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How ‘Saksham’ are we?

One does not need any extraordinary talent or expertise to understand that every time powerful countries have exploited all the resources at their disposal for their interests have benefitted and later on requested or mandated other nations to make efficient use of leftover resources. The story of Paris agreement on the reduction of climate change is no different. Only after 12 November 2014 when President Barack Obama and General Secretary Xi Jinping agreed to limit greenhouse gases emissions, the whole world seemed to need a solution on global warming at a global stage. Interestingly, China, USA and European Union are together responsible for more than 54 per cent of world’s total carbon emission. Still, COP21 stated that Paris agreement will enter into force when joined by at least 55 countries which together represent at least 55 percent of global greenhouse emissions.

If these powerful nations cared about environment, they could have reduced climate change by limiting their own greenhouse gas emissions. But it would have given a free hand to potential superpowers like India to grow with a very high rate compared to the existing powerful nations like China. Surprisingly, India was ‘Saksham’ to use COP21 as an opportunity to buttress its position as a global leader by announcing International Solar Alliance (ISA) which is planned to be headquartered in Gurugram. It’s an excellent move by which the nation can exploit renewable energy to fulfill its energy needs without damaging the environment. However, till the time ISA achieves its objective, India’s future generations have to continue reliance on fossil fuels.

On 16 January 2017, Petroleum and Natural Gas Minister Dharmendra Pradhan inaugurated a month-long pan India campaign ‘Saksham’ to sensitize the masses about the conservation and efficient use of petroleum products towards achieving twin objectives of better health and environment and securing availability of Oil & Gas for future generations. Indian government is already aware that 80 crore Indian villagers are still dependent on traditional biomass energy sources – namely fuel wood, agricultural waste and livestock dung. The ever expanding big cities have become so congested that despite over-crowded local trains, metros and other public transport, streets get clogged with vehicles. Delhi alone wastes 40000 litres of fuel per day in traffic jams which in turn adds to city’s pollution with nearly 115 tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) being released daily. Moreover, the upcoming metro projects in smaller cities do not provide adequate connectivity. The masses that ‘Saksham 2017’ refers to, do not desire to spend money to waste fuel like this. In fact, with ever increasing inflation, the masses want and try to make efficient use of all the resources and supplies. But pathetic and inadequate public transportation and concentrated development in selected cities forces the common man to increase carbon emission.

Although India has almost doubled its energy generation in the past decade by adding over 85 GW of capacity, its old and inefficient distribution and transmission network lose more than 30 GW of this generated power. The World Resources Institute estimates electricity transmission and distribution (T&D) losses in India to be 27% – the highest in the world. No matter how sensitized the masses are about the conservation and efficient use of petroleum products, they cannot be ‘Saksham’ enough to limit transmission and distribution losses.

Ministers can continue spending money and efforts on such campaigns as they can cite these as measures during high profile round table conferences in Shangri-La Hotels. However, as such campaigns are not aimed at solving the root causes, their objectives won’t be achieved. If government really desires to achieve the objectives cited in ‘Saksham 2017’, it needs to provide its citizens adequate connectivity by means of excellent public transport facilities, planned and dispersed development, reliable power and fuel supply in villages and efficient use of power distribution and transmission networks.

Let’s hope that India will be ‘Saksham’ enough to provide better health and environment and oil and gas for future generations.

Saket Aloni

(The views expressed by the author in the article are his/her own.)

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