Archive for the category “Planning & Infrastructure”

Call for Papers: Indian Society for Ecological Economics


The 8th Biennial Conference of the Indian Society for Ecological Economics (INSEE)



Hosted by

Department of Management Studies, Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore


4 – 6 January 2016

Rapid urbanization and industrialization-led economic growth are the quintessential features of developing country landscapes, particularly in South Asia. Urbanization brings about dramatic changes in local environments, occupying land and water bodies, creating air pollution and heat island effects. It places demands on regional resources such as water and agriculture. Urban areas and industry dump their solid waste and effluents onto peri-urban areas, remote islands or deep beneath the oceans. The growth of industry, which promises and at times provides more jobs, legitimizes this demand for resources, the creation of new slums and gentrified spaces, different gender relationships, lifestyle changes and health impacts. Urban lifestyles also set the benchmark to which others aspire, and therefore the ecological footprint they will generate.

INSEE, an association of professionals interested in issues at the interface of ecology, economy, and society, invites submissions of original papers and panels of papers addressing these concerns at its 8th Biennial Conference, which focuses on“Urbanization and the Environment”.

Read more…

News update

‘Capitalism is Mother Earth’s Cancer’: World People’s Summit Issues 12 Demands
Common Dreams
Decrying capitalism as a “threat to life,” an estimated 7,000 environmentalists, farmers, and Indigenous activists from 40 countries convened in the Bolivian town of Tiquipaya for this weekend’s World People’s Conference on Climate Change, aiming to elevate the demands of social movements and developing countries in the lead-up to upcoming United Nations-led climate talks. “Capitalism is Mother Earth’s cancer,” Bolivian President Evo Morales told the crowd, which also heard over the course of the three-day conference from United Nations Secretary-General Ban ki-Moon as well as other Latin American leaders.

Why Earth’s future will depend on how we build our cities
Chris Mooney, The Washington Post
It may be the most important number on Earth: 1,000 gigatons. That’s roughly how much carbon dioxide humanity has left to emit, scientists say, in order to have a two-thirds chance of keeping global warming below 2 degrees Celsius above the temperature in pre-industrial times — and thus, staying within what has often been deemed a “safe” climate threshold. A new report, though, finds that if we don’t build cities more wisely, using much greener infrastructure, then they could be a crucial factor that tips the planet over the 1,000 gigaton line — and indeed, that they could play this role in just five years time.

Europe’s greenhouse gas emissions fall to record low
The Guardian UK
Greenhouse gas emissions in Europe have plunged to the lowest level ever recorded after the EU’s member states reported an estimated 23% drop in emissions between 1990 and 2014. The bloc has now overshot its target for 2020 of cutting emissions by one-fifth – at the same time that its economy grew by 46%, according to the EU’s climate chief, Miguel Arias Canete .

Integrated Energy Policy Formulated To Boost The Energy Sector
In order to provide a collective policy covering all sources of energy including renewable energy sources, the Government of India has formulated an Integrated Energy Policy. The said policy outlines a roadmap to develop energy supply options and increased exploitation of renewable energy sources. The Ministry of New and Renewable Energy aims at a capacity addition of about 30,000 MW power during the 12th Five Year Plan from the various renewable energy sources available in the country.

16 commercial building spaces can save 8,960 Mwh/year: TERI Study
The Economic Times
Sixteen commercial building spaces, including that of Wipro, Tata ChemicalsBSE 0.57 % and Genpact, have the potential to save 8,960 megawatt hours a year, which is sufficient to power 2,400 rural homes, says a study. Energy saving in 100 such buildings can power more than 12,000 rural homes, stated a energy audit report of 16 commercial buildings across the country by The TERI Centre of Excellence, launched by The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) and United Technologies Corp (UTC) in 2014.

India’s coal-fueled economy taking a toll on environment and rural villagers
LA Times
In central India’s coal-rich Singrauli district, recently labeled one of the country’s most polluted areas, residents and activists have long complained that abuses by energy companies go unpunished. “Each and every company is violating environmental norms, including Sasan,” said Ashwani Kumar Dubey, a Singrauli resident and lawyer who has challenged the coal industry in India’s Supreme Court. “But nothing happens because these companies run the economy of the country.”

India’s climate tech revolution is starting in its villages
The Guardian UK
Solar panels drive a water pump that irrigates the fields of farmer Raman Bhai Parmar, 65, who grows bananas, rice and wheat on seven acres of land. Parmar’s solar energy pump is one of the technologies being promoted by a new project designed to help rural Indians adapt to climate change. The project, run by the international NGO, aims to create 1,000 so-called climate smart villages across six Indian states including Haryana, Punjab and Gujarat.

A nomads’ legend keeps the Indian wolf alive: An unconventional conservation story
Unlike local farmers and herders, the nomads never chased, hunted or hurt the wolves. The filmmakers soon uncovered a legend of three brothers, one of whom is cheated out of his share by the other two. He leaves but not before bestowing a curse that he would come back to claim his due. The tribesmen consider the wolf to be that brother, returning to take what’s rightfully his. It’s possible that this fraternal feeling between tribe and wolf saved Bent Ear and his family.

Shankar Sharma: Letter to concerned ministers on fossil fuel subsidies


Sri. Piyush Goyal
Union Minister for Coal, Power and Renewable Energy
Govt. of India, New Delhi

Copy with complements:
Sri. Prakash Javadekar
Union Minister for Environment, Forests and Climate Change
Govt. of India, New Delhi

Sri. Arun Jaitely
Union Minister for Finance
Govt. of India, New Delhi

Sri Naredra Modi
Prime Minister
Govt. of India, New Delhi

Dated 22nd  May, 2018

Dear Sri. Goyal,

Greetings from Mysore, Karnataka.

This has reference to the large number of coal power projects being planned, along with the large number of coal mines being auctioned in the country.

Whereas the civil society organizations in the country have been expressing their serious concerns on social and environmental impacts of relying on coal power, even the economic issues of coal power has come to the fore in recent years.  A hugely authoritative report by IMF few days ago has focused on the unbelievably large subsidies being provided to fossil fuel companies. It says that the fossil fuel companies are benefitting from global subsidies of $5.3tn (£3.4tn) a year. A related article in The Guardian of UK is as in the link below. Read more…

Mihir Mathur: Local Exchange Systems

Local Exchange Systems: Designing Community Initiatives
A discussion paper on Alternate Economics to Strengthen Local Economy and Facilitate Sustainable Adaptation

Mihir Mathur & Mithika D’Cruz – Watershed Organization Trust, Pune

Economic Globalization in its current form is a centralising juggernaut which often causes large-scale resource depletion in remote eco-systems, unpredictable price variations in essential commodities and lead to macroeconomic upheaval. Coupled with this is the potential of widespread impacts of Climate Change which increases the vulnerability of human settlements especially the resource poor within. In context of the dual risks of economic globalization and climate change, Localisation appears to be the most systemic response mechanism. Localisation is the manifestation of a decentralised, democratised economy that allows communities to develop ecosystems based Climate Resilient Economies.

Download the paper:
Local Exchange Systems: Designing Community Initiatives

Sustainable Lifestyles: Pathways and Choices for India and Germany

Harry Lehmann, Sudhir Chella Rajan
Co-authors: Sneha Annavarapu, Claudia Kabel, Christian Löwe, Astrid Matthey
(Indo-German Expert Group on Green and Inclusive Economy)

policy paper
Green Economy has been recognized by the Rio+20 Summit as “one of the important tools available for achieving sustainable development”. It is emphasized that Green Economy should “contribute to eradicating poverty as well as sustained economic growth, enhancing social inclusion, improving human welfare and creating opportunities for employment and decent work for all, while maintaining the healthy functioning of the Earth’s ecosystems”.

Such a transition towards a green and inclusive economy requires major efforts both on a national and international level, and cooperation and exchange of experiences is key to support the process. India and Germany are major players in this transition. Against this backdrop, an interdisciplinary working group of renowned experts from leading research institutions and political think tanks in India and Germany has been set up in November 2013 to enhance
collaborative learning, contribute to informed decision making in both countries and feed into the international debate on a Green and Inclusive Economy.

Five key topics are:
• Frameworks and challenges for a green and inclusive transformation
• Natural resources and decoupling growth from resource consumption
• Sustainable lifestyles
• Green and inclusive cities
• Transformation of the private sector

This policy paper was elaborated based on discussions in the context of the 3rd expert
group meeting on 12–14 November 2014 in Berlin.
The group is supported by the German Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation,
Building and Nuclear Safety (BMUB) and facilitated by the GIZ Environmental Policy
Programme in Berlin and the Indo-German Environment Partnership in Delhi.

Visit the website of the Indo-German Centre for Sustainability
Download the paper: Sustainable Lifestyles: Pathways and Choices for India and Germany

News update

Commodities crash: Bad news for the world economy, but is anyone listening?
Kurt Cobb
Reading the general run of financial headlines might lead one to believe that price declines in those commodities which are highly sensitive to economic conditions such as iron ore, copper, oil, natural gas, coal, and lumber are good on their face… Food commodities have been swooning as well recently. What is especially telling about the decline in the prices of foodstuffs is how broad-based it is.

As inequality soars, the nervous super rich are already planning their escapes
The Guardian, UK
With growing inequality and the civil unrest, the world’s super rich are already preparing for the consequences. At a packed session in Davos, former hedge fund director Robert Johnson revealed that worried hedge fund managers were already planning their escapes. “I know hedge fund managers all over the world who are buying airstrips and farms in places like New Zealand because they think they need a getaway,” he said. (Also watch: Video interview with Johnson on Zero Hedge)

Why we are at Peak Oil Right Now
Ron Patterson, Peak Oil Barrel
I am putting my reputation on the line in making the claim that the period, September 2014 through August 2018 will be the year of Peak Oil. The peak will straddle the 2014 and 2018 time line. 2016 will be the first full post peak calendar year. It really doesn’t matter how many barrels of oil is left in the ground. The point is we will never again pull it out of the ground at the same rate we are pulling it out right now. Below are my reasons.

After the Peak
Richard Heinberg, Post Carbon Institute
Our challenge will be to frame unfolding events persuasively in ecological terms (energy, habitat, population) rather than conventional political terms (good guys, bad guys), and to offer practical solutions to the burgeoning everyday problems of survival—solutions that reduce ecological strains rather than worsening them.

The Countries That’ll Survive Global Warming
The Huffington Post UK
In 2014, the University of Notre Dame produced a definitive ranking system that showed how countries around the world would fare if global warming increased at its current rate. The rankings took into account the country’s location, its population density and how financially equipped it was to deal with the rising sea level and increase in temperature. (Also read: Energy analyst Euan Mearns’ analysis: How to Mitigate Climate Change)

New research shows nations really do go to war over oil
Petros Sekeris & Vincenzo Bove, The Conversation
In a new paper co-authored with Kristian Gleditsch in the Journal of Conflict Resolution, we model the decision-making process of third-party countries in interfering in civil wars and examine their economic motives. Our research builds on a near-exhaustive sample of 69 countries which had a civil war between 1945 and 1999. We found that the decision to interfere was dominated by the interveners’ need for oil – over and above historical, geographical or ethnic ties.

Shell urges shareholders to accept climate resolution
The Guardian, UK
Shell is set to confront the risk that climate change may pose to its future, after backing a resolution from activist shareholders. The resolution, filed by 150 investors who control hundreds of billions of pounds, requires the oil major to test whether its business model is compatible with the pledge by the world’s nations to limit global warming to 2C.

Tiny House Villages Redefining Home
Cat Johnson, Shareable
Tiny house villages are a new part of the tiny house movement, yet they hold a lot of potential to transform lives and communities. The idea behind these villages is straightforward: bring tiny houses together in one place to create communities that share land, time together, skills, support, and other resources.

Video: The Third Curve interviews by Mansoor Khan

Peak Oil India member Mansoor Khan has been doing a series of short video interviews with experts in various fields from ecology to energy to economics. The interviews take off from the themes covered in his book, The Third Curve: The End of Growth. As We Know It!. Some of the prominent names interviewed so far are Vandana Shiva, Ashish Kothari and Sunita Narain (featured in the video above), apart from POI members Sagar Dhara, Nagraj Adve and Mihir Mathur. Mansoor’s YouTube channel also has a short video which neatly summarises the book’s contents.

Visit The Third Curve YouTube channel 

Sagar Dhara: A.P. needs smart governance more than a smart capital

Sagar Dhara, POI Founder Member

(Note: An edited version of this article appeared in The Hindu, dated October 9, 2014, under the title ‘Including people in governance)

The soul of India lives in its villages, Gandhiji said 100 years ago.  London governed India’s soul then, which it perceived as unjust and so revolted.  Delhi and the state capitals now govern India but not quite in a way that allows people to participate in decision-making.

By declaring the Vijayawada-Guntur region as the new capital of the successor state of Andhra Pradesh (AP), and wanting all major government institutions there, Chief Minister Chandra Babu Naidu has, like in other Indian states, has favoured centralized governance.

The logic for choosing Vijayawada-Guntur as the capital can be traced to the outdated industrial location theory (ILT), whose object is to choose industry sites that minimize transport cost of raw materials and finished goods.  No doubt, Vijayawada-Guntur is centrally located in AP is and well connected, which helps minimize transport cost for visitors to the capital.  But ILT does not consider many other critical issues.

First, it factors only direct costs, not externalities. The Vijayawada-Guntur is surrounded by some of AP’s best farmland, and a part of it will be lost to the new capital.  Per researchers Ashmore, Marshall and others, air pollution from large cities like Mumbai and Ahmedabad have caused wheat and paddy yield losses of 15-40%, totalling to lakhs of tons, in a 60-70 km radius around each city.  Air pollution from thermal power plants is similar to that from cities; hence crop yield losses around power plants can be extrapolated to estimate losses around cities.  A 2013 environmental impact appraisal of the 1,760 MW Ibrahimpatnam thermal power plant located near Vijayawada, estimated that the plant’s air pollution-related crop yield losses in a 10 km radius around the plant were Rs 200 crores per annum.  Extrapolating this to air pollution-crop yield losses in a 25 km radius around the new capital would mean a loss of Rs 1,000 crores per annum to local farmers.

And as the new capital grows it will attract migrants, the city’s carbon emissions will increase by at least one million tons per annum.  The cost of raising plantations that can sequester these carbon emissions is Rs 3,500 crores.

Second, ILT does not factor costs for social conflicts.  The new capital is to be made a smart city like Singapore.  The energy required is 6 million tons of oil equivalent costing Rs 35,000 crores, i.e., a third of AP’s 2014-15 budget.  To mobilize these funds, a public-private partnership may be sought.  Private parties invest for profit and will want to transform newer parts of Vijayawada-Guntur into gated communities with super malls, leaving the older and crowded One-Town in Vijayawada and Patha-Guntur as are.  Uneven development of Vijayawada-Guntur is likely to cause social conflict in future, and that has a cost.

Third, ILT may work for a single node like a centralized capital, but not for not for smart governance, i.e., decentralized democratic participative governance.  In the former, higher-level government functions are centralized in one location, e.g., Vijayawada-Guntur as envisaged by AP’s chief minister.  In the latter, government functions are dispersed throughout the state.  Hence, people will travel shorter distances to district, taluka/mandal towns for their work with government rather than to the capital, thus minimizing transport cost.  More importantly, the state’s polity, and all its regions will feel that they have been included in the state’s governance.  The process of choosing a capital has just begun.  AP should use this unique opportunity to opt for smart governance, an opportunity that Telangana does not have.

Tasked by the Union Government to identify sites for the new AP capital, the Sivaramakrishnan Committee has recommended dispersing government institutions across the state to allow for distributed and equitable development of all of AP, e.g., locate departments related to industry in Visakhapatnam, agriculture in Prakasam and mining in Rayalseema, etc.  Accepting this recommendation to decentralize is the first step in smart governance.  It will make all AP regions feel involved in the state’s governance.

The second step is to move to democratic participative governance.  Indian law empowers local self-governments (LSG)—panchayats, municipalities, etc., to take decisions about local matters.  LSGs have not discharged their mandate adequately for lack of clear jurisdiction and adequate funds.  If this is corrected, governance can be transformed from a top-down for the people model of centralized governance done from state capitals to a bottom-up by the people model, where every village and town becomes self-governing.

Smart governance experiments have been done in many parts of the world.  Participatory budgeting first began in 1990 in the Brazilian city of Porto Alegre.  In the first quarter of every year, communities hold open house meetings every week to discuss and vote on the city’s budget, and spending priorities for their neighbourhood.  Later, city-wide public plenaries pass a budget that is binding on the city council.  The results speak for themselves.  Within seven years of starting participatory budgeting, household access to piped water and sewers doubled to touch 95%.  Roads, particularly in slums, increased five-fold.  Schools quadrupled, health and education budgets trebled.  Tax evasion fell as people saw their money at work.  People used computer kiosks to feed communicate suggestions to the city council’s website.

Participatory budgeting is now being done in 1,500 towns around the world—Europe, South America, Canada, India—Pune, Bengaluru, Mysore and Hiware Bazar.  Twenty five years ago, Hiware Bazar was like any other drought-prone village in Marathwada.  Today its income has increased twenty-fold and poverty has all but disappeared.

In the early-1970s, British scientist, Stafford Beer, designed a cybernetic system that did realtime monitoring of Chile’s economy and allowed production decisions to be taken at different levels, the lowest being shopfloor workers, the next being people in the entire production facility, then by representatives of like production facilities in a city; finally the highest level being the cabinet’s economic committee.  If an issue arose on a particular shopfloor, workers were given a certain amount of time to discuss and fix it.  If they failed because the issue was beyond their control, e.g., raw material shortage, an algedonic meter sounded an alarm and the decision shifted to a next higher level, and further upwards if necessary. Two 1970s-generation computers and telex lines was the technology used.

Before the Right to Information (RTI) became law in India, public boards carrying information on daily receipt and disbursement of foodgrains were ordered to be put up outside ration shops in Madhya Pradesh.  Immediately after, foodgrain shortages in ration shops disappeared. Fifteen years ago, plants in AP were ordered to put up public boards outside their main gate with information regarding their compliance conditions, environmental data and the maximum vulnerable zone in catastrophic accidents.  To make RTI more effective, a non-computerized information search engine has been designed in India.

Thirty years ago, Narsappa, an illiterate farmer aggrieved by Harihar Polyfibers’ effluents, was told by the plant’s management that their effluents were being treated to required standards and that he had no cause for worry.  He asked why then could the locations of the plant’s fresh water intake and effluent discharge points not be switched; the intake point from upstream to downstream of the plant site on the Tungabhadra River and the effluent discharge from downstream to upstream.  Narsappa’s question remains unanswered to this day.

Narsappa is an important part of India’s soul.  Grassroot decision-makers in Brazil and Chile are like Narsappa. Participation of people like Narsappa in smart governance or gram swaraj will make AP and India a vibrant society, much more than using expensive smart toys like online air quality monitors from Singapore, the output data from which is un-actionable in Indian cities.

(The author works with Cerana Foundation on energetics of human societies and environmental risks, and can be contacted at

Is the NDA government’s “Good days ahead” promise old wine in a new bottle?

By Sagar Dhara, POI Founder Member

(Note: An edited version of this article appeared in The Hindu, dated August 8, 2014, under the title ‘Building smart cities without energy’. Also read: Devinder Sharma’s article: How About Smart Villages, Mr Modi?)

Recent pronouncements by the NDA ministers, when read together, provide insights into the NDA government’s ‘Acche din ayenge’ (good days ahead) promise.  Finance minister Arun Jaitley provided Rs 7,060 crores in the 2014-15 budget for developing 100 smart satellite townships to existing cities.  Environment minister Prakash Javadekar said that to reduce poverty, India’s carbon emissions must grow till 2030-40.

Can India find the large quantity of energy needed to develop smart cities?  Will greater fossil fuel use, the primary cause for carbon emissions, in projects like smart cities, bullet trains, river linking, reduce poverty?  I.e., can India replicate the 20th Century North nations development model that used massive quantities of energy to reduce poverty? Read more…

News update: View from India

Peak Oil and Implications for India
While it is dicey to predict oil reserves and production rates, one can accurately compute and collate past figures. Experts have been predicting peaking since 1995 but because of energy-efficient machines, substitution and use of natural gas and electricity for heating and so on, the dates have been shifting. This underscores the fact that the only reliable way to predict the timing of peak oil will be by examining past statistics. The most telling evidence of peaking is the near plateauing and negative rise in production for the seven years ending 2011. An article by Maj. Gen. (Retd) S.C.N. Jatar. (Editor’s Note: Requires subscription to access article)

Is the world about to run out of oil? 
Peaking of oil supplies presents an unprecedented risk-management problem. Viable mitigation options could cost trillions of dollars and require more than a decade of intense effort. An article by Maj. Gen. (Retd) S.C.N. Jatar.
From the Business Standard

Peak Oil and India: An Analysis
Are we scraping the bottom of the barrel? Despite the Big Oil bravado, energy gurus actually believe the world might be nearing Peak Oil – The End of Cheap Gasoline. An analysis by Akhilesh Singh.

India Spends $2.2 Billion to Triple Oil Reserve
India, Asia’s second-largest energy user, will spend $2.2 billion to more than triple its proposed emergency crude oil reserves as it seeks to protect the economy against supply disruptions. Four caverns with a combined capacity of 12.5 million metric tons will be built at a cost of 133 billion rupees ($2.2 billion) and add to three with 5.03 million tons of capacity under construction, Indian Strategic Petroleum Reserves Ltd. Chief Executive Officer Rajan K. Pillai said. The government may turn to its biggest refiners Indian Oil Corp. (IOCL) and Hindustan Petroleum Corp. (HPCL) to help fill the reservoirs, he said.
From Bloomberg News

The Demise of the Car
Global production of oil started to flatten more than seven years ago, in 2005. And the developing world, which garners headlines for its increased demand for oil, is running mainly on coal-fired electrical power. There is no question that the non-OECD countries are leading the way as liquid-based transport – automobiles and airlines – have entered longterm decline. Why, therefore, do policy makers in both the developing and developed world continue to invest in automobile infrastructure? [Also read: Peak oil? The trend to watch is peak car. A blog post by Nick Butler of the Financial Times]

Ready for peak oil?
As cities expand and markets keep fuel prices high, Indians are demanding better public transport. The States must deliver, but they are only inching ahead. (Editor’s Note: The article deals with issues plaguing public transport in India, and has very little to do with Peak Oil itself.)
From The Hindu

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