Monday, August 31, 2015

Delighted to feature in historic issue of SPAN Magazine!

Dear Friends/Co-sailors,

I am delighted to share with you that the SPAN Magazine has featured my experience of the International Visitors Leadership Program (IVLP) in it's current edition that is devoted to celebrate 75 years of Indo-US relationships. What is more delightful is that they have only featured 9 of the alumni and have chosen me under the Environment Section.

The exchange alumni community includes 385 current or former heads, 63 Nobel Laureates and countless leaders from the private and nonprofit sectors. India has over 15000 exchange alumni including six former and current leader of state, over 35 former and current MPs and 11 former and current CMs.

Atal Bihari Bajpayee(IVLP 1960), Indira Gandhi (IVLP 1961) and K R Narayanan (IVLP 1969) are a few distinguished to name.

I feel proud that I am part of IVLP and also that I have been featured among a very few of the alumni as part of this historic issue.

Sharing the link to the e-magazine. Please read pages 12-14.

Thank you all for your constant support and cooperation!

Best regards,

Ranjan Panda
Convenor, Water Initiatives Odisha (WIO)
Convenor, Combat Climate Change Network, India
Mahanadi River Waterkeeper (Member, Global Waterkeeper Alliance, New York)

Mob: +91-9437050103

ECO - 31 August - UNFCCC ADP 2.10

Dear Friends/Co-sailors,

Sharing below the ECO update from Day One of the UNFCCC ADP 2.10 negotiations in Bonn, Germany.

This has been shared with us by Linh over email.

Hope you find it useful.

Thanks and best regards,

Ranjan Panda
Convenor, Combat Climate Change Network, India

Mob: +91-9437050103


Hi all,

Please find ECO below, for day one of the UNFCCC ADP 2.10 negotiations in Bonn, Germany.

For those who don’t know, ECO has been produced since 1972 as commentary to the environmental negotiations process. 

Welcome back to Bonn!

We're moving into the final lap in the drive towards a global agreement in Paris. With just 10 days of negotiations left before we arrive in Paris, governments have their work cut out for them if they are to reach key political decisions as well as ensure the necessary level of precision within the text. The ADP co-chairs' tool segregates the various issues and elements within the Geneva Negotiating Text (GNT) into three sections: Section I contains text pertaining to the core agreement; Section II has elements to be addressed via COP decisions; and Section III contains text where there is disagreement as to whether it belongs in the legal agreement, or an accompanying COP decision.

ECO believes that Section III contains numerous key elements that are necessary for an ambitious Paris agreement, and need to be moved to either Section I or II. Some elements in Section II need to be carefully considered for placement in the core legal agreement, as they will play a key role in the ambition and fairness of the Paris agreement. 

Negotiators must build on progress achieved in the previous Bonn session, working to overcome differences on key issues and move towards convergence, rather than continuing to negotiate a text where every country continues to insist on preservation of its own proposals. Bridging differences within the text means not just tweaking existing language, but also requires introducing new language which is developed in a collaborative way within the various contact groups, with co-facilitators playing a key role in identifying emerging convergences. 

This session must build on the consensus already achieved on several key issues in the informal ministerial discussions hosted by the Peruvian and incoming French presidencies, such as the need for a 5-year review cycle, a common post-2020 transparency regime, and the durability of the agreement. Delegates need to use the time in Bonn to help refine and elaborate on the consensus achieved on these issues, while identifying points of contention on other issues that can be taken up in the upcoming ministerial discussions. The next such discussion, on September 6 and 7, is slotted to focus on several critical issues, including means of implementation, adaptation, and loss and damage.

Ministers and in some cases, heads of state, must ultimately address the crunch political issues in the Paris agreement. But negotiators must do their part, by refining and reducing the number of options that these political leaders grapple with. As a Brazilian delegate correctly noted at the June session, if negotiators send 10 or 11 options on key issues to ministers, they won't have done their jobs.

While the text is narrowed down and options further clarified, ECO urges governments not to trade off ambition, fairness, and effectiveness for consensus. The world can't afford to leave Paris with a lowest common denominator agreement that fails to meaningfully tackle the problem of climate change. 

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon recently said "I hope negotiators and ministers (will) look beyond their national interests" and accelerate progress towards an effective agreement in Paris. ECO couldn't agree more.

Location, location, location!

ECO has noticed lots of talk about “houses” as nations work to construct a new climate agreement. Just as location is important in selecting a house, Parties will be carefully considering the location of key text to be agreed in Paris: what goes in the core agreement, decision text, and supplementary instruments or lists. ECO has some advice to ensure that the right house is built.

ECO believes that a package deal with careful placement of issues is critical to a Paris outcome that safeguards ambition, accountability, and equity, while taking into account national circumstances. Amongst other things, the core legal agreement should: 

Establish key principles to guide implementation, including human rights for all.
Introduce strong, durable commitments for the post-2020 climate regime, including a commitment to phase out fossil fuel emissions and phase in 100% renewables for all by 2050; and global adaptation and technology goals. 
 Provide a means for Parties’ to anchor Nationally Determined Contributions as legal commitments, with an introduction of 5-year commitment and review cycles for both action and support. 

And as for the COP decisions? They are necessary to create the operational foundations to ensure ratification and implementation of the core agreement. And they are particularly appropriate for elements that may need to be revised over time, for operationalising high-level principles from the core agreement, and for pre-2020 work programmes, including those needed to raise pre-2020 ambition and climate finance.

Annexes and/or supplementary instruments can play a critical role in enhancing transparency and accountability.  The core agreement should establish a legal connection to one or more annexes, schedules, or lists detailing differentiated national mitigation targets and actions. Mitigation commitments should be additionally recorded in a document and database managed by the Secretariat, in a way that ensures transparency and enables unilateral ambition enhancement without requiring ratification. 

And after you sign on the dotted line in Paris for your new home, you can make one or more political declarations to complement the agreement. But ECO reminds countries that political declarations are no substitute for legally binding instruments or COP decisions.  ECO certainly wouldn’t feel comfortable moving into a new home on a handshake deal, and you wouldn’t either, would you, Parties? 

[Never mind the gap]

ECO understands the need for brevity but the 15 paragraphs on elements for the Workstream 2 decision seems to have missed the point. Surely the brief didn’t read “never mind the ambition gap” or “maintain status quo”.
 The COP decision must reiterate, in the strongest possible language, that developed countries have a responsibility to raise their 2020 targets to at least 40% compared to 1990 levels, in order to meet their fair share of the collective effort to stay below 2°/1.5°C.
 It must also move the Technical Examination Process (TEP) from being an exercise to facilitating action. Opportunities have been identified, and now the TEP needs to facilitate urgent implementation of climate action alongside the creation of a system that can continue to unlock additional emission reductions over time. 

Let’s use this week to draft text which actually does this, including:

​• ​Explicit language on closing the pre-2020 emissions gap and avoiding insufficient INDCs that would leave us with yet another gap post-2020. Closing the gap is why WS2 was established in the first place.
​•​ A technical process enabling the matching of mitigation opportunities with technology, finance, implementation expertise and decision-making power, particularly with respect to renewable energy and energy efficiency.
​• ​Direction and encouragement to the financial and technical bodies to prioritise action with high mitigation potential, especially renewables and energy efficiency.

WS2 has the potential to unleash climate action globally on the scale we need to meet our climate goals. Many Parties share this vision, and ECO has been encouraged by the hard work that has been put into enhancing the TEMs and by the creative ideas put forward. WS2 has been a real breath of fresh air in this stale process, and it has great ongoing potential. Let's maintain that and take full advantage of that. 

Loss and damage provisions: Don’t leave Paris without them

Dear Developed Countries: Newsflash — Loss and damage must be in the Paris Agreement. We keep hearing some really lame arguments as to why you’re keeping it out. 

Lame argument 1: We don’t need L&D in the Paris Agreement as we have the Warsaw International Mechanism for L&D and its review in 2016.
ECO responds: Despite being agreed nearly 2 years ago, the WIM has yet to make progress. Its mandate is heavily contested and some developed countries have sought to undermine the only clear mandate in the agreement, the one that deals with finance. Some vulnerable countries are concerned that the 2016 review is a thinly disguised attempt to review the WIM out of existence.  By embedding the important functions of the WIM into the Paris agreement, we can alleviate these concerns. There should be no argument against this by those who genuinely want to see the WIM succeed.

Lame argument 2: L&D is just adaptation, and that’s already in there.
ECO responds:  Adaptation to having your home, community, places of worship and livelihood destroyed in super storm Cyclone Pam or Typhoon Haiyan is not possible. These are not impacts that can be adapted to — and given inadequate mitigation, they will likely increase further in the coming years. The IPCC acknowledges the limits to adaptation and makes it clear that even with high levels of adaptation there will be residual L&D.

Lame argument 3: L&D will cost too much.
ECO responds: The worst impacts of climate change on the poorest countries will have substantial costs. Compensation is one element of L&D, but there is a spectrum of needs for addressing L&D, some of which are outlined in Part III of the Co-Chairs tool. Clearly, rich countries that developed using fossil fuels and polluted the atmosphere have a major responsibility. So does the fossil fuel industry, which is responsible for two-thirds of climate pollution. Moreover, there are alternative sources of finance that can be drawn upon – including a fossil fuel extraction levy which could easily raise $50 billion a year initially, increasing with time, until fossil fuels are phased out. This could pay for a significant portion of the L&D needs, alleviating the objections of rich countries to paying for loss and damage.

Delegates — we’re clearly on a pathway to temperature increases well exceeding 1.5°C, any agreement that doesn’t include provisions to address the worst impacts of climate change on the most vulnerable will not be judged acceptable by your constituents at home.

The Islamic call for bold climate action 

ECO welcomes the Islamic Declaration on Climate Change that was launched in Istanbul, Turkey earlier this month. The declaration, signed by a broad spectrum of prominent scholars in the Islamic world, will form the basis of climate action from Muslims around the globe.

Coming on the heels of the Pope’s encyclical, ECO is pleased to see people of faith united in the call for the transition to a low-carbon world. The declaration urges governments to deliver a strong new international climate agreement in Paris that signals the end of the road for polluting fossil fuels. It also urges the creation of an architecture that will give us a chance of limiting global warming to no more than 2°/1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.

Islam has been an important motive force through much of history. The Declaration helps channel the spiritual and moral force of Islam towards building a clean energy, climate resilient future, and at the same time, calls for specific actions based on the moral imperatives laid down in Islamic teachings. It calls on oil producing nations to phase out emissions, it calls on all leaders to support the just transition to 100% renewable energy and it calls on major businesses and corporations to divest from fossil fuels.

Islam counts amongst its faithful 1.6 billion people. Many of them, perhaps the majority, are in countries which are most vulnerable to climate change. The Declaration is not only a clarion call for them, but for the entire world.

Let’s leave no one behind

ECO congratulates governments on the adoption of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals. This not only provides positive momentum towards Paris but, also sends a strong message about the necessity of adopting an integrated approach to sustainable development.

The Paris outcomes should build on this momentum and promote the effective integration of human rights and gender equality into climate action. Such integration would provide three crucial benefits.

Firstly, it would ensure that climate policies contribute to the protection of the rights of local communities. Particularly those most vulnerable and do not exacerbate existing social and economic inequalities.

Secondly, it would strengthen the effectiveness of climate action, by ensuring that policies and projects benefit from local and traditional knowledge, by providing broader public support for such action, and by removing legal uncertainties. Empirical evidence demonstrates that rights-based climate policies are more effective, resilient and have a lasting impact.

Thirdly, it would contribute to the implementation of the Post-2015 sustainable development agenda.

Today’s negotiations on Section C offers Parties the opportunity to ensure that the core Paris legal agreement explicitly emphasises the necessity for climate policies to integrate human rights, including the rights of indigenous peoples, and to ensure food security, gender equality and a just transition. This would send a very strong signal that governments remain committed to a transition towards low-carbon and resilient communities that leaves no one behind.

Dams, Embankments and Over Fishing dwindle the Hilsa population. Or is it climate change?

We have been getting ground reports from Kendrapada that fishermen are struggling to catch Hilsa fish. There has been a sharp decline in Hilsa catch over the decades. Lack of travelling upstream in rivers make Hilsa breed less. Fishermen in Kendrapada. What more, there has also been a decline in the size of the fish.
Fishermen say the catch has decline by 70 per cent in 20 years and the size of current catches has declined by 75 per cent over the years. Dams, embankments, silted river beds, and change in ocean temperatures may be some of the reasons.
Hilsa is said to have lot of benefits for human health as it has very high level of high density lipoprotein and low level of low density lipoprotein in PUFA that reduce the risk of heart disease, diabetes, cancer, obesity, etc.
Can we afford to lose it? No.

For further information, please contact:

Ranjan Panda
Convenor, Water Initiatives Odisha (WIO)
Mahanadi River Waterkeeper (Member, Global Waterkeeper Alliance)

Mob: +91-9437050103

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Of Rivers and River Front Development: My article published on the Sabarmati River Front Development Project!

What if Sabarmati comes to Mahanadi?

Ranjan Panda

Amid the election heat, where personal abuses have virtually taken over real issues, some debate is still going on among a very few people about development.  And when it comes to development, there is an aggressive marketing of the Gujarat Development Model.  The BJP party is busy selling this model of development as a panacea to all woes of the country.  This party’s PM candidate, who is busy selling hundreds of new dreams in each of his hundreds of rallies across the country, has just tried to sell another dream: to make a Sabarmati out of Ganga, if he comes to power.  Experience says that common Indian people are habituated to ignore election promises, dismissing them as gimmicks.  However, the seriousness in which this PM candidate is being projected by BJP – almost by sacrificing the party’s identity to his image – I thought of peeping a bit into what exactly would a Sabarmati Ganga look like.  And mostly importantly, what such a model would mean for our Mahanadi. 

Sabarmati is the third polluted river of the nation.  If population dependent on it was as big as that were dependent on the Ganges, it would have easily taken the first position in pollution.  Studies by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) as well as that by independent environmental organisations, and even known academicians confirm Sabarmati’s plight.  The CPCB, which studied pollution levels in multiple stations along ‘polluted river stretches’ found out that at various stations the pollution was so high that at most of the places in Sabarmati as well as other rivers of Gujarat such as the Amlakhadi, Mahi and Tapi, the water was not even fit for bathing. 

This was confirmed by a very recent study by a group of academicians who found out, from analysing multiple samples, that in the 163 km stretch of the river from upstream of Gandhinagar city to Vataman near Sabarmati estuary, the river stretch from Ahmedabad-Vasana barriage to Vataman was highly polluted due to perennial waste discharges mainly from municipal drainage and industries.

In fact the CAG has slammed the Govt. of Gujarat and the state pollution control board, in very strong words, for failing to control pollution of water bodies and rivers.  Most of the rivers in the state are polluted by untreated discharge of both chemical and municipal wastes.  What is it then the Gujarat government projecting as a model for Ganga?

It is the much touted Sabarmati Riverfront Development Model that was started way back in 1997.  This model with lot of constructions – mostly on beautification of river side - using funds from the environment ministry, housing and urban development ministry and other such sources is actually a western style ‘development project’ in a very small stretch, that is just 10.5 km of the total 370 km long river.  Urban people of Ahmedabad see this as a great achievement because of the looks.  In reality, has the Sabarmati River benefitted, or in any sense ‘restored’?

A dam about 165 kilometers upstream has already killed the river’s natural flow.  This 10.5 of beautification has been done out of water diverted from Narmada River canal as because this western style restoration – that requires heavy funding and construction – required bringing back the natural flow into the river.  Such restoration works have their inherent dangers. They encroach upon flood plains and treat rivers like canals.  Rivers are ecological entities and not ‘economic commodities’ and the Sabarmati Riverfront Development Model does not respect this, nor is the solution for our ailing rivers.

Mahanadi is in a dying state and there have been many river side constructions here.  Hirakud has already intercepted its natural flow to a large extent and pollution from both industries and municipalities has made the river virtually a dead river. 

What we need is to tackle pollution at the source, free the flood plains and water bodies of the basin from encroachment and work towards low cost, people owned ecological restoration of the rivers.  We certainly don’t need Mahanadi to turn India’s third polluted river. 


This article of mine was published in May 2014 at the following link.  However, just realized the article is no more online.  So, sharing this on blog today. 

Have roads brought distributive justice and decentralized development?

I have always been arguing how expansion of road network has actually not benefitted the interiors of our country. Yesterday in a live TV debate on the Cuttack child death issue, a doctor argued how it was not possible for doctors to stay in village areas and serve poor people. To justify his stance he said thousands of crores have been spent in KBK but roads have not improved to the level which can make doctors stay in that poor region. He also mentioned about other infrastructures but road was what he emphasised upon so forcefully. In reality however roads have improved a lot in KBK region and many places in Odisha. Haven't they?

Quick was a senior social activist in giving the doc a reality check. Participating in that show, she pointed out, "in fact doctors stayed in rural areas more when there was no infrastructure, we have seen in our childhood days." How true.

Truth is no amount of infrastructure can take good doctors to rural areas any more. Lucrative private practices are all there in cities. Cities are where money is. All roads are built to bring resources, both ecological and human, from rural areas to enrich cities. The Smart Cities will accelerate this trend of exploitation further if our planners keep discriminating against rural areas.

We will always see infants in critical conditions being brought from rural areas to cities but will hardly see facilities getting decentralised.

Time to reflect, have roads really brought prosperity?

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Mahanadi losing Rohu?

Telpia (the big one), Mirkali (the next in size), Gajri (small) and Kalachi (not in pic) are today's major catch in Mahanadi at Sambalpur. Rohu not in sight. Is Mahanadi losing the most popular fish?

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Good Morning Thought - 26th August 2015!

|| बेहता रहा हूँ, बेहता ही रहा हूँ ||

बेहता रहा हूँ, बेहता ही रहा हूँ
कभी खामोश रह कर , कभी गुनगुनाते हुए
कभी अकेले तो कभी तेरे साथ ये हमसफ़र...

बेहता रहा हूँ, बेहता ही रहा हूँ
कभी पथरीले राहों पे , कभी रेत की गर्मियों पर
कभी फिर उन हरी जंगलों के रस्ते...

बेहता रहा हूँ, बेहता ही रहा हूँ
इन वादियों से लिपटे हुए उन बर्फीले पहाड़ियों के आँचल से 
उन पहाड़ियों के किनारे बहती हुई नदियों के धारो पर...

बेहता रहा हूँ, बेहता ही रहा हूँ
उन झरनो से सटी पेड़ों की तरुओं से
उन झाड़ियों के पत्तो से...

बेहता रहा हूँ, बेहता ही रहा हूँ
इन बागों के बहारों से 
इन खेत खलियानों से...

बेहता रहा हूँ, बेहता ही रहा हूँ!

Ranjan Panda
Convenor, Water Initiatives Odisha (WIO)
Convenor, Combat Climate Change Network, India
Mahanadi River Waterkeeper (Member, Global Waterkeeper Alliance)
Mob: +91-9437050103

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Greetings on World Photography Day 2015!

A photograph can be read much better than words, you can have many interpretations of one photograph...

Greetings on World Photography Day 2015!

Friday, August 14, 2015

Happy Independence Day 2015 to Fellow Indians!

From water abundance to water scarcity;

From free flowing pure Rivers to dammed and polluted Rivers;

From fearless plunge into a water body to fear of getting unhealthy just by touch of it;

From free water to bottled water;

From demanding water sovereignty to dismantling public control over water....

The 68 year long journey has been from that of seeking water security as a matter of natural Right to that of a fight for Right to Water!

Let's pledge this Independence Day to work towards water security and sovereignty for all of us humans and other species....

Let's also seek Right for the Rivers to flow freely and clean...

Let's pledge to protect all our water bodies and create more of them...

Happy Independence Day 2015!

Ranjan Panda
Convenor, Water Initiatives Odisha (WIO)
Convenor, Combat Climate Change Network, India
Mahanadi River Waterkeeper (Member, Global Waterkeeper Alliance, New York)

Mob: +91-9437050103

Skype: ranjan.climatecrusader
Tweet @ranjanpanda
Tweet @MahanadiRiver

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

This year, August 13th is Earth Overshoot Day!

WIO Joins a global campaign led by Global Footprint Network to tell the world that, “In less than eight months, humanity has used up nature’s budget for the entire year.”

In less than eight months, humanity has used up nature’s budget for the entire year, with carbon sequestration making up more than half of the demand on nature, according to data from Global Footprint Network, an international sustainability think tank with offices in North America, Europe and Asia.

This year Water Initiatives Odisha (WIO), a leading network that works on water, environment and climate change in India, joins with the Global Footprint Network to spread the message around Earth Overshoot Day.

Global Footprint Network tracks humanity’s demand on the planet (Ecological Footprint) against nature’s ability to provide for this demand (biocapacity). Earth Overshoot Day marks the date when humanity’s annual demand on nature exceeds what Earth can regenerate in that year. Earth Overshoot Day has moved from early October in 2000 to August 13th this year.

In simple terms, as on 13th August 2015 the humans of world have spent resources of the Earth by more than 50 per cent the Earth can renew for this year.  At this rate, we would need one and half Earth to support our current demands. 

The costs of this ecological overspending are becoming more evident by the day, in the form of deforestation, drought, fresh-water scarcity, soil erosion, biodiversity loss and the buildup of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. The latter will significantly amplify the former, if current climate models are correct. Consequently, government decision-makers who factor these growing constraints in their policy making will stand a significantly better chance to set their nation’s long-term economic performance on a favorable track.

“Humanity’s carbon footprint alone more than doubled since the early 1970s, which is when the world went into ecological overshoot. It remains the fastest growing component of the widening gap between the Ecological Footprint and the planet’s biocapacity,” said Mathis Wackernagel, president of Global Footprint Network and the co-creator of the Ecological Footprint resource accounting metric. “The global agreement to phase out fossil fuels that is being discussed around the world ahead of the Climate Summit in Paris would significantly help curb the Ecological Footprint’s consistent growth and eventually shrink the Footprint.”

According to data generated by the Global Footprint Network, it will take resources of double the size of India to support India at the current level of consumption.  “We can’t sustain such growth models and consumption patterns anymore.  We sincerely want India to take strong measures to cut its ecological footprints and go for greener growth models,” says Ranjan Panda, Convenor of Water Initiatives Odisha (WIO).

As the third largest Green House Gas (GHG) emitter of the world, we are still better than many countries in terms of our lifestyles and consumption patterns.  According to reports, Japan would need five and half countries of its size to meet consumption requirements.  Similarly, China and UK would require almost three countries of their respective sizes to meet their current consumption levels. 

“Majority of Indians, especially the rural folks and forest dwellers, are known for their traditional eco-friendly lifestyles.  However, the urban India is growing fast in a highly GHG emitting lifestyle.  India needs to learn from its villages, preserve forests, conserve water bodies and Rivers, promote traditional irrigation and ecological agriculture more urgently than ever before,” urged Panda.
The carbon footprint is inextricably linked to the other components of the Ecological Footprint — cropland, grazing land, forests and productive land built over with buildings and roads. All these demands compete for space. As more is being demanded for food and timber products, fewer productive areas are available to absorb carbon from fossil fuel. This means carbon emissions accumulate in the atmosphere rather than being fully absorbed.

Ranjan Panda
Convenor, Water Initiatives Odisha (WIO), India
Mob: +91-9437050103

Water Initiatives Odisha (WIO) is a state level coalition of civil society organisations, farmers, academia, media and other concerned, which has been working on water, environment and climate change issues in the state for more than two and half decades now.

Global Footprint Network is an international think tank working to drive informed, sustainable policy decisions in a world of limited resources. Together with its partners, Global Footprint Network coordinates research, develops methodological standards, and provides decision-makers with a menu of tools to help the human economy operate within Earth’s ecological limits.
Additional Resources:

More on Earth Overshoot Day:

Follow on social media: #overshoot

To calculate your own personal Ecological Footprint, and learn what you can do to reduce it, go to:

Free Public Data Package (Ecological Footprint Data on 182 countries):

Smart City: No one knows what it is but everyone wants it!

Dear Friends/Co-sailors,

I was invited to an open debate on Smart Cities by the Focus (Odisha) TV.  It was organised at the G.M. College fields in Sambalpur yesterday and the show went live on the TV.  The discussion lasted for two hours.  Three politicians (the MLA of leading BJD, the Congress candidate who lost to her in the last election and a senior local leader of BJP) were there on the dias with me as discussants.  Hundreds of audience were present and the anchor called them 'Buddhijibi' meaning 'intellectuals'.  The debate was more political and the audience seemed to be a well balanced mix of followers of the above three political parties.  A few intellectuals who were there, including some from the above parties, had to remain silent when there was time for audience questioning/reactions.

I will write a detailed piece on the Smart City issues later.  However, wanted to post this short note of observation as it virtually came out as a 'sad affair' and not a real debate on the issue.  In fact, no one seemed to be aware of what the Smart City is but everyone wanted to get it.  As if Smart City is a bunch of money that we would miss if we don't wage a political fight.

In fact, I said it during the debate itself, our political leaders should now stop showing their visionary skills in declaring whimsical schemes.  Schemes should be discussed with the people at large and then finalized.  The current mode of Smart City programme is going to see more dirty battles than the smartness it wants to achieve in the cities of the nation.  In fact, we all need to be smart enough to understand the dirty tricks politicians play to force us into a rat race by showing some peanuts called 'funds'.

Development has to be local specific and it must take the local people and ecology into consideration and on board.  It cannot merely be a 'Scheme' that is thrown upon states/districts/cities as a matter of competition!

Thanks and regards,

Ranjan Panda
Convenor, Water Initiatives Odisha (WIO)
Convenor, Combat Climate Change Network, India
Mahanadi River Waterkeeper (Member, Global Waterkeeper Alliance)
Mob: +91-9437050103

(Thanks to Sarose Purohit for sharing photographs of the show that he clicked from his TV screen)

Monday, August 10, 2015

A quick reaction to Swachch Bharat Mission ranking for Sambalpur City!

Unless you clean Mahanadi, you can't have clean cities and villages on its banks -

Sambalpur, my city, is at the 9th position from Bottom in the Swachch Bharat Abhiyan's listing of cleanliness in cities. Alert citizens and friends are feeling ashamed of it. Me too. In fact a dearest friend Bimal Pandia wrote about this just now and I commented the following. Sharing for your information because someone that post did not show up in my wall somehow:

We are already ashamed and the recent jaundice epidemic is a testimony to that. While the SBM ranking has many faults, what it calls for is a renewed vision to look into cleanliness. It at least rakes up a debate at the moment yet again. However, it needs to be seen where it ends up. We invest in doubling ring roads and in river front projects rather than correcting our water pipes, drainage and sewerage systems; we dump fly ash in our ponds and river side; we plan to throw our garbage in crop fields and in village limits. While each city has it's own sets of issues and problems it has also to agree that it has to solve it's problems within its own limits. Cities cannot be clean at the cost of Rivers, Water Bodies, Crop Fields, Forests and Villages. SBM rank is just a set of overarching checklist which does not address most of these issues and can therefore not solve the problems to the extent we all want to. Anyways, good that people are reminded yet again from the top. Because, our system is not tuned to listening to warnings and suggestions from its own people and is comfortable only with organisations that praises it.

Thanks and regards,

Ranjan Panda
Convenor, Water Initiatives Odisha
Convenor, Combat Climate Change Network, India
Mahanadi River Waterkeeper (Member, Global Waterkeeper Alliance)

Mob: +91-9437050103

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Is India Selling Out Its Tigers? NYT Opinion Piece by Sharon Guynup.

Dear Friends/Co-sailors,

In Today's Pick, I am sharing an interesting opinion published in the New York Times that shows clearly how our government at centre is preparing for a historic extinction of Tigers in India.

The article rightly says, "Modi government’s aggressive focus on development threatens both the cats’ future and the nation’s environment. India is razing forests and flooding them with dams, giving the go-ahead for new mines and pushing rapid industrialization. The 2015 budget cut funding for the environment ministry by 25 percent and support for tiger protection by 15 percent".

I hope such articles will raise awareness on the disastrous moves by our government that would not only kill habitats for tigers but will doom India's environmental resources to an irreparable extent.

Thanks and regards,

Ranjan Panda
Mob: +91-9437050103


CreditChloé Poizat
INDIA’S tigers are in danger. In the year since the election of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the government has laid siege to the country’s environmental laws, threatening to undo recent conservation successes that have increased tiger numbers. India is the planet’s last stronghold for tigers, home to almost three-quarters of the 3,200 that remain in the wild across Asia.
Tigers have survived and prospered here because of increased protection and government efforts to relocate villages outside reserves, giving the big cats more space. A recent government census counted 2,226, a 30 percent increase in four years, and though researchers questioned the survey’s methods, there’s no question that tiger numbers are up.
But the Modi government’s aggressive focus on development threatens both the cats’ future and the nation’s environment. India is razing forests and flooding them with dams, giving the go-ahead for new mines and pushing rapid industrialization. The 2015 budget cut funding for the environment ministry by 25 percent and support for tiger protection by 15 percent.
At an international business meeting, the prime minister vowed to make India the “easiest” place to do business, noting, “we need the enabling policy framework.”
Toward that end, the government is moving swiftly and systematically to alter environmental regulations. Last August, a high level government committee was given the impossible task of reviewing the country’s major environmental laws and suggesting overhauls, all within a few months. Most of the committee members lacked environmental expertise, recommendations were not reviewed by independent authorities and most outside input was “invited.”
The resulting report recommended radical changes to the country’s legal framework governing forests, wildlife, the environment, water, air and land rights that would fast-track coal mines, dams, roads, railways and other projects. The Modi government is now drafting changes to those environmental laws.
The environment minister, Prakash Javadekar, claims that his goal is “development without destruction.” Yet proposed projects would bring widespread devastation of land and forests.
Among them is a river-diversion scheme that would submerge nearly one-third of the Panna Tiger Reserve, a project that had been shelved by Jairam Ramesh, the environment minister under the previous national government, who had called it a “disastrous” idea. A road that runs along the edge of the Pench Tiger Reserve is slated to become a four-lane highway — without overpasses for wildlife at crucial crossings. New coal mines are planned for central India, where hundreds of tigers live in a string of reserves.
Continue reading the main story
Dibang Dam
Dibang River
New Delhi
Kaziranga National Park
Panna Tiger Reserve
Tipaimukh Dam
Barak River
Pench Tiger Reserve
Bay of Bengal
200 Miles
Over 125 dams have been proposed for northeast India’s mighty Brahmaputra River system, including the huge Dibang River project, which was twice rejected by the previous government because it would inundate pristine forest. One gem at risk from dams planned or being built is Kaziranga National Park, home to more than 100 tigers, huge elephant herds and Asia’s largest population of Indian one-horned rhinos.
Beyond current efforts to rewrite India’s environmental laws, the Modi government is also trying to limit expert and public participation in the process. “There’s been a lot of muzzling of voices,” said Mr. Ramesh, the former environmental minister. “Environmental activism is now seen as a threat to the country’s economic growth prospects.”
In January, the Ministry of Home Affairs prevented the Greenpeace campaigner Priya Pillai from flying to England, where she was scheduled to speak to members of Parliament about the impact of coal mining in India. The government then froze the group’s bank accounts, and in April, it canceled the registration of nearly 9,000 charities and advocacy groups.
Critics charge that other high level committee recommendations, if implemented, would be like putting the fox in charge of the henhouse. Inspections would be curtailed and it would be left to businesses to voluntarily disclose their pollution and monitor their compliance. States would be given substantial power to approve development projects like dams, roads and mines. Critics worry that it is at the state level where the influence of private interests can hold powerful sway.
The committee also suggested barring the National Green Tribunal from weighing environmental impact in cases. The tribunal is among the most effective environmental courts in the world, the environmental lawyer Ritwick Dutta said. “They want to curtail its power.”
This eco-backlash stems from an entrenched environment-versus-growth debate. But the claim that environmental regulation is straitjacketing the economy is unfounded. A vast majority of major development projects are approved, according to Mr. Dutta. Delays often stem from missing information or local corruption — not from over-regulation, he said.
India has a strong environmental legacy, with exemplary wildlife laws going back more than 40 years. The Constitution requires every citizen “to protect and improve the natural environment.” In 2010, India signed an international agreement pledging to do “everything possible to effectively manage, preserve, protect, and enhance habitats” of tigers.
India has done an incredible job creating 48 tiger reserves, but many are small green islands. Cats and other species can’t survive long-term without the few tenuous wildlife corridors that connect parks. Corridors allow tigers to establish their own territory, move, mate, hunt and escape monsoon flooding. Projects that bisect or eliminate them could spell doom for isolated populations.
Vast amounts of money and effort have been spent protecting the country’s tigers, with legions of rangers risking their lives. Safeguarding tigers has had far-reaching benefits. The forests they inhabit act as huge carbon vaults, provide buffers from flooding, clean the air and purify drinking water for millions of people.
Though tigers have increased, the land is in decline. India loses an average of 333 acres of forest daily. Two of its rivers (including the sacred Ganges) are among the world’s most polluted, and 13 of the 20 cities with the most polluted air are in India, with Delhi at No. 1.
Loosening rules under these circumstances, with the growing specter of climate change, seems unwise. “Maybe I’m exaggerating,” said Ashok Khosla, the first director of India’s Office of Environmental Planning and Coordination, “but it sounds to me as if we have a cliff ahead of us and we have our foot on the accelerator.”
India must, of course, develop. About two-thirds of its population lives on $2 a day or less and 400 million lack electricity. But “green accounting” must be part of the development equation. Dismembering protective laws will have untold consequences: The country will ultimately have to pay for short-term corporate profits with denuded land, polluted air, scarce, filthy water, ill health and the loss of its mighty national animal, the tiger.