Category Archives: Environment

Cleaning up the Ganga

Most of us here in India are looking forward to see how the NDA government, and Mr. Modi in particular are able to live up to their promise of cleaning up the River Ganga. Others, starting way back in the 80’s with Rajiv Gandhi, have made promises that have been, at best, only partially met.

Pollution may not be visible in the upstream tributaries, where the river roars down where it is not constrained by the multiple dams.  The exception: construction waste being dumped into the river.  It is untreated human waste from all of the growing towns in the hills that is most certainly an undesirable addition to the river. Setting up mini waste treatment plants using the latest technology should be a priority for those areas.

As we come down to the plains, Industrial waste takes on a much larger proportion of the pollutants added to the river. Most likely, if the laws that are in place were to be implemented properly, we could reduce this pollution significantly. Therein lies the biggest hurdle. Apart from corruption in the concerned state and central departments, there exists a factory owners – politician nexus that does not allow the implementation of the existing rules. Pollution control equipment is seen by most as optional or even as a cost that needs to be cut.

This is true for even for the smallest industrialist. In the early 90’s, I worked for a PCB manufacturing firm in Bangalore, and they had no qualms whatsoever in letting cyanide (used in the process) flow out into the nearest storm water drain. In connivance with the relevant department officials of course! All to ensure that the profits were not impacted. Justifying it was simple. After all, the customer was not willing to pay more, and the other competitors did the same thing.

It is in this context that news of of how in some parts of China, personnel responsible for pollution control, are being held accountable for their performance is worthy of emulating in India too. One interesting aspect is that in some parts of China, factories are being set annual quotas on the amount of river pollution that they cause.  Like carbon trading markets in the west, in China, factories wishing to increase their production, and as a by product increase the river pollution, can go and buy credit from other factories as needed. Where they seem to have gone ahead of the world, is in giving the ability to pollution control officials a remote control switch to the valves on the outlet pipes from the industries! Turn off the valve, and the production comes to a grinding halt.

The challenge for us in India is quite large, and one hopes that professionals and politicians can join together in making a positive difference to the status of the River Ganga by 2019. Will being tough on polluters and those who collude with them, reap political dividend for the NDA? Time will tell.


Mr. Shourie – GDP is a stupid measure – how come you don’t get it?

“If we continue with the UPA, and the current set of people in the planning commission, India’s GDP will NEVER grow”, said Mr. Shourie.  “Vedanta invested 50,000 crores in the project, and it is a shame, if they have to go back, because 100 tribals decided their fate”, he continued.
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Road lay(er)ing in Bangalore … and it’s impact on increasing surface temperature

For the last 19 years that I have been in Bangalore, I have seen BBMP only laying yet another layer of tar over the the already existing tarred road.

1. While it is fast to do so, what is the impact of having a 6 inch layer of tar on the heat retained in the ground?  By how many degrees centigrade does it increase for every inch of tar laid for every square km of road?
2. Plastic additives are added to prevent water from seeping in … why then are perfectly normal roads relaid?  Koramangala is a classic example?
3. What is the overall environmental impact of such brain-dead methods?

I think the answers are known to most of us.  BBMP does not give a damn.  If roads and pavements are not relaid every year or two, then how will their engineers get kickbacks?  Of course politicians, i.e. the legislators lead by example – most of the contractors will be fronts for them.

BBMP’s yearly contribution to causing climate change in the city is not being looked at in detail.  Hope it is corrected sometime soon.