1. Don’t be a road hog
By Abhishek Bhalla
Delhi Police records show that cases of drink driving are on a rapid rise. In 2006, 4,286 cases of drink driving were reported; an increase of 21.94 per cent over the previous year
New Delhi: Ever wondered why being out on the city’s roads feels increasingly like being in a jungle? Once you are out of home, it seems everyone’s out to get you. Reckless driving and irresponsible motorists have increased not only the number of road accidents but also the severity of the accidents, pushing up the fatalities graph each passing day. With drunk driving and winter smog making the beginning of the year among the most dangerous, it is perhaps a good idea to resolve to make the road safe for users, including yourself. Delhi Police records show that cases of drink driving are on a rapid rise. In 2006, 4,286 cases of drink driving were reported; an increase of 21.94 per cent over the previous year. The year 2005 saw a similar trend, with prosecutions increasing by18 per cent from 2004. This year, the figure has already crossed 4,000. “There can be nothing more dangerous than drinking and driving. We want people to understand that this is not only dangerous but also a serious offence that can cost people their lives,” says Qamar Ahmed, joint commissioner of police, Traffic. While the police have an ongoing advertising campaign against drink driving, they insist they are not asking being moralistic and asking people to turn teetotalers. Their advice is simple: If you want to get a high in a party, make sure you are with a sober person who will drop you home. If not, take a cab. Reckless driving, jumping traffic signals and speeding are often an outcome for of drink driving. Also, restraining from an urge to honk will not only lower noise pollution levels but also ensure safety from road rage. Constant honking irritates people and the short-tempered do not hesitate to settle the score, often violently. Here is a sobering bit statistics: almost 2,000 people died in road accidents in 2007.
Wise up, drive better and stay alive...
2. Harvest rainwater
By Moushumi Das Gupta
It’s a cost-effective way to recycle fresh natural water while raising the groundwater level
New Delhi: It’s not rocket science. Rain-water harvesting is easy to do and one of the most effective ways of conserving water in a city or neighbourhood. The benefits are huge. Besides replenishing the depleting water table, it helps bring down your water bill.
Government agencies such as the Delhi Jal Board and NGOs such as the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) are already working in this field by creating awareness and promoting rainwater harvesting. The Jal Board runs a special scheme where it provides 50 per cent of the cost of installing rain-water harvesting structures or Rs 50,000 whichever is less to RWAs, cooperative group housing societies, schools and hospitals. The benefits have now prompted several residents in the Capital to come forward to adapt rainwater-harvesting techniques in their homes. Ruchi Singhal, an interior designer living in Saket, is one such example. The Singhal’s have installed a 3,800 litre underground storage tank to harvest rain water flowing through storm water drains. The water that is collected during monsoon is enough to cater to their daily household needs like gardening and washing the driveway.
The government also offers special schemes to single-home residents as well as housing societies to install harvesting facilities. Although rainwater harvesting is currently optional, the government wants to make it mandatory soon. It has already proposed to impose fines on those caught wasting drinking water. The cost for installing a rainwater harvesting varies depending on the locality where you are staying. “In areas like east Delhi where the water table has not receded, the cost varies between Rs 4500 to Rs 8000. In south Delhi areas where the water table has fallen drastically, the cost ranges between Rs 12,000 to 25,000,” said a DJB official.
If you want t know how to install a rainwater harvesting system at home, call Delhi Jal Board’s Rain Water Harvesting Assistance cell at 23675434 or 23678380 (extn 246 and 240). You can get detailed information from CSE’s Rain Water Harvesting Cell at 29955124 and 29955125.
3. Green a park near your home
By Moushumi Das Gupta
There are over 13,000 parks, gardens, playgrounds, traffic circles and strategic green areas in Delhi.
New Delhi: It’s not the sight of green grass, trees or children playing that greets the eye when you take walk through a neighbourhood park. Most small parks are dustbowls full of cows and garbage strewn around. The assigned gardeners and sweepers don’t show up for days at end and calling the municipal office is of little help. But don’t give up.
There’s a way to green your park, and it has worked in several Delhi neighbourhoods. Join hands with your fellow neighbours and take over the responsibility to maintain the neighbourhood park yourselves.
It’s not very difficult thing to do if you have the will, neither is it very expensive. In area
s like Greater Kailash, Chittaranjan Park, Gulmohar Park, Green Park, Vasant Vihar and New Rajinder Nagar, residents have come forward to maintain the colony parks. “We started it in our colony park three years ago and now it has become a model park that other neighborhoods can emulate. The park is so clean that you can’t spot a small piece of paper or plastic there at any time. The residents have hired a gardener who cleans and maintains the park each day. We have hired a sweeper too. This arrangement costs the colony Rs 50,000 per year, with the per family cost being about Rs 500 every month,” said Rajeev Kakaria, president, E-Block RWA, Greater Kailash-I.
Similarly, the RWA at New Rajinder Nagar maintains about two-dozen colony parks at a far more affordable price of Rs 30,000 every year — that is Rs 2,500 a month — to maintain 30 odd parks in the area.
Let’s dream a a bit: how about spending some time every day/week picking up the plastics yourself.
4. Save power
By Moushumi Das Gupta
Using low-energy gadgets saves you money and lowers the power-strapped city’s daily deficit
Most of us have learned to live with power cuts, especially in the peak of summer or when winter has the city in its cold clutch. The government’s usual excuse its that Delhi is a power-deficit state so there is no way they can meet the peak need, and it is right. The city generates between 700 and 1,100 Megawatt (MW), but the the demand is four times as much. And this demand is shooting up each year. From a peak demand of only 27 MW in 1951, Delhi’s power demand grew to 4,000 MW in 2007 – an increase of 6-7 per cent annually. With power generation within the city continuing to be abysmally low till the proposed power plants come up sometime in the future, the only way to stop power cuts is to conserve energy. The power saving potential and the benefits accruing from it are immense. So what are you waiting for? Beginning this year, you can do your bit to conserve energy by making simple changes in your day-to-day life. Like switching to CFL (compact fluorescent lamp) bulbs from traditional lighting systems at home. Compared to incandescent lamps of the same luminous flux, CFLs use less energy and have a longer rated life. If all of Delhi switches to CFLs, it will help save up to 450 MW of power, which is the quantum of power shortage that Delhi faces on any given day during peak summer months. This is not all. An additional 175 MW can be saved annually if the city residents start switching off electrical appliances when not in use. Using ACs sparingly can also go a long way in saving power. You can also reduce energy use by as much as 40 per cent by shading the windows and the walls with plants etc. Install a total isolation relay for inverters or generators and geysers to prevent your electricity meter from running during a power cut. Install thermostat fitted geysers. Microwaves can help save 50 per cent on cooking energy costs as compared to regular oven. If your computer must be left on turn off the monitor as it consumes more than half of the energy consumed. Together, these small steps will help conserve approximately 800 MW power. Not only will these steps help the city’s residents tide over the power crisis that they have to face every summer but it will also help bring down the monthly power bill.
5. Help protect a monument from falling into ruin
By Aruna P Sharma
Visit a monument near your home, find out about its history and spread awareness about it. The next step is to form a neighbourhood committee and adopt a monument to ensure it does not crumble or fall prey to vandals or builders
Clean up a monument and develop a garden around it, with some help from the government.
Delhi is one of the few cities in the world that boasts of three World Heritage Sites — the Qutab Minar complex, the Humayun’s Tomb complex and the Red Fort — but many of its unprotected monuments are falling apart. You can help preserve its built history by taking some trouble to find out more about the area you live in and the monuments, if any, around your home. There is bound to be one, even if it’s only a shed.
Begin by visiting a monument in your neighbourhood and find out more about its history. The next step is to form neighbourhood committees to adopt it and ensure it does not crumble or fall prey to vandals or builders.
“Monuments are silent sentinels and it is the citizens who need to take up an advocacy role to protect them You can form neighbourhood to lobby with the authorities to take steps to conserve the monuments, stop their abuse and misuse and improve their environs ,” says professor A G K Menon, convener of the Delhi Chapter for the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH). If you take pride in the city’s built heritage, you should consider helping to preserve it.
One way to do so is by becoming a stakeholder in the upkeep of a monument. Write to the State Department of Archaeology at Dara Shikoh library, Guru Gobind Singh Indraprastha University in Kashmere Gate to find out what you can do. It has the charge of all the unprotected monuments and heritage structures in Delhi. You can volunteer time to INTACH (
) at 71, Lodhi Estate, or get more information from the heritage cells of NDMC, MCD and DDA.
Public interest petitions and pressure from civil society members in the past have helped to save the city’s heritage. Among the successes were prevention of the demolition of the canopy or chhatri (canopy) behind India Gate, the dismantling of the National Police Memorial that was obstructing the view of Rashtrapati Bhawan at Shanti Path, and preventing Delhi Metro Rail Corporation from laying elevated rail tracks that would have blocked the view of Qutab Minar and disturbed the monuments in the Mehrauli Archaeological Park. Corporate house have shown the way by adopting big monuments like Jantar Mantar. You can help by making the neighbourhood monument a part of the colony’s ‘greenscape’.
6. Segregate kitchen waste
By Moushumi Das Gupta
At present, there are no government schemes or subsidy available to city residents for setting up compost pits.
New Delhi: On an average, each of us living in an urban neighbourhood produces half a kilogram of garbage everyday. With almost all the landfill sites in the Capital bursting at the seams, disposing this waste in an eco-friendly way in the coming years is going to become a big problem. You, however, can make a difference.
Very basic things need to be done, such as segregating the kitchen garbage, encouraging neighbours to do the same and getting the resident welfare association in setting up composting facilities in the neighbourhood itself.
Several neighbourhoods are doing this already. “In Princes Park, for instance, residents are collecting the household garbage, segregate the biodegradable from the non-biodegradable, and then compost the garbage in their colony park. The compost is used as manure in the neighbourhood parks,” said Bharti Chaturvedi, of Chintan, an environmental NGO.
Many group housing societies in East Delhi area like Indraprastha Extension are also working at their colony level to recycle waste into compost. Making a compost pit is not expensive. Depending on the size of the concrete pit the cost varies between Rs 2000 to Rs 5000. “The compost pits that some residents have set up at the colony level do not cost much. All you need to do is dig up and concretise pits, where the garbage can be composted. Wherever residents show interest, volunteers from Chintan help them in setting up the compost pits,” said Chaturvedi.
At present, there are no government schemes or subsidy available to city residents for setting up compost pits. However, NGOs such as Chintan help in providing technical information to those who are interested to know more about composting kitchen garbage.
For more, visit www.chintan-india.org
7. Help a state school or teach a child
By Avishek G Dastidar
For more, visit www.pratham.org/ or www.udayancare.org
New Delhi: Most children go to school but very few get an education, more so in government-run schools with little accountability. Since underpaid and overworked teachers have little interest in teaching, perhaps it is time we stopped waiting for Khadi-clad NGOwallahs and did something. Hundreds of people like us — professionals, businessmen, housewives, retired bureaucrats and students — are volunteering to contribute to the education of poor children across the city. All you need to do is find the time. “It need not be like a 9-to-5 job," says Kiran Modi of Udayan Care, an NGO helping 800 girls get quality education through services offered by part-time volunteers. “People can offer services based on their skills-- computer classes, maths or English lessons, medical/legal aid, sports coaching, or even interacting with the students,” she says. Library books, bags, books, pencils etc can also be given to one or more children regularly. “The main factor is time," says Modi. "It is up to the volunteer to decide when he or she can give some free time. It could be anything from once a month, four times a month to even half hour every week. But one should stick to that commitment," she says. "There should to be a willingness to help the children and bond with them. If the willingness is there, then even the busiest person can find some free time," says Udayan's Vikram Dutt, a senior IT entrepreneur who has been volunteering for three decades. Once you take a call on your time, NGOs Udayan Care and Pratham can help you get started after a brief orientation session.
8. Look before you leak
By Siddharth Roy
Considering women manage well without defiling city walls, there is no reason why men can’t stop urinating in public
New Delhi: The first thing that strikes any visitor arriving in Delhi is the sheer number of men who don’t mind impersonating a public fountain and urinating in public places. When it comes to answering nature’s call, the Delhi male doesn’t look beyond the first wall, corner or crevice to relieve himself. It is an old habit, but one that can be changed. Though the city could admittedly do with more public urinals, such facilities do exist, at times tucked away discreetly. All it needs is a resolution that men with full bladders head for the nearest public toilet instead of a tree. Places such as Janpath and Delhi Gate, for instance, have free and pay toilets, but you till spot people peeing on the toilet walls. The biggest hurdle between most Delhiites and a public toilet is a one-rupee coin. Why pay when there is a wall, street corner or bus stop, says the piddler on the wall. That peeing in public is an offence under the Municipal Act does not seem to deter anyone either. As a result, the Capital is now as much known for its piddlers as it is for its monuments and wide roads. “People don’t have fear of the authorities. Not only do they urinate on the wall, some even do so while facing road traffic,” said a senior official of the Municipal Corporation of Delhi. There are about 2,000 MCD toilets and urinals in the city.
MCD officials say they are helpless to act. “We cannot prosecute them because we have to provide more facilities to people first. We don’t have enough toilets for women in the city,” he said. But considering most women manage well without defiling city walls, there is no reason why men can’t make a start.
9. Acquire a new grandparent
By Ravi Bajpai
If you can’t volunteer time, get in touch with NGOs such as Helpage India
New Delhi: There's more you can do for your elderly neighbours than saying hello. Adopt them, not legally but emotionally. If each family adopts one elderly person and checks on them occasionally, it can help fix the ageing blues of the city's senior citizens.
If you need more convincing, here’s it. Delhi Police records and statistics along wit inputs from non-governmental organisations suggest the city's elderly are increasingly getting jittery. More people are registering with the police's senior citizen security cell and panic calls to helplines have also increased. An example of community effort to make the elderly feel more secure is in Greater Kailash — I, where residents have formed a group to keep in touch with the elderly.
"It has worked well for us. Each member has adopted an elderly person with whom they interact regularly, enquiring about their problems and general wellbeing. They do routine chores for them, such as paying bills. This gives the elderly a sense of security," said Rajiv Kakria of GK-1, Block E.
If you can’t volunteer time, get in touch with NGOs such as Helpage India ( www.helpageindia.org ) and find out how you can help them look after the elderly.
Even Delhi Police is seeking support in their effort to protect the city’s old citizens. "We have intensified the working of our senior citizens security cell. People can help us in this task by encouraging their neighbours to join the security cell," said Rajan Bhagat, Delhi Police's spokesman.
10. Make the Yamuna cleaner
By Avishek G Dastidar
Even if half of Delhi's population saves 10 litres of water every day by flushing fewer times and using bucket-water to bathe instead of the shower, the Yamuna would retain 80 million litres of fresh water a day
New Delhi: Think about this… Every time you flush, the Yamuna gets a trifle more polluted. Here’s how. Every bathroom and every commode in Delhi is connected to sewerage channels that discharge into the river. Since Yamuna is Delhi’s primary source of water, flushing is like taking away buckets of fresh water from the river and dumping sewage back instead. “The best way to clean the river is to use less water in our bathrooms and plug every leaking tap,” says environmentalist Vimalendu Jha from Swechcha, an NGO working to preserve the Yamuna. Jha also organises river cleaning drives, so those who don’t mind getting their hands dirty should visit www.swfc.org.in to find out when the next one is scheduled. The river that has seen Delhi rise and fall for aeons is now on its deathbed primarily because it does not have enough fresh water to wash away its toxic pollutants. These take the forms of things we use every day, from plastic bags to paints and untreated industrial waste. The Yamuna could really do with some fresh water, and it would be possible if you care to help. “Even if half of Delhi’s population manages to save 10 litres of water every day by the economical use of the flush and by using buckets to bathe instead of using the shower, the Yamuna would get to retain around 80 million litres of fresh water per day,” says Jha. So every time you use half a bucket of water to bathe, pat yourself on the back. You will be really cleaning Yamuna. And it will be easier than giving up smoking.