Infrastructure Development | Centre for Science and Environment

Infrastructure Development


Ganga needs water, not money

It was way back in 1986 that Rajiv Gandhi had launched the Ganga Action Plan. But years later, after much water (sewage) and money has flowed down the river, it is as bad as it could get. Why are we failing and what needs to be done differently to clean this and many other rivers?

Himalayan blunders

 The floods in the Himalayas have been ferocious and deadly. Fears are that the final body count could run into several thousands. There is no clear estimate of the number of villages wiped out, property destroyed, roads washed away and hydropower projects damaged in the mountain state of Uttarakhand. The mountains are bleeding and its people have been left battered, bruised and dead.

A tale of two cities

I travelled to two different cities in two different states last week—Indore and Guwahati. I came back with images identified by common distinctions: piles of garbage and glitzy new shopping malls. Is this our vision of urban development? There is no question that cities are imploding; growth is happening faster than we ever imagined. Construction is booming and expansion is gobbling agricultural land.

Public private prank

Growth is back on the agenda, says the government. It is hoping that with pushy announcements foreign and Indian investment will miraculously start pouring in and infrastructure will be the name of the game once again. But this assumption ignores one crucial detail: currently, public-private partnerships (PPPs) in infrastructure are on the cusp of disaster. The country needs a different strategy to build public services infrastructure.

Powerless and lost

The power blackout in northern India on two days should not be dismissed or misjudged. Analysts are jumping to conclude that the crisis was foretold. They blame delays caused by environment and forest clearance procedures and demand winding down the regulatory framework so that we can re-energise ourselves. Their other favourite whipping horse is ‘free’ electricity to farmers, which is said to be crippling the state electricity boards. These explanations are naïve and mistaken.

New business for new renewables

It was a trade exhibition abuzz with the restrained chatter of busy suited executives at company stalls making contacts and finalising deals. Nothing out of place except that this trade was about renewable energy technologies, which have unconventional reasons for growth. First, these technologies are seen as the most economical and feasible source of energy for millions of people unconnected to the electricity grid and having no electricity to light their houses or cook their food. This energy poverty is disabling and needs to be eradicated.

Count the natural debt, too

Now that Europe’s debt crisis is unfolding all around us, shouldn’t we question why the world is determined to live beyond its means and not worry how it sabotages our common future? The debt crisis is a mere symptom of a deeper malaise. The fact is that countries, private companies and individual households can run only if they can borrow against their assets and hope that the debt will grow slower than the value of their asset. Most financial analysts will now tell you that this business is doomed because of the Ponzi scheme nature of the loan business, where borrowing is used to speculate to get more loans and so repayment becomes difficult and over time impossible.

How to approach environmentalism

By: Sunita Narain

2010 was a loud year for the environment. High profile projects—from Vedanta to Posco and Navi Mumbai airport to Lavasa—hit the headlines for non-compliance with environmental regulations.

While 2009 was the 25th anniversary of the Bhopal gas tragedy, it was only last year that we were all outraged by the disaster. The realisation of how every institution—the judiciary, parliament and government— had miserably failed to provide justice to the victims shocked us deeply.

How to approach environmentalism

2010 was a loud year for the environment. High profile projects—from Vedanta to Posco and Navi Mumbai airport to Lavasa—hit the headlines for non-compliance with environmental regulations. While 2009 was the 25th anniversary of the Bhopal gas tragedy, it was only last year that we were all outraged by the disaster. The realisation of how every institution—the judiciary, parliament and government— had miserably failed to provide justice to the victims shocked us deeply.

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