Mobility Crisis The biggest challenge that confronts cities today is the intractable problem of automobile dependence. As the automobile dependence continues to grow, it is adversely affecting the quality of urban life. Congestion, unsafe roads and pollution remain their bane. Unless accompanied by policies to restrict the growth in car and motorised two-wheeler travel, cities will run hard only to stand still. Despite a very small minority using cars in cities, the available road space and transport-related investments are getting locked up only to cater to them. Public transport, bicycles and pedestrian facilities used by the vast urban majority, especially the urban poor, remain neglected.
The rate at which urban air pollution has grown across India is alarming. A vast majority of cities are caught in the toxic web as air quality fails to meet health-based standards. Almost all cities are reeling under severe particulate pollution while newer pollutants like oxides of nitrogen and air toxics have begun to add to the public health challenge. Improve air quality monitoring to include more pollutants and more areas in cities to assess the risk of air pollution, make appropriate policies to control it and to create awareness amongst people about hard policy decisions. Ambient air quality standards are constantly evolving to address the emerging health challenges. We hope that the most recent attempt by CPCB to revise the ambient air quality standards will set tighter benchmark for air quality.
The Anil Agarwal Environment Training Institute, an education and training initiative of CSE, was established to communicate the science, complexity and politics of environment across India, South Asia and the world. It seeks to build a constituency and cadre of knowledgeable, skilled and committed environmentalists – from students, decision-makers, field-level practitioners, civil society groups, journalists, lawyers, and concerned citizens.
The water programme of Centre for Science and Environment has evolved to help in establishing policy principles, innovative technologies and implementation strategies for water and wastewater management in India. These efforts have been directed towards meeting the twin goals of laying the foundations for a water prudent society and adapting for climate resilience. CSE has been an important thought-leader in the water management sector. It has already influenced global policies and strategies to focus on the need for technologies to augment water resources in a decentralised manner through rainwater harvesting and to use that water to optimize on benefits. In 2010, CSE started the South Asia Water Programme.
Centre for Science and Environment’s bonds with media – journalists, news and feature publications, media houses etc – go back almost to the days of its infancy. CSE’s founder-director, the late Anil Agarwal, himself a journalist, well appreciated the role that media could play in carrying CSE’s voice and message to the world outside. From that appreciation has emerged an enduring relationship over the years, sustained by a belief and understanding that media is one of the key ‘multiplier’ communities which support CSE’s work. We believe that the mass media can help in analysing the linkages between environment and development, spark debates on crucial issues, and lead to positive change.
The Ministry of Urban Development (MoUD) has designated Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) as a Centre for Comprehensive Capacity Building under the JnNURM directorate for Sustainable Water Management including Water Audit and Efficiency, Sustainable Sanitation including Reuse and Recycle, Water and Energy efficiency. This designation has been for the year 2012 – 2013 to conduct capacity building (training / workshops) and research activities in the sustainable water and wastewater management area.
Water programmeiswidely acknowledged as thought leader that mobilsed the country through a water literacy campaign calling for decentralized solutions to harvesting rainwater, control water pollution, urban sewage management in catalyzing policy changes at both national and state levels. Several publications that laid the reform agenda for water management in the country include - Dying Wisdom (1997) documenting the rise, fall and potential of India’s traditional water harvesting systems from different ecological contexts; Making Water Everybody’s Business (2001) followed with connecting the theory and practice of rainwater harvesting (RWH) targeting planners and policy-makers with a toolkit on Catch Water Where it Falls and focused research report Yamuna – sewage canal highlighting the needfor re-engineering the water and sewage management to address river pollution. CSE was awarded the prestigious Stockholm Water Prize in 2005 for promoting awareness on sustainable water management and community engagement, and the Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation Water Award in 2008.
The fundamental principle underlying CSE’s water management programme is that the looming water crisis facing the country is not primarily due to a lack of water, but rather arises from mismanagement of water resources. The centralized management paradigm has kept the citizens out and taken away their sense of responsibility towards managing their water. Given the growing population and water demand, the government will find it extremely difficult to raise financial resources to meet the growing water needs as well as to clean up the increasing levels of polluted water. The answers to meeting the challenge of the water crisis lie in a participatory, efficient and sustainable water management paradigm. Every person, household, company or community can contribute to this effort by mobilizing finances and labor. Thus, water management, from water conservation to water pollution, must become everybody’s business.
CSEs South Asia Programme supported by Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA) Regional has extensive spread and varieties of engagements with many stakeholders. The broad overall objectives can be summarized as follows:
What happened to our right to CLEAN AIR! Our campaign started with blowing the lid on smog and exposing the smogmakers in a city where a person dies every hour due to air pollution. The campaign carries on to clean the air of noxious pollutants to make breathing easier for all. Air quality and public health The rate at which urban air pollution has grown across India is alarming. A vast majority of cities are caught in the toxic web as air quality fails to meet health-based standards. Almost all cities are reeling under severe particulate pollution while newer pollutants like oxides of nitrogen and air toxics
Renewable energy programme in CSE, from its inception, being focused on addressing Decentralized development. Traditionally, the focus of the programme was on improving energy access through renewable energy sources, while accommodating for environmental and social externalities. While CSE continues to pursue this, the overarching objective of the programme is now expanded to mainstream renewable energy in decarbonizing the power sector. CSE’s efforts are thus dedicated to ensuring development and implementation of sound renewable energy policies and programmes at national and local government level that lead to large-scale deployment of renewable energy technologies in various sectors of the economy, to meet the twin objective of combating climate change on one hand and energy security, on the other. .
Today the threat of climate change is real and urgent. And to prevent the catastrophic impacts the world needs drastic reductions in the greenhouse gas emissions. Any solution or roadmap must be based on the well-entrenched principles of equity, historical responsibility and common but differentiated responsibility.
The current performance of cities is poor across key indicators of quality of life. A sector report by McKinsey (2010) indicates substantial shortfalls in clean water supply and management,solid waste management, public transportation and affordable and liveable housing supply. By 2030, 250 million people will be added to the urban population, who will require 700-900 million square meters of new residential and commercial space (Census 2011; McKinsey Global Institute, 2010. On current trends, quality of habitat is going to deteriorate even further and the service gap will increase by three to four times.Further, the economic and environmental costs of such scenario are going to be extremely high. SE’s programme on Sustainable Buildings and Habitat
Change is possible in our cities. Public action has made this possible. Unhealthy air pollution spikes are lower in cities in the lead. They have saved lives. There are amazing stories. People have acted and created a 'space' to make the change real… The challenge is complex. Deadly mix of pollution, congestion, energy guzzling makes solutions more difficult. But cities are innovating, experimenting, pushing. They are finding ways to solve their unique problems with deeper insight within; shared vision and lessons from other cities. Learn and share, know and grow, act and push….
Community Support Programme is a programme with a vision to help various communities in the country who request CSE for technical support. It aims at those communities which do not have access to such technical support and have issues pertaining to environment in their vicinity. The thought behind this programme is that community can best explain its problem, as they are the most vulnerable group of people who bear the repercussions of the harm done to environment. They also do not have any support, due to lack of funds and knowledge, in order to save themselves from the catastrophe caused by mankind. In such cases if any community or a representative approaches CSE, we provide them with proper technical guidance in order to curb further harm to the community that is being done by human activity and environmental consequences of the same.