Event Reports

Webinar and Street Play on Rethinking Mobility and Road Safety in Tamil Nadu

Thu, 01/06/2023 - 17:06

The unprecedented growth of our cities over the past decade has increased the number of vehicles, especially private motor vehicles, on our roads. This has had serious, adverse consequences on our roads and society. Tamil Nadu has long been foremost in road crashes and casualties. The Ministry of Road Transport and Highways’ (MoRTH) annual report, Road Accidents in India 2021-2022, saw Tamil Nadu lead the country in the number of road crashes on National Highways, as well as being second in the number of fatalities. This is a needless loss of lives and a blight on the state’s reputation.

The United Nations Global Road Safety Week is held every two years to highlight road safety issues. This year the theme was Rethink Mobility, connecting the idea that switching to sustainable mobility (walking, cycling, public transport) also has a positive impact on road safety. CAG hosted a webinar and street plays on road safety on the occasion to highlight and raise awareness about road safety. On May 20, 2023, a webinar titled "Rethinking Mobility and Road Safety in Tamil Nadu" was held. Participants included college students and members of civil society. The speakers for the webinar were Dr. K.P. Subramanian, a former professor at the School of Architecture and Planning, Anna University; Ranjit Gadgil, Program Director of the civil society organisation, Parisar, Pune; and Felix John, the Bicycle Mayor of Chennai. 

Divya Arvind, a CAG researcher, began by providing a brief overview of the road safety scenario. Following that, Dr. K.P. Subramanian spoke about various aspects of road safety and some of the major causes of road crashes in Chennai. Ranjit Gadgil then went into detail about speeding, which is one of the leading causes of crashes. He also explained the science behind speeding and its effect on drivers. Rounding up the conversation, Felix John expanded on how shifting to more sustainable modes of transportation will aid in resolving several of these issues. We can reduce the number of motorised vehicles on the road by encouraging non-motorised transportation and walking. The number of crashes caused by motor vehicles on the roads will also naturally decrease. A Q&A session was held at the end of the webinar, and some interesting questions were raised by participants. A participant\ asked, "Do you think weather has been a major factor preventing people from cycling in our cities?"  Felix John responded that we don’t have to cycle all the time in every weather. Instead we should start with small trips - local errands - for which we walk/cycle instead of taking our car/bike. Elaborating on this, Ranjit Gadgil added, “People say we don't need cycle tracks because our weather is not conducive but these are not connected. Cycle tracks are needed for the safety of cyclists. It doesn't matter if there is only one cyclist; everybody should be safe. Weather-wise, people have been cycling in India for years. Only in recent times, this has changed due to how cities have evolved. Even now there are many who cycle because they don't have an option. We need to understand our weather, and build infrastructure to suit - more tree cover for pedestrians, cyclists. Even in The Netherlands, the weather is cold and damp so it's not fun to cycle”.

Another participant inquired, "There is a strong push toward motor vehicles. Why aren't we addressing this issue at its root?".  Felix John said, “Restricting car production/sales is extremely difficult. There are other social and political pushes that support this and restrictions will not be accepted easily”. Ranjit Gadgil noted that car ownership in India is still quite low compared to other countries such as The Netherlands. The message should be that you can buy a car but it's going to be more convenient, safer, easier if you cycle/walk/ use public transport. So cities like London arent restricting car ownership but making it more difficult to use the car for everything through parking costs, etc while at the same time providing better walk/cycle/public transit options. This is a more practical approach, he said.

On 21st May, 2023, street plays were conducted in North Chennai’s Kannigapuram and near P1 police station signal. A 15 minutes street play was performed by artists of FEETS from Vyasarpadi. Audience for the street play included people of all ages from the neighbourhood. The street play spoke of the importance of following road rules, the risks of speeding, the need to respect all road users, as well as the need for helmet and seatbelt compliance. In addition, the street play highlighted the increase in road crashes and ways to prevent such crashes. Overall, the street play was well received by the audience in both the locations.

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Figure 1: Street play performed by FEETS group near P1 police station.

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Figure 2: Street play performed by FEETS group in Kannigapuram. 

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Energy Club - Nazareth Academy, Avadi, Chennai - Session 1

Wed, 24/05/2023 - 15:32

The inaugural session of the Energy Club at The Nazareth Academy, CBSE school, Avadi was held on the 21st of April, 2023. The Club is the initiative of  Citizen Consumer and Civic Action Group (CAG) in partnership with the school administration.  The Energy Club, an activity based club, is intended to function as a resource by the students and for the students. The club aims to inculcate mindful energy usage and conservation practices among children.

The session began with a welcome speech given by Ms Serita Christina, Principal. She introduced the CAG team to the assembled students and teachers.  This was followed by an introduction to the energy club by Prabhuram S, Researcher - Electricity Governance Team, CAG. The presentation gave students an exciting overview of what they could expect from participation in the club - its  objectives, structure, activities and sessions.


Ms Serita Christina, during the welcome address

Objectives of the club:

  • To educate students on renewable energy, energy efficiency, energy conservation practices, etc.
  • To encourage students, schools, and families to take an active role in energy saving practices.
  • To motivate students to use their learning to promote change in their schools and the larger community.
  • To initiate a collective approach to bringing about behavioral change with respect to energy usage.


Mr. Prabhuram, explaining about the energy club and future actions

Session 1 - ‘Responsible energy consumption’:

Vanathi B, Researcher - Electricity Governance Team, CAG elucidated energy conservation and its importance. The significance of undertaking energy saving measures as part of our habit/ lifestyle practices was emphasized using cartoons and interactions. The ways in which energy saving habits can be adopted individually and collectively were discussed through interactive activities.

Mr Prabhuram subsequently explained about energy efficiency, energy efficient devices and BEE star rating. He also elaborated on energy conservation tips for common household appliances like lights, TV, fan, fridge, AC etc.

The team then  interacted with the kids, talking  about energy labels and the identification of energy efficient appliances. As energy labels help in making informed purchasing decisions, the need to look at the information conveyed in those while purchasing electrical appliances was discussed with the audience.


Children were explained how to count and compare the stars in BEE star labels, shown above

The session concluded with the children’s feedback about the session, the insights gained and their assurances about undertaking an energy conscious lifestyle.


Ms. Vanathi, talking about energy conservation and habitual changes

The event  was a fun filled  experience for participants (students  and speakers likewise). Children were interactive throughout the session, responding to the questions put forth, and clarifying their doubts. The school’s energy club will contribute to energy conservation, effective climate actions from now on. We are excited to embark on this worthwhile journey.

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Building a robust discussion on sustainable mobility in Salem and Tirunelveli | Media Workshop

Mon, 27/03/2023 - 16:22

India has seen sundry changes in its 75 years of independence. The country and her many states have experienced economic growth at an unprecedented rate, as small towns turned into large, vibrant, and bustling cities. Tamil Nadu is no exception to this pattern, being the country's most industrialized and urbanized large state, boasting many accolades to its name. But most Indian states, Tamil Nadu included, have not been proactive with the handling of their road infrastructure. The urban population surge has therefore led to many resorting to private transport, due to inadequate public transportation and non-motorized transport facilities. In 2021, TOI reported that the private vehicle count doubled from the previous decade; this seemingly innocuous statistic becomes grave when we note that 18.9% of road fatalities are of pedestrians in India. This is 85% more than in 2020 (MoRTH). Pedestrians simply are not safe in our country. And given that 1/3 of total work trips are by foot (2011 Census) and 60% of children walk to school (NSO), the rise of private transport forebodes a grim future in terms of pollution, safety, sustainability, equity, and justice.


Venue: AMR hotel         Date: 2nd March 2023

Thus, to create a platform to discuss ways to mitigate this serious concern,  CAG, in collaboration with the Social Consumer Rights Movement (Salem), conducted a media workshop at Salem. The workshop was attended by various media personnel including local journalists, senior reporters from visual media and print, and journalism students. The workshop aimed to discuss the role of the media in promoting sustainable road infrastructure development, given its need in all recent urban development projects. The pivotal role that the media could play in encouraging and endorsing sustainable development was discussed. Various senior journalists, academics, and vocal supporters of sustainable development were given a platform to discuss how the journalists of today could be changemakers in advancing this salient issue.Divya Arvind from CAG talked about the recent pedestrian study conducted in Salem, a perception survey of pedestrians and a road audit of some arterial roads. The survey showed that more than 77% of people in Salem regularly walk yet the pedestrian infrastructure such as footpaths and streetlights is in poor condition. As these are often neglected issues, she asked the media to highlight such mobility issues. Prior to this, a media analysis was conducted and the findings were presented to the journalists. The analysis covered articles from major Tamil and English media. The analysis found that the concept of sustainable mobility is often not highlighted in many transport-related articles. In addition, the majority of the mobility-related articles only focus on motorists and very few articles are not written from the perspective of marginalized road users such as pedestrians and cyclists. She called for a more nuanced coverage of mobility that includes perspectives of all road users.

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Picture 1 (In Salem): Divya Arvind from CAG spoke about the importance of pedestrians and the ways to improve pedestrian infrastructure in our cities. 

G. Ananthakrishnan, a senior journalist formerly with the Hindu and a long time observer of urbanization, stunned the audience with data that “according to the World Bank, around 40% of rural households reported at least one death after a road accident compared to 12% of urban households”. He stressed the need for adequate planning for sustainable mobility not just in urban areas, but also in rural areas and generally deprived areas of the state. He spoke of how journalists could approach stories on road crashes and transport, by bringing a sustainable mobility lens. He shared various potential sources of information, such as government reports, that could be used by the media to bolster their reporting.

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Picture 2 (In Salem): G. Ananthakrishnan spoke about the significance of sustainable mobility in a growing city like Salem.

Dr. S. Nandhakumar, the HOD of journalism and mass communications at Periyar University, was another esteemed speaker who added valuable insights into the discussions.  He spoke of the importance of data collection, and how it can be used to enhance a piece of writing that created greater impact in readers’ minds. To promote greater introspection, he asked the media to not only write more hard-hitting stories but also create awareness among the public on the ramifications of not planning for sustainable mobility.  

B Thangaraj Rase Rajan, Bicycle Mayor of Salem, spoke of his personal experience of riding long distances on his bicycle. He encouraged young children, adults, and the general public alike to follow his examples and put their cycles to better use. He also used the platform to share key issues that cyclists face today, namely,  the lack of consideration of motorists and the non-availability of cycling infrastructure. He stated that very often motorists were not accommodating of bicyclists, often cornering them into small spaces or forcing them to stop to let the motorist pass.  This led to his second point, which was that the government must make efforts to build infrastructure thoughtful of the needs of cyclists.  Given the obvious benefits that a higher bicycle-riding population would have on the environment, these recommendations must be taken seriously. Furthermore, he suggested the media create separate columns in their respective newspapers, covering and providing awareness of the livelihood of cyclists, in order for the general public to become more understanding of their needs. 


Venue: Press Club         Date: 4th March 2023

CAG, in collaboration with the Tirunelveli District Consumer Awareness Movement, conducted a media workshop at Tirunelveli. The workshop was attended by various media personnel including local journalists, senior reporters from the visual and print media. The workshop aimed to discuss the role of the media in promoting sustainable road infrastructure development, given its need in all recent urban development projects. 

Divya Arvind from CAG talked about the recent pedestrian study conducted in Tirunelveli where a perception survey of pedestrians and a road audit of some arterial roads was conducted. The outcomes from the survey showed that more than 75% of people in Tirunelveli regularly walk, yet the pedestrian infrastructure such as footpaths and streetlights is in poor condition. As these are often neglected issues, she asked the media to highlight such mobility issues.  Prior to this, a media analysis was conducted and the outcomes were presented to the journalists. The analysis covered major Tamil and English articles from both online and newspaper prints. The analysis found that the concept of sustainable mobility is often not highlighted in many transport-related articles. In addition, the majority of the mobility-related articles only focus on motorists and very few articles are not written from the perspective of marginalized road users such as pedestrians and cyclists. This situation needs to be improved by including the concept of sustainable mobility in all transport related articles and include perspectives of all road users.

Pechi Muttu, Tirunelveli traffic police inspector, joined the event and spoke about road safety in Tirunelveli. He spoke about the various methods used by the traffic police to control traffic and reduce road accidents. He also requested motorists to respect the pedestrians on the road by sharing the roads with them by not encroaching onto footpaths. In addition, Mupidathi, senior reporter from Nellai Dinamalar highlighted the pivotal role that the media could play in encouraging and endorsing sustainable development. The event concluded with a Q&A session and discussion on the prevailing transport issues in Tirunelveli and ways to incorporate the concept of sustainability at various levels.  

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Picture 3 (In Tirunelveli): Divya Arvind from CAG spoke about the poor conditions of pedestrian infrastructure and ways to improve pedestrian safety.

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Energy Club - Vijayanta Higher Secondary School, Avadi, Chennai

Mon, 20/03/2023 - 16:42

Citizen Consumer and Civic Action Group (CAG) in association with Vijayanta Higher Secondary School, Avadi has initiated an Energy Club to be run at their school, starting in  February 2023. The inaugural session  (also the first session of the club) was held on 17th February 2023.


Image 1: Energy Club inauguration and welcome address

Elango P, Post Graduate Teacher (PGT), Vijayanta Higher Secondary School welcomed the CAG team and introduced them to the audience and the topics (energy conservation, energy efficiency and renewable energy) that they would be covering.

Background information and  presentation:

Bharath Ram, Researcher - Electricity Governance Team, CAG spoke about the energy club’s objectives, structure, activities and sessions.  

Broadly, the objective of the club is to improve young people's understanding of household energy consumption and create awareness around energy conservation and energy efficiency. The club sessions aim to:

  1. promote a better understanding of the subject of electricity, and the importance of conserving electricity
  2. nudge young people to initiate behavioral changes in the way energy is consumed in their household/school and
  3. further promote sustainable energy goals and exposure to renewable sources of energy.

Bharath explained how the students as members along with the coordinators of the energy club can learn and participate in energy saving activities.


Image 2: Mr. Bharat Ram, CAG speaking about Energy Club

Vanathi B, Researcher - Electricity Governance Team, CAG explained energy conservation and its importance, and also why energy saving measures should become part of our habit/ lifestyle practices. The ways in which students can begin energy saving habits and later share them with  their families and thereby create changes in our larger society was discussed with the children through fun filled interactive activities and videos.


Image 3: Ms. Vanathi B, CAG speaking about need for behavioral change

Prabhuram S, Researcher - Electricity Governance Team, CAG explained about energy efficiency, energy efficient devices and BEE star rating, using images. He also elaborated on energy conservation tips for common household appliances like lights, TV, fan, fridge, AC etc.


Image 4: Mr. Prabhuram S, CAG speaking about tips for energy conservation

Our team also explained how to identify energy efficient appliances using the  stars on energy labels, read the labels/covers and understand the information on it while purchasing electrical appliances. 

Audience Response:


Image 5: Group photo with Vijayanta Higher Secondary School staff and students

The students were curious to know about electricity, energy conservation and efficiency topics. Right from the start and throughout the entire session, they were interactive, responding to the questions put forth, and clarifying their doubts.  

To our surprise, the children already had a fair idea about renewable energy, especially solar, LEDs, star labels etc. However, they were not very clear as to  how all of these contribute to energy savings. Once these were explained to them, they enjoyed  learning about them in detail.

The students are a curious bunch who will be a pleasure to work with, and we are excited to join them and learn together with them  in the upcoming energy club sessions.

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Harnessing patient voices on hypertension - A multi-stakeholder consultation on hypertension care and control

Mon, 13/03/2023 - 13:05

Uncontrolled blood pressure is one of the main risk factors for cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) such as heart attacks and stroke. They are responsible for one-third of total deaths in India. With more than 200 million people diagnosed with hypertension in India, only 20 million people have it under control. With recent changes in lifestyle patterns, hypertension has become increasingly common in young people, sometimes as young as 10 years old. Lack of awareness is said to be the main cause of widespread hypertension. With this in mind, Citizen consumer and civic Action Group (CAG) organised a multi-stakeholder consultation on hypertension care and control inviting doctors and nutritionists from Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Telangana; other experts and civil society organisations from across Tamil Nadu. Dr. Rashmi Kundapur, Additional Professor, Community and Family Medicine, AIIMS - Hyderabad, Dr.Vijay Chakravarti - Physician, Cloudnine Hospitals, Dr.Anita Kadagad - Ayurveda Practitioner from Karnataka, Dr.Maheswari - Gynaecologist representing Indian Medical Association (IMA), Dr.S.Anand - Physician from Thiruvarur, Dr.N.Preetha - Assistant Professor, Clinical Nutrition Department from Sri Ramachandra Institute of Higher Education and Research, Chennai and Ms.Ramya - Dietitian and Nutritionist from Karnataka were the panellists.


Ms.Saroja, Executive Director, CAG welcoming the gathering

Ms Saroja, Executive Director, CAG welcomed the gathering and set the context for the meeting. Dr.Om Prakash Bera, Lead Consultant, India State Policy, Global Health Advocacy Incubator, joined the meeting online and highlighted the need for hypertension awareness among citizens. He proposed that the government should have an open dialogue with the common people, CSOs, doctors, etc, because any successful intervention requires a reasonable public understanding of hypertension and the involvement of each and every household.

Dr Rashmi Kundapur - Additional Professor, Community and Family Medicine, AIIMS - Hyderabad chaired the panel discussion. In her introductory remarks, she clarified that  hypertension is not a modern disease but something which existed even during our ancestors’ lifetimes as it is a result of the ageing process. She explained that “to control hypertension, we need interventions at 3 levels - medical, policy and community.” Although we have adequate medical care and treatments for hypertension, the political will, community awareness and knowledge were lacking. She introduced the rule of halves in hypertension; “Only half of the total people with hypertension approach the doctor for treatment, out of which only half of them receive the right diagnosis, out of which only half of them receive the right treatment and out of which only half of them continue the treatment. Therefore only ⅛ of people receive appropriate care for hypertension while ⅞ of hypertensive people remain untreated”. She later posed questions to other panellists asking their experiences and challenges while  diagnosing and treating patients for hypertension.

Dr. Vijay Chakravarti, renowned physician, Cloudnine Hospitals, Chennai highlighted the problem with data relating to hypertension in India. He said that the current data we have on hypertension vastly underestimates the incidence of the condition and that the actual numbers may easily be 2 or 3 times higher. This could be because not many people come forward to get treated for hypertension as they may not be aware of it. In most cases, hypertension is asymptomatic, especially in young people between the ages of 30 to 35, and only manifests in the last stage as a stroke. He pointed out that another important factor is the lack of patient trust on a doctor, especially a specialist. “Nowadays people directly go to a specialist doctor for even a small medical issue; for instance they go to a neurologist with only a headache as a symptom”, he explained. He explained that the concept of a family doctor has therefore gone; and so has the trust between families and their physician. He believes that patients are more likely to trust a doctor whom they have known for a few years since the doctor is well aware of the patient’s and family’s medical history. “India needs to adopt the practice of general physician or family physician where every patient goes to their general practitioner first for any symptoms and then the general practitioner will guide them to the appropriate specialist if needed”, he suggested. He also strongly advised that while we spend indiscriminately buying new gadgets, every household should have a blood pressure apparatus to ensure regular self-monitoring.

Dr. Maheswari, gynaecologist representing Indian Medical Association (IMA) explained that ignorance is the main problem we need to target in hypertension care and control in India. “Being educated doesn’t necessarily mean that people are aware of hypertension”. She also agreed with Dr.Vijay that we need a family physician system which is likely to instil faith in doctors among people. She mentioned that people take hypertension lightly, claiming occasional deprivation of sleep, stressful periods in office, cheat days in diets, etc. But she emphasised that doctors are seeing many cases of pre-hypertension in young adults. Pre-hypertension can subsequently lead to renal failure, cardiovascular issues and strokes. And this can be primarily attributed to the change in lifestyle patterns including poor sleeping, eating, and working habits, lack of exercise and a sedentary lifestyle. Since people are not aware of the dangers and prevalence of hypertension, they don’t check their blood pressure regularly. Many are hesitant to go to a hospital; neither do they have a blood pressure apparatus at home. “We need to come up with creative ways to engage people to check their blood pressure. We can have a BP monitor available for free check up in public places such as malls, parks, movie theatres, recreational halls, etc”. She warned that hypertension is like a wildfire; the earlier we catch it, the better for the person. If left unchecked, it will continue to spread and affect other parts of the body.


Dr.Anand, physician from Thiruvarur shares the most common questions his patients have about hypertension.

Dr Anand, physician from Thiruvarur, talked about the importance of physical activity in preventing and controlling hypertension. He shared some of his patients’ common questions such as ‘how can our younger generation be hypertensive while his/her ancestors who did not have enough awareness about medical issues led healthy lives ?’ He explained that “50 years ago, people walked everywhere, even for distances of 5-6 kms. But now even for a distance of 100m we prefer to take our bikes”.

Our ancestors were forced to be physically active all the time. But technological innovations have made us choose convenience over health. 


CSOs, experts and students from various districts of Tamil Nadu

Dr.Anita Kadagad, a certified ayurveda practitioner explained the issue of hypertension from an ayurvedic context. She said that treatment for hypertension is available in ayurveda as well since it is not a modern issue and only a part of the ageing process. She also added that she combines ayurveda with allopathy after consultation with appropriate doctors. However hypertension among the younger generation, even as young as a 10 year old, is a growing concern largely due to our lifestyle. She added that ayurveda is not being given due importance and there is not enough research done to use ancient techniques in consonance with modern technology and practices. She suggested that it is better to practise yoga as a form of exercise rather than the rigorous bodybuilding routines followed in gyms, since there is an increasing number of cases of stroke and cardiac arrest caused by increased blood pressure as a result of high intensity exercises. She also mentioned the issue of some ayurveda practitioners prescribing allopathic medicines indiscriminately which will give a bad reputation to the field of ayurveda itself. This needs to be addressed and regulated by the government.

Dr. Preetha, Assistant Professor, Department of Clinical Nutrition, Sri Ramachandra Institute of Higher Education and Research, Chennai spoke about the importance of diet in prevention, control and care of hypertension. She discussed the various new methods and techniques of fasting prevalent on social media and the internet promoting easy ways to achieve the desired body shape and weight. She urged people to be wary of what we read on the internet and to consult a doctor before changing a diet. “No matter what combination of diet one follows, moderation has to be the key”. Another popular trend right now is to go back to what our ancestors consumed, like millets, cereals, seeds, etc. However she advised that while we can reduce the portion of our carbohydrate intake to consciously make healthy choices, it is neither possible nor advisable to completely eliminate carbohydrates from our diet. She also advised everyone to stay away from any refined food as the preservatives are harmful for health in the long term.

Ms. Ramya, dietitian and nutritionist from Karnataka, attributed the increase of hypertension cases especially among the younger generation to disruptive lifestyle patterns. “Nowadays we go to bed late and wake up late and not only do we consume unhealthy junk food but we also consume meals at odd times, we sit for long hours in our 9 to 5 jobs, we use cars or bikes to travel everywhere and do not get enough exercise or sun exposure”. She explained that there are trans fats and unsaturated fats present in almost all processed and packaged food that we get in the market and we have to be careful in reading the labels. She advised everyone to allocate at least 20 minutes everyday for physical activity and some stress management exercises such as meditation, yoga, etc.


CAG members along with panellists after the conclusion of the discussion

Dr. Rashmi concluded the session by summarising each of the speakers’ inputs. Some of the points emphasised were that Asians are genetically prone to obesity which is a risk factor for hypertension. Therefore, given this predisposition, we have to be proactive in detecting hypertension at an early stage and getting the right treatment consistently for effective control of the problem. “The main problem in India in hypertension care is the lack of awareness among people about the effects of hypertension. It is not enough that people are educated, but they need to be health literate. Health literacy in India is only 12%”. People need to get treated for hypertension so that it doesn’t lead to renal failure, heart failure or strokes. While she acknowledged the Tamil Nadu government's commendable efforts in ensuring access to healthcare for all through schemes such as ‘Veedu thaedi maruthuvam’, she added that the government needs to exercise political will in taking a proactive role and conducting mass awareness campaigns on the risks of the silent killer - hypertension.

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Study Circle on Energy Laws: Session 1 - Discussion on Electricity Laws

Mon, 27/02/2023 - 10:31

Citizen Consumer and Civic Action Group (CAG) along with the P.G. Department of Environmental law and Legal Order, Tamil Nadu Dr. Ambedkar Law University (TNDALU) organised a discussion on “Electricity Laws”, at the School of Excellence in Law Campus, Chennai on February 3, 2023.

The objectives of the discussion were:

  •  to learn the basics of electricity laws in the country and the state of Tamil Nadu
  • to discuss the concepts involved in electricity laws and their impact on consumers
  • to create a study circle for the students to engage in more such activities.

Around 50 students from the undergraduate (UG) and postgraduate (PG) programs participated in the discussion. The meeting was inaugurated by Professor Prof. (DR). Kumudha Rathna Director, PG Programmes, School of Excellence in Law. She shared some of her personal experiences with electricity complaints and emphasised on the importance of electricity governance and the benefits for students by gaining knowledge and exploring this sector. DR. P. Sakthivel Director, LLB (Hons. Programme) delivered a brief introduction and explained the scope of the electricity sector.

Organising committee at TNDALU and Team CAG

Mr K. Vishnu Mohan Rao, Senior Researcher, CAG introduced   the importance of the electricity sector. He also explained in brief some of the activities taken up by CAG in the field of electricity governance. He clarified  the objective of conducting the discussion, and  gave an overview of the regulations of electricity, also discussing the  techno-economic, legal and technical aspects that overlap within this crucial sector. 

Ms. Akshaya, Researcher, CAG spoke about the global energy crisis and push for renewables. She also gave an overview of the importance of integrating renewable energy sources into electricity regulations. She explained that ‘electricity’ was in the  concurrent list, and therefore governed by both  Central and State regulations. She further elucidated the Electricity Act and the processes it seeks to regulate in the electricity system, namely, generation, transmission and distribution. The importance of open access, consumer protection and the right  to electricity were also discussed. In addition to this she gave a brief overview on the Energy Conservation Act, 2001 and the Electricity (Rights of Consumers) Rules, 2020. 

Team CAG discussing with the participants 

Mr. Bharath Ram, Researcher, CAG explored the role of the state in regulating this sector. He defined the composition and duties of Tamil Nadu Generation and Distribution Corporation Limited (TANGEDCO) and Tamil Nadu Electricity Regulatory Commission (TNERC) in the state of Tamil Nadu. Bharath explained the process of determining if a meter is defective through a Meter Relay Test (MRT); and that this  test can be done by applying to the MRT wing - the meter testing facility of TANGEDCO. He also laid out the framework for grievance redressal for electricity consumers. Finally,  he provided a summary of the Tamil Nadu Electricity (TNE) Supply Code, TNE Distribution Code and TNE Distribution Standards of Performance. 

The session ended with a lively discussion, with questions raised by students and faculty members. The discussion covered various aspects of electricity including the process of claiming compensation, common issues faced by consumers, impact of competition, tariff rates and the right to electricity.

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Building a robust public discussion on sustainable mobility

Wed, 22/02/2023 - 11:15

Our roads have been planned and built to cater to motorists, particularly private vehicles. Space and consideration for low carbon modes of commute (walking, cycling, and public transport) is not a priority. This is in spite of the fact that these are sustainable modes of transport - causing minimal pollution, taking little space, being affordable and accessible by all. 

Public debate, including in the media, on transportation problems in our cities inevitably focuses on increasing road width, building flyovers, etc to ease traffic congestion. Global research and experience has shown that these are temporary measures that in the long run only serve to increase the volume of motorised traffic. In a country like India, where 60% of trips are by walk, it makes sense to prioritise walk/cycle/public transport. For this to happen, the tenor of public conversation needs to change. With this in mind, CAG organised  a workshop for  media personnel on February 16, 2023.

The workshop provided an open forum for media professionals to discuss and share ideas about sustainable mobility. Previously, CAG’s Sustainable Mobility team members conducted a research analysis of newspaper articles that covered sustainable mobility, over a one-year period. The findings of the newspaper article analysis were compiled into a report, which was then presented at the workshop. G.Ananthakrishnan, Senior Journalist, Felix John, the Bicycle Mayor of Chennai, and R Devapriyan, a Senior Anchor from News 18, were invited to share their expertise. 

The workshop and the day's presenters were introduced by Ms Sumana, Senior Researcher, CAG. Divya and Mohan,  members of the Sustainable Transport and Mobility team, CAG presented the article analysis. The analysis covered major Tamil and English articles from both online and newspaper prints. The analysis found that the concept of sustainable mobility is often not highlighted in many transport-related articles.  The majority of the transport-related articles only give basic information about schemes and don’t provide any analysis or learning from case studies. It was also observed that most of the transport-related articles were published in English newspapers, with Tamil newspapers bringing in only a much smaller level of coverage. In addition, online articles tend to give more analysis and details than newspaper print. The report also  highlighted that only 1 in 10 news articles are written about livelihood cyclists, the rest of the articles were solely about sport cycling. 

Mr. G. Ananthakrishnan, a senior journalist, formerly with The Hindu, spoke on the different transport service providers in Chennai and the need to see the big picture. He said, “We are not seeing mobility in terms of social and environmental issues. Perspectives such as quality, safety, accessibility for the physically challenged and improvements in the ticketing systems are crucial to bring in users. In addition, we need to see mobility as a service rather than looking at it as a profit-making mechanism. Only when we start reporting from a different angle will we be able to create awareness on the prevailing transport issues." 

Mr. Felix John, Bicycle Mayor of Chennai (BYCS) highlighted the importance of reporting pedestrian and cyclist issues on various media platforms. He spoke on ways to achieve equitable mobility which prioritize marginalized user groups (such as pedestrians and cyclists). “Our policies only emphasize bikes and cars, not cyclists and pedestrians. But we need to change that, the road is for all user groups”, said Felix John. He also added that improving the quality and quantity of public transportation is one of the most effective ways to reduce emissions and congestion. Individual transportation is the true competitor of collective transportation; so it is critical to provide high-quality, frequent public transport services. 

Mr. R Devapriyan, Senior Anchor from News18, spoke about ways to put forth civic issues in different media platforms. He spoke about the difficulties in reporting and tactics for better outreach with the public. “We approach news as a story and look to showcasing issues that connect with the viewer,” he noted. He said the impact on the public can be considered when the outreach is done properly.

A discussion followed with the speakers and the participants highlighting issues faced. The event finished with felicitation of the speakers.

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Figure 1: Felix John shares his experience of being a cyclist and the various issues he faces on a daily basis, riding in Chennai. 

road safety

Figure 2: Mr. R Devapriyan, Senior Anchor from News18 addressing ways to improve media reach among the public.

road safety

Figure 3: Mr. G. Ananthakrishnan senior journalist speaking about different ways to look at mobility in Chennai.

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National Conference on Air pollution and Climate change

Mon, 20/02/2023 - 11:01


The authors acknowledge Vamsi Shankar Kapilavai and S. Saroja for their critical review of the report and Benedicta Issac for editing the report.

National Conference on Air Pollution and Climate Change

Session 1: Air pollution & climate change - 2 sides of the same coin

  1. Nexus between air pollution and climate change - A multifaceted problem - Mr. Bhasker Tripathi, Freelance journalist.
  2. Socio-economic issues in Non-Attainment Cities - Mr G. Sundarrajan, Poovulagin Nanbargal.

Session 2: Suffocating Indian cities

  1. Vehicular emissions - Mr. Anirudh Narla, International Council on Clean Transportation.
  2. Industrial pollution in coastal cities - Ms. Gandhimathi, Coastal Action Network.
  3. Waste(full) cities - Ms. Sumana Narayanan, Citizen consumer and civic Action Group

Session 3: Indian policy responses to Air Pollution

  1. CPCB Action plans in NAC - Dr. Ethirajan,TNPCB
  2. Viewing air pollution and policies through the gender lens - Ms. Pallavi Pant, Health Effects Institute
  3. Status of implementation of NCAP and roadblocks - Mr. Sunil Dahiya, Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air
  4. Securing India's database for AP - Dr. Pratima Singh, Centre for the study of Science, Technology and Policy

Session 4: Sustainable solutions for Air Quality Management

  1. India’s AQM - pollution prevention and control infrastructure - Dr. Abinaya, Centre for Policy Research
  2. Zero waste cities - Mr. Shibu Nair, Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives
  3. Transition to renewables - Ms. Bhargavi Rao, Environment Support Group
  4. Sustainable mobility to combat air pollution - Mr. Ranjit Gadgil, Parisar

Session 5: Sustainable citizen accounts

  1. Ms. Janani Venkitesh, a Resident of Kasturbanagar Association (ROKA)
  2. Ms. Nina Sumbramani, Warrior Moms
  3. Mr. Suresh, Environmental Enthusiast

Welcome address

climate change

Ms. S. Saroja

Executive Director, Citizen consumer and civic Action Group

The conference began with Ms. Saroja, Executive Director of Citizen consumer and civic Action Group (CAG), extending a warm welcome to the chief guest, speakers, members of the press and the audience. She began by highlighting India’s position as the infamous front-runner in air pollution related deaths. She touched upon the disproportionate loss and damage due to climate change in  developing countries and how 95% of deaths caused by air pollution occur in developing countries. She explained why  air pollution cannot be seen as one individual complication of our frenzied lives but instead should be seen as going hand in glove with the climate crisis. She hoped that the discussions would aim to explain and understand how we can intervene at the various stages of the vicious air pollution - climate change cycle in such a way as to mitigate their cumulative effects on humankind. She concluded  that the conference would pave the way for government officials, civil society, academia, industry and underrepresented groups to come together to understand the problems from the ministerial to institutional to the grassroots level; and help us come together to derive a holistic approach to control air pollution and mitigate climate change effects.

Keynote address

climate change

Mr. Deepak Bilgi I.F.S,

Department of Environment & Climate Change, Government of Tamil Nadu

Mr. Deepak Bilgi I.F.S, Director, Department of Environment & Climate Change, Government of Tamil Nadu, delivered the keynote address. He stressed the importance of concerted action by governments, stakeholders and the public towards controlling air pollution and mitigating climate change impacts. He explained  that the ultimate aim of the climate change mission should be to create  intrinsic changes in human behaviour. While air pollution is primarily seen as a public health issue, he highlighted that the deterioration of public health and loss of the labour force will impact the country’s economy. Therefore, in addition to being seen as an ecological problem, climate change should also be viewed as a serious  economic one. 

Launch of CAG’s textbook on climate Change - Facts on Climate Change Unravelled for Students ( FOCUS)

Following the keynote address, Mr. Deepak Bilgi, Mr. Ashok Varadan Shetty, IAS (Retd) -Trustee, CAG, and Prof. Sultan Ismail, Member, State Planning Commission, Tamil Nadu were invited on stage to launch FOCUS (Facts on Climate Change Unravelled for Students), CAG’s textbook on climate change for middle school students.  During the launch, Ms. Mala Balaji gave a summary of how the textbook is a part of CAG’s project to introduce climate change within the middle school curriculum. The textbook is already in its pilot phase in select schools in Tamil Nadu. Ms. Mala explained the research and processes that went into compiling the textbook and that on completion of the pilot phase, CAG will request the government that  it be introduced as a part of the regular school curriculum. 


Launch of CAG’s textbook, FOCUS, on climate change

CAG’s work on Environment & Climate Action

climate change

Ms. Mala Balaji

Researcher, Citizen consumer and civic Action Group

 Ms. Mala Balaji, Researcher, Environment and Climate Action at CAG, presented  on CAG’s work in the Environment and Climate Action space. She explained the rationale behind CAG’s work in  protecting eco-sensitive areas and promoting transparent decision-making by the government. CAG's Thermal Watch Initiative aims to educate local communities and NGOs about the regulatory and administrative processes for industrial activities and to build capacity for a more people-centred, clean-energy future. Ms.Balaji added that CAG is committed to empowering local communities and promoting stricter compliance with environmental protection requirements. Mr. Shankar Prakash, Researcher, Environment and Climate Action then gave an overview of CAG's work on air pollution and climate change.

climate change

Mr. A. Shankar Prakash

Researcher, Citizen consumer and civic Action Group

Mr. Shankar Prakash explained how  CAG is focused on addressing air pollution and climate change by utilizing a multifaceted approach that includes conducting research, advocating for change, and promoting citizen science. This involves monitoring air quality, investigating the effects of air pollution and climate change, and encouraging authorities to adopt cleaner energy sources. Mr. Shankar went on to elaborate how CAG also regularly organises workshops and educational programs to improve participants' knowledge and capacity, and creates informational and educational materials in local languages. He concluded his presentation by explaining that CAG is committed to creating the tools and knowledge pieces required for community outreach and engagement in order to raise awareness about air pollution and climate change.

Session 1

Air pollution & climate change - 2 sides of the same coin


climate change

Ms. Vinuta Gopal

Co-founder & CEO, ASAR

The first session on ‘Air pollution and climate change - two sides of the same coin’ was moderated by Ms. Vinuta Gopal, ASAR. The session delved into discussions around the interconnection between air pollution and climate change; the sources of air pollution such as industries, transportation, construction and demolition debris and burning of waste are the same sources of greenhouse gases contributing to climate change. Therefore, the solutions for both also automatically overlap. Extreme weather events in developing countries have resulted in loss and damage of livelihood, property and persons. Overall, public health is the common and widely impacted outcome of air pollution. This session explained how  understanding the nexus between weather, climate variability, air pollution and public health will better prepare us to tackle the effects of climate change.

Nexus between air pollution and climate change - a multifaceted problem

climate change

Mr. Bhasker Tripathi


Mr. Bhasker Tripathi, a renowned climate journalist, explained why the climate crisis is also a geopolitical issue, touching upon the  power politics between developed and developing nations. He said  developed countries, after having gone through their industrialisation era much earlier (than developing countries), have historically contributed to the majority of the greenhouse gas emissions. While developing countries are just beginning their industrial growth, it is unjust of the developed nations to ask developing nations to cut down emissions which the former is largely responsible for. He claimed that although individual action is important, the real question should be posed to large polluters such as MNCs, particularly fossil fuel companies and demand redeeming action.

He stressed the importance of posing questions to the government about the big polluters and asking what has been done to make them comply. While he acknowledged the actions taken by the government in shifting to renewables, he added that it is important to ensure a just transition, although it is quite hard to do that in a country like India which remains  heavily dependent on coal. Electric vehicles have been promoted as the green solution to the transportation problem, however, it is important to see how the energy needs for EVs are met. Other solutions such as green grid and LPG cooking fuel sound good on paper, but might not be accessible and affordable to all.

He flagged the relaxations granted to industries by Pollution Control Boards (PCB) in the name of ‘ease of doing business’ and called out the fact that compliance can never really be achieved if self-audits are the primary mechanism for ensuring accountability. He also mentioned that we need to focus on the capacity building of PCBs since they see themselves as more of an advisory body rather than an implementing body.

Socio-economic issues in Non-Attainment Cities

climate change

Mr. Sundarrajan

Poovulagin Nanbargal

Mr. Sundarrajan started his presentation by giving the audience a reality check that if we believe that  Chennai is performing better than other metro cities vis-a-vis air pollution, we are believing an illusion. He mentioned that four  cities in Tamil Nadu have been categorised as ‘Non-Attainment Cities’. He revealed alarming facts and stats about Chennai’s air pollution problem caused by thermal power plants, other red-category industries and vehicular congestion. He said that Chennai’s severity  of air pollution does not show up in numbers only  because of the coastal advantage. However, the role of the sea in absorbing toxic air cannot be relied upon for far too long. He revealed that the number of deaths due to air pollution in Chennai is higher than in other cities due to the numerous thermal power plants. The further expansion of thermal power plants in Tamil Nadu has resulted in over 50000 deaths. 

He also added that the problem of air pollution needs to be viewed from a socio-economic perspective since most of these polluting industries, particularly the thermal power plants are located in North Chennai, where the lower income neighbourhoods are situated.  He pointed out the cruel reality that while the rich people who live in air-conditioned houses can afford indoor air purifiers, the poor who live in the vicinity of these power plants have no other choice but to breathe toxic air. He also pointed out the caste divide,  with North Chennai families typically being from the  oppressed castes. This clear divide in unhesitatingly polluting the socio-economically disadvantaged neighbourhoods, makes air pollution and climate change,  a class and caste issue.

Session 2 

Suffocating Indian cities


climate change

Prof. Sultan Ismail,

Member, State Planning Commission, Tamil Nadu 

The second session of the conference was on ‘Suffocating Indian Cities’. Prof. Sultan Ismail, the moderator, began the session on the note that air pollution in India, particularly in megacities and non-attainment cities, requires our immediate and sustained attention. The major sources of air pollution in cities are emissions from vehicles, industries, construction and demolition debris and mismanaged solid waste. Rapid urbanisation and accelerated industrial growth have added to the existing air pollution problem. Among the top 50 most polluted cities in the world, 35 are from India. Therefore, air pollution is a pressing issue in India which needs to be prioritised and addressed immediately.

Vehicular emissions

climate change

Mr. Anirudh Narla

Associate Researcher, International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT)

Mr. Anirudh Narla, briefly explained the study he has undertaken as part of  the International Council on Clean Transportation, with the aim of reducing vehicular pollution. He elaborated on ‘The Real Urban Emissions initiative’ (TRUE) which proposes an alternate testing methodology for vehicles to capture and understand the real-world testing of emissions. He explained that since the ‘Pollution Under Control’ certification doesn’t capture the key pollutants which are harmful to the environment, the use of infrared and ultraviolet rays can help detect and capture key pollutants such as nitrous oxide, nitrogen dioxide, hydrocarbons, carbon dioxide and other particulate matter in tailpipe  emissions. ICCT has been working with the Clean Air Fund and the Centre for Science and Environment to scientifically measure vehicular emissions. This model helped identify that diesel taxis emit 5 times more than other vehicle groups in London. This model has also been used in Kolkata to screen high-emitting vehicle groups. He explained that  the Delhi NCR TRUE remote sensing study will provide scientific evidence for real-time emissions, and identify low-emission and high-emission zones in the city, thus helping policymakers to make decisions based on scientific data.

Industrial pollution in coastal cities

climate change

Ms. Gandhimathi

Coastal Action Network 

Ms. Gandhimathi from the Coastal Action Network (CAN) addressed the subject of air pollution caused by industries and subsequent health impacts for the people in the surrounding neighbourhoods. She explained how emissions from industries can drastically affect and alter the biodiversity of the region. She also added how the biodiversity of coastal cities, in particular, is at a risk due to industrial pollution. She drew the audience’s attention to the adverse impacts of thermal power plants and mentioned that due to improper storage of waste, the children in the neighbouring areas have developed various kinds of sicknesses. Ms. Gandhimathi emphasised that the calculation of social cost is often overlooked in assessing the impact of any industrial  activities. 

She enumerated a host of health issues developed by the workers in these industries, the major ones being respiratory, cardiovascular and neurobehavioral problems. She explained how industrial pollution can affect not only the health and  livelihoods of people in neighbouring areas but also  ocean and marine life. Since oceans play a vital role in the ecosystem as natural buffers, we could be running unimaginable risks by letting this happen. She also elaborated on a case study of shrimp farmers in the coastal districts of Tamil Nadu and the impacts of shrimp farming on water bodies that are  significantly altering the marine ecosystem.

Waste(full) cities

climate change

Ms. Sumana Narayanan

Senior Researcher, Citizen consumer and civic Action Group 

Ms. Sumana from CAG addressed an important issue of mismanagement of waste as a cause of air pollution. She explained the different kinds of waste generated in India and brought the audience’s attention to the fact that over 60% of the waste generated in India is biodegradable waste which can be valuable as a resource if composted properly. A small portion of the waste is recyclable; however, recycling in India continues to be a myth. This is because waste is not segregated at source and therefore all kinds of waste are mixed together while collected and finally dumped in open dumpyards. She stressed that there is a huge difference between landfills and dump yards, although in India these two terms are used interchangeably. Apart from recyclable waste, there is domestic hazardous waste and bio-medical waste which cannot be recycled and needs to be disposed off in an environmentally friendly manner. However in India, since there is no segregation, all kinds of waste are dumped together and often incinerated as the end solution. 

Ms. Sumana emphasised the dangers of incinerating waste, particularly plastic waste which releases toxins such as furans when burnt, thus causing air pollution. The air pollution caused by incinerating solid waste is highly hazardous and can cause cancer, TB, asthma and other adverse health issues. She pointed out that those who are affected the most by air pollution caused due to incineration are the socio-economically disadvantaged sections of society since the dump yards are often located in their neighbourhoods. She also touched upon the role of the informal sector in the waste management value chain, particularly, e-waste. The informal waste workers are exposed to various health hazards while working in the dumpyards.  She also warned about the dangers of mixed waste, especially mixing bio-medical waste with solid waste in dump yards. Since urban local bodies cannot handle mixed waste in such large quantities every day, they choose the easy but unsustainable option of burning it. She highlighted that our systems are designed for linearity where overproduction and overconsumption are constantly encouraged. She therefore stressed the importance of promoting a circular economy and zero waste models which discourage use and throw behaviours.

Session 3 

Indian policy responses to Air Pollution


climate change

Mr. Nivit Kumar Yadav

Programme Director, Centre for Science and Environment 

This session delved into the scope and mandate of the National Clean Air Program (NCAP) and analysed whether sufficient budgetary allocation has been made to the programme. The ancillary issues and factors impeding the effective implementation of NCAP and the performance of Central Pollution Control Boards (CPCB) were examined. The policy was also  examined through the lens of subalterns, particularly women and indigenous communities. Mr. Nivit Kumar Yadav began the session by explaining how in order to tackle air pollution, the Indian government has implemented the National Clean Air Program (NCAP) through the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC). The program aims to address the issue in a comprehensive manner and target a reduction of 20-30% of particulate matter(PM)pollution by 2034, keeping 2017 as the base year. 432 non-attainment cities have been identified and asked to submit proposals for reducing air pollution. Despite NCAP having all the above provisions in place, there has been a lapse in the implementation phase; and therefore the results of the program have been a mixed bag. He added that this workshop is therefore vital to analysing the effectiveness of NCAP and identifying limitations and ways to overcome them.

CPCB Action plans in NAC

climate change

Dr. R. Ethirajan

Environmental Engineer, Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board

Dr. R. Ethirajan began the session by giving a presentation on the National Action Plan of the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) for managing non-attainment cities. He discussed the three major acts (The Water Act 1974, The Air Act 1981, and the EP Act 1986) that the CPCB and the State Pollution Control Boards (SPCBs) implement to protect the environment. He explained the functions of the CPCB, MoEFCC, and state government in overseeing the work of the SPCBs. He also went into detail on the Air Act and the organisational structure of the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB). Dr. Ethirajan discussed the major components of air quality management, including setting air quality standards, monitoring air pollution, identifying sources of air pollution, and implementing strategies to reduce air pollution. The government monitors air quality through the National Ambient Air Quality Monitoring program, with data collected from 883 stations across 28 states. The CPCB also publishes an Air Quality Index and uses real-time monitoring stations and continuous air quality monitoring stations. Dr. Ethirajan also discussed the National Clean Air Program (NCAP), which is aimed at reducing PM pollution by 20-30% by 2024, with identified non-attainment cities having source apportionment studies and action plans to reduce pollution. He concluded by explaining how the government operates through committees at the centre and state levels to ensure that the NCAP goals are achieved.

Viewing air pollution and policies through the gender lens

climate change

Dr. Pallavi Pant

Head of Global Health, Health Effects Institute

Dr. Pallavi Pant highlighted the absence of gender as a factor  in discussions about air pollution. While there was  a lot of talk about how air pollution  affects health, environment, the economy, etc.,  the gender aspect of it barely receives the attention it deserves.  She further asked us to introspect about who is doing the chores at home, who cooks, who drops kids at school and takes care of them etc. She went on to explain that women, particularly those of childbearing age and pregnant women, are disproportionately affected by air pollution and household pollution due to their traditional roles in the home. She added that the usage of wood, coal, animal dumps etc as household fuel has an impact on the  respiratory health of women. Hence it becomes vital that we transition to cleaner fuels for women, so that they can step out of the house and take part in other roles contributing to the economy. She emphasised the importance of analysing gender roles in finding solutions to air pollution and called for more focus on the gender aspect in future discussions and policies. Ms. Pallavi also expressed her hope that future policies will consider the gender perspective and include gender-specific data analysis.

Status of implementation of NCAP and roadblocks

climate change

Mr. Sunil Dahiya

Analyst, Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air

Mr. Sunil Dhaiya discussed the implementation status of the National Clean Air Program (NCAP) and the roadblocks faced in its implementation. He mentioned that NCAP was implemented in 2019 after multiple consultations and revisions by MoEFCC and CPCB, but there are still roadblocks to its implementation. He talked about 4 different domains of NCAP with multiple indicators, including improving air quality monitoring mechanisms at the state and national levels. However, out of 26 cities, only 10 have submitted state-level action plans, and Tamil Nadu has yet to submit them. Also, despite a delay of 3 years, the base studies such as source apportionment and emission inventory have not been completed, which are crucial for strategic interventions. He further discussed the four different domains of NCAP, including strengthening the air quality monitoring mechanisms, but noted that the majority of the state-level action plans have not been submitted. He also pointed out that despite progress in some areas, the implementation of NCAP is failing. 

Mr. Dhaiya highlighted the lack of transparency in the committees set up to oversee the program, as well as the need for a different approach to industrial monitoring and setting standards for industries. He referred to a report by his organization, CSE, which outlines the status of NCAP and its progress in achieving its goals. He highlighted that despite multiple revisions and consultations, NCAP is facing difficulties in implementation. The NCAP is also facing problems with data availability and the integration of decision support systems.  Mr.Dhaiya concluded by saying that NCAP will not result in significant improvements unless there is a comprehensive mechanism for air quality management, stricter punitive actions on polluters, and a stratified national air quality approach.

Securing India's database for Air Pollution

climate change

Dr. Pratima Singh

Senior Research Scientist, Center for Study of Science, Technology and Policy

Dr. Pratima Singh discussed the topic of "Securing India's Database for Air Pollution". She elaborated on the steps  to manage the air pollution problem,  with the first step being to set a goal,  which should be to provide clean breathing air for all. The next step is baseline air quality assessment, followed by air quality monitoring and management; the fourth step is intervention strategies and the final step is action plan implementation and evaluation. She pointed out that NCAP lacked a scientific approach and a robust emission inventory or source apportionment study, as most pollution boards in India do not have state-of-the-art laboratories to carry out such studies. 

Dr Singh also emphasised the need for high-quality data from authentic sources that can be used  for modelling and research purposes. For this, she stressed the importance of having a good network of monitoring stations and conducting emission inventory and source apportionment studies to identify the activities and sectors responsible for pollution. Dr. Pratima went on to explain the various ways of collecting data, such as through monitoring networks, manual emissions status, and continuous air quality management systems (CAQMS). While the  data currently available is collected by the state-level Pollution Control Boards and the government, institutions, and industries, this data is limited to research and compliance and not for the larger picture of understanding the impact of air pollution on health. Therefore, she emphasised the need to use data for the right purposes and not just to show numbers. Pratima highlighted the challenges in air pollution monitoring in India. Despite the need for 4000 monitors, the country only has 1387 monitors. The distribution of these monitors is also not even, with over 33% of real-time monitors concentrated in Delhi alone. The cost of setting up a monitoring station is also high, requiring an investment of over Rs. 4000Cr for 4000 monitors. This highlights the need for more investment and better planning in order to effectively monitor and address air pollution in India. 

Dr. Singh said that there is a need for a central database of emission inventory studies in India which can be accessed by researchers, policymakers and the public to better understand the air pollution problem in India and to develop effective strategies for reducing air pollution. Dr. Singh  stressed the need for young researchers to create a standard template for air quality data collection and for institutions to educate policymakers and various departments about the data required for effective air quality management. She also encouraged the creation of country-level databases to better understand and manage the air pollution problem in India.

Session 4

Sustainable solutions for Air Quality Management


climate change

Mr. Dharmesh Shah

Legal Initiative for Forest and Environment

Mr. Shah began explaining how  air pollution must not just be viewed as prevalent only in highly populated and urbanised areas but as something that has also reached the purest uninhabited corners of the world. Air pollution is not a new issue in India, but one that  has gained a lot of traction recently due to the rapidly worsening of air quality from anthropogenic sources. It results not only in individual and environmental loss but also affects the country’s economy, labour force and public health. 

Mr. Dharmesh discussed the possible sustainable solutions to tackle air pollution at source, especially emissions from vehicles, fossil fuels and solid waste. While managing the problem at source, parallelly, there is a growing need to conduct health surveillance and mapping to keep track of the impacts on public health.  The point about how India’s policy framework lags behind technological progress and the need for sustainable solutions to a modern problem which requires substantial political will to be implemented effectively was discussed.

India’s AQM - pollution prevention and control infrastructure

climate change

Dr. Abinaya Shekar

Senior Research Associate, Centre for Policy Research

Dr. Abinaya Shekar  discussed the evolution of air quality management (AQM), the issues and capacity of regulatory agencies, and the control measures that are taken. The objective of NCAP is to attain acceptable national ambient air quality standards. The standard PM2.5 levels that sensitive areas are required to maintain are designated by the State Government. However, none of the states have a clear definition of  sensitive zones. Furthermore, the 2009 standards are considered lenient compared to 1994 standards. Dr. Abinaya raised concerns about the capacity of regulatory authorities, citing that more than 50% of technical posts in the country are currently vacant and there is a lack of uniform pattern of assessment and selection criteria for these posts across the country. 

She emphasised the importance of providing scientific evidence to implement effective control measures and called for a transparent and scientific approach to determining the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS), taking into consideration the health evidence, factors used in similar cities, and involving the public in the decision-making process. Dr. Abinaya suggested that a revision of the AQM and NAAQS should be carried out in a periodic manner and that an airshed approach should be adopted to address the transport of pollutants from one state to another. She concluded by recommending that India should learn from cities like Mumbai and reduce local sources of pollutants, such as paving roads and banning diesel vehicles.

Zero waste cities

climate change

Mr. Shibu Nair

Regional Organics Campaigner, Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives

In the presentation given by Mr. Shibu Nair, the topic of biodegradable waste management in municipalities, both in India and other countries was discussed. He highlighted the dangers of  burning waste as a means of cleansing, as it contributes to pollution. Mr. Shibu pointed out that the current trend in waste management is decentralisation, as people are rejecting centralised waste management plants in their neighbourhoods. This has led to cities setting up small-scale decentralised composting facilities.  The promotion of this system creates more businesses, and jobs and improves the local economy, as seen in Kerala. 

Mr. Shibu criticised the approach taken in Kochi where biodegradable waste is collected, composted, dried, burned, and then dumped in a mine or released into the air, adding to pollution. He emphasised the need for a simpler solution that eliminates transportation and reduces pollution. Mr. Shibu concluded by emphasising the importance of promoting home compost systems, kitchen and urban gardening, and organic farming to solve the issue of organic waste management in a sustainable manner.

Transition to renewables

climate change

Dr. Bhargavi Rao

Senior Fellow/ Trustee, Environment Support Group

Dr.Bhargavi Rao emphasised the significance of understanding the developments in the renewable energy sector while discussing air pollution and climate change. She stressed the need to assess the impact of renewable energy projects on local communities and the environment. She went on to talk about the negative impacts of the Pavagada solar park, a 2000 MW solar project in Karnataka, India. According to her, the project has resulted in the displacement of local communities, and loss of access to fields, grazing pastures, schools, roads, etc. The small and marginalised farmers received only one-time payments and have limited access to resources, resulting in poverty and increased mortality rates. Local people were not hired for installation work, with migrants being hired instead.  

Dr. Bhargavi pointed out that the region has a lot of pastoral jobs, but pastoral communities have lost access to their livelihoods. Additionally, despite being located near solar panels, the local communities still don't have access to electricity. She concluded by saying that it is important to ensure the participation of local people in such projects to minimise its negative impacts.

Sustainable mobility to combat air pollution

climate change

Mr. Ranjit Gadgil

Programme Director, Parisar

Mr. Ranjit Gadgil spoke on sustainable mobility as a solution to combat air pollution. He highlighted that the cumulative effect of transport on air pollution is increasing and that there is a reasonable argument for promoting electric vehicles (EVs) in cities due to their exposure to air pollution. He also emphasised the importance of demand management and reducing waste in order to combat air pollution.

Mr. Ranjit pointed out some positive initiatives in cities, such as Pune, which has adopted a comprehensive bicycle plan, and urban street design guidelines, and organises a pedestrian day annually. However, he also mentioned the challenges faced in implementing sustainable mobility, such as the need to reduce car trips and shift to walking, cycling, and public transport. 

Mr. Ranjit also discussed the downsides of car-centric planning, its ecological impact, and how this is a result of a misunderstanding of the use of flyovers among city planners. He emphasised the importance of demand management, such as parking policies, to discourage car usage and encourage sustainable mobility. He concluded by highlighting the need for a significant increase in the number of buses in India to move towards sustainable mobility.

Session 5 

Sustainable citizen accounts


In addition to the technical sessions by experts,  this session was dedicated to citizens sharing accounts of  sustainable lifestyles. 

climate change

Ms. Janani Venkitesh

Member, Residents of Kasturbanagar Association

Ms. Janani Venkitesh, member of Residents of Kasturbanagar Association (ROKA), shared her field-level work on promoting source segregation of waste.  She narrated how  ROKA volunteers have successfully diverted 1.5 metric tons of biodegradable waste from landfills through collection drives. Though they represent Kasturbanagar, their efforts extend to a few other cities and municipalities. She recollected Dr.Ismail’s speech and concurred with him that while dealing with waste we should think of it as resource management rather than solid waste management. To promote sustainable consumption, waste should be considered as a valuable resource. While there are many organisations working to build awareness about climate change, she stressed that ROKA works towards monitoring and implementation of policies. ROKA’s activities aim to include kids and adults in the community and also include housekeeping staff who largely deal with household waste.

climate change

Ms. Nina Subramani

Warrior Moms

Ms. Nina Sumbramani is from Warrior Moms, a collective led by women in selected states, committed to advocating for clean air and a countrywide healthy air quality index in line with WHO standards for children. She highlighted how air pollution is disproportionately distributed within Chennai’s geography. She and other mothers across the country have launched a ‘know your rights campaign’ initiative to raise awareness and amplify the health effects of air pollution. As most rural households can’t afford LPG cylinders, air pollution at the household level caused by burning biomass fuel affects mothers and children. 

climate change

Mr. Suresh

Environmental Enthusiast

Mr. Suresh is a self-taught environmental enthusiast who has taken it upon himself to find household-level solutions to environmental problems. He has successfully implemented projects such as rainwater harvesting, solar roof-top, biogas generation, terrace gardening, hydroponics, air-to-water generation, solar scooters and wastewater recycling in his house. He explained how he has  shared his experiences and household-level environment-friendly solutions with over 25,000 people and has given over 500 talks. He is of the opinion that individuals should not expect the governments to find the solutions; instead, they should find solutions themselves.  

Vote of Thanks and Conclusion

climate change

Ms. Madhuvanthi R

Researcher, Citizen consumer and civic Action Group

Madhuvanthi from CAG thanked all the speakers for sharing their views, suggestions, and experiences on technical and policy issues related to air pollution. The conference helped in understanding the interconnectedness of air pollution and climate change and how the socioeconomic dimensions underlie this intersection. All the speakers concurred that in the persistent conflict between economy and ecology, economy always wins. However,  it was also highlighted that since air pollution and climate change impact public health and subsequently affects the economy of the country, taking control measures to combat air pollution and mitigating climate change effects is also beneficial from an economic point of view. The discussions also helped us understand in-depth about various sources of pollution and the challenges in regulating them. The conference also analysed the Indian policy responses to air pollution, particularly the National Clean Air Programme, its scope, and the roadblocks in its implementation. Due importance was also given to inclusive and participatory decision-making by discussing the importance of viewing the problem of air pollution through the gender lens. Rather than stopping with enumerating the issues, the conference also provided an arena to suggest some potential sustainable solutions and pathways in the context of transportation, waste management, fossil fuels and the process of transitioning to renewables. The conference concluded with 3 responsible citizens who practise sustainable initiatives in their daily lives explaining how it is possible to take action against air pollution at an individual level while waiting on macro level solutions from the government

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Zero Waste Beginnings

Fri, 27/01/2023 - 09:55

In light of the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives’ (GAIA) Zero Waste Month observed in January, Citizen consumer and civic Action Group (CAG) in collaboration with Justice Basheer Ahmed Syed (JBAS) College, Chennai conducted an event  ‘Zero Waste Beginnings’. The event was aimed at college students, to help build an awareness of zero waste lifestyles and understand the overwhelming menace of solid waste, especially plastic waste. The guest speakers were Mr.N.Mahesan, Chief Engineer, Solid Waste Management & Town Planning, Greater Chennai Corporation (GCC), Dr.B.Asha Latha, Zonal Health Officer, Zone 9, GCC and Mr. Natarajan, Founder of PUVI Earth Care solutions. During the event, CAG’s 2022 Brand Audit report was officially released by Mr.Mahesan. The event also included interesting competitions for students as a way to engage them and help them learn about the ill-effects of plastics.

Dr.Asha Latha gave an introduction about the state level and national level ban on single-use plastics (SUP). She explained how despite the ban, SUPs are still widely in use, particularly the everyday items such as plastic coated disposable tea cups, plastic carry bags, etc. Dr.Asha elaborated on the various health issues that people face as a result of plastics getting mixed in the food chain. She discussed the practical problems that the GCC faces in managing solid waste due to the overwhelming usage of SUP. She appreciated CAG and JBAS for ensuring that no SUPs were used during the event. She requested all students to cooperate in following the ban on SUP and take this message home to their families as well.

Mr.Natarajan, founder of PUVI Earth Care solutions introduced himself and his enterprise. He told the students that he was working in a high paying job in the IT sector in the USA until he strongly felt the need to work towards something meaningful to contribute to the environment. He explained the work done by PUVI Earth Care solutions and his non-profit Namma Ooru foundation. He actively interacted with the students by posing questions such as whether plastic is a boon or a bane. He explained that plastic was a great innovation and a boon until humans turned it into a bane. He explained the problems with SUPs which embodied the disposable, ‘use and throw’ attitude in the minds of the people. He explained that manufacturers of plastics and the fossil fuel industry encouraged people to use SUP quoting hygiene and safety reasons. He elaborated in detail about how plastics have penetrated every aspect of our ecosystem, causing lethal harm to marine animals, terrestrial animals and birds, human beings and even an unborn foetus.

He explained the different types of waste generated in households and urged the students to segregate. He emphasised that only when segregation at source is followed can waste be used as a valuable resource by composting, recycling, reusing and refurbishing. He introduced the concept of zero waste and why it is necessary to adopt this model. He explained that while there are solutions to deal with wet waste and dry waste, the amount of waste generated in Tamil Nadu, particularly in Chennai overwhelms the capacities of waste management plants and facilities in existence. Therefore, all kinds of waste which is most often mixed, ends up without any segregation or treatment in open dumpyards. He talked about the state of the open dump yards in Perungudi and Kodungaiyur in Chennai and the adverse effects it has on people living in the neighbouring localities. He explained that this is why the primary solution has to be to adopt the zero waste model and learn how to be circular while dealing with our waste.


Figure 1: Students and teachers taking an oath to segregate and refuse Single-Use Plastics

Mr. Mahesan made a presentation about how GCC is managing waste in Chennai. He mentioned some alarming figures about how much waste is generated in the city of Chennai in one day. He explained that waste collection, treatment and disposal has been outsourced to a private company, Urbaser Sumeet for 7 out of 15 zones in Chennai. He explained the various initiatives that the GCC has undertaken to ensure that waste is used as a valuable resource to the best extent possible. He played videos which gave the students an understanding on the journey of the waste they discard after use. He explained how biodegradable waste is composted and sold to farmers for reuse as manure and also to produce biogas. He emphasised that the citizens’ cooperation is desperately needed since segregation at source will alleviate the burden of the GCC and the conservancy workers who have to manually sort through mixed waste. Finally, he asked the students to take an oath along with him and other speakers to say no to single-use plastics and to segregate waste at homes and in their college.


Figure 2 : Release of CAG 2022 Brand Audit report

Following the speakers’ presentations, Mr. Mahesan and other speakers released CAG’s 2022 Brand Audit report. The Brand Audit was originally designed and developed by Mother Earth, Greenpeace Philippines, GAIA, and CAG in 2018. It is a citizen science initiative led by Break Free From Plastic which has subsequently spread across the world with 440 brand audits conducted across 45 countries in 2021 alone. A Brand Audit attempts to identify the top plastic polluter companies through a waste audit by collecting plastic trash in a sample area and analysing the data in terms of manufacturer, type of plastic, recyclability, purpose of use, etc. The concept of a brand audit and the methodology was explained to the students and they were also encouraged to conduct informal brand audits in their homes to understand which brand occupied the top position in their homes. The students were also briefed about the top polluters, different types of plastic and its recyclability. 


Figure 3 : Students exhibiting their posters and reels for the competition

Two activities were conducted for students on the theme of a plastic free future. One was a ‘reels’ contest where the students were asked to create 30 second instagram reels demonstrating how it is possible to eschew plastic in their daily lives and adopt alternatives to SUP. The other was a poster making contest where the students were allowed to let their imaginations run wild on how a plastic free future would look like. The students presented their reels and posters and the speakers judged them based on creativity, understanding of the harmful impacts of plastics, the need for alternatives to SUP, importance of biodiversity and the aesthetic factor. Cash prizes were distributed to the top 3 winners of both the contests.

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Tamil Nadu’s MARCH towards Vision ZERO

Thu, 01/12/2022 - 14:42

Globally, road crashes kill 1.35 million people and injure 50 million people every year. Road Traffic Injuries are the leading cause of death amongst children and young adults. It is important to recognise that road crashes not only contribute to the unaccountable suffering of victims, their friends and families but also impact economically productive young lives thereby draining the GDP of the nation. . India witnesses more than 400 road fatalities every day (WHO, 2018). It is important to promote evidence based actions to reduce the impact of this epidemic of road crashes and their socio-economic fallouts.

The World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims (WDoR) is a day observed globally to remember the millions killed and injured on our world’s roads, together with their families, friends and many others who are also affected. WDoR is commemorated every year on the third Sunday of November. Considering the numerous crashes and fatalities that take place daily on Indian roads, this day is of enormous relevance to Indian road users.

This year, WDoR was commemorated in a joint event by CAG, the Greater Chennai Traffic Police (GCTP), and the Tamilnadu Dr. Ambedkar Law University (TNDALU). The programme was kickstarted with a road safety quiz for students from city colleges - JBAS, Patrician, and TNDALU. This was followed by screening of an animation video on road safety that highlighted the need for wearing helmets, driving within speed limits, and not drinking and driving.

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📷 Keynote address by Thiru.Shankar Jiwal, IPS | Photo: CAG

The Chief Guest was Thiru Shankar Jiwal, IPS, Commissioner of Police, Chennai who spoke on the efforts taken by the government on improving road safety, in particular the enforcement of road rules by the police. He highlighted the socio economic fallouts of a road crash, and that as a society, “We need more discussions on the causes of road crashes and how we can effectively ensure course correction.” He also felicitated the winners of the quiz competition and honoured various officials of the GCTP for their outstanding work in promoting road safety.

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📷 Felicitation of police personnel by the chief guest | Photo: CAG

The event also saw the participation of the Additional Transport Commissioner, Mr. M. Manakumar. He appealed to all citizens to cooperate with the authorities adding that “Penalties have been increased as per the MVAA 2019 to act as a deterrent to risky road behaviour. They should not be perceived as harassment.” Sumana Narayanan, Senior Researcher, CAG, also emphasised that “The increased penalties under MVAA 2019 being implemented in Tamil Nadu is a welcome move. This should serve as a deterrent to poor driving. Penalties are a crucial tool in nudging citizens to obey the law and thereby avoid road crashes.” Participants also heard real life experiences from two road crash victims. The event concluded with the chief guests and other dignitaries including the Vice Chancellor of TNDALU, Prof. Dr. N.S. Santhosh Kumar and the Additional Commissioner (Traffic), Thiru. Kapil C. Saratkar lighting candles and observing a minute of silence in memory of the precious lives lost on Indian roads. The event witnessed enthusiastic participation from college students, faculty members, representatives from Civil Society Organizations and media.

road safety

📷 Remembering the precious lives lost on roads | Photo: CAG

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