SUSTAINable Life

Internship Encounters - Memories from Before Covid Times!

Internship work is fun... most of the time!

 Dear All, 

Sharing an incident by Architect Tejaswini Datar while she was interning with us. She along with other fellow interns conducted a socio economic survey for our Sustainably Smart Pune project. She narrates one of her experiences during the survey. 

Here it goes...

This is the story of a day of my internship I would never forget.

I was doing an internship under the guidance of Dr. Priyadarshini Karve ma'am as a part of my post-graduation in environmental architecture. We learned so much from Dr. Karve ma'am for which we are forever grateful. Our mentor taught us not just about the carbon auditing, self-sustaining lifestyle and practical application of such environmental concepts, but also how to see the big picture. We were part of a study that sought to define Sustainably smart city. To make such a proposal, we needed to understand 'people'. We were tasked to conduct surveys to understand the choices people make based on their perception, necessities, priorities, convenience and routine. For example: Someone driving a petrol fuelled four-wheeler for an hour and half to drive their young kid to primary school, taking a big detour on the way to their office, seems very bad at the outset. But their choice may be based on - 1. Desirable schools are just that far away. 2. Travelling by bus in rush hour is tedious. 3. Not comfortable about safety and hygiene a school bus offers. 4. Convenience of leaving at your own time. 5. Four-wheeler is just more comfortable for driving that far. 6. Comforts of air conditioned, non-polluted air. 7. Extra time with family. 8. We don't want to get tired before even reaching our destination. 9. We do a lot of other stuff to protect the environment, so let this one vice slide.... These are some of the reasons which are absolutely valid or at least understandable. Many of the choices we make have a negative impact on the environment. We exist, we consume, we hurt mother nature. We have to take steps to reduce that impact and make more positive outcomes. To study and understand such issues, to figure out what civic systems will encourage more eco-friendly behaviour, we conducted a survey of around 500 families, from different parts of Pune.

So, there we were, out in the world, to make some sense of the current situation. We were prepared. We went through our questionnaire, made it easier, simpler, to the point of better understanding. We interviewed each other to understand how people will react, what would be their questions? We practiced explaining why certain questions were asked. We were ready. We went in a group (safety first), always at the door, never went in, always after morning rush or after the 1 O'clock nap time (we were in Pune, we knew better than to disturb them between 1-4 PM). Our smile and patience would put the stewardess to shame. But nothing would have prepared me for what came next.

Nearing the end of our assignment, I was allocated an affluent area, which consists mainly of Army families. Army families are by default more concerned about their responsibility towards society in general. I hit a JACKPOT! Most of the families welcomed us with open arms, asked if we would like some water, where are we from, what is the project about, what more they can do to help, what they can do on their level, etc.

One person I interviewed was a little tricky. We met at her doorstep. I introduced myself and explained the purpose of our survey. Showed my ID card, verification contact numbers, etc. She was busy and asked us to leave the form and to come the next day to collect it. So far, many people entertained us, some agreed to take a survey, some rudely declined, some declined politely, some offered water and listened to us, some were even more welcoming but that's not always the case. So, when she said she was busy but would like to take the survey, even offered to write down the details herself, I was ecstatic.

The next day was a different story. The next day, I went to her place to collect the form. She opened the door and grabbed me inside. I was there with my two friends and was the only one pulled inside, and the door was closed leaving my two friends dumbfounded. I politely asked to let me out or at least keep the door open. She was having none of it and started interrogating me. I consider myself to be brave when needed and I have no shame admitting that at that point I was on the verge of panic. I tried calmly to ask her what the issue was. She was apparently suspicious about our motives.

I assured her that none of the information would be disclosed. “If you are still not comfortable, ask us why such and such question. If you don't feel comfortable don't give specifics, like name and address and income, just don't mention it on the form. We would like to understand how much income plays a part in your choices. We will just mention Mr. ABC, living at XYZ chooses this..... - (Not based on income, little/more influenced by income). Usually we fill out the forms, if you would like to see what we have noted down, we are happy to oblige. If you would like to verify our details, here are numbers of our teacher, college office and internship office. If you are still not convinced about our intentions, we would answer any other query you have. If you still don't believe us, well then, that’s still okay, we will move on, you have yourself a good day!” Nope! Nothing worked!

At that point I was in flight or fight mode. I left the form and our internship details in her hand (we were meant to provide those if asked), said my thanks and dashed towards the door. I made it to the door before she could catch up. Found my friends, on their phone, ready to call for help. Fortunately, we all left unscathed.

Party after the work was done!

Despite this traumatic event, I was not about to lose hope. We had our target, omitting that area wouldn't have given us an accurate conclusion. There was no way around it. So, we pulled ourselves and went ahead. Unfortunately, the lady had called ahead and warned a few of her neighbours to not entertain us. Our request was shot down multiple times. Doors were shut even seeing us approaching. We were discouraged but our spirits were lifted by a very kind, old home owner. 

He understood my position, offered me some water and advice. He said that army families are known for their service to the community but also for their vigilance. She may be right at her place to question my intentions. I totally agreed with him. Although I would have much appreciated if the conversation happened in front of my team and out in the open. I would have been more relaxed about her intentions too and would have tried to explain even longer. We both laughed and moved on.

Turns out this interviewee was a proud ex-army grandfather, whose two sons, a daughter and a daughter in law were in the army. He eagerly showed us all the systems he installed to make his home more sustainable. His family was aiming to become a self-sustainable and carbon neutral family. He was researching solar electricity generators. The problem was the required space as it was already crowded with a solar water heater system in his new home, constructed with sustainable materials and methods. He was also looking for a natural air purification method to go with his viticulture garden. His motivation behind all this is just so he could contribute more to his country. He was asking what more he could do to help (!!!). He insisted on keeping a few forms with him, so he could help spread the word. He put a good word about me to some of his neighbours. His enthusiasm was endearing and energizing. We all could learn from him.

It is not enough to say that we do some of the eco-friendly things. It is high time we do ALL the things and then some more.

Author: Tejaswini Datar

Chatusutra_Loksatta_01: Is Human A Virus?

Since January 2021, I am writing on Environment and Science in the 'Chatusutra' weekly column of Loksatta, a Marathi language newspaper. This weekly series contains four different themes being written by four different authors in a four-week cycle. My first article was published on the second Wednesday of the year, and thereafter my articles are coming every four weeks. One of the request from the readers has been to provide English translations for those who are not able to read Marathi. Meera Rotti took on the task to do this, and therefore I am launching this monthly mini-series. Every month, I will post the English translation of one article in the same chronological order that the Marathi articles have been published in Loksatta. 

01. Is Human A Virus?

The original Marathi article published on 13 Jan 2021 can be found HERE.  

The year 2020 compelled the urban upper middleclass Indians take cognizance of two invisible forces driving their lives. One is the urban labourforce. Most of the urban Indians realized during the lockdown that this is the key driver of their daily lives in and out of their homes. One visible outcome of this realization can be seen in advertisements. Scenes of masters behaving courteously with their servants, who in turn are ecstatic with gratitude are being depicted in advertisements of a lot of products. Of course, the target audience of such advertisements is certainly not the labour class but their masters who have not lost their wealth even during this economic slowdown. In reality the interrelation between people from across the socio-economic strata is much more complex than this current oversimplified depiction. Social scientists can certainly evaluate this phenomenon better than me; however, what I contemplate long and hard about is the realization of the second force by the urban upper middle class.

A few weeks into the lockdown, and people suddenly started noticing different birds, animals, insects etc., in their vicinity. They sensed a drop in air pollution levels, and also observed water in rivers and lakes to be cleaner. In that initial period, practically the entire world was under lockdown. Reports of noticeable reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, as claimed by many scientists, were rife in media. Such news reports too have influenced the mindset of the Indian upper middle class. Along with the awakening of our sense of social interconnectedness, sensitivity to our relationship with the natural surroundings has also heightened as a result of all of this. Environment, climate change etc., are more mainstream topics now, and more people are now voluntarily asking what they can and should do to conserve the environment. Though this is indeed a welcome change, there is nothing substantial to be found if you scratch the surface.

It has taken nearly 4.5 billion years for the Earth to attain its current geographical and atmospheric state. The most extraordinary event in our solar system has been the emergence and evolution of life and in turn the emergence and evolution of humans on the Earth. Even the living world in its current form is a result of 4.5 billion years of complex interconnected processes. Based on available evidence, our species, homo sapiens, has existed for two hundred thousand years. We are a part of what we call as environment, and at the same time we are quite separate from it. The relationship between our species and the earth is a very old and complex phenomenon. However, just as the advertisers have oversimplified the newly awakened social sensitivity of the urban rich, the new-found interest in environment of this same class, which also happens to be financially as well as politically powerful, is also being oversimplified.  

Half knowledge is worse than ignorance. This newly awakened community is seeking to become a quick savior of the world without diving deep into understanding the interrelationships. As a result, tokenism is flourishing faster now. Those who benefit from rampant degradation of environment may well flaunt decorative pieces made from recycled plastic in their homes, but this does not contribute to the conservation of the environment. However, what is even more worrisome is that this new-found bond with nature is not only superficial but also insensitive.

‘Human’ is a virus infecting the earth, Covid-19 pandemic is a lesson nature has taught to the savage ‘humans’, these and many such statements have been made by many in the past year. Some of those who expressed themselves in this fashion have a good name in the field of environmental conservation. I have only one question for all of them - What exactly do you understand by ‘Human’? Is human a homogeneous species?

Between a tribal woman living in a shanty in the poorest country running her home using resources available within her walking distance and a business tycoon living in a grand villa in one of the wealthiest cities of the world spreads the nearly 8 billion human population of the earth. This is just the socio-economic diversity. Apart from this, there is also a socio-cultural diversity among human beings.

The spread of the virus was significantly higher among the people in low-income settlements of our cities. The extreme measure of imposing a harsh lockdown to curb the spread of the virus dealt a blow to the livelihoods of millions of migrant workers. On the contrary, secured income sources never dried up for those who could work from home. They even got plenty of time to shower virtual hearts, kisses and thumbs-ups on phony social media messages dripping with love for the environment. There were many who could have been knocked over by the pandemic but managed to survive by leveraging their own courage, ingenuity coupled with some luck. We saw many of those who could have stayed secure inside their houses, getting down to ground zero to help the distressed. But these were exceptions rather than the norm. Then who is this virus in human form and who is being punished? Cannot we see how ironical as well as insensitive it is that those secured inside their cocoons built by consuming more than their fair share of natural resources are scorning the hardships of the destitute as a fitting punishment?

On this background, an event that took place in the world of science in 2020 deserves a mention.

Geologists use a system of dating that describes the geologic history of the Earth. This system labels every transition period of the earth with a specific name. Since the last Ice Age ended about eleven and a half thousand years ago, the climate of the earth has mostly remained stable. This epoch is known as Holocene. Due tofavourable and stable climate many human groups transitioned from hunter gatherer lifestyle to agrarian lifestyle, whichin turn gave rise to various human civilizations. Interactions of these civilizations over hundreds of years has led to today’s multi-faceted and yet homogeneous global social-economic-political system.

However, in the last few decades, Earth’s atmosphere, that has so far been in an equilibrium favourable for us, is rapidly changing. This has led to a rise in the global mean temperature, and has in turn disrupted the weather cycle. Key reason for such a disruption is the frenetic pace of industrialization under a global economy driven by fossil fuels. Along with climate change, our agricultural, construction and mining activities are also altering the geological systems above and below the surface of the land. Consequently, natural balance in the living world is also getting disturbed leading to extinction of many species. Even our own species faces the same threat.

Towards end of the 20th century, it was proposed that Holocene epoch had ended and a time in which humans are directly impacting the environment - called Anthropocene - has started. To decide whether to accept this proposition or not, a committee of geologists was formed which has arrived at a conclusion which is likely to be announced in 2021.

This is not just a scientific curiosity. This thought has echoes in various other fields. While formally accepting the nomenclature for the present times as Anthropocene, it must not be forgotten that the diverse human groups on the earth do not have the same ecological impacts. Studies conducted from various perspectives have shown that the actions of past and present rich and upper middleclass people are more responsible for the blows delivered to the balance of nature. To maintain the environment in a condition to support human life, we now need a total reconstruction of all our economic, social and political paradigms. Will the environmental consciousness awakened among the urban upper middle class of India during the Covid-19 pandemic break free from tokenism and pursue this path?

Author: Priyadarshini Karve

English Translation: Meera Rotti

My City My Responsibility - Earth Week Summit 2021

Dear All,

Collage of screenshots taken during the webinar

Happy to update you all, in case if you missed our week long Earth Summit on keeping the Earth day momentum going. We at Samuchit Enviro Tech, Laya Resource Centre and the Indian Network on Ethics and Climate Change (INECC) , undertook this week long initiative to elaborate on creating environmental consciousness and action as we believe every day is Earth day.  

Some organizations who have been working closely with us, partnered with us for this week long summit. Our partners and collaborators were Climate Collective Pune(CCP), OrjaBox, VaayuMitra, Rupa Rahul Bajaj Centre for Environment and Arts (RRBCEA), Zillionth Bistro and Black Gold.  

The week long summit started on the 19th April and went on till 24th of April, 2021. Each day we organized some activity on specific topics to promote thinking consciously about sustainable options as a solution to the current environmental crises. We all are well aware of the dreadful impacts happening on Earth due to our actions, we know the problem and the causes. Its time we start taking the right actions for the right cause and make our planet sustainably habitable for all.   

I introduced all, with a warm welcome (as the temperatures are rising :P) and a video showing what all progress humans have made in the last 50 years, since the first Earth day (22nd April, 1970).  Dr Priyadarshini Karve, opened the summit week with her crisp and clear presentation on Earth Friendly Economy. The current economic model is driven by the pursuit of exploitative growth with the least consideration for the people and the planet. Hence there is a need to shift to a model of growth that is sustainable for all. Aditi Kale from CCP moderated the question-answer component and concluded the session. To access the recording of this session click here.

The second day was focused on Renewable Energy (RE) and its applications within the home. A young entrepreneur from CCP Siddarth Bhagwat opened the session with a video showing off his new e-bike the Ather 450x. You can watch the video here. Siddarth then introduced the speakers:Vishakha Chandhere from OrjaBox, who showcased how solar cookers can be effectively used for cooking and how all of us can contribute to using clean cooking options, Priyadarshan Sahasrabuddhe from VaayuMitra, who spoke about his model on using kitchen waste for generating biogas, another clean cooking fuel alternative, and Isha Vyawahare from Black gold who presented the making of Biochar (new black gold) from dried leaves (biomass) using Samuchit's Trashflasher kiln. We had some interesting questions and answers post presentations! It looked like a lot of people would like to adopt these practices in their day to day life in order to lead a sustainable lifestyle. Kedar Champhekar from RRBCEA concluded the session. To access the recording of this session click here.

The third day of the summit was focused on Sustainable Water management. Saili Jahagirdar Mirikar  of Zillionth Bistro (the cafe with an upcylced decor) welcomed the crowd and spoke about her café where you can see upcycling in practice. Here's the link to check out her café! She introduced Col. Shashikant Dalvi, an ex-armyman who set up rainwater harvesting system in his society and made the society water tanker free. He shared his experience and also explained how tapping rainwater is the need of the day. Then Priyadarshan Sahasrabuddhe of VaayuMitra spoke about managing household sewage water through the biogas technology. Both these ways of managing water are climate friendly as well. Isha Vyawahare of Black Gold concluded the session. To access the recording of this session click here. 

Before the start of the Earth Week Summit, we had requested people to send us 1 min action videos showcasing sustainable practices in their daily lives. We received overwhelming response from the kids of Bal Bharti School, Dwarka, Delhi and a few citizens. A few of the good quality videos with a clear messaging were compiled together in a single video. We acknowledge everyone's effort in contributing towards the Earth Week Summit Action video activity.  On the fourth day of the summit, which also happened to be the Earth Day itself, we premiered the video compilation. To watch the movie. Click here. 

On the fifth day, we participated in the final webinar in a series of three webinars on Climate Resilient Architecture organized in association with Dr Bhanuben Nanavati College of Architecture (BNCA). This consisted of a panel discussion on building sustainable cities. You can watch the live streaming on INECC's Facebook page Click here.

The sixth and the last day of the Summit was all about basking in nature's glory through literary reads. Date with Nature is a part of our monthly activities. This time's theme was focused on the Desert ecosystem and this included short stories, articles and poems on how this ecosystem reflects resilience and unique beauty that can kindle love in spite of its harsh and empty appearance. This online meeting is not recorded, due to copyright issues. However if you are keen on participating in this monthly event, please contact us at

Every month we conduct 3 to 4 activities that are focused on creating awareness among the general public about science based and thought provoking information related to sustainability. We do keep posting educational information as daily posts as well. You can connect with us on our FB, Twitter and Instagram handles as Citizens of Sustainable City for more information on our activities.

Pournima Agarkar.

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Additional links: 

Samuchit Trasflasher Kiln

Practicing Sustainable living in Bangaluru!

 Life came another full circle this year, albeit a little earlier – On Holi Pournima instead of Akshay Tritiya.

I was finally able to put my long-cherished desire of celebrating Holi Pournima in a science-based manner into reality. Samuchit Enviro Tech sent me their yet another compact tool called Sampada Gasifier Stove which turns dry garden/agri/horticulture waste into the Black Gold – the Biochar. As the shackles of micro containment zone were being tightened on our complex, I quickly barged into a dear south Indian friend’s house where I knew I would always find a bagful of coconut shells as fuel for the stove. And it worked, a smokeless fire – Holi/Holika burnt in Sampada, right in my balcony. In less than an hour’s time, I had the chunks of Black Gold in my possession. 

PC: Meera Rotti and Samuchit Sampada Gasifier Stove

Back in 2002, when Dr. Priyadarshini Karve was teaching Physics in engineering undergrad class, I was fortunate to be in the class she had organized post college hours to demonstrate the use of Biochar fired Sarai cooker, an invention that had won an international award that was popularly known as the 'Green Oscar'. I vividly remember the moment of fascination; however, little did I know that it would take me 13 long years to become a regular and content user of that.

By 2013, the winds of sustainable living had started blowing in Metropolis of Bengaluru and I was finding it difficult to not sail in that direction despite knowing that my boat is indeed small. The only person I had known to be working in the field of sustainability – rather sustainability in as simple as your own house – was Dr Priyadarshini Karve. I started reading each and every piece of writing featuring on Samuchit Enviro Tech’s webpage. 11 years after its first demo, Sarai Cooker touched my heart deeper and I was longing to own it. The opportunity came in 2015 when Sarai was on exhibit as a part of a seminar by Dr. Priyadarshini Karve in Bengaluru. I bought it right there, carried it home on my scooter with great excitement. Next day, I looked up on India Mart for suppliers of coconut shell charcoal to fire the cooker. I chose the nearest one – 150 km away, and got my 40kg bag of renewable charcoal within a week’s time. And in a week’s time, on the Akshay Tritiya of 2015, I cooked a humble meal of dal, rice and snake gourd subji in the Sarai Cooker. The taste and texture of dal and rice experienced on that day has kept me in love with this cooker till the date.

Sarai Cooker (Samuchit Steam Cooker)

Post the entry of Sarai Cooker in my life in 2015, my outlook for dry garden waste changed completely. Also, I had started feeling the need to source the fuel with shorter carbon miles. It wasn’t a surprise that Samuchit’s Charring Kiln caught my fancy now. 2016 Spring-summer was unusually hot and dry and fueling my desire to possess the Kiln. I simply ordered it and it arrived a day before Akshay tritiya of 2016. And the next day, needless to say, I created the Black Gold by easily assembling the kiln with help from my supportive husband and my 3 year old daughter. Management Committee members of our complex graced the occasion by their presence and by providing the dry twigs for the demo. It was indeed exciting to sail with these winds. That Summer and the next two, gardeners of our complex and I were able to turn quite a lot of twigs, coconut shells and coconut and areca branches into biochar and put into our garden soil.

Samuchit Trashflasher Kiln

A week before 2018’s Akshay Tritiya, I had the privilege of hosting Dr Priyadarshini Karve at my place and serve her the great Dal-rice-cooked-in-Sarai. It would have been the perfect occasion had I been able to make the biochar briquettes myself using the kiln. Well, that remains a dream till today, for lack of my concerted efforts.

Untimely heavy rains of Spring-Summer of 2019 and 2020 robbed us the opportunity of using the kiln to full potential. Our gardeners and I are still learning to use the kiln for best results from varied items of garden waste like coconut branches, leaves of varying thickness etc. Dr Priyadarshini Karve always provides the quick troubleshooting tips.

This year’s advancement was with the portable version of the charring Kiln – Sampada Gasifier stove. I wanted to have it so that I could organize its demonstration within my circle without having to spend on transporting the heavy Kiln. Bengaluru’s mid-summer showers are round the corner limiting my engagement with the kiln. However, the mini-kiln, the Sampada and the ubiquitous coconut shells should keep me sailing despite the rains which are much needed now.

The simplicity of design of these three, and the purpose they serve in the humongous picture of Climate Change continues to fascinate me. I hope witnessing a demonstration of these technologies in your vicinity would turn you into yet another ardent user sooner or later.

By Meera Rotti, Bangaluru


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PS: Samuchit has discontinued Sarai Cooker and is now offering Samuchit Steam Cooker, that works on the same principle but is more efficient with better fire containment. 

Links to Videos of the devices mentioned: 

Samuchit Steam Cooker Stove 

Sampada Gasifier Stove 

Samuchit Trashflasher Kiln 

My City My Responsibility - Revenge of the Bisons!!!

Dear All, 

Poster of the event

At the Bistro

On 6th of March, after almost a year we could undertake our #ChallengingThanos monthly activity where we relax in a Cafe or a restaurant and share knowledge over a trending issue in the city. The whole idea is to engage more and more people and connect them to the existential crisis of our times - Climate Change - over a cup of coffee. 

This time we tried a new approach, our innovator Dr Priyadarshini Karve came up with this idea. We thought of having the event in a blended format, where we are online as well as available in a face-to-face (offline) mode in a cafe. Our neighborhood place Zillionth Bistro (ZB), which is committed to sustainability,  happens to be the right venue for such kind of  events. We thought of taking up a topic that has hit everyone in the city and is afresh in the minds of the people, Saili Jahagirdar owner of ZB suggested to talk with Nikhil Dandekar a city based wildlife expert. This was prompted by how we recently witnessed the dreadful death of an Indian Gaur on the streets of Kothrud. We thought as responsible citizens we should know how to react to such situations where we face a wild animal right in the city and Nikhil Dandekar was keen to throw some light over this situation.

Online meet over Google Meet

Our event went quite well, there were some technical glitches, but we will fix those before the next event. Overall it was a great show both online as well as offline. Here are some of the key take away's that Nikhil shared with us. Do follow these guidelines in case you encounter any wild animal on our streets.

Face-to-face session

Further discussions revealed that there is NO platform or website which consists of case studies or information about such city based human wildlife encounters. There's a need to map areas that are likely to have wild animals like leopards or snakes etc. in and around the city. So that such areas can be avoided by general public or can have sign boards that will make people aware about the steps that need to be taken while passing through such areas. However its also in a way risky to have information on wildlife in open domain because that will expose this information to poachers and wildlife traders. So need to be cautious while putting up this information. 
The least we can do is to have a basic awareness or trainings on such wildlife encounters. There is a lot of scope for wildlife enthusiasts/experts to work in urban areas for creating such awareness among general public with more and more wildlife coming in the cities now. There are a lot of linkages between biodiversity (wildlife) and climate change, however we couldn't really talk about these due to lack of time but yes the changing climate is in a way threatening the wildlife around us and we need to take a stance for them.  

In my opinion, this is the NEW norm in the city where seeing wildlife will be common. Let's understand that they are NOT coming for us or want to HARM us but, these encounters should remind us that we have been encroaching their lands for long now!!! And therefore we must adjust and learn to live with them side by side, giving them space and respect that they deserve!  

Pournima Agarkar.

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Additional links:

Check out the video of upcycling focused cafe Zillionth Bistro owned by Saili Jahagirdar.

Biochar the new Black Gold - Event Update!

Dear All, 

Writing after a long time, this is my first blog of 2021. Hope all are fine and taking all the safety precautions in this difficult times. As we try and settle after almost a yearlong lockdown with the most awaited ‘VACCINE’ having a lot of speculations, we are adapting to the NEW normal. 

The NEW normal is all about working cohesively and in collaboration for fighting towards the biggest challenges posed by climate change. Samuchit Enviro Tech, OrjaBox and Rupa Rahul Baja Centre for Environment and Arts (RRBCEA) are committed towards the same cause and working towards user friendly innovative solutions based on using renewable sources of energy that will help reduce the impacts of climate change happening directly or indirectly.  


One such innovative solution introduced by Samuchit Enviro Tech is biochar, where dried leaves (garden waste) are turned to char which can be used as renewable fuel (termed as new black gold that is climate friendly) and other applications like deodorizers and charcoal soaps. OrjaBox is an initiative run by Vishakha Chandhere which provides Sustainable cooking options using solar cookers and biochar fueled steam cookers based on service model. RRBCEA is a facility located in Empress garden for conducting environment and arts focused initiatives. Samuchit Enviro Tech along with OrjaBox has been conducting regular sessions at RRBCEA on processing biochar and experiencing cooking with renewable energy, namely, solar and biochar.


Its a pleasure to know that this initiative has been received well with corporate leaders like Mrs. Arti Kirloskar and a few government officers who are leading to promote environmental causes. Here's an update on the latest happenings. 


The first demonstration was conducted on the 10th of Feb, 2021 by Ravindra Deshmukh and Prashant Borate from Samuchit Enviro Tech and Vishakha Chandhere and Sujata. This event was focused on showing how to convert waste biomass into biochar using Samuchit's trashflasher kiln, followed by a meal cooked by the OrjaBox team using Solar cookers and Samuchit steam cooker fueled by biochar briquettes. Mrs. Arti Kirloskar and a team of ten members attended this session. Here are some of the photos of this event




The second event was conducted on the 13th February for a group of four people along with Mr. Pramod Jadhav, Upaayukt, Samaj Kalyan Vibhag, Sindhudurg. The focus of this event was a demonstration of the trashflasher kiln. Mr. Pramod Jadhav was so impressed by this, that he purchased a kiln for his own farm in Alibaug. The visitors also could experience the flavour of solar cooking thanks to OrjaBox. Here are some of the photos of this event.





Both the demonstrations were focused on environment and climate friendly ways of managing garden and farm waste and using renewable energy for household cooking. 


We will soon be announcing our next session which would include training on use of biochar for various other applications. Curious to know more? Write to us at for more information. 

  Pournima Agarkar and Vishakha Chandhere.

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Sustainable Cooking – an imperative solution for the food security challenge

 For thousands of years, cooking has been an integral part of our existence since we learned the application of fire. Over these countless years, cooking has evolved to define our culture, health, and agriculture. In this age of digitization and automation cooking remains one of our core activities -either as a food processing industry or restaurant or cloud kitchen or home cooking. Thus, cooking is a core activity of our existence. It is also one of the most effective ways to address climate change impacts related to food security, fuel availability, nutrition, water management, and agriculture. Cooking is central to numerous aspects of sustainability. It is one single human activity which gives a tremendous opportunity to every individual- rich or poor, educated or uneducated to contribute positively towards achieving sustainability.

Food Security Challenge:

Nearly 800[1] million people go hungry every day around the world, more than 2 billion lack the nutrients required for a healthy life, and one-third of the global population is expected to be overweight or obese by 2030, according to the Global Panel on Agriculture and Food Systems for Nutrition. By 2050 the world population will rise to 9 billion people.

Here is a comprehensive picture of the challenge that we face regarding access to clean cooking. 

Access to Clean Cooking

Climate change will make the task of feeding this large population challenging. Unpredictable droughts and floods, erratic temperature changes will largely impact agricultural produce.

With growing urbanization, arable land will reduce largely. Increased air, water, and soil pollution will adversely impact the quality and quantity of arable land.

Cooking is an important decision-making step between the production and consumption of food. This important step can help us address the food security challenge.

The following elements of sustainable cooking help us to address climate change with our individual efforts. When each one who cooks and consumes food, consciously integrates these elements then collectively we can address one of the most urgent challenges i.e Food Security.


 Let us start our sustainable cooking journey by integrating these elements into our cooking styles. Write to us at for more information on sustainable cooking activities.

Vishakha Chandhere

My City My Responsibility - Rethinking Cooking Styles!!!

 Dear All,

Solar cooked food

Its been a long time since we interacted, lockdown and the whole Work from Home (WFH) mode has made our lives much more busier than the Precovid19 times. Nevertheless, now is THE time for all resetting and reforming of our lifestyles for better from the perspective of quality of life.   

Food is an essential component of our lives since ages, during the pandemic we witnessed that its our home cooked food that literally kept us going when all the restaurants and fast food joints were locked. I believe that the way we COOK our food matters a lot from health and nutrition perspective, I would like to share a recent experience where I had food that was cooked on renewable sources like solar  and biochar briquettes. 

Vishakha Chandhere an entrepreneur and owner of OrjaBox has been experimenting with various cooking methods using different solar cooking devices for promoting Sustainable cooking. I was invited by her to experience slow cooked food prepared on various different solar devices and biochar briquettes. The menu for the day was vegetable pulao, muffins, veg sandwich and tomato soup. All this was cooked using solar energy, everything was flavorful, cooked well and for preparing all this it took not more than an hour, if we leave the preliminary prep time. This is one of the major benefits of solar cooking, once the preliminary arrangements are done, then we simply can do whatever we want while the food gets cooked on its own, unlike cooking on LPG or PNG where we tend to wait and watch over the food being cooked.  

I used to often feel that preparing food on solar cooking devices is time consuming. However this is not true anymore, effectively it takes almost the same time to cook food on the LPG or PNG burner if we consider the preparation time as well. There are several other benefits too of using renewable energy for cooking. 

So, slow cooked food is not only flavorful but also nutritious. In this fast paced life, where we were busy looking at fast food alternatives that are quick and easy to grab, the pandemic taught us to pause a bit, look back and reflect. I think this also applies to our food preparing habits. Health has been the top priority now, having nutritious food is the key to a good health. Additional benefit of using such alternate cooking device is, that its carbon neutral. It means if you are cooking your entire food using renewable energy like solar or biomass or biogas, then you are NOT contributing to the carbon emissions happening due to cooking. Thus effectively contributing to reduction in global carbon emissions.   

Vishakha Chandhere has organized a face to face interactive session titled Taste the Sun on this Sunday from 11 am to 2.30 pm. Here you will be able to see all the solar cooking devices that she has been using, enjoy solar cooked nutritious food along with interesting games and discussions.  

To experience a glimpse of this lifestyle, register here:
Poster of the event

 Pournima Agarkar.

My City My Responsibility - Citizens Participatory Budget by Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC)

Dear All,

ASKs for this year's budget

We request Puneities to participate in the Citizens Participatory Budget Process in large numbers. Click HERE to access the form. Note: Kindly use Internet explorer/Microsoft edge or Mozilla Firefox as a browser for filling up this form. 

The following asks have emerged from the Citizens' Charter for Sustainable Pune published last year based on a series of consultations held in the city over a two year period. We request citizens to use the participatory budget process to get their own demands fulfilled. This can be effectively done if the citizens strategically focus on just a few asks every year. Please consider putting the following three ASKs to the PMC as a step towards making your ward inclusive, safe, sustainable and resilient. 

ASK 1: Biomedical waste collection and processing centre

: Biomedical waste is generated not just in medical facilities but also in our homes. This waste category includes diapers, sanitary pads, used contraceptives, used masks, used gloves, etc. These wastes need to be handled with utmost care. Since there is a danger of harmful bacteria and viruses spreading through such wastes, it is legally mandated that the waste must be incinerated. Having an incinerator at a convenient location within the ward will minimise handling and transport of this hazardous waste. 

What: The ward level incinerator must operate with maximum efficiency (least energy consumption) and minimum pollution (no smoke, hazardous gases coming out of the chimney). To ensure this an air quality monitor must be placed near the incinerator, and it's real time reading should be available on a monitor in the ward office, for any citizen to see. This data will show if the incinerator is being used, and how safe and clean is the operation. Corrective action must be taken if the emission levels exceed permissible limits. 

ASK 2: Biogas Plant for organic waste management

: Organic waste (food waste, garden waste, etc.) is generated in every house, as well as in commercial establishments like restaurants, mess, etc. as well as in food markets. PMC requires all households to manage their own organic waste, however the bulk waste generated in other places is handled by PMC. Transporting this high volume waste to a central facility, and management of hundreds of tons of such waste daily in a central facility is energy, labour and space intensive. Ward level biogas plants can help manage the organic waste within each ward, more economically and efficiently. Biogas should be the preferred option over composting in this case as it provides a fuel and a fertilizer simultaneously, making the system economically viable. 

WHAT: There are already successful pilots in the city, which can be replicated in all the wards. The energy can be supplied to an establishment (cooking in a community kitchen, or lighting for a community facility, etc.) within the ward. The spent slurry can provide fertilizer to the public and private gardens within the ward. The system must declare daily input and output data on a monitor, and the daily data log should be available for the citizens to see. 

ASK 3: Disaster Management Cell

: A densely populated city is always more susceptible to disasters. With climate change impacts becoming more and more prominent, the city's vulnerability to various new disasters is increasing. Every ward faces different challenges in this context. Therefore every ward must have a disaster management cell that can continuously examine and update the ward level disaster preparedness plan, conduct training and orientations for citizens and other stakeholders within the ward, and help the citizens deal with the disasters as and when required.

WHAT: Disaster management cell is needed at the ward level with a specially designated staff. The cell must have access to the necessary hands on training and orientation facility, along with a data and communication centre.  

The last date to fill this form is 3rd September 2020. So HURRY UP and raise your voice for your ward!!!

Dr Priyadarshini Karve & Pournima Agarkar.

Like/Follow/Share us on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter  Citizens of Sustainable Pune  


 कोविड-१९ ची साथ सुरू झाली तेव्हापासून भारतात पुरेसे टेस्टिंग केले नाही, तर परिस्थिती अटोक्यात आणण्याच्या प्रयत्नांना यश मिळणार नाही, हा मुद्दा मी अनेकांशी बोलताना मांडला होता. काही लोकांना हे पटतं, काही लोक सरकारी आकडेवारीतल्या ठरावीक गोष्टींकडे बोट दाखवून आपण परिस्थिती फार चांगली हाताळतोय, सर्व काही चांगलं आहे, असा युक्तिवाद करतात. मागच्या महिन्यात कोविड-१९ने माझ्या कुटुंबात प्रवेश केला. आमचा रुग्ण सुदैवाने आता बरा झाला आहे. त्यांची लागण तुलनेने सौम्य होती, दवाखान्यात भरती व्हायची वेळ आली नाही, घरीच विलगीकरण आणि डॉक्टरांच्या सल्ल्याने काळजी घेऊन ही वेळ निभावून गेली. घरातील इतर लोकांनीही टेस्ट करून घेतल्या व त्या निगेटिव्ह आल्या. पण या निमित्ताने सरकारी यंत्रणा या बाबतीत काय करत आहेत, याचा मला स्वतःला अनुभव आला. या बद्दल लिहिण्याचा विचार करत असतानाच पुण्यातील सिरो सर्व्हेचे निष्कर्ष आले आहेत, आणि पुण्यात ज्या भागात सर्वात जास्त रुग्णसंख्या सातत्याने राहिली आहे, तिथे निम्म्याहून अधिक लोकांना कोविड-१९ ची बाधा होऊन गेली आहे, असे त्यात म्हटले आहे. यावरून अनेक चुकीचे निष्कर्ष काढले जात आहेत, हेही मला समाजमाध्यमातील प्रतिक्रियांवरून दिसते आहे. म्हणून आजचे हे कोविड पुराण. 

प्रथम व्यक्तिगत अनुभवाबद्दल. कोविड-१९ ची चाचणी घेण्यासाठी ठिकठिकाणी यंत्रणा आहेत, पण आमच्या रुग्णाचे वय, व त्या वेळची अशक्तपणाची स्थिती लक्षात घेता आम्ही घरी बोलावून नमुना देण्याचा पर्याय निवडला. ह्याची पध्दत व्यवस्थित बसलेली आहे. मात्र सगळ्या गोष्टी व्हॉट्सॅपच्या माध्यमातून होत असल्याने इलेक्ट्रॉनिक माध्यमाच्या वापराची सवय नसलेल्यांसाठी हे जरा अवघड होऊ शकते, असे वाटले. चाचणीचा निकाल पॉझिटिव्ह आल्यानंतर तो आधी शासकीय यंत्रणेला कळवला जातो, आणि मग रुग्णाकडे पाठवला जातो. या पध्दतीचे नेमके प्रयोजन काय आहे? केवळ आकडेवारी अद्ययावत करणे, यासाठीच ही पध्दत आहे का? 

मला एक किमान अपेक्षा अशी होती, की ज्या यंत्रणेकडे हा चाचणीचा निकाल जातो, त्यांच्याकडून निकालाच्या कागदावर असलेल्या दूरध्वनीवर ताबडतोब संपर्क साधला जाईल, आणि पुढे काय करायला हवे, कोणते पर्याय आहेत, याबद्दल काही प्राथमिक मार्गदर्शन केले जाईल. 

आमच्या हाती चाचणीचा अहवाल आला तो पुण्यातल्या दुसऱ्या लॉकडाउनमधल्या शेवटचा काळ होता - शुक्रवार २४ जुलै. ह्या काळात पुण्यात रुग्णसंख्या टिपेला पोहचलेली होती. त्यामुळे शासकीय यंत्रणांवर ताण असणार हे मला अगदीच मान्य आहे. पण तरीही महानगरपालिकेकडून पहिला संपर्क साधला गेला तो सोमवारी, म्हणजे दोन दिवसांनंतर. हे माझ्या मते फार उशीरा आहे.

तोपर्यंत आम्ही विचार विनिमय करून डॉक्टरांच्या सल्ल्याने घरीच विलगीकरण करून रुग्णाची शुश्रुषा एकाच व्यक्तीने करायचा निर्णय घेतलेला होता. तापाचे आणि ऑक्सिजन पातळीचे सातत्याने मोजमापही घेत होतो. परिस्थिती बिघडू लागली तर कोणत्या हॉस्पिटलमध्ये जाता येईल, याचेही नियोजन केले होते. सोमवारी महानगरपालिकेकडून संपर्क होईपर्यंत ही सर्व घडी बसली होती, व रुग्णाची प्रकृती हळूहळू सुधारूही लागली होती. महानगरपालिकेच्या प्रतिनिधीने डॉक्टरांनी घरी विलगीकरण करायला परवानगी दिली आहे, याचा पुरावा फक्त मागितला, पण घरी विलगीकरण करणे शक्य आहे का, विलगीकरण म्हणजे नेमके काय करायचे याची घरातल्या लोकांना माहिती आहे का, याबाबत कोणतीही खातरजमा करून घेतली नाही. घरी थर्मामीटर आणि ऑक्सिमीटर आहे का, हाही प्रश्न विचारला नाही.  

मात्र डॉक्टरांची शिफारस व्हॉट्सॅपवर पाठवल्यानंतर वेगाने हालचाली झाल्या. त्याच दिवशी दाराजवळ विलगीकरण असल्याचे स्टिकर लावले, त्यावर चाचणीचा निकाल आल्यापासून दोन आठवड्यांनंतरची तारीख टाकली गेली. घरात व इमारतीत निर्जंतुकीकरण केले गेले, घरातला कचरा उचलण्यासाठी वेगळी यंत्रणा कार्यरत केली गेली. या साऱ्या गोष्टी व्हायला हव्या तश्या झाल्या. त्यांनंतरही रोज महानगरपालिकेतून फोनवर रुग्णाच्या प्रकृतीची, तापमान आणि ऑक्सिजन पातळीची चौकशी केली जात होती. महानगरपालिकेच्या पथकाने इमारतीतील इतर रहिवाशांनाही भेट दिली व चाचणी करून घेण्याचा सल्ला दिला, असे नंतर शेजाऱ्यांनी सांगितले.  या साऱ्या काळात पुणे महानगरपालिकेच्या ज्या ज्या कर्मचाऱ्यांशी प्रत्यक्ष किंवा फोनवर संपर्क आला, ते आपले काम तळमळीने, संयमाने व जिव्हाळ्याने करताना दिसले, हेही नमूद करायला हवे. सर्वांच्या चाचण्या करून घेणे, इतर काही अडचणी सोडवणे, इ. साठी पुण्यातील लोकप्रतिनिधींकडूनही चांगले सहकार्य मिळाले.

सोमवारीच पोलिस खात्याकडूनही फोनवर संपर्क झाला. त्यांनी रुग्ण व्यक्ती आधी कोठे बाहेर गेली होती का, संसर्ग कसा झाला असेल असे तुम्हाला वाटते, घरात इतर व्यक्ती कोण आहेत, त्याच मजल्यावर शेजारी रहाणाऱ्यांची नावे काय आहेत, या सर्वांनी चाचणी केली का, असे प्रश्न विचारले. कुटुंबातील व्यक्तींनी चाचणीचे नियोजन तोवर केलेले होते. संसर्ग कसा आणि केव्हा झाला असावा, याबद्दल नेमके काहीच कळत नव्हते. आम्हालाही याबाबत उत्सुकता होती. पोलिस आता कॉंटॅक्ट ट्रेसिंग करण्याच्या दृष्टीने प्रश्न विचारतील, त्यावरून आणखी लोकांच्या चाचण्या केल्या जातील, असा माझा होरा होता. पण यातले काहीच झाले नाही. घरातील लोकांनी चाचण्या केल्या का, हे विचारण्यासाठी पुढे दोन-तीन दिवस पोलिसांकडून फोन आले, पण चौकशी इतकीच काय ती झाली. 

७ ऑगस्टला आमच्या रुग्णाचे विलगीकरण संपले. तोवर त्यांची प्रकृती बऱ्यापैकी सुधारलीही होती. रूग्ण व्यक्तीच्या मोबाईल फोनवरील आरोग्य सेतू  ऍप या सर्व कालावधीत, तुम्ही सुरक्षित आहात, असा निर्वाळा देत होते, हे विशेष!

या सगळ्यामध्ये शासकीय यंंत्रणांच्या कामात मला दोन मोठ्या त्रुटी जाणवल्या. 

१. रुग्ण घरी विलगीकरणात रहाणार असेल, तर किमान लेखी सूचनांचे पत्रक त्यांना व्हॉट्सॅपवर पाठवायला हवे. यामध्ये घरातील इतर लोकांनी काय काळजी घ्यायची ह्याचे मार्गदर्शन केलेले असावे. व्हिडिओद्वारे सुध्दा हे करायला हरकत नाही. प्रत्येक व्यक्तीला फोनवर प्रत्यक्ष सांगणे अडचणीचे असेल, हे मला मान्य आहे. पण जर व्हॉट्सॅप द्वारे रुग्णांकडून माहिती घेतली जात आहे, तर त्याच माध्यमातून माहिती दिलीही जाऊ शकते. रुग्णाची काळजी घेताना होणाऱ्या चुका टाळल्या तर एका रुग्णाकडून सर्व कुटुंबात संसर्ग पसरणे काही अंशी थांबू शकेल, आणि कुटुंबेच्या कुटुंबे एकत्र आजारी पडलेली दिसताहेत, ते काही प्रमाणात टाळता येईल.  

२. पोलिसांनी किंवा महानगरपालिकेने कॉंटॅक्ट ट्रेसिंगची यंत्रणा उभी करून काटेकोरपणे राबवणे अत्यंत आवश्यक आहे. एकतर मोठ्या प्रमाणावर सरसकट चाचण्या घ्या. हे परवडत नाही, तर कॉंटॅक्ट ट्रेसिंग चांगले झालेच पाहिजे. प्रत्येक रुग्णाच्या संपर्कात आलेल्या किंवा संपर्काचा संशय असलेल्या सर्व व्यक्तींची ताबडतोब चाचणी, ही प्रक्रिया सुरूवातीपासून राबवली गेली असती, तर अनेकांचा आजार बळावण्यापू्र्वी त्यांचे निदान झाले असते, आणि गंभीर आजाराचे व मृत्यूचे प्रमाण कमी राखता आले असते. कोणतीही लक्षणे नसलेले पण हिंडते फिरते असल्याने इतरांना संसर्ग देणारे बाधितही सापडले असते, व त्यांचे विलगीकरण करूनही रोगाचा प्रसार थांबवता आला असता. 

या साऱ्या अनुभवाच्या पार्श्वभूमीवर मी जेव्हा सिरो सर्व्हेचे निष्कर्ष पहाते, तेव्हा माझ्या विचारांना पुष्टीच मिळताना दिसते. कोणतीही लक्षणे नसलेले बाधित इतक्या मोठ्या संख्येने शहराच्या सर्वात कडक लॉकडाउन असलेल्या भागांमध्ये होते आणि ते सापडलेच नाहीत, हे कॉंटॅक्ट ट्रेसिंग अजिबात योग्य पध्दतीने झाले नाही आणि लोकांनी लॉकडाऊन योग्य पध्दतीने पाळला नाही, हेच दर्शवते. लॉकडाउनच्या काळात या ठिकाणी मोठ्या प्रमाणावर सरसकट सर्वांचे टेस्टिंग करणे हा पर्यायही वापरला गेलेला नाही. त्यामुळे बाधितांची संख्या वाढतच गेली, हे महानगर पालिकेची यंत्रणा आणि आपण सारे नागरिक या सर्वांचे अपयश आहे.  

अनेक लोकांना बाधा होऊनही फार त्रास झाला नाही, त्यामुळे कोविड-१९चा उगाचच बाऊ केला आहे, उगाचच लॉकडाऊन केला, अशी शेरेबाजी आता केली जाते आहे. पण रोगाचा प्रसार होतच गेला आणि त्यामुळे पुण्याच्या सामाजिक जीवनात महत्त्वाचे योगदान देणारे कितीतरी मोहरे आपण हकनाक गमावले, हेही विसरता कामा नये. आणि ज्या अनेक सर्वसामान्यांचे जीव गेले, तेही काही कमी मोलाचे नाहीत. त्यांच्या कुटुंबियांचे कधीही भरून न येणारे नुकसान झालेले आहे. लॉकडाउनही नसता, तर ही परिस्थिती आणखी किती हाताबाहेर गेली असती, हे सांगता येणे अवघड आहे. 

कोविड-१९ मधून बरे झालेल्या अनेकांना आता इतर काही आजार होत आहेत, एकंदर आरोग्यावर झालेले इतर परिणाम आता डोके वर काढत आहेत, अशीही माहिती आता समोर येत आहे. बाधा होऊनही लक्षणे नसलेल्यांवर या विषाणूचे काही परिणाम झाले असतील का, याचा त्यांच्या दीर्घकालीन आरोग्यावर काही परिणाम होईल का, या प्रश्नांची उत्तरे आपल्याला अजून माहीत नाहीत. एकदा बाधा होऊन गेलेल्यांनाही पुन्हा बाधा होऊ शकते, असेही दिसलेले आहे. अशा परिस्थितीत हे लोक पुन्हा लक्षणांविना रहातील, की त्यांना आणखी मोठ्या अडचणींचा सामना करावा लागेल, हेही पहावे लागेल. 

एकंदरीतच पुण्यातील खूप मोठ्या संख्येने लोकांना कदाचित कोविड-१९ची बाधा होऊन गेली असल्याचे वृत्त हे आपल्याला आपल्या कोविड-१९ विरोधातील यंत्रणेतल्या त्रुटी दाखवते आहे, आणि सर्वांनी जास्त काळजी घ्यायला पाहिजे, हे सांगते आहे. याच्या उलट निष्कर्ष काढणे म्हणजे स्वतःच्या आणि इतरांच्या जीवाशी खेळणे आहे. 

भारतात एकंदरच रुग्णसंख्या वाढतच चालली आहे. भारतात कोठेही खूप व्यापक प्रमाणावर टेस्टिंग होत नाही, आणि कॉंटॅक्ट ट्रेसिंगही योग्य पध्दतीने केले जात नाही. त्यामुळे भारतातील इतर ठिकाणच्या सिरो सर्व्हेचे निष्कर्षही असेच येतील. पण याचा अर्थ भारतात आता कळपाची रोगप्रतिकार शक्ती आली आहे, तर बिनधास्त सगळे सुरू करू, असा जर काढला, तर हे आणखी मोठ्या संकटाला आमंत्रण देणे ठरेल. 

शांत डोक्याने विचार करा, पहा पटतंय का. 

भारतातील कोविड-१९ साथीबाबतची विविध प्रकारची माहिती, इतर देशांशी तुलना, इ. पहाण्यासाठी ही लिंक जरूर पहा. विशेषतः वेगवेगळ्या देशांमध्ये किती चाचण्या होत आहेत, आणि आपण त्यात कोठे आहोत, ही आकडेवारी तर पहाच पहा. 

प्रियदर्शिनी कर्वे
समुचित एन्व्हायरो टेक


Samuchit Enviro Tech. 

My City My Responsibility - Environment Clearance NOC or Clearing the Environment!!!

Dear All,

Source: Doughnut economics

Listening to all the VOICE by a group of environmental activists and others on the draft EIA notification, I was compelled to throw some light on the agencies and their capacities who authorize an EIA that is the MOEFCC, CPCB and the SPCB during a few years of my work as an Environment Consultant.  

I am an Environmental scientist and immediately after my masters I got an opportunity to work on Green Building Certifications and Environment Impact Assessments (EIA). I was super excited to know that now I can do my bit and create a positive impact on the Environment. Environment is an interdisciplinary and interwoven field full of complex connections and linkages. Its just like a food web that we see in our ecosystem, full of inter-connections. So I felt like working in a primarily 'non-environment' related field is the best opportunity to create these linkages and bridge the gap. That's why I will forever be grateful to have worked in an architectural firm with a group of architects, engineers, management folks and fellow environmentalists. 

When I got introduced to the concepts of green building certification, it was very tough for me to integrate these concepts in LIVE projects. I literally struggled each day right from working on softwares like AutoCAD along with architects and other consultants to the real estate developers in understanding their view point about development and a lot of core concepts on safety, ecology and overall well-being. Nevertheless I found my balance, and could eventually create some positive impact.

One striking feature about the green building certification is that the systems are set, and are locally adapted to an extent and can be effectively managed over a long period. Since I mostly worked on residential projects, I realized engaging the occupants residing in a green building needs to be enforced in order to make the project successful and sustainable. Green building certification process begins right from the planning stage of the project and hence there's a lot of scope for getting green building principles implemented on the ground. Even if not, there are things that can be retrofitted and they still work with a 50% chance. The other 50% mostly depends on the operation and maintenance of the environmental services post occupancy and that's where a green building concept FAILS! Nevertheless a lot of real estate developers undertake this initiative and its appreciable. However only a few of them do it genuinely out of concern for the sake of environment conservation, kudos to them! We need more such kind of environment conscious real estate developers!!!

Regarding Environment Impact Assessments (EIA), as per the 2006 notification, construction projects that have built up area upto 20,000 sqm and above are required to undergo an EIA. My first hand experience with the real estate developers initially was like 'ok here are the Environment NOC people just give them whatever they need and get this done'. But then during the State Appraisal committee hearings in Mantralaya, Mumbai these developers experienced the seriousness of this NOC, since it can be a criminal offence if they do not adhere to the required compliance. The committee constitutes of experts from varied fields - scientists, architects, engineers, retired IAS officers, ecologists etc. and their comments are quite straight forward, critical and to the point. It was a great learning experience for me. During these hearing though the project complies with all the required papers, a lot depends on the attitude of the developer, his status, ties and relation with the inside people in order to get the clearance. The entire process to finally get an Environment clearance NOC is very much bureaucratic and frustrating, for everyone associated with it and THE Environment. This may have changed now with the whole Ease of doing Business notion but not in favour of Environment!

Both the processes, green building certification and EIA are flawed because they consider the environmental aspects in isolation. These processes fail to create societal connections except some local protests and fail to make associations with other ongoing urban development policies in the light of climate change and sustainability. There is always a debate on Environment vs Development, please click here to read the blog by Dr Priyadarshini Karve that HOW this debate in itself is futile.

After getting the required certification and NOC, the system completely lacks a reality CHECK of the compliance as per the NOC, though it is mandatory by law. It is crucial to see if the project adheres to the norms. On ground, things are very different for most of the projects, with a few exceptions! But a sound coordination between the Ministry, Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) and the State Pollution Control Board (SPCB) along with the local urban body is gravely missing. Its a gamble, nobody says it but everybody knows it - the pollution control board has nothing to do with environment and climate change, they are merely corrupt liaisoning agents. So the point I want to make is, unless the ties between all these agencies are strengthened with sound knowledge about environmental aspects, climate change and above all sustainability with respect to urban development any EIA or green building activity is simply a money minting process. There is a need to design efficient capacity building programs at all these levels in order to build better enviro-legal system and make urban development sustainable!

In case if you have any comments or suggestions you can email them at OR check out this LINK for more info on the Draft EIA notification and objections. Last date is 11th August 2020.

Pournima Agarkar.

Like/Follow/Share us on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter  Citizens of Sustainable Pune 

My City My Responsibility - Preparedness for Monsoon 2020!

Dear All, 

Monsoons are beautiful, however they can be harsh too..Last monsoon we faced unforeseen damage due to the flash floods in the city. There are many people who are still recovering from the shock who lost their loved ones and property. Many of them are still struggling with their insurance claims. Now, with the COVID-19 in action, the situation is likely to be worse limiting ACCESS to any kind of service/facility easily if you are stuck in a vulnerable/flooded area. This is making the entire scenario even more disastrous and uncontrollable! The monsoon is here. Even though as per IMD predictions we will have average rainfall in the coming weeks, precaution is better than cure. Hence there is a need to take appropriate measures in advance in order to avoid any havoc.  

Considering the current urban development mistakes like excessive concretization even in the so called green and open spaces, encroachments within the flood line and in the riverbed area, illegal dumping of waste on the hills, in the streams and along the river, channeling and capping of our seasonal streams, are some of the issues that make us highly vulnerable to climate change impacts.

Though a more systemic approach is required to resolve these issues. Individual and collective actions at various levels are crucial as an act of preparedness. For the same Samuchit Enviro Tech (along with partners LAYA resource Centre and INECC) has teamed up with Jeevitnadi and Sahapedia Pune Cultural Mapping project for this year's monsoon preparedness actions under the campaign Pune Monsoon Watch #StaySafe #StayDry. National Society for Clean Cities (NSCC) is also supporting this initiative. The Pune Municipal Corporation's disaster management cell also is available to provide emergency support. We have created a short video on the posters, I urge everyone to see the video and share it in your circles so that we can reach maximum people in the city. Click HERE to access the video. We have also shared the posters on all our social media handles. Check them out and share!

Meanwhile, a resident of Pune Gayatri Chatterjee noticed dumping of wastes on one of our Tekdis during the lockdown and informed us. This triggered the filing of a petition on making hills and water bodies WASTE FREE. Since its the lockdown time, filing a petition seemed to the immediate course of action. Click HERE to sign the petition! We are currently exploring ways to get this resolved, will keep you posted on this as well.

We are also hosting webinars with different stakeholders of the society for a more comprehensive understanding of the situation. The first webinar took place on 3 July 2020. You can see the recording on the facebook page of Jeevitnadi. Click HERE. We will keep you posted about the future webinars too.Stay tuned!

Pournima Agarkar.

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My City My Responsibility - Future of the Story of Plastic!

Dear All,

PPE made of Plastic

Plastic an ubiquitous thing on earth and is quite indispensable for most of us whether we like it or not. Yet this invention has now become an evil for the environment due to innumerable reasons.  When it comes to sustainability, plastic appears to be one of those materials that can be very efficient, cost effective and user friendly. However plastic waste disposal is a global problem that is choking up our oceans, filling our lands and entering our food chains. These thoughts were triggered after watching the documentary titled Story of Plastic aired on the occasion of this year's Earth Day. 

This documentary not only shows how big is the plastic pollution problem but also shows where does it come from and how it is a systemic problem than just an individual's choice. It captures the entire supply chain right from the use of petroleum to produce plastic to plastic pollution to its implications for climate change. Indeed it is an eye opening documentary when it comes to the life threatening impacts of plastic pollution. It pictures how managing the plastic waste is bigger challenge for developing countries where the plastic wastes are being shipped all the way by the developed nations. But when plastic wastes are no more accepted by the developing countries, how ineffective recycling plants create downgraded plastic products that cause even much more harm. Plastic pollution and its linkages with poverty, cheap labor and women who are involved in the overall process of sorting the wastes, recycling and processing especially in India have been highlighted as well. However packaging material and consumption of single-use plastic products like straws, carry bags and shampoo or food sachets etc pose bigger challenges of disposal, is the ultimate issue that we have been grappling with as per the documentary while the mismanagement of plastic is just an excuse to get away from the hidden agenda of the petroleum companies.

Given all these facts and concerns, the movie fails to effectively showcase the way forward apart from a ban on single use plastic and packaging material. The movie completely disregards the benefits of plastic especially if we consider the current pandemic scenario where PPE's made out of plastic have been the most efficient and easily affordable material for our safety. 

Me @Khamir in Kachchh
learning to weave plastic bags
PC: Dr Priyadarshini Karve
I believe it is important to understand that even if we ban plastic completely today, an existing single waste bottle will take upto 450 years to decompose. From the entire host of plastic products that we consume to the huge plastic products that we use, its quite obvious that plastics are here to stay forever. So definitely banning plastic may not be that helpful, however can we explore and have stringent policies in place in order to phase out the production of virgin plastic along with creating complex recycling techniques that are effective, local and low cost that will ensure upcycling plastic waste into a much better and more durable and eco-friendly product? One such local example that quickly comes to my mind is of Aarohana Ecosocial development a plastic upcycling initiative by Amita Deshpande where plastic carry bags are cleaned and woven into attractive handbags, purses and mats that even generate local livelihoods for women. Inspired by Khamir, a platform in Kachchh that promotes indigenous knowledge on handicrafts and allied cultural practices for creation and preservation of local communities.

From the packaging problem perspective, a global standardization for packaging can be adopted that will improve recycling and ease resource recovery which in turn will enable circular economic models. As per Our World in Data statistics, mismanaged plastic waste is generated highly by the high income groups versus low income groups, but that is mostly due to accessibility, its not that the low income groups are wiser! Also countries having longer coastlines have seen tremendous mismanaged plastic wastes. So the question of managing plastic waste can be tackled only with the help better segregation and effective waste management infrastructure.  

When we talk about segregation another challenge is the segregation within the various plastic items, because some products like transparent PET bottles can be easily recycled or reused, while some products may need complicated processes in order to recycle them. The used PPE's are of hazardous nature and will have to be incinerated right away. For such products we need more effective technologies for incineration that are least polluting. Given the nature of plastic and its versatility, we need to explore for more such processes where a plastic waste turns out to be the raw material for another product.

Now that there is so much plastic in nature, some bacteria and fungi have started evolving the ability to eat it. Apart from recycling, such interesting ways to deal with plastics wastes are upcoming. Another concept of producing bioplastics from startch are already available, however problems with this plastic is about its look and feel which is exactly same like ordinary plastic and hence differentiating it is difficult plus its also a controversial issue when it comes to food security. Hence there's a lot of scope for research in this field to produce sustainable polymers.

In one of my earlier blogs I did mention why plastics were ever invented. A lot of scope lies for sustainable innovation given the technological advances today, industries have a great role to play. Better quality of plastics can be produced that have low carbon footprint and hence can reduce pollution. The idea is to no longer term plastic as WASTES but as a KEY resource and start reusing it at source. Many individuals do come up with innovative ways that ensure their plastics don't end up in a landfill or an ocean. A more systemic approach will help to solve the plastic problem that involves engaging public sector as well as private sector to pitch for effective enforcement of existing policies and strategies. 

In October 2018, UN Environment programme and the Ellen Mcarthur Foundation announced the New Plastics Economy Global Commitment with more than 290 signatories having a common vision to treat plastics at source based on circular economy models. One of the pioneers in circular economy has been the Banyan Nation who are converting collected post consumer and industrial plastic waste into high quality recycled granules which are termed as Better Plastic that has strength as good as virgin plastic. There are several such examples already who are using plastic as a resource for better economic gains. Its time we start valuing plastic as a raw material and use it effectively for the betterment of the environment.

Pournima Agarkar.

Like/Follow/Share us on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter  Citizens of Sustainable Pune 


Over the last few days, various people kept messaging me - have you seen the Michael Moore Documentary 'Planet of the Humans'? It is shocking, depressing, a must-see, etc., etc., etc.

Reading about the documentary, I had got an impression that it is an American documentary about American energy scene. When it was released on the Earth Day, a lot of criticism started appearing from scientists and environmental activists in the USA. It was also quite weird to see that climate denier and white supremacist website and twitter feeds were going all gung ho about Michael Moore! Having read his book 'Stupid White Men', that was the most shocking thing for me! But it was equally surprising to see the documentary being paid a lot of positive attention by Indian environmentalists! I had not expected it to make much of a ripple here at all!

Anyway, the long and short of it is that curiosity finally drove me to watch the documentary, and I would like to share some thoughts on it. 

My recommendation: You would be better off watching the classic 1968 movie 'Planet of The Apes' than this documentary! 

Closing Scene of the Movie 'Planet of The Apes' (1968)

There was not a single thing in the entire documentary that I had not heard before, from various people in various forums. So the whole approach of the narrator - that he is revealing some deep, dark and dirty secrets was laughable.

In the first part of the documentary, the narrator is talking about his own attempts to live off grid, off capitalist market systems, etc., and how hard he tried to embrace renewable energy (may be a decade or more ago? I am not sure that the time line is mentioned, or I may have missed it). He gives a number of examples and quotes a number of people to drive home that:

(a) putting up solar and wind electricity generation systems is costly and material intensive, 

(b) a solar system consumes more energy in its creation than what it will generate over its lifetime, and 

(c) there are inherent limitations to renewables that make it impractical to think of a 100% renewable powered electric grid.

I have been asked about all three things in many of my public talks and here is what I have always answered:

(a) Creating any energy infrastructure is costly and material intensive - coal fired power plants or nuclear power plants do not appear out of thin air! The only way to address this aspect is to reduce our electricity demand, so that less electricity generation infrastructure will serve more people. This can be done in a two-fold manner - one, by actually reducing our energy needs, and two, by improving demand side efficiency. This is and will continue to be work in progress, especially as we transition away from fossil energy. 

(b) Solar systems using more energy to built than they can generate was true till 2010, but not anymore. In fact it is ironical that this documentary has been released in 2020 - the year when it is estimated that the solar industry as a whole will have 'paid back' all the energy that it consumed from its inception, and will from henceforth be net energy positive. Those interested in data can see this publication. Currently it is estimated that a solar photovoltaic cell will pay back its energy cost in about 4 years, and then produce clean and pollution free electricity for about 25 or more years.

(c) Who is insisting that we must have 100% renewable electric grid or nothing?? Even if we have a hybrid grid with a combination of fossil, renewable and nuclear, that is a step in the right direction. Even in fossil fuel based electricity generation, going from a solid fuel like coal to a cleaner burning liquid or gaseous fossil fuel is a step forward. The documentary mentions at several places that in the name of moving away from coal, utilities are going for natural gas, which also is a fossil fuel. But it fails to acknowledge that natural gas is a far cleaner fossil fuel to produce and use than coal. Yes, 100% renewable electric grid is the ultimate goal, and step by step we are approaching it globally, but have not reached it as yet. In the meanwhile, the grid will continue to be a hybrid. I don't see why this is a problem! 

Another aspect which most of us working in the decentralised renewable energy sector have been shouting about for years - renewables give us the unique opportunity of creating decentralised systems customised to local needs. This in itself provides a far better energy service to the end user and is a more environment friendly approach (e.g., roof top solar systems do not have any land footprint) than building a MW or GW scale centralised coal, or natural gas, or nuclear, or solar or wind energy system.

The intermittent nature of renewables can be overcome by using hybrids of multiple decentralised renewable energy systems, and also by creating a mega network of a large number of small smart grids, so that surplus energy generated in one part of a country or a continent or the planet can be passed on to where it is required.

It is ridiculous to expect that nobody should step out and start using any technology unless it is perfected! It is only when people start using a new concept or a product, that its limitations and further potential gets highlighted, and money becomes available for further R&D because someone is already making money from whatever improvements the new concept or product is able to deliver.

And that brings me to another outdated idea pushed throughout the documentary - that it is wrong/unethical/amoral for businesses to make money from renewable energy systems and for environmental movement to take funding from big businesses. My question is why is this wrong?? Projecting businesses and profit making as anti-environment villains is in itself a fallacy, and has kept the green movement out of the mainstream for decades. Yes, do bash any business that is indulging in exploitation and illegal activities, and yes, also bash any activists who are spreading lies to protect their funders. These are unethical practices and can even be challenged in the courts of law. But to consider the entire business community as some evil alien force out to destroy humanity has not solved any problems before, and is not likely to work now or in the future. We have to acknowledge that businesses are human creations, and as human understanding of the world around us grows, so will the businesses evolve! The values and processes followed by today's businesses are far different from the values and processes followed by businesses in the 19th century. People learn and change, and change the way they run businesses. This is what 'progress' is all about!

And finally, I come to the one and only factual segment in the documentary - large scale biomass based energy generation being labelled as 'renewable' is wrong and distructive to the environment. 

But what is new and not known about this?? Everyone working in the sector of decentralised biomass and biogas energy in India and other developing countries has been crying hoarse about this for years! Various organisations working in the sector of waste management have been presenting anti-incineration arguments year after year, to various government agencies, and helplessly seeing more and more 'waste to energy' plants coming up all over India. But most people seem to be more moved by the scenes of waste incineration and wood chip based power generation in rural USA rather than by the pleas that many of us have been making to garner support for decentralised renewables in general, and decentralised biomass energy in particular, for more than a decade! 

Furthermore, the documentary tends to advance a simplistic half-true outlook of "biomass is dirtier than coal" to replace the simplistic half-truth "biomass is renewable and therefore all biomass energy is all good" narrative, which is equally damaging to the sector.

Throwing out the outdated material, and focusing only on the contemporary valid issues, the documentary could have been a great platform to talk about the virtues of decentralisation and the need to overhaul the entire energy supply chain from supply to use, rather than just switching from coal to something else at the point of generation. But it just poses questions that have already been answered by many people many times, and then goes on to present a wrong answer as if it is some profound truth discovered by the narrator after meditating under a bodhi tree!

After 'throwing limelight' on specific challenges of the renewables and environmental movements in the USA, the apparent problem according to the makers of the documentary is global population! Some of the people interviewed do make a passing reference to consumption also, but it is implied that the consumption is high because the population is high. The very name and the opening and closing of the documentary alludes to this focus on global human population. This is totally wrong, misleading, and a typical White American myth from a typical white American standpoint that everything that happens in the USA is shaping the entire world! It is no wonder therefore that White American supremacist climate deniers are promoting the documentary! 

There is now ample quantitative data published through global studies that the driver of climate change and all other global environmental stresses is consumption patterns of the wealthy in the western world than the total number of people on the planet. For example, check out the latest study referred in this report.

Population is basically a solved issue, now we need to urgently focus on consumption of the wealthy. I have addressed the myth about population many times before! Here is one blog entry from five years ago. And those who can read Marathi, here is a relatively recent article written by me on the same topic. 

So there. You want to know what I think about the 'Planet of The Humans'? This is it - the documentary is mostly a Cinematic Planet of Outdated Half Truths. 

Priyadarshini Karve
Samuchit Enviro Tech


Samuchit Enviro Tech. 

Lockdown chronicles and beyond!

Dear All, 

Google Photos - Last year birthday celebration in Mahableshwar 

I know its been more than a month that we all have been under the lockdown and there seems to be no end to it until end of May. Fortunately or unfortunately we are locked up with our loved ones!!!For me, this time has been a roller coaster ride of emotions and I am sure for most us too this must have been a challenging time. 

Right from the day one I was prepared for a locked in house birthday (28th April is my birthdate 😊) I speculated this coming when I heard about the lockdown in March. But was fine since it was my first birthday at home. However I have been literally getting sad and depressed each day due to the overwhelming news about the number of coronavirus led deaths in Italy, US, Spain and then India. Slowly Maharashtra and Pune being the epicenter of this pandemic made me more and more depressed. On learning that these pandemics are going to be there with us even after the lockdown may be a few years later with even more deadlier viruses made me feel like I don't want to see all this happening. I am exaggerating a bit and sorry to sound such a pessimist, but yes this is in short how I had been feeling in the initial days of lockdown. Though I am with my loved ones, I couldn't talk to them about how I feel because I live with my in-laws (aged 60+) for whom this lockdown has created a havoc, they panic with every single news about closures whether it is vehicles, parks, places of buying things like Demart and Big bazaar, or maid not coming, everything. I had to tell them its fine we will manage it but still... they just cannot accept the situation.

Fortunately, Nanded City (where I reside) has been managing the pandemic quite well. We never fell short of anything be it food or electricity or water, the essentials are completely taken care of. Indeed its a privilege for which I am grateful but do empathize with all the migrants, poor and the daily waged labors who are affected and are deprived of their loved ones stranded in some location without food, water and sanitation facility. But couldn't do much for them as I kept on feeling even more grim. My husband and sister-in-law have been busier than before with their work from home schedule. We couldn't match our times and discuss these issues though we managed to converse a few times and I did feel better. However, I have a habit of noting down things, reading and listening to positive thoughts, observing and exercising which kept me somehow going. 

Nevertheless, I started searching for motivation in every small thing around me and STOPPED watching news. A big thank you to Dr Priyadarshini Karve who asked me to post content titled #NotAboutCorona as a daily feed that helped me divert my mind and thinking about different perspectives. I enjoyed watching the videos she shared and we decided to post them daily in order to promote diversity in thoughts. I am sure all of you loved them too.  

Everyday heroes right from the vegetable and other food stuff vendors, milk suppliers, our security guards, domestic helpers, the housekeeping staff and the story of #thelastfishermanofBombay Ganesh Nakhawa (Thanks to Myron Mendes) who is providing fresh fish to all despite the lockdown challenges, all are indeed like a superhero league to me. The way doctors are heroes in the hospital for the affected patients I feel the same way these are our heroes ensuring that we stay home healthy. Observing them do their work relentlessly is a great source of HOPE. 

I am a fitness enthusiast and love everything about my workout regime, closure of the gym was really a bad news for me, however my workout is very much a machine less workout so I was not that much worried. However due to this sadness I could barely get that motivation to move and I realized how much of a role my friends played in making the workout fun and happening. Nevertheless, thanks to social media, videos and zoom calls that ensured we connect virtually and keep ourselves going. Almost after 15 days of lockdown I could gather my wits and start some workout, which gave me a whole lot of strength and confidence to get going. I am now back in action and trying my best to achieve some lockdown workout challenges that I gave to myself. Definitely would like to share about the successes and failures of these challenges. Now I am glad the lockdown extended!!! Not being selfish just being an optimist, I know there are a lot of people who badly want this lockdown to just vanish and want everything to go back to normal. 

Nevermind, finally my birthday was here and this year I received overwhelming wishes from everywhere even friends and unexpected family members and the entire day I was busy replying to messages and answering calls from everywhere. BIG thanks to all. Forgot to click pictures this time but posting a picture from last year's birthday celebrations. I would like to share a conversation I had where a friend of mine literally said that 'Now you must be happy, your environment is all clean and pollution free'. I was shocked, just because I work in this field, all the environment is mine WOW! There's a dearth of right information among people and there's so much of work that needs to happen in the field of education systems and media studies to promote the things that matter in the right context. 

Anyway coming back to normal so what should the NEW NORMAL look like. While pondering over it I thank again to the thought experiments (amazing concept) led by Dr Priyadarshini Karve through her vlogs and some online articles and a lot of self introspection. There are a few very basic things that I think we should have in order to thrive post lockdown and in such recurring future scenarios. 

1. Mindset - Simply accept it, that this is going to be THE new norm where after every 8 to 10 years or less there will be such a event where we need to shift our routine lifestyles and adapt to the new situation. May be a 360 degree shift is required. Just be ready! We need to keep adapting, renovating, re-engineering or even replacing systems and people.Trending concepts like makeshift and DIY things have a lot of scope.  
2. Consumption Pattern - In our climate friendly lifestyle workshops, we stress on the aspect that we need to do everything, either individually, or as society or as a system in optimum ways without compromising on our evolutionary instincts. Being a flexitarian when it comes to consumption is the key I feel which we need to adapt too coupled with an attitude to conserve will help. Not just in case of food, but also in case of material things that we use in our day to day life. For example living without a mobile or living with a robot or some bionic sensors.   
3.Skills - Being an expert in one field wont be enough or may not be required. We got to be JACK, I mean 'Jack of all trades and master of none'. Since you never know, your expertise may not be needed anymore. So again be a life long learner, explorer and achiever rather than an expert in one field! 
4. Health and Fitness - I don't need to say, how much we need to value our health systems now. At an individual level keeping oneself fit is more important than being thin or fat moreover building strength and immunity is essential. Its quite evident that only a vaccine which is scientifically tried and tested is the ultimate solution to eradicate a viral infection, while all the other traditional medicinal systems can act only as supplementary measures. While we take all the necessary precautions if we are hit by a deadlier virus its only science that can help us. We ought to have scientific temperament.  
5. Environment - Again I need not say WE need the Earth, Earth does not need us. If we need it we got to use it in a way that is governed by the laws of nature. Our systems, behaviors and lifestyles need to be tuned into the way nature functions. I have mentioned many a times in my blogs, that there's no such thing as waste in nature. We need to implement such cyclic systems where the 'waste' of one thing becomes the raw material of the other and hence no waste exist. 
6. Coalition - Living with climate change and then such recurring pandemics calls for a coalition between all the nations along with interstate and inter governmental organizations at every level. In order to coordinate in an efficient way we need advances in technology which is happening anyways but continuing in this direction.  

These are just my initial thoughts, you are most welcome to comment, add or deduct, agree or disagree to the list. Also do share your lockdown experiences. Its always good to document!!!

Pournima Agarkar.

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We are currently living through a critical period in the history of human civilisation. The decisions that we make and the actions that we take today, will decide the form of human society in the future. What will humans be doing at the end of this century? Different people have come up with different scenarios based on various assumptions, and there is a range of possibilities. At one end of the spectrum, the end of 2100 may see about a couple of billion humans trying to rebuild a new civilisation. At the other end of the spectrum, there is a more positive outlook of about 10 billion people already well on the way to a sustainable, equitable, climate friendly civilisation. Ironically, the people who are living today and will be deciding the outcome for 2100 will not be around to see the consequences of their actions. It will be their children and grandchildren who will live through those consequences. So can we be the responsible ancestors that our future generations deserve?

Our decisions and actions are generally guided more by the collective knowledge of the past generations and our own past experiences, than by any considerations of the future. In order to forecast into the future, we do need to 'backcast' into the past, but with a critical and unprejudiced perspective. We need to look at the past through the lens of the future. 

I tried to do that a bit for an input I was invited to present at a discussion meeting organised by the Climate Collective Pune, on the occassion of the Earth Day 2020. Here I am putting forth some of my musings that fed into my input. 

Just as our actions today will decide the future reality for the next generation, in a way our predicament of today was decided by a decision of our ancestors nearly a couple of centuries ago. The decisive moment was in the middle of the 19th century. The Europeans discovered coal and petroleum and realised that these high energy density fuels can really accelerate the engine of industrialisation. The availability of this tremendously powerful energy allowed the European industries to suddenly increase their manufacturing capacities to a huge scale. This meant that there was a suddenly escalated demand for raw materials and labour, and a sudden need to expand the market base. This was the trigger for imperialism, which then spread the model of industry powered economic development across the world. Two world wars in succession through the 20th century killed the ability of the European nations to maintain the political empires, but they certainly did not give up on their economic and industrial empires. From imperialism, the world just transitioned to globalisation. 

The Roots of Global Crises lie in the fossil fuel powered Industrial Revolution of 1850s

The process of ramping up of industrialisation in Europe caused exploitation of natural resources as well as people in Europe. It also triggered massive land use change and polluted the air and water sources around the industrial areas. Climate change was also triggered the moment we started using fossil energy. Collectively, the exploitation, land use change and pollution lead to increasing inequity, disease epidemics, industrialisation of food production systems, degradation of natural ecosystems, and loss of biodiversity. First with imperialism and later with globalisation, through the last century, the erstwhile problems of Europe became global crises. Post 1980s, climate change also showed its impacts across the world, leading to additional crises. 
The Minefield of Global Crises in the Path of Human Civilisation in 21st Century

This is not to say that industrialisation, technology, science, etc., did not bring benefits! But in a way, the cost for those benefits is now being paid by us and our future generations. We are facing across the world today, a minefield of various crises, all rooted in this historical context. 

Furthermore, there are strong interlinkages and feedback loops between these crises. For example, land use change and pollution is increasing the contact between humans and wild species, leading to new diseases jumping from animals to humans. This causes epidemics and pandemics. The waves of diseases generally have tragic consequences because socio-economic inequity and climate change are collectively leading to poor nutrition and therefore lowered immunity. At the same time, because of climate change, existing diseases are now entering new areas with the changing weather patterns, and causing more epidemics and pandemics. All of this means that contrary to our past experience, COVID19 is not a one off disaster, but we are going to see more and more pandemics in the coming years! When we are looking for solutions therefore, we must understand these linkages. This will allow us to address the root causes of the crises more effectively while also trying to find solutions to the immediate effects of the crises.

Interlinked Causes of Global Crises: An Example

This also means that we can no longer afford to focus on the global crises in isolation. Since the causes are interlinked, the solutions also must be interlinked. This is why we should not simply 'restart' the economy! We need to create a new socio-politico-economic model that will simultaneously push back against the three major triggers of current global crises - Exploitation, Land use change and Pollution, and Climate Change. 

One promising approach in this context is the Doughnut Economics. It is interesting that several city and country leaders in Europe are actually trying to figure out how this framework can guide them in the post-COVID19 recovery. As India debates on how to ease out of the lockdown, it would be worthwhile to adopt a similar 360 degree vision! 

Priyadarshini Karve
Samuchit Enviro Tech


Samuchit Enviro Tech. 

MUSINGS FROM PRIYADARSHINI KARVE: What Is Your Idea Of Sustainability?

Migration - Birds and People

I hope everyone is staying home and following all precautions as we are in the grips of COVID-19 pandemic. One outcome of the lockdown is that people are more than usual active on social media. A lot of the social media traffic is fake news or rants... but in between some interesting thoughts, data, news items, opinions, etc., are also getting shared. 

There is one class of social media posts that caught my attention. Several people are posting their own observations, other people's observations, pieces of prose and poetry, photographs, videos, memes, etc., echoing one thought: The withdrawal of humans and human activities is giving nature a breather and helping it recover. This is a true observation. But then many people are going a few steps ahead and projecting this as 'a positive outcome' of the pandemic. Some people are thinking that this is the way forward to a solution to climate change. 

So let's think about the cost of this so-called 'positive outcome'. 

As per today's (28 March) available data (check this for updates): Today there are 436,715 active cases of COVID-19, out of which about 5% people are critically ill, and already 27,370 people have died worldwide.

The numbers are still rising daily, and the pandemic is likely to continue for a few months. I should also mention that this is the data of 'detected' cases only. There may be an even larger number of people who are infected with either no or mild symptoms worldwide, spreading the infection to others. Also, there will be a lot of deaths across the world that may be caused by this infection but will not be recorded as such due to a variety of reasons.

The only way to deal with the pandemic is to try and minimise the death toll. This will be possible if all the patients with high risk get proper treatment on a priority basis. This will in turn be possible if the number of people needing treatment do not overwhelm the health systems available in a country.

From this viewpoint, a two-pronged strategy is being employed across the world: 
(a) lockdown - minimising the contact between people (almost every country including India is doing this in varying degrees), and 
(b) widespread testing to detect carriers of the virus - so that they can be further isolated and treated (not all countries including India are as yet doing this, but this too is an essential step without which the first step will not be hugely effective)

However, the lockdown is causing huge economic impacts. All economic activity has come to a standstill. I am not refering to loss of GDPs and fall in share markets and what not. Those are only notional losses. Because both 'corporations' and 'money' after all are just figments of human imagination, as pointed out by Yuval Noah Harari in his world famous book 'Sapiens'. So these imaginary losses of the imaginary entities can be overcome through policies, mutual agreements, bailouts, etc. The hardest hit by the halt of economic activities are the marginal populations - those who typically depend on daily earnings to meet their survival needs. This is a worldwide tragedy for all those who eke out a hand to mouth existence, with no savings and social security support systems to fall back on.

In the Indian context, the migrant workers, who as it is live very precariously in most cities, are the worst affected. It is really tragic to see hoards of people walking away from the cities that were shut down with a single television announcement, leaving them uninformed and unprotected. No amount of economic packages declared subsequently can help them HERE and NOW. The only option they see is to follow the ancient natural instinct of the human species - if things get tough at a location, pick up and leave! Start walking and hope to find a better place to live in!

THIS is the price we are paying for the so-called 'positive outcomes', my dear friends!

If you are a true believer in sustainability you will not rejoice over this. Because sustainability is NOT about sacrificing humans for the sake of the planet. Yes, sustainability opposes destruction of the planetary ecosystems for the sake of human civilisation, but the opposite is not desirable either!

We seek sustainability FOR human species. This means social and economic wellbeing for ALL humans through judicious use of natural resources. We want to protect the planet so that it will continue to sustain humans on it - not at the expense of human lives and wellbeing! The fight for sustainability is the fight against inequality in human society and the destruction of planetary ecosystems, simultaneously - not just the one or the other.

So what this is showing you is not the way forward to solve the climate crisis. What this is showing you is how we DO NOT want to attempt to solve the climate crisis! We do not want to be pushed into a situation where we have our backs to the wall and drastically shutting down everything is the only option left to us. We need to start changing our social, political and economic systems today in the direction of going low carbon without losing sight of the goal of universal human wellbeing.

And there is some good news now that says that this is indeed possible. A recently published paper shows that contrary to popular belief the link between energy use and quality of life is much weaker than previously supposed. More specifically the contribution of increase in the use of fossil fuels to increasing the life expectancy of people is only about 25%. This means that use of fossil energy can be reduced without harming the wellbeing of people. The only change that needs to happen is shift in the priorities of the national governments and global decision making bodies.

This fits very well in my idea of sustainability. What about you?

Priyadarshini Karve
Samuchit Enviro Tech


Samuchit Enviro Tech. 

My City My Responsibility - Win over COVID-19 and more!

Dear All, 

In my last blog I did mention that COVID-19 the pandemic is in a way helping us realize that coming together for working towards a cause can actually help us WIN over other existential threats too as human beings! This also reminds me about THANOS - my favorite character and the super villain from the sci-fi movie AVENGERS. Favorite because somehow he felt the need to attain sustainability unlike the so called superheroes. He however chose a wrong path - to wipe out people the way COVID-19 affects. All the superheroes formed an alliance and came together to put an end to THANOS on seeing a threat of human extinction. I feel a similar situation has been happening around us, where we see how all national and international governments and local bodies, companies private and public, researchers, celebrities, education systems, transport systems, medical systems, supply chains etc and not to mention us, the Citizens are coming together towards tackling this super villain and trying to save humanity. It is indeed commendable, however the way we behave or take actions now at various levels of operation (individual, community and governance) has a solution to a bigger problem. 

Why I feel so is because a LOCKDOWN helped reduce China's pollution though temporary but at drastic levels just within two month's time. China has been reportedly been the biggest air polluter taking thousands of lives especially kids and older people. But the lockdown and slowed economic activity led the reduction of pollution and saved lives to almost 20 times than the pandemic as per this source 
Here, I don't mean pandemics are good, but we can learn something from such a situation. 

Global emissions scoreboard
From my area of work (as climate researcher), the point that I want to make here is if we are to achieve the goal of 1.5 deg C temperature rise instead of 4.2 deg C by the end of the century, it seems to be easily achievable. Imagine each country taking turns to even partially lockdown (not because of some pandemic but voluntarily) and slowing down economic activity, transport especially with personal cars and stop flying for conferences and events just for a period of say 3 months or so...may be more or less depends, need to research..., we can tackle the bigger challenge of climate change. Can we look at the lockdown situation as a way to reduce our carbon footprints and also ecological footprints? Italy's water canals have reported the come back of dolphins and swans due to no human activity over just a few weeks! We can definitely give our life supporting systems some breather to restore and meanwhile decide the further course of action.

In one of our river restoration studies that we conducted last year as an alternative to the riverfront development plan, we did suggest a temporary period of 'No Access' to the river in order to restore the river, of course we cannot ban the access completely but in a situation like a lockdown this can be easily accomplished temporarily. 

Now that our lives are at stake, we are mandated to take drastic actions, lets not wait till such a situation arises through climate change. Just read recently, we need to stop human DOING for some time and start BEING human. 

Last but not the least, I am sure all of us have enough information on where India and Pune stands with the number of people affected and all....however in order to limit ourselves to get into the stage III mode we better quarantine ourselves completely and help each other. But more urgent and important - we need TESTING facilities for ALL since that will be one of the key ways to manage this chaos. South Korea has shown the way in this. On the other hand, India is one of the countries conducting the LEAST number of tests per million citizens! This is totally unacceptable and needs to change! The government has started expanding the testing capacity since this week, but it is not moving fast enough. We the Citizens need to start demanding more urgency on this! 

Safe Sanitizing!!!

Pournima Agarkar.

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My City My Responsibility - Is Coronavirus an Alarm call!

Dear All, 

With all the hype and rapid spread of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) in the city made me realize that though the infection is similar to a flu it can get serious if proper sanitation and medication is not undertaken. So first things first - be alert, don't panic and get proper treatment ASAP if required!

However, I am curious if  the virus is such an evil or not! Since the virus has stepped in suddenly all the news in the country is zoomed in this issue. While all other blood boiling issues happening around the country like Delhi riots, JNU attacks, NRC and CAA, war like situation, all has taken a back seat. Everyone is sanitizing their lives, right from the corporate businesses, industrialists, governments, individuals, schools, colleges, organizations and especially media channels and newspaper agencies everyone is busy fighting this so called EVIL virus in some way or the other!

Its human nature to respond to anything that is in front of us rather than being prepared well in advance for an upcoming situation. That's also one of the reasons why our disaster management plans (DMP) and policies are reactive rather than proactive. The virus outbreak just makes it evident how we wait until a crisis hits us that badly from economic, social and physical aspect to undertake the required action.

I feel sad to say this, that unfortunately the impacts of climate change have not yet reached the mark where we faced catastrophic economic, social and physical losses that it urges all of us to come together and take the appropriate action on ground!!! We still don't realize how crucial  it is for us to gear up ourselves and fight the bigger evil of Climate Change which is probably going to wipe out humanity completely in no time! However, in a way this outbreak will help save some of the carbon emissions especially the ones caused due to the aviation industry which are almost double compared to transport via road and waterways. A lot of business/work related meetings, conferences/seminars or events are happening online which in turn will help reduce the emissions from flying, though temporary but still will have an impact! And who knows - may be people will see what is possible to achieve using the cyber space and by not traveling too much, some of these measures will stick around long term! 

But closer home - by the time we get over the virus, we are going to almost get into the monsoon season in India. The coming monsoons may be far more worse than last year. It is time we ask ourselves, are we really prepared for these situations, are we equipped to face the bigger challenges? What all we need to do well in advance to foolproof ourselves! What if we are faced with a catastrophic flood like situation devastating our lives, leaving us no where to go. What if our nearest coastal city and the economic hub like Mumbai gets submerged! Think over it. We need to have effective solutions for the long term impacts that will occur due to climate change!    
Monkey giving an alarm call when a predator is nearby

Lets take this outbreak as an Alarm call for all of us to look at the bigger crisis that we will be facing. Lets get alert and gear up ourselves not only to fight the short term crisis like Coronavirus but also the long term crisis of rapidly changing climate!!!

Any suggestions are welcome!

In order to create more awareness about climate change and its impacts we are conducting monthly workshops titled #ChallengingThanos - Countdown to Monsoon 2020. Check out our social media handles for the upcoming activities and help us build a resilient community!

Pournima Agarkar.

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My City My Responsibility - Sustainable 2020 in the making!!!

Dear All,

In my last blog, I mentioned about all our initiatives that enabled us to have a Sustainable 2019. Taking this forward, we are heading towards a more action oriented Sustainable 2020. Here's a quick review of a smashing start of year, full of new ventures!!!

Firstly I would like to mention our collaboration with Sahapedia a Delhi based organisation, involved in mapping Pune's Cultural and Natural Heritage. We host them in our office :) On 28th January 2020 we conducted our #ChallengingThanos event in collaboration with Sahapedia and Lokshahi Utsav Samiti during the Lokshahi Utsav that takes place every year in the week of 26 Jan. In this event we spoke about how Pune can challenge Climate change - both in terms of addressing climate vulnerabilities and going carbon-neutral. We received an overwhelming response, more than 100 people turned up for the event. I am glad to be part of the Lokshahi Utsav, thank you very much for hosting us! Not only this, post event our studies got highlighted in several local newspapers both English and Marathi. Check out the compilation of all the news coverage! Thanks a ton to all the newspaper agencies (Lokmat, Maharashtra Times, Times of India and Sakal) and the reporters for covering this issue extensively. Reaching to the larger audience on the seriousness of how climate change is impacting us is crucial and indeed all the reporters did a great job!!! Thank you to all the corresponding media persons and the editors! 

Another highlight of the month was the publishing of the Policy paper on Carbon Neutral PMR by 2030 by Pune International Centre (PIC) and Climate Collective Pune (CCP) through the hands of our young Environment and Tourism Minister Aaditya Thackeray, on the 29th Jan, 2020. The inputs presented by Dr Gurudas Nulkar, Dr Priyadarshini Karve and Dr Nitant Mate, were very well taken by our minister. He calmly listened and commented on the inputs and suggestions given by the experts in the round table discussion. This is first time ever any minister/bureaucrat has given so much time for this alarming issue and yes it had to be a young politician :) I was glad to be part of this round table and witnessing these discussions. Aaditya Thackeray suggested monthly follow up meets on the Carbon
Neutral planning and development of PMR and intends to make the entire Maharashtra Carbon Neutral! Hope this to be the beginning of a new era!!!

Another recent initiative of ours is about Cooking for Climate where Samuchit Enviro Tech promoting improved BIOMASS based cookstoves and renewable charcoal, Vaayu Mitra promoting kitchen waste and wastewater based BIOGAS plant systems and OrjaBox promoting SOLAR based cooking have come together to showcase renewable energy based cooking options. We had successfully conducted our first event in December 2019 at Cafe Climate run by Priyadarshan Sahasrabuddhe (VaayuMitra) and another event at AISSMS, Electrical Engineering campus, Pune with the help of Vishaka Chandhere (OrjaBox). Both the events were well received by the audience. Food is the heart of our survival and cooking is an enabler. In this fossil fuel challenged future where reducing our carbon emissions is a must, we need to make the shift to renewable sources of cooking energy. We will conduct these workshops every month, and invite collaborators to host us! Let us know if you are interested, or know of anyone who might be interested! Check out a video of our workshop here!

Being a member of INECC and part of Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) agenda we got an opportunity to design a training manual for trainers on some of the sustainable development goals (SDGs) last year for PRATYeK. PRATYeK is a non governmental organization working on child rights and earth rights through various advocacy mediums with technical support from UNICEF. They invited me and my colleague, Myron Mendes, to train their trainers based in Mumbai and Delhi on the manual. Highlight of this visit were the kids from an underprivileged section of the society in Delhi who are now SDG ministers having a ministry for each SDG. The kids aged between 10 to 16 years of age literally taught us a lot, I was amazed with their enthusiasm, charisma, general knowledge, consciousness, ability to grasp the concept and put in action. I learnt a lot more than I thought possible, Thanks to INECC and PRATYeK for a amazing experience. Not to mention I enjoyed every bit of my visit to Delhi with some close friends!
As I said 2020 is going to be an action packed year, more such exciting opportunities in the pipeline. Check out our upcoming events on 26th Feb and on 1st March 2020 on our social media handles!

Pournima Agarkar.

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My City My Responsibility - A look back at Sustainable 2019!!!

Dear All, 

New year pledge for a Carbon Neutral and Climate Resilient Pune

I know its been quite a long time since I last wrote, nevertheless I am glad to be back and want to keep writing more often!!!

Let me just wish everyone a Happy and Sustainable year ahead!!!

For us at Samuchit and Laya resource center 2019 had been an exciting year. We could initiate some new approaches for imparting climate and sustainability literacy programs. We could also take some of our initiatives to other cities apart from Pune which is one of the goals of this entire study. This blog is about a quick flasback of activities conducted in 2019.  

End of the first phase of Sustainably SMART pune study - In December 2018 we completed the first phase of our Sustainably SMART Pune study and published the report which was well received by the Puneites. The softcopy of the report is available online. Let me know if anyone would like to have it.

Citizens charter for Sustainable Pune - In January 2019, as part of the Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) project we could publish a compilation of citizens inputs for making the city sustainable based on Sustainable development goals (SDG) 11 targets. Marathi version of the same will be available soon.

Sustainable initiatives in Thane  - In March 2019, we were invited by a couple of environmental enthusiasts from Thane through Prasad Dandekar who attended our workshops in Pune. We conducted a full day workshop where we presented our work on Sustainably SMART Pune and Climate Friendly Lifestyle. The discussions later rolled on as to how we can make Thane a Sustainably SMART city. As a follow up from this, FERN, an environment focused citizen group in Thane invited Dr Priyadarshini Karve to speak on sustainable urbanisation at their annual Environmental Lecture Series in November 2019. The talk was very well attended. 

National Conference on Urban Sustainability - In April 2019 under the ESD project a national conference was organised by us in order to disseminate the citizens charter for Sustainable Pune across India. I was glad to have a few INECC members from different states coming all the way for this conference. 

Yuvadrishti handbook on Carbon Neutral campus - In June 2019 under the Yiuvadrishti initiative by INECC and in association with Pune Internatinal centre (PIC) and Climate Collective Pune's (CCP) vision of a Carbon Neutral Pune by 2030 we came up with this DIY kind of Handbook for making campuses carbon neutral. In order to make a city carbon neutral we believe the education sector should take the lead. Three colleges of Pune used this handbook under our guidance and also published their strategies to go low carbon. 

Sustainable Bhuj - In July 2019 we were invited by Aseem Mishra, Coordinator of Homes in the City (HIC), an initiative in Bhuj that works with citizens, NGOs and CSO's. We met him during our national conference and he wanted us to talk about Pune initiatives at their conference in Bhuj, Gujarat. It was an honor to be there but I felt terrible to see how they are struggling to make their city sustainable amidst all the challenges of cultural diversity, extreme climatic conditions coupled with rapid urbanization.  

Carbon neutral campus at Kopargaon - In August 2019 we were invited by Sanjivani group of Institutes, Kopargaon to undertake the carbon neutral campuses workshop. It was indeed a great step as an institute and good opportunity for us as well. They are already undertaking a lot of initiatives they just need to align them with carbon neutrality and validate the zero carbon character of their institution. 
Series of #Challenging Thanos - In September 2019 in order to reach out to those urbanites who would otherwise not talk about climate change and sustainability, we came up with this series of events where we talk about day to day issues in a cafe or a restaurant and then link the issues to the big picture. These events have received good response so far and there has been at least 30-40% of new faces in every Thanos event. However the goal is to reach out to maximum. So we want all of you to spread the word about this series of event among your friends and family. Watch out for the image of Thanos on our social media to know when the next event is happening! 

Vibrant Vizag and TECH conference - In December 2019 I got an opportunity to present our #ChallengingThanos initiative in the UNESCO MGIEP's TECH conference in Visakhapatnam. Though my presentation went well, I was disappointed to see the overwhelming focus given to app-based learning, video games and artificial intelligence (AI) without studying the long term psychological impacts on the youth.

This visit also gave me an opportunity to visit LAYA resource centre headquarters and its operations in the tribal areas of Andhra. I am grateful to LAYA for arranging the site visits at Addetegala and Paderu (formerly naxalite areas). I could not have imagined working in such difficult areas that too at a time when naxalite activities were at peak. The team at LAYA is indeed doing a great job!!!

Carbon Neutral PMRDA initiative - Throughout 2019, we contributed to the Roadmap for Carbon Neutral PMR, an initiative by Climate Collective Pune (CCP) and Pune International Centre (PIC). Today at the end of January 2020, I am glad that the goal to present this report to state government authorities has been fruitful. The Environment and Tourism minister Mr. Aaditya Thackeray gave open, informal and absolutely genuine feedback on the report and has committed to make it a reality. This is indeed a good start for 2020, and we hope to keep the momentum going!

That's all for now, keep checking out this space for more updates and experiences. Also please share your views or opinions with us on our work. Constructive Criticism is welcome too! :) 

Pournima Agarkar.

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I was given the task to set the context for India Clean Cooking Forum 2019 in Delhi on 3 December, which motivated me to pen down some of my thinking around 'clean cooking'.

Setting the Context in Inaugural Session (PC: CLEAN, New Delhi)

The theme for ICCF 2019 was 'Creating Impact through Clean Cooking Applications'.

India Clean Cooking Forum is an annual event organised by Clean Energy Access Network (CLEAN), which is a network of stakeholders engaged with decentralised renewables. Therefore it is a given that when we talk about Clean Cooking, we are specifically referring to those technologies that are based on decentralised renewables (DRE) - which in this context are a variety of solid, liquid, gaseous biofuels, a variety of solar technologies, combinations of these, and even geothermal energy in the places that it makes sense to use it for cooking. Therefore, there is no place in ICCF for challenges or success/failure stories, etc., around use of fossil fuels and grid power for cooking. The focus very specifically and unapologetically is on DRE cooking technologies, being used either in isolation or in combination with fossil fuels and grid power.

This is not just an ideological position!

Most people tend to think that once a household has transitioned to 'cooking gas', that is the end of it - it has reached the top of the cooking energy ladder and will now stay there happily ever after. This cannot be farther from reality.

In the climate crisised world of today, the most important survival strategy is for renewables to replace fossil energy in all energy sectors. The cooking energy sector cannot be an exception to this. As a species, we are fast running out of time to make this global and total energy transition. For India this means that we need to rapidly figure out - what are the current LPG and PNG users going to transition to in a fossil fuel free world. However, the government of India is aggressively pushing more and more households towards fossil energy based cooking! The seriousness of the adverse health impacts associated with smoke in the kitchen from use of traditional biomass fuels in traditional cookstoves is the driver for this, but there are non-polluting cooking technologies based on DRE too! Yes, there are challenges of standardisation, commercialisation, scaling up, etc., but that cannot be an excuse for neglecting 'the best option' in favour of the 'readily available option' by a national government!

It would be much more prudent and beneficial to everyone in the long run to push ALL households - urban as well as rural, rich as well as poor - to DRE based clean cooking. The time, effort, and resources would be better spend in urgently addressing the challenges of the DRE clean cooking sector rather than wasting these on expanding the reach of fossil fuel based cooking.

There is another dimension to this.

India is one of the countries most vulnerable to climate change. This means that we need to invest in climate resilience building too. Localisation of basic resources is an important aspect of resilience building. From that perspective, the 'decentralised' in DRE is the key! Localisation and decentralisation go hand and hand, and provide opportunities for better customisation to meet the users' needs.

On this background, the total neglect of DRE based cooking sector since 2000s shows a remarkable lack of foresight and long term thinking on the part of successive governments over the last twenty years.

There was one more important aspect of the ICCF 2019 theme, that must be highlighted.

The theme for the deliberations was not just 'clean cooking' but 'clean cooking applications'. The devices that are loosely referred to as 'cook stoves' are also used for heating bath water, boiling drinking water, heating the house, drying agricultural produce, etc. It is high time we acknowledge that 'cooking' means everything that actually happens around a 'cook stove' in real kitchens rather than just boiling 5 lit of water in 10 min in a laboratory.

The theme therefore highlighted that the we need to bring the needs of the users - the cooks, who are mostly women - at the focal point of the sector. User-centric DRE based clean cooking not only addresses the thermal energy service requirements at the household level, but may also lead to novel DRE solutions suited to a wide range of thermal energy needs. These encompass solutions for the community (e.g., cooking of mid-day meals) as well as for commercial establishments (e.g., food processing units). This approach has a tremendous potential to create 'impacts' not just for women's health and climate change, but also for widespread livelihood generation, circular economy, sustainable production systems, etc.

Glimpses of ICCF 2019, India Habitat Centre, New Dehi (PC: CLEAN, New Delhi)

The ICCF 2019 had a very packed agenda, and each session was a bit too content-rich. I am afraid that there was a bit of an information overload by the end of the day! However, many interesting threads emerged that can be expanded on and woven into a strong case for the DRE clean cooking sector. I hope that future ICCF events will keep on exploring these, and expanding on the narrative, building on experiences from the field.

We still have a long way to go!  

Priyadarshini Karve
Samuchit Enviro Tech


Samuchit Enviro Tech. 

My City My Responsibility - Indian food choices (myths and facts) in a changing Climate!

Dear All, 

Representative image for an Indian dish consisting of veg, non veg and dairy foodstuff.

Meeting new people is always exciting, recently I got an opportunity to attend a conference on Urban Food systems organised by ICLEI, South Asia in collaboration with Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) and the World Bank (WB). I feel that in this rapidly changing climate, fast paced life coupled with work and peer pressure, our health is getting compromised. There are growing concerns over health issues like diabetes, obesity and cancer. 

According to Dr Jayashree Todkar (, a renowned surgeon on Obesity and Diabetes (who spoke at the conference), India has the highest number of diabetic patients in the world and has the second largest population in childhood obesity. Obesity is one of the root causes of many of the diseases that we are facing. We can see that a lot of people are getting conscious about this and are demanding healthy food options. Consequently, we also see advertisements flooding all media, promoting so-called health foods, fitness apps, gadgets, exercises and variety of diet plans etc., that promise to make our lives healthy. Dr Todkar however recommended that eating local foods with nutritional balance is the key to good health, rather than giving up certain foods, or eating only one type of food, etc.

As far as health is concerned, as per Dr Todkar, a much bigger concern is 'nutritional illiteracy' among Indians. We should focus on eating all types of foods that are locally grown using sustainable practices, aiming for a nutritionally balanced diet, in keeping with our physique and our lifestyle. People will be able to make the right choices for their health and the environment if they understood the basics of what different foods 'give' us nutritionally and what are the paths taken and impacts produced by the different foods in reaching our plates.

While health is one's major concern, we also should think about a few other things in relation with food. There are clear linkages between our food production and distribution systems and the climate crisis. Feeding 7 billion (and eventually 10 billion) people to provide adequate nutrition in a world where food production systems everywhere are increasingly threatened by climate change impacts is the biggest challenge that the humanity is facing today.

So how do we make the right food choices that will help ourselves as well as help address the climate crisis? Many people are touting veganism as the answer to this question.

During the conference I had a brief discussion with Dr Todkar on veganism and its implications for nutrition as well as its relevance to climate change. She was deeply concerned on this issue and responded promptly to me. According to her, it is not right to promote vegetarianism i.e. having plant based diet or veganism which is a strict plant based diet that excludes all animal products i.e dairy as well as meat, as the only 'healthy' option. There can be some serious nutritional deficiencies in shifting to these food choices and these can adversely affect our health.

As per evolutionary evidence, human beings are herbivorous as well as carnivorous. Let's leave food habits associated with caste and religion out of this discussion. As per science a plant based/vegan diet is rich in fiber, full of antioxidants and multiple vitamins and minerals but lacks in rich source of protein and essential amino acids which are the building blocks of our body. These important building blocks can be sourced only through food stuffs that are originating from animals - milk, eggs, meat, etc.

According to Dr Priyadarshini Karve, the proponents of veganism dismiss the nutrition-related concerns saying that even the animals we eat are getting the proteins from plants, and therefore plants are the ultimate source of protein. This reasoning actually shows a total lack of understanding of biochemistry. It cannot however be denied that there are many diseases that are linked with meat-centric diets. However, our concerns should be focused on Indian food habits.

She further added, traditional Indian non-vegetarians do not have a 'meat-centric' diet. A traditional Indian nonvegetarian's annual meat intake is negligible compared to that of say an American meat eater. Dairy is a big component of a vegetarian diet, but most adults consume very little milk. They consume more processed milk products like curds and buttermilk and there are a number of health benefits associated with 'fermented' foods. Indians also tend to eat a lot of milk-based sweets and these should indeed by avoided due to ill-effects of sugar.

Dr Karve explained that as far as the link of meat and dairy based diets with climate change is concerned, yes, indeed it is true that the energy spend and productive land engaged in producing 1 kg of animal-based food is much more than 1 kg of plant-based food. However, this in itself is a 'false' comparison, especially in the context of traditional Indian diets. A traditional non-vegetarian may be consuming say 200-250 g of rice daily, but the consumption of dairy and meat together may be just about 500-700 g per week! So the right question to ask then is what is the carbon emission associated with my annual intake of rice Vs my annual intake of meat and dairy products. To find this answer, I need to look at not just the quantities but also the production and distribution processes of the various food items in my typical food platter. If you started doing this kind of an analysis, you will realise that one cannot generalise that plant based foods are low carbon! What if sitting in Pune, a person is daily eating basmati rice cultivated in energy and fertilizer intensive farms of Punjab, but the milk supply is coming from a traditional dairy farmer about 20 km away, who owns 2 buffalos that are 'free-range' (i.e., not being fed any industrially produced cattle feed)? 

According to Dr Karve, the culprit in the contribution of both agriculture and animal husbandry to climate change is 'industrialisation' of food production systems in general, and this definitely needs to be addressed on a war footing. This requires focusing on 'HOW' various food items reach our dinner plates rather than 'WHAT' are the food items on the dinner plate. You need to treat the disease, not kill the patient!

All this discussion made us realise that a lot of the statistics that is presented about health as well as climate impacts of meat and dairy based diets have emerged from the Western world. This statistics cannot be applied blindly to Asians in general, and Indians in particular, whose eating patterns are quite different. Of course, the data can be used as a cautionary signal against the increasingly westernised eating habits being acquired by urban Indians. 

In short, keeping an open mind about food, educating ourselves about our health and food production and distribution systems will serve us far better than putting blanket bans on some food types or jumping into the latest diet fads!

Pournima Agarkar. 

Also see: MUSINGS FROM PRIYADARSHINI KARVE: One and Only Solution to Climate Change?

My City My Responsibility - Safety measures during floods!!!

Dear All, 

Meetup in Kimaya
Pune has been flooding like never before, one of the major reasons is haphazard concretization happening around without the cognizance of the existing water channels and the network. Thus leaving no place but the roads and our apartments/societies for the rainwater to venture and find its pathway.

Nevertheless, a lot has been said on this, leaving us with the ONLY option as to WHAT we are supposed to do in such a situation in order to save ourselves???

As a matter of concern, we at Samuchit Enviro Tech, LAYA and INECC conducted our monthly session titled #ChallengingThanos-Submerging Cities for brainstorming on ACTIONS that we as individuals should undertake as part of the basic disaster preparedness or measures in such situations.

We conducted the session in an open cafe Kimaya in Kothrud, though it was noisy and a bit uncomfortable to brainstorm, I feel we managed it quite well. We conducted our Mentimeter (click here for mentimeter result) session to collate a list of BASIC measures we can take as individuals during floods from a bunch of 13 people. Below is the list for your reference. Note that you too can also add to the list either as a comment or message.  

1. First things first, be alert. If possible be home or wherever you are, avoid any travel if the weather forecast alerts heavy rainfall. We have to start trusting our forecasting systems like IMD, local news, even google weather app is useful to get an idea on the weather. Call your near and dear ones and make them aware and tell them to stay where they are if they are rushing to come home.

2. Nowadays we all prefer to have cashless transactions, however having some cash is a must during difficult times at home as well as in person. In case of floods especially, the first thing that gets hampered is electricity and then online network gets jammed. in such times your mobiles may also not work, so its crucial to have some cash and food handy and follow the first point. 

3. In order to use our smart phones ''smartly'', ensure phone battery is charged and phones are updated with google maps and other related social media apps. We all use Whats app and Facebook these apps can be used efficiently to inform each other about current conditions around you. These are one of the best handy mode of communication available with all of us. Important point to be noted, a lot of fake/old news also gets circulated sometimes, so instead of panicking or blindly forwarding such posts always ask for authentication of such news.

4. In case if you are caught in any critical situation, make sure you save yourself first, only if you are fine you can help others. So securing yourself should be the priority.

Following is a list of precautions to be taken in order to cope with the ill effects of urbanization. 

1. While buying a house, check if its not near or over a river or a canal or a stream. RiverView homes may not be so appealing if the river drains into your homes. Don't fall for such real estate marketing gimmicks. The rivers/riverbeds, canals and streams are the natural drainage systems, these need to be free from obstructions in any case. Any kind of construction of concreting ON or NEAR such areas is ultimately going to affect the person who resides near these areas.

2. Our societies should have disaster prepardness plan and appropriate equipment, emergency/first aid kit, emergency contact numbers and should conduct mock drills on regular intervals. We as a family and individual should be aware of these activities and if these are not present we need to ask for them and get it.  

3. Keeping oneself FIT is a crucial factor often neglected due to time constraint. Regular exercising keeps one active and alert during crisis. Make sure you do something to keep yourself fit. Swimming is a life saving skill now, we need to be equipped with it. 

4. Stock at least 7 days of food and cash in your homes at any time. You never know when you might need it. 

5. Following sustainable practices like growing your own food or having a backyard vegetable garden, harvesting rainwater, using household biogas or steam cookers, using renewable source of energy like solar heating and lighting systems turns out to be not only sustainable but are best rescue options when there's no electricity and food.

Climate Change is happening and is real believe it or not. Haphazard urbanization is accelerating its impacts and its you, me and our families who are vulnerable to these impacts. Its high time we start taking action for our survival. Its time we start asking for a climate adaptive, resilient and mitigation focused urban planning.  

Any comments are welcome!!!

Pournima Agarkar.

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My City My Responsibility - Sustainability and Climate Action week 2019

Dear All,

I am back! Last week we observed the most happening week of 2019 from Climate Action and Sustainability perspective. I am glad that we could contribute to the Climate Week NYC 2019  and UN Sustainable Development Goal (SDGs) Action for the People and the Planet through our local initiatives in our capacity and reach. Sharing a quick list of activities we conducted in the last week. 

List of Activities

Since the beginning of the week, we offered discounts on all our products as a part of promoting climate friendly or low carbon lifestyle. Also during the entire week, Dr Karve daily posted some content on climate change, its impacts and solutions. Check out the video for a compilation of all the posters in this link

Every month we conduct the #ChallengingThanos workshop where Thanos the most powerful villain of the super hyped Avengers-Endgame movie depicts the face of the climate crisis which is inevitable. The name literally means #ChallengingClimateChange and the workshop focuses on understanding our day to day issues like pollution, traffic congestion, floods, water crisis etc and linking it to the big picture i.e Climate change and Sustainability, in the city's context. Due to heavy rains affecting all our cities and considering the severity of Floods, we conducted a workshop titled #ChallengingThanos-Floods in Pune, at Yolkshire Aundh in order to talk about floods and the underlying man-made impacts and above all its implications due to the changing climate. We had planned this on Saturday, assuming that the Climate Strike and Climate March will happen on Friday, but for some reason, the Climate March in Pune was held on Saturday, and clashed with our schedule.

Interactive session on ChallengingThanos!

However, I was glad that there was at least ONE person who felt the need to know about Floods and actually attended our workshop. Our strategy has always been to undertake the workshop even if there is just one participant, the show must RUN in any case. We also had a special invitee for the workshop, so between the four of us, we had great discussions on the different stresses our water bodies are undergoing due to so called 'development', deficiencies in dam management, illegal constructions, encroachments, governance issues, religious practices and above all Climate Change. The exciting part of this workshop was a quick activity called as Ecosystems puzzle. The Ecosystems puzzle is an interesting concept in order to learn and understand how we have impacted the Earth's ecosystems. This has been designed and created by Isha Vywahare who attended our Climate Friendly Lifestyle workshop last month, and was our special invitee. Overall our workshop went quite well!

Please note that last week WE faced the worst ever floods in Pune for the first time after the Panshet dam mishap in 1960's. A lot of property and life was lost. In view of the seriousness of the issue, and by popular demand, we will be conducting another #ChallengingThanos event on the same topic, on 12th October Saturday. This time our focus will be more on how to adapt and build resilience in the face of this new threat. For more information you can comment on the blog or email on 

We were approached by the International Institute of Hospitality Management (IIHM), Vimannagar as they were celebrating the Sustainability 2020 week as part of Action for SDGs theme,  titled Paryatan Parv since they are into Hotel and Hospitality industry. I was glad to know that the Hospitality management industry is going all sustainable. It looks like a lot of efforts are underway to meet the SDG 2030 goals and that is a great beginning!

@IIHM, Vimannagar  
I conducted our Climate Friendly Lifestyle workshop for the students by showing Dr Karve's TEDx Talk and going over our Personal Carbon Footprint Calculator Webapp. The students calculated their footprint and we discussed how to go Low carbon, which is the first step towards Sustainability. There were around 50 plus students and they were aware of the huge carbon footprint the Hospitality industry causes. 

Wordcloud by students
Our next session was a 'Climate Katta' in Bhavans College, Andheri, Mumbai. Dr Priyadarshini Karve had studied there for a couple of years, so it was a special joy for her, to conduct a session on Climate Change in her alma mater during the Climate Week 2019. The session was organised by the Marathi department's coordinator Prof. Jyoti Malandkar for the students of 11th and 12th class. There were around 60 students and all were really curious to know about climate change and keen on action! Dr Karve spoke about the science of Climate change and its impacts in global and Indian context, as well as the possible solutions. Myron Mendes, the communications Manager at INECC spoke about the Climate Strike happening globally, with reference to Greta Thunberg and how the students can be part of the Strike in their own capacity. The students were then divided into groups and asked to present their 'take' on climate change in the light of all that they had heard, in the form of a skit with posters. The students were all excited to be part of this global movement, and came up with some interesting presentations in the short time that was available to them. I conducted our usual mentimeter activity in order to see what these young minds would demand the government in order to address Climate change. Sharing some pictures of the session.

Dr P Karve and Myron Mendes addressing the students at Bhavans!

Students preparing for the skits


The students were so inspired by the workshop that under the guidance of Prof Malandkar they also undertook a rally in their college on the subsequent Friday to join the #FridaysforFuture initiative!

Rally at Bhavans College as part of #FridaysforFuture 

Next we conducted a session on Climate Friendly Lifestyle workshop for our INECC members, to showcase our approach to climate change education. This triggered a lot of discussions on how the Carbon Footprint Calculator webapp can be used by various members as a part of their own public outreach. 

with INECC members

Last but not the least, as part of the SDGs action and Paryatan Parv by IIHM, Vimannagar there was a corporate seminar on Sustainability 2020 where I got an opportunity to present our work on envisioning Pune as a Sustainably SMART city by 2030 and the Citizen Charter for Sustainable Pune in the panel discussion. Other panel members included the DGM-MTDC Mr. Chandrashekar Jaiswal, Environment Officer, Pune Municipal Corporation Mr. Mangesh Dighe, HR Director Sheraton representing the Marriot group Mr. Viral Jesani and Deputy GM of Radisson Mr.Vivek Joshi. Each panel member spoke about their work and its relevance to Sustainability. Glad to know that Sustainability is being imbibed in the corporate sector and we could share our work with them. The attendees of this seminar included parents of the IIHM students, ex-army officials, teachers etc. I am glad that we could reach varied sections of society through this seminar.
@IIHM Corporate Seminar on Sustainability 2020

This was thus a very fruitful and enriching week for us. A BIG thank you to everyone for being part of this initiative with us.

However knowing the fact that some parts of Pune were worst hit by the rains on the 25th September, its high time WE as citizens get SMART and demand for an ecologically sensitive development instead of haphazard development. Stay tuned for our upcoming session on the same! 

Pournima Agarkar.

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