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No cheap change is possible

Last fortnight I asked: is India rich enough to pay for the cost of transition to a low-carbon economy? I put the question in the context of current moves in climate change negotiations which demand countries such as India—till now seen as victims of the carbon excesses of the already industrialized world—must now take full responsibility to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The US-sponsored and India-supported Copenhagen Accord rejects the principle of historical responsibility towards climate change, radically changing the global framework of action for ever more.

All is not well: climate negotiations in a new avatar

Climate change negotiations—cold after the freeze at Copenhagen—have warmed up again. In early April, negotiators met in Bonn, Germany, on the possible agreement that could be signed at the meet scheduled in December 2010 in Mexico. This was followed by a US-convened meet of the Major Economies Forum, better named the major emitters forum, in Washington. Next weekend, the group calling itself BASIC—China, Brazil, South Africa and India—is meeting in Cape Town to come up with its common position on negotiations.

Bullets are not the answer to development

The massacre of 76 policemen in Dantewada by naxalites is reprehensible. Yet we cannot brush aside the underlying poverty, deprivation and sheer lack of justice that are breeding tension and anger in vast areas of rural, tribal India. We cannot say that these developmental issues are long term—as the Congress spokesperson has reportedly said—while the immediate task is to annihilate the Naxalites.

Green buildings: how to redesign

There is a buzz about green buildings. But the question is: what does one mean by building green? And how does one design policies to make the green homes of our dreams?

Green is not about first building structures using lots of material and energy, and then fixing them so that they become a little more efficient. Building green is about optimizing on the local ecology, using local material as far as possible and, most importantly, building to cut the power, water and material requirements.

The Satyam in our oil

Which cooking oil is best for us? Why do I ask? Are we not bombarded with advertising messages telling us there is a healthy oil that is good for the heart? They talk of monounsaturated fatty acids (mufa), and polyunsaturated fatty acids (pufa) and of course, catch-us-words like omega properties. I am sure you, like me, try to understand this scientific jargon and conclude that any oil that has all these elements, must be good.

Our quality of mercy

Jambudwip is a tiny dot in the Bay of Bengal. A few years ago, it hit headlines when wildlife activists dragged fishermen, who used the landmass to dry their fish, to the Supreme Court. A case was filed regarding ‘encroachment’ of this island, partly covered by mangroves. The apex court’s central empowered committee (cec), which advises it in all forest matters, got into the act. Its report to the court was clear: fish drying was a non-forest activity, so disallowed under the Forest Conservation Act (1980).

Learn to walk lightly

In Sikkim, bowing to local protests, the government has cancelled 11 hydro-electric projects. In Arunachal Pradesh, dam projects are being cleared at breakneck speed and resistance is growing. In Uttarakhand last month, 2 projects on the Ganga were put on hold and there is growing concern about the rest. In Himachal Pradesh, dams are so controversial that elections were won where candidates said they would not allow these to be built. Many other projects, from thermal power stations to Greenfield mining, are being resisted.

When markets do work

Some innovations change lives. A favourite of mine is the village milk collection system, a cooperative model. There’s a dairy in the village, people bring in milk, the dairy in-charge places a sample on an instrument, checks the fat content, prints a receipt that tells the seller the fat content and the price.

Poor regulators do not a rich country make

IN this past month, farmer associations in Haryana and Tamil Nadu have located and burnt field trials for genetically modified Bt rice. In Chhattisgarh the state government has stopped similar trials happening under its nose. It is all too easy to deride these actions as the handiwork of some misinformed eco-fundamentalists or miscreants out to seek ‘cheap’ publicity. It can also be argued that these actions will impede scientific progress designed to find answers to malnutrition and food insecurity in the country.

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