20 Dec 2014

Damages of Urban Lifestyle and Urbanization !!

Urbanization has made a cultural change. Now there are good paying jobs and numerous ventures to spend the money you earn. But there is a sheer irony of the things we do in our life, how much they cost to nature versus the price tag associated to them. Take example of our energy needs. You may say your energy needs are limited to the billable energy like LPG to cook food, the electricity for home usage, the fuel you use for transport but we ignore the actual picture. The food you eat is not just the renewable solar energy stored as chemical energy, but also there is an associated carbon footprint of fuel powered machines used for its irrigation, harvesting, storage and transport. Also count the energy used for manufacture of fertilizers, pesticides and import of genetically modified seeds that has been our model of since green revolution. There's more energy required for production and transport of each and every commodity you own. Whether its soap, plastic, textile, paper, devices, bags etc. You just have to glance around to see your energy needs which have expanded to much beyond our basic necessities.

Urbanization and level of income of countries of the world

With emerging technologies, each day our energy needs are trending upwards, where each own more than one electronic device for individual use. If you think about just about the devices you use, your energy requirements are not limited to their power consumption, manufacture and transport, but also to the transmission of data, which is cumulative of setting up routing devices, space launch and operation of communication satellites. Increased range of products and gadgets, and the marketing techniques of sellers have lured use to own more and more of products which eventually increases your energy footprint. These are huge energy needs if we just compare to what were few decades ago.
Urban and rural population of the world

In parallel our population has exploded exponentially, implies the amount of load we are putting on our environment is damaging are at some instances, irreversible. The irony I started with, we are able to afford most of our energy needs because the price tag that we associate to them are based on their market and utility, not based on the necessity or how much we are exploiting the environment to build it. We are living in a capital oriented society where products are made for profits, bought as per affordability. The environmental load is totally neglected.

Population density of India and Indian states
Pic courtesy : updateox.com
The story does not end here. We have also radically changed our lifestyles in 21st century where products are marketed, displayed in shopping malls or through e-commerce websites. These are energy needs not directly giving any benefit to the individuals but are competitive fights within production for those extra bits of profit. Energy needs for entertainment and luxury is another debate that I am not discussing here but I want to bring into light the impact we are creating due to our ever growing energy needs.

As per statistics, just our electricity consumption has increased by 11.26% from 2010-11 (6,94,392 GWh) to 2011-12 (7,72,603 GWh).

Trends in production of energy in India by primary sources

sectorwise consumption of electricity in India
It has forced us to go for more power generation options. We have multi folded our nuclear, thermal and hydel power generations to meet these needs and we are reaching to some pristine and untouched parts of our country. Two major hydel power projects cleared by central government in Northeastern India are "Dibang multipurpose project" in Arunachal pradesh and "Subansiri Hydroelectric Power Project" in Assam.

The environmental impacts of both these projects are huge in terms of the ecological damage they will do. Northeastern India with lesser population density as compared to rest of the country is our major forest cover. Forest here can be categorized as subtropical evergreen, most deciduous and temperate montane forest. These covers are the breathing lungs of our planet and home to some of unique species of both flora and fauna. The forest cover that will be submerged due to these dams will be close to 9,000 hectares (about 22,000 acres).

Apart from other damages due to material movement for construction, forest clearance for building worker quarters and pollution in the heart of forest. Some of endangered mammals like the hoolock gibbon, Himalayan black bear, Dhole and civets residing these lands will be pushed to extinction due to this habitat loss. Apart from it the losses of local communities due to these projects are not accounted for. Arunachal pradesh with low population density have less than 400MW of energy requirements. But to fulfill the requirement of big cities like Delhi and Mumbai we are forcing an ecological damage to distant ecosystems and no benefits to local communities, rather we may be destroying their pristine homeland. Is this justified? Do we need shopping malls and multitude of products for our greed?

You may be wondering if we do not have any environmental laws to account for these losses. Yes we have laws and for all these projects the undertaking authorities have to get clearance from MoEF and FAC, but we see most of these projects getting cleared due to our agenda of development and the prevailing misuse of corrupt political system.

While Subansiri project is already under construction, Dibang project has faced strong local opposition and international pressure. FAC (forest advisory committee) has rejected the project twice on environmental grounds and local community disturbance. But with relaxed environmental laws by new government, NHPC (National Hydroelectric Power Corporation) will soon go for clearance from FAC third time.

Native people opposing construction of dam in an Indian state

Numerous other projects are lined up in Uttrakhand and Himachal Pradesh to boost our pace of development. The devastations of Uttrakhand floods of 2013 was a good hint of what our rapid energy needs are doing to this planet. It's time to understand this connection. How our actions and lifestyles in urban life have distant impacts on untouched heavens on this earth. India is home for 8% of total biodiversity on earth. Every small contribution from each of us, saving power or buying only useful products and limiting our energy needs can be decisive for the future of our forests and for our own species as well.

How modern urban lifestyle and increasing needs are damaging ecosystem and sustainable development? What are the solutions to prevent such damages on ground level?

How we can contribute in ecosystem balance, biodiversity conservation and sustainable development on an individual and community level?

(Written by Gaganpreet Singh, a passionate adventurer and nature lover, working with Microsoft as a Software Engineer. He is also associated with a social initiative 'Joy of Reading' )

  1. mospi.nic.in/mospi_new/upload/Energy_Statistics_2013.pdf
  2. http://articles.economictimes.indiatimes.com/2014-09-19/news/54108766_1_dibang-hydropower-project-forest-panel-forest-advisory-committee
  3. http://sandrp.files.wordpress.com/2014/01/dibang_hearing_boycott_1_march_12th.jpg?w=980&h=600&crop=1



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