Wednesday, October 22, 2014

NCR eco-zones shrinking: Survey (Times of India, 21 Oct. 2014)

Early climate change warriors (The Hindu 22 October 2014)

Jairam Ramesh
Reuters WARNING: “It is now pretty clearly agreed that the C02 content will rise 25 per cent by 2000. This could increase the average temperature near the earth’s surface by 7 degrees Fahrenheit. This in turn could raise the level of the sea by 10 feet,” Moynihan wrote in his 1969 memorandum. The picture, taken in 1999, shows a walrus perched on a melting iceshelf in the Chukchi Sea in the Arctic Ocean.

Social scientist Daniel Patrick Moynihan can veritably lay claim to being perhaps the first person to alert an American President directly on global warming

It is generally believed that global warming is a concern that is of fairly recent origin. Indeed, the issue has become embedded in the public consciousness only in the past two decades. But actually there were early warning signals that were ignored and the world is paying a huge price for it. The worst culprit in this regard is the United States which cannot take the excuse “we didn’t know.”
Daniel Patrick Moynihan, essentially a social scientist, was unarguably one of the outstanding public intellectuals of the 20th century. He held many pivotal positions in the American academic and political establishment including a stint in India as U.S. Ambassador in the mid-1970s when our bilateral relations were, to put it mildly, very prickly on account of suspicious mindsets on both sides.
Now Moynihan can veritably lay claim to being perhaps the first person to alert an American President directly on global warming. Way back on September 17, 1969, he wrote a memorandum which has been published in Steve Weisman’s Daniel Patrick Moynihan: A Portrait in Letters of an American Visionary, a book that contains hugely interesting material on his turbulent India stint as well. The memorandum has not got the public attention it demands. It deserves to be quoted in full given the current global debates on the subject, particularly in the U.S. itself.
“As with so many of the more interesting environmental questions, we really don’t have very satisfactory measurements of the carbon dioxide problem. On the other hand, this very clearly is a problem, and, perhaps most particularly, is one that can seize the imagination of persons normally indifferent to projects of apocalyptic change.
“The process is a simple one. Carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has the effect of a pane of glass in a greenhouse. The CO2 content is normally in a stable cycle, but recently man has begun to introduce instability through the burning of fossil fuels. At the turn of the century, several persons raised the question whether this would change the temperature of the atmosphere. Over the years the hypothesis has been refined, and more evidence has come along to support it. It is now pretty clearly agreed that the CO2 content will rise 25 per cent by 2000. This could increase the average temperature near the earth’s surface by 7 degrees Fahrenheit. This in turn could raise the level of the sea by 10 feet. Goodbye New York. Goodbye Washington, for that matter. We have no data on Seattle.
“It is entirely possible that there will be countervailing effects. For example, an increase of dust in the atmosphere would tend to lower temperatures, and might offset the CO2 effect. Similarly, it is possible to conceive fairly mammoth man-made efforts to countervail the CO2 rise. (E.g., stop burning fossil fuels.)
“In any event, I would think this is a subject that the administration ought to get involved with. It is a natural for NATO. Perhaps the first order of business is to begin a worldwide monitoring system. At present, I believe only the United States is doing any serious monitoring, and we have only one or two stations.
“Hugh Heffner knows a great deal about this, as does the estimable Bob White, head of the U.S. Weather Bureau (Teddy White’s brother).
“The Environmental Pollution Panel of the President’s Science Advisory Committee reported at length on the subject in 1965. I attach their conclusions.”
This is an absolutely fascinating document and how Moynihan came to write it can only be speculated since he left no clues. The very first technical paper drawing the world’s attention to the impact of emissions of CO2 on global climate was by the scientist Roger Revelle (and Hans Suess) in 1957 in the publication Tellus. It was this paper and Revelle’s persistence that led to the establishment of the world’s first and now-iconic CO2 measuring station at Mauna Loa in Hawaii. Revelle was then Director of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in California. He moved to Harvard in September 1964. Apart from other things, Revelle was to later work on issues relating to water resources in Pakistan and India. One of his teaching assistants in the 1970s was an Indian doctoral student in physics who later became an eminent environmental thinker himself, Ashok Khosla. Revelle and Mr. Khosla were, incidentally, tutors to a young Al Gore at Harvard. Mr. Khosla thinks that the close friendship that Revelle and Moynihan had could well have influenced the latter to write the memorandum on global warming. Mr. Weisman himself feels that the clue could lie in the last two lines of the memorandum since Moynihan was a close friend of the journalist and chronicler of Presidential election campaigns Teddy White, the brother of Robert White.
The Moynihan Memorandum refers to a 1965 report of the President’s Science Advisory Committee that was chaired by Revelle himself and that included C.D. Keeling, the scientist who ran the CO2 monitoring station at Mauna Loa. Actually, even before Moynihan, the famous biologist-author Rachel Carson had, in her books published in the 1950s, drawn attention to the growing pattern of warmer temperatures and rising sea levels and their impacts on biodiversity. And in early 1963, the Conservation Foundation has issued a report which said that “a continuing rise in the amount of atmospheric carbon dioxide is likely to be accompanied by a significant warming of the surface of the earth...The effects of a rise in atmospheric carbon dioxide are worldwide... The consumption of fossil fuel has increased to such a pitch within the last half century that the total atmospheric consequences are matters of concern for the planet as a whole.”
Nixon’s environmental legacy

Richard Nixon is a controversial figure but other than his epochal China trip of February 1972, his greatest legacy is on environmental issues. It was during his tenure, for instance, that the Environment Protection Agency (EPA), a favourite target of Republicans these days, was established. Why he chose to remain silent on Moynihan’s note remains a mystery. It is also puzzling why the very first U.N. Conference on the Human Environment held in June 1972 at Stockholm did not discuss climate change at all. That may well be because the conference never received political traction at the highest levels as such conclaves do these days. In fact, the only head of state to address the conference (other than the host Premier) was Indira Gandhi. Her speech changed the international environmental discourse completely by incorporating into it the hitherto missing dimension of economic development and growth. “Poverty is the worst pollutant,” she is very often quoted as having said there. What she really said was a little more nuanced though: “Are not poverty and need the greatest polluters?” She went to add: “The inherent conflict is not between conservation and development but between environment and the reckless exploitation of man and earth in the name of efficiency.” That message has great contemporary relevance both in India and elsewhere.
(Jairam Ramesh is a Rajya Sabha MP and former Union Minister.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Lessons from mutiny on the bounty (The Hindu 21 October 2014)

Peter Ronald deSouza

The recommendations of the World Bank/IMF are presented to us, the people of the South, as scientific, objective, necessary, fair, and in the best interests of the countries where they are to be implemented. This is why the rebellion episode by the bank staff to its restructuring is so significant

In the Financial Times of October 8, the columnist Shawn Donnan, reported that the World Bank was facing an internal “‘mutiny.” Yes, the word mutiny was used. The professional staff were apparently angry about several issues, a deep discontent, because of which the rebellion had been brewing over many days. The key issue was the restructuring exercise being undertaken by the President, Jim Yong Kim, to save, through both the elimination of benefits to staff on mission and also through possible lay-offs, the sum of $400 million. The restructuring exercise, staff felt, was deeply flawed both procedurally and substantively. The columnist reported some members saying that this “thing [restructuring] is affecting everything.” “We can’t do business. We don’t have the budget. It’s a mess, ...” Another staff member complained that “nickel and diming” on travel budgets was causing travelling staff to have to pay for their own breakfasts. “It’s really small beer,” she said. “Has anyone ever thought about the impact of these changes on staff morale?”
Resistance against restructuring

To assuage their feelings, before the semi-annual meeting of the Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) with Finance Ministers and Central Bankers of member countries, President Jim Yong Kim had to hurriedly convene a “town hall” meeting with the staff to discuss their concerns. The issues that was fuelling their anger were: (i) the cost-cutting exercise which meant that items of expenditure that they had been accustomed to, such as a paid for breakfast, were being withdrawn, (ii) the secrecy and opacity of the whole exercise i.e., appointment of consultants, payment of bonus to the senior management, hiring of new senior managers, etc, (iii) the award of a “scarce skills premium” of $94,000 as bonus, over and above his salary of $3,79,000, to the Chief Financial Officer who was carrying out the exercise, and (iv) to the appointment and payment of the huge sum of $12.5 million to external consultants such as McKinsey, Deloitte, and Booz Allen for advice on how to restructure a development Bank, as reported in the Economic Times of October 15, 2014.
For those of us from the Global South, who not only receive but also have to follow the advice of the Bretton Woods twins, on how to “restructure” our economies and change our policies, this episode has four very interesting lessons. The recommendations of the World Bank/IMF are presented to us, the people of the South, as scientific, objective, necessary, fair, and in the best interests of the countries where they are to be implemented. The World Bank is the repository of the most authoritative knowledge on development. It annually publishes the flagship World Development Report (WDR), the first of which in 1978 was titled “Prospects for Growth and Alleviation of Poverty.” Every year since 1978, it flags important themes for development with the 2013 WDR being on “Jobs” and restructuring required to align them with the new economy. The 2015 WDR is on “Mind and Culture” and the World Bank website reports the central argument as being “that policy design that takes into account psychological and cultural factors will achieve development goals faster.” This is scholarly knowledge and is used by many university classrooms as part of required reading. This is what positions the World Bank as a premier knowledge institution on development. Then why is the rebellion episode so significant? There are four aspects of that which merit discussion.
The first is the resistance against the restructuring medicine. This is the same medicine used by the World Bank against the rest of the world. The restructuring exercise, which has eliminated jobs within the public sector, whether this be in government or in the support services required by any public institution, such as of subordinate administrative staff, has produced an underclass of workers, who, although they are still needed, have been deprived of the welfare and security benefits that the permanent staff enjoys and were benefits that had been won by a long history of working class struggles. So, when security guards, drivers, mess workers, sweepers, the class IV workers, have now to live lives filled with anxiety about illness, unemployment, etc., because they work for labour contractors who do not provide any such benefits, the anger of the World Bank professional staff who, because of the restructuring, have to pay for their “breakfast” is a little difficult to understand. The restructuring exercise of economies in the global south has produced an underclass whose livelihood insecurity has increased exponentially. The mutiny at the World Bank appears somewhat paradoxical. Not only is the exercise personally dishonest, given the rebellion when the policy is applied at home, but it is also intellectually dishonest when read against the 2015 WDR. Is this the modern performance of the “mutiny on the bounty”?
Control by the few

The second aspect is the process adopted in the internal restructuring. The Reuters and FT reports tell us that the common complaint of the staff is that the many aspects of the restructuring exercise, initiated by the president, were non-transparent. There was an opacity to the process. For example, questions such as the following needed to be asked. What was the method followed to give the CFO a “scarce skills premium” of $94,000 over and above his salary? Was the work done outside the normal duty of the CFO? How did the president decide on who qualifies for a “scarce skills premium” and how many persons have qualified for this bonus? These were questions asked at the town hall meeting. If the “scarce skills premium” was based on sound management principles, why did the CFO agree to forego the bonus after the uproar? These are good questions and lead one to wonder if countries have the same option of protesting? Did Greece and Portugal and Ireland and Argentina have the protest option? The interesting lesson from this episode is that restructuring produces pain and distress to the many while it rewards the few especially those tasked with implementing it. These few have access to political and intellectual power. They control the methods adopted of public justification which produces a discourse that the restructuring is necessary and will benefit the whole. The few get rewarded while the many pay the price in the restructuring in many countries of the global south.
Neo-liberal triumph
The third aspect is the use of consultants. This is the most disappointing and alarming aspect of the episode. For an institution such as the World Bank, whose main rationale is that it is a knowledge institution about how to promote development, to now implicitly declare that it does not have the knowledge required to restructure itself is a severe admission of the weakness of its knowledge base and skill sets. How does it then prepare a road map to restructure economies when restructuring an institution is infinitely easier than restructuring the economy of a country? Restructuring an institution can draw on the interdisciplinary knowledge of the WDR 2015 such as best practice, graduated approaches, evidenced-based policies, results-based management, measuring and monitoring, etc. (all the keywords of the World Bank itself), to achieve the result of a better, leaner, more efficient, and fair institution. But the decision to hire outside consultants, paying a whopping fee of $12.5 million, shows that the World Bank does not either believe in its own capability, or worse doesn’t have this capability. What is alarming is the message that development thinking will, from now on, be done and propagated by the big global consultancies. Is the World Bank announcing that henceforth even its development knowledge will be outsourced? As reported in the Economic Times, one of the protesters said, “What do they know about development and the complexities of what we do?” Indeed, what do they know? But if we see the economic policy institutions of many countries, we will see a seamless movement of personnel between global consultancies and central banks. Our own development thinking has been outsourced to neo-liberal knowledge institutions, such as global consultancies, ratings agencies and investment banks. We can see this takeover of knowledge production in the area of economic policy, the triumph of the neo-liberal frame, even in India. Look at the key players of our economic policymaking. The World Bank has now given its stamp of approval to this trend. The recolonisation of the Indian mind and the policy discourse is near complete.
The fourth aspect of this troubling episode is the use of words to legitimise the action. In the last few months of the Indian public debate, we have come to see the power of words and the social power the purveyors of these words acquire. The word makes the world. Tagore argued for this philosophical position that language constructs reality, that we see the beauty of the world through our language, and that outside language there is no beauty. Controlling the word, the Bank decides to reward its CFO with a large bonus, while it is reducing the financial package of its other employees; it deploys the justification for this decision as a “scare skills premium.” The CFO gets the additional money because he has scarce skills. The investment Bank fraternity has to be rewarded with huge bonuses because they have scarce skills. Wall Street is built on this justification. This is capitalism’s masterstroke of controlling perception, controlling the public discourse by controlling words. We accept the differentials because we are made to believe it is a “scarce skills premium” to be paid for our own good. Sometimes a typographical error brings out the truth much better. By mistake I typed it as “scare skills premium.” It is.
(Peter Ronald deSouza is Professor at the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies. The views expressed are personal.)


  Posted on October 21, 2014 on sandrp blog
- Guest Blog by: Manoj Misra
(  Author is the Convener of Yamuna Jiye Abhiyaan)

(Above: River Ganga at Rishikesh Photo with thanks from Ramesh Rawat, India Travelz)

A ‘road map’ might be an inappropriate term for a ‘river’ rejuvenation plan. Thus I am using the term, a ‘river map’.
It is well known that despite the Ganga Action Plan (GAP) being in place since the year 1985 and the Supreme Court adjudicating public interest litigation on it since 1993 the river has become increasingly sick with some stretches notably in Kanpur deserving a biologically ‘dead’ status. So it came as a huge sign of hope when the Prime Minister Modi took upon Ganga rejuvenation as a personal mission and appointed Sushri Uma Bharti, a well known Ganga devotee and activist as the Union Minister of the renamed Ministry of Water resources, River development and Ganga rejuvenation. Soon the Finance Minister in the new government allocated financial resources to the tune of Rs 2037 Crores in the name of Nemami Gange (devotional bow to river Ganga) a flagship scheme of the new government, which is aimed at the rejuvenation of river Ganga.
Yet in recent days the Supreme Court time and again has chided the state on the lack of a sound action plan for its avowed objective of a rejuvenated river Ganga. So much so that it once, in an obvious exasperation on the state’s ‘business as usual’ approach to the issue, commented that “it might well be another 200 years before Ganga is actually rejuvenated”? Clearly notwithstanding its firm intent, the state continues to struggle with defining a ‘road (river) map’ that could while convincing the highest court in the land of its utility, set a clear and effective action plan on the ground for a rejuvenated Maa (mother) Ganga?

Let us try and see what does Ganga really require for its rejuvenation?
Term ‘rejuvenation’, which includes restoration, is a return of any living entity from what it is today to an agreed state of previous health and wellness. To unravel that we might first need to understand ‘what is’ and ‘where is’ river Ganga?
Most planners tend to view Ganga as a 2500 km long river from Gaumukh to Ganga Sagar, passing through the cities of Uttarkashi, Devprayag, Rishikesh and Hardwar in the state of Uttarakhand; Kanpur, Allahabad and Varanasi in the state of Uttar Pradesh; Patna in the state of Bihar and Kolkata in the state of West Bengal before merging with the sea in the Bay of Bengal.
Herein, we understand lay the first fundamental planning mistake. For if Ganga were a simple linear entity as planners hold, then King Bhagirath would have unnecessarily carried out tapasya (penance) placating Lord Shiva to hold Ganga in his jata (matted locks) as she descended with massive force from the Brahm Lok (abode of the gods) with a presumed potential to wreck absolute havoc on the mrityu lok (earth) unless its speed had been broken. This mythical tale translates itself into an earthly reality whereby Ganga actually resides in each and every spring, in every water fall and in every stream that together form the vast network of its tributaries spread over its vast basin. So Ganga rejuvenation plan to make sense and desired impact must encompass actions to revive and restore all these numerous streams and tributaries.

Thus any rejuvenation plan that fails to look at and factor in the Ganga’s larger reality is destined to fail, a la all the previous Ganga Action Plans. All put together Ganga is no less than 25,000 km in length,   with a basin spread of some 1,086,000 sq km. (see map) These include areas in the states of Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Haryana, UP, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Bihar, Jharkhand and West Bengal within and China, Nepal and Bangladesh outside of India. With such a huge basin, the rejuvenational challenge might appear daunting, leading to an alluring thought that let us first try and rejuvenate the 2500 km of the main stem of the river and then may be tackle the rest. This we believe to be a fatal approach akin to fire fighting, without getting to the root cause, with the most immediate organ of a cancer afflicted human resulting ultimately organ by organ in the latter’s demise. Let us not forget that a healthy river system is like a multi-strand chain which is ‘as strong as its weakest link’. Hence as long as even one tributary remains sick, there can be no respite or rejuvenation of Maa Ganga!
In other words there is no single river Ganga. It is actually ‘Ganga Rivers’ spread all over its basin and carrying names like the Yamuna; Ramganga; Gomti; Mahakali (Ghaghara); Son; Gandak, Koshi etc with each in turn having their own network of rivers and their rejuvenational requirements, since over time majority of them have as well gone ‘sick’.
Some might ask, but then what could be done with tributaries lying or originating in Nepal, Bangladesh or in China? A lot actually, beginning with not promoting or supporting river ‘inhibiting’ projects there and then taking lead in a common futures dialogue (an International Ganga Rivers Commission) program on Ganga as the Ganga rivers are in need of rejuvenation there as well.
Dwelling more on what are the river ‘inhibiting’ projects we are led to what constitutes a river’s integrity?
A ‘healthy’ river must ‘run’ freely and must ‘flood’ freely. (Floods in Indian rivers are natural monsoonal occurrence which could become devastating when obstructed).
That is its longitudinal and lateral connectivities must not be allowed to be compromised through manmade structures like dams, barrages and embankments. Such connectivities are essential for a river system to fulfill its ecological roles of transport of water, sediment and energy from source to the sea; recharge of ground water; provision of habitat to aquatic and riparian biota and completion of the water cycle.
In other words, a healthy river is essentially an ‘aviral’ (unbroken in its various dimensions) river. Thus the key challenge and objective of any Ganga rejuvenation plan has to be first and foremost its restoration back to a truly ‘aviral’ state.
Accordingly the following five steps are suggested as the ‘river map’ to a rejuvenated river Ganga.
Step 1 – Establish local level Ganga rejuvenation governance systems to ensure participatory bottom up planning and action plan execution. Support this with the establishment of a Ganga Rivers governance research centre.
Step 2 – Prioritise tributaries (Ganga Rivers) for restorative actions on the basis of their current level of threats and develop restorative action plans utilizing the governance systems as mentioned in step 1.
Step 3 – Establish through a participatory process a desired state of the rejuvenated Ganga; devise a national Ganga rivers policy and a Ganga rejuvenation law.  Initiate dialogue with the Ganga nations for an International Ganga rivers Commission.
Step 4 – Review through independent experts, all past, present and planned river ‘inhibiting’ projects on the Ganga Rivers and then either re-design them to become river friendly or decommission / drop them. There should be a moratorium placed on any new structure (barrage, HEP, embankment) on Ganga Rivers till such time that all local level options of water harvesting and energy production (including solar and wind) have been exhausted with a policy that river waters and HEPs shall be the last resort for meeting such needs.
Step 5 – Set a time bound plan of action for ensuring aviral and wholesome Ganga ‘rivers’, with plans for ensuring their flows (water, sediment and energy) as well as the restoration of their catchment, flood plains and the associated biodiversity (aquatic, riparian and terrestrial).
 The steps as suggested above are not sequential in nature and many could progress concurrently.  
To a query “what then about the hydropower and water supply for fulfilling various human needs”, the response is twofold.
Firstly, this is the Ganga rejuvenation plan based on what Ganga Rivers need for the restoration of their health. Secondly, hydro-power generation and water diversion cannot be in excess of the thresholds as defined by the rejuvenational requirements of the healthy Ganga Rivers.
A rejuvenated Ganga has to be seen as a ‘provider within strict limits’ (as enunciated by the Prime Minister Modi on the banks of Maa Ganga in Varanasi, when he defined what a Maa (mother) is) and not what we in our flawed wisdom might wish to harness from her, with little concern for her deteriorating health and in disregard to the principle of inter-generational equity.
The Indian state under the Ganga Action Plan had been investing time, money and efforts to restore the river Ganga through creation of pollution abatement infrastructure like the Sewage treatment plants (STPs) and the Effluent treatment plants (ETPs) in various cities and industries on the river in the name of ‘river cleaning’ with little ameliorative impact on the health of the river. In our understanding despite the poor maintenance being the cause of the failure of the created infrastructure, this approach to river restoration is fundamentally misplaced and hence wrong.
We believe that our rivers require restoration (based on the steps suggested before) of their ecological integrity in terms of their freedom to ‘flow’ and ‘flood’. Once thus freed, they possess all the power of self cleansing, subject to the observance of the fundamental principle of no mixing of ‘sewer’ with ‘river’.  Here by ‘sewer’ we mean all kinds of grey water produced both by the cities and the industries.
Thus there is no mention of any river ‘cleaning’ or creation of STPs / ETPs as part of the suggested Ganga rejuvenation plan. The installation of such infrastructure is we believe to be an essential element of the process of urbanization and industrialization whereby the grey water from the cities and industries is converted into utilizable water for recycle and reuse to meet the non potable water needs both of the cities and the industries. But to do so in the name of river cleaning is in our understanding an ostrich like approach which takes away the attention and resource allocation from the real needs of river restoration based on the sound principles of river science.
Prime Minister Modi’s another oft quoted aphorism of “Zero defect and zero effect/ impact” should be made applicable not just to good manufacturing practices but also to good urban management practices with mandatory zero impact on any river that happens to pass by. AMEN!
-Manoj Misra (