Remembering Guru Das Agarwal

Professor G D Agarwal

I came across Professor G D Agarwal’s name when I was in the final year of BTech in Civil Engg at IIT Bombay. This was year 1978. I was researching on where to do a Masters in Environmental Engineering. My batch-mate Renu Gera who had moved from IIT Kanpur to IIT Bombay, recommended IIT Kanpur and mentioned Professor G D Agarwal. “He is a very senior Professor and a rather strict and a strong personality. But he is the right person to write to” she said.

I wrote a letter to Prof Agarwal on a post card asking about the Master’s program in Environmental Engineering at IIT Kanpur. I asked how this program compares with some of the international graduate programs, especially in the United States. Honestly, I did not expect a response.

In the next two weeks, I received a letter from Professor Agarwal, typed on the letterhead of Civil Engineering Department of IIT Kanpur. The letter was very considerate to my questions and elaborated the curriculum and ended stating that Master’s program at IIT Kanpur was comparable to most of the top masters programs in the United States. Professor Agarwal encouraged me to apply to IIT Kanpur.

Eventually, I joined the Masters Program at IIT Bombay. By then Professor P Khanna had joined IIT Bombay from Roorkee University and I thought that I will be at good hands by working under his guidance.

One day, while sitting in Professor Khanna’s office, a person walked in, wearing a simple dress. I saw Professor Khanna rising from his chair and touching his feet with respect. “Oh, stop this Purushottam” said the stranger. He was clearly embarrassed.

Professor Khanna then introduced me and said “Prasad, meet Professor G D Agarwal of IIT Kanpur”. That is how we met for the first time. It was July, 1979.

In January 1980, Professor Khanna called me to his room. “Prasad, I need you to support Professor G D Agarwal for a one week training program on Wastewater treatment. He needs an assistant to help him to handle the logistics like reproduction of course materials and ensure that the participants are well looked after. This will be good opportunity for you to be with Professor and learn”. At that time, I was completing my Masters dissertation.

I readily agreed to Professor Khanna’s proposition. I later came to know that Professor Agarwal had resigned from IIT Kanpur due to his differences with the Administration. A bit expected I said to myself.

My job started with a task to receive Professor Agarwal at the Mumbai Central Station and reach him to the IIT Guest house. He was arriving by Rajdhani express from New Delhi. I went half hour before the arrival of the train.

Some of you may be aware that many times, there are touts moving on the Railway platforms who do all kinds of tricks to whisk away young boys by administrating an anaesthetic. As these touts noticed me lingering alone on the platform, they circled around. Indeed, I was in trouble. Just then Rajdhani express came thundering in and the passengers started alighting. I was already a bit dosed with the anaesthetic and feeling giddy.

I had someone gripping my hand firmly “Prasad Modak, here I am. You seem to be in some trouble”. This was a strong voice and the person was Professor G D Agarwal. He was just in time for me. As we traveled to the Guest House of IIT Bombay, Professor Agarwal explained to me the chemicals used in anaesthetic, cleaned my palms with his handkerchief and summed up saying that I was just lucky to escape abduction. Indeed, I was lucky,

In the next five days, I was an obedient assistant to Professor G D Agarwal. He gave me his set of notes that I got neatly typed on the cyclostyling paper (a duplicating technique only known now to the “old generation”!). I used to get cyclostyling done at a place called Datye Copiers and Ammonia Prints near to the Dadar (Western) railway station.

Lectures by Professor Agarwal were so amazing that I still cherish. His style of teaching was “minimal theory”, just to introduce the “basic science” but focus more on infusing the practice. Clearly he was more of a hands on person, “action oriented” (unlike most of us!), very precise and rational, and rather explicit and opiniated in drawing conclusions or making summary statements.   He was the sole speaker for all the 5 days – and the participants loved his style of course management. There were not just lectures but also exercises. I understood his personality and convictions in those 5 days. Professor took a good liking for me and spent time advising me on my career post the day long lecture sessions.

Right after this encounter, I went to New Delhi to present a paper at the annual convention of the Indian Water Works Association (IWWA). I met Professor Agarwal in one of the technical sessions. He presented a paper on the true residence time at the clarifiers in water treatment plants using simple tracers. I liked his work as it blended theory and practice and opened up a discussion on the inlet-outlet arrangements and shape of the clarifiers and strategies on how to improve on the hydraulic efficiency and sedimentation rates. (Today, I call this as a “consequential” research)

Looking back, this was the progeny from the Berkley school. Professor Agarwal graduated in civil engineering from the University of Roorkee (now IIT Roorkee) and later obtained a PhD in environmental engineering from the University of California at Berkeley in a record time of 2 years. His PhD thesis was on  “Electrokinetic Phenomena in Water Filtration,” with Professor E A Pearson. Those were the golden days at Berkeley with presence of Professors like David Jenkins and several others. When I asked Professor Agarwal, how did he complete his Ph D research in a short time, he said that it was sheer difficulty of managing vegetarian food in those days that made him work hard and harder!

During the IWWA convention in Delhi, Professor G D asked me whether I could accompany him to Kandhla, his farm in Muzaffarnagar district. I said “Well Sir, I will have re-book my railway ticket to Mumbai, but I will do it.” I remember I placed a STD trunk call home from IIT Delhi Guesthouse and spoke to my father. I stood in a long queue at New Delhi Railway station to re-book my seat.

When we reached the farm in Kandhla, Professor G D took me to a garage or outhouse like structure. He asked me to open the locks and raise the rolling metal shutter. Inside the room, all I saw was books. They were stacked all over and there were two stools right at the entrance. “Prasad, you will sit here” said the Professor pointing to one of the stools. And over the next three days, Professor G D introduced to me some of great books in environmental engineering, his notes and assignments while at the University of Berkeley. It was an opportunity I got that I will never forget – listening to his wise words. In this collection of books, I came across signatures of Harvey Ludwig, another great environmental engineer, who also studied at the University of Berkeley. (Subsequently I met Harvey in Bangkok and we spoke about Guru Das Agarwal, as he knew him).

Professor Agarwal interacted with me during my doctoral research at Asian Institute of Technology I Bangkok. He was the member secretary of the Central Pollution Control Board then. He invited me to work with him on River Ganga after returning to India. And I did.

Professor G D resigned however due to difference of opinion with Chairman Niloy Choudhuri.  Professor Niloy Choudhuri was more of a policy & strategy person while Prof Agarwal was a person of action.

Later, I had opportunity to work with him on an assignment in Dhaka for the Government of Bangladesh in framing the national regulations on environment. There were occasions where we were together as speakers in training programmes, seminars and conferences. I vividly remember sessions we did at the Administrative Staff College of India.

Professor Agrawal’s students remember him with admiration, awe and affection. In 2002, his former students at IIT-Kanpur conferred on him the Best Teacher Award. He has guided many Masters and Doctoral students who are now leaders in the field of environmental engineering and science. Among his prominent students was the late Anil Agarwal, the pioneering founder of the Centre for Science and Environment, New Delhi. He helped mentor well-known development activists including: Dunu Roy (IIT Bombay,’67) of Hazards Centre, New Delhi, Ravi Chopra (IIT-Bombay,’68) of People’s Science Institute, Dehra Doon and Rajendra Singh, a Magsaysay awardee and founder of Tarun Bharat Sangh.

Professor Agrawal embraced ‘sanyas’ at Sri Vidya Mutt in the 79th year of his age. After ‘diksha’, he became Swami Gyanswaroop Sanand.

In his sanyas phase, I was not in regular touch with him and used to see him occasionally – mostly by accident. When he once addressed me as Dr Modak, I remember telling him to call me Prasad as before. He smiled then and said “Well Sir, I will call you Prasadji. Do stay in touch – will you?

Unfortunately, I could not remain in touch with Professor G D. We never met after this last and brief encounter.

GD was notable for a number of fasts undertaken to stop many projects on River Ganga. His fast in 2009 led to the damming of the Bhagirathi River being stopped.

GD lived a Gandhian lifestyle in his spartan, two-room cottage in Chitrakoot, Madhya Pradesh. He swept his own floors, washed his own clothes and cooked his own meals. He retained only a few possessions and dresses in handspun handwoven khadi cloth. These are the deliberate choices of a devout Hindu with respect for simplicity in living and reverence for nature.

GD died on 11 October 2018, after being on an indefinite fast since 22 June 2018, demanding the government act on its promises to clean and save river Ganga.


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Text in italics is sourced from authored by Pavitra Singh


General Eisenhower’s Matrix

Dwight D. Eisenhower was the 34th President of the United States from 1953 until 1961. Before becoming President, he served as a General in the United States Army and as the Allied Forces Supreme Commander during World War II.

Eisenhower had to make tough decisions continuously about which of the many tasks he should focus on each day. This finally led him to invent the world-famous Eisenhower Matrix.

The Eisenhower Matrix, also referred to as Urgent-Important Matrix, helps you decide on and prioritize tasks by urgency and importance, sorting out less urgent and important tasks which you should either delegate or not do at all.

Dwight D. Eisenhower was born on October 14, 1890. To commemorate his contribution, the world community of think tanks decided to promote as well as revisit the Matrix. My Professor friend, who heads TTI (Think Tank India) thought of using a stakeholder approach and consult politicians, select leaders of business houses, academicians  and environmental NGOs to share their own Eisenhower Matrix. Once done and collated, he thought of briefing the outcome to the PM to understand the present situation, priorities and preferences of the “stakeholders” and then plan the strategy for the forthcoming election.  I thought that was very clever of the Professor.

Professor wanted to focus Eisenhower Matrix (EM) on the term sustainability. Sustainability means different to different people – for a politician its political sustainability; for a businessman its financial sustainability and for passionate environmentalist it means environmental sustainability or the sustainability of this planet. I liked the idea. Professor asked me to accompany him as usual whenever EM related meetings were to be held with the stakeholders.

Oh, but let me explain to you more on the Eisenhower Matrix.

The Eisenhower Matrix essentially helps to prioritize the tasks by urgency and importance resulting in four quadrants with different work strategies:

  • Urgent and Important (Quadrant 1)
  • Not Urgent but Important (Quadrant 2)
  • Urgent but Less Important (Quadrant 3)
  • Not Urgent and Less Important (Quadrant 4)

Quadrant 1 is often the “Stressed” quadrant. Here we work on looming deadlines, proposals which need to go out, projects that must be completed etc. This is the fire-fighting and crisis control quadrant where most people spend most of their time. We call the first quadrant as Do first.

Quadrant 2 is the “Strategic” quadrant. Its tasks are important but less urgent. This quadrant includes tasks with a future deadline, long term projects, planning, reviews that need to be done, marketing and client retention related activities. Sadly, little time in spent in this quadrant. Many people have tasks in this quadrant, but do not action them until they become so urgent that they need to be shifted to Quadrant 1 – or to the “Stressed” zone.

Quadrant 3 is the “Delegation” quadrant. Tasks which can be outsourced to someone else, fits into this area. These tasks are urgent, but it’s not important that YOU action it. Admin and filing of paperwork can be done by a Personal Secretary (PS), social media management can be delegated to an expert company etc.

Quadrant 4 is the “Distraction” quadrant. These activities should be avoided at all costs. It is not urgent and certainly not important – so why do it at all? This includes aimless web surfing, meetings without goals etc. The fourth and last quadrant is very important and is also called Don’t Do.

We began our EM capturing exercise. To start with we went to see one of the most powerful politicians of the ruling party. After a half hour conversation, his Eisenhower Matrix looked something like below

Urgent and Important (Do First) Not Urgent but Important (Be Strategic)
Find irregularities in opposition, expose the findings in the media and file legal cases

Create confusion and difference in the proposed Mahagathbandhan (conglomeration of the opposition parties). Use saam, dam, dand, Bhed  and  following Chanakya


Build a performance score card for the party by hiring experts who can show the achievements using appropriate statistics without actual achievements

Influence voters using social media, Apply Big Data Analytics for election strategy



Urgent and Less Important (Delegate) Not Urgent and Less Important (Don’t Do)
strikes, riots, scams, media article for diversion from real developmental issues that were promised Improving equity, reducing poverty and protecting the environment. All these objectives can be addressed after winning the election

I thought this Eisenhower Matrix was very clear and relevant given the coming up mess of the forthcoming elections. Indeed, this political honcho was focusing on the political sustainability by ensuring continuity. I was sure that a similar EM would have emerged if we had interviewed an Opposition party leader. Politicians at the core are no different. Isnt’ it?

Unfortunately, the politician’s Private Secretary (PS) called us immediately saying that the EM we had developed was completely incorrect and should not be used. We had simply misunderstood what he wanted to say. Going a step further, the PS even denied that we ever met with him and had a conversation! And this denial was put immediately on record. What a pity I said to myself. There is simply no freedom of speech even to India’s senior politicians!

The next step was to meet a leader of Indian business. I proposed luminaries like Mr. Ratan Tata, Anand Mahindra and Adi Godrej; but Professor suggested that we rather hold a meeting of 30 top businessmen and use the software mentimeter.  Some of you may already know that this software on some customization can be used to get a collective opinions. Professor tweaked this mentimeter platform to develop an overall Eisenhower Matrix of Indian businessmen focusing on sustainability. We met in one of the rooms of the Taj on the Mansingh road. We projected the matrix on mentimeter driven screen with 30 industry tycoons using the app from their smart phones. Here was the result

Urgent and Important (Do First) Not Urgent but Important (Be Strategic)
Make profits in any way possible but always say people, planet and then profits


Publish Sustainability/Integrated reports regularly and in attractive designs no matter what the content can be


Bag awards on doing something obvious but; make a big story

Influence politicians to pass bills favorable to the business and in return favor them too


Offer lucrative positions to those retired or willing to seek earlier retirement from Indian Administrative Services to help grow business with the Government


Finance research and surveys to support products and services that you offer – publish only favorable results.

Urgent and Less Important (Delegate) Not Urgent and Less Important (Don’t Do)
Instigate public interest litigation on competitors using environmental NGOs

Keep off the hazardous, not environmentally acceptable and unethical practices outside the factory in the informal supply chains, You stay clean.


Going beyond compliance

I disagreed with the above Eisenhower Matrix rather vehemently. I was confident that this was not the way Indian industry felt  about sustainability. I knew of so many genuine business leaders who followed sustainability in the letter (and the spirit). So, I strongly protested. I suspected that some crafty and nasty minds sitting in the audience led to such a distorted and untrue impression.  But the Professor was quiet and didn’t react to my angry outbursts.

I know when Professor keeps quiet, he means that there is no point further discussing! So I also kept shut.

We ended our last meeting with some of the well-known environmental NGOs, Think tanks and academicians. We used mentimeter again for a collective creation of the Eisenhower Matrix. We met in one of the rooms in the Habitat Center in New Delhi.

This audience was a bit different and critical as they spent quite some time discussing the logic of the Eisenhower Matrix itself  and the relevance of the mentimeter. The discussion led to heated arguments and a serious difference of opinions. Despite moderation by Professor, no agreement could be reached in finalizing the Matrix. The businessmen were perhaps more united and practical.

Finally, the discussion ended by saying we need to research more and meet once gain after some homework was done. Clearly for this audience, there was no clarity or agreement on what is very urgent or important. Professor told me this is so typical of academicians and the activists.

I thought the Professor was right. I spent nearly 17 years teaching at IIT Bombay (in two cycles) and I am sure we had professors who taught the Eisenhower Matrix and its variants like by late Stephen Covey called “time-management matrix” and the modern term the “priority matrix”.

I don’t think however we ever developed a collective Eisenhower matrix for our own departments in planning teaching, conducting research and exploring extensions. We functioned at will, more like a free radical with no thoughts or efforts towards prioritization to benefit everybody – including students.

I thought of sending a large frame of Dwight D. Eisenhower’s picture to my department as an inspiration or a reminder.

Dwight D. Eisenhower

Professor heard me alright.

But like before he chose to remain quiet.

And I thought that I understood the reason behind his silence.

Did you too?

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I would like to thank Paritosh Tyagiji for drawing my attention to the Eisenhower Matrix.

The Story of LOOP, BRANCH and SEWER


In 1980, I wrote a letter to Prof Daniel Okun at the University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill expressing some of my research ideas on design of water distribution networks. Professor Okun offered me admission to the PhD program. He suggested that I work with Prof Donald Lauria.

Prof Lauria was working as a Consultant to the World Bank to develop software for looped and branched water distribution systems and sewer networks. He and his Ph D student Paul Hebert prepared codes called LOOP, BRANCH and SEWER. These computer programs were written in IBM BASIC and had to be run from a BASIC interpreter. LOOP used Hardy Cross method for “balancing” the flows and BRANCH used basic Simplex algorithm to optimize the costs of gravity fed branched networks.

Prof Donald Lauria (extreme right)

For reasons of my father’s ill health, I did not join Ph D Program at UNC at Chapel Hill. Instead, I took admission for Doctor of Engg at the Asian Institute of Technology (AIT) in Bangkok. I wanted to be closer. (This didnt help anyway. I lost my father due to a massive heart attack while I was studying. I learnt  about his passing two days later as there was a storm in the Bay of Bengal. The storm disrupted the international telephone lines for 48 hours!)

My interest on LOOP, BRANCH and SEWER however continued.  I worked with Prof H M Orth at AIT on these programs and did a publication in American Society of Civil Engineers with my colleague Wasim Rabbani on branched network optimization.

I returned to India in 1984 and started teaching at the Centre for Environmental Science and Engg at IIT Bombay. In 1986, I was invited to Bangkok by the Water and Sanitation Project (WSP) of the World Bank/UNDP, courtesy Shyamal Sarkar. Shyamal had joined the WSP on lien from the Central Public Health and Environmental Engineering Organization (CPHEEO) of the Ministry of Urban Development (MoUD). Terry Hall was the Task Manager at WSP.

Terry Hall wanted to improve LOOP, BRANCH and SEWER. He called for a workshop in Bangkok to discuss with potential developers. I met Dr Paul Hebert at the workshop. I also met Daniel del Puerto of the LUWA in the Philippines. Paul and Dan had come up by then a version of LOOP based on Turbo Pascal 5.0. The code still used Hardy Cross and had no feature of optimization.

I made propositions on how these codes could be redeveloped citing various areas of possible technical improvements. Terry liked my propositions. He asked if I could take this as a project and I was delighted to accept.  I took a 8 months break from IIT Bombay.

The World Bank offered USD 10,000 if my name was to appear on the title screens. An option was also given of USD 20,000 where the name would not be acknowledged. I chose the former option.

The project was essentially a rewrite of the old IBM BASIC codes. I chose Microsoft QuickBasic 4.5 (QB). QB had advantages of structured programming like C/Pascal, a compiler feature for speed and security and an ability to do good graphics and easy “painting” of data entry screens.

In LOOP, I decided to move to Newton-Raphson solver and add a feature of cost optimization. Original LOOP could not handle multiple reservoirs, pumps and valves and so I decided to include these important features in the new code.

At that time, the World Bank had negotiated with Prof A G Fowler of Univ of British Columbia to include his famous FORTRAN code “FLOW” in the package of tools along with LOOP, BRANCH and SEWER. I decided to embed Prof Fowler’s logic of FLOW in the new version of LOOP. It required understanding of the code in its logical sequence and not simply attempt a “translation” of the FORTRAN code into QuickBasic! This was not easy.

In 1970, Prof Fowler had published a paper called  “Efficient Code for Steady-State Flows in Networks” in the Journal of Sanitary Engg Division in the American Society of Civil Engineers.  This paper was coauthored with Robert Epp, an Undergrad. Summer Student at the  Computing Centre. The paper presented logic of FLOW. This paper is perhaps one of the best in the literature on analyses of looped water distribution networks. Its presentation is  complex to understand but most creative in terms of the logic of finding “natural set of loops” and ordering them to construct a positive and banded  Jacobian matrix as required in Newton Raphson method.

Prof A G Fowler

Mirroring FLOW in the new LOOP helped me to address the interest of handling large networks as well while guaranteeing rapid convergence in balancing. The code included multiple reservoirs, pumps and valves following procedure suggested by Jepson in 1976. I could handle networks of 1000 pipes as against 250 pipes in the old version  The next challenge was to include cost optimization.

At that time, there was a considerable research published on optimization of water distribution networks notably by Pitchai, Khanna, Swamee, Uri Shamir, Walski, Bhave and others. Amongst all these researchers, work by Professor P R Bhave of VRCE, Nagpur stood out.

I however realized that the problem of optimization of looped water distribution network was NP-Hard and perhaps a solution using heuristic could be more appropriate rather than using a classical optimization technique.

At that time, Medha Dixit (three years senior to me in my IIT undergraduate days) was researching with Prof B V Rao of Civil Engg Department at IIT Bombay. Her research used “a close form solution” for optimum pipe diameter using Non-Linear Programming. She had got pretty good results and the optimums found were close to solutions from classical optimization techniques and in some cases did even better!  I crafted Medha’s algorithm in my new LOOP with further improvements.

For BRANCH, I could make the data structure used in the Simplex better to allow handling of 125 pipes as against 50 in the old version. This required efficient handling of the arrays. SEWER was entirely re-written following heuristic optimization that I had developed with my master’s student S Venkateswarulu or Venkat. Venkat, post his Masters with me got admission at UNC at Chapel Hill and worked with Prof Don Lauria and Dale Whittington.

I needed a ardent and skilled civil engineer and a programmer par excellence to work with me for the new avatara of LOOP, BRANCH and SEWER. This was Juzer Dhondia, my Masters student from IIT. Juzer worked with me over the 8 months period, coding the programs meticulously, discovering QB’s features and embedding assembler routines that we procured from MicroHelp Inc. These assembler routines performed several “low level functions” e.g. detecting “error” if the floppy drive was open etc.

Juzer Dhondia

All the three programs once developed were thoroughly tested on networks in Pakistan (Quetta was one of the complex systems where we tested LOOP), Nepal (especially to check role of Pressure Reducing Valves in the hilly terrain) and of course in the Philippines where Del Puerto took the lead. User manuals were then written and training was conducted at several institutions in India and South Asia.

I remember Shyamal asked me why did I put Juzer Dhondia’s name on the title screen when the contract was only on my name. “You can always acknowledge him in the manual” he said. But I insisted that his name be placed prominently right next to me. And I am so glad that I did it. I was also grateful that the World Bank agreed to my request and did not bring in the bureaucracy.

The three programs were released in December 1991. It then became a hit! It was cited as one of the most used computer programs for water supply and sewerage across the World – courtesy the World Bank. By 2000, it was estimated that there were more than 5000 users across the world of these three programs.

LOOP, BRANCH and SEWER were programs that ran on the Disk Operating System (DOS). When MS Windows took over, the programs had to be run through a “DOS Shell”. That was not effective. Users wanted the Windows versions.

I did several attempts to revisit the codes and re-write them in Visual BASIC and Visual C. Two Masters students of mine at IIT Bombay (Arun Sharma and Sanjay Lathkar) did conversion to Visual C++ of LOOP and SEWER. I spent quite some money by contracting a software development company that continued building the codes with VC++. Unfortunately, these conversions could not result into a product that could be distributed. The work lacked a rigorous testing. More recently, BRANCH was rewritten in VB with several new features by programmers at AIT. Juzer also assisted. Once again, this effort too did not fructify.

Today, Dr Paul Hebert is a Visiting Professor, Centre for Leadership and Ethics in Virginia and has nothing to do with water distribution networks. Daniel Del Puerto is still with LUWA in the Philippines. Shyamal Sarkar left CPHEEO and joined the World Bank and after more than 25 years of work in the water and sanitation sector, retired. Juzer Dhoondia spent several years in the Netherlands before moving to Alabama in the United States. He now works on water quality modelling.

Dr Paul Hebert

Few months back I was in Bangkok with the Metro Waterworks Authority. During the lunch break, one of the senior water engineers walked up to me and asked, “By any chance are you the same Prasad Modak, who wrote LOOP 4.0 for the World Bank?” When I said Yes, he spoke to his team in Thai with animated gestures. I saw that all were looking at me with some admiration.

I decided not to request for a translation! You feel nice when you are remembered for something good you did in the past – and with a passion and conviction. The only sad part is that till date I could not produce MS Windows versions of the three programs.

Simply a pity – isn’t it!

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Islands in the Sky

My Friend recently built a new tower on Malabar Hill in Mumbai. As usual, he occupied 104th floor and in addition kept floors  101, 102 and 103 with him just in case. He being a close friend to Donald Trump, he named the Tower as Trump Tower.  I thought that his gesture was very generous. Me and Professor decided to meet him and see his new house on the 104th floor. He invited us for a breakfast.

When we entered the lobby, there were long queues outside each of the 12 high speed elevators. We stood in one of the relatively shorter queues. I saw Niranjan Hiranandani, Vikas Oberoi and Adi Godrej in the same queue but little ahead of us.

“Dr Modak and Professor, how come you are here?” Nirajan beamed. When I explained that we were there to meet our Friend on the 104th floor and have breakfast; all three of them moved close to us leaving their position that was ahead of us in the  queue. We got into a conversation.

We learnt from them the Ministry of Environment and Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC) had recently proposed relaxation of the Environmental Clearance (EC) conditions for reality industry in the “national interest”. This relaxation was a matter of great rejoice to all the builders and developers. Now no separate EC was required for building plans with a total Built-Up area up to 50,000 sqm for individual buildings. The permissions would be governed by “environmental conditions” like use of water efficient appliances, rainwater harvesting system, proper waste management system, use of energy efficient system, use of renewable power, measures to tackle pollution, green cover etc. MoEFCC made an argument that such a relaxation was necessary to achieve housing for all by 2022 with the objective of making available affordable housing to weaker section in urban areas. I thought they should have added that the idea of relaxation was also to mainstream green in  buildings as a default. They simply missed the point! (May be the Ministry thought that all the green ideas may just remain on paper and not get implemented).

Mr. Godrej handed over to me a brochure that contained a “green builders code” prepared by a consortium of large builders. The brochure provided details on how environmental conditions will be mainstreamed or embedded following schema such as TERI GRIHA, LEED, EDGE etc. Mr. Vikas Oberoi said that builders will do even more than what is expected by the Government and local authorities and do beyond than what is expected in the schema. For example, all the buildings they do, will be meeting the indoor quality standard of Finland – one of the most strict indoor air quality standards in the world. (Why Finland? Well India does not have indoor air quality standard as of today – they said. They were absolutely right). I was really overwhelmed to see their commitment to “green”.

The builders were to meet my Friend on the 104th floor and request him to finance their mega projects.

“I am sure my Friend will help you” I said. “He really has a problem on how to spend his moneys”. All three were happy to know this problem.

When we reached 104th floor, we were ushered in and the three builders were asked to wait in a plush lounge.  They were served with a Columbian coffee in solid silver cups.

My friend invited us  to the dining table for breakfast. He told us that given the relaxation given by the MoEFCC, he was planning to invest around 100 billion Rs in the reality sector and in particular in high-rise buildings. High-rise living offers so many benefits, he said – such as an amazing views, efficient amenities, reserved parking, on-site staff and management that can take care of your needs.

While I supported his idea, Professor had another point of view.

He picked up a few Arabian dates from the bowl, and cited a study published in early 2016 in the Journal of  Canadian Medical Association. The study that involved 7,842 cases of out-of-hospital cardiac arrest,  reported that living in a high-rise building radically decreases one’s chances of surviving. The  survival from cardiac arrests was greater on lower floors than higher floors. It was found that first responders were often stuck on the ground floor waiting for an elevator and could not reach the patient in time.

My friend listened to Professor carefully. He said that he will solve this problem by setting up an Intensive Cardiac Unit (ICU) on the first floor and engage some of the top cardiologists from Hinduja, Leelavati and Bombay hospital. Each flat will be provided with an emergency “chute” (like done for vacuum based solid waste collection)  that will move the patients straight to the receiving bay of the ICU. Of course this will be optional – my Friend wanted to be fair. He added that all these cardiologists will get a flat in the building at only 50% of the cost. So they will be resident.

I thought this was a clever solution. Mumbai Corporation should now insist on an ICU for granting Occupation Certificate (OC) for all the new high-rise buildings.

Professor did not give up. He said that there is now evidence that during the breakout of a highly infectious disease, such as SARS, high-rise dwellers on all floors are at higher risk than people living in single or detached homes. The sheer number of people sharing a single building can also increase the threat from communicable diseases such as influenza, which spread easily when hundreds of people share a building’s hallways, door handles and lift buttons.

My friend said that he will consult doctors from KEM hospital specializing in communicable diseases and set up an isolation bay for infected patients on the 13th floor. These patients will be well looked after by providing them with comfortable beds (on the model of first class seats of Lufthansa), a smart 5th generation TV and they will be serviced by attractive nurses like air hostesses so that the patients will stay longer in the isolation bay.

I thought this was another great innovation to tackle the problem.

Professor lit is cigar and paused. Perhaps, he wanted to make a major observation.

He said that according to studies carried out in Australia, more people living in high-rise buildings means more people living in social and economic silos where the chance encounters of street life are severely compromised. Many feel an absence of “community”, despite living alongside tens or hundreds of other people. Living in high-buildings therefore leads to depression and other mental health problems.

Further, high-rise living evokes unsettling fears – residents could be trapped in a fire, or fall or jump from the tower. (The former being most relevant in Mumbai given the frequent  incidents of fire in the high-rise buildings).  And in earthquake-prone countries, residents of high-rise towers face the possibility that their entire building could collapse. Living with fear every day means that residents of high-rise housing are vulnerable to mental health issues.

In Singapore, between 1960 and 1976, the percentage of people living in high-rise buildings climbed from 9% to 51%. During the same period, the per capita rate of suicides by leaping from tall buildings  increased fourfold, while suicide by other means declined. The overall suicide rate in Singapore increased by 30% over the aforementioned period but the rate by leaping increased many times faster, which suggested that having more tall buildings leads to more suicides. Although suicide rates in Singapore have been stable now for the last five decades but jumping from buildings remains a common method for suicide.

I thought of butting in. I mentioned that perhaps one of the major issues of causing stress is the waiting time for getting in the elevator. If this happens every day, then people will go crazy.

“Oh, here we already have a solution on this “waiting” problem” said my Friend. “We have developed a mobile app for the residents where they will log in the time they would like to leave for the office. This will have to be done before say 12 pm at night. The algorithm on the app will optimize all the requests and match with the availability of elevators; to come with a recommendation which elevator will be available in +/- 2 minutes deviation from the indicated time. (Incidently, this was a result of research carried out by three  PhDs at IIT Bombay). So, there will not be any stress on waiting”

That’s very clever of you I said. I knew that my Friend was really technology savvy.

My Friend continued

“And on the issue of feeling isolated, I plan to recruit liftmen/women who would converse with the occupants in the elevator; wish them; ask them about their health and inquire how the day was and check whether they need any help. The staff doing cleaning and housekeeping work will also be trained by some of the top communicators like S A Anand who would engage in interesting conversations with the occupants. The security guards will also do their bit too by smiling while frisking people and not behave like dumb robots. In addition, the manager of the building will celebrate birthdays of every occupants who is above 60 years.  The celebrations will happen on the 17th floor and the cakes will be supplied by Ovenfresh with low sugar and no eggs. No one will feel left out or isolated.

Professor seemed satisfied. He extinguished his cigar. He advised my Friend that all these ideas should be framed as loan covenant by his Lawyer to builders like Godrej, Hiranandani and Oberoi and the like.

My friend agreed. “But I will personally finance these initiatives if costs are high. A few millions here and there don’t matter to me” He said. He was kind and generous as he has always been.

I told my Friend that he must also mingle with the occupants especially when he takes the elevators or walks in the lobby. This will make a big difference.

“Dr Modak, this is the problem”. My friend confessed. “I get into my house by directly landing on the helipad. I don’t get into the lobby or use elevators to reach 104th floor. Its so unfortunate. I don’t have any contact with my occupants. Many times, I really feel isolated”

I took a close look at my Friend’s face. I noticed a quiver in his voice.

I was worried as he certainly looked depressed. He seemed  in some kind of a mental stress.

I thought for a while. Was it really worth then to live in an island up in the sky?


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Sage Narada and Sustainability

Sustainability as a concept is great but when it comes to practice, we feel that sustainability on this planet is perhaps not just possible to achieve. There is so much chaos and unevenness. We will always stay on a turbulent or unsustainable journey. Let us accept this bitter truth.

To address this challenge, we came up with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) but we are not sure how could we sync our interests on quality of life with our limited and threatened natural resources. We worry.

My professor friend told me that the answer is innovation in the form of disruptive technology. According to him, these technologies will radically transform our patterns of production and consumption.   According to a report by the Business and Sustainable Development Commission, sustainable business has the potential to unlock $12 trillion in new market value.

What happens if we go disruptive? For instance, the organizations will apply machine learning to support intelligent analytics, processes and user experiences. As people, places, processes and “things” become increasingly digitalized, they’ll be represented by digital twins for simulation. This will provide rich opportunities for new event-driven business processes and digitally enabled business models and ecosystems. Here the concepts of sustainability could be easily embedded.

Advances in AI, the IoT, user experience and application architectures will characterize 2018. Attention will shift from security tools to business risk and trust management. Clearly, the physical and digital worlds are expected to merge to support sustainability. So, sustainability will be the driver to such innovations. Professor cited me Garners 2018 report on top 10 strategic technology trends.

But not all disruptive technologies have to be digital. So, when Professor asked me to join for a breakfast with a representative of Hyperloop, I was rather delighted. Hyperloop brings airplane speeds to ground level, safely. Passengers and cargo capsules will hover through a network of low-pressure tubes between cities and transforming travel time from hours to minutes. Founded in 2013 in Los Angeles,  Hyperloop is a global team comprised of more than 800 engineers, creatives and technologists in 52 multidisciplinary teams, with 40 corporate and university partners. Amongst its several advantages, high-speed travel  by Hyperloop will relieve over-crowded cities by decreasing the need for urbanization. People will live where they are and reach cities in minutes if they want to. Hyperloop is already getting piloted in China.

When I listened to the presentation, I felt sorry that our PM thought of the “outdated” bullet train project between Mumbai and Ahmadabad. Instead, he should have considered the Hyperloop. Imagine a Hyperloop placed between the four metros of India. This will cut down so much of travel by road, rail and airplanes; reduce the fossil fuel consumption and cut down GHG emissions may be by 10-fold and besides save so much time that people wont know what to do! By deploying this disruptive technology, India’s productivity as well as its sustainability scorecard will drastically improve!

When the man from Hyperloop left, I asked the Professor about his assessment.

“Well Dr Modak, I am thinking differently – something out of the box” Professor said this and lighted his cigar.

“Do you remember the movie Star Trek? It featured a “transporter” – a fictional teleportation machine that “converted” a person or object into an energy pattern (a process called dematerialization), then “beam” it to a target, where it is reconverted into matter (rematerialization)”

“Yes, Professor” I answered. I recalled that Transporter in the Star Trek first appeared in the original pilot episode “The Cage”. The transporter used special effects, using computer animation, and by turning a slow-motion camera upside down and photographing some backlit shiny grains of aluminum powder that were dropped between the camera and a black background. The entire transportation episode looked so mystic!

In August 2008, physicist Michio Kaku predicted in Discovery Channel Magazine that a teleportation device similar to those in Star Trek would be invented within 100 years. But many thought that his speculation was too optimistic. Physics students at University of Leicester calculated that to “beam up” just the genetic information a single human cell would take 4,850 trillion years. A study by Eric Davis for the US Air Force Research Laboratory of speculative teleportation technologies showed that to dematerialize a human body required heating it up to a million times the temperature of the core of the sun. Only then the quarks lose their binding energy and become massless and can be beamed at the speed of light. In the closest physics equivalent to the Star Trek teleportation scenario would require the equivalent of 330 megatons of energy. Further, the information storage and transmission requirements would require current computing capabilities to continue improve by a factor of 10 to 100 times per decade for the next 200 to 300 years. (Taken from Wikipedia on Star Trek)

I was uncomfortable with this information but the Professor continued.

“Imagine Dr Modak, what if we really achieve this kind of transporter technology romanced in the Star Trek. There will then be no vehicles, no trains, no planes – no more consumption of resources like steel, aluminum, plastic and petroleum. No more generation of wastes and emissions, no accidents and no sabotages, no more waste of time. People travel by simply by dematerialization and rematerialization whenever they wish! To me this is the disruptive technology we all should be chasing for – something much more than the Hyperloop!!

I thought the Professor was right. With this technology in place, the world will indeed wheel towards sustainability. But the impact could be so disruptive. I thought of commissioning a study on Environmental, Social and Business Impact Assessment.

“So, what’s your plan Professor?” I asked

Well, I have SMSed Narada Muni (Sage) seeking his consultation.

Some of you may know that in Hindu Mythology, Narada Muni has been described as a global traveller. He travels all over the universe on the sound of his veena ( a string instrument) similar to the transportation technology of Star Trek. The yogis and sages of former times like Narada had what we today call the supernatural powers. When you know the right sounds and chant the appropriate mantras, you can easily create (rematerialize) or dissolve (dematerialize) the matter. The Shruti portion of the Vedas contain mantras for this purpose. For instance, the Bhagavat Purana documents an event, where the brahmanas or the sages killed king Vena by uttering sounds. Mantras are also there to create strong winds and rain or fire. Kardama Muni created an entire mansion in the sky by sound vibrations. That happened in Satya-yuga, several million years ago when the science of uttering mantras were known to the Vedic sages. Obviously, all this only works when the mantra or the sound is pronounced exactly right. That’s why you need to learn this from a living teacher.

I thought getting Sage Narada on board was a good strategy to move towards sustainability. No wonder the Gods and the heavens were never challenged by the sustainability related issues as they used this disruptive technology.

I asked Professor if I could join meeting with Sage Narada.

I thought that by learning this technique, I will solve my problem of getting into the crowded trains of Mumbai every day! Oh, what a great relief it would be! I could just carry a veena and transport myself to office in a whiff!

And this mattered to me much more than Planets sustainability!

Professor was however not so happy with my narrow minded thinking.

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Don’t worry Be Happy

In 1972, King Wangchuck of Bhutan declared that “Gross National Happiness is more important than Gross Domestic Product.” The concept was revolutionary.

In the Kingdom of Bhutan, GNH is captured in the form of a GNH Index. It includes nine domains such as Psychological wellbeing, Health, Education, Time use, Cultural diversity and resilience, Good governance, Community vitality, Ecological diversity and resilience and Living standards. The nine domains are equally weighted because each domain is considered to be equal in terms of its intrinsic importance as a component of GNH. The domains are supported  by 33 indicators that are measurable.

Taking inspiration from Bhutan, in 2012, the United Nations declared March 20 to be observed as the International Day of Happiness. The day recognizes that happiness is a fundamental human goal, and calls upon countries to approach public policies in ways that improve the well-being of all peoples. Since then many countries have followed the concept and framework on GNH.

The GNH Index  identifies four groups of people – unhappy, narrowly happy, extensively happy, and deeply happy. The analysis explores the happiness people enjoy already, then focuses on how policies help increase happiness and sufficiency among the unhappy and narrowly happy people.

In the last census carried out in 2015  by the Ministry of happiness in Bhutan, 35% of the population answered ’extremely happy’, 47.9% said they felt ’moderately happy’, and only 8.8% of respondents said they were ’unhappy’.

I don’t know the results if we polled on GNH Index in Mumbai today. With all the potholes on the streets, garbage being thrown on the beaches and pollution in the air, 90% of Mumbai’s population will be in the category of “unhappy”. Those “deeply happy” must be 5% consisting politicians, builders and contractors. May be the bureaucrats in Mumbai will fall in the categories of “narrowly happy” and “extensively happy” depending what portfolio is allotted to the “babus” for administration.

In the 2018 edition of the World GNH report, India ranks 133 out of 156 countries. And India’s happiness rank is falling each year. This is disturbing.

When I expressed my concern to my Professor Friend, he was not perturbed. He lit his cigar and said

“We are already addressing the happiness issue. Did you know that Madhya Pradesh is the first State in the country to have a department of happiness to boost the wellbeing of citizens? The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led government created this department in July 2016 and tasked it to ensure “the happiness and tolerance of its citizens” by creating an “ecosystem that would enable people to realise their own potential of inner wellbeing”. The department is supported by a State Institute of Happiness that is responsible for “developing tools of happiness”, and thousands of “happiness volunteers” who conduct “happiness tutorials and programmes”.

I was aghast to know about this initiative. Professor continued.

“More than 25,000 “happiness volunteers” have signed up and these volunteers will work in the State’s 51 districts, holding “happiness tutorials and programmes”.  Under this programme, week-long Happiness Festivals are organized. These festivals are targeted “to put a smile on every face”. The festivals get people out of homes, bring them together, and make them happy. The aim is to forget the worries of life and enjoy together. The idea is to spread the virtues of “goodness, altruism, forgiveness, humility and peace”.

Wow. I presumed the Government bears all the expenditures on spreading happiness.  But how long such week long festivals will sustain? Besides don’t we have enough of festivals to celebrate already. I wondered whether all this would spawn another bureaucracy of happiness.

“Don’t look at these programmes in a narrow perspective Dr Modak” Professor retorted “After all we need people to have a positive mindset. We will try to achieve this through school lessons, yoga, religious education, moral science, meditation and with help from gurus, social workers and non-profits.

I thought Professor sounded like a Godman.

“And this concept is spreading in other States as well – albeit in different forms”. Professor told me about Happiness Commission that has been set up by the Andhra Pradesh government led by Chief Minister Chandra Babu Naidu. Here the Commission has proposed to create walking tracks for citizens in all the municipalities, development of parks with sitting and jogging spaces, introduce electric buses and CNG auto rickshaws in place of petrol or diesel vehicles and creation of cycling zone in the municipal areas to promote a health living style.

This TDP driven approach focusing on social infrastructure was certainly different from spiritual based masterplan propagated in Madhya Pradesh by the BJP Government.

But I couldn’t understand why such a sudden interest in GNH in India, and especially when we are close to the elections.

Professor said “Dr Modak, I in fact welcome this move. This is the way to convince people that happiness is a “state of mind” and is not necessarily linked to “materialistic essentials and comforts” to our lives. Rich people are often unhappy, and a poor can be a happy person based on the outlook. Once people understand this de-linking between materiality and happiness; they will not resent even if the Government and for that matter previous Government fails to provide the essentials such as Roti (food), Kapada (clothes) and Makan (housing)”

“Oh, so clever, So you don’t need to be accountable to the promises made in the election manifesto “ I exclaimed

“You got it Dr Modak” Professor got up from the chair and extinguished his cigar.

May be one of the slogans in the coming up election is going to be “don’t worry and be happy”.

Madhya Pradesh is one of India’s poorest and most agrarian states, and a severe drought has left it with the country’s third-highest suicide rate among farmers. Madhya Pradesh also suffers from high malnutrition, infant and maternal mortality, and the highest rape incidence in the country.

Three years ago, Bhutanese PM Tshering Tobgay cast doubts on the country’s popular pursuit of Gross National Happiness (GNH), saying that the concept was overused and masked problems with corruption and low standards of living. In 2013, Venezuela announced a “ministry of happiness”, but it did not stop the country from descending into social and economic chaos. [Taken from BBC News]

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Plastic Roads

This year India was the host for the celebration of the World Environment Day (WED). The theme of the WED was Beat Plastic Pollution.

Ministry of Environment & Forests & Climate Change (MoEFCC) was in charge. The WED celebrations were held all over the country and a 4-day conclave was organized  in the Vigyan Bhavan in Delhi with an exhibition.

I bumped into the Mr. Nitin Gadkari, Union Minister for Road Transport & Highways during a lunch at the India International Centre. The Minister greeted me and asked “ Dr Modak, how come in Delhi?”.

I told the Minister that I was there to speak at a panel discussion organized by MoEFCC on WED.  I also told him that I have to congratulate the MoEFCC for effectively spending 350 million Indian Rs on WED in just 4 days! What a splendid performance of spending” I said.

Of course, to Mr. Gadkari, such an expenditure was peanuts compared to the billions of Rs that his Ministry is spending on surface transport, essentially building roads. In October 2017, the Indian government announced an investment of 6.9 trillion rupees ($11 billion) to build 83,677km of roads over the next five years.

So, the Minister just smirked on my appreciation of MoEFCC.

He then said in a hushed tone. “Well Dr Modak, MoEFCC only talks. But my ministry delivers. Do you know that the real mover and shaker in addressing the plastic menace in India is the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways? This years WED on plastic should have been celebrated by my Ministry and not by MoEFCC”

I was surprised. All I knew was building good roads was necessary for the ruling party but if built without sensitivity and responsibility then the roads could adversely impact environment and the people.

So, I asked “Minister Sir, What is the connection between roads and plastic?”

“Dr Modak, we use plastic waste in the bitumen while making roads. In 2002, a technology was developed by Rajagopalan Vasudevan, a chemistry professor at Thiagarajan College of Engineering in the southern city of Madurai. It uses finely-shredded plastic waste that is added to heated bitumen”

I later learnt that plastic waste in asphalting can include anything from sweet wrappers to shopping bags except Poly Vinyl Chloride (PVC). The mix reduces the quantity of bitumen required by 10 per cent. Further, the Plastic roads were found to be stronger and maintenance-free. These roads could last about three times compared to the conventional road structures.  “All good” I said to myself “Then we should generate more plastic waste to reap all these benefits”.

In November 2015, the Indian government made it mandatory to use waste plastic in building most highways. According to this directive, road developers have to use waste plastic along with hot mixes for constructing bitumen roads within 50 km of periphery of any city that has a population of over 500,000. However, in recently released guidelines for developers, when waste plastic is not available, then the developer has to seek the road transport & highways ministry’s approval for constructing only bitumen roads.

“But Dr Modak, we insist on the use of plastic waste in making roads” said the Minister.

According to a report from World Economic Forum the length of Indian roads using plastic waste now runs for more than 100,000km across 11 States across India. Isn’t that impressive? Indian Road Congress has come up with guidelines on use of waste plastic in hot bitumen mixes

Minister said that using recycled plastic to build roads not only curbs plastic pollution but also creates jobs. The waste pickers collect the plastic litter. This plastic is shredded in machines which are subsidised by the Government. The waste pickers that mostly consist women sell the shredded plastic to the road builders. Tamil Nadu was the first State in India to actively develop a cottage industry around shredded plastic.

“Thus, job creation for waste pickers and business to small entrepreneurs is an added benefit of building plastic roads – You know very well – generating employment is the current focus of our Prime Minister”  Mr Gadkari said. He was absolutely right.

I thought of checking the “downside” of plastic roads. I understood the concern about PVC. Thermal degradation of PVC results in the emissions of harmful gases (like hydrochloride acid). Unfortunately, PVC is virtually indistinguishable from other plastics. Further, heating PP, PS or PE plastics is also not that safe. Studies reveal that heating PP, PE and PS releases moderate to highly toxic emissions consisting  carbon monoxide, acrolein, formic acid, acetone, formaldehyde, acetaldehyde, toluene and ethylbenzene. Workers engaged in road-laying are particularly at risk from these emissions. But in Prof Vasudevan’s technology,  shredded plastic is melted with low heat to avoid such emissions.

However there could be unforeseen risks. If the plastic roads get old or are poorly built, then such roads can “leak” plastic fragments into the soil and eventually into waterways as a result of photodegradation. The plastic fragments break down when exposed to environmental factors such as light and heat. These minute (less than 5 mm) plastic particles are called as microplastics.

Remember, that plastics are not merely molecules of carbon and hydrogen. To convert them into daily-use products, chemical additives are added to give them flexibility (softeners and plasticisers), to delay degradation due to heat or sunlight (stabilisers and anti-oxidants), to give them colour, to make them fire proof (flame retardants), to give them body (fillers). The toxicity of most of these chemicals is not known. But the few chemicals that have been studied – like phthalates – a category of chemicals used as softeners, or brominated flame retardants are highly toxic. They can cause birth defects and cancer, and hormonal problems particularly for women. Because they persist in the environment and can build up in the food chain, even seemingly insignificant amounts in the environment can grow to deadly levels in our bodies or in the food we eat. So, the microplastic is certainly not that innocent.

In the past few years, scientists have found microplastics in our soil, tap water (even bottled water), food and even in the air we breathe. And there’s growing concern about the potential health risks they pose to humans, animals and the fish. Burying plastic in roads may not be therefore a solution over long run. Plastic in roads is merely hiding and perhaps ready to escape as microplastic at some stage of the life cycle. But if at all this happens then we don’t know when. Ignorance on this potent risk can be a bliss.  We certainly need more long term and/or field simulated research studies.

But then what is the alternative? Doing nothing could perhaps be more harmful.

One possibility could be to develop plastic-wood (saw dust) composites for the railway sleepers. I was aware of the railway sleepers recently made by Advanced Plastic Recycling in Adelaide, Australia using blend of melted HDPE and the saw dust. This option may be pursued as the scale of application is big to “gobble” the waste plastic in a secured manner.

Of course the priority should be to reduce plastic waste at the source in the first place, but I wasn’t sure how effective would our bans on plastic be given the challenge of behavior change.

I said “Thank you Sir and goodbye” to the Minister.

As a kind gesture, Minister asked his Senior Adviser to reach me to the lobby.

While in the elevator, the Adviser was telling me  “Dr Modak, we are happy that China has come up with “Sword policy” to refuse entry of recyclables – that includes a huge waste stream of plastic. Perhaps, this plastic waste may get diverted to India (legally or illegally) and it will help us build more plastic roads that will cheaper, more effective and last longer ”

I hardly heard him. I was lost in my own thoughts on this apparent plastic paradox.

Every day, nearly 4,000 shipping containers full of recyclables leave US ports bound for China. China sends to the US toys, clothes and electronics, In return, some of America’s largest exports to China are paper, plastic and aluminium. From January 1 of this year China is enforcing its new “National Sword” policy, that is considered as the “Green Fence”. It bans 24 types of solid waste, including various plastics and unsorted mixed papers, and sets a much tougher standard for contamination levels. China is essentially saying that the country would no longer serve as the world’s trash dump. The ban will undoubtedly hurt recycling operators in China that rely on the import of raw materials such as recyclable waste. But it appears that delivering a cleaner China is perhaps paramount to the politicians of the Communist Party.  What is going to be India’s take? Do you think India too should “Green Fence” and pull out its Sword?

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