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Green Planet

Climatic chaos and nature’s fury in Kashmir

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Earth is the only habitable planet of the entire solar system with man as the central agent of the whole matrix. Gone are the days when the nature was in a state of equilibrium. Man has over the period of time exploited nature to such an extent that now; there is only a half-state of sorrow. The world of today is bereft of environmental order and there is a looming environmental crisis. The increasing population of the world puts an unprecedented pressure on the environmental resources and ultimately causes the scarcity of the resources generating a lot of waste which pollutes our environment day-in and day-out.

The anthropogenic threats to the environment on a massive scale have radically altered our planet, Earth including the lives of many species of plants and animals. Man is part and parcel of biosphere and cannot turn a blind eye towards the contemporary ecological crisis and responsibilities with respect to the protection of nature. Environmental degradation is the most hazardous event of the current century attributed to misuse of natural environment. The crisis has taken a major sway over both developed and developing countries. The developed countries dump effluents into the environment polluting the earth. Kashmir which is glorified for its beauty is getting victimised due to the environmental problems of the current times.

The valley of Kashmir has been enormously blessed by God with the scenic beauty and really stunning green environs. But, unfortunately, the indifferent attitude of the people towards the environment has ultimately caused ramifications which bode ill to the man itself.

Over the world, Climate change is the buzzword of the recent century which has assumed unimagined proportions and all the nation states of the globe are confronting this problem. The untimely downpours in summer, warm climate in winters, wind storms, hail storms in spring, etc. are the problems of the current times and attributed to changes in the environment over the period of time.

The dreadful flash floods of 2014 which caused a heavy damage to life, property and overall environment in Kashmir are grim reminders of ecological change and imbalance. The recent episodes of forest fires during this year’s winter at some places of Kashmir which destroyed various species of plants and vegetative cover was a cause of concern. The timely intervention of the forest department and youth of the respective areas stopped the further damage. In some pockets of Anantnag, the recent rains and one-night light snowfall has severely damaged the flower buds of the apple orchards and caused mayhem to the fruit growers, rendering trees devoid of any apple fruits.

Our environment is at the brink of a disaster, waiting for the feasible time to happen. The pollution of air, water and land are in a state of continuity and ensue change with the currents of time. This has paved ways for a bundle of problems. Pollution is the horrific ecological crisis of the current times. Air, water and land in the past times are said to have been in a state of purity, virgin and devoid of human disturbance. But, over the period of time the situation is caught in a reverse way. Ecological imbalance caused due to the development of transport, machines, infrastructure, paraphernalia, etc. in general and science and technological prowess in particular may prove disastrous for humanity in the long run.

Environmental degradation in terms of deterioration in the quality of air, water and soil surfaces cause a number of biological manifestations, which particularly affect human health and its well being. The degradation in the quality of water gives rise to a number of diseases like cholera, jaundice etc. The increasing ratio of light, small, medium and heavy vehicles is day by day polluting the quality of the environment in J&K. Soil erosions caused as a result of frequent rains have resulted in the siltation of the water bodies, like river Jhelum(Veth) which complicate the issues in times of rainfalls and leads to the flooding of the adjoining areas (say floods of 2014).Unfortunately, the environment of JK has been affected and destroyed in the last century due to uncontrolled cutting down of the forest trees which has not only altered the patterns of weather and climate, but also increased the massive destruction of the environment.

People in Kashmir have unfortunately turned a blind eye towards the environment and ignore all ethical standards vis-a-vis environment. The water bodies have become the ultimate target for the disposal of the wastes, whether house-generated or otherwise. Every household empties the sewerage in the adjoining streams. The space of the water bodies has been gravely shrunken and the waste lies littered. Even, at some places the household waste clogs the flow of water which causes its way-out on the roads and hampers the movement of the commuters.

Also, some people have erected illegal structures over the water bodies and downsized them. The major implications of excessive deforestation are soil degradation, excessive floods, dam siltation, alterations in climatic patterns and ultimately drives towards environmental bankruptcy. The pollution of water bodies in J&K has reached a point of crisis, rendering them as cesspools due to solid wastes, wrong drainage patterns, sewerage, etc.This has not only degraded the quality of these water bodies, rendering them ineffectual for drinking and usage of water, but also caused the unwanted growth of weeds and plants in them, ultimately shrinking their space with the passage of time. Dal lake, anchar lake, etc are the glaring and live examples of our environmental problems.

The people of the state have got a prominent role in the conservation of the environment. Government of the state has also the responsibility of conserving the environment which can fully blow into a crisis if not tackled on time. Otherwise, time will not be far when there will be only pangs of guilt and sorrow and the future generations will curse us for the full fledged eco-crisis which they would face in future.

Administration can play a prominent role in generating awareness and promoting environmental consciousness among the masses with the aid of print, electronic and overall mass media. The educational institutions can be used as the instruments of environmental consciousness. Besides, the water bodies and other polluted places can be cleaned using manpower and infrastructure in close proximition. It is vital on part of the administration to create awareness among the masses for the preservation, protection and conservation of environment and mitigation afterwards.

Today, when we are living in the post-truth era, our morale is slowly ebbing to the point zero. This place is to others as it is to the human beings. Man cannot destroy the other forms of life and claim hegemony over the environment sans ethical and moral conduct without any regard for the other living organisms. After analysing the true picture of the land and people in the recent times, what comes to fore is a non-compatible attitude of man with respect to the surrounding environment. Man has destroyed environment and is paying back a heavy price. If a similar situation exists in near future, human civilization will face disasters everywhere. There is an urgent requirement for appropriate measures in order to tackle the crisis. Searching into the past through the medium of oral or written histories of Kashmir, the vivid picture is that of purity and semblance of nature.

It is our foremost duty to conserve and preserve the environment. The need of the hour is to make people sensibly aware through the environmental education programmes. A fair amount of know-how about the burning environmental issues is vital for the protection of the healthy environment. Being part and parcel of the ecosystem, man has a crucial responsibility to protect the environment. However, responsibility is subservient to ethical motivation which can be generated at various levels of the society.

Here,again the role of multiple players viz, government, NGO’s and everybody else is necessary. NGO’s can actively engage general public and students  through programmes and activities. This will entail a plethora of research and dissemination of knowledge on various issues confronting the environment. The survival of human beings is largely dependent upon the environmental balance. No nation-state can remain in isolation, because the problem is pan-global without any consideration for limits. Thus, it requires a global solution. The development of man should be in harmony with nature. This way we can envision an environmentally sound place to dwell upon as previously eulogized by the Mughal emperor of  india, Jehangir as heaven on the earth.

The author has done M.Sc.(Biochemistry),B.Ed from Jamia Millia Islamia New Delhi,M.A.(History) and also qualified CTET from CBSE. Previously,he was also working as a project trainee at JNU,New Delhi.He writes for a number of platforms on socio-politico-economic issues and currently works in J&K, government education department. He can be reached at abidjmi121[at]gmail.com

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Green Planet

Promoting Green Finance in Qatar: Post-Pandemic Opportunities and Challenges

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The recent COVID-19 pandemic had significant implications for both national economies and the global financial system, in addition to hindering the achievement of the sustainable development goals agenda. The UNDP estimates global human development—a combination of education, health, and living standards—could fall this year for the first time since 1990, which highlights how the effects of the pandemic present both an enormous challenge and tremendous opportunities for reaching the 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

With the additional challenges arising from climate change, governments have committed to several policy measures which promote a green recovery to rebuild their economies, while benefiting the people and the planet. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) estimates that the public resources committed by governments to support a green recovery amount to at least USD 312 billion. These measures present tremendous opportunities for green finance in general, and Islamic green finance in particular, in the context of Muslim-majority countries.

The State of Qatar, in light of its National Vision 2030 and in order to enhance the diversification of its economy away from hydrocarbon, has taken several measures to mitigate climate change. These include increasing the use of solar energy to more than 20% of its energy mix by 2030, the optimal use of water, improving air quality, waste recycling, increasing green spaces, in addition to the country’s commitment to organizing the first “carbon neutral” tournament featuring the use of solar-powered stadiums and water and energy-saving cooling and lighting technology. The State is also a signatory of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change and supports a number of global initiatives in relation to climate change mitigation.

All these initiatives could be funded via green finance. In this regard, there are four global trends in the financial industry that the State of Qatar can leverage to promote green finance for green recovery:

Growth of SRI and ESG awareness:

Socially responsible investing (SRI) and environmental, social, and governance (ESG) investing are two of the fastest growing investing areas globally. Both are driven by the increasing awareness of social and environmental responsibility. According to the Global Sustainable Investment Alliance, global sustainable investment reached $30.7 trillion in the five major markets at the start of 2018, a 34 percent increase in two years. These include Europe, United States, Japan, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. Developing green finance instruments and products can attract a growing SRI investor base that seeks to align social and environmental values with its investment portfolios.

Upward trend of Islamic Finance:

According to the Islamic Financial Services Board (IFSB), the total worth of the Islamic Financial Services Industry across its three main segments (banking, capital markets, and takaful) is estimated at $2.44 trillion in 2019, marking a year-on-year 11.4% growth in assets in US dollar terms. According to Thomson Reuters, the industry is projected to reach $3.8 trillion by 2022. Qatar is one of the global Islamic finance hubs with Islamic finance assets representing more than 20% of the local financial system’s assets. With the recent development of Islamic green finance, Qatar has the opportunity to position itself as a sustainable finance leader in the region by promoting synergies between Islamic and green finance growing markets.

Financial innovation for sustainability:

The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) highlights that achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) will take between $5 and $7 trillion, with an investment gap in developing countries of about $2.5 trillion and the additional net investment required to implement renewable energy solutions standing at $ 1.4 trillion, or about $100 billion per year on average between 2016 and 2030, according to the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA). Mitigating this funding gap requires an engaged private sector to make green investments. That is why several green instruments and products were developed across the various segments of the financial industry. These include green retail banking products, including green loans and green mortgages, green corporate and investment products, green project finance, and green venture capital and private equity, as well as green capital market instruments, like green investment funds, green bonds, and sukuk.

Integration of sustainability objectives into national strategies:

Several governments around the world have integrated sustainability objectives and green finance roadmaps into their national strategies, either through a top-down approach, whereby green finance frameworks and taxonomies are harmonized at the country level (as with China), or via market-led collaborative actions. In addition, to overcome private sector investment barriers, such as high up-front costs, long investment timelines, and higher perceived risks, several countries have put in place incentives in the form of subsidies and tax exemptions. The State of Qatar can leverage these experiences through collaborations and partnerships to develop a unique green finance model in the region

Green Sukuk: A Fast Growing Market

Green sukuk is an innovative instrument for financing green infrastructure. It has the potential to become a new asset class targeting both Islamic and socially responsible investors.

Since the issuance of the first green sukuk in 2017 in Malaysia, the market has grown significantly, with twelve issuers in Indonesia, Malaysia, and the United Arab Emirates tapping the market, in addition to the Islamic Development Bank. About $7.6 billion in four currencies (EUR, IDR, MYR, and USD) was raised up to September 2020, with tenors ranging from two to 21 years. The amounts raised were allocated to green construction, energy efficiency, and clean transportation projects.

Promoting Green Finance in Qatar

Although the green finance market is still in an early stage of development in the country, the market has witnessed several initiatives by local institutions that might pave the way to the development of a more dynamic market. In September 2020, Qatar National Bank (QNB) issued the first ever green bond in Qatar, a $600 million tranche, under its MTN Program, with a maturity of five years under its established Green, Social, and Sustainability Bond Framework.

In addition, Qatar Stock Exchange (QSE) introduced an ESG Guidance in 2017 to assist listed companies wishing to incorporate ESG reporting into their existing reporting processes.

While Bond and sukuk issuance in Qatar reached $28 billion in 2019, the market is largely driven by government issuance and commercial banks for corporate issuances, with the exception of Ezdan Sukuk in 2016 and 2017. The development of green sukuk in the country with the enabling ecosystem could facilitate corporate sukuk issuance, thus enhancing market liquidity.

In conclusion, promoting a green recovery in line with the country’s economic diversification objectives and climate mitigation strategies will require the development of an enabling ecosystem for the development of green finance in Qatar. Developing a pipeline of bankable green projects at the country level, market awareness, and promoting synergies between Islamic and green finance will provide the basis for further innovation and policy action, such as green labels, frameworks, and incentives.

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Green Planet

2021 will be defined by the more long-term crisis facing humanity: Climate change

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Rather than low-tech and often unworkable solutions (reduced or no travel, mass vegan diets) governments are increasingly embracing technology to help us understand and influence the climate – rather than merely respond to it. This should become the norm for public authorities across the world.

China’s weather modification programme, for example, could be a lifeline for workable solutions to climate change globally. The technique, known as cloud-seeding, uses silver iodide and liquid nitrogen to thicken water droplets in the cloud, leading to increased rain or snowfall. 

The technology has been used to prevent droughts and regulate weather before major events, like in the run up to the 2008 Beijing Olympics

The Chinese cabinet has announced that its weather modification programme will cover half the country by 2025, with the aim to revitalize rural regions, restore ecosystems, minimize losses from natural disasters and redistribute water throughout the country.  

And China’s ambitious ‘Sky River’ programme could eventually divert 5 billion cubic meters of water annually across regions, which could protect millions of people from the effects of drought and water scarcity. 

Although critics have, without evidence, described these projects as ‘weaponization of the weather’, the humanitarian and development potential is huge. 

Necessity is the mother of invention, and this is truer than ever with regards to the climate. The world faces a climate-change induced water crisis, with 1.5 billion people affected globally. 

The UN predicts that at the current water usage levels, water scarcity could displace 700 million people by 2030. 

Carbon emissions are unlikely to be eliminated in high growth economies in regions like Asia, meaning that the world must develop a way to manage emissions’ effects on the climate. 

Whilst it is true that the basic solutions of eating less meat, cycling to work and cutting back on international flights can help to curb our carbon output in the long-run, it does nothing to help those who suffer from flooding or water scarcity today. 

Ultimately, technology is an essential part of the solution.

Big Tech is leading the charge in tackling climate change through the use of Big Data and machine learning. In November 2019, a group of data scientists published a paper entitled ‘Tackling Climate Change with Machine Learning’. The paper laid out 13 different applications of using machine learning to tackle the impacts of climate change. One such application was using machine-learning to predict extreme weather events. 

Such an application is already being put into action. For example, Bangladesh is one of the most flood-prone countries in the world; approximately 5 million people were negatively affected by flooding last year alone. In order to help combat this, Google teamed up with the Bangladesh Water Development Board and the Access to Information (a2i) Programme to develop a flood notification app that is approximately 90% accurate

The app, which is enabled by AI flooding simulation, provides the population with timely, updated, and critical information that can help users make informed decisions on the safety of their families and friends. 

The same technology has been used in both India and South Africa, and has the potential to save thousands of lives and livelihoods. It is these sorts of innovations that we must rely on to help those who are most vulnerable to the impact of climate change. 

It is not only cloud-seeding and weather prediction technologies that will provide humanity with a route out of its biggest existential threat. Breakthrough battery technology, green hydrogen, 5G-based smart grids and carbon-negative factories are set to become commonplace in our fight against rising CO2 levels. 

As a global society, we must set our political divisions and some critics’ technophobia aside, and step forward in a spirit of international collaboration.

Similarly to how the pandemic showed the need for united global action, climate change will do the same. And just as technology and science was a key part in how the pandemic was brought under control, climate change can only be addressed through tech-based solutions.

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The solution to marine plastic pollution is plural, and plastic offsetting is one of them

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Due to growing concerns around environmental protection, businesses, individuals and governments have been looking for solutions that can be largely implemented to close the tap on plastic pollution.

In the last five years, businesses have strengthened their Sustainability Approach to acknowledge the need to take responsibility for their plastic production and consumption.

If targets have been defined and strong policies followed them to ensure high recycling rates of plastic products, a problem remains. What is the solution for low-value non-recyclable plastics?

This is where plastic offsetting enters the scene. As a derivative of the Carbon Offsetting concept, where trees are planted or protected to capture CO2 emissions, Plastic offsetting also known as Plastic Neutralization, enables companies to take responsibility for their plastic footprint.

Put simply, neutralizing means funding the collection and treatment of plastic, equivalent to the plastic impact of the business. Therefore, giving it the opportunity to compensate for every ton of plastic it has produced by ensuring there is one ton less in the environment.

From linear to Circular Economy Itis also a breakthrough in our traditional model of production, the linear economy. By extending the producer responsibility (EPR), this concept allow to build the bridge that lead to the ideal model, the circular economy, where no waste remains.

This innovative solution brings with it diverse positive impact. To the environment, by protecting ecosystems from plastic pollution, reducing landfilling and CO2 emissions. A strong social impact, by local communities by empowering local communities with work and better incomes. But also businesses, by becoming more sustainable with the reduction of the plastic footprint and a strengthen corporate social responsibility.

TONTOTON, a Vietnamese company, based in Ho Chi Minh City has succeed to connect all stakeholders to create a new market for low-value non-recyclable post-consumer plastic, on the scheme of circular economy.

TONTOTON Plastic Neutralization Program

Following the idea that the informal sector achieve to collect and recycle large amount of plastic in poor waste management areas, Barak Ekshtein, director of TONTOTON decided to look closer to the problem. In fact, a study shows that ‘97% of plastic bottles were collected by informal waste pickers.

The problem therefore does not lie in the logistics but in the price. By giving a market price to non-recyclable plastic, it allows waste collectors to collect and treat waste and thus avoid plastic pollution.

TONTOTON currently works in Southern Vietnamese Islands, Hon Son and Phu Quoc, and has already few tons of low-value plastic waste. To do so, it collaborates with local waste-pickers and thus provide them better incomes. The program focuses on preventing ocean plastic by following the Ocean Bound Plastic Certification. Their activities are audited by a 3rd party control body, the internationally recognized company, Control Union.

To treat the waste, TONTOTON partners with a certified cement plant, through co-processing, to valorize waste as an alternative energy and raw material. “Our system can solve two issues. Plastic is made of fossil fuels and contains more energy than coal. Thus we can replace industrial coal consumption with non-recyclable plastic waste. The plastic will not end up in landfill or oceans, therefore reduce levels of coal consumption and thus also CO2 emissions.”, says Barak Ekshtein.

Businesses engaged in their program can claim plastic neutrality on the amount of plastic neutralized to share their sustainability efforts. Moreover, indicate it on their neutralized product by bearing the “Plastic Neutral Product” label.

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