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  BY 

Modern home design trends that are radically changing living spaces in India

From structure to finishes, modern homes embody lifestyle.

Homes in India are evolving to become works of art as home owners look to express their taste and lifestyle through design. It’s no surprise that global home design platform Houzz saw over a million visitors every month from India, even before their services were locally available. Architects and homeowners are spending enormous time and effort over structural elements as well as interior features, to create beautiful and comfortable living spaces.

Here’s a look at the top trends that are altering and enhancing home spaces in India.

Cantilevers. A cantilever is a rigid structural element like a beam or slab that protrudes horizontally out of the main structure of a building. The cantilevered structure almost seems to float on air. While small balconies of such type have existed for eons, construction technology has now enabled large cantilevers, that can even become large rooms. A cantilever allows for glass facades on multiple sides, bringing in more sunlight and garden views. It works wonderfully to enhance spectacular views especially in hill or seaside homes. The space below the cantilever can be transformed to a semi-covered garden, porch or a sit-out deck. Cantilevers also help conserve ground space, for lawns or backyards, while enabling more built-up area. Cantilevers need to be designed and constructed carefully else the structure could be unstable and lead to floor vibrations.

Butterfly roofs. Roofs don’t need to be flat - in fact roof design can completely alter the size and feel of the space inside. A butterfly roof is a dramatic roof arrangement shaped, as the name suggests, like a butterfly. It is an inverted version of the typical sloping roof - two roof surfaces slope downwards from opposing edges to join around the middle in the shape of a mild V. This creates more height inside the house and allows for high windows which let in more light. On the inside, the sloping ceiling can be covered in wood, aluminium or metal to make it look stylish. The butterfly roof is less common and is sure to add uniqueness to your home. Leading Indian architecture firms, Sameep Padora’s sP+a and Khosla Associates, have used this style to craft some stunning homes and commercial projects. The Butterfly roof was first used by Le Corbusier, the Swiss-French architect who later designed the city of Chandigarh, in his design of the Maison Errazuriz, a vacation house in Chile in 1930.

Butterfly roof and cantilever (Image credit: Design Milk on Flickr.com)
Butterfly roof and cantilever (Image credit: Design Milk on Flickr.com)

Skylights. Designing a home to allow natural light in is always preferred. However, spaces, surrounding environment and privacy issues don’t always allow for large enough windows. Skylights are essentially windows in the roof, though they can take a variety of forms. A well-positioned skylight can fill a room with natural light and make a huge difference to small rooms as well as large living areas. However, skylights must be intelligently designed to suit the climate and the room. Skylights facing north, if on a sloping roof, will bring in soft light, while a skylight on a flat roof will bring in sharp glare in the afternoons. In the Indian climate, a skylight will definitely reduce the need for artificial lighting but could also increase the need for air-conditioning during the warm months. Apart from this cleaning a skylight requires some effort. Nevertheless, a skylight is a very stylish addition to a home, and one that has huge practical value.

Staircases. Staircases are no longer just functional. In modern houses, staircases are being designed as aesthetic elements in themselves, sometimes even taking the centre-stage. While the form and material depend significantly on practical considerations, there are several trendy options. Floating staircases are hugely popular in modern, minimalist homes and add lightness to a normally heavy structure. Materials like glass, wood, metal and even coloured acrylic are being used in staircases. Additionally, spaces under staircases are being creatively used for storage or home accents.

Floating staircase (Image credit: Design Milk on Flickr.com)
Floating staircase (Image credit: Design Milk on Flickr.com)

Exposed Brick Walls. Brickwork is traditionally covered with plaster and painted. However, ‘exposed’ bricks, that is un-plastered masonry, is becoming popular in homes, restaurants and cafes. It adds a rustic and earthy feel. Exposed brick surfaces can be used in home interiors, on select walls or throughout, as well as exteriors. Exposed bricks need to be treated to be moisture proof. They are also prone to gathering dust and mould, making regular cleaning a must.

Cement work. Don’t underestimate cement and concrete when it comes to design potential. Exposed concrete interiors, like exposed brick, are becoming very popular. The design philosophy is ‘Less is more’ - the structure is simplistic and pops of colour are added through furniture and soft furnishings.

Exposed concrete wall (Image Credit: Getty Images)
Exposed concrete wall (Image Credit: Getty Images)

When building your home, it is important to use strong and durable materials. A value-added premium product with high compressive strength, Birla Gold cement is used to make tough, impermeable concrete that sets quickly, lasts long and minimises cracking. Its durability will ensure that your dream home always looks new and the steel structure inside remains protected. Birla Gold offers variants that are optimised for different needs. The unique hydraulic binding properties of the Birla Gold Premium cement variant prevent seepage, making it resistant to even corrosive water, especially important for houses in coastal cities. The Birla Gold Royal cement variant provides very high strength and is perfect for the foundation. As the video below says, with the different varieties of cement that Birla Gold offers, you can build the home of your dreams.

Play

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Birla Gold Premium Cement and not by the Scroll editorial team.