Tuesday, October 9, 2018

My City My Responsibility - Alternate riverfront development approach continued

Expert group discussion
Dear All, 


In continuation with my earlier blog on developing an alternate riverfront development approach as part of our Sustainably Smart Pune 2030 project, I would like to share some more insights. 

As mentioned earlier, the river stretch near Omkareshwar temple consists of a Dhobi Ghat and two public gardens Nana Nani Park and Vartak Garden, and a few religious and heritage spaces. Our idea was that the riverfront development should compliment these existing spaces while focusing on improving the health of riverbed areas. For the same we thought of having discussions with the concerned experts. 

Firstly we decided to meet Ketaki Ghate and Manasi Karandikar from Oikos for guiding us on plantation along the riverbed. Both Ketaki and Manasi are experts in restoration works and our riverbed areas require sound restoration strategy instead of planting some random tree species or having landscaped lawns. 

Dhobi Ghat near Omkareshwar Stretch
According to Ketaki, preference should be given to indigenous trees, that have both aesthetic and ecological attributes. It is important to note that exotic tree species are not bad but they should be selected carefully otherwise they can cause weeding and dominate over the native species hampering the local ecosystems. Tiered structure of plantation should be followed, where we have the trees then shrubs and then ground covers. There should be a good diversity in selecting tree species instead of monoculture. Hardscape areas can be negligible or if required should use local stone tiles like those seen in nature trails. Water requirements for this restoration works can be supplied through treatment plant set up for treating the wastewater from Dhobi Ghat as well as the one's set up for treating city's sewage. Tree species that can absorb additional impurities in the treated water can be used. 

In order to maintain these areas, local gardeners can be employed since they have the expertise. Technological interventions can include timer based drippers for efficient water supply and use of motion sensor based LED light fixtures wherever required. These are some of the ideas brainstormed. However, in order to make this a reality, budget is needed for each activity and hence in our study we are working out a tentative budget for this stretch as well.

Other experts we met include Sayali Joshi from Shristi Eco Research Institute (SERI) who is currently working for Assi river in Varanasi. She made a striking statement that our river is in an ICU state and hence she should be treated immediately by ensuring there is no access to the river by anybody as a first step. This viewpoint was also supported by Swati Gole from Ecological society who also mentioned that public should not be allowed to access the river for anything until the river is restored. 

I have seen people many a times throwing wastes, nirmalya and even food as part of some rituals in the river. I think its high time to change the way we look at our rivers and realize that they are the only source of potable water for us. Shailaja and team from Jeevitnadi are actively striving for the same through their work on river revival. 

Stay tuned for more on these studies in the next blog!

Pournima Agarkar. 

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

My City My Responsibility - Linking and networking!

Dear All, 


Seed art created by the tribal farmers

You all must have heard about INECC many a times in my blogs, here I will introduce you to the network, since we at Samuchit and LAYA Resource Centre are members of the Indian Network of Ethics and Climate Change (INECC)

INECC is a network of not-for-profit organizations, businesses and individuals from different parts of India, coming together to link their work on climate change and sustainable development at the grassroots level to the larger policy dialogues and discourses that happen at the Local, State, National and International level. This network aims to highlight those voices from the ground that are vulnerable to the impacts of climate change and link them to the various policy dialogues to make their communities sustainable and climate resilient. The network meetings happen once or twice in a year, this year I could attend this meeting and it was in Kabini a serene place near Mysore. I would like to share my experience from this meeting. 

One would wonder why Kabini! Well this is a place where one of the INECC members Siddharta and his team from Pipal Tree are involved in working with the tribal communities around on climate change education and sustainable development.  It was an opportunity for us to see their work as well as have a meetup! 


Prosperous tribal farmer
The tribal communities around Kabini were displaced from their homes and lands due to the construction of a large dam on the Kabini river. They were even denied access to the Nagarhole forest area from where they used to make their living and were forced to migrate for work. Stressed due to the social and political pressures, their survival was at stake. A team from Pipal Tree undertook to work as facilitators with these communities to help them in their rehabilitation. Being an environmental scientist I had learned about the concept of participatory rural appraisal (PRA) technique and I was glad to see its application in a rural setting. Its time we realize that we are no one to teach the villagers living in the wild about food security and sustainability...but all we can do is to observe them, learn from them and intervene only when required for giving information on changing weather patterns since they lack access to the latest news. I am sure with all the indigenous knowledge that they have, they do come up with better adaptation and mitigation strategies as they are "THE experts" quoted by Dominic D'souza one of the members of INECC. There is a need to innovate or use technologies that can enable the farmers to get LIVE weather information so that they can accordingly plan their cropping patterns. I feel such technologies are available but still in experimentation phase. 

Village kitchen garden

On interacting with some of the farmers in this village we found something similar was happening in this village, with the help of Pipal Tree. The farmers here grew only cotton and other cash crops earlier, now they have shifted to growing more of millets (require less water comparatively) and other food crops through Pipal Tree's intervention. They also have their own kitchen gardens where they grow their daily veggies. In a way they are going towards food security and sustainability already. However they are still struggling with other political pressures and lack of irrigation facilities.  



Tribal village school kids

We also got a chance to visit the Children's College another initiative of Pipal Tree a facility where the tribal children from government schools can stay and learn life skills, and also get help as they struggle with school education. The best part of this Children's College is, it is located near the village so that the children don't feel lonely or out of place, they can meet their parents once in a month or so. We met such a group of young girls, the ones who stayed for two years were quite confident and aspired to go for higher studies instead of marriage. Some of them were really good with artistic skills like singing, dancing and making paper quill jewelry etc. We all felt that entrepreneur skills should be promoted among these students as alternative livelihood options, since many of them will not get an opportunity to go for a regular job due to social pressure. These students were fascinated by us and the places we come from and really wanted to know us, unfortunately we were running out of time so couldn't interact much with them. However it was good to meet these budding future generation!

Apart from this, it was good to visit a tribal school and see how the young generation in the villages is being groomed for the future. More needs to be done here in terms of training of the teachers, however this work is in process so it will be good to visit the schools after a year or so.

I would like to conclude saying that this meeting gave all the members good time to interact and know each other's work areas and has definitely opened new avenues for collaboration. Indeed its a great networking initiative and I am grateful for being a part of this network. Credits for overall coordination and efficient management of the workshop goes to Ajita and Myron!


INECC members group photo
Pournima Agarkar.
www.samuchit.com

  

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

My City My Responsibility - Alternate riverfront development approach

Dear All, 


As per my last blog under the Sustainably Smart Pune 2030 project, as part of the pilot studies that we are conducting, we are trying to define an approach to design an alternate riverfront development plan. 

Mutha river stretch near Omkareshwar temple
Manoj from Acwadam measuring the flowrate





















We are working in coordination with Jeevitnadi, for the Omkareshwar temple stretch of the river. The whole idea of this study is to come up with a holistic and local specific plan while designing any development for the riverfront. Since river is not a single entity, it is an ecosystem and connected very deeply with our lives. Understanding local peoples interaction and attachment with the river, the ecological setting, heritage structures, traffic and transport, hydro-geology, religious activities etc are some of the many aspects we considered while undertaking the study.

On the same lines while undertaking a survey on this stretch, we found that this particular stretch of Mutha river, is dominated by religious activities and heritage structures that need to be preserved in order to sustain any riverfront development. There are two public gardens in the stretch, one is the Nana Nani park and other is Vartak garden. There is a Dhobi Ghat that belongs to some trust and employs some people while drains the wastewater into the river.

There is a so-called natural spring in the riverbed area that faces the backside of Omkareshwar temple. The spring water looks clear and fresh, many people use this water for bathing and washing clothes. On interacting with these people we found that this spring has been there since ages now and is always flowing and draining into the river. On measuring the flow of spring water in coordination with an expert Manoj from Acwadam, we found that daily the spring drains more than one lakh litres of clear water slowly into the river. Now that was something interesting! Though it looks like the water is getting wasted, it has some ecological significance as well.

We are in a process of identifying local conservation strategies for the spring and the people dependent on that water. Stay tuned for more on these studies! 

The intern working on this project is an architect from D.Y.Patil School of Archtecture Ar. Vishaka 

Pournima Agarkar.

www.samuchit.com



Tuesday, September 18, 2018

My City My Responsibility - Carbon Neutral Campus Workshop!

Dear All, 


In my last blog I mentioned about our initiative on guiding educational institutes to go low carbon by undertaking a workshop on carbon neutral campus. 

Last Sunday, we could successfully conduct this workshop where like-minded, conscious and enthusiastic faculty and students from nine different colleges of Pune actively participated in the workshop. We had a great blend of 70 participants from different streams ranging from engineering, architecture to sciences. I would like to share few highlights of our workshop. 

I would like to mention that we could conduct our workshop at Indradhanushya centre for Citizenship and Environment Education auditorium which is a zero carbon emission facility since all the energy used here is generated through solar energy.

Though the workshop was just a full day event, it is expected that the process has to be followed by the college for an entire semester. Here Samuchit Enviro Tech along with Laya Resource centre, Indian Network of Ethics and Climate Change (INECC) and Pune International centre (PIC) will be mentoring and facilitating all the participants for quantifying their greenhouse gas emissions in a systematic manner in order to calculate their footprint and design a strategy for mitigating it for going towards carbon neutrality. 

Prof. Amitav Mallik from Pune International Centre (PIC) conducted the first session where he gave us an insight on whole lot of data showing how climate change is real and the need to go low carbon starting with Pune city by taking educational institutes as the first sector for change. 

Prof.Amitav Mallik and Dr. Karve 
Dr. Priyadarshini Karve  introduced everyone with the basics of carbon footprint, greenhouse gases, process of carbon accounting, probable actions in terms of behavioral change and technological changes and tentative schedule for going ahead with the entire process. The idea is to get feedback from the colleges on the first and second steps of the carbon accounting process i.e. defining the boundary and identifying the scope 1, 2 and scope 3 emission sources. Once we have this basic information we are planning to conduct another workshop in the month of October for going ahead. 


Through our next session, where one representative from each college gave a five minute talk on different  initiatives they have been taking in their colleges. It was seen that every college had either undergone a green audit or was undertaking some ecofriendly initiatives under the National Assessment and accreditation Council (NAAC) mechanism. However, none of the colleges had measured their carbon emissions and accordingly tracked how their initiatives were helping reduce the impact! Thus, this workshop will prove beneficial to the colleges from both the accreditation and environment perspective in a sustainable manner. Going low carbon is the new green someone just mentioned!

Myron Mendes addressing the group
The second half session was the most energizing session, since it was conducted by our enthusiastic member Myron Mendes, where he probed everyone to introspect, reflect and anticipate the challenges in going low carbon in a college campus and how social media can be used as an effective tool for creating awareness among the college community and others. Here, we observed that most of the challenges faced by the institutions were either related to management or finances. However, if the higher management is convinced and there is sufficient level of awareness among the lower management staff, faculty and students, implementing measures can be easy. Finances are mostly required for making technological modifications which can happen as per the availability of funds.

Group Discussions

The last session known as Cantastoria was conducted by the students themselves under the leadership of Myron Mendes. Here each college had to sing their story through a series of posters on climate change awareness and actions for mitigation. It was the most creative and innovative session of the day. Videos of the same will be available on our Youtube channel soon! 

I am sure everyone enjoyed the session and it has definitely made a lasting impact on their young minds!

Group picture

Pournima Agarkar. 

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

My City My Responsibility - Being local specific!

Dear All,

Every year we conduct pilot studies as part of the Sustainably Smart Pune 2030 study project, through an internship program. This year we could conduct studies on local climate vulnerability and I would like to share some of the insights of this study. 

By now, we all are aware of the impacts climate change is creating in our lives. We as Indians are definitely climate vulnerable and hence it is crucial for us to develop adaptation and mitigation strategies in order to survive. Though globally we are vulnerable, we wanted to check how vulnerable we are in the local context and specifically in an urban setting. For the same, we undertook a random survey of thirty households in selected areas of Kothrud, Aundh and Kasba Peth wards, with the help of three interns. Exposure, sensitivity and adaptive capacity are the three core aspects that help determine vulnerability. We considered exposure, sensitivity and adaptive capacity through factors like rainfall, flooding, temperature rise, population, socioeconomic conditions, governance, infrastructure, waste management, awareness on climate change etc and rated these factors on the scale of one to five, where one indicated low impact and five higher impact. These ratings were based on observations, local conditions, responses of the people and secondary data. According to the vulnerability assessment studies, higher exposure and sensitivity coupled with lower adaptive capacity causes vulnerability. After analyzing all the numbers, we found that the numbers for adaptive capacity were much lower than we thought, which means that these areas are certainly vulnerable. This according to us was an interesting find since we live in an urban setting where we have access to all the necessary facilities and still we are locally vulnerable to climate change. 

Understanding the severity of climate change impacts locally is indeed the first step for developing adaptation strategies as an immediate action while Sustainably planning our upcoming cities will help us mitigate the impacts of climate change in the future!


Aspects of Climate vulnerability 
Household survey














This work was done by our interns Kasturi, Shivani and Aishwarya, who are studying Architecture.

I feel that undertaking local specific surveys for local specific actions are one of the ways to find appropriate solutions for a Sustainable city.  We are conducting similar study for an alternate riverfront development plan and I will share the insights of the same soon. Stay tuned!

Pournima Agarkar. 
www.samuchit.com

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

My City My Responsibility - Thought for Food

Dear All, 


Myron Mendes and Ajita Tiwari - organizers of the workshop
Last Saturday I got an opportunity to participate in a workshop on Food Sustainability. The best part of this workshop was the engagement of people from varied fields, right from foodies, food bloggers, doctors, dietitians, nutritionists, media people, academicians, entrepreneurs to ground level experts working with fisher folks, farmers and tribal communities.
Laya resource centre in coordination with The Indian Network of Ethics and Climate Change (INECC) came up with the  concept of Building people's agenda towards resilient food choices. The whole idea of this workshop focused on looking at food choices that we should be making in this age of changing climate in order to sustain ourselves. The impact climate change is having on our food, its availability and demand for feeding around 10 billion people in this century is going to be one of the biggest challenges especially for India since it will be the most populous country and most vulnerable to climate risks. 

Dr. Priyadarshini Karve opened the session with her expertise on the science of climate change and its impacts in the light of food availability followed by a game on understanding food resource and its sustainability and a TED talk on global food crisis. Her session indeed was an eye opening and delivered a straight forward message that sensitized everyone about the gravity of the upcoming challenges of food availability.

Session by Ganesh Nakhwa who is closely working with the fisher folk stressed on grave realities of climate change and its impacts faced by the fishing community due to sea surface temperature rises that is in turn affecting seafood availability. He recommended diversification in sea food choices instead of obsession with prawns and pomfret. Many other fish varieties are preferable in terms of availability, cost and nutritional value.

Session by Manoj Dawale along with a local farmer Rajendra of Vikas Sahyog Pratisthan from Buldana district shared with us an indigenous poem of a prosperous farmer for whom his yield is his gold. They stressed on the hardships the farmer is undergoing today due to lack of support and acknowledgement that disregards his hard work. Rather than monetary support, his efforts need recognition and value. Responding to the game on sustainability, Rajendra mentioned how a farmer believes in taking only that much what is required and believes in reserving for the future and his fellow humans. Lessons on food security can be learnt from our own farmers! Listening to a farmer who actually toils for the food that we get on our plate, was an emotional moment for all of us.

Session by an entrepreneur Cassandra Nazareth, empowering the tribal adivasi communities of Aarey colony in Mumbai gave us a shock when she said that some villages there still have no electricity. A metropolitan city and commercial capital of India, having hidden villages without electricity......seriously, where are we heading!!! She introduced us to a tribal women who was a bit shy but still conversed quite well and invited us to have a tribal lunch which is one of the key initiatives taken by Cassandra, where people get to visit the tribal community, taste their food and can buy artistic stuff made by them. A short session by Deepti Jhangiani involved in Mumbai farm project introduced us to urban agriculture happening in Mumbai. It was good to know that a few citizens and experts are volunteering for such initiatives even in a congested and polluted city like Mumbai.
It was indeed a great feeling listening to all of them. Later on, there were two short sessions one on nutritional value of food by Dr. Subhadra Mandalika who stressed on the importance of balanced diet having appropriate intake of proteins, vitamins, micro nutrients, fats and carbohydrates both through vegetarian as well as non-vegetarian diet was a good take away. Lastly, Simona Terron introduced us to podcasting as a good media for communication on any issues of social concern, including food. 

Guest speakers from left Dr. Priyadarshini K, top Cassandra N and tribal women, bottom Myron M and Ganesh N, right Manoj D with Rajendra 

In this age of sustainability, changing individual consumption patterns, shifting to local and diversified food options, having balanced diet, minimizing food wastage are some of the local solutions towards food sustainability. I am grateful to Myron Mendes for inviting me to this workshop and glad it has made me reflect more on my food habits.

All Puneites - if anyone is interested to have similar workshop in Pune, kindly comment or email me! 

Pournima Agarkar.
www.samuchit.com

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

My City My Responsibility - Why Educational Campuses should go low carbon?

Dear All, 

Pune is a hub of education. It is known as the Oxford of the East due to the presence of innumerable universities, management education institutes, professional degree colleges etc..

Due to all these organizations, the city is full of youngsters who migrate from different parts of the country and world, making the city a live and vibrant city. However, migration for education or job opportunities has led to mass urbanization in the city leading it to be one of the reasons for increase in carbon emissions of the city. It has now become crucial for all of us to be prepared for erratic changes in weather pattern and other potential disasters arising from climate change. At the same time, it is equally important to keep the future carbon emissions under control. Mobilizing the enthusiasm and energy of the youth to undertake strategies for reducing carbon emissions can be a good step to cope with the upcoming challenges.  

As educational institutions form the source of knowledge, if these institutions undertake the activity of calculating their carbon emissions and design a strategy to reduce the same in order to attain carbon neutrality (reducing the net greenhouse gas emissions to zero) by involving the enthusiastic faculty and students of their colleges. This activity will enable a win-win situation for both the institutions as well as the youth. Here the institutions can provide hands-on learning by acting upon what they preach. This in turn can create a good opportunity for brand building as a green or eco-friendly institution. Every year the institutions can take up this activity and publish their carbon emission reductions year on year in order to showcase their contributions towards mitigating climate change.  In the process, the youth undertaking this activity will be sensitized to be environmentally conscious citizens and professionals of tomorrow. 

From this perspective, we at Samuchit along with Laya Resource Centre, The Indian Network of Ethics and Climate Change (INECC) and Pune International Centre (PIC) thought of introducing the concept of making college campuses go low carbon. The first step of this process is a one day workshop under the YuvaDrishti initiative of Laya-INECC. This workshop is focused on youth (below the age of 35 years) from colleges in Pune that are keen to make their campuses go Carbon Neutral. The idea is to involve young faculty along with students as a team to work on this activity. Though the workshop will be just a one day event, the activity can run for an entire semester depending upon the initiative of the college. Our panel of resource persons will be available throughout for mentoring and guiding the faculty and students in the entire process. 

Source: https://www.plt.org/greenschools/engage-your-students/

If interested kindly write to me at pournima@samuchit.com. All the educational institutions from Pune are invited to participate in this event.

Pournima Agarkar. 








Tuesday, August 21, 2018

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

Dear All, 

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

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

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

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

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

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


Pournima Agarkar. 
www.samuchit.com

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

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

Dear All, 


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

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

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

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

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

All this means is that:

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

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

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

Dr. Priyadarshini Karve & Pournima Agarkar. 



Tuesday, August 7, 2018

My City My Responsibility - Carbon Accounting Online Course

Dear All, 


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

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

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

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

Basic online course on Carbon Accounting brochure

Pournima Agarkar. 






Tuesday, July 31, 2018

My City My Responsibility - Eco-friendly Lifestyle Part 2

Dear All, 


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

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

Pournima Agarkar.
www.samuchit.com

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

My City My Responsibility - Eco-friendly lifestyle

Dear All,

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

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

Graphical representation of ecological footprint, biocapacity and ecological deficit

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

Pournima Agarkar.
www.samuchit.com  



Tuesday, July 17, 2018

My City My Responsibility - Climate Friendly Lifestyle Workshop!


Dear All, 

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



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



Group of students

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

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

Pournima Agarkar.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

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

Dear All, 

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




Our prototype design 

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

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

Pournima Agarkar. 

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

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

Dear All,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pournima Agarkar.