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Polavaram: The pointless mega dam that will displace 4,00,000

Dam’ned, a documentary by filmmaker Saraswati Kavula, takes a closer look at how the Polavaram Dam project affects the lives and livelihoods of thousands of people, with dubious benefits expected. Despite increasing evidence of the destructive consequences of big dams across the world, why do our governments keep pushing for these mega projects, she asks.

The Char Dham road project: Narendra Modi’s Himalayan blunder

The 900km, all-weather road enhancing connectivity between four major Hindu pilgrimage sites is PM Modi’s pet project. It will not only displace hundreds of people, but create a massive rush of pilgrims, putting untold pressure on the delicate Himalayan ecology. Experts say it’s also ill-conceived, given its location on the ‘floodway’ of the Ganga basin.

When cities were Nature’s haven: a tale from Bangalore

We tend to think that nature and cities are polar opposites. Delhi’s steadily worsening ‘airpocalypse’ only reinforces this binary. But this wasn’t always so. In her book ‘Nature in the City’, Harini Nagendra takes a deep dive into Bangalore’s ecological history, going way back in the past to the 6th century CE, with surprising results.

India’s big dam mania brings achche din to its corrupt dam lobby

Himanshu Thakkar writes: Can we expect any improvement in state of our water resources under the new minister Shri Nitin Gadkari? It was interesting that after taking over the portfolio from Uma Bharti, Gadkari’s first stop was Maharashtra, to offer the Chief Minister Rs 55 000 crores for same corruption-ridden irrigation projects in three years.

The high cost of an easy-care, low-maintenance world

Kurt Cobb writes: We’ve created a world of low-maintenance objects which are low-maintenance merely because they are disposable… Philosophers bemoan our love of material things. But I believe that we modern, industrialized people don’t actually love material things. We wouldn’t treat material things the way we do if we truly loved and cared for them.

What exactly is a smart city? The Indian government does not want you to know

From Scroll.in: How does the government define a smart city under its much-publicised Smart City Mission? This may never be known. An exercise to set clear benchmarks to assess when exactly a city is delivering a high enough quality of life to be declared a smart city was shut down by the urban development ministry.

Sand mining: the global environmental crisis you’ve probably never heard of

From The Guardian: Cities are expanding at a pace and scale far greater than at any time in history. The global urbanisation boom is devouring colossal amounts of sand–the key ingredient of concrete and asphalt. In the past few years, China alone has used more cement than the US used in the entire 20th century.

This Swiss company aims to capture 1% of global CO2 emissions by 2025

CarbonBrief reports: On the roof of a waste incinerator outside Zurich, the Swiss firm Climeworks has built the world’s first commercial plant to suck CO2 directly from the air. They claim that their direct air capture process –a technology often considered too expensive– aims to capture 1% of global CO2 emissions each year by 2025.

Google engineers say today’s RE technologies won’t save us. So what will?

From IEEE Spectrum: At the beginning, engineers at RE<C, Google’s now defunct renewable energy initiative, had shared the attitude of many environmentalists: They felt that with steady improvements to today’s renewable energy technologies, society could stave off catastrophic climate change. They now know that to be a false hope—but that doesn’t mean the planet is doomed.

The Dirty 120: Urgewald exposes world’s biggest coal plant developers

From Mining Review Africa: Environmental NGO Urgewald has revealed companies that are at the forefront to expand the world’s coal-fired power by 42.8%. The report identifies the 120 companies that are planning about 850 new coal plants in 62 countries–including Indian coal majors Adani, Tata, Lanco and Coal India, which are driving the biggest plants.

Spotlight: China’s communist-capitalist ecological apocalypse

From Truthout.org: This superbly researched 2015 paper explains why China’s unfolding environmental crisis is so horrific, so much worse than “normal” capitalism almost everywhere else, and why the government is incapable of suppressing pollution even from its own industries. It should serve as a warning for India, whose official policies increasingly mimic the ‘China model’.

India has a better option than electric cars

Prem Shankar Jha in The Wire: When nearly 350 million vehicles have to be charged every day, not only will an entire nation-wide, and therefore expensive, recharging infrastructure have to be built, but the power these vehicles will consume will have to be generated first. Nearly all of this will have to come from coal.

India’s outsized coal plans would wipe out Paris climate goals

The Wire reports: If India builds all its proposed coal-based power plants, then it might not fulfill its promise made under the Paris climate agreement, says a new study conducted by CoalSwarm. The country is currently the fourth-largest emitter of greenhouse gases in the world, and its largely-coal-based energy sector contributes two-thirds of those emissions.

China’s ‘new Silk Road’ could expand Asia’s deserts

From Chinadialogue.net: China’s massive Asian infrastructure network of proposed new roads, railways, ports and airports, linking 65 countries to itself must grapple with the same problem as the ancient Silk Road it’s been named after. Sand. Deserts present as big a problem along the “Silk Road Economic Belt” as when camel caravans ambled across Central.

Innovation is overrated; it’s maintenance that matters more

Andrew Russell writes: The most undervalued forms of technological labour are also the most ordinary: those who repair and maintain technologies that already exist. This shift in emphasis involves focusing on the constant processes of entropy and un-doing– and the work we do to slow or halt them, rather than on introduction of novel things.

How to steal a river: New York Times on India’s rampant sand mining

The hundreds of millions of Indians migrating from villages to cities require up to a billion square yards of new real estate development annually. Current construction already draws more than 800 million tons of sand every year, mostly from India’s waterways. All the people I spoke to assumed that much of it is taken illegally.

The global road-building explosion is shattering nature

Bill Laurance writes: An unprecedented spate of road building is happening now, with around 25 million kilometres of new paved roads expected by 2050. An ambitious new study that mapped all roads globally has found that roads have split the Earth’s land surface into 600,000 fragments, most of them too tiny to support significant wildlife.

Power plants are making thousands go blind in Chhattisgarh

Catch News reports: Chhattisgarh’s Janjgir-Champa region, once famous for paddy cultivation, is now emerging as the state’s power hub with several power plants coming up in the area during the recent years. While fuelling the state’s economic growth, dust and ash emitted from these power plants are turning thousands of local people blind from cataract.

The end of nature: Why India is becoming a drier, hotter and angrier country

Samar Halarnkar writes: In Nature in the City, her evocative exploration of Bangalore’s natural history, Harini Nagendra, says, “… residents engaged in practices such as placing a plate of warm rice (often with ghee added) outside to feed crows, leaving water baths for birds in the summer, and sugar and milk for ants and reptiles.”

India’s sinking $50 billion to build hundreds of coal plants it doesn’t need

Greenpeace reports: India remains committed to one of the most aggressive programmes to build new coal plants (some 600 of them) that the planet has ever seen. Yet, 94% of the coal power capacity currently under construction will be lying idle. What’s more, solar power’s now cheaper than coal power, by the government’s own admission.

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