Down to earth | Centre for Science and Environment

Down to earth


Lift your head from the sand

The outrage over the suspension of an official, Durga Shakti Nagpal, for simply doing her job—check illegal sand mining in the rivers of Uttar Pradesh—has highlighted a crucial issue. It is now evident that illegal mining of sand from rivers and beaches is rampant and the underbelly of this industry (I’m calling it industry for want of a better word) is powerful and connected. Worse still, all this is happening in violation of the orders of the apex court of the country.

What it takes to deliver midday meal

 The tragic loss of 23 young lives because of contaminated food in a Bihar school is unacceptable. But it is also a fact that the Mid Day Meal Scheme, under which cooked food is compulsorily provided to children in government schools, is too important and critical to give up on. The only questions that matter are: why does the scheme not work as well as it should and what can be done to fix it?

Gas, found and lost

Natural gas as fuel has environmental benefits, particularly when compared to burning coal for power generation or using diesel for vehicles. So when the government increases—in fact, doubles—the price of domestically produced natural gas it has far-reaching implications for air quality and public health. But these benefits do not matter at all in the price-benefit calculations.

Obama’s grand climate plan doesn’t add up

 President Obama yesterday gave the most important speech on climate change in his tenure so far. In the words of Al Gore, it was the best “by any president ever”. It is a different matter that all the big cable news operators in the US chose to ignore this speech.

Pedestrian questions

Have you ever noticed the footpath? Does it even exist? And if it does what is its height from the road? What should be the ideal height that allows for pedestrians to walk without fear of being run over or breaking a leg clambering onto it, while not allowing cars to park and take over this public space?

Scientists discover green way to produce steel

Closer scrutiny by NGO Centre for Science and Environment, however, shows the process is not quite as CO2 emission-free as claimed

Early in May, researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) announced the discovery of a new method of producing steel that is free of CO2 emissions. The process, known as molten oxide electrolysis (MOE), was initially employed to generate oxygen. The product generated was oxygen and, astonishingly, steel.

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Solar energy not war

  If you know that a sector has arrived when it makes for trade wars between countries, then solar energy clearly has. Last year, the US imposed anti-dumping duties on Chinese imports of solar panels; now the EU has proposed the same. The Chinese have in turn threatened that they will take action against European exports of poly-silicon, the material used for manufacturing solar panels. In February this year, the US filed a case against India at the World Trade Organization (WTO) for “favouring sourcing of panels from domestic manufacturers”.

Solar energy not war

 If you know that a sector has arrived when it makes for trade wars between countries, then solar energy clearly has. Last year, the US imposed anti-dumping duties on Chinese imports of solar panels; now the EU has proposed the same. The Chinese have in turn threatened that they will take action against European exports of poly-silicon, the material used for manufacturing solar panels. In February this year, the US filed a case against India at the World Trade Organization (WTO) for “favouring sourcing of panels from domestic manufacturers”.

'Developing countries are treated in a very unfair manner'

Bernarditas Muller, a seasoned member of the Philippines negotiating team, is among the rare few who call a spade a spade. Speaking to Indrajit Bose during the ongoing climate talks at Bonn, she outlined the importance of the UN Framework Convention and provided insight into how the developed world represents the epitome of inaction and how some developing countries are still so naïve. Edited excerpts

Ganga saga part II: redesign dams, not rivers

Engineers require re-training, not the Ganga. This is where I had left our conversation last fortnight. Why did I say this? The inter-ministerial committee I participated in as a member was discussing how much the ecological flow—the water that should be left in the river for ecosystem and livelihood purposes—should be at all times. How much water is needed for the river to be a river; and not a drain?

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