EJN Leads a Workshop in Pune, India, for Communicators and Media Trainers to Improve Coverage of Renewable Energy

A woman in taking a photograph with her phone of a gas production facility.
EJN Leads a Workshop in Pune, India, for Communicators and Media Trainers to Improve Coverage of Renewable Energy

Renewable energy continues to receive support from the highest levels in the Indian government. In January 2024, Prime Minister Narendra Modi called for a rejuvenation of roof-top solar projects. India’s latest budget doubled the money for this sector and included a 102% increase in allocations towards green hydrogen and INR 3 billion (USD 36 million) for the bioenergy program.  

These developments make it even more important to raise public awareness of all aspects of renewable energy to everyone. To that end, Internews’ Earth Journalism Network (EJN) held a national-level capacity building workshop for communicators in Pune on February 9-11. 

A large group of people sitting together
Workshop participants in Pune / Credit: Manasi Pinto.

These were the selected attendees: 

  • Amisha Rajani, Times of India  
  • Ashish Kumar Kataria, The Citizen 
  • Ayesha Khan, independent journalist 
  • Jaishree Kumar, The Established 
  • Jyoti Thakur, Article 14 
  • Manoranjan Ghosh, Symbiosis International University (SIU) 
  • Mithilesh Dhar Dubey, IndiaSpend 
  • Mohsin Mulla, Pudhari  
  • Ninad Deshmukh, Hindustan Times  
  • Noman Siddiqui, Independent Journalist 
  • Pushya Mitra, India Today 
  • Seetu Tewari, BBC Hindi 
  • Shailesh Malode, Akashvani Nashik 
  • Shalu Agrawal, Dainik Bhaskar  
  • Shoma Abhyankar, independent journalist 
  • Sukriti Vats, Land Conflict Watch  
  • Sumit Yadav, Off Road Media Private Limited 

In addition, 12 journalism students from four educational institutions in Pune attended the workshop on all three days. 

Group of people sitting and having a discussion.
Eminent environmentalist Madhav Gadgil speaks to the group / Credit: Manasi Pinto.

The workshop began with a keynote address by renowned environmentalist Madhav Gadgil. He related his experiences of dealing with environmental issues, especially in the Western Ghats region of India. Grounding his address in Arthur Pigou’s concept of externalities, which he articulated in the paper The Economics of Welfare, Gadgil used anecdotal evidence to show how the social and environmental costs are often ignored in most infrastructural projects.  

Following this, Pramod Choudhury from Praj Matrix, a leading developer of biofuel solutions in India, briefed the participants on the potential of the biofuel industry. He highlighted production of ethanol and biogas from agricultural byproducts like molasses and from crop residues. India is aiming at a 20% blend of ethanol in transport fuels by 2025, and 30% by 2030. Ravindra Utgikar of Praj Matrix then walked the participants through developments in the biofuel industry while explaining why it would be a game-changer in the mission to reduce dependence on petroleum imports. 

Group of people sitting listening to a lecture and presentation.
Ashwin Gambhir offered suggestions on how to cover renewable energy issues more effectively / Credit: Manasi Pinto.

The next session, facilitated by Ashwin Gambhir, of the think tank Prayas Energy, was structured to respond to the queries of the participants in all areas of renewable energy. He talked about the need for communicators to highlight problems in the renewable energy sector, but to also put it in the perspective of problems in the fossil fuel sector.  

Harsh Thacker, member of the Battery Storage Alliance, walked the participants through the latest developments in battery storage, critical technology for a successful energy transition. He explained how batteries were becoming more efficient and cheaper in the quest to eliminate the problem of intermittent supply from solar and wind energy generation. However, according to Thacker, the real potential for growth in battery technology lies in its use in electric vehicles (EVs). 

Talking of another nascent sector, Joydeep Gupta of EJN explained the difference between traditional and green ways to produce hydrogen, and how this could play an important role in transport, fertilizer production, steelmaking and other areas of industry. He also pointed to the problems inherent in transporting hydrogen, and suggested that it may be more prudent to locate hydrogen production facilities close to large steel and fertilizer factories. 

Ending Day One on a practical note, Kartik Chandramouli of Mongabay India held a hands-on mobile journalism training session. Step-by-step, he showed participants how they could employ basic rules of videography to make a multimedia story. In this session, participants began to plan what stories they could record during the field visit the next day. 

A man being interviewed by two reporters.
Participants focused on alternative forms of renewable energy beyond solar and wind at this workshop / Credit: Manasi Pinto.

On Day Two, workshop participants travelled around 40 km to a sugar mill called Shreenath Maskoba Sakharkhana, where they visited the ethanol and compressed biogas production facilities in addition to the sugar making facility. Ethanol and compressed biogas are produced from the sugar byproduct molasses and from agricultural waste. The hours-long visit proved popular, with almost all participants recording the production processes and conducting interviews on their mobile phones. The same afternoon, Chandramouli guided the participants on how to edit the video clips they had captured.  

They also heard from journalist Pamposh Raina, who held a session explaining how to identify climate disinformation so that it is not spread further. She shared a hotsheet that participants can continue to use for factchecking. 

On the last day, the participants gathered in groups to deliberate on the range of stories that might be possible based on their learnings. One group was interested in exploring how renewable energy acceleration can go hand in hand with women’s empowerment, while another group wanted to look at how ethanol production may reinforce gender discrimination. A third group was interested in exploring offshore wind energy that is just about to make a start in India. Another favored a case study approach to understand the sustainability of hydro-electric projects. 

 

After the workshop, EJN’s India Manager Joydeep Gupta said, “Most reportage on renewable energy is concentrated on solar and wind, while there are major developments of biofuels as well. This workshop enabled communicators to get a glimpse into this area, and hopefully there will be increased reportage on biofuels in India now.” 

Training of trainers in Pune

Group of people sitting at a table while listening to a lecture.
EJN mentors met with newsroom editors in Pune / Credit: Manasi Pinto.

With most mentors of the India RE project gathered in Pune for the workshop, this was an opportunity to host a Training of Trainers a day before. The first session, focused on how the selection and mentoring processes for upcoming opportunities can be improved, was facilitated by EJN’s Amrita Gupta, Senior Editor and Content Officer, who joined virtually. It was an opportunity for mentors to reflect and talk about their experiences over the past year. One of the mentors said, “The inclusion of this session at the beginning of a new mentorship cycle was very helpful for me. I will now think of ways in which I can improve my engagement with the next cohort of story grantees.” 

Five editors of national and local media outlets and two Heads of Department (HODs) of journalism schools also held a long meeting with the mentors as part of the ToT. Joydeep Gupta introduced EJN to the audience, which then led to an open discussion on the state of environmental journalism in the country and in the state. Most of the editors present said the number of environmental stories in print and digital media was increasing, while the teachers said they were introducing courses on environmental journalism.  

However, participants felt that coverage of environmental issues in Indian language media lagged behind English media in the country. The conversation veered towards the problems journalists face in pitching, reporting and publishing stories on environmental issues, which still aren’t prioritized by all editors. They discussed the importance of a multidisciplinary approach to coverage, as environmental issues are linked with health, economy, politics, national security and gender rights, among other issues. 

“It was clear that editors, journalism teachers and journalists are looking for databases of experts and for glossaries of environmental terms in various languages. EJN will try its best to fill these important gaps,” noted Gupta, EJN’s India Manager. 


Banner Image: Participants visited an ethanol and compressed biogas production facility in addition to the sugar making facility / Credit: Manasi Pinto. 

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