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. 








Tuesday, June 12, 2018

My City My Responsibility - Sustainably Smart city

Dear All, 

I have been travelling in the last few weeks to a lot of places from Vizag-Delhi-Tokyo-Mexico-Pune and all the while I missed blogging, however after this long journey, I would like to share some of the insights of my journey through the sustainability lens. 


For conducting carbon audit of Laya Resource centre, I got an opportunity to visit Visakhapatnam (Vizag in short). Vizag is one of the smart city having a coastal ecosystem with clean beaches having toilets considering disabled people which is rarely seen. The streets and beaches were free from plastic wastes to an extent though there is no official ban! However, in the wave of beautification, the city has set up several statues of babies and wildlife all around the city which made the city look colorful but a bit weird! 

Meanwhile I could attend a RWA (Resident Welfare Association) meet where citizens gathered to discuss waste management issues in their areas which I feel is a good step towards attaining sustainability through citizens' participation which is otherwise not a common thing in Vizag.   

India Gate, Delhi
Happened to visit Delhi yet another smart city in the making, which consists of rich cultural heritage worth seeing (amidst the heavily polluted air and extreme weather pattern). The people in the city seem to be used to the drama happening in and around the city and have become resilient to it. Especially the safety issues, religious protests and terror attacks and all is quite a norm for all. On other hand,  where I attended a conference on #youthwagingpeace by UNESCO MGIEP. I could see a lot of young Delhites advocating for peace against violent extremism in the name of religion, caste, gender, safety, education etc. Met a 17 year old Rohingya community boy educating his community as a social service since he believes that education alone can help improve the situation of his community. I feel that the youth undertaking such initiatives in the city like Delhi can be a wise and sustainable way forward for the capital city. 



Then I landed in Tokyo, en-route to Mexico where I was to attend the conclusion event of my Mentoring for Leadership program on #EducationforSustainableDevelopment. I had a layover of 11 hours at the Tokyo/Narita airport. The airport is huge, it displays various forms of Japanese art and theatre through art galleries inside the airport. Even here I noticed that the washrooms were designed inclusively for the safety and support of mothers with babies, for blind by having braille and audio visual facility, disabled friendly and very user friendly. Inclusiveness which is one of the key aspects of sustainability is so well imbibed in their approach that portrays Sustainable smartness.  


Finally reached Mexico, and my program was held in the University of Guanajuato in Leon, a small city around 380 kms away from Mexico city. I got an opportunity to present our work on Sustainability in the public space of the University and was appreciated by all the people who visited the stand. From here I traveled to the heritage city of Guanajuato. The city is situated in a valley and is full of alleys which makes it walking and biking friendly. Its a good way to connect to the city and also good for health. The city has several tunnels for the cars and buses to move in and out of the city. Various aspects of sustainability could be seen in and around the city that makes it a livable city.




All the above aspects can be easily adopted in Pune city to make it a Sustainably smart city. Our city is rich in culture and heritage. Especially the central part of the city if kept free from four wheelers can be maintained and promoted as the heritage area of the city. The activeness of the citizens and the youth in the city make it a vibrant and live city which can ensure good governance in the city. Appropriate use of ICT can make our city disaster resistant and user friendly. Waste management and conservation of our natural resources will make us a ecologically robust city.

So what is holding us back from being a Sustainably Smart city???

Pournima Agarkar.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

My City My Responsibility - River ecosystem services

Dear All,

In my last blog we saw how river revival done in an appropriate way, can enhance the river ecosystem and in turn provide us with lots of benefits. These benefits that we get from a healthy river ecosystem are known as ecosystem services offered by the river. 

The picture below shows the different categories of services offered by our rivers. These are provisioning/supplying, regulatory, cultural and supporting. 

Source: Ecosystem and their services


Though transportation is one of the supplying services offered by the rivers, I feel there are serious problems with the way transport is being proposed for Mula - Mutha river system. More about this next week!

Pournima Agarkar.

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

My City My Responsibility - River revival

Dear All, 


Wetland patch in Mutha riverbed showing good fish and bird diversity
The above image is of the wetland patch that is seen near the mhatre bridge and which should be preserved as mentioned in my last blog. 

With reference to the comments that I have received in my last blog, I would like to say that, yes we need river rejuvenation program and not river development. But what does river rejuvenation or revival means. Rejuvenation or revival simply means restoration of river to its original form. 

In case of our rivers which smelled of fishes as per one of the comments, which means getting back the same water quality that is suitable for aquatic life in the rivers. With the riverfront development plan happening we as citizens should advocate for the quality of water in our rivers such that it can allow fishes to thrive and supply potable water for all. Such services provided by rivers are also known as ecosystem services. We shall see more about in the next blog. 

Pournima Agarkar.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

My City My Responsibility - Need sustainable Riverfront Development

Dear All, 

In the last blog we saw a pair of 'now' and 'future' pictures from the draft riverfront development plan. The whole idea behind sharing the pictures was to make citizens aware  that such development is happening on our river and we have the right to know ... and question. Development is indeed important, but one must look behind the glamour in order to ensure that it is sustainable.
  
Considering the comments from both online and offline sources I can say that definitely citizens don't want our riverfront to be concertized to such an extent in the name of places for public interaction, clear a grassy bank and have a couple of lonely trees in the name of aesthetics, and lots of pigeons (!) in the name of biodiversity (as depicted in the proposed view). Click on THIS LINK to access the information on riverfront development.  


As Shailaja Deshpande of Jeevitnadi rightly mentioned that even a common citizen who has nothing to do with ecology and river dynamics would still like to have a good mix of green cover and rock structures along the riverbank instead of all pavements. 

Also she pointed out that we should have inclusive access to the river, or in other words easy access to differently-abled people which is still not reflected in our planning though we know about its importance. 

While undertaking a stream mapping study along the river stretch near Mhatre bridge last year, my colleagues and I came across a beautiful wetland patch that needs to be preserved. Aditi Deodhar of Brown leaf foundation and an active member of Jeevitnadi said that similar wetland patches exist near Vitthalwadi river stretch as well which are currently being preserved by a community of enthusiastic people in the neighborhood through the program of adoption of a river stretch  initiated by Jeevitnadi

Holistic approach and considerations of local ecosystem in the area are must while planning development. 

Pournima Agarkar. 

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

My City My Responsibility - Glimpse of riverfront development

Dear All,

Today I am posting one of the pictures from the draft riverfront development plan so that you get a glimpse of the riverfront development strategy.

Kindly post your comments on the below pictures with reasons, any suggestions for making riverfront development better are welcome. Looking forward to your comments!

Source: Draft Riverfront development plan, Pune

 Pournima Agarkar.