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World Environment Day: Old play, new actors.

It began like every other year. I am talking about the frenzied activities that usually take place in various parts of the world in the last week of May. This year too, Mission Cleanup was on in full swing to give our grimy planet that fake spruced-up look on 5 June, when the global community celebrates ‘World Environment Day’.

A different waste model

 
Should India import and reprocess the world’s growing mountains of junk and toxic garbage? Should this become our business opportunity, capitalizing on the fact that rich countries need cheaper and more efficient ways of dealing with their waste—everything from electronic to medical? The question is if we can manage the waste of others, even as we struggle and fail to deal with our own piles of garbage. 
 

No cheap change is possible

Last fortnight I asked: is India rich enough to pay for the cost of transition to a low-carbon economy? I put the question in the context of current moves in climate change negotiations which demand countries such as India—till now seen as victims of the carbon excesses of the already industrialized world—must now take full responsibility to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The US-sponsored and India-supported Copenhagen Accord rejects the principle of historical responsibility towards climate change, radically changing the global framework of action for ever more.

All is not well: climate negotiations in a new avatar

Climate change negotiations—cold after the freeze at Copenhagen—have warmed up again. In early April, negotiators met in Bonn, Germany, on the possible agreement that could be signed at the meet scheduled in December 2010 in Mexico. This was followed by a US-convened meet of the Major Economies Forum, better named the major emitters forum, in Washington. Next weekend, the group calling itself BASIC—China, Brazil, South Africa and India—is meeting in Cape Town to come up with its common position on negotiations.

Bullets are not the answer to development

The massacre of 76 policemen in Dantewada by naxalites is reprehensible. Yet we cannot brush aside the underlying poverty, deprivation and sheer lack of justice that are breeding tension and anger in vast areas of rural, tribal India. We cannot say that these developmental issues are long term—as the Congress spokesperson has reportedly said—while the immediate task is to annihilate the Naxalites.

Green buildings: how to redesign

There is a buzz about green buildings. But the question is: what does one mean by building green? And how does one design policies to make the green homes of our dreams?

Green is not about first building structures using lots of material and energy, and then fixing them so that they become a little more efficient. Building green is about optimizing on the local ecology, using local material as far as possible and, most importantly, building to cut the power, water and material requirements.

The Satyam in our oil

Which cooking oil is best for us? Why do I ask? Are we not bombarded with advertising messages telling us there is a healthy oil that is good for the heart? They talk of monounsaturated fatty acids (mufa), and polyunsaturated fatty acids (pufa) and of course, catch-us-words like omega properties. I am sure you, like me, try to understand this scientific jargon and conclude that any oil that has all these elements, must be good.

Our quality of mercy

Jambudwip is a tiny dot in the Bay of Bengal. A few years ago, it hit headlines when wildlife activists dragged fishermen, who used the landmass to dry their fish, to the Supreme Court. A case was filed regarding ‘encroachment’ of this island, partly covered by mangroves. The apex court’s central empowered committee (cec), which advises it in all forest matters, got into the act. Its report to the court was clear: fish drying was a non-forest activity, so disallowed under the Forest Conservation Act (1980).

Learn to walk lightly

In Sikkim, bowing to local protests, the government has cancelled 11 hydro-electric projects. In Arunachal Pradesh, dam projects are being cleared at breakneck speed and resistance is growing. In Uttarakhand last month, 2 projects on the Ganga were put on hold and there is growing concern about the rest. In Himachal Pradesh, dams are so controversial that elections were won where candidates said they would not allow these to be built. Many other projects, from thermal power stations to Greenfield mining, are being resisted.

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