Why Did Mr Trump Reject the Paris Accord?

Many of my readers know about my friend who lives on the 104th floor in a Tower in Mumbai. He is the richest person in the world today. He is undoubtedly one of the most influential personalities and yet not known due to his sheer humility and discreteness.

Me and my Professor Friend went to see him for a breakfast – a courtesy he extends to us once in a month which we never miss. We saw that he was having a breakfast with Donald Trump.

“Come in friends. Mr Trump just arrived here after making a statement on climate change at the Rose Garden. After such a simple and honest statement of pulling out from the Paris Accord he got so much hounded by the Ministers and Media that he got fed up. So, I invited him for a breakfast to eat in peace and he kindly obliged” My friend said this while sampling some almonds and Arabian dates neatly stacked in a silver dish.

He continued

“Well Dr Modak, I see such a short-sightedness in the senior politicians, thought leaders and the businessmen of the world today to understand Mr Trump’s point of view.  Only few in the White House understand the deep secret and strategy that Mr Trump is playing. Its strange – but the so called dumb middle class of the United States who voted for Mr Trump is actually understanding. They love and support Mr Trump for such a historical decision”

Mr Trump acknowledged my friends support and appreciation. He put a layer of chicken salami on a well buttered toast.

Mr Trump said “Coal is certainly going to be the source of principal energy at least for the next decade. India for example has only 33% of its population connected to the electricity today. That’s a target so hard to achieve without phasing out/modernizing the coal based thermal power plants. Resorting to renewable energy alone is not going to be sufficient. India must follow Clean Coal Technology (CCT)”

He then paused, took a good byte of the salami sandwich and continued

“Use of CCT is perhaps going to be the answer. United States today is undoubtedly the world leader in this segment. We have invested heavily on the R&D and commercialization on CCT that we must now unfurl and leverage on by grabbing this business. Our markets will be India and China. To achieve this, the coal industry in the United States must stay vibrant and become competitive.  This will lead to a trillion dollars business overseas and restore employment in the coal sector within the United States. To facilitate, I have already ordered EPA to relax the norms on emissions from power plants”

“That’s real deep strategy Mr Trump – only few will understand” I said.

Professor now butted in

“Granted Mr. Trump, I also understand that you are contemplating relaxation in the emission norms of the automobiles as well. This will essentially reverse Obama’s long-term mileage-economy standards. This strategy will certainly boost sales of light trucks and SUVs, that is highly profitable but the automobile industry will face tougher mileage restrictions in most European and Asian markets. Even within the US, automobile sales in the States like California will be affected. Don’t forget that some of these principled States represent about one-third of American vehicle sales”

I added

“We also know that the average COemissions from new passenger cars have continued to decrease, falling to 120 g/km in 2015. These emission are significantly lower than the 130 g/km target set by the EU CO regulation for 2015. The automobile industry in the EU is ahead of the targets”

Mr Trump smiled and asked, “Do you know something about Laboratory to Road reports”.

We kept shut as we were not aware.

Mr Trump gulped a fresh orange juice made from oranges grown in Australia. He said “2016 update of this report analysed 13 data sources covering 15 years, six countries, and approximately 1 million cars. The analysis showed that, in the EU, the gap between official and real-world CO2 emission values continues to grow—from 9% in 2001 to 42% in 2015. Essentially, the reports indicate that “real-world” performance is much worse than suggested by the official values. So, pledging tighter emission norms to combat global warming is all hogwash. I am therefore relaxing the automobile emission norms in the US and do not wish to join the herd. I am going to publish the Laboratory to Road reports widely and make them accessible to the consumers to expose the reality – the inconvenient truth

I thought Mr. Trump was right. The international lobby working on reduction of emissions from vehicles was really a crap – a more of lip talk rather than the reality.

I think Mr. Trump read by thoughts. He got up from the teak chair, walked towards the window, peeped outside and turned to me

“The climate adaptation funds and bilateral aid is another glaring example. Here, American money gets used by polluters like China and India. China will be allowed to build hundreds of additional coal mines and India will be allowed to double its coal production; and we the financiers are supposed to get rid of our coal industry. Isn’t this ironical and irrational?”.

“The United States had pledged $3 billion into a Green Climate Fund to assist smaller counties on their climate change initiatives – and I have already cancelled $2 billion. I am no Santa Clause. It seems China may contribute financially – such as contributing $20 million to its South-South Cooperation Fund to help smaller countries. India led the International Solar Alliance in 2015 with a contribution of 27 million USD. These amounts are like a mouse to the United States. India needs around $ 2.5 trillion to fulfill all its targets. Where is this kind of money?”

I thought Mr Trump was right again

Professor lighted his cigar and interrupted Mr Trump.

“Mr Trump, don’t underestimate India on its technology capability and political commitment. India has set a target of increasing its renewable power capacity to 175 gigawatts by 2022 – and has exceeded its targets for wind power this fiscal year and has made some strides in increasing its solar capacity. In May 2017, India’s solar power generation price for the first time dipped below that of traditional thermal, which should make the use of sun power more widespread in rural areas. Under the Goods and Service Tax to be enforced from July 1, electric cars will get a tax rate of only 12% while other cars will be taxed at 28%.”

(I wondered however how will we be powering our electric vehicles – using coal based electricity? – I didn’t want to ask this embarrassing question to the Professor)

Now it was my friends turn to speak. He picked up few manicured pieces of cut apple from the bowl and spoke slowly as if sharing a secret

“Well Professor, Mr Trump is aware of the rapid pick up of solar PVs in India. But remember that this global solar boom will be contributing a whole new form of electronic waste to the planet. Unfortunately, little has been done to recover and recycle the precious metals and other goodies that go into manufacturing solar panels. Of course, one could blame the usual suspects, such as lack of international standards and inadequate end-of-life infrastructure. This is a $15 billion market by 2050 dangling in the air, and it’s a safe bet that the solar panel recycling industry will take off sooner rather than later. Here US can take a lead. Mr Trump is here with me not just for breakfast. He has come to ask me for investments in cash to seize this opportunity. He is really not against the renewables – he is simply looking beyond!”

I now saw the business face of Mr Trump. His ridiculous tweets on climate change were perhaps just a diversion – for the media and for the so called global intellectuals.


The Cover Image Image sourced from https://www.thegef.org/blog/when-it-comes-fighting-climate-change-citizen-action-matters


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My dreams

dreambig

Today, the number of graduates (MSc’s, Planning/ME/MTechs and MBA’s) in environmental science, planning and engineering is growing. Specializations such as MBA in environmental management and environmental economics have come up.

I receive on an average five emails a day asking for a job at the consulting company I run. I ensure that me or my colleague Sonal Alvares respond. Responding timely, either way, is a matter of showing respect.

In most cases, I find that the CVs are generally weak (and not well written too) showing lack of “experience” and “poor” qualifications. Most applicants come from mediocre institutions that you may not even know. We regret these applicants but with some guidance. I however wonder and worry how these young students and professionals can get the jobs that can inspire and train to help build their careers. We need a large number of professionals in the field of environmental management today – professionals with a vision having a “systems perspective” (no silo thinking) and most importantly work with ethics. The latter to me is the biggest challenge. Teachers have an important role here to play.

At my consulting company we have been conducting an environmental internship program over the past 15 years. A good internship not only provides “practice training” but also opens job opportunities. So far we have trained around 70+ interns. My colleague Sonal Kaushik manages this activity and does it very diligently and with a passion.

Each year we receive a huge number of applicants from top institutions in India and overseas. We go through the drill of assessing the CVs, reviewing Statements of Purpose, asking for writing assignments to select the “best” and the “most appropriate” interns. The internship program runs over a minimum of 2 months where the intern works on some of our “live” projects. The intern makes a weekly work plan. We coach accordingly and track the progress. There are interim and final presentations and the final report is reviewed. Most of the times the outputs produced are of high quality deserving a publication. That adds a credibility to the interns work (and also to the “mentor”!). Box below shows a sample of internship projects completed in my company.


Green Building Assessment Systems, Sustainability Reporting: Mapping GRI Guidelines with NVGs, Carbon Footprint in the Industrial & Regional Context, Development of Framework to assess Status of Environmental Compliance in Industries, Creation of Knowledge base on Resource and Emission Benchmarks for Industries, Environmental and Social Governance at Financial Institutions, Development of Framework for Sustainability Assessment of Mobile Phones, Directory on Green Office Supplies ……

The feedback that we have received on our Internship Program has been extremely positive and encouraging. But there is a limit, how much we can do. We feel sad to turn down a deserving internship application just because of shortage of space in our office or due to our limited bandwidth for coaching.

I wish I could develop something “huge” on a nationwide scale to handle 1000 young environmental students every year across say 30 academic institutions “feeding them” as interns to corporations, corporates, NGOs and R&D institutions in the environmental and social arena.

My dream is to set up an Environmental Internship Portal that will allow institutions to place their requirements and interested students to place their CVs, durations and interests. We will then do a “match making” and coach the intern on-line through a specially designed e-learning module to “prepare” for the internship. Coaching may be extended during the internship program – again through a web/mobile platform – as a support. As a sequel, the “portal” will also provide placement service and an opportunity to update for a “lifelong environmental education”. So you “log in” as an intern and “grow to be a mentor” and later lead as a “job provider”.

That’s going to be my next BIG step – if I succeed the first one!!

Anyone from my blog readers interested to steer this initiative with me or partner? I am simply not able to “see” someone with “fire in the belly” for last several years. I get sleepless nights – one of the reasons I guess for my sleep apnea!

And any angle investors to support this Portal? I have a decent business model with me for the investors “comfort”.

Several years ago I ran a 4 day “Finishing School” in Environmental Management at NITIE, Powai, Mumbai. A second such school was run at NIIT, Suratkal over 2 days. DISHA, a 1 day flagship program on Career Counseling on Environmental Management was conducted as a series in Mumbai and Pune.

You will be able to read the reports on these events at www.ekonnect.net.

All these programs were received very enthusiastically. There is great need that we organize such programs at multiple locations in the country and on the campus of academic institutions. Will be great if under the proposed Portal we establish a “network” of academic institutions who offer DISHA on their campuses on an annual basis.

I have always been either a “free radical” or an entrepreneur. I love to see when folks working with me start up independent “business” in the environmental arena. To me this is a performance indicator of my business.

I see a great need that we “populate” the environmental manufacturing and services market with bright environmental professionals who mean quality and bring on board the innovation. I dream of someone like a JRD or Murthy or Premji or Darbari Seth equivalent to lead the environmental business in India. Oh, what a transformational change it will be? Today most of the environmental business organizations we see in India are either small, more of trading agencies representing technologies/equipment of overseas suppliers, delivering services like consents/clearances with “appropriate expertise” and conducting kind of environmental monitoring (that is as good as generating random numbers!). And then there are some very “respectable” and “intellectual” international ones, who specialize in making documents that look pretty as they carry the right font and the visuals.

I am looking therefore towards some “fizz” coming in our sector and people/organizations who do things differently with “innovation” and “confidence” on the scale we need. My dream is to excite youth and build their capacities to become entrepreneurs with mentors/investors standing behind them (like tall shadows). We need to build this community badly who could provide drinking water solutions and sanitation infrastructure on a “scale” for India’s villages; come up with inexpensive outdoor and indoor air quality monitors, provide smart grids for energy delivery, establish waste to resource plants or provide services that can help us to restore, conserve and even monetize our bio-resources. The possibilities are simply endless across the country. I would say that each one of us should pledge to “create” at least one environmental entrepreneur every year. Is that too much to ask?

I will be conducting first program on Coaching Environmental Entrepreneurs in October this year over 2 days. Essentially a new form of DISHA. The course will have to be residential. Location will most likely be Pune. I am putting all my thoughts and experience in the course “design”. I will be most happy to receive your inputs and guidance to make this first event a success.

If I could train 20 bright minds and get at least 5 startups ongoing (with support extended), I will be the most happy person.

A yet another dream I guess.


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My Innings with the Indian Water Works Association

IWWA

Indian Water Works Association (IWWA) was founded in 1968 by late Mr. D R Bhise, retired Hydraulic Engineer at the Bombay Municipal Corporation (BMC). He was inspired by the American Water Works Association (AWWA) during one of his travels to the United States where he attended the AWWA convention.

After founding the IWWA, Mr. Bhise started the Journal of Indian Water Works Association (JIWWA). The Journal was quarterly and carried around 80 pages. It was printed at the India Printing Works (IPW) owned by Mr Limaye (father of my school batch mate Anand who subsequently took over)

Mr. Bhise was close to the Modak family. He worked with my Late Uncle N V Modak at the BMC. He in fact hosted the first pre-wedding party (Kelavan) to my Father Madhav and Mother Nirmala at the ”Champak”, his pretty house at the Shivaji Park. Bhise was known as a “steel man”, not because he laid the large diameter steel pipelines from the Vaitarna dam (now known as “Modak Sagar”) to the city of Mumbai but because he slapped the face of the contractor on the site when he was offered a bribe! (Can you believe that this will happen now?)

“Champak” was the headquarters of the JIWWA. The JIWWA Team consisted people like G N Ganla who is today the mover and shaker of IWWA Mumbai Center and CES Rao who is now retired from Hindustan Construction Company. They and some more such folks used to do all the labeling and dispatch of the Journal with “chai” being served by Mrs Bhise. Today Ganla tells me that this was real fun and the great times to remember.

I met Mr. Bhise at the “Champak” in 1979. I was just 21 years old. I went to submit a manuscript of the paper that was written by Shirish Naik, me and Late Professor P Khanna. The paper was titled “System Identification in Water Quality Management”. (Looking back I feel that this paper did not fit to the Journal at all and should have been turned down right away. But …)

I rang the bell and Mr. Bhise opened the door. I introduced myself and told him the purpose of meeting. Mr. Bhise took the copies of the typed manuscript, put on the spectacles and glanced through the pages. I was prepared to answer his questions. I was told that Mr. Bhise is tough to deal with when it came to accepting articles for JIWWA.

“You are Madhav’s son – right?” He asked. I nodded.

“Then the paper is accepted. Only ensure that you are not using any complex symbols like alpha or beta in the text as we don’t have such fonts at the India Printing Works. That’s all”

“Now how about some Tea”. The editorial review ended.

I presented the paper at the Annual Convention of IWWA in Delhi. That was my first exposure to the IWWA family. I met stalwarts there such as Late L G Dhaigude (whose wrinkles on the face reflected the kilometers of pipelines he laid), Mr. Arvind Doshi of Indian Hume Pipe (who had a face of the “businessman in sophistication”), Late Mr. S P Unwala of Candy Filters (who had a great sense of Parsi humor) and ever lively John D’cruz, Chief Engineer of Delhi Municipal Corporation, who I thought was always ready to dance!

I enjoyed the Annual convention, made lots of new acquaintances and learnt a lot from the presentations.  I started attending thereon all the IWWA conventions that were held in different parts of the country. In the later phase of my life I was invited  to chair the Sessions at the Convention and gave Key Note addresses. It was all an evolution for me. I kind of “graduated”.

In 1995, Mr. S. R. Kshirsagar, Head of National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI) and Hon Editor of the JIWWA invited me on the Editorial Board of JIWWA. I happily accepted this invitation. Indeed, this was an honor to me.

After a few years, I was appointed as the Hon Co-Editor and subsequently in 2000, I took over the post of Hon Editor from Mr. S.R. Kshirsagar. That brought me to the Council of Management (COM) of IWWA.

Editing the JIWWA was a great experience. We used to print around 30 articles in a year including the Annual Convention issue. We used to receive each year around 200 articles. So there was a considerable “pull” and a “competition”.  The accepted articles were queued by a year and I used to be hounded by the Authors and Authors “Godfathers”. I introduced 4 pager pull-outs or inserts in the center section of the Journal on various themes like Private Sector Participation (PSP). These 4 pages were paid pages and so the Journal received some revenue.

Revenue came from advertisements. We did our best to “balance” the printing costs with the revenues from advertisements. But this was not easy. There were two challenges – one was to get advertisements and second challenge was to get the invoices paid in time! (The third challenge was perhaps how to “fit” the advertisement in the PageMaker software to minimize the “white spaces” when the Journal text was laid).

Printing of the Journal in my time was shifted to “Vijay Mudran” from IPW. Vijay Mudran was a fine Printing Press in the Royal Industrial Estate in Wadala in Mumbai. The Press was run by Mr. Madhav Kanitkar. Kanitkar was a Printer par excellence and a perfectionist. He used to tell me that he will only print if he agrees with the text. He does not simply print! So my Editorials used to get under Kanitkar’s lens. He used come up with several red lines and question marks and demand from me explanation on the views I wrote. These discussions used to happen on the mezzanine floor of the Vijay Mudran (where you had to sit down as the ceiling height was only 5 feet) and discussions (or fights!) used to end happily with a well-buttered omelet toast and a badly prepared coffee (with milk burned!). I recall late night or sometimes full night sessions at the Royal Industrial Estate to fix the Journal text and layout with Kanitkar.

Many used to ask me why do I spend so much time to bring out the Journal. This was a job – unpaid.  I used to say that besides the joy and professional satisfaction, editing of the Journal gives me a glimpse on what’s happening in research and practice in India, ahead of time and at least by a year. I realized that this was my edge and I was always up on the curve.

Today, the JIWWA is run by Dr. Ulhas Naik. Ulhas has now put all the Journal issues on the website. This is a great work he has done with the help of Professor S V Ranade of Dynadeep Infotech Pvt. Ltd. You can now upload papers electronically and access all the past articles of the Journal.

Attending Council of Management (COM) meetings used to be very interesting. It gave me a new perspective on the “water politics” and the insight to the personal rivalries. As IWWA was growing, there used to be “tensions” between the personalities and the Local Centers. I noticed at the COM that the “driving forces” were changing over time e.g. initial “mastery” by the BMC, then the “hijack” by Maharashtra Jeevan Pradhikaran (MJP) and then spurts of “oppositions” coming from “free radicals” of Bangalore and Delhi. Many times, I used to drop Mr. Bhise from the COM meetings to “Champak” – he used to have a great laugh in the car and say “Prasad, I never thought that the organization I founded will spend so much time on matters so petty and not address the real professional issues”. Well, this is the most commonly seen situation across associations today.

In 2000, I organized an International Workshop on Private Sector Participation (PSP) in Water Infrastructure on behalf of the Mumbai Center of IWWA. This workshop was organized in Goa. It was an amazing experience for me. The Workshop was timely as PSP was on the rise in India (later ending with a glorious fall!) and stakeholders such as Central Government, Urban Local Bodies and Private Sector needed a platform for discussions. For the preparation of the workshop, I made several sorties to Goa with Mr R S Gaitonde (a “Raja” personality, truly a Goan soul and then Vice President of IWWA). Our stay at the hotel Mandovi was always memorable. I loved having a drink with him in the large ball room in Mandovi hotel, with waltz dance going on Saturday evenings and watching the ships in the river Mandovi. We used to meet Mr. Pratapsingh Rane, Hon. Chief Minister of Goa in the morning to get “all the blessings” we needed for the event.

The PSP workshop was attended by great personalities in the water sector across the word and stalwarts in India. There were only 60 participants over 3 days on a residential basis and so discussions could happen. Later I brought out a special issue of JIWWA that contained all the key presentations. Mumbai Center of IWWA made a cool “profit” of 500,000 Rs.  So the event was a “success”

After I stepped down as the Hon Editor of JIWWA, I slowly drifted out of IWWA. I started attending the annual conventions only occasionally. The annual conventions are now in a new avatara. There are now large exhibitions (with all the noise and clutter), side visits (more as tours for the families) and the lunch/dinner galore. Technical sessions are crowded with no time to discuss.  I am not much inspired now-a-days to attend the IWWA Conventions. I see more strangers than friends at the sessions. But isnt that quite natural and not a surprise.

Many of us, old timers of IWWA, still meet and try to get together as regularly as possible. Most of the times, Park club near the sea beach in Shivaji Park is the place. We speak about the good old times of IWWA and drink beers.

In 2007, I gave the Modak Memorial Lecture that was instituted in the memory of my late Uncle N V (Nanasaheb) Modak. In 2016, I was asked to deliver this lecture once again for the second time at the 48th Annual Convention. This was indeed a rare honor to receive. I delivered my talk in the morning of January 21 at CIDCO auditorium in Navi Mumbai. That very evening I suffered a massive heart attack. I just survived and miraculously so as I was moved in time to the Hinduja Hospital. After the angioplasty was done and I was sent home, I spoke to my colleagues at the IWWA. I said in a lighter vein that, if I had not survived, then IWWA would have had two Memorial lectures from 2017 (one for the Late uncle and another for the Late nephew!).

Now that I have lost more than 10 kgs, and feeling really fit, I do hope to deliver Modak Memorial Lecture for the third time, may be in 2025!

Wish me luck! God bless.


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Body, Soul and the Ultimate Truth

Body&Soul

I was standing outside the Victoria Terminus (VT) Station of Mumbai at 9 am with Professor Hikeda of Tokyo University. Professor Hikeda was researching on the subject of “urban crowding”.

A huge mass of human bodies was pouring out from the VT station. All bodies were walking briskly with not many “collisions” between them towards their destinations.  Professor Hikeda was busy on his video recording the movement of bodies and speaking into his digital voice recorder taking his audio notes. “Reminds me of Tokyo – but the scale here is different”. He turned to me and said.

When I returned home, I started thinking about the human body and consumption. “Oh to keep these human bodies alive and in “motion”, there must be hell of a consumption” I said to myself.

Many of you know that every human produces an individual ecological footprint that is determined largely by the wealth and level of development in the country they live in. More developed countries have a larger footprint on average—but the choices we make in our daily lives about what to consume also makes a significant contribution. Driving a car, running clothes through a dryer, turning on the air conditioning—are the activities that add up to a larger footprint.

If everyone in the world lived like the residents of the US, humanity’s annual demand on nature is estimated to be equal to a whopping four Earths per year.  And then there are several countries that have very low footprints that are poor in economy. In fact they are yearning for more consumption as they are undernourished and energy poor. “Basic” amenities and services are not available to them.

According to recent United Nations estimates, global population is increasing by approximately 80 million — the size of Germany — each year. Although birth rates have declined in most areas of the world, population growth continues to be fueled by high levels of fertility, particularly in Asia and Africa. Continued high birth rates in many developing regions, coupled with low fertility in more-developed regions, means that 80 percent of the global population now lives in less-developed nations.

See the chart below taken from the United Nations Development Programme (dated 2006) that attempts to link human well-being with ecological foot print.

HDI_EcologicalFootprint

The challenge of reducing our footprint is getting more complex every day. How do we decrease our resource use and at the same time create a future that provides food, water and energy for the 9 billion people that will share the planet in 2050? That’s the “sustainability equation” we are attempting to solve.

The goal is that everyone lives within the Earth’s capacity to sustain people and nature—and has equitable access to, and use of, natural resources.

When I asked this question to my Professor Friend, he lighted his cigar and said

“For the future footprints, the changes in the birth rates and the “dependency ratios” will matter. A dependency ratio is defined as the number of people over the age of 65 for each 100 people of working ages between 15 to 64”

I had not come across this term “dependency ratio”

Professor continued

“A recent forecast appeared in a November 2012 report by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. The report is titled “Looking to 2060: Long-Term Global Growth Prospects”.

“And what does this report say?” I asked

“By 2060 Germany and Italy are expected to have dependency ratios above 55. The graph below shows estimates of “dependency ratios” of the Eurozone through 2060. So people in Europe will get older much faster before they become rich and overconsume. In 2010, China had just a dependency ratio of 11.3 but it is estimated that it will be in the same range as the US and UK in 2045. So there the surge in consumption will fall with tapering economic growth. The pace of change in countries such as China will make planning and adjustment of global resources much more difficult. The report says that more rapid aging of the population in China will partly explain why India and Indonesia will overtake China’s economic growth rate in less than a decade.

Old_Age_WorldStats

I said “So the underlying message is that a rise in the birth rates brings its own set of challenges in the form of an increased demand for resources such as food, energy, and water leading to high ecological footprints and affects the economic growth”

Professor summed up while extinguishing his cigar

“As quoted,  a real dilemma is now taking shape: no growth in birth rates, then more dependency, less economic growth, and lower rises in standard of living. Or, growth in birth rate, more short term economic growth, and more pressure on resources necessary for a sustainable form of growth and improvement in standard of living”

I said “The sustainability equation will simply be jinxed!”

I started thinking about the human bodies, consumption that we need to do for living well and the birth and death cycles in the context of planets sustainability.

Since the matter had to be dealt at the highest level, I called Lords Vishnu, Shiva and Brahma on Skype and they answered my call immediately.

I saw that the Lords were working on a laptop along with Professor Jay Forester, father of System Dynamics and who used to teach at the MIT. They were busy adjusting the birth and death rates trying to tame Planets Population. I thought they were having fun like playing a mobile app game.

Professor Forester said Hi. He was showing the Lords how to plug in various “loss functions” like cyclones, earthquakes etc. and was introducing new sub-systems like “Climate Change”. He said that Climate Change will significantly alter the birth and death rates as well as the status on resource availability – rather resource security. “This sub-system will require more modelling” he said.

The Lords were thrilled to see such potential interventions and were wondering whether they could crack the difficult equation of sustainability using the tools and sub-systems.

I asked the Lords (and Professor Forester) – “My Lords – after the death on the Planet Earth – why don’t you keep souls with you at your end and don’t let them take birth again in human bodies. It’s the body that is becoming the problem. It leads to consumption and affects sustainability. The souls should rest in peace with you and simply not return. Won’t it help in reducing the birth rates?”

Lord Vishnu smiled and said “Dr Modak – we cannot keep every soul with us. There is a minimum qualification criteria that a soul must meet. The soul must be sensitive to people and to the environment and should be believing in doing good for everybody. Further the soul should be detached to the material world of consumption. Only then we reward such as soul and give them a place to stay with us”

I was shocked with this crazy logic.

“My Lord, shouldn’t it be reverse? All such good souls should be sent back to the Planet so that we attain sustainability. We badly need such good souls. You should keep the “bad souls” with you and do not let them return to the Planet Earth and take form in the human bodies”

The Lords and Professor Forester were stunned with my reverse logic.

I continued “Professor Forester – can you please run your System Dynamic model with this change?”

“You have an interesting point Dr Modak” Professor Forester said while starting the re-code and re-run of the model “I must try this alternate approach – at least for academic interest”

The three Lords were however not charmed with this idea.

“Oh Dr Modak, your jugglery with bodies and souls is fine for a discussion but you do not understand the Ultimate Truth” said Lord Vishnu.

With this, all the three Lords closed their lotus eyes in deep meditation. And there was a silence.

The Skype call was disconnected.


Cover image taken from http://bodymindsoulevents.com/

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An Ashtray I shouldn’t Have Gifted

Ashtray

I met Vera Jansen (name changed) in Jakarta while working with GIZ.  She worked with BAPEDAL (Ministry of Environment) as a consultant and was assisting them in the area of Environmental Impact Assessment (AMDAL as they call). Her mother was an Indonesian and father was Dutch. Vera was born in Wagenhagen and studied at the Utrecht University.

Vera spoke both Indonesian Bahasa and Dutch fluently. Her roots brought her back to Indonesia. She wanted to look after her mother in Yogyakarta and perhaps that was the principal reason why she returned. On the weekends she would travel to Yogya. My work with GIZ was on Cleaner Production – a program we had captioned as “ProduksiH Bersih”. In those days, BAPEDAL had a number of international consultants supported by various Bilateral Aid Agencies. I don’t know the situation today.

Every evening as the work used to be over, we the consultants used to meet for a drink at the Elvis Priestly Bar at the basement of Arthaloka building where BAPEDAL was located. We had a little group of four friends including me – consisting a Canadian, an American and a Swedish consultant.  We used to have a couple of beers, listen to Elvis and exchange notes on what’s happening in the BAPEDAL. This was more of networking meet to catch up.

One day as we were sitting and chatting, a tall girl by Indonesian standards and with a wheat complexion and a pleated skirt walked across to us and said “Hi Folks, My name is Vera. Vera Jansen. I work like you at the BAPDEAL as a consultant. Would you mind if I join you for a drink?”  My colleague Bob (from Canada) said “Most welcome Vera, feel free to join” and Cindy (consultant from the United States) moved a bit to accommodate Vera and pulled a stool for her to sit. Vera settled, sat cross legged and lighted a cigarette. That was in style. I passed on to her an ashtray.

Vera was really a very friendly and warm person and was extremely talkative. She must be in her early thirty’s that time. Vera lived close to Arthaloka, loved music at the Jaya Pub nearby, was single and a workaholic.  She had joined BAPEDAL just a week before and was looking for a company.

From then onwards, we became a gang of five. We didn’t realize that soon Vera took over our conversations as the leader. She had strong opinions and used to bulldoze us with arguments that we often found very difficult to confront with. Vera had opinions on everything and anything.

There used to be occasions when we hardly spoke and Vera used to give us a discourse. She used to hold her cigarette in a style while making arguments. She would raise her eyebrows sometimes to stress the point. That would lead to formation of two vertical frown lines on her forehead. Her face looked so intellectual then. I used to be simply mesmerized by this elegant and intelligent woman.


I love meeting with women who develop frown lines on the forehead when eyebrows are raised or they puff a deep smoke in grace. To me, it’s a sign of intellect. The vertical frown lines in particular exhibit rebellious attitude, independent thoughts and an outspoken behavior. And the style of smoking exhibits a confidence.

Glabella lines, also known as frown lines, are the lines that appear between the eyebrows when we frown. These little lines are formed by the repeated action of frowning due to the lack of elasticity in aging skin.

Many women who have permanent frown lines are keen to get rid of them. Most go for Botox treatment. I agree to Botox if the frown lines are permanent, too visible and make the face look wrinkled and rather “ugly”.

But if this is not the case, then why get rid of them? There are critiques who support the frown lines. “Age should not have its face lifted, but it should rather teach the world to admire wrinkles as the etchings of experience and the firm line of character.” Says Clarence Day Jr.

Alex Morritt of Impromptu Scribe quips ― “Wrinkles? Why all the fuss? Think of them as lines of distinction; marks of maturity.”

Some phrenologists have attempted interpreting the frown lines. To some, short vertical frown lines indicate personalities that show abrupt changes. When a single vertical crease is found between the eyebrows, the person is expected to be selfish, egotistical and ambitious. Two vertical creases if in parallel on the forehead represent a person who can see others’ point of view. When three vertical creases are found in parallel, the person is expected to achieve an early success and becomes a celebrity. I don’t think any of these described Vera’s personality.

Most celebrities “remove” the frown lines. But there are exceptions. Take example of Emma Thompson, Isabella Rossellini or Diane Keaton. These celebrities have maintained their frown lines in grace. And there are more.

collage_AshTray

But women who get frown lines when they raise eyebrows or smoke are special to me. Vera was that kind of a woman.


My missions to Jakarta were typically over a week or sometimes over two weeks at the maximum. During each mission, having conversations with Vera at the Elvis was an attraction. I used to really look forward to meeting Vera.

Vera was a voracious reader and so I used to get a box of books for her. She would in return book me at some of the Jazz places in Jakarta for a concert. The Cascade Lounge at hotel Mullia was our favorite. The Jazz at the Cascade was sophisticated and smooth. The coffee Luwak out there was the best. Vera used to choose this place because smoking was allowed at the corner sofas.

Cascade04

The Cascade Lounge

Our conversations used to be a lot on the work she used to do at the BAPEDAL. Vera had analyzed the Environmental Management Plans (EMPs) of some 600 AMDALs across Indonesia. Her finding was that most EMPs were boiler plate type and did not really require environmental assessments to arrive at. The EMPs were obvious best practices which should have been done anyway  Like take appropriate measures to reduce dust release during construction, dampen the noise during blasting, plant a green belt around etc.

[I don’t know what will be the outcome if we were to analyze say 1000 Indian EIAs for the “gold” we could get from the EMPs. We probably will see more of “stones” than the “gold”]

Vera used to stress the importance of regional and cumulative assessments to come up with planning and policy related measures. “These measures really matter”, she used to say. The Indian EIA system today still operates on the project level and that’s a pity. I really hope that one day our EIA Notification matures and addresses strategic EIA and lays down the guidelines and procedures. We are couple of decades behind the world.

Vera used to take me along to Barik Keris– The well-known handicrafts shop for Indonesian handicrafts. She would always insist shopping something for me. Her art sense was amazing and she introduced me to some of the exotic and abstract Indonesian fabric and paintings.

Ashtray

A Moroccan Ashtray that I gifted Vera

I was in Morocco for some work and came across a nice Moroccan ashtray. I remembered Vera and picked up one for her. When I gifted her, she said “So Prasad you want me to be a chain-smoker – do you? … Ugh?” And I said “Well, I just want you to remember me every day!” And she smiled. When she turned around the ashtray, she saw my name engraved there with a scribe “Complements from Prasad”. “Oh, I like that” – she exclaimed. “I will carry this ashtray wherever I go”.

I had a conference to attend in Yogyakarta. Vera was excited. “I will be there a week before. You will stay at my house. My mother will love to meet you”. I told her that I will book a room in a hotel nearby to her house.  So I booked at the Phoenix, a boutique hotel of my kind.

I checked in the morning at the hotel, dumped my luggage in the room and left straight for the conference. I thought of calling Vera on my return.

When I came back and reached the reception, the Lobby Manager was waiting for me “Sir, you have been checked out. Your friend sitting in the lounge asked us to do so – he pointed at Vera who was sitting on a sofa smoking. My luggage was neatly placed next to the counter.

“I told you that you must stay with us”.  Vera said angrily. “I found out your hotel and I know the Lobby Manager here. So I could pull you out without your consent”. The Lobby Manager was standing next to her with an apologetic face to me “Sorry Sir, Ms. Jansen told me that you are her Guest and a Close Friend”.

So I landed at Vera’s house. Her house was a quaint place – a bungalow with garden, lots of teak wood used in the interiors, lovely paintings hanging on the walls and artifacts placed on the shelves. Vera’s mother greeted me warmly and hugged. “I know so much about you already as she keeps talking about you. Vera loves you my friend”

I stayed with Vera and her mother for two nights. The dinners were really enjoyable with all the authentic Indonesian cuisine. They had a great cook who used to follow Mothers instructions diligently. Vera and I used to sit late in the lounge discussing her favorite topic “The EIA”!! “Can you not talk about something else?” I could not resist but ask her this question. We then spoke about Indonesian and Indian versions of Ramayana and Mahabharata.

After two days, when I went to say good bye to her Mother, she pulled me towards her side and whispered “Prasad, you are a close friend of Vera. Please – please ask her to give up smoking. One day this heavy smoking is going to kill her! She doesn’t listen to me, May be to you”

I said “Mom. I will try to. But to me Vera looks great when she smokes a cigarette. And I like her style”.

Vera’s mother stared at me and said “I hope you are not serious Prasad and only joking”

I returned to Mumbai. I saw Vera again couple of times in my next missions. My Project “Produksih Bersih” was nearing the closure. My last trip happened after a gap of nearly six months. I was busy. I exchanged a few emails with Vera but later found that her responses were delayed.

So on the very first day I was at the BAPEDAL, I went down to Elvis looking for Vera. My gang of three was there. I asked for my beer and asked Bob about Vera.

There was a pause – and a silence that made all of us uncomfortable. Nobody spoke. Then Cindy held my held and said softly – “Vera passed away last month. It was a galloping Lung Cancer. She had a painful death. She asked about you when we visited the hospital”

I was shell shocked and was choked with emotions. I didn’t know what to say. How could this happen?

I remembered meeting Vera the first time. Sitting cross legged in a pleated skirt on a stool, with a cigarette in her hand and those interesting frown lines appearing on her forehead as she took a deep puff of the cigarette….

I decided to go to Yogyakarta and see her mother. When I met her, she hugged me and wept. We sat together in the Verandah and remembered her.

When I got up to say goodbye, she said “Wait Prasad, I have to give you back something that Vera told me not to forget”. She opened a drawer of the camphor chest that was carved and polished in red. There was a box packed neatly like a present that she handed over to me “Don’t open the box here”, She said this in a cracked voice.

I left for the airport. As soon as I reached the lounge, I tore the packing and opened the box. It had the Moroccan Ash tray that I had gifted to Vera.

It was the ash tray I should not have given. And I broke down.


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Life without a Smart Phone

 

SmartPhoneLife

Lord Indra, the King of Gods, received the 2015 Earth Report. The focus of the Report was on how a human being on Earth typically spends time in a day. The Report showed that most of the time humans spent was for using a Smart Phone. The statistics showed that the number of Smart Phones on the Earth had reached a staggering figure of 7 billion and on an average humans spent nearly 5 hours a day on the Smart Phone. For 2016, the usage was expected to be even higher – reaching 7 hours on average each day.

“This is just crazy” Lord Indra said. “This is no life – and simply a waste of time! This was not something Gods intended”

BreakUpTimeSpent_Mobile

He called for an emergency meeting inviting the core committee consisting Lord Vishnu (God of Conservation and Protection), Lord Shiva (Lord of Destruction) and Lord Bramha (Lord of Creation).

Lord Shiva said that this problem can be easily solved by destroying the Smart Phones. “I will simply open my “third eye”” he said – and all the Smart Phones on the Earth will catch fire and get destroyed.

[Lord Shiva opens his “third eye” to destroy all that is unconscious, dark, and dualistic, in this dancing universe. Essentially, Lord Shiva’s third eye opens to end all illusions like the Smart Phones!}

Lord Vishnu said “But this is not the solution – The Smart Phone makers will make new phones in no time and give a replacement at a competitive price so as to grab the new market of 7 billion mobiles. And don’t forget that the pollution generated by putting 7 billion Smart Phones on fire. Each mobile phone is like a mine of metals and so there will be release of at least 10 million tonnes of hazardous metals to the environment. Very few mobile phone users know that.”

Lord Brahma said that he has been observing the increase in the use of Smart Phones over the past few years with a great concern. “Use of Smart Phones has major health impact due to the radiations. Usage in a day over 2 hours can cause headaches and Alzheimer’s disease.”

Lord Yama (God of Death and Lord Brahma’s son) was taking notes of the meeting. He said that according to a Swedish research which is published on International Archives of Occupational and Environmental Health Journal, people who use mobile phone about an hour per day in ten years will be affected by brain tumor. There is an American researcher, who states that using mobile phone is a cause of cancers. Very few Smart Phone users know that”

Lord Indra – The King of Gods – immediately summoned Lord Yama to initiate a questionnaire to understand cause of death of every arriving soul focusing on the lifestyles. The questionnaire you earlier used for smoking of cigarettes should work, as usage of Smart Phone is like an addiction and it seems to have similar order of impacts”

“But Lord Vishnu, what is the solution?” Lord Indra was getting impatient.

Lord Vishnu had another point of view. He said “As a first step, let us realize why humans on the Earth have started increasing usage of the Smart Phones. Smart Phones are today so effective that they have replaced basic gadgets like alarm clocks and now even the high end digital cameras. Smart Phone is clearly disruptive technology. And it’s not just the hardware, but the “software” or the Apps that have made the real difference! Everyone is hooked on the social platforms like LinkedIn and Face Book (FB) that provide a new digital identity, flood megabytes of news and pictures (whether wanted or otherwise)”

“Every day new invitations keep pouring in and the statistics shows that on an average a FB member on the Earth has 338 connections. And don’t forget the “dating” related mobile applications where most teenagers are spending time. So all we need to do is bring in a behavior change

Mobile_in_Traffic

“My suggestion is to attempt a Pilot. Why don’t we pick up say five people on the Earth and “vanish” their mobile phones with our divine power for a week and see how they live life without a Smart Phone? We will ensure that any mobile phone that they will attempt to touch, will also “vanish” in the air. Basically, they will be devoid of a Smart Phone over a week. We will meet after a week to take a review of the Pilot study. Lord Shiva – please take responsibility of this operation Vanish” “

Lord Vishnu was always known to come up with clever ideas. So the Committee agreed to his suggestion.

“Who should be the five people?” Lord Shiva asked.

Lord Brahma recommended some interesting names.

At sharp 8 15 am, Mr. Mukesh Ambani of Reliance got into his BMW 760li. He took out his Smart Phone to make important calls as he would speak in peace and in all privacy. These calls or instructions would decide the business in India and for that matter of the world. But today the moment he touched his Smart Phone, it simply disappeared. He was shocked. He had three spare mobiles in his car, but each mobile he touched, the mobiles vanished. In desperation, he asked his driver to lend him his mobile, and that faced the same fate too.

Mr. Ambani did not know what to do how to spend next 30 minutes in the Car. He looked outside the window to see the slums and poverty in Mumbai. He was aghast as he never looked outside and used to look only at his Smart Phone’s screen. He then looked at the photos of his three children Akash, Isha and Anant that he carried in his wallet. “Oh there is so much to do for this City” he said and then ended with a sigh “I really don’t connect much with my children. I must spend quality time with them as a family”. He decided to keep off use of Smart Phone for “some while”. “Smart phones absence is making me think differently” – he muttered to himself.

A Young Collegiate, Sunny was to date with Julie at Café Mondiger at Colaba at 6 pm. This was to be their second meeting after a brief encounter at a party in Bandra. Sunny was riding the A/C Bus from Malad. The traffic was crazy and Sunny was getting late – as much by 30 minutes.

He picked up his Smart Phone to “text” Julie and let her know the delay. As soon as he touched his Smart Phone, the phone vanished – courtesy the powers of Lord Shiva. “Shit, what’s happening?” Sunny exclaimed. He searched for the Phone in his bag pack. There was no trace.

In desperation, Sunny requested his neighbor in the Bus for his phone explaining the “emergency”. The neighbor, who was a kind retired person, lent his Smart Phone. But as soon as Sunny touched his Phone, it disappeared too! And that led to a serious problem!! Sunny had to not just apologize profusely but give the Gentleman his contact address, deposit his college ID card and driving license with a promise that he will compensate or return the Smart Phone, the very next day. The old man who was earlier kind, was raged as his Smart Phone had photographs of his 50 years of wedding anniversary. “How do I get these?” He was in tears. Smart Phones have become now places to store the memories..

Sunny reached Café Mondegar by 6 45 pm, forty five minutes late than the dating appointment. He knew that Julie won’t be around. There was no way any girl would wait – with no SMS to her from his side. As he entered Café Mondegar however, he found Julie siting at one of the round tables. She was wearing a white shirt with an embroidery and a dark skirt and sitting crossed legged. “Oh Sunny, why so late? You must be stuck in the traffic” she said in an understanding tone “But I knew you would come and so I kept waiting”. While taking his seat at the round table, Sunny apologized profusely and then looked into Julie’s eyes. Her eyes showed the happiness, trust and an interest to go ahead.  “Oh indeed, there was no need for all that panic!” Sunny said to himself ordering a draft beer and Akuri. Not having the Smart Phone helped both Sunny and Julie to know that they really liked each other. They eventually married.

Deepika Padukone, the famous and one of my favorite actors, was in a shopping mall. She finished her shopping and took out her Smart Phone to call her driver to come at the Point of Exit. And the Smart Phone disappeared! “Oh I must have left the Phone in the Car – Lately I have really become so absent minded” She said to herself. She then approached the information desk for help. The lady at the information desk dialed her driver’s number (and several times) but the response she got was “out of reach”

“This happens when cars are parked in the last basement” The lady was apologetic “I am sending one of my boys right way to the basement to fetch your car”. After all the lady knew that she was talking to Actor Deepika Padukone. In order to keep Deepika busy and entertained for a while, the Lady asked Deepika whether she would be interested to take a look at a small exhibition area set up by the Mall to display products made out of waste materials and crafted by poor women. Deepika went across to see. Being herself a committed person for the good of the society, she was really overwhelmed as well as inspired. Two weeks later, she announced a program to encourage such initiatives in Bangalore and chose to become an Ambassador. “Losing my Smart Phone the other day – showed me a new opportunity” she said in a Press Interview.

There we two more individuals that were tracked by Lord Indra. They included Politician Subramanian Swami (who really didn’t know what to do in life in the absence of a Smart Phone) and a Share Broker in Bombay Stock Exchange (who thought of committing suicide when his Smart Phone vanished)

The Committee of Lords met after a week for review of the Pilot experience.

“So life without Smart Phones seems to be a good idea – despite its advantages” said Lord Vishnu. Both Lord Shiva and Lord Brahma seemed to be in agreement. To come to an acceptable conclusion and follow up action however, the Committee decided to do a Godly Consultation (means Public Consultation in the “Earth” sense!).

Around 100 Gods and equivalent attended. Several ideas were proposed on how to discourage increasing use of Smart Phones and encourage people on the Earth to reduce time spent on mobiles. Some said that reduce life of the mobile batteries so that the talking time is restricted to only 1 hour a day. Some said that we should  ban certain mobile applications altogether to that people live life in “reality”, meet and talk to each other, don’t keep staring at the screen and get a disturbed sleep at night;  don’t over shop (i.e. consume for the sake of consumption). Some asked for withdrawal of What’s App where humans keep sending silly messages and pictures only for the sake of “digital identity” and because it’s free.

Muni Narad (son of Lord Brahma) came with an idea that we should simply make behavior of the Smart Phone apps completely unpredictable to unreliable. Imagine if you logged into your FB account and saw each time total strangers shown as your friends! Or when you log into LinkedIn and see somebody else’s profile instead of yours! What a crazy world it will be! Muni Narad had a devilish grin when he said this.

Lord Vishnu reacted negative. This is typical of Narad Muni he said. This recommendation will lead to the human kind to become lunatic, mentally depressed and completely dysfunctional.

[Narad Muni is the son of Brahma and a devotee of Lord Vishnu. He is known for gossiping and knows all the news from around the universe. He is also known for creating fights among people by spicing up the facts. Rather, Muni Narad is believed to be the first journalist on the Earth. It is said that he still guides the Indian Journalists!]

All this while, Lord Brahma was listening to all patiently. “I don’t have an immediate solution but something we could look at a long run. Given the addiction of the human kind for the Smart Phones, let me “engineer” in the Human Genes few innovative molecules that will build a Smart Phone capability in the body itself. Armed with this feature, humans of “future” will be able to “send SMS”, “make calls” or “go on FB” or “shop” by simply using mental powers. Two people at a thousand kilometer distance for instance can meditate a bit, close their eyes, and do a conversation without a Smart Phone. By introducing this change in the “human evolution”, we will address the health related issues of the Smart Phones as well that of the mounting E-Waste!”

“This is an excellent step for action. I congratulate you Lord Brahma” said Lord Vishnu. “Just copy part of the DNA structure we have. We all communicate with each other through our Mind Power– and without any of these Smart Phones for thousands of years – Isn’t it?” And I thought he was just right.

The Godly Consultation on Smart Phones ended with a Vote of Thanks


Cover image sourced from http://www.stuff.co.nz/technology/digital-living/75959892/Life-without-a-smartphone-is-liberating


 

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Indian Weddings now require Environmental Clearance

IndianWedding

On a Sunday morning, one of my good friends invited me for a breakfast. “Dr Modak, I have a serious matter to discuss with you. Please could you bring your Professor Friend as well?” He sounded a bit exasperated.

My friend lived in one of the tallest buildings in Mumbai on the 104th floor. In fact, he occupied floors from 100 to 104 and owned the terrace that had a helipad. Few knew that he was the richest Indian on a global basis and yet he paid all the tax dues in full and in time to the Government of India and such several Governments. The world economy depended on him, his business and his investments.

Some believed that his Indian tax returns were more than the annual budget of Municipal Corporation of Mumbai. To me this was rather an underestimate. Most business tycoons and houses like Tatas, Birlas, Ambani’s and Mittals were dwarfs in front of my friends “might”. He however chose to remain anonymous and only PM Modi (and of course Amit Shah) knew about him. “Money is not everything in life” He used to tell me whenever we had occasions to meet. This was not surprising as he already had all the money of the world to make such a statement!

“So my friend? What’s your problem? I asked while sipping a freshly brewed Columbian coffee that was served in a solid silver mug.

“Well, you know my daughter is getting married this year. As it is going to be an important event that will draw attention of the world, me and my wife decided to start planning. I thought of engaging the Taj group and so called on Cyrus Mistry. The first thing, Cyrus asked me whether I have obtained an Environmental Clearance (EC) from the Ministry of Environment and Forests (and Climate Change).”

“Apparently, Union Minister Prakash Javadekar feels that the environmental impact of Indian weddings on an aggregated basis is much more than environmental impact of 100 coal fired thermal power plants put together! A report was prepared by 7 IITs to make a comparative assessment and the conclusions led to requirement of EC for Indian weddings where the number of guests or invitees exceed 500. It has been now put in the Schedule”

“Oh 7 IITs again” – I remembered the fiasco when 7 IITs were commissioned by the Ganga Authority to prepare the Action Plan – something the Professors had no clue about and the result was inconsequential!”

But my friend continued.

“This is a terrible stipulation. I estimate at least 50,000 people to attend my daughter’s wedding. This is something I thought was modest – of course a little more lavish than the Weddings of Roys, Jhunjhunwalas and Mittals. But how do I get this EC? Cyrus said that it will take at least one year as it will involve baseline monitoring, some mathematical modelling (essentially a show-of) and public hearing (for name-sake)”

Requirement of EC for weddings was a news to me. I knew that lately food waste had become a focus of discussions to flag the environmental impact of Indian weddings. A recent survey showed that annually, Bangalore alone wastes 943 tonnes of quality food during weddings. The survey showed that 22% food wasted in buffet system and 20% in served system “This is enough to feed 26 million people a normal Indian meal,” a study by a team of 10 professors from the University of Agricultural Sciences (UAS), Bangalore, had concluded. The team, under the guidance of UAS vice-chancellor K Narayana Gowda, surveyed 75 of Bangalore’s 531 marriage halls over a period of six months. At an average cost of Rs 40 per meal, the total food wastage in the city is estimated at Rs 3390 million” the study said.

I realized that my friend’s plan of inviting 50,000 guests will mean that the economic implications of the food wastage could be close to annual budget of corporations of Mumbai, Delhi, Chennai and Kolkata – put together.

Given this estimated impact, I told my friend that he hires one of the top EIA consultants in the country or for that matter in the world and get an EC on a “fast track”.  “Speak to the PM if Javadekar is adamant” I said. “The party is powerful. They just got rid of Raghuram Rajan, Governor of RBI”

“Well, I don’t want to jump the queue”. My friend said humbly. “I will follow the rules and get a proper EC” He then turned to Professor and asked “Sir, will you help me and be my consultant?”

Professor lighted his cigar, took a deep puff and placed the cigar on an ash tray that was studded with diamond and in gold.

“I can certainly help you. We will prepare a high quality and comprehensive EIA report and follow all the required process steps”

He then started outlining his ideas.

“We will follow all the best known green wedding norms”

“All invitations will be e-mailed. Ministers and top administrators will however get hard copies on recycled paper as they don’t read emails”

“We will conduct baseline monitoring at the Brabourne stadium, which will be the appropriate venue, and place continuous air quality (including odor) and noise monitoring instruments on every 15 degree sector of the stadium. These stations will collect data on a round the clock basis over 3 months, especially covering the periods of cricket matches where spikes could be observed. We will later show through sophisticated prediction modelling that the impact on air quality and noise during our wedding will be much lower than the impact caused due to the game of cricket!”

“Regarding food, we will put placards with messages saying guests must not waste food and take only what they can consume. All those who will waste food will be tracked and fined”

“That’s not a good idea” my friend said. I saw him embarrassed.

“OK, then we will design the menu such that there is least impact in sourcing the raw materials. All raw materials will be sourced within the 10 km impact radius (following the norm of impact assessment followed in the Indian EIA system)”

“We will not have on the menu expensive delicacies such as beef, lobster and the ever-controversial shark-fin soup in the interest of animal welfare, sentiments and biodiversity. We will only select locally produced, organic, seasonal food, served buffet-style in order to minimize waste.  This menu will influence people later to follow. There will not be any IPR”

“The bride and groom will wear only environmentally and socially responsible jewelry and cotton outfits certified by GOTS. The decorations will consist of 5,000 potted plants, reusable natural cloth, LED lights and paper flowers”

“Over 500 workers of a recycling firm will be deployed to segregate the excess food properly, pack and serve the poor that are so many in Mumbai. The food waste will be promptly dispatched to a biogas processing facility”

“We will thus influence the vendors to go green and create in this process a huge market for green products and services. A new green wedding industry will emerge”

Now Professor took a deep puff from his cigar for a new idea.

“We will hold a 2 minute session for Weddings wows that will be administered every one hour during the wedding ceremony. These wows will ask for making a public commitment that henceforth i.e. after attending the wedding, you will live sustainably. This wow will be administered by top Bollywood stars so that the wow will be heard, followed and practiced seriously”

“Great” said my friend “Any consideration on analysis of alternatives? Cyrus said that Javadekar is very particular when it comes to alternatives He has never seen generation and analyses of alternatives in the Indian EIA reports so far and is hence very curious.”

The Professor smiled

“Our environmental and social management plan will ensure least ecological footprint as much possible. We will study the addresses of invitees and come up with a decentralized strategy. The wedding will be relayed though screens of the size of a 6 storied building at multiple locations such that the overall carbon emissions are reduced. So in effect only 5000 people may attend the actual wedding at the Brabourne stadium and rest may participate remotely at say 10 locations. These locations will be carefully selected on application of Mixed Integer Zero One Programming.  We will however take on cumulative impact assessment of the 10 simultaneous weddings. MoEF (&CC) is in a habit of asking such studies later as an afterthought. Further, an environmental and social management framework will be developed overarching the 10 locations emphasizing a common “green code of conduct”. Separate public hearings will be executed too”.

“Oh, that is very thoughtful of you Professor”, I said “So you will assess impacts with and without “project” and with “centralized” and “decentralized” approach.

“Yes, will you be giving any return gifts?” Professor asked my friend.

“Well, I was thinking of giving gold bars of 100 gms to everyone who will bless the bride and the groom” My friend said – “this is the least I can offer”

“Let me then come up with a high level Disaster Management Plan (DMP) as there could be possibilities of stampedes while collecting the return gifts” Professor said this thoughtfully and took down notes in his scratch pad.

I thought of butting in. “Why don’t we give 2 bars of gold if they chose to come in public transport. All they will need to do is show the manager the bus, tram or railway ticket as a proof”

“Good idea”. My friend said. “I really want to do something more for all those who will attend. Why not offer a free health check up on the nearby Oval grounds and give coupons of Rs 50,000 each to cover one year of medical expenses”

“So kind of you” Professor said. He continued.

“In any case, we will publish a sustainability report following GRI G4 format post the wedding as a measure of transparency and disclosure. Importantly, I will train the media on the GRI so that there is no mis-reporting”

In essence, your wedding celebrations will be low carbon-emitting, socially-responsible, energy efficient and embrace the four Rs (reuse, reduce, recycle, and repair). With all these commitments, the event will live up to the expectations of being one of the most memorable event talked about over the next 5 years (i.e. till your son’s wedding)

“Finally, carbon offsetting, i.e., reducing greenhouse gases from other emissions sources to compensate from our own actions will be followed.  We will plant trees to absorb GHGs (that will in any case we very low) and if required buy land and raise the green cover in Mumbai to 20% “

We ended the breakfast with all this inspiring conversation. Professor was duly commissioned for getting the EC.

In few months, I received a call from my friend that the project proposal for his daughter’s wedding received the EC. The Appraisal Committee was extremely happy to see Professors robust environmental and social management plan. The only condition they imposed was to get an invitation to attend the wedding (of course for the purpose of monitoring they said and not for any other interest!)

My friend said that he was asked to join for Tea, post granting of EC, by Minister Prakash Javadekar in his chamber. When asked “any suggestions?” my friend said that while the idea of asking EC for weddings was a right step, how about asking for EC for holding political rallies? He said that rallies attracting thousands of people are rather impacting and could mean an aggregated impact equivalent to 200 coal power thermal power plants.

Apparently the Minister smiled and said “Well, we cannot – as these events are organized to generate income for those who work for, attend and participate – For rallies, we must take a broad perspective of socio-economic benefits and not focus only on the environmental impacts”

“Why don’t you and Professor join again for breakfast?” My friend ended the conversation. He once again sounded rather exasperated with this explanation!


Cover image sourced from http://edition.cnn.com/2015/08/20/business/indian-wedding-gold-jewelery-prices/