× Close
View from Pakistan

How Pakistan won a skirmish with India over climate change funds

At a meeting in South Korea, India opposed a proposed Pakistani project to reduce risks from climate change.

Songdo, South Korea is not a place that would normally spring to mind as a venue for an Indo-Pak confrontation. Last week, however, the boardrooms of the Green Climate Fund witnessed a fascinating spectacle involving the two South Asian states. What was at stake this time? Thirty-nine million dollars and the livelihood of 7,00,000 of the poorest and most vulnerable people of our country.

Formed in 2010 and a centrepiece of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, the Green Climate Fund is the primary global vehicle to finance climate change-related interventions in developing countries.

In Songdo, where it is based, the Green Climate Fund board met last week to review and approve 10 projects worth $800 million that would help millions of poor people adapt to the risks of climate change.

Among these projects was one submitted by Pakistan – a crucial first for our country given that we are one of the most at-risk places when it comes to climate change.

Supported by the United Nations Development Program, the project is meant to reduce risks and impact of flooding outbursts from glacial lakes in communities in Gilgit-Baltistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

The Green Climate Fund's independent technical committee concluded that the project would provide protection to more than 7,00,000 people, and gave it the go-ahead.

But not before significant drama and tension, as India attempted to have the decision derailed.

In a waffling set of attacks, Indian board member Dinesh Sharma, a Special Secretary in Indian Ministry of Finance, put forth several contradictory reasons for his opposition to the Pakistani project:

The science on glacial melt was weak and hence the project itself was weak; the project risk assessment, he felt, proved that there would be no impact (he was unable to clarify what he meant by ‘no impact’); and that somehow the mitigation work in Pakistan – mostly the installation of early warning and other sensory systems and capacity building of communities – could increase the risks that Indians on the other side of the border were exposed to.

The more Sharma insisted that he was challenging the project on technical rather than political grounds, the more isolated he became. As his objections grew, the true nature of his hostility became more and more obvious to everyone on the board, even though he kept on insisting that his position was only meant to safeguard the credibility of the GCF. His position backfired and ended up generating significant sympathy for Pakistan from developed and developing countries alike.

A robust project meant that the Pakistani board member did not even need to respond directly to Indian concerns. In fact, it were other board members who spoke up in Pakistan’s defence, which was a testament to the country’s case and conduct at the meeting.

Ultimately, group pressure from the entire board, including the South African co-chair, led to the Indian representative being isolated and having no choice but to go with the consensus in the room and approve the project.

And just for the record, this is not propaganda from a Pakistani patriot; the evidence is available in the documented recordings of all the proceedings on the GCF website.

As someone who has worked and collaborated extensively with my Indians counterparts in this field, it was sad to see India’s opposition when there was no need for any.

As two developing countries, Pakistan and India have generally collaborated on climate change issues. But it seems that after having whipped up a hysteria against its neighbour in order to deflect attention from the very real challenges it faces in Kashmir, the Indian government has become a victim of its own narrative on Pakistan.

Since New Delhi cannot actually take the kind of military action it says it can take against Pakistan, the Indian government will use any trick in the book to try to isolate Pakistan otherwise.

After the hyperbole over ‘surgical strikes’, cancellation of the SAARC summit, and the Bollywood and kabaddi boycotts, it seems that the next platform of this campaign was the boardroom of the GCF.

Does India really need to take Indo-Pak politics into the realms of the global efforts against climate change? Clearly, the rest of the world does not think so.

For Pakistan there is a lesson in this as well. Songdo shows us that we are not isolated and that with a clear position, the right preparation and effective lobbying, the international community will back us where we are right.

This article first appeared on Dawn.

We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in.
Sponsored Content BULLETIN BY 

What goes into creating an uber-luxurious home in India? We ask the experts

There is surprising consensus among experts on the main elements of luxury in architecture.

Luxury living conjures an idea of opulence and excess, but is increasingly becoming more about seeing design as a solution, form following function, and innovation. Our panel of experts sheds light on what constitutes luxury in an Indian home.

Response to context

Pallavi Choksi of Pinakin Design points out astutely that “Real luxury is the luxury to waste space, especially in a place like Bombay.” Her view finds resonance with Hadi Teherani, the much decorated German-Iranian architect. He says, “Luxury is first and foremost to have space, not just enough for what you need but enough space to really thrive. And luxury has always been defined that way.”

But is space all there is to a luxury home? Location or context also plays an important role.

“Context is very important”, says Rajiv Saini, who runs one of India’s leading design practices and specializes in high-end luxury projects. “Volume, air and purity of space all come into play—if it is in the hills or in the plains.” So, the location of the property and the way the house responds to it is equally crucial.

Hiren Patel, of Hiren Patel Architects agrees. He laments, “We live in a temperature controlled cocoon with artificial lighting and for these comforts we have lost our connection with nature.” The work he looks up to is of Charles Correa and Geoffrey Bawa, architects whose design brought the environment in. “Charles Correa—his design was climate adaptive and absolutely connected to nature. And he still brought in luxurious touches with open terraces. And Geoffrey Bawa—he added the aspect of landscape and took us back to the pastoral.”

Hadi Teherani reiterates the idea of context. In his Mumbai-based luxury project, the Lodha Altamount, he has chosen to respond to Mumbai’s graph-like skyline. “The design of Altamount was strongly influenced by its location. Next to Altamount stands a luxury highlight of architecture, the Ambani tower, the most expensive home in the world. How do you want to top that? The Ambani tower is very structural. It shoots through the air, it combines all sorts of crafts and structural design elements with gaps and open spaces. You can’t top that and definitely not with our type of design. That’s why we decided to hold back and instead develop a dark and sleek building. That type of building doesn’t exist a lot here in India. Usually buildings have many structural elements like beams and balconies. By creating a calm building in the skyline of Mumbai, we will make Altamount stand out.”

LODHA Altamount, Mumbai - image courtesy LODHA The Luxury Collection
LODHA Altamount, Mumbai - image courtesy LODHA The Luxury Collection

Going desi

Responsiveness to context can also be seen in the way architects and designers are trying to incorporate Indian designs or specific Indian requirements in their structures. There is a definite Indian palate that denotes neo-luxury even as we get more globalized. Our homes reflect our identity, regional or national, and there are multiple ways of getting it right.

Pallavi Choksi at Pinakin Design LLP explains, “The difference is in layout design because often times you have more than one generation living in one house, so the major difference comes from family structure.”

Luxury living spaces are also defined by non-material considerations. Hadi Teherani tells us, “What I do experience is that many projects are influenced by religious thoughts and by Vaastu, something like Feng shui. So the master bedroom has to be in the south-west and the kitchen has to have a certain location. Those rules need to be followed exactly. In Mumbai, it’s a little more liberal but in other regions, Hyderabad for instance, every centimetre has to be exact as per Vaastu.”

Functional design

Common wisdom holds that functionality is the foundation stone of design today. But is it still true for luxury design which has come to be associated with the need to stand out rather than be useful? And by that virtue, is there a threat of functional design losing the sheen of luxury by its simplicity?

Rajat Sodhi, the director of the architecture and design practice Orproject, counters, “Functionality has become a misnomer for ‘cheap’. You can build a w/c for a minimum cost and as the functions offered with it increase, so does the cost.” Function and luxury go hand in hand. “Sensibility in design is what makes the difference, between functional and luxurious.” Kota Stone is the cheapest stone available, but if you reinterpret it, use it with inlay work, it can be a bespoke luxurious experience.

Uncharted territory

So how will luxury architecture in India shape up in the years to come? Mridula Sharma, Editor-in-Chief at Decoration International Magazine observes, “Luxury has moved over from Italian marble and imported fixtures and has become about how you are redefining Indian things. Something smart, Indian, and contemporary with a strong concept behind it—that’s luxury”.

But perhaps there is still much to be explored in the space of luxury homes in India. Hadi Teherani says, “The idea of really designing your bathroom or kitchen has not yet reached India. Bathrooms are still rather compact and practical since the idea of spending quality time in your bathroom doesn’t seem to exist yet. Customers definitely do not request a spacious bathroom when we discuss their projects. For me, personally, a great bathroom is extremely important, as it is the first thing you use in the morning. Afterwards you go to work, and you come back home. But I believe the areas that you use most need to have enough space for you to move and thrive in.”

With just a single residence per floor and a host of bespoke luxury services, Lodha Altamount is the epitome of unrestricted luxury. Designed by some of the finest international names like Hadi Teherani and Rajiv Saini and a part of the Lodha Luxury Collection that has homes present at only the globe’s most-coveted locations, the Lodha Altamount in South Mumbai is the last word in luxury in India. For more information, see here.

This article was produced on behalf of Lodha Luxury by the Scroll.in marketing team and not by the Scroll.in editorial staff

× Close