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5 years old but still relevant, esp. on Earth Day 2018

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Every refill bottle is important

Earth Day is today. #EarthDay2018 ‘s theme is to end plastic pollution.

I wrote this post about 5 years ago and its even more significant today.

Earth Day, which started almost 48 years, is more important to celebrate today more than ever. Google has definitely outdone itself by posting a message from my most favorite naturalists/ecologists/environmentalists/scientist/humanitarian of all times, Dr. Jane Goodall.

I have been writing about sustainable living in harmony with nature for over a decade now via this and other blogs and published work.

Coincidentally, a lot of my recent blog posts focused on plastic pollution, including the one on the discovery of microplastics in drinking water bottles. Read them all here.

How can we make a difference as an individual most people ask me all the time?

One of my simplest strategies to overcome this over dependency on plastic is by adopting these simple steps in my daily life:

  • Bring/carry my own water bottle and beverage containers/tumblers
  • Bring/carry my own stainless steel straws
  • Wash clothes in cold water and then air dry them as much as I can
  • Bring my own grocery bags to shopping
  • Taking public transportation or walking to most places
  • Turning off the taps while washing dishes and brushing teeth

Challenges: Of course there are certain challenges in the above approach that I am yet to address, when it comes to my personal dependency on plastics daily. One of the biggest ones that I am trying to work on is reaching for the ziplock bags. Ever since becoming a parent, I have become overly dependent on carrying our snacks and similar items, in ziplock bags. Its my pledge on #EarthDay2018 to try my best to cut back significantly on this usage.

In conclusion: We would go much further if we are able to convince our family and friends to adopt these steps overtime too. The smile I saw on my toddler’s face this morning, upon seeing a tiny spider cross our bed, is worth every singly step that I take to ensure that we live in harmony with the planet earth and lend a hand as much as we can.

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Reflections on World Heritage Day 2018

Abandoned pond (water tank), a traditional rainwater harvesting body ©NeerFoundation,India

World Heritage Day is today. It is a day to remember the significance of our cultural heritage and the need to preserve it.

Water was considered a valuable resource in India in the past, and traditional water conservation bodies and structures were constructed to catch, conserve and utilize it.

Personal musings:

I was fortunate enough to look at some of these unique and beautiful structures first hand during my work on water and gender based issues in India. In fact my very first introduction to water based issues was through the translation of the ‘Census of traditional natural resources management structures in Meerut district’ in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, while I was still in graduate school. I was also present, as a team member, when one of the first ever rain center was established, in India, in my hometown. These unique structures known as ‘talaab‘ in Hindi or Urdu roughly translate to ponds or tanks in English. Looking at them one marvels at the ingenuity and wisdom that our ancestors practice when it came to rainwater harvesting for future use.

Well

A groundwater extraction well in Western Uttar Pradesh, India ©Pallavi Bharadwaj

These structures were made to sustain the agriculture/irrigation use along with supply potable water to the community dependent on it. Along side the surface water recharging these ponds and tanks also recharged the wells to extract groundwater.

Widespread structures:

During my work and travel to the Indian states of Rajasthan, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh, I was amazed to see how widespread and varied these structures were to suit the local needs of the ancient people, who relied on these systems of water resources. I was also very fortunate to have worked along side some very knowledgeable people like Late Sh. Anupam Mishra, to learn how sustainable these water systems were even in the parched state of Rajasthan.

In conclusion: By utilizing the ancient knowledge and applying it in modern times one can hope that the water wisdom of our past can help us through the water based challenges that we face today and in the future.

How safe is potable water around the world?

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Members of the Roma community are seen in front their shacks that have no running water or sewerage in Cierny Balog. (©Reuters/Radovan Stoklasa)

< 5 mins read approx. 410 words

Scenario: The WHO data shows that 57 million people do not have piped water at home, and 21 million people still lack access to basic drinking water services. Those people then have to find ways to have a steady supply of water. Unfortunately, this has led affected people to walk for over 30 minutes to collect water from unprotected dug wells and springs. Others just rely on surface water, from rivers, canals, and streams, as their primary source of water. But in tandem, WHO said that almost 1.7 million people in 11 countries practice open defecation due to the lack of toilets. So their feces are disposed of in fields, forests, and open bodies of water. (Source Quartz)

Sounds all too familiar and maybe from an Asian, African or LatAm city? Sorry to disappoint you but the case in point this time is Europe, especially the rural communities. On World Water Day 2018 the World Health Organization reminded Europe that many people in the region, classified as 53 countries, drink dirty water without even realize it.

The World Water Day might be celebrated for only day in a year, however the woes related to water are an everyday affair for a majority of world’s population. From Cape Town to Kenya, from LA to London to Eastern EU cities and all the way to India and SE Asian cities, one of the most common everyday problems that people face is the quality of their potable water. In India and other developing countries, where agencies are often inefficient, corrupt and without any regulation or standards, the water quality problem poses increased risks. People buy bottled water in hopes to drink clean and safe water, however studies show that as much as 30% bottled water available might be contaminated. Installing a water purifier might seem like a viable solution, however there are many factors to be taken under consideration, before making a decision.

In conclusion: Access to water is critical of course, however it is also important to remember that the focus should be on access to safe water.  Equitable solutions, such as investing in water related infrastructure as well making the public aware of the importance of WASH practices’ adoption, behavioral change (from the studies based on biobehavioral health and anthropology and others), policy implementation and alike, shall go a long way to solve the crisis.

Where is the happy ending to the real life ‘Lagaan’ in India?

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©IndiaWaterPortal

<4 mins read <410 words

Anybody, who is slightly interested and/or aware of the Bollywood’s entries to the Oscars, might have heard of  ‘Lagaan’. It was nominated for the 2002 Oscars. This was a film about an imaginary village, in the Western Indian State of Gujarat during the colonial times, which had been parched and struggled with drought for years. ‘Lagaan’ (or the tax) would only be waived if the villagers won a cricket match against the British officer in-charge and his team, or else the villagers would pay double the tax as a punishment. No points for guessing how the movie ends.

The real life ‘Lagaan’ unfolding in India, from the eastern state of Odisha (formerly known as Orissa) all the way to Kerala in south, does not seem to have the same ending. The rainfall predicted in the Kharkhara village in Odisha has decreased 3 folds in the last three years, making it extremely drought hit. In 2017, Balangir district in Odisha recorded just 840mm of rain. This is leading to the waves of climate refugees or migrants seeking refuge in far off states such as Karnataka and others, mostly working as bonded labor for meager payments (in brick kilns, construction projects and so on.)  Odisha has been facing droughts for many years now and this has also resulted in the farmers’ suicide, just like the state of Maharashtra.

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©News18

The southern Indian state of Kerala has also declared emergency for nine of its district and has to adopt extreme measures, such as delivery of water tankers to fill the point sources of drinking water kiosks and others to avoid drinking water crisis looming there.

In conclusion: India has a long way to go towards solving not only its domestic water crisis from Delhi to Karnataka but also solving the trans-boundary issues of water sharing with neighboring countries of Pakistan,Nepal and Bangladesh. The able bodied and younger villagers migrate to urban areas leaving behind an aging, sick and elderly population. A combination of steps such as smart water catchment management learning from the developed nations, encouraging different methods of earning a living via natural resources management, to the very traditional ones, such as granting aids to the farmers in addition to equitable distribution of water to various sectors, implementing community based adaptation and others shall help keep the population in the villages and provide jobs to more than half a million people in the state of Odisha and across the country.

Making water and climate related investments credible

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China Green Bond Market ©ClimateBondInitiative

<5 mins. (approx. 450 words) read

Most of the last week’s news was dominated with the announcement of President Trump imposing tariffs on China and sending the stock market tumbling to historic lows.

Amidst all the news of trade war, the report of China being a global leader in green bonds came out last week. China is undergoing one of the fastest and largest urbanisation processes in the world. This process has two facets, one is the incremental expansion of urban populations and cities, while the other is that urban quality is increasingly gaining people’s attention. China has also become a global leader in issuing and utilizing the revenue from the Green Bonds Market in 2017. The green bonds form only .2% of total bond market and 2% of bond markets in China, however they are seeing an exponential growth annually. In China, energy sees the maximum usage of the proceeds (30%) with low carbon transport (22%) and water following closely (18%). This post focuses on water related investments.

Globally, the standards have been ambiguous until recently, when it comes to investing in the green infrastructure, especially with respect to water infrastructure, which is commonly known as greenwashing. To increase the investor’s confidence and make these bonds more credible, a set of global standards within water infrastructure investments have been developed by a consortium of NGOs called the Climate Bonds Standard (CBS) Water Criteria. The CBS Water Criteria define low carbon and climate-resilient water infrastructure by evaluating the impact of water-related investments on climate mitigation and adaptation. The criteria provide guidance on the types of water projects that should be included in green bonds, including infrastructure for water capture and collection or holding, water storage, water treatment or cleaning, flood and drought defense, stormwater management or releasing, and ecological restoration and management. The criteria also include both built and nature-based water infrastructure, such as rivers, lakes, natural watersheds, and aquifers.

In conclusion:

From the US to South Africa, governments have issued green bonds for more than $1B under these new standards. However, the cities around the world have a long way to go when it comes to alleviating the water vows, in midst of corruption, violence and other challenges, which leads to extreme measures at times, such as adopting zero water days by the utility providers. These new standards will provide a pathway to attract more investment and much needed transparency in the green bonds market for not only the world’s second largest economy, but also to others in Asia, Africa and LatAm. These approaches can also find future applications in devising standards for investments in food and other areas to achieve climate and urban resilience.

To read the full report in English and Chinese, please click here.

This blog post has been adopted from the original article that appeared in the New Security Beat and has been authored by (my ex-colleague from WWF) John Matthews/AGWA/Lead Expert, Water Infrastructure Technical (AFOLU) Working Group and Lily Dai  at Climate Bond Initiative.

Monday Motivation:

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“You will always miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.”-Wayne Gretsky (Hockey Hero)

Earth Hour 2018: Its much more than just switching off for an hour

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©Earth Hour/WWF

EarthHour is happening today, March 24, 2018 at 08:30 pm across the globe.

It is very close and special to me, as I was there for more than three years, when the lights were switched off for 60 minutes initially and then EarthHour became 60+, which means beyond turning off for an hour.

This year, I am especially excited cause EarthHour has chosen #CONNECT2EARTH with Pocoyo and his friends, who happens to crack our toddler up every time. This time Pocoyo, of course, has a very serious message to convey.

From Earth Hour 2018’s website:

Our connection to Earth and nature is undeniable: Our planet’s gain is everyone’s gain.

Biodiversity – the rich variety of life on Earth – continues to decline year on year. We must urgently prioritise our planet’s biodiversity and nature. #Connect2Earth was created to organise our efforts, allowing us to shed light on topics impacting our planet’s well-being.

How do you #Connect2Earth? Get involved now by starting conversations, sharing your thoughts, and spreading the word about our connection to this place we call home.

In conclusion: Like all other international/national days of significance, our commitment to this beautiful home, our planet earth, goes far beyond than an hour or day to make significant socio-economic and environmental impacts.

Happy National Puppy Day!

Happy National Puppy Day in the United States to all.

Sending love to all the puppies and their parents out there, and a special shout out to our cuz and her husband,  who recently became puppy parents 🙂

Have a great weekend all!

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