Monthly Archives: April 2009

Elections 2009: Where is the green party ? (By- Sunita Narain)

Whenever election to India’s Lok Sabha approaches, two questions tend to emerge: When will India get a green party? Are environmental issues important in our elections? The answers are interlinked; they relate to the nature of the Indian electoral system as well as the nature of India’s environmental concerns.

Our parliamentary democracy borrows its structure from the Westminster system of first-past-the-post, which makes it difficult for any pan-India issue-based party to succeed. For instance, it is no surprise there exists a Green Party in Germany that even comes to power within a coalition government, but cannot in UK. Some years ago, in elections to the European parliament, the UK Green Party got a substantial percentage of votes. In other words, there is a green concern in the UK, but because of UK’s electoral system, the concern cannot translate into a presence in Parliament.

Of course, it is also true, in Europe, the green agenda has been incorporated as a set of mainstream issues by all parties – Left, Right or centre. All parties, for instance, do accept the need to protect the environment, to mitigate emissions, necessary to tackle climate change and even agree to invest in low-carbon technologies such as renewables and hybrid vehicles. The challenge these governments face, once voted to power, is whether they can bite the bullet and make the structural alterations in their economy that climate change imperatives demand. This has been, and remains, Europe’s green Waterloo.

Consider, in this light, the conservative government of Germany’s Angela Merkel. The Christian Democratic Union took on the Green Party agenda so totally that it almost marginalized the latter. But now, when the government has to take some tough decisions about acting on climate change, on the one hand, and move fast on the economy and job-losses, its true anything-but-green colours are showing. The German government which once stood for matters green is now backtracking – it’s seeking emissions allowance for big industry, giving the automobile industry benefits in terms of subsidies to car owners to buy new vehicles, even lobbying hard for time for this industry to tighten fuel efficiency standards.

It is the same in the case of Australia, where, interestingly, the major political party, the Australian Labor Party, came to power saying it was against the environmentally-hostile policies of its opponent (the John Howard government). But now the Labor Party is in power, its actions on environment and climate change are even more pathetic than its predecessor’s. It is tough to walk the talk, when it comes to reinventing the economy for real change. It will be no surprise (it will definitely be disappointing) if Barack Obama finds he, too, has little room to make the changes he has so persuasively promised us all.

For us in India, the issue is similar, yet different. Green issues, including climate change, have made it to all major party manifestos. The Congress, the BJP and the CPI (M) all promise to protect the environment, check river pollution and invest in renewable energy systems for a low-carbon economy. There are even nuances and differences in approach. The BJP, for instance, says it will also protect the tiger and other wild animals through a permanent task force, while the CPI (M) says it will review the Environmental Impact Assessment draft notification, which is seen as industry-friendly. All pure green issues have been listed and there is a minimum common agreement on this matter.

Here, I have questions: are these so-called pure green issues really the core environmental issues that need to be addressed? Can these be addressed without tackling the key issues of growth and economic change? Such questions directly lead to the nature of India’s environmental concern. The fact is in our country, the bulk of the people depend on the environment – the land, the water, the forests – for their survival. The core environmental issue is to increase the productivity of these natural resources in a sustainable manner and to ensure the benefits of the increased productivity go to local people, so building a local economy and livelihood. It is about investing in the resources of the poor. It is about the political framework – the rough-and-tumble of governance – in which this investment will benefit people and build green futures.

We need to care about the pollution of our rivers because people depend on them for drinking water and for survival. We need to revise our strategy for development because these projects take away land, or forests, critical for livelihood security. We need to invest in decentralized water or energy systems so that we can minimize the damage to the local environment and provide access to resources to all, not some.

But this is where political party manifestos get frayed on the green-edge. It is easy to talk about green issues – particularly those the middle-class of India understands as green. But it is difficult to join the dots – to show how the country will green its economy itself, so that it can provide growth for all, without compromising on the present and the future generations.

Interestingly, but also predictably, no manifesto discusses how parties intend to deepen democracy in India – move it from the representative nature, which exists even in the Panchayati Raj system, to a participatory system. The green agenda demands that local communities must have rights over their resources and that participatory democracy – through the strengthening of gram sabhas, for instance – must work. The green agenda is a political agenda, not a technocratic laundry list.

This is why it is easy, here, to look like a green party but not promise a ‘green revolution’.

By- Sunita Narain

आता पर्यावरणाच्या रक्षणासाठी जाहीरनामा…

save-waterएकीकडे मूठभर लोकांचा शायनिंग इंडिया; तर दुसरीकडे दिवसेंदिवस काळवंडत चाललेला बहुसंख्यांचा ग्रामीण भारत.. विकसनशील देशात अशी विषमता असतेच, देशाच्या विकासासाठी किंमत मोजावी लागतेच, या सबबी जरी मान्य केल्या; तरीही किंमत आणखी किती काळ प्रामुख्याने ग्रामीण भारतानेच मोजावी. स्वातंत्र्यप्राप्तीनंतरच्या विकासनीतीमुळे आजवर ६० दशलक्ष नागरिक विस्थापित झाले; त्यांच्या समस्या ना शायनिंग इंडियाला सोडविता आल्या ना वाढत्या जीडीपीचा आकडा जनतेसमोर फेकणाऱ्यांना. ग्रामीण भारताने किंमत मोजली म्हणून शहरांच्या समस्या संपुष्टात आल्या आहेत का; तर तसेही नाही, उलट त्यांची तीव्रता वाढतेच आहे. आंतरराष्ट्रीय वित्तसंस्थांकडून वारेमाप कर्ज घेऊनही समस्या कायम. मग चुकते कुठे? भारतासारख्या जैविक, सांस्कृतिक वैविध्यपूर्ण देशाला विकासाचे सरसकट एकच परिमाण लावावे; का ते देशातील वैविध्यतेनुसार लागू करता येईल, असे ‘लवचिक’ असावे, म्हणजे नेमके ते कसे असावे, या बाबींवर विचारविनिमय करण्यासाठी पुण्यात ‘इकॉलॉजिकल सोसायटी’ व ‘संत तुकाराम व्यासपीठ’ यांच्या सहयोगाने १८ व १९ एप्रिल रोजी पर्यावरण परिषदेचे आयोजन करण्यात आले होते. परिषदेचे उद्घाटन राळेगणसिद्धी गावाचा पर्यायी विकासनीतीच्या आधारे कायापालट करणारे ज्येष्ठ समाजसेवक अण्णा हजारे यांच्या हस्ते झाले. पर्यावरणीय अर्थशास्त्रात मोलाचे योगदान देणारे प्रा. प्रकाश गोळे यांचे मार्गदर्शन परिषदेला लाभले. परिषदेत विविध क्षेत्रांतील व्यक्ती, निवृत्त प्रशासकीय अधिकारी, शासकीय समित्यांचे सल्लागार, कायदेतज्ज्ञ, अर्थतज्ज्ञ व पर्यावरणीय विषयाशी संबंधित विविध शाखांतील तज्ज्ञ, महाराष्ट्रातील स्वयंसेवी संस्था आणि विद्यार्थ्यांचाही सहभाग होता.
परिषदेमध्ये ‘नैसर्गिक स्रोतांचे व्यवस्थापन व ऊर्जेचा वापर’, ‘नागरी समस्या आणि आरोग्य’, ‘शेती, पाणलोटक्षेत्र विकास व पर्यावरण’, ‘मानव व वन्यजीव संरक्षण’, ‘पर्यावरण, नीती आणि शिक्षण’, ‘अर्थविचार व अर्थक्रांती’ असे सहा गट त्या त्या विषयांतील तज्ज्ञ आणि समन्वयकांच्या नेतृत्त्वाखाली नेमण्यात आले होते. त्यांच्या सहाय्याने सुरुवातीला प्रत्येक गटात नैसर्गिक स्रोतांची सद्यस्थिती व त्यातून उद्भवलेल्या सामाजिक समस्यांवर चर्चा झाली. त्यात पुढे आलेल्या योग्यायोग्य बाबींचा सर्वागीण विचार करून विभागवार कृती कार्यक्रम सुचविण्यात आला. दुसऱ्या दिवशी सर्व गटांचे कृती कार्यक्रम सहभागींसमोर मांडण्यात आले. त्यानंतर एकमताने मान्य झालेल्या कृती कार्यक्रमातून अंतिम जाहीरनामा आता ‘इकॉलॉजिकल सोसायटी’ तयार करीत आहे.
ही नीती राबविण्यासाठी राजकिय इच्छाशक्ती आवश्यक असल्याने हा जाहीरनामा महाराष्ट्रातील सर्व राजकीय पक्षांना दिला जाणार आहे.
सर्वसामान्यांच्या हितासाठी असलेला हा जाहीरनामा व त्याची पाश्र्वभूमी तपशीलवार ‘इकॉलॉजिकल सोसायटी’कडून जाणून घेता येईल. त्याबाबत अधिक माहितीसाठी संपर्क : इकॉलॉजिकल सोसायटी ०२०-२५६७७३१२.
मानवी हस्तक्षेपामुळे उद्भवलेल्या पर्यावरणीय समस्यांवर उपाययोजना करण्यासाठी लहान-मोठय़ा व्यक्ती-संस्था कार्यरत आहेत. त्यामध्ये लोकसभा निवडणुकीत पर्यावरणीय अजेंडा घेऊन पुढे आलेले उमेदवार आहेत; जागरूकता निर्माण करणारे एकांडे शिलेदार-संस्था आहेत; सरकारी अधिकारी, कर्मचारीही आहेत. या सगळ्यांचे प्रतिनिधीत्व करणारी ‘पर्यावरण परिषद’ नुकतीच पार पडली. ‘देशाच्या जैविक, सांस्कृतिक विविधतेचा आदर करून त्यातून बहुसंख्यांचा विचार करणारी विकासनीती हवी’, असा या परिषदेचा सूर होता.

साभार लोकसत्ता,

रेश्मा जठार

New knowledge resources !

New Knowledge Resources:

Nitrates and Cancer : New research in the US suggests a linkage
Read More
System of Rice Intensification: The CIIFAD website is a rich source of knowledge
Read More

On Ask A Question service, solutions to fluorosis in Guwahati are discussed: Read More ;
and another interesting discussion took place on Reforms to underground drainage system in Mangalore:
Read More The April issue of Capacity e-magazine focusses on capacity building in the water and sanitation sector
Read More

India’s first Ph.D. in Ecological Sanitation? Dr.G.Sridevi studied the use of human urine as fertilizer in banana and maize and got encouraging results
Read More

Hydroelectric projects and climate change? Comment on Dr. Mohinder Slariya’s thesis on the effect of hydro projects in Chamba district of Himachal
Read More

Water for GDP or Water for HDI: Dr. Mukesh Joshi on Gujarat’s dilemma
Read More

Critical Thinking:
Recharge of Deep Borewells in Hardrock terrain: S.Vishwanath demonstrates a recharge test, and stimulates a discussion.
Read More

Dams, Rivers and People: The SANDRP newsletter’s lead article is titled: “The zero success of the state in River Basin Management in India”
Read More

“Mazhapolima”: An innovative participatory open-well recharge programme in Kerala
Read More – Part 1
Read More – Part 2

S.Vishwanath is excited by a project in Saurashtra that has used rooftop rainwater harvesting for drinking and cooking water and has stood the test of time for 10 years.
Read More

Conferences, Workshops:
Presentations and videos from the “Umiam Lake Conservation – Stakeholder Dialogue and Future Strategies” that took place at Shillong. This event brought together civil society, elected representatives, bureaucrats and media in a genuine sharing to understand and solve the problems of Shillong’s Umiam Lake.
View Presentations: Click here
Read a background of Umiam: Click here
Comment: Click here

Participatory Planning and Decision Making using – Geographical Information System (GIS) : Organised by Development Alternatives, 21- 23 April 2009 New Delhi. Read More

SPSS Training : Conducted by Sambodhi Communications, in New Delhi, Chennai, Mumbai and Hyderabad
Read More

GWP Technical Committee Chair: The Global Water Partnership Technical Committee is looking for an eminent researcher, academic or sector professional with the ability to engage at international, regional and national levels, with multidisciplinary groups of people
Read More

Consultant – Social Development: Arghyam is looking for a dynamic individual to join their Urban Water Initiative in Bangalore as a Consultant – Social Development.
Read More

Deshpande Fellowship : The Fellowship is an interactive, applied learning experience that aims to foster a generation of successful social entrepreneurs. Twenty (25) Fellowships will be awarded. The last date for application is 1 May 2009. Women are encouraged to apply
Read More

Ashoka Competitions: New competitions from Ashoka on innovations in agriculture and geotourism. Prize money of $5000/- to 3 winners of each competition to develop the innovations.
Read More


Yale University students doing a project on water quality and sanitation in Krisnanagar district of Nadia, West Bengal, are looking for some assistance:
Read More

“Jan Jodo Ganga Yatra” Awareness Campaign Drive For ‘Conservation of the River Ganges’ from pollution and over extractions ! – Gangajal Nature Foundation, Mumbai.

This Campaign is starting on 5th March 2010 and will consist of “Gangajal” photographic exhibition, documentary shows, talks by experts on environment and arrangement of “Cleanliness Workshops” in various pilgrimage places, cities along the river Ganga covering a distance of 2500 kilometers..It will also include collecting and collating of data on the detrimental effects of Ganga river pollution on lives of the people living along the route of river Ganga. This data collection will be done by well-known water experts traveling by a river boat from  Haridwar to Gangasagar, Bay of  Bengal.

This Campaign will also compile all the information collected on Ganga River pollution and of video shooting done about the same. This compiled documentation and video shootings will be submitted to the Prime Minister’s Office through the hands of Shri. Kumar Ketkar, Chief Editor of Loksatta (a Marathi Daily of Indian Express Group) as an effort of common people’s participation in the Government’s “Ganga River Cleaning Programme”. This thirty days Campaign by river, and road will be a gigantic effort by the Gangajal Foundation towards the prevention of pollution of the river Ganga. Many environment-connected NGOs along the shores of the river Ganga as well as various Maharashtra Mandals have expressed their interest in participating in this Campaign. Deterioration of the environment is the main as well as serious problem of the present age. However, ordinary people are unaware of it. Various problems like pollution, droughts, floods and problems of water and land are not natural but the culmination of careless and self-centered attitude of human beings. Its bad effects will be experienced by the present generation and the generations to come. Gangajal Foundation is trying to awaken all people about this serious situation.

Drainage in Ganga at Bellurmath, Kolkata
Drainage in Ganga at Bellurmath, Kolkata

One ardent lover of nature and photography read an article called “Bhagirath Teri Ganga Maili” (Bhagirath’s dirty river Ganga) in the book “Himyatri” (Traveller in the Snow) by well famous nature-writer Sureshchandra Warghade. This inspired him to travel, understand and photograph the state of the river Ganga by travel ling from Gomukh Gangotri to Bay of Bengal along the river Ganga. This river is the symbol of life for Indians. As well they have eternal faith in the sacred nature of the river. This photographer also executed this task in the period of 2001 to 2006. He had only one aim: “To awaken the people about the pollution of the river Ganga which is considered very sacred by the Indians and to make them participate in increasing the efforts to stop this pollution and improve the cleanliness of the river”. This nature loving photographer is Shri.Vijay Mudshingikar. He is also the founder of Gangajal Foundation. When he did these trips, he was an ordinary worker in Crompton Greeves Company. These photography trips culminated into Gangajal Photography Exhibition which showed and brought to our notice how badly we are treating our sacred river Ganga, which occupies a position of Goddess in the minds of every Indian.

Nature-writer Shri. Sureshchandra Warghade in his article “Bhagirath Teri Ganga Maili” in the book Him-Yatri has shown strikingly how we Indians are polluting the river Ganga which has such a pious place in the minds of Indians. He has also shown how we are excessively using the water of the river Ganga for farming and how that is resulting in the deterioration in the quality of water of the river Ganga. When Shri.Mudshingikar read this article, he was suffering from slip-disc. Even ordinary tasks of walking, sitting and getting up were difficult for him. He recovered successfully only because of a surgery carried out by neuro-spinal surgeon Dr. Premanand Ramani. He could thereafter walk easily. This happened in October 1998. Three years after this operation, he started his project Gangajal in the year 2001. Taking care of his family responsibilities and his job, he completed step-by-step his project Gangajal in five years. He started from Gangasagar in the Bay of Bengal. He covered various festivals celebrated along the river Ganga. These included the Kavad Yatra, Kumbhmela at Allahabad, Dev-deepavali at Varanasi, Chat-pooja at Patna, Durga Festival at Kolkata, Gangasagar-yatra in West Bengal. He also studied the life of the people living in sixty eight big cities and hundred and fourteen small and large villages situated on the banks of the river Ganga. Forty percent of Indian farming is dependent on the waters of the river Ganga. From Haridwar to Kolkata, there are four hundred and fifty factories on the banks of the river Ganga. They pollute the river Ganga as much as or even more than the villages and cities along the river. All this was recorded by Shri.Mudshingikar with his camera. His Gangajal Photographic Exhibition beautifully and effectively depicts the river Ganga as seen in all seasons, snow-clad mountains, Gomukh- the origin of Ganga, area surrounding Ganga Mandir in Gangotri. Along with this beautiful depiction of River Ganga in Himalayas, it also depicts how the situation deteriorates rapidly as the River Ganga enters the human habitat.

The waters of river Ganga looking deep blue at Gomukh Gangotri becomes dirty deep black by the time the river

Sacred confluence of Ganga and Alaknanda at Devprayag.
Sacred confluence of Ganga and Alaknanda at Devprayag.

reaches Kolkata. While catching this and the natural beauty of the river Ganga in his photos, Shri. Mudshingikar shows very clearly the people’s faith (shraddha) about the river Ganga through his photos in the Gangajal Photography Exhibition. Out of his gratitude towards Dr. Premanand Ramani as well as Swamy Sunderanand and Raghuvir Singh, he has dedicated his Gangajal project to them. After completing his Gangajal Project, Shri. Mudshingikar approached lot of organisations for help towards this Gangajal Photo Exhibition, nobody offered him help. However his deep concern about river Ganga made him restless. Finally, Shri. Mudshingikar decided to take VRS (voluntary retirement from service) from the Crompton Greeves Company where he had been working for 25 years. He had to use Rs. three and half lakhs from the provident fund money that he received on voluntary retirement, for producing his photography exhibition.

LalitkalaThe first Gangajal Exhibition took place in the Gallery of Lalit Kala Academy in New Delhi on 13th August 2006. For the inauguration Dr. Premanand Ramani visited New Delhi from Mumbai. Shri. K.R. Subanna and famous photographer Shri. Avinash Pasricha were also present. During the inauguration speech, Dr. Ramani said that an ordinary person like Shri. Mudshingikar realised his responsibility towards the society and the country and this Photography Exhibition called Gangajal is its result. Many distinguished persons praised the efforts and the perseverance of Shri. Mudshingikar. Art lovers and nature lovers of Delhi supported the efforts of Shri. Mudshingikar by visiting the exhibition in large numbers. This boosted the confidence of Shri. Mudshingikar.

With the help of Loksatta (a Marathi Daily of Indian Express Group) Gangajal Exhibition was opened in the NCPA’s NCPA 3Piramal Gallery in the presence of Shri. Kumar Ketkar, Chief Editor of Loksatta, Swamy Sunderanand and famous nature-writer Shri. Sureshchandra Warghade. Shri. Kumar Ketkar said: “We have created a sacred feeling about the River Ganga and it has given birth to a great culture. However, we are destroying the same great culture. Really this culture is not only local culture but a great global wealth. Mudshingikar’s Gangajal Exhibition not only shows the sacredness of the river Ganga but also how badly we treat the same sacred river. Seeing this depiction, I feel ashamed instead of feeling proud of our Indian Culture”. Swamy Sunderanand said, “River Ganga is considered sacred by us Indians. But what is the state of river now? Sadhus (saints) themselves have established hotels along the shores of the river Ganga. The sewerage of the cities and pollutants of hundreds of factories are dumped in the river Ganga. Lots of NCPA 4trees are cut. The government is inactive in stopping all this. If it continues like this, the river Ganga will turn into a small nullah in the next fifty years.” Due to the publicity through the medium like Loksatta, a lot of art lovers and nature lovers from Mumbai and also from out of Mumbai areas like Dahanu, Virar as well as Karjat and Khopoli visited this Gangajal Exhibition. Art lovers were ecstatic looking at the photos of the beautiful river in the serene, inhabited areas of Himalayas and were equally disturbed by seeing its deterioration as it entered the human habitat.

With active support from Loksatta, this exhibition was also opened in the P.L.Deshpande Gallery of the Maharashtra Kala Academy by the then Cultural Minister Hon. Shri. Ashok Chavan (the present Chief Minister) and world-renowned photographer Sham Manchekar. The Honourable Minister praised the courageous project of Shri. Mudshingikar and his perseverance of pursuing the project to completion. There was also spontaneous response from the art lovers.

BNHS member Shri. Dilip Chawathe introduced Shri. Mudshingikar to Mumbai’s Ex-Mayor Shri. Ramesh Prabhoo. PLD 2Through this introduction, the third exhibition was inaugurated at the Gallery of the Prabhodhankar Sports Complex at Vile Parle by Shri. Ramesh Prabhoo and famous photographer Shri. Shrikant Malushte on 22nd April 2007. A lot of students from various schools and colleges in Vile Parle visited the exhibition. They (the students) were happy  that their knowledge about environment increased. The parents and the teachers of the students said that there should be a similar project about the rivers in Maharashtra. The then Deputy Chief Minister Hon. Shri. R.R. Patil visited this photographic exhibition and he praised the efforts done by Maharashtrian people for the preservation and improvement of the rivers outside Maharashtra. Famous actor Shri. Vikram Gokhale and famous writer Shri. Vishwas Patil also visited this exhibition.

PLDGanga lover Shri. Prabhakar Soman from Kalyan visited the exhibition held at Piramal Art Gallery of N.C.P.A. This visit left a lasting impression on him. He wanted this Gangajal Exhibition to be held in Kalyan also. In that context, he introduced Shri. Mudshingikar to Shri. Kaka Hardas, famous nature photographer and social worker from Kalyan. As a result of this, the Gangajal Exhibition was opened on 25th May 2007 in the hall of Yadnyavalkya Organisation by Shri. Kaka Hardas. Art loving and nature loving people from Kalyan gave an active support to the exhibition. In addition, Shri. Mudshingikar got the guidance and friendship of an able person like Shri. Kaka Hardas.

Through the help of Shri. Kaka Hardas, another exhibition was held in the Everest Hall in Dombivali on the World Environment Day 5th June 2007 and was inaugurated by Ex-Mayor Shri. Abasaheb Patwari and Professor Surendra Vajpayee. People of Dombivali genuinely appreciated the photographic exhibition and opined that there is a real need of generating awareness and involvement in nature protection and water conservation through such exhibitions.

Up till now, Shri. Mudshingikar was organising the exhibition through the help of his many friends. In this work, a lot of PTKS 4times, Dr. Premanand Ramani extended help. With his guidance and the help of Shri. Kaka Hardas, this project by nature “crazy” photographer was converted on 10th September, 2007 into Gangajal Nature Foundation, Mumbai as an environment- connected Public Registered Society.

As a part of celebration of the “International Water Year 2007”, Anatomy Department and Body Donation Committee of Grant Medical College together arranged the Gangajal Photography Exhibition and Gangajal Documentaries at Grant Medical College, Byculla, Mumbai on 29th September 2007. This was inaugurated by Dr. Sarode, Deputy Dean of Sir J.J. Hospital. Deputy Commissioner Shri. Dhanraj Vanjari was the Chief Guest. He said that Indian Hindu Culture developed on the banks of the Indian rivers and therefore, preservation and protection of rivers is the protection of our culture. Dr. Sarode said that public cleanliness is connected with our mind’s well being and therefore we must keep our mind clean. Similarly, Body Donation Committee’s member and social worker Shri. Umakant Sawant said body donation is a sacred gift. Every year thousands of dead bodies are immersed in the river Ganga. That is increasing the pollution of the river Ganga. Instead if these bodies are donated to various medical colleges for student study, it will help the humanity. In body donation, Maharashtra is at second spot in India. However, it is essential that such mindset needs to develop in the northern states.

Drainage in Ganga at Varanasi
Drainage in Ganga at Varanasi

With the help of Shri. Rajesh Palshetkar, another Gangajal exhibition was organised in the Leprosy  Elimination Committee’s Get-together at Neregaon, Panvel on 20th January, 2008. The villagers and Leprosy affected brethren spontaneously supported this exhibition.

Gangajal – a photographic exhibition on the river Ganga was organized on 24th and 25th January 2008 at Nagindas Khandelwal College with the help of its Geography Department. It was inaugurated by Shri. Avinash Parikh, Secretary, Malad-Kandivali Education Trust, Principal Mrs. N.C.Josh and Vice-Principal Shri. V.G. Waradkar. There was a very good response to this exhibition. In two days, more than five thousand school and college students visited this exhibition. Coinciding with this exhibition, a seminar was organised. Large number of geography experts and environment experts attended this seminar. They praised the efforts behind this exhibition. The knowledgeable people remarked that this effort of the Foundation is of conservation of nature.

With the cooperation of Shri. Kantilal Mukund Deo, a social worker from Murbe village in Palghar Taluka (Dist. Thane)  an Ophthalmic Camp and Gangajal Photographic Exhibition were organised. These were inaugurated by Shri. Rajendra Gavit, President, Pradesh Congress Adivasi Sangh, Shri. Jitendra Mer of Grampanchayat at Murbe and Dr. Yadav, Ophthalmic Surgeon. Many people from Palghar Taluka visited the exhibition. Many patients benefited from the Ophthalmic Camp.

The year 2007 was observed as International Year for water. On this occasion the Foundation organised a competition for photographs and documentaries with the theme “Water is life”. If we look into the history of mankind we realize that from ancient times human development took place in the regions where water was available. The availability of water along with other natural ingredients was the main attraction behind establishment of a human colony. In fact, water became life for humans. Hindu culture which became world famous developed around rivers  Sindhu (Indus) and Ganga. The river Ganga is known as life line of Indians. But the development was too fast to use the water in a planned manner or to preserve it properly. Due to this a time has come when these life giving rivers need to be brought back to life. Our nation with exploding population will certainly have to face a very serious water problem in near future.

Secular Ganga
Secular Ganga

With this background, Gangajal Foundation organised a different kind of competition so as to bring together various organizations and persons fighting on the issue of water. This was a competition for photographs and documentaries with the theme “Water is life”. There was a spontaneous response to this from all over India. First prize was given to Shri. Abhijit Bhattacharya from West Bengal, second prize to Shri. Ramesh Pednekar from Mumbai and the third to Shri. Partha Bose from West Bengal.

Prize distribution ceremony took place on 30th March 2008 at Rachana Sansad. At that time, there was also an exhibition of prize winning photographs and showing of the prize winning documentaries. Some selected noteworthy photographs of other participants were also exhibited. Respected Chief guests for this programme were world famous neuro-spinal surgeon Dr. Premanand Ramani, Pani-Mitra (Friend of Water) Shri. Avinash Kubal, Dr. Goldene Codrose, Education Officer for Maharashtra of World Wildlife Fund (W.W.F.) and Shri. Kaka Hardas, a famous photographer and social worker from Kalyan. Well-known photographers Shri. Shyam Manchekar, Shri. Datta Sawant and Shri. Vishwas Morye were the judges for photography section whereas Shri. Avadhoot Paralkar, Shri. Suresh Tondwalkar and Shri. Arun Gongade were the judges for the documentaries section.

The Foundation has been working towards the education of our society about preservation of rivers through the “Gangajal” Photographic Exhibition for the last two years. Until now fifty thousand citizens have visited the exhibition. The Foundation is also producing a short film “Gangajal” so as to reach a wider audience.  The Foundation hopes to broadcast this short film on Doordarshan and Discovery Channels. Filming of the first part covering the “Doli-Yatra” from Mukhwa to Gangotri was completed on 7th May 2008 on the auspicious occasion of Akshay Truteeya. The Foundation is planning to complete the short film series in the next two years. Shri. Kumar Ketkar, Chief Editor,

Kawaryatra, Haridwar
Kawaryatra, Haridwar

Loksatta (a Marathi Daily of Indian Express Group) is going to guide this project and cooperate in its production.

In north Bihar river Kosi changed its course after seventy years. Due to this hundreds of villages from fifteen different districts were inundated. Crops on about three hundred thousand hectares were destroyed. The loss is estimated to be in the range of Rs. eight hundred crores. Lakhs of people have lost their homes and many lost their lives.

Gangajal Nature Foundation took a decision to extend a helping hand to the flood affected people. The Foundation made an appeal directly to its members as well as on its website for help to these unfortunate people. Members responded by donating generously. Shri. Bapat Guruji of Gayatri Charitable Trust from Badlapur extended a hand of help. Essential items like clothes, beds sheets, footwear, biscuits, milk powder were collected.

It was not easy to take all these essential goods to the flood affected region. However, Shri. Achyut Marathe, Maharashtra Bhavan, Gaya, Shri. Ashok Soman, Maharshtra Mandal, Patna gave valuable help. It was with their help that a contact could be established with the District Collector Ashwini Thakre. The District Collector suggested that people from Saharsa District needed help urgently as they were worst affected by floods. She contacted Shri. R. Laxman, District Collector of Saharsa and arranged for security as well as administrative officers.

After this Shri. Vijay Mudshingikar, President, Gangajal Nature Foundation, Shri. Shyam Machekar, well-known

photographer, Shri. Sureshchandra Warghade, well-known nature writer and Dr. P.D. Kadam reached Patargarh in

Saharsa District on 15th October 2008. In the meantime, there was an angry reaction against Maharashtra Nav-Nirman Sena in Bihar due to its attack in Mumbai on Bihari Examinees. Despite this “Gangajal” was welcomed as it had come from Mumbai with a helping hand and there was no obstacle in the way of reaching the helpless, flood affected people. Everyone was also full of praise for the District Collector Ashwini Thakre. The Foundation took aid to the flood affected homes in villages of Golmapoorvi, Golmapaschim, Jamhar, Dhamolipoorvi, Bishanpur in Taluka Patargarh of District Saharsa. These villages had been severely hit by the natural calamity. According to Shri. Vijay Mudshingikar, the help given by Gangajal was a small portion of what was actually needed.

 Gangajal Foundation is working towards the twin objectives of nature preservation and social obligations with the help from many. International Water Day was observed on 22nd March 2007. On this day W.W.F., Australia published a list of ten most endangered rivers in the world in order to draw world’s attention. This list includes Ganga, which every Indian calls Goddess and Sindhu (Indus) which gave the name India to our country. Our ancestors taught us to worship these rivers as mothers as they are our life giving sources. However, today the condition of these rivers is so pathetic that we have to bring them back to life! We are ignoring the teachings of our ancestors and destroying nature for our selfish motives. Ganga which is worshipped by crores of Indians and which is a lifeline for fifty crore people has been included in the list of rivers which are about to vanish! Sewerage water from the towns as well as polluted chemicals for factories along the banks of Ganga flows into the river Ganga. All these years the river Ganga was  assimilating all these pollutants. However, now it is surely hurtling towards its own imminent death.

What is exactly the place of Ganga in the minds of us Indians? The river Ganga starts high up in Himalayas and finally meets Bay of Bengal near Kolkata. Just seeing this river, many crores of Indians instinctively join their hands in prayer. They consider water of Ganga as Amrut (Elixir of Life). We Indians strongly believe that “bathing in the river Ganga” and “drinking the water of river Ganga” opens the doors of heaven for us. One wonders why the same Indians allow the same sacred river to be destroyed.

We should allow these rivers to come back to life before it is too late. The best way to save the rivers is to bring pressure on politicians with the power of people who are united and force the politicians to pay attention to these  problems. Only people will be able to save all the rivers including Ganga-maiyya and other water bodies in our country. So the Foundation thinks it is its prime duty to educate and awaken the people.

We appeal to the generosity of charitable institutions as well as individuals to extend a helping hand to our nature preservation project “Save River Ganga”. If any individuals or institutions would like to participate in our project, they should contact “Gangajal Nature Foundation”.



Surendra Mishra,

Managing Trustee,

Gangajal Nature Foundation, Mumbai

मरणासन्न नद्या आणि आपण !

मरणासन्न नद्या आणि आपण

गंगाजल‘ नेचर फौंडेशनच्या वर्धापनदिनी

नदिमित्रपुरस्काराने सन्मानीत श्री. अभिजीत घोरपडे यांनी पुरस्कार स्विकारल्यानंतर जे सादरीकरण केले तेव्हा छायाचित्रांच्या मध्यमातून सप्रमाण सिद्ध केलेले काही मुद्दे.

  1. मांजरा, तापी, गोदावरी, कृष्णा, पंचगंगा या नद्या नव्हे तर गटारं झाल्या आहेत.

  2. मेळघाटच्या जंगलातील नद्या सोडून महाराष्ट्रातील सर्व नद्या त्याच मार्गावर.

  3. या सर्वच नद्य्यांमध्ये मानवीविष्टा, घनकचरा आणि उद्योगांची घाण.

  4. श्रीमंतांकडून जास्त घाण, गरीबांचा कोंडमारा.

  5. इचलकरंजीकर कृष्णेचं चांगलं पाणी उचलून पंचगंगेच्या आधिच घाण असलेल्या पाण्यात प्रदुषीत पाण्याची भर घालतात.

  6. राज्यातल्या नगरपालिकांपाशी केवळ १% सांडपाणी शुद्ध करण्याची क्षमता तर महानगरपालिकापाशी केवळ १६% सांडपाणी शुद्ध करण्याची क्षमता. बाकी पाणी तसचं नद्यांमध्ये सोडलं जातं.

  7. नफा थोडा कमी करून पाणी शुद्ध करण्याची मोठ्या उद्योगांची तयारी नाही.

  8. पंचगंगेच्या किनारी मासेमारी करताना पुर्वी १५ ते २० प्रकारचे मासे मिळत, आता एकच प्रकारचा मासा मिळतो जो केवळ घाणपाण्यातच जगतो.

  9. शिवाजी विद्य्यापीठाच्या एका अहवालाप्रमाणे गेल्या दहा वर्षात विस प्रकारचे मासे नष्ट पावले.

  10. बेसुमार झाडं तोडली गेली.

  11. बहुतेक नद्या हिवाळ्यातच कोरड्या.

  12. पाण्यावरील तैलपदार्थ, आणि जलपर्णी मुळे पाण्यातील ऑक्सिजनचं प्रमाण फार कमी.

  13. नदीच्या वाळूवर (डांगर वाडीत) होणारा भाजीपाला आता होत नाही.

  14. वाळूचा बेसुमार उपसा होत असल्याने नदी पात्राची झिज त्यामूळे नद्यांवरील पुलांना धोका.

  15. नद्यांचं स्वरूप बारमाही ते हंगामी.

  16. भुजल पातळीत घट.

  17. अतिक्रमणांचा विळखा.

  18. पुराचंपाणी सर्व शहरात आणि मोठ्या गावात पसरतय.

  19. नदी पात्रातून लाटलेल्या जागांपेक्षा कितीतरी मोठ्ठ नुकसान.

  20. प्रदुषण नियंत्रण मंडळाने डोळ्यांवर कातडं ओढलं आहे.

  21. हे सर्व रोखण्यासाठी जनजागृती आणि निवडणूक आय़ोगा सारख्या बलशाली व सर्वसमावेषक यंत्रणेची गरज.

नरेन्द्र प्रभू

वालधुनी नदीतील रासायनिक दुर्गंधीने दहा जणांना बाधा!

आज पहाटे कल्याणमधील वालधुनी नदीतून वाहणाऱ्या सांडपाण्यातून उग्र दुर्गंधी पसरल्याने या भागात राहणारे दहा रहिवासी अत्यवस्थ झाले. यामुळे कल्याण परिसरातील नागरिकांमध्ये भीतीचे वातावरण पसरले होते. नदी परिसरात राहणाऱ्या नागरिकांना झोपेतच अस्वस्थ वाटू लागल्याने ते पहाटेच उठून दुर्गंधी कोठून येते म्हणून शोध घेत होते. झरिना शेख, शहिदा शेख, इब्राहम शेख, नलिमा शेख, नसिमा शेख, सलमा शेख, सुशीला पगारे यांसह एक आठ वर्षांंच्या मुलाला या दुर्गंधीचा त्रास झाला. त्यांना डोळे चुरचुरणे, छातीत मळमळणे असे प्रकार झाले. झरिना सर्वाधिक त्रास झाला. या सर्वाना रुक्मिणीबाई रुग्णालयात दाखल केले आहे. वालधुनी नदीत उल्हासनगर, कल्याण परिसरातील सांडपाणी वाहून नेले जाते. उल्हासनगरमधील काही फॅक्टरींचे रसायनयुक्त पाणी नियमित नदीत सोडले जाते. आज वाहून जाणाऱ्या सांडपाण्यातून शरीराला अस्वस्थ करणारी दुर्गंधी पसरली होती. नागरिकांना डोळे चुरचुरणे, मळमळणे असे प्रकार सुरू झाल्याने स्थानिक नागरिकांनी नगरसेवक राजेंद्र देवळेकर यांना कळविले. देवळेकर यांनी घटनास्थळी जाऊन पाहणी केली. नागरिकांशी चर्चा केली. एक जागरूक नागरिक मोहन वाळुंज यांनीही तात्काळ अग्निशमन दल, प्रदूषण नियंत्रण मंडळाच्या अधिकाऱ्यांना कळवून घडलेल्या घटनेची माहिती दिली. राजेंद्र देवळेकर यांनी सांगितले, गेल्या १५ दिवसांपूर्वीच मी प्रदूषण नियंत्रण मंडळाच्या अधिकाऱ्यांना वालधुनी नदीतून वाहणाऱ्या सांडपाण्यातून खूप दुर्गंधी येते. या पाण्याचे नमुने नियमित तपासून जे कंपनी मालक फिल्टर न करता नदीत पाणी सोडतात त्यांच्यावर कारवाई करा म्हणून सूचित केले आहे. प्रदूषण नियंत्रण मंडळाचे अधिकारी आपली जबाबदारी झटकण्यासाठी हे सर्व पाणी उल्हासनगरमधून येते असे कारण सांगून टाकतात. एखादी दुर्घटना घडण्याची अधिकारी वाट पाहतात का, असा प्रश्न मनात उपस्थित होतो. साटेलोटय़ांमुळे नागरिकांना नाहक त्रास सहन करावा लागतो. आज नेहमीपेक्षा नाल्यातून खूप दुर्गंधी येत असल्याचे देवळेकर यांनी सांगितले. प्रदूषण नियंत्रण मंडळाच्या एका अधिकाऱ्याने सांगितले की, मी वालधुनी परिसरात आलेल्या तक्रारीवरून प्रदूषण मोजणारे यंत्र घेऊन फिरत आहे. नियमित दुर्गंधी येत आहे.
सध्या उष्णता वाढल्याने या दुर्गंधीचे प्रमाण वाढले आहे. फिल्टर न करता कोण सांडपाणी सोडत आहे, त्याचाही शोध घेत असल्याचे अधिकाऱ्याने सांगितले. तसेच सांडपाण्याचे नमुने तपासणीसाठी पुणे येथे पाठविण्यात येणार असल्याचे सांगितले. दरम्यान, गेल्या दोन ते तीन वर्षांंपासून वालधुनी नदीचा विकास करण्याच्या विषयावर चर्चा सुरू आहे, पण प्रत्यक्षात त्याची मिठी नदीप्रमाणे कार्यवाही होत नसल्याने नागरिकांमध्ये नाराजीचा सूर काढला जात आहे.

साभार लोकसत्ता

कोसीचा पूर : महाराष्ट्राची समस्या!- अभिजित घोरपडे

ऑगस्ट महिन्यात बिहारमध्ये कोसी नदीला महापूर आला आणि तिने उत्तर बिहारमध्ये हाहाकार माजवला. त्याचा फटका ३३ लाख लोकांना बसला. ५८७ जणांचा बळी गेला, सुमारे चार हजार बेपत्ता झाले. हजारो जनावरे मृत्युमुखी पडली आणि मालमत्तेचे नुकसान तर अब्जावधी रुपयांच्या घरात गेले. महाराष्ट्राचा विचार केला तर आपल्यापासून तब्बल अडीच ते तीन हजार किलोमीटर अंतरावर घडणाऱ्या या घटना. म्हणूनच इतक्या दूरवरच्या घटनांशी व या कोसी नदीशी आपला काय संबंध? आणि तिथल्या ‘बिहारीं’ना भेडसावणाऱ्या या समस्यांशी आपल्याला काय देणे-घेणे? सामान्य नागरिकांच्या मनात कदाचित असे प्रश्न येतील.
दीड-दोन वर्षांत बिहारींच्या व उत्तर प्रदेशच्या भय्यांच्या विरोधात झालेल्या उग्र आंदोलनानंतर तर आपला, मराठी माणसांचा कोसीच्या पुराशी तसा संबंधच उरत नाही. अर्थात, या आंदोलनांमध्ये नसलेले लोकसुद्धा बिहारच्या पुराशी आपला संबंध जोडू शकणार नाहीत. फार तर आपल्याच देशाचे नागरिक असल्याने या पूरगस्तांना सहानुभूती दाखवली जाईल किंवा माणुसकीच्या भावनेतून त्यांना मदत केली जाईल. पण त्याच्या पलिकडे कोसीच्या पुराशी आपला संबंध काय, हा प्रश्न अनुत्तरितच राहतो.

इतक्या दूरवरून असे वाटणे स्वाभाविक आहे, पण प्रत्यक्ष कोसीच्या पात्रात गेल्यावर व तेथील समस्या समजून घेतल्यावर कोसीच्या पुराचा आपल्याशी किती जवळचा संबंध आहे हे समजते आणि तिथल्या लोकांची समस्या दूर होण्यासाठी आपणही आवाज उठवायला हवा, हे पटते. ही समस्या लवकर सुटली नाही तर त्याचा त्रास बिहारी जनतेला तर सहन करावा लागेलच, पण त्याचबरोबर महाराष्ट्र व देशाच्या इतर भागाच्या दृष्टीनेसुद्धा ही समस्या एक डोकेदुखी ठरणार आहे. म्हणूनच या वेळच्या कोसीच्या पुराची समस्या ‘राष्ट्रीय आपत्ती’ म्हणूनच हाताळायला हवी व त्यातून मार्ग काढण्यासाठी तितक्याच गांभीर्याने प्रयत्नही करायला हवेत. या वेळी पंतप्रधानांनी कोसीचा पूर राष्ट्रीय आपत्ती म्हणून जाहीर केलाच आहे. त्यामुळे मनात आणले तर त्या दिशेने मार्गक्रमण करणे आता शक्य आहे. कोसीच्या पुराची नेमकी समस्या समजून घेण्यासाठी तेथील पुराचे अभ्यासक व ‘बाढ मुक्ति अभियान’ या संघटनेचे डॉ. दिनेश कुमार मिश्रा यांच्या सोबत कोसी व बागमतीच्या पात्राला नुकतीच भेट दिली. तिच्या नेपाळमधील प्रवाहापासून बिहापर्यंत वेध घेतला. तसेच, सहरसा, सुपौल, खगडिम्या, मधुबनी, सीतामढम्ी या जिल्ह्यांमधील लोकांशी संवाद साधला. या लोकांशी बोलताना व तेथील समस्यांचा आढावा घेताना पुराच्या घटनांशी आपलाही अगदीच जवळचा संबंध असल्याचे जाणवले. कारण या पुरामुळेच तेथून हजारो लोक विस्थापित होत आहेत आणि रोजगाराच्या शोधात दिल्ली, पंजाबसह मुंबई, पुणे, नाशिक व महाराष्ट्राच्या इतर शहरांमध्येसुद्धा येत आहेत. त्यांच्याशी बोलल्यावर जाणवले की त्यांना घर सोडून दूरवर जाण्याची मुळीच इच्छा नाही, पण पुरामुळे जगण्याचे साधनच हिरावून घेतल्यामुळे त्यांच्याकडे दुसरा इलाजच उरला नाही. सीतामढम्ी जिल्ह्यातील ‘काला पानी’ परिसरात अडकलेल्या भदा-टोला या वस्तीत ब्रज भाई नावाचा तरुण भेटला. तो पुण्यातील वारजे परिसरात बांधकामावर काम करायचा. त्याच्यासारखे अनेक तरुण रोजंदारीसाठी नाशिक व मुंबईत आले आहेत. काला पानी हा भाग नदीचे पाणी तुंबल्याने दहा वर्षांपासून पाण्याने वेढला गेला आहे. त्यात हजारो कुटुंबांच्या जमिनी बुडाल्या. खरे तर या जमिनी अतिशय सुपीक होत्या. खत, पाणी नसतानाही उत्तम पीक घेता यायचे. पण बागमती नदीला तटबंध घातल्यानंतर पाणी साचू लागले व पुराची तीव्रता वाढली. इथे राहणे अनारोग्याचे व हलाखीचे तर आहेच, शिवाय सततच्या पुराने कमाईचे साधनच हिरावून घेतले आहे.
कोसी नदीच्या पात्रात अशा हजारो हेक्टर जमिनी आहेत, शिवाय तिच्या काठाच्या बाजू-बाजूंनाही पाणी साचत असल्याने त्याहून जास्त जमिनी नापीक झाल्या आहेत. हीच परिस्थिती गेल्या वर्षीच्या पुरामुळेही उद्भवली आहे. या वेळी नेपाळमध्ये कोसीचा तटबंध तुटल्याने जिथे अपेक्षित नव्हता, त्या प्रदेशातील गावांना मोठा फटका बसला. नेपाळमधील हरिपूर असेल किंवा बिहारच्या सुपौल जिल्ह्यातील सीतापूर; अशा अनेक गावांमध्ये पुराच्या पाण्यामुळे नुकसान तर झालेच, शिवाय प्रवाहासोबत आलेल्या वाळूचा अडीच-तीन फूट जाडीचा थर संपूर्ण शेतात जमा झाला आहे. खरे तर त्या अतिशय सुपीक जमिनी आहेत, पण आता त्यांचे केवळ वाळवंटात रूपांतर झाले आहे. त्यामुळे मोठय़ा जमिनीचे मालकसुद्धा एकाच रात्रीत रस्त्यावर आले. त्यापैकी अनेकांवर रोजंदारी करून गुजराण करण्याची वेळ आली. प्रतिष्ठेच्या दृष्टीने गावाजवळ रोजंदारी करणे शक्य नसल्याने हे लोक गावापासून दूर पंजाब, दिल्ली, मुंबईचा रस्ता धरतात, असे तेथील महाविद्यालयाचे निर्भयकुमार सिंह सांगतात. ही प्रातिनिधिक उदाहरणे आहेत. बहुतांश ठिकाणी पूर व त्यासारख्या समस्याच स्थलांतराला कारणीभूत ठरल्या आहेत. कोसीच्या खोऱ्यासाठी पूर हा तर पाचवीलाच पुजलेला असल्याने लोक मोठय़ा संख्येने स्थलांतर करतात. ते इतर शहरांप्रमाणेच मुंबई, पुणे, नाशिकमध्ये गर्दी करतात. म्हणूनच कोसीच्या पुराचा आपल्याशी थेट संबंध आहे. या स्थलांतरितांना कितीही विरोध केला तरी जगण्याचे साधन शोधत ते येतच राहतील. त्यांना रोखायचे असेल तर वरवरचे उपाय करण्यापेक्षा कोसीच्या पुराच्या समस्येतून कसा मार्ग काढता येईल, याबाबत आपल्यालाही विचार करावा लागेल. त्यासाठी केंद्रावर व बिहार सरकारवर दबाव आणायला हवा.हे काम केवळ बिहार सरकारवर सोपवून काहीही हशील होणार नाही. कारण लालूप्रसाद, नीतीशकुमार, रामविलास पासवान, सुशील मोदी हे याबाबत गंभीर आहेत, यावर तेथील जनतेचाच विश्वास नाही. प्रत्यक्ष पूरग्रस्त लोकांशी बोलताना ही बाब, हा सूर ऐकायला मिळाला. त्यामुळे बिहार सरकार काही तरी करेल, असे मानणे हा भाबडा आशावाद ठरेल. बिहार सरकारच नव्हे, तर केंद्र सरकारनेसुद्धा याबाबत जनतेचा भ्रमनिरास केला आहे. त्यामुळे ही समस्या सोडविण्याच्या नावाखाली वर्षांनुवर्षे केवळ पैसा खर्च होतो. प्रत्यक्षात ही समस्या वाढलेलीच आहे. कोसीच्या काठावरील जीवन आजही अतिशय हलाखीचे आहे.
पूर आल्यावर नेते, प्रशासन, स्वयंसेवी संस्था, मीडिया तिकडे धाव घेतो, पण पाणी ओसरताच त्यांचे दुर्लक्ष होते आणि कोसीच्या खोऱ्यातील मूलभूत प्रश्न तसेच कायम राहतात. हा प्रश्न सुटेपर्यंत (निदान काही प्रमाणात हलका होईपर्यंत) आणि लोकांना जगण्याचे साधन उपलब्ध होईपर्यंत कोसीच्या खोऱ्यातून इतरत्र होणारे स्थलांतर रोखणे कठीण आहे. कोणाला काहीही वाटले तरी ही वस्तुस्थिती आहे. एक तर ती स्वीकारायला हवी किंवा कोसीच्या पुरातून मार्ग निघावा म्हणून आपणही हातभार लावायला हवा. कारण कोसीचा पूर केवळ बिहारपुरता मर्यादित राहिलेला नाही, तो संपूर्ण देशाचा बनला आहे, त्याचबरोबर महाराष्ट्राचासुद्धा!

साभार लोकसत्ता

अभिजित घोरपडे

How To Tackle Climate Change — The Maldives Example ! By Simon Butler

The tiny Indian Ocean nation of the Maldives will become carbon-neutral within 10 years. This was the pledge made by Maldives President Mohamed Nasheed on March 15.

The low-lying country will be among the first in the world to be inundated by rising sea levels caused by human-induced climate change. The highest point in the chain of 1200 islands and coral atolls is just 1.8 metres above sea-level.

The latest research indicates that if present rates of carbon emissions continue, global warming will likely cause sea level rises of about one metre by 2100. This is close to double the rise predicted by most scientists just two years ago.

At the request of the Maldives government, a plan for carbon neutrality has been developed for the Republic of Maldives by British climate writers Chris Goodall (author of Ten Technologies to Save the Planet) and Mark Lynas (author of the best-selling book Six Degrees). An outline of Goodall and Lynas’s plan has been posted at .

Carbon neutrality

The plan focuses on the replacement of fossil fuels with renewable energy for electricity, most land and sea transport, and household cooking by 2020.

About 160 wind turbines will provide the bulk of electricity for the inhabited islands. Wind power will be supplemented with solar power farms built in shallow island lagoons. These two power sources are expected to generate considerably more electricity than the Maldives currently consumes.

To account for the variability of wind and solar power, Goodall and Lynas suggest the country invests in a biomass combustion plant, mainly using coconut husks, for backup energy needs in the capital Male. Outside the capital, backup energy supply can be secured by storing energy in lithium phosphate batteries, they say. Currently, diesel-powered generators are a major source of energy on most of the islands.

About US$100 million will be needed to rework the electricity transmission network to make the most of renewable supply and to improve energy efficiency.

Under the plan, diesel fuel used in larger boats can be switched with power from renewable electricity. Petrol used to power cars and smaller boats can be sharply reduced via the steady replacement of the combustion engine with electric battery-powered vehicles. In the long run, electricity will be a far cheaper option than petrol for land and sea transport, Goodall and Lynas say.

Wood and kerosene are used by most people in the Maldives for cooking fuel. Goodall and Lynas suggest the introduction of “highly efficient closed stoves” for remote islands. For homes and tourist resorts with access to the grid, the replacement of older stoves with electric-powered alternatives will be needed. Solar cookers are another option for household use.

The release of methane gas from organic waste is responsible for a estimated 20% of the nation’s total emissions. This can be mostly eliminated through organic composting techniques. The compost can be used to improve the Maldives’s poor soil fertility and increase local crop yields.

Outside of their small fishing industry, the Maldives economy is almost completely dependent on foreign tourism. After electricity, the next most important source of carbon emissions is from aviation.

Goodall and Lynas propose that the Maldives could offset aviation emissions by buying, and then cancelling, emissions permits from the European Union carbon trading scheme.

This is the most questionable part of the ambitious plan. The EU’s carbon trading scheme is widely discredited for failing to reduce emission while allowing speculators to make windfall profits from buying and selling the “right to pollute”.

Action from industrialised countries in sharply cutting emissions is the only real “offset” the Maldives can rely on.

A larger problem is that the entire plan will cost at least $1.1 billion over a decade — far more than the Maldives can afford.

The plan would only be possible if the country were to receive loans from international financial institutions such as the International Monetary Fund or the World Bank — bodies notorious for impoverishing, rather than helping, countries in the global South.

Despite the cost of setting up renewable energy infrastructure, Goodall and Lynas predict the switch to renewables would save the Maldives money in the long term. Cutting the country’s dependence on oil would reduce the nation’s energy bill by $50 to $130 million every year.

No excuse for inaction

The announcement from the Maldives government came just days after the International Scientific Congress on Climate Change had met in Copenhagen in early March. The key findings of the conference were summarised in a blunt press statement on March 12.

Climate change is much worse than we thought, the scientists concluded. The “worst-case” scenarios outlined in the 2007 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report are being reached, or even surpassed, right now.

“For many key parameters, the climate system is already moving beyond the patterns of natural variability within which our society and economy have developed and thrived. … There is a significant risk that many of the trends will accelerate, leading to an increasing risk of abrupt or irreversible climatic shifts”, the statement said.

“Rapid, sustained, and effective mitigation based on coordinated global and regional action is required to avoid ‘dangerous climate change’ … There is no excuse for inaction.”

The conference gave further scientific backing to what growing numbers of people already fear. The planet is perilously close to passing climate tipping points which, if crossed, will provoke runaway global warming and threaten billions of lives.

The Arctic ice cap — one of the Earth’s natural “air-conditioners” — is melting. The oceans are warming, turning the planet’s greatest carbon-sink into a carbon emitter. The Siberian permafrost is retreating, releasing mega-tonnes of trapped methane, a greenhouse gas 20 times more powerful that carbon dioxide, up into the atmosphere.

The world’s glaciers — irreplaceable sources of fresh water for billions of people — are shrinking rapidly. The huge ice caps of Greenland and Antarctica are becoming fragile; their melting would herald further rises in sea levels and turn millions of people into climate refugees. Weather systems are changing in unpredictable ways; extreme weather events are on the rise.

Urgent, international action to end the burning of fossil fuels for energy is required now to avert the climate change threat. Despite this, wealthy polluting nations such as Australia continue to make excuses for inaction.

‘The choice is that stark’

On March 17, Nasheed outlined the reasoning behind the Maldives’s ambitious plan for carbon-neutrality in a video address streamed to the British launch of the forthcoming feature film about climate change by director Franny Armstrong, The Age of Stupid.

“If we can achieve this — a small, relatively poor country — there can be no excuse from the rich, industrial nations who claim that going green is too complex, too expensive or too much bother”, Nasheed said.

“Now the world has an opportunity to come together and prevent the looming environmental catastrophe. That opportunity is called Copenhagen.

“And let’s be very frank about this: Copenhagen can be one of two things.

“It can be an historic event where the world unites against carbon pollution, in a collective spirit of co-operation and collaboration.

“Or, Copenhagen can be a suicide pact.

“The choice is that stark.

“My message to you, my message to the world, is simply this: please, don’t be stupid.”

If the Copenhagen conference in December fails to set emissions cuts that can restore a safe climate, then the fault will lie with the governments of the developed world, who are desperately resisting change.

At the last international conference on climate change, held in the Polish city of Poznan late last year, the Australian government helped to sabotage a binding international agreement.

The Australian delegation chaired a bloc of some of the world’s biggest polluters, including the US, Japan, Saudi Arabia and Canada. The bloc was dedicated to stopping agreement on a proposed 25%-40% emissions reduction by 2020.

Unfortunately, they were successful.

The Rudd government’s push to legislate sickeningly low emissions cuts of 5%-15% by 2020 is designed to undermine the Copenhagen conference and stop it from adopting the serious cuts urged by the Maldives and other countries in the global South.

This reflects the reality of climate policy in Australia: the biggest, wealthiest polluters call the shots. The Rudd government defends them, while pretending to be serious about climate change.

Both the government and the powerful fossil fuel interests must be confronted, and their agenda defeated, if we hope to secure a safe climate.

-By Simon Butler