We as a nation collectively uttered these words as we raised our heads after the Indian Ocean tsunami of December 2004. That mega-disaster, which caught our government unawares and society unprepared, devastated many coastal areas, killing around 40,000 and displacing over a million people.
Even a 30 minute early warning could have saved many of those lost lives, by simply asking them to run inland, away from the waves. But there was no such warning.
Badly shaken by that experience, the then government reformed disaster related laws and institutions. Until then, dealing with disaster response was lumped under social services. The new system created a dedicated ministry for disaster management, with emphasis on disaster risk reduction (DRR).
Living amidst multiple hazards is unavoidable, but preparedness can vastly reduce impacts when disasters do occur. That is DRR in a nutshell.
But in immature democracies like ours, we must never say never again. Our political parties and politicians lack the will and commitment required to meet these long-term objectives. Our governance systems are not fully capable of keeping ourselves safe from Nature’s wrath.
Disaster resilience is not a technocratic quick fix but the composite outcome of a myriad actions. Good governance is the vital ‘lubricant’ that makes everything come together and work well. Without governance, we risk slipping back into business as usual, continuing our apathy, greed and short-termism.
This big picture level reality could well be why disaster response has been patchy and uncoordinated in both May 2016 and last week.
As the flood waters recede in affected parts of Sri Lanka, familiar questions are being asked again. Did the government’s disaster management machinery fail to warn the communities at risk? Or were the hazard warnings issued but poorly communicated? And once disaster occurred, could the relief response have been better handled? Are we making enough use of technological tools?
DRR is easier said than done in the best of times, and in recent years human-made climate change has made it much harder. Global warming is disrupting familiar weather patterns and causing more frequent and intense weather. What used to be weather extremes occurring once in 25 or 50 years in the past now happens every few years.
The UN’s climate panel (IPCC) says that global average temperatures could rise by somewhere between 2 degree and 6 degrees Centigrade by 2100. This would trigger many disruptions, including erratic monsoons, the seasonal oceanic winds that deliver most of our annual rains.
That is more than two thirds of the total number of 646,500 people affected by floods and landslides in the South, as counted on June 1. But slowly-unfolding droughts never get the kind of press that floods inspire.
One thing is clear: disaster management can succeed today only if climate realities are factored in. And coping with climate change’s now inevitable impacts, a process known as climate adaptation, requires technical knowledge combined with proper governance of both natural resources and human systems.
Adapt or Perish
Sri Lanka joined the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in 1992. But 25 years on, climate considerations are not fully factored into our development planning and public investments. State agencies in charge of roads, railways, irrigation works and utilities don’t appear to realise the need to ‘insure’ their installations and operations from climate impacts.
Climate adaptation is not something that the disaster ministry and DMC alone can accomplish. It needs to be a common factor that runs across the entire government, from agriculture and health to power and transport. It needs to be the bedrock of DRR.
One of my favourite cartoons on energy was drawn by Australian cartoonist Ron Tandberg. It shows two men standing on a bare land and looking intently at the ground. Says one to the other: “There must be a source of energy down there!”
Overhead, meanwhile, the sun looms large and blazes away…
For too long, despite living on a tropical island, most of us have looked everywhere for our energy needs — except skywards. Is that about to change? Is the government’s new solar power drive likely to be a game changer?
Plugging to the sun is not entirely new: Sri Lanka has taken an interest in solar photovoltaic (PV) technology for over 40 years. The earliest PVs – which can turn sunlight into electricity — were installed in the village of Pattiyapola, in the Southern Province, where the United Nations set up a rural energy demonstration centre in 1975.
Those early prototypes had many problems which were fixed within a few years. By the mid-1980s, small, stand-alone solar PV units came on the market. This time, it was private companies that promoted these while the government’s power utility (CEB) was mildly interested.
In the late 1980s, three entrepreneurs – Lalith Gunaratne, Viren Perera and Pradip Jayewardene – pioneered local assembling and marketing of solar PVs. Their company, initially called Power & Sun (Pvt) Ltd, offered simple, easy-to-use solar units for rural homes that were not yet connected to the grid.
Branded as SUNTEC, their basic solar unit could power five light bulbs plus a radio and a (black and white) TV set. The introductory price in 1988 was LKR 7,000 (bulbs and battery cost extra). At the time, two thirds of all households did not have electricity so this generated much interest.
Power & Sun not only sold domestic solar units, but also ran rural workshops that trained youth on the basics of solar energy and equipment maintenance. By reaching out to the grassroots through innovative marketing schemes and tech support, the SUNTEC team ushered in a quiet revolution.
They not only provided clean, safe and cheap energy to rural homes but in that process, also raised people’s aspirations. They were no longer beholden to politicians with promises of ‘gamata light’ (electricity for the village), a common but often unfulfilled promise. (Read full Suntec story at: http://tiny.cc/SunTec)
During the 1990s, other companies — and non-profits such as Sarvodaya and SoLanka — entered the domestic solar market. The World Bank came up with a credit mechanism for solar units through SEEDS, the economic arm of Sarvodaya. Thanks to these efforts, over 100,000 homes adopted solar PV within a dozen years.
“The establishment of community-based solar photovoltaic programmes by non-governmental organizations…has developed a novel approach to bridge the gap between this state-of-the-art technology and the remotely located end-users,” wrote Lalith Gunaratne, a pioneer in off-grid domestic solar power, in 1994.
But the early appeal of solar PV diminished as rural electrification intensified. In some areas, families who had taken loans for their solar PVs defaulted repayment after the grid reached them. Sarvodaya, for example, was left with lots of half-paid loans and second hand solar units.
Nonetheless, that first phase of solar energy promotion holds valuable lessons still relevant today. For example, it’s not simply a matter of promoting PV technology but providing a package of training, maintenance support and on-going engagement with solar consumers.
While off-grid solar PV can still offer energy solutions to specific, isolated locations, a second solar revolution is urgently needed in cities and towns. It is the higher consuming homes, offices and other buildings that most drive the electricity demand which keeps rising by about 9% each year.
Bulk of the country’s electricity is generated using large scale hydro or thermal power plants (burning either oil or coal). The ratios vary from year to year according to data tracked by the regulator, the Public Utilities Commission of Sri Lanka (PUCSL). In a year of good rainfall, such as 2013, 50% of all electricity was generated using hydro, and another 9.85% through non-conventional renewables (NCR) like mini-hydro, wind, biomass and solar. Less than half came from thermal plants.
But in 2014, the last year for which PUCSL data has been released, hydro’s share dropped to 29.4% and NCR share remained about the same. The balance (over 60%) was generated by CEB’s oil or coal plants, complemented by private power producers burning oil.
The fuel bill weighs heavily on the country’s already overburdened budget. Low petroleum prices since 2014 have helped, but that is not a bankable option in the long term.
“Sri Lanka annually imports 2 MMT of crude oil, 4 MMT of refined petroleum products and 2.25 MMT of coal. This costs approximately 5 billion USD and covers 44% of the energy requirements. It also accounts to 25% of the import expenditure and almost 50% of the total export income,” wrote Chatura Rodrigo, research economist with the Institute of Policy Studies (IPS) in August 2015. (Petroleum also supports the transport sector that relies almost totally on this fuel source.)
Burning petroleum and coal also contributes to global warming and causes local air pollution – more reasons for phasing them down.
For all these reasons, scaling up NCR’s share of electricity generation mix is thus receiving more attention. This can happen at both power plant level (e.g. with wind power plants that could tap an estimated 400MW potential in Mannar), and also at household levels.
Decentralised solar power
Encouraging consumers to self-generate part of their electricity from renewables received a boost in 2009 with the introduction in net metering. This allows private individuals or companies to supply their surplus power – usually generated by solar panels — to the national grid, for which they receive ‘credits’ or rebates from the monthly bill. A two-way electricity meter enables this process.
During the past few years, hundreds of households and businesses have vastly reduced their electricity bills through this method. However, this made economic sense only to high end electricity users as the initial investment remained high.
The new solar energy drive, announced in August 2016, intends to change this. Known as “Soorya Bala Sangramaya” (Battle for Solar Energy), it is expected to make at least 20% of electricity consumers to also generate electricity using solar panels – they will be able to sell their excess to the national grid under a guaranteed tariff.
The new scheme will introduce two new concepts, viz:
Net Accounting, where a consumer will get paid in money if her solar-generated power is greater than what is consumed from the grid. Tariff is set at LKR 22 per unit (1 kilo Watt hour) for the first 7 years, and at LKR 15.50 thereafter.
Net Plus, where there is no link between how much electricity the consumer users from the grid (for which billing will happen), and how much of solar-generated electricity is supplied to the grid (which will be paid in full at the above rates).
The government’s plan is to add 220 MW of clean power from NCR to the country’s energy grid by 2020, which is about 10% of the country’s current daily electricity demand. Another 1,000 MW is to be added by 2025.
The solar PV technology market will be left to multiple private sector suppliers. In a recent TV talk show, deputy minister of power Ajith C Perera said national standards would soon be set for solar panels and associated technology.
Currently, installing 1 kWh of solar generation capacity costs around LKR 200,000. Investing this much upfront will only make sense for those consuming 200 kWh or more. Under the current, multi-tier tariff system, those consuming up to 30 units of electricity a month pay LKR 7.85 per unit while those above 180 units have to pay LKR 45 per unit.
How much and how fast Soorya Bala Sangramaya can energise the solar PV market remains to be seen. The Ministry of Power is talking to banks to encourage easy credit. PUCSL will need to monitor these trends to ensure consumers’ interests are safeguarded.
Promising as they are, renewables are not a panacea for all energy our needs. Some limitations apply, such as cloudy days that reduce sunshine and dips in wind blowing. Their contribution to the grid needs to be balanced by power from more conventional sources. At least until storage systems get better.
“Renewables have an important role in any developing country energy mix as a part of the national energy supply security strategies,” says Lalith Gunaratne. “Yet, thermal energy technologies like oil, coal and gas will not go away in a hurry. Most of them, unless we have large hydro, will provide base load power from large centralised stations for two or three more decades.”
The energy sector can become a sink for large volumes of public and private funds — unless there is an effective regulatory process.
What does Donald Trump’s election as the next President of the United States mean for action to contain climate change?
The billionaire non-politician — who lost the popular vote by more than a million votes but won the presidency on the basis of the electoral college — has long questioned the science underlying climate change.
He also sees political and other motives in climate action. For example, he tweeted on 6 November 2012: “The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.”
His vice president, Indiana governor Mike Pence, also does not believe that climate change is caused by human activity.
Does this spell doom for the world’s governments trying to avoid the worst case scenarios in global warming, now widely accepted by scientists as driven by human activity – especially the burning of petroleum and coal?
It is just too early to tell, but the early signs are not promising.
“Trump should drop his pantomime-villain act on climate change. If he does not, then, come January, he will be the only world leader who fails to acknowledge the threat for what it is: urgent, serious and demanding of mature and reasoned debate and action,” said the scientific journal Nature in an editorial on 16 November 2016.
It added: “The world has made its decision on climate change. Action is too slow and too weak, but momentum is building. Opportunities and fortunes are being made. Trump the businessman must realize that the logical response is not to cry hoax and turn his back. The politician in Trump should do what he promised: reject political orthodoxy and listen to the US people.”
It was only on 4 November 2016 that the Paris climate agreement came into force. This is the first time that nearly 200 governments have agreed on legally binding limits to emissions that cause global warming.
All governments that have ratified the accord — which includes the US, China, India and the EU — carry an obligation to contain global warming to no more than 2 degrees Centigrade above pre-industrial levels. Scientists regard that as the safe limit, beyond which climate change is likely to be both catastrophic and irreversible.
“Will a Trump presidency revoke the ratification of the Paris Agreement? Even if he is not able to revoke it because of international pressure…he will dumb down the US action on climate change. Which means that international collaboration being built around the Paris Agreement will suffer,” he said in a video published on YouTube (see: https://goo.gl/r6KGip)
“If the US is not going to take ambitious actions on climate change, I don’t think India or Chine will take ambitious actions either. We are therefore looking at a presidency which is going to push climate action around the world down the barrel,” he added.
During his campaign, Trump advocated “energy independence” for the United States (which meant reducing or eliminating the reliance on Middle Eastern oil). But he has been critical of subsidies for solar and wind power, and threatened to end regulations that sought to end the expansion of petroleum and coal use. In other words, he would likely encourage dig more and more domestically for oil.
“Trump doesn’t believe that renewable energy is an important part of the energy future for the world,” says Chandra Bhushan. “He believes that climate change is a conspiracy against the United States…So we are going to deal with a US presidency which is extremely anti-climate.”
Bhushan says Trump can revoke far more easily domestic laws like the Clean Power Plan that President Obama initiated in 2015. It set a national limit on carbon pollution produced from power plants.
“Therefore, whatever (positive) action that we thought was going to happen in the US are in jeopardy. We just have to watch and ensure that, even when an anti-climate administration takes over, we do not allow things to slide down (at global level action),” Bhushan says.
Some science advocates caution against a rush to judgement about how the Trump administration will approach science in general, and climate action in particular.
Nature’s editorial noted: “There is a huge difference between campaigning and governing…It is impossible to know what direction the United States will take under Trump’s stewardship, not least because his campaign was inconsistent, contradictory and so full of falsehood and evasion.”
We can only hope that Trump’s business pragmatism would prevail over climate action. As the Anglo-French environmental activist Edward Goldsmith said years ago, there can be no trade on a dead planet.
On 19 October 2016, I spoke on climate change communications to a group of Asian journalists and other communicators at a workshop organized by Sri Lanka Youth Climate Action Network (SLYCAN). It was held at BMICH, Colombo’s leading conventions venue.
I recalled what I had written in April 2014, “As climate change impacts are felt more widely, the imperative for action is greater than ever. Telling the climate story in accurate and accessible ways should be an essential part of climate response. That response is currently organised around two ‘planks’: mitigation and adaptation. Climate communication can be the ‘third plank’ that strengthens the first two.”
I argued that we must move away from disaster-driven climate communications of doom and gloom. Instead, focus on climate resilience and practical solutions to achieving it.
We also need to link climate action to what matters most to the average person:
Cheaper energy (economic benefits)
Cleaner air (health benefits)
Staying alive (public safety benefits)
I offered three broad tips for climate communicators and journalists:
Don’t peddle fear: We’ve had enough of doom & gloom! Talk of more than just disasters and destruction.
Look beyond CO2, which is responsible for only about half of global warming. Don’t forget the other half – which includes some shortlived climate pollutants which are easier to tackle such action is less contentious than CO2.
Focus on local level impacts & responses: most people don’t care about UNFCCC or COPs or other acronyms at global level!
Finally, I shared my own triple-S formula for covering climate related stories:
Informed by credible Science (but not immersed in it!)
Tell authentic and compelling journalistic Stories…
…in Simple (but not simplistic) ways (using a mix of non-technical words, images, infographics, audio, video, interactive media)
Poor venue logistics at BMICH prevented me from sharing the presentation I had prepared. So here it is:
Climate change COP21 in December 2015 adopted the Paris Agreement to avoid, mitigate and adapt to climate change. Among many other solutions, Sri Lanka’s “intended nationally determined contribution” (INDC) has agreed to reduce 7% emissions from energy and transport and 23% conditional reductions by 2030.
Sri Lanka’s Centre for Environmental Justice in collaboration with the government’s Climate Change Secretariat, UNDP and Janathakshan held a national conference on “SRI LANKA’S READINESS FOR IMPLEMENTING PARIS CLIMATE AGREEMENT” on 7 and 8 September 2016 in Colombo. It was attended by over 200 representatives from government, civil society and corporate sectors.
I was asked to speak in Session 5: Climate Solutions, on “Climate communication and Behaviour changes”. This is a summary of what I said, and the PowerPoint presentation used.
As climate change impacts are felt more widely, the imperative for action is greater than ever. Telling the climate story in accurate and accessible ways should be an essential part of our climate response.
That response is currently organised around two ‘planks’: mitigation and adaptation. Climate communication can be the ‘third plank’ that strengthens the first two.
Encouragingly, more journalists, broadcasters, researchers and advocacy groups are taking up this challenge. They urgently need more media and public spaces — as well as greater resources — to sustain public engagement.
The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), which Sri Lanka has signed and ratified, recognizes the importance of IEC. It calls for “improving awareness and understanding of climate change, and creating solutions to facilitate access to information on a changing climate” to winning public support for climate related policies.
The UNFCCC, through its Article 6, and its Kyoto Protocol, through its Article 10 (e), call on governments “to educate, empower and engage all stakeholders and major groups on policies relating to climate change”.
When strategically carried out, IEC can be a powerful force for change on both the ‘supply’ and ‘demand’ sides of climate adaptation and climate related public information. In this analogy:
‘supply’ involves providing authentic, relevant and timely information to all those who need it, in languages and formats they can readily use; and
‘demand’ means inspiring more individuals and entities to look for specific knowledge and skills that can help make themselves more climate resilient.
These two sides of the equation can positively reinforce each other, contributing significantly to Sri Lanka’s fight against climate change.
To be effective, climate communication also needs to strike a balance between alarmism and complacence. We have to place climate concerns within wider development and social justice debates. We must also localise and personalise as much as possible.
Dr M Sanjayan, vice president of development and communications strategy at Conservation International, a leading advocacy group, says environmentalists and scientists have failed to build sufficient urgency for action on climate change. He feels we need new communication approaches.
The Lankan-born science communicator wrote in 2013: “By focusing on strong narratives about peoples’ lives in the present rather than the future; by keeping stories local and action-oriented (solvable); and by harnessing the power of narrative and emotion, we have a better chance to build widespread public support for solutions.”
In this week’s Ravaya column (in Sinhala, appearing in the print issue of 28 August 2016), I applaud the Sri Lanka government’s new solar power generation programme, and suggest ways in which it can be made more effective in securing energy independence of the nation.
The global trend, especially for domestic and small scale electricity users, is towards decentralized and distributed energy systems. In this scenario, users generate power on site, tapping into renewable sources available locally.
How can our tropical island plug into the sun, wind, trees and the ocean to meet more of our energy needs? Why don’t renewable energies produce a larger share of our energy mix? Who or what are the bottlenecks? I discuss these and other related issues in the column this week.
Self-generating electricity from renewables is slowly picking up, partly encouraged by the introduction in 2009 of net metering. This allows private individuals or companies to “sell” their surplus power to the national grid (the transaction happens in kind, not cash). A two-way electricity meter enables this process.
In August 2016, the Cabinet approved a community based solar power generation programme. Known as “Soorya Bala Sangramaya” (Battle for Solar Energy), it is expected to make at least 20% of electricity consumers to also generate electricity using solar panels – they will be able to sell their excess to the national grid under a guaranteed tariff.
Announcing the Cabinet decision, the government said: “Currently 50% of electricity production in Sri Lanka is done by renewable energy sources and it is expected to increase this percentage to 60% in 2020 and to 70% in 2030. Accordingly, it is required to build wind power plants of 600 MW and solar power plants of 3,000 MW within the next 10 years. It is expected to join consumers in power generation and to promote small solar power plants established on the roof of their houses by the project called ‘Soorya Bala Sangramaya’. It is expected to make at least 20% of consumers to produce electricity and it is expected pay for the excess electricity generated by the consumer.”
Every year in May, over a billion and a half South Asians join a waiting and guessing game for the mighty rain-carrying oceanic winds, one of the great forces of nature on this planet. Few things – human or natural – evoke such anxiety and anticipation of the South Asian Summer Monsoon, also known as Southwest Monsoon.
The rains that the summer monsoon brings are literally life giving for most parts of South Asia – for drinking, farming, industry and power generation.
An ample monsoon that arrives on time boosts harvests, drives production and generates wealth across South Asia where large numbers are still engaged in farming. A delayed or failed monsoon, on the other hand, causes much concern for governments and communities. Former Finance Minister (now President) Pranab Mukherjee acknowledged this power when he described the monsoon as the country’s “real finance minister”.
The big question – and growing worry – is whether human induced climate change is affecting the Indian Ocean monsoons…and how.
In this week’s Ravaya column (published on 7 June 2015) I explore our close historical and cultural nexus with the Monsoon.
In this week’s Ravaya column (in Sinhala), I chronicle the struggle by people of the Republic of Maldives – Asia’s smallest state by land area and population – to achieve democratic pluralism and good governance.
In October 2008, long-term autocratic ruler President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom was defeated in the country’s first multi-party elections by Mohamed Nasheed of the Maldives Democratic Party (MDP). Nasheed, who had been a political prisoner and suffered much under the previous regime, ushered in a new era for his nearly 400,000 people – for a while.
From almost the beginning, the Nasheed administration was systematically undermined and eventually he was ousted by the former autocrat’s appointees and promoters whose key public sector positions were left untouched by Nasheed despite there being many allegations of corruption.
As noted in an editorial in The Sunday Times (Sri Lanka) on 15 Jan 2015: “In February 2012, after just three and a half years in office, Nasheed was forced to resign following months of military-backed protests. Why? Largely because he was reluctant to remove dozens of Gayoom loyalists in key sections of the public service and the judiciary, who eventually helped the opposition to plot his downfall.
“In Nasheed’s own words, ‘I didn’t want to take action against them, despite public demands, as it would be tantamount to behaving like Gayoom, ruthless and abusing of power.’ As weeks and months went past with Gayoom cronies still continuing in key positions, Nasheed’s hold on power weakened and led to his resignation which he said was forced on his by the military.
“These are lessons for Sri Lanka’s new rulers who must clean up the system and take action while at the same time displaying that it is not a political witch-hunt.”
Arriving in the Philippines just two weeks after the super typhoon Haiyan (local name Yolanda) hit the archipelago nation on 8 November 2013, I’ve been following many unfolding debates on disaster recovery and resilience.
The Filipino media have been full of post-disaster stories. Among them, I came across an editorial in the Philippine Star on 26 Nov 2013, titled Stopping the Waves, which touched on the role of protecting natural barriers that can guard coastal areas from storm surges.
A key excerpt: “Nothing can stop a storm surge, but there are ways of minimizing the impact of powerful waves. Levees have been built in some countries, although the ones in New Orleans were breached by the storm surge during Hurricane Katrina. Another option is to develop mangrove forests, which can also function as bird sanctuaries and breeding grounds for marine life.”
It added: “Yolanda has revived the debate over the proposed destruction of the coastal lagoon to make way for commercial development. That mangrove forest must be protected and expanded rather than destroyed, and more mangrove areas must be propagated throughout the archipelago. You can’t roll back deadly waves, but their punch can be blunted. Natural barriers should help do the job.”
This is just what TVE Asia Pacific’s regional TV series The Greenbelt Reports highlighted. Filmed at 12 locations in four Asian countries (India, Indonesia, Sri Lanka and Thailand) which were hardest hit by the Indian Ocean tsunami of December 2004, the series showcased Nature’s protection against disasters and climate change.
It covered three coastal ecosystems or ‘greenbelts’ — coral reefs, mangroves and sand reefs. Reporters and producers from TVE Asia Pacific journalistically investigated the state of greenbelts in South Asia and Southeast Asia by talking to researchers, activists and government officials. They also looked at efforts to balance conservation needs with socio-economic needs of coastal communities.
Here’s the overview documentary (additionally, there were 12 stand-alone short videos as well):
The Greenbelt Reports: Armed by Nature: Part 1 of 3
The Greenbelt Reports: Armed by Nature: Part 2 of 3
The Greenbelt Reports: Armed by Nature: Part 3 of 3
“We asked all our Asian colleagues for nominations for this inaugural award, and many of them recommended Down to Earth magazine that has covered sustainability issues from a developing country perspective for 21 years,” said Alfonso Cauteruccio, President of Greenaccord.
Down to Earth is a fortnightly magazine focusing on issues of science and environment. It is published by the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), a leading research and advocacy group in India. Founded by leading journalist and activist Anil Agarwal in May 1992, it provides reportage, analysis and commentary on a broad range of issues related to environment and development.
From the beginning, the magazine has challenged its readers to think about sustainable development. It inspires and encourages its readers to become more environment-friendly.
Darryl D’Monte, senior Indian journalist and a former editor of the Times of India, accepted the award on behalf of Down to Earth editors and publishers.
“Anil Agarwal was a trail-blazing journalist who combined knowledge and advocacy. Down to Earth, launched just before the Earth Summit in Rio in mid 1992, reflects that vision,” D’Monte said in his acceptance speech.
D’Monte recalled how Agarwal and CSE played a key role in the early days of global climate negotiations, especially in focusing global attention on per capita emissions of global warming greenhouse gases.
“Climate change is as much politics as it is science, and Anil was well aware of that. He approached all debates well armed with statistics, analysis and a southern perspective, which is also the Down to Earth magazine’s approach to issues,” he added.
Down to Earth presents accessible content intended for interested non-specialists including policy makers. Articles are often investigative, in-depth, all presented in well edited and designed form. In recent years, it has developed an extensive website at www.downtoearth.org.in.
The magazine has been an important vehicle for many CSE campaigns in the public interest, including its exposes on pesticide residues in popular soft drinks and bottled water brands, and agitation for cleaner air in Delhi and other metropolitan areas in India.
CSE’s right to clean air campaign resulted in New Delhi becoming the world’s first city to introduce compressed natural gas (CNG) for all public transport vehicles, D’Monte said.
Greenaccord is a non-profit association, headquartered in Rome, and founded to be of service to the world of information and training that deals with environmental issues. The association is made up of journalists and professionals who volunteer their time to provide training to their colleagues.
Since 2003, Greenaccord organises an annual gathering of journalists and scientists concerned about sustainability – which has become one of the largest such gatherings taking place on a regular basis.