Tuesday, September 25, 2018

My City My Responsibility - Alternate riverfront development approach

Dear All, 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pournima Agarkar.


Tuesday, September 18, 2018

My City My Responsibility - Carbon Neutral Campus Workshop!

Dear All, 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Group Discussions

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

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

Group picture

Pournima Agarkar. 

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

My City My Responsibility - Being local specific!

Dear All,

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

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

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

Aspects of Climate vulnerability 
Household survey

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

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

Pournima Agarkar. 

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

My City My Responsibility - Thought for Food

Dear All, 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pournima Agarkar.