LED street lights etc... however while conducting a random survey on the Highstreet road in Baner all the above mentioned features of a road were missing on this 'so called posh' street which comes under the smart city area development plan. We observed water logging on the roads due to inappropriate storm water drains, footpaths were tagged with cycle track boards and the recently introduced PEDL cycles under the Pune Cycle Plan were parked on footpaths. However this footpath was blocked even for walking due to some concrete structure and pipes. On the other side, we could see a lot of paved area right in front of the hotels that were completely vacant probably because it was morning time.

Privately owned company buses were parked on the road reducing the driving space of the road. The road on one side had tall corporate companies with glass facades and hotels, bars plus luxurious residential societies on the other side.
Vacant space in front of hotels

We were searching for some localites to ask our queries, we met just one local milk supplier who stayed around 3-4 km away from this street. He mentioned that this place is very crowded in the evenings causing heavy traffic jam in the area since most of the people come to hang out in these hotels and bars. When asked about improvement in quality of life, he replied that he is happy just because of the increased income growth and schooling facility for his children but was sad that his family does not like to come to his shop and that they saw a loss of local culture. He felt like he has lost his hometown. A local person felt like an alien in his own place. 

Another highlight of this area is the Energize Park  - a smart 
Energize Park
initiative by the municipality to create an environment friendly public space. The park has solar powered street lights, seating areas, library (but no books! Basically it is just a space for reading i guess!), a yoga center and lots of greenery. However one of the residents of this area said that we don't really visit this place because our society's open space is much better and greener. Some people visit the park mostly in the evening, but some people don't know that such a place even exist.

I feel this is another example of a planning disaster because this space seems to be created either without even checking if it was needed at this location or may be they have failed to promote its significance and hence it is under utilized.

With all these observations and inputs we were supposed to come up with a prototype of solution. 

I will write about our solutions prototype in my next blog. Happy learning!!!

Pournima Agarkar. 






Tuesday, June 26, 2018

My City My Responsibility - Plastic a boon or a curse!

Dear All, 


The plastic ban effective from 23rd June has triggered pro-environment emotions among many people to support the ban and are exploring alternatives that can replace all the plastic. While on the other hand there are many people who just think that the ban is unfair since it targets cheap plastic carry bags and not the packaging industry which is the bigger culprit. However, the plastic ban can be a first step towards sustainable waste management only if the government provides proper channel for the management of plastic wastes instead of penalizing people for using plastic.  


This is not the first time plastic is banned, the first ban on plastic carry bags came in the year 2006 where the use of plastic carry bags having less than 50 microns in thickness was banned through the Maharashtra Plastic Carry Bags (Manufacture and Usage) Rules, 2006 but it did not serve its purpose due to lack of strict enforcement, no clarification on intention as to why only 50 microns etc. thus lack of effective awareness creation by the government led to the failure of the plastic ban in 2006. Now, there is a lot of awareness about plastic wastes menace but the way the 2018 ban is implemented is still questionable.  

Reused plastic can
(Courtesy: Smita Mehetre)
It is important to note that despite the environmental and health hazards caused due to plastic wastes, plastic wasn't invented with that intention. I would like to narrate one such example from an article written by Dr. Priyadarshini Karve on Plastic (Source: E-Shaishanik Sundarbh 111 Apr-May 2018). Back in the 18th century, the discovery of plastic replaced ivory that was largely used in the making of billiard balls, this ivory would be fetched by slaughtering elephants for their tusk's, it rampantly depleted the elephant population. In 1869, John W. Hyatt, invented the first plastic by treating cellulose which formed a good substitute for ivory and was rewarded $10,000. This discovery actually saved lives of elephants from extinction and plastic became a boon for people as it was cheap, easily moldable into any shape or size and durable. I am sure everyone will agree with me on the benefits of plastic, then why are we facing so many problems with plastic wastes???

I feel its our one time use and throw attitude because when we throw it away it goes no where but comes back to us. As I have already mentioned in my earlier blogs that until our attitude towards consumption does not change, we are always going to fall in this vicious cycle. However with our generation which is full of innovation and is conscious we can replace plastic with anything better just by changing our behavior, or by finding a better way of dealing with plastics or by inventing some new material. Its in our hands to make plastic a boon or a curse! 

Pournima Agarkar.
www.samuchit.com

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

My City My Responsibility - Is World Environment Day 2018 over

Dear All, 

Though the 'World Environment Day' celebrated on the 5th of June every year, is officially over.
I believe that everyday is environment day since our lives are completely dependent on the environment resources in all our day to day activities. I would like to list down the major environmental resources that we access daily.
The first and the most essential resource required for life on earth is water that is fetched from the lakes and the rivers for us right into our homes through the tap water.
Forest produce helps us procure the raw materials required for our clothing, furniture, housing cosmetics etc.
All the forms of energy renewable and non renewable that we use for cooking, heating, lighting, cooling, travelling and entertainment all comes directly or indirectly from the environment.
Availability of fresh air another most important resource for our survival is freely available in nature.
Soil/land plays a crucial role in providing us the food and the shelter which form part of our basic needs.
Today all these resources are either terribly polluted or nearing to depletion due to over exploitation by us through our lifestyles, behavior, unsustainable development or simply ignorance.
Hence it is crucial for US to acknowledge these threats and ACT in a sustainable manner since OUR survival is under threat without the appropriate environment.
With the help of the image below let us learn to connect with nature in our daily activities.
source: www.tes.com


Pournima Agarkar.