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Friday, January 25, 2019

Our childhood friend, the sparrow is in sharp decline - what can you do ?

Urban sparrow populations have been in decline since automobiles began replacing horse-and-buggies (tangas) as the transportation of choice and thus deprived sparrows of the chance to dip into horses' feed.

Later, rural populations of sparrows began to drop as well; pesticides and changing land use patterns were all thought to be part of that story.

However, neither of these compared to the precipitous decline that began in urban areas in the early 1990s. The decline this time around has been upto 70 % of sparrow populations in many parts of the world including India, and is linked to exhaust fumes from vehicles, declining nutritious food and lack of suitable nesting sites.

Insects and worms that are a critical part of the sparrow chick diet have been vanishing because of cemented areas and pesticide use.

Vines and hedges are an important nesting resource for sparrows and these have declined in numbers as have thick trees away from lights, noise and pollution.

Many studies were consulted for the above information : here, here, here, here, here and here.

What are sparrows like ?

Sparrows roost communally. Their nests are usually grouped together in clumps.

They engage in social activities such as dust or water bathing and "social singing", in which birds call together in bushes. Much communal chirping occurs before and after the birds settle in the roost in the evening, as well as before the birds leave the roost in the morning.

House sparrows consume grains in fields and in storage. They do not move great distances into grain fields, preferring to stay close to the shelter of hedgerows.

Sparrows can perform complex tasks to obtain food, such as opening automatic doors to enter supermarkets.

The house sparrow is monogamous, and typically mates for life.

Young house sparrows remain in the nest for a fortnight and are fed mostly on insects and worms during this period.

If both parents happen to perish, the ensuing intensive begging sounds of the young often attract replacement parents which feed them until they can sustain themselves.

Mortality is highest during the first year of life. Few sparrows survive in the wild past their fifth season.

What can you Do ?

From 5 sparrows visiting / living near our house in 2011, we now have about 40 who live in our garden most of the year. The steps we took around our house and garden were : 

# Bajra feeding stations - as many as we had space for in different parts of the house.
# Deep water bowls filled with water to the brim so they can easily drink and also bathe in the water.
# Leftover food is collected in kitchen by scraping clear plates and karahis and given to birds in separate dishes. 
# All utensils are washed atleast once in 2-3 days but washed away from the kitchen.
# Nest boxes are put up and cleaned once a year too. 
# No pesticides are used in our garden so worms / insects possibly abound. 
# We dont disturb the birds by sharp sounds.
# We try to keep cats away though are not always successful. Cats eat 1-2 birds for hunger but kill many more for play. Other predators such as owls or shikras kill only for hunger so are fine.

Tuesday, January 22, 2019


In recent decades, the world’s use of fossil fuels (coal, oil, gas) is generating enough CO2 to heat our oceans equivalent to three to six Hiroshima bombs persecond, SECOND AFTER SECOND. With huge impacts on life on earth..

We have to bring down our use of fossil fuels as fast as possible. Governments cant do it because people want quality of life which currently seems to be linked to use of fossil fuels. We have to demonstrate that we can maintain our quality of life while reducing use of fossil fuels.

40 % of all CO2 emissions are caused by electricity generation from fossil fuels. We have tried out these 25 methods to gradually reduce our electricity use :

Home Lighting
  1. In the early 90s, we moved to using 60 W filament bulbs instead of 100 W.
  2. In mid-90s, we replaced nearly all our filament bulbs with CFLs, thus reducing per light load to 18 and 36 W from 60 W. Some bulbs stayed in special fittings and lamps as CFLs did not then come in those sizes.
  3. We were slow to move to LEDs unfortunately, because a lot of our early CFLs, then quite expensive, had had to be replaced for inferior quality. So we were waiting for assured quality. Also, we could not then find yellow light LEDs and could not stand white light. But now for the last 2 years or so, we buy only LEDs and are gradually replacing all bulbs as the past ones die out. All heavy use lights already have LEDs.
  4. We find our selves becoming more economical in the use of lighting. One light suffices where two were put on habitually earlier.
  5. Outside light is utilized to the maximum by hanging transparent plastic curtain on the doors which get a lot of light. This plastic curtain keeps out the cold air in winter and hot air in summer, while letting in light.
  6. Window glasses are curtained off for the night only at sleep time as until then they continue letting in outside light.
  7. In consultation with our neighbours, we keep less of the lights of our common corridor on.
  8. Two of our torches are solar.
Cooling home in summers
  1. Our mini honeycomb pad cooler uses just 90 W instead of the 350 W and above, for mid-sized woodwool coolers.
  2. We have just learnt that slower speeds in fans use much less electricity than full speed, so we will now use them at more optimum levels.
  3. We have just learnt about and started replacing old induction motor 90 W fans with new electronic motor 28 W fans – whenever old fans go out of order and cannot be repaired.
  4. Our AC use is 10 % compared to our neighbours and only on the hottest days for short durations. The coolers carry on cooling after the AC is shut off. Coolers even circulate the cool air to a second room if both are occupied.
  5. All sun receiving areas of the house are shaded during summer with green nursery cloth. Tirpals / roller blinds / plastic curtains are used, preferably outside the sun receiving windows, so the glass does not heat up.
Heating Home in Winters
  1. We have maximized sun use when it is comfortable to be outside. Our balcony / garden are equipped with electric point for laptop, table and chair, so one can spend long hours outside.
  2. Blowers and Oil Radiators use 1000 or 2000 W at a time. In contrast halogen rod heaters use 125-400 W rods for heating and one can use multiple rods for faster heating.
  3. But as we have become more conscious of what global warming implies, we find ourselves dressing up even more warmly at home – as a result, this winter we have not needed to use heaters at all.
  4. Hot water is used only for bathing, not for washing of hands or washing utensils. Ofcourse, someone unwell would use the hot water stored in the geyser for washing hands, or an especially dirty utensil would be washed in hot water.
  1. All computers are now switched off for the night as are spike busters connecting them to power sources.
  2. When we are getting up from our computers, we are more conscious to immediately put them to sleep while we are away.
Use of Appliances
  1. Having become more economical in our use of electricity, we now use the full capacity of an oven while baking rather than partially. For example, all shakarkandi (sweet potato) is baked together in larger quantitiy at a go.
  2. Washing Machines are ofcourse used only at full load.
  3. Hot things are not put inside the Fridge but allowed to come to room temperature before putting them in the fridge.
  4. Frozen foods are taken out some time before so they can attain room temperature before use.
  5. In summer, water from the fridge is mixed with normal temperature water in thermoses to get the right temperature for drinking water. The fridge does not have to be opened day long for drinking water then, thus conserving on electricity use. 
  6. My Dad and Us both have a floor each in Delhi, and uptil now, fridges were left on in both floors when my dad was away to nainital and we were in bhiwadi. We now shifted our fridge stuff that needs preserving onto a single tray that is placed in my father’s fridge, so one fridge is left on when we are away, not two.
As a result, we seemed to have more than halved our electricity bills to about 850-950 rs. a month.
However, there are lots of frontiers to reach still to reduce our use of electricity and we will work towards them :
  • The fridge is left on when we are away. We will apply our mind to see if we can shut it off when away, without wasting the food.
  • We want to use solar for more of our electricity needs and have been gradually exploring it.

Monday, January 21, 2019

But lots of criticisms too - and major ones..

Most of the changes suggested by the Rajya Sabha Select Committee on the Motor Vehicles Act Amendments Bill had been overlooked when it was tabled for approval again.

Under the existing Act, the third party insurer's liability for motor vehicle accidents is unlimited. The Bill, however, caps the maximum liability for third party insurance in case of death at Rs 10 lakh and at Rs 5 lakh in case of grievous injury caused by a motor accident. The Bill has also not considered circumstances where the parties involved may approach the court. If the court were to award a compensation higher than the prescribed cap, who will have to pay the balance?

The Bill will create a Motor Vehicle Accident Fund through which a compulsory insurance cover will be provided to all road users in India for certain types of accidents. However, a Solatium Fund already exists for compensating hit-and-run victims. What will happen to the existing fund is unclear.

One of the objections to the amendments in the Motor vehicles act bill is this : Clause 44 of the Bill sought to pass on the powers of registration of vehicle from the Regional Transport Office to private dealers. One MP said that while charges by RTO were anything between Rs 400-700, the dealers would charge anything between Rs 9,000 and Rs 15,000. However, a Hindu editorial said that it was an effort to curb institutionalised corruption at Regional Transport Offices by making it possible for dealers to directly register new vehicles.

The proposed insertion of Section 88A in the Act is also a bone of contention. This new provision empowers the Central Government to make schemes for national, multi-modal and inter-state transportation of goods or passengers. As per the present Act, the power to make scheme for inter-state transportation of goods or passengers is an exclusive domain of the states.

In the matter of issuance of contract carriage permits under Section 74, the amendment provides that the Regional Transport Authority may waive any of the statutory conditions in the interest of last mile connectivity in respect of type of vehicles specified by the Central Government. "Last mile connectivity" being a regional issue, States have wondered as to how Central Government can specify conditions regarding it.

Another bone of contention is the proposed insertion of Section 66A which empowers the Central Government to develop a "National Transportation Policy", for establishing a framework for grant of transport permits. The Section directs the Central Government to consult the State Governments before formulation of policy. However, that has not allayed the apprehensions of States regarding erosion of their power to decide on matters of permit, which is their exclusive domain as per the current Section 66. There is a demand to amend "consultation" as "concurrence" in Section 66A.

Minimum educational requirement for obtaining transport license has been done away with. Currently, Class VIII is the minimum educational requirement for transport license. The wisdom behind this move has been questioned, as transport license is used for driving heavy motor vehicles like trucks, buses etc, which have more potential for accidents.

Many civil society members and experts in the field of road safety are unhappy with the Bill, as it does not effectively address concerns over road safety. The "Road Safety Board" proposed by the Bill has only advisory powers. It is felt that India is in need of a separate "Road Safety Bill" to address concerns relating to road engineering and vehicle designs. Studies in the filed carried out by experts point out that major contributory factors for most accidents are inherent faults in road engineering and vehicle designs, rather than driver negligence.

The Road Safety Board proposed by the Amendment is an authority under the Government which lacks powers and autonomy.It is also felt that the proposal in the Amendment to enhance the penalties for traffic violations may not lead to desired results, unless root issues are addressed.

An amendment to Section 166 states that the claim petition has to be filed within six months of the date of accident. In the original Act passed in 1988, there was a similar provision. But the said provision fixing time limit was deleted as per 1994 amendment. Therefore, a claim could have been filed at any time, without any limitation. Now, that provision has been brought back. Significantly, the provision does not enable the tribunal to entertain belated application on any ground. It is settled law that a tribunal does not have the power to condone delay unless the Act specifically confers such power. Therefore, even if there are justifiable grounds for delay, the tribunal will be powerless to entertain the claim by condoning delay.

Many other provisions have been introduced which dilute the claims by claimants. 

Tapan Sen, general secretary of CITU, says the proposed Bill, if enacted will pave the way for destruction of state-owned public transport corporations, wherever it is there. It will expedite the process of complete privatization of public transport system and take-over of them by big private corporates leading to monopolization and enhancement of the public transport fares to the detriment interest of the common working people.

The original proposed bill had come under severe criticism in 2015 itself. Those opposing included Transport Workers Unions, Associations comprising of small and medium scale vehicle maintenance shops and public sector unions. These agencies say that the real intention of the bill is to privatize public transport, destroy small scale enterprises in favor of big businesses, privatize the licensing services provided by the state. 

General Secretary of Chennai Metropolitan Transport Corporation Transport Workers Union had said that the goal of this Act is to facilitate corporate takeover of various aspects of the Motor Vehicle industry. The goal is to purge all small businesses allied to motor vehicles and to destroy public transportation.

Tamil Nadu state has declared certain regions as ‘monopoly areas’ where only government agencies can operate public buses – these are metropolitan areas of Chennai city, Kanyakumari district and Nilagiri district . The new Bill will remove these monopolies.

Anybody, including Government bodies, seeking to run public buses will have to get a permit from a ‘National Authority’. All authority regarding granting permits, licences, imposing fines etc. will be vested with the National Authority. Jurisdiction over motor vehicles is in the concurrent list, which means that both the central and state governments can make laws on the subject. But through this Bill,all the rights which the state governments had in the matter of transportation will be taken away. These rights will be taken from the state government by the Central government and given to the National Authority. 

The Tamil Nadu state government earns 14000 crore rupees annually from motor vehicle taxes and fees, which will be lost under the new Act. 

The General Secretary said that th Act will destroy public transportation as we know it. Private businesses will not run public transport under the current terms and conditions. 30 lakh students travel for free on buses(by State Government Scheme). The new Act will severely limit transportation available for the poor and working class. In rural areas, students travel to schools and colleges that are far from their villages. Under the new system, they might have to pay at least 40 rupees a day to go to school, which they will not be able to afford. As a result they may be forced to stop going to school.

Another change this Bill makes is to eliminate the position of ‘conductor’ in buses. On being questioned about this change, Union transport minister Nitin Gadkari responded that there were no conductors in foreign countries like Singapore and US. But we all know that in Indian conditions, one does need conductors. Even with a conductor in a bus, people have to be asked ten times to buy their ticket. Will the same people now put their fare in a box on their own and pick up their ticket? Further, lakhs of conductors will lose their jobs. Has any arangement for alternate employment been made for them?

This Bill will shut shop of all motor vehicle mechanics and small spare parts manufacturers. This is because the Bill mandates that vehicles can only be repaired in repair shops run by the manufacturer of the vehicle. 

If the government wants to increase fines and punishments for traffic violations, that can be done within the framework of the 1980 Act. Instead, that Act is being overturned. 

Crores of people will be affected by this Bill, not just \mechanics. If you consider an auto rickshaw, people working on various parts of it, like painters, welders etc will also be affected. What alternate employment does the government envisage for them? 

After running for a prescribed number of years, under the new Act, a vehicle is supposed to be ‘condemned’ and can not be used any more. Today, 60% of the public buses on our roads are those that would be called condemned buses under the new Act. If this Bill becomes law, these 60% buses will have to be scrapped. 

But in our current reality, we can not afford to scrap those buses, because we do not have money to buy new buses. So, we are managing by repairing and patching up the existing buses. The transport corporations are in a tough situation financially. They have to provide free passes to students, whose cost has amounted to 6000 crore rupees. If the government gave the transport corporation this amount, maybe we could use that to buy buses. The corporation has to spend on retirement benefits (PF, garatuity) for its employees, and that amount is 4000-5000 crore rupees. Today, workers have to wait for as much as 2 years after retirement to get their PF. In such a financial situation, how can we buy new buses?

It will be impossible for state transport corporations to operate under the proposed new regime. If the corporation loses out to private players, the common citizen and workers will lose. The private players will not run buses at the rates we have today. 

Another group that will be affected is drivers of auto-rickshaws and taxis. Unlike today, drivers would not be able to operate their own auto-rickshaws or taxis. Under the new Bill, taxis and autos can only be operated as part of a bigger business. 

The policies of globalization are those preferring the biggest businesses and corporations of the world. And Modi is in a hurry to implement those policies. In realities, these policies are meant to defraud the people of this country. Big investors come to our country and use our land, our energy resources, our water and so on, and earn thousands of crores of rupees of profit. But when their period of high earning runs out, they leave, even defaulting on tax payments to the government. They leave in search of places which offer them even better deals. The state endlessly offers concessions to these big businesses, who earn profits and then leave squeezing out all they can earn. The new Bill seeks to reproduce this phenomena in the auto work and public transportation sectors. 

The same points are repeated against the motor vehicles act amendments in 2018 in this article

Positives to the pending bill for amending the motor vehicles act..

The Motor Vehicle Act of 1988 has not been updated ever since it first came into being. It has been hotly debated since being proposed by the BJP Government. Below are the positives of the proposed amendments :

The amendment bill now pending in the Rajya Sabha proposes huge increases in various penalties for traffic violations, protection to Good Samaritans, recall of defective vehicle parts by auto companies, holding builders accountable for poor quality of infrastructure and making vehicle owners criminally liable for violations committed by juvenile drivers. But only 3 out of 92 clauses refer to road safety.

1) It makes Aadhaar mandatory for getting a driving licence and vehicle registration.

2) For deaths in hit-and-run cases, the government will provide a compensation of Rs 2 lakh or more to the victim's family. Currently, the amount is just Rs 25,000.

3) In traffic violations by juveniles, the guardians or owner of the vehicle would be held responsible unless they prove the offence was committed without their knowledge or they tried to prevent it. The registration of the motor vehicle in question will be cancelled. The juvenile will be tried under the Juvenile Justice Act.

4) The bill has provision for protection of Good Samaritans. Those who come forward to help accident victims will be protected from civil or criminal liability. It will be optional for them to disclose their identity to the police or medical personnel.

5) The minimum fine for drunk driving has been increased from Rs 2,000 to Rs 10,000.

6) The fine for rash driving has been increased from Rs 1,000 to Rs 5,000.

7) Driving without a licence will attract a minimum fine of Rs 5,000 as against Rs 500 at present.

8) The fine for over-speeding will go up from Rs 400 to Rs 1,000-2,000.

9) Not wearing seatbelt would attract a fine of Rs 1,000 as against Rs 100 at present.

10) Talking on a mobile phone while driving will attract a fine of Rs 5,000, up from Rs 1,000.

11) It will be mandatory to alter vehicles to make them suitable for specially abled people.

12) Contractors, consultants and civic agencies will be accountable for faulty design, construction or poor maintenance of roads leading to accidents.

13) The time limit for renewal of driving licence is increased from one month to one year before and after the expiry date. Online applications for driving licences have been enabled.

A Hindu editorial says that the changes to the motor vehicles act will enable centrally-drafted schemes to be issued for national, multi-modal and inter-State movement of goods and passengers, for rural mobility and even last-mile connectivity. Since all this represents a new paradigm that would shake up the sector, several States have opposed the provisions as being anti-federal.

The passenger transport sector operating within cities and providing inter-city services has grown amorphously, with vested interests exploiting the lack of transparency and regulatory bottlenecks. With a transparent system, professional new entrants can enter the sector. As things stand, State-run services have not kept pace with the times. Major investments made in the urban metro rail systems are yielding poor results in the absence of last-mile connectivity services.

Creating an equitable regulatory framework for the orderly growth of services is critical. This could be achieved through changes to the motor vehicle Act that set benchmarks for States. Enabling well-run bus services to operate across States with suitable permit charges is an imperative to meet the needs of a growing economy.

Regulatory changes introduced in Europe over the past few years for bus services have fostered competition, reduced fares and increased services operating across European Union member-states.

Some states have taken steps to improve road safety. Haryana, for example, launched the Vision Zero programme in 2017 which is aimed at reducing road traffic accident fatalities to zero in the long term. It seems to have made a difference already as 10 districts where it was rolled out have reported up to 5% decline in road accident fatalities while the other 12 districts have witnessed an increase in such deaths. This month, Delhi’s state government approved a similar policy; it commits to a 10% reduction in accident deaths annually and targets a “zero road fatality” in the long run.

Dont become a statistic in India's road accidents database..

Unsafe roads are a public health hazard, approaching, in India’s case, an epidemic that not only kills and maims, often for life, but also harms the country’s economic health.

According to a study by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific, road traffic accidents cost India nearly 3% of its gross domestic product a year. 

There were a total of 4.81 lakh accidents in India in 2016, leading to about 1.5 lakh deaths. India has only about 2% of the world’s motor vehicles but accounts for over 12% of its traffic accident deaths, making the Indian road network the most unsafe on the planet. 

More than 400 persons die daily in road accidents in India.

During the year 2010, they were 5 lakh road accidents in India, which resulted in more than 1.3 lakh dead and inflicted injuries on 5.2 lakh persons. Nearly one-fourth the total accidents resulted in fatalities. 

These numbers translate into one road accident every minute, and one road accident death every 4 minutes. Unfortunately more than half the victims are in the economically active age group of 25 to 65 years. The loss of the main breadwinner can be catastrophic.

What was worse was that over time, more of the accidents were becoming fatal and no. of fatalities per 100 accidents climbed drastically (from 20 in 2001 to 27 in 2010).

Between 1970 and 2010, there was an increase of more than 100% in road accidents. However the number of accidents per 10,000 vehicles declined by 95 % in the same period - from 814 in 1970 to 42 in 2009. The number of persons injured per 10,000 vehicles also plummeted from 500 in 1970 to about 45 in 2009. Similarly, the number of persons killed per 10,000 vehicles in the country has also fallen from about 104 in 1970 to less than 11 in 2009.

Accidents increased by about 20 % per 10,000 kms of road length between 1970 and 2008.  But the number of persons injured and killed per ten thousand kilometres of road length has more than doubled since 1970. Modern road systems are largely designed for the motor vehicles, exposing vulnerable road users to greater risk of accidents.

In 2010, Gujarat and Kerala had a much lower percentage of fatalities in comparison to the percentage of vehicle ownership in their states. But the no. of accidents per thousand vehicles was the highest in Karnataka, Kerala and Madhya Pradesh (from 65-79).

Goa and Kerala had the lowest fatalities per 100 accidents (7 and 11 respectively). Punjab had the highest at 64.

When comparing accidents among major cities, an important accident related parameter is the extent of accident severity (road accident related deaths per 100 accidents). It varies from a low of 2 in Mumbai to a high of 69 in Varanasi.

recent report shows that most accidents in India involve “newest vehicles”! Those vehicles that had been used for 0-5 years played a part in 40 per cent of road accidents in 2016, while those that had been on the roads for 5-10 years were involved in 33 percent of accidents.

The main reasons for deaths that have been documented in road accidents include poor driving skills and what you see on most roads – rule violations and indiscretion. Speeding is the reason for 67 percent of all road accidents, accounting for 61 percent of deaths.

Nearly a fourth each of accidents involve two wheelers and trucks. Cars are involved in 22 % of the accidents. Buses in 10 % and autos in 8 %. 58 % of the accidents were caused due to exceeding legal limits for driving, 22 % due to overcrowding, and 8 % due to substance abuse. 

Road traffic injuries (RTIs) have become one of the leading causes of deaths, disabilities and hospitalizations which impose severe socio-economic costs across the world. RTIs in 2004 were the 9th leading cause of death and at current rates by 2030, are expected to be the 5th leading cause of death, overtaking diabetes and HIV/AIDS.

Globally, the countries that have succeeded in reducing road accident deaths have done so by enacting strong laws for road safety. India, on the other hand, has been trying to strengthen its road safety legislation for three decades, to no avail.

The main thrust of accident prevention and control across the world has been on 4 Es, vis. (i) Education, (ii) Enforcement, (iii) Engineering and (iv) Environment and Emergency care of road accident victims. 

The Ministry has a scheme titled “Two days refresher training to heavy motor vehicle drivers in unorganized sector” to inculcate safe driving habits and to acquaint the drivers with the rules on roads. As against 16,000 drivers trained during Ninth Five year Plan, nearly 2 lakh drivers were trained during Tenth Five Year Plan. The Ministry intended to train around 80,000 drivers during 2011-12.


Our rules for using public transport include - leave more than enough time to reach the station / airport and be well planned for the travel.

Our rules for using private transport include : Maximise tasks to be done in any one direction to increase efficiency, carry food and water for the journey, inform people close to you that you are on the road so there are less calls also, drive uptil 70 kms on highway to allow for other drivers making a mistake, dont change lanes often, dont change lanes without signalling, use horns only in emergency.

Sunday, January 20, 2019

What has the Bihar Government been upto ?

In Dec 2019, Nitish Kumar said : न्मेरा कॉन्सेप्ट रहा है कि जिस प्रकार से केंद्र सरकार के बाद राज्य सरकार है, उसी प्रकार से राज्य सरकार के बाद पंचायत सरकार भी हो ताकि गांधी जी के विकेंद्रीकरण का सपना पूरा हो सके। इसी के तहत पंचायत सरकार भवनों का निर्माण कराया जा रहा है। पहले राजस्व कर्मचारी को खोजना पड़ता था, अब उनके बैठने की जगह निर्धारित कर दी गयी है। इसके साथ ही पंचायत सरकार भवन से आय, आवासीय, जाति प्रमाण पत्र जैसी 52 सेवाओं का लाभ भी लोगों को मिलेगा, जिसके लिए उन्हें प्रखंड कार्यालय जाना पड़ता था। लोक सेवाओं का अधिकार कानून के तहत मिलने वाली सेवाओं से संबंधित आवेदन अब पंचायत सरकार भवन से ही ऑनलाइन हस्तांतरित करने की सुविधा उपलब्ध कराई जा रही है। इसके अलावा लोक शिकायत निवारण अधिकार अधिनियम के लिए ऑनलाइन आवेदन भी अब पंचायत सरकार भवन से कर सकते हैं, जिसकी पावती रसीद आवेदकों को दी जाएगी।

I was reminded of my work in 10 MP villages where also panchayat bhawans had been made. I did not see a single service being given or panchayat members present in the panchayat bhawans for 4 months. BJP govt. wld have made these bhawans as 'symbols' of progress and perhaps to siphon off money from the constructions. But I saw absolutely no monitoring by any higher government officials and complaints had no effect.

Modi ka vikalp kaun - is tarah ke bemani sawal khali baithe log karte rehte hain. nitish, chandrababu naidu aur bahut se neta modi se kahin zyada paripakva aur yogya hai. modi ne siwai apni barai aur doosron ki burai ke alawa, hamare desh ke hit ka koi kaam kiya ho to mujhe dikha nahin ab tak. swach bharat abhiyan ko chor kar.

nitish ne age aur kaha : मुख्यमंत्री ग्राम परिवहन योजना के तहत हर पंचायत में 5 वाहन खरीदने के लिए प्रति वाहन 50 प्रतिशत या अधिकत्तम एक लाख रुपये की सहायता प्रदान की जा रही है। इसमें 3 अनुसूचित जाति/जनजाति और 2 अतिपिछड़ा वर्ग के लोग शामिल हैं। उन्होंने कहा कि हर घर नल का जल, हर घर शौचालय, हर घर तक पक्की गली और नाली निर्माण की दिशा में काम तेजी से आगे बढ़ रहा है। हमलोगों ने इस साल के 31 दिसंबर तक हर इच्छुक परिवार तक बिजली का कनेक्शन पहुंचाने का लक्ष्य तय किया था जो ऊर्जा विभाग की सक्रियता के कारण 25 अक्टूबर को ही पूरा कर लिया गया। उन्होंने कहा कि बिहार में बिजली आने से भूत भी भाग गया और लालटेन भी खत्म हो गया। पहले लोग ढिबरी और लालटेन पर काम चलाते थे और अंधेरे में घर से बाहर निकलने से रोकने के लिए अपने बच्चों को भूत का भय दिखाते थे। मुख्यमंत्री ने कहा कि अब 31 दिसंबर 2019 तक हर इच्छुक किसान को सिंचाई के लिए बने कृषि फीडर से बिजली मुहैया कराने के साथ ही बिजली के जर्जर तारों को बदलने का लक्ष्य हमलोगों ने निर्धारित किया है।

मुख्यमंत्री ने कहा कि न्याय के साथ विकास में हमारा यकीन है और विकास के साथ-साथ हम समाज सुधार का भी काम करते हैं। उन्होंने कहा कि शराबबंदी से लोगों को काफी फायदा हुआ है इसलिए पूरी सजगता के साथ निरंतर अभियान चलना चाहिए। शराब का चोरी छिपे सेवन करने वाले या इसके अवैध धंधे में लगे लोगों की शिकायत आप अपने मोबाइल के जरिये बिजली के खम्भों पर लिखे गए नम्बर पर दे सकते हैं। सूचना देने वालों का नाम गोपनीय रखा जाएगा। साथ ही कार्रवाई के संबंध में भी शिकायतकर्ता का फीडबैक लिया जाएगा। जनसभा में मौजूद लोगों को संकल्प दिलाते हुए मुख्यमंत्री ने कहा कि सबसे जरूरी है बच्चों को पढ़ाना इसलिए अपने बच्चों को अवश्य पढ़ाइये और इंटरमीडिएट से आगे की पढ़ाई के लिए स्टूडेंट क्रेडिट कार्ड के तहत मिलने वाले 4 लाख रुपये के ऋण का जरूरत पड़ने पर लाभ भी लीजिये। उन्होंने कहा कि पढ़ाई पूरी करने के बाद अगर रोजगार नहीं मिलता है तो वैसी स्थिति में ऋण माफ करने पर भी विचार किया जाएगा।

nitish ne yeh bhi kaha : बिहार के 22 जिले बाढ़ प्रभावित होने के कारण अधिकांश विभागीय अधिकारी उसी में लगे रहते थे, जिसके कारण सिंचाई परियोजनाएं लम्बित पड़ी रहती थीं और 100 करोड़ की परियोजना 1000 करोड़ तक पहुंच जाती थी। दुर्गावती परियोजना को पूरा करने में 800 करोड़ रुपये खर्च करने पड़े है। उन्होंने कहा कि अब सिंचाई विभाग को दो हिस्से में बांटकर बाढ़ नियंत्रण और सिंचाई का काम अलग-अलग सौंप दिया गया है, जिसके परिणामस्वरूप वर्षों से लम्बित पड़ी सिंचाई परियोजनाएं पूरी हुई हैं।

Saturday, January 19, 2019


My husband and I don’t yet live on a property where it is feasible to personally store rainwater from our roof or to direct it below ground (although our residential complex does filter rainwater and allows it to seep down).  Neither does our property nor the complex have arrangements to redirect cleaned wastewater for flushing – though the wastewater is used for lawns.

Below are 27 methods we use to save water every day of our lives. It is worth remembering that it is only 60 % sustained reduction in water use that kept the taps in Capetown in South Africa, running last year. Water is short all over the globe, and tremendously in India :

Kitchen Use
  1. Utensils such as trays and plates for tea cups are washed just with water as they are not dirty.
  2. Oily utensils are wiped with newspaper cut outs and washed after that.
  3. We constantly remind our staff to open the kitchen tap very little while washing utensils. They have been even fined for ignoring these instructions persistently.
  4. Cut newspaper is used to soak up spills or dirty kitchen surfaces so there is less washing to do of cleaning dusters.
  5. The foolish idea that stored drinking water becomes ‘stale’ overnight and is to be thrown is not followed at our place.
  6. Water left in a glass or thermos is emptied in a bucket to be re-used.
  7. RO wastewater is collected in a bucket via the waste pipe of RO made longer. The water is used for washing utensils / pocha / soaking clothes or with plants.
  8. Guests are each given different design glasses so they can hold on to them for drinking water for the duration of their stay.
Domestic Use
  1. We never wash any part of the floors.
  2. We do pocha (swabbing) only of visibly unclean parts and only when they appear dirty.
  3. When feasible, pocha water is reused with plants.
  4. Many clothes are aired and re-used. Or soaked in a small amount of water for 30 min, wrung and dried. Only some portion of the clothes we wear everyday are put in the washing machine.
  5. Same with pillow covers, sheets and blankets. Both sides of the material are used in turn and occasionally violently dusted outside. Only when a material has thus been used, it is then washed.
  6. Carpets and sofa covers are dusted with teela jharoo (rough broom) kept for just this purpose. When occasionally grimy, they are cleaned off with hotwater and powder soap, thus saving on washing them. Very rarely do they have to be washed.
  7. No leaks or drips in taps are tolerated. They are immediately repaired, and until then, that tap is kept closed.
Personal Hygiene
  1. Concentrated liquid soap takes a lot of water to wash off. So we dilute it by about 100 percent.
  2. A mug near the sink is used to fill water from tap and used for washing of face or brushing, rather than let the water run on in the tap.
  3. Little water is used for bathing.
  4. While waiting for hot water to arrive in the faucet, the cold water is gathered in a bucket and re-used for soaking clothes or swabbing.
  5. Only as much water as needed is used for flushing by using the dual control switch of the flush tank.
Car and Garden
  1. We wash our car in less than one bucket of water.
  2. We use treated wastewater to water our lawns if available on day and time of watering.
  3. The garden and the house is shaded with large green nursery cloth during summer, lessening the need for watering.
  4. A lot of ‘mulch’ is left on the soil – compost, and even fallen leaves in side kyaris which again help keep soil from drying out, lessening the need for watering.
  5. We grow hardy trees and vines apart from some palms and moneyplants. Not delicate plants that would need constant misting and humid environment.
Water for cooling during summers
  1. We use small honeycomb pad coolers that use only 15 ltrs over 8 hours compared to normal medium sized woodwool coolers that use 100 ltrs overnight.
  2. Because we keep our home well shaded in summer day time, and open to cool breeze night long, we need coolers and even fans much less than our neighbours :
    1. The hard surfaces of the house like parking area which may get hot in day time, are kept shaded with green cloth.
    2. The windows and doors that might receive sun or even hot winds are kept closed in the day and shaded OUTSIDE by plastic curtains / roller blinds / chiks / tirpals.
    3. The roof is kept cool by thick cream / white tirpal spread out over the surface of the roof.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Only 6 countries draw 50 % or more of their total energy from non-fossil fuel sources

Am I glad to be proven wrong ! Electricity generation to the extent of 70-100 % of fully 21 countries was from renewable sources in 2016. 

50-70 % of the electricity generation of another 27 countries was from renewable sources. so thats close to 50 countries in the world whose generation of electricity 50 % and above is from renewables. 

30-50 % of the electricity generated in a further 16 countries was from renewables. 

20-30 % of the electricity generated in a further 15 countries was from renewables. 

Thus 79 of the 195 countries in the world, i.e. 40 %, now have atleast 20 % of their total electricity generation from renewables. We need to ramp this up !

But when looked at another way - fossil fuel consumption as a % of total energy consumption - then the picture is disappointing. Only 21 countries in the world use 20 % or more of their total energy in the form of non-fossil fuels. And only SIX countries draw 50 % or more of their total energy from non-fossil fuel sources. 

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Six countries now generate 70-100 % of their energy from renewables !

A recent study by Stanford University researchers predicted that the world could be powered entirely by renewable energy in just 20 to 40 years from now.

Iceland generates the most clean electricity per person on earth, with 100% of its energy coming from renewable sources.

Costa Rica is among the top renewable energy users, with 99% of its electricity needs coming from hydroelectric, geothermal, and wind

Close behind is Norway, with 98% of electricity coming from renewable resources, mostly hydropower.

Thanks to a supportive regulatory environment and a strong partnership between the public and private sector, Uruguay has invested heavily in wind and solar power, without using subsidies or increasing consumer costs. And as a result, it now boasts a national energy supply that’s 95% renewables-powered, achieved in less than 10 years.

Thanks to government investment in wind, solar, and geothermal energy, Nicaragua's aim of being 90% renewables-powered by the year 2020 appears to be an achievable goal.

Kenya has invested heavily in geothermal energy production, which accounted for more than half their energy mix in 2015. They also have Africa’s largest wind farm, providing another 20% of their installed electricity generating capacity.

In 2015, Sweden threw down the gauntlet with an ambitious goal: eliminating fossil fuel usage within its borders. They’ve increased their investment in solar power, wind power, energy storage, smart grids, and clean transport.

Denmark aims to be 100% fossil-fuel-free by 2050 and it plans to use wind power to achieve that goal. They already set a world record in 2014, producing almost 40% of their overall electricity needs from wind power and the latest figures put them firmly on track to meet their first goal of obtaining 50% of their electricity from renewables by the year 2020.

Using a combination of grid-connected wind farms and standalone turbines, the United Kingdom now generates more electricity from wind farms than from coal power plants. 

The United States of America has one of the world’s largest installed solar photo-voltaic capacities and an installed wind energy capacity second only to China. But it is also one of the world’s biggest energy consumers, which tends to cancel out much of its renewable capacity. Nevertheless, if more attention was paid to renewables over fossil fuels, it has been estimated that the U.S. could reduce its emissions by almost 80% in only 15 years, without impacting on consumer electricity costs.

Acknowledgement : The above post has been reworked from information given on this page.

Obstacles in the path of Green Energy in India

Despite the compelling reasons for India to follow a green path into the future, serious obstacles remain, not least the sorry state of the country’s coal-fired power industry, currently forced to slow its operations by a surplus of electricity in the market.

“These guys are hurting,” an analyst says, and that has knock-on effects for India’s slowing economy. “They have taken loans, and they can’t sell electricity, so they can’t repay the loans. And if they can’t repay the banks, the banks have no money to lend for more growth.” Recent months have seen a backlash against renewables, with intensified lobbying for coal.

Another analyst says: “We’ll [do] it because we don’t have that much high-quality coal. We are already hitting high pollution [levels]. We already have issues with imports, and so energy security is a big factor. All of those things will lead us to moderate (the use of coal for energy).”

The key to raising low-cost finance in India (for green energy) is by reducing risks for large foreign and domestic investors as well as by raising funds from the domestic and foreign retail market. Instruments like payment security mechanism – that ensures the investor will be paid for the amount of energy fed into the grid even if the DISCOM defaults – and a government-sponsored foreign exchange hedging facility to reduce the risk of currency fluctuation, can go a long way in increasing the confidence of investors and thereby reduce the costs of finance. Similarly, raising funds from the market via green bonds, etc., can also become an important source.

The MNRE has fixed the maximum permissible tariff at ₹2.68 per unit. A developer who did not wish to be quoted said the proposal for tariff cap would “kill the market” considering the rupee nearing an all-time low of 72 against US dollar. He added that the projects bagged at ₹2.44 last year are already suffering as shipments of photo-voltaic modules ordered for those projects have to be cleared now, at an effective exchange rate.

The National Solar Energy Federation of India has appealed to Minister of Power and New and Renewable Energy RK Singh to intervene to get private solar developers that have commissioned projects in Karnataka their payments.

The projects with power purchase agreements signed with Solar Energy Corporation of India, have been commissioned and are feeding power to the grid. But the power producers have not been receiving payments due to the delay in assigning scheduled commissioning date for these projects.

According to industry sources, the projects of major players such as Hero Future, Adani Group, ACME, and Actis, with a cumulative capacity of 970 MW, are stuck. This means around ₹6,000-crore loans could become non-performing if the matter is not resolved.

China is now the global leader in solar, wind, and hydro energy capacity

China is now at the forefront of the renewable energy transition, and the One Belt One Road (OBOR) is serving as a conduit to export this expertise and technology throughout Asia.

While 75 percent of the electricity in China is still coming from coal-fired power plants, this is a state of affairs that is changing fast. The construction of at least 85 new coal-fired power plants has already been cancelled and the development and proliferation of new renewable energy sources has rapidly been taking their place.

The results from this have been revolutionary, as China is now the global leader in solar, wind, and hydro energy capacity, investing more in renewable energy each year than the U.S. and EU combined. 

In 2017, China increased this commitment by pledging to invest an additional $360 billion in renewable energy prior to 2020, and, according to a recent report by the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA), last year alone China pumped over $44 billion into increasing its renewable energy reach.

This model of renewables replacing coal is now being replicated throughout Asia. According to the IEEFA, 55 GW worth of new coal-fired power went online in 2016, while 165 GW of new energy capacity was renewables.

China is also expanding its renewable energy transition overseas along the routes of the Belt and Road, and has already invested $32 billion in renewable energy projects abroad.

Chinese companies currently account for roughly 60 percent of the world's solar equipment production, and firms like Longi, Hareon Solar, Tongwei, JA Solar, and Jinko Solar are rapidly expanding overseas in conjunction with the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). Among other endeavors, Longi is currently setting up a 500 MW solar manufacturing operation in India.

However, while China is making considerable strides spreading renewable energy internationally, it must be stated here that the Belt and Road is also facilitating the spread of coal power. In 2017, China was involved in 240 coal-fired power plants in 25 of the BRI's 65 countries.

Looking for new ways to mobilize private capital for green and other low-carbon development projects, China began issuing green bonds in 2015. Hardly a year later, China was the world's leader in this market, issuing an additional $36.2 billion of green bonds — a full 39 percent of the global share.

China's green bonds are generating funds for initiatives aiming to develop and promote cleaner transportation, pollution control, conservation, recycling, and ecological protection, in addition to renewable energy.
Chinese banks will be as committed to green criteria in their overseas lending activities as they have been in the domestic market, in conformity with the Green Credit Guidelines issued by the China Banking Regulatory Commission in February 2012. These guidelines specified how to integrate sustainability practices into the lending cycle and directed banks to apply them to both domestic and overseas financing.

The recommendations published by the Peoples' Bank Of China’s (PBOC) task force on establishing a green financial system should also be reassuring to those who are concerned about environmental best practice in China’s international investment. The PBOC’s report insists that the lending mechanisms supporting OBOR “cannot become channels for Chinese companies to offload outdated and polluting capacities to other Asian developing countries”.

China's One Belt One Road is changing Asia

“One Belt” refers to the Silk Road Economic Belt where China plans to invest heavily in infrastructure to underpin its long-term presence in Eurasia. “One Road”, meanwhile, is the 21st century maritime Silk Road which will call for the construction of ports and maritime facilities from the Pacific Ocean to the Baltic Sea. 

Map of Asia, showing the OBOR initiative
  China  Members of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank  The six Belt and Road corridors  Maritime silk roadImage from here.

The initiative serves two key economic objectives for China. First, it creates demand overseas for China’s excess capacity in areas such as steel, cement and aluminium. The number of cross-border co-operation projects envisaged by the Silk Road plan already exceed 900 projects and involve 64 different countries. The total investment value of these projects — most of which are concentrated in the infrastructure sector — is estimated at $890bn.

In 2014, China’s outward direct investment exceeded the foreign direct investment it attracted for the first time. 

Beyond South Asia, the other economic corridors which are part of the huge One Belt, One Road plan will have important repercussions for economic growth and infrastructure investment in countries ranging from Mongolia and Russia to the five Central Asian republics of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan, as well as in the Middle East and parts of Europe. 

The Silk Road project could kick-start a virtuous circle for infrastructure finance across the region by strengthening credit ratings, supporting the evolution of local capital markets and making projects more bankable. 

“You only need to visit China and use the high-speed rail system to see that it is starting to lead the world in terms of infrastructure development,” says HSBC’s Dickens. “China is now focused on starting to export some of that technological and construction experience. Be it in high speed rail, nuclear or renewables, China has a lot of knowledge as well as capital to put to work across the world.”

How Long Ago Is a Trillion Seconds?

I read this astonishing figure :

How Long Ago Is a Trillion Seconds?

If you count backward, then:

1 million seconds = 12 days ago
1 billion seconds = 31 years ago
1 trillion seconds = 30,000 B.C.

I discovered that a trillion dollars is a big deal - In 2014, the Gross World Product (same as global GDP) was around US$78.28 trillion in nominal terms and totalled approximately 107.5 trillion international dollars in terms of purchasing power parity (PPP).

In 2018, India's GDP was estimated to be 3 trillion dollars and 10 trillion in terms of PPP (so India would be 9 % of the world's economy in PPP terms and 4 % in nominal dollar terms).

Monday, January 14, 2019

BJP's narrow focus on environment and over-reach on the International Solar Alliance

The BJPs guide for environmental management in its 2014 manifesto for the general election, interestingly, finds mention under the subject “industry” instead of “Flora, Fauna and Environment”. The emphasis on framing of environmental laws in a manner that encourages speedy clearances, removal of red tape and bottlenecks, is a sure indicator of diluted scrutiny of development projects at the time of clearance.

The BJP manifesto further focuses on the management of natural resources with respect to more marketable commodities which can earn high returns, such as coal and minerals. Natural resources such as forests and water barely find mention.

But it did have the right words for responding to climate change : One earth, green earth: Creating the right environment - BJP would pursue national growth objectives through an ecological sustainable pathway that leads to mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions, recognizing that containing global warming is essential to protecting life and security of people and environment.

India took a lead in the International Solar Alliance (ISA), launched at the Paris climate change conference in 2015. Headquartered in Gurgaon and with 75 signatory countries, the ISA will help in the transfer of solar technologies across members. ISA’s mission is to undertake joint efforts required to reduce the cost of finance and the cost of technology, and mobilise more than $1,000 billion of investments needed by 2030 for massive deployment of solar energy. But expert opinion says the ISA has not achieved much - It has not had any impact, good or bad, on the Indian solar sector. It is more of a public relation exercise at this point.

Before the launch of the ISA, there already was a Global Solar Council from 2012 with much the same objectives and membership of a large no. of countries.

Modi said in Oct 2018 that : "Today ISA has become big hope for people. In three years, it has become an inter-governmental organisation. 125 crore Indians feel pride that ISA is headquartered in India. I think whenever people would discuss a big organisation for human development then ISA would to on the top of the list. Whatever role OPEC is playing today to meet the energy requirement of the world, that would be played by ISA in coming days."

Modi's statements in regard to ISA show how much of an over-reach his volubility is - there is no relationship with facts on the ground. ISA is a good initiative on renewal energy, but it is just one more alongside many others in the world. Moreover it hasnt even taken off, much less to be spoken about in these seemingly false terms. 

The insurance industry and fossil fuels..

The increasing frequency and severity of extreme weather events across the globe has been noted by studies. The specific types of weather events include hurricanes, extreme precipitation, tornadoes, landslides, mudflows, drought, wild fires, heat waves, flash floods and rising sea levels.

It is sobering to realize that only a little over a fourth of the losses due to natural disasters In 2016 were covered by insurance. That is, over a 100 billion pounds worth of losses in 2016, were not covered by insurance and the owners of the assets or services affected, had to bear those losses.

The increasing severity of weather events has been linked to continued fossil fuel use, dumping more and more CO2 every day in the earth's atmosphere, increasing its 'blanket' such that the heat from the sun cannot fully be released back into space.

The insurance industry is one of the world’s biggest institutional investors in fossil fuels.

In the United States, the city of San Francisco has potentially become the first US municipal body to try to force insurance companies to stop insuring and investing in fossil fuels.

Fossil fuels were long considered a ‘safe bet’ until climate scientists declared that the bulk of all known reserves had to stay in the ground if humanity is to limit global warming to 1.5ºC. The risk lies in these fossil fuel investments becoming what is known as stranded assets, which essentially means investments in coal, oil and gas could potentially suffer from a sudden and unexpected drop in value as society puts measures in place to prevent their use.

Whether it’s a drop in demand, new legislation or the threat of legal action, the sheer speed and unanticipated manner in which these factors could take hold could, at some point in the not to distant future, render the bulk of the insurance industry’s fossil fuel investments worthless.

There is also the question of what the insurance industry chooses to insure, or rather, not insure. Fossil fuel companies can’t operate their facilities or build new power plants without insurance coverage. They depend on insurers to cover the legal, financial and natural risks of their projects. Coal has been highlighted as the most carbon heavy of all fossil fuels generating not only nearly half of the world’s CO2, but also creating the most atmospheric pollution.

Researchers have concluded that we cannot afford to build any new coal power plants and have to retire existing plants early in order to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement and avoid the worst impacts of runaway climate change. Yet there are currently 1,600 new coal plants planned globally. If the insurance industry was to cease underwriting such intensive fossil fuel production sites it is likely that many of these projects would never go ahead.

However, in spite of their rhetoric, insurers continue to enable climate-destroying coal projects. They offer insurance coverage without which these projects could not go forward, and have invested more than 500 billion dollars in fossil fuel companies.

An increasing number of insurance companies have divested from providing insurance coverage and investment funds to new coal projects, they are selling holdings in coal companies and refuse to underwrite their operations.

Fifteen insurance compaies have fully or partially halted financial relations with coal companies, representing $4 trillion in global assets. The first-movers, including Allianz, Aviva, AXA and SCOR, are almost exclusively located in Europe and represent 13 percent of all global insurance assets. 

Allianz recently pledged to immediately withdraw from insuring single coal-fired power plants and coal mines, either in operation or planning. Zurich insurance Group announced in nov 2017 that it will stop providing insurance or risk management services for new thermal coal mines or for potential new clients that derive more than half their revenue from mining thermal coal. It will also stop supporting utility companies that generate more than 50 percent of their electricity from coal. Swiss Re and Lloyd’s will also be announcing plans to divest from coal in the coming months. AXA and Swiss Re have also limited their underwriting of tar sands projects

Unfortunately when it comes to the climate change time horizon, the very industry which could have more impact than any other is clearly not taking action quickly enough. Even the bold pledge by Allianz has significant limitations, as the company also stated it will continue to insure businesses that generate power though multiple fossil fuel sources, including coal, until 2040.

The eight top US insurance companies that do not consider climate change in their investments are State Farm, Allstate, Liberty Mutual, Berkshire Hathaway/Geico, Travelers, Nationwide, Progressive and USAA. Only one US insurance company, Lemonade, has pledged not to support fossil fuels.