Friday, November 02, 2007

When the land runs red beneath your feet

You might have heard about it. Some 25000 odd deaths in the last ten years. More 4500 deaths in the last seven years alone, all this while their leaders were busy selling farmlands to set IT cities. In fact at one time there was a joke about the capital city of this state; "It's actually made up of two cities, Hyderabad and Hyperabad" Yes, you've guessed correctly. This post is all about Andhra Pradesh.

The funniest part however is that everyone seems to believe that this is a brand new event even though official records show that the farmer suicides have been going since the early 1990's. What has completely devastated several districts, including Anantapur, is a long running drought that began in 2001 and is yet to end. At the Nairobi summit of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, there was a strong focus on the fact that those most likely to be severely affected will be people who had no hand in propagating the anthropogenic factors that have escalated climate change. It will be the poorest of the poor, the landless, the economically backward, the socially marginalized. All of which describe the farmers of Andhra Pradesh.
The most terrifying truth about this scenario is the fact that these farmers are being crushed between the jaws of the Globalisation mantra and unreliable climate patterns. The Indian farmer has traditionally relied on the monsoons for sustenance, they are his benefactors. They are his cruel masters; to whose whims and mercies lies bound, inextricably, his life. In the WTO regime, that really, desperately wants us to believe that 'the world is flat', people such as these farmers have no voice, no power and no access to the wealth that the WTO promises to bring to people exactly like them; honest, hardworking and desirous of a 'good life.'
Now, that promise stands forfeited. There is no salvation in sight for these people with no financial lending institution or government organisation willing to take up the responsibility for improving the situation. Indeed many of the small scale private banks which were supposed to exist as the farmers friend now no longer give out loans to them. Their new clientèle is the upper middle class urban population.
To spice up things, Andhra Pradesh regularly experiences the same troubles as Orissa. Storms, cyclones near the coasts and prolonged drought inland. Nature's double whammy which, compounded by the failure of government policy and the competition from cheaper food grain imports, seems to be the surefire solution to India's overpopulation problem; 'Kill them all!'

I know I shouldn't sound so depressing and negative, but most of what I typed above is so terribly true, I don't know if it makes a difference if I package it in tinfoil and ribbons.
Going back to the discussion on climate change, it is not really difficult to imagine how climate change is going to further worsen the situation in Andhra Pradesh. Erratic precipitation, unending droughts, government apathy and repeatedly failing crops. India is already incapable of feeding her masses. Now farmer after farmer is giving up on agriculture. There is little left to imagine about what the future holds unless some corrective action takes place.
P Sainath on the state of farmers in Andhra and Maharashtra
p.s. - Palagummi Sainath is this year's winner of the Ramon Magasasay award. He is the rural affairs editor for The Hindu, a leading daily in India.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

More Ecogees (Eco - Refugees!)

The Rainbow Warrior sailed on past the east coast and docked yesterday at the Chennai port. There was also an amazing action last morning where the climate action team painted the message 'Cut Coal Save Climate' on the hull of a cargo ship (the INS Sridevi) laden with coal. India right now, (actually based on 2002 data) stands at fifth place on the list of the world's largest polluters. The current development plans envisage an addition of 73 new coal fired power plants. By themselves, these coal megaliths will raise India to the third position. Greenpeace and Solar Generation are strongly against this kind of blind development plans. We need clean power if we want to stick around long enough to see India as a world leader, in whatever field it is.

In the last post I mentioned how officials sent to survey the population of the Sunderbans were shocked to discover that an entire island had disappeared beneath the sea. A Kolkata based scientist, along with his team of oceanographers at the Jadavpur University have identified another island that submerged at about the same time, although there is no record of any human settlement on that island.

Around the same period, a series of cyclones and droughts battered the coastal state of Orissa. Although the Orissa droughts and Super-cyclone made it to media prime-time, little corrective actions can be said to have taken place. As of today this state continues to suffer from the effects of climate change. An already poor people (Orissa scores a meagre 1 - 1.5 on a scale of 5 in the economic development indices), the Oriyas today are struggling to sustain their lives. Orissa has to its credit several dubious distinctions, including supposed trafficking in women, highest numbers of infant mortality due to malnourishment and record numbers of migration due to rising sea levels eating into the coast.

If truly there are climate change hotspots in India, Orissa figures at the top of the list. Greenpeace and Solar Generation India have separately documented the effects of climate change already being experienced by the Oriyas.
Given below is the first video created, directed and shot entirely by the team of Solar Generation. Take a look:

One is forced to feel ashamed about the clueless leadership that seems to prevail in our country after one witnesses the suffering that these people seem to have accepted as part of their lives.

I didn't want to drag this post on for too much longer but couldn't help but share this story.

The region over which Orissa stands now is roughly the extent over which a medieval Indian kingdom, that of the Kalingas, once stood. The Emperor Ashoka waged a lengthy and bloody war on the Kalingas and defeated them. At the end of this war, the king who was known as Chandashoka, "the cruel Ashoka," was so moved by the suffering he had imposed on the Kalingas that he gave up all violence and adopted Buddhism, giving up his traditional Vedic religious beliefs. Later, Emperor Ashoka was rechristened, from "the cruel Ashoka" (Chandashoka) to "the pious Ashoka" (Dharmashoka).

I wonder if the descendants of the Kalingas will once again be forced to embrace oblivion in the face of senseless greed.

Monday, October 22, 2007


there's a tiny omission in the last post. The refugees from Lohachara are officially the FIRST climate refugees per se, anywhere in the world. The fact that Lohachara had sunk didn't even register with the authorities. It was during the 2001 census that the surveyors realised that one of the islands listed as inhabited wasn't to be found! The first islands to have submerged however are officially in the Papua New Guinea.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Updates.... Refresh your self here.

As of right now, one of the 'x'-solargen (x stands for extra talented!) members, our great guru of cool, Mr Amrit Bakshi is enjoying an amazing cruise aboard the Rainbow Warrior! Well, actually, he's only sailing from Kolkata (where he was part of all the Greenpeace (India) activities that took place in Calcutta and the Sunderbans) to Vishakhapatnam or Chennai depending on which port gives the Rainbow Warrior clearance to dock. For new readers, Amrit has been a member of Solargen India since it's inception and has been a moving force behind almost everything Solargen has achieved. He also represented SGi at the Montreal UNFCCC and then again there's his famous freak dancing; which I'm told floored quite a few at Montreal. Besides he's also like the 'as cool as they come' dude.
But this post isn't a tribute to Amrit. It's a report on the people who Amrit is trying to raise a voice for. While we sit and try to argue whether climate change is real or not, who's to blame for it and what corrective measures might work, there's already a lot of people who lives, livelihoods and cultures are already being washed away in the mighty tides of climate change.

Amrit (along with the others from Greenpeace India) was protesting against the apathy of Governments with regards to climate change issues. Most the of anti-climate change lobby refuses to accept the reality of the climate change refugee. Well, like it or not, we have some of our very own climate change refugees. Right here, in India. They are the inhabitants of one of the of the Sunderbans. Sunderbans, incidentally is the largest mangrove forest formation in the world, strecthing from Indian territory to Bangladesh. It is also home to Royal Bengal Tiger, which already facing near-extinction. Apart from tigers, the Sunderbans are home to several species of birds (including the magpie robin - the national bird of Bangaladesh) and crocodiles. It has also been identified as a major mating spot of the endangered Olive Ridley Turtles and is home to the River Terrapin, the Gangetic Dolphin and the Horse Shoe crab among others . Apart from the flora and fauna the Sunderbans are also home to some 4.5 million people. Of these at least 7000 are eco-refugees, who lost their homes when the island Lohachara was lost to rising sea levels in the year 2001. An estimated 15% of Sagar Island, the largest in terms of land mass and human population, is already under water or erdoded.

Shown here is an infrared map of the Sunderbans.A rise of 3.5 mm (0.13 inches) will lead to a loss of 15% of the total land mass of the Sundarbans and will displace a further million people from there homes. These are conservative estimates.
A large part of the effects of climate will be suffered by people who are aged less than 25 years today, i.e., the youth. 53% of India's population is less than 25 years of age. That means a lot of us. A LOT OF US. It's time we demanded our rights and took an active role in the climate change dialog.
So will you wait till the sea's at your doorstep? Or do you want to make a change now?

Wildlife Institute of India
Project Tiger
Population Census of India

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Hey people, this is an article I picked while browsing around. Sorry about the cut and paste job :p

Dean Williams and the Science of Climate Change
By Roger Witherspoon
Oct 12, 2007, 14:29

When the United Nations’ International Panel on Climate Change contacted the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and asked for help there was, at first, consternation.

Dean Williams, senior research computer scientist at the Laboratory, recalled “Our program director, Dave Bader, came to me and said they want us to coordinate and standardize all this data from around the world. Can we do this?

“I said we can not not do this. And then we set out to figure out how and it led to the creation of the Earth System Grid.”

The awarding of the 2007 Nobel Peace Price to both former Vice President Al Gore and the International Panel on Climate Change has cast an international spotlight on the behind the scenes work of Williams, one of the world’s most influential black research scientists.

The Norwegian Nobel Committee awarded the prize jointly for their efforts to build up and disseminate greater knowledge about man-made climate change, and to lay the foundations for the measures that are needed to counteract such change.

It is difficult to envision the impact of global warming – or to determine its existence and causes – considering the disparate impact it has on climate conditions around the globe.

Parts of Texas this summer had 18 inches of rain a few hours while much of the southwest was experiencing record setting drought and fire conditions, and the northeast was wet and unseasonably cool. On a global scale, the disparate impacts are even greater.

It would have been impossible for the International Panel on Climate Change -- IPCC – to have come to the unanimous conclusions on trends in the earth’s climate and the impact of human development were it not for the contribution of Dean Williams, whose work over the past 15 years has provided the computational underpinnings of global climate science.

Williams’ first contribution was the development of the Climate Data Analysis Tool – CDAT – an open source analysis and visualization software package which allows researchers to simultaneously look at multiple climate models and compare observed results.

This was followed by the development of the Earth System Grid, which standardizes how data is collected and provides a common framework for the world’s climate modeling centers. It has changed the way the world’s climate scientists operate.

During the development, Williams sent out terabyte discs to every major climate modeling group, and has since uploaded more than 300 terabytes of data into the Earth system Grid for the IPCC.

At Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Williams said, “we are a neutral climate model center. All the world’s models come in to get vetted. We do comparisons of all the climate models and inter-comparisons around the world.

“The works is scientists will run a model at their site, and then run it through our filter to get a standard format.”

It was this system which provided the world’s scientific community with the certainty exhibited in the current IPCC panel on climate change validating the human cause of global climate disruptions.

The Earth System Grid has been expanded to provide operational nodes at 23 climate research sites around the globe so new information can be downloaded directly for all climate researchers to use.

When informed of the Nobel Prize Award to the IPCC Williams, stunned, at first could only keep repeating “Wow! This is awesome!”

“I’m speechless at this award,” he said after a few minutes reflection. “Everyone in the climate community is a winner today. Our whole team should be jumping up and down.”

Williams grew up on South Central Los Angeles knowing the direction he wanted to take in life at an early age.

“I was always best in my class in math,” he said. “I told myself in fourth grade I’d be a master in math one day.”

He earned a bachelors degree in applied mathematics and statistics, and then a master’s degree in computer science at California State University at Chico and then joined Lawrence Livermore. When he is not standardizing the world’s climate research, he coaches high school track.

© Copyright 2004 by Career Communications Group, Inc.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Greenpeace garners support of 1,00,000 voices for “Ban the Bulb”

Bangalore, 13 July, 2007: Greenpeace today announced the completion of collecting 1,00,000 petitions for their “Ban the Bulb” campaign addressed to the Union Power Minister to implement a ban on inefficient light bulbs in the country by 2010. The campaign aims to collect a million signatures (ten lakh) from the public till the end of the current year.

To commemorate the occasion Greenpeace organised a special event at Christ College joining the hands with Green Army, the environmental cell of Christ College in Bangalore attended by a few eminent names like the young director Master Kishen and Dean of Science, Christ College Mr Chandrasekhar amongst others.

Representatives of Solar Generation from different campuses such as St. Joseph college,Mount Carmel College,St. John's Medical College,Mahavir Jain College,Dayanand Sagar Dental College and National College were present at the function.

Launching the “Ban the Bulb” Campaign on the 16th April 2007, Greenpeace handed over a copy of the model legislation to the Power Minister, mandating that light bulbs with an efficiency of less than 25 lumen/watt should be phased out by 2010. The incandescent bulb falls into that category and Greenpeace demands it to be phased out by that period. Another step for more efficient lighting should follow in 2012 and 2015 so as to raise the minimum efficiency level of lighting to 35 and 55 lumen/ watt respectively.

A decisive measure taken by the Union Minister to phase out the incandescent bulb and ushering in a process of continuous improvement in the efficiency ratings, would save roughly 12000 MW of electricity, while reducing our CO2 emissions by a minimum of 55 million tonnes annually.

Greenpeace will continue collecting petitions from the public, with the aim of collecting 10,00,000 signatures in the coming days. On-line signing of petitions can be done at the campaign web-page " "

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

The Kyoto Round-Up

Athena is the face of Greenpeace's climate and energy campaign in Asia. She has just returned from Kyoto, where she led a team pressuring the Asian Development Bank to put their money where their mouths are and invest in Clean Energy. Here's her round up.
2 weeks ago I welcomed myself back to the city of Kyoto with high expectations: for the Asian Development Bank to honour the spirit of one of the most important environmental agreements in history – the Kyoto Protocol.
I finally got to see Kyoto on the last day of my visit to this historic city. A visit to the Kiyomizu-dera Temple and a walk along Gion made me appreciate its beauty – something I missed10 years ago during my first visit. The people of Kyoto should be proud of their home. The ADB could have made them even prouder, but they were a few steps short…

Following a gruelling week of no sleep, limited food, stress and countless meetings and writing sessions – we surprised ourselves at the impact we had on this giant institution. A team of 18 people from 10 countries, Asian led I must add, managed to rock the institution and send nervous ripples running through it.
From the starting act of the love shirts, to the kimono girls to the sumo-wrestling match, to high-level debates on coal and clean energy, our team was formidable and relentless. We countered each ADB statement, welcomed their initiatives and called for more. More importantly, we blocked a major attempt at putting nuclear on the agenda; stopped ADB expanding the Mae Moh coal plant in Thailand and applied the pressure that resulted in the ADB announcing an impressive array of clean energy initiatives. However, the one thing that keeps cropping up is coal and we will continue to push the Bank hard to phase-out coal from its portfolio.
Yes, the Bank is moving and its response to mounting public pressure has been significant. But I can’t stop wondering whether these commitments are real or not. Half way through the ADB meeting, I finally escaped from the Conference Centre to join the Peoples Forum activities at Doshisha University. Once again I listened to Maliwan, the Mae Moh community representative and to the Cambodian woman whose community was destroyed by an ADB funded highway project. They carried direct testimonies from people whose lives had been devastated by large-scale ADB projects. I was thankful for this opportunity, I had to keep reminding myself that despite the Bank’s improved language on clean energy – this campaign has a long way to go…This bank is losing its grip...the private sector has taken over the energy and infrastructure field and it has nowhere else to go but to find its niche elsewhere. Our pressure can push the Bank to pioneer initiatives for the future - Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency. The ADB can and should make Clean Energy their business. If they get this right, they will show leadership, if not, they will slip into irrelevance and disappear and a golden opportunity to catalyse the energy revolution will disappear with them.
Up until now, we have always been told that money is the problem and this is why renewables are unable to compete. However, during the ADM meeting, Japan announced a US$100m clean energy facility, commitments to the Carbon fund reached US$80m and the clean energy financing partnership reached US$250m. The question is “If there had been no public pressure to re-channel these funds, where would’ve they gone otherwise?” This is the value of persistent global campaigning. It will be business as usual unless we agitate and mobilise, it will be coal and fossil fuels unless we increase the risks of investing in coal. Our campaign makes it difficult for coal proponents and banks to pursue coal - lets keep it this way.
This year is critical. All 3 IPCC reports are now out confirming the urgent need to address climate change. Now we head towards Bali in December for the next Kyoto Protocol meeting, a critical negotiating session for governments where big solutions are required to match the scale of the problem. The ADB could make a difference. We challenge the Bank to come up with actual good projects across the board that demonstrate its commitment to the many clean energy initiatives. We will continue to push, but not for further policy language, we want real action. We want wind farms, geothermal projects, Renewable Energy Bills, and RE based Development Plans by the Bank’s donor member countries. There’s still a long way to go but considering where we were on this campaign 2 years ago…not bad.
We thank you for the petitions and we thank our colleagues in Europe for exerting pressure on donor members. Let’s stay vigilant - one or two large-scale coal plants may still pop up in the ADB’s portfolio – we need to make sure the ADB doesn’t dip its hands into these projects.