Maharashtra goes electric: beating pollution through e-mobility programme

The Indian state of Maharashtra is embracing electric mobility as the next step in sustainable transport, through leasing out electric vehicles and installing chargers in state government offices.
UN Environment today signed a funding agreement with the Government of Maharashtra and Energy Efficiency Services Limited (EESL), a company facilitating energy efficiency projects under India’s Ministry of Power. The electric cars are being provided by Mahindra and Mahindra.
Electric vehicles use energy stored in its rechargeable batteries, which are recharged by common household electricity. As a burgeoning economy leads to a rapid increase in the number of personal vehicles on the road, a shift to electric mobility is instrumental in the push towards sustainable communities.
Marking the commencement of e-mobility era in the state, Chief Minister of Maharashtra Devendra Fadnavis flagged off the first set of 10 EVs at the Gateway of India in Mumbai.
“Today, Maharashtra embarks on the path of e-mobility marking an important milestone in its trajectory of growth,” Fadnavis said. “Through this MoU with EESL, we are ushering in an era of clean, green and future-oriented technologies in the state. The EV programme will enable sustainable transport and further enhance our state’s stature as a favoured economic destination.”
The Government of Maharashtra took the opportunity to announce its Electric Vehicle and Related Infrastructure Policy, aiming to establish the state as a globally competitive destination for electric vehicles and component manufacturing. The policy also entails increasing the number of registered EVs in the state to 500,000 and the creation of 100,000 jobs.
“E-mobility is the future of our cities, said Erik Solheim, Head of UN Environment. “Maharashtra’s leadership in promoting electric vehicles is a big step towards cities that can breathe, and where innovation thrives!”
The launch of the e-mobility program coincides with the national countdown to World Environment Day. As the global host of World Environment Day 2018, India is inspiring communities across the country to take bold action aimed at beating pollution. The launch of the electric vehicles will reduce emissions from traffic across the state and create an increased awareness of the advantages of electric vehicles.
Earlier this year, the Government of India launched the National E-Mobility Programme to provide an impetus to the entire e-mobility ecosystem including vehicle manufacturers, charging infrastructure companies, fleet operators, and service providers,
EESL is procuring electric vehicles to replace the existing fleet of petrol and diesel vehicles of the Central and State Governments through Mahindra and Mahindra.

“It is our endeavour to contribute to the Indian Government’s e-mobility mission,” said Saurabh Kumar, Managing Director of EESL. “Maharashtra is among the top contributors to the Indian economy and its transition to e-mobility will have a positive effect on national goals related to climate and sustainable growth.”
The partners will also flag off self-drive e-car rental start-up Zoomcar India Pvt. Ltd which aims to expand e-vehicles use in the state also with Mahindra and Mahindra.

Mr. Anand Mahindra, Chairman, Mahindra Group said “I’m a big believer that the future lies in sustainable and shared mobility. Today, we’ve taken another step in this direction with our deployment of Mahindra electric vehicles with Zoomcar and the Govt. of Maharashtra. I’m excited about the pioneering role in electric mobility that the state of Maharashtra is poised to take.”

EESL plans to drive down costs through its innovative business model while supporting local manufacturing facilities, gaining technical competencies for the long-term growth of the EV industry and enabling Indian EV manufacturers to emerge as major global players.

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Two years after it first began, volunteers celebrate visible improvements on Mumbai’s Versova beach

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Ahead of World Environment Day, 6,000 people flocked to the Versova beach to lend their support in beating plastic pollution. It is one of the largest ever beach clean-ups in India, bringing together residents, business heads, government leaders, the coast guard and the Central Reserve Police Force to the Mumbai beach. More than 200,000 kgs of trash was collected from the beach. Many organizations were felicitated for their contribution to the 136 week-long clean-up.

 

Two years ago you could barely walk on the beach”, recalls twenty-five resident of Mumbai Pooja Choudhry. “We started hearing that people were joining Afroz Shah at the beach on weekends to clean-up and so it became a habit for us,” she added.

 

“The Versova beach clean-ups are so important because they demonstrate what happens when the rank and file of this planet stand up for the environment, making the world a cleaner and much better place to live,” said Erik Solheim, Head of UN Environment.

 

Plastic pollution is an ever-growing environmental issue. Estimates are that 13 million tonnes of plastics get dumped into our oceans every year. “Beat Plastic Pollution”, the theme for World Environment Day 2018, calls for unity and collaboration in the fight against one of the most urgent environmental challenges of our time.

 

“Whenever I talk to young people about the need to clean up our environment, I tend to begin with an apology, because its their future we are destroying, says Afroz Shah, environmental activist and UN Champion of the Earth. Policies and legal instruments need to be accompanied by citizen action that taps into our love for nature.”

 

The event on Versova beach triumphantly underscored the heroic efforts of Afroz Shah, who has lead community teams in weekly beach cleanups around Mumbai for the past three years, sparking cleanups of rivers, lakes and park around India.

 

Dia Mirza, UN Environment Goodwill Ambassador said, “Its time for each of us to look at the way we live, and reduce our consumption of single-use plastic. Its easy and its possible. There is an incredible revolution underway.”

 

Rajiv Rai Bhatnagar, Director General of the Central Reserve Police Force, says the Indian force entrusted with the internal security of the nation is equally keen to be a force for a swachh bharat or a clean India. “Hundreds of our camps are plastic-free and we regularly help with beach clean-ups and other environmental initiatives”, he said.  

 

The fishing communities along the Versova beach are committed to removing plastic and litter from the beach and the sea, pitching in every weekend to help deal with the growing battle against plastic pollution.

 

“Plastic pollution in the sea has made fishing difficult for us. More than 60 percent of what we catch is plastic” says Ranjit Kale, a fisherman living on Versova beach.

 

“Twenty years ago when we were children, Versova beach was really clean. Today, it’s covered with plastic waste. Back then we had plenty of fish in the sea closer to the beach. Now we have to travel further into the sea which means more diesel and eventually drives up coast,” says Devendra Kale, Chairman Versova Fishing Community.

 

In March 2018, the cleanup efforts even resulted in the return of the Olive Ridley turtle hatchlings to the beach, after the once litter strewn-stretch of sand had returned into a place that was habitable for the turtles.

Political economy to centre around elections forcing “wait and watch” by biz: ASSOCHAM

Whatever the outcome of Karnataka elections, the political-economic narrative of 2018 and early part of 2019 would centre around either the impending polls in states like Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan or the general Lok Sabha elections, forcing investors  to adopt a ”wait and watch” stance although sectors focussed on rural consumption and health are likely to receive increased opportunities, an ASSOCHAM note has said.
 
“There is a lot of anxiety around the high stake Karnataka outcome, as that is perceived to be setting a tone for the political situation that would unfold thereafter. To that extent, the interest of the business and industry along with investors in the financial market is as high as rest of the segments of the society,” the chamber said in an internal note to the stakeholders.
 
The chamber Secretary General Mr D.S. Rawat said, ”While there would be higher level of volatility in the financial markets as we further get into the election mode, the trend towards resolution of non-performing assets through the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code would continue along with the focus of the government towards completion of the key infrastructure projects including highways and other roads.”
 
The roll out of Aayushman Bharat, the national health scheme that has medical insurance at its core, would gather traction. “It is a flagship programme of the Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the roll out is expected to be big enough, providing a huge opportunities to the health insurance service providers, as also those in the healthcare sector,” the chamber’s note said.
 
It said, just like the previous governments, the focus would also be more on the farm sector by this government as well, especially in the election year. “With Monsoon expected to be normal and the government push likely in the next few months, the firms in the seeds, agri implements, including tractors, fertiliser, pesticides, dairy products and irrigation equipment would get a lot more business opportunities than in the previous few years”.
 
However, the chamber noted concerns arising from the macro picture emerging out of the global factors like rising crude oil prices, facing increased pressure after the US President Mr Donald Trump pulling out of the nuclear deal with Iran. “The geo-political situation in the Middle East is key to the crude prices as also the financial markets. With dollar rising , India’s total import bill in dollar terms would exert pressure on the country’s current account position as well,” the ASSOCHAM note said.
 
The run up to the general elections, after the noisy campaigning for the states, may divert government attention from any big time announcements, but the country’s political economy has become robust enough to withstand some temporary disruptions, if any, the chamber noted.

UNICEF India highlight the importance of celebrating mothers and their newborns.

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UNICEF India organized a panel discussion to highlight the importance of celebrating mothers and their newborns. A doctor from Orissa, a front line ASHA worker from Uttar Pradesh, a father from West Bengal, UNICEF India Deputy Representative, Ms Henriette Ahrens, UNICEF officiating Chief of Health, Dr. Gagan Gupta and UNICEF Celebrity Advocate Kareena Kapoor Khan,  engaged in an hour-long discussion on the need for support all mothers and their newborns so that they survive and thrive.

The event was organized to mark Mother’s Day in the backdrop of UNICEF’s global #EveryChildALIVE campaign.

 

Globally UNICEF is focused on Every Child Alive, a signature neonatal campaign that supports and accelerates UNICEF’s efforts to eliminate preventable neonatal deaths by 2030, with a focus on the girl child. Given that India contributes to nearly one-fifth of the global burden of under-five deaths and around a quarter of the global burden of neonatal deaths, this campaign focuses on creating an in-depth discourse around the issues.

Speaking on the occasion, Ms Henriette Ahrens said, “I congratulate the Government of India for their efforts and investments towards Universal Health Coverage, which is well reflected under “Aayushmaan Bharat”. I also salute the team of skilled health workers, who are committed to support every mother and baby with a safe pair of hands,” she added.

Interacting with panelists, Dr. Gagan Gupta said, “India has shown good and consistent progress in reduction of child mortality, with nearly 120,000 fewer under-five deaths in 2016 as compared to 2015. However, more efforts are needed for reducing neonatal deaths and addressing the gender gap in child survival. Simple interventions like ensuring every newborn is breast fed within the first hour of life can reduce neonatal deaths by 22 per cent. Government is doing its part but it is also our collective responsibility to ensure every child gets the best start in life, truly leaving no one behind.”

Dr. Hota fromMalkangiri, Orissa shared his experiences of an arduous 10 km journey-on- foot to reach the nearest Primary Healthcare Centre and save the life of a tribal mother and her newborn. Uma Devi, an ASHA worker from Uttar Pradesh shared how she convinced a mother and her family to take their newborn to a specialized centre for newborns- the nearest Special Newborn Care Unit. A father from West Bengal shared his experiences of providing kangaroo care to his newborn twins and supporting his wife so that she could breastfeed the children.

Kareena Kapoor Khan, shared “When I was pregnant, access to quality healthcare and good doctors and nurses was a given. But this should not just be a privilege for some. Quality healthcare is something that needs to be assured for every mother and every baby, girl or boy, wherever they live. Every mother and every baby has the right to be supported by a safe pair of hands during pregnancy and the newborn period,”

Kapoor also highlighted the need for gender equity and quality, which she said are the next frontiers for newborn survival. “We need to look after our girls just as well as we look after our boys. As females ourselves, it is incredibly sad that baby girls do not always get the same care that baby boys do. If your baby girl becomes unwell, get help for them just as quickly as you would do for a boy,” she said.

Kapoor has been associated with the UNICEF for over five years and has been supporting the discourse around child rights especially in the context of education and more recently around newborn health, nutrition and development.

The discussion concluded on the need for joint efforts of all stakeholders to amplify messages and facilities around neonatal survival. This includes affordable and quality healthcare for every mother and newborn, 24X7 supply of clean water and electricity at health facilities, presence of a skilled health attendant during birth, early initiation of breast feeding and skin-to-skin contact between the mother and child.

PARLIAMENTARIANS FROM ACROSS SOUTH ASIA DISCUSS THE NEED FOR STRONGER INVESTMENT IN CHILDREN AND ADOLESCENTS

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UNICEF is hosting parliamentarians from the entire South Asia region in an effort to increase investment in children and young adults, bringing about much needed change for millions of poor and improving the prospects for healthy economic growth in the region.

The South Asia Parliamentarian Platform for Children being held in Dhaka, Bangladesh, on 2–3 May 2018 aims to strengthen opportunities for children in the first two decades of their lives. Lawmakers from all eight countries in South Asia will meet to prioritize, promote, and safeguard children’s rights and discuss the prospects for further investment in Early Childhood and adolescent years. Over thirty parliamentarians from eight countries – Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Bhutan, Afghanistan, Maldives and India – are participating in the conference.

While South Asia is home to one fourth of the world’s population, its share of global income is just 4 per cent. This fact underlines one of the biggest challenges for South Asia’s progress on the social and economic front: namely the lack of investment in its largest asset, its Human Capital – and especially the young within the society,” said Ms Jean Gough, Regional Director of UNICEF

South Asia.

Ms Heena Gavit, Member of Parliament, BJP, Lok Sabha from Nandurbar, Maharashtra, Mr Konda Vishweshwar Reddy, Member of Parliament, TRS, Lok Sabha from Chevella, Telangana and Professor Azmeera Seetaram Naik, TRS, Mahbubabad, Telangana, represented India at this meet. The three Members of Parliament interacted with the Speaker of the Bangladesh Parliament, Ms Shirin Sharmin Choudhury, and parliamentarians from seven other countries.

Speaking on the need for greater investments for children and adolescents, Ms Heena Gavit said, “The children and youth represent not just India’s future but are an integral part of securing India’s present. As the quality of human capital is one of the key determinants of economic growth, it is important for any Government to focus on enhancing child budgeting with an aim to improve healthcare and nutrition for young children and adolescents.

The budget outlays for nutrition in India increased to INR 3,45,238 crore in 2018-2019 BE from INR 3,09,272 crore in 2017-18 RE.[1] The outlay is 1.8 per cent of GDP. An increase in the allocation of National Nutrition Mission and Integrated Child Development Services will address the malnutrition problem of 36 per cent underweight and 38 per cent stunted children in India,” Ms Heena added.

Commenting on  the importance of budgeting for children for improved water and sanitation, Mr Konda Vishweshwar Reddy said, “Children are a vulnerable group that unfortunately do not have a right to vote. Politicians need to re-align their political interest with the goals of children, to reap the dividend from these young citizens 0-18 years of age. They  represent nearly 40 per cent of India’s population. Clean water, toilets and hygiene is essential to ensure children survive and thrive, and achieve the Sustainable Development Goal 4.”

Professor Naik, emphasizing that the education of children deserves greater investment, said, “Quality education is the basic need for every child in the country. Education is an important component of India’s national budget. The Government of India has established special schools to increase enrollment of children from marginalized sections  such as Eklavya, Kendriya Vidyalaya, Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidyalaya, Jawahar Navodaya and Mini Gurukuls, To achieve sustainable progress in the sphere of child education, a holistic approach is crucial.”

This year’s meeting focused on the region’s commitment to increased investment in children. 300 million children in South Asia are so-called multi-dimensionally poor with too little to eat, a high risk of falling sick from preventable disease and a very slim chance of ever going to school.

Evidence shows that investment in young people pays strong dividends to society. One dollar invested in quality Early Childhood Development will give a return of between US$6 and 17. If low- and middle-income countries ensured preschool enrollment to half of the country’s children, the result could be cumulative lifetime earnings gains of US$15 – 34 billion. The urgent, timely and adequate investments in early childhood and adolescent years will lead to well-developed brains and a highly productive workforce.

UNICEF South Asia is honored to bring together law makers to discuss the increased need for investment for the most marginalized children.

“There are very good chances for bringing about radical and important change: in most countries

in the region, children and young people make up a large part of society and even smaller

investments now will give good results for children and South Asian societies”, said Ms Jean Gough of UNICEF South Asia.

Indian Policymakers to explore European efforts in resource efficiency

A delegation of eight high-ranking representatives from the Indian Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEF&CC), the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), the national planning committee NITI Aayog and the Indian Resource Panel (InRP) visited  Brussels (From Thursday, 26 October to Friday, 27 October 2017), exploring Belgian and European best practices in the field of resource efficiency. The delegation was headed by the chairman of CPCB, Mr. Surya Pratap Singh Parihar.

This visit follows the EU India Summit 2017 which was held on 6 October in Delhi. At the summit, leaders from both sides committed to moving towards a more circular economic model that reduces primary resource consumption and agreed to further intensify cooperation on addressing environmental challenges.

During a meeting with Bruxelles Environnement on Thursday, 26 October, the delegation learnt about the Brussels Regional Programme for a Circular Economy (BRPCE) and related measures in the field of waste management and the buildings and construction sector. “We are glad to welcome the Indian delegation in Brussels as we see great potential for learning from each other”, said Aurélien Rigolet from Bruxelles Environnement. A subsequent meeting was scheduled with UMICORE – a recycling company in Hoboken which operates a state-of-the-art to smelter for precious metals – to explore possibilities for the application of Best Available Technologies (BAT) in India.

On Friday, 27 October 2017 delegates met representatives from the European Commission’s (EC) Directorate-General for Environment (DG ENV). Technical discussions revolved around EU activities in the field of resource efficiency, waste management and the Circular Economy Action Plan passed in 2015. Astrid Schomaker, Director of Global Sustainable Development at the EC received the delegation on Friday 27 October. “We are honoured to receive the delegation of Mr. Parihar and are positive to deepen the on-going fruitful Indo-European collaboration on resource efficiency and circular economy”, she said. The study tour was concluded by a meeting with Recupel, a private service provider which collects waste from electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE or e-waste) on behalf of producers. During this, participants discussed the implementation of Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) in Europe and under the new E-waste Management Rules, 2016 in India.

Before arriving in Brussels, the delegation had met with various public and private institutions in Vienna, Austria and visited the World Resources Forum (WRF) in Geneva, Switzerland to exchange with other decision makers on the implementation of an Indian resource efficiency agenda. The delegation visit was part of a larger EU-financed project on resource efficiency in India (EU-REI) which provides technical assistance to the Indian Government in questions related to resource efficiency and establishes partnerships between private and public stakeholders in India and the EU working on various aspects of circular economy.

The project is being implemented by a consortium of four organisations: Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ), Berlin-based think tank adelphi as well as The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) and Confederation of Indian Industries (CII) from India.

Circular Economy in the European Union

Widespread recognition that Circular Economy approaches are a win-win for the environment as well as growth and jobs has led several countries to adopt strategies for the implementation of such models. However, a circular economy cannot be achieved in isolation. To reap the full benefits of such model, a global transition is necessary. Collaboration and partnerships with third countries will be essential.

The Commission adopted a Circular Economy package in December 2015, consisting on legislative proposals on waste and an action plan covering the whole life of products and materials. It is a key contribution to the Commission’s 10 priorities and to the broader agenda of the European Union for jobs and growth. It is also closely linked with the energy and climate policies and it contributes to the implementation of the Agenda 2030 on sustainable development adopted by the United Nations in September 2015.

Resource Efficiency Challenge in India

Rising income levels, growing population and rapid urbanisation have led to increasing material consumption levels. India’s raw material usage is expected to climb from 1.7 bn. tons in 1980 to 15 bn. tons by 2030. Between 1970 and 2010, the extraction of primary raw materials to drive economic activity increased by 420%. It is anticipated that India will have the world’s third largest consumer market by 2025, with 30% of consumer spending expected to be in the emerging cities.  In transport, housing and energy which are likely to be major areas of expenditure and material consumption, waste management is becoming a significant issue.

The consumption of precious mineral and metal resources such as lithium, copper, nickel, lanthanum, cadmium (used in solar panels, electric/hybrid car batteries and motors), and limestone, sand (used in construction/infrastructure) has grown manifold in the last two decades. Recycled plastic and e-waste are secondary resource materials and their recycling saves on the extraction of materials from primary sources. To avoid supply pressures in the shape of price hikes, scarcity, environmental damage, and changing geopolitics, it is prudent to devise a strategy that preserves resources by implementing resource efficiency measures along the entire value chain of products.

Toxic air might drive away highly-skilled expats from NCR

Expressing anxiety over the dangerously unhealthy air quality levels in the National Capital Region (NCR), apex industry body ASSOCHAM today urged the Centre and governments of Delhi, Haryana and Punjab to establish a clear strategy for aggressively tackling air pollution.
 
“Different ministries, departments as well as universities, research institutions and organisations alike must come together and also engage top-tier professionals to chart out a systematic, clear timetable and roadmap for tackling air pollution and curbing its causes thereby improving Delhi’s air quality,” said ASSOCHAM in a SOS message sent to the Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) along with government of Delhi, Haryana, Punjab and Uttar Pradesh.
 
“Delhi is facing an emergency situation but there is hardly any intention or commitment seen to address the problem as such innovative solutions like using mist cannons, creating a special force to check construction activities, vehicular pollution, rubbish burning and other factors is the need of the hour,” said ASSOCHAM secretary general, Mr D.S. Rawat.
 
“Increasing air pollution can take a toll on the urban economy by cutting short life span of people thereby increasing healthcare costs to the government, drive away top executives and talented people to other cities with better air quality thereby negatively affecting Delhi’s ability to attract highly-skilled expatriates, severely impact inflow of investments and hit sectors like tourism, hospitality, outdoor recreation and others,” said Mr Rawat.
 
“Promoting use of more efficient and less polluting energy sources, restricting growing number of vehicles and stringent enforcement of pollution laws will help in smooth transition to a more environment-friendly economy in the long-term,” he added.
 
The ASSOCHAM’s secretary general further said that cooperation across various fields is a must to achieve more targeted measures in reducing air pollution.