Down to earth | Centre for Science and Environment

Down to earth


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.

Making sense of green building rating

The building sector is set to grow exponentially. It already has a huge environmental footprint, with the domestic and commercial sectors consuming some 30 per cent of India’s electricity. So, the imperative to go green is clear. The question is where India is and where it should go.

The Bureau of Energy Efficiency (BEE) has issued the Energy Conservation Building Code (ECBC) to improve the energy performance of buildings by 40-60 per cent. But the use of the code in design is not linked to the actual performance of the building after it has been commissioned.

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.

Green clearance test for NDA

Environmentalists are rightly alarmed that the NDA government is busy dismantling the environmental regulatory system in the country. Over the past two months, the media has reported that clearances for projects, from mining to roads, have been fast-tracked. While the web¬site of the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MOEF) has not been updated in August, in the two months till July end, forest clearance was granted to over 92 pro¬jects, which will divert some 1,600 hectares of forest.

Chicken comes home to roost

What should I eat now? Is there nothing that is safe?” This is what I am asked every time the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) does a study on toxins in food. It is a fact that our food is becoming unhealthy—not because of deliberate adulteration but because we are choosing to produce it in unsafe ways. India is at the beginning of industrial food production focused on efficiency and profits, and not on consumer safety, so it still has a choice to get it right. Why should the country not exercise its right to food that secures livelihoods and nutrition? 

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.

If only cities can see wetlands

Sixty People died in a building collapse in Chennai last fortnight. There is much more than the municipal incompetence that needs to be fixed to avoid such tragic incidents. This building was located on Porur lake, a water body that provides services like groundwater recharge and flood management to an otherwise water-starved city. If you care to ask the obvious question how construction was permitted on the wetland, you will get a not-so-obvious response. Wetlands are rarely recorded under municipal land laws, so nobody knows about them.

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