Indian shopping malls are not environment friendly: Pachauri

By Nayanima Basu, IANS

New Delhi : Gigantic shopping malls that are mushrooming across India's big and small cities are "environmentally disastrous", says Rajendra K. Pachauri, chief of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) .

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"The shopping malls in India are environmentally disastrous and their designs are not suitable for India's climatic conditions," Pachauri, who is also director-general of The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI), told IANS in an interview.

"Why can't we as society use our brains without blindly replicating the Western models of shopping malls? Why can't we understand that those models might suit their kind of climatic condition, not ours?" asked a visibly concerned Pachauri.

According to Pachauri, India is not taking the consequences of climate change seriously even though there is a growing trend of awareness among the people. "We need to chart out a different path for ourselves altogether that will be suitable to our resources for our own benefit and for global benefit. We need to drive fuel-efficient cars and build a systematic transport sector."

"Why do we need to take a plane to travel smaller distances, like travelling from Delhi to Jaipur or Delhi to Amritsar? Why can't we build faster fuel-efficient trains that will cover these short distances faster?" he asked.

India is among the world's top 10 emitters of carbon dioxide, but its per capita emission is still one-sixth of the global average, says an official report. Thus, even if it has ratified the Kyoto Protocol, it has escaped binding emissions targets.

However, it is estimated that India's carbon dioxide emissions will increase almost 2.5 times by 2030.

Climate change could also lead to a decline in India's agricultural produce by about 30 percent by 2050, says the World Bank. This, IPCC predicts, would happen primarily due to the humongous melting of Himalayan glaciers, resulting in the shrinking of large tracts of agricultural lands.

"Developing countries like India have to find alternative solutions for effective usage of energy and that can start with adapting a different lifestyle and not following what Western or developed countries do," Pachauri said.

"The first steps towards creating a healthy environment have to be taken by developing countries. It's important they do not consume energy the same way as developed countries do."

He also believed that the Indian corporate community should also take necessary steps in creating an environmentally sound business plan.

"They (Indian industry leaders) have to understand that the price of energy is going to increase in the future and it's to everyone's benefit that they should fight the disastrous consequences of climate change," he stressed.

Pachauri, as chief of IPCC, has been instrumental in creating three reports on the consequences of global climatic change that have made academicians, decision-makers, think tanks, politicians, businessmen and common man sit up and think.

A fourth report, which would be a synthesis of the previous three, would be launched in India in November this year.

According to the IPCC reports, heat waves, dry monsoons and melting of glaciers would be a common thing in India, which would also witness drier monsoons wreaking havoc not just on the country's agricultural sector but also several agro-based industries.

The reports also highlight certain incredulous facts such as large-scale erosion of coastal areas, melting of Himalayan glaciers that would spell catastrophe for millions of people who would be affected by frequent floods, which in turn would increase the ground water salinity of costal areas.

"The government of India is undoubtedly aware of its consequence and are taking necessary steps towards it," Pachauri told IANS referring to Finance Minister P.Chidambaram's budget speech where he recommended setting up of an expert committee that would study the impact of climate change in India and the necessary measures required to be adopted in the future.

He also lauded Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's efforts in setting up a council on climate change, a high level advisory group. It has been given the task of coordinating action plans for assessment, adaptation and mitigation of climate change and advise the government to introduce measures that would help in facing the adverse effects of climate change.

According to a report by an expert committee of the Planning Commission, India would need to sustain an 8-10 percent economic growth rate over the next 25 years to eradicate poverty and achieve human development targets.