Editor's Page | Centre for Science and Environment

Editor's Page

Real pride of ancient indian science

I write this with considerable impatience and one question. Do we really have the time to waste on controversies like what ancient India did or did not achieve by way of scientific discoveries? This is when there is the huge unfinished agenda to use the best of science to tackle current challenges and crises.

Last call to get climate deal right

The Indian government must not use “equity” to block climate change negotiations. It must be proactive on equity and put forward a position on how to operationalise the sharing of the carbon budget—accounting for countries’ contribution to past emissions and allocating future space—in climate talks.

I wrote this last year when the UPA government was in power. I am repeating this as the NDA government prepares for the next conference of parties (CoP) to be held in December in Peru.

Ozone-smart, climate-cool

One item on the agenda of the much-discussed Narendra Modi-Barack Obama meeting that has Indian commentators flummoxed is hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs). The joint statement issued after the meeting of the two heads of states says rather ambiguously that the two sides agreed to cooperate on “next steps to tackle the challenge posed by HFCs to global warming.”

The myth of green building

There is no question that India and other parts of the still-under-construction world must build green. The building sector is a major contributor to climate change and local environmental destruction because of construction materials used; energy expended for lighting, heating and cooling; and water consumption and waste discharge. This is the threat. There is an opportunity as well.

How smart is a smart city?

Smart is as smart does. The NDA government’s proposal to build 100 “smart” cities will work only if it can reinvent the very idea of urban growth in a country like India. Smart thinking will require the government to not only copy the model cities of the already developed Western world, but also find a new measure of liveability that will work for Indian situation, where the cost of growth is unaffordable for most.

Make India drought-proof

METEOROLOGISTS ARE still not sure of the timing and intensity of El Niño. But it is clear that this monsoon will not be normal and there is a serious possibility that some parts of the country will be hit by drought and crop failure. The question is why we remain so unprepared to deal with crippling water shortages year after year. Why have all our efforts to drought-proof India failed? What should we do now?

Western Ghats: lessons in protection

Madhav Gadgil and K Kasturirangan are both scientists of great repute. But both are caught up in a controversy on how the Western Ghats—the vast biological treasure trove spread over the states of Gujarat, Maharashtra, Goa, Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu—should be protected. First the Ministry of Environment and Forests asked Gadgil to submit a plan for protection of the Ghats. When this was done in mid-2011, the ministry sat on the document for months, refusing to release it even for public discussion.

When planting trees is a curse

 Forests have been blacked out in the economic assessment of the country. The Economic Survey does not even list forestry as a sector, for which accounts are prepared. Instead it is lumped together with agriculture and fisheries. In other words, there are no estimates of the productivity of this sector, which encompasses over 20 per cent of the country’s land area.

Climate science in real world

What we desperately shut our minds to is once again being pronounced ever more clearly: climate change is here; it is already bringing devastating extreme weather events; it will become worse in the years to come. In late September, part 1 of the fifth assessment report (AR5) of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was released in Stockholm.

Big mini revolution

We were standing in the only street of this small village called Mohda. Located in the forested region of Chhattisgarh, the village had no access to the road and markets. The women of the village surrounded me. They wanted me to know that malaria was a serious problem for them. They wanted something to be done about it. I was taken aback because we were talking about solar energy—the state government had set up a small power station in the village, and we were there to learn more about it. “What’s the connection?” I asked.

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