July 08, 2008

It’s a Wake Up Call!!

This year’s Nobel Prize to Al Gore and Dr R K Pachauri is a wake up call to governments to get more serious about climate science, environment and sustainable development. Science can contribute powerfully to meet challenges and scientists and policy makers can work together to help solve problems of critical importance to humanity.

Each of us is responsible for the quality of environment that we live in. So our personal actions can either worsen or improve our environmental quality. People must be aware of environmental issues and consequences of their action on the environment, and develop environmentally-ethical lifestyles.

Government should introduce incentives in the form of financial benefits and tax concessions to benefit those industries which reduce the emission of pollutants drastically. Industries should be shifted to less populated areas. A proper assessment of environment and health related check must be conducted before granting licenses.

In a small country like New Zealand, road shows and street festivals are held regularly on how people can reduce pollution. Poona will soon have a “Temple of Environment” to help spread green awareness. Global carbon emissions from burning fossil fuels are rising quickly, resulting in rising seas, melting glaciers, tsunami and thundering storms, droughts and floods as the planet warms.

“Out of 8,000 tons of e-waste generated in Bangalore every year, only 300 tons is processed and our country’s biggest IT companies are responsible for this,” says Leo Saldana, who runs the Environment Support Group. In India, the official figure stands at 3 lakh tons per year, and is estimated at 16 lakh tons by 2012. IT companies should lobby for a legislation to have a formal and authorised recycling sector, and such companies should be responsible for their waste, says, Abhishek Pratap, toxic campaigner, Green Peace (India).

The already gasping respiratory health of Bangaloreans is set to aggravate due to the toxic metals in the dust prevalent in the atmospheric air. Noise levels continue to be high in the city during day and night.

Greening of Paris

On January 14, 2008, the city of Paris received the World Sustainable Transportation Award from the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy in Washington. This award was in recognition of the work done over the past 6 years to make public transport in Paris greener.

At any point in the city, one can receive information on their mobile phones regarding the nearest cycle or car available. Eric Britton, an international consultant on sustainable cities who has been guiding the evolution of public transport in Paris, refers to the story of the tortoise and the hare.  The fastest mode of transport in Paris is not the car. According to him, “Speed is carefully calibrated on the traffic system, to lower top speeds, and with it, greater safety, lower emissions and a higher quality of life. In such a system, a cyclist would set to the same destination faster than a Ferrari car. More and more Parisians are returning to public transport, choosing to save their cars for long drives out of town.

India could follow the Paris model with a vision to reduce traffic jams and parking space requirements. Improving the public transport system would go a long way in evolving an efficient, economic and less polluting transport system. This system can connect people living in the outskirts to the heart of the city without any hassles.
In the Central Business District area where road widening might not be possible, we can have sharing autos and cycle-rickshaws like in Vietnam.

This is an agenda to discourage the use of cars. The use of CNG fuel must be propagated with the laws legislated suitably and the car-pool model used. People in power should be provided with vehicles on a sharing basis. This goes a long way in making the transport system efficient, economical and less polluting. India must manufacture and support the sale of hybrid cars by offering incentives.

A right to walk

We build roads for cars – pedestrians are a nuisance! In a nation where people mostly walk, it is frightening that footpaths are either non-existent or disappearing. They are either encroached upon or filled with garbage. Kanthi Kanan in Hyderabad has started ‘The Right to Walk’ movement to address this problem.

We have chosen to have certain experiences. Everything has a reason; everything has a season.  There is a perfect order in the Universe. I read somewhere that “Divine steps are purposeful events, choreographed by our environment, to create the opportunity for us to wake up. So we must wake up.”

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