18 Jun 2009

In the shadow of Global Warming

How can India survive this meltdown?

In my zeal to increase my blogging output, I have been writing on various aspects. However, somewhere in this race for quantity, I felt as if my blog was losing its quality and its essence, i.e., empathic libertarianism. So I thought of exploring it once again.
Climate change and global warming, it seems are the ‘in’ words. No discussion seems to end these days without a faint reference being made to them. Here, I am not going to elaborate on these discussions of the intelligentsia or the masses but will succinctly show, where India stands in all this and explore the options it have.
Global warming is a common problem for the humanity (and sadly, of the humanity and by the humanity too). Who-so-ever might be responsible for it, it has to be tackled by everyone in unison. Take the example of the global economic meltdown. It originated in USA but engulfed all the world economies disproving amongst others, the decoupling theory. We all are facing the repercussions and we all have to act together. Ironically, in the middle of this economic crisis, the harbinger of the problem unleashed a protectionist regime; unlearning the Smithsonian legacy, it so avidly advocated to others, all these decades.
Coming back to global warming, India’s stand on its mitigation has been quite myopic. It has been using its low ‘per capita carbon emission’ figures as a justification to continue with the high growth rate of carbon emissions (three times the world average, as per an estimate).
Statistically, it’s true that our total emissions per person are way below the industrialised nations'. But the simple question here is can we afford to take such a micro view. After all, who will be more adversely affected by the climate change, the countries with high population density or those with low?
When the coastal areas (like our cities of Mumbai and Chennai) get submerged and people move inwards, the pressure will be felt most by the countries like India. USA with a size, 3 times larger than ours and population, 3.5 times lower, can easily afford moving the people inwards. But can we?
Here, I put it in very simple terms taking just one example. However, to elaborate, I'll add that whatever be the negative consequences of global warming; unbridled climate change, receding glaciers, drying up of perennial rivers, drop in agricultural output, complementary floods and famines or the submergence of land as already mentioned; it will be felt the hardest by a country like India which supports a sixth of the world's population on just 2.3% of the total land mass.
Sadly, it has been authenticated that the Himalayan glaciers are fast receding and the islands of Gangetic delta in West Bengal are already loosing their land mass. Even if the recent flood havoc by the Kosi river in Bihar is a distant example for many of us, it can not be denied that the summer this year is getting a bit too hot than the previous years. Hence, our policymakers need to take a much wider view of the situation.
However, with this argument, I don’t intend to absolve the developed world from all the sins they have committed all these years. As per an estimate, today the rich nations of the world, with just 20% of world population, already occupy three quarters of atmospheric space. These nations have to take the responsibility and provide the developing world with technologies and resources to tackle their emissions.
Clean Development mechanism (CDM) under the Kyoto Protocol wherein industrialised countries can invest in projects that reduce emissions in developing countries as an alternative to more expensive emission reductions in their own countries, is such an arrangement. However, it tends to give such rich nations a license to continue emitting unabated. Hence, further safeguards are needed within the CDM too.
On India’s part, no time should be lost in developing better mechanisms for controlling climate change and the country should vociferously ask the richer nations for financial and technological aid for itself and fellow developing nations.
Search for better alternatives to carbon-emitting fuels should be taken up seriously by both government and the civil society at large. At the same time, efforts must be made to attenuate the various carbon sources and develop appropriate carbon sinks. For example, better public transport, if made available to the people, will automatically act as a deterrent to private vehicular traffic and the associated pollution and carbon emission. Along with it, demarcating 'green zones' in the city precincts or growing trees along the roads will help in reducing the impact of pollution.
There have been some welcome moves in this direction in recent period.
  • In June 2008, the foundation was laid for a 2-MW solar power plant at Asansol in West Bengal and this marked the inauguration of work on the first grid connected solar power plant in India. Other states like Haryana, Tamil Nadu and Rajasthan are also taking steps in this direction.
  • India's first tidal power project is slated to come up in Durgaduani creek in the Sundarbans in West Bengal with 90% of the funds being sanctioned by the Central government. The project is expected to be completed by the end of 2010 and will help in developing further capabilities in the Gangetic delta of Sunderbans as well as Gulf of Khambat and Gulf of Kutch in Gujarat.
  • Delhi Metro Rail Corporation became the first railway project in the world to be registered by the United Nations under CDM which will make it possible for the corporation to claim carbon credits.
  • Project Green was launched as a joint initiative of the Energy and Resources Institute (TERI of Rajendra Pachauri fame) and Bharat Petroleum wherein farmers are being provided elite planting material, technical help and training. They are also being organised into groups for local decentralised expelling of oil. This oil is proposed to be used both locally and for the production of biodiesel.
The list presented above is based on some articles which I came across in newspapers and documented for further reference for my examinations. It is not exhaustive but only indicative of the proactiveness shown in India in last one year or so.
One has to hope, more such initiatives are taken up not only to develop alternative sources of energy but also develop a common understanding of the problem and a strong commitment to its mitigation among the government officials, private sector and above all the people at large.
Update (June 24, 2009)
Nearly a year ago, on June 30, 2008; Prime Minister Manmohan Singh released India's first National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC) outlining existing and future policies and programmes addressing climate mitigation and adaptation.
The plan identifies eight core 'national missions' running through 2017. These missions cover the areas like solar energy, improvement in water use, enhancing the energy efficiency, ensuring sustainable habitat, conserving Himalayan ecosystem, afforestation, sustainable agriculture and developing strategic knowledge for Climate Change.
The existing programmes enumerated include those dealing with power generation, renewable energy and energy efficiency.
It is yet to be seen if these initiatives just remain on the paper or are religiously implemented by the concerned ministries.
Image Courtesy:
http://www.fanpop.com (original)


BK Chowla said...

Vipul,generally all the countries plan for the nation and that is why they have a plan and policy.We seem to plan for immidiate future to remain in power and plan the strategy in such a way so that power remains the focal point...not national interest.We have not planned basic drinking water and electricity in 60 yrs...who cares about Golobal Warming.I am not sounding negative, this is reality and it is disgusting.

grover vipul said...

chowlaji u hav put it rite as far as our myopic policies go. For many in India, Global Warming is just a myth, not an issue of mch consequences. Though the govt. has been dilly-dallying all this time, some of the positive pointers i have mentiond in the post, bring a hope of better approach by the establishmnt, in future.
We, the citizens on our part, should make a start at our homes; conserve electricity, fuel, etc. But thn the question is how many of us(me included) r ready to sacrifice our present comforts for a 'firangi' coined term global warming!

BK Chowla said...

A govt,should have it's priorities right.We have none,except geting rich and corrupt and plan for next elections.If any initiative is taken by you and me,it will be despite our Govt and not because of them.I am sorry,i don't see any plans/planning for the future.Children are dying because of lack of water...do you konw,a man had to give a bottle of blood in a village in MP to get a bucket of water?Let us live in reality...subjects like global warming are only for discussions in international conferences so that our babus can have overseas visits on tax-payers account.

grover vipul said...

well, chowlaji u hv abundnt xperience behind u, so I cn not deny a single wrd u said here.. Nd on practical terms i hv 2 agree to wat all u said..
Bt as i hv said so many times in my earlier posts, govt. is just the reflection of the overall society. At the presnt juncture of my life, um striving 2 b d part of govt. machinery(thru civil services). Hence i cn only carry forward optimism. Afterall v r d ones who shape the reality..
Plz keep rtrning.. ur insights r vry valuable. it makes my blogging wrthwhile!

sm said...

i agree with you.
But in india problem is peopel just think for today .

grover vipul said...

well SM, its not sumthing thts limitd 2 india. while in the wrld thr r sum ppl who r more cncrnd about their present nd near future; ther r others who r more cncrnd about the distant future (the insurance companies r surviving on this aspect of human nature).
The pblm is ppl r not realising the grave sitution tht g;obal warming cn lead us to. moreover the govt. is not doing mch 2 spread d awareness. Though i keep on saying tht govt is jus reflection of the society, i'll hav 2 concede tht govt shud be a role model nd not a mere reflection. It shud b a change manager nd a catalyst. For this 2 happen optimism of youth shud permeate it both ideologically nd physically.

BK Chowla said...

Vipul,i wish you all the luck in your career.May it is people like you that will bring about a change.REFLECTION OF THE SOCIETY is an escape route we take.How can you blame the society?Can you elect anyone else from the congress but the Gandhi family?Do they automatically become your reps?Does that reflect the society or something else?

grover vipul said...

Thanku sir for ur wishes:)
On introspection i did realise, 'reflection of d society' mite sound as an escape route, thts why clarified in my previous reply(to SM) tht govt cant remain a mere reflection but has to b d role model.
Bt sir wn it cums 2 gandhi family, who is 2 blame 4 congress' reelection on dynastic platform again n again(true we wrn't having better options this particular election). It is the feudalistic element in our society which still persists nd helps in nurturing democratic dynasties.
wn i talk of society, i talk of net effect of all the stratas, not particularly the intelligentsia middle class like us who blog here.
But thn evn v r dividd on this issue with sum supporting gandhis nd othrs crying foul like u n me.

Anonymous said...

hey vipul...all the points that you have mentioned are for the government to follow..now since the government isn't bothered i wonder what if companies come forward and make their own effort...for example why not the tata's do something like what honda's are doing ...environmental frndly cars.this is just an example.i think there are so many other examples.
i think its possible if these companies take GW as a their own problem, they take it as a challenge. after all they are good at finding solutions. why wait till the government give encourangment

grover vipul said...

hey gautam first of all welcome to my blog:)
u r spot on wn u mention the much needed participation of the companies in GW mitigation.
Evn i made a faint reference to private sector in my closing line of the post. Didnt elaborate because this particular post was written from public policy perspective.

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