Elections Manifestos and My Friend on 104th Floor

Many of you may know about my Friend who lives on 104th floor in Mumbai. For those who don’t,  he is one of the richest person today. He is the most powerful “mover and shaker” of the world of politics,  business and investments. My Friend however prefers to operate in a background. He could achieve this simply because he owns all the major media houses across the world.

My Friend invites me often for a breakfast and occasionally with my Professor Friend. On Monday, his secretary called me and invited for a breakfast on Tuesday morning. “Sorry for this short notice Dr Modak, but Boss wants you to join him for an important meeting. And please don’t forget to bring along Professor.  His presence is very important” She said in a husky voice.

We reached my Friends place at sharp 8 am as requested. In the lounge, we saw two people waiting. One of them looked like Mr. Narendra Modi (NaMo) and other like Mr. Rahul Gandhi (RaGa). “How can these to heads of the Parties  be here during the election time?” I said to Professor “ Both of them must be busy whirling around the country, giving speeches and making promises”.

“Husssh Dr Modak, you don’t know what is real. Technology of humanoid robots is already in place. May be the NaMo and RaGa you see here are real and those who are campaigning are the clones in the interest of security. Besides, speeches delivered by the clones can be consistent and programmed real time to add local flavor and accommodate changing circumstances”.

I thought for a while. I kept shut.

Soon we were ushered to the breakfast room where my Friend was waiting. His secretary requested NaMo and RaGa look alike to wait.

“Dr Modak, you know that elections in India are set in another week. Both BJP and Congress are facing a major crunch of money. BJP has overspent and wants to spend more while funds with the Congress are getting seized and frozen by the Income Tax Officers and Enforcement Directorate” My Friend said.

“Chiefs of these two parties called me yesterday for help and requested 5 billion dollars in cash in the next two days. I told them that 5 billion dollars is not a big money to me, and my accountant can handle the payment in the next 24 hours. But then I realized that I should check their manifestos before approving the funds. I don’t want my reputational risk at stake” I thought my Friend was right.

He continued

“You very well know that Mr. Trump is a good friend of mine. He told me to check whether the manifestos of the Parties address environment and to what extent the agenda in the manifestos are green. Unfortunately, my phone line with Mr. Trump wasn’t clear and so I could not understand whether Trump was recommending the Party with a greener manifesto or otherwise! You know sometimes mainstreaming environment in policies can badly affect the economic development”

We were a bit confused.  My Friend continued

“ On the other hand, someone told me that talking about environment in the manifesto is a good idea, its also contemporary and fashionable. There is nothing much to worry as one does not have to actually implement promises made but I am unable to take a decision due to these diverse opinions. I therefore called you and Professor on a short notice for help”

We decided that we will invite NaMo and RaGa alike to the breakfast room one by one and listen to the green agenda of their manifestos. So, RaGa was invited first he being younger. An Italian coffee was served with Focaccia Bread topped with Methi (not from Amethi).

RaGa started his pitch.

He said  that the Congress manifesto recognizes air pollution as public health emergency.

All of us looked outside to see the massive blanket of smog across Mumbai. Given this grim situation,  RaGa’s opening statement made an impact.

RaGa said that the National Clean Air Programme (NCAP) will be strengthened targeting all major sources of air emissions to mitigate and reduce emissions to acceptable levels. Section 3, point 5 of the Congress manifesto, has promised to formulate a policy on clean energy in power plants that use fossil fuels

We were impressed.

RaGa continued.

“Congress will revisit setting up of the National Environmental Appraisal and Monitoring Authority (NEAMA)—a professional agency to conduct rigorous and time-bound environmental appraisals and recommend environmental clearances, where appropriate, in a time-bound and transparent manner”.

[NEAMA was mooted way back in 2010 during congress minister Jairam Ramesh’s tenure as environment minister and was said to have been inspired by the US Environment Protection Agency (EPA). Knowing that Mr. Trump wasn’t happy with the EPA experience and was in fact shutting down the EPA, I wondered whether NEAMA in India will be a good idea]

RaGa said that his Party will put water conservation at the heart of the programmes for agriculture, rural and urban development. “This will be done by focusing all current programmes on augmenting water through decentralized systems, conserving water through all means and promoting recycling and reuse of water in all sectors. Water is a public right, but also a public responsibility. We believe that while pricing of water must ensure that users internalize ethics of conservation, it is also imperative that it be sustainable and affordable. We will promote these principles in all our programmes for water and waste management,” He read out a paragraph from the manifesto. This sounded like a keynote address in an international water conference

RaGa picked up few almonds from the silver bowl placed on the breakfast table and continued. He said that the Congress party has promised a special purpose vehicle for transparent, equitable and judicious development and allocation of natural resources in the country. “We will ensure that an independent regulator monitors the process of natural resource allocation in a manner that best serves the nation’s interest. The Congress promises to protect the coastal zones of the country. Recent steps that diluted the coastal zone regulations will be reversed. The coasts will be preserved without affecting the livelihood opportunities of fishing communities,” RaGa said.

I saw RaGa’s face was glowing like Lord Vishnu who looks after the protection of Earth.

My Friend did not understand the idea of the independent regulator and how could the allocation of natural resources be decided.

He simply asked “Mr. RaGa, your idea is very laudable and impressive. But let me ask you a simple question, I am investing in a large industrial complex next to a port in the Konkan belt of Maharashtra. Will your Party allocate adequate natural resources for my project?”

“Of course, Sir, you will get whatever you will ask. We make exceptions to the rule when needed” RaGa responded immediately unlike he generally takes some time to think.

My Friend was satisfied. He took a large gulp of the pomegranate juice.

RaGa continued.

One major step that the party has promised to take towards environmental protection is to launch a Green National Accounts. The manifesto will have a scheme that would ensure that the cost of the environmental degradation. It also promises to develop indicators on the state of natural resources.

[I was reminded of the two blogs I wrote in the past viz. India’s True GDP and Game of Indicators . May be consultant to the Congress Party read these blogs]

“Although we missed the target of providing one unit electricity to every household by 2012 under RGGVY, we are once again making this commitment and promise to accelerate implementation of flagship programmes like the Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission which has now entered its second phase, and National Mission of Energy Efficiency. We will also launch of the much-awaited National Wind Energy Mission. The manifesto also promises to provide access to clean cooking fuel to people across the country to decrease their dependence on biomass-based fuel.  All these initiatives will help reduce Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and combat climate change”

These commitments sounded music to us.

RaGa got up as he saw my Friend looking into his Rolex watch. He summed up saying (this time almost sounding like a well-trained parrot) “ The Congress manifesto promises to give “highest priority” to environmental protection. The Party is “committed to sustainable development in its true spirit”.

He left.

My Friend’s secretary then ushered NaMo to the breakfast room. NaMo was wearing a smart Jacket matching to the color of the wall. How did NaMo know the color? I appreciated NaMo’s style of using India’s Intelligence Bureau to the fullest extent.

NaMo started his pitch highlighting that he will take up the controversial river-interlinking project on priority. BJP Manifest also proposed to launch a people’s participation programme for cleaning rivers like the Ganga under a countrywide “clean river programme”.

“The National Ganga River Basin Authority has already been a success at least in spirit. We will use similar models of creating empowered, well-funded agencies to clean other major rivers in the country. There will be a new water ministry” NaMO sounded all bullish.

Professor Whatsapped me “Dr Modak, was NGRBA really successful that it could be considered as a “model”? River cleaning must be looked at the “basin level” requiring restoration as eco-system and not just limited to cleaning of the dirty drains” I sent him a smiley in response

NaMo continued

The manifesto also promises a national mission on irrigation for providing water to every field and also setting up of drinking water supply grid in water-scarce areas and also provide piped water to all households.

The lack of access to clean drinking water is an Indian reality, with several pockets of the country lacking proper drinking water facilities. With the aim to address this issue, we will take up the Sujal Program and will also implement the Swachhata se Sampannata program, that will ensure the 100% disposal of liquid waste water and reuse of waste water.

All this sounded rather ambitious to us.

NaMo continued

BJP manifesto will turn the  National Clean Air Plan into a Mission, focusing on 102 most polluted cities in the country. This will lead to reduction of overall air pollution in all the mission cities by at least 35 per cent in the coming five years.

[We wondered how did BJP come up with this number of 35%. It looked rather meagre if compared to the 200% (and even more) exceedance of the pollution that exists today]

NaMo picked up a plate of Dhokala and sipped some Masala Chai

He asked, “Have you heard about Green Bonus?”

Obviously, we hadn’t  and so we were jinxed by his question. This is typical NaMo habit I thought.

“We will introduce ‘Green Bonus’ that has been a long-pending demand. There will be special help to Himalayan States in the form of ‘Green Bonus’ that will finance forest conservation”

We avoided asking him the operational or implementation details to avoid confrontation.

NaMo continued but later part of his pitch wasn’t interesting as it overlapped with what RaGa had earlier said. He tom-tommed figures on increase in the forest covers that could be disputed and gave statistics on fair and speedy environmental clearance for improving ease of business.

If we had decided to believe in what he said, then the BJP manifesto looked very promising as compared to Congress on the green counts.

Professor whispered, “I think the consultants the Parties used were perhaps common!”. I kept shut.

When NaMo left, it was already 1030.

I asked my Friend about his decision.

“Well Dr Modak and Professor, I think I will give equal amounts to both Parties as I see overlaps and a similar rhetoric. Clearly there is going to be a stiff competition in this election and so funding only one Party will be a risk proposition to me. Extent of greening will not count and is no reputational risk to me as I see no real substance and commitment in either of the manifestos”

He then paused and said in closing

“The big assumption we make is that we all are environmentally literate, sensitive and are interested to demand action and justice for the protection of environment. While a large number of voting population is affected by the state of environment today, the risks of its neglect on quality of life, safety, resource security and the livelihoods are not fully understood. So very few care.

Manifestos of the either Parties – whether painted green or otherwise – wont perhaps make a difference as they will remain only as a smart word play!”

I thought that it was a great summing up

No wonder why my Friend was the richest person in the world.


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A Dossier on Assessing Water Quality in our Rivers  

[More of a technical post, but I hope that it will interest our water quality professionals]

Today we are concerned about the problem of water pollution on a scale never before. All of us want to know the status on our water quality and whether the measures taken to protect or improve have been effective. Unfortunately, the picture so far has been rather dismal. But are we collecting, analyzing and reporting data correctly?

We have been monitoring India’s water quality in estuaries, coastal areas, rivers, lakes and ground water wells for years. At these monitoring stations, we have been analyzing a large number of water quality parameters ranging from simple measurements of pH, temperature and dissolved solids to dissolved oxygen, biochemical oxygen demand and in many instances checking presence of toxic substances such as pesticide residues. Biomonitoring surveys are also carried out on few stretches that can be compared with the results based on physico-chemical parameters.

Number of water quality monitoring stations at a national level have progressively increased. Few years ago, we started deploying automated water quality monitoring instruments that could report as many as 16 parameters at high frequency such as 15 min.  A considerable data on the status of water quality has got built in this process. High frequency water quality monitoring stations provide better insight to dynamic behavior of water quality as against limited and sometimes misleading information arising from manual sampling that is generally carried out only once a month and in many instances on grab basis. But remember that automated stations if not operated correctly can give voluminous but “garbage” data.

Choosing location of water quality monitoring station is a very important step. Stations are to be selected based on the purpose e.g. where the station to be cited is to serve as a baseline or to detect trends or to detect violations over standards especially in the mixing zones where wastewaters are discharged into the river. The latter category of the stations is called as “impact” monitoring stations. We cannot use for instance data from impact stations to infer long term water quality trends.

To answer the question whether the water quality status is improving or not, the water quality data needs to be processed with rigor. Ideally these computations should include detection of  trends on quantitative basis and assessment  of the extent of violations.

Computation of water quality trends is best done using tests such as Man Kendall’s (MK) statistic. MK has been applied extensively by regulators across the world to detect water quality trends. It is not presently used by India’s Pollution Control Boards (PCBs). MK statistic (that is non-parametric or distribution free), provides the direction, magnitude and significance of trend. On application of MK statistic on the data say for 5 years on BOD (i.e. 60 values), one can arrive at a conclusion whether the water quality trend is positive (showing deterioration) and significant (say at 95% significance). When shown on a map, we can spot stations showing significant improvement or deterioration for a parameter and investigate the reasons why. More sophisticated applications of MK test are also possible where we assess trend of a “system” of parameters such as DO and BOD, done simultaneously. Where the trends are found statistically insignificant, MK can be used to compute revised sampling frequencies. This feature is one of the additional major benefits of quantitative detection of trends.

See below a typical representation of “arrow-head” map of water quality trends for a river. S denotes significant trend and NS indicates Not Significant trend.

We have to be careful that for detection of trends, we do not process data from stations lying in the mixing zones of dominant wastewater discharges (typically 50 to 100 times of the width of the river at the point of wastewater discharge).  It is also important that we also assess the trends in flow as measured at the location of water quality monitoring station to understand the influence of flow on concentrations of water quality parameters. Carrying out seasonal MK statistics and/or “de-trending flow” and calculating trend of “residues” can provide better insight to answer the question “what is dominating the trend?”. These deductions help in coming up with more rounded water quality improvement plans by maintaining “environmental flows” in addition to the treatment of wastewaters. Unfortunately, PCBs do not measure flows and locations of flow measurements of CWC do not coincide with those of CPCB.

To understand the extent of violations, we should be computing the following

  1. Percentage of the times the prescribed water quality standard is violated
  2. The magnitude or extent of violations (calculated based on summation of the squares of the deviations around the standard; square capturing the severity)
  3. Percentage of contiguous violations with a specified period. (Such a computation is possible for high frequency water quality monitoring stations. If we specify our interest as 4 hours for dissolved oxygen, then the algorithm computes number of instances where dissolved oxygen has dipped contiguously over 4 hours below 6 mg/l, and reports the “total length of such as data train” as a percentage. This percentage provides understanding of the extent of undesirable exposure.

Figure below shows a conceptual representation of WQVI.

All the above attributes when pooled together can provide the criticality of violation or non-compliance at the water quality monitoring station. We can call this aggregation as the Water Quality Violation Index (WQVI) for a chosen parameter e.g. DO or BOD. WQVI can be calculated for more than one parameters as well. We can also use a surrogate as Water Quality Index (WQI). WQVI can be reported at all the hundreds of our water quality monitoring stations to prioritize for taking actions. Over the years number of water quality monitoring stations with high WQVI should reduce showing the progress made on enforcement and compliance. Concept of WQVI is my own innovation.

Presenting arrow-head maps of trends and changes in WQVI over years provide a robust way to communicate the progress made on water quality management. Importantly such an analysis and reporting assists in diagnosis and take appropriate actions.

In all above, we have to ensure that the water quality data we collect is of acceptable quality. This is possible only when we site monitoring stations correctly, strictly adhere to the water quality monitoring protocol (that we already have) and have trained teams for sampling and analyses. The laboratories should be well equipped and ideally holding NABL/ISO 17001 certifications. A lot needs to be done in these areas.

And there are additional challenges to address such as role of non-point pollution discharges influencing water quality trends and violations. Non point pollution discharges typically include agricultural return waters, storm water run offs, clusters of wastewater drains etc. that are difficult to measure and require estimations. Sadly, little work has been done on this subject in India.

For high frequency automated water quality monitors, we need to develop artificial intelligence (AI) based machine learning algorithms that can detect anomalies and outliers in the data and reject or assign “lower weights” while processing. Developing short term forecasting routines (e.g. using Artificial Neural Networks) will also be useful and worth especially to act in advance during any accidental spills of toxic substances upstream. Water intake works downstream could be issued warnings accordingly.

In 1985, I wrote a manual for Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) on Analyses and Interpretation of Water Quality Data. Then came a phase between 1986-1990, where I developed one dimensional and two dimensional water quality models (STREAM series) for application on Ganga for decision making. We used the water quality monitoring data available at that time, information on flows and wastewater discharges and included estimate of non-point wastewater loads. In 2014, I analyzed 7 year water quality data on river Godavari in Maharashtra with interesting conclusions for actioning. This work remained as an isolated activity at MPCB. Currently, I am advising CPCB on processing the water quality data collected on river Ganga using several of the tools I cited in this dossier. This task simply excites me. Me and my team are developing a Tableau based application for CPCB and will train the CPCB team.

Many readers of this blog from the academia will realize that there are immense opportunities to carry out research on water quality data analytics. We need masters and doctoral students to take up such applied problems as dissertations to add rigor to water quality inferencing.  Needless to state that such opportunities exist for managing air quality and noise data. I will be most happy to help.

In 1990, I conducted a 5 day training program for water pollution engineers and statistical officers of PCBs in New Delhi on the subject of water quality data analytics.  I wish that I get an opportunity to conduct such a program once again and re-write the little manual I wrote in 1984. Once shown the power of these tools, especially to the younger and newly inducted team, I am sure that a magic will happen, and the data will dance – presenting an insightful show to the decision makers.


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Cover image sourced from https://www.smartdatacollective.com/top-7-data-analytics-tools/

 

 

 

 

Fighting for the Blue Sky

Last week I was in Beijing to speak at a two-day workshop on Air Quality Improvement in the Beijing-Tianjin and Hebei (BTH) region. The workshop was supported by the Asian Development Bank (ADB).

After I returned, I called my Professor Friend and we decided to meet at our usual coffee place. I was excited to share my experience.

I narrated to Professor about the major air pollution reduction achieved in the BTH under PRCs Blue Sky War program. Since its launch in March 2017, the PM10 and PM2.5 concentrations in the region have been remarkably reduced.

In addition to the reduction in average PM10 and PM2.5 concentrations, there has been a significant decrease in the number of heavily polluted days, especially in the winter period.

“Oh, big deal, Dr Modak” said the Professor. “We are already on the job. Don’t you know that we have now formulated a National Clean Air Programme (NCAP) and more recently come up with a Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP) for the National Capital Region (NCR). We have automated air quality monitoring networks operating in cities across the country that provide air quality data on 24×7 basis and this data is transmitted to the servers at Central and State Pollution Control Boards. Prediction models are also in place that forecast likely pollutant concentrations and issue warnings. Air Quality Indices (AQI) are regularly reported and broadcasted on TV channels. Everybody who watches NDTV understands what is AQI and the magnitude of air pollution”

“But Professor, we have lots of air quality related action plans e.g. in Maharashtra – but only to talk about. And we have been collecting huge air quality data but that is hardly analyzed and is lying currently in the coffins. On the other hand, the levels of air pollution have been rising all the time like the prices of the petrol and diesel” I protested.

I learnt in the Chinese workshop that there are 3 As of Air Quality Improvement – Ambition, Awareness and Action. I thought that all we have achieved is some improvement in awareness, but we are in poor shape when it comes to ambition and action.

I continued. “Do you know Professor that the President Xi of PRC said that “air quality is direct indicator of happiness” and “air pollution is one the top three national priorities”. I don’t remember whether our PM has made any such statement on India’s plight on air pollution. We lack the political will and push towards a committed and concerted action on reducing air pollution unless it becomes part of the election manifest and I hope it does”

In PRC, the NDRC (equivalent to India’s Niti Aayog) and Ministry of Finance are also involved  apart from Ministry of Ecology and Environment (MEE). In India, Ministry in charge is MoEFCC that is a weak ministry in terms of clout, budget, expertise and experience”

“But we have the Supreme Court of India that promptly takes action” Professor said this while tapping his cigar on the ash tray. I looked at this face. He looked serious, but I could not figure out whether he was serious or sarcastic.

Professor continued.

“Don’t compare situation in India and that in PRC. Much of the emission reduction in BTH region has been achieved by shutting down and relocating highly polluting and economically weak industries, closing obsolete industrial boilers and moving from coal-based heating & cooking to natural gas. In September and October 2017, over 130,000 polluting industries in the BTH were closed. This kind of bulldozing approach is possible only in the regime like in PRC. Just the political will would not work, and a supreme power of enforcement is necessary to bring in the desired change.

In India, do you think such a kind of enforcement is possible? Take the case of the challenge of relocation of polluting industries in Delhi. In 1996, the Delhi State Industrial and Infrastructure Development Corporation (DSIIDC) had, under the relocation scheme for industrial establishments, allotted plots to factory owners running their units from residential areas. And as far back as 2003, the Supreme Court, in its judgment in MC Mehta v Union of India, had directed that all industrial units that had come up in non-conforming areas on or after August 1, 1990 should be closed within a given timeframe. But, even in 2018, as the DSIIDC listing proves, these industrial units continue operations from residential areas.” I thought Professor made an interesting point.

But I did not give up.

I said “Do you know Professor that the problem of air pollution in the cities like BTH is a result of emissions not just from the cities, but due to emissions transported from the neighboring region. The source apportionment studies carried out indicate around 50% of regional contribution. This led to formulation of a regional action plan for BTH with a special department set up in MEE with a mandate, funds and authority. Inter-agency coordination, cooperation and harmonization were the principal pillars. One of the reasons behind the success of BTH region is such an “out of the box” approach”

Professor smiled. “ Dr Modak, We are fully aware of the need to take a regional perspective. In the NCR for example, we know that emissions are also contributed due to burning of stubble in the agricultural fields of the neighboring States of Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan. Our Supreme Court has already given directions and the State Governments are monitoring and enforcing a ban on stubble burning and providing finance to the farmers to do in-situ management of agricultural residue.”.

I had my doubts on the effectiveness of such a so called “coordinated carrot and stick approach” –but I decided not to question the Professor.

“Talking about agriculture” I said, “Chinese scientists have estimated contribution to the PM2.5 due to release of ammonia from agricultural fields, piggeries and animal husbandries surrounding the cities. The air quality action plan for the BTH therefore includes measures to reduce consumption of fertilizers, make the animal husbandries “green” through environmentally sound operations; restructuring them through closure, agglomeration, modernization and exposing them to better waste segregation and utilization practices”

“I am aware of this work” said the Professor. “The relative contribution of this strategy to PM2.5 reduction is only 10% – so we are going to look at this perspective later and not on priority. As such our farmers are already agitated on the issue of MSP”

I thought of “elevating” our discussions to global issues like climate change. One of the important features of the air quality action plan for BTH region is the inclusion of actions on GHG mitigation. The idea of these integrated action plans was to simultaneously address the objectives of air pollution reduction while achieving climate protection goals.

Researchers in the BTH are already doing economic assessment of air quality improvement actions using a carbon price in the range of USD 3-5/ton (Simulations in the EU use carbon price of USD 20 and ADB uses 37 USD, figures much higher. In India we simply don’t factor GHG mitigation in the formulation of urban air quality action plans nor include carbon pricing)


The action plans in the BTH are in the form of packages of policies and policy driven actions. A policy package consists of several policies and strategies, carefully selected such that  they synergize and avoid conflicts between pollution reduction and GHGs. A cost benefit analyses of various policy packages is then done through simulation to identify  least cost solutions while aligning with the long term goals. Special plans are developed to deal with episodic conditions in the winter period. The bottom line is that all action plans or policy packages should make an economic sense.

In contrast, we follow a checklist approach. Many times we look at actions without supporting policies, institutional framework and financing. We look at actions in isolation and not in packages.

PRC is using air quality improvement as a driver or proxy to “ecological modernization” of its industries. Grants to the region are given based on air pollution reduction achieved and not on the severity of pollution. So, performance on the ground matters.

As regards coal, technologies that reduce coal consumption are innovated, piloted and promoted through “green financing” for higher penetration. Green financing platforms such as BTH Air Quality Improvement Fund are created to lend industries for needed investments. Projects are assessed based on quantification of economic, environmental and social benefits.

ADB provided a loan of 458 million Euro and this line of credit was used to leverage 3.6 billion Euros domestically through commercial financing. This led to mitigation of  8.5 million tons of CO2 apart from benefit of air quality improvement. To accelerate the investments, market mechanisms such as Green Power Trading System were set up apart from emission reduction related regulatory directives.

Most interesting is the establishment of a leap frogging fund (with assistance of ADB), to promote “high end technologies” and innovations. Focus has been the high air polluting industrial sectors like steel, cement, chemicals by doing pilots, followed by commercialization.

The idea is to achieve “deep industry transformation” and apply the directives under the law on circular economy to improve the energy mix through clean fuels and promotion of renewable energy. This transformation gives a competitive advantage to the industries while curbing air emissions. In Delhi NCR for instance, we could build further on the work done on “zig-zag technology for brick making, and topping with technical assistance and financing.

During the workshop, a detailed presentation was made on the application of Tapio Decoupling Model. The results  indicated that there were economic benefits in terms of rise in the GDP over long run after an initial phase of 3 to 4 years of economic disadvantage. This result was comforting to justify investments to curb air emissions.


I could clearly see a much wider perception of air quality improvement infrastructure and investments in PRC. In India, we lack such an approach where innovation, modernization and financing are linked to conventional regulatory control. Our approach is limited or narrow, reactive, rather negative and not opportunistic.

No wonder that the Chinese proverb says that every crisis is an opportunity! In India all we are doing is recommend people to stay indoors, install indoor air purifiers and wear masks when outside. We install dust sucking systems at the traffic junctions to make a noise and show proof of “action”!

As we were about to leave the coffee house, we heard bursting of fire crackers outside. I looked at the Professor quizzically. “Well, Dr Modak, initially the idea was to completely ban the fire crackers; but given the sentiments of the people, our Supreme Court has lifted the ban asking the cops to be more vigilant and examine the results of air pollution monitoring post Diwali.” He said

I told Professor that fire crackers are banned in China and now even during the festive seasons. Idea is to curb emissions of PM2.5 and stop release of toxic and hazardous chemicals.

Fighting for the Blue Sky is the national priority.

“Oh, then what happens to the economic loss of the fire cracker manufacturers in China?” Professor exclaimed.

“I guess the Chinese fire crackers will now get increasingly exported to India” I said this sheepishly while settling the bill.

In response, Professor did not  speak and instead pointed his finger to the grey sky above.


Do view the video clip below on Beijing’s air quality.

You may like to read UNEP’s most recent report on Air Pollution in the Asia and Pacific – Science based Solutions 


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Rise of the Demons from Beneath

 

We often discuss in the environmental circles the problem of indiscriminate pollution, our dwindling resources and global impacts like climate change.

We have framed regulations and standards to control various sources of pollution with monitoring and enforcement bestowed to agencies like the Pollution Control Boards (PCBs) and Urban Local Bodies (ULBs). Despite all these efforts, non-compliance is still an issue; judiciary has now stepped in and staff from PCBs and ULBs spends more time in the courts. I don’t know to what extent we feel safe to live in the environment.

We often miss the issue of soil pollution and land contamination. While we do track the status of our ground water, only recently we have started building our understanding on the extent and severity of groundwater contamination. The findings have been alarming, and many studies have linked the contaminated ground water to the occurrence of cancers.

In December 2015, a report was submitted to the Ministry of Environment & Forests & Climate Change (MoEFCC) captioned Inventory and Mapping of Probably Contaminated Sites in India. This report identified 320 contaminated sites.

Researchers from IIT Delhi published status on more than 60 dump sites contaminated by disposal of municipal solid waste, outlined remediation efforts needed and articulated challenges such as financial support  and lack of standards and guidelines for remediation.

Government of India started a program CBIMP (Capacity Building for Industrial Pollution Management) focusing on contaminated sites management. The program attempted remediation of few contaminated sites as pilot and produced a report on Options and standards for remediation of polluted sites Key output Report Task 3 Development of Methodologies for National Programme for Rehabilitation of Polluted Sites in India

Unfortunately, the CBIMP did not produce results that were expected especially to facilitate the formulation of national standards for remediation of contaminated soils. The funds for remediation that were allocated got swapped to address concerns by State Governments on GST!  Clearly the Government did not have remediation of contaminated lands as a priority. Today, our soil, agriculture and food continue to remain at utmost risks. Uptake of pollutants (especially heavy metals) in the crops that are cultivated on these lands or on lands nearby results into contaminated food.

But the problem of contamination is not just due to industrial wastes and municipal dump sites. It is also due to high consumption of questionable and spurious insecticides and fertilizers in the agriculture. Use of contaminated water for irrigation is yet another contributor.

Pesticides have been linked to a range of health problems, including cancer, developmental problems and lower IQ in children. Organophosphates pesticides – which are potent neurotoxins – can damage children’s intelligence, brain development and nervous systems even in low doses.

The Environmental Working Group (EWG), a non-profit advocacy agency in the United States releases their list of the most contaminated fruits and vegetables – and apples have been ranked as the most contaminated – fifth year in a row. The Dirty Dozen list includes the top 12 fruits and veggies with the highest amount of pesticide residues. It was found that pesticides persisted on fruits and vegetables even when they were washed or peeled.

The FAO report titled ‘Soil Pollution: A Hidden Reality’ was released in 2018 at a two-day global symposium in Rome. This report, which is a synthesis of existing scientific research, identifies six soil-related human health risks and three of them are linked to soil pollution. These are soil contaminated with dangerous elements (for example, arsenic, lead and cadmium), organic chemicals like PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls) and PAHs (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons) or pharmaceuticals such as antibiotics or endocrine disruptors.

At present 67 pesticides that have been banned in the US, the EU and other nations are still in use in India. Consequently, the concentration of toxic metals in grains and vegetables grown in contaminated soils have increased at alarming rates. This poses a serious threat to humans and the environment because of its toxicity, non-biodegradability and bioaccumulation.

Refer to a comprehensive work reported in Heavy metal polluted Soils in India: status and countermeasures S. Rajindiran, M.L. Dotaniya, M. Vassanda Coumar, N.R. Panwar and  J.K. Saha Division of Environmental Soil Science ICAR-Indian Institute of Soil Science Bhopal 462 038, India

Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) published thresholds for  Crop contaminants in 2011.  Field investigations have shown that there are several instances where these thresholds are violated posing a great risk to the consumers.

But then these “demons lying beneath” do not stop there. There are economic impacts too. India’s exports of grains, fruits and vegetables are now  under international scanner and rejections of wheat and rice consignment due to contamination reasons are increasingly seen.  Examples are cases of pesticides such as carbosulfan, chlorpyriphos, endosulfan, and quinalphos. If the farmers use these pesticides, their produce in fresh or processed form will have traces of such chemicals and will face rejection in countries such as the US, the EU and Japan.

Just to illustrate, the European Commission has recently brought down in basmati rice the maximum residue limit (MRL) level for Tricyclazole, a fungicide used by farmers against a disease, to 0.01 mg per kg from the next year. This was done for all countries. India exports two major aromatic basmati rice varieties — PB1 and 1401 – to the EU. The shipments of these varieties with Tricyclazole MRL at 0.03 mg per kg were accepted so far from India but now a new threshold of  0.01 mg per kg  will have to be met. This can certainly hit the export market with Pakistan getting an advantage as it does not use Tricyclazole.

Decades of intense agricultural production have left China’s soil seriously polluted and its water depleted. Overuse of fertilizers, together with dumping of industrial waste, is a major factor behind soil contamination. About 3.33 million hectares of China’s farmland is too polluted to grow crops. The contaminated area is roughly the size of Belgium. Given this alarming situation on contaminated lands and food, China is set to become more dependent on imported grains, oilseeds and meat, according to a recent report published by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the OECD. This is a huge economic impact unless corrective efforts are orchestrated on priority.

Clearly, the circles of understanding pollution are widening. The environmental risks  (a term that we seldom discuss) –  we are facing today and will continue to face – are beyond our fragmented and limited environmental governance.

We need to connect the dots between pollution, water, agriculture and food for a better understanding and towards developing a strategic approach.  Of course we still need to worry about BOD, COD, PM10 and the like, but we must think beyond – to understand the pathways of pesticide residues and heavy metals.

Remember – what goes to the soil and percolates down, gives only an illusion that the problem is out of sight.

The problem however hides only for a while, metamorphoses and rises from beneath like demons in disguise.

This is rather worrisome.

Are we prepared enough?

 


Cover image sourced from https://crypticrock.com/what-lies-beneath-creeping-to-the-surface-15-years-later/


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Reconnecting with CPCB

 

My first visit to office of Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) in India was in 1980, nearly 40 years ago. The office was on the Shahjahan Road in a kind of barrack. I was then a student doing master’s at the Indian Institute of Technology in Bombay. I went to see Chairman Dr Niloy Chaudhuri. Dr Chaudhuri was earlier a Professor of Civil Engineering at Jadavpur University in Kolkata. I wondered how he gave me an appointment to meet. Perhaps because I was a student of Professor Purushottam Khanna.

I spoke to Dr Choudhury about need for setting “probabilistic effluent standards” in India. I had read a very thought provoking article by Paul Mac Berthouex  titled “Some Historical Statistics Related to Future Standards” that was published in the American Society of Civil Engineers in 1974 .

I built on the basis my argument stating that compliance to effluent standards cannot be on 24×7 basis and the CPCB should be more pragmatic and practical while developing the “future standards”. I argued that a probabilistic standard will demand more collection of data and in the formative years of legislation and enforcement, building such data will matter.

We spent two hours on this subject and Dr Choudhury didn’t refute what I was saying. He listened to me very patiently as he usually did. As he got up to leave office wearing his coat, he said “Mr. Modak, your ideas are good but a bit too early. You have to give me some more time to think”.

In 1983, we met at Asian Institute of Technology in Bangkok. Dr Chaudhuri was there for a meeting organized by the World Health Organization. He was accompanied by several senior officials from the Government, e.g. Dr Dilip Biswas (who later became Chairman of CPCB), Dr K R Ranganathan (who was later appointed as the Member Secretary of CPCB), Dr Subramaniam (who became Advisor at the MoEFCC).

“Mr. Modak, Good to see you again. I know you always want to say something different and exciting. Can you give a talk to all of us after the dinner? Find a nice room where we all can fit in” Dr Choudhury said this in a warm tone and with a smile.

I was 27-year-old kid then and so was extremely happy to get this audience. I spoke on the subject of river water quality management. At that time, Ganga Action Plan was under discussion at the CPCB and so my “discourse” on this subject to this august body generated a lot of discussion. To my every theoretical or analytical bit, Dr Chaudhuri volleyed questions, few questions raising practicalities and few related to the “science” itself and some related to policies. I remember we started discussions at 8 pm and spent 2 hours  – mindful that we must close by 10 to ensure that we get the last round of coffee at the restaurant at the AIT Center.

Within a month, I received a letter from Dr Niloy Chaudhuri. The letter was typed on a butter paper using an electric typewriter (which I later Iearnt was only available for the Chairman). Amongst many nice things (like thanking me for the “discourse”) the letter said “Mr. Modak, on your return to India you are at liberty to associate in any manner you wish as appropriate with the Central Pollution Control Board of India”.  I have still preserved this letter from Dr Chaudhuri.

In May 1984, CPCB appointed me as a Retainer Consultant. I was to spend 4 days every month over 4 years. There were no Terms of Reference. Dr Chaudhari and Dr G D Agarwal, Member Secretary (a legend in the field of Environmental Pollution Control in India) told me that CPCB will decide what to do with me as I land New Delhi. A fund of 1 lakh was transferred in advance to Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay to meet costs of my air travel. Dr Chaudhari said that he did not want me to waste time in filling the forms claiming the expenditures. “Please visit all the offices of CPCB except the office of accounts” he said smilingly.  He was such a gallant personality.

With this arrangement, I worked on practically all the functions of the CPCB. I was a part of the team that was appointed by MoEF on the Ganga Action Plan that was steered by Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi. Mr. T N Seshan was the Secretary. MoEF and K C Sivaramakrishnan was the Project Director of the Ganga Project Directorate (GPD). My retainership was expanded by these two stalwarts to GPD as well, on a special project of Water Quality Modelling.

At CPCB, I started working on establishing a Management Information System (MIS) for the data and created systems for storing, retrieving and analyzing water, air and industrial pollution data. I remember I was present at the Nehru Place office of CPCB when the first computer (It was an IBM PC/AT) was installed. This PC/AT was “inaugurated” by P R Gharekhan, then Member Secretary. For the MIS I worked with Usha Ghosh and Mita Bhattacharya extensively over 3 years and by 1990 we could establish MIS at several State Pollution Control Boards and impart training.

During my travel to Delhi, I used to stay at the Guest House of CPCB at Alaknanda Apartments near Chittaranjan Park. Staying at the Guest house was a great fun as I used to meet several senior staff of CPCB and SPCBs, experts visiting CPCB for meetings etc. This helped me to make new friends, build a huge network and understand the work going on in environmental management across India. Most of the staff of CPCB used to stay at the Alaknanda and hence there used to be dinner invitations and “gupshups” with the families. These dinners will never be forgotten; especially with Ghosh, Chakraborty and Baruah families.

In the early 2000, CPCB shifted to East Arjun Nagar that was quite distant from the city. My retainership moved to the World Bank as Short-Term Consultant. I started visiting CPCB more as a Consultant to the World Bank and worked on several major projects. These included Industrial Pollution Control, Industrial Pollution Prevention, Environmental Management Capacity Building, Capacity Building in Industrial Pollution Management, National Hydrology Project and Water Quality Monitoring. Apart from CPCB, I had to visit several SPCBs, formulate projects with them, guide as well as do an oversight on behalf of the World Bank. My visits to CPCB office thus reduced. I guess the only person I remained in touch, and feel greatly honored to have worked with, is Mr. Paritosh Tyagi, Ex Chairman of CPCB. I just saw him two weeks ago at his residence.

Last month, Dr Prashant Gargava took over as the Member Secretary of CPCB and I paid a visit to CPCB to congratulate him. I took his appointment. The security guard asked me to go to the reception. The lady at the reception asked for my details for preparing a gate pass. “Do you have appointment with MS?” she asked. When I nodded, she said “He is generally very busy and many times he has to be at the Court all of a sudden. So, let me check if he will still be free to see you”. I thought she was kind and considerate, especially to a stranger like me.

When I was with Dr Gargava I realized that I hardly knew anyone at the CPCB. The world seemed so different. Chairman CPCB was busy with other pressing matters and rightly so as I was there just to have a cup of tea for old times sake. I did not have any “business” to look for.

I left CPCB as if I had been to an Income Tax office.

Dr Ajit Vidyarthi of CPCB called me last week and asked if I could become a Retainer Consultant to CPCB. I knew Ajit in my past interactions with CPCB. We met at the Claridges hotel and Ajit told me that CPCB would like to take my advice on water quality data, water quality modelling and pollution management for Ganga.

Ajit’s request and subsequent conversations took me back in time some forty years.

I recalled my sessions with giants like Dr Niloy Chaudhari and Dr G D Agarwal, as a young kid and for a while my eyes were moist with memories.

Indeed, those were the magical days with CPCB  in its golden era –

Moments you just cannot ever forget!

 


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Parivartan through Parivesh (A New Transformation in India’s Environmental Clearance System)

India’s PM launched PARIVESH (Pro-Active and Responsive facilitation by Interactive, Virtuous and Environmental Single-window Hub) on the occasion of World Biofuel Day. PARIVESH is a Single-Window Integrated Environmental Management System, developed in pursuance of the spirit of ‘Digital India’ initiated by the Prime Minister and capturing the essence of Minimum Government and Maximum Governance and Ease of Doing Responsible Business.

With PARIVESH, Ministry of Environment and Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC) has become more of a facilitator than a regulator.  “PARIVESH” is a workflow-based application and has been rolled out for online submission, monitoring and management of proposals submitted by Project Proponents. It will help to seek various types of clearances (e.g. Environment, Forest, Wildlife and Coastal Regulation Zone Clearances) from Central, State and district-level authorities.  It has been designed, developed and hosted by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, with technical support from National Informatics Centre, (NIC), New Delhi.

Highlighting that PARIVESH offers a framework to generate economic growth and strengthens Sustainable Development through E Governance, Union Environment Minister stated that with automatic highlighting of non-compliance by the system, PARIVESH will help in improving the overall performance and efficiency of the whole appraisal process.

PARIVESH accepts online submission and monitoring of compliance reports including geo-tagged images of the site by regulatory body / inspecting officers through website as well as  Mobile App for enhanced compliance monitoring.  Further a Geographic Information System (GIS) interface is available for the Appraisal Committee to help them in analyzing the proposal efficiently, automatic alerts (via SMS and emails) at important stages to the concerned officers, committee members and higher authorities to check the delays, if any.  “PARIVESH” enables project proponents, citizens to view, track and interact with scrutiny officers, generates online clearance letters, online mailers and alerts to state functionaries in case of delays beyond stipulated time for processing of applications.

Immediately after the release of the PARIVESH website, an emergency meeting was held in Diwane I Khas of Taj Mahal at Mansingh Road in Delhi. Several “stakeholders” were present at this secret get-together. Even Times Now and Republic TV channels did not know that such a meeting was being held. Rumor was that team NDTV was however present there disguised as the waiters.

 

Diwane I Khas at Taj Mahal Hotel

The stakeholders included consultants offering services of Environmental Clearance (EC) and those involved in accelerating the work flow of EC by greasing the officials. The former looked like foxes and the latter looked like hyenas.  Then there were Ex-EC committee members and the Ex-chairmen of the EC committees who do the business of giving “strategic advice” to the project proponents. They occupied separate roundtables to show their different stature and position.  And there were many representatives of environmental monitoring agencies who “generate” the base line data (mostly unreal) but for helping a speedy EC. They looked more like a herd of sheep.

My Professor friend found about this “secret” meeting and asked me to accompany.

“How will we introduce ourselves Professor” I asked this question.

“Oh, don’t worry Dr Modak”, Professor said while lighting his cigar “We will say that we are from the headquarters of International Association of Impact Assessment (IAIA). We will need to dress up a bit, wear a suit and a tie and sport a lapel of IAIA. I am a Member but have a spare one that I will give to you”

Very clever I thought. I knew that IAIA has no India chapter and hardly anything is known about their work. Some had told me that  the only thing known is that IAIA holds annual conferences in exotic places across the world striving to make money. This may not be true of course.

When we entered the room, we saw that one roundtable was occupied by representative of the World Bank Group and the Asian Development Bank. These representatives were the “safeguard” people and had constipated faces as they were doing nothing except keep finding faults in the Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) documents submitted by the clients (actually by consultants). They used Microsoft Word only in track change mode. On the same table, I saw some familiar faces from the BIG 4. These folks were sitting like proud cocks and hens, distinguishing from the “normal” ESIA consultants, sporting a “buddha” face that indicated “we know the truth”.

The last to enter the room were a few corporate honchos. They had ensured that media was not present and that there presence wont get “recorded”. I heard them whispering that this level of transparency in EC was a bit too much! Now we will not have any “play” to influence and tweak the workflow any more – especially  when most needed. They said.

One Chief Sustainability Officer (CSO) said that “well today the e-governance is set for EC, but I wont be surprised if this gets extended to the Business Responsibility Reporting (BRR) and CSR Reporting. This will make rather difficult to bluff – that we usually do – while making tall claims about the social development and environmental improvements that we are supposed to do. I could understand their fear and discomfort.

Finally, we saw a table of “corporate” environmental NGOs. They looked a bit skeptical about PARIVESH as the present system allowed them to make allegations and write stories.  But they looked a bit supportive to the idea of PARIVESH  – as they were interested to find out how to “exploit” the new system to their advantage. That’s most of the NGOs of this kind do. Don’t they?

The main point of discussion was to assess the impact of PARIVESH on the “ecosystem” of stakeholders to EC. Everybody wanted a solution and a counter-strategy. After some initial chaos, several observations and suggestions were made.

The consultants engaged in the EC facilitation felt that PARIVESH will lead to a big loss to their income. The strategic advisers said that they would soon lose their clout and may become redundant. As PARIVESH will pool national environmental data across 135+ “layers” on a GIS platform, the business of generating (fake) baseline data will suffer. The environmental NGOs felt that now that citizens will get information on the entire work-flow of the EC online, their function of “representing the people” and “feeding breaking news”  may get a bit compromised.

When one of the Corporate NGOs saw lapel of IAIA on Professors coat asked why can’t IAIA undertake a study on the Impact Assessment of PARIVESH. Professor behaved as if he was hard of hearing, but I thought it was a great idea.

As expected, the meeting ended with no clear direction on the next steps. Perhaps, the fact that PARIVESH became actually operational was a shock to many. Not many knew  that this “typhoon” was coming. PARIVESH looked like a secret operation carried out as in  nuclear blast at Pokharan!

While exiting Diwane I Khas, I overheard the conversation at the table of the World Bank et al and the BIG 4.

One of the BIG 4 was asking the World Bank safeguards specialist “Will PARIVESH make your work in the World Bank redundant? Given the “equivalence” between your safeguard system and India’s EC procedure, you may not now need to conduct ESIA in your style and do all the supervision”

The man from the World Bank answered “In a way, you are right. But after listening to the discussions of today, we are thinking of supporting a program on Rehabilitation of PARIVESH affected stakeholders (PAPs in Bank parlance) and come up with an alternate Income Generation Scheme (IGS)”

“Oh, very clever!” l I said to myself

I then realized how smart the World Bank is.


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You may like to read some of my related posts

How to get Speedy Environmental Clearance?

https://prasadmodakblog.wordpress.com/2015/02/20/how-to-get-speedy-environmental-clearance/

Indian Weddings now require Environmental Clearance

https://prasadmodakblog.wordpress.com/2016/06/23/indian-weddings-now-require-environmental-clearance/

Impact Assessment of Environmental Impact Assessment

https://prasadmodakblog.wordpress.com/2014/07/30/impact-assessment-of-environmental-impact-assessment/

Global Leadership Program on Circular Economy in South Australia  

India faces many environmental problems today. Our limited resources are under threat due to intensive depletion and serious degradation. Further, we realize that risks to our resource security are compounded due to looming threats of climate change. Policies and strategies to respond to these challenges need mainstreaming of sustainability across all developmental sectors.

Circular Economy offers a platform for all stakeholders to get involved for sustainable and inclusive development. In addition to addressing environmental sustainability, Circular Economy improves the businesses competitiveness, generates employment, increases green investment flows, builds on partnerships and helps in establishing a transparent and inclusive governance.

While there is no debate on the benefits of Circular Economy, one of the major challenges faced not just in India, but globally, is lack of leadership who can accelerate transition or transformation to circularity.  In addition to the leadership, we need to build knowledge networking platforms on circular economy across government, business, investors, academia and communities and offer experiential learning.

With this objective in mind Green Industries South Australia (GISA) , Ekonnect Knowledge Foundation and Circular Economy Alliance Australia (CEAA)  signed a 5 year MoU in December, 2017.

GISA took a lead and with support of Ekonnect and CEAA organized the first pilot course on Global Leadership Program on the Circular Economy between June 17 to 23 in Adelaide in Australia.  The program was developed in partnership with the United Nations Centre for Regional Development (UNCRD). Besides me, Hemant Chaudhari of CEAA, Rudra Mohanty of UNCRD and Prof Brajesh Dubey of IIT Kharagpur contributed as resource persons.

South Australia has a global reputation for leadership across a wide range of circular economy issues. These include container deposit legislation, the plastic bag ban, high-performing kerbside systems, investment in resource recovery infrastructure, wastewater and stormwater recycling and reuse, renewable energy (in specific solar), innovation districts with incubators.

The program attracted leaders from the government, industry and not‑for‑profit sectors in India, Japan and Australia. Program participants had a hands-on experience to see Australian circular practices through visits to different industries and operations relating to water, waste, energy and materials management. A unique point of difference was that the program was developed for practitioners. At each facility, short presentations were made leading to discussions and better understanding. Several handouts were shared during the visit.

The companies that participants visited included Peats Soils and Garden Supplies; ResourceCo; Jefferies Group; Advanced Plastic Recycling; Northern Adelaide Waste Management Authority and South Australia (SA) Water.There was also a presentation from Salisbury city on the massive program they have on harvesting and reusing stormwater.

Highlights of some of these companies are described below.


Peats Soils and Garden Mulches 

Peats Soils and Garden Supplies produces and sells as much as 150,000 tonnes of compost, soil and mulch products in South Australia each year. Peats has developed its own proprietary process to manufacture compost products which improve crop yield and quality for viticulture, broad-acre and horticulture. BiobiN®is an on-site, capture and containment system used for organic material processing (starting the composting process) in an odour-free, easily accessible vessel. Peats has begun producing biodiesel from grease trap waste – the mixture of cooking oil and wash down waters that cafes, restaurants and takeaway outlets funnel into underground waste tanks.

Biobins at Peats

ResourceCo 

ResourceCo is South Australia’s largest specialist processor of construction and demolition, and commercial and industrial waste. It recovers and processes over two million tonnes of mixed construction and demolition waste materials per annum, producing recycled concrete/aggregates/ asphalt products for use in construction and road base, and grinds combustible materials for use as an alternative fuel to fossil fuels.

Advanced Plastic Recycling

Advanced Plastic Recycling manufactures wood plastic composite (WPC) products which are used in many parts of Australia and internationally. Its products can be found in parks, gardens and schools, by the side of the nation’s roads and throughout the transport, mining and agricultural industries. One of the major recent innovations has been creation of composites of plastic and saw dust to make railway sleepers. A great way to gobble up the plastic waste!

Railway sleepers made out of plastic waste and saw dust 

Northern Adelaide Waste Management Authority 

The Northern Adelaide Waste Management Authority (NAWMA) is run by the Playford and Salisbury Councils in metropolitan Adelaide and the nearby Town of Gawler, NAWMA co-ordinates a comprehensive waste collection service that focuses on encouraging and supporting households to separate recyclable and green materials from other waste. In addition, its Waste Recovery Centre includes a drive-through Waste Transfer Station for people to deliver other waste products, a recycling service for bottles and cans and a retail outlet. As result, more than half of the waste collected in its core region is diverted from landfill.

SA Water 

The Virginia Pipeline Scheme is a successful wastewater reuse project in South Australia. The scheme involves an innovative public private partnership approach to providing sustainable recycled water infrastructure for the Virginia area, North of Adelaide.  It provides recycled water from the Bolivar Wastewater Treatment Plant for horticultural irrigation to approximately 400 customers in Virginia and surrounding area,

Aeration Tanks at SA Water 


The program gave ample opportunities to discuss experience of policies in practice such as South Australia’s Container Deposit Legislation. The participants attended an actual session of teachers coaching the students on waste segregation and recycling. They got exposed to the iconic non-government organization Keep Australia Beautiful (KESAB).

Finally, the high point was visit to the Tonsley Innovation District. This innovation district is one the first in Australia. It was fascinating to meet with eco-entrepreneurs who set up and scaled up their businesses with mentoring support from Innovyz

Tonsely was developed by rehabilitating old infrastructure

The pilot global leadership program gave us a valuable insight to further refine the program design. Feedback received from participants was extremely positive.

We will be launching a 3 weeks e-learning program on Circular Economy before end of the year. The modules will include glimpse of the companies in the form of video clips.

The next leadership program may take place between November-December over 4.5 days duration in Adelaide. We may do a two days precursor program in India to cover essentials on circular economy as a primer to the participants. The participation will be on a competitive basis following an application and selection procedure. We are exploring part sponsorship to deserving candidates.

I thoroughly enjoyed my stay in Adelaide as a speaker and as a coach. For subjects like Circular Economy, a blend of theory and experiential learning is certainly the way. The program should not only confine to “learning” but on “how to lead and transform the organization” and make “connections” leading to partnerships, innovations and investments.

I congratulate GISA for developing such an innovative apparatus and running a truly inspirational Global Leadership program. My sincere appreciation for partnering with Ekonnect.

I am sure you will be interested to know more. Do write to me at prasad.modak@ekonnect.net copying Marcia  Kreinhold of GISA at  Marcia.Kreinhold@sa.gov.auand. We will be happy to respond.


The program wasn’t drab or only technical. Here are few photographs during the lighter moments


Dinner at an Indian restaurant

Lunching at Sarah’s Sisters Sustainability Cafe

Presentation at Jacobs Creek that followed by wine testing