Will India, home to several polluted cities and towns, see the birth of its first carbon neutral town?
To know that, it is important to understand what ‘carbon neutrality’ means. It is basically a state where the net quantity of carbon dioxide or for that matter, of other carbon compounds released into the atmosphere is turned to zero. When steps are taken to effectively balance the carbon emissions in the atmosphere in a particular region, it is seen as a move towards becoming carbon neutral. A carbon neutral town will therefore effectively have no carbon footprint and will cease to have any industry or infrastructure project that will likely cause the emission of greenhouse gases. In the face of global warming, more and more countries today are adopting methods and practices to gain carbon credits and assist villages and towns in becoming carbon neutral.
Reports in Quartz and Scroll recently have talked about Meenangadi, a small town in Wayanad district of Kerala, adopting green and sustainable practices to ensure zero carbon emissions. Supported by the current LDF government, panchayat officials in Meenangadi are taking to planting trees, promoting organic farming and using LPG in crematoriums. The fear among the locals regarding pesticide and insecticide use on crops has pushed them faster towards organic farming, Quartz reported. The panchayat is also trying to assess how much carbon the village emits and aims to ban plastic and setting up an aerobic composting unit. The campaign began last year on June 5, World Environment Day.
The location of Meenangadi in the middle of the lush Western Ghats in Wayanad makes it favourable to meet its targets that it hopes to achieve by 2020. Wayanad was identified as one of the four major climate change hotspot districts in the state in a State Action Plan report from 2014. The district that has a dense forest cover is vulnerable to environmental degradation as well.
If Meenangadi is able to meet its targets by 2020, it will be a boost for India, where several big cities and towns fail the pollution test. A World Health Organisation report from 2016 showed half of the world’s 20 most polluted cities are in India with Gwalior in Madhya Pradesh taking the second spot and Allahabad in Uttar Pradesh in third spot. Delhi is in the 11th spot. Raipur, Patna and Kanpur are some of the other cities in the top 20. Another troubling fact came to light this year when it was determined that the most number of deaths due to air pollution could again be reported from India.
If the campaign to go green bears fruit in Meenangadi, it could be a model for other villages and towns, especially in the remote northeast where pollution levels are low. With India taking the renewable route and investing heavily in solar energy, this could be the opportunity to show the world that the country is serious about cleaning its toxic air.