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Responding to Sustainable Development Issues: News of research and academic initiatives on sustainability has to move from educational supplements to mainstream
The Financial Express, 18 August 2014
This year marks the end of the United Nations Decade of Education for Sustainable Development (2005-2014). Let us just sit back and look at the progress made. Whilst in India, we have moved ahead in the area of environmental education, it is the core concept of integrating sustainable development into our higher education system that remains a not-so-well-understood concept. The unique holistic and cross-cutting nature of education for sustainable development (ESD) remains a goal to be achieved in most of our universities. In spite of the fact that universities need to be engines and innovation centres in sustainable development, there are just a handful of universities that devote themselves to creating knowledge for sustainable development. So, what needs to be done? It should be obvious in today’s context that universities can inculcate the spirit of sustainability in their students, not just by incorporating more theory into their curricula but more so through an experiential learning platform of field work and exercises to understand and reduce the unsustainable impacts of present lifestyles. We could say that Indian universities have a different, and probably easier, playing ground than other global universities. This comes from the fact that our commitment towards sustainability is rooted in the age-old traditions of living in equilibrium with nature and all its elements. We only have to draw from these traditions as we move ahead. Universities in India only need to be helped towards responding to sustainable development issues. We need to have a macro-level approach to reorient our higher education. This is an opportune moment, when we have a new government, and when higher education is one of the priority areas. Three aspects need to be looked at—systemic thinking has to be an approach towards our higher education, greater focus towards capacity building at various levels including skill development and involvement of the media to do a blitzkrieg in improving public understanding of sustainable living. Most universities have responded by adding a couple of courses on sustainability issues. That won’t do. What is required is a change in the thinking and the approach of the academia—a movement away from ‘environmental education’ to ‘education for sustainable development’; a movement away from the departmental or stream-wise thinking to a systemic approach to issues and challenges that the world is facing. Curriculum will follow. Our universities have to focus on capacity building—to raise awareness and provide students with the skills and expertise required for the protection of the environment. This doesn’t mean that we do away with theory. Theoretical underpinnings are extremely important. But when the thinking of teachers reorients towards a sustainability-science and systemic approach, skill development amongst students of higher education to tackle the issues the world, a shared home, faces, will automatically follow. With the time-bomb of climate change not just ticking away but clanging away, only a blitzkrieg by the media and advertising agencies towards promoting public opinion can result in a wider understanding of the principles of sustainable development and an engagement with universities on educational and research initiatives. News of research and academic initiatives on sustainability, like the setting up of a new programme on Water Science and Governance at the Teri University, has to move from educational supplements to mainstream! It is greater public opinion which will result in a growth of greater social responsibility and an understanding of the cause and effect relationship in consumptive lifestyles. Ultimately, it is imperative that our universities accept the urgent need to move from academic discourses on sustainable development to action-oriented involvement of the youth in solving issues that the world faces, through a holistic and systemic approach. Rajiv Seth The author is Registrar, Teri University. Views are personal
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Polite noises: Budget lacks a renewable energy vision
The Hindu Business Line, 21 July 2014
General budget presented by the Union Finance Minister has many positives for renewable energy sector, particularly for solar photovoltaic, wind, and biomass fields. While a total sum of 1,000 crore has been proposed for solar energy projects, a slew of fiscal benefits are accorded to wind and biogas. While these certainly are welcome steps, what is lacking is a ‘vision’ about Indian renewable energy sector. This is especially disappointing after the Prime Minister’s declaration of making India a global force. From that perspective, absence of substantial budgetary allocations for indigenous R&D in renewable energy is inexplicable. Just for comparison, estimated budget for R&D in the atomic energy at 3,430 crore is close to the total budget for Ministry of New and Renewable Energy, which is estimated to be 3,941 crore. Likewise, the budget proposes piece-meal measures such as reduction in custom duties. However, a holistic push to make India a ‘renewable energy manufacturing hub’ is missing. Stay competitive In this era of global competition, only way the domestic industry could grow is by remaining competitive in every which way. Protection measures like anti-dumping duties, at best are, Band-Aid solutions only. Instead technology collaboration, upgradation, and economies of scale are the need of the day. It was expected, therefore, that the budget would propose specific schemes and impetus for the renewable energy manufacturing industry. Even budgetary allocations for solar energy indicate some sort of tokenism. For instance, 500 crore has been allocated for Ultra Mega Solar Power Projects in Rajasthan, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, and Laddakh. Earlier, for such a project at Sambar Lake in Rajasthan, it was estimated that 7,500 crore would be required to set up 1000 MW capacity in the first phase. Sure, lots of this would come as private investments, but infrastructure development for solar parks of this scale itself would entail an investment of substantially higher level. Considering that financing of renewable energy projects, especially for the smaller projects, has been one of the key impediments to accelerated uptake of renewable energy in the country, a dedicated fund on the lines of 10,000 crore fund for MSMEs for providing equity, quasi equity, soft loans and other risk capital would have gone a long way in addressing this important issue. For energy innovations While the Clean Energy Cess on coal is proposed to increase from 50 per tonne to 100 per tonne, expanding the scope of National Clean Energy Fund (NCEF) to ‘financing and promoting clean environment initiatives’ and funding research in the area of clean environment would have wider implications. NCEF has hardly supported any research project in the field of clean energy. With financing of projects also becoming its mandate, it would be used more as an extra-budgetary source for meeting routine requirements. Moreover, mandating NCEF to promote clean ‘environment initiatives’ would make it more of a generic fund, thereby deviating widely from its originally envisaged focus on clean ‘energy’ innovations. It would also be useful if other initiatives such as National Rural Livelihood Mission, Deendayal Upadhyaya Gram Jyoti Yojana and Rural Infrastructure Development Fund are designed in more integrated fashion, making renewable energy one of their central architectural elements- Amit Kumar The writer is on the faculty of Teri University (This article was published on July 20, 2014)
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Coca-Cola, TERI University fund water management schooling in India
The Daily Star , 20 July 2014
Beverage giant Coca-Cola has established a department on water studies at India's TERI University in a bid to tackle the challenges regarding water sustainability. The Coca-Cola Department of Regional Water Studies also aims to help scientifically manage water resources in India with the help of research and development as well as build capability for various stakeholders who can influence policy and implement research effectively. It will examine water issues in an interdisciplinary framework, bringing in cultural, educational and scientific factors as well as religious, ethical, social, political, legal, institutional and economic dimensions towards a better, holistic approach to water management. The department is supported by funds from the Coca-Cola Foundation and TERI University, said Asim Parekh, vice-president of Coca-Cola's India and Southwest Asia Business Unit. Freshwater is a subject of immediate attention and concern across the world. “All of us need to come together to address these issues.” Parekh said Coca-Cola by establishing the department is trying to create a centre of excellence that will provide people that have the right skill set to address all the issues regarding freshwater. The department will provide MTech, MSc, post-graduate diploma, PhD and a certificate course. The courses are open to students and professionals who are graduates or equivalent from any branch of engineering. Postgraduates from environmental science, physics, mathematics, statistics, chemistry, geology, atmospheric science, economics and geography can also apply. Parekh said the partnership brings together the golden triangle of government, business and civil society with academia. “We hope that this department will lead in the field of water governance.” “Coca-Cola believes that through this partnership with TERI University, we can contribute to the creation of human resource capital in the area of water management as well as help in research and development on water management.” In the first phase, the Atlanta-based company will be supporting the department with an endowment of $750,000. Parekh thinks 21st century business entities must create shared value for shareholders, stakeholders and local communities, as the problems that the world now faces are too large for any single entity to solve. “As a leading business organisation, we consider it our responsibility to play a role in issues of water management, sustainable packaging and sustainable agriculture.”
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Date News Title Source
2 February 2012 There is a huge need to re-orient higher education... MBAUniverse.com
1 February 2012 TERI University Hosts its Fourth Convocation... Moneylife Personal Finance site and magazine
27 January 2012 India Today Aspire Education Summit awards... India Today
18 January 2012 Teachers need to assimilate the varied components ... The Hindu
4 January 2012 Announcement of launch of MBA (Urban Management) i... The Hindu (Opportunities, Campus Buzz)

 
India trade mission a success
Concordia Journal, 11 February 2010

Under the agreement with TERI [The Energy and Resources Institute] University, to take just one example, researchers will be working on climate change, biofuels and sustainable business, all recognized areas of strength at Concordia.

  
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