Tuesday, June 26, 2018

My City My Responsibility - Plastic a boon or a curse!

Dear All, 

The plastic ban effective from 23rd June has triggered pro-environment emotions among many people to support the ban and are exploring alternatives that can replace all the plastic. While on the other hand there are many people who just think that the ban is unfair since it targets cheap plastic carry bags and not the packaging industry which is the bigger culprit. However, the plastic ban can be a first step towards sustainable waste management only if the government provides proper channel for the management of plastic wastes instead of penalizing people for using plastic.  

This is not the first time plastic is banned, the first ban on plastic carry bags came in the year 2006 where the use of plastic carry bags having less than 50 microns in thickness was banned through the Maharashtra Plastic Carry Bags (Manufacture and Usage) Rules, 2006 but it did not serve its purpose due to lack of strict enforcement, no clarification on intention as to why only 50 microns etc. thus lack of effective awareness creation by the government led to the failure of the plastic ban in 2006. Now, there is a lot of awareness about plastic wastes menace but the way the 2018 ban is implemented is still questionable.  

Reused plastic can
(Courtesy: Smita Mehetre)
It is important to note that despite the environmental and health hazards caused due to plastic wastes, plastic wasn't invented with that intention. I would like to narrate one such example from an article written by Dr. Priyadarshini Karve on Plastic (Source: E-Shaishanik Sundarbh 111 Apr-May 2018). Back in the 18th century, the discovery of plastic replaced ivory that was largely used in the making of billiard balls, this ivory would be fetched by slaughtering elephants for their tusk's, it rampantly depleted the elephant population. In 1869, John W. Hyatt, invented the first plastic by treating cellulose which formed a good substitute for ivory and was rewarded $10,000. This discovery actually saved lives of elephants from extinction and plastic became a boon for people as it was cheap, easily moldable into any shape or size and durable. I am sure everyone will agree with me on the benefits of plastic, then why are we facing so many problems with plastic wastes???

I feel its our one time use and throw attitude because when we throw it away it goes no where but comes back to us. As I have already mentioned in my earlier blogs that until our attitude towards consumption does not change, we are always going to fall in this vicious cycle. However with our generation which is full of innovation and is conscious we can replace plastic with anything better just by changing our behavior, or by finding a better way of dealing with plastics or by inventing some new material. Its in our hands to make plastic a boon or a curse! 

Pournima Agarkar.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

My City My Responsibility - Is World Environment Day 2018 over

Dear All, 

Though the 'World Environment Day' celebrated on the 5th of June every year, is officially over.
I believe that everyday is environment day since our lives are completely dependent on the environment resources in all our day to day activities. I would like to list down the major environmental resources that we access daily.
The first and the most essential resource required for life on earth is water that is fetched from the lakes and the rivers for us right into our homes through the tap water.
Forest produce helps us procure the raw materials required for our clothing, furniture, housing cosmetics etc.
All the forms of energy renewable and non renewable that we use for cooking, heating, lighting, cooling, travelling and entertainment all comes directly or indirectly from the environment.
Availability of fresh air another most important resource for our survival is freely available in nature.
Soil/land plays a crucial role in providing us the food and the shelter which form part of our basic needs.
Today all these resources are either terribly polluted or nearing to depletion due to over exploitation by us through our lifestyles, behavior, unsustainable development or simply ignorance.
Hence it is crucial for US to acknowledge these threats and ACT in a sustainable manner since OUR survival is under threat without the appropriate environment.
With the help of the image below let us learn to connect with nature in our daily activities.
source: www.tes.com

Pournima Agarkar. 

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

My City My Responsibility - Sustainably Smart city

Dear All, 

I have been travelling in the last few weeks to a lot of places from Vizag-Delhi-Tokyo-Mexico-Pune and all the while I missed blogging, however after this long journey, I would like to share some of the insights of my journey through the sustainability lens. 

For conducting carbon audit of Laya Resource centre, I got an opportunity to visit Visakhapatnam (Vizag in short). Vizag is one of the smart city having a coastal ecosystem with clean beaches having toilets considering disabled people which is rarely seen. The streets and beaches were free from plastic wastes to an extent though there is no official ban! However, in the wave of beautification, the city has set up several statues of babies and wildlife all around the city which made the city look colorful but a bit weird! 

Meanwhile I could attend a RWA (Resident Welfare Association) meet where citizens gathered to discuss waste management issues in their areas which I feel is a good step towards attaining sustainability through citizens' participation which is otherwise not a common thing in Vizag.   

India Gate, Delhi
Happened to visit Delhi yet another smart city in the making, which consists of rich cultural heritage worth seeing (amidst the heavily polluted air and extreme weather pattern). The people in the city seem to be used to the drama happening in and around the city and have become resilient to it. Especially the safety issues, religious protests and terror attacks and all is quite a norm for all. On other hand,  where I attended a conference on #youthwagingpeace by UNESCO MGIEP. I could see a lot of young Delhites advocating for peace against violent extremism in the name of religion, caste, gender, safety, education etc. Met a 17 year old Rohingya community boy educating his community as a social service since he believes that education alone can help improve the situation of his community. I feel that the youth undertaking such initiatives in the city like Delhi can be a wise and sustainable way forward for the capital city. 

Then I landed in Tokyo, en-route to Mexico where I was to attend the conclusion event of my Mentoring for Leadership program on #EducationforSustainableDevelopment. I had a layover of 11 hours at the Tokyo/Narita airport. The airport is huge, it displays various forms of Japanese art and theatre through art galleries inside the airport. Even here I noticed that the washrooms were designed inclusively for the safety and support of mothers with babies, for blind by having braille and audio visual facility, disabled friendly and very user friendly. Inclusiveness which is one of the key aspects of sustainability is so well imbibed in their approach that portrays Sustainable smartness.  

Finally reached Mexico, and my program was held in the University of Guanajuato in Leon, a small city around 380 kms away from Mexico city. I got an opportunity to present our work on Sustainability in the public space of the University and was appreciated by all the people who visited the stand. From here I traveled to the heritage city of Guanajuato. The city is situated in a valley and is full of alleys which makes it walking and biking friendly. Its a good way to connect to the city and also good for health. The city has several tunnels for the cars and buses to move in and out of the city. Various aspects of sustainability could be seen in and around the city that makes it a livable city.

All the above aspects can be easily adopted in Pune city to make it a Sustainably smart city. Our city is rich in culture and heritage. Especially the central part of the city if kept free from four wheelers can be maintained and promoted as the heritage area of the city. The activeness of the citizens and the youth in the city make it a vibrant and live city which can ensure good governance in the city. Appropriate use of ICT can make our city disaster resistant and user friendly. Waste management and conservation of our natural resources will make us a ecologically robust city.

So what is holding us back from being a Sustainably Smart city???

Pournima Agarkar.