Photo featured in urban biodiversity photography exhibition

In a recent post “Any space for nature in Indian slums?” I reported on some recent findings from the Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment (ATREE) about the benefits of nature in the urban environment.

Recently, ATREE, along with the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) Bengaluru, and Citizen Matters, ran a photography competition and exhibition on this very subject, called “Nature in the City”. And I was lucky enough to have a photo exhibited!

 

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Living Green in India: “Trash Trail” Part II

Picking up where we left our waste tour in Living Green in India: “Trash Trail” Part I…

Stop 5: Jolly Mohalla Wholesale Market

After seeing local garbage collection in action, and visiting kabbadiwallas sorting their products, we visited the Jolly Mohalla Wholesale Market – the scale of which has to be seen to be believed. Families have been in business here for 50 years and competition is fierce.

 Scales – a key tool of the trade

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Living Green in India: “Trash Trail” Part I

Have you ever wondered what happens to your waste once you throw it out?

Waste is an issue that has fascinated me since I arrived in India about 6 months ago. Although waste is often very visible on the streets here, I had a very limited understanding of how the waste management process worked. Although it may sound a bit odd, I was really curious to find out where my garbage was going. I guess I felt like I couldn’t take  any effective action until I had seen it for myself and understood the complexities of the situation.

Waste provides a good hiding spot for local street dog

I started doing some of my own research into the issue and a friend introduced me to a business called Daily Dump, based in Bangalore. Daily Dump sells composting equipment, and also runs a “Trash Trail” tour across the city. So I signed up and arrived at the Daily Dump office early one Saturday morning with 7 other interested citizens. The staff gave us a quick powerpoint presentation to set the scene:

I was amazed to find out that only 10% of what we currently throw out should be heading to landfill!

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Any space for nature in Indian slums?

It is not uncommon to hear Bangalore residents (often from the wealthier parts of the city) bemoaning the loss of trees and green space that has occurred as Bangalore rose to be the Silicon Valley of India. 

But what about the people who live in th640 recorded slums¹ across the city? What access to nature and greenery do they have and how do they use it?

Density of green space in Bangalore

Given that slums often inhabit marginal and polluted land, and that they have a high population density, one would hazard a guess that trees are not particularly common. This assumption is supported by a recent study conducted by Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment, in conjunction with the University of Greifswald, Germany. Researchers Divya Gopal, Harini Nagendra and Michael Manthey observed 44 slums across Bangalore and confirmed that the tree density in slums is in fact substantially lower than that in the wealthier residential areas of Bangalore.¹

What are the implications of this for urban development, poverty and human health?

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Reinventing the toilet in India?

Sanitation has long been a critical, but somewhat unfashionable issue in health and rural development, so it is heartening to see the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation putting their substantial resources behind technological change and innovation in this field with their “Reinvent the Toilet” fair. 

A lack of hygienic sanitation and untreated effluent contribute significantly to the pollution of rivers and ecosystems and create an enormous public health issue. Recent measurements of the coliform bacteria levels in the Ganges in India recorded 5,500 mpn/100 ml, well above what is considered safe for farming (5,000 mpn/100 ml), let alone bathing (500 mpn/100 ml) or drinking (50 mpn/100 ml). Every year “food and water tainted with faecal matter cause up to 2.5 billion cases of diarrhea among children under five, resulting in 1.5 million child deaths.” 

The minimum requirements for the competition were that the toilets must operate without running water, electricity or a septic system, must not discharge pollutants and should capture energy or other resources. The winning design from the California Institute of Technology certainly fits that bill, as it is a solar-powered toilet that generates hydrogen and electricity.

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Potholes + a fake crashed car + curious citizens = urban India?

The other day I came across this installation in the middle of a busy Bangalore intersection that had people rather intrigued. Passing cars were slowing down in the middle of the road so that their passengers could take photos of the commotion.

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