Tuesday, March 13, 2018

My City My Responsibility - Towards River Revival

Dear All, 

Our city is full of role models because of which I feel fortunate to be a Puneite. These people not only motivate you but also create an awakening within you to do something for the city.  

One such personality is Mr. Vinod Bodhankar. He began with a citizens movement with the One hour per week for the city - an initiative to clean the garbage that other people throw around the nalas/streams or rivers. He believes that River is our mother and to ensure that our rivers are clean we need to understand that the waste we throw 'away', goes nowhere but right into our rivers polluting them.  

Later on, he initiated the SagarMitra Abhiyan in 2011 with the help of 150 students where each student had to collect plastic from his household for a month and get it to the school where it was then purchased by the Plastic Manufacturers and Recyclers for recycling. This initiative spread rapidly in the city through various schools and in six years i.e by Jan 2017 almost 4.8 lakh citizens of Pune city adopted the waste plastic segregation at source. Around 50 tons of plastic was fetched and given for recycling at zero cost of recollection and transport. 

From his work, it is very clear that awakening among mind and heart is required in order to awaken the hand for action. For the same, this Abhiyan focused on understanding a basic ideology that land slopes into stream, stream slopes into a river and a river slopes into an ocean. Hence when you throw plastic waste on land it ultimately goes into our oceans where the life below water suffers. We do see images where plastic is found in the stomach of the fishes and turtles by killing them. Sometimes resulting in even extinction of some species of fishes and destruction of some ocean ecosystems.

Awakening among the school going children with the help of this basic concept has impacted in segregation and collection of huge volumes of plastic waste from their homes to recycling. The sense of responsibility, understanding, involvement and service that the children have shown through this act can be easily replicated by all of us. 

If each of us decide to segregate only plastic from our household (which can be easily done) and send it to recycling. We will be contributing towards river revival and can save our rivers and the life below water for sure. Lets act upon it. 

Pournima Agarkar.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

My City My Responsibility - Development versus Environment

Sustainable Development

Dear All

Our city is witnessing varied developmental challenges that threaten the very environment of the city both socially as well as ecologically. Few of the development issues that we are facing today is the construction along the riverside and dumping debris and untreated sewage into the river. Allowing construction in the Green and no development zones, de-reserving plots from a bird sanctuary and opening it up for construction and illegally shifting the blue and red flood lines of our river to allow construction etc. This is indeed a threat to our natural resources i.e land, rivers and biodiversity. 

I am seriously worried about our development that doesn't account for our environment. I am not against any new development in our city. I mean that we are in an era of Sustainable Development, where Environment and Development should go hand in hand. For the same, a lot of thought has to be put from social, environment & climate change and economic perspective, while considering any development in the city. With Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that we have in front of us to be met by 2030. We as citizens need to understand what is sustainability and act as watch dogs to see that our government is indeed adhering to it. We as citizens have the right to ask our developers about their decisions time and again. 

However this is one side of the coin on the other hand its time that our bureaucrats understand sustainability and start incorporating it. They should take conscious efforts to study the area before undertaking any sorts of development in that area. A lot of brainstorming needs to happen in order to understand the socio-economic inequities, ecological and climatic conditions of that area. Meanwhile it is important to maintain transparency as well by publishing the information online for local and national level experts and scientists for scrutiny. With the smart technology that we have today its very handy to share information and make right use of the same. Its quite feasible to accelerate this process through the use of technology even though it is time consuming. Since today's development projects are not full proof, it activates the environmental enthusiasts opposing the same which results in delay of the project as well as enormous financial losses. Ultimately its the common man who has to bear the burden through price hikes or taxes. 

As citizens its in our hands to be the guardians of our city and accordingly envision our city. We have the right to ask our local authorities about our surrounding development. 

Pournima Agarkar.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

My City My Responsibility - Climate Friendly Lifestyle

Dear All, 

While we as a species are struggling to cope up with the rapidly changing climate and its impacts. It has become very crucial for us to adapt ourselves to the existing situation Sustainably as well as to develop the capacity to recover from the impacts. The first step towards such initiative is about knowing the science behind climate change and how real it is. We at Samuchit Enviro Tech are involved in conducting a Climate Friendly Lifestyle Workshop for the same cause where one can understand his or her contribution to climate change and tune into lifestyles that are in harmony with our ecosystem. Here we educate people on the science of climate change and the way forward by measuring their impact through a simple carbon footprint calculator.  

Last weekend, Earthcare Designs Foundation and Abhivyakti Media for Development gave us an opportunity to conduct this workshop at their premises in Nashik, Maharashtra. Total 26 people participated in this workshop. Participants came from varied fields ranging from doctors, architects, writers, social researchers, green building consultants, students etc. It was a mixed group of active citizens already doing their part to make their city sustainable. This workshop enabled them to measure their lifestyles in terms of climate friendliness and the way forward in terms of going low carbon. 

On calculating their carbon footprint, it was noteworthy that two people from the group had their footprint less than one ton CO2 equivalent which means that they are living a low carbon lifestyle already. While the others had a footprint of more than two tons, they were very curious to know how the two people managed to live within the limits of two tons of CO2 equivalent as per the desired norm. Out of this curiosity, the group decided to have a meeting once in a month or so where they discuss their lifestyles and how to go low carbon in a sustainable manner. Also when I added them in our whats app group it was fascinating that the people whose footprint was less than one ton shared how use of LEDs and walking or cycling wherever possible directly reduced their footprint drastically. If each of us start incorporating such small steps, we can definitely make our planet a better place.  

Photos of the workshop

I would like to thank the team of Earthcare and Abhivyakti, especially Anita Borkar and family for hosting the workshop and for overall arrangements. 

If you want to measure your contribution towards Climate Change and live a Climate Friendly lifestyle kindly write to me on pournima@samuchit.com. We conduct this workshop every month in Pune, Maharashtra. 

Pournima Agarkar.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

My City My Responsibility - Rainwater Harvesting

Dear All

Last week we saw, how a terrace gardening initiative can make our lives simply Sustainable. Similarly we are going to see more of such initiatives and one such initiative is rooftop rainwater harvesting.

I am sure everyone has heard about harvesting rainwater, however one may find it difficult to implement it in an existing set up. Or may find it a tedious and a costly affair or may be you think you don't need to harvest rainwater since you have enough water today. Kindly note that the benefits of harvesting rainwater are not limited to an individual, they are linked to all of us locally as well as globally.   

Let us look at a local initiative undertaken by a retired military official Col. Shashikant Dalvi in his society. In 2002, Col.Dalvi shifted to a society in viman nagar after his retirement, he became the Chairman of the society. While reviewing the annual and monthly bills of the society, he saw that the society is spending maximum on water due to the use of water tankers. At that time, PMC water supply was inadequate in the area and hence the society depended on water tankers for fulfilling their water demands. Though there was one bore well in the society, it had lower levels of water and could run only for half an hour and hence was not used. Col. Dalvi realized that temporary investments in water tanker was not a long term solution. So he learnt about rooftop rainwater harvesting and thought of using the freely available natural resource i.e. rainwater. Though rainwater is available making it usable water it needs to be harnessed.

Col. Dalvi initially tried using only 1/3rd of the terrace area for collecting rainwater and saw the amount of rainwater that could be harvested. He found that the society could cut down on 50% of their water tanker usage. So in 2003, he made arrangements to collect entire terrace water in an underground tank through pipes and a primary filter (jali). This resulted in zero usage of water tankers in the society. The tentative cost of setting up such an initiative in their society was approx. Rs. 50-70 per sq.ft at that time which is a one time cost. As per the PMC scheme, the society received a 5% rebate on property tax for implementing rooftop rainwater harvesting. This project inspired many societies around and they installed rooftop rainwater harvesting system. National Water Academy, Pune has included a visit to Col Dalvi's housing society as a part of their course syllabus to study the functioning of the project. Also its noteworthy that the water levels in their bore well increased and it could run for six to eight hours now due to percolation of water. 

Rainwater harvesting system ensures healthy and clean usable water for all, even for those who are dependent on groundwater sources. In case if you want to harness your rainwater, you can contact Col S.G Dalvi at 9860577364 or visit his organization Parjanya rainwater harvesting consulting at www.parajyarwh.com 

Pournima Agarkar.

P.S. While buying a new home just ensure if the building has rooftop rainwater harvesting system. 

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

My City My Responsibility - Terrace Gardening

Dear All, 

Veena Godbole's terrace garden
Is it really difficult to change our habits and shift to sustainable living? 

There are many citizens in Pune city itself who are living a sustainable lifestyle. Lets see what has driven the change in them. 

Veena Godbole: I got introduced to her through Dr. Priyadarshini Karve. She's a middle-aged women who just does not allow any of her kitchen waste out of her house. She has developed a beautiful terrace garden by using her household wet waste and cultivates her own vegetables and fruits. Of course, it takes a lot of dedication and effort to undertake such an initiative. But we can start with one vegetable or fruit. 

We saw in earlier blogs that wet waste generated in our household is quite a lot, and it is very easy to reuse it in our own garden or potted plants. If all of us ensure that our kitchen waste should not go out of the house, I think there will be a time when we may fall short of wet waste, and will have to borrow it. Something like this happened with Veena, she had to tie up with the local vegetable vendor for more wet waste. 

So, its like hitting two birds with one stone.We are resolving the problem of wet waste management at our end by forming a closed loop system where the waste of one product, acts as source of nourishment for another product and the cycle goes on. 

Think about it!

If you are also involved in doing something sustainable, please post a comment or write to me! Also if want to visit Veena Godbole terrace garden let me know.
Pournima Agarkar.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

My City My Responsibility - The World is a family

Dear All,

In the last week I got a chance to attend a session on India and the World - A history in nine stories by Neil MacGregor at the Symbiosis School for Liberal Arts. India and the World - A history  in nine stories is a unique exhibition in collaboration between Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya (CSMVS) in Mumbai, the British Museum in London and the National Museum in Delhi, with the support of the Ministry of Culture, the Tata Trusts and the Getty Foundation. 

With regard to this exhibition project Neil MacGregor narrated landmark events that occurred in India which show strong connections India had historically with the rest of the world. India has always promoted sharing of ideas as well as knowledge, spices, textiles, and treasures etc., with the rest of the world. India has been an integral part of the cultural history of the world and thus we also inherit a global culture. Mr. MacGregor rightly used the term that the World is a family. This made we feel like a global citizen already and thus could relate to Vasudhaiv Kutumbakam as it is said in Sanskrit.  

History has a record showing we as Indians being global citizens, which is something to be proud of, but it also should carry a sense of responsibility towards the world. Why are we being so self centered today? I mean in spite of facing impacts of climate change, environmental pollution and socio-economic inequities in India and the whole world. Our vision document for 2020 gives priority to economic development giving social and environmental aspects the last priority. Recently we all heard about Cape town in South Africa going to run out of water completely, experiencing a Day Zero by mid May 2018. We are not far from this situation if we fail to understand the impacts of our choices on people, economy and environment locally and globally.

Pournima Agarkar.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

My City My Responsibility - Our rights and duties

Dear All, 

We just witnessed the 69th Republic Day. Being a democratic nation our Constitution gives us certain rights and endows us with certain duties. Our environment is linked to our rights in such a way that it is the basic human right to live in a pollution free environment.

Regarding the same lets see how our Constitution relates to Environment.

The Article 48-A bestows upon the State to protect and improve our environment and safeguard our forests and wildlife. 
The Article 51A (g) endows us as citizens with a fundamental duty,“to protect” the environment from any kind of pollution and also to “improve” the environment quality if it has been polluted' .
The Article 21 states that 'no person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to procedure established by Law.

We as citizens are facing several environmental issues like pollution of air, water and land ultimately depriving many of us from life which is our basic right. Hence it is crucial for us to understand our duty towards our environment.   

In short our duty to protect and improve our environment is essential for our right to life.  

Happy Republic Day!

Pournima Agarkar.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

My City My Responsibility - Our attitude matters!!!

Dear All,

While learning Sustainability and working with different people on executing Sustainability, I came across something that is very basic to humans, its our own behaviour, attitude or way of looking at resources. People's behaviour and their approach towards resources is one of the reasons that led to consumerism and hence unsustainable production.

I realized this, while conducting an activity for undergraduate students on using resources sustainably. The students were divided into two groups of three each. Each group was given a set of 12 coins and each one from the group was instructed to pick up as many coins as they wish from the set. The rule was to pick at least one coin from the set in order to survive in the game. They were not supposed to communicate with each other while playing the game. Once all the students were done with picking the coins, whatever coins remained in their set, exactly same number of coins were provided to the group for playing the next round. We played four such rounds. 

Note that, here the coins represent a renewable resource available to us. At the end of the game, the group that had at least 6 coins remaining in their set was using their resources sustainably.

One of the two groups ended up exhausting all the coins by the third round, so that effectively none of them survived in the fourth round. The other group managed to have a few coins left over at the end of round 4.

We asked the students what did they feel while playing the game. Their answers reflected on the various human behaviours we see in society. While the rule was to have only one coin for survival, only one student had figured out that having leftover coins at the end of each round was necessary for survival, and that the best strategy was to pick up only one or two coins in each turn. One of the students in a group having left with no coins at the end of the game simply mentioned that she was thinking only for herself and didn't want her colleagues to have any coins at all. 

It is noteworthy that in the instructions we had never mentioned what would be the 'win' state. Most of the students worked towards amassing as many coins in their own hands as possible. Some tried to figure out a strategy that would maximise own benefit while leaving a balance on the table in order to get additional coins for the next round, but other members of the group did not quite catch on to the strategy, as no communication was allowed among the group members.

I feel that in every situation having an attitude of considering our fellow beings is crucial, because if all the coins in a set would be over the entire group would be out of the game. Having a greedy attitude will lead us nowhere, inspite of having resources that are renewable. And now that we are going towards the use of renewable sources of energy, its important to use them wisely as well.  

Pournima Agarkar.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

My City My Responsibility - Cradle to Cradle

Dear All,

Do you know that the rate at which we are using our resources to produce new stuff everyday, we will require three Earth like planets to fulfill our needs by 2050. Is it possible to get more planets? Are there any other Earth like planets from where we can get more resources?

The answer is NO, we have only ONE EARTH and we have to fulfill all our needs within the boundaries of this planet only. Its just like having a savings account in a bank from which you can withdraw only what you have deposited not more. Unlike a credit card where you can use more but then you are in a debt and for which you have to pay extra interest as well. If you cannot pay back the debt with interest, you are going to go bankrupt! Currently we are in a debt to our planet in terms of resources, in order to compensate we have to take some conscious measures.

Measures like conscious consumption and efficient consumption by using the 4R's i.e. refusing, reducing, reusing, and recycling can save our resources to an extent. But we will be more effective if we take certain measures while we are producing the stuff.

We saw the concept of lifecycle which  is the entire journey of any product right from the time its born till its death, also known as Cradle to Grave. However, there is nothing like death in nature, everything that dies is used up by other organisms as their food and is thus part of a natural cycle. For example we all learnt about the food chain in our schools. After the predator its the decomposers or bacteria who mix with the soil and help in the growth of the plants or producers. 

Can we produce or manufacture, using this Nature's concept also known as Cradle to Cradle by making industrial processes more innovative and efficient, where the waste of one product becomes source for another product. 

As consumers can we demand such production pattern? If yes, please comment with an example if you know of one!

Pournima Agarkar.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

My City My Responsibility - Benefits of responsible consumption

Dear All,

Since we have been consuming a lot, if we are now considering our resources while consuming its great news!!! We now know that consuming stuff in a responsible manner is helping us conserve our resources and ultimately our planet. Do you realise that there are bigger benefits of consuming in a responsible manner? 
Linkages of Responsible Consumption

- Reduction in overall wastes generation

When we start using the principles of R's i.e refuse to buy new stuff (unless required) reduce, reuse and recycle our stuff. We start contributing towards generating lesser waste as an individual that leads to overall reduction of wastes ultimately. For example, its about avoiding unnecessary wastage of food according to the United Nations Development Programme, 40% of the food produced is India is wasted.

Reduction in overall Pollution

Wastage is also an indicator for pollution,the moment we reduce wastage, pollution reduces. Pollution of air, water and soil is directly related to the amount of waste that is generated and treated. Today we are generating more wastes than nature can treat and hence we are facing huge levels of pollution. 
Using alternatives that are environment friendly can help us reduce pollution.

- Better Health and Wealth

Reduction in pollution will definitely result in better health quality due to the reduced illness and diseases. This will at least ensure saving our money that is spent in paying the hospital bills. For example, demanding a better managed and affordable public transport for daily commute can keep you both healthy (less vehicles on roads means less air pollution) and wealthy (not having to invest in own vehicle).   

Better Earth

Earth is a biosphere that is home to other living creatures as well, which are vanishing rapidly due to the increased pollution and resource stress created by us. Responsible consumption and equitable use of resources ensures their survival as well making the Earth a better place for all to coexist happily.

Responsible consumption is just one side of the coin, the other side is responsible production and we shall talk about it in the next blog. 

Pournima Agarkar.