Category Archives: Economics

A tap that drips once every second wastes a thousand litres of water in a month. Aabid Surti shows us how easy it can be to keep our future green and blue. Let’s join him.

srutiAabid Surti is an odd character. A few years ago, the angular, bearded author was invited to meet the President of India to receive a national award for literature at a ceremony in the capital, New Delhi. He politely declined. Absorbed in writing the first draft of his new novel, he cited the reason that he did not have time. But what he has made time for every Sunday for seven years now, is going door-to-door in Mira Road, a non-descript suburb of Mumbai, with a plumber in tow, asking residents if they need their tap fixed for free!

As a distinguished Indian painter and author, Aabid has written around 80 books but no story so moved him as the truth about water scarcity on the planet. “I read an interview of the former UN chief Boutros Boutros Ghali,” he recalls, “who said that by 2025 more than 40 countries are expected to experience water crisis. I remembered my childhood in a ghetto fighting for each bucket of water. I knew that shortage of water is the end of civilized life.”

Around the same time, in 2007, he was sitting in a friend’s house and noticed a leaky tap. It bothered him. When he pointed it out, his friend, like others, dismissed it casually: it was too expensive and inconvenient to call a plumber for such a minor job – even plumbers resisted coming to only replace old gaskets.

A few days later, he came across a statistic in the newspaper: a tap that drips once every second wastes a thousand litres of water in a month. That triggered an idea. He would take a plumber from door to door and fix taps for free – one apartment complex every weekend.

As a creative artist, he had earned more goodwill than money and the first challenge was funding. “But,” he says, “if you have a noble thought, nature takes care of it.” Within a few days, he got a message that he was unexpectedly being awarded Rs.1,00,000 ($2,000) by the Hindi Sahitya Sansthan (UP) for his contribution to Hindi literature. And one Sunday morning in 2007, the International Year of Water, he set out with a plumber to fix the problem for his neighbors.

He began by simply replacing old O-ring rubber gaskets with new ones, buying new fixtures from the wholesale market. He named his one-man NGO ‘Drop Dead’ and created a tagline: save every drop… or drop dead.

Every Sunday, the Drop Dead team – which consisted of Aabid himself, Riyaaz the plumber and a female volunteer Tejal – picked the apartment blocks, got permission from the housing societies, and got to work. A day before, Tejal would hand out pamphlets explaining their mission and paste posters in elevators and apartment lobbies spreading awareness on the looming water crisis. And by Sunday afternoon, they would ensure the buildings were drip-dry.

By the end of the first year, they had visited 1533 homes and fixed around 400 taps. Slowly, the news began to spread.

In March 2008, director Shekhar Kapur, who was working on his own water conservation film, heard about Aabid’s efforts and wrote on his website: ‘Aabid Surti, thank you so much for who you are. I wish there were more people like you in this world. Keep in touch with us and keep inspiring us. Shekhar.’

Local newspapers began to write about Drop Dead, which prompted a further flood of grateful emails and spontaneous messages. One of the most heartfelt messages was from superstar actor-producer Shah Rukh Khan, a longtime fan of Aabid’s work as a comic book creator. After reading the newspaper report titled ‘City of Angels’, he wrote to Aabid: “…It sounds like one of the little big things my dad would have done.Strange that I have enjoyed [your comic] Bahadur in my childhood and enjoyed reading your tap story so many years down the line… when I am father myself. God bless you and yes, I believe in angels after reading the newspaper.

In 2010, Aabid Surti was nominated for the CNN-IBN CJ ‘Be The Change’ Award. In the same year, a television crew from Berlin flew down to follow him on his Sunday rounds which continued come monsoon or shine.

It’s hard to say how much water he has saved with his mission, given that the faucets he fixed could have continued leaking for months, and maybe years, had he not rung the doorbell one Sunday morning. But conservatively, it could be estimated that he has single-handedly saved at least 5.5m litres of water till date.

In the summer of 2013, the state where Aabid lives is expecting its worst drought in 40 years. Months in advance, the Chief Minister Prithviraj Chauhan has warned citizens to begin conserving water. While ministers lobby for drought-relief packages worth millions of dollars, Aabid sees his own approach as simple and inexpensive.

As he rings another door-bell on yet another Sunday in Mira Road, seven years into his one-man mission, he says: “Anyone can launch a water conservation project in his or her area. That’s the beauty of this concept. It doesn’t require much funding or even an office. And most importantly, it puts the power back in our own hands.”

I would call him a modern-day angel; I am lucky I get to call him dad.

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Carbon credits hit rock bottom in global market

There has been so much buzz about the carbon emissions and global warming among the commoners but have you ever wondered what’s happening on the business front in this aspect?

The CER, or carbon credit, which is a permit representing the right to emit a ton of carbon dioxide or a greenhouse gas, is continuing to slide in the global markets and the first commitment period for the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM, under which carbon trading is permitted) is coming to an end this year, leaving the companies and investors with carbon credits worried.

Carbon offset credits have fallen to a new all-time low amid oversupply and signs of a possible ban on some credits in the European Union system. There has been a major blow to the carbon credits in market post the Durban talks (UN Climate Change Conference, December 2011) as Europe, one of the major buyers, put a brake on purchase of green credits, citing recession and a financial crisis.

Although there have been millions of talks and awareness campaigns about global warming, the most important job of executing with vigorous compulsion and innovation still remains a serious challenge.

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Do we need a sanity check?

A senior member of the mining industry in Karnataka has welcomed the Supreme Court’s decision to allow 18 mines to resume mining in the state. This means an increase in extraction of 5 more tons of ore and more ravaging and devastation of the region around Bellary and Chitradurga.

The miner has said

“Karnataka was on the brink of moving into the Stone Age.”

Moving into the Stone Age seems a very wise thing to do considering the damage that we bring with continued supply side thinking. All we seem to be interested in is extracting more rather than planning technologies in a way that we can optimize utilization of resources for manufacture of steel or aluminum or a swathe of other metals that we need in the marketplace.

Karnataka contributes to nearly 30 million tons. This can go up to about 50 million tons in the next two years. This is against about 350 million tons that India is currently extracting; this figure is expected to go up 6 times to 2 billion tons of iron ore to be extracted every year by 2030. Do we need a sanity check?

By Chandrashekhar Hariharan

No cold storage facility; potato farmers in a fix

Bamberg potatoes

Image via Wikipedia

Potato farmers across many districts don’t get a decent price because they cannot store their produce. The harvest last year was two million tons and cold storages could accommodate only one-half of the produce. Continue reading

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Need to kill 10,000 sq km of forests and rich lands

Savandurga hillside forest, Bangalore, India

Image via Wikipedia

The six sectors occupied in 2009 about 0.7 million hectares [or 7000 sq km]. This included land leased out to mine coal, bauxite, limestone, and iron ore.

But this might be a gross underestimation because in the past, industry has acquired far more than what is required for power production facilities. Golf courses are not uncommon in industry premises and golf turf consumes 30 liters per square foot of grass. Continue reading

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India will draw coal four times more than now

Castle Gate Power Plant near Helper by David J...

Image via Wikipedia

Demand from the key six big sectors will grow fourfold to two billion tons by 2030. Home production of coal by that time will be about 1.5 billion tons. Demand at two billion.

Business as usual will have India import about 500 million tons of coal to meet requirements of just the six sectors. Even in low carbon coal need will be about 1.5 billion tons in 2030, thrice the current level of production.

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India mines more iron ore than it needs

iron

Image via Wikipedia

India currently mines more iron ore than domestic industry requires to produce iron and steel. About 220 million tons got mined last year; only 75 million tons was needed within India. The rest 60 per cent was exported. Continue reading

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Ivory prices hit the sky, push poaching up

In just the last eight years the price of illegal ivory has increased 15 fold from US $100 a kg to $1500 a kg.

In 1999 Japan was the only legal buyer of ivory. In 2008 it was joined by China. The three biggest illegal ivory markets are in China, Japan, and Thailand. Continue reading

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It’s an unequal world, alright!

There was not one single year between 1952 and 1986 in which the richest 1 per cent American families earned more than one-tenth the national income.

Yet after rising steadily since the mid-1980s, in 2007 the income share of the richest one per cent reached a staggering 18.3 per cent of the total American wealth. The last time America was such an unequal place was in 1929 when the equivalent figure of the richest percentile was 18.4 per cent.

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Oil demand surges, production cost falls

The world oil consumption is rising again. The price of a barrel is moving towards $100. By 2035, demand may reach 110 million barrels a day, about 20 per cent more than in 2009.

The interesting thing is that the cost of production has been falling. A few years ago, most firms thought that the breakeven price was $75 per barrel. But now companies such as Shell say new developments are economical at $50.

There are obstacles mainly because of the sheer dirtiness of the business. In America, objections to the import of bituminous oil are loud; domestic opposition to exploiting tar sands and building pipelines which has long been fierce is gathering strength. Global production of conventional oil, the stuff that can be recovered easily using drills and wells is near or already at its peak. Only a leap in output from unconventional sources will prevent new surges in price.

Even if countries around the world agree on measures to control CO2 emissions, tar sand oil, like Canada’s, must fill a supply gap in the future. With more than 70 per cent of the world’s remaining oil in the hands of OPEC, half of its free oil is in the tar sands.

And that’s a good reason for the Americans to want to exploit these tar sand reserves of Canada.

(Pic source: internet)

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