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.


  

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

My City My Responsibility - River an Ecosystem

Dear All, 

We saw how grey water footprint is increasing in our city and why there is a need for urgent action to save our rivers. For the same, current approach considers river to be a single entity and concreting or beautifying the riverbank is seen as the solution to restore our rivers. However, it is important to understand that a river is an entire system that consists of living (aquatic plants, animals and microorganisms) and non living (physical and chemical) components that interact with each other with the help of energy and form an ecosystem. And the area that is drained by a river is known as the catchment area or a watershed. Considering this watershed and its linkages is a crucial aspect in any river restoration program, which is clearly missing in the current river development strategy. 
Mutha river, Pune

Our rivers are the source of freshwater for us. Hence preserving our river is very important for our own survival. Also note that our river is part of our natural heritage and needs to be conserved for our future generations.

On the same lines I came across a very interesting and thought provoking message. 
Title: Water
Grandfather saw it in River
Father saw it in Well
We saw in Tap
Our children will see it in Bottle
Where will our grand children see it in Capsule???

Pournima Agarkar.

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

My City My Responsibility - Water Footprint of Pune

Dear All, 

Last time we saw how water is required in everything that we use and is present in everything that we consume. So today lets see what is water footprint and why it is so important??? 

Water footprint is the amount of freshwater that is either consumed or polluted or wasted in the production of goods or services. Thus water footprint is the combined measure of direct and indirect usage of water. Its important to know your water footprint simply because the source from where the water is acquired is very crucial. There are three different components of water footprint based on their source and are termed as green water footprint, blue water footprint and grey water footprint. 

Green water footprint is the water that is sourced through precipitation and is captured in the root zone of the soil, thus used by plants or the food that we consume. Blue water footprint is the water that is sourced from the surface or groundwater reserves in order to consume or produce any goods. While grey water footprint refers to the freshwater that is used to dilute the polluted water. This freshwater is the one that comes from our rivers or our groundwater sources. 

In Pune our polluted water is directly let into our rivers with or without treatment making our freshwater sources completely polluted. It also pollutes our groundwater sources like our wells and streams through percolation. Hence in Pune out of the three water footprint components the grey water footprint is alarmingly high thus turning our rivers into wastewater streams.

Mutha river Pune

Water is essential for life. Access to safe and clean water is therefore a necessary condition to the Right to Life that our constitution gives us. We must therfore advocate for keeping our rivers ecologically and sustainably clean and flowing. From this perspective, we also need to critically examine the riverfront development in Pune which fails to consider the riverine ecosystem against short term commercial interests.

We shall see what is a riverine ecosystem in the next blog. 

Pournima Agarkar. 




Tuesday, March 27, 2018

My City My Responsibility - World Water Day

Dear All,

On 22nd March we saw world water day. I am sure all of us are taking efforts to save the visible sources of water. However, I think as a citizen we can save more water that is not visible. Since water is required in the preparation of almost everything, if we start consuming consciously. We can still save a lot of water. The below image shows the amount of water required in the production of these products and thus seem to be invisible.




Just keep a watch on your water usage to keep track of your water footprint.  We shall see more on water footprint and virtual water in the next blog. 

Pournima Agarkar.
  

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

My City My Responsibility - Waste Management Miracle

Dear All, 

Pune is one of the SMART cities and is still facing the challenges of managing waste in the city. I think its time we start taking management lessons from sustainable initiatives undertaken by small towns in making waste management a miracle. One such story is about a small town named Vengurla around 400 km from Pune under the leadership of Mr. Ramdas Kokare. 


Mr.Ramdas Kokare
Mr. Ramdas Kokare the former Chief Municipal Officer of Vengurla (now posted at Karjat) believes that apart from waste segregation at source, public participation is equally important for the city to be clean. Vengurla is a small town having around 12,400 people and generating almost 7 tonnes of wastes daily. 100% of the wastes is segregated into three different categories at the source like the wet, dry and hazardous. The wet waste is used for biogas generation producing electricity that powers machines used in the waste management facility. The dry waste is further segregated into 19 different types based on its reuse. All the nonrecyclable plastic is shredded, mixed with bitumen and used in road building making the roads more stronger. It was Mr. Kokare who implemented this in the town and transformed the waste landfill into waste management park. His management strategy simply involved taking rounds around the city just before coming to the office and while returning home, in order to see if the city is clean. He also motivated his subordinates to do the same! He and his subordinates personally talked with a certain number of people daily to educate them about the importance of waste segregation.  

Pune being an urban area having educated and active citizens is still struggling with segregation of wastes at the source into just wet and dry. Disposal of all the wastes is another issue completely. Our landfill sites are overused and people staying around the sites have to cope up with the nuisance. I cannot understand where does the problem lie? Are we not taking the Swach Bharat mission seriously? 

Mixed waste segregation
But then I feel people's participation is missing? Can the responsible citizens among us take inspiration from Mr. Kokare? Can we  educate each other about the importance of cleanliness in our surroundings in order to ensure a disease free locality? Can we advocate for segregation if we see someone not segregating the waste? Can we cooperate or coordinate with our local officers to ensure that our areas are clean? Can we ensure segregation of wastes into wet and dry and keep our sanitary wastes separately to ensure the hygiene of the waste collectors and processors?Segregation is a crucial first step. As Mr. Kokare says, mixed waste is a nuisance but segregated waste is a wealth. 

Pournima Agarkar.