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 pournima@samuchit.com 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: https://forms.gle/QiSKdjFqL5m2D3wR9
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.     samuchit@samuchit.com     www.samuchit.com 

Saturday, August 1, 2020

My City My Responsibility - Environment Clearance NOC or Clearing the Environment!!!

Dear All,

Source: Doughnut economics

Listening to all the VOICE by a group of environmental activists and others on the draft EIA notification, I was compelled to throw some light on the agencies and their capacities who authorize an EIA that is the MOEFCC, CPCB and the SPCB during a few years of my work as an Environment Consultant.  

I am an Environmental scientist and immediately after my masters I got an opportunity to work on Green Building Certifications and Environment Impact Assessments (EIA). I was super excited to know that now I can do my bit and create a positive impact on the Environment. Environment is an interdisciplinary and interwoven field full of complex connections and linkages. Its just like a food web that we see in our ecosystem, full of inter-connections. So I felt like working in a primarily 'non-environment' related field is the best opportunity to create these linkages and bridge the gap. That's why I will forever be grateful to have worked in an architectural firm with a group of architects, engineers, management folks and fellow environmentalists. 

When I got introduced to the concepts of green building certification, it was very tough for me to integrate these concepts in LIVE projects. I literally struggled each day right from working on softwares like AutoCAD along with architects and other consultants to the real estate developers in understanding their view point about development and a lot of core concepts on safety, ecology and overall well-being. Nevertheless I found my balance, and could eventually create some positive impact.

One striking feature about the green building certification is that the systems are set, and are locally adapted to an extent and can be effectively managed over a long period. Since I mostly worked on residential projects, I realized engaging the occupants residing in a green building needs to be enforced in order to make the project successful and sustainable. Green building certification process begins right from the planning stage of the project and hence there's a lot of scope for getting green building principles implemented on the ground. Even if not, there are things that can be retrofitted and they still work with a 50% chance. The other 50% mostly depends on the operation and maintenance of the environmental services post occupancy and that's where a green building concept FAILS! Nevertheless a lot of real estate developers undertake this initiative and its appreciable. However only a few of them do it genuinely out of concern for the sake of environment conservation, kudos to them! We need more such kind of environment conscious real estate developers!!!

Regarding Environment Impact Assessments (EIA), as per the 2006 notification, construction projects that have built up area upto 20,000 sqm and above are required to undergo an EIA. My first hand experience with the real estate developers initially was like 'ok here are the Environment NOC people just give them whatever they need and get this done'. But then during the State Appraisal committee hearings in Mantralaya, Mumbai these developers experienced the seriousness of this NOC, since it can be a criminal offence if they do not adhere to the required compliance. The committee constitutes of experts from varied fields - scientists, architects, engineers, retired IAS officers, ecologists etc. and their comments are quite straight forward, critical and to the point. It was a great learning experience for me. During these hearing though the project complies with all the required papers, a lot depends on the attitude of the developer, his status, ties and relation with the inside people in order to get the clearance. The entire process to finally get an Environment clearance NOC is very much bureaucratic and frustrating, for everyone associated with it and THE Environment. This may have changed now with the whole Ease of doing Business notion but not in favour of Environment!

Both the processes, green building certification and EIA are flawed because they consider the environmental aspects in isolation. These processes fail to create societal connections except some local protests and fail to make associations with other ongoing urban development policies in the light of climate change and sustainability. There is always a debate on Environment vs Development, please click here to read the blog by Dr Priyadarshini Karve that HOW this debate in itself is futile.

After getting the required certification and NOC, the system completely lacks a reality CHECK of the compliance as per the NOC, though it is mandatory by law. It is crucial to see if the project adheres to the norms. On ground, things are very different for most of the projects, with a few exceptions! But a sound coordination between the Ministry, Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) and the State Pollution Control Board (SPCB) along with the local urban body is gravely missing. Its a gamble, nobody says it but everybody knows it - the pollution control board has nothing to do with environment and climate change, they are merely corrupt liaisoning agents. So the point I want to make is, unless the ties between all these agencies are strengthened with sound knowledge about environmental aspects, climate change and above all sustainability with respect to urban development any EIA or green building activity is simply a money minting process. There is a need to design efficient capacity building programs at all these levels in order to build better enviro-legal system and make urban development sustainable!

In case if you have any comments or suggestions you can email them at eia2020-moefcc@gov.in OR check out this LINK for more info on the Draft EIA notification and objections. Last date is 11th August 2020.

Pournima Agarkar. 

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

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

My City My Responsibility - Preparedness for Monsoon 2020!

Dear All, 

Monsoons are beautiful, however they can be harsh too..Last monsoon we faced unforeseen damage due to the flash floods in the city. There are many people who are still recovering from the shock who lost their loved ones and property. Many of them are still struggling with their insurance claims. Now, with the COVID-19 in action, the situation is likely to be worse limiting ACCESS to any kind of service/facility easily if you are stuck in a vulnerable/flooded area. This is making the entire scenario even more disastrous and uncontrollable! The monsoon is here. Even though as per IMD predictions we will have average rainfall in the coming weeks, precaution is better than cure. Hence there is a need to take appropriate measures in advance in order to avoid any havoc.  

Considering the current urban development mistakes like excessive concretization even in the so called green and open spaces, encroachments within the flood line and in the riverbed area, illegal dumping of waste on the hills, in the streams and along the river, channeling and capping of our seasonal streams, are some of the issues that make us highly vulnerable to climate change impacts.

Though a more systemic approach is required to resolve these issues. Individual and collective actions at various levels are crucial as an act of preparedness. For the same Samuchit Enviro Tech (along with partners LAYA resource Centre and INECC) has teamed up with Jeevitnadi and Sahapedia Pune Cultural Mapping project for this year's monsoon preparedness actions under the campaign Pune Monsoon Watch #StaySafe #StayDry. National Society for Clean Cities (NSCC) is also supporting this initiative. The Pune Municipal Corporation's disaster management cell also is available to provide emergency support. We have created a short video on the posters, I urge everyone to see the video and share it in your circles so that we can reach maximum people in the city. Click HERE to access the video. We have also shared the posters on all our social media handles. Check them out and share!

Meanwhile, a resident of Pune Gayatri Chatterjee noticed dumping of wastes on one of our Tekdis during the lockdown and informed us. This triggered the filing of a petition on making hills and water bodies WASTE FREE. Since its the lockdown time, filing a petition seemed to the immediate course of action. Click HERE to sign the petition! We are currently exploring ways to get this resolved, will keep you posted on this as well.

We are also hosting webinars with different stakeholders of the society for a more comprehensive understanding of the situation. The first webinar took place on 3 July 2020. You can see the recording on the facebook page of Jeevitnadi. Click HERE. We will keep you posted about the future webinars too.Stay tuned!

Pournima Agarkar. 

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

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

My City My Responsibility - Future of the Story of Plastic!

Dear All,

PPE made of Plastic

Plastic an ubiquitous thing on earth and is quite indispensable for most of us whether we like it or not. Yet this invention has now become an evil for the environment due to innumerable reasons.  When it comes to sustainability, plastic appears to be one of those materials that can be very efficient, cost effective and user friendly. However plastic waste disposal is a global problem that is choking up our oceans, filling our lands and entering our food chains. These thoughts were triggered after watching the documentary titled Story of Plastic aired on the occasion of this year's Earth Day. 

This documentary not only shows how big is the plastic pollution problem but also shows where does it come from and how it is a systemic problem than just an individual's choice. It captures the entire supply chain right from the use of petroleum to produce plastic to plastic pollution to its implications for climate change. Indeed it is an eye opening documentary when it comes to the life threatening impacts of plastic pollution. It pictures how managing the plastic waste is bigger challenge for developing countries where the plastic wastes are being shipped all the way by the developed nations. But when plastic wastes are no more accepted by the developing countries, how ineffective recycling plants create downgraded plastic products that cause even much more harm. Plastic pollution and its linkages with poverty, cheap labor and women who are involved in the overall process of sorting the wastes, recycling and processing especially in India have been highlighted as well. However packaging material and consumption of single-use plastic products like straws, carry bags and shampoo or food sachets etc pose bigger challenges of disposal, is the ultimate issue that we have been grappling with as per the documentary while the mismanagement of plastic is just an excuse to get away from the hidden agenda of the petroleum companies.

Given all these facts and concerns, the movie fails to effectively showcase the way forward apart from a ban on single use plastic and packaging material. The movie completely disregards the benefits of plastic especially if we consider the current pandemic scenario where PPE's made out of plastic have been the most efficient and easily affordable material for our safety. 

Me @Khamir in Kachchh
learning to weave plastic bags
PC: Dr Priyadarshini Karve
I believe it is important to understand that even if we ban plastic completely today, an existing single waste bottle will take upto 450 years to decompose. From the entire host of plastic products that we consume to the huge plastic products that we use, its quite obvious that plastics are here to stay forever. So definitely banning plastic may not be that helpful, however can we explore and have stringent policies in place in order to phase out the production of virgin plastic along with creating complex recycling techniques that are effective, local and low cost that will ensure upcycling plastic waste into a much better and more durable and eco-friendly product? One such local example that quickly comes to my mind is of Aarohana Ecosocial development a plastic upcycling initiative by Amita Deshpande where plastic carry bags are cleaned and woven into attractive handbags, purses and mats that even generate local livelihoods for women. Inspired by Khamir, a platform in Kachchh that promotes indigenous knowledge on handicrafts and allied cultural practices for creation and preservation of local communities.

From the packaging problem perspective, a global standardization for packaging can be adopted that will improve recycling and ease resource recovery which in turn will enable circular economic models. As per Our World in Data statistics, mismanaged plastic waste is generated highly by the high income groups versus low income groups, but that is mostly due to accessibility, its not that the low income groups are wiser! Also countries having longer coastlines have seen tremendous mismanaged plastic wastes. So the question of managing plastic waste can be tackled only with the help better segregation and effective waste management infrastructure.  

When we talk about segregation another challenge is the segregation within the various plastic items, because some products like transparent PET bottles can be easily recycled or reused, while some products may need complicated processes in order to recycle them. The used PPE's are of hazardous nature and will have to be incinerated right away. For such products we need more effective technologies for incineration that are least polluting. Given the nature of plastic and its versatility, we need to explore for more such processes where a plastic waste turns out to be the raw material for another product.

Now that there is so much plastic in nature, some bacteria and fungi have started evolving the ability to eat it. Apart from recycling, such interesting ways to deal with plastics wastes are upcoming. Another concept of producing bioplastics from startch are already available, however problems with this plastic is about its look and feel which is exactly same like ordinary plastic and hence differentiating it is difficult plus its also a controversial issue when it comes to food security. Hence there's a lot of scope for research in this field to produce sustainable polymers.

In one of my earlier blogs I did mention why plastics were ever invented. A lot of scope lies for sustainable innovation given the technological advances today, industries have a great role to play. Better quality of plastics can be produced that have low carbon footprint and hence can reduce pollution. The idea is to no longer term plastic as WASTES but as a KEY resource and start reusing it at source. Many individuals do come up with innovative ways that ensure their plastics don't end up in a landfill or an ocean. A more systemic approach will help to solve the plastic problem that involves engaging public sector as well as private sector to pitch for effective enforcement of existing policies and strategies. 

In October 2018, UN Environment programme and the Ellen Mcarthur Foundation announced the New Plastics Economy Global Commitment with more than 290 signatories having a common vision to treat plastics at source based on circular economy models. One of the pioneers in circular economy has been the Banyan Nation who are converting collected post consumer and industrial plastic waste into high quality recycled granules which are termed as Better Plastic that has strength as good as virgin plastic. There are several such examples already who are using plastic as a resource for better economic gains. Its time we start valuing plastic as a raw material and use it effectively for the betterment of the environment.

Pournima Agarkar. 

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

Monday, May 4, 2020


Over the last few days, various people kept messaging me - have you seen the Michael Moore Documentary 'Planet of the Humans'? It is shocking, depressing, a must-see, etc., etc., etc.

Reading about the documentary, I had got an impression that it is an American documentary about American energy scene. When it was released on the Earth Day, a lot of criticism started appearing from scientists and environmental activists in the USA. It was also quite weird to see that climate denier and white supremacist website and twitter feeds were going all gung ho about Michael Moore! Having read his book 'Stupid White Men', that was the most shocking thing for me! But it was equally surprising to see the documentary being paid a lot of positive attention by Indian environmentalists! I had not expected it to make much of a ripple here at all!

Anyway, the long and short of it is that curiosity finally drove me to watch the documentary, and I would like to share some thoughts on it. 

My recommendation: You would be better off watching the classic 1968 movie 'Planet of The Apes' than this documentary! 

Closing Scene of the Movie 'Planet of The Apes' (1968)

There was not a single thing in the entire documentary that I had not heard before, from various people in various forums. So the whole approach of the narrator - that he is revealing some deep, dark and dirty secrets was laughable.

In the first part of the documentary, the narrator is talking about his own attempts to live off grid, off capitalist market systems, etc., and how hard he tried to embrace renewable energy (may be a decade or more ago? I am not sure that the time line is mentioned, or I may have missed it). He gives a number of examples and quotes a number of people to drive home that:

(a) putting up solar and wind electricity generation systems is costly and material intensive, 

(b) a solar system consumes more energy in its creation than what it will generate over its lifetime, and 

(c) there are inherent limitations to renewables that make it impractical to think of a 100% renewable powered electric grid.

I have been asked about all three things in many of my public talks and here is what I have always answered:

(a) Creating any energy infrastructure is costly and material intensive - coal fired power plants or nuclear power plants do not appear out of thin air! The only way to address this aspect is to reduce our electricity demand, so that less electricity generation infrastructure will serve more people. This can be done in a two-fold manner - one, by actually reducing our energy needs, and two, by improving demand side efficiency. This is and will continue to be work in progress, especially as we transition away from fossil energy. 

(b) Solar systems using more energy to built than they can generate was true till 2010, but not anymore. In fact it is ironical that this documentary has been released in 2020 - the year when it is estimated that the solar industry as a whole will have 'paid back' all the energy that it consumed from its inception, and will from henceforth be net energy positive. Those interested in data can see this publication. Currently it is estimated that a solar photovoltaic cell will pay back its energy cost in about 4 years, and then produce clean and pollution free electricity for about 25 or more years.

(c) Who is insisting that we must have 100% renewable electric grid or nothing?? Even if we have a hybrid grid with a combination of fossil, renewable and nuclear, that is a step in the right direction. Even in fossil fuel based electricity generation, going from a solid fuel like coal to a cleaner burning liquid or gaseous fossil fuel is a step forward. The documentary mentions at several places that in the name of moving away from coal, utilities are going for natural gas, which also is a fossil fuel. But it fails to acknowledge that natural gas is a far cleaner fossil fuel to produce and use than coal. Yes, 100% renewable electric grid is the ultimate goal, and step by step we are approaching it globally, but have not reached it as yet. In the meanwhile, the grid will continue to be a hybrid. I don't see why this is a problem! 

Another aspect which most of us working in the decentralised renewable energy sector have been shouting about for years - renewables give us the unique opportunity of creating decentralised systems customised to local needs. This in itself provides a far better energy service to the end user and is a more environment friendly approach (e.g., roof top solar systems do not have any land footprint) than building a MW or GW scale centralised coal, or natural gas, or nuclear, or solar or wind energy system.

The intermittent nature of renewables can be overcome by using hybrids of multiple decentralised renewable energy systems, and also by creating a mega network of a large number of small smart grids, so that surplus energy generated in one part of a country or a continent or the planet can be passed on to where it is required.

It is ridiculous to expect that nobody should step out and start using any technology unless it is perfected! It is only when people start using a new concept or a product, that its limitations and further potential gets highlighted, and money becomes available for further R&D because someone is already making money from whatever improvements the new concept or product is able to deliver.

And that brings me to another outdated idea pushed throughout the documentary - that it is wrong/unethical/amoral for businesses to make money from renewable energy systems and for environmental movement to take funding from big businesses. My question is why is this wrong?? Projecting businesses and profit making as anti-environment villains is in itself a fallacy, and has kept the green movement out of the mainstream for decades. Yes, do bash any business that is indulging in exploitation and illegal activities, and yes, also bash any activists who are spreading lies to protect their funders. These are unethical practices and can even be challenged in the courts of law. But to consider the entire business community as some evil alien force out to destroy humanity has not solved any problems before, and is not likely to work now or in the future. We have to acknowledge that businesses are human creations, and as human understanding of the world around us grows, so will the businesses evolve! The values and processes followed by today's businesses are far different from the values and processes followed by businesses in the 19th century. People learn and change, and change the way they run businesses. This is what 'progress' is all about!

And finally, I come to the one and only factual segment in the documentary - large scale biomass based energy generation being labelled as 'renewable' is wrong and distructive to the environment. 

But what is new and not known about this?? Everyone working in the sector of decentralised biomass and biogas energy in India and other developing countries has been crying hoarse about this for years! Various organisations working in the sector of waste management have been presenting anti-incineration arguments year after year, to various government agencies, and helplessly seeing more and more 'waste to energy' plants coming up all over India. But most people seem to be more moved by the scenes of waste incineration and wood chip based power generation in rural USA rather than by the pleas that many of us have been making to garner support for decentralised renewables in general, and decentralised biomass energy in particular, for more than a decade! 

Furthermore, the documentary tends to advance a simplistic half-true outlook of "biomass is dirtier than coal" to replace the simplistic half-truth "biomass is renewable and therefore all biomass energy is all good" narrative, which is equally damaging to the sector.

Throwing out the outdated material, and focusing only on the contemporary valid issues, the documentary could have been a great platform to talk about the virtues of decentralisation and the need to overhaul the entire energy supply chain from supply to use, rather than just switching from coal to something else at the point of generation. But it just poses questions that have already been answered by many people many times, and then goes on to present a wrong answer as if it is some profound truth discovered by the narrator after meditating under a bodhi tree!

After 'throwing limelight' on specific challenges of the renewables and environmental movements in the USA, the apparent problem according to the makers of the documentary is global population! Some of the people interviewed do make a passing reference to consumption also, but it is implied that the consumption is high because the population is high. The very name and the opening and closing of the documentary alludes to this focus on global human population. This is totally wrong, misleading, and a typical White American myth from a typical white American standpoint that everything that happens in the USA is shaping the entire world! It is no wonder therefore that White American supremacist climate deniers are promoting the documentary! 

There is now ample quantitative data published through global studies that the driver of climate change and all other global environmental stresses is consumption patterns of the wealthy in the western world than the total number of people on the planet. For example, check out the latest study referred in this report.

Population is basically a solved issue, now we need to urgently focus on consumption of the wealthy. I have addressed the myth about population many times before! Here is one blog entry from five years ago. And those who can read Marathi, here is a relatively recent article written by me on the same topic. 

So there. You want to know what I think about the 'Planet of The Humans'? This is it - the documentary is mostly a Cinematic Planet of Outdated Half Truths. 

Priyadarshini Karve
Samuchit Enviro Tech


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