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EDITORIAL

May the Experts lead us towards Sustainability!

15th May 2019

   

Expert Appraisal Committees should stop allowing DG sets & Tree felling

“Man has lost the capacity to foresee and to forestall. He will end by destroying the earth.” said Albert Schweitzer. Are we proving this? The recent trend in methane (CH4) concentration has threatened to jeopardize the aims of the 2015 Paris climate agreement. Methane level in 2017 was found to have shot up to an annual global mean of 1850 ppb from 1775 parts per billion (ppb) in 2007 and 1645 ppb in 1984. Another shaking observations made by the scientists that Carbon Dioxide (CO2) in our planet has reached the worst level, so far; 415 parts per million (ppm). Scientists say that up to 350 ppm level it is safe. The atmosphere is experiencing the unsafe levels since more than last 6 years. In 6 years period the CO2 concentration scaled up from 400 to 415 ppm. At this rate of growth, CO2 levels will hit 500 ppm within 50 years, which implies temperature shooting up perhaps more than 3°C. In the IPCC’s most pessimistic scenario, where the population booms, technology stagnates, and emissions keep rising, the atmosphere gets to a startling 2,000 ppm by about 2250. That gives us an atmosphere last seen during the Jurassic when dinosaurs roamed, and causes an apocalyptic temperature rise of perhaps 9°C. This is nothing but the way to devastation.


In her marvelous work “Silent Spring” Rachel Carson has described earth’s green mantle. The earth’s vegetation is part of a web of life in which there are intimate and essential relations between plants and the earth, between plants and other plants, between plants and animals. Although modern man seldom remembers the fact, he could not exist without the plants that harness the sun’s energy and manufacture the basic foodstuffs he depends upon for life. Besides the various plants that are poisonous to man or his livestock, or crowd out food plants, many are marked for destruction merely because, according to our narrow view, they happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Many others are destroyed merely because they happen to be associates of the unwanted plants. 


“Trees could reduce temperatures in cities up to 8°C, lowering use of air conditioning and related emissions by up to 40%,” says Simone Borelli, an Agroforestry and Urban Forestry Officer with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nation. “UN Environment promotes the planting of trees as a key way to mitigate climate change and boost land-based biodiversity, 80 per cent of which is in forests,” says Tim Christophersen, Head of UN Environment’s Freshwater, Land and Climate Branch, and Chair of the Global Partnership on Forest and Landscape Restoration. In those forest ecosystems, trees are not alone in cleaning the air. An ambitious project by Greencity Solutions in Berlin, Germany, seeks to marry high-tech applications with another natural air purifier: moss. “The ability of certain moss cultures to filter pollutants such as particulate matter and nitrogen oxides from the air makes them ideal natural air purifiers,” says Greencity Solutions. India, considering a population of 1.267 billion, which would change in the next population census, shortly due, has just 28 trees per person.  Delhi’s per capita tree availability at 0.3 per person. And we have been proving what Rachel Carson wrote “Our attitude toward plants is a singularly narrow one. If we see any immediate utility in a plant we foster it. If for any reason we find its presence undesirable or merely a matter of indifference, we may condemn it to destruction forthwith.” Cutting and transplanting trees for development is not sustainable. Even today, projects with proposal to install 10 MW and more, are being cleared by the Expert Appraisal Committees. Why experts of our nation don’t impose 100% renewable energy? Diesel and Gas Generators, while considered in a composite manner, are adding to present levels of air pollution. Air pollution is the theme for World Environment Day on 5th June 2019, to be hosted by China. 

Call for neither cut nor transplant tree for commercial benefits

 

1st May 2019

“The earth is not dying, it is being killed, and those who are killing it have names and addresses.” – Utah Phillips

According to Georgina Gustin, who is a Washington-based reporter who has covered food policy, farming and the environment for more than a decade - Just 100 companies are responsible for more than 70% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions since 1988. The world's forests continue to disappear at an alarming rate, threatening a resource that scientists say is a crucial "natural solution" for controlling climate change on an urgently short timescale. Last year, the planet saw its fourth-highest level of tropical tree loss since the early 2000s - about 30 million acres, according to a recent analysis.

According to Green Blizzard, India, considering a population of 1.267 billion, which would change in the next population census, shortly due, has just 28 trees per person. With reference to a report by Jayashree Nandi, published in the Times of India on 29th June 2018, the Forest Survey of India (FSI) puts Delhi’s per capita tree availability at 0.3 per person. This is extremely discouraging when compared to the world average of 716 trees per person. At such a juncture, adjoining state Haryana has initiated a policy to dilute the provisions under the Punjab Land Preservation Act (PLPA), 1900; which genuinely sparked furor. The state government, however, did not show any reluctance from airing messages that with time the age-old policies need to be reviewed. The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC), which is assigned as per rules, to appraise environmental clearance of projects in the incidence of the non-existence of a state environmental appraisal committee (SEAC) has often cleared projects with proposals to cut or transplant trees. A similar case is found, when reviewed the case of a group housing project proposed by M/s Godrej Properties Ltd. In the application seeking environmental clearance, which was prepared by a National Accreditation Board for Education and Training (NABET) accredited consultant, the project has clearly specified under paragraph 3.1 of the Form-1A, there are 113 number of trees present at the site, out of which 69 nos. of trees will be cut or transplanted after taking permission from the Forest Department. Remaining 44 trees will be retained. In a state, where the government, on its own, is proposing to reduce forest coverage in the state by diluting age-old provisions, despite ire of dweller – there, it is not impossible nor difficult to obtain approval for cutting of trees. Not far from this site, on the Dwarka Expressway, there was a plantation drive. Suddenly, now the construction of flyovers and other infrastructural development works have started, whereby it is unavoidable but to remove those trees planted a few months back. This definitely comes at a cost to society – both in terms of direct and indirect. Transplantation of trees is also envisaged in the case of Sarojini Nagar and Netaji Nagar development works, where ‘Chipko movement’ was redisplayed. It is befitting to cite the statement of Bhavreen Kandhari, an activist in Defence Colony “I think tree cutting became a big issue as residents are aware of the perils of air pollution and related problems. Most of us know that children are being forced to breathe polluted air. This was a desperate protest as people are facing skin problems, breathing ailments and even cancer. This collective feeling helped unite us (against tree felling)”.

The moot point is why does India stick to such provisions? Why do we plant trees and then cut or transplant? Is there any record of survival rate of trees? If it is being maintained, it is not shared publically to be as visible as the Income Tax or Good & Services Tax Compliances. Is it not possible to adhere by norms where the project proponent must choose a site with zero environmental degradation? Does the government want protests against every project for redesign and reconsideration? There is a need to ensure progress in tandem with environmental development. 

International Mother Earth Day

 

24th April 2019

Basic criteria Green rating for building and construction projects should be zero grid energy utilization, zero generator installation, and zero waste generation

April 22 is celebrated as the Earth Day or International Mother Earth Day (UN) all over the world. It is a day held to demonstrate and promote environmental awareness and calls for the protection of our planet. With growing awareness, access to information and dynamic social media this day has gained huge attention. The history of Earth Day 2019 dates back to 1970 when it was first celebrated in 1970. It was founded by Senator Gaylord Nelson to promote ecology and the respect for life on the planet as well as to encourage awareness of the growing problems of air, water and soil pollution. The theme for Earth Day 2019 is 'Protect Our Species' - aims to draw attention to the rapid extinction of species across the world, which is directly linked to human activity which causes climate change, deforestation and pollution.

We all know that our earth is facing numerous changes. The global temperature is on the rise, the severity of climate in certain areas has changed, and natural calamities have become frequent. What is our share, as individuals, to safeguard the environment and protect the species that have as much right on this planet as we have?

The increasing use and dependency of fossil fuels to produce energy have resulted in the depletion of natural resources. Reduction in the level of natural resources is not the only issue related to the consumption of fossil fuels. It poses several other adverse effects that include greenhouse gases emission. The release of these gases is resulting in two of the major issues faced by our planet Earth: global warming and change in climate. As individuals, we can reduce energy consumption for lighting by utilization of passive sun light in the day, opt to reside near places facilitated with mass rapid transport system and use the same. Some other ways to adopt a greener life could be complete turn off equipment like televisions, music systems, charging systems, when not in use; let clothes dry naturally and lowering shades or close the curtains on hot days, to keep the house cool and reduce the use of electric fans or air-conditioning. Utilization of solar energy in every possible way also highly environment friendly. 

There are various factors, which contribute towards Air pollution, land pollution, and water pollution. The level of these pollution is increasing at an alarming rate. For example, chemicals released by our appliances and other daily use products, vehicle smoke, burning of fuel, improper waste management are some of the major factors impacting pollution in the world. Consumption optimization is the best tool to lead a greener life. And this is not a new thing. Number of non-communicable diseases are growing day by day due to rampant pollution. Rainwater harvesting and groundwater recharge as well as restoration of waterbodies has become indispensable. Although this could be done individually, the corporate bodies and industries must come out with innovative ideas under the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) to infuse energy amongst the common mass to adopt such water conservation practices. Waste management has definitely improved, though at a far lower than the required level. However, smart buildings should be based on the principle of zero grid energy utilization, zero generator installation, and zero waste generation. 

The criteria for green rating of the construction projects has become old and needs a review to change the eligibility. Building and construction projects with grid energy utilization, sourcing energy through installation of generators, and without having zero waste technologies should not be eligible for application of green rating. This will also save a lot of hidden losses of the nation. Individuals can also support this by demanding such residential and office buildings. Another area is that the real estate companies must extend financial support under CSR to research and development activities for innovations in the field of waste elimination and green energy sources.

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