India observes Earth Hour but partially


New Delhi: Displaying concern towards the environment, people in India along with those in 131 other countries switched off lights for an hour Saturday to observe Earth Hour, a global initiative to spread awareness on climate change. Compliance was however partial due to lack of awareness and business considerations.

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Organised annually on the last Saturday of March by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), over 4,000 cities – including New Delhi and Mumbai participated in Earth Hour 2011.

But in both cities as well as other metropolitan cities, numerous commercial establishments, including malls and markets, could be seen illuminated brightly.

“I have no idea about the Earth Hour. Moreover, we do brisk business in the evenings and cannot afford to switch off our lights,” said Suraj Chawla, a shopkeeper in central Delhi’s bustling Karol Bagh market.

The capital saved a total of 296 MW during the Earth Hour, an official of power supply utility BSES told IANS.

A programme was also organised at the India Gate lawns which included performances by popular dance troupe Adaa and musical band Euphoria.

Bollywood star Vidya Balan, who is this year’s cause ambassador, was also present at the event.

Delhiites came in droves to witness the event. Colourful balloons were released in the sky as soon as the lights were switched off and Euphoria’s Palash Sen began singing.

“I left my office early this evening and came to support this cause with friends and family. We have been switching off our lights at home every year on this day and have been successful in convincing many of our relatives as well,” said Saurabh Gambhir, a 36-year-old chartered accountant.

In tech hub Bangalore, except for major IT firms and a few commercial establishments, people ignored the Earth Hour with popular shopping areas brightly lit as usual.

P. Atmaram, who runs a departmental store in Jayanagar shopping complex in Bangalore, told IANS he had read about the Earth Hour campaign but “sorry, could not participate as it is weekend today (Saturday)…I cannot afford to shut my business for one hour from 8.30 p.m.”.

The situation was no different in Kolkata as lack of awareness among residents led to lights remaining on as usual.

“Observing Earth Hour is a farce. I do not believe in it. It will be of no use to put off power for an hour once in a year, it’s a whim of the rich people,” said green activist Subhas Dutta.

Several top officers in the state were also unaware of the global event including the press secretary at the governor’s house.

“I have no idea whether Earth Hour was observed in governor’s house or not as I was with Governor M.K. Narayanan to watch a film in city’s state-run cultural complex,” Dhruba Banerjee said.

Meanwhile, lights went off on several public buildings, private complexes and private commercial establishments in parts of Mumbai and its suburbs during the Earth Hour.

In Chennai too, the cause got a mixed response. A leading hotel, Courtyard Marriott, switched off the building focus lights and turned up the thermostat.

“We have switched off lights in our administrative section, as well as the chandeliers and a third of the lobby lights. The thermostat have been increased from the usual 23 degrees to 25 degrees in lobbies, halls and coffee shops,” Karen Berry, general manager of the hotel told IANS.

In may parts of Punjab and Haryana, including union territory Chandigarh, various NGOs, resident welfare societies and youth observed Earth Hour from 8.30 p.m. to 9.30 p.m.

Hoshiarpur-based tractor manufacturer Sonalika group observed a complete shut down in their tractor unit for one hour.

“At least 10 houses of in locality are observing complete power shut down. It is our way to contribute in saving mother earth,” Ankit Sharma, an engineering student in Chandigarh, told IANS.