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 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.
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 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
The Rural Water Programme works to stimulate the development of policies and strategies for sustainable, participatory and equitable water management in rural India. While the area of water is vast, there is a special focus on drinking water to look at how we can move towards sustained availability of safe and adequate drinking water.
CSE started its work on water issues way back in the 80s, when it was becoming apparent that the water management paradigm based on exploitation of surface and groundwater resources even as it neglected capturing rain to recharge or for direct use would lead the country to a huge water crisis. CSE first focussed on pushing for policy reforms in the water sector to mainstream harvesting rainwater in both urban and rural areas. To support this policy advocacy, CSE undertook intensive and extensive awareness campaigns, capacity building workshops and informational materials. The outcome of this work was that there were supportive policy initiatives in urban and rural areas to promote water harvesting and all this was met with public support.