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Let’s Not Lose Focus

Lt Col Satish M Vaidya, ex Special Forces, Indian Army and an environment and resources conservation expert - explains why it is important to keep a long-term perspective on climate change

Despite an above average monsoon predicted for India this year, rains are still playing truant in most parts of the country. I have a hypothesis that trees (green vegetation) attract rains. I experienced this firsthand in the Thar Desert of Rajasthan in September 1991. We were camping in the 500 m wide tree belt planted on both sides of the Indira Gandhi/ Rajasthan Canal, when a huge cloud appeared and rained heavily for 20 – 25 minutes, soaking the sand about 18 – 20 inches deep. The next morning, we found there had been no rain on the relatively barren sand dunes a few kilometers away. Trees utilize the infrared component of sunlight for photosynthesis and transpiration further increases the cooling effect.
My other hypothesis for global warming/ climate-change is that atmospheric haze (consisting mainly of smoke/ carbon nano-particles that cause visual obscuration) is responsible for warming of air, which increases its capacity to hold water vapor and raises the dew point. Atmospheric haze absorbs incoming solar radiations as well as reflected (out-going) heat radiations, which heats up the air. After all, carbon particles deposited on snow/ glaciers do speed up their melting. My online petition for this did not receive much public support, showing how grey this aspect is.
Urban areas create heat islands that further inhibit rainfall. While flying a power-chute (a light tricycle frame suspended beneath an 11-cell Ram-Air parachute canopy and powered by a motorcycle engine), I experienced severe air turbulence at the city outskirts. Also, clouds that had caused heavy rains in the Western ghats were seen to disperse after crossing the Khandala section. Good rains require certain conditions to set in and prevail, which are being seriously disrupted by human activities.
Good steady rains will give us water that is needed for the whole year, which requires adequate trees/ green vegetation (through compensatory forestation and conserving trees) on the one hand and reduced smoke on the other. Effective garbage management is the easiest and best way to stop burning of waste. Smoke from post harvest crop-waste burning and vehicles/ industries also need to be reduced in the long run.
During a training course in Nov 1989, I had asked for shared accommodation with non-smokers, for which I was trolled by over 300 colleagues for over a month. However, smoking in public places was banned on 02 Oct 2008 after confirming it was harmful. We may not have that much time now for effective steps to stop climate-change.
PS. Just as I send out this message, it is likely to start raining and cause loss of focus. I hope all stake-holders keep a long-term perspective on climate change. Someone wise has said “the best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago; the second best time is now”.
Satish VaidyaLt Col Satish M Vaidya (Retired) has considerable experience as a Paratrooper (Special Forces) officer of the Indian Army. His second innings with a hotel chain involved security and loss prevention for 10 years and Six Sigma/ change management for two years (where he got a Green Belt). His main interest lies in environment and resources conservation. In his current third innings, he has completed Masters in Environmental Science and Six Sigma Black Belt. He is working on a system that purifies liquids, works on low-grade waste heat, can conserve energy & prevent water pollution. Over the last 3 ½ years he has established a wet-waste composting system, which can help large scale solid waste management. He actively campaigns for a clean environment and writes regularly.