Friday, May 31, 2019

My City My Responsibility - World Environment Day initiatives!

Dear All, 

The World Environment Day is approaching soon and this years theme is Air Pollution. China is the host country this year. China has been investing heavily in renewable energy, energy efficiency and electric cars. China also suffers the impacts of air pollution to the extent of Beijing city coming to a halt several days during winter due to bad air quality. So it seems China may be the best host for this year's theme on fighting air pollution.

Last year India was the host country and the theme was to Beat Plastic Pollution, as a country we pledged to Ban Single Use Plastic completely by 2020. In Pune, there was a plastic ban movement which worked quite well for sometime, however lack of better and effective alternatives resulted in this initiative taking a back seat for now. However I feel that this initiative did create a consciousness among the Puneites about the ill effects of plastic to an extent and people have reduced using plastic items that are just Use and Throw...I really hope that we will continue this momentum.

Coming back to this year's theme, we all know a lot about air pollution and how it is affecting our health, increasing the number of deaths each year. We are also aware of the sources of air pollution in India. In case of Pune one of the major sources of air pollution has been vehicular emissions. Pune was a cycle city in past (though we are reviving it again through the Pune Cycle Plan) its the two wheeler city still to an extent and it looks like we are heading towards a four wheeler city. This means more dependence on fossil fuels, increase in traffic congestion, increase in travel time per trip and thus increase in vehicular emissions which is closely related to increase in carbon emissions and ultimately causing unsustainability. 

Considering this year's theme lets explore our public transport system. Can we as citizens use the existing bus service for a week in Pune while we commute to our work and back, whenever possible. Lets take any one week in this month and try to explore the Public mode of transport i.e the PMPML buses. Lets use the Bus Week as an action to curb air pollution as an individual. Lets document the experience with our buses and also brainstorm on its improvement and workability for all of us sometime in the next month. Also lets take a selfie with the bus. I am attaching a google form with this blog. Please fill in the form in order to help us document your experience. Click Here.

Some quick observations while using a public transport would be to see if the buses are on time, well maintained or clean, there is place to sit or stand comfortably, safe from theft, stalkers etc, travel time taken, frequency of the buses, condition of the bus, ease of last mile connectivity like whats the distance of the bus stop from your work or office space etc. 

As we are exploring this facility, I would suggest following pointers that will enable us to use the service effectively. 

  • We all use smart phones enabled with GPS, there's a feature known as OK Google in all phones. Just type in ' buses near me' in this tab and you will be able to see the nearest bus stop. 
  • We all use Google maps, just put your location and destination and select the bus option. You will see the bus number, all buses for those routes, scheduled time of arrival and approx time taken to reach the destination, they also give bus fare sometimes. 
  • You can also use the PMPML app for all information related to the buses. 
  • Lets be prepared to leave our homes an hour or an half early (i know its a bit too much) to reach anywhere since there is a lot of traffic congestion during peak hours.   
  • Lets be ready to walk or take a rickshaw from the bus stop to our destination since many a times we may not have bus stops right next to our destination. 
  • Lets see how much that will help in savings on transport for a week. 
  • Lets not compromise as well, if its not convenient to use the public transport, however still give your feedback as to why its not feasible to use the buses.
Selfie in the bus

We at Samuchit, LAYA and INECC are part of a study project to make Pune a Sustainably SMART city by 2030 and part of ClimateCollectivePune (CCP) a network working towards making Pune a Carbon Neutral city by 2030. Going low carbon is the first step towards Sustainability and hence we are promoting this idea as part of this year's Environment Day. 

Looking forward to more selfies with the bus. In case of any queries please write to me at

You can also like/follow/comment on our FB and instagram page: Citizens of Sustainable Pune

Pournima Agarkar.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

My City My Responsibility - Access to Open Spaces to all

Dear All, 

Last year, we collected a few citizens' perspectives on certain issues related to Urban Sustainability. These included Housing, Transport, Governance or Peoples Participation, Heritage (both Cultural and Natural), Waste management and Air pollution, Disaster Risk Assessment and Green Open Spaces. For relating it to a broader vision, we used the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) framework especially the SDG 11 which deals with making cities and settlements sustainable. We compiled all citizens inputs and formed the Citizens Charter for Sustainable Pune. In our event on Citizens Charter and Action Agenda for Sustainable Pune we shared the same document with all of you. On analyzing all the Citizen inputs, we realized that if these inputs are put up as actionable points it will be a good guideline to follow by all.

Previous blogs focused on HousingTransportParticipatory planning and ManagementCultural & Natural Heritage and Disaster Prepardness for all, Environmental management for all under SDG 11. The last target under SDG 11 is about access to open spaces that are green, safe and inclusive. 

Lets see how can we achieve this one.  

Firstly, there is a need to define the open spaces appropriately, since there are some open spaces which should promote people’s interaction and recreation while there are some open spaces that should have minimal to low human interference so that they are retained as the lungs of the city. Identifying such spaces is essential. Based on the mapping, spaces that are suitable for people’s recreation should be designed in an inclusive manner considering all the stakeholders in the society. Open spaces that are green need to be kept with minimal human intervention and can be used for educational purposes or simply for restoration of the local ecosystem. From our survey we found that Pune has enough of public open spaces but the safety, inclusiveness and affordability is a matter of concern in such places. While we are encroaching upon a lot of green open spaces that need to be restored or simply kept untouched.    

  Individual Level

  • Let’s use our public spaces in a responsible manner by not littering or spitting in such space.
  • Let’s preserve and conserve our green open spaces like rivers, gardens and parks as well in a responsible manner.

Community Level

  • Let’s advocate for safe public spaces for all.
  • Let’s work with the governing authorities in maintaining these spaces since community ownership comes with community participation.
  • Let’s advocate for an inclusively designed open space.
  • Let’s keep a watch that no illegal or criminal activities are happening in these spaces that harm the peace in the city, check the feasibility of working with the governing authorities for volunteering for such purposes.
  • Let’s advocate for better sanitation facilities in public spaces.
  • Let’s check the feasibility of using these spaces in a creative manner which enhances the social and cultural gathering that reduce the gap between different sections of the society.

Governance Level

  • Ensure that public spaces are designed in an inclusive manner considering a holistic approach.
  • Explore the feasibility of maintaining cleanliness, through signages and instructions for people in order to maintain the spaces.
  • In case of any garden or green area that needs to be created into a public space care should be taken to keep them as natural as possible instead of adding a lot of paving or concrete in these areas.
  • Strict enforcement and penalties should be levied on illegal or criminal activities noticed in any public space.
  • The fees if any for accessing the public spaces should be affordable to all sections of the society.
  • Riverbed areas, hill slopes or hill tops accessed by people should be demarcated as green areas and no construction zones in the Development Plan.
  • Ensure that any green public space should promote biodiversity conservation and should be maintained accordingly.

This is last blog in the series of blogs on targets under SDG11. Please send in your inputs and suggestions to us on our Facebook page: Citizens of Sustainable PuneAlso please like, comment and share our page, through which we are promoting Sustainable cities. You can also email me at

Pournima Agarkar.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

My City My Responsibility - Environmental Management for all

Dear All, 

Last year, we collected a few citizens' perspectives on certain issues related to Urban Sustainability. These included Housing, Transport, Governance or Peoples Participation, Heritage (both Cultural and Natural), Waste management and Air pollution, Disaster Risk Assessment and Green Open Spaces. For relating it to a broader vision, we used the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) framework especially the SDG 11 which deals with making cities and settlements sustainable. We compiled all citizens inputs and formed the Citizens Charter for Sustainable Pune. In our event on Citizens Charter and Action Agenda for Sustainable Pune we shared the same document with all of you. On analyzing all the Citizen inputs, we realized that if these inputs are put up as actionable points it will be a good guideline to follow by all.

Previous blogs focused on HousingTransportParticipatory planning and ManagementCultural & Natural Heritage and Disaster Prepardness for all under SDG 11. In this blog I will be writing about Environmental Management from wastes and air pollution perspective. 

This target under SDG 11 focuses specifically on reducing per capita environmental impacts due to waste generation and air pollution happening in the cities. By now, we all know about the impacts of waste and air pollution. Yet, waste management continues to be a challenge in Pune, and the scenario with air pollution seems to be degrading day by day. In fact waste and air pollution go hand in hand. For instance, burning wastes in open air is a strategy for waste management but it causes air pollution to a great extent.

The UN indicator for this target is all about share of recycling and reusing the waste to at least 50% or more in the overall scenario of waste management. However, in India getting such data at the city level is challenging since the major problem is collection itself. From the Pune's service level benchmark data it has been observed that only 53% of wastes are collected through the door to door collection system, though all of this is properly disposed off as recycled and reused or incinerated. What happens to the 47% waste that is not being collected? How much of this is not coming into the Pune municipal corporation's waste management system because it is being recycled, reused, or otherwise scientifically disposed off at source, and how much of it is ending up littering roadsides, hillslopes, river beds, nallahs, etc.? In spite of having all the standards and policies in place, what is holding us back from effectively managing our waste is the question in front of us. When asked the citizens these were the responses.

Individual Level:
  • Lets be conscious of our habits related to waste generation that creates pollution on land or water. 
  • Lets monitor our consumption patterns and have a lifestyle that mimics nature where there is no waste, everything is reused and recycled in an efficient manner. 
  • Lets show empathy towards our fellow waste managers who toil for managing our waste.
  • Lets cooperate with our governing systems and follow the rules on waste segregation strictly by understanding the health risks due to wastes and pollution.
  • In order to mitigate air pollution due to vehicular emissions, lets ensure timely maintenance of our vehicles. 
  • Lets use public transport wherever possible or walk to distances less than 1 km. 

Community Level:
  • Lets try and keep the areas in our locality also clean and free from wastes. 
  • Lets raise our voice against illegal dumping of wastes and avoid open burning of garden wastes. 
  • Lets advocate for better management of wastes at the society level, for instance for wet waste, we can explore the possibilities of installing a household Biogas system while dry waste can be further segregated and stored at a place and then sold to vendors who recycle. The idea is to ensure that our wastes should not go to the landfill. 
  • Lets explore the possibility of using garden waste in an efficient way by simply putting it back to the plants as mulch or can use the dry leaves for making biochar. For more information checkout my blog on Biochar
  • Lets advocate for strict enforcement of all policies regarding waste management and advocate for better air quality. 
  • Lets advocate for effective decentralized waste management systems. 
  • Lets keep a watch on solid wastes that keep accumulated in our locality and cause a health menace. 

Governance Level: 
  • Ensure strict enforcement of waste management policies. Management of wastes should adhere to the MPCB norms for segregation and disposal.
  • Regarding air pollution, though we have effective monitoring system, there are no effective management systems. There are no strict actions against the polluters. 
  • There is a need for enforcement of penalties for the polluters, local body should involve citizens based monitoring mechanisms. Today our rivers are polluted not only due to the draining of untreated sewage but also because of people dumping wastes into them. There is a need to appoint a security checkpost at all entries to the river to ensure that no one dumps wastes into the rivers and assign penalties on the ones who dont adhere to the norms. 
  • Capacity building among citizens, members of the local body and local organizations working towards waste management should be undertaken through experts in the field. Its important to develop a scientific attitude towards waste management that helps understand the issue holistically. 
  • Emphasis should be given to success stories on waste management and air pollution mitigation measures. 

The list may continue...however, these are a few key inputs given by about 200 people, you can send in your inputs and suggestions to us on our Facebook page: Citizens of Sustainable Pune. Also please like and share our page, we are promoting Sustainable cities. 

OR you can email me at 

Pournima Agarkar.

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

My City My Responsibility - Thane Calling for Sustainable City!

Dear All, 
Poster - Workshop details 

It gives me immense pleasure to announce that we will be presenting our work on Sustainably SMART Pune, Citizens Charter and Action Agenda for Sustainable Pune, Climate Friendly Lifestyle and Sustainable Lifestyle initiatives to a group of Sustainability enthusiasts in Thane on the 11th of May, 2019 from 9.30 am to 5.30 pm.

I am glad that this one day workshop has been arranged by Prasad Dandekar and Amruta Kulkarni who are citizens of Thane just like you and me. They had the desire and enthusiasm to gather a group of like-minded individuals willing to do something for themselves and in turn for their city. 

From 2010 onward, more people reside in cities than in rural areas across the world. By 2030, more than 50% of the population will be residing in cities even in India. Many of the cities that will exist by the end of this century are yet to be built, and most of this development is likely to happen in Asia. We thus have a great opportunity to create livable and sustainable cities. It is however challenging for fast expanding cities like Pune and Thane to adopt a better pathway towards development. We have however come up with a model for urban sustainability for Indian cities, through the case study of Pune. I am glad that I am part of this vision!

I do hope that Pune will be Sustainable one day because of the vibrancy of the citizens. Understanding the impacts of climate crisis, ecological concerns and increasing socio-economic inequity and taking conscious actions to reduce these impacts based on principles of efficiency, inclusiveness, resilience, safety etc., will be required for building a Sustainable future for the cities, and the transition will start with the individual citizens adopting climate friendly lifestyles. Our workshop will also start with this aspect, and move on to discuss possible sustainability pathways for Thane. 

Kindly spread the word about our workshop in Thane, see the poster attached for details of the venue and registrations. You can contact Prasad Dandekar or Amruta Kulkarni for further information.

Follow us on and Instagram and Facebook page: Citizens of Sustainable Pune.
OR email me at

Pournima Agarkar.

Thursday, May 2, 2019

My City My Responsibility - Glimpses of the National Conference on Urban Sustainability

Dear All, 

I am super excited to share some of the highlights of the National Conference on Urban Sustainability, held at YASHADA, Pune on 27 April 2019. I am grateful to everyone for the great response, I am sure it was an enriching experience for you all too who attended the day long event. 

Group Photo at the conference
A special thanks to our Guest of honor Sulakshana Mahajan, I had heard about her and her amazing work in Sustainability but actually got to listen to her for the first time and indeed it was enlightening. We are trying to introduce a new concept of inviting the guest to be a keynote listener and Dr Mahajan graciously obliged us through an apt conclusion of the conference.

I extend my thanks to all the experts and speakers coming all the way for the conference from different cities and states. Mr. Prasad Kokil (Aurangabad) Dr Anil Avhad (Mumbai) and Ms Neha Singh (who pitched in at the last moment) and all the INECC members (coming from Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Bhubaneshwar, Bangalore, Pune and Mumbai) or actively participating in the conference. All the discussions were very thought provoking. Especially the sharing on SMART cities exposed and acknowledged that Pune is not the only SMART city that is facing the issue with prioritizing basic services. I appreciate the patience and acknowledge as well as the time and efforts taken by each and every presenter at the conference - both oral and poster. It was great that most of the papers that we received were on action oriented studies. This was very much in line with our philosophy of wanting to be part of the solutions keeping in mind the problems. We all know the problems, so rather than rehashing them, now its time to act in the right direction and move towards urban sustainability.

Thanks to all the exhibitors for displaying their products and creating a lively atmosphere in the conference. The idea was to start a dialogue among visitors and participants about sustainable lifestyle changes, and I think the exhibition provided the perfect setting for the same. 

The core purpose of this conference was to inform participants about the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) framework, focusing on SDG 11 (making cities and communities Sustainable) and its connections with other SDGs, using Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) as a platform. This event was a part of a research project that I am working on where sensitizing the urban citizens about sustainability in various ways is the main objective.

With our Sustainably SMART Pune study project over the last three years we realized that conscious lifestyle change starts with me, as an individual. In order to achieve Sustainability we have to first change our attitude in order to change the society. ESD empowers us to take the responsibility for ourselves and make the change by taking the appropriate action. Using ESD we could spread awareness and sensitize urban citizens about responsible and conscious behavior. We used SDG 11 as our starting point since it directly targets cities and communities i.e urban citizens and tried to motivate them to emulate model behaviour of a responsible citizen. Through our interactions with citizens of Pune, over the last year or so, we charted down some actionable guidelines at three different levels, i.e individuals, community and governance, for each target under SDG 11. There are limited hard copies of the report, however we will circulate the softcopy in both English and Marathi soon through our Facebook page Citizens of Sustainable Pune. Please check out and comment. We will share all the photos of the conference through a google link and will also upload the videos of the conference on our YouTube link soon.  

Last but not the least I deeply thank the supporters Engagement Global and funders German Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development for enabling us to create an ecosystem of sustainable livelihoods and showing us the pathway to Urban Sustainability through ESD.
Conference Participants @ Urban Sustainability Selfie Corner!

Pournima Agarkar.