Monday, June 14, 2021

Chatusutra_Loksatta_01: Is Human A Virus?

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. 

01. Is Human A Virus?

The original Marathi article published on 13 Jan 2021 can be found HERE.  

The year 2020 compelled the urban upper middleclass Indians take cognizance of two invisible forces driving their lives. One is the urban labour force. Most of the urban Indians realized during the lockdown that this is the key driver of their daily lives in and out of their homes. One visible outcome of this realization can be seen in advertisements. Scenes of masters behaving courteously with their servants, who in turn are ecstatic with gratitude are being depicted in advertisements of a lot of products. Of course, the target audience of such advertisements is certainly not the labour class but their masters who have not lost their wealth even during this economic slowdown. In reality the interrelation between people from across the socio-economic strata is much more complex than this current oversimplified depiction. Social scientists can certainly evaluate this phenomenon better than me; however, what I contemplate long and hard about is the realization of the second force by the urban upper middle class.

A few weeks into the lockdown, and people suddenly started noticing different birds, animals, insects etc., in their vicinity. They sensed a drop in air pollution levels, and also observed water in rivers and lakes to be cleaner. In that initial period, practically the entire world was under lockdown. Reports of noticeable reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, as claimed by many scientists, were rife in media. Such news reports too have influenced the mindset of the Indian upper middle class. Along with the awakening of our sense of social interconnectedness, sensitivity to our relationship with the natural surroundings has also heightened as a result of all of this. Environment, climate change etc., are more mainstream topics now, and more people are now voluntarily asking what they can and should do to conserve the environment. Though this is indeed a welcome change, there is nothing substantial to be found if you scratch the surface.

It has taken nearly 4.5 billion years for the Earth to attain its current geographical and atmospheric state. The most extraordinary event in our solar system has been the emergence and evolution of life and in turn the emergence and evolution of humans on the Earth. Even the living world in its current form is a result of 4.5 billion years of complex interconnected processes. Based on available evidence, our species, homo sapiens, has existed for two hundred thousand years. We are a part of what we call as environment, and at the same time we are quite separate from it. The relationship between our species and the earth is a very old and complex phenomenon. However, just as the advertisers have oversimplified the newly awakened social sensitivity of the urban rich, the new-found interest in environment of this same class, which also happens to be financially as well as politically powerful, is also being oversimplified.  

Half knowledge is worse than ignorance. This newly awakened community is seeking to become a quick savior of the world without diving deep into understanding the interrelationships. As a result, tokenism is flourishing faster now. Those who benefit from rampant degradation of environment may well flaunt decorative pieces made from recycled plastic in their homes, but this does not contribute to the conservation of the environment. However, what is even more worrisome is that this new-found bond with nature is not only superficial but also insensitive.

‘Human’ is a virus infecting the earth, Covid-19 pandemic is a lesson nature has taught to the savage ‘humans’, these and many such statements have been made by many in the past year. Some of those who expressed themselves in this fashion have a good name in the field of environmental conservation. I have only one question for all of them - What exactly do you understand by ‘Human’? Is human a homogeneous species?

Between a tribal woman living in a shanty in the poorest country running her home using resources available within her walking distance and a business tycoon living in a grand villa in one of the wealthiest cities of the world spreads the nearly 8 billion human population of the earth. This is just the socio-economic diversity. Apart from this, there is also a socio-cultural diversity among human beings.

The spread of the virus was significantly higher among the people in low-income settlements of our cities. The extreme measure of imposing a harsh lockdown to curb the spread of the virus dealt a blow to the livelihoods of millions of migrant workers. On the contrary, secured income sources never dried up for those who could work from home. They even got plenty of time to shower virtual hearts, kisses and thumbs-ups on phony social media messages dripping with love for the environment. There were many who could have been knocked over by the pandemic but managed to survive by leveraging their own courage, ingenuity coupled with some luck. We saw many of those who could have stayed secure inside their houses, getting down to ground zero to help the distressed. But these were exceptions rather than the norm. Then who is this virus in human form and who is being punished? Cannot we see how ironical as well as insensitive it is that those secured inside their cocoons built by consuming more than their fair share of natural resources are scorning the hardships of the destitute as a fitting punishment?

On this background, an event that took place in the world of science in 2020 deserves a mention.

Geologists use a system of dating that describes the geologic history of the Earth. This system labels every transition period of the earth with a specific name. Since the last Ice Age ended about eleven and a half thousand years ago, the climate of the earth has mostly remained stable. This epoch is known as Holocene. Due to favourable and stable climate many human groups transitioned from hunter gatherer lifestyle to agrarian lifestyle, which in turn gave rise to various human civilizations. Interactions of these civilizations over hundreds of years has led to today’s multi-faceted and yet homogeneous global social-economic-political system.

However, in the last few decades, Earth’s atmosphere, that has so far been in an equilibrium favourable for us, is rapidly changing. This has led to a rise in the global mean temperature, and has in turn disrupted the weather cycle. Key reason for such a disruption is the frenetic pace of industrialization under a global economy driven by fossil fuels. Along with climate change, our agricultural, construction and mining activities are also altering the geological systems above and below the surface of the land. Consequently, natural balance in the living world is also getting disturbed leading to extinction of many species. Even our own species faces the same threat.

Towards end of the 20th century, it was proposed that Holocene epoch had ended and a time in which humans are directly impacting the environment - called Anthropocene - has started. To decide whether to accept this proposition or not, a committee of geologists was formed which has arrived at a conclusion which is likely to be announced in 2021.

This is not just a scientific curiosity. This thought has echoes in various other fields. While formally accepting the nomenclature for the present times as Anthropocene, it must not be forgotten that the diverse human groups on the earth do not have the same ecological impacts. Studies conducted from various perspectives have shown that the actions of past and present rich and upper middleclass people are more responsible for the blows delivered to the balance of nature. To maintain the environment in a condition to support human life, we now need a total reconstruction of all our economic, social and political paradigms. Will the environmental consciousness awakened among the urban upper middle class of India during the Covid-19 pandemic break free from tokenism and pursue this path?

Author: Priyadarshini Karve

English Translation: Meera Rotti

Monday, May 10, 2021

My City My Responsibility - Earth Week Summit 2021

Dear All,

Collage of screenshots taken during the webinar

Happy to update you all, in case if you missed our week long Earth Summit on keeping the Earth day momentum going. We at Samuchit Enviro Tech, Laya Resource Centre and the Indian Network on Ethics and Climate Change (INECC) , undertook this week long initiative to elaborate on creating environmental consciousness and action as we believe every day is Earth day.  

Some organizations who have been working closely with us, partnered with us for this week long summit. Our partners and collaborators were Climate Collective Pune(CCP), OrjaBox, VaayuMitra, Rupa Rahul Bajaj Centre for Environment and Arts (RRBCEA), Zillionth Bistro and Black Gold.  

The week long summit started on the 19th April and went on till 24th of April, 2021. Each day we organized some activity on specific topics to promote thinking consciously about sustainable options as a solution to the current environmental crises. We all are well aware of the dreadful impacts happening on Earth due to our actions, we know the problem and the causes. Its time we start taking the right actions for the right cause and make our planet sustainably habitable for all.   

I introduced all, with a warm welcome (as the temperatures are rising :P) and a video showing what all progress humans have made in the last 50 years, since the first Earth day (22nd April, 1970).  Dr Priyadarshini Karve, opened the summit week with her crisp and clear presentation on Earth Friendly Economy. The current economic model is driven by the pursuit of exploitative growth with the least consideration for the people and the planet. Hence there is a need to shift to a model of growth that is sustainable for all. Aditi Kale from CCP moderated the question-answer component and concluded the session. To access the recording of this session click here.

The second day was focused on Renewable Energy (RE) and its applications within the home. A young entrepreneur from CCP Siddarth Bhagwat opened the session with a video showing off his new e-bike the Ather 450x. You can watch the video here. Siddarth then introduced the speakers:Vishakha Chandhere from OrjaBox, who showcased how solar cookers can be effectively used for cooking and how all of us can contribute to using clean cooking options, Priyadarshan Sahasrabuddhe from VaayuMitra, who spoke about his model on using kitchen waste for generating biogas, another clean cooking fuel alternative, and Isha Vyawahare from Black gold who presented the making of Biochar (new black gold) from dried leaves (biomass) using Samuchit's Trashflasher kiln. We had some interesting questions and answers post presentations! It looked like a lot of people would like to adopt these practices in their day to day life in order to lead a sustainable lifestyle. Kedar Champhekar from RRBCEA concluded the session. To access the recording of this session click here.

The third day of the summit was focused on Sustainable Water management. Saili Jahagirdar Mirikar  of Zillionth Bistro (the cafe with an upcylced decor) welcomed the crowd and spoke about her café where you can see upcycling in practice. Here's the link to check out her café! She introduced Col. Shashikant Dalvi, an ex-armyman who set up rainwater harvesting system in his society and made the society water tanker free. He shared his experience and also explained how tapping rainwater is the need of the day. Then Priyadarshan Sahasrabuddhe of VaayuMitra spoke about managing household sewage water through the biogas technology. Both these ways of managing water are climate friendly as well. Isha Vyawahare of Black Gold concluded the session. To access the recording of this session click here. 

Before the start of the Earth Week Summit, we had requested people to send us 1 min action videos showcasing sustainable practices in their daily lives. We received overwhelming response from the kids of Bal Bharti School, Dwarka, Delhi and a few citizens. A few of the good quality videos with a clear messaging were compiled together in a single video. We acknowledge everyone's effort in contributing towards the Earth Week Summit Action video activity.  On the fourth day of the summit, which also happened to be the Earth Day itself, we premiered the video compilation. To watch the movie. Click here. 

On the fifth day, we participated in the final webinar in a series of three webinars on Climate Resilient Architecture organized in association with Dr Bhanuben Nanavati College of Architecture (BNCA). This consisted of a panel discussion on building sustainable cities. You can watch the live streaming on INECC's Facebook page Click here.

The sixth and the last day of the Summit was all about basking in nature's glory through literary reads. Date with Nature is a part of our monthly activities. This time's theme was focused on the Desert ecosystem and this included short stories, articles and poems on how this ecosystem reflects resilience and unique beauty that can kindle love in spite of its harsh and empty appearance. This online meeting is not recorded, due to copyright issues. However if you are keen on participating in this monthly event, please contact us at

Every month we conduct 3 to 4 activities that are focused on creating awareness among the general public about science based and thought provoking information related to sustainability. We do keep posting educational information as daily posts as well. You can connect with us on our FB, Twitter and Instagram handles as Citizens of Sustainable City for more information on our activities.

Pournima Agarkar.

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

Additional links: 

Samuchit Trasflasher Kiln

Saturday, April 10, 2021

Practicing Sustainable living in Bangaluru!

 Life came another full circle this year, albeit a little earlier – On Holi Pournima instead of Akshay Tritiya.

I was finally able to put my long-cherished desire of celebrating Holi Pournima in a science-based manner into reality. Samuchit Enviro Tech sent me their yet another compact tool called Sampada Gasifier Stove which turns dry garden/agri/horticulture waste into the Black Gold – the Biochar. As the shackles of micro containment zone were being tightened on our complex, I quickly barged into a dear south Indian friend’s house where I knew I would always find a bagful of coconut shells as fuel for the stove. And it worked, a smokeless fire – Holi/Holika burnt in Sampada, right in my balcony. In less than an hour’s time, I had the chunks of Black Gold in my possession. 

PC: Meera Rotti and Samuchit Sampada Gasifier Stove

Back in 2002, when Dr. Priyadarshini Karve was teaching Physics in engineering undergrad class, I was fortunate to be in the class she had organized post college hours to demonstrate the use of Biochar fired Sarai cooker, an invention that had won an international award that was popularly known as the 'Green Oscar'. I vividly remember the moment of fascination; however, little did I know that it would take me 13 long years to become a regular and content user of that.

By 2013, the winds of sustainable living had started blowing in Metropolis of Bengaluru and I was finding it difficult to not sail in that direction despite knowing that my boat is indeed small. The only person I had known to be working in the field of sustainability – rather sustainability in as simple as your own house – was Dr Priyadarshini Karve. I started reading each and every piece of writing featuring on Samuchit Enviro Tech’s webpage. 11 years after its first demo, Sarai Cooker touched my heart deeper and I was longing to own it. The opportunity came in 2015 when Sarai was on exhibit as a part of a seminar by Dr. Priyadarshini Karve in Bengaluru. I bought it right there, carried it home on my scooter with great excitement. Next day, I looked up on India Mart for suppliers of coconut shell charcoal to fire the cooker. I chose the nearest one – 150 km away, and got my 40kg bag of renewable charcoal within a week’s time. And in a week’s time, on the Akshay Tritiya of 2015, I cooked a humble meal of dal, rice and snake gourd subji in the Sarai Cooker. The taste and texture of dal and rice experienced on that day has kept me in love with this cooker till the date.

Sarai Cooker (Samuchit Steam Cooker)

Post the entry of Sarai Cooker in my life in 2015, my outlook for dry garden waste changed completely. Also, I had started feeling the need to source the fuel with shorter carbon miles. It wasn’t a surprise that Samuchit’s Charring Kiln caught my fancy now. 2016 Spring-summer was unusually hot and dry and fueling my desire to possess the Kiln. I simply ordered it and it arrived a day before Akshay tritiya of 2016. And the next day, needless to say, I created the Black Gold by easily assembling the kiln with help from my supportive husband and my 3 year old daughter. Management Committee members of our complex graced the occasion by their presence and by providing the dry twigs for the demo. It was indeed exciting to sail with these winds. That Summer and the next two, gardeners of our complex and I were able to turn quite a lot of twigs, coconut shells and coconut and areca branches into biochar and put into our garden soil.

Samuchit Trashflasher Kiln

A week before 2018’s Akshay Tritiya, I had the privilege of hosting Dr Priyadarshini Karve at my place and serve her the great Dal-rice-cooked-in-Sarai. It would have been the perfect occasion had I been able to make the biochar briquettes myself using the kiln. Well, that remains a dream till today, for lack of my concerted efforts.

Untimely heavy rains of Spring-Summer of 2019 and 2020 robbed us the opportunity of using the kiln to full potential. Our gardeners and I are still learning to use the kiln for best results from varied items of garden waste like coconut branches, leaves of varying thickness etc. Dr Priyadarshini Karve always provides the quick troubleshooting tips.

This year’s advancement was with the portable version of the charring Kiln – Sampada Gasifier stove. I wanted to have it so that I could organize its demonstration within my circle without having to spend on transporting the heavy Kiln. Bengaluru’s mid-summer showers are round the corner limiting my engagement with the kiln. However, the mini-kiln, the Sampada and the ubiquitous coconut shells should keep me sailing despite the rains which are much needed now.

The simplicity of design of these three, and the purpose they serve in the humongous picture of Climate Change continues to fascinate me. I hope witnessing a demonstration of these technologies in your vicinity would turn you into yet another ardent user sooner or later.

By Meera Rotti, Bangaluru


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

PS: Samuchit has discontinued Sarai Cooker and is now offering Samuchit Steam Cooker, that works on the same principle but is more efficient with better fire containment. 

Links to Videos of the devices mentioned: 

Friday, March 12, 2021

My City My Responsibility - Revenge of the Bisons!!!

Dear All, 

Poster of the event

At the Bistro

On 6th of March, after almost a year we could undertake our #ChallengingThanos monthly activity where we relax in a Cafe or a restaurant and share knowledge over a trending issue in the city. The whole idea is to engage more and more people and connect them to the existential crisis of our times - Climate Change - over a cup of coffee. 

This time we tried a new approach, our innovator Dr Priyadarshini Karve came up with this idea. We thought of having the event in a blended format, where we are online as well as available in a face-to-face (offline) mode in a cafe. Our neighborhood place Zillionth Bistro (ZB), which is committed to sustainability,  happens to be the right venue for such kind of  events. We thought of taking up a topic that has hit everyone in the city and is afresh in the minds of the people, Saili Jahagirdar owner of ZB suggested to talk with Nikhil Dandekar a city based wildlife expert. This was prompted by how we recently witnessed the dreadful death of an Indian Gaur on the streets of Kothrud. We thought as responsible citizens we should know how to react to such situations where we face a wild animal right in the city and Nikhil Dandekar was keen to throw some light over this situation.

Online meet over Google Meet

Our event went quite well, there were some technical glitches, but we will fix those before the next event. Overall it was a great show both online as well as offline. Here are some of the key take away's that Nikhil shared with us. Do follow these guidelines in case you encounter any wild animal on our streets.

  • Try and stay indoors or remain calm wherever you are.  
  • Avoid sharing information or any kind of forward on social media that will create unnecessary excitement or scare among the masses. 
  • Need not pass on any expert comments over how the rescuers are handling the situation or how people should act or react. 
  • Avoid clicking selfies or getting overwhelmed by seeing the animal, we need to understand that the animal is already stressed since its in an unfamiliar territory. 
  • Need to show some empathy so that the animal can easily pass the area to a another safer zone. Not interfering helps much more than any kind interference in such cases.  
  • Inform the concerned authorities/local NGOs or officials if you are aware or else remain calm. 
  • In Pune, reach out to RESQ Trust - For injured or trapped animal Rescues (pets, snakes, birds or any other animal) contact number: 098909 99111 OR 
  • Vanabhavan Office of Deputy Conservator of Forest (Wildlife), Pune contact number: +91 20 2566 0370.  In case you want to inform Gaur or leopard type emergency in the city. 
Face-to-face session

Further discussions revealed that there is NO platform or website which consists of case studies or information about such city based human wildlife encounters. There's a need to map areas that are likely to have wild animals like leopards or snakes etc. in and around the city. So that such areas can be avoided by general public or can have sign boards that will make people aware about the steps that need to be taken while passing through such areas. However its also in a way risky to have information on wildlife in open domain because that will expose this information to poachers and wildlife traders. So need to be cautious while putting up this information. 
The least we can do is to have a basic awareness or trainings on such wildlife encounters. There is a lot of scope for wildlife enthusiasts/experts to work in urban areas for creating such awareness among general public with more and more wildlife coming in the cities now. There are a lot of linkages between biodiversity (wildlife) and climate change, however we couldn't really talk about these due to lack of time but yes the changing climate is in a way threatening the wildlife around us and we need to take a stance for them.  

In my opinion, this is the NEW norm in the city where seeing wildlife will be common. Let's understand that they are NOT coming for us or want to HARM us but, these encounters should remind us that we have been encroaching their lands for long now!!! And therefore we must adjust and learn to live with them side by side, giving them space and respect that they deserve!  

Pournima Agarkar.

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

Additional links:

Check out the video of upcycling focused cafe Zillionth Bistro owned by Saili Jahagirdar.

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Biochar the new Black Gold - Event Update!

Dear All, 

Writing after a long time, this is my first blog of 2021. Hope all are fine and taking all the safety precautions in this difficult times. As we try and settle after almost a yearlong lockdown with the most awaited ‘VACCINE’ having a lot of speculations, we are adapting to the NEW normal. 

The NEW normal is all about working cohesively and in collaboration for fighting towards the biggest challenges posed by climate change. Samuchit Enviro Tech, OrjaBox and Rupa Rahul Baja Centre for Environment and Arts (RRBCEA) are committed towards the same cause and working towards user friendly innovative solutions based on using renewable sources of energy that will help reduce the impacts of climate change happening directly or indirectly.  


One such innovative solution introduced by Samuchit Enviro Tech is biochar, where dried leaves (garden waste) are turned to char which can be used as renewable fuel (termed as new black gold that is climate friendly) and other applications like deodorizers and charcoal soaps. OrjaBox is an initiative run by Vishakha Chandhere which provides Sustainable cooking options using solar cookers and biochar fueled steam cookers based on service model. RRBCEA is a facility located in Empress garden for conducting environment and arts focused initiatives. Samuchit Enviro Tech along with OrjaBox has been conducting regular sessions at RRBCEA on processing biochar and experiencing cooking with renewable energy, namely, solar and biochar.


Its a pleasure to know that this initiative has been received well with corporate leaders like Mrs. Arti Kirloskar and a few government officers who are leading to promote environmental causes. Here's an update on the latest happenings. 


The first demonstration was conducted on the 10th of Feb, 2021 by Ravindra Deshmukh and Prashant Borate from Samuchit Enviro Tech and Vishakha Chandhere and Sujata. This event was focused on showing how to convert waste biomass into biochar using Samuchit's trashflasher kiln, followed by a meal cooked by the OrjaBox team using Solar cookers and Samuchit steam cooker fueled by biochar briquettes. Mrs. Arti Kirloskar and a team of ten members attended this session. Here are some of the photos of this event




The second event was conducted on the 13th February for a group of four people along with Mr. Pramod Jadhav, Upaayukt, Samaj Kalyan Vibhag, Sindhudurg. The focus of this event was a demonstration of the trashflasher kiln. Mr. Pramod Jadhav was so impressed by this, that he purchased a kiln for his own farm in Alibaug. The visitors also could experience the flavour of solar cooking thanks to OrjaBox. Here are some of the photos of this event.





Both the demonstrations were focused on environment and climate friendly ways of managing garden and farm waste and using renewable energy for household cooking. 


We will soon be announcing our next session which would include training on use of biochar for various other applications. Curious to know more? Write to us at for more information. 

  Pournima Agarkar and Vishakha Chandhere.

Like/Follow/Share us on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter  Citizens of Sustainable Pune

Additional links:

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Sustainable Cooking – an imperative solution for the food security challenge

 For thousands of years, cooking has been an integral part of our existence since we learned the application of fire. Over these countless years, cooking has evolved to define our culture, health, and agriculture. In this age of digitization and automation cooking remains one of our core activities -either as a food processing industry or restaurant or cloud kitchen or home cooking. Thus, cooking is a core activity of our existence. It is also one of the most effective ways to address climate change impacts related to food security, fuel availability, nutrition, water management, and agriculture. Cooking is central to numerous aspects of sustainability. It is one single human activity which gives a tremendous opportunity to every individual- rich or poor, educated or uneducated to contribute positively towards achieving sustainability.

Food Security Challenge:

Nearly 800[1] million people go hungry every day around the world, more than 2 billion lack the nutrients required for a healthy life, and one-third of the global population is expected to be overweight or obese by 2030, according to the Global Panel on Agriculture and Food Systems for Nutrition. By 2050 the world population will rise to 9 billion people.

Here is a comprehensive picture of the challenge that we face regarding access to clean cooking. 

Access to Clean Cooking

Climate change will make the task of feeding this large population challenging. Unpredictable droughts and floods, erratic temperature changes will largely impact agricultural produce.

With growing urbanization, arable land will reduce largely. Increased air, water, and soil pollution will adversely impact the quality and quantity of arable land.

Cooking is an important decision-making step between the production and consumption of food. This important step can help us address the food security challenge.

The following elements of sustainable cooking help us to address climate change with our individual efforts. When each one who cooks and consumes food, consciously integrates these elements then collectively we can address one of the most urgent challenges i.e Food Security.


  • ·       Giving preference to green fuels like bioenergy and solar energy for cooking, drying, and even cooling whenever possible.
  • ·       Selection of efficient cookstoves as per buying capacity
  • ·       Keeping the right balance between plant-based and animal-based diet. Overindulgence of both or total abstinence from either would have impending consequences on food availability and health.
  • ·       Using as many as locally grown food ingredients. The travel and growth emissions of food ingredients have to be minimum. Growing a few vegetables and fruits would be an added advantage considering the health and hygiene aspects as well.
  • ·       Cooking traditional and seasonal cuisines is an important step towards reducing storage and preservation-related energy emissions.
  • ·       Keeping a check on food wastage is quantitatively the most impactful ways of addressing the food security challenge. Processing leftovers by composting or converting into new dishes is one effective way everyone can contribute towards this step. Sharing food and food ingredients will be an added advantage.
  • ·       Judiciously use the ready to eat and ready to cook food items, while keeping a check on the food budget and consumption balance.

 Let us start our sustainable cooking journey by integrating these elements into our cooking styles. Write to us at for more information on sustainable cooking activities.

Saturday, October 31, 2020

My City My Responsibility - Rethinking Cooking Styles!!!

 Dear All,

Solar cooked food

Its been a long time since we interacted, lockdown and the whole Work from Home (WFH) mode has made our lives much more busier than the Precovid19 times. Nevertheless, now is THE time for all resetting and reforming of our lifestyles for better from the perspective of quality of life.   

Food is an essential component of our lives since ages, during the pandemic we witnessed that its our home cooked food that literally kept us going when all the restaurants and fast food joints were locked. I believe that the way we COOK our food matters a lot from health and nutrition perspective, I would like to share a recent experience where I had food that was cooked on renewable sources like solar  and biochar briquettes. 

Vishakha Chandhere an entrepreneur and owner of OrjaBox has been experimenting with various cooking methods using different solar cooking devices for promoting Sustainable cooking. I was invited by her to experience slow cooked food prepared on various different solar devices and biochar briquettes. The menu for the day was vegetable pulao, muffins, veg sandwich and tomato soup. All this was cooked using solar energy, everything was flavorful, cooked well and for preparing all this it took not more than an hour, if we leave the preliminary prep time. This is one of the major benefits of solar cooking, once the preliminary arrangements are done, then we simply can do whatever we want while the food gets cooked on its own, unlike cooking on LPG or PNG where we tend to wait and watch over the food being cooked.  

I used to often feel that preparing food on solar cooking devices is time consuming. However this is not true anymore, effectively it takes almost the same time to cook food on the LPG or PNG burner if we consider the preparation time as well. There are several other benefits too of using renewable energy for cooking. 

So, slow cooked food is not only flavorful but also nutritious. In this fast paced life, where we were busy looking at fast food alternatives that are quick and easy to grab, the pandemic taught us to pause a bit, look back and reflect. I think this also applies to our food preparing habits. Health has been the top priority now, having nutritious food is the key to a good health. Additional benefit of using such alternate cooking device is, that its carbon neutral. It means if you are cooking your entire food using renewable energy like solar or biomass or biogas, then you are NOT contributing to the carbon emissions happening due to cooking. Thus effectively contributing to reduction in global carbon emissions.   

Vishakha Chandhere has organized a face to face interactive session titled Taste the Sun on this Sunday from 11 am to 2.30 pm. Here you will be able to see all the solar cooking devices that she has been using, enjoy solar cooked nutritious food along with interesting games and discussions.  

To experience a glimpse of this lifestyle, register here:
Poster of the event

 Pournima Agarkar.

Monday, August 31, 2020

My City My Responsibility - Citizens Participatory Budget by Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC)

Dear All,

ASKs for this year's budget

We request Puneities to participate in the Citizens Participatory Budget Process in large numbers. Click HERE to access the form. Note: Kindly use Internet explorer/Microsoft edge or Mozilla Firefox as a browser for filling up this form. 

The following asks have emerged from the Citizens' Charter for Sustainable Pune published last year based on a series of consultations held in the city over a two year period. We request citizens to use the participatory budget process to get their own demands fulfilled. This can be effectively done if the citizens strategically focus on just a few asks every year. Please consider putting the following three ASKs to the PMC as a step towards making your ward inclusive, safe, sustainable and resilient. 

ASK 1: Biomedical waste collection and processing centre

: Biomedical waste is generated not just in medical facilities but also in our homes. This waste category includes diapers, sanitary pads, used contraceptives, used masks, used gloves, etc. These wastes need to be handled with utmost care. Since there is a danger of harmful bacteria and viruses spreading through such wastes, it is legally mandated that the waste must be incinerated. Having an incinerator at a convenient location within the ward will minimise handling and transport of this hazardous waste. 

What: The ward level incinerator must operate with maximum efficiency (least energy consumption) and minimum pollution (no smoke, hazardous gases coming out of the chimney). To ensure this an air quality monitor must be placed near the incinerator, and it's real time reading should be available on a monitor in the ward office, for any citizen to see. This data will show if the incinerator is being used, and how safe and clean is the operation. Corrective action must be taken if the emission levels exceed permissible limits. 

ASK 2: Biogas Plant for organic waste management

: Organic waste (food waste, garden waste, etc.) is generated in every house, as well as in commercial establishments like restaurants, mess, etc. as well as in food markets. PMC requires all households to manage their own organic waste, however the bulk waste generated in other places is handled by PMC. Transporting this high volume waste to a central facility, and management of hundreds of tons of such waste daily in a central facility is energy, labour and space intensive. Ward level biogas plants can help manage the organic waste within each ward, more economically and efficiently. Biogas should be the preferred option over composting in this case as it provides a fuel and a fertilizer simultaneously, making the system economically viable. 

WHAT: There are already successful pilots in the city, which can be replicated in all the wards. The energy can be supplied to an establishment (cooking in a community kitchen, or lighting for a community facility, etc.) within the ward. The spent slurry can provide fertilizer to the public and private gardens within the ward. The system must declare daily input and output data on a monitor, and the daily data log should be available for the citizens to see. 

ASK 3: Disaster Management Cell

: A densely populated city is always more susceptible to disasters. With climate change impacts becoming more and more prominent, the city's vulnerability to various new disasters is increasing. Every ward faces different challenges in this context. Therefore every ward must have a disaster management cell that can continuously examine and update the ward level disaster preparedness plan, conduct training and orientations for citizens and other stakeholders within the ward, and help the citizens deal with the disasters as and when required.

WHAT: Disaster management cell is needed at the ward level with a specially designated staff. The cell must have access to the necessary hands on training and orientation facility, along with a data and communication centre.  

The last date to fill this form is 3rd September 2020. So HURRY UP and raise your voice for your ward!!!

Dr Priyadarshini Karve & Pournima Agarkar. 

Like/Follow/Share us on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter  Citizens of Sustainable Pune  

Wednesday, August 19, 2020


 कोविड-१९ ची साथ सुरू झाली तेव्हापासून भारतात पुरेसे टेस्टिंग केले नाही, तर परिस्थिती अटोक्यात आणण्याच्या प्रयत्नांना यश मिळणार नाही, हा मुद्दा मी अनेकांशी बोलताना मांडला होता. काही लोकांना हे पटतं, काही लोक सरकारी आकडेवारीतल्या ठरावीक गोष्टींकडे बोट दाखवून आपण परिस्थिती फार चांगली हाताळतोय, सर्व काही चांगलं आहे, असा युक्तिवाद करतात. मागच्या महिन्यात कोविड-१९ने माझ्या कुटुंबात प्रवेश केला. आमचा रुग्ण सुदैवाने आता बरा झाला आहे. त्यांची लागण तुलनेने सौम्य होती, दवाखान्यात भरती व्हायची वेळ आली नाही, घरीच विलगीकरण आणि डॉक्टरांच्या सल्ल्याने काळजी घेऊन ही वेळ निभावून गेली. घरातील इतर लोकांनीही टेस्ट करून घेतल्या व त्या निगेटिव्ह आल्या. पण या निमित्ताने सरकारी यंत्रणा या बाबतीत काय करत आहेत, याचा मला स्वतःला अनुभव आला. या बद्दल लिहिण्याचा विचार करत असतानाच पुण्यातील सिरो सर्व्हेचे निष्कर्ष आले आहेत, आणि पुण्यात ज्या भागात सर्वात जास्त रुग्णसंख्या सातत्याने राहिली आहे, तिथे निम्म्याहून अधिक लोकांना कोविड-१९ ची बाधा होऊन गेली आहे, असे त्यात म्हटले आहे. यावरून अनेक चुकीचे निष्कर्ष काढले जात आहेत, हेही मला समाजमाध्यमातील प्रतिक्रियांवरून दिसते आहे. म्हणून आजचे हे कोविड पुराण. 

प्रथम व्यक्तिगत अनुभवाबद्दल. कोविड-१९ ची चाचणी घेण्यासाठी ठिकठिकाणी यंत्रणा आहेत, पण आमच्या रुग्णाचे वय, व त्या वेळची अशक्तपणाची स्थिती लक्षात घेता आम्ही घरी बोलावून नमुना देण्याचा पर्याय निवडला. ह्याची पध्दत व्यवस्थित बसलेली आहे. मात्र सगळ्या गोष्टी व्हॉट्सॅपच्या माध्यमातून होत असल्याने इलेक्ट्रॉनिक माध्यमाच्या वापराची सवय नसलेल्यांसाठी हे जरा अवघड होऊ शकते, असे वाटले. चाचणीचा निकाल पॉझिटिव्ह आल्यानंतर तो आधी शासकीय यंत्रणेला कळवला जातो, आणि मग रुग्णाकडे पाठवला जातो. या पध्दतीचे नेमके प्रयोजन काय आहे? केवळ आकडेवारी अद्ययावत करणे, यासाठीच ही पध्दत आहे का? 

मला एक किमान अपेक्षा अशी होती, की ज्या यंत्रणेकडे हा चाचणीचा निकाल जातो, त्यांच्याकडून निकालाच्या कागदावर असलेल्या दूरध्वनीवर ताबडतोब संपर्क साधला जाईल, आणि पुढे काय करायला हवे, कोणते पर्याय आहेत, याबद्दल काही प्राथमिक मार्गदर्शन केले जाईल. 

आमच्या हाती चाचणीचा अहवाल आला तो पुण्यातल्या दुसऱ्या लॉकडाउनमधल्या शेवटचा काळ होता - शुक्रवार २४ जुलै. ह्या काळात पुण्यात रुग्णसंख्या टिपेला पोहचलेली होती. त्यामुळे शासकीय यंत्रणांवर ताण असणार हे मला अगदीच मान्य आहे. पण तरीही महानगरपालिकेकडून पहिला संपर्क साधला गेला तो सोमवारी, म्हणजे दोन दिवसांनंतर. हे माझ्या मते फार उशीरा आहे.

तोपर्यंत आम्ही विचार विनिमय करून डॉक्टरांच्या सल्ल्याने घरीच विलगीकरण करून रुग्णाची शुश्रुषा एकाच व्यक्तीने करायचा निर्णय घेतलेला होता. तापाचे आणि ऑक्सिजन पातळीचे सातत्याने मोजमापही घेत होतो. परिस्थिती बिघडू लागली तर कोणत्या हॉस्पिटलमध्ये जाता येईल, याचेही नियोजन केले होते. सोमवारी महानगरपालिकेकडून संपर्क होईपर्यंत ही सर्व घडी बसली होती, व रुग्णाची प्रकृती हळूहळू सुधारूही लागली होती. महानगरपालिकेच्या प्रतिनिधीने डॉक्टरांनी घरी विलगीकरण करायला परवानगी दिली आहे, याचा पुरावा फक्त मागितला, पण घरी विलगीकरण करणे शक्य आहे का, विलगीकरण म्हणजे नेमके काय करायचे याची घरातल्या लोकांना माहिती आहे का, याबाबत कोणतीही खातरजमा करून घेतली नाही. घरी थर्मामीटर आणि ऑक्सिमीटर आहे का, हाही प्रश्न विचारला नाही.  

मात्र डॉक्टरांची शिफारस व्हॉट्सॅपवर पाठवल्यानंतर वेगाने हालचाली झाल्या. त्याच दिवशी दाराजवळ विलगीकरण असल्याचे स्टिकर लावले, त्यावर चाचणीचा निकाल आल्यापासून दोन आठवड्यांनंतरची तारीख टाकली गेली. घरात व इमारतीत निर्जंतुकीकरण केले गेले, घरातला कचरा उचलण्यासाठी वेगळी यंत्रणा कार्यरत केली गेली. या साऱ्या गोष्टी व्हायला हव्या तश्या झाल्या. त्यांनंतरही रोज महानगरपालिकेतून फोनवर रुग्णाच्या प्रकृतीची, तापमान आणि ऑक्सिजन पातळीची चौकशी केली जात होती. महानगरपालिकेच्या पथकाने इमारतीतील इतर रहिवाशांनाही भेट दिली व चाचणी करून घेण्याचा सल्ला दिला, असे नंतर शेजाऱ्यांनी सांगितले.  या साऱ्या काळात पुणे महानगरपालिकेच्या ज्या ज्या कर्मचाऱ्यांशी प्रत्यक्ष किंवा फोनवर संपर्क आला, ते आपले काम तळमळीने, संयमाने व जिव्हाळ्याने करताना दिसले, हेही नमूद करायला हवे. सर्वांच्या चाचण्या करून घेणे, इतर काही अडचणी सोडवणे, इ. साठी पुण्यातील लोकप्रतिनिधींकडूनही चांगले सहकार्य मिळाले.

सोमवारीच पोलिस खात्याकडूनही फोनवर संपर्क झाला. त्यांनी रुग्ण व्यक्ती आधी कोठे बाहेर गेली होती का, संसर्ग कसा झाला असेल असे तुम्हाला वाटते, घरात इतर व्यक्ती कोण आहेत, त्याच मजल्यावर शेजारी रहाणाऱ्यांची नावे काय आहेत, या सर्वांनी चाचणी केली का, असे प्रश्न विचारले. कुटुंबातील व्यक्तींनी चाचणीचे नियोजन तोवर केलेले होते. संसर्ग कसा आणि केव्हा झाला असावा, याबद्दल नेमके काहीच कळत नव्हते. आम्हालाही याबाबत उत्सुकता होती. पोलिस आता कॉंटॅक्ट ट्रेसिंग करण्याच्या दृष्टीने प्रश्न विचारतील, त्यावरून आणखी लोकांच्या चाचण्या केल्या जातील, असा माझा होरा होता. पण यातले काहीच झाले नाही. घरातील लोकांनी चाचण्या केल्या का, हे विचारण्यासाठी पुढे दोन-तीन दिवस पोलिसांकडून फोन आले, पण चौकशी इतकीच काय ती झाली. 

७ ऑगस्टला आमच्या रुग्णाचे विलगीकरण संपले. तोवर त्यांची प्रकृती बऱ्यापैकी सुधारलीही होती. रूग्ण व्यक्तीच्या मोबाईल फोनवरील आरोग्य सेतू  ऍप या सर्व कालावधीत, तुम्ही सुरक्षित आहात, असा निर्वाळा देत होते, हे विशेष!

या सगळ्यामध्ये शासकीय यंंत्रणांच्या कामात मला दोन मोठ्या त्रुटी जाणवल्या. 

१. रुग्ण घरी विलगीकरणात रहाणार असेल, तर किमान लेखी सूचनांचे पत्रक त्यांना व्हॉट्सॅपवर पाठवायला हवे. यामध्ये घरातील इतर लोकांनी काय काळजी घ्यायची ह्याचे मार्गदर्शन केलेले असावे. व्हिडिओद्वारे सुध्दा हे करायला हरकत नाही. प्रत्येक व्यक्तीला फोनवर प्रत्यक्ष सांगणे अडचणीचे असेल, हे मला मान्य आहे. पण जर व्हॉट्सॅप द्वारे रुग्णांकडून माहिती घेतली जात आहे, तर त्याच माध्यमातून माहिती दिलीही जाऊ शकते. रुग्णाची काळजी घेताना होणाऱ्या चुका टाळल्या तर एका रुग्णाकडून सर्व कुटुंबात संसर्ग पसरणे काही अंशी थांबू शकेल, आणि कुटुंबेच्या कुटुंबे एकत्र आजारी पडलेली दिसताहेत, ते काही प्रमाणात टाळता येईल.  

२. पोलिसांनी किंवा महानगरपालिकेने कॉंटॅक्ट ट्रेसिंगची यंत्रणा उभी करून काटेकोरपणे राबवणे अत्यंत आवश्यक आहे. एकतर मोठ्या प्रमाणावर सरसकट चाचण्या घ्या. हे परवडत नाही, तर कॉंटॅक्ट ट्रेसिंग चांगले झालेच पाहिजे. प्रत्येक रुग्णाच्या संपर्कात आलेल्या किंवा संपर्काचा संशय असलेल्या सर्व व्यक्तींची ताबडतोब चाचणी, ही प्रक्रिया सुरूवातीपासून राबवली गेली असती, तर अनेकांचा आजार बळावण्यापू्र्वी त्यांचे निदान झाले असते, आणि गंभीर आजाराचे व मृत्यूचे प्रमाण कमी राखता आले असते. कोणतीही लक्षणे नसलेले पण हिंडते फिरते असल्याने इतरांना संसर्ग देणारे बाधितही सापडले असते, व त्यांचे विलगीकरण करूनही रोगाचा प्रसार थांबवता आला असता. 

या साऱ्या अनुभवाच्या पार्श्वभूमीवर मी जेव्हा सिरो सर्व्हेचे निष्कर्ष पहाते, तेव्हा माझ्या विचारांना पुष्टीच मिळताना दिसते. कोणतीही लक्षणे नसलेले बाधित इतक्या मोठ्या संख्येने शहराच्या सर्वात कडक लॉकडाउन असलेल्या भागांमध्ये होते आणि ते सापडलेच नाहीत, हे कॉंटॅक्ट ट्रेसिंग अजिबात योग्य पध्दतीने झाले नाही आणि लोकांनी लॉकडाऊन योग्य पध्दतीने पाळला नाही, हेच दर्शवते. लॉकडाउनच्या काळात या ठिकाणी मोठ्या प्रमाणावर सरसकट सर्वांचे टेस्टिंग करणे हा पर्यायही वापरला गेलेला नाही. त्यामुळे बाधितांची संख्या वाढतच गेली, हे महानगर पालिकेची यंत्रणा आणि आपण सारे नागरिक या सर्वांचे अपयश आहे.  

अनेक लोकांना बाधा होऊनही फार त्रास झाला नाही, त्यामुळे कोविड-१९चा उगाचच बाऊ केला आहे, उगाचच लॉकडाऊन केला, अशी शेरेबाजी आता केली जाते आहे. पण रोगाचा प्रसार होतच गेला आणि त्यामुळे पुण्याच्या सामाजिक जीवनात महत्त्वाचे योगदान देणारे कितीतरी मोहरे आपण हकनाक गमावले, हेही विसरता कामा नये. आणि ज्या अनेक सर्वसामान्यांचे जीव गेले, तेही काही कमी मोलाचे नाहीत. त्यांच्या कुटुंबियांचे कधीही भरून न येणारे नुकसान झालेले आहे. लॉकडाउनही नसता, तर ही परिस्थिती आणखी किती हाताबाहेर गेली असती, हे सांगता येणे अवघड आहे. 

कोविड-१९ मधून बरे झालेल्या अनेकांना आता इतर काही आजार होत आहेत, एकंदर आरोग्यावर झालेले इतर परिणाम आता डोके वर काढत आहेत, अशीही माहिती आता समोर येत आहे. बाधा होऊनही लक्षणे नसलेल्यांवर या विषाणूचे काही परिणाम झाले असतील का, याचा त्यांच्या दीर्घकालीन आरोग्यावर काही परिणाम होईल का, या प्रश्नांची उत्तरे आपल्याला अजून माहीत नाहीत. एकदा बाधा होऊन गेलेल्यांनाही पुन्हा बाधा होऊ शकते, असेही दिसलेले आहे. अशा परिस्थितीत हे लोक पुन्हा लक्षणांविना रहातील, की त्यांना आणखी मोठ्या अडचणींचा सामना करावा लागेल, हेही पहावे लागेल. 

एकंदरीतच पुण्यातील खूप मोठ्या संख्येने लोकांना कदाचित कोविड-१९ची बाधा होऊन गेली असल्याचे वृत्त हे आपल्याला आपल्या कोविड-१९ विरोधातील यंत्रणेतल्या त्रुटी दाखवते आहे, आणि सर्वांनी जास्त काळजी घ्यायला पाहिजे, हे सांगते आहे. याच्या उलट निष्कर्ष काढणे म्हणजे स्वतःच्या आणि इतरांच्या जीवाशी खेळणे आहे. 

भारतात एकंदरच रुग्णसंख्या वाढतच चालली आहे. भारतात कोठेही खूप व्यापक प्रमाणावर टेस्टिंग होत नाही, आणि कॉंटॅक्ट ट्रेसिंगही योग्य पध्दतीने केले जात नाही. त्यामुळे भारतातील इतर ठिकाणच्या सिरो सर्व्हेचे निष्कर्षही असेच येतील. पण याचा अर्थ भारतात आता कळपाची रोगप्रतिकार शक्ती आली आहे, तर बिनधास्त सगळे सुरू करू, असा जर काढला, तर हे आणखी मोठ्या संकटाला आमंत्रण देणे ठरेल. 

शांत डोक्याने विचार करा, पहा पटतंय का. 

भारतातील कोविड-१९ साथीबाबतची विविध प्रकारची माहिती, इतर देशांशी तुलना, इ. पहाण्यासाठी ही लिंक जरूर पहा. विशेषतः वेगवेगळ्या देशांमध्ये किती चाचण्या होत आहेत, आणि आपण त्यात कोठे आहोत, ही आकडेवारी तर पहाच पहा. 

प्रियदर्शिनी कर्वे
समुचित एन्व्हायरो टेक


Samuchit Enviro Tech.