The Noisy Indian

Sound is what we hear. Noise is a sound that we don’t want to hear. The difference between sound and noise depends upon the listener and the circumstances. Rock music can be a pleasurable sound to one person and an annoying “noise” to another.

We are all subjected to some form of loud noises for a considerable amount of time, during the day and night. We bear with the noise created by blowing of horns on the roads, noise created by the loudspeakers, tolerate noise during festive-times and during processions carried through the street. It seems like people consider noise as an expression of happiness, especially the Indians.

Noise pollution is one of the major environmental concerns in India today. Sadly, many are unaware of the hazards it can cause.

Noise pollution is linked to many ailments – from irreversible hearing loss to anxiety attacks to hypertension and heart disease. The situation is so bad in Indian cities that ENT specialists now say a 20 dB loss in hearing among urbanites is “normal”. Changes in the immune system and birth defects have been also attributed to noise exposure

To measure noise, the average pressure level of the sound is used over time by a weighting scale. The noise level is generally expressed in decibels.

Indian Ministry of Environment & Forests issued Noise Pollution (Regulation and Control) Rules in 2000. These rules were last amended in January 2010.  The rules prescribe noise standards in decibels based on area and time.  For residential areas, the standard is 55 dB (Leq) in the day time and 45 dB (Leq) at night.

Day time means time from 6.00 a.m. to 10.00 p.m and night time means time from 10.00 p.m. to 6.00 a.m. dB(A) Leq denotes the time weighted average of the level of sound in decibels on “scale A” which relates  to human hearing.

The Noise rules are meant for the following:

  • Implementation of noise standards in different zones or areas.
  • Restrict the use of loud-speakers.
  • Restrict the over-usage of horns, sound creating equipments for construction and fire-crackers.
  • Allott responsibility to State Pollution Control Boards (SPCBs) or Committees and the Central Pollution Control Board, for collecting, processing and providing the statistical data about the noise pollution, so that adequate measures may be taken to prevent and control.

On violation of these rules, the person is liable for penalty. The government is now working on devising new noise pollution standards.

In March 2011, the central government set up the National Ambient Noise Monitoring Network (NANMN) of 70 stations, through Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) and the SPCBs, to monitor noise on a 24×7 basis in India’s seven largest cities. These cities include Delhi, Bengaluru, Kolkata, Chennai, Hyderabad, Lucknow and Mumbai (and Navi Mumbai). It is expected that the number of locations to be monitored will be increased to 160 cities in two phases.

A four-year study (2011-2014) on Noise pollution based on NANMN showed that Mumbai is the noisiest city, just ahead of Lucknow and Hyderabad while Delhi stood fourth and Chennai fifth. The busy ITO junction in Delhi registers around 74 decibel (dB) of sound on a typical day, almost 10 db over the limit for the commercial areas. The level near Acworth Hospital in Mumbai’s Wadala is usually 70 dB, almost 20 dB more than what’s permitted in such a zone. Even the “silence zones” – (areas within 100 metres around hospitals, educational institutions and courts) -do not meet the noise standard.

Several studies have been conducted to learn about the noise levels during Diwali festival. As per the study conducted on noise levels due to Diwali firecrackers by Awaaz Foundation along with the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board  the noise pollution reached to over 125dB between 2008 and 2013.

CPCB released a report in 2016 “Status of Ambient Noise Level in India” that provides access to the noise data. It’s an excellent report to read and understand the problem of noise pollution in Indian cities.


I was speaking to my Professor Friend after reading this report. We met in a bar where the audio system was under renovation and hence we could have a conversation. We asked for some draught beer and took seats next to the bar.

“Well, I am just returning from Delhi after a meeting with the High Command” Professor said.

“Now that the State elections are over, we have decided to take the issue of noise pollution very seriously”. He lit his cigar.

“With effect from April 1, 2017, we will enforce that all sports events held in India will observe complete silence. You will now watch cricket matches where no one will be allowed to shout or even speak. People will only observe and watch the game as that is what they are supposed to do”

“Are you crazy?” I (almost) screamed. “Game like Cricket works only on  screaming and shouting – it’s the noise that creates the pressure and the push and hence the unpredictable”.

“Well, we will now focus on the health impact of the audience in the stadium as well as impact on the neighborhood” – Professor said this rather solemnly.

He continued.

“There will not be any announcements made at the Railway Stations as well as Airports on arrivals and departures. Everybody will look at the signboards that will provide latest information – right or wrong.”

“But wont people miss the flights and trains creating a chaos? Everybody is used to the announcements (although we know that most announcements are difficult to comprehend and create only noise!).  Besides what will happen to the jobs of the announcers. I am sure this will lead to a huge unemployment. Railway Minister Prabhu will know”

But, Professor did not seem to listen.

“The noise standards for fire crackers, loud speakers and horns in the car will be tightened. Manufactures will have to meet these new standards. The permissible noise levels will be mentioned on the packaging of these products and people will be told that these numbers are decibel levels and not the prices”

“But wont it affect the power of the political rallies and the fun (or sadistic pleasure) of annoying the neighborhood during festivals? We are used to honking loudly to vent out our frustrations when car is stuck in a traffic”. I protested.

“Regarding honking, we have asked Music Composer A Rahman to come up with a powerful audio clip on meditation that will be made available to download free. When played in the car, people will remain calm, will not honk and take traffic jam as their fate or way of new life.

“Oh, Rahman will sure do a good job”. I liked the idea of free meditation music in the car for calming down (and may be to fall asleep)

I thought of making a point

“Professor, you need to raise funds however to expand the NANMN and put more 24×7 monitoring stations, especially in States like Uttar Pradesh. Include large display boards as no one knows about them. Why don’t you increase the fines and the enforcement to generate required funds? In Delhi, the traffic police, challaned just 35 people for honking in 2015! They were fined Rs 1000 each. That’s no impact and no income”

“You made a good point” Professor said. “I will speak about this to Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh. He is looking right now for new ideas”.

He continued

“There will not be any night time construction now in the 7 cities where noise monitoring has been done”

“I guess this does not happen anymore today – at least on paper” I said

“but if you insist on this imposition then the construction projects will get delayed that will lead to much more inconvenience to the citizens. A little bit of noise at the night time should be alright to meet the deadlines and get handsomely paid as a bonus”

Professor ignored what I said.

“We are revising the building standard too – We will insist installation of double or triple pane windows in the buildings falling in silence zones. These costs will be met by the Government from the election funds”

“Oh, that’s very kind of you Professor”. I said.

“But we are going even a step beyond”. Professor continued.

All major roads in the 7 cities will have noise barriers on both sides.

“That’s terrible Professor – these barriers will be sour spots of visual intrusion, blocking perhaps not noise but the flow of wind and affect the pedestrians” I was very concerned with this proposition.

Just as we were planning to have a last glass of beer for the road, we saw Nirajnan Hiranandani, a reputed builder of Mumbai, taking a stool next to us with few of his friends.

Niranjan said “Have you heard about a rumor that the Government is linking real estate price to the noise levels. The noise contours generated in cities will be used and data will be shared with public with information on the health impacts. “Reality data” in Europe and United States shows that real estate prices drop by 10 to 15% if the noise levels are high or exceed the standards. Apparently, some Professor is advising to the High Command in Delhi to set the framework. Crazy Professor he is. This is really worrisome to us. I am thinking of appointing a Noise Manager in the company or ensure that the noise monitoring instruments show lower results”

I thought linking real estate price with noise levels was a great idea – something more powerful than the mere enforcement of regulations.  I saw the Professor was smiling mischievously while extinguishing his cigar.

In Niranjan’s group there was “India CEO” of Sennheiser – one of the largest makers of headphones. The CEO said “if noise pollution is curbed, then I see impact on the sale of our flagship product –  the noise cancelling headphones. There will be only little to “cancel” if the noise stays in limits!”.

I thought he was right. But his fear looked much exaggerated.

And then there was someone in the group (who looked like a mix of Bhappi Lahiri and  R D Burman). He said.

“Well most people in India are accustomed to ambient noise over time. They cannot tolerate silence. They cannot sleep unless they hear the rumbling and rhythmic sound from the trains moving on the rail track at night. I plan to record this rail noise, make interesting audio clips and sell as a download on mobile phones. I am sure this clip will be downloaded and used by the millions living in Mumbai for a good night sleep “

I thought he was right too.

Indians indeed are happy and feel comfortable when there is noise.


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image courtesy rediff.com

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Drinking to get Drunk

Drinking alcohol is no more a taboo. It probably never was. Many drink occasionally (that is what they say!) and some drink on a regular basis –every day. These regular drinkers take a peg or two of a large whisky at home after the dinner. Some prefer a glass of red wine as doctors say its good for the heart. The key is to drink moderately and not to get drunk. Some social drinkers drink only at the parties. These party drinkers stick to a drink or two to avoid making a scene.  Very rarely you see people overly drinking – and those who do so are generally captains and chief engineers sailing on the ships. These gentlemen are pretty used to swaying.

I admire those who drink solely to get drunk. These are the brave hearts. To these “drunkards”, any moderate drinking is not exciting as you don’t get “high” enough if you just had a peg or two. They feel that one should get drunk, then let yourself go with no chains to your mind and the body. “When you are truly drunk, man –  you are simply free” said a friend of mine. Another friend of mine who works for a multinational bank said that unless you get drunk you don’t get the “value for money” – he was perhaps right.

When I studied at IIT Bombay, we believed in the value for money. We used to go to a shady bar outside the Y-Point called Ratna and have couple of glasses of Mosambi and Naringi (cheap drinks that contained more than 60% spirit) and return to the hostels late night almost “floating”.

During the night of Mahashivaratri, we used to have “Bhang” that used to knock us down. I remember that I got so “high” after a glass of Bhang that I thought I had two large spans of wings on my body – replacing hands. I wanted to jump outside the window to fly over the Powai lake under the moonlight. My friends who were not that much drunk (fortunately) made all the efforts to hold me back jumping out of the window.

The rationale of getting drunk reached another dimension when listening to music from some of the maestros. We used to invite Pundit Bhimsen Joshi during Mood Indigo at IIT. There were occasions when he used to come in a “trance” and we, in order to appreciate his performance, used to overly drink and get “high enough” to reach his “level”.

But indeed, many artists do get drunk when they create or perform unusual art. I remember I went to a friend living in one of the old mansions on the Marine Drive in Mumbai. (Only people who are lucky or have done good deeds in their past lives get to live in these wonderful houses facing the sea). This friend was one of the famous guitarist – playing jazz. He did not make much money as to him money did not matter.

When I reached my friends house just after the sunset, his servant told me that “saab” is in the balcony playing guitar and has instructed not to disturb. I went close to the balcony and saw him sitting on a chair, holding his large box guitar and strumming. He would occasionally hum like an iceane on a rum cake. There was a large glass of whisky next to him on a teapoy. He would pause sometimes to take a shot from the glass. He was doing a fantastic piece of jazz – something very unconventional. It resembled a bit like numbers from Liona Boyd – an amazing Canadian Guitar Artist. I asked the servant “kitne glass liye (how many pegs has he had?)”. The servant showed 5 fingers (meant five glasses). I did not disturb him. I only wished I could record – as he wouldn’t even know what amazing pieces he was playing.

Apparently, people tend to talk too much when they get drunk. When you sit at the bar, you do meet such people. These people tell you something that would otherwise be not shared with anybody. These are their secrets. When these people get drunk, you discover an entirely new personality. Sometimes they abuse you, tell how they felt hurt because you did not treat well in the past and in some occasions they tell about someone they had a crush and alas – things did not work out. It could be a can of worms sometimes that gets opened. You are supposed to forget or pardon when these folks speak in a drunken condition.

I was working in Bangkok on a mission with the Asian Development Bank. We had a pretty mean and nasty American project manager, Nick, who used to kind of “harass” the Team. He was very difficult to work along but we both used to be pretty good friends. Julia, one of our Team members was from Australia. Julia was always uncomfortable with Nick and used to tell me how much she hates him. Nick also did not seem to like her. They not only had differences when it came to technical matters but also had strong differences on opinions and philosophy of life. Nick used to play saxophone at a German pub in one of the by lanes (soi) of Sukumvit. He was really good on the sax.

We used to go to the pub after the work and Julia used to tag along – but rather reluctantly. “I see him enough for the day – so not again” She used to say. We used to joke – what if Nick and Julia were married! Such different personalities!! I used to tell Julia that Nick was actually a nice person and somehow he did not know how to work with intelligent and beautiful women. I even told her that Nick actually likes her company. But Julia never seemed to be convinced with all my “stories” and defence.

We used to sit on the bar and have couple of drinks while Nick used to play the Sax. All of us were moderate drinkers. Julia was very careful as she feared she would speak rubbish if drunk.

One of the Friday evenings, however, we noticed that Julia was a bit high. The bar man was handing over the fourth “shot” of “long island” and she was all in the mood to get “drunk”. Long island is lethal drink that contains 1 part tequila, 1 part gin, 1 part whiskey, 1 part white rum, 1 part vodka, 1 oz sugar syrup, Coca-Cola and orange juice. It has all the “devils” in just one place.

On gulping the fourth shot of long island, Julia started speaking in a bit of slur. She asked me to move towards a table leaving the bar. “I want to talk to you Prasad”

I saw a different Julia when we sat on a side table. She started speaking in all emotions. She asked “Are you sure about what you told me about Nick? Does he really like me?”. She asked. She was looking towards Nick who was mending notes on the Sax. He was doing real good.

I told Julia that I truly believed so. Julia then spoke about how she admires Nick sometimes, but has somehow a bias of not liking him in the first instance. She realized that it has been a kind of “ego trip” – who will make the first move.  She went on to explain that it was not fair on her part to blame him all the time. She wouldn’t mind patching up if I spoke to Nick and explain. I could clearly see all this happening because she was overly drunk. It was her inner mind that was speaking out loud. Her eyes were moist and the voice was quivering. “Well Julia, I will certainly be the mediator if this will help and talk to Nick tomorrow. Let me help you however to get a taxi and I suggest you go home. You are overly drunk”.

I dropped Julia to the Taxi. She could hardly walk. “Forget what I said Prasad – I must be blabbering  something crazy” She whispered in my ears.

When I returned to the bar, I told the Bar tender to get me the last drink. I told my colleague about how drunk Julia was and how when you get drunk, your inner mind expresses what you really feel” I asked “can you ever imagine that Julia would ever get so soft on Nick?. I saw her venting out today. The Long Island worked. Must let Nick know sometime”

The bar tender while passing me the last drink said “ Strange woman, she took 5 shots of Long Island asking me only to mix sugar syrup, Coca-Cola and orange juice with no alcohol and paid the full price”.

I was astonished with the trick Julia played. You don’t need to get actually drunk to be free.


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Environmental Brokers

 

Public consultation is an important step in the environmental appraisal of projects. Many countries have instituted consultation as a part of the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) process. Ministry of Environment and Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC) in India has provided guidelines for the conduct of the public hearing and for reporting the outcomes.

Public hearing is a complex process. It often has political overtones that are difficult to comprehend and manage. Public hearing is also influenced by corporate rivalries. Many believe that public hearing is the most crucial milestone of the EIA process. It can be a nightmare. Facing the technical committee in New Delhi for environmental clearance is comparatively less volatile and not so complex an ordeal.

Despite these challenges, public hearing is a step that is desirable. It provides an opportunity to the public to understand the project from both the perspectives i.e. development and environment. It’s a dialogue if conducted well can benefit everybody i.e. the project developer, environment, the affected public and of course the regulator. Unfortunately, the project developers often hide or provide incorrect information and environmental activists misinterpret and escalate the issues without much scientific basis to mislead the public. The public hearing then boils down to a negotiation between the project developers and the environmental activists to settle the matter.

My Professor Friend asked me to attend a public hearing on a Sunday. “Come dressed like a common man” he said.

“What is dressing like a common man?”, I asked the Professor

“Oh easy, look at the common man of the great cartoonist R K Laxman. You are already half bald like him and you were the coat just like he wears. You may wear some lose khaki trousers instead of the dhoti. But remember to make an ignorant and innocent face – that’s what the common man is about”

I agreed.

We reached the meeting place. It was a community hall that was not well maintained with paint peeling off from the wall. It had photos of stalwarts from both opposition and ruling parties hanging on the walls. Leaders of Congress were on the left and leaders from BJP on the right. A photo of Mahatma Gandhi was at the Center as if not sure where to be.

There was a long wooden table and chairs of different sizes stacked around. There were plastic chairs for people like us. The room was full. We took place in the last row. There was a wise looking man with a grey beard sitting next to me. He seemed to have experience of attending public hearing. He was wearing a pyjama and kurta – both not ironed.

One side of the long table was occupied by the environmental activists. I could recognize them because they had not shaved and were wearing spectacles of critical kind. Many were carrying cotton sling bags that did not seem to be washed on a regular basis. Few were smoking cigarettes and some were chewing paan (beetle leaves). Most had constipated and sad faces but a shine in the eyes that they were there to protect the world. The leader was wearing a bundee like Prime Minister Narendra Modi and a green band on the head. He looked impatient.

The other side of the Table was occupied by the project developers I guess. These people were wearing safari suits and were carrying some project documents. They had faces of most humble kind and were listening attentively to the environmental activists

And there were officials as well. I could recognize amongst these the collector as he had the best chair to sit with a towel placed at the back of the chair. Man from the Pollution Control Board (PCB) could be recognized as he was already walloping the cashew nuts placed in the plate.

We were perhaps late, as the project was already presented by the Developers. “Did we miss anything critical?” I asked the wise man sitting next to me. “Oh, nothing much” he said “It’s a thermal power plant based on coal. The usual stuff. Clean coal, Tall stacks, closed loop cooling water system, well protected ash pond, green belt etc.” He said this in a rather weary tone.

“So, then what’s the issue?” I could not hesitate asking.

I must be loud as the Professor asked me to focus on the conversations at the long table instead of “whispering” to the wise man.

One of the environmental activist was asking a question “Sir, are you aware that the emissions resulting from the stacks, coal yard and the ash ponds are going to severely impact the air quality in the surrounding villages. People will not able to breathe. Their lives will be shortened as they will keep falling sick – have you ever thought about the plight of children and old people?”

The lead project developer cleared his throat and attempted to defend “Sirs, we are within the emission limits of those stated by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) and in fact lower. The coal yard has a wall with 15-meter height all around and in addition there are water curtains. The ash pond will hardly have any air emissions as the particles are large and in a slurry form”

The activist said “I don’t buy your story. All this will remain on the paper and you will be flouting the norms, especially in the night”.   The representative from the PCB nodded taking a bite of hot samosas. He was looking for the ketchup.

An activist who looked like someone from academia (probably not promoted for a long time) said “Apart from the threat of air emissions, I am really concerned about the thermal discharge that will lead to heating of the seawater. This is going to severely affect the biodiversity and the livelihoods of the fishermen”

There was silence.

A man with a laptop in the developer’s team responded (he must be a consultant). “Professor, we are using a closed-loop cooling that draws less water than open-cooling systems”

Professor activist was very angry with this response. He said in a raised voice “Mind you, I am talking about temperature and not quantity of water. If you really mean to minimize water consumption, then you should have considered dry cooling. These systems use little or no water; instead, they use air to cool steam.

“But Sir dry-cooling technology is much more expensive to build and is less efficient”. The Consultant tried to defend

“Oh, are you teaching me?” The Professor activist was now really upset as his voice started quivering and body trembling. “And by the way, your closed loop system will be using chemicals. The receiving sea water is surely going to be affected with these non-biodegradable compounds– the shrimp farming activities on the shore will simply be devastated”

The head of the activists who was wearing a green band on his head then spoke slowly, firmly and in all seriousness “Have you set aside a special compensation fund? This fund will have to operate for at least five years to ensure that alternate livelihoods are created for the fishermen”

I thought that the leader wasn’t much concerned about the dying shrimps.

The wise man sitting on my left whispered “See, this how the negotiation starts; listen carefully now. To me, all these activists are nothing but environmental brokers”

I was amused to hear this term – environmental broker.

And indeed, the wise man was right. Several issues were brought up subsequently that majorly included employment to the local people and demands were made that few contracts that must be awarded to the local businesses. The discussions that started with the environmental issues later turned towards the social and economic “opportunities”. Promises were being made and a frail looking man was jotting them down. The collector was on the mobile phone sending WhatsApp messages.

I decided to step out for a while to get some fresh air and visit the loo. I saw an old man waiting outside who probably couldn’t find a seat in the packed community hall.

“Sir, is the meeting over?” He asked me.

“Not yet” I said

“Well, I wanted to ask the company whether my grandson will get a job”

“What is his qualifications and experience? I am sure the company will find something – do get in and tell your expectation to the man wearing green band”

The old man decided to follow my advice

Before he was about to enter the community hall, I stopped him.

“Sir, are you aware that this power plant is going to worsen the air quality in the region over a period. People working and living here will face respiratory illness. One of the activists is questioning the company about this issue”

The old man said “Well, I don’t know how much of this will be true. May be this is an exaggeration”

And with some afterthought he said “A little bit respiratory discomfort against a job guaranteed for life is a better option, I guess”

I thought that the old man was wiser than the man sitting on my left

I re-joined the meeting to see how environmental brokers operate.

 


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Integrating Climate Change Considerations in Environmental Impact Assessment

cc

Planners and regulators today are not addressing the impacts of Climate Change (CC) adequately in the future plans. This is not just the case with the developing countries but with the developed countries as well. There are very few examples available where you see CC is reflected in policies, plans and project designs. CC is more talked on the vulnerability.

The level of progress in integrating CC considerations in EIA varies considerably. Countries like Netherlands, Canada and Australia have been the pioneers in implementing incorporation of CC in EIA. While Netherlands includes CC through a Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA), Canada and Australia have taken the route towards CC integration through project level EIAs. The European Commission, in its directive on the assessment of the effects of certain public and private projects on the environment, aims to reflect CC-related concerns.

When Indian Ministry of Environment & Forests added Climate Change to its title, I was hoping to see integration of Climate Change in EIA.  Unfortunately, I don’t get to see any traction in this direction. There is a need to address this issue by suitably modifying the existing EIA Notification.

Although CC related concerns and understanding are growing, incorporation of CC in the EIA process has not seen an acceptance as expected. Project developers in countries like Canada, a pioneer in this area, believe that not much climate related information is available to analyze the impacts of climate change on the projects. Besides, data availability and expertise on CC modeling is still an issue.

International Association of Impact Assessment surveyed the Australian CC-EIA system from the point of view of EIA practitioners. In all, 63 respondents were drawn across the country. It was found that majority practitioners believed that CC is highly relevant in EIA and Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA). In addition, the survey suggested that project EIAs cannot take lead in incorporating CC EIA. CC considerations must start or originate from SEAs.

Major barriers to project EIA being able to address CC were ranked as follows:

  1. Lack of government policy and incentives to address CC in EIA
  2. Lack of political and agency will to address climate change.
  3. EIA scoping does not address CC i.e. which projects need to address CC
  4. Lack of expertise and appropriate EIA tools

Let us understand the complexity of the issue.

CC considerations in EIA typically result into mitigation and adaptation plans. The adaptation plans need to be developed at regional level, often beyond the boundaries of an individual project. For designing and implementing adaptation related plans, a simultaneous consideration to multiple projects is required to assess the cumulative impacts over the region. Public consultations need to be used as an important milestone to link the SEA, REA and Project level EIAs.

Another point to remember is we need to bring in elements of risks by building scenarios.

The entry point for developing adaptation plan is thus at strategic level where tools such as Regional EIA (REIA), SEA and Cumulative Impact Assessment (CIA) need to be used.

Unfortunately, in India all these three extensions of Project EIA have not been legislated. If we want to address CC in Indian EIA, then we will require a major reform in the EIA system.

The mitigation plans on the other hand are generally project-limited and influence the project design and operations. Here aspects such as energy mix, water use and conservation, afforestation and erosion control need to be examined. Many of these aspects get addressed in the preparation of Project focused Environmental Management Plan (EMP).

To address abnormal and emergent situations however, the Project level EMPs need to be accompanied by the Disaster Management Plan (DMP). Once CC considerations are included, adaptation and mitigation elements get factored and the DMP assumes a form of a Disaster Risk Reduction Plan (DRRP). This DRRP needs to address both onsite and offsite risks.

Management of onsite risks become a part of the Project EIA while the management of offsite risks need to be integrated with regional DRRP. Both EMP and DRRP need to abide by the framework of the REA and SEA with clear institutional and cost sharing arrangements. Again, DRRP needs to be “synchronized” with the adaptation related plans at the regional level – especially on matters related to policy, plans and supporting commonly shared infrastructure. I have attempted to show the relationships between SEA/REA, Project level EIA, EMP and DRRP in the context of CC   integration. (See Figure 1)

cc_eia

Figure 1: Integration of CC consideration in EIA

Project EIAs are generally processed by State and Central level environmental authorities. Separate departments/ministries operate for management of disaster related risks.  Often, there are no linkages occur between these institutions. SEA with a focus on CC may be used to ensure mainstreaming of CC   in the project and regional EIAs and more critically to ensure coordination between key institutions and the project sponsor.

 Key stakeholders in the CC integration will be National/Regional Planning agencies, Environmental and Disaster Management Agencies and the Project Proponent. Table 1 lists roles and responsibilities of key stakeholder institutions in the conduct of SEA, Regional EIA and Project EIAs.

Table 1 Roles and Responsibilities of Key Stakeholder Institutions

Activity Planning Institutions engaged with Development and Development Controls Environmental and allied regulators involved in Environmental Clearance Project Proponent
SEA/REIA
Baseline data of climate parameters like rainfall, temperature, Hydrological maps, infrastructure mapping, natural resource maps
Future projections of climate at regional level
Probable CC related impacts/risks at regional level
Strategic/Regional Environmental assessment incorporating CC
Consultation with authorities and stakeholders
Development of Guiding Framework and Operational Principles for Integration of adaptation and mitigation in the development plans and policies

 

Prepare response mechanism plans for disaster risk reduction at regional   level
Monitoring effectiveness of the plan in terms of mitigation and adaptation
Project EIA
Impact of climate change on project/programme
Mitigation measures
EMP
DRRP
EMP, DRRP Integration with outcomes of REA/SEA
Stakeholder consultation

 Many States in India have set up CC cells. These cells may undertake required coordination. These CC cells may be supported by a CC related research organization that has required databases and expertise on CC related modelling. This concept is shown in Figure 2.

cc_eia_2

Figure 2: Institutional Arrangements for Mainstreaming CC considerations in EIA

REA and SEA clearly assume an important role to ensure harmonization between Project level EMP and DRRP with the CC adaptation plans at the regional level. Cumulative Impact Assessment (CIA) will remain the key. Institutional coordination with cost sharing will be important in the implementation of the CC related recommendations. Involvement of the stakeholders is necessary to appreciate the concerns of the CC, especially its economic, social and environmental implications. Capacity building of the planners, regulators and professionals is also required. Finally, pilots should be implemented to demonstrate how CC in EIA could be mainstreamed. Based on the experience of the pilot, the EIA Notification may be suitably amended. We will need to develop another Schedule that will define which projects or regions will need CC considerations based on the vulnerability atlas, type and scale of projects development.

I presented my views to my Professor Friend.

He laughed “Don’t get so critical Dr Modak!” He said

“The Ministry likes you. The least MoEFCC will do is to constitute a “Committee on CC in EIA”. They are good at this and I am sure this Committee will be set up without much delay!! But remember, rest will follow as usual. Like the Climate is changing, MoEFCC may also change its mind!!!


This post draws from the paper I presented at the Impact Assessment the Next Generation 33rd Annual Meeting of the International Association for Impact Assessment 13 – 16 May 2013, Calgary Stampede BMO Centre | Calgary, Alberta, Canada. This paper was co-authored with Namrata Ginoya who worked with me at the Environmental Management Centre LLP


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