A Conversation With Rajendra K. Pachauri

Sep 28th, 2011 | By | Category: Adaptation, Advocacy, Development and Climate Change, Energy, Environment, Governance, Government Policies, India, Information and Communication, IPCC, Lessons, Mitigation, News, Opinion, Population, Renewable Energy, Solar Energy, Water, Weather, Wind energy

New York Times: Rajendra K. Pachauri is the chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and head of The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) in New Delhi, a non-profit focusing on research in the field of energy efficiency and sustainable development.

In 2007, under his leadership, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize along with Al Gore for their efforts to disseminate knowledge about man-made climate change and measures to counteract it.

In an interview with India Ink, Dr. Pachauri sounded a note of caution about the energy future of India, saying, “If we continue with business as usual in India, by 2031-32 we will be importing 750 million tons of oil and 1,300 million tons of coal. Where are we going to get all that from?”

Q.What are the environmental challenges that India needs to address immediately?
A.We need to clean up the river systems in this country. Pollution in our rivers has reached a point where the rivers are really dead – they cannot support any living species.

A lot of money has been spent on river cleanup programs but, I am afraid, the results are not there to see. There is no appropriate oversight mechanism, which could make some of these actions transparent and therefore subject to scrutiny.

The second area is tackling the Himalayan ecosystems, which have been degraded to a point where the impact is not just confined to the Himalayan region, but felt much further downstream. When green cover is damaged, it leads to greater proneness to floods.

The other serious problem is melting of the glaciers, and that’s also going to affect river flows adversely.

Q.So, India is dealing with a major water crisis?
A.I agree, but also the extent of biodiversity that we are losing as a result in the Himalayan region is the loss of a major treasure, one we haven’t even estimated.
Q.How should awareness about these issues be spread among the masses in India?
A.We need to strengthen governance at the local level.

We have to empower local institutions, and it will take a period of time. Those critics who say that Panchayati Raj systems cannot be relied upon are belittling the very foundations of democracy. Gandhi-ji was very wise when he emphasized the importance of villages in our society. But we ignored his advice and his vision all this while.

Q.Is there enough awareness about environmental challenges among people in urban India?
A.No. We are constructing, at a very rapid rate, all kinds of buildings throughout this country. We have done totally inadequate work in terms of ensuring that these are energy efficient, that they use water efficiently– our water management systems should ensure that we recycle water that we are wasting at this point of time.
Q.Green Rating for Integrated Habitat Assessment (a way to judge your home’s energy efficiency, developed jointly by TERI and the government) is not a mandatory ratings system in India. So, should people use it?
A.That’s the next step. We have got to get governments at the local, state and the central level focused on seeing the benefits of an energy-efficient building. If we continue with business as usual, by 2031-32 we will be importing 750 million tons of oil and 1,300 million tons of coal. Where are we going to get all that from?

The government needs to create incentives for people to adopt this rating system. This will be a long haul. It must happen, it will happen.

Q.What will be the impact of climate change on India by 2020?
A.We have already come out with a fair amount of information on that in the IPCC fourth assessment report. There certainly will be an impact on agriculture, availability of water, sea-level rise with the long coastline that we have and in some areas with the very low coastline.

The Kutch region and the Sunderbans are very vulnerable, the Maldives and our neighbor Bangladesh are extremely vulnerable, too. All of this will have implications for us.

The rise in the sea level in this country is already causing problems, in the sense that every time there is a storm surge, or a cyclone, it affects these areas in a very hazardous way.

Q. Living in Delhi, what can we do?
A.There are simple things that we can do. Let’s say we are going to see a greater level of water scarcity. Then clearly our water supply and management systems have to be revamped. If we are going to see many more extreme events, like heavy rainfall, then clearly our drainage system requires investment, we have to create infrastructure to be able to deal with that.

If we have more heat waves, then we certainly need better early warning systems for people to make sure that they are not exposed to that heat for long periods of time.

By PAMPOSH RAINA                                                                                                                                         Source>>

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