Local water sports & their ecological and economical impact to the regional habitat

In the present day, when IPL and World Cup gain international attention, it is evident that sports as an industry has substantial potential to grow with both economical and social benefits. In line with the same, water sports also have a considerable amount of support and a business in this sector can have its positive and negative effects on the ecology and economy. This article aims to understand how local water sports and their development impact the ecology and economy of the beach or ocean habitat, as the case may be.

It is inevitable that when humans interfere with the natural environment for personal gains, it would leave behind a broken environment with no biodiversity and life. However, environmentally conscious activities will provide room for growth and development of the country and also provide scope for local communities to protect their water resources by engaging in profitable initiatives.

Just like how cricket grounds are well maintained, and pitch protected at all costs for a game, so will a business in water sports impact the way water bodies are maintained and conserved. Recreational activities related to water would enable the conservation of the water body, for with water there would be no income generated which would further impact the livelihoods of those dependent on it. Having a well-structured business involved in water sports and allied tourism would provide a space for water conservation, protection, and preservation. Even though the primary reason for protecting the water body is based on economic reasons and not rooted in ecological one, it is still a system that could ultimately lead to conservation of India’s water bodies including lakes, ponds, coastal waters, and rivers.

In order to understand the linkages that exist between the local communities and developing water sports activities in regional water resources, let us consider an example. For instance, let us consider the Marina beach, located in the heart of the city of Chennai. Marina beach is on the coast of the Bay of Bengal is India’s longest beach and is considered the second-longest in the world. Despite the historical and geological significance, the beach is unpopular due to poor maintenance and is often strewn all over with a thick plastic cover. The Bay of Bengal has several scopes for water sporting activities, but sadly the water is unclean and maybe do more harm than good when one soaks their feet in the chill waters. As of 2018, scientists from the National Centre for Coastal Research found extremely high levels of fecal coliforms like E-coli in the water which may be due to the garbage and sewage dumped into the waters (Tejonmayam, 2018). As a result, the fish from the water may not also be healthy for consumption, and a beach of wonder which has the potential to generate income remains yet another poorly developed region of the country.

However, if the city management involves the local public in maintaining the beach, it would generate income and would attract tourists. The money collected in the form of tickets can be further used to expand the businesses around the region to provide room for recreational activities like water sports including boating, kayaking, yachting, swimming, and the like. These recreational activities would over a period of time provide an incentive for the local communities to preserve and protect the natural environment for it generates a reliable source of income. In other words, the economic benefits will provide scope for the preservation of the water resources so as to maintain the income levels and the resultant standard of living from beach tourism.

In addition to these processes at a local level, initiatives at the individual front will also further help in the conservation of water resources. Many joggers and surfers across the world, utilize their time jogging, to pick up plastic and trash strewn around the community, which again helps in ensuring that this waste does not end up in water bodies.

In essence, for a water body to be used for recreational purposes, conditions focusing on the physical, chemical, and biological attributes determine whether the water is capable of supporting recreational activities. The sporting activities would generate economic benefits and thus, there would be an imposed pressure to maintain the various determining factors of water quality at the optimum level. In the larger picture, this would protect the water resource. The conservation efforts would further nurture and nourish the flora and fauna dependent on the water body. With the entire system well-planned and executed, it would make the ecosystem of the region sustainable.

References

How are water-sports groups aiding cleaner oceans? (2019, April 26). Open Access Government. Retrieved March 5, 2022, from https://www.openaccessgovernment.org/water-sports-cleaner-oceans/63972/

Raj, V. (2020). India and Water Sports: A theoretical study. Zeichen Journal, 6(12), 360-367. http://www.ezeichen.com/gallery/1597.pdf

Recreational Waters | US EPA. (2021, September 7). US Environmental Protection Agency. Retrieved March 5, 2022, from https://www.epa.gov/report-environment/recreational-waters

Tejonmayam, U. (2018, April 20). Marina: Why a dip off the Marina may be bad for your health | Chennai News. Times of India. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/chennai/why-a-dip-off-the-marina-may-be-bad-for-your-health/articleshow/63837350.cms

Zhang, B. (2020, October 5). The Social Benefits of Water Sports Events and Their Impact on Environmental Pollution. Journal of Coastal Research, 104(1), 111-115. https://doi.org/10.2112/JCR-SI104-020.1

Urban forestry using the Miyawaki technique

The Greater Chennai Corporation is making plans to restore the Kadapakkam lake into a recreational spot with several benefits including a bird island flooded with trees using the Miyawaki technique (DTNext, 2022). As green and novel the term ‘Miyawaki’ sounds, it has its own set of advantages and challenges. This article aims to give an overview of the Miyawaki technique and further understand the role of this technique in light of the developments in Chennai.

What is the Miyawaki technique?

Miyawaki is a man-made afforestation technique to grow natural forest cover native to a particular region developed by a Japanese Botanist by the name, Akira Miyawaki (Shekar, 2020). Akira Miyawaki was the recipient of the Blue Planet Award for his contributions to the unique method of afforestation by which plants could be grown in regions where no plants existed before. This method has been in practice in Japan since the 1990s and has been used to restore and revive degraded land. The concept helps in bringing green cover to cities and has now been adopted in several Indian cities like Bengaluru, Delhi, Hyderabad and Chennai.

The biggest asset of the Miyawaki technique is growing a wide range of species native to the land, within a small area in a short period of time. In other words, a multilayer of shrubs and trees are planted at an average distance of 60 cm (Daniels & Vencatesan, 2021). To provide an example, a backyard in a house can be transformed into a forest teeming with flora and fauna. In 2010, a family based in Kashipur, a city in Uttarakhand converted their backyard into a forest cover using the above technique. A 75 square metre space, turned into a home for 224 saplings of 19 species of shrubs and trees (Nargi, 2019). Against the conventional method, this method provides room for growing plants 30-times densely in a small space with an aesthetic appeal.

This method has great potential in terms of addressing climate change and mitigating the amount of greenhouse gases. However, the methodology is not a one-size fits all solution to deforestation and may work counterintuitively in Indian cities. 

Challenges with the Miyawaki technique in India

‘Nothing can substitute natural forests’ is the place to begin with when it comes to understanding the effectiveness of the Miyawaki technique in certain regions. As far as cities like Bengaluru and Chennai which are witnessing great transformations in urban forestry, the novel method is trying to replace natural forests in the regions. The Miyawaki technique was developed in Japan in that particular climate to handle calamities like earthquakes and may not be suitable for a tropical country like India. Several environmentalists argue that this method is giving an impression to people that they can replace forests altogether to the extent where citizens have remarked that even if trees are cut down, it can be replaced with the Miyawaki technique.

Sadly, plants grown with this technique cannot run an entire ecosystem. A natural forest is built over millions of years, and the quick remedy Miyawaki provides is not an alternative to the green cover of nature. Scientifically, it may not be sustainable in the long run to force plants to photosynthesize fast (Kaushik, 2019).

Further, even though Miyawaki helps in climate mitigation, trees will be able to do so only if they are allowed to grow to their full capacity. In the Miyawaki technique, trees are made to grow straight uniformly. It is important to note that different plants can sequester carbon based on size, leaf shedding habits among others. If all shrubs and trees are made to grow uniformly without paying heed to its natural characteristics, the Miyawaki forests may not benefit in climate mitigation.

Specific to Chennai, this method again may not be suitable for the city’s conditions. The first Miyawaki forest in Chennai was established in 2020 at a cost of INR 20 lakhs. Chennai is a coastal city with native species like the Indian laurel (Calophyllum inophyllum), banyan (Ficus bengalensis), Indian beech (Pongamia pinnata) and portia (Thespesia populnea) (Daniels & Vencatesan, 2021). These do not have a natural structure to grow tall and straight, but rather spread wide and it is not advisable to force them into the fixed pattern of the Miyawaki technique. Secondly, much of the vegetation introduced in the Miyawaki zones in Chennai, insufficient efforts are taken in terms of planting the native species. The technique specifically stipulates that only native species ought to be grown in the method. Experts voice out that the technique will work only if the species chosen for growing is native to the region (Gautham, 2021). A deviation from the same can further aggravate the ecological disruptions prevalent due to various environmental crises. Thirdly, Miyawaki forests do not help in rain and can again add onto the climatic woes the city faces. As much as they can supplement and complement existing green cover, they cannot replace them. 

References

Daniels, R., & Vencatesan, A. (2021, July 9). Why the Miyawaki Method Is Not a Suitable Way to Afforest Chennai – The Wire Science. The Wire Science. Retrieved March 13, 2022, from https://science.thewire.in/environment/why-the-miyawaki-method-is-not-a-good-way-to-afforest-chennai/

DTNext. (2022, March 12). GCC plans to restore Kadapakkam lake into a recreational spot. DTNext. https://www.dtnext.in/News/City/2022/03/12142013/1357719/GCC-plans-to-restore-Kadapakkam-lake-into-a-recreational-.vpf

Gautham, K. (2021, September 17). miyawaki: Civic body getting its strategy on Miyawaki forests all tangled | Chennai News. Times of India. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/chennai/civic-body-getting-its-strategy-on-miyawaki-forests-all-tangled/articleshow/86286075.cms

Kaushik, T. (2019, June 13). Miyawaki forests are no substitute for natural ones: Experts. The Economic Times. Retrieved March 13, 2022, from https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/politics-and-nation/miyawaki-forests-are-no-substitute-for-natural-ones-experts/articleshow/69766810.cms?from=mdr

Nargi, L. (2019, July 24). The Miyawaki Method: A Better Way to Build Forests? JSTOR Daily. Retrieved March 13, 2022, from https://daily.jstor.org/the-miyawaki-method-a-better-way-to-build-forests/

Shekar, A. (2020, October 5). A jungle in the heart of Chennai: The story of the city’s latest ‘Miyawaki forest’. The News Minute. https://www.thenewsminute.com/article/jungle-heart-chennai-story-city-s-first-miyawaki-forest-134567

“Glocal”:- Local solutions for Global problems

The global politics around environmental actions faces the paradox of an impending doom and inefficient conservation. The Conference of Parties 26 is an example reflecting the global voice of environmental activism, while the continued destruction of the Amazon Forest and the lack of awareness of battery waste management post the advancing electric vehicles revolution reflects the slow the entire fight against climate change.

The contradiction is often rooted in difference in culture, the socio-economic scenario and other external factors beyond the word “climate” that shapes how we look at our environment. A person living in the Netherlands, cycling to work every day has a completely different outlook to what environmental action means as against a commoner from the city of Chennai, India who is unequipped with the skill of segregating waste at the source. Thus, there is a dire need to build smaller closer-knit activist and action groups to address regional issues that have a global impact with the support of national and state governments.

A Glocal model would ideally provide an informal forum for individuals to make an impact at the community and city level which can overall reduce the carbon footprints. Thoughtfully empathising and resonating with the emotion of the local communities and policymakers will help build stronger, vocal and environmentally conscious cities. These efforts can start from choosing to consume locally produced food that overall reduces the cost of transportation and waste generated in the supply chain to reducing the energy consumption at buildings from minimising the use of air conditioners.

Local initiatives and the path to global mitigation of environmental crisis

  • Travel: Logistics and transportation of resources from one place to another is a significant contributor to the carbon footprints generated by individuals. One of the most common modes of travel that generates the maximum amount of pollution is air transport and pollution generated from fossil fuel run vehicles. It is rather ironic that climate policy makers at the international front often commute in an airplane to address climate change conferences. The intention is not to do away with air transport and cars altogether, but to reduce the generation of carbon as best as possible. To encourage surface transport, most cities across the world have a public transport system that can connect regions together alongside providing room for residents to use cycles and other environment friendly modes of commutation.

To assist and strengthen this individual fight, governments can incentive the use of eco-friendly modes of transportation that address a small group of individuals which inevitably impacts the larger goal of climate action. In the Netherlands, the Dutch Government in 2017-18 came up with a national policy for companies to pay employees who cycle to work. According to the European Cyclists Federation, “driving a car emits about 271 g CO2 per passenger-kilometer” while taking the bus or any equivalent public transport will reduce it by half. Contrarily, cycles generate only one-fourth of the greenhouse gas a car produces, making it one of the most eco-friendly commutations. As far as India is concerned, several cities including Chennai have joined hands with the cycles4change initiative as part of the Smart City Mission. This has the potential to bring forth change in the travel sector in India.

  • Food: The diet of an individual, an essentially physiological need, is yet another big contributor to carbon footprints. While most diets involve the consumption of dairy products and meat, veganism proposes a plant-based diet. The former diet leads to a loss of millions of gallons of clean water and forested land during the production process while the latter uses relatively less of these resources and emits up to 90% less greenhouse than a meat-based meal. Shifting from an animal-based diet to a plant-based can trigger the restoration of pasture lands to forests and grasslands which has the potential to capture carbon and provide space for the native species to thrive.

In an article titled, “A New Veganism: How Climate Change Has Created More Vegans”, the author concluded that 8 out of 12 vegans cited environmental concerns as one of the major reasons they practice veganism. Thus, taking initial steps of eating a plant-based meal once-a-day or once-a-week can overall bring a balance in the individual and collective net carbon footprint.

  • Sustainable consumption: Yet another contributor to environmental damage has been due to the heavy reliance placed on plastic packages and other environmentally unsafe packaging materials. Several local stores address the issue by substituting plastic with bamboo, paper bags and other sustainable materials. This would provide a platform for consumers to choose the more sustainable option instead of purchasing consumer goods sealed in plastic, in turn leading to reduction in disposability.

In Mylapore, Chennai, Ecoindian is a sustainable store that sells consumer goods from toothbrush made from bamboo to coconut shell soup bowl. Similar stores are step-up across the country in small-scale, including Bare Necessities at Bengaluru.

In addition to reusing containers and choosing sustainable alternatives, consumption also extends to the fashion industry. Just wearing clothes longer is a path to sustainability. Sustainable fashion does not necessarily mean spending on expensive fashion brands, but rather wearing clothes one already owns for longer, thrifting, purchasing from sustainable brands, mending, washing with care, turning old clothes into rags and borrowing.

  • Education and awareness: The awareness of what climate change has instore for the people is varied across different classes of the society. As far as developing countries are concerned, when the basic needs of food, water, shelter and clothing are a question, the idea of climate change and pollution becomes secondary to many. In order to bridge this informational gap about environmental damage, awareness needs to spread as to how climate change could further impact their socio-economic standards through stories and relatable content.

The bleaching of coral reefs in the Australian coastline may mean nothing to a commoner in Chennai who works day-in and day-out trying to feed a family of five. But for that commoner, if a story of how Chennai faces the impact of climate change in the form of floods in November and drought in May, it could provide sufficient basis to involve more number of people within the ambit of environment protection.  In 2021, a climate change campaign was organised in the city of Chennai which gained attention among a few activist groups. The story they shared on climate change was not about what was happening in the USA or UK, but rather very specific to what Chennai was confronted with.

Intergenerational equity – Rights of human and natural capital

The well-known environmental principle of Sustainable Development as defined in the Brundtland Report makes room for ambiguity and questions the fundamental idea of  ‘Why does this generation get to decide the future generation’s consumption standards of world’s natural resources?’. This intergenerational disparity needs attention to ensure there is an equitable distribution of wealth in a just and fair manner. The value idea that focuses on the rights of the future generations emanating in this backdrop is the principle of intergenerational equity.

What is equity?

Before delving into the nuances of intergenerational equity, there is a prerequisite to understand the difference between equity and equality for they are an alliteration used interchangeably, despite them not being so. While equality emphasises on treating everybody the same way, equity involves an ethical component of treating everybody fair and just. In other words, equity aims to satisfy the needs of individuals based on their socio-economic status, while equality aims to treat everybody in the same manner irrespective of external factors like socio-economic status. 

Intergenerational equity and environmental sustainability

Intergenerational equity refers to satisfying the needs of every generation in terms of economic, psychological, and sociological contexts in a fair manner. (Summers & Smith, 2014) From an environmental perspective, intergenerational equity provides the principles to preserve the natural resources and environment for the benefit of the future generations. (Venn, 2019) . This is the aspect of environmental sustainability as propounded in the Brundtland Report which aimed to address intergenerational inequity in order to ensure that the present and future generations have equal accessibility to environmental resources.

In the Indian landscape, several Supreme Court judgements recognise the significance of sustainable development and intergenerational equity. In the writ petition, State of Himachal Pradesh v Ganesh Wood Products (1995), the Apex court observed that the present generation has no right to interfere with the safety of the future generation by highlighting the duty of every citizen to protect and preserve the environment. (State of Himachal Pradesh and Others (Appellants) V. Ganesh Wood Products and Others (Respondents) | UNEP Law and Environment Assistance Platform, n.d.). The matter essentially involved the Government of Himachal Pradesh refusing the establishment of a wood factory that proposed to run the business by felling khair trees for raw materials. The court found merits on the Government’s part and restricted the establishment of factories on the grounds that it will adversely impact the ecology and environment of the region.

In S. Jagannath v Union of India (1997), the Supreme Court ruled that all industries prior receiving permission to establish the business, must undergo Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) taking into account the intergenerational equity in order to ensure the future is not devoid of the natural resources (S. Jagannath V. Union of India & Ors | UNEP Law and Environment Assistance Platform, n.d.). Two year post the above judgement, in A.P. Pollution Control Board v Prof, M.V. Nayudu, Justice Jagganda Rao starts the order by quoting A. Fritsch, “The basic insight of ecology is that all living things exist in interrelated systems; nothing exists in isolation. The world system is weblike; to pluck one strand is to cause all to vibrate; whatever happens to one part has ramifications for all the rest. Our actions are not individual but social; they reverberate throughout the whole ecosystem” (1994 (3) SCC 1). The court traced the entire significance of the principle of intergenerational equity by referring to the Stockholm Declaration among others to reiterate that the environment is to be viewed as a resource basis for the survival of the present and future generations, whereby the present have no overbearing right over the future. (AP Pollution Control Board V. Prof. MV Nayudu (Retd.), n.d.)

Environmental dynamics cannot be substituted by human capital

Taking account of intergenerational equity paves the way for a strong sustainable model. Within the environmental system, there are social and economic components which work hand-in-hand, implying that human capital cannot substitute the environmental resources. Contrarily, the view of weak sustainability assumes that there is substitutability between human and natural capital, suggesting that depletion of environmental resources can be offset by human capital. If the latter is incorporated into the system, it may lead to exploitation of the resources today and leave the future generation with the burden of finding substitutes to natural processes which may not even exist.

It is vital to understand that there are certain processes such as ozone layer formation and the carbon cycle in nature that cannot be replaced or substituted with any man-made services. The human actions of the past, the emission of greenhouse gases from commercial activities led to the hole in the ozone layer. The absence of the ozone layer will make the existence of life precarious on Earth. It is the present generation confronted with the task of finding sustainable alternatives and initiatives to protect the ozone for their survival with icebergs melting away and heatwaves engulfing cities. The same will continue into the future, if the present generation does not respect and acknowledge the rights of the future generations.

The environment as an entity has a function beyond merely providing resources needed for development. They help the overall balance in the global ecological cycle and ensure the stability in the chain reactions. If the balance is disrupted, it may cause severe alterations in the global ecological cycle impacting the life system of the planet. The equity across generations needs protections of these natural processes and a balance in the critical levels of the cycles to ensure there is an overall balance in the ecological cycle. (Padilla, 2002). The presence of a weak sustainable model in the present day-and-age might impact the future generations in contravention to the intergenerational equity principle. Maintaining a strong sustainable model does not necessarily discourage green innovation altogether, but rather they can supplement the natural processes. This way, intergenerational equity can be established whereby the action of today’s generation does not negatively impact the future.

References

AP Pollution Control Board v. Prof. MV Nayudu (Retd.). (n.d.). InforMEA. Retrieved February 25, 2022, from https://www.informea.org/en/court-decision/ap-pollution-control-board-v-prof-mv-nayudu-retd

Padilla, E. (2002). Intergenerational equity and sustainability. Ecological Economics, 41(1), 69-83. 10.1016/s0921-8009(02)00026-5

S. Jagannath v. Union of India & Ors | UNEP Law and Environment Assistance Platform. (n.d.). UNEP’s Law and Environment Assistance Platform (UNEP-LEAP). Retrieved February 25, 2022, from https://leap.unep.org/countries/in/national-case-law/s-jagannath-v-union-india-ors

State of Himachal Pradesh and others (Appellants) v. Ganesh Wood Products and others (Respondents) | UNEP Law and Environment Assistance Platform. (n.d.). UNEP’s Law and Environment Assistance Platform (UNEP-LEAP). Retrieved February 25, 2022, from https://leap.unep.org/countries/in/national-case-law/state-himachal-pradesh-and-others-appellants-v-ganesh-wood-products

Summers, J. K., & Smith, L. M. (2014, January 9). The Role of Social and Intergenerational Equity in Making Changes in Human Well-Being Sustainable. NCBI, 43(6), 718-728. 10.1007/s13280-013-0483-6

Venn, A. (2019). Social justice and climate change. In Managing Global Warming: An Interface of Technology and Human Issues (pp. 711-728). Academic Press. https://doi.org/10.1016/B978-0-12-814104-5.00024-7

The mere memory of the Long Tank of Mylapore

The remains of the Long Tank Lake at the heart of the city of Chennai is now what the city-dwellers call as T.Nagar. The lake once occupied 70 acres to the west of the Mount Road and was largely replenished by the Lake Area of Nungambakkam, which too has now taken the form of Tank Bunk Road and New Tank Street. (Sriram V., 2014)

The lake’s vanishing journey began prior to the 1920s with a surge in population. To make room for this population which had grown from 398,000 in 1871 to 527,000 in 1921, by the Madras Town Planning Act of 1920 the lake was sealed with concrete to accommodate new dwellings (Muthiah, 2015). With the Mambalam Housing Scheme Town Planning Trust, the faster the water from the lake was ousted making way for Theagaraya Nagar or T. Nagar (Ramakrishnan, 2019). The region was largely bought by Justice Party leaders and personalities and takes its name after the father of the Justice Party, Sir Pitty Thyagaraya (Keerthana, 2012). For all those wondering why Mambalam was hit hard with 2016 floods or Vardah among other lakes to cement localities, well it is because water is finding its way to where it belongs.

Once T.Nagar was established, the feeder was not too far from urban development since the stagnant water became a breeding ground for mosquitoes. By 1971, the Nungambakkam lake too was filled up and the land became Valluvar Kottam. (Keerthana, 2012)

The lake was boomerang-shaped, spreading over 6 km in length. Much of today’s Boat Club activities happened on this lake. Until this lake was present, it was considered the western limit of the city and the region beyond the tank was categorised as another village – Mambalam village. The southern point of the tank was called the Mylapore Tank and it has been recorded in history through the words of Robert Bruce Foote in the early quarter of the 20th century who referred to it as the “Mylapur tank” (Ramakrishnan, 2019). As a geologist, Foote on observing numerous marine shells close in the tank’s vicinity proposed that the lake “could have been a saline lagoon in the distant past which later became a freshwater lake after the sea receded.” (Ramakrishnan, 2019) 

The region on the western part of the tank was home to trees called Maha Vilva Ambalam and paddy fields (Madras Musings, 2016). In line with the same, considering it is a freshwater lake, it ought to have also contributed to the water demands in the city for essential purposes. By the 1970s no evidence of the lake existed and with rapid urbanisation, the region is now surrounded by concrete.

Looking at the history, it might be too late to recover the tank owing to the fact that it is close to a hundred years since the lake began to be encroached upon. Recovering the lake would cost the city heavily for the entire region’s population of approximately 2 lakhs would have to be relocated and the economic activities would be disrupted. However, once a lake area, it is always one, and efforts can be taken to capture the surplus water received in these regions during the monsoon season to meet the ever-growing demand for water in the city.

References

Keerthana, R. (2012, May 1). Once upon a time in Thyagaraya Nagar…. The Hindu. https://www.thehindu.com/features/downtown/once-upon-a-time-in-thyagaraya-nagar/article3436296.ece

Madras Musings. (2016, December). Rambling in West Mambalam … with Janaki Venkataraman « Madras Musings | We Care for Madras that is Chennai. Madras Musings. Retrieved February 17, 2022, from http://www.madrasmusings.com/vol-26-no-16/rambling-in-west-mambalam-with-janaki-venkataraman/

Muthiah, S. (2015, October 24). Better in Madras than at Essex. The Hindu. https://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/madras-miscellany-better-in-madras-than-at-essex/article7800117.ece

Ramakrishnan, V. (2019, June 16). The price that Chennai continues to pay for Long Tank and T Nagar. DTNext. https://www.dtnext.in/News/City/2019/06/16042057/1152290/The-price-that-Chennai-continues-to-pay-for-Long-Tank-.vpf

Sriram V. (2014, June 6). Locating a lost lake of Madras. The Hindu. https://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/society/locating-a-lost-lake-of-madras/article6089792.ece

Thiyagaraya Nagar, Chennai | Locality. (n.d.). GeoIQ. Retrieved February 17, 2022, from https://geoiq.io/places/Thiyagaraya-Nagar/6t9w98G4P0

Is solar energy as sustainable as it sounds?

Solar energy is sustainable, but solar panels are not. Solar energy is captured using panels manufactured at 2000ºC made using metals that have limited supply (Chen et al., 2019). It is a sad truth that the carbon footprints not generated using solar energy are offset by the amount of carbon footprints left behind in the process of manufacturing and disposing of solar panels. This article aims to look into the environmental impact of solar panels and to further highlight the importance of using life cycle analysis in green technology.

Life-cycle analysis

Life-cycle analysis (LCA) is a method to evaluate the environmental impacts of a product by taking account of the raw materials used in manufacturing, the impact of the product on humans and the ecology among several other determining factors (Hill, 2013). The LCA methodology has been used for decades as a primary tool for assessing a technology or a product as environmentally sustainable for sustainable development (Brusseau, 2019).

More often than not, life-cycle assessment is ignored or overlooked when one portion of the analysis is “green”. In other words, every stage of the cycle is looked at in isolation of the next.  Unfortunately, this may not prove beneficial in the long run. It is crucial that the entire technology is assessed holistically to understand its impact on the environment. What is “green” in one part of the cycle may not be sufficient to negate the environmental damage the entire technology, innovation or product can cause to the planet.

In the case of solar energy, or the energy from the sun that can be used as an alternative to energy produced from fossil fuels is confronted with inadequate understanding of the technology used in collecting the energy from the sun.

Photovoltaic cells

The technology that has been developed to capture solar energy has failed to appreciate the environmental hazards of processing a photovoltaic cell. In other words, every technology or product has a life cycle, and looking solely from one beneficial angle would do more harm than good. This is precisely what happened with photovoltaic cells. Even though the aspect of solar energy is sustainable, the life cycle of the technology from creating a solar panel to getting rid of the waste from the technology is ignored creating a mindset among people that solar panels are ‘green’ enough. 

Manufacturing a product at 2000ºC requires tons of energy. With the present status of technological advancement, it is not fossil free to create such an environment for building solar panels (Chen et al., 2019). Secondly, at the end of its useful life, only a small portion of it can be recycled. The usage of rare earth materials like copper, nickel and cadmium for manufacturing solar cells created geopolitical tension due to the scarcity of the resource and this dependence on chemicals can also trigger chemical pollution (Mulvaney, 2014). The mining of these metals (silver, lithium, silicon etc), regardless of their scarcity, is in itself a very unsustainable process.

Thus, solar energy is a renewable source of energy with its own set of downsides when it comes to extracting the same. It is undeniable that they are a renewable resource, but more technical advancements need to be made in order to make the whole process from manufacturing till disposing, eco-friendly and sustainable.

Role of governments

As much as solar energies are beneficial, solving the issue of reducing the dependence on fossil fuels should not result in the creation of new problems like waste management and chemical pollution. (Gonçalves, 2019). More science and research should aim towards addressing green technology by looking into the life-cycle analysis.

The role governments could play in mitigating the side effects of using solar panels or any other alternative technology that is often considered “green” should be from the perspective of Intellectual Property Rights (IPR). Before issuing the patenting license for green technology, governments could take the initiative to ensure that the entities seeking the same have gone through the LCA of the products or technology. Eventhough it may raise the standard or bar for science and technology, which may further disincentivize companies and individuals from investing in green technology, it would at least help in creating quality technology that truly aims to address the global challenges of climate change and global warming. It would help break myths and will prevent the creation of new problems arising from resolving one.

References

Brusseau, M. L. (2019). Chapter 32 – Sustainable Development and Other Solutions to Pollution and Global Change. Environmental and Pollution Science (Third Edition), 585-603. https://doi.org/10.1016/B978-0-12-814719-1.00032-X

Chen, C., Milne, C., Carlquist, K., & Paulos, B. (2019, January 31). Solar energy is green. Solar panels are not. AI can revolutionise their design. Energy Post. Retrieved March 18, 2022, from https://energypost.eu/solar-energy-is-green-solar-panels-are-not-ai-can-revolutionise-their-design/

Gonçalves, A. (2019, February 7). Solar Energy Is The Future. Right. But Is It Really 100% Green And Sustainable? Youmatter. Retrieved March 18, 2022, from https://youmatter.world/en/solar-energy-green-sustainable-27596/

Hill, J. (2013). Life Cycle Analysis of Biofuels. Encyclopedia of Biodiversity (Second Edition), 627-630. https://doi.org/10.1016/B978-0-12-384719-5.00365-8 Mulvaney, D. (2014). Solar Energy Isn’t Always As Green As You Think. IEEE Spectrum. Retrieved March 18, 2022, from https://spectrum.ieee.org/solar-energy-isnt-always-as-green-as-you-think

Water technology to protect and preserve freshwater bodies in India

India is home to 18 percent of the world’s population and stores only 4 percent of the world’s renewable water resources (Mishra, 2019). As the population continues to increase and societies get more urbanised, these water resources are prone to exploitation, depletion and toxicity. Some of the primary water conservation strategies include – limiting consumption, reusing and recycling, elimination of losses and pollution prevention (Fedkin, n.d.).

To conserve, protect and save these water resources, innovation and technology can assist in reviving, recycling and overall conserving these water resources. Here are a few such water-related technologies that have been or can be used to conserve freshwater resources:

  • Lamaara Technologies: The company developed a cartridge using activated carbon, the size of an index finger with pores that act as micro-reservoirs to eliminate foul smell, harmful metals and colours from the water. The organic water filter can cleanse 30 litres within a few hours and the replaceable cartridge is priced at INR60. This technology can be used to convert sewage or unclean rainwater to clean drinking water. (Singhal, 2019)

During the Kerala floods of 2018, the company had donated around 2000 water purifiers to the Kottayam district.

In addition, the company has used the same technology to build a silicon bottle that can filter water called iBo or ‘Intelligent Bottle’. Essentially, dirty water can be collected in the bottle and pure water can be extracted using the three-layer filtration system that consists of Nano-fibre membrane. (Singhal, 2019)

  • Adopt an Island: This is an initiative started by Tarun Nanda, an engineer in Delhi which aims to transform the existing lakes and river into a water-purifying wetland ecosystem that can cope with the amount of waste dump instead of building more failing sewage treatment plants. (Adopt An Island – Bring Life To Hauz Khas Lake, n.d.)

The initiative involves constructing wetlands inside existing drains and water bodies and hence, there is no additional land requirement (Karelia, 2019). This also creates an attractive recreational as well as a natural habitat for plants, birds and fish. This will help have a clean lake, full of plants and wildlife, free from odour and pollution. 

  • Taraltec Disinfection Reactor: This water purifying device was developed by Anjan Mukherjee, a marine engineer. It is technology developed using biomimicry which allows the device to kill 99% of the microbes in the water. These are fitted into pump-sets and while these pumps extract the groundwater, the device purifies the same by instantaneously killing the germs. (Gupta, 2017)
  • Wi-Fi mounted Microcontroller: This particular system developed by students of National Institute of Technology Andhra Pradesh can automate the process of water storage, reduction in water-borne disease and efficient storage. It aims to address mismanagement of water in cities by monitoring wastewater and supply systems such as rainfall recorded, water remaining in the storage tank, water quality index and water supply in a given area. (Financial Express, 2021)
  • IBM’s IoT and AI technology: Lake Sembakkam in Chennai is a wetland which has now degraded to a wasteland over the years due to sewage disposal, untreated solid waste dumping and excessive accumulation of salt. In this project IBM volunteers partnered with The Nature Conservancy India to build a technical design for an Internet of Things (IoT) system with sensors for measuring and monitoring water quality, while also enabling remote sensing capabilities and spatial datasets. The system design includes an alert when water quality reaches concerning levels. The goal of this system was to “help maintain the health of aquatic resources by preventing and minimising pollution with regular monitoring of wetlands, bringing the wetlands to a condition where wildlife and fish would thrive.” (Balachandran, 2021)
  • Mira: To keep a check on the water quality of the lakes in Bengaluru, Mira, a combination of a smartphone-based application, reagents and an online dashboard as data repository has been developed (Prashar, 2019). It was instituted by the Foundation for Environmental Monitoring, a not-for-profit company that creates open-source products for field use, and NextDrop, a startup creating mobile technology for solving water issues. Further, the entire initiative welcomed support from The Centre for Social & Environmental Innovation, ATREE, Biome Environmental and Friends of Lake funded by Oracle. The goal of the initiative is to decentralise the process of restoration of lakes by involving the public working towards revival of waterbodies in getting real-time data on pollution status of the water bodies under consideration. Though Mira is not a direct water purifying system, it aids and helps in understanding the needs of the waterbody in order to restore and revive the same.

Freshwater is a finite resource with the present rate of development. In order to overcome the challenges society would face without freshwater, these technological advancements are crucial in bridging the problem of water scarcity and in further paving the way for water conservation for a sustainable future.

References

(n.d.). Lake Monitoring Dashboard. Retrieved March 1, 2022, from http://blrlakesdashboard.org/atree/lakes/#/app/map

Adopt An Island – Bring Life To Hauz Khas Lake. (n.d.). Ketto. Retrieved March 1, 2022, from https://www.ketto.org/fundraiser/adoptanisland

Balachandran, M. (2021, December 15). IOT and AI help save one of India’s most polluted lakes. IBM. Retrieved March 1, 2022, from https://www.ibm.com/blogs/corporate-social-responsibility/2021/12/water-conservancy-project-india/

Fedkin, M. (n.d.). 6.2 Water conservation and protection technologies | EME 807: Technologies for Sustainability Systems. John A. Dutton e-Education Institute. Retrieved March 1, 2022, from https://www.e-education.psu.edu/eme807/node/642

Financial Express. (2021, June 21). Conserve water: Modern tech to help save water. The Financial Express. Retrieved March 1, 2022, from https://www.financialexpress.com/industry/technology/conserve-water-modern-tech-to-help-save-water/2275255/

Gupta, S. (2017, August 4). This device will kill 99% of microbes in water and end waterborne diseases. The Economic Times. Retrieved March 1, 2022, from https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/small-biz/startups/this-device-will-kill-99-of-microbes-in-water-and-end-waterborne-diseases/articleshow/59905197.cms?from=mdr

Karelia, G. (2019, October 23). Adopt An Island – Bring Life To Hauz Khas Lake. Ketto. Retrieved March 1, 2022, from https://www.ketto.org/fundraiser/adoptanisland

Mishra, G. (2019, October 23). Wetlands, Human Hair & More: 5 Innovations By Indians That Curb Water Pollution! The Better India. Retrieved March 1, 2022, from https://www.thebetterindia.com/201010/india-water-pollution-cleaning-complaints-robot-hair-innovation-hair-technology/

Prashar, G. (2019, January 5). A new tech allows citizens to test water quality without expert help. Can it save Bengaluru’s lakes? Scroll.in. Retrieved March 1, 2022, from https://scroll.in/article/908086/a-new-tech-allows-citizens-to-test-water-quality-without-expert-help-can-it-save-bengalurus-lakes

Singhal, S. (2019, April 15). Kerala Students Build Low-Cost, Organic Purifier That Makes Sewage Water Drinkable! The Better India. Retrieved March 1, 2022, from https://www.thebetterindia.com/179089/kerala-student-innovation-low-cost-water-filter-organic-india/

Circular Economy and the Indian jugaad

For the Indian jugaad, ‘doing more with the less’ is not a new concept. Be it using a cycle to generate electricity or making a multi-purpose rope with mother’s old sarees, circularity is a concept ingrained and embedded naturally in the Indian minds, mostly without the intention of environmental conservation. With the circular economy being one of the buzzwords in the Budget 2022, it is befitting to highlight the importance of a circular economy, the present development towards the same and the Indian attitude towards the global initiatives.

What is a circular economy?

A linear economy is one where we take resources from the planet, use them and throw the waste back into the environment. Contrastingly, a circular economy is one where we aim to reduce waste by reusing and recycling the resources back into the system (Ellen Macarthur Foundation, n.d.). The circular economy model aims to address climate change, pollution, ecological damage and allied challenges by working towards the protection of people, the planet and the economy.

Every system can incorporate a circular economy model – from governments to organisations to businesses since it largely aims to design a model that eliminates waste and pollution by circulating the materials within the system and regenerating nature in a cyclical fashion (Ellen Macarthur Foundation, n.d.).

Figure 1: UNCTAD’s circular economy model and the benefits from the model

Source: (Pacini & Attafuah, n.d.)

A circular economy model helps in optimising the use of natural resources and helps in achieving the goals of sustainable development. Figure 1 captures the benefits of a circular economy as given by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD).

Circular economy is the solution

According to a recent report, humans consume 1.6 Earths annually to make room for providing the resources we need, and to absorb the consequent waste generated (MacArthur, 2022). In other words, it takes the planet 1.8 years to regenerate what we consume in one single year (MacArthur, 2022). At this rate, even if we meet the targets of the Paris Agreement – the most idealistic scenario – the global temperature rise would be inevitable.

Ellen Macarthur highlights that circular economy is the need of the hour to meet the net-zero targets of the Paris Agreement and the Conference of Parties 26. In her recent publication, she has put forth the need for various stakeholders including designers and architects to initiate the shift to a circular economy. (MacArthur, 2022)

In order to hasten and assist the entire fight against the climate crisis, a circular economy might be the tool to not only mitigate pollution, waste generation and biodiversity loss but also to create employment and other opportunities for a more resilient future.

India and circular economy

Budget 2022 included the term circular economy and this is indicative of the country’s outlook towards a circular model from a ‘take-make-waste’ model (Chauhan et al., 2022). According to studies conducted by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, the adoption of circular in India has the potential to bring an annual benefit of INR40 lakh crore in 2050 and reduce GHG emissions by 44 per cent (Chauhan et al., 2022). This reiterates the importance of the circular model in meeting the CoP 26 targets and puts India in the right direction in playing its part in climate action.

India, as per the Budget, has decided to incorporate a circular economy across ten sectors (Chauhan et al., 2022) which will further provide the impetus for a green economy. Through the initiatives of PM Gati Shakthi which aims towards “inclusive development; productivity enhancement & investment, sunrise opportunities, energy transition, and climate action” (Sharma, 2022) and battery swapping policy to make room for the electric vehicles market, it has proved to be in line with the country’s promises made at CoP26.

As mentioned above, the circular economy is not a new concept to Indian households; but what we need presently is to grow the microcosmic impact to a macrocosmic one.

References

Chauhan, S., Raghuram, S., & Aryan, I. (2022, March 10). Putting India on an accelerated path to build a circular economy. Business Today. Retrieved March 18, 2022, from https://www.businesstoday.in/opinion/columns/story/putting-india-on-an-accelerated-path-to-build-a-circular-economy-325489-2022-03-10

Chavan, R. (2022, February 1). Budget 2022: Circular economy will help transition to sustainable economic progress. Firstpost. Retrieved March 18, 2022, from https://www.firstpost.com/business/budget-2022-circular-economy-will-help-transition-to-sustainable-economic-progress-10337301.html

Ellen Macarthur Foundation. (n.d.). What is a circular economy? Ellen MacArthur Foundation. Retrieved March 18, 2022, from https://ellenmacarthurfoundation.org/topics/circular-economy-introduction/overview

MacArthur, E. (2022, March 18). “The circular economy is needed to get to net-zero emissions”. Dezeen. Retrieved March 18, 2022, from https://www.dezeen.com/2022/03/18/circular-economy-ellen-mac-arthur-opinion/

Pacini, H., & Attafuah, K. (n.d.). Circular Economy. UNCTAD. Retrieved March 18, 2022, from https://unctad.org/topic/trade-and-environment/circular-economy Sharma, M. (2022, February 3). Budget 2022’s vision: A long-term, structured approach towards sustainability. The Financial Express. Retrieved March 18, 2022, from https://www.financialexpress.com/budget/budget-2022s-vision-a-long-term-structured-approach-towards-sustainability/2424267/

Impetus Chennai requires in waste segregation and management

One of the biggest challenges to waste management in Chennai is the lack of separation of waste at the source. The issue that primarily arises in such a scenario is that the unsegregated waste often ends up in landfills where they are burnt away to give room for new waste, polluting the environment. Pallikarnai marshlands, a wetland within the city limits, is a victim of such waste dumping. This article aims to analyse the system of waste management in Chennai alongside the role to be played by consumers and citizens in order to holistically address waste problems.

Background

In 2017, the City Corporation made it mandatory for individuals to segregate waste at the source in accordance with the Solid Waste Management Rules, 2016 published by the erstwhile Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (Gopalakrishnan et al., 2017). Further, the Solid Waste Management Department has also issued by-laws to provide guidelines to segregate waste. Yet, has it changed the scene of waste disposal in Chennai?

Chennai generates around 5600 tonnes of waste every day (Prabhakar et al., 2020), and in 2014 it was recorded that Chennai had the highest per capita waste in the country (Times of India, 2014). These are infamous records the city has created for itself over the years. As of 2014, with 730 hospitals, the city generated on average 9,898kg of biomedical waste (Times of India, 2014). With the pandemic and the heavy reliance placed on masks, gloves and medical equipment, it is highly likely that the problem of waste has only increased in the recent past.

As a matter of fact, in 2021 post-Diwali, Chennai Corporation collected 40 tonnes of additional waste from the previous year (ABP News, 2021). This happened to be the highest amount of waste collected in 5 years. This is the reality despite legislative regulations that aim to address waste.

Role of the City Corporation

Confronted with the problem of waste, the City Corporation has taken various measures to tackle the same. In 2020, the Corporation collaborated with a Spanish company by the name, Urbaser Sumeet, in an 8-year contract to assist the city’s waste management department in handling waste (The New Indian Express, 2020). The initiative aimed to achieve 100 per cent waste segregation at the source. Though the target has not been achieved to its full potential, the efforts are laudable in light of the present circumstances.

In 2018, the city corporation joined hands with TERI under the Climate and Clean Air Coalition (CCAC) project to train ‘animators’ to monitor waste segregation at the ward level. The role of the ‘animators’ was primarily to bring accountability at each ward and distribute the role of the waste management department. Chennai took the above initiative as part of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan whereby it introduced 200 animators across 200 wards in the city.

Nevertheless, waste management is still a challenge in Chennai and the role of the Chennaiites is indispensable. 

Role of citizens

Among all the waste generated, 68 per cent of it comes from households and it is thus imperative for citizens to play an active role in mitigating waste. (Gopalakrishnan et al., 2017)

Firstly, choosing the right alternatives. There was a time when children were taught to put trash in the trash can. But today there is a dire need to rephrase it all together – put less trash in the trash can. With the amount of waste generated, it is not just about using paper bags over plastic bags or using glass bottles over plastic bottles, but to overall reduce the waste regardless of the nature of the materials. Nevertheless, given the choice to make between paper and plastic, it is very crucial that one makes the former choice naturally.

In light of the above, consumers can never become sustainable consumers, without the supply chain becoming sustainable. In other words, a consumer becoming sustainable lies in the hands of the supplier. To fill this gap, sustainable stores can help. Sustainable stores ideally provide a platform for alternatives to all consumer products taking into account environmental sustainability. As far as Chennai is concerned, it is home to several organic stores including EcoIndian which works towards giving consumers sustainable choices in achieving their day-to-day tasks.

Apart from these supply-centric initiatives, it is equally important that citizens are educated about waste segregation at the source. As mentioned above, lack of waste segregation is one of the primary reasons why waste ends up in landfills. If waste is segregated at the source as per the guidelines given by the legislative bodies, it would provide a solid impetus to recycling of waste.

Apart from these individualistic initiatives, social entrepreneurs (or ‘waste entrepreneurs’) have also entered the market to spread awareness about waste segregation. Ventures including Paperman and Kabadiwalla Connect conduct these awareness sessions from household to household to include more citizens within the ambit of waste segregation.

In this backdrop, waste management is the need of the hour. It not only helps the city become greener and cleaner, but it also protects the ecology of the city. If waste management is executed efficiently, animals like goats, dogs and cows of the city giving company to our urban lifestyle will no longer feed on papers and plastics strewn across the city. A good waste management system will ensure the environment is healthy and protected.

References

ABP News. (2021, November 6). Diwali 2021: Chennai Corpn Collects 40 Tonnes Of More Waste Than Last Year, Highest In 5 Years. ABP LIVE. https://news.abplive.com/tamil-nadu/diwali-2021-chennai-corporation-collects-40-tonnes-of-more-waste-than-last-year-highest-in-5-years-1491771

DTNext. (2019, August 20). Urgent need to shift dump yard from Pallikaranai marshland. DTNext. https://www.dtnext.in/News/City/2019/08/20003735/1172397/Urgent-need-to-shift-dump-yard-from-Pallikaranai-marshland.vpf

Gopalakrishnan, S., Natarajan, A., Raju, S., & Shekhar, L. (2017, November 10). Waste segregation: The challenge Chennai must overcome. Citizen Matters, Chennai. Retrieved March 12, 2022, from https://chennai.citizenmatters.in/chennai-waste-segregation-and-urban-flooding-2924

The New Indian Express. (2020, October 1). Spanish company to manage Chennai’s wastes from Thursday. The New Indian Express. https://www.newindianexpress.com/cities/chennai/2020/oct/01/spanish-company-to-manage-chennais-wastes-from-thursday-2204178.html

Prabhakar, B., Kumar, M., & Abraham, K. (2020, November 19). Where does the waste generated in your home go? Citizen Matters, Chennai. Retrieved March 12, 2022, from https://chennai.citizenmatters.in/chennai-where-does-our-garbage-go-21148

Sujatha, P., & Janardhanam, P. (2012). Solid waste management in Chennai city. Indian Journal of Education and Information Management, 1(3), 115-125. http://ijeim.iseeadyar.org/articles/solid-waste-management-in-chennai-city

Times of India. (2014, January 2). Chennai’s per capita waste at 0.7kg highest in country | Chennai News. Times of India. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/chennai/chennais-per-capita-waste-at-0-7kg-highest-in-country/articleshow/28256852.cms

Kuttanad: The Rice Bowl of Kerala

by Goutham Krishna

Kuttanad is a region covering the Alappuzha, Kottayam, and Pathanamthitta Districts, in the state of Kerala, India, well known for its vast paddy fields and geographical peculiarities. The region has the lowest altitude in India and is one of the few places in the world where farming is carried on around 1.2 to 3.0 meters (4 to 10 ft) below sea level. The Kuttanad region is broadly classified into Lower, Upper, and North Kuttanad. Some of the well-known villages that form Kuttanad are Kainakary, Ramankary, Chennamkary, Nedumudi, Kumarakom, Edathua, Kavalam, Pulinkunnu, Kidangara, Muttar, Neerettupuram, Thalavadi, Champakkulam, Payippad, Karichal, Cheruthana, Karuvaatta, Narakathara, Mamkompu and Thayankary. The villages of Kuttanad are gorgeous and a photographer’s and birdwatcher’s paradise. Rice cultivation is the main source of income in this region. Locals in Kuttanad use the backwaters and canals in the region to transport goods and people.

Country boats ranging from the size of small canoes to that of huge rice barges are used for water transport. According to Census, the Kuttanad region is completely rural with 100% of the area’s population is rural. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has declared the Kuttanad Farming System as a Globally Important Agricultural Heritage System (GIAHS). Four of Kerala’s major rivers, the Pamba, Meenachil, Achankovil, and Manimala flow into the region.  It is well known for its boat race in the Punnamada Backwaters, known in Malayalam as Vallamkali. Kuttanad in Malayalam means ‘small town‘.

According to historical notes, the Kuttanad region was formerly a forested area that was later devastated by a forest fire, earning it the name Chuttanad (burnt spot). Kuttanad is thought to have evolved into Kuttanad through time. Kuttanad was a region under the Chera dynasty, which ruled over ancient Kerala, according to history. Cheran Chenguttavan, one of the dynasty’s most prominent monarchs, is claimed to have controlled his enormous realm from Kuttanad. At the time, the location was also a well-known Buddhist center. As a result, there are arguments that suggest it’s also known as Buddhanad, which may have evolved into Kuttanad later.

The importance of Kuttanad can be numerous but the fact that Kuttanad is below sea level stands out, Kuttanad Wetland Agriculture System is unique, as it is the only system in India that favors rice cultivation below sea level in the land created by draining delta swamps in brackish waters. Kuttanad is a delta region of about 900 sq. km situated on the west coast of Kerala State, India. The area is a larger mosaic of fragmented landscape patches and varied ecosystems such as coastal backwaters, rivers, vast stretches of paddy fields, marshes, ponds, garden lands, edges, corridors, and remarkably networked waterways. The Kuttanad Below Sea-level Farming System (KBSFS) is unique, as it is the only system in India that practices rice cultivation below sea level. The major land use structure of KBSFS is flat stretches of rice fields in about 50,000 ha of mostly reclaimed delta swamps. The rice fields, which are popularly known as “Puncha Vayals” exist in three landscape elements:  Karapadam (upland rice fields), Kayal (wetland rice fields), and Kari (land buried with black coal-like materials). Farmers of Kuttanad have developed and mastered the spectacular technique of below sea level cultivation over 150 years ago. They made this system unique as it contributes remarkably well to the conservation of biodiversity and ecosystem services including several livelihood services for local communities.

Traveling to Kuttanad is a must for visitors who don’t want to miss the scenic beauty of this verdant backwater destination in Kerala. Kuttanad is crisscrossed with waterways that run alongside fields of cassava, banana, and yam, as well as emerald green fields of paddy. A unique feature of Kuttanad is that many of these fields where farming is done are below sea level. The fields are surrounded by earthen bunds and crops are grown on the low-lying ground. This is similar to the polder regions of the Netherlands where land is reclaimed from the sea and crops are grown. You have to see the amazing below-sea-level fields of Kuttanad to get an actual feel of the place. Kuttanad is a backwater paradise and an ideal destination for a backwater cruise in Kerala. Its innumerable streams, channels, waterways, and lakes make it possible to drift along in a houseboat and enjoy the scenic view of the Kerala countryside to take back home a memorable holiday experience.

Kuttanad is a region that has made a stamp of its own in the cultural domain of Kerala. It continues to captivate the minds of people from different walks of life. And travelers invariably find Kuttanad a land that never ceases to amaze them. Cruises on houseboats, the scenic beauty of paddy fields and coconut groves, flocks of local as well as migratory birds, paddling of domesticated ducks cruising on the backwaters, a refreshing swig of toddy, backwater delicacies, the many facets of backwater villages and their people, all make Kuttanad a unique land with never-ending vistas and experiences.