Proposed new solid waste management rules – comments

The Ministry of Environment and Forests has come up with draft Municipal Solid Waste (Management and Handling) Rules, 2013. The rules will overrule the existing rules which were framed in 2000 here. The Ministry has given a period of 60 days (from 29.08.2013) for public to respond with their views and suggestions.

It is important that everybody concerned with the issue of a clean city to engage with this process. The issue is not just one of a clean city but the philosophy towards waste management and the processes that will be followed. A number of activists have been carrying out efforts over the years without broad based public involvement. Please do consider organising programs around this issue where some of the members involved with the issue for long would love to come and speak.

The rules seem to have been put together in a hurry with incorporating the learnings from a number of developments since the 2000 Rules.

The proposed rules have a number of flaws, which I am highlighting below.

  1. The Ministry must share what necessitated the need for a new set of rules. Whether a note on the same is prepared and should share the same.
  2. The rules lack commentary on the serious constraints involved with developing new landfill sites. Competing demands for land are now stronger than they were when the rules were last formed in 2000. Land is needed to housing, infrastructure, farming and recreation and hence needs to be low in the priority of solid waste management.
  3. The rules do not adequately stress on the need for municipal corporations to go beyond the call of duty in sensitizing the citizens about not mixing wet and dry waste at source and hence minimising the need for centralised collection and transport of waste and landfill requirements.
    1. If in MSW 2000 this need was felt and appreciated adequately the developments since then have only increased the importance of reducing as much waste at source as possible. MSW 2013 Rules need to in fact start getting stringent about not accepting any mixed waste at source and levying fines for the same.
    2. The Rules should adequately acknowledge the services provided by rag pickers, the significant self-employment generated as a result and the need for municipal corporations to formally recognize the contribution by them.
    3. The Ministry should be abundantly aware that a lot of the requirements expected in the MSW 2000 Rules have been violated with gross impunity.
  4. The Rules should comment that due to the following important considerations there will be a strong focus on the minimisation of transport of waste over long distance. The transport of waste over long distance leads to
    1.  Use of fossil fuels which leads to release of GHG emissions which leads to long term environmental damage. India has a National Acton Plan on Climate Change and is a participant in global talks on mitigating climate change. The municipal waste management rules need to clearly be compliant with these efforts in letter and spirit.
    2. Air pollution from emissions which lead to immediate health impacts to the residents of the city.
    3. Loss of foreign exchange and hence economically harms the country. This is important in years like 2013, when we are facing a crisis.
    4. Expenditure on expensive machinery and
    5. Overall puts a strain on the municipal budget of the respective city.
  5. MSW 2013 Rules need to give very explicit guidance/instructions to the municipal corporations for engaging substantially in activities towards creating awareness about segregation of garbage and all other measures to treat biodegradable waste at source through various means. This creating of awareness will be through (and not limited to) advertisements in papers, television, schools, colleges, cinema halls, funding civil society organisations for road shows and all other means.
  6. MSW Rules 2013 should stress on very high standards of financial reporting about the complete costs involved in waste management.
  7. MSW Rules 2013 should stress on detailed disclosure on all the kinds of waste being generated in the city.
  8. MSW Rules 2013 do not adequately address the issue of electronic waste. Electronic waste generation is now huge in India and significant amount like batteries etc. are being disposed in the normal stream of waste disposal. The municipal corporations have to cover the whole gamut of awareness creation, strict segregation at source and final disposal in detail and with seriousness.
  9. MSW Rules 2013 need to be explicit and stringent on the need to strictly control the distribution of plastic carry bags in various kinds of shopping, a very large proportion of which end up in the garbage stream and are posing very serious environmental challenges. In Mumbai, all waterways like nullahs, creeks and the sea are choked with such plastic bags. During monsoons the sea throws all the plastic and other refuse out and makes a complete mess of the beaches.

The Waste to Energy part has been added new and one wonders whether that is the sole purpose of the new set of rules.

Whats on agenda at Copenhagen?

With the considerable discussions on COP15 arising out of the meetings at Bangkok, Bonn, Barcelona and elsewhere and a global community engaging in the debates and following it through the net, I am left wondering what exactly is it that we will be discussing at Copenhagen?

Especially what will India be speaking and expecting? Will it be India’s stand of the developed world taking stringent emission cuts? Will it be KP beyond 2012? Will it be common but differentiated responsibility? Continuing with Annex I Annex II definitions?

If the US absolutely refuses to do things as we expect it to then are we going to keep it as a sore point which takes our whole focus or will we say chuck the whole world, we will work within our borders to become the one developing country which did the best with the resources available to us?

Is it not high time that we realized the futility of a talk on emissions control at two levels –

At one are we going to be discussing emission cuts and improving lifestyles side by side? Is one possible with the other? I am yet to see a rigorous debate on a paradigm shift which questions the very fundamentals of our developmental paradigm. I read news articles which have lines like

“The broader social and moral questions about coal are vexed ones. How do we weigh the potentially catastrophic effects of climate change against the desire of developing countries to achieve standards of living that the West has achieved by using cheap electricity and steel?”

http://www.theage.com.au/national/old-king-coal-20091107-i2w7.html

Can the discussion at Copenhagen be about realising that if everybody or even half the current population had the standards of living which the West has achieved, then possibly there will be a time sometime in 2110 (I am counting BAU, without any of the dire climate change projections happening) when the population has reached 9 billion, and half of that or 4.5 billion has been guzzling oil and gas and coal at West standards, when suddenly there has to come a time – this is pure maths without any dire exaggerated environmental outburst – when all of oil and gas and coal will be finished.

In such a scenario if we haven’t given sufficient thought a few decades in advance to preparing people to live happily and wholesomely a life and lifestyle, which is not the current Western one, dependent on only high carbon to provide satisfaction, then we will see a scenario where one moment people are driving the best of air conditioned sedans and working in sophisticated offices, and partying an vacationing at great locations and then in another decade everybody is living like the tribals, of the land, trying (trying because they never planned for what was to come) to surviving on decentralized food supply, and in a completely depressed state of existence, large amount of population dying because they bodies cannot bio-chemically adjust to the new situation.

Second, if it is sufficiently proven that technologies like CSP can provide the electricity needed to provide lifestyles like the West for everybody in India and China, then great lets party and see which vested industry lobby is stopping the transition and go one-point at a time to ensuring the whole of India (and China and the world) moves to CSP fed lifestyles by 2030.

http://www.treehugger.com/files/2009/09/worlds-biggest-solar-power-china.php

Then what is the point of discussing emissions? Why worry about what America does or doesn’t, KP or not, common but differentiated or not? Are resources really a problem? If India just restructures it leaking and completely illogical subsidy structures then we could be in a position to fund projects in our neighboring countries. So the question of requiring funds from the West is gone. Are we going to have the guts to take leadership on dismantling our subsidies and creating resources within the country for everything from efficient and intelligent public transport to a spread of renewable like never before?

Today a completely venal political leadership which with vested narrow minded business interests has taken complete control of India’s climate change agenda discussion.And most in the country just do not have the guts to handle this coalition –  hitting at America is kids play. We are only talking about the faults of others to hide the enormous defects inside. I would much rather have a position where we are correcting our defects irrespective of what the west does or not. And we would be doing this  if we innately cared and were responsible. But our country and its people are no less irresponsible than those we point fingers at.

Are we talking technology for doing all this? I thought we had the best brains in the world? And anyways when we have the money from the source above then we can import the best solutions. Why are ‘we’ (the we is tricky because it may be the vested interests masquerading as speaking on behalf of one billion Indians) looking for charity from the West, by emotional blackmail on their historical emissions record. Can we, like the Australian viewpoint in the article above look at taking a leadership position?

A third important point of discussion will have to be a paradigm shift at the level of human beings who comprise the human species. Will people continue to live in a current paradigm where selfishness and greed and apathy about the community rule or will we move to an educated class which sees education not just as a means to high paying jobs and then high carbon lifestyles (and this has and continues to remain big in India , a whole family co-ordinated operation) but which reads material beyond their degree seeking text books and understands linkages in the much flaunted Vasudhiava Kutumbakam. How many in India have that feeling for the country also – forget the world?

The discussion at Copenhagen will have to be less about emissions and more about values then. Once we have the common and shared (not differentiated) values in place then emissions will automatically restore themselves. When the fresh into a high-paying job 25 year old in America and India will accept paying a higher tax on his vehicle, will accept a much higher electricity tariff for his/her favorite lounge bar, the additional resources from which help solar electrify a  village at a time, and numerous other such segments would have given similar thoughts, then we would have moved to a world where we would have sorted our not just climate change but MDGs and a hundred other problems.

But until the quality of the human being itself is bad, the situation is like high ash high sulphur content coal. If you burn it you will get sulphurdioxide and ash. As long as an irresponsible humans bides 60 years or more on earth we will have emissions, accept it and face the consequences, shut the COP shops and let everyone be on their own.

The Pied Pipers of India

I have been reading intensely (not as much quantitatively as much as I would have wanted to) on the climate change negotiations leading to Copenhagen and various other related topics like technology and the legislation’s being proposed.

I would maybe not express myself as I find below, had I found some credible amount of diversity in India’s positions on climate change as I find in many of the Tier – I industrialized countries (developed in popular lingo). Almost all of the discussion on climate change in India displays a lack of deep research and creative thinking. Almost every article in mainstream papers seems like some kind of a copy paste kaleidoscope. The more dominant ones display a hard headed thinking or smack of a clear vested interest influence. In fact most of the efforts in India are being financed by vested industry interests. Independent thinkers – and I would count myself as one – live a life so starved of resources that I even wonder why I take the trouble of writing right now.

Also its time we stopped calling ourselves a developing country (Tier II industrialized would be my lingo). We should call ourselves so only if we allow the real poor and backward people drive the India negotiations. All the India climate change negotiations are being led by Indians who know English better than the Queen, are more well versed with worldly issues than the average American and yet call themselves developing.

A hard headed way of thinking and approaching an issue is integral to India. You see it everywhere; people can’t do 360 degree thinking, cannot quickly create or respond to new scenarios, think creative solutions, accept mistakes and make amends. The result clearly is that once we take a position we end up we remain wedded to it, for good or worse, mostly worse.

Socialism was failing us by the late 60’s itself but we dragged it for two decades more. The country’s thinking was firmly in the hands of a few hard headed mono-visioned people. The millions (hundreds of) who make up India are like the rats who followed Pied Piper.

Most in India didn’t care much about what was going on which, lead to 1991, did not participate in bring about that change and then hardly blinked an eye lid before a transition and new generation passed the goodies through their digestive tracks. And it is on the strong shoulders of these indifferent people that Ministers stash of billions of dollars to Swiss Bank accounts by just keeping the dope of cricket and cinema flowing liberally. In this dreary desert has my country awoken and tries to lead G-77 on climate change.

The hard headed are generally the best at making coalitions and taking charge and in ensuring resources to feed their operations.

And in the climate change dialogue and in India’s ‘official’  – and more importantly the more vocalized – positions it clearly is not one but a whole troupe of Pied Pipers who are leading millions of rats to heaven. Millions of educated Indians (not those ‘disgusting’ beggarly brown skinned non-english speaking types) are brazenly unaware of what is climate change, those who are aware are no different in initiative from the generation which partnered in India’s downfall during the socialism years.

Millions go about completely unmoved by the need to address the more pressing and immediate issues facing the country. Poverty, the overwhelming corruption, being short-changed at every level of the government. May be that is also an element of the ‘more superior’ Indian intelligence and spiritualism, which understands that one day climate change will anyways square it all of so what is the point of engaging oneself in all these issues.

And it is from such a country that some have the gall to take a moral high ground by saying blatant lies about how India’s development will be affected by emission caps, these pied pipers ask about cash and technology transfers, while home talent is frustrated and denied opportunities to even implement good laws which already exist and are observed more in their neglect.

Some recent interesting international articles I read, which came as a break in the intellectually starved media reports in India.

The lucky country needs to act responsibly on climate

A wonderful dispassionate, objective and ethical look at their own position.

Old King Coal

Lack of global climate deal won’t crush green tech

FRA then Operation Greenhunt – Congress double standards on the tribals issue?

Yesterday I attended a meeting organised by The Committee for the Release of Binayak Sen (CRBS) as recorded right below my post. (interestingly the event doesn’t find feature in the papers today even as far more frivolous news covers the pages.)

I was already aware of the atrocities being carried out by the Indian state in the tribal regions but hearing the account first hand was sad enough.

The one question I raised during the Q&A was about the status as regards the Forest Rights Act, discussion around which was raging during 2005-06

http://forestrightsact.com/index.php?option=com_k2&view=item&layout=item&id=3&Itemid=300038

The FRA then had polarized those in favour of the tribal rights and the environmental community, which feared the worst for the forests in terms of forests ripping away the resources.

Environmentalists also saw this as the worst form of vote bank politics by the UPA – I government.

Now 3 years down the line we see the UPA – II government declaring the tribals and their supporters as terorists and launches Operation Green Hunt. Whats going on?

Votes from the tribals and notes from the industrialists? What can be any other conclusion? As per the FRA the tribals are entitled to 4 hectares of land. Now they are being forced out of their forest homes and being forced to live in designated camps guarded by the police (concentration camps?, genocide?, state sponsored terrorism?). And if they retaliate then they are hunted down, raped, their houses and food stocks burnt.

Is Chidambaram the Gabbar equivalent?

From the first hand accounts it is very clear that the media is completely suppressing the real events taking place  in the interiors of the country. It will be upto a few right minded citizens in the city to make up their mind about how far will they let the situation deteriorate before it becomes all out war. The tribals are very determined and dont seem to be in a mood to take things lying down.

_________________________________________________________________________________________

The Committee for the Release of Binayak Sen (CRBS)

invites you to a press conference to be addressed by

two prominent personalities from Chhattisgarh

Himanshu Kumar — noted Gandhian who has been running the Vanvasi Chtena Ashram for more than 15 years in Dantewada in Chhattisgarh

Advocate Sudha Bhardwaj — leading member of the Chhattisgarh Mines Mazdoor Sangh that was set up by legendary trade unionist Shankar Guha Niyogi; executive committee member of Chhattisgarh PUCL; and Dr Binayak Sen’s lawyer

Thick in the field of action in the tribal areas of Bastar, Himanshu Kumar and advocate Sudha Bhardwaj have witnessed the effects of the “development” efforts on the adivasis of Bastar by successive governments. They have experienced first-hand the fallout of the government’s anti-Naxalite movement, the Salwa Judum.


In May, Himanshu Kumar’s Vanvasi Chetna Ashram was demolished by the Chhattisgarh government because he was trying to rehabilitate the Adivasis displaced by Salwa Judum. Kumar has tried to file FIRs against every offence committed against the adivasis, but to no avail.

With the Centre all set to launch “Operation Greenhunt” against the Naxalites in the tribal belt that runs across seven states, Himanshu Kumar and advocate Bhardwaj are best placed to enlighten those living far away from Bastar about the actual situation there.

  • Will “Operation Greenhunt” destroy or strengthen the Naxalites’ influence?
  • Who will be the “hunted” – the armed Naxalites or the unarmed tribals?
  • Whose purposes will “Operation Greenhunt” serve – those of the tribals who have lived there for centuries, or the companies eyeing the resources in the region?
  • Can peace ever be brought to this rich region?
  • What is the context of State violence and Naxalite violence in Chhattisgarh?

For answers to these and other questions, please do attend the press conference and talk on

Saturday, Oct 31, 3 pm -5 pm, Mumbai Press Club, CST

Those wanting to stay on to discuss the situation can join us after the press conference at

Saturday, Oct 31, 6 pm, Shramik Hall, Dadar

Its all about jobs silly!

I read the following story at the Guardian, and couldnt help feeling a bit amused

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2009/oct/27/economy-recession-car-industry-bankers

Till when will this charade go on? Lets accept it that our current developmental models are just not sustainable. Forget sustainability from the environmental perspective. They are just not sustainable from a very fundamental human need point of you itself. People are being given incentive to scrap even perfectly running cars to buy new ones just so that the companies sustain themselves so that employees are not laid of so that the employees have some income which they can then spend in the market and keep some body else in their job.

What is being missed out is that the employee of the car company is already aware that this could be temporary and sooner or later the hammer will hit again and therefore is very cautious in his spending, preferring to save for a time when his job might inevitably go.

And at what costs other than the immediate market stimulus does all this consumption come at?

In our own country iron ore and bauxite mines which provide the ore for steel and aluminum which goes into making these cars is stripped from fertile forest lands. Complete forests are destroyed and tribal communities murdered and raped if they refuse to leave their forests.

And then we talk about encouraging low carbon footprints? Tribals with zero carbon footprints get punished and some stupid Londoner (or Bombay-ite) who spends half his life in a pub drinking beer and engaging in stupid gossip gets rewarded? Forests which are the mother lode of all life, harboring biodiversity which makes possible strong nutritious fruit and cereal species besides originating life giving rivers are stripped apart to be able to give sterile metal which can only give rides to people, most of which might anyways be unnecessary?

Is this the development being talked about and spoken so gloriously by those who chide environmentalists to be anti-development.

While I read this I also remembered an excellent video I saw in June about the Cuban economic crisis and what they did to tide over the same.

http://www.livevideo.com/video/mercofspeech/CD893609A0CB495D9A9CF04AC9E4AEFF/power-of-community-how-cuba-.aspx

Also in a corner of the same Guardian article I saw and article for the films below –

http://www.guardianoffers.co.uk/mall/productpage.cfm/GuardianOffers/_17284/-/Classic-French-cinema%3A-Gloire-de-mon-Pere-%26amp%3B-Chateau-de-Ma-Mere

Maybe its time we moved away from an extremely centralised form of living which seems forever incapable of standing on its own feet without some support or the other. Maybe people need to move closer to the soil, which shows an infinite capacity to sustain everybody without any sops and stimuli.

Maybe those who have lost their jobs should consider it a god send and move to become masters of their destiny without relying on their corporate slave drivers for an identity.

On GM Brinjal and the need to stop intefering with Nature’s plans

Its been the usual flurry of email discussions around the process of getting genetically modified brinjal into the Indian market. In the argument below I am not giving up on the efforts but just highlighting the very obvious inconsistencies, without addressing which we are just shadow boxing.

The same format repeats itself on every issue. A few concerned people who read a lot, bother to investigate, make opinions and the take positions on issues which concern millions.

The vast millions for whom the supposed effort is being carried out would rather be spending their time on dumb reality shows (Big Bosss?, Friends?? – I dont know how much time humanity will spend on the stupid inane laughter of some aimless in life junior artists!) rather than having any fascination for how their food is grown, how it travels, who are the people behind the scenes.

I say whats the point of going through the same motions every time? And for whom? Those stupid dumb idiots whose reality show soaked lives are anyways not worth saving? They would be having genetically modified brinjal pakoras while going through their motions and tell you to buzz of if you showed anywhere on the scene with your ‘mentally excruciating’ arguments.

Even if those people had an iota of an interest in whats happening it was worth the effort. Who do these people give their dollar votes to?

I get concerned about all those hundreds of innocent species who are being wiped out of the planet, even as their own life patterns are completely sustainable. They are the victims of the actions of a ‘much wiser’ species. From ‘ugly’ insects to magnificent mammals to beautiful plants, its a gridlock rush to the path of extinction.

Should the ‘wise’ species not face the consequence of its own ‘intelligence’? Is it possible that these efforts towards harmful chemicals and biological interference are in effect nature’s terminator gene for human species in action? Is nature programming human intelligence towards its own destruction? Is nature working through Monsanto on the human species?

And so are some of us needless obstructions to natures plan?

The environmentalists and the ecologists and those into the ethics of it all need to make up their mind – is it the earths good health they want or of the human race? And both may be at logger heads with each other. Again it may be argued that GM foods will give abundant food which will cause more millions to come up on the earth and hence they need to be stopped 🙂

It is the uneven interest in the issue, few doing in depth study and millions having their brinjal pakoras while watching reality shows, that also makes the governance construct go against those opposed to GM foods.

In a democracy as we all know by now numbers count. And silence is consent. So if there is no noise from millions it is assumed they have no objection to genetically modified food. The bureaucrats and the politicians work for those silent millions not the rattlers.

Some interesting links on GMOs

http://video.yahoo.com/watch/4687000/12525766

http://www.thehindu.com/2009/01/11/stories/2009011160490900.htm

http://www.twilightearth.com/2009/05/the-world-according-to-monsanto-full-documentary/

Mumbai goes six inches under

I went through a multiple set of emotions and thoughts after watching Age of the Stupid. And one of those was the almost complete unlikeliness of the situation being as grave and desolate in 2055 as shown in the movie. Humanity has been a more than superb adapter over the years. The do gooders may get fed up and frustrated with humanity and its enormous shortcomings and wish it Armadegon, but the fact remains that there is more to play here than just our frustrated thoughts.

Take the case of Bombay, India’s most important coastal asset and the imagery of water rising up and inundating our coastal cities and areas. If we go by the worst case scenario of all of the poles, Greenland and the glaciers melting, the projection is that the sea levels may rise 50-100 meters. The moot question is that does all of this water rise at one fixed point in a future date? So do you have a scenario like below? (This is only to counter the drastic sea level rise argument, not discounting the other areas of climate disruption.)

(you can skip this if in hurry and read from section marked in red)

January 10th, 2032 – when we are all going about with our work in Bombay ( I will be 57 then and hopefully around),

Its been difficult of late, with infrequent rains, rains in months which never had rains and then cloud bursts.

One fine day on 5th June, 2032, 10:00 am

We wake up with morning news telling us that things are not going well and it might just be possible that the sea waters, which all these decades were projected to rise might just rise today. Even as people have started to panic a bit, the first few inches of water rise takes place during the high tide at 10:22 am . Instead of touching the high tide line you find that the streets are inundated with six inches of water. The tide was supposed to be at a little above the four meter mark but clearly it went way above the 5 meter mark to actually enter the city. Nothing unbearable but its the first time something of this sort has happened. Its not raining. The weather is bright sunny and very hot and humid.

The panic bells are hit. All programs stop on the television and images of the city at various places start going up. The Chief Minster and the Mayor and the Municipal Commissioner and other functionaries are shown rushing into meetings. News has also started to come that the same is being seen around the coast. The National Disaster Management Center is overwhelmed.

The cars and buses, bikes and pedestrians are still able to wade through the water but there is confusion and panic. Everybody has been fed to enough imagery of the rising sea but everybody knows well that there is no contingency plan. All these years none of the governments took any initiative to envisage this kind of a situation and accordingly have a drill. Now a lot of people make quick calculations and decide it might be just right to make a dash for the exists before things get worse. Its only a few thousand people who think like this and that is enough for panic to spread like wildfire. Some hit their bank accounts to remove their money, some get home to get their belongings and family.

The most important job of the police right now is to prevent a grid lock of millions of vehicles trying to hit the bridges and other outlets out of Bombay.The police has called in the home guards and the army but everybody is making a futile effort in the wake of the massive flood of humanity. A large number of the city which does not have cars have straight away come on the roads waiting to walk it out. There is no question of a vehicle gridlock. There is already a human gridlock.

Even as the initial panic is raging the tide has started to go back. At 1:00 pm the water is not exactly back into the sea but still not in the streets. The low tide is at 4:2ipm but hope has completely evaporated. No body is sure how the next high tide will be.

No body has done any calculation of how much time does it take to evacuate the whole city? Alternatively if you have only 12 hours to evacuate how many can be removed? And how many will have to be left to die?

5th June, 2032, 4:22 pm

The tide has not gone down completely. It was supposed to be at the 2 meter mark but it is clearly only a little below 4 meters. The next high tide could potentially be even worse .

5th June, 2032, 9:59 pm

This is the next high tide and supposed to be a little below 4 meters but the waters are gushing into the city. Its clearly more than 5 meters high. A lot of areas which did not get touched with water in the morning tide are also being inundated now. And this time around it seems that the tide will not be going down after all.

News is coming in that thousands of kilometers of ice shelves are taking to the sea in a matter of hours. Helicopter crew from around the world are hovering over Greenland and flashing the frightening scenes around the world. The government in Bombay actually takes a decision to not let those images to be shown to prevent out of control panic.

Those who are close to the creek and the bridges have either walked or swam across. There is shock grief and anger over everybody’s face. But nothing can be done now. All this is happening within hours on 5th June, 2032. By 11  pm the water is two feet and its madness all around. The children and shorter people have climbed on top of buildings hoping that the waters will stabilize around the first floor by which time the helicopters of boats will take them away. None of that happens.

6th June, 2032, 6:am

The low tide has come and gone early in the morning and the city wakes up to more than three feet water in the streets. The waters are only steadily rising.

10th June, 2032,

The waters have unbelievably reached 15 feet. The water has now risen to the height of three floor buildings. Everything is over. All across there is only water, with the tops of four floor buildings visible just a few feet above the water level. The taller buildings stand out. To somebody who is staying in Anchorage building, one of the taller buildings next to the coast, in Versova the site is unbelievable. From their 15th storey terrace anybody who has stayed around can see water till somewhere below the national park hills with a few building tops. Just nothing else – only water.

At 5 meter level rise (and I still dont know what the baseline is for this) the situation will probably be like this for Mumbai http://flood.firetree.net/?ll=19.0232,72.9904&z=7&m=5

WILL SUCH BE THE CASE? CERTAINLY NOT.

Most probably if it happens then on 5th June, 2032 at 10:22 am when the tide will be at its highest for that day the water will for the first time come into the city upto 4-6 inches on a bright sunny day. This too after the same has been understood and deliberated upon for months before and the affected people have been evacuated. By then the city would have well done the calculations. The more affluent and resourceful would have left the city for the Deccan plateau, Pune, Nasik and beyond.

With the economy beginning to get affected, a lot of poor people migrating to the city from UP and Bihar and other parts will choose to die of hunger in their native land than on the water filled streets of Mumbai. All this will not happen drastically within 24 hours. There will be more than sufficient time for the transition to take place. There will come a time (this century or next) when the six inch permanent waters on the streets will become a permanent feature for years. During this time also the city will continue to function with some adaptations. But the outflow would be very systematically underway already. There will be no human or vehicle gridlock of millions making a dash for the exit points.

The reason I write this note is to show how arguments like Age of the Stupid actually do little to help support climate change mitigation measures because they show too much disaster too soon and to a species, which might have a short memory of disasters it has suffered but which has developed incredible resilience and resources to battle out adverse situations.  I may argue that people today seem far stupid than their counterparts in other centuries but such was the case even in those centuries. The response of technological resources in a drastic disaster are questionable but you cannot win an argument or work towards making a game plan by making arguments which are primarily driven by frustration. In my almost 2 decades of close involvement with important public environmental functions in the city I have always felt a bit embarrassed with those who choose to give their arguments like the Furher – fanaticism, absoluteness about the outcome to be exactly as they profess, and vitriol on those who don’t see their side of the story.

Is it not surprising that with so much talk on sea level rise we still have no discussion on even ballpark projections about when and how the sea levels will rise? We have enough super computing to tell us that.

Even with a 200 meter sea level rise, there will be a situation maybe where even after large scale deaths, a 100 million odd population of people will be still found on the earth living very comfortably and in a position to take the race forward – hopefully with wisdom. The situation will certainly not be like the one in Age of Stupid – one sole survivor who is a caretaker for a musuem which doesnt find any land so has to be built on top of a tower surrounded by water everywhere.

An overwhelmingly large number of todays ‘stupid’ are aware of the same and are willing to take the gamble that they or their offspring may not be among the 100 million who survive but the human race rest assured will go on. By showing them a stark, false and highly exaggerated picture of future misery we close doors for them to buy in to even our moderate and sensible arguments. And stupid as they may be the masses are not without any intelligence all together.

The way to move ‘stupid’ people is not by making stupid arguments. The intelligent do not have the luxury of stupidity. They have to continue refining their efforts and getting better with till the first water rise.

What will Durga ma ride on IF the tiger goes extinct?

This post is meant to request and stir those who are bit too extra religious about their Durga Pooja to spare a thought for conservation of the tiger.

I have over the years been very angered with the complete indifference of 95 percent of Hindus to the very animals that they revere (or ones at least which their gods hold dear).

The elephant and the tiger being prime examples. While not so religious and maybe even atheist conservationists apply their mind, body and soul to saving the tiger and the elephants the bhakts are lost in their aarti’s.

My reading is that most of the bhakts give a damn about the issues of Gods themselves. The average Hindu is more interested in what all he can take from the table instead of what he can bring to the table and that is exactly the approach to each and every environmental or social problem.

If the Gods were to find themselves in some trouble and for a change want some help from the bhakts (after having given them so much) Hindus would be the first deserters is my general belief.

But one would like to believe that at least for the elephant and the tiger it would be different?

When the elephant is no more and rats take over the earth then what happens?

When the tiger is no more what does Durga ride on? Do the pictures show her riding the rats?

Time that the bhakts showed some bravery (as compared to none today) and take the mantle of protecting the tiger. The temples and the Navratri mandals need to be the ones funding the tiger conservation movement.

All those who do the Dandiya and the Garba should take time to be understanding the tigers plight, hitting at the poachers and the Chinese and being part of other activities.

There cannot be any Durga Bhakti without realising that the tiger and the qualities that it symbolises are an integral part of the pooja. And most Hindus go oblivious to this sentiment.

If a change in attitude doesn’t happen soon then shame on the bhakts and may their have the courage then to look squarely into their ma’s eyes.

If you are one of those bhakts then dont get angry at me. Do something with yourself.

If you believe strongly in this please help spread the message to every Navratri Mandal and temple and lets organise a movement.

Magic at Nasik

I had a very momentous trip to Nashik on 17th July 2009. Shantaram Shenai (Shantu) was the gracious host and the purpose was to showcase to Dr. Rebello and myself the ‘immense’ progress made in treating the sewage of Nashik city by using the Biosanitizer technology. [within the same link do read about the US patent that the product has got, which is a proud achievement]

We were joined by Yogesh Bhardwaj, resident of Nashik, who has actually implemented the application of the Biosanitizer process and Dhimant Joshi from Mumbai who is a friend of Shantu and a brilliant engineer who has himself followed the biosanitizer over the years and is skilled at understanding and deploying it.

The trip became even more interesting in the background of the recent climate change talks at the MEF G8 summit at L’Aquila, where confusion reigned on the 2 degree limit above pre-industrial levels of temperature and the apparent lack of a road map to achive the same. What I saw at the Nashik STPs clearly has the potential for revolutionary change and providing a very objective and measurable road map to contribute to cutting GHG emmissions.

I have known Shantu since 1993-94 when as a teen still in college I followed his appeals to segregation and experiments with decentralised waste management at Andheri(W). I contacted him around 1995 and literature from the Green Cross Society was among my first building blocks in my deep interest in decentralised waste management. So here I was again with my Guru on a trip to another of his projects.

I had been hearing a lot of praise about the work being carried out at the Nashik Sewage Treatment plants since 2 years. Virat Singh from Westside Plus had covered the experiment extensively (Andheri Innovation a success in Nashik).  Last year in May 2008, I also had the opportunity to visit the work being done by Shantu for the golf course at the US Golf course where sewage water was being treated and used for watering the golf course. In the process the Biosanitizer effects had permeated the surrounding ecology and we had witnessed fresh water in the middle of the golf course which is surrounded by the sea.

And on 17th I finally got to be in Nashik to see the efforts.

The first plant I visited was the Tapovan plant which treats 78 mld [million liters per day] of sewage from Nashik before releasing it into the Godavari. The second facility was Morvadi [4.5 mld] and the third was Panchak. It is important to remember that this is the stuff generated in our toilets and in our bathrooms and kitchens – excreta and urine – the bath water, washing of clothes and utensils. All of it travels via a network of pipes and aggregates at such facilities.

At Tapovan the largest of the facilities the sewage treatment has been split into two streams. One stream is treated using the conventional method of huge aerators churning the turbid sewage and in the process creating a whirlpool which throws the sewage upto two feet above the surface, exposes it to oxygen and corrects the BOD levels.

In the second stream the treatment primarily comprises of letting the sewage be exposed to a correct quantity of the Biosanitizer, which is placed in pouches in various parts of the holding ponds. As the sewage is continuously exposed to the biosanitizer a large amount of oxygen is released from the biosanitizer thus correcting the BOD levels. The pictures below indicate what is happening. We began the trip by seeing the large holding ponds which were using the biosanitizer and ended with seeing the ponds treated with the conventional aeration technology. And the results can be called nothing short of phenomenal.

The sewage treated by the conventional method even after treatment and in the final holding pond before being discharged into the Godavari was extremely alkaline and corrosive. Froth was being whipped up as the wind created wave action. The froth was then flying away from the ponds and was completely burning away all the neighbouring vegetation, metal fences and anything else in the way.

Previously in the holding ponds holding the sewage treated with the bio sanitizer we could see thousands of small fishes, some of us dipped their feet into the water, all of us held the water in our hands and smelt it and Shantu even applied some in his eyes to show us that there was nothing to worry. It is important to remember that this is the outcome from what is sewage in the first stage.

After visiting the Tapovan plant we travelled 6 kms downstream to see what can only be called magic. The purpose was to see first hand the quality of water downstream.

We reached the destination and along the way also passed a sugar factory whose effluents are released into the Godavari.

At the designated spot we had a very beautiful view of the Godavari and did a tasting of the water. It was a most refreshing taste. We were told that almost 300 mld of drinking water is being observed available as a result of the bio sanitizer properties which have been introduced into the water. Once the treated sewage water is introduced upstream it is also impacting other effluents which join the stream. A missing piece of data was the amount of effluent being discharged by the sugar plant, which if not treated well would most certainly be very toxic and we were down stream of the same. But that apart the visible and the felt effects were most pleasantly surprising.

We left exhilarated from the site to visit even more magic at the Morvadi plant.

At the Morvadi plant 4.5 mld of sewage is treated only through the biosanitizer method. No aerators are used and the only energy requirement is for pumping the sewage to  a height from where by gravity it flows through a series of tanks containing the biosanitizer. The plant must have once been the outskirts but is now surrounded by urbanisation. Even at the primary inlet chamber of the plant, where the sewage is allowed to enter there is only faint smell of the dark turbid liquid being sewage (the exposure to biosanitizer starts here itself.) As we came to the first pond we were greeted with a dense mass of vegetation, which had formed a green carpet over the sewage. Underneath, the sewage was continuously being worked upon and flowing into the secondary and tertiary ponds. Instead of any offensive smell of sewage the place had a feeling of freshness to itself and a number of vegetables were seen growing. The lack of any smell indicated that no CO2 or methane – potent GHG gases – were being produced. The lack of any mechanical aerator clearly leads to enormous savings in electricity bills and consequent emissions from power plants. The whole combination is more than win-win.

We finally came back to our hotel room for a break. We still had to meet Satish Magre the Chief Engineer who took the initative and the risk two years ago to use the bio sanitizer. Thankfully around 6:45 pm he indicated he was free and we were quickly into the car and off to Panchak STP which Mr. Magare wanted to show us. Panchak is the latest STP set up by the NMC. It was great being with the eco-hero himself. Mr. Magare had taken a big risk in going for a technology which eliminates capital expenditure in the current form and makes the requirement for certain kinds of human resource redundant. Being a mechanical engineer himself he had to face the wrath of peers for using method which made mechanical engineering less important.

At Panchak, which a new plant we could see numerous improvements in design and the same marvelous results with the added benefit of a passionate guided tour by the man himself.

I have previously seen the effects and working of the bio sanitizer in Dec 2005 where Dr. Bhawalkar himself had come to apply a dose to the Lokhandwala Lake which I have been involved in saving since a decade. Around that time the lake had a very bad bloom of red algae as a result of the persistent washing of clothes on one of its sides. Over a period of six months we had seen the red algae disappear completely.

As I understood better on this trip the Bio sanitizer crystals (four come in one pouch) are in effect a whole rain forest in themselves. Just as in a forest you dont get any offensive smells even though a lot of death and decay is taking place, the bio sanitizer has in effect powerfully packed the properties of one whole forest in itself and releases need based oxygen, which is an important ingredient for correcting a number of situations. Those tiny, silent, life less crystals doing so much is nothing short of amazing.

While more tests and assessments are certainly required along with peer review, it is quite clear that the bio sanitizer represents a quantum leap in our understanding of handling numerous environmental problems and places at our disposal a corrective means, which clearly removes excuses for inaction.

The challenge is to understand whether current climate change policy will recognize such technologies, analyse them better and  if proven beneficial how soon will the scale up happen. The challenge is to understand whether our current institutional structures are tuned towards responding proactively towards climate change mitigation?

End Notes:

1. Even as we approach COP15 one of the most important data sets will be the accurate estimates on the GHG  emissions resulting from the complete life cycle of the sewage treatment process. Also what are the changes if any in the emissions arsing from the mechanical process vis-a-vis the bio sanitizer process.

Waste ho!

Read with interest two posts in TOI today.

Demolition of flyover gets under way on April 3

NCP leader dumps garbage at Thane civic headquarters

One matter relating presumably only to traffic but having a significant waste aspect to itself and the other a waste matter at heart. In the case of the Thane matter its interesting how such an important issues has only political brownie scoring value.

It’s an issue which I would rate far higher than the Ram Mandir issue or the Nuclear Agreement issue but which unfortunately doesn’t catch the attention of neither the public nor the political class. And it is an issue which I intend to go strongly with to the Parliament if given a chance. Read this link

In the case of the flyover it is six years now since I met Bejoy Davis and got to know of his process of converting debris into BIS quality paver blocks. That time I was very strongly involved with mangroves conservation and debris (and waste in general) was the biggest enemy of mangroves and I was very happy that somebody had found a solution. Since then I have pursued the matter in discussions with junior and senior municipal staff and corporators but we have seen no policy support for the matter.

Has an Environmental Report been filed by the contractor about the metric tonnes of debris that will be generated? Where in Mankhurd is the waste being taken? Is it in a CRZ area? Can the waste directly be transported to a facility where it is converted into paver blocks? Questions which would be asked and answered in most developed cities which we wish to emulate.

Not just the environment, waste has economic aspects to it as well. How many thousand crores does the country spend on waste collection and can fiscal incentives, which minimise waste (and cost of collection) at source be a better option?

In the Thane case is the TMC willing to forego the pick and dump approach to giving better fiscal incentives for segregation and minimisation at source?

Till the answers come – Waste ho!!