Govt should tender electric buses to drive adoption

In January this year, the Government of India put together an ambitious plan called the ‘National Electric Mobility Mission Plan 2020’. It envisages electric vehicles like two-wheelers, three-wheelers and buses. But since January, there has been no action on the ground.

The report states, “These ground realities would necessitate mid- to long-term stable government policies, schemes and pilot projects to be approved and launched in the first phase itself.” But industry leaders feel pilot projects may not work. Indeed, they were started many years ago.

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Sri Lanka’s electricity price hike sparks interest in solar – Thomson Reuters Foundation

Sri Lanka’s electricity rates were hiked effective May. The revision is already forcing high-end domestic users to look at a much more environmental friendly alternative, solar. However experts say it is too early to predict whether the rate hike will influence mass movement to solar. Of the over 5m households connected to the national grid, only 3% are considered even border-line high-end users. My file for the Thomson Reuters Foundation –

Chetain Maini: The ‘chalta hai’ attitude doesn’t work with me

Something that always motivated me was this vision that I had gone to a traffic light in Bangalore and everything was quiet [because it was powered by electricity]. That was so powerful for me right through; of looking at what this future was and what we could do as part of this. This was my own little internal inspiration in this area. In the late 1990s, electric vehicles were supposed to be 2 percent of the cars in California. There was a huge push by the government, tonnes of startups were launched, and there was a whole environment buzzing on electric mobility. 

At that point, I was working with an American company called Amerigon (where the Maini Group was a small investor). There, I led a team of over 100 people who were working on electric cars. [President Bill] Clinton had announced a full electric facility, we were making kits there. It was buzzing, and then suddenly the regulation said this was going to go away. So everyone shut shop.

There was a possibility Reva would not have happened because the company shut down; there was no funding available (I sought funding from auto companies, but they weren’t convinced) and I was not an entrepreneur. I was a technologist. I had never got into the financing, marketing or any other aspect of business.

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Greening Trade Imperative for green Development: UNEP Report

GENEVA/ISLAMABAD: Greening global trade is an important step towards achieving sustainable development, and developing countries are well positioned to help catalyse this transition, according to a new report released today by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

“In today’s increasingly interconnected world, where trillions of dollars worth of goods and services are traded annually, greening global trade still presents challenges but also holds significant opportunities,” said Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary General and UNEP Executive Director.

“If we are to roll back the global decline in biodiversity, mitigate the release of greenhouse gases (GHG), halt the degradation of lands and protect our oceans, then it is an imperative that international trade becomes more sustainable and contributes to protecting that ‘natural capital’ of economies in the developing world.”

He said that in the last two decades, trade has continued to expand, creating economic growth and progress towards eradicating poverty in developing countries.  At the same time, however, the increasing volume of trade has put additional stress on natural resources, led to increases in GHG emissions, and contributed to social inequalities.

World trade patterns show that developing countries, and particularly least developed countries, still depend heavily on natural resource based products and raw materials for their exports. To achieve long-term and sustainable economic development, however, there are significant and real opportunities for developing nations to diversify their economies and position themselves to benefit from the growing global demand for more green goods and services, Achim Steiner said.

While still representing only a small percentage of the global market, trade in certified products and in environmental goods and services is on the rise in absolute terms.  For example, the global market in low-carbon and energy efficient technologies, which include renewable energy supply products, is projected to nearly triple to US$ 2.2 trillion by 2020.

The report, Green Economy and Trade – Trends, Challenges and Opportunities, finds that developing countries with abundant renewable resources are well-positioned to capitalize on the opportunities to increase their share in international markets for sustainable goods and services.

The report analyzes six economic sectors – agriculture, fisheries, forests, manufacturing, renewable energy and tourism – where trade opportunities exist, and identifies measures, such as policy reforms and certification, that can help developing countries benefit from these markets.

Some of the trends highlighted in the report illustrate this potential.  For example:

· Agriculture: The global market for organic food and beverages is projected to grow to US$105 billion by 2015, compared to US$62.9 billion in 2011. For instance, the production of tea in line with sustainability standards has increased by 2000 per cent between 2005 and 2009.

· Fisheries and aquaculture: Wild-capture fisheries already certified or in full assessment record annual catches of around 18 million metric tonnes of seafood. This represents about 17 per cent of the annual global harvest of wild capture fisheries, and demand far outstrips supply. Furthermore, the total value of seafood that has been farmed according to certified sustainability standards is forecast to increase to US$1.25 billion by 2015, up from US$300 million in 2008.

· Forestry: As of early 2013, the total area of certified forest worldwide stands at close to 400 million hectares, amounting to approximately 10 per cent of global forest resources. Sales of certified wood products are worth over US$20 billion per annum.

· Manufacturing: Many suppliers are greening their practices in order to secure their positions within international supply chains. This is illustrated, for example, by the 1,500 per cent increase in global ISO 14001 certifications on environmental management between 1999 and 2009.

· Renewable energy: Since 1990, annual global growth in solar photovoltaic, wind and biofuel supply capacity has averaged 42, 25 and 15 per cent respectively. In 2010, the investments in renewable energy supply reached US$211 billion, a five-fold increase from 2004, and more than half of these investments were in developing countries. Developing countries have significantly increased their exports of renewable energy equipment such as solar panels, wind turbines and solar water heaters, and expanded their potential to export electricity from renewable sources.

· Tourism: In developing countries, this industry’s market share has increased from 30 per cent in 1980 to 47 per cent in 2011, and is expected to reach 57 per cent by 2030. In 2012, for the first time, international tourism arrivals reached one billion per year. The fastest growing sub-sector in sustainable tourism is ecotourism, which focuses on nature-based activities. Many developing countries have a comparative advantage in ecotourism due to their natural environments, cultural heritage and possibilities for adventure holidays.

“Transitioning to a green economy can facilitate new trade opportunities, which in turn will help to make global trade more sustainable,” said Mr Steiner.  “At the same time, trade in environmental goods and services is clearly an area where many developing countries have a competitive advantage. With the right policies and price regimes in place, developing countries are well-positioned to help drive the global transition to a more sustainable economy.”

The report identifies several areas where public and private actions can support developing countries’ efforts to access greener international markets.  These include:

· Public investments in key economic infrastructure, technical assistance, targeted education and training programmes, and access to sustainable resources, such as electricity from renewable energy sources.

· Market-based instruments, such as the elimination of subsidies that encourage unsustainable production, consumption and trade, and pricing policies that take account of the true environmental and social costs of production and consumption.

· Regulatory frameworks that support green industries and incorporate   sustainable development considerations in national development plans and export promotion strategies.

· Resource and energy-efficient production methods, so as to ensure long-term competitiveness in international markets.

· Regional and multilateral fora that can help to liberalize trade in environmental goods and services, remove environmentally harmful subsidies, and provide opportunities for collective action to address global environmental and social challenges.

Realizing sustainable trade opportunities can imply that suppliers have to comply with an increasing number of environmental and social requirements.  In the lead-up to the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20), several countries expressed concerns about such difficulties to access export markets due to complex regulatory regimes. Furthermore, achieving compliance can be expensive, especially for small and medium-sized enterprises.

For these reasons, public and private support is necessary to help businesses green their production and supply chains. In addition, regulatory cooperation, technical and financial assistance and capacity building, will be critical if developing countries are to harness new green trade opportunities.

UNEP, under the Green Economy and Trade Opportunities Project (GE-TOP), seeks to identify policies and measures to help developing countries overcome challenges and respond to export demand for sustainable goods and services.

Following this report, which is the first key output under GE-TOP, UNEP is moving to the second phase of GE-TOP. In response to the calls made at Rio+20 for more action by the international community, UNEP will provide sector-specific assistance to developing countries through inclusive stakeholder processes to seize opportunities arising from the transition to a green economy.

The story published first in Lahore Times on May 8, 2013

Ujyaalo gets brighter

Ujyaalo radio 90 network (, a nationwide news service provider to 150 local stations across the country, is among the few enterprises to have made the switch to solar power as an answer to the catastrophic power shortage. Aptly named Ujyaalo Ghar (Bright home), the four-story building is powered by 10 KW solar panels which caters to the energy needs of its 60 employees, enabling round the clock media production for both radio and internet. Read more

Coastal village women gifted solar lanterns

Coastal village women gifted solar lanterns

This story depicts the life of communities residing close to the sea, facing cyclones, floods and increasing salinity due to the sea level rise. Sea intrusion has put the people most vulnerable, facing displacement. They being live ion far off areas do not have access to electricity. Each family spends Rs100 for a litre of kerosene oil to light a traditional lamp. In fact the price of kerosene is lower in the urban market, these people spend more cost, equal to petrol.

Recently a group of philanthropists, comprising businessmen from Karachi and some from US came to visit a coastal village Haji Umar Jat, Thatta district to donate 300 solar lanterns among the well skilled embroidery maker women.

It was the first time for these tribes’ women, who attended a programme, different than their traditional gatherings. Otherwise, they usually gather at shrines located at distantly islands, where they travel by boats. The tribal bindings force them to stay at home or work in fields or boats with their family members.

The event was organized by a non-governmental Sindh Coastal Development Organisation in collaboration with UNDP Global Environment Facility (Gef) Small Grants Program, LEDtronics and Shan Technologies Karachi, which attracted more than a dozen philanthropists, who were eager to donate these gifts to the families living in the most neglected areas.

Masood Lohar, Country Director of UNDP Gef SGP said “this unique initiative is like a war against darkness, which we have started a few months back with this group of philanthropists.”

A group of these philanthropists have, so far, donated 3000 solar lanterns to the communities in the different areas with setting up five basketball courts to promote recreational activism among the youth.

Maryam Issa, leading the group of philanthropists, expressed the hope that these solar lanterns will support the skilled women to continue their work at nighttime. We have brought little gifts for 300 women of this area with a separate basketball court, also equipped with solar floodlights for their children.”

“We are seeing the skills, generosity and lifestyle of these people. Let us think how to adopt this village with providing all the basic facilities to it, specially health and education,” said the US-based Pakistani philanthropist woman.

The people in coastal areas are the most vulnerable in terms of tsunamis, cyclones, floods and droughts. The people being frightened whenever receive warning call of tsunami, cyclone or flood they shift their families hurriedly to avoid any loss.


Impacts of Chotiari reservoir on communities and ecosystem

Read the story at this link.

This story focuses on the impacts of Chotioari Reservoir, spreading over around 1,800 hectares and covering 30 kilometer area in Sanghar’s desert zone, called White Desert.

The dam was designed with building stone-pitched embankment from one side, leaving the other three sides, which are open from sand dunes.

Environmentalists call it an ecological disaster, as it has not only destroyed the source of living of farmers, herders and fishermen, it has also impacted badly on the ecology.

The dam area was complex of around 60 small and big lakes, some of them are known natural habitats of several species of birds, reptiles and small mammals. The story I have designed with 20-year journey (visiting occasionally, twice or thrice a year to see the change.)

A report of WWF-Pakistan, 2008 reveals that Chotiari reservoir is home to 14 species of large and 19 species of small mammals, 109 species of birds, 58 species of reptiles and amphibians and about 53 species of freshwater fish.

The most important and globally endangered species of the complex wetland site is the Marsh Crocodile (Crocodylus palustris). The construction of reservoir embankments has divided the system in isolated wetland pieces and has definitely triggered the environmental disasters.

WWF-Pakistan with local community-based groups has been focusing on recovery of endangered species, sustainable rangeland management, promotion of sustainable fishing practices, management and control of seepage, provision of alternate energy and reforestation for the growth and improvement of livelihood.

There were herder families, enjoying separate states for their livestock. But gradually, they are facing as if losing the land under their feet. Because, water logging and erosion have not only shrunk grazing fields and islands it is also threatening to the life and livelihoods of communities and disturbing wildlife.

WWF-backed eco tourism project has introduced installing solar energy benefitting community with kitchen gardening, growing vegetables, fruits and grasses at the wider courtyards and open fields, where vegetables were not the choice of the communities. The eco center is attracting people to visit area, once the rich in biological diversity, where now communities are struggling to rehabilitate and promote the community forestation, protecting remaining grazing fields.

Goa subsidizes solar-powered mobile ‘cool cart’

This is a story in Konkani telecast on DD News, DDK, Panaji on 20/10/2012

Here is the synopsis

In a bold bid to give impetus to development & popularisation of solar energy as well as to provide employment to youth, the Goa State Horticulture Development Corporation in co-operation with Indian Council of Agricultural Research is providing solar-powered mobile carts with refrigeration facilities to unemployed youth and women at subsidized prices.  Equipped with three solar-powered chilled chambers, these carts maintain the quality of perishable food products like vegetables, fruits, dairy, fish, etc, while providing hygienic refrigerated storage without a grid connection.  The vendor can move about specially in rural areas where power supply is erratic.

The ‘cool cart’ as it is called has been developed by an innovative entrepreneur, Deepak Solanki, from Sancoale, Goa whose aim is to provide economic eco-alternatives for power requirements and to make Goa a solar energy hub.  The cart costs Rs. 82,000, but the Managing Director of GSHDC, Pai Kakode says that a subsidy of Rs. 62,000 funded through  Central Government Krishi Vikas Yojana and State Agriculture Department is given to popularize the use of the solar-powered cart.  It means those availing the facility have to pay only Rs. 20,000/- and an annual maintenance fee of Rs. 1000/- for a period of 5 years  for maintaining the battery and the cooling system.   With a storage capacity of 180 kg, it can be used even during the monsoon as it is fitted with a ‘hybrid’ battery which can also be charged electrically.  Easy to maintain  with just a switch button, the ‘cool cart’ is fitted with a technology similar to a refrigerator with a panel life of around 15-20 years.  It can be fitted on a tricycle or motorized tricycle which again are solar-powered.

India logs more than 300 sunny days in a year but the potential for solar energy has remained  largely untapped mainly due to high costs of photovoltaic panels.  However with falling prices of PV panels, increasing incentives by the government, as well as high fuel prices, use of solar energy is increasingly becoming a viable option.  Several states like Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Andhra Pradesh, UP, etc.  have put in place their own solar energy policies to tide over power shortages. Under the National Action Plan for Climate Change, a National Solar Mission is already working towards achieving the target to generate 1000 MW by the end of 2013.