Saturday, June 25, 2022

My City My Responsibility - River Rejuvenation Campaign#3

 We at Samuchit Enviro Tech, Indian Network on Ethics and Climate Change (INECC) and Jeevitnadi Living River Foundation are opposing the Riverfront Development plan being enforced by the Pune Municipal Corporation. Since the plan totally disregards river ecology and impacts of climate change we want the project to be cancelled and a genuinely nature-aligned river rejuvenation undertaken in a democratic and transparent manner.

समुचित एन्व्हायरो टेक, इंडियन नेटवर्क ऑन एथिक्स अॅंड क्लायमेट चेंज (आयनेक) आणि जीवितनदी लिव्हिंग रिव्हर फाउंडेशन या सर्व संस्था पुणे मनपा पुढे रेटू पहात असलेल्या नदीकाठ विकास प्रकल्पाला विरोध करत आहेत. या प्रकल्पात नदीची परिसंस्था व जागतिक वातावरण बदलाचे परिणाम यांच्याकडे पूर्णतः दुर्लक्ष केलेले असल्याने हा प्रकल्प रद्द करावा व लोकशाही पध्दतीने व पारदर्शकपणे सच्चे निसर्ग-पूरक असे नदी पुनरुज्जीवन हाती घ्यावे ही आमची मागणी आहे.

Image 3 - Natural Rejuvenation


PMC or Rejuvenation?

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder! A structured and manicured garden may look good for
a while but will become boring soon. But the wilderness of a natural forest simply lifts your spirit! A beautiful array of built-embankments with artificially carved out spaces for human recreation makes a pleasing image indeed. But then the natural beauty of a meandering free flowing river between naturally wild riverbanks too energizes us! So how do we say what is right and what is wrong?? 
The real question to ask is not what looks beautiful on paper today but which of these images is
long lasting and sustainable say beyond a decade from now? 
Constructed structures are always trying to hold back nature. They need constant service and
maintenance. As the city’s financial fortunes ebb and flow and political priorities swing between
two extremes, the beautifully constructed structures are at a high risk of falling into disrepair in a
decade or so.
Water made artificially still will stagnate and become polluted. Natural constructs on the other hand
are by default aligned with the forces of nature. These ‘greenscapes’ will change too but in harmony
with natural forces. The free-flowing river teeming with natural life will keep on self-cleaning itself.
What the river needs is REMOVAL of human interference rather than excessive heavy-handed
attempts to ‘tame’ it! A free river will endow the settlement on its banks with beauty and serenity,
water and food security, protection from the impacts of climate change, and many more blessings! 
So think carefully! What is your choice? PMC’s plan or Ecological Rejuvenation?
For more information and to participate in the movement against the PMC's riverfront development plan, please visit: https://puneriverrevival.com/


पुणे महानगरपालिकेची योजना की नदी पुनरुज्जीवन?


सौंदर्य बघणाऱ्याच्या नजरेत असते! भौमितिक रचनेतील आखीवरेखीव बाग काही काळ चांगली दिसेल पण कालांतराने
कंटाळवाणी होईल. पण नैसर्गिक जंगलाचा मोकळेढाकळे पणा  मनाला उभारी देतो! बांधकामाने उभारलेल्या कृत्रीम
किनाऱ्यांची मालिका व मानवी करमणुकीसाठी त्यात केलेल्या नियोजनबध्द जागा ही डोळ्यांना सुखावणारी प्रतिमा आहे.
पण नैसर्गिक हिरवाई असलेल्या नदीकाठांमधून वळणे घेत मुक्त वाहणाऱ्या नदीचे नैसर्गिक सौंदर्य आपल्याला ऊर्जा देते!
मग काय योग्य आणि अयोग्य हे आपण कसे म्हणायचे?? 
खरा प्रश्न आज कागदावर काय सुंदर दिसत आहे हा नाही, तर यापैकी कोणती प्रतिमा दीर्घकाळ - किमान एक दशकभर -
टिकणारी आणि शाश्वत आहे, हा आहे.  
माणसांनी बांधलेल्या रचना नेहमीच निसर्गाला रोखण्याचा प्रयत्न करत असतात. त्यांना सतत देखभाल आणि दुरुस्तीची गरज
आहे. पुढच्या दशकभरात  शहराचे अर्थकारण चढउतारांमधून जाईल आणि राजकीय प्राधान्यक्रम दोन टोकांमध्ये झुलत
राहतील. अशा परिस्थितीत सुंदर बांधलेल्या रचना दशकभरात दुर्लक्षित होऊन मोडून पडण्याचा धोका मोठा आहे.
कृत्रिमरित्या स्थिर केलेले पाणीही या कालावधीत प्रदूषित होऊन जाईल. निसर्गाने केलेल्या रचना मुळातच निसर्गाच्या
शक्तींशी जुळवून घेत तयार होत असतात. हे 'ग्रीनस्केप' देखील बदलतील पण हे बदल नैसर्गिक शक्तींशी सुसंगत असतील.
समृध्द सजीवसृष्टीने परिपूर्ण असलेली मुक्त वाहणारी नदी स्वत:ची स्वच्छता करत राहील. आज नदीला गरज आहे ती तिला
'काबूत' ठेवण्याच्या अवाजवी प्रयत्नांऐवजी मानवी हस्तक्षेप काढून टाकण्याची! एक मुक्त नदी तिच्या काठावरील वस्तीला
सौंदर्य आणि शांतता, पाणी आणि अन्न सुरक्षितता, हवामान बदलाच्या प्रभावापासून संरक्षण आणि इतरही बरीच वरदाने देईल! 
तर मग नीट विचार करा! तुम्ही काय निवडाल? पुणे महानगरपालिकेची योजना की पर्यावरणाशी सुसंगत नदी पुनरुज्जीवन?

अधिक माहितीसाठी आणि पुणे मनपाच्या नदीकाठ विकास प्रकल्पाच्या विरोधातील मोहिमेत सहभागी होण्यासाठी कृपया पहा - https://puneriverrevival.com/

www.samuchit.com

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Friday, June 24, 2022

My City My Responsibility - River Rejuvenation Campaign#2

 We at Samuchit Enviro Tech, Indian Network on Ethics and Climate Change (INECC) and Jeevitnadi Living River Foundation are opposing the Riverfront Development plan being enforced by the Pune Municipal Corporation. Since the plan totally disregards river ecology and impacts of climate change we want the project to be cancelled and a genuinely nature-aligned river rejuvenation undertaken in a democratic and transparent manner.

समुचित एन्व्हायरो टेक, इंडियन नेटवर्क ऑन एथिक्स अॅंड क्लायमेट चेंज (आयनेक) आणि जीवितनदी लिव्हिंग रिव्हर फाउंडेशन या सर्व संस्था पुणे मनपा पुढे रेटू पहात असलेल्या नदीकाठ विकास प्रकल्पाला विरोध करत आहेत. या प्रकल्पात नदीची परिसंस्था व जागतिक वातावरण बदलाचे परिणाम यांच्याकडे पूर्णतः दुर्लक्ष केलेले असल्याने हा प्रकल्प रद्द करावा व लोकशाही पध्दतीने व पारदर्शकपणे सच्चे निसर्ग-पूरक असे नदी पुनरुज्जीवन हाती घ्यावे ही आमची मागणी आहे.


Image 2 Concretization of rivers

Concrete Intoxication

Natural banks are not just a rock, soil , sand etc.. but also marshes, rocky outcrops, etc. ( under natural banks) held together by the root zones of a variety of vegetation – trees, shrubs, grasses and so on. A world of fishes, insects, birds, and many other animals thrive around this habitat.  When the river floods the WATER overflows into the flood plains (which are also natural riparian that reduce temperature, increases soil moisture and reduce evaporation losses) and eventually recedes and in the process nurtures this ecosystem. The vegetation on the riverbanks also helps reduce the speed of the overflowing water during floods reducing damage and destruction. 

But then… humans took over. Land covered by vegetation in the middle of a city? Such a waste

of space! Let’s concretise and commercialise! The natural river bank is replaced by a ‘concrete

retaining wall’ with some cosmetic vegetation to hide the concrete. But this fails to retain anything!

When it floods the water is now gushing faster! The ‘reclaimed’ land in the floodplains has rigid

concrete buildings replacing flexible firm-rooted vegetation. Submergence is now a bane rather

than a boon! 


With climate change leading to INCREASE in rainfall per episode of rain, the flooding is now

UNPRECEDENTED year on year! What is actually needed is to strengthen the natural riverbanks

– to lessen the force of flooding waters. What is being done is ‘hardscape’ concrete banks and

concrete structures - adding to the destructive power of floods! 

Are we paying taxes to PMC to destroy our beloved city?? Just think about it.   


For more information and to participate in the movement against the PMC's riverfront development plan, please visit: https://puneriverrevival.com/




काँक्रीटची नशा


नदीचा नैसर्गिक काठ म्हणजे फक्त खडक, माती, वाळू इतकेच नाही, तर झाडे, झुडुपे, गवत इत्यादी विविध प्रकारच्या वनस्पतींच्या मुळांच्या जाळ्याद्वारे एकत्र ठेवलेले दलदल, खडक, इ. घटक असतात. या नैसर्गिक संरचनेभोवती मासे, कीटक, पक्षी आणि इतर अनेक प्राण्यांची दुनिया वसलेली आहे. जेव्हा नदीला पूर येतो तेव्हा पाणी नदीच्या पूरक्षेत्रात येते (नदीचे पूरक्षेत्र ही पण एक नैसर्गिक परिसंस्था आहे - हिच्यामुळे परिसराचे तापमान कमी होते, जमिनीतील ओलावा वाढतो आणि बाष्पीभवनाने होणारा पाण्याच ऱ्हास कमी होतो) आणि नंतर ओसंडते. या प्रक्रियेत या परिसंस्थेचे पोषण होते. नदीकाठावरील वनस्पती देखील पुराच्या वेळी ओसंडून वाहणाऱ्या पाण्याचा वेग कमी करून नुकसान आणि विनाश कमी करण्यास मदत करतात. 

पण कालांतराने… माणसांनी हे क्षेत्र ताब्यात घेतले. शहराच्या मध्यभागी हरित आच्छादित जमीन? जागेचा असा अपव्यय! चला कॉंक्रीटीकरण आणि व्यापारीकरण करूया! नैसर्गिक नदीकाठाच्या जागी आता आली 'काँक्रीटची संरक्षक भिंत' आणि हे कॉंक्रिट लपवण्यासाठी कृत्रीमपणे केलेली थोडी हिरवाईची लागवड. पण ही भिंत कशाचेही संरक्षण करण्यात अपयशी ठरते! पूर आला की पाणी आता अधिक वेगाने वाहते! नैसर्गिक पूरक्षेत्रात कृत्रिमरीत्या तयार केलेल्या जमिनीवर लवचिक घट्ट रुजलेल्या वनस्पतींच्या जागी आता काँक्रीटच्या अजिबात लवचिकता नसलेल्या इमारती आहेत. जमीन जलमय होणे आता वरदान न राहता शाप बनले आहे! 

जागतिक वातावरण बदलामुळे प्रत्येक पाऊस पडण्याच्या प्रसंगी पावसाचे प्रमाण वाढत चालले आहे. त्यामुळे दरवर्षी पुराची तीव्रता अभूतपूर्व रित्या वाढते आहे! पुराच्या पाण्याचा जोर कमी करण्यासाठी प्रत्यक्षात नैसर्गिक नदीकाठ बळकट करणे आवश्यक आहे. पण जे केले जात आहे ते म्हणजे 'हार्डस्केप' काँक्रीटचे किनारे आणि काँक्रीटच्या इमारती - हे सारे पुराच्या विनाशकारी शक्तीमध्ये भर घालत आहेत! 

आपले लाडके शहर उद्ध्वस्त करण्यासाठी आपण पुणे महानगरपालिकेला कर देत आहोत का? जरा विचार करा!


अधिक माहितीसाठी आणि पुणे मनपाच्या नदीकाठ विकास प्रकल्पाच्या विरोधातील मोहिमेत सहभागी होण्यासाठी कृपया पहा - https://puneriverrevival.com/


www.samuchit.com

Like/Follow/Share us on FacebookInstagramTwitter  Citizens of Sustainable Pune



Thursday, June 23, 2022

My City My Responsibility - River Rejuvenation Campaign#1

We at Samuchit Enviro Tech, Indian Network on Ethics and Climate Change (INECC) and Jeevitnadi Living River Foundation are opposing the Riverfront Development plan being enforced by the Pune Municipal Corporation. Since the plan totally disregards river ecology and impacts of climate change we want the project to be cancelled and a genuinely nature-aligned river rejuvenation undertaken in a democratic and transparent manner.

समुचित एन्व्हायरो टेक, इंडियन नेटवर्क ऑन एथिक्स अॅंड क्लायमेट चेंज (आयनेक) आणि जीवितनदी लिव्हिंग रिव्हर फाउंडेशन या सर्व संस्था पुणे मनपा पुढे रेटू पहात असलेल्या नदीकाठ विकास प्रकल्पाला विरोध करत आहेत. या प्रकल्पात नदीची परिसंस्था व जागतिक वातावरण बदलाचे परिणाम यांच्याकडे पूर्णतः दुर्लक्ष केलेले असल्याने हा प्रकल्प रद्द करावा व लोकशाही पध्दतीने व पारदर्शकपणे सच्चे निसर्ग-पूरक असे नदी पुनरुज्जीवन हाती घ्यावे ही आमची मागणी आहे.


Image: I want to break Free!


I want to break free


Rivers have been flowing through and shaping landscapes for billions of years. Humans appeared on the scene about 2.5 hundred thousand years ago. We are infants in front of these ancient planetary miracles! 


About 12 thousand years ago, as the last ice age ended and the water started receding from land, humans started settling near the water sources – rivers and lakes. Population increased, empires grew, businesses thrived… human settlements grew… and grew and grew! Our houses and places of worship and other constructs started spilling into the flood plains of the river. To control the flooding, we built dams and embankments and tried to move the river ‘out of the way of our progress’. 


The river is ancient. She has immense patience. But our haphazard and mindless ‘progress’ has no limits which is also impacting changes in the climatic conditions locally and globally. The river is losing its patience with us now. She is getting restless. She wants to break free… and we are making even more grand plans to further constrain and chain her! 


We have to realise… we are no match for the planetary forces. The river WILL break free… and sweep away all our ‘progress’.


For more information and to participate in the movement against the PMC's riverfront development plan, please visit: https://puneriverrevival.com/


मला मुक्त व्हायचे आहे कोट्यवधी वर्षांपासून नद्या वाहत आहेत आणि भूपृष्ठाला आकार देत आहेत. सुमारे 2.5 लाख वर्षांपूर्वी मानव उदयाला आला. या प्राचीन ग्रहाच्या विस्मयकारी आविष्कारांपुढे आपण अर्भक आहोत!

सुमारे 12 हजार वर्षांपूर्वी, शेवटचे हिमयुग संपल्यानंतर आणि जमिनीवरून पाणी ओसरू लागल्याने, मानव जलस्रोतांजवळ - नद्या आणि तलावांजवळ - स्थायिक होऊ लागला. लोकसंख्या वाढली, साम्राज्ये वाढली, उद्योगधंदे वाढले… मानवी वसाहती वाढल्या… आणि वाढल्या आणि वाढल्या! आपली घरे, प्रार्थनास्थळे आणि इतर बांधकामे नदीच्या पुराच्या मैदानात हात-पाय पसरायला लागली. मग पूर आटोक्यात ठेवण्यासाठी आपण धरणे आणि बंधारे बांधले आणि नदीला ‘आपल्या प्रगतीच्या मार्गामधून दूर’ करण्याचा प्रयत्न केला.

नदी प्राचीन आहे. तिच्याकडे अपार संयम आहे. पण आपल्या अव्यवस्थित आणि बेफिकीर ‘प्रगती’ला मर्यादा नाही. यामुळे स्थानिक आणि जागतिक पातळीवरील हवामानातही बदल होत आहेत. नदी आता आपला संयम गमावत आहे. ती अस्वस्थ होत आहे. तिला मोकळे व्हायचे आहे… आणि आपण तिला आणखी रोखण्यासाठी आणि साखळबंदांत अडकवण्यासाठी आणखी भव्य योजना आखत आहोत!

आपल्याला हे समजले पाहिजे ... पृथ्वीच्या नैसर्गिक शक्तींपुढे आपण कःपदार्थ आहोत. नदी मोकळी होईल… आणि आपली सर्व ‘प्रगती’ वाहून जाईल.


अधिक माहितीसाठी आणि पुणे मनपाच्या नदीकाठ विकास प्रकल्पाच्या विरोधातील मोहिमेत सहभागी होण्यासाठी कृपया पहा - https://puneriverrevival.com/


www.samuchit.com

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Friday, November 26, 2021

Chatusutra_Loksatta_04: On the occasion of Earth Day…

 Since January 2021, I am writing on Environment and Science in the 'Chatusutra' weekly column of Loksatta, a Marathi language newspaper. This weekly series contains four different themes being written by four different authors in a four-week cycle. My first article was published on the second Wednesday of the year, and thereafter my articles are coming every four weeks. One of the request from the readers has been to provide English translations for those who are not able to read Marathi. Meera Rotti took on the task to do this, and therefore I am launching this monthly mini-series. Periodically, I will post the English translation of one article in the same chronological order that the Marathi articles have been published in Loksatta. 

Links to previous posts: 

SUSTAINable Life: Chatusutra_Loksatta_01: Is Human A Virus? (samuchitenvirotech.blogspot.com)

SUSTAINable Life: Chatusutra_Loksatta_02: Battle of India's Survival (samuchitenvirotech.blogspot.com)

SUSTAINable Life: Chatusutra_Loksatta_03: Conquest of Mars? (samuchitenvirotech.blogspot.com)


04. On the Occasion of Earth Day...

The original Marathi article published on 07 April 2021 can be found HERE.  


April 22 is celebrated across the world as the Earth Day.  The first Earth Day was celebrated on April 22, 1970 in the USA. This celebration was inspired by two movements. In 1962, Rachel Carson’s book, ‘Silent Spring’ was first published. The book intensely recounted negative impacts of overuse of pesticides on the natural world. It was translated into many languages across the world. This book gave an impetus to debates and scrutiny of increasing interference of humans in the Earth’s environment not only in the USA but also in other industrialized nations, and those aspiring for industrialization.

This movement got further thrust by an astounding photograph. On 24th December 1968, the astronauts aboard the USA’s spacecraft Apollo 8 - Frank Borman, James Lovell and William Anders - became the first humans to orbit the Moon. It was an important milestone in the mission to the Moon. This spacecraft orbited the Moon ten times. In the fourth round, when they were getting into the illuminated side of the Moon from the darker side, a beautiful site from a window of the spacecraft captured their attention - the view of the rising of the Earth over the lunar horizon. William Anders had the official responsibility of photography on this mission. He quickly grabbed his camera to capture this fascinating view. The camera had a black and white film at that moment. By the time the film was changed to colour film the Earth had disappeared from that window of the spacecraft. But a few seconds on, it was visible again, from another window. Anders was able to successfully capture some colour photographs. The spacecraft returned safely back on the Earth on December 27, and a few days later the photographs were shared across the world.

Earthrise

The last few years of the 1960s were quite turbulent. Reverberations of the cold war between the USA and Soviet Union could be felt all over the world. Both these nuclear sovereign superpowers were locking horns with each other on different fronts pushing the world to the brink of a third world war. Around the same time, use of fossil fuels, and other different types of chemicals were making big inroads in diverse fields. There were no checks on air and water pollution in the developed world. And the ill effects of this on the natural ecosystems and human health had also started to unravel.

Amidst such times, these black and white and colour photographs of ‘Earthrise’ reached millions of people through American media, and later across the world through other media. The Moon’s lifeless gray surface and the distant, enchanting, lonely blue-white Earth against the backdrop of a pitch-black infinite universe - even today ‘Earthrise’ evokes a feeling of divine revelation in the viewers. We can only imagine the state of the mind of those who saw the Earth from the space for the first time.

In one obscure corner of this boundless universe lies our solar system, and within that is our home - the blue Earth. For as far as we can see, with our technological evolution, into the limitless space, this is the only place where life is thriving. Billions of years have taken for this miracle to happen. Our social status, our political notions, our economical dominance counts nothing compared to this. Our transient tussles are endangering the existence of not only our own species but that of this rare entity in the universe - such were the thoughts that began to take roots far and wide in people’s minds due to this photograph. It is no coincidence that movements of world peace as well as environmental protection started to shape up in the 1970s.

22 April 2021 will be celebrated across the world as the 51st Earth Day. The theme for this year is - Restore the Earth. This evokes many questions.

Are we trying to say that, long ago the Earth had the most ideal environment, and we have to go back to that state? Should we go right back to the age of the dinosaurs, or just up to an age of ideal conditions for humans? Of course, it is a no brainer… however, what is exactly the ideal state from human perspective? Since the evolutions of the modern humans, the natural conditions of the Earth have been undergoing varied changes in different places, and in the process of adapting to these changes our biological and social evolution has taken place. The Ice Age was the longest of such periods. It was in this period that the human species wandered out of Africa, and spread across other parts of the Earth. This Ice Age ended just ten-twelve thousand years back. In the resulting conditions, our hunter gatherer ancestors transitioned, and subsequently settled, to agrarian lifestyle. Humans in different regions of the Earth adapted to the local weather, geographical conditions in different ways. It has been not even two hundred years since the advent of fossil fuels, and the subsequent transformation of our lifestyle into an industrialized one. It is now proven that the alterations in climatic conditions of the Earth in the past ten thousand years have more to do with human interference than other natural causes. However, we must not forget that we too have been adapting quite well to most of these changes. Therefore, which exactly of these states should be taken as an ideal for humans? The one right after the Ice Age? If yes, then what is the lifestyle perfectly in tune with it? Today, there is tremendous diversity in the ways humans across the globe live their lives, and also in ways they are connected with other entities in the nature. So, by who all and where all is this so-called ‘restoration’ supposed to take place?

Hunter gatherer humans create the least (though not zero) interference in the natural systems. Their primary needs are exclusively met by the resources easily available in their surroundings. Researchers establish that to support such a nature-based lifestyle, per capita 10 sq. km space should be available. Taking into account the Earth’s total land area, and assuming that entire part of it, even the tip of Mt. Everest, is habitable and rich in resources, the Earth can support a population of only 15 million hunter-gatherers. When our ancestors settled down into the agrarian lifestyle, they increased the productivity of the land in their control by bringing in resources from other places. This enabled a 1 sq. km piece of land to support fifty people instead of just one. However, this was possible due to significant interventions done by us in the natural systems of the Earth. Nevertheless, such a lifestyle, too can support population of maximum 750 million. Today, the world population stands at 7.5 billion, and is likely to stabilize at 10 billion in the coming few years.

In a sense, humans have gained control over their evolution using their intellect. Our existence makes the change in Earth’s climate inevitable. It is not the first time that a living species is causing permanent changes on the Earth, and also, not all changes are adverse in nature. We have the capability to think and understand whether the changes taking place due to our actions are under our control, and also whether these very changes are jeopardizing the future of our species. Learning from the past mistakes, and avoiding them in the future, ways of creating a better and eco-friendly life for ten billion people, and also how to preserve the cosmic wonder called Earth and the biological wonder called human over the long-term future - if such topics are explored on account of the Earth Day, it would be more appropriate and relevant.

Earthrise photo link

 

Author: Priyadarshini Karve

English Translation: Meera Rotti


Wednesday, October 6, 2021

My City My Responsibility - Harvesting rainwater for the Dry days!

 Dear All, 

Collage of some of the photos

Being a part of the Climate Reality Project, I happened to connect with Shivam Singh, a young enthusiast working on tree plantation and the founder of a startup ExploreiT, working for youth empowerment and environmental activism. 

Currently he is also assisting Col. Shashikant Dalvi, a retired army officer, working tirelessly for incorporating rainwater harvesting in housing societies of Pune and the founder of Parjanya Rainwater Harvesting Consultancy. He is currently focused on making the rural areas around Pune water resilient, through his association with the Climate Reality Project. One such initiative lead to installation of rainwater harvesting systems in four villages namely Kurvandi, Thugaon, Bavadi, Karegaon on Pune Nashik road. 

I got an opportunity to visit these villages, and was accompanied by Dr Prassana Jogdeo, Co-founder of Lemnion Green Solutions, Radhika Dhingra, Director of  Badlaav Social Reform Foundation. and her colleague Munira. Mr. Anirudh Todkar, CEO, MAPS Industries Pune, a dynamic personality responsible for implementation of the RWH System also accompanied us. 

The first village we visited was Karegaon, where we met the Sarpanch Mrs. Suvarna Gevade. She was very happy to greet us. Radhika spoke to her about Sustainable Menstruation practices and she seemed very approachable. Since a lot of young women in the villages use sanitary napkins. The disposal of used sanitary napkins is creating a menace in cities, in spite of the waste management systems being in place. In villages, this is creating a bigger disaster, with a potential to contaminate water sources. Hence, Radhika briefed the Sarpanch on cloth pads as well as menstrual cup and its usage. 

Potatoes left to dry

Another thing observed was though the villagers have good access to LPG supply, every house had a traditional Chulha working on fuelwood. Here I briefly spoke about Samuchit's smokeless cookstoves. The Sarpanch was quite keen on this. The village women seemed open to change their day to day practices for betterment of their quality of life. 

I was fascinated to know that the villages were self sustaining from livelihood perspective due to the interventions by PepsiCo under the Contract Farming Agreement for growing potatoes. All the villagers were involved in this market driven agricultural practice. Though this looks like a win win situation, growing the same crop every year, in order to cater to the urban luxury market needs (and thereby neglecting local food security) may have several adverse consequences. It may cause soil quality degradation and environmental impacts due to lack of diversification in crops in the long run. Also in the face of climate change, the lack of local food security may increase vulnerability of the communities. As the monsoon pattern is totally being affected by climate change, agriculture across India is greatly affected. This may lead to larger fluctuations in food prices going ahead. Growing sufficient food for own consumption is therefore a better strategy for a farming community. 

Discussion on Sustainable Menstruation
However, the villagers seemed to be very happy for their improved standard of living, and seemed less bothered about the cost of INR 3,000,000/- every month from January to June/July to tanker in water for domestic use. Currently the local government is bearing the cost, but this is an unsustainable practice. Here the setup of Rooftop rainwater harvesting systems installed through the inputs of Col. Dalvi and Mr. Todkar play a crucial role. The rooftop rainwater harvesting systems were set such that they recharged the existing borewells, which would help recharge the aquifer and raise the groundwater level. It is expected that this will at least partially if not fully fulfill the water requirements of the villagers during the next summer season. 

I felt that corporates like PepsiCo come to such villages with attractive proposals without giving any consideration to the prevailing ecological and social conditions in the village. Such villages turn to be neither a village nor a city, but get stuck somewhere in between. 
Traditional fuelwood cookstoves
Col. Dalvi believes that rain water harvesting is just a beginning. We can slowly support these villages into becoming self sustaining, socially, ecologically and economically.  Since the villagers are open to new ideas and are ready to make the shift, I felt its worthwhile to undertake a few sessions on specific topics with the villagers. Another woman Sarpanch Mrs Manisha Totre also met her along with local ASHA workers and members of women's SHGs. They are also keen to host us for a session on Sustainable menstruation and smokeless cooking stoves soon.  

Discussion on smokeless cookstoves
Overall it was great visit, the weather was in our favour - it was pleasant and did not rain. Five of us had interesting discussions on overall environmental issues related to w
aste management and political outlook. 

I am thankful to Shivam for organizing this visit and Col. Dalvi for his enthusiasm in explaining to us the overall system and my fellow colleagues for interesting discussions. 

Pournima Agarkar.

www.samuchit.com

Monday, September 13, 2021

Chatusutra_Loksatta_03: Conquest of Mars?

  Since January 2021, I am writing on Environment and Science in the 'Chatusutra' weekly column of Loksatta, a Marathi language newspaper. This weekly series contains four different themes being written by four different authors in a four-week cycle. My first article was published on the second Wednesday of the year, and thereafter my articles are coming every four weeks. One of the request from the readers has been to provide English translations for those who are not able to read Marathi. Meera Rotti took on the task to do this, and therefore I am launching this monthly mini-series. Periodically, I will post the English translation of one article in the same chronological order that the Marathi articles have been published in Loksatta. 

Links to previous post: 

SUSTAINable Life: Chatusutra_Loksatta_01: Is Human A Virus? (samuchitenvirotech.blogspot.com)

SUSTAINable Life: Chatusutra_Loksatta_02: Battle of India's Survival (samuchitenvirotech.blogspot.com)


03. Conquest of Mars?

The original Marathi article published on 10 March 2021 can be found HERE.  


World-renowned innovator Elon Musk is dead set on colonizing the Mars in the coming few years. Recent successful landing of NASA’s Perseverance Rover on the Mars has led to a steady inflow of images and other information about the surface of our neighbouring planet. This is rapidly fueling the debates around human colonization of Mars. For Musk’s supporters, settling on other planets is the obvious next milestone on the path of technological progress for humans. Before we think about colonizing Mars, lets first understand the foundations of human settlements on the earth.

Current human civilization on the earth is based on the history of about 4.5 billion years. The last ten to twelve thousand years have seen a significant interference by humans in the natural system of the earth. In 2009, a Swedish researcher Johan Rockstrom put forth an important concept. He demonstrated that, to sustain human life on the earth, humans have to stay within the limits of nine natural systems of the earth. This clearly implies that these nine systems, or their alternatives, are also required to be established on the Mars to support life there. Let’s take a look at some of these systems, and the possibility of their existence on this neighbouring planet.

Humans must respect these planetary boundaries in order to sustain themselves on Earth. However at least three of the boundaries have already been crossed. 

The bio-diversity of the earth not only helps us in meeting our basic survival needs, but is also crucial in supporting some of our metabolic activities. For example, our intestines are home to many living micro-organisms. They play a vital role in converting food into nutrients. They are one of the first single-cell organisms that evolved on the earth, whereas we humans are one of latest additions to the living beings of the earth. Can the planet, which could not enable evolution of any form of life, sustain human life without any support from other living beings? In case we succeed in creating an alternative ecosystem, will it be possible for us to maintain its equilibrium?

Another key system that supports our life here on the Earth is the atmosphere of the Earth. For long sustained existence of humans on it, it is important that the three factors remain intact – the delicate equilibrium of mixture of atmospheric gases, layer of ozone in the topmost part of the atmosphere, and quality of air in the lowermost part of it where we reside.

In the past 4.5 billion years, earth’s atmosphere has undergone multiple transformations. The oxygen that was extremely low in the beginning of the evolution of life rose up to 21% thanks to the evolution of photosynthetic bacteria, and also lead to ozone layer formation in the outer layer of the atmosphere. The current state of the atmosphere is conducive for the entire living world on the Earth, and the equilibrium of this living world has been regulating the chemical equilibrium of the atmosphere. Carbon dioxide, which is just a few hundred parts per million of the atmosphere, maintains an adequate temperature on the earth to support life, and also enables production of food for us through the carbon-cycle. Moisture in the air is important to drive the hydrological cycle that provides us the water. And then there is oxygen gas without which we cannot breathe. Effects of imbalance in the atmosphere are now visible to us, the manifestations of which range from local air-pollution to global warming. If humans are going to be the only living specie in the artificial environment of the Mars, then to maintain its correct chemical balance, tremendous amount of energy will have to be expended.

The ozone layer present in the stratosphere protects us by blocking the harmful ultra-violet radiations of the sun. Mars does not even have any atmosphere, and hence these radiations reach its surface, totally unhindered. There is no atmosphere around Mars because it does not have its own magnetic field. Earth’s magnetic field not only protects its atmosphere from being blown away, but also from the cosmic radiations by deflecting them. Hence, humans on Mars will also have to work towards creating a system to protect themselves from the sun’s UV radiations as well as the cosmic radiations. Needless to say, we need to expend more energy to maintain such a system.

Well, one more aspect is worth mentioning in this context. We have evolved under the atmospheric pressure on the earth. The weight of the atmosphere we literally carry over our shoulders is also a key factor in maintaining our health. The absence of this very weight causes loss of bone density, loss of muscle strength in the astronauts who spend long time in space. Settlers of Mars will have to face this issue as well.

There are two more issues closely related to the water which support human life on the Earth.
Water first appeared on the earth during its nascent stage as a result of asteroids bombarding the Earth. About 70% of earth’s surface is covered by oceans. Even if the biosphere evolved from this very salt water, only fresh water can sustain humans. Most of the fresh water on the Earth is in the frozen form. We can directly use water available only from rivers, streams, creeks, lakes, wells etc. Water in these sources gets replenished through the water cycle. Water does not exist on Mars, so this too needs to be generated through chemical processes expending energy, and will therefore warrant extremely cautious consumption.

Increasing levels of nitrogen and phosphorous in our oceans, and resulting increased acidity is not only disrupting the equilibrium of the marine life, but is also indirectly affecting the earth’s weather cycle. The main cause of this pollution is the excessive use of nitrogenous and phosphorous fertilizers used in our food production. These chemicals enter the waterways and end up in the oceans. We have not yet succeeded in producing enough food for all without polluting the natural systems. Farming on Mars, and consistently produce food there is going to be even more challenging and energy-intensive task.

Natural ecosystems that are free from human interference play a vital role in sustaining our existence. As they shrink up making way for farming, animal-rearing, mining, industries, urbanization etc., we lose on the free-of-cost ecosystem services that we get from the them. For example, if there is a flowing river in the vicinity of a human settlement, domestic sewage water let into it after rudimentary treatment will not cause any harm. In fact, some organic matter from this water provides food for the organisms in it. However, if on one hand the density of population goes on increasing, and on the other hand, construction of dams causes the reduction in the flow of water in rivers, then separate systems need to be set up for processing of waste water. Many of the substances created by us (e.g., plastics) are spreading as waste in the nature. This too has long-term effects on the natural ecosystems, and lead to many challenges. Waste-water processing and recycling of waste materials will also be crucial on Mars, and also prove to be highly energy-intensive.

Mars-dwellers will have the Sun as the only source of energy. Technological development on the Earth was largely fueled by coal and petroleum. Dead biomass got buried under the surface of the land, and transformed into extremely energy-dense mineral fuels. Since Mars has not sustained any form of life, there are no fossil fuels underground on Mars.

In short, origin and survival of human life is dependent on every aspect of this prolific, fertile planet. We still have not completely realized the complex interrelationship between us and the various natural systems on the Earth. If we are not able to control the climate change and degradation of bio-diversity now, sustaining life right here on the Earth will also become an increasingly challenging task. Establishing and sustaining life on a planet devoid of any natural system that supports life; is going to be an even more challenging a task. 

 

Author: Priyadarshini Karve

English Translation: Meera Rotti


Wednesday, August 18, 2021

MUSINGS FROM PRIYADARSHINI KARVE : संकट हवामान बदलाचे

आयपीसीसी – इंटरगर्व्हमेंटल पॅनल ऑन क्लायमेट चेंज - यांचा जागतिक वातावरण बदलाबाबतचा सहावा अहवाल प्रसिध्द झाला आहे. आयपीसीसीचे अहवाल जेव्हा जेव्हा प्रसिध्द होतात तेव्हा त्यावेळी वातावरण बदलाच्या विविध पैलूंबाबत आत्तापर्यंतचे संशोधन काय सांगते याचे एक एकत्रित चित्र पुढे येतं. म्हणजे गेल्या आठवड्यात प्रसिध्द झालेला अहवाल वातावरण बदलाबाबत आजची स्थिती आणि भविष्यातली संभाव्य स्थिती याबाबत आज जागतिक पातळीवर काय वैज्ञानिक एकमत आहे ते दाखवतो आहे. आपण हेही लक्षात घ्यायला हवं की हे अहवाल संयुक्त राष्ट्रसंघाच्या छत्राखाली प्रसिध्द होतात आणि अहवाल लिहणाऱ्या गटात जगभरातील वैज्ञानिकांबरोबरच जगभरातील देशांचे प्रतिनिधीही सहभागी असतात. त्यामुळे जे मुद्दे काही देशांच्या शासनांना गैरसोयीचे वाटत असतील ते या अहवालात सौम्यपणे मांडले जातात किंवा काही उल्लेख गाळलेही जातात. तेव्हा हे अहवाल एक सौम्य चित्र मांडत असतात, प्रत्यक्षातली स्थिती याहून अधिक आव्हानात्मक असू शकते हे लक्षात घेणे आवश्यक आहे. आत्तापर्यंतच्या पाचही अहवालांच्या बाबतीत अनुभव हाच आहे, की अहवाल प्रसिध्द झाल्यावर बऱ्याच लोकांना तो फार घाबरवून टाकणारा वाटला, त्यावर तशी टीकाही झाली. पण पुढे जाऊन अहवालात वर्तवलेले अंदाज प्रत्यक्षात उतरताना अधिक जलद आणि अधिक तीव्र होऊन आले. आत्ताही हे घडू शकते हे लक्षात ठेऊन या अहवालाकडे पहायला हवे.

या अहवालात तीन महत्त्वाच्या गोष्टी मांडलेल्या आहेत.

एक म्हणजे जागतिक वातावरण बदलाची आजची जी स्थिती आहे ती मानवी कृत्यांमुळेच उद्भवलेली आहे असे हा अहवाल ठामपणे म्हणतो. यापूर्वीच्या अहवालामध्ये याबद्दल दाट शक्यता आहे असे म्हटले गेले होते, पण आता मानवी जगातील घडामोडी आणि वातावरणात उष्णता धरून ठेवणाऱ्या हरितगृह वायूंचे वाढते प्रमाण यांच्यातील संबंध वैज्ञानिक पध्दतीने निर्विवाद सिध्द झालेला आहे. मानवी कृत्यांमुळे काय घडले आहे – तर औद्योगीकरणापूर्वीच्या तुलनेत वातावरणातील हरितगृह वायूंचे प्रमाण जवळजवळ दीडपटीने वाढले आहे आणि त्यामुळे पृथ्वीचे सरासरी तापमानही १ अंश सेल्सिअसपेक्षा जास्त वाढलेले आहे.

अहवालातला दुसरा महत्त्वाचा निष्कर्ष म्हणजे अगदी उद्यापासून जरी आपण हरितगृह वायूंचे उत्सर्जन थांबवले तरी आत्तापर्यंत झालेल्या बदलांमुळे २०५० पर्यंत पृथ्वीचे सरासरी तापमान १.५ अंश सेल्सिअसला पोहचेल असे दिसते. २०१५ साली जगभरातील सर्व देशांनी एकत्र येऊन पॅरीस करार केला. त्यात २१०० सालापर्यंत पृथ्वीचे तापमान २ अंशाच्या खाली आणि शक्यतो १.५ अंशापर्यंत मर्यादित ठेऊ असे अभिवचन सर्व देशांच्या शासनकर्त्यांनी जगाला दिले होते. पण तापमानवाढीचा वेग इतका मंदावणे आता अशक्य नसले तरी प्रचंड आव्हानात्मक होऊन बसले आहे हे यावरून लक्षात येते.

अहवालातला तिसरा निष्कर्ष आपण पुढे काय करायला हवे हे खूप स्पष्टपणे सांगतो. पुढच्या पाच ते सहा वर्षांमध्ये दर वर्षी होणाऱ्या हरितगृह वायूंच्या उत्सर्जनात घट करायलाच हवी. हे नाही केले तर कदाचित पुढच्या दहाबारा वर्षांतच १.५ अंश सेल्सिअसची पातळी ओलांडली जाईल. आता हातात वेळ फार कमी उरलेला आहे त्यामुळे सामोपचाराने सर्वांच्या कलाकलाने अर्थव्यवस्थांमधील बड्या धेंडांना आंजारत गोंजारत छोटे छोटे बदल वगैरे करण्याची वेळ निघून गेली आहे.

औद्योगीकरणापूर्वीच्या पृथ्वीच्या सरासरी तापमानाच्या (निळी रेघ) तुलनेत
तापमानात आजपर्यंत होत गेलेली वाढ (स्रोत - विकीपिडिया) 

१.५ अंश सेल्सिअस हा काय जादूई आकडा आहे, असा काहींना प्रश्न पडू शकतो. पृथ्वीच्या सरासरी तापमानात साधारण १ अंश सेल्सिअसची वाढ झाल्यापासूनच ठिकठिकाणी वातावरण बदलाचे परिणाम प्रकर्षाने जाणवू लागले. दुष्काळ अधिक तीव्र होणे, पावसाचे चक्र बिनसून अगदी कमी कालावधीत अतिवृष्टी किंवा अतिहिमवर्षाव होणे, उन्हाळ्यात उष्णतेच्या तर हिवाळ्यात कडाक्याच्या थंडीच्या लाटा येणे, वणवे लागणे व ते झपाट्याने पसरणे, ध्रुवीय प्रदेशांत बर्फ कमी कमी होणे, हिमनद्या वितळणे, महासागरांची पातळी वाढून किनारपट्ट्यांचे भूस्खलन होणे, चक्रीवादळांची तीव्रता आणि वारंवारता वाढणे, टोळधाडींचे तसेच स्थानिक पातळीवर येणाऱ्या साथीच्या रोगांचे प्रमाण व व्याप्ती वाढणे, अशा अनेक घटना या शतकाच्या सुरुवातीपासून अधिकाधिक होत गेल्या आहेत. अशा प्रत्येक घटनेमुळे जीवितहानी होते तसेच आर्थिक नुकसानही होते. एका विशिष्ट पातळीपर्यंतची नुकसानी व्यक्तिगत रित्या काही लोकांना उध्वस्त करून टाकणारी असली तरी त्यामुळे सर्व मानवी समाज कोलमडून पडणार नाही. पण नुकसानीची ही पातळी ओलांडली गेली, खूप मोठ्या संख्येने लोकांचे व्यक्तिगत मोठे नुकसान झाले, तर मात्र स्थानिक पातळीवरील सामाजिक, आर्थिक, राजकीय, इ. सर्व यंत्रणा पूर्णतः कोलमडून पडतील. १.५ अंश सेल्सिअस इतकी सरासरी तापमानवाढ ही जागतिक दृष्ट्या या पातळीशी जोडलेली आहे. पृथ्वी यापेक्षा जास्त तापली तर जगभर होणारे आघात इतके मोठे असतील की संपूर्ण जगाच्या पातळीवर मानवी समाजव्यवस्थाच कोलमडून पडेल आणि अब्जावधी माणसांचे जीव जातील. काही वैज्ञानिकांच्या मते या घटनांमुळे या शतकातच संपूर्ण मानव प्रजाती विनाशाच्या उंबरठ्यावर येऊन पोहचेल. म्हणून तापमानवाढ या मर्यादेच्या आत रोखणे अत्यावश्यक बनले आहे.

हा अहवाल सर्वांना पटेल अशा सौम्य भाषेत लिहिला जात असूनही त्यात वातावरण बदलावर नियंत्रण ठेवण्यासाठी झपाट्याने आणि मोठे बदल करण्याची गरज व्यक्त केली गेली आहे हे लक्षात घ्यायला हवे. कोणत्याही राज्यकर्त्यांना अशा बदलांचे वावडे असते पण तरीही अहवालातील ही शब्दरचना मान्य केली गेली आहे. कारण आता खरोखरच पुढची पाच-सहा वर्षेच आपल्या हातात आहेत. म्हणजेच आज जे लोक जगभरातील राजकारणात सक्रीय आहेत त्यांना त्यांच्या कारकिर्दीतच या साऱ्याबाबत निर्णय घ्यायचे आहेत आणि त्या निर्णयांची जबाबदारीही घ्यावी लागणार आहे. त्यामुळे आता मोठे बदल करायची वेळ आलेली असताना हे आम्ही स्वतःहून करत नाही तर आयपीसीसी म्हणते आहे म्हणून करतो आहोत हे म्हणण्याची पळवाट स्वतःसाठी निर्माण करणे त्यांना आवश्यक वाटले असावे. यावरून परिस्थितीची गांभीर्य आपण समजून घ्यायला हवे.

अहवालाच्या सौम्य भाषेमुळे झाकल्या गेलेल्या दोन महत्त्वाच्या गोष्टीही आपण समजून घेणे आवश्यक आहे.

एक म्हणजे अहवालात म्हटलेली मानवी कृत्ये म्हणजे नेमके काय. वातावरण बदलाच्या समस्येचे अपराधी जगभरातील सर्व माणसे नाहीत तर काही मूठभर लोकांचे हे पाप आहे. हरितगृह वायूंचे वाढते उत्सर्जन हे औद्योगीकरण आणि खनिज इंधनांचा वापर यांच्याशी जोडलेले आहे. त्यामुळे गेल्या तीनेकशे वर्षांमध्ये औद्योगीकरणात व खनिज इंधनांच्या निर्मिती व वापरात आघाडीवर असलेल्यांनी ही जागतिक समस्या निर्माण केली आहे. ढोबळ मानाने म्हणायचे तर जगातील विकसित देशांवर याची जबाबदारी जास्त आहे पण व्यापक दृष्टीने पाहिले तर विकसनशील देशांमधीलही औद्योगीकरणाच्या आधाराने सधन आणि सबळ झालेला वर्गही यासाठी जबाबदार आहे. त्यामुळे इतिहास व वर्तमानातल्या काही मानवांच्या कृत्यांचे परिणाम वर्तमान व भविष्यातील सर्व माणसांना भोगायला लागणार आहेत असे म्हणणे जास्त सयुक्तिक ठरेल. त्याचबरोबर वातावरण बदलाच्या परिणामांचा फटका ज्यांचे या समस्येत काहीच योगदान नाही त्यांनाच सर्वात जास्त बसतो आहे हीही वस्तुस्थिती ठळकपणे अधोरेखित करायला हवी. त्यामुळे जागतिक पातळीवरील सर्व सधन व सुखवस्तू समूहांनी आपण निर्माण केलेल्या या संकटाच्या निवारणासाठीही पुढाकार घेणे आवश्यक आहे. दुर्दैवाने गेल्या कित्येक दशकांपासून ही वस्तुस्थिती माहीत असूनही धनदांडग्यांनी सर्वसाधारणतः आपल्या जबाबदारीपासून पळ तरी काढलेला आहे किंवा जबाबदारी मान्य करूनही पुरेशा उपाययोजना करण्याचे टाळलेले आहे. म्हणूनच आजची आणीबाणी निर्माण झाली आहे.

या अहवालातून पुढे येणारी आणखी एक महत्त्वाची बाब म्हणजे तुम्ही आणि मी घरातले जुने दिवे बदलून एलइडी दिवे वापरणे आणि आपल्या दैनंदिन सवयींमध्ये बदल करणे आवश्यक असले तरी आता तेवढे पुरेसे नाही. जागतिक तापमानवाढीचा उधळलेला वारू रोखायचा असेल तर जागतिक पातळीवर अर्थकारण, उद्योगधंद्यांचे स्वरूप, ऊर्जाप्रणाली, मूलभूत संसाधनांचा वापर, इ सर्व यंत्रणांमध्ये आमूलाग्र बदल व्हायला हवेत आणि हे बदल करायला आता फक्त पाच-सहा वर्षेच हातात आहेत. हे बदल करत असताना आधीच संकटांच्या ओझ्याखाली दबलेल्या समाजातील अविकसित घटकांवर आणखी अन्याय होणार नाही याचीही काळजी घ्यावी लागेल. ज्ञानाचे जागतिकीकरण आणि संसाधनांच्या वापराचे स्थानिकीकरण या ढोबळ दिशेने आपण गेलो तर वातावरण बदल आटोक्यात तर ठेवता येईलच पण मानवी समाजात आज निर्माण झालेली पराकोटीची विषमता कमी करण्याच्या दृष्टीनेही वाटचाल करता येईल आणि आता अपरिहार्य असलेल्या तापमानवाढीचे जे काही परिणाम होणार आहेत त्यांची दुर्बल घटकांना लागणारी झळही कमी होईल. जागतिक समाजातील राजकीय व आर्थिक ताकद ज्यांच्या हातात एकवटलेली आहे त्यांना यासाठी आपली मानसिकता व कामाची पध्दत पूर्णतः बदलावी लागेल.

जगभरात या विषयावर उभ्या राहिलेल्या तरूणांच्या चळवळींना आयपीसीसीच्या या अहवालामुळे वैज्ञानिक पाठिंबा मिळालेला आहे. तरूणांनी रस्त्यावर उतरू नये, शाळा-कॉलेजचे शिक्षण घ्यावे इ. उपदेशाचे डोस पाजणाऱ्यांनी हे लक्षात घ्यायला हवे. पुढच्या दहा वर्षांत जर तापमानवाढ धोक्याची पातळी ओलांडणार असेल तर आज शाळा-कॉलेजात जाऊन मिळवलेल्या पुस्तकी ज्ञानाची किंमत कवडीमोल असणार आहे. आज रस्त्यावर उतरून आवश्यक बदलांसाठी झगडणे ही या तरूणांची अस्तित्वाची लढाई आहे. सर्व वयोगटातल्या आणि सर्व जगातल्या सूज्ञ माणसांनी हे आवश्यक बदल घडवून आणण्यासाठी सक्रीय पुढाकार घेतला तर तरूणांना रस्त्यावर यावे लागणार नाही. तेव्हा आपण आपली स्वतःची जीवनशैली तर बदलूयाच पण आपल्या व्यवसायाच्या ठिकाणी तसेच आपल्या स्थानिक प्रशासनांकडे पर्यावरणपूरक बदलांसाठी आग्रह धरूया. एकजुटीने धोरणात्मक बदलांच्या मागण्या सर्व पातळ्यांवर लावून धरूया. व्यापक व दूरगामी धोरणात्मक बदलांसाठी लढणाऱ्या व्यक्ती आणि संस्थांच्या खच्चीकरणाचे प्रयत्न हाणून पाडूया.  


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संचालक
समुचित एन्व्हायरो टेक


#BeModernBeResponsibleBeRespectful
    
Samuchit Enviro Tech.     samuchit@samuchit.com     www.samuchit.com 


Wednesday, August 11, 2021

Chatusutra_Loksatta_02: Battle of India's Survival

 Since January 2021, I am writing on Environment and Science in the 'Chatusutra' weekly column of Loksatta, a Marathi language newspaper. This weekly series contains four different themes being written by four different authors in a four-week cycle. My first article was published on the second Wednesday of the year, and thereafter my articles are coming every four weeks. One of the request from the readers has been to provide English translations for those who are not able to read Marathi. Meera Rotti took on the task to do this, and therefore I am launching this monthly mini-series. Every month, I will post the English translation of one article in the same chronological order that the Marathi articles have been published in Loksatta. 

Link to previous post: SUSTAINable Life: Chatusutra_Loksatta_01: Is Human A Virus? (samuchitenvirotech.blogspot.com)


02. Battle of India's Survival

The original Marathi article published on 10 Feb 2021 can be found HERE.  


On 20th January, 2021 Joseph Biden took charge as President of the USA, and on his very first day of work he initiated the process of bringing the USA back into Paris Agreement. The treaty adopted by 196 parties in the global conference on climate change that was convened by the UN in Paris in 2015 is known as the “Paris Agreement”. The USA, under the leadership of Barack Obama and Joe Biden, had played an instrumental role in negotiating the terms of this treaty. Obama's successor Donald Trump, whose win in 2016 was quite unexpected, was part of the climate denier community in the USA, and soon withdrew the USA from the pact. The new president Joe Biden has taken a number of strategically important policy decisions for climate change mitigation within first 10 days of assuming the office. This clearly indicates that bringing the USA back into Paris agreement is not just a token move in global politics.

Although the Paris agreement was signed in 2015, it officially comes into force from this year. Participation of the USA in this treaty is crucial for achieving the targets agreed in the pact.

Climate Change Crisis emerged over the course of industrialization driven by fossil fuels. Developed countries that have utilized the fossil fuels without any restraint over the last 150 years, and the countries which mine these fuels bear the maximum responsibility for creation of the global crisis. Though the industrial revolution originated in Europe, the USA accelerated its pace to the peak in the 20th century, and is also amongst the key producers of petroleum and coal. Though today it has been outpaced by China in industrialization, it still remains the second highest contributor to climate change. If the European union along with UK is considered as a single entity, then they are the 3rd and India is the 4th highest contributor to this crisis at present.

If the key problem creators are not involved in the process of resolving a problem, the chances of resolution fade away. This is exactly what happened in the case of the Kyoto Protocol of 1997. This Protocol obligated 37 developed countries to reduce their contribution to climate change to safeguard the world from an impending crisis. However, when it came to actual adoption of this protocol the USA revoked their decision of commitment, and subsequently none of the parties delivered on their agreed terms. Failure of this deal necessitated another pact.

The global crisis that seemed as a lurking problem in the late 1990s has now struck us with conspicuous signs. If the annual volume of fossil fuels, which continues its trajectory upwards, does not start to decline over the next 10 years, we will have to face catastrophic climatic changes at the end of this century. This precarious situation compels all the nations - whether among the primary contributors to climate change, or not - to be party to the Paris agreement.

China, EU and India showed a positive attitude towards the Paris Agreement; however, the sudden withdrawal of the USA had left them in the lurch. In that sense, existence of the entire human civilization was at stake in the 2020 presidential elections of the USA. Defeat of Trump has made wise people all over the world heave a sigh of relief.

These events are indeed positive from India’s perspective, and at the same time add to our responsibility. While India is one of the top 5 current contributors to climate change, it also ranks amongst the first 10 countries most vulnerable to the crisis. No other country faces this kind of a conundrum.

As a part of enforcement of the Paris agreement, India has been mainly focused on increasing the share of renewable energy in electricity generation. The efforts are on track towards the set target; however, according to some experts, the target itself is set considerably below the capacity and scope. Expanding the forest cover is also one of the commitments by India under the Paris Agreement. Misleading calculations by including agroforestry and fruit orchards under forest cover are being used to create an impression of the target being reached. However, in reality this is not going to achieve the desired end result as long as encroachment and destruction of natural habitats continues relentlessly leading to shrinkage of the true forest cover.

India has a vast coastal belt which is home to nearly 40% of its population. Sea-level rise induced by global warming is going to affect this population. The northern perennial rivers, which have enabled our food security, originate in the Himalayas. Global warming is causing melting of the glaciers, which are the origin of these rivers. Due to this, by the time the much-touted river-linking project is completed, the rivers in the North India will run dry, rather than having excess water to transfer to the southern drought-prone river basins. Climate change has led to an increase in the intensity as well as frequency of disasters like hurricanes, locust-attacks, forest fires etc. Weather-cycle too has altered. Excessive rainfall events are happening more often, and the dry spell between them is also increasing. Adverse effects of these are seen on agricultural and industrial activities as well as on cities and towns. Intensity of such events is only going to increase in the upcoming years which can severely damage the economic, social and political systems of India.

The wrath of the climate change impacts will have to be faced primarily by farmers, fishermen, tribals, daily wagers as well as the disabled, women, elderly, and children across all sections of the society. The situation experienced during the COVID-19 pandemic will be repeated during such circumstances. Those who created the problem - the urban rich (international travelers in the context of COVID, people with fossil energy driven lifestyle in the context of climate change) - will be able to protect themselves from such blows; however, those who had nothing to do with the problem will be the most vulnerable to a series of catastrophic impacts. This will result in a surge of helpless refugees.

What can we do today to avert this destructive future? Urban privileged citizens should introspect about their energy consumption. It is crucial to limit and optimize the use of energy, and also to use renewable energy as much as possible. The same principle applies to use of all resources and services as well. Furthermore, anticipating possible effects on the local ecosystem, and designing and implementing appropriate community-level emergency response systems can prove extremely beneficial. Nevertheless, only individual and community efforts cannot mitigate climate change crisis. These must be actively supplemented by science based and prudent policies.

Unfortunately, government policies are not shaped by recommendations from scientists. They are largely influenced by voters’ aspirations, or extreme pressure from either big business interests or international community. India’s climate action policies are largely shaped by the pressure of international politics. Safeguarding weaker sections of the society from the adverse impacts of climate change has never been high up on the global political agenda, and so is the case with India’s climate agenda. Most of the Indians are not even aware of the intensity and scope of the problems arising from Climate Change coming our way. As a result, they are also not vocal about it.

Shifting away from destructive policies chasing delusional developmental dreams cannot be expected from a political system that is at the mercy of oil, coal, and construction businesses. Public pressure is indeed crucial in bringing about the change. From this perspective, creating awareness among the adult citizens - the voters of today - is extremely necessary. Those who understand the gravity of the problems should persistently follow up with the representatives from local to national government bodies for changes in policy-making. This is the true battle we need to fight for India’s survival.

 

Author: Priyadarshini Karve

English Translation: Meera Rotti