Monthly Archives: September 2009

Bright Side of Gloom

Necessity is the mother of invention.”

Flooded Village in Bihar
Flooded Village in Bihar

This has recently been proved in the India’s North-Eastern state of Bihar. With floods wrecking havoc, ripping apart local economies and life’s the state has faced nature’s fury to the max. The recent flash floods have left more than 3,00,000 people homeless and in immediate need to humanitarian support of basic amenities. Rivers in the region are usually filled with water from the monsoon rains and the uncontrolled release of water from check dams in the upper courses of Kosi river from adjoining Nepal worsened the situation. This region has a pre-dominant Hindu population who cremate their dead using firewood from mango trees. The recent floods have either washed away completely or submerged the mango orchards rendering the wood unusable for cremation purposes.

Finding it difficult to cremate the bodies of their dead the local people have now slowly moved to an alternative which was accepted as a funeral pyre fuel source mixed with wood in South India. This news was recently captured in a BBC news item. Though the idea is not new to the Hindu religion it was surely novel to this part of the country. What is heartening is that the acceptance of the practice has been well received in the region. Cow dung is considered sacred and pure in Hindu religion and has always been used to light up sacred fire during puja and yagnas. Moving from a pure wood fueled pyre to pure cow dung pyre is a good move due to many reasons.

Perhaps the most important fallout is the low ecological impact due to use of renewable energy source. Cow dung being sourced from the waste of an herbivorous animal has a relatively very low impact when compared to using wood from trees. The region already has a scarce forest cover and this move can surely slow the deforestation rate. The amount of fuel used to cremate a body is also relatively low as compared to traditional wood fuel.

If this practice continues to flourish and accepted in other regions too it will not only save millions of mango trees but also result in saving of substantial money for the families of decreased. This region houses some of the poorest communities and this will surely be a boon for them. The cost of fuel used for cremating a body is around INR 400-500 using cow dung as compared to INR 3500-4000 spent on wood fuel.

This region especially the districts comprising of districts like Darbhanga, Sitamarhi among others surely needs such low-cost, low impact and socially accepted practices given the fact that it remains almost waterlogged for three-four months every year due to floods during monsoons.

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Citizen Participation in Development Planning

Charminar, Hyderabad

At a time when morphology of Indian cities is changing at a fast pace and rapid urbanisation is witnessing increasing migration from rural to urban areas, metropolis such as Hyderabad are coming under greater pressure in providing basic services to its burgeoning population. It is leading to what urban planners call urban decay.

Though the city was initially designed to cater to five lakh population, it later rose to 40 lakh and currently hovers around 80 lakh. Likewise, the area has increased from 174 square kilometre to 744 square kilometre to 7,000 square kilometre currently.

These have brought enormous pressure on the government to deliver – provide basic services like good roads, drainages, smooth traffic flow, regular water supply etc. to its citizens, observed Karuna Gopal, president of Foundation for Futuristic Cities (FFC). Despite the various initiatives of the government like the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM) citizens continue to suffer from bad roads, garbage dumping etc., she said.

To enable citizens to participate and come up with innovative strategies for developing the city and improve the quality of life, FFC has announced ‘Citizens for City’ contest. Anyone can draft a well-researched strategy from a list of 30 topics given on the foundation’s website, www.citizensforcity.org. It was formally launched by Deputy Speaker of the State Assembly Nadendla Manohar here on Tuesday. Commenting on the initiative, he said it would be in the society’s better interests if one utilises existing institutions rather than blame them for everything.

“Such initiatives will eventually lead to meaningful partnerships between government, private sector and citizens to make our city vibrant and performing,” Ms. Gopal said. It comes in the context of city development strategy for Greater Hyderabad – a requirement under JNNURM currently being developed by the GHMC.

The competition whose aim is to influence policy makers and town planners to incorporate citizen ideas into city development policy initiatives will lead to ‘City Strategy Awards’ being awarded to the top three winners.

October 15 is the last day for entering the contest while the deadline for submission is October 31.

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