Tag Archives: Climate Change

The Story from Cancun (COP 16)

Hi everyone, my name is Agastya Muthanna. I have been a British Council Climate Champ since 2008. I am in the penultimate year of my Economics degree at the University of Cambridge, and am representing the Indian British Council at the 16th annual United Nations organized meeting on climate change (COP16).

This is the second COP I have attended (the first was last year in Copenhagen) and I cant help but think that perhaps if the first one was here at sunny beautiful Cancun, and not cold and crowded Copenhagen we may have had a more concrete result. The weather is perfect, and the conference is extremely well organized.

On this first post I’d like to lay out hat I would like to see, from a policy perspective. My next post shall be more personal.

The Indian Environmental Minister Mr Ramesh summarised the topics he felt agreement are expected. These were, first, the establishment of a green fund that will collect and allocate Climate finance, second, an agreement on meeting adaptation needs. His third expectation is an endorsement of Redd (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation), and on transparency issue concerning measurement ,reporting and verification (MRV)

I’m going to end this post with a quick summary of what I would like to see: The global climate meetings in Mexico in late 2010 and South Africa in 2011 should put much more emphasis on the links between climate action and development. Climate change should never be used as a reason for condemning the world’s poor to continued poverty. But their road to riches should take the climate into account. The cities where ever more people will be living need to grow in ways that don’t exacerbate the problem; the farms where ever fewer people are having to produce ever more food must be far better supplied with know-how, improved crops and insurance against the adverse effects that are sure to come. Development needs to be climate-ready, even if it cannot be climate-proof.

Second, new thinking is needed on how to change the energy mix that the world uses. Making fossil-fuel energy more expensive has so far not delivered much by way of controlling emissions. The better way is to make clean, renewable energies cheaper. Research and development can be part of that solution. But so can a willingness by banks and donors to increase the market for such energy systems. Buying in bulk is a tried and tested way of bringing down prices.

Such assistance and subsidy have the attraction of a built-in cut-off. As soon as increased demand and improved technology make renewables cheaper than fossil alternatives, the desire to generate energy through the burning of coal and oil will seem perverse, and the transition to a future beyond fossil fuels will become irreversible.

Finally, I would like to see more emphasis on using public policy and funds to increase private finance. Private finance makes up the bulk of all investments in Green technology, and mitigation (the ratio of private to public investment is currently around 5:1). There has been virtually no discussion about innovative measure to increase private capital flows, which can increase dramatically if given the right incentives.

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British Council : Inspiring Young Minds

Climate change is the most pressing problem of my generation. Political will, as well as practical changes towards adaptation and mitigation of climate change has to come from the electorate, social entrepreneurs, young policy makers and social workers.

Unfortunately the effects of climate change are not clearly evident or easily traceable. For the first time in our history, the very efficient but short sighted free-market framework is not going to solve the problem. Scarcity has moved from human capital to natural resources, and the Economy we live does not reflect this fundamental change.

The British Council has taken concrete steps to catalyse the mass mobilisation the world needs in order to act against Climate change. With its youth focus, presence in 107 countries and understanding of national cultures the British Council is ideally placed to help create the atmosphere and new ideas the world needs.

I have been a British Council Climate Champion for more than 3 years now and I doubt I can do the experience justice in words. Every programme I have participated in has been efficiently run, very focussed, with measurable outcomes. Perhaps most importantly they are inspiring. The concept of bringing together people form all around the world with different spheres of focus all related closely with climate change and allowing them to interact in an academic atmosphere very conducive to thought and idea exchange has sparked many collaborations and has lead to the wide transfer of many good ideas.

A lot of innovative ideas and solutions to Climate Change must come form the bottom up. Top down solutions have rarely caused a massive positive change. It is the innovation, elegant, mutable , evolutionary nature of the market that tends to throw up the best ideas. We have seen over and over how a small project run by a few passionate individuals has changed things in the words of Margaret Mead “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

By focussing on identifying and helping to trouble-shoot grassroots projects started by young people The British Council are causing social change in one of the most important ways possible.

By offering the contacts and the expertise to help grow small projects, the British Council helps ideas become reality. A year ago I decided it would be very interesting to travel across India going from village to village collecting stories of people whose lives had been changed by climate change. The British Council connected me up with a local NGO in Kolkata which became my first case study. It was from this starting point that I could produce a report that Greenpeace incorporated in a paper they prepared for the Prime Minister.

However the British Council’s work doesn’t stop there. For the large scale mobilisation of entrepreneurs to occur, and for the market to throw up the ingenious solutions that have come to define human existence over the last few centuries, we need to subtly change market incentives so that new environmental ideas are financially viable.

To this end the British Council has begun to catalyse youth to move towards considering policy solution to climate change. This is an important move as without the correct incentives the situation will continue as it is, with organisations only interacting with climate change as part of their CSR programmes with negligible effects.

I was with the British Council in Copenhagen, where I worked with the UNFCCC Youth constituency. A group of over 30 of us from countries all over the world learnt first hand how negotiations happen and what the latest debate was about. These interactions helped build our policy knowledge, and by actively participating in the Youth Constituency it gave us first hand experience with Climate Change legislation and policy.

I see the British Council as one of the organisations that is actually making a difference on the ground. By working with thousands of climate champions in many countries the British Council is a leader in the field, and a very dynamic and effective force in helping to change attitudes and action to do with climate change mitigation and adaptation.
Post by – Agastya Muthanna ©

BA (Hons.) , MA Candidate
Faculty of Economics
University of Cambridge.

Consultant at the Ministers Office,
Ministry of Environment & Forests, Government of India.

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Rendezvous with the UK Minister of State, Climate Change and Energy

28th July 2010 was a very memorable day for me as I got to meet and interact with the British Minister for Energy and Climate Change, Mr. Gregory Barker and also got an opportunity to share the stage with British Prime Minister, Mr. David Cameron while he was delivering his speech at Infosys technologies limited in Bangalore. The meeting with Mr. Barker was at Hotel Leela Palace in Bangalore (one of the best hotels in the city) at 8.30 am and I was very excited as this was my first meeting with a minister from a developed country. My only other experience of meeting a politician from Europe was in Stuttgart, Germany when we went to present the youth declaration of the UNESCO World youth congress to the Mayor of Stuttgart in August last year. That meeting went on really well and it was really heartening to see the depth of knowledge and warmth in him.

I reached the hotel really early around 7.30 am (it was a rainy day and it gets pretty chilly in Bangalore) and met with other participants who were from the civil society and Business community in Bangalore. The group was very diverse with representatives from various organizations like Greenpeace India, Alliance to Energy Efficient Economy, ATREE and HSBC. Hita Unnikrishnan, my fellow ICC and Anu Thampi who is the ICC coordinator for India and Srilanka were also part of the group. After an amazing breakfast we took our seats at the meeting table and waited for the Minister to arrive. The Minister arrived exactly at 8.30 am (This is a rarity in India as most of the time we get really frustrated waiting for our politicians) and took his seat at the table. I was doubly impressed as he was pretty young for a Minister and it is my strong belief that Climate Change is an issue that can be better understood and addressed by a younger politician.

After a quick round of introduction, I was given the opportunity to set the context for the meeting with respect to climate change in India and the challenges and opportunities associated with it. I was little nervous as I was the youngest in the group but I was pretty confident that I will speak well. I opened the debate by stressing upon the fact that how India is in a vulnerable state and needs to take drastic steps to address the issue of climate change. India with a majority rural population dependent on rain fed agriculture; the largest population in the world below poverty line; a burgeoning population which is fast depleting the natural resources of the country; a long coastline of close to 6000 km will be seriously impacted by climate change. Our Economic growth of nearly 9% year on year is incredible but the question is how long we can sustain this growth if we don’t take measures to conserve our natural wealth which is fuelling this amazing growth in the first place.

I also mentioned that climate change is not only a major issue but is also an incredible opportunity for us to rethink the current path of development and steer India on the course of sustainable development and make it a leader in sustainability. Traditionally, India has been a sustainable society but after post-liberalization, consumerism has over taken over the lives of our fast growing population and has steered India to the current path of unsustainable development which is not sustainable in the long run. But all is not grim about climate change in India, there is also a concerted effort from the Indian government, civil society and private organizations to address it and make sustainability an important component of our developmental program. The Minister was also pretty pleased knowing that there is large section of young people in India who are actively working to improve climate change awareness among the civil society and working with various sections to put pressure on our government to take action on climate change.

The Minister made a very important statement that his government led by Mr. Cameron will be greenest government in the history of Britain and will be actively involved with India and other developing countries in aiding technology and financial resource transfer, thereby helping them to reduce the impact of climate change and move towards a sustainable path of development. He was also very curious to know about how the Indian society in general thinks about climate change especially when the majority of population is struggling to meet their ends meet. We told him that the irony about climate change debate in India is that the people who are least responsible for it are going to be the most affected by it. Hence there is a great urgency to make them aware and help them cope with its impacts.
We also had a good discussion about energy scenario in India and the Minister agreed with our opinion that decentralized form of energy through solar and micro wind is the only way for a country like India to attain complete electrification and he promised that he will discuss the same with our Minister for Environment, Mr. Jairam Ramesh when he meets him in New Delhi. There was also a discussion about how India can leverage on its immense pool of technical talent, esp. Information Technology to come up with climate change mitigation and adaptation solutions for the world. The other group members also shared their experiences in working with climate change issues in India like renewable energy, biodiversity conservation, public awareness etc. The minister also shared his views on smart grids and how it can revolutionize the energy sector and reduce the transmission and distribution losses in the grid esp. for a large country like India. The meeting lasted for 45 minutes and I was very happy with the way the meeting went and I am pretty sure that the Minister was pretty pleased with his first meeting in India.

After the meeting, I went to Infosys Technologies Limited where I work in their Green Initiatives team. I work at the same campus where British PM was visiting to deliver his first state address in India. As luck would have it, I was selected to be seated on the stage during the PM’s address. About 64 Infosys employees were selected to be the backdrop when the prime minister delivered his speech in our convocation center. When we enquired the reason for this arrangement, our organizing team explained that since the PM’s address will be telecast live across the world, they wanted to project the new face of India and thus I ended up becoming a part of the young India, full of confidence and passion ready to take India to a new path of development. The PM’s speech was extremely good and I thoroughly enjoyed the experience of sharing the stage with him. This day proved to be an unforgettable day for me and I would like to sincere thank the British High Commission and British Council for this wonderful opportunity. This has given me a lot of motivation to continue my efforts as an International Climate Champion and encourage more young people to start realizing the importance of taking part in the climate movement as “It is our future which is at stake”… Let’s work together to secure our future!!!

Post by – © Digu Aruchamy

Gregory Barker, Minister of State Climate Change and Energy at the meeting in Bangalore

Gregory Barker, Minister of State Climate Change and Energy at the meeting in Bangalore

Prime Minister David Cameron at Infosys

Prime Minister David Cameron at Infosys

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Blocks of GREEN

My project, ‘Blocks of Green’, which talks about the energy efficiency and water conservation in the green buildings in Kolkata, was selected for the UKEFF right after I got the National Film Award for one of my documentary films. When I started working on film, many of my film school friends and well-wishers were surprised and amused seeing me make a film on buildings. Some of them started calling me a ‘corporate filmmaker’.

But I am glad that I got the opportunity to do this film. I thank the British Council and the British High Commission for their unique initiative, the UKEFF.

Having worked as an independent documentary filmmaker for the past four years and having pitched my projects in India and abroad, I know how difficult it would have been to find funding for the film I made. My film was not telling the story of any protagonist but that of buildings. It was not made to entertain but for a cause, one that concerns all of us, but we do little about.

Today, we are more aware of the environmental concerns. But I believe this awareness needs to be spread far and wide and taken to the very grassroots level of the society, to the masses, to the common man in the small towns and villages. And best way to do it is through the audio-visual medium. The UKEFF did just that.

The UKEFF, through its team of experts, not only helped us make the most effective film but also helped the films reach far and wide through the telecast on National Geographic channel and the following presentations and screenings in different part of the country. I was glad to present my film to packed audiences in Kolkata and Kochi.

The response at both the places made me feel happy to have made my small contribution to the green cause. I was overwhelmed to see the stimulating audience interactions in Kolkata following the film screening. The positive energy that I witnessed in the audience in Kochi, to do something in their own city and make a difference, was a special feeling. Their eagerness to go green in their very own environment showed me the positive impact of the UKEFF films. I hope the British Council organizes many more screenings in many more cities and towns in the coming days, and would be happy to part of the same.

I eagerly look forward to the DVD release of the UKEFF 2010 films. I wish to screen the films in as many schools and societies I can and keep spreading the green message.

‘Blocks of Green’, telling the story of the buildings, has been a challenging film for me. The challenge was in talking about buildings yet keep it interesting. I thank the people who helped me live up to the challenge- the experts from UKEFF, with special mention to Mr. Mike Pandey, for their guidance, and my professional and experienced crew members, Supriyo Dutta, cameraman; Sukanta Majumdar, Sound Recordist; Tamal Chakraborty, Editor, all of whom are my friends from the Satyajit Ray Film and Television Institute. I also thank Mr. Biswajit Thakur, my guide on green buildings, and Sumanta Ghosh, the graphics artist for the film. I am also thankful to Mr. S. P. Gon Chaudhuri, Managing Director, West Bengal Green Energy Development Corporation Ltd.; Mr. S. Bhattacharya, Director In Charge, West Bengal Renewable Energy Development Agency; Mr. Harsh Neotia, CMD, Ambuja Realty, for their support.

Post by – © Bishnu Dev Halder

Bishnu Dev Halder

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Wheeling in Change

June 5th – World Environment Day – 6 am – I was sitting in an airport lounge sipping coffee. The irony of that moment didn’t escape me. My film idea had been chosen for the UKEFF 2010 on the theme of climate change mitigation and here I was adding more credits to my carbon footprint.

I guess this thought wouldn’t even have struck me a few years ago – but now I live in a world where every action has serious consequences for our planets future…I live in Bangalore and in the last 5 years, the city seems to have become warmer – no more warm clothes, no more aunties knitting sweaters, air conditioners sticking out like tumours from every window – yes the city has changed. I used to gripe about it till I met a small and steadily group of positive minded people – who really do believe that their actions can make a difference in this huge world that we live in.

My film ‘Wheeling in Change’ was inspired by the traffic in Bangalore – something that is so common to every resident of this city that it is the best conversational ice breaker. And when I realised that as the number of private vehicles were increasing and the number of trees were decreasing in this ‘garden’ city – I decided to explore this theme; see if it has a bearing on climate change and if so, what we could do about it.

And that’s when I met my films heroes – Mayank, Lavanya, Vipul and Das – people who have been steadily making the right choices as citizens and environmentalists – and whose lifestyle choices were influencing a larger circle…simply by cycling, taking public buses or carpooling EVERYDAY to work or otherwise – between the last 10- 3 years!!!

And yes! Some of them own cars – some of them refuse to buy one – and they all work corporate jobs!

Through them I realised that there are proactive individuals in the government too – the Commissioner for Transport and Road Safety is an avid cyclist doing all he can to promote cycling in Bangalore; a police force that actively encourages car pooling and the introduction of a bus day once a month.

A good film, I believe can’t inspire an audience till the film maker feels inspired too – and yes! I have been inspired – within my family there are changes – my husband cycles to work and I take my daughter to school by bus and walk back instead of taking an auto…

Of course none of this would have been possible without the UKEFF and the British Council who have been very supportive through our shoots, our feedback sessions and finally in enabling the films to reach a wide audience. It was really thrilling to show our films in cities all over India – from what I hear to packed audiences in every city that had screenings…in Bangalore, the discussions on the films went on long after the venue closed – so much so I missed the telecast on National Geographic and am eagerly awaiting a repeat! It’s so rare that a funding body takes this kind of effort to showcase the films too…and I’m really grateful for the enthusiasm and dedication of everyone involved with this project.

Post by – © Nina Subramani

Nina Subramani

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Drop by Drop

“Prayer has been made to mother earth that she blesses us with the knowledge required to exploit the treasures of nature but without disturbing the environmental balance” – Atharva Veda

Unfortunately, human progress so far has been at the cost of environmental imbalance and we have before us an enormous task of making up for it. So where does one start if we are to make a difference?
I got my start thanks to the UKEFF 2010 project. Its theme of finding environmental solutions for urban areas seemed a credible and do-able idea. How that idea would be executed came to me after a month’s ruminations (at an unlikely hour of 4 am in the morning, while watching the past UKEFF films on you tube) just 5 days before the submission deadline. I convinced Ira Prem of the IICE (I owe this film to her) to give me an Immediate appointment, and working at breakneck speed managed to courier my folder just in the nick of time.

I am glad I did that because it’s been a great journey all through the making of this film. Right from the first presentation to the Jury (The first time in my life that I was giving a PPT presentation in front of an audience) Right up to the last day when the film was launched on Nat Geo on the 5th of June 2010.
All the people I met while working on the film (many of whom could not be featured in the film due to time constraints) walked the extra mile to help me. Specifically, I would like to specially mention the experts in my film Dr. Ajit Gokhale & Ms. Roshni Udyavar.

One of the residential societies where I was shooting has installed Rain Water Harvesting & Water Recycling Systems (though not facing any kind of water cuts or water problems) just because it is the need of the hour. Everyone I met feels the government must make it compulsory & it should be a punishable offence not to have Rain Water Harvesting & Water Recycling System at one’s residence.

The focus of the film was to convince people who are staying in old buildings – which were built when Climate change was not a big issue, which were not built with green parameters – to take steps to make their buildings go green.

Following Mahatma Gandhi’s maxim “Be the change you want to see”, I have initiated the process of setting up a Wind Generator System in my residential complex (we already have a Water Recycling System). However, it is just not me; I have noticed positive feedback from others too.
During the dinner that followed the launch on 4th June, A lady came up to me and said their complex too depends on water tankers and after hearing one of the protagonist in my film, she too will try and convince people from her locality to do Rain Water Harvesting .

While editing the film, there was this businessman from Bhopal who had come to meet me and he saw the part where one of my residents talks about getting subsidy & claiming depreciation by investing in a Wind Generator System. He immediately called up his Chartered Accountant in connection with the depreciation bit and he is now fixing a Wind Generator System in his bungalow.
Indeed the film is serving its purpose…..
Time to take this idea further….. ?
Suggestions welcome….. !!!

Post by – © Jitendra Adappa

Jitendra Adappa

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The Miracle Water Village

The experience of making The Miracle Water Village has been a great journey for us! Our relationship with the village of Hiware Bazar started sometime in October 2009, when we were researching on rural communities that have worked on water conservation. Over the course of our research and production of the film, we happened to visit the village many times – meeting men, women and children for whom, water conservation has literally become a way of life.

Hiware Bazar is not merely a name – it’s both a symbol and a phenomenon. Tucked away in the parched landscape of Maharashtra, this small village is emblematic of the problem and solution to water management in India. When inspiring leadership and collective efforts take root within a community – what it gives to the world is nothing short of a miracle!

The experience of making the film has been humbling as well as one of unlearning of a lot of assumptions that most city-dwellers have about ideas of ‘development’. There was much more to learn from this typically rural and semi-literate community’s experience than from the expertise of the many scholars that we interacted with through the course of making this film. Through the course of making the film, we interacted with 90-year olds and 9-year olds who shared the same love and commitment for their environment! Stories of drought and despair have been taken over by tales of hope and positive efforts – each voice bearing a testimony to the collective wisdom of an entire village.

The UKEFF gave us the perfect opportunity to tell the story of this rural community that has used the power of its own vision and a bottoms-up approach to solve its water crisis. In the face of imminent consequences of climate change, it is collective community participation, ownership and responsibility of the environment that will make all the difference.

Finally, as filmmakers, the most important concern for us was not to make a film that raised issues of climate change, without providing viable solutions for the same. Now that the film has been shared with a wide spectrum of audiences, the feedback and response that we have received has been extremely heart-warming and encouraging. There has been a huge demand from community leaders and scholars to share copies of The Miracle Water Village in different regional languages that could be shared with more farming communities across India. For us, this where the power of this film lies – to be used as a resource and education tool to affect positive grassroots-level change. The UKEFF has ensured that the success of Hiware Bazar will not just remain a local story but one that can inspire many similar water-thirsty regions across the world!

Post by – © Sushmit Ghosh and Rintu Thomas.

Sushmit Rintu

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12 minutes of Going Green: Notes from a Green City

The UKEFF 2010 gave me the wonderful opportunity to make a 12-minute film on ‘Climate Change Mitigation in Urban Areas’ – a topic very close to my heart. Most of my films in the past focused on green innovations in the industry sector or in rural areas. To make a film on green interventions in Surat, India’s ninth largest city, was a new challenge I was eagerly looking forward to in the beginning of January 2010. The film was completed in May 2010. The months in between were an exhilarating roller coaster ride. Some of the highs – the thrill of interacting with people in Surat, especially in the municipal corporation and the industry, to understand and visualize the stories, the willing cooperation and enthusiasm of everyone in the city to help with the film, the amazing connectedness of people of Surat – where everyone knows everyone and is just a phone call away, the joy of being in a city that seemed to be doing many things right and of course the food! Having lived in Gujarat for many years, I have grown to love ‘Gujju’ food, even as many of my friends and colleagues cannot fathom how can ‘dal’ be sweet.

Crucial to shaping the film, after the filming was over, were the feedback sessions by the jury of the British Council. To have the film continually assessed by an external audience at every stage of its creation was both new and useful for me. Encouraging, full of ideas (all totally divergent at times!), bringing in new dimensions to the subject, the jury’s feedback would get our heads buzzing and even go numb. The trick was to go back to the drawing board each time and test each idea against the overall theme of the film and see if the idea enhanced the film. I am very grateful for those feedback sessions, as they helped me integrate small details that made my film richer.

The final stage was going public – thanks to the British Council’s active efforts at getting the film ‘seen’. With a TV broadcast, simultaneous screenings in various cities on the World Environment Day and the newspaper publicity, I suddenly got a wee bit nervous as it made me realize how a film takes on a life of its own once it is out there for the audience. The excited phone calls and sms-es made me heave a sigh of relief -  “Congrats”, “I think it could do without the graphics”, “Thank you for making me famous – my cousin in Australia saw me on TV”, “I liked the last shot in your film”… As the voices trail off, it feels nice to have made a film which has been seen by many, on a topic that matters to each one of us and. As for me, I now look at every city with fresh eyes – does it have an organized system of garbage collection? Does it have public transport? Does the city do PPP (Public Private Partnerships)? And wish for more stories of urban India to unfold.

Post by – © Madhyama Subramanian.


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Filming Firdaus: Melting Paradise

Following in our fathers ( Naresh Bedi’s) footsteps , my brother Ajay and I also wanted to make a film which could convey the message of conservation to people across. We were delighted when our film concept was approved by British Council and British High Commission for UKEFF fellowship on a new age yet very current subject of climate change.

Our film “Melting Paradise” looks at Kashmir valley in a very different way. The valley has been in the news for its conflict and terror but we wanted to take our camera beyond the battle zone and talk about shrinking water bodies due to climate change. We had many difficulties to begin with, Jammu & Kashmir is not a easy place to film. We were always under surveillance by police or army and even as we filmed we could hear gun shots indicative of encounters which were on in the nearby region. Despite this we could capture Kashmir beauty at its best. We planned our trip in the middle of Kashmir’s coldest season locally called “Chillai Kalan” and we could see that this season had not received the maximum snowfall. While we know that isolated incidents cannot be related to climate change- the people pointed out how this has been happening for many years now. Our most poignant moment of filming was when we entered a mosque and the maulvi was leading a prayer begging the gods to bless the valley with snow. We could see firsthand how climate change is not in the future but now.

There was not much of snow but extreme weather made it difficult on many days to work our cameras. With temperature dipping below freezing point we had to keep our camera warm and take it out only when need to film. Due to the intense cold we also had to keep our batteries warm to ensure they worked properly . Shooting in the wetlands like Dal Lake and Asia’s largest freshwater lake

It was a tough shoot but very redeeming as we got to witness Kashmirs intense beauty come face to face with planet earths worse crisis. We have tried in this film to not paint a dooms-day scenario of the issue of climate change. But rather provide solutions which include preservation of Kashmirs wetlands which act as carbon sinks.

Post by – © Ajay Bedi & Vijay Bedi. 

Ajay Bedi & Vijay Bedi are youngest Asian to win Green Oscar.

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