Livelihoods, Ecology and Climate Change, 28th July 2018

26th July is World Mangroves Day

Mangroves are rich in biodiversity.

Mangrove forest are globally rare.

Management and restoration of mangroves is achievable and cost effective.

Mangroves are the best biological barriers to soften tsunamis and cyclones.

Solar Energy

India has embarked on an ambitious program to expand solar power plants to a total installed capacity of 100 GW by 2022.

Most people assume that electrical energy from a coal power plant is less expensive.

A scientific analysis by Mitavachan and Srinivasan shows that electrical power from solar plant is more affordable than power from coal. Further, it is observed that solar power is far better than power from coal when environmental extend such as global warming, air pollution and water footprint are considered. The study estimates that coal power plants emit 23 times more greenhouse gas emissions, cause 28 times more air pollution, consume 40 times more water and lead to 15 times more external costs to society than solar power plants in India. (Divecha Centre of Climate Change, Indian Institute of Science)

Mini-cloud bursts

IITM (Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology), Pune scientists coined a new term — mini-cloud bursts, defined as rainfall in excess of 50 mm in 2 consecutive hrs. Based on hourly rainfall data from 126 stations between 1969-2015, researchers found ~200 mini-cloud bursts occurring every year in India.

Global Water Cycles

Brilliant: We hardly understand the making of rivers in the sky and how they are affected by deforestation on ground.

Mining in Chattisgarh

The Centre for Policy Research (CPR)-Namati Environmental Justice Program in partnership with Janabhivyakti and Hasdeo Arand Bachao Sangharsh Samiti (HABSS) highlight the process and findings of an exercise where the representatives of a community affected by mining tried to understand whether the impacts of dust pollution, water contamination and felling of trees faced by them were arising out of the non-compliance of law.

They systematically collected evidence and filed well drafted complaints to the concerned institutions who could affect remedies. As the final report establishes, this process led to positive official remedies in some cases. In others, the follow up is ongoing.

The great Indian irrigation deceit

Unless irrigation schemes in India are conceived with honesty and transparency reflecting the ground realities, they will continue to be disastrous to the agricultural sector 

When the rural elite hijacks welfare schemes

There are five key factors of the rural situation on the ground that may be seen as common across the ruin of all government schemes.

The first is a large and chronic deficit in the revenue streams of a bulk of rural households. This deficit arises from many factors. Three of the major ones are uncertain and depressed farm incomes, high cost of receiving health services, and highly unsuitable social customs of marriage and death ceremonies.

The second is disempowerment of women and widespread prevalence of irresponsible behavior of men who tend to ignore their family responsibilities and blow up money (as well as incur debts) on liquor. I am not a teetotaler, but I can in no way sympathize with a man who snatches money from his wife, and hence food from his kids, to get drunk.

The third is unstable leadership, weak administrative systems and human resource in development administration in general and particularly at the cutting edge of governance through Panchayati Raj institutions in villages.

Caste Class Power Nexus

The fourth is the infamous caste-class-power nexus, which renders most program implementation vulnerable to hijack through the unholy conspiracy among the rural elite to the detriment of the rural poor and finally, lax oversight and soft mechanisms to check and to correct inappropriate program implementation.

While the first two factors are about household matters — patriarchal culture, the grip of old obscurantist beliefs and irresponsible hedonism of men, the last three factors deal with the prevalence and perpetuation of socio-political order. This perpetuation of the socio-political order renders chances of meaningful reform and development reaching the poor to near zero. Where well-meaning local leaders like Anna Hazare or Popatrao Pawar can devise smart mechanisms to counter the last three factors, rural situations show much improvement.

What follows is the depiction of the scenario of the central and eastern states, where governance levels have been traditionally poor. I am told that the situation in Tamil Nadu and Kerala is much better but have no concrete evidence to assert that.

The general course of events and developments is somewhat as follows. The chronic and large revenue deficit of poor households made much worse by avoidable expenditure and debt incurred by men on alcohol; renders them indebted, subordinate and vulnerable to the local rural elite (shopkeepers, traders, school teachers and others with regular cash flows, large farmers and local political heavyweights).

Exploitative gatekeepers

This elite becomes the gatekeeper of all development exploiting the caste-class-power nexus to the hilt. Its earthy ingenuity enables it to defeat every possible mechanism chosen by the designers of the scheme to reach the poor. For examples, MNREGA required job cards to be given to the poor. The elite group ensures that the poor have got to keep their cards with the contractor and then feel satisfied with such crumbs of MNREGA wages as the elite thinks necessary to keep them the poor alive.

Jandhan and DBT have in turn found the elite forcing the poor keep their passbooks and Rupay cards where given and withdrawal slips with their thumb impressions with them so whatever is deposited can be syphoned off perfectly legally. The ration-shop dealer confiscates and keeps all ration cards of the poor with him. The agro-service Centre dealer has a cupboard full of original land ownership documents in his possession to rip the poor household of the benefit of any debt waiver or insurance payment or the subsidy under any other scheme.

Nagaland’s first Biodiversity Meet

The first ever Nagaland Biodiversity Meet was organised from 9 to 16 May 2018 to document the biodiversity of Tizu Valley Biodiversity Conservation and Livelihood Network, comprising the villages of Sukhai, Ghukhuyi and Kivikhu in Zunheboto District, and promote ecotourism in the area. Faunal surveys prior to the Biodiversity Meet resulted in a checklist of 212 species of birds, 155 species of butterflies and more than 200 species of moths. The multitude of floral and faunal species existing in these areas makes rich contributions to the biodiversity of the state. Documentation of these records will help boost nature-based ecotourism for the state, thus contributing to its revenue. The records of birds, butterflies and moths would be shared through Biodiversity Atlas – India .

 Sikkim railway project and Forest Rights Act

The Sevoke-Rangpo railway project will reportedly affect over 40,000 people in Sikkim and West Bengal. However, only 26 families have been identified as being impacted by the project and many have refused compensation, asking for the implementation of the Forest Rights Act and standard compensation.

 Compensation for Tribals

It’s a shame that when salaries of people’s representatives from Rs 75,000 per month to Rs 1.5 lakh and their personal assistants enjoyed a bump in their wages, from Rs 15,000 to Rs 25,000, no thought was spared for tribal girls who continue to get Re. 1 as daily allowance. No wonder that the National Commission for Scheduled Tribes has sought better compensation for tribals.

Adivasi songs

Shri P. Sainath of People’s Archives of Rural India (PARI) presents 7 songs that showcase the music of Chattisgarh’s Adivasi communities, caught in decades of violent conflict. It is a music of resilience – their songs speak about the beauty of their land and forests; their daily lives and their reverence for nature. 

Wasted Opportunity

Continued government reluctance to put construction projects through a robust environmental approval process and the exemption from public scrutiny awarded to massive urban real estate projects means that we have put aside a good opportunity to make “redevelopment” different from development.

In 2006.. the MOEFCC officials made a special presentation to the PMO arguing that the real estate sector deserves environmental scrutiny for impacts on energy, water, sewage and urban infrastructure. They were included but with leniency in the documentation and appraisal process.

Mumbai Monsoon Flooding

The Advanced Locality Management (ALM) in the area — a community organisation born out of a very interesting concept introduced in 1997 by the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai (MCGM). The original intent behind creating these areas / neighbourhoods with Advanced Locality Management was to identify localities, and get residents to commit themselves to improving the quality of life in those, in close co-operation with the MCGM.

29th July is International Tiger Day.