Friday, July 24, 2009

Greenable Woodbridge


Woodbridge Township is committed to developing strategies that will reduce our impact on the environment both collectively and individually, so that we might preserve our natural resources
for the citizens now and in the future. The Township is also committed to the growth of an economic and socially
sustainable community.

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed it is the only thing that ever has.”
Margaret Mead

Making green choices is hard for many people. Modern living has made us lazy. We put all our trash in one big bag when we can recycle and compost, we wipe our tables with paper when we can use cloth, we take out our car when we can walk, when we entertain friends we use disposable plates and cups, we take loads of plastic bags when we go grocery shopping..……the list is endless. Why do we make these choices – 1. We cannot immediately feel the ramifications of our actions, 2. We have no time…3. We believe we are doing nothing wrong as everyone else is doing the same thing and 4. last but not the least the non-green choice is the choice that offers the path of least resistance and is most convenient and readily available!

Those who make green choices could be very well branded insane!!

We have no choice but to be green…if not for our sakes but for the sake of our children. The legacy of environmental degradation will be a big price that our children will have to pay. Recently saw a beautiful Walt Disney children’s movie Wall-E,which touches upon the future of mankind due to the immense trash that we generate and massive consumerism - message well conveyed. In fact, most children today are more aware of what is good for our earth (due to efforts of several environmental education groups, school curriculum, TV shows and movies). Even the popular children’s cartoon show Curious George ran an episode on vermicomposting – causing my son to take a lot of interest in worms and dirt! There was one more on recycling. Ask your child what’s good for the earth – she/he probably knows a bit more about making greener choices. Recently I went grocery shopping(minus my reusable bag) and I took 2 plastic bags as one of them was torn – my friend’s daughter was with me – she pointed out – “Aunty, don’t double bags – see it is written there” see what I mean! A lesson learnt! Children can teach us a lot!

As a resident of Woodbridge Township – this Greenable Woodbridge pledge offers all of us a chance to become environmentally aware and do our bit to achieve a sustainable lifestyle.  I am extremely happy with the resolution of the township since it provides an impetus to the green movement worldwide. Many people are reluctant to lead a greener lifestyle as they do not know where to start or what to do. As a starting point the residents can take the green team challenge listed on the township website.

The townships efforts will bear fruit with whole hearted effort of its residents. We as residents must not undermine our part in this effort.

The various aspects that the township is working on are :

1. Saving Energy – Distribution of CFLs

2. Saving Water – Rain Gardens

3. Buying local and encouraging local economy – Farmer’s market

4. Walkability in the township

5. Reduce, Recycle and Reuse

6. Community outreach and education – through fairs, schools

7. Protection of local natural areas

The township had the Greenable Visioning meeting on July 14th 2009. It is imperative for one and all to be a part of the green movement to make the township’s green movement successful.

The Woodbridge township website lists all the future activities in which its residents can participate.

read more ...

read more ...

Woodbridge Township Moves Toward Certification...
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Woodbridge Township Redevelopment Agency Achieves Excellence in Planning Award for 2009
read more ...

Woodbridge Mayor McCormac Announces $2.4 Million BPU Clean Energy Grant to Kick-Start ...
read more ...

Hats off to the town’s proactive Mayor John McCormac spearheading the township’s effort in order to achieve its sustainability goals.

As a resident of this township our job is to join this movement and to provide feedback. Through this blog I will promote the township’s green efforts and post blogs on how to achieve a greener lifestyle. People interested in posting their green efforts are most welcome to send me their posts – which will go up on this blog.

Ciao – till the next post…


Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Air Pollution in Mumbai and people’s perception


Chatrapati Shivaji Terminus, formerly Victoria Terminus, in Mumbai. Photo by thebigdurian on Flickr.

I love Mumbai’s air..though it is very polluted as everyone says. At places, the air brings the smell of sea or wafting smell of lovely roadside food, at other places of leather, ammonia, garbage and stench of human filth. Now, all we seem to breathe in Mumbai is unbearable amounts of toxic gas mix all over Mumbai. Mumbai’s coastal climate is ideal for removal of air pollutants, however, the rate of removal is slower than the rate at which pollutants are generated, hence we end up with a cauldron of toxic gas mix.

Air pollution has a telling effect on the citizens of the city I love. My neighbour’s 5 year old son in Nerul, Navi Mumbai suffers from all sorts of respiratory problems. This is not however an isolated case. Scores of people, especially from the vulnerable group – children, women and old people - are affected. The effect of polluted air on human health is well known. This translates to persondays lost in as people fall sick more often – which in turn – means loss of revenue. The commercial capital of the country must not tolerate this loss. So it should take a cue from how the capital Delhi has dealt with air pollution.

As with everything else that citizens of Mumbai put up with, from terrorism to packed trains, heavily polluted air is also another in their list of things that they have come to accept. Very complacent huh? or are the people of Mumbai sitting ducks?


Sitting ducks, photograph by Purushottam V.Rao

How bad is the pollution on Mumbai? The city authorities are well aware of what it could loose if it fails to address this pressing issue of air pollution. It is engaged in various ameliorative measures to address the issue. What remains to be seen is whether these measures are yielding any positive results.

For the uninitiated, the common air pollutants are :

Carbon Monoxide - CO

Oxides of Nitrogen - NOx

Sulphur Dioxide - SO2

Suspended particular matter - SPM

Respirable suspended particulate matter - RSPM

Hydrocarbons – HC

Deteriorating air quality is the result of rapid economic growth, industrial output, unprecedented rise in vehicles to cater to the city’s burgeoning population.

As per World Bank report 1997 - “In Mumbai (Bombay) the main contributor of air pollution is the transport sector, followed by power plants, industrial units and burning of garbage. Fuel quality and engine conditions significantly influence the level of air pollution To arrest this growing problem, a concerted effort with public involvement is essential. Awareness of the issue, proactive policies, economically affordable standards and technologies and effective enforcement are key elements in any effective air quality management strategy A long- term perspective shows that early adoption of policies for environmentally safer technologies can allow developing countries to resolve some of the most difficult problems of industrialization and growth at lower human and economic cost.”

Ameliorative measures by city admin mainly focus on the vehicular pollution :

1) The bus and rail network in Mumbai is by far the best
public transportation infrastructure in the country in terms
of coverage, carrying capacity, and utilization. Moreover,
Mumbai is implementing an MRTS – metropolitan railway transit system.

2) In the spring of 2002 the High Court issued an order
that all the diesel taxis in the city change to using compressed natural gas [CNG]. They were allowed a few months to do so. Infrastructure was hastily set up to allow for this transition. Now all taxis which ply in Mumbai are either CNG or petrol.

3) The strengthening of the cities arterial roads and introduction of 55 flyovers for smoother flow of traffic in and out of the city.

These results of these measure show a steady decline in SO2 and RSPM concentrations in Mumbai. NOx concentrations are below the NAAQS standards and have remained steady. Monitoring results are available on Maharashtra State Pollution Control Board website.

However, SPM remains above NAAQS in Mumbai. A comprehensive emission inventory was conducted in 1997 for Mumbai as part of the Urban Air Quality Management Strategy (URBAIR). It was found in the study that the total suspended particulates exposure was primarily due to resuspension from roads caused by vehicles(40%), emission from diesel and gasoline vehicles (14%), domestic wood and refuse burning (31%), and others (15%) (World Bank 1997). The aspect of resuspension formed one of the important areas of investigation in the later emission inventory-related studies.

And people’s perception of high air pollution is due to these levels of suspended particulate matter. The World Bank conducted a public perception survey in 2004. One purpose of the survey was to compare the perceptions of stakeholders to the findings of the recent analyses of air quality trends and sources of particulate air pollution in Indian cities. The survey was not designed to yield statistically significant results. It was rather a modest attempt to get a broad picture of the perceptions and understandings of informed observers of urban air pollution in India. “Nearly half of the respondents said
that air quality in their cities was deteriorating. Transport was
considered the most important cause of air pollution.” Country Synthesis report on Urban air Quality,Dec 2006.

I get to hear this from a lot of people who travel from the west to Mumbai and get stuck in the city’s maze of taxi’s and three wheelers – unable to bear the pollution or the heat of the city – they come back and say that ‘Oh my God, Mumbai is so polluted’. One must take a leaf out of the former mayor of London – who decided to take the local train during his stay in Mumbai (just to get a feel of it - I suppose!). Either the monitoring done in the city is at wrong locations – hence showing decreasing trend in pollutant concentrations or the people have wrong perceptions regarding the changing air quality of city of Mumbai!!

People’s perception has a lot to do with air quality battles – rather than depending on the city admin to change the air quality – and avoid being sitting ducks – the citizens of Mumbai must participate actively in the following through proactive groups:

1. Refuse burning – form area active groups to prevent refuse burning

2. Construction activities – ensure builders in your area comply with mitigation measures for air pollution – a construction phase of a project is a temporary phase and hence many builders do not employ any mitigation measures for air pollution reduction. A year of construction activity may result in a year of misery in a child or senior citizens life.

3. Diesel generators generate a lot of SPM and SO2 – many of these generators can be seen at construction sites – it is the duty of the citizen to form an action group – to ensure DG sets comply with current emission norms(Refer CPCB websites on DG set emission norms).

4. Use public transport – leave personal vehicles at home.

5. Service your vehicle and keep your pollution under control certificate up to date.

6. Spot out vehicles using adulterated fuel – and report to state police.

The CPCB website gives a list of dos and donts for the citizens for reducing vehicular pollution.

The latest environmental status report is available at

Taking a cue from the cities of Pune, Delhi and Hyderabad, the citizens of Mumbai - could ask for digital signboards indicating the air pollutant concentrations for each day.

Don’t be sitting ducks – be proactive – breathe cleaner air!