Friday, October 7, 2016

Afforestation in Telangana: Green Initiative of NTPC

To create an additional carbon sink of 2.5 to 3 million tons of CO2 equivalent through additional forest and tree cover is one of the significant components of Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC) of India that was submitted to the UNFCC in October 2015. The other two major components are to reduce emissions intensity of its GDP by 33-35% by 2030 from the 2005 level and to achieve 40% cumulative electric power installed capacity from non-fossil fuel-based energy resources by 2030.
The expectations of government to increase forests/tree cover  in 5 million Ha and to improve quality of forest on  another 5 million Ha., of forest / non forest areas once completed will  increase carbon sequestration by about 100 million tons CO2 equivalent every year. In a planned way the government has been taking up various afforestation activities both in government and private sectors including PSUs. Tree planting activity has become one of the best strategies to meet the challenge of climate change.
Joining the above movement to make the Country green and combat the challenges of climate change, the NTPC, one of the Maharatna companies which has already planted 20 million trees till date in and around its various projects has also planned to plant 10 million tress by 2026 in tune with INDC plan and strategy of government.
In order to fulfill the target of planting 5 lakhs tress in the State of Telangana over 10 years (2016-2026) the company has resolved to provide Rs.141 lakhs for this afforestation proposal. On 2ndSeptember 2016, a MOU was also signed between Sri P.K.Jha Principal Chief Conservator of Forest Telangana (on behalf of State Forest department) and Mr. V.B. Fadnavis Regional Executive Director NTPC South (on behalf of NTPC) to take up afforestation in 35 hac of degraded forests in Kodangal range of Mehboobnagar Forest Division. The first installment of Rs. 28.38 lakhs has been recently released by the NTPC to DFO Mehboobnagar.
The initiative of NTPC to augment the efforts of Government in the matters of creation of additional carbon sink and combat other environmental challenges in sustainable manner is bound to ameliorate the existing degraded environment apart from acting as guiding model for other Corporations having inclination towards betterment of environment. Hope other Corporations also follow this new model of partnership with State Forest departments in the country.
Disclaimer: Author’s views are personal. 
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Thursday, October 6, 2016

Green initiatives of Corporations and Environmental CSR

The   KPMG in its latest report India’s CSR reporting survey 2015 has explored CSR initiatives and compliance of top 100 listed companies in India as mandated in Companies Act 2013 and Rules. It is heartening to observe that the mandatory provisions like making CSR policy available on web domain, CSR disclosure in annual report etc. are now by and large being complied by all the companies (except a few) after the enactment of Company Law, 2013.
Charity, donations and other philanthropic activities, which are now termed as CSR in modern term, had been an integral part of business activities in the past across the globe including India. In our country after independence (post 1990 era) liberalization, globalization  and privatization have facilitated phenomenal rise in economic growth of companies and simultaneously their quest and efforts to achieve sustainable development further necessitated adoption of various CSR initiatives more conspicuously as their contribution to society.
As per Ministry of Corporate Affairs (MCA), during 2014-15  a total of 6338 crore rupees were spent on CSR activities by 51 Public Sector Undertakings (PSUs) and 409 Private companies. As per report of Ernst & Young, the mandate of spending 2% of average profits of the past three years on CSR activities may cover around 8000 companies under its ambit and bring approximately Rs. 14000 to 15000 crores per annum for various CSR activities. The expectations from this policy change are likely to offer new windows of opportunities both for the Corporate and government not only to assist and supplement the ongoing programmes of government for its various social, economic and environmental interventions but also to provide opportunities for new innovations to Corporate while addressing various challenges to achieve equitable and sustainable economic development thereby ensuring maximum possible contribution from business(s).
Environmental Performance Index
Yale and Columbia University in its recently published Environmental Performance Index (EPI) 2016 has ranked India at 144th place among 180 countries with over all score of 53.58.
One bright side of 2016 ranking of India is 20% improvement in various parameters in last 10 years specially in sanitation and waste water treatment but the deteriorated air quality due to emission from power plants, industries, fossil fuel burning etc which has placed India at almost bottom (178 th place) is quite deploring and call for urgent and concentrated efforts to improve it. The Corporates need to expand their ongoing endeavors in these directions.
Development agenda in priority
It is well know fact that the developmental agenda always finds top priority for any country and more specifically for developing nations in order to meet its multifarious demands. To fulfill this the States are bound to promote and encourage (some time out of turn) support to Corporate groups and companies which is the need of hour to fulfill various obligations /expectations and economic prosperity. The recent initiatives like Ease of doing business (EODB) of Central government and TS iPass of Telangana state  apart from similar initiatives of other state governments are almost akin to post 1990 reforms that  have helped to facilitate timely establishment of business activities as part of developmental process.
Doing business in Telangana
Apart form this the State governments provide various incentives like allotment of land at concessional prices, rebates on various utilities, tax reliefs etc to them. However keeping the goals of sustainable development in view, it is also desirable that the third pillar of sustainable development i.e., Environment apart form economic and social development also gets equal consideration from all quarters. It is imperative from the scope and concept of Sustainable Development that corporate/ business organizations/ individuals must not operate under competitive pressures to achieve short-term goals (profits), which endanger long-term objectives of environmental protection and inter generational development.
Environmental degradation
Same time in present days conditions of environmental degradation it is highly expected that in addition to getting profits, the policy and actions of the corporate groups including governments should be really proactive to provide enough space for long term goals of environmental protection and inter generational considerations. This is where the concept of environmental CSR or Green Initiatives of CSR comes into fore. Here it is also pertinent to mention that many of the Corporations have put into practice various interventions in the past aiming to reduce the environmental degradation like change of process, use of alternative/ green technology, optimum use of raw material, recycling, sustainable harvesting of raw materials etc. which are also part and parcel of the environmental concerns but in many of the cases the cost involved in the process is getting factored while doing the business.
In such a case it is debatable whether such initiatives of the Corporate though contributing to ameliorate the environment really qualify under the gamut of genuine CSR?
In aforesaid context and circumstances and considering the need of a healthy environment and equitable development for posterity, the environmental concerns of any locality need more attention, which is also applicable for Corporates while identifying the activities under CSR. The latest reports of various companies reflect the environmental issues as one of the priority activities’ under CSR initiatives.
The CSR reporting survey 2015 of KPMG further apprises that by and large CSR activities of companies are concentrated towards health and  sanitation (26%) education (24%) and environment (11%) apart from rural development (9%), Women empowerment (4%) and others. However it is also a fact that in comparison to other equally challenging issues of education, poverty, health, sanitation etc. which the companies have been attempting to address in the past under CSR, the environment and related issues warrant more attention because ever increasing pace of development, burgeoning population pressure and use of  inefficient productive technologies/over exploiting tendencies to gain maximum benefits etc. have resulted into degradation of environment including pollution.
This effect is more visible and prominent in the third world countries including India and it is an established fact that the degraded environmental conditions adversely affect the delicate balance between people and resources apart from affecting the health of people.
Environment and CSR
In fact all morally driven initiatives under CSR including environment are considered as true CSR or ethically driven CSR initiatives, which really qualify under the CSR as, defined by Friedman. This is contrary to Strategic CSR which as observed by Eric Orts involves actions that appear to be motivated by higher social purposes and are, in fact, motivated by profits  and also be termed as mere corporate social performance. David Baron further cited such efforts of extreme cases as simple deception or green washing.
However many of the corporate groups are now accommodating their efforts and initiatives related to conservation, protection and amelioration of environment from over exploitation of resources in their CSR action plan and all such activities can be clubbed under morally driven initiatives/Green Initiatives or ‘Environmental CSR’
Though the architecture of CSR is exclusively prerogative of any Corporations however in the present scenario and pro-developmental approach of State governments it is high time and desirable for Corporations to join hands with the State governments apart from NGOs and in-house trust or foundations to accord priority to environmental issues in their CSR plans to achieve the long term goals of sustainable development. This kind of joint approach will have following advantages.
First the priority areas and issues of environmental degradation shall get more attention.Second the activities/initiatives can be continued for long time wherever required to achieve saturation thereby getting maximum advantage to stakeholders and recognition to Corporation.Third the pooling of funds (State and Corporation) will allow scaling up of efforts and fourth the approach will allow participation, which in turn bring more transparency for all the participating stakeholders. Other reason for advocating this partnership is the fact that in spite of vast number of (around 20 Lakhs) NGOs operating in the country, the availability of eligible NGOs to become partner for CSR activities is really very low mainly due to ‘trust deficit’ factor and also to some extent due to lack of professionalism as witnessed by many corporations.
Keeping the expected flow of fund in the years to come under CSR spending’s after Company 2013 act, there is need to involve more and more stakeholders right form in-house trusts/foundations, NGOs and government departments through a well designed and participatory model to address various environmental challenges which will sure to provide a win-win situation for the shareholders and governments and fulfill the ultimate objective of equitable and sustainable development.
Disclaimer: Views in the article are personal 

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

US initiative for climate change - Better late then never

US President Barrack Obama's recent announcement unveiling ambitious plan to combat climate change  
(Obama Takes a Crucial Step on Climate Change ) under which he has proposed  to cut carbon dioxide emissions by 32 percent compared to 2005 levels over the next 15 years has drawn the attention of both the supporters of climate change and critics .Apart from world wide praises and compliments  the move has also been termed as  "catastrophic," and  "irresponsible and over-reaching"  by fellow Americans and politicians . Being one of the richest countries and having access to all kinds of resources at their fingertips,the Americans need to put equal efforts by changing  their attitude towards consumerism and life style which has made them one of the top CO2 emitters after China.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

BLACK CARBON : Major threat to Environment

One of the pollutants of recent origin, which is  also called as soot or tar,  the Black carbon (BC) is  a product of incomplete combustion of coal, diesel, biofuels, and biomass and the most strongly light-absorbing component of particulate matter (PM). “BC is emitted directly into the atmosphere in the form of fine particles (PM2.5)”.BC is defined as “a solid form of mostly pure carbon that absorbs solar radiation at all wavelengths”. 
The various sources of black carbon emissions  are as follows.
1.    42% Open biomass burning (forest and savanna burning)
2.    18% Residential biofuel burned with traditional technologies
3.    24% Diesel engines for transportation and industrial purposes
4.    10% Industrial processes and power generation, usually from smaller boilers
5.    6% Residential coal burned with traditional technologies

Reducing black carbon can contribute to numerous sustainable development goals, such as cleaner and healthier air, food and water security, reduced mortality and the mitigation of climate change and its impacts. AS per one study it is stated that significant global reductions in black carbon and other short-lived climate pollutants can slow temperature rise by as much as 0.5°C by 2040, and slow the rate of Arctic warming by as much as two-thirds by 2040.
                             (Sulfate and black carbon aerosols are visible in this image from an electron miscroscope. The arrows point at small clumps of black    carbon attached to the larger sulfates. Credit: Arizona State University/Peter Buseck)
While targeting for reduction of Black carbon it must be noted that unlike CO2 and other GHGs, Black carbon is not an essential byproduct of current sources of energy and its existence as the byproduct of inefficient combustion is notable which makes the task of  Black Carbon reduction more   appealing then the CO2 , mitigation of which requires cutting back on energy consumption in part and Black carbon  can be reduced without necessarily limiting the underlying emissions-producing activity. This feature has more advantages specially in developing countries where people are reluctant to adopt measures to address emissions that historically have come largely from developed countries and BC mitigation would not prohibit the underlying emission causing activity and would reap immediate benefits for local public health and address regional warming and glacier melt.
There is need to have effective policy interventions mostly by ensuring the implementation of existing norms or by amending the existing ones if need arises on following areas to reduce the impact of Black carbon.
1.    For diesel related emissions regular vehicle emissions tests, retirement after certain  age , or retrofitting (e.g. adding particulate traps  including penalties for failing to meet air quality emissions standards, and heightened penalties for on-the-road "super-emitting" vehicles).
2.    Banning or regulating the sale of certain fuels and adulteration  and promote  ultra-low sulfur diesel (ULSD) with improved engine technology.
3.    Restriction in the  use of chimneys and other forms of biomass burning in urban and non-urban areas;
4.    Permits to operate industrial, power generating, and oil refining facilities and periodic permit renewal and/or modification of equipment duly adopting latest pollution control technology.
5.    Mandating use of filtering technology and high-temperature combustion (e.g. super-critical coal) for existing power generation plants, and regulating annual emissions from power generation plants. Moreover as stated by Hansen  “technology is within reach that could greatly reduce soot, restoring snow albedo to near pristine values, while having multiple other benefits for climate, human health, agricultural productivity, and environmental aesthetics. Already soot emissions from coal are decreasing in many regions with transition from small users to power plants with scrubbers.”
6.    Improving the efficiency of brick making which is  one of the  major   sources of emissions and there is scope  with substantial opportunities for engagement with kiln owners and operators, who remain largely unaware of the financial co-benefits associated with improved firing efficiency .
7.    Improving public and private fleet (Heavy Truck) efficiency and management, which includes improving fleet efficiency and management. Though it may not be possible for many developing countries to ban older, heavy-polluting diesel vehicles, and there is need to encourage interventions for Engine retrofits such as diesel particulate filter (DPF) which can be inserted as part of the vehicle's exhaust stream and can be used in both on- and off-road vehicles.
8.    On domestic front replacing or Improving the efficiency of cook stoves since the impact of replacing biofuel cooking with black carbon-free cookers (solar, bio, and natural gas) in South and East Asia is dramatic as per studies done by Ramanathan.
9.    There is a greater need for various sectors including Government to come together on a common platform to address the issues concerning economic development and environment protection, which includes health protection. Though primarily we can make  energy sector as major contributor for more than one-third of the global primary energy consumption and energy-related carbon dioxide emissions and which  has the technical potential to decrease its energy intensity by up to 26% and emissions by up to 32%. To achieve this target improving energy efficiency is one of the most cost-effective measures in countries like India to loosen the link between economic growth and environmental degradation.
10. The Information and Communications Technology industry can play a key role in enabling a low-carbon society by providing standardized information on energy consumption and emission across sectors, as well as capabilities and platforms to improve accountability in energy use and carbon emission. By replacing goods and services with virtual equivalents and by providing technology to enable energy efficiency, ICT industry has the potential to offer innovations that will capture energy efficient opportunities across industries including commercial buildings and homes, logistics and transport, power and manufacturing.
11. India has about 11 million Micro Small and Medium Enterprises and most of them may not have the capacity or capital to implement sustainability in their businesses and if provided required support these can also assist in protecting environment while pushing for higher growth targets in sustainable manner.
12. There is need to decouple production systems from the consumption of materials and energy (produce more with less) to become sustainable for the all Corporations by following steps like switching from non-renewable to renewable sources of energy and materials targeting cleaner production, maximizing recycling and reuse of wastes and environmentally sound product design, enterprises can significantly work towards sustainable growth.
13. The role of local administrators including NGOs, citizen groups and  citizen who are the real change makers at individual level to adopt the green , low energy intensive technologies aiming to reduce carbon emissions need to given due weightage .

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Sanitation in India: Intractable Challenges

             As per the latest estimates, 53% of Indian population ( app 600 millions) defecate in open, out of which around 70 % reside in rural areas while around 18.6 % in urban areas. These facts reflect the seriousness of this neglected issue of open defecation which is one of the root causes of various life threatening diseases like GE, Malaria, Jaundice etc. This is also important that poor sanitation, which affects the health of individuals resulting into malnutrition, finally lead to loss of productivity. Apart from this every day around 1000 children below 5 years die due to diarrhea and other sanitation related diseases. There had been attempts by the Government to tackle the problem of sanitation some time in a routine manner and sometime in the form of specific schemes but these attempts failed to achieve the desired success. During 1986 government launched Central Rural Sanitation Programme (CRSP) to improve the quality of life of the rural people and also to provide privacy and dignity to women. This programme was later changed to “Total Sanitation Campaign” (TSC) in 1999 and later on it was termed as “Nirmal Bharat Abhiyan” to eradicate the practice of open defecation by 2017. However the desired results were not received in spite of all big claims and projections. Now the government has again restructured it as “Swatch Bharat Mission” or “Clean India Campaign”. In order to make all such programme effective and to meet the desired objectives, there is need to integrate following issues which have affected the success of all such programme in the past.

1.     India being blessed with varied diversity and multiculturalism requires an   appropriate demand analysis with specific references to location (geography), climate, communities and stakeholders for making suitable strategy.

2.     The fact that 66 % of the Indian households do not have the access to drinking water from treated tap sources while around 80 % devoid of closed drainage connectivity for discharge of waste water, availability of water is one of the major factors that affect any programme considerably which are aimed at optimum sanitation and maintenance of hygienic living conditions. These two factors hence need adequate consideration and concerted efforts.
Source: Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation    

3.    Construction of sanitary toilets is one of the integral components of housing programme hence integration of housing, water and sanitation can act as effective strategy. Alternatively allotting these three departments to one ministry at government level can considerably help in ensuring integration, convergence and effective implementation.

4.     As the open defecation and other sanitation related activities are directly related to health of the individual there is need to involve the primary health department in the programme so that the proper integration is ensured.

5.     Effective mechanism to redress the issues related with proper toilet use like absence of mechanism to monitor the toilet, lack of plumbing and drainage facility, lack of proper consideration of gender based factors etc are equally important.

6.     Adoption of proper design, water efficient models, user-friendly designs and easy to maintain models are essentially need to be given due weightage.

7.     Urban Peculiarity: Though the Urban areas are better placed both in the access to drinking water and also improved sanitation but the problems of water shortage coupled with socio –economic factors and scarcity of space make the problem peculiar and tough for local administrators in Urban Areas (Municipalities and Corporations) and requires a location and issue specific strategy.

8.     The other important aspect that is directly related to sustainable sanitation is the proper disposal of sewerage. In Urban areas where the issue of proper disposal of sewerage including treatment of sewerage and recycling of waste (which is also associated with bio gas production) are to be given due importance.  Same time in rural areas the safe and scientific disposal which includes even reuse of waste for agri-productivity can make a win –win situation for all stake holders of the programme.

9.     As most of the people lacking the toilet facilities are poor and below poverty line, adequate financial assistance either in cash or kind with fool proof disbursement mechanism, less complicated procedures without red-tape, proper monitoring etc. are equally important.

10.  Mothers at home and teachers at school: The role of mother in sanitation and hygiene is most crucial since it is only mothers who is not only   responsible for collecting water and caretakers of sickened family members mainly child due to water borne diseases but as a women she has particular needs for sanitation which makes her position very vital not only in imparting education but also in evolving workable strategy if allowed in decision making processes. Similarly the teachers at school can make a big difference in imparting education for sanitation though it is also ironical that still  about 20 % schools in India lack toilet facilities for girls.

11.  Behavioral Change: Apart from lack of awareness among stake holders about various issues of  Sustainable Sanitation Programme there is need to address the issue of behavioral change which requires to be tackled on top priority because it is not the illiterate and poor who are to be given adequate awareness but in many of the literate communities the well to do and educated people specially male still prefer to defecate in open in spite of having sanitary latrines. In addition to awareness there is need to address the behavioral issues related to sanitation specially open defecation  not only for the individuals but also for the social or political institutions like Gram sabha, panchayats, Khaps etc  where these issues can be addressed once they get social acceptability.

12.  As the provision of financial assistance for construction of toilets is one of the crucial factors for success of programmes there should be a provision of mandatory contribution either in kind or cash. The factors like cost of sanitation improvement and sanitary services including maintenance need to be examined and factored carefully before launching programme at massive scale.

13.  There is need to provide a proactive and supportive platform for the private sector to participate in the programme so that they can become partner not only to assist in capital works but also become partner on operational and maintenance related issues.

14.   As per 2011 survey by the Central Pollution Control Board only 160 out of 8,000 towns had both sewerage systems and a sewage treatment plants. Urban Local Bodies and Panchayats which have been adequately strengthened through 73rd and 74th Constitutional amendments should also be supported  and exhorted  to strengthen themselves through various reforms/initiatives specially for revenue realization which will  provide them opportunities and strength to design, execute and operate desired systems/ interventions.

15.  Proper incentives and rewards to organizations and individuals involved in the programme implementations and initiating new interventions in the areas of proper sanitation and hygiene related programmes should also become integral part of strategy.

16.  The past experiment relating to sanitation programme in West Bengal and Himachal Pradesh helped to highlight the importance of three factors ( also called Toilet Tripod ). These factors  are (1) multi-scalar political will on the part of both government and NGOs ; (2) proximate social pressure, i.e., person-to-person contact between rural inhabitants and toilets;  and (3) political ecology, i.e., assured access to water, compatible soil type, and changing land use  can  play a  crucial  role in the success of this programme.

17.  Last but not the least, a comprehensive strategy and effective policy with due consideration of all above mentioned issues with strong political will to tackle the issue cutting across the regional or political lines will certainly pave way for the achievement of optimum sanitation and ensure better hygienic conditions in the country.