Down to earth | Centre for Science and Environment

Down to earth


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.

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?

Roads are meant for walking

In India, traffic accidents are not on the health agenda. It is time the agenda is changed. Last week when the Union Minister for Rural Development met with an unfortunate and tragic accident on the road in Delhi, the issue was highlighted. But as yet, there is little understanding of the seriousness of the problem, and why India, which has just begun to motorise, needs to take action, and fast.

To all our readers

YOU WILL NOTICE in this issue some big and small changes. This is our 530th issue, which means we have been researching, writing, designing and publishing Down To Earth for 22 years. Every fortnight our aim is to bring you news, perspectives and knowledge that can help you make a difference. Our objective is to prepare you to change the world. We believe information is a powerful driver for the new tomorrow.

Global civil society issues 'Declaration on Antibiotic Resistance', urges action to avert post-antibiotic era

The Antibiotic Resistance Coalition releases declaration aimed to contain the emergence and spread of antibiotic resistance. Centre for Science and Environment, as part of the coalition, urges leadership and action by the ongoing World Health Assembly

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Change of climate in the US

Climate change has a surprising new follower: the US president. The US government has been the biggest bugbear in climate change negotiations. Since discussions began on this issue in the early 1990s, the US has stymied all efforts for an effective and fair deal. It has blocked action by arguing that countries like China and India must first do more. Worse, successive governments have even denied that the threat from a changing climate is real, let alone urgent.

Gujarat v UPA: models of non-governance?

The 2014 general election, it would seem, is becoming a referendum on the so-called Gujarat model and the something-UPA model. In the heat, dust and filth of elections, rhetoric is high, imagery is weak and facts are missing. Very broadly, the Gujarat model is seen to be corporate-friendly, with emphasis on economic growth at any cost and little focus on social indicators of development. The UPA model, on the other hand, is seen to promote distributive justice and inclusive growth.

Junk games and schoolchildren

 “There is nothing called junk food. The problem with obesity lies with children who do not exercise enough. What is needed is for them to run and jump, and to do this they need to consume high-calorie food. So, food high in salt, sugar and fat is good for them.” This is what was argued vehemently and rudely by representatives of the food industry in the committee, set up under directions from the Delhi High Court to frame guidelines for junk food in the country.

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