Green was in focus at a symposium titled On to a Greener, Sustainable Future at Calcutta Club on Friday evening. The event was a precursor to the annual International Evening of the club, held in association with The Telegraph. The president of the club, Dilip Kumar Saha, said: “We’ve been holding the International Evening for 34 years. This year, we wanted a change. Since the biggest change around us is climate change, we organised a seminar on it.” The event was moderated by Deb A. Mukherjee, a member of the club and the energy committee of the Bengal Chamber of Commerce and Industry. Here’s what the panellists had to say
R.K. Pachauri, chairperson, Nobel prize-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)
Pachauri felt India needed to be clear about what it sought when it chased “development”. “Countries that are now developed never had the pressure of population the way India does. When the developed countries were in their nascent stages, they could exploit fossil fuels without having to worry about its depletion. The world has changed since then and India does not have that luxury,” he said. Pachauri reminded the crowd that our garbage remained in our environment. “Our oceans and rivers are almost dead because of pollution,” he said. He shared IPCC’s finding that the frequency and intensity of heat waves were increasing. Extreme precipitation events such as the Mumbai floods of 2005 are also on the rise.
The good news is that further damage can be controlled. “We have to reduce wastage, build energy-efficient buildings and use renewable energy. In places like Rajasthan where the land is infertile but the sun is strong, solar power plants can be built,” he suggested, urging people to harness the bounty of renewable resources and reduce dependency on minerals.
Chandrashekhar Dasgupta, retired ambassador and member of the Prime Minister’s council on climate change
Dasgupta said economic development led to pollution and stress on the environment but also helped people to find remedial measures for the problems.
“That is how developed countries have cleaner air and water than developing ones. It is because they have adequate resources to tackle environmental problems. Man has been changing his environment ever since he discovered fire and started burning down forests to practise shifting cultivation. Even literature is replete with the ill effects of the industrial revolution. But the fact remains that the natural environment today is more conducive to human life than ever before,” he said.
Dasgupta surmised that if we failed to develop, we would fail to protect the environment. According to him, the government has a responsibility to guide market forces towards sustainable development.
Stewart Beck, high commissioner of Canada to India
Beck called for experts, governments and the common people to come together urgently and rescue the world. He mentioned how the Canadian government was leading by example, making it mandatory for all new government buildings to be certified by Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED).
“We have also taken simple but effective steps to be
eco-friendly in our high commission office in New Delhi. Till a year back, our office’s annual consumption of paper cups was 2,50,000. But we replaced them with ceramic mugs and now paper cup consumption has come down to 5,000,” he said.
To check fuel consumption, the office has switched to diesel-run cars and reduced the number of cars in its fleet. “We are also getting solar panels on our roof. These measures will save money as well as the earth,” Beck said.
Ajanta Dey, project director, Nature Environment and Wildlife Society (NEWS)
Dey said the efforts of her NGO, which has been working to “protect the Sunderbans” since 1990, had to be intensified after cyclone Aila devastated the region. A short film made by the NGO was screened for the audience before she went on to explain the threats faced by the “desperate delta”.
“The Sunderbans is susceptible to storms, cyclones, tidal surges and rising sea levels. Climate change is real and irreversible and its effects are harming the ecology there,” warned Dey, offering planting of mangroves as a remedial step.
Seema Arora, executive director, CII —ITC Centre of Excellence for Sustainable Development
Arora presented industry’s perspective on the issue, claiming that it was all for sustainable development.
Water scarcity will be a real problem in the coming years, felt Arora. “We are already overusing resources like water and soil, and our population is ever increasing.”
But Arora was optimistic. “Studies show that companies want to invest in sustainable development. And scarcity in resources will lead to innovation that will help utilise resources more efficiently.”