GLOBAL CLIMATE CHANGE – AN ENVIRONMENTAL CRISIS AND NEED FOR DISASTER MANAGEMENT

nature2

Across the world, there is a rapid increase in urban living and an ever greater understanding of the consequences of Global Climate Change. Towns are experiencing warmer weather, hotter summers and delayed winters. Even, we can expect much greater changes in the decades ahead. This in addition to the increase of population day by day and with no specific control on the increasing population explosion, there is a fierce struggle for land and space. There is also an increase in the intake of food and water. So, all these factors lead to an increase in demand graph and supply chart seems to go down. This is a worrying fact for a city or town, which needs to survive this trouble times. Today, what Nature has given us for free is bought at a cost by humans due to depleting resources. 15 years back most of the people never thought of buying mineral water. They do now as fresh clean water is reducing these days with lots of added problems. Now agitations and war like scenario occurs only to get clean drinking water. Days are not far when we need to buy oxygen cylinders to breathe!

What seems now is feasible to implement policies which are already made giving importance to disaster management plans with innovations. Hence, we need to find some sustainable approach to keep a balance. The approach should be in areas concerning water, land, food and the air we breathe. All these are the basics of human survival. Let us take the example of water. It’s not the simple expansion of irrigation. It had an ecological and social dimension as well and was the key to rural transformation. Providing a limited but assured quantity of water to all urban households irrespective of their landholding is the key for water conservation. Now, to serve such dispersed need, the systems required had to be entirely different – technologically and socially. The population of the world tripled in the 20th century and now the use of renewable resources have grown six fold. Within the next fifty years the World population may increase by another 40%-50%. Now this population growth coupled with industrialization and urbanization will result in an increasing demand of water and will have serious consequences in the environment. Already there is more waste water generated and dispersed today than at any other time in the history of our planet: more than one out of six people lack access to safe drinking water, namely 1.1 billion people, and more than two out of six lack adequate sanitation, namely 2.6 billion people approximately (Estimation for 2002, by the WHO/UNICEF JMP, 2004). One must know that these figures represent only people with very poor conditions. In reality, these figures should be much higher.

Less availability of water leads to water stress. Water stress results from an imbalance between water use and water resources. Hence depleting resource leads to many tensions over neighbors, communities, districts, states and countries. So, it is a real fact that there is a water crisis today. “But the crisis is not about having too little water to satisfy our needs. It is a crisis of managing water so badly that billions of people – and the environment – suffer badly.” World Water Vision Report

This leads to issues with environmental sustainability and thus is a reason to environmental catastrophe. Environmental Calamity Management is a highly complex problem and has diverse manifestations. It is a phenomenon which affects people in different ways and is the result of social, cultural, economic and political factors. It is to be noted that all crises do not give rise to emergencies and the radical changes do not mean that it is always in negative.

Hence the vision of the policy makers needs to assist the vulnerable and poor people to bring about positive change and to support their capacity to withstand adverse changes that may affect their social and economic developments. The changes should be made after proper judgment as any changes for the vulnerable people or the communities may give rise to a crisis that may overpower their capacity to cope and hence is an uncalled emergency. Crisis is not only about this unexpected catastrophe but also the sum-up of this slow build-up of political, social, economic and environmental factors. Along with all these issues, there is a combination of unexpected incident such as cyclone, flood, earthquake, drought or any other type of major accidents, which would definitely add to these changes in a very negative way. Hence, it is critical that intervention addresses these issue and policies made accordingly.

Coming back to the fresh water crisis and with this current state of affairs, correcting measures still can be taken to avoid the crisis to be worsening. There is an increasing awareness that our freshwater resources are limited and need to be protected both in terms of quantity and quality. This water challenge affects not only the water community, but also decision-makers and every human being. “Water is everybody’s business” was one the key messages of the 2nd World Water Forum.

When the human population of an area is small, poor land use may affect only the people who are guilty of bad judgment. As the population increases, everyone suffers if land is improperly used because everyone eventually pays and often the case; everyone suffers a permanent loss of resources. A small example is if grasslands in low regions are plowed up and planted to wheat (poor land use), a “dust bowl” or temporary desert will sooner or later be a result. If the grass cover is maintained and moderately grazed (good land use), no dust bowl will likely to be developed. It is a general observance that good land use planning has come only after human has first destroyed or damaged a landscape. It is just as the saying goes that Human does not seem to understand a system which he did not build.

Some solutions to these environmental problems are:

  1. i) Cluster development: A cluster development of residential housing around village or town centers with each unit separated by broad green belts.
  2. ii) By retaining stream valleys, steep slopes, lakes, marshes, aquifer recharge areas, waste disposal areas free from houses, buildings, and other high density uses. Without such planning, there might be no open space, and which would lead to the same kind of urban blight, chronic pollution and social disorder that we now observe in older, unplanned cities.

Generally, the short term profits that can be made by exploiting urban land are so huge that it is difficult for people to foresee the socio-ecologic backlashes and overshoots that accompany uncontrolled growth.

With the increase in population, food supplies will reduce resulting in increasing prices.

In other words, the size and quality of the “environmental house” should be an important consideration and not the number of resources; we can relentlessly squeeze from the earth. A reasonable goal could be to stress on the fact that a third of all land could be under open space use. The dependence of a city on the countryside for all its vital resources (food, water and so on) and the dependence of the country on the city for economic resources become so widely recognized that the present political confrontation that exists between the rural and urban populations is eliminated.

Hence a variety of methods need to be taken to tackle climate change and its consequences and those initiatives should:

  1. a) Help to reduce global warming and Green House Gas Effect
  2. b) Help to reduce energy and carbon-dioxide emissions
  3. d) Help to enhance bio-diversity of an area
  4. a) Encourage Rain Water Harvesting
  5. b) Managing storm water by slowing the runoff rate

These and many more planning & policies may help us to look deep into these environmental issues and find effective solutions to the problems through corporate social responsibility and working hand in hand with various agencies.

(Above are my personal opinion)

Mainak Majumdar

Writer is winner of Two Gold Medals in Master of Environmental Sciences from Bangalore University and is currently working in this area of Disaster Management and Environment for over 13 years

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DISASTER MANAGEMENT NEEDS AND GREEN TOWNS

Angel

Across the world, there is a rapid increase in urban living and an ever greater understanding of the consequences of Global Climate Change. Indian Town is experiencing warmer weather, hotter summers and delayed winters. Even, we can expect much greater changes in the decades ahead.

The population is increasing day by day and with no specific control on the increasing population explosion, there is a fierce struggle for land and space. There is also an increase in the intake of food and water. So, all these factors lead to an increase in demand graph and supply chart seems to go down. This is a worrying fact for a town, which needs to survive this trouble times.

Hence, we need to find some sustainable approach to keep a balance. The approach should be in areas concerning water, land, food and the air we breathe. All these are the basics of human survival. Let us take the example of water. It’s not the simple expansion of irrigation. It had an ecological and social dimension as well and was the key to rural transformation. Providing a limited but assured quantity of water to all urban households irrespective of their landholding is the key for water conservation. Now, to serve such dispersed need, the systems required had to be entirely different – technologically and socially. The population of the world tripled in the 20th century and now the use of renewable resources have grown six fold. Within the next fifty years the World population will increase by 40%-50%. Now this population growth coupled with industrialization and urbanization will result in an increasing demand of water and will have serious consequences in the environment. Already there is more waste water generated and dispersed today than at any other time in the history of our planet: more than one out of six people lack access to safe drinking water, namely 1.1 billion people, and more than two out of six lack adequate sanitation, namely 2.6 billion people

(Estimation for 2002, by the WHO/UNICEF JMP, 2004). One must know that these figures represent only people with very poor conditions. In reality, these figures should be much higher.

Less availability of water leads to water stress. Water stress results from an imbalance between water use and water resources. The water stress indicator in this map measures the proportion of water withdrawal with respect to total renewable resources. The depleting resource leads to many tensions over neighbors, communities, districts, states and countries. So, it is a real fact that there is a water crisis today. “But the crisis is not about having too little water to satisfy our needs. It is a crisis of managing water so badly that billions of people – and the environment – suffer badly.” World Water Vision Report

With this current state of affairs, correcting measures still can be taken to avoid the crisis to be worsening. There is an increasing awareness that our freshwater resources are limited and need to be protected both in terms of quantity and quality. This water challenge affects not only the water community, but also decision-makers and every human being. “Water is everybody’s business” was one the key messages of the 2nd World Water Forum. Indian Towns are no different.

Another challenging factor, which haunts an Indian town, is Green Cover.

As per the report of National Institute of Environmental Studies, Bangalore has a Green Cover of 8.60 per cent, National Capital Region (New Delhi): 8.49 per cent, Greater Mumbai: 6.20 per cent, Chennai: 7.50 percent. The most astonishing fact is that Kolkata has a very less Green cover of 0.95 per cent. The numbers indicate percentage of green cover as a proportion of the total area for major Indian towns. Needless to say, the list — prepared by the Delhi-based National Institute of Environment Studies.

(NIES), who had made it clear that Calcutta has the lowest green count among all the towns.

It’s stated that as per the established norms the green cover should be atleast 15 percent for mega-towns for a population of one – million. Lack of open space and greenery increases air pollution and triggers respiratory and other problems, besides raising temperature, affecting biodiversity and causing psychosomatic disorders among citizens. According to the report it also states that the Green Cover of the town has continuously been depleting from 1.3 per cent in 1997-98 to 0.95 per cent in 1999-2000, due to indiscriminate felling of trees due to various reasons.

Hence, it is very clear that most Indian Towns faces many environmental challenges. The Project recognizes that a variety of methods will be needed to tackle climate change and its consequences and that living roofs and walls can play a significant role in tackling the situation. The greening of a roof can support rare and interesting types of plant, which in turn can host or provide suitable habitat for a variety of rare and interesting invertebrates.

These would serve many purposes:
a) Help to reduce global warming and green house gas effect
b) Help to reduce urban heat island effect (UHIE)
c) Help to reduce energy and carbon-dioxide emissions
d) Help to enhance bio-diversity, reduce flood, earthquake, cyclone and other disaster risks, provide insulation and improve the appearance of the town.

Creation of Green Bus Shelters will not only increase the green cover. The mission would be to increase the green look of the town as well as educate the public about the many environmental benefits of green roofs, as well as improve urban air quality and provide attractive waiting spaces for public transit users. The Green Bus Shelters will serve the following purposes:

a) Filtering air pollution and particulates from vehicle exhaust
b) Managing storm water by slowing the runoff rate
c) Adding an extra layer of insulation to roofs
d) Providing wildlife habitat opportunities in a dense urban area.

The next concept is Rain water harvesting and creation of Rain Homes. This will together create a Sustainable Rain Neighbourhoods. A sustainable neighbourhood is a mixed used area with a feeling of community. It is a place where people want to live and work, now and in the future. Sustainable neighbourhoods meet the diverse needs of existing and future residents, are sensitive to their environment, and contribute to a high quality of life. They are safe and inclusive, well planned, built and run, and offer equality of opportunity and good services to all. (Bristol Accord, 6-7 December 2005)

Sustainable Rain Neighbourhoods will make the communities have access to round the clock usage of water, irrespective of the number of people through effective capturing, storing and usage of Rain water.

Wastes and its disposal is another problem which haunts a metropolitan town. Human is behind every developmental sector. The large scale production and improper disposal of waste has become a source of pollution and further accumulation of garbage has resulted in serious deterioration of quality of life and the ecological balance. An initiative need to be taken on the need of systemic waste management.

An example of Kolkata states that approximately more than 2920 ton/d of solid waste are generated in the Kolkata Municipal Corporation (KMC) area and the budget allocation for 2007–2008 was Rs. 1590 million (US$40 million). Major deficiencies were found in all elements of Solid Waste Management. Lack of suitable facilities (equipment and infrastructure) and underestimates of waste generation rates, inadequate management and technical skills, improper bin collection are responsible for poor collection and transportation of municipal solid wastes. The project tries to give focus in this grey area and encourages segregation of wastes in homes. Segregation of waste right is a solution to the problem and the project focuses on this initiative.

Waste can be segregated as
1. Biodegradable
Organic waste, e.g. kitchen waste, vegetables, fruits, flowers, leaves from the garden and paper
2. Non-biodegradable
Recyclable waste – plastic, paper, glass, metal etc
Toxic waste – old medicines, paints, chemicals, bulbs, spray cans, fertilizer and
pesticide containers, batteries, shoe polish.
Soiled – hospital waste such as cloth soiled with blood and other body fluids.

Toxic and soiled waste must be disposed of with utmost care.

For any project to be successful, there need to create lot of awareness campaigns. The purpose of the campaign would be to help everyone learn how to make the town a better place to live, in both small and big ways. The project will focus on creation of WORLD BANK Calendars, posters, hoardings along with the State/Local Government for conservation of energy and water, reducing noise levels and importance of increasing Green Cover in the town.

The project hence focuses on the following:
a) Water Conservation ways
b) Creation of Sustainable Rain Neighbourhoods by creation of ‘RAIN HOMES’ and Rain Water Harvesting Method
c) Reducing the impact of natural disaster risks
d) Creation of Green Bus Shelters
e) Creation of Green living roofs and walls
f) Segregation of Wastes Bins
g) Calendar, Poster, Hoarding on conservation of energy and water, reducing noise levels and importance of increasing Green Cover.
g) Tie- up with local FM channels.

CONCLUSION:

Across the world there is a rapid increase in urban living and an ever greater understanding of the consequences of global climate change. Indian Cites is experiencing warmer, wetter winters; hotter, drier summers and we can expect much greater changes in the decades ahead. As population increases, we are developing more sustainable approaches to development, using natural systems to shape and support growth. Excellent architecture and urban design is required if the Town has to adapt to the extremes of climate change. The concept would help to solve the existing environmental problem and make a Green Town with clean air – a role model for other mega towns that are contending with similar problems. The activities of the proposal will develop the technological concepts that make life in tomorrow’s mega towns easier, kinder and more pleasant to the environment.

For further details, please contact:

Mainak Majumdar

Disaster Management Specialist

Website:  http://www.theideas.in/

DISASTER MANAGEMENT AND GREEN CITIES

Greener City
Green City

I thought of writing this small write-up since it has been going in my mind for last two years. I’m trying to express that thought through the following document.

Across the world, there is a rapid increase in urban living and an ever greater understanding of the consequences of Global Climate Change. Cities are experiencing warmer weather, hotter summers and delayed winters. Even, we can expect much greater changes in the decades ahead.

The population is increasing day by day and with no specific control on the increasing population explosion, there is a fierce struggle for land and space. There is also an increase in the intake of food and water. So, all these factors lead to an increase in demand graph and supply chart seems to go down. This is a worrying fact for a city, which needs to survive this trouble times. 

Hence, we need to find some sustainable approach to keep a balance. The approach should be in areas concerning water, land, food and the air we breathe. All these are the basics of human survival. Let us take the example of water. It’s not the simple expansion of irrigation. It had an ecological and social dimension as well and was the key to rural transformation. Providing a limited but assured quantity of water to all urban households irrespective of their landholding is the key for water conservation. Now, to serve such dispersed need, the systems required had to be entirely different – technologically and socially. The population of the world tripled in the 20th century and now the use of renewable resources have grown six fold. Within the next fifty years the World population will increase by 40%-50%. Now this population growth coupled with industrialization and urbanization will result in an increasing demand of water and will have serious consequences in the environment. Already there is more waste water generated and dispersed today than at any other time in the history of our planet: more than one out of six people lack access to safe drinking water, namely 1.1 billion people, and more than two out of six lack adequate sanitation, namely 2.6 billion people.

(Estimation for 2002, by the WHO/UNICEF JMP, 2004) One must know that these figures represent only people with very poor conditions. In reality, these figures should be much higher.

Less availability of water leads to water stress. Water stress results from an imbalance between water use and water resources. The water stress indicator in this map measures the proportion of water withdrawal with respect to total renewable resources. The depleting resource leads to many tensions over neighbors, communities, districts, states and countries. So, it is a real fact that there is a water crisis today. But the crisis is not about having too little water to satisfy our needs. It is a crisis of managing water so badly that billions of people – and the environment – suffer badly.”  World Water Vision Report

With this current state of affairs, correcting measures still can be taken to avoid the crisis to be worsening. There is an increasing awareness that our freshwater resources are limited and need to be protected both in terms of quantity and quality. This water challenge affects not only the water community, but also decision-makers and every human being. “Water is everybody’s business” was one the key messages of the 2nd World Water Forum. Indian Cities are no different.

Another challenging factor, which haunts an Indian city, is Green Cover.

As per the report of National Institute of Environmental Studies, Bangalore has a Green Cover of 8.60 per cent, National Capital Region (New Delhi): 8.49 per cent, Greater Mumbai: 6.20 per cent, Chennai: 7.50 percent. The most astonishing fact is that Kolkata has a very less Green cover of 0.95 per cent. The numbers indicate percentage of green cover as a proportion of the total area for major Indian cities. Needless to say, the list — prepared by the Delhi-based National Institute of Environment Studies (NIES), who had made it clear that Calcutta has the lowest green count among all the cities.

It’s stated that as per the established norms the green cover should be at least 15 percent for mega-cities for a population of one – million. Lack of open space and greenery increases air pollution and triggers respiratory and other problems, besides raising temperature, affecting biodiversity and causing psychosomatic disorders among citizens. According to the report it also states that the Green Cover of the city has continuously been depleting from 1.3 per cent in 1997-98 to 0.95 per cent in 1999-2000, due to indiscriminate felling of trees due to various reasons.

Hence, it is very clear that most Indian Cities faces many environmental challenges. Hence a variety of methods will be needed to tackle climate change and its consequences and that living roofs and walls can play a significant role in tackling the situation. The greening of a roof can support rare and interesting types of plant, which in turn can host or provide suitable habitat for a variety of rare and interesting invertebrates.

These would serve many purposes:

a)    Help to reduce global warming and green house gas effect

b)    Help to reduce urban heat island effect (UHIE)

c)    Help to reduce energy and carbon-dioxide emissions

d)    Help to enhance bio-diversity, reduce flood risk, provide insulation and improve the appearance of the city.

Creation of Green Bus Shelters will not only increase the green cover. The mission would be to increase the green look of the city as well as educate the public about the many environmental benefits of green roofs, as well as improve urban air quality and provide attractive waiting spaces for public transit users.  The Green Bus Shelters will serve the following purposes:

a)    Filtering air pollution and particulates from vehicle exhaust

b)    Managing storm water by slowing the runoff rate

c)    Adding an extra layer of insulation to roofs

d)    Providing wildlife habitat opportunities in a dense urban area.

The next concept is Rain water harvesting and creation of Rain Homes. This will together create a Sustainable Rain Neighbourhoods. A sustainable neighbourhood is a mixed used area with a feeling of community. It is a place where people want to live and work, now and in the future. Sustainable neighbourhoods meet the diverse needs of existing and future residents, are sensitive to their environment, and contribute to a high quality of life. They are safe and inclusive, well planned, built and run, and offer equality of opportunity and good services to all. (Bristol Accord, 6-7 December 2005)

Sustainable Rain Neighbourhoods will make the communities have access to round the clock usage of water, irrespective of the number of people through effective capturing, storing and usage of Rain water.

Wastes and its disposal is another problem which haunts a metropolitan city. Human is behind every developmental sector. The large-scale production and improper disposal of waste has become a source of pollution and further accumulation of garbage has resulted in serious deterioration of quality of life and the ecological balance.  An initiative need to be taken on the need of systemic waste management. We need to have good projects all around the globe to address these issues and plan its mitigation policies. It’s then we can move towards a Safer World for us as well as for the future generations.

For any project to be successful, there is a need to create lot of awareness campaigns. The purpose of the campaign would be to help everyone learn how to make the city a better place to live, in both small and big ways.

Hope through these write-up, International Agencies, Government and Non-Government organizations take up these projects so that we can see a Greener and a Safer World.

Thanks a lot for reading. Please put a comment if your time permits.

Thanks and Regards,

Mainak Majumdar

Assistant Director (Disaster Management) in India’s Industry and Business organization at New Delhi

Specialist in Disaster Management and Environmental Sciences

Weblink:     http://www.theideas.in/