Friday, November 21, 2014

Why JNNURM failed?

JNNURM was one of India’s prestigious and ambitious programmes aiming at the development of infrastructure related activities in urban areas mostly related to drinking water, sanitation, housing and also other service / governance related issues with expected outlay of Rs. 66000 Crores over a period of 5 years. The JNNURM programme succeeded in providing much required financial assistance to needy ULBs / Corporations who were either not financially stable or could not take up such works due to other local priorities including lack of political vision to take up schemes of drinking water and sanitation , housing for poor, waste management schemes etc and in many of the States these programmes were implemented with desired  results. Gujarat, Maharashtra, Tamilnadu, Chandigarh etc were few states where by and large the sanctioned projects were completed with success. Another big achievement of the project is implementation of various reforms in the ULBs relating to tax, e-governance, town planning regulations, property tax, citizen services, financial management of the ULBs which have helped considerably to make ULB financially strong and independence and also efficient in the cases of service deliveries thereby assisted to fulfill the objectives enshrined in 74th  Constitutional amendment.
However this prestigious and ambitious programme could not fulfill the required targets not only in utilization of allocated funds by the State Governments apart from other shortcomings which ultimately deprived the Citizens of required provisions/outcome envisaged under objectives of the scheme. Few  reasons responsible for this failure are summarized as under.

1.   Lack of Participation of Communities/Stakeholders: The main reason which affected housing scheme most was lack of participation of the communities while planning and implementing programmes. In most of the cases, the projects were prepared based on political then social needs and grounded. In many of the housing projects whether it was selection of housing sites or allotment of houses to the needy, no due care was taken to involve the beneficiaries in programmes resulting either completion of not much desired projects or non occupation of beneficiaries causing huge waste of money. Apart from this, reluctance of slum dwellers to shift in case of in-situ development of project and availability of encumbrance-free land also posed a major challenge to the States to expedite the housing projects especially under BSUP sub-mission where it was meant to improve conditions for urban slum dwellers in 63 identified mission cities in 31 States and UTs for 479 projects.

2.        Lack of political support for housing and slum development projects: The role of local representatives to motivate and facilitate the negotiations for housing related projects is very crucial to make or mar the progress of any government scheme however in many of the ULBs this active role of local representatives was found missing in   housing related projects like Basic Services for the Urban Poor (BSUP) scheme and Integrated Housing and Slum Development Programme (IHDSP).
              Poor performance under Housing ( Courtesy: 
3.   Lack of capacity and expertise of local officials: Many of the projects specially related to SWM(Solid Waste Management), water supply and sanitation were implemented adopting latest technologies however these were not put to its maximum use only because either the local officials responsible for implementing the projects were professionally ill equipped due to lack of required knowledge or they were not professionally experienced enough and committed too .
4.      Non involvement of Administrators: May be sound awkward but it is also one of the reasons that most of the Administrators at Government level or Commissioners at ULB/ Corporations level were not fully involved in timely completion of projects . There role was limited to sanction the projects or at most completion of agreement with contactors. Most of them have left the completion of projects with lower level engineers.
5.    Lack of planning : Many of the projects especially those related to availability of land became victim of this factor. Most of the State Governments got the projects sanctioned without examining the issue of areas of land and its availability at the time of execution of project which became a serious factor later on causing delay and even partial closure of projects because of non availability of land.
6.   Adoption of technology without examining the local acceptance and ensuring the post project maintenance by ULBs.
7.        Corruption: One of the major reasons though not acknowledged ,was the corruption at all levels while implementing the projects. Right form selection of projects, preparation of Project report and selection of bidder / Contractor to making payment, prevailing corruption has affected  the completion of project or sub-standard completion of schemes.
8. Apathy of State Governments to  provide matching State share: The state governments were to bear a portion of the cost of the project depending upon the sector or size of the city. The general principle being ' smaller the ULB,  higher the govt support'. But in practice, the state governments conveniently avoided this commitment or simply put it on paper without releasing the money.
9.    No scope for Coordination among other related department ( Lack of Integrated approach ): All the programmes undertaken under JNNURM were not related to single department but were in fact the core areas of other sister departments like Panchayat Raj, health, Housing, IT, Women development, Education etc but while planning or during implementation there was no mechanism made available to ensure their cooperation and coordination . The irony was that even at Central Government level this coordination was found missing leave the State Government and District administration. This single line of implementation with lack of convergence also affected the success of the programme.
10.  Incapability of Small and medium towns to provide required financial resources and also difficulty to take up requisite reforms has also resulted into non completion of projects or delay in grounding of scheme. Apart from this in many of the States the share of ULBs which was supposed to be given by the ULBs only duly taking up necessary reforms meant for achieving self sufficiency of the ULB were not allowed to happen and the State Govt also bore the Share of ULBs thereby defeating the objective of financial stability /self sustainability. This has also deprived the ULBs of facing  the challenge of mobilizing resources . In many cases the sanctioned projects were  considered  as a free gift from the Government.
11.  Diversion of funds: In many of the ULBs the funds meant for sanctioned projects were diverted either due to non-starting of project or some time to make payments for other schemes or activities in the ULBs. Even in many of the States, the State Level Nodal Agency (SLNA) failed to follow the guidelines of the mission while releasing money to the implementing ULBs/ Govt departments under pressure from administrative / political quarters.
12.  Poor monitoring of the projects by ministry of Urban development: Though the ministry has introduced a web enabled programme for monitoring of various components of all 4 sub missions and also to ensure monitoring at regular interval to provide a helping hand for policy makers and senior managers at State and Central levels, this was failed miserably due to poor architecture and lack of initiative to continue and improve the monitoring programme.
13. Putting difficult targets or objectives under Reforms: Many of the reforms proposed under the mission were found to be unrealistic and completion of these reforms was made one of the criteria for release of balance funds. The best example of this is Property title registration which could not be achieved by any of the ULBs because of lack of support from political and bureaucratic quarters due to obvious reasons. Similarly the revision of building bye laws proposed for revision by 2011 was not implemented by ULBs. Finally the  "one size fits all" approach to reform  adopted under JNNURM-I,  witnessed  significant inter-state variations in completion of reforms and this has indirectly affected / delayed the release of balance installments of funds for different  projects.
14. Least concern of accountability and failure to win the confidence of Citizens: The concerned ULBs and para-statal agencies lacked the required will and also their accountability towards citizens to provide them various services.
15. Putting the cart before the horse : The other factor which can also be considered responsible for affecting the success of programme was non consideration of local needs and socio-political environments which are very diverse in a multiparty system like  India. Though the mission objectives were very high but many of the schemes/ projects envisaged under mission were imposed on the State Governments without properly examining the local conditions and needs/priorities.
16.  Delay in getting departmental permissions: In many of the   infrastructure projects and Under Ground Drainages (UGD) the delay from the other departments like railways ( for completing works near railway track / under railway  track ), National Highways ( for getting permission to work under their jurisdiction), Military organizations (works in  Military areas) etc caused considerable delay  affecting  the progress.
17.   Encroachment problem: One of the biggest problems to take up housing or other developmental works under UGD or UIDSSMT (like side drains, water supply line, BRTS route etc)   was of encroachment in the Cities/ Towns which not only hampered the progress but many times forced the Authorities to change the alignment or even cancel the project.

In nutshell we can say that though the  JNNURM programme was having ambitious objectives but failed to deliver  mainly due to mismatch among planning and expectations of people. It aimed at involving all the three tiers of govt, the central, state and local but the connecting thread found to be missing. Each of the stakeholders acted in their own silos and this not only delayed projected outcomes, but also wasted the resources. 
The new Government is likely to replace JNNURM with a  fresh  mandate to build 100 SMART cities based on latest technologies (GIS) and focus on infrastructure, better connectivity , better  governance  and safe environment. 

Friday, October 31, 2014

Segregation of Waste at Home: Our Greatest Contribution to Swatch Bharat

Ever since the Prime Minister Narender Modi has launched Swatch Bharat Mission to  accomplish the vision of 'Clean India' by 2 October 2019, it has been taken up very enthusiastically by people of all walk including media. The importance of sanitation in one’s own life and its impact for community and environment does not require any further elaborations. However the bigger question here is sustainability of this programme over a period of time which Mr. Modi is expecting  from all of us.

The main thrust areas under this programme aimed at are public places, institutions, Bus Stands, railways stations, parks, streets and roads to name a few, which we Indian keep filthy and full of garbage and waste of all the kinds. Keeping all such places neat and clean is the responsibility of Local bodies (Municipalities /Corporations/Nagar Panchayats) as per Municipal Solid Waste (management & Handling) Rules 2000 with regulatory and monitoring responsibility to State Pollution Control Boards.

In India per capita average municipal solid waste production varies from 0.21 to 0.50 Kg per day and for approximately 388 million Urbanites the solid waste generation is expected to increase from 34 million tonnes (2000) to 83.8 million tonnes ( 2015) and 221 million tonnes in 2030. Keeping the average composition of Waste in view (app 50% organic, 8-10% paper, 7-8% Plastics and rest others) at least half of the waste generated can be safely put to composting, pelletisation etc., while the plastics and paper can be used for reuse and recycling.

As per the studies carried out by Central Pollution Control Board(CPCB) , the compliance of handling of waste by local bodies  right from collection, segregation, transportation to processing and disposal is not very encouraging. In fact there is no well-established official system in place to ensure collection and disposal of recyclable and biodegradable -waste in Municipalities and much of which depends on financial condition of ULBs, initiatives both at political and executive level apart from and access to technological interventions. It is also true that there are few good examples of efficient and scientific waste management by local bodies, which need to be replicated throughout the country.

So how far it is correct to blame our municipalities for this state of affairs?

A small initiative at individual level in this direction can contribute significantly. Segregating biodegradable waste like food items, vegetable waste etc., from non-biodegradable or recyclable waste mainly papers and plastics at individual level not only reduces the burden of waste disposal to local authorities but will help to improve the rapidly degraded sanitary conditions of our streets and garbage dumps of towns.

Maintaining two bin systems (one for bio-degradable or compostable waste and other for recyclable waste) at Society level with active cooperation of Resident Welfare Societies is the need of hour.

Sincere attempts and actions to reduce the quantum of garbage by segregation at home will surely go a long way in waste management initiative and assist in contributing significantly towards Sanitation campaign.

Lets start something…

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Hudhud Cyclone and Tree Cover:Lesson for Future

The Trees  which provide innumerable goods and services for the mankind specially for the protection of environment and  considered as a strong component to counter the vagaries of nature like drought, flood, climate change etc have sometime fall short of  required expectations  as witnessed  in the recent havoc caused by Cyclone Hudhud which devastated the coastal districts of Andhra Pradesh and Orissa on 12th October this year. Touching a speed up to 180 Km/hour, the cyclone   devastated majority of coastal districts of Andhra Pradesh taking lives of 46 people and affecting around 30 Lakhs families.

Apart from loss of lives and properties, the green cover of Visakhapatnam for which the Corporation even got awards previously also got the dubious distinction of becoming instrumental in more damages to building and other infrastructure leaving apart the loss of vegetation itself 


In most of the literature on forest regeneration and  management practices there is a mention of  wind break/ shelter belt system  consisting of tress of various species planted across the speed direction of the wind  for the purpose of  suppressing  or reducing  the high winds speed and controlling the ill effects however the recent experience of Hudhud damage has now re opened  the  dimension of forestry management which was hitherto  not  given much importance in tree plantation specially  in urban areas. This is the issue of tolerance of different tree species towards the natural calamity like cyclone.

As per rough estimates of Visakhapatnam officials, approximately 78000 trees (nearly 70 %) were got uprooted in the cyclone. Species like Delonix regia (Gulmohar), Peltophoram( Yellow Flame Tree), Tababeua, Samania saman( Rain  tree),Acacias, Jacarandas and Eucalyptus  were prominent which got uprooted/ damaged in the Vishakhapatnam city itself in the recent cyclone.

This considerable reduction of green space  is going to reduce the capacity of Urban Forests of Visakhapatnam and other towns to mitigate  the ill effects of environmental degradation including   global warming  apart from the aesthetic beauty  of the City however  the loss can also  be taken as opportunity by City Planners  and Urban Foresters to revise  and rewrite the planning for afforestation  programme  duly giving space to  factors like cyclone  tolerance capacity , root system etc apart from other silvi-mechanical aspects   . The simple rule that can be made applicable for selection of species is to avoid  fast growing trees and those  having shallow root systems and select slow growing, having high wood density,dense crown and native trees with deep and profuse  root system like Jamun(Syzygium ), Palms , Mango and  Ficus  to name a few. Giving more priority to areas like beaches and open places having adequate soil and moisture  for future planting will also be helpful as the trees in these habitats will tend to grow more vigorous and strong due to availability of more space and deep  soil.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Ecological Footprint and Bio -Capacity: Accounting of Non-tangible environmental services:

Increased awareness about environmental issues including global warming, deforestation, pollution etc have resulted not only  in depth analysis of these issues but also motivated the researchers to devise methods to quantify  the services provided by the nature. In contrast to economic indicator or GDP  , the latest tools for measuring  ecological values of various services have facilitated  to accord more  priority to  the environmental sector for policy makers and  administrators to tune their interventions in order to make them more sustainable and eco friendly.

These two measures are Ecological footprint and Bio- capacity and also called as "EF" and "BC" in short.

The ecological footprint(EF) is a measure of the load imposed by a given population on nature. In other words it is the area of the earth which is  required to  meet the levels of resource consumption  on sustainable basis including waste discharge by that population.

Bio-capacity (BC) in simple words means the   biological productive capacity of a resource. (e.g. agriculture land, pasture, forest, productive sea).

Both the Ecological Footprint and bio-capacity are measured in terms of global hectares (g ha), which represent a hectare of land with average productive bio-capacity.

In other words  EF and BC are equivalent  to the economic concepts of demand and supply. When used together, they form the EF/BC accounts. EF/BC accounting is frequently referred to only as EF accounting.

The EF/BC accounts are formed by combining the EF and the BC, thereby turning the approach into a more complete accounting tool for natural  resources. The algebraic difference between BC and EF is called Ecological Deficit, if it is negative or Ecological Reserve if it is positive.

In 2008, the Earth’s total bio-capacity was 12.0 billion gha, or 1.8 gha per person, while humanity’s Ecological Footprint was 18.2 billion gha, or 2.7 gha per person. This discrepancy means it would take 1.5 years for the Earth to fully regenerate the renewable resources that people used in one year.

Global Foot Print networks has assessed the trends in Ecological foot print and bio capacity per person between 1961 & 2008 which is shown below.

The major issues concerning both the EF and BC are that while the increasing GHG emissions and other environmental problems  causing  increasing  global temperatures, climate change, land  degradation and ocean acidification putting enormous  stresses on biodiversity and ecosystems. This   affects the bio-capacity of the earth very badly.  Same time the increased exploitation of resources for burgeoning population is increasing the EF at an unprecedented rate. The more is the gap between the EF and BC ,more we are near to exhausting  our  resources and collapse of ecosystems due to this overshoot i.e., shortfall in earth’s biological capacity  to meet the consumption demands of all humanity. 

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Poor productivity of Indian Forests: Who is to be blamed?

Nearly 23 % of the geographical areas in the India in under forest cover. The conservation of these valuable resources has attained greater importance due to their role is carbon sequestration, climate amelioration and ecological security apart from traditional tangible benefits of timber, firewood, fodder and other Non-timber forest produces.

But if we see the productivity of Indian Forests it is found that the Indian forests are having very very poor productivity. Against the global average productivity of 2.1 million m3/hectare/ year, the productivity of Indian Forest is only 0.7 million m3/hectare/ year.

There are numerous reasons for this low productivity which may range from faulty management, poor planning and implementation, policy changes to lack of investment etc., and to some extent the blame goes to the Forest administrators/managers. However there are few   major factors causing enormous loss to forest resources and its capacity to produce more thereby affecting the productivity like anything.

 Two major factors among these are:

1. Unregulated grazing:

The cattle population in India was 350 million in 1950 which has been reached   to 520 million at present. At least  50% of this population ( 260 Million) depends on the forests for grazing which is mostly unregulated and free in many of the Indian States  which affects not only the regeneration of forest species but also affects the soil quality due to trampling and compacting of soil which  makes the soil more  prone to erosion. It is also confirmed in one of the studies that 78% of forests in India are subjected to heavy grazing, illicit felling etc. The problem is getting worsened every year due to increase in livestock population.

2.Fuel Wood Collection:

Nearly 50% of the demand of fuel in rural India is being met from the adjoining forests. The annual demand of fuel wood is estimated nearly 250-300 million m3. The recorded supply of firewood from Indian forests is only 17 million m3 and there is huge gap of approximately 260-270 million3 of fuel wood excluding the recorded supply. So from where this huge demand gap is being met?  It is only the adjoining forest areas which are subjected to continued extraction of fuel wood on a regular basis adding further miseries to the already degraded state of forests. 

So who should be blamed for this? The fuel wood dependent increasing population having no alternatives of energy sources or forest managers who are having meager resources and poor policy support for appropriate interventions…..

(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are exclusively mine and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of any agency/government.)

Friday, July 20, 2012

Why do massive tree planting programmes fail ?

Tree planting or afforestation activity is considered one of the most effective ways to counter the multifarious challenges  of environmental degradation. Every year starting from 5th June ( World environmnt day ) we start chanting and advocating the need of tree planting for the environmental protection and amelioration. The month of July (first week) has been earmarked  for the planting  programme in India which is also called as Van Mahotsava (tree festival ). 

I remember  during last 3-4 years there had been enormous activities centering around tree plantations in the name of planting record number of trees in a day, few million tree planting programmes etc. taken up by Corporations /State Governments/organisations. It is yet not known whether all these good numbers of trees planted  have survived ? There is need to take up some realistic  survey or  study to ascertain the efficacy of these ambitious programmes of tree planting.

Let me take a very conservative estimate of even 1 Million or 10 lakhs plants  if survived fully  will cover about an area of 1000 hac ( considering the spacing of 10 met X 10 Met). So even at this conservative tree planting there should have been an increase of 1000 hac every year outside forests but in reality this is not the case.

It is  observed and reported many times  that  most of these programmes of tree planting are not yielding  required results.

There may be many local or specific issues responsible for failure of planting programme but following are few main reasons. 

1.Considering plantation programme as one day activity. 
2.Lack of comprehensive planning  specially regarding  maintenace and protection of plants.
3.Use of substandard seedlings and faulty planting technique.
4.Ignorance and lack of knowledge about site quality including soil type where planting is proposed.
5.Treating the programme as one day affair and not according genuine  priority for environmental protection.
6.Lack of particpation of local prople or communities thereby missing  the opportunity of owning the programme by themselves.
7.Lack of genuine political will and support( including financial )from the Governmment.
8.Non- involvement of other Government departments and treating tree planting  as only the programme of forest deprtment.

The above reasons may or may not be correct in case of tree planting or afforestation prgrammes being umdertaken by the State Forest Departments.

I am sure we can improve the result of sucess of tree planting considerbaly if some of the above mentioned factors are taken care and addressed properly.

Few tips for a successful tree planting  are given in my previous post .Tips for tree planting

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Being well informed and highly aware doesnt necessarily gurantee environmental conservation and protection ?

The latest   poll conducted by the Washington Post and Stanford University about the environmantal issue  has  many interesting findings

1.60% of the participants  say weather patterns around the world have been more unstable in the past three years than previously, a perception that’s changed little since 2006. Nearly as many also say average temperatures were higher during the past three years than before that.

2.55 percent say a “great deal” or “good amount” can be done to reduce future global warming however  atthe same time, 60 percent of those polled say it will be extremely or very difficult for people to stop it.

3.More than 70 percent Americans oppose policies that would rely on tax increases on electricity or gas to change individual behavior, while 66 percent favor tax breaks to curb greenhouse gas emissions. 

4.People don’t see a lot of downside for taking action to stop global warming as only  12 percent say that the things people would do to help stop it would make their own lives worse.

Similarly in another study, conducted by the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication and the George Mason University Center for Climate Change Communication , 75% of Americans supported the need of regulating carbon dioxide as a pollutant to cause green house effect. More than 60 % of them also expected the US to cut its CO2 emissions by 90 % (by the year 2050) and supported protecting the environment even at the cost of reduced economic growth.

It  is  a known fact the USA is the  largest  consumer  of the resources of the World and having  largest national economy. It  has also a class and society which is highly sensitive and aware regarding the ongoing environmental problems.In such a state of affairs  this should have been an added advantage  for the socities in developed countries including USA  to take  certain concrete  steps at individual level as a remedy to this problem? But in reality this is not the case.So what are those factors  which pull them back from being an active citizen to take the individual step towards this problem ?Is this the fear of little compromise with  their  highly luxurious life style and heavy consumption or  in other words the fear of losing  so called happiness or comforts  from  materialistic world due to  more access to resources ?  

Its yet to elucidate  as to why the people  become a moot spectator and avid comenetator towards these  alarming environmental problems ?

Back home in India we too are occupied with multiplicity of issues and problems.

There is a distinct classs of have nots  (underpriviledged in the sense of access to resources) for whom the prime matter is  to make  both ends meet and their efforts and actions for their livelihood affect  the natural resources  badly besides making them unsustainable.Any intervention in this direction is possible only by providing alternatives to them.Though in many of the instances it has been  proved that the communities who are dependent on the natural resources have devised and preserved their own ways and means to utilize these resoutrces on sustained basis. Its only the web of ever increasing demands of populations that has affected the whole dynamics of balance between man and nature.

Then there comes the middle class with little or more access to resources but that too is  engaged in dilemma of changing survival strategies  and same time busy with improving the happiness levels albeit at the cost of money. Since they also have  also equal right to develop and flourish it may not be wise to expect a change from this quarter .

Finally we have the elite or rich among poors, the class which is shining with the improved GDP and adding to its numbers every year  in the form of millionairess  and billioneres. This class has both the capacities and abilities ( awakened mass) to contribute towards the environmental problems like our American brothers but the biggest question is again when and how?

So what should we expect from ourselves ? 

At least a  small action to start with  as each conservative or recycling action we take, we reduce the impact of Man's negative action on the environment .As  Gandhiji's  said "  "Be the change you wish to see in the world." instead of  waiting for  the Government or  Organistaions  to act?