Wednesday, February 19, 2020

My City My Responsibility - Sustainable 2020 in the making!!!

Dear All,

In my last blog, I mentioned about all our initiatives that enabled us to have a Sustainable 2019. Taking this forward, we are heading towards a more action oriented Sustainable 2020. Here's a quick review of a smashing start of year, full of new ventures!!!

Firstly I would like to mention our collaboration with Sahapedia a Delhi based organisation, involved in mapping Pune's Cultural and Natural Heritage. We host them in our office :) On 28th January 2020 we conducted our #ChallengingThanos event in collaboration with Sahapedia and Lokshahi Utsav Samiti during the Lokshahi Utsav that takes place every year in the week of 26 Jan. In this event we spoke about how Pune can challenge Climate change - both in terms of addressing climate vulnerabilities and going carbon-neutral. We received an overwhelming response, more than 100 people turned up for the event. I am glad to be part of the Lokshahi Utsav, thank you very much for hosting us! Not only this, post event our studies got highlighted in several local newspapers both English and Marathi. Check out the compilation of all the news coverage! Thanks a ton to all the newspaper agencies (Lokmat, Maharashtra Times, Times of India and Sakal) and the reporters for covering this issue extensively. Reaching to the larger audience on the seriousness of how climate change is impacting us is crucial and indeed all the reporters did a great job!!! Thank you to all the corresponding media persons and the editors! 

Another highlight of the month was the publishing of the Policy paper on Carbon Neutral PMR by 2030 by Pune International Centre (PIC) and Climate Collective Pune (CCP) through the hands of our young Environment and Tourism Minister Aaditya Thackeray, on the 29th Jan, 2020. The inputs presented by Dr Gurudas Nulkar, Dr Priyadarshini Karve and Dr Nitant Mate, were very well taken by our minister. He calmly listened and commented on the inputs and suggestions given by the experts in the round table discussion. This is first time ever any minister/bureaucrat has given so much time for this alarming issue and yes it had to be a young politician :) I was glad to be part of this round table and witnessing these discussions. Aaditya Thackeray suggested monthly follow up meets on the Carbon
Neutral planning and development of PMR and intends to make the entire Maharashtra Carbon Neutral! Hope this to be the beginning of a new era!!!

Another recent initiative of ours is about Cooking for Climate where Samuchit Enviro Tech promoting improved BIOMASS based cookstoves and renewable charcoal, Vaayu Mitra promoting kitchen waste and wastewater based BIOGAS plant systems and OrjaBox promoting SOLAR based cooking have come together to showcase renewable energy based cooking options. We had successfully conducted our first event in December 2019 at Cafe Climate run by Priyadarshan Sahasrabuddhe (VaayuMitra) and another event at AISSMS, Electrical Engineering campus, Pune with the help of Vishaka Chandhere (OrjaBox). Both the events were well received by the audience. Food is the heart of our survival and cooking is an enabler. In this fossil fuel challenged future where reducing our carbon emissions is a must, we need to make the shift to renewable sources of cooking energy. We will conduct these workshops every month, and invite collaborators to host us! Let us know if you are interested, or know of anyone who might be interested! Check out a video of our workshop here!

Being a member of INECC and part of Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) agenda we got an opportunity to design a training manual for trainers on some of the sustainable development goals (SDGs) last year for PRATYeK. PRATYeK is a non governmental organization working on child rights and earth rights through various advocacy mediums with technical support from UNICEF. They invited me and my colleague, Myron Mendes, to train their trainers based in Mumbai and Delhi on the manual. Highlight of this visit were the kids from an underprivileged section of the society in Delhi who are now SDG ministers having a ministry for each SDG. The kids aged between 10 to 16 years of age literally taught us a lot, I was amazed with their enthusiasm, charisma, general knowledge, consciousness, ability to grasp the concept and put in action. I learnt a lot more than I thought possible, Thanks to INECC and PRATYeK for a amazing experience. Not to mention I enjoyed every bit of my visit to Delhi with some close friends!
As I said 2020 is going to be an action packed year, more such exciting opportunities in the pipeline. Check out our upcoming events on 26th Feb and on 1st March 2020 on our social media handles!

Pournima Agarkar. 

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Friday, January 31, 2020

My City My Responsibility - A look back at Sustainable 2019!!!

Dear All, 

New year pledge for a Carbon Neutral and Climate Resilient Pune

I know its been quite a long time since I last wrote, nevertheless I am glad to be back and want to keep writing more often!!!

Let me just wish everyone a Happy and Sustainable year ahead!!!

For us at Samuchit and Laya resource center 2019 had been an exciting year. We could initiate some new approaches for imparting climate and sustainability literacy programs. We could also take some of our initiatives to other cities apart from Pune which is one of the goals of this entire study. This blog is about a quick flasback of activities conducted in 2019.  

End of the first phase of Sustainably SMART pune study - In December 2018 we completed the first phase of our Sustainably SMART Pune study and published the report which was well received by the Puneites. The softcopy of the report is available online. Let me know if anyone would like to have it.

Citizens charter for Sustainable Pune - In January 2019, as part of the Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) project we could publish a compilation of citizens inputs for making the city sustainable based on Sustainable development goals (SDG) 11 targets. Marathi version of the same will be available soon.

Sustainable initiatives in Thane  - In March 2019, we were invited by a couple of environmental enthusiasts from Thane through Prasad Dandekar who attended our workshops in Pune. We conducted a full day workshop where we presented our work on Sustainably SMART Pune and Climate Friendly Lifestyle. The discussions later rolled on as to how we can make Thane a Sustainably SMART city. As a follow up from this, FERN, an environment focused citizen group in Thane invited Dr Priyadarshini Karve to speak on sustainable urbanisation at their annual Environmental Lecture Series in November 2019. The talk was very well attended. 

National Conference on Urban Sustainability - In April 2019 under the ESD project a national conference was organised by us in order to disseminate the citizens charter for Sustainable Pune across India. I was glad to have a few INECC members from different states coming all the way for this conference. 

Yuvadrishti handbook on Carbon Neutral campus - In June 2019 under the Yiuvadrishti initiative by INECC and in association with Pune Internatinal centre (PIC) and Climate Collective Pune's (CCP) vision of a Carbon Neutral Pune by 2030 we came up with this DIY kind of Handbook for making campuses carbon neutral. In order to make a city carbon neutral we believe the education sector should take the lead. Three colleges of Pune used this handbook under our guidance and also published their strategies to go low carbon. 

Sustainable Bhuj - In July 2019 we were invited by Aseem Mishra, Coordinator of Homes in the City (HIC), an initiative in Bhuj that works with citizens, NGOs and CSO's. We met him during our national conference and he wanted us to talk about Pune initiatives at their conference in Bhuj, Gujarat. It was an honor to be there but I felt terrible to see how they are struggling to make their city sustainable amidst all the challenges of cultural diversity, extreme climatic conditions coupled with rapid urbanization.  

Carbon neutral campus at Kopargaon - In August 2019 we were invited by Sanjivani group of Institutes, Kopargaon to undertake the carbon neutral campuses workshop. It was indeed a great step as an institute and good opportunity for us as well. They are already undertaking a lot of initiatives they just need to align them with carbon neutrality and validate the zero carbon character of their institution. 
Series of #Challenging Thanos - In September 2019 in order to reach out to those urbanites who would otherwise not talk about climate change and sustainability, we came up with this series of events where we talk about day to day issues in a cafe or a restaurant and then link the issues to the big picture. These events have received good response so far and there has been at least 30-40% of new faces in every Thanos event. However the goal is to reach out to maximum. So we want all of you to spread the word about this series of event among your friends and family. Watch out for the image of Thanos on our social media to know when the next event is happening! 

Vibrant Vizag and TECH conference - In December 2019 I got an opportunity to present our #ChallengingThanos initiative in the UNESCO MGIEP's TECH conference in Visakhapatnam. Though my presentation went well, I was disappointed to see the overwhelming focus given to app-based learning, video games and artificial intelligence (AI) without studying the long term psychological impacts on the youth.

This visit also gave me an opportunity to visit LAYA resource centre headquarters and its operations in the tribal areas of Andhra. I am grateful to LAYA for arranging the site visits at Addetegala and Paderu (formerly naxalite areas). I could not have imagined working in such difficult areas that too at a time when naxalite activities were at peak. The team at LAYA is indeed doing a great job!!!

Carbon Neutral PMRDA initiative - Throughout 2019, we contributed to the Roadmap for Carbon Neutral PMR, an initiative by Climate Collective Pune (CCP) and Pune International Centre (PIC). Today at the end of January 2020, I am glad that the goal to present this report to state government authorities has been fruitful. The Environment and Tourism minister Mr. Aaditya Thackeray gave open, informal and absolutely genuine feedback on the report and has committed to make it a reality. This is indeed a good start for 2020, and we hope to keep the momentum going!

That's all for now, keep checking out this space for more updates and experiences. Also please share your views or opinions with us on our work. Constructive Criticism is welcome too! :) 

Pournima Agarkar. 

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Sunday, December 8, 2019


I was given the task to set the context for India Clean Cooking Forum 2019 in Delhi on 3 December, which motivated me to pen down some of my thinking around 'clean cooking'.

Setting the Context in Inaugural Session (PC: CLEAN, New Delhi)

The theme for ICCF 2019 was 'Creating Impact through Clean Cooking Applications'.

India Clean Cooking Forum is an annual event organised by Clean Energy Access Network (CLEAN), which is a network of stakeholders engaged with decentralised renewables. Therefore it is a given that when we talk about Clean Cooking, we are specifically referring to those technologies that are based on decentralised renewables (DRE) - which in this context are a variety of solid, liquid, gaseous biofuels, a variety of solar technologies, combinations of these, and even geothermal energy in the places that it makes sense to use it for cooking. Therefore, there is no place in ICCF for challenges or success/failure stories, etc., around use of fossil fuels and grid power for cooking. The focus very specifically and unapologetically is on DRE cooking technologies, being used either in isolation or in combination with fossil fuels and grid power.

This is not just an ideological position!

Most people tend to think that once a household has transitioned to 'cooking gas', that is the end of it - it has reached the top of the cooking energy ladder and will now stay there happily ever after. This cannot be farther from reality.

In the climate crisised world of today, the most important survival strategy is for renewables to replace fossil energy in all energy sectors. The cooking energy sector cannot be an exception to this. As a species, we are fast running out of time to make this global and total energy transition. For India this means that we need to rapidly figure out - what are the current LPG and PNG users going to transition to in a fossil fuel free world. However, the government of India is aggressively pushing more and more households towards fossil energy based cooking! The seriousness of the adverse health impacts associated with smoke in the kitchen from use of traditional biomass fuels in traditional cookstoves is the driver for this, but there are non-polluting cooking technologies based on DRE too! Yes, there are challenges of standardisation, commercialisation, scaling up, etc., but that cannot be an excuse for neglecting 'the best option' in favour of the 'readily available option' by a national government!

It would be much more prudent and beneficial to everyone in the long run to push ALL households - urban as well as rural, rich as well as poor - to DRE based clean cooking. The time, effort, and resources would be better spend in urgently addressing the challenges of the DRE clean cooking sector rather than wasting these on expanding the reach of fossil fuel based cooking.

There is another dimension to this.

India is one of the countries most vulnerable to climate change. This means that we need to invest in climate resilience building too. Localisation of basic resources is an important aspect of resilience building. From that perspective, the 'decentralised' in DRE is the key! Localisation and decentralisation go hand and hand, and provide opportunities for better customisation to meet the users' needs.

On this background, the total neglect of DRE based cooking sector since 2000s shows a remarkable lack of foresight and long term thinking on the part of successive governments over the last twenty years.

There was one more important aspect of the ICCF 2019 theme, that must be highlighted.

The theme for the deliberations was not just 'clean cooking' but 'clean cooking applications'. The devices that are loosely referred to as 'cook stoves' are also used for heating bath water, boiling drinking water, heating the house, drying agricultural produce, etc. It is high time we acknowledge that 'cooking' means everything that actually happens around a 'cook stove' in real kitchens rather than just boiling 5 lit of water in 10 min in a laboratory.

The theme therefore highlighted that the we need to bring the needs of the users - the cooks, who are mostly women - at the focal point of the sector. User-centric DRE based clean cooking not only addresses the thermal energy service requirements at the household level, but may also lead to novel DRE solutions suited to a wide range of thermal energy needs. These encompass solutions for the community (e.g., cooking of mid-day meals) as well as for commercial establishments (e.g., food processing units). This approach has a tremendous potential to create 'impacts' not just for women's health and climate change, but also for widespread livelihood generation, circular economy, sustainable production systems, etc.

Glimpses of ICCF 2019, India Habitat Centre, New Dehi (PC: CLEAN, New Delhi)

The ICCF 2019 had a very packed agenda, and each session was a bit too content-rich. I am afraid that there was a bit of an information overload by the end of the day! However, many interesting threads emerged that can be expanded on and woven into a strong case for the DRE clean cooking sector. I hope that future ICCF events will keep on exploring these, and expanding on the narrative, building on experiences from the field.

We still have a long way to go!  

Priyadarshini Karve
Samuchit Enviro Tech


Samuchit Enviro Tech. 

Friday, November 29, 2019

My City My Responsibility - Indian food choices (myths and facts) in a changing Climate!

Dear All, 

Representative image for an Indian dish consisting of veg, non veg and dairy foodstuff.

Meeting new people is always exciting, recently I got an opportunity to attend a conference on Urban Food systems organised by ICLEI, South Asia in collaboration with Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) and the World Bank (WB). I feel that in this rapidly changing climate, fast paced life coupled with work and peer pressure, our health is getting compromised. There are growing concerns over health issues like diabetes, obesity and cancer. 

According to Dr Jayashree Todkar (, a renowned surgeon on Obesity and Diabetes (who spoke at the conference), India has the highest number of diabetic patients in the world and has the second largest population in childhood obesity. Obesity is one of the root causes of many of the diseases that we are facing. We can see that a lot of people are getting conscious about this and are demanding healthy food options. Consequently, we also see advertisements flooding all media, promoting so-called health foods, fitness apps, gadgets, exercises and variety of diet plans etc., that promise to make our lives healthy. Dr Todkar however recommended that eating local foods with nutritional balance is the key to good health, rather than giving up certain foods, or eating only one type of food, etc.

As far as health is concerned, as per Dr Todkar, a much bigger concern is 'nutritional illiteracy' among Indians. We should focus on eating all types of foods that are locally grown using sustainable practices, aiming for a nutritionally balanced diet, in keeping with our physique and our lifestyle. People will be able to make the right choices for their health and the environment if they understood the basics of what different foods 'give' us nutritionally and what are the paths taken and impacts produced by the different foods in reaching our plates.

While health is one's major concern, we also should think about a few other things in relation with food. There are clear linkages between our food production and distribution systems and the climate crisis. Feeding 7 billion (and eventually 10 billion) people to provide adequate nutrition in a world where food production systems everywhere are increasingly threatened by climate change impacts is the biggest challenge that the humanity is facing today.

So how do we make the right food choices that will help ourselves as well as help address the climate crisis? Many people are touting veganism as the answer to this question.

During the conference I had a brief discussion with Dr Todkar on veganism and its implications for nutrition as well as its relevance to climate change. She was deeply concerned on this issue and responded promptly to me. According to her, it is not right to promote vegetarianism i.e. having plant based diet or veganism which is a strict plant based diet that excludes all animal products i.e dairy as well as meat, as the only 'healthy' option. There can be some serious nutritional deficiencies in shifting to these food choices and these can adversely affect our health.

As per evolutionary evidence, human beings are herbivorous as well as carnivorous. Let's leave food habits associated with caste and religion out of this discussion. As per science a plant based/vegan diet is rich in fiber, full of antioxidants and multiple vitamins and minerals but lacks in rich source of protein and essential amino acids which are the building blocks of our body. These important building blocks can be sourced only through food stuffs that are originating from animals - milk, eggs, meat, etc.

According to Dr Priyadarshini Karve, the proponents of veganism dismiss the nutrition-related concerns saying that even the animals we eat are getting the proteins from plants, and therefore plants are the ultimate source of protein. This reasoning actually shows a total lack of understanding of biochemistry. It cannot however be denied that there are many diseases that are linked with meat-centric diets. However, our concerns should be focused on Indian food habits.

She further added, traditional Indian non-vegetarians do not have a 'meat-centric' diet. A traditional Indian nonvegetarian's annual meat intake is negligible compared to that of say an American meat eater. Dairy is a big component of a vegetarian diet, but most adults consume very little milk. They consume more processed milk products like curds and buttermilk and there are a number of health benefits associated with 'fermented' foods. Indians also tend to eat a lot of milk-based sweets and these should indeed by avoided due to ill-effects of sugar.

Dr Karve explained that as far as the link of meat and dairy based diets with climate change is concerned, yes, indeed it is true that the energy spend and productive land engaged in producing 1 kg of animal-based food is much more than 1 kg of plant-based food. However, this in itself is a 'false' comparison, especially in the context of traditional Indian diets. A traditional non-vegetarian may be consuming say 200-250 g of rice daily, but the consumption of dairy and meat together may be just about 500-700 g per week! So the right question to ask then is what is the carbon emission associated with my annual intake of rice Vs my annual intake of meat and dairy products. To find this answer, I need to look at not just the quantities but also the production and distribution processes of the various food items in my typical food platter. If you started doing this kind of an analysis, you will realise that one cannot generalise that plant based foods are low carbon! What if sitting in Pune, a person is daily eating basmati rice cultivated in energy and fertilizer intensive farms of Punjab, but the milk supply is coming from a traditional dairy farmer about 20 km away, who owns 2 buffalos that are 'free-range' (i.e., not being fed any industrially produced cattle feed)? 

According to Dr Karve, the culprit in the contribution of both agriculture and animal husbandry to climate change is 'industrialisation' of food production systems in general, and this definitely needs to be addressed on a war footing. This requires focusing on 'HOW' various food items reach our dinner plates rather than 'WHAT' are the food items on the dinner plate. You need to treat the disease, not kill the patient!

All this discussion made us realise that a lot of the statistics that is presented about health as well as climate impacts of meat and dairy based diets have emerged from the Western world. This statistics cannot be applied blindly to Asians in general, and Indians in particular, whose eating patterns are quite different. Of course, the data can be used as a cautionary signal against the increasingly westernised eating habits being acquired by urban Indians. 

In short, keeping an open mind about food, educating ourselves about our health and food production and distribution systems will serve us far better than putting blanket bans on some food types or jumping into the latest diet fads!

Pournima Agarkar. 

Also see: MUSINGS FROM PRIYADARSHINI KARVE: One and Only Solution to Climate Change?

Thursday, October 17, 2019

My City My Responsibility - Safety measures during floods!!!

Dear All, 

Meetup in Kimaya
Pune has been flooding like never before, one of the major reasons is haphazard concretization happening around without the cognizance of the existing water channels and the network. Thus leaving no place but the roads and our apartments/societies for the rainwater to venture and find its pathway.

Nevertheless, a lot has been said on this, leaving us with the ONLY option as to WHAT we are supposed to do in such a situation in order to save ourselves???

As a matter of concern, we at Samuchit Enviro Tech, LAYA and INECC conducted our monthly session titled #ChallengingThanos-Submerging Cities for brainstorming on ACTIONS that we as individuals should undertake as part of the basic disaster preparedness or measures in such situations.

We conducted the session in an open cafe Kimaya in Kothrud, though it was noisy and a bit uncomfortable to brainstorm, I feel we managed it quite well. We conducted our Mentimeter (click here for mentimeter result) session to collate a list of BASIC measures we can take as individuals during floods from a bunch of 13 people. Below is the list for your reference. Note that you too can also add to the list either as a comment or message.  

1. First things first, be alert. If possible be home or wherever you are, avoid any travel if the weather forecast alerts heavy rainfall. We have to start trusting our forecasting systems like IMD, local news, even google weather app is useful to get an idea on the weather. Call your near and dear ones and make them aware and tell them to stay where they are if they are rushing to come home.

2. Nowadays we all prefer to have cashless transactions, however having some cash is a must during difficult times at home as well as in person. In case of floods especially, the first thing that gets hampered is electricity and then online network gets jammed. in such times your mobiles may also not work, so its crucial to have some cash and food handy and follow the first point. 

3. In order to use our smart phones ''smartly'', ensure phone battery is charged and phones are updated with google maps and other related social media apps. We all use Whats app and Facebook these apps can be used efficiently to inform each other about current conditions around you. These are one of the best handy mode of communication available with all of us. Important point to be noted, a lot of fake/old news also gets circulated sometimes, so instead of panicking or blindly forwarding such posts always ask for authentication of such news.

4. In case if you are caught in any critical situation, make sure you save yourself first, only if you are fine you can help others. So securing yourself should be the priority.

Following is a list of precautions to be taken in order to cope with the ill effects of urbanization. 

1. While buying a house, check if its not near or over a river or a canal or a stream. RiverView homes may not be so appealing if the river drains into your homes. Don't fall for such real estate marketing gimmicks. The rivers/riverbeds, canals and streams are the natural drainage systems, these need to be free from obstructions in any case. Any kind of construction of concreting ON or NEAR such areas is ultimately going to affect the person who resides near these areas.

2. Our societies should have disaster prepardness plan and appropriate equipment, emergency/first aid kit, emergency contact numbers and should conduct mock drills on regular intervals. We as a family and individual should be aware of these activities and if these are not present we need to ask for them and get it.  

3. Keeping oneself FIT is a crucial factor often neglected due to time constraint. Regular exercising keeps one active and alert during crisis. Make sure you do something to keep yourself fit. Swimming is a life saving skill now, we need to be equipped with it. 

4. Stock at least 7 days of food and cash in your homes at any time. You never know when you might need it. 

5. Following sustainable practices like growing your own food or having a backyard vegetable garden, harvesting rainwater, using household biogas or steam cookers, using renewable source of energy like solar heating and lighting systems turns out to be not only sustainable but are best rescue options when there's no electricity and food.

Climate Change is happening and is real believe it or not. Haphazard urbanization is accelerating its impacts and its you, me and our families who are vulnerable to these impacts. Its high time we start taking action for our survival. Its time we start asking for a climate adaptive, resilient and mitigation focused urban planning.  

Any comments are welcome!!!

Pournima Agarkar.

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Thursday, October 3, 2019

My City My Responsibility - Sustainability and Climate Action week 2019

Dear All,

I am back! Last week we observed the most happening week of 2019 from Climate Action and Sustainability perspective. I am glad that we could contribute to the Climate Week NYC 2019  and UN Sustainable Development Goal (SDGs) Action for the People and the Planet through our local initiatives in our capacity and reach. Sharing a quick list of activities we conducted in the last week. 

List of Activities

Since the beginning of the week, we offered discounts on all our products as a part of promoting climate friendly or low carbon lifestyle. Also during the entire week, Dr Karve daily posted some content on climate change, its impacts and solutions. Check out the video for a compilation of all the posters in this link

Every month we conduct the #ChallengingThanos workshop where Thanos the most powerful villain of the super hyped Avengers-Endgame movie depicts the face of the climate crisis which is inevitable. The name literally means #ChallengingClimateChange and the workshop focuses on understanding our day to day issues like pollution, traffic congestion, floods, water crisis etc and linking it to the big picture i.e Climate change and Sustainability, in the city's context. Due to heavy rains affecting all our cities and considering the severity of Floods, we conducted a workshop titled #ChallengingThanos-Floods in Pune, at Yolkshire Aundh in order to talk about floods and the underlying man-made impacts and above all its implications due to the changing climate. We had planned this on Saturday, assuming that the Climate Strike and Climate March will happen on Friday, but for some reason, the Climate March in Pune was held on Saturday, and clashed with our schedule.

Interactive session on ChallengingThanos!

However, I was glad that there was at least ONE person who felt the need to know about Floods and actually attended our workshop. Our strategy has always been to undertake the workshop even if there is just one participant, the show must RUN in any case. We also had a special invitee for the workshop, so between the four of us, we had great discussions on the different stresses our water bodies are undergoing due to so called 'development', deficiencies in dam management, illegal constructions, encroachments, governance issues, religious practices and above all Climate Change. The exciting part of this workshop was a quick activity called as Ecosystems puzzle. The Ecosystems puzzle is an interesting concept in order to learn and understand how we have impacted the Earth's ecosystems. This has been designed and created by Isha Vywahare who attended our Climate Friendly Lifestyle workshop last month, and was our special invitee. Overall our workshop went quite well!

Please note that last week WE faced the worst ever floods in Pune for the first time after the Panshet dam mishap in 1960's. A lot of property and life was lost. In view of the seriousness of the issue, and by popular demand, we will be conducting another #ChallengingThanos event on the same topic, on 12th October Saturday. This time our focus will be more on how to adapt and build resilience in the face of this new threat. For more information you can comment on the blog or email on 

We were approached by the International Institute of Hospitality Management (IIHM), Vimannagar as they were celebrating the Sustainability 2020 week as part of Action for SDGs theme,  titled Paryatan Parv since they are into Hotel and Hospitality industry. I was glad to know that the Hospitality management industry is going all sustainable. It looks like a lot of efforts are underway to meet the SDG 2030 goals and that is a great beginning!

@IIHM, Vimannagar  
I conducted our Climate Friendly Lifestyle workshop for the students by showing Dr Karve's TEDx Talk and going over our Personal Carbon Footprint Calculator Webapp. The students calculated their footprint and we discussed how to go Low carbon, which is the first step towards Sustainability. There were around 50 plus students and they were aware of the huge carbon footprint the Hospitality industry causes. 

Wordcloud by students
Our next session was a 'Climate Katta' in Bhavans College, Andheri, Mumbai. Dr Priyadarshini Karve had studied there for a couple of years, so it was a special joy for her, to conduct a session on Climate Change in her alma mater during the Climate Week 2019. The session was organised by the Marathi department's coordinator Prof. Jyoti Malandkar for the students of 11th and 12th class. There were around 60 students and all were really curious to know about climate change and keen on action! Dr Karve spoke about the science of Climate change and its impacts in global and Indian context, as well as the possible solutions. Myron Mendes, the communications Manager at INECC spoke about the Climate Strike happening globally, with reference to Greta Thunberg and how the students can be part of the Strike in their own capacity. The students were then divided into groups and asked to present their 'take' on climate change in the light of all that they had heard, in the form of a skit with posters. The students were all excited to be part of this global movement, and came up with some interesting presentations in the short time that was available to them. I conducted our usual mentimeter activity in order to see what these young minds would demand the government in order to address Climate change. Sharing some pictures of the session.

Dr P Karve and Myron Mendes addressing the students at Bhavans!

Students preparing for the skits


The students were so inspired by the workshop that under the guidance of Prof Malandkar they also undertook a rally in their college on the subsequent Friday to join the #FridaysforFuture initiative!

Rally at Bhavans College as part of #FridaysforFuture 

Next we conducted a session on Climate Friendly Lifestyle workshop for our INECC members, to showcase our approach to climate change education. This triggered a lot of discussions on how the Carbon Footprint Calculator webapp can be used by various members as a part of their own public outreach. 

with INECC members

Last but not the least, as part of the SDGs action and Paryatan Parv by IIHM, Vimannagar there was a corporate seminar on Sustainability 2020 where I got an opportunity to present our work on envisioning Pune as a Sustainably SMART city by 2030 and the Citizen Charter for Sustainable Pune in the panel discussion. Other panel members included the DGM-MTDC Mr. Chandrashekar Jaiswal, Environment Officer, Pune Municipal Corporation Mr. Mangesh Dighe, HR Director Sheraton representing the Marriot group Mr. Viral Jesani and Deputy GM of Radisson Mr.Vivek Joshi. Each panel member spoke about their work and its relevance to Sustainability. Glad to know that Sustainability is being imbibed in the corporate sector and we could share our work with them. The attendees of this seminar included parents of the IIHM students, ex-army officials, teachers etc. I am glad that we could reach varied sections of society through this seminar.
@IIHM Corporate Seminar on Sustainability 2020

This was thus a very fruitful and enriching week for us. A BIG thank you to everyone for being part of this initiative with us.

However knowing the fact that some parts of Pune were worst hit by the rains on the 25th September, its high time WE as citizens get SMART and demand for an ecologically sensitive development instead of haphazard development. Stay tuned for our upcoming session on the same! 

Pournima Agarkar. 

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Friday, September 13, 2019

INECC Talks by Ajita Tiwari: Towards Raising Regional Climate Ambition in the Asia Pacific - Where is the race?

I had the opportunity to participate at The Asia Pacific Climate Week ( APCW) 2019 which was designed to advance regional climate action. This was aimed to support the implementation of Asia Pacific countries Nationally Determined contributions ( NDCS) under the Paris Agreement ( PA) on Climate change and action to deliver on the Sustainable Development Goals ( SDGs). APCW was envisioned as a stepping stone to the 2019 “Climate Action Summit in New York- A race we can win, A race we must win” .

This UNFCCC led conference was timed when climate emergency is upon us, at a time where countries in the Asia Pacifc region face new climate realities, where surprise is the new normal, hazards are less predictable, exposure is growing and vulnerability is compounding. The region has been battered by disasters and extreme events; vulnerability is growing and is almost double in the region, with rising economic losses. The 2019 Asia Pacific Disaster report shows that the region is at risk and is running out of time. It also points out that climate risks account for 85% of the region’s losses.

The deliberations at APCW were organized across nine themes including Raising ambition and NDC implementation, energy and industry transition, nature based solutions, infrastructure, cities and local action including building and transport and climate finance. Most of the session were “closed” ( read ‘by invitation only’), and our engagement therefore was limited to the platforms of the ‘Action Hub’ , where my colleague, Siddharth D’Souza presented on a waste to energy project; the Knowledge Corner, which served as an excellent space for sharing and networking. The other learning and updating space was from the side events and a few plenaries.

Ajita Tiwari (left) and Nafisa D'Souza (right) at the Knowledge Corner
Siddharth D'Souza presenting at the Action Hub

In this blog I share a few thoughts that emerged while attending a few sessions. The discussion on cities interested me as we ourselves are engaged with the discourse on ‘sustainably smart cities’ in India along with emerging discussions on technology and reflections on adaptation and resilience.

The City Paradigm: 

With diverse cities like Beijing, Mumbai, Dhaka and Osaka in the region the discussions highlighted the challenges for a low carbon, inclusive and just transition in the context of growing socio economic pressures (continuous inflow of migrants) and frequent disasters. While it was understood that the cities are gearing up for action and city mayors are motivated to take climate actions, the understanding of cities from the perspective of ‘limits to growth’ was challenged. In the current paradigm where cities are seen in isolation with its immediate peri urban and rural communities, forces us to think as to what extent and how long can the city take the pressure? Unless, of course we change the paradigm of looking at cities. The need to look at the urban, peri urban – rural interlinkages and understand interactions of energy, food- water- manpower, resources etc. While theoretically this makes perfect sense, the challenges lies in its operationalization, i.e governance. In the current paradigm with sharply defined jurisdiction of cities and villages, blurring of jurisdiction is not easy, in the way we operate. For the urban – peri urban – rural – tribal continuum, the key is overhauling the governance: defining the limits to growth of the city, recalibrating the resource pool, the infrastructure need, considering new skills and capacities, building in effective vertical integration, bringing in new partnerships and draw the low carbon city development plan benefitting all. While this looks to be daunting and time consuming, a thought that immediately comes to mind is that is city retrofitting even possible - A retrofit, that is not only disaster proof, low carbon, resilient but also promises development for all? 

Resilience , Inclusion and Empowerment : Empower the poor with big data and technologies 

My understanding of technologies so far has been centered around decentralized community based low carbon interventions which meets peoples’ needs  in climate friendly ways. However, the emerging understanding of technology at the APCW certainly overwhelmed me. It pointed towards fast paced, giant leaps that technology was making for addressing the climate crisis. Technological innovations like the Big data, digital identity systems, risk analytics and geo spatial data seemingly offers unprecedented promise to reduce barriers in information flow to include and empower the community at risk. While we need to catch up more on this aspect, the need to empower ourselves first to be then able to empower the community seems like the way forward.

Standee highlighting emerging technologies to address climate change  
(outside conference room 2, ESCAP, Bangkok)

Science Based Adaptation: It’s about communities… 

A lot of discussions centered around riskscapes and the need to invest in resilience to outpace risks, to develop risk informed system based approaches for scientific adaptation planning and decision making. These typically include 
i. Understanding local realities: What kind of risks are the communities facing? 
ii. Understanding and defining tipping points within the community and ecosystem context,
iii. Understanding slow onset of events in micro climate of our areas of operation while also understanding impact on ecosystem services. 

However, at the very core lies the question of how do we translate this science into adaptive and resilient solutions? Solutions, that mould communities into green and resilient communities. Financial institutions seem to have come to the rescue by demanding for “bankable" adaptation projects. The idea of “bankability" stumps us, those of us who work with the communities given the fact that one has to prove the bankability of adaptive projects for communities who have been the least contributors to the climate crisis. The first generation adaptive responses just cannot afford not be resilient enough because time is running out and economics fail us in the long run. The idea of bankability needs a serious rethinking in contexts where community based adaptive project is crucial for their very survival.

The issue of resilience building becomes even more tricky in a situation which is ever dynamic, and where science is bringing in new data. New data and information requires new changes to design adaptation actions, and new adjustments to be made. Adjusting very fast to the evolving changes is the key to thrive but the moot question is how do we go about doing this? Are our systems equipped enough to respond to this dynamism? therefore how do we institutionalise this dynamic nature in the government decision making systems?

Can we consider context specific climate finance instruments ( some refer to this as blended finance at the provincial level) to better serve and respond to the dynamic adaptation contexts of the communities?

The recommendations from the APCW is expected to feed into the climate Action summit. The Climate Action summit tagline is “A race we can win". At the APCW at least the ‘race’ was certainly not evident with almost no concrete conclusions on raising ambition in NDCs even by high emitting countries in the region. I would rather say that the race should at least begin, if we are looking to meet the urgent need to address climate change, foster resilience, achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement, and meet the Sustainable Development Goals.

We hope the passionately expressed words of the youth participants at the APCW would drive ambition and trigger action by the countries before it is too late! 

Ajita Tiwari Padhi
National Facilitator,
Indian Network on Ethics and Climate Change (INECC)
c/o INECC Secretariat
Laya Resource Center
Plot No. 110, Yendada,
Near Senora Beach Resorts,