How to make our cities truly smart that makes them livable and sustainable and protects our bio-diversity and cultural diversity based on our indigenous and traditional knowledge systems
20th June 2018
Where do Indian cities stand today?
Delhi, India’s capital city region is world’s worst hell-hole in the entire civilized world today, Though there is a hue and cry by certain vocal sections and vain attempts are made to suppress a fair and objective debate, when this issue is raised publicly, the facts and figures are flying on the face. People live in Delhi simply because it is the national capital and other choices do not work out for them. It also sets a bad example for rest of the country and brings shame and ignominy for this glorious culture and civilisation.
1.14 of world’s 15 most polluted cities in India – May 2, 2018 – Out of these 4 are in Delhi NCR alone.
2. India ranks 177 out of 180 in Environmental Performance Index
3. India 100th (out of 119) on global hunger index, trails North Korea, Bangladesh
4. Gini of wealth in India in 2017 is at 0.83, which puts India among countries with high inequality
5. India slips in human development index (slipping from 119 in 2010 and is below average for South Asia)
6. NYT Writer Is Absolutely Right: Delhi Is Literally A Shithole; But So Is All Of India
The indications that despite such horrific environmental conditions, Delhi has shown remarkable resilience in not breaking apart and disintegrating into utter chaos and the presence of significant number of thinkers, planners and skilled people in the Capital Region, gives us hope that we may have hit the rock bottom and that we can turn around and bounce back to once again make Delhi into a livable and sustainable city with high quality of life and to restore its lost glory and pride.
The aim and objective of this seminar talk is to awaken the people and instill new hope, passion and vigor to overcome the daunting challenges and turn them into a golden opportunity to rise and shine.
What is the way forward?
Every city big and small should be restructured into a number of localised, self-reliant neighborhoods with the following 5 basic characteristics. According to noted urban architect Sanjay Prakash, the idea of neighborhoods forming the primary unit (the cell, as it were) of the city is also followed in eco-urbanism both in the US and in Europe.
Make every neighborhood
- Zero-to-Landfill: Every neighborhood must take end-of-life responsibility to decompose the bio-degradable or to up-cycle, re-use, repair, re-condition or re-cycle each and every product it uses. Only a residual amount of electronic waste and glass will be collected separately and recycled at a larger centralised recycling facility. (Precious metals such as gold and silver can be extracted in localised modular units.)
The neighborhood shall also endeavor to consume less and will be rewarded for time bound targets to reduce or eliminate consumption of non-bio-degradable and hazardous substances. This also includes very importantly, NOT mixing human (excreta) dung with urine and then flush it with water. It must use soil bacteria to decompose the dung, urine to be used as fertiliser and only use a modicum of water for washing which is absorbed by suitable locally available plants. The urine diverting dry toilet (UDTT) examples are in Scandinavia, where they use toilet paper. Their finding is that there must be NO anal washing at all for dry toilets to truly work well and create human fecal compost.
In the Indian context where washing is customary and considered hygienic, the bio-toilet is designed with a third outlet just behind the fecal dump for washing. After the fecal discharge, a few handfuls of soil, sawdust, dry leaves or husk is sprinkled over the faeces and the lid is properly closed. Then the person steps back for washing, making sure that not a single drop of water gets mixed with the faeces.
For this to be stench-free, it is also important for the neighborhood to self-regulate the food intake and reduce and eliminate chemicals and anti-biotics that cause foul odour. Just like the saying in information systems that mimics the natural principle of GIGO (Garbage In Garbage Out).
Further, indigenous communities also follow a traditional practice of living in agglomerations where people have similar dietary custom and this mitigates tendencies towards faecophobia that’s so prevalent in modern non-indigenous societies. For hygiene and spiritual reasons, they also keep the toilets at least 40 feet away from their living area.
- People-friendly with No Motorized Zone: Every neighborhood must take responsibility to make its streets safe and friendly for walkers and cyclists. Only Ultra-light cycle-rickshaws and neighborhood electric vehicles (NEVs) are allowed in these streets. These are fleet-operated app-based service and are high-availability and demand-responsive. Accordingly, no motor vehicles that emits pollutants, creates noise and runs at speed in excess of 35 kmph should be allowed to run within neighborhoods.
Motor vehicles should in turn be allowed Right of Way access to a seamless network of arterial roads with grade separation with a network of light road-over-bridges to connect neighborhoods for walkers and cyclists. These motor vehicles will be parked at specially designated Motor Vehicle Stations at uniform distances on the arterial roads network. Vehicle fleets should be replaced with electric fleet powered by renewable energy with least embedded carbon footprint. Over time, we must transition to animal traction by reviving traditional livestock practices that are indigenous to the region.
- Barrier-free for unobstructed water flow: Every neighborhood must take responsibility to facilitate water flow and rain-water collection in low-lying ponds, wells and reservoirs within the neighborhood. For this purpose, they must remove all the barriers, boundary walls etc. and minimise the paved or concretised impervious surfaces within the neighborhood. They must reclaim the low-lying areas for water reservoirs, wells and ponds. Thus the neighborhood must restructure itself naturally for maximum harvesting of rainwater. Grey-water harvesting from kitchen and bathroom should be implemented. (It is noteworthy that once we have UDDT, there is no black-water generated, only greywater!). Even the water used for washingin the bio-toilets is diverted to plant beds that absorb the residual faeces and deodorize.
Centralised water treatment (using ozone type systems and not with residual chemicals in water) for potable water direct from tap. Only soaps and detergents that are bio-degradable and do not interfere with the recycling and composting processes to be used.
- Pollution-free with No Diesel/Petroleum-based electricity: Every neighborhoodmust become free of all diesel or petroleum gas based electric power generation. It must work towards minimising power consumption by gradually using animal-traction for mechanical power and maximum daylight and direct wind energy and only some electricity. Even solar panels and windmill power must be used cautiously keeping in view their embedded carbon footprint and end-of-life disposal. Though there are opinions about which among artificial partial renewable and bio-renewables from flora and fauna have higher downsides, on the balance, livestock based bio-renewables based on traditional knowledge systems seem the only sustainable and reliable option.
- Localised, self-reliant to abundant, circular economy: Every neighborhood must use every inch of land available on ground or on terrace and to provide for sufficient peri-urban area to become self-reliant to abundant in most to all their daily needs – food, water, education, healthcare, workplace, culture, sports and endeavor for a time-bound target to become Carbon Sinks. Accordingly, it must convert its lawns and ornamental gardens into food and indigenous livestock farms. The composted human fecal waste can be locally used rather than transported to faraway fields to re-substitute for artificial fertilizers.
It must conserve, reduce water wastage and harvest the rainwater, STOP stealing water from elsewhere and reduce its dependencies in a phased but time-bound manner. It must make adequate provisions to provide classrooms, workplaces, healthcare and marketplaces within walking or cycling distance within the neighborhood or to adjoining neighborhoods. Sufficient public space should be provided within the neighborhood for physical, social and cultural interactions with facilities and programs designed for sports, arts and culture based on traditional – classical and folk practices.
This report was prepared as the proceedings of a national seminar organized at Amritam trust in Noida on this subject on 16th of June in follow up to the World Environment Day celebrations on June 5 for which India was the host country this year.
In conclusion, achievement of Sustainable Development Goals are closely and intricately inter-linked with both cultural diversity and protection, revival and strengthening of indigenous traditional knowledge systems. In this light it was also decided to focus on Indigenous Rights Protection in the next seminar to be held on 9th of August which incidentally is celebrated as World Indigenous Day by the United Nations that will also seek to clear the air over the erroneous interpretation of the indigenous people by both the Government of India and the United Nations itself as shared in the Annexure.
We closed the seminar with a prayer meeting and 2-minute silence in the loving memory of the departed soul of Suraj Kumar. We propose that our roads and neighborhoods should be made safe for all cyclists and walkers. Pl. find more details in the petition here: https://www.change.org/p/president-of-india-ramnath-kovind-petition-to-save-cyclists-and-walkers-from-hostile-urban-environment-in-indian-cities
Who are “indigenous” and “non-indigenous” – Correcting the erroneous interpretation by both Govt of India and the United Nations
The crux of the matter is the interpretation of the word “indigenous” by the Government of India over the decades since the United Nations took cognizance of the denial and disempowerment of the rights of indigenous people around the world and solemnized in a document called the United Nations Declaration for Rights of Indigenous People in 2007.
This was discussed recently with Prof. Sachin Chaturvedi, Director-General of RIS ( Research and Information Systems in Developing Countries and an expert in international affairs). Though Prof. Chaturvedi tried to explain how the GOI has refused to accept indigenous and non-indigenous and has raised this issue at various forums, in an objective view, the GOI stand is not only confusing and perplexing, it is also self-defeating. In turn, as I told him that by its muddled-up stance, the GOI has foolishly walked into a cleverly laid trap by the colonial powers.
One of the key agenda item for the next seminar is to prepare an approach note and to make an official representation to the GOI to correct this historical blunder that has already led to huge costs of loss of our cultural and bio diversity and traditional knowledge systems and protection to our way of life safeguarded by UNDRIP 2007 to which GOI is a signatory.
The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) was adopted by the General Assembly on Thursday, 13 September 2007, by a majority of 144 states in favour, 4 votes against (Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United States) and 11 abstentions (Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Burundi, Colombia, Georgia, Kenya, Nigeria, Russian Federation, Samoa and Ukraine).
Nine years have passed since the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples was adopted by the General Assembly. Since then, the four countries voting against have reversed their position and now support the Declaration. Today the Declaration is the most comprehensive international instrument on the rights of indigenous peoples. It establishes a universal framework of minimum standards for the survival, dignity and well-being of the indigenous peoples of the world and it elaborates on existing human rights standards and fundamental freedoms as they apply to the specific situation of indigenous peoples.
Article 5 of UNDRIP 2007 states:
“Indigenous peoples have the right to maintain and strengthen their distinct political, legal, economic, social and cultural institutions, while retaining their right to participate fully, if they so choose, in the political, economic, social and cultural life of the State.”
What and who is indigenous and why their rights must be protected?
“I love agitation and investigation and glory in defending unpopular truth against popular error.” – James A. Garfield
According to the United Nations:
“Indigenous peoples are inheritors and practitioners of unique cultures and ways of relating to people and the environment. They have retained social, cultural, economic and political characteristics that are distinct from those of the dominant societies in which they live. Despite their cultural differences, indigenous peoples from around the world share common problems related to the protection of their rights as distinct peoples.
Indigenous peoples have sought recognition of their identities, way of life and their right to traditional lands, territories and natural resources for years, yet throughout history, their rights have always been violated. Indigenous peoples today, are arguably among the most disadvantaged and vulnerable groups of people in the world. The international community now recognizes that special measures are required to protect their rights and maintain their distinct cultures and way of life.”
To anyone familiar with people and culture around the world, it should be evident that a vast majority of people around the world are indigenous and only a fleeting but powerful and “dominant” minority are non-indigenous. But a popular error propagated by the “dominant” minority is that indigenous people constitute only 5% of the global population and they are only forest-dwellers in difficult terrains in dense forests and mountainous terrains as neither villages or cities existed before the European Renaissance which brought the world from the abject darkness of ignorance to the bright light of knowledge. This includes the large population of people in Africa, India, Russia, China, Brazil and other erstwhile European colonies, which are indigenous but are not so recognised officially by the natio-states themselves and in turn by the United Nations. Neither are these billions of people represented in the Unrepresented Nations and People Organization (UNPO) under pressure from the neo-colonialist natio-states. This is a gross and jarring violation of the letter and spirit of the UNDRIP 2007.
The dominant or the non-indigenous world view therefore can also be characterised as European Universalism, even though there are tell-tale signs that that is fast changing into what we would term as European Inversalism.
What is European Inversalism?
European Inversalism is the nurturing and strengthening by the dominant non-indigenous Europeans of the ability to look within, reflect upon the past few centuries of monstrous colonialist excesses, genocides, brutalities and mayhem, under the garb of discharging the “White Man’s Burden” and spreading the light of democracy and freedom that subsequently turned them into non-indigenous zombies and to redress the historical damages and clean up the act. And to re-discover their own Indigenous intelligence to live well within their means.
It is a way to go and outside the purview of the camera (referring to the recent on-camera mop-up of spilled coffee by the Dutch Prime Minister), it will be a tough and turbulent journey ahead but an essential one given the writing on the wall that is bold and clear by now.
Only the indigenous intelligent will survive.
The intriguing case of the Hindus of Indian sub-continent
” Hindu is the geographical, cultural and metaphysical identity of the people of the land. It’s neither a religion nor a nation-state.
The people of America are called as Americans, Japan as Japanese, and Brazil as Brazilian and so the people of India or Hindustan are called as Indians or Hindus. But whereas American-ism, Japan-ism or Brazilian-ism are not called as a religion, by what yardstick is Hinduism called and officially proclaimed by the Indian nation-state as a religion?
The word religion is rooted in the Latin word “religare” meaning “to bind.” Religion in its most pervasive meaning today is used to describe Christianity and Islam which are marked by being “bound” to One Book and One Prophet, and divides the world as believers and non-believers, thereby ostensibly seeking to “convert” one to another. Every other identity that is called as a religion is thus portrayed through this predominant world view.
Despite repeated attempts to drag the innocuous Hindu identity into this gambit, by no stretch of imagination it qualifies to be called as a religion of Hindu-ism. This is a gross infringement on the rights of the Hindus who constitute the native and indigenous people of the land or the Adivasi.”
As noted in this article, indigenous Hindu identity continues to be officially and surreptitiously violated by the natio-state of India itself even as it has pathetically failed the people of the land and put it’s glorious culture and civilization over millions of years to shame and ignominy. As a result, 14 of the most polluted cities in the whole world are in India. It ranks an abysmal 177 out of 180 countries on Environment Index. It ranks rock bottom on Global Hunger Index, mal-nutrition, stunting and wasting of children, infant mortality and most heinously on what is called the violence of the womb with starving pregnant women producing weak and pre-natally weak children. In many ways, the natio-state has become an exploiter of people and a parasitic burden and drain on its resources wasting precious and scarce natural resources on extravagant projects like bullet trains, rivers inter-linking, Sagarmala, a binge of tarmac roads and cemented housing, water-guzzling toilets and other anti-people projects whose sole objective is to benefit large corporate and the erstwhile Colonisers of these indigenous people.
We, the Indigenous people, hereby, in the letter and spirit of the United Nations Declaration for Rights of Indigenous People 2007, appeal and urge the United Nations and the natio-state of India to stop this gross injustice and redress the historical damages and restore the rights of the indigenous people of India.
About the speaker:
Chandra Vikash (47) is a strategic thinker and innovator. In his work in various companies and entrepreneurial ventures over past 22 years, he has always valued and upheld social and environment responsibilities as symbiotic and synergistic to commercial success, persisting against several odds and deeply entrenched perceptions.
At present, he is the Global Outreach Director for Amritam and Convenor of Global Academy for Indigenous Activism (GAIA) which is working towards mentoring and nurturing 1000 social ventures in next 12 months upto July 2019. Earlier, Vikash founded TEN Systems in 2007, a company that develops smart and sustainable solutions in the areas of Transport, Energy and eNvironment.
His wife Alka, mother and sister Vinita have been the pillars of strength in his life-long endeavor. He has two daughters Akarshita (15) and Parnika (10) who are his inspiration to build a brave and bright new world as his life purpose. He studied for his Bachelor in Technology from Indian Institute of Technology Kharagpur (1993) and MBA from Indian Institute of Management, Kolkata (1997).
B.Tech IIT Kharagpur MBA IIM Calcutta
Global Outreach Director – Amritam Trust
Convener – Global Academy for Indigenous Activism (GAIA)
B-79, Sector 71, Noida, U.P. – 201309
M: +91 9582941382 E: firstname.lastname@example.org