Category Archives: Nature

CII jury offers award for best waste management practices across India.

waste--621x414The CII awards for best Waste Management Practices was held in Bangalore last year in late November. BCIL was invited to be a member in the six-member jury panel of distinguished professionals who chose the awards for best management practices that the CII offered in early December to a rostrum of Indian companies for their innovations and commitment to recycle, recover industrial waste. The spectrum of practices across 300 entries.

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Kolkata hosts the best builder minds as IGBC plans the future

KolkataIt was a weekend meant for reflection. Some of the finest minds in the country now spearheading the building industry’s future in terms of both powering the industry growth, as well as shaping policy met at a quiet resort outside of Kolkata.

The leaders present were the heads of national building majors – Tata Housing, DLF, Raheja, Daikin and Carrier Aircon, and many other national majors who are mentoring the greening of India’s building professionals.

They were from 15 cities and 8 states represented with the Chairman and Vice Chairman of the City Chapters at the conclave.

The agenda was: to see how they could bring about greater enrollment to the purpose of not just building but offering inspiring directions in managing sustainably natural resources that go into making of building infrastructure.

“I have not had a more intense and mentally fatiguing day!” said a first-timer leader participant. The first day saw over 14 hours of exchange of views, opinions, perspectives on what role the Indian Green Building Council can play in mobilizing opinion and galvanizing action among builders nationally.
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NDTV seeks BCIL viewpoint on Bangalore 2031


bangalore-city-view
NDTV Profit invited a small panel of building industry experts across India for a debate on Bangalore and its plan for 2031 and 2035. The news peg was the need of the Bangalore Development Authority to validate the 2015 CDP and the creation of the new CDP 2031.

It was also to discuss the regional metropolitan plan 2035 that the state government is now toying with. The panelists were, apart from Hariharan, Naresh Narasimhan who heads one of the largest architectural practices in India; the head of a Bangalore-based builder company and an urban planning expert from Mumbai.
The discussion revolved around the government clearing the Intermediary Ring Road at a massive cost of Rs 50 crores to a kilometer for a total of 116 kilometers that will girdle the city.
The panel questioned the brutality of such public expenditure. The panel questioned the surreptitious internal debate on RMP 2035 being carried out by the Govt agencies without an opportunity for the public to be consulted. The experts explored options of Govt contributing to the possibility of such public consulting on public decisions.
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Independence or in-dependence?

We have to know that there is always another side. The stand you take, as they say, depends on which side you sit. The need to see the other person’s viewpoint is central to any enrolment we seek of other people to our collective concerns.

There is an identity that is whole, and many ways of see what that means as quality of life, in the end, for India and us as people.

There are 600 million young Indians under 25. Nearly 150 million of them are just turning 18. We need 1 million jobs a month for the next 300 months if we have to keep young aspirations fulfilled. There are less than 2 pc who are graduates, and 94 per cent of work force in all segments is literate. The make the wealth. The small majority of educated only manage the wealth.

There are 260,000 panchayats. Every 30th Indian is an elected person, with nearly 30 million who are elected by some body or other — panchayats, urban local bodies, cooperatives, unions, different administrative bodies across both rural and urban India.

Clearly those who have 20 to 30 years of good working years before them should focus on building opportunities out of every challenge and deficit that exists.

In the room today at the CSO meet, the elephant that was terribly missing and we were not even aware of is Governance. Not government. Lincoln’s famous line from the Gettysburg address, “of, by and for the people” needs amending. He forgot the 4th preposition: from the people.

Governments as we have known them in the last hundred years have outlived their utility, if ever they had one. For 2,000 years India saw self-governance at the village. We need to reinvent that mechanism of self-governing with actions on all urban infrastructure needs coming from the people, all of us. No one stops us from doing it, except our own inertia. Hamare Mai baap sarkar to karegi, is the stock response you get in many villages of today. We heard Sunday too at least two participants saying that the government should be doing it.

Over 50 years with multiple subsidies and incentives and the government trampling over every institution of governance, people at the local levels of administration have been emasculated of their ability to govern themselves. In every village there are now at least 32 schemes running — from housing, to health, to farm subsidies, to charities and donations for temples and mosques and churches. The need for planning and shaping one’s own destiny is non-existent.  

There has to be a return to that past into this future if we have to get the 600 plus districts to secure sustainable ways of working. The single biggest hurdle is the government of course, for the beast will resist every attempt to cage it. How do we the people decide therefore to find ways of ridding ourselves of our dependence on the Government, and not increasing it? How do we stop ourselves from saying, The Government should do this, or that? How do we discourage any debate on what the Government should be doing to mend their ways and bringing efficiency?

That will indeed be Poorna Swaraj. We are colonized still. By many forms of government and the bureaucracy that touch our lives. It is more so in small towns and in villages than it is in urban India. Its invidious influence has to be stopped.

But this will mean taking upon ourselves all those things we can do without the government — energy, water, waste, education, health, food and agriculture, housing. If in each of these areas we are able to find solutions and make investments in our own homes, and villages and city wards, we will then secure freedom from the government and its tentacles. Imagine a situation where as amass of people we are able to say No to the Government and run our housing colonies with the water supply board, or the sewerage board, the electricity board, and the waste-collecting contractors of the city municipalities. All these agencies will panic! We would have shown them we don’t need them.

It is not an ideal. It is within the realm of possibility. Look at what happened to the Telephone Exchanges of the 1980s which used to suppress demand so badly that you had to wait in years-long line for securing a telephone line. They have been consigned to the dustbin. The same happened to the Post Office system which was as large as it used to be. Can you now imagine making a ‘lightning call’ and waiting for 3 hours to reach someone who is just 12 hours away? Many in young India do not even know of such scenarios that existed here until 20 years ago.
It is such Poorna Swaraj from the Government that we should secure.

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For gridless power at home or office.

Solar installation at a ZED home

Just the 5 star geysers refrigerators and AC’s in India are saving about 9000 MW of power generation every day. India produces 220,000 MW. Government has cleared 80,000 more MW. And they want to raise this to 700,000 MW. Where’s the coal? India is creating 3 nuclear plants when Germany and Japan have closed all their N plants after 20 years. Coal mines destroy lives, livelihoods, forests and rivers.

Actual end-use power used is a mere 30,000 MW, if local power from solar and wind is not fed to grid but used directly by homes, offices, factories, hotels and hospitals.

The power industry lobby fears loss of the massive business if local power is promoted. Governments don’t want to lose the opportunity big spending offers of making speed money.

A solar station costs no more than 4-10 lakhs at about 2 lakhs to a KW of quality generation. It saves money on Gen-sets and UPS. Diesel power costs Rs. 20 a unit. UPS cost over 2 years with battery replacement Rs. 14 a unit. Solar costs Rs. 13 a unit, with the catch that you’ve to invest, not the government. Your BESCOM tariff is 7 to 14 a unit depending on user category.

What would you want to do?

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Bhaskar Save : “Gandhi of Natural Farming”

Bhaskar Save, acclaimed as “Gandhi of Natural Farming”, is a 92 year old man who has redefined the principles of natural farming incorporating Gandhian philosophy into the agricultural practices. He owns a 14 acre orchard farm, with 10 acres covered by a mixed crop of coconut and chikoo (sapota) and a few tree species. Another 2 acres is used for cultivating seasonal field crops in an organically sustainable manner. And the rest 2 acres is a nursery for coconut saplings that grow well in the coastal region of the location.

“Coooperation is the fundamental Law of nature”, reads the sign at Bhaskar Save’s farm, Kalpavruksha, located on the Coastal Highway near village Dehri, District Valsad, in southernmost coastal Gujarat, a few km north of the Maharashtra-Gujarat border.

Bhaskar supports the theory that nature is only creator. He says that there are six factors of nature that interact with sunlight and maintain a balance in Nature’s grand symphony. These are air, water and soil along with the three orders of life – vanaspatisrushti (plant kingdom), jeevsrushti (insects and smaller organisms) and pranisrushti (animal kingdom).

Today’s farming practices are more economy centric as opposed to sustainable farming. The pressure on farmers for increase in yield has led them to resort to measures that are unhealthy for the soil and the organisms in them. Excessive uses of pesticides and chemical fertilizers have direct effect on soil organisms and on us when we consume this infected harvest. Later these pollute the water bodies and aquifers.

Save adds,” Trying to increase Nature’s ‘productivity,’ is the fundamental blunder that highlights the arrogant ignorance of agricultural scientists.  Nature, unspoiled by man, is already most abundant in her yield. When a grain of rice can reproduce a thousand-fold within months, where is the need to increase its productivity! What is required at most is to help ensure the necessary natural conditions for optimal, wholesome yield.”

Eight years ago, Save wrote an open letter plea to M.S. Swaminathan, then chairman of the National Commission on Farmers, highlighting the issue of farmer committing suicide across the nation. His letter presented a devastating critique of the government’s agricultural policies favoring chemical farming and made a plea for fundamental reorientation.

Bhaskar Save’s farm yield is superior to any farm using chemicals. This is true in all aspects of total quantity, nutritional quality, taste, biological diversity, ecological sustainability, water conservation, energy efficiency, and economic profitability. The costs (mainly labor for harvesting) are minimal and external inputs almost zero.

The farm will soon launch an in-house training program at the farm to educate farmers on natural and organic farming practices.

This will change the way we grow our food, the way we enjoy the fruits Mother Nature has to offer in its purest and sweetest form.

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IN THE NAME OF DEVELOPMENT

bangalore-city-viewMany real estate projects have come up on and off Sarjapur Road. The area is touted to be the emerging hub of city’s urbanization. A number of development projects are being carried out under the hood of Sarjapur Gram Panchayats and Bangalore Metropolitan Rural Development Authority (BRDMA).

There’s a deal of ballyhoo from these developers on their ‘mega’ size, all the amenities they offer to lure the gullible home-buyer. The truth is not so beautiful. The authorities are looking the other way.  Quietly there’s damage wrought on the rural communities to the city’s fringe.

Acres of agricultural and arable land have been acquired by builder-majors to produce high rise slums that fuel the middle class dream of a home and the small-time investor’s desire to speculate.

A drive down that road will reveal an ugly reality — vast barren fields with concrete dumped. Hardly any patch of green remains. A series of commercial establishments have sprung up.

People have bought homes trusting builders but have forgotten to think of the environmental disaster in the name of development – depleted ground water, acres of dry land, the mushrooming of shanties. Lands lie bare with no cultivation with farmers waiting for the right price.

The question is: who should take the call, the builders or the residents? The solution is surprisingly easy and simple. There has to be a midway that both parties can tread on.

Homes should now be self sufficient and independent of natural resource exploitation. Although very few in number, there are builders like BCIL ZED who have been sensitive to the issue of environmental degradation and have created homes that are eco-friendly.

A green home is one which is free from water resources from the city, has its own power generation capability and a fully developed waste management system that ensures zero export of any type of waste. ​

Rainwater harvesting can reduce water dependency from city supply by up to 15-20 or about 59-60 days in a year. Recycling of grey water from kitchen and washing can be used for landscaping, car wash, and flush tanks. This decreases water consumption by a massive 70%.

Solar powered electrical systems are also picking up with more and more homes being retrofitted with them. A small STP can reduce the waste load on municipal authorities to a major extent.

Builders like ZED, BCIL have their own solar and wind solutions for power generation. They have developed household appliances that consume less power than conventional electronic items. A range of forest free furniture is used in all their homes to ensure no forests are being cut.

Just stirring people’s conscience to build a green home is not enough.

Buyers, residents and prospective buyers must invest in initiatives that don’t just aim at settling a community but developing an ecosystem on the whole. Going energy efficient doesn’t cost much. If you could afford a small car, you can afford a lot of these little things that, in the long run, offer returns that are attractive.

Reduction in your power bills, water bills and smarter air-conditioning with clean air and healthy living environment are obvious dividends. Buyers and builders must drive the bigger aim of a sustainable growth for the city.

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Are your plants getting the right amount of water?

watering-can-old-manTending to a garden is a liberating experience and lets you bring out the eco-philic side of you. Although looking after a garden is not rocket science, care must be given to all aspects to ensure your plants look healthy and fresh. One such aspect that is generally overlooked by most of us is watering the plants. Although it appears to be a simple activity, it is in fact one of the most misinterpreted, often with disastrous consequences for the plant. When understood and carried out properly, it is capable of significantly influencing the relationship with the garden.

So let’s start at the very beginning. While we say “we’re watering the plants”, we don’t water plants, we actually water the soil.

Yes, that’s right. Plants take in their required amount of water from the soil so watering the soil around the root zone (away from the stem) is most beneficial to the soil micro-organisms, and therefore the plant.

Equally critical is knowing that plants need moist soil rather than wet or submerged soil. Moist soil enables the water to break down necessary components in the soil into a small enough size to be absorbed through the plant’s root system. Over watering can lead to loss of nutrients and minerals and also decrease aeration.

Plants should be watered early in the morning and not late in the evening. Plant diseases are known to spread in wet, dark conditions and when we water in the late evening, water tends to stay on the leaves, making the plant more susceptible to catch mildew (a fungal disease). In daytime, if water does get on the leaves, it has a chance to dry out in the sunlight. Also, plants need water mainly during daylight to produce food, so watering early morning would ensure that they are able to carry out their activity.

Gardens are completely dependent on our watering and so it needs to be planned and regular. Erratic watering stresses the plants. Allowing the soil to dry out completely between watering is not a good idea and works only for specific plants. Most plants require consistently moist soil conditions.

How do you water plants?

For an urban home garden, there are several ways to water from the simple bucket and mug or rose-can (can with a shower-head nozzle) to the more planned drip irrigation mechanism.

Adopt a method that is best suited for you and one that does not waste water. As far as possible, try to harvest rainwater. Reuse grey water – i.e. water used for washing clothes or vessels for use in the garden. But remember this is only if we avoid synthetic detergents and use natural alternatives or other powders.

Mulched soil has greater water retention capacity and also provides nutrients. It is best suited for a garden. If you have a rooftop garden, ensure windbreaks to prevent uprooting of plants.

Paying attention to the health of the soil is the most important aspect of a plant’s health. Ensuring a well-proportioned mix of sand, red earth, compost and soil-building material (like cocopeat) is essential to make the soil loose, porous and to increase its water retention capacity.

The needs of each plant are different and so plan your gardening activity accordingly taking care of each plant to have a healthy and lively garden.

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WHERE’S MY WATER?

WaterBangalore is largely dependent on groundwater. The largest source of water in Bangalore apart from Cauvery water is from borewells.

We are pulling water that has been down there for hundreds of years, that is somebody else’s right as much as it is ours. And the breach of this right can be clearly seen with unequal resource allocation.

How do we get Ground water?

We all live above spaces between soil particles and cracks, fissures and faults in the rocks, which are known as aquifers. Water in these aquifers is rainwater that has trickled down and percolated into the earth. The aquifers are spread independent of property or administrative boundaries. Each time we pull out water from the ground, we are possibly denying someone else of their source of water.

The geology of Bangalore, and most of the Deccan plateau, is hard-rock geology. This type of geological setting is composed of three layers- the top soil where the plants grow, the weathered zone below the top soil and the hard rock. The weathered zone is actually crushed version of the hard rock which holds water in the pores and spaces in between the particles.

When it rains and water percolates down, it passes through the weathered zone and then into the hard rock fissures. A large connected set of fissures, in effect one single body of water under the ground, is called an aquifer. Aquifers in the hard rock are called ‘confined aquifers’ as they are under pressure. Water in the weathered zone is shallow and is referred to as shallow unconfined aquifer and they can travel laterally into the soil. Open wells up to depths of around 80 feet in Bangalore were meant to access water in the shallow unconfined aquifers. Over time these have been dried out, except in certain parts of Bangalore. After open wells started drying, people started digging borewells which were going deeper and picking up water from the fissures in rocks – or from confined aquifers. It is important to note that confined aquifers take more time to recharge the unconfined aquifers.

It’s difficult to predict where you get water in deeper confined aquifers.  At depths of 100 to 650 feet, there are a lot of fissures through which water trickles in. There is no way to predict, other than testing each site.

When you dig a borewell and start pulling water out, you are emptying the water in the aquifers which is a finite amount. The process by which water enters into these fissures is called recharge. This can be natural or artificial. Since there is only a finite amount of water underneath, we cannot endlessly keep pumping out water.

As a city, we need to understand how much water is available. This is not an easy task. All the residents in an area need to share where they have dug the bore well, how deep did it go, at what depth did they get water, etc. The data collected across the city can help get a better picture of the city’s aquifers.

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Waste not, want not By Dr. Chandrashekar Hariharan

A green home doesn’t only mean eco-friendly construction, it means an efficient space that reduces dependence on government infrastructure for water, energy and waste

Waste not, want not

 Let’s first make the distinction, for the sake of convenience and clarity, between an ecologically sustainable home and a green home. The former is something that you build with materials that make for the least use of exhaustible natural resources — a typical farmer’s house is the best example, with a combination of clay walls, cowdung surfaces, thatch roofs, limestone-coated walls. There have been homes in the urban context that have attempted to use some ‘traditional’ elements but not always with success on reducing use of natural resources.
What is labelled in current times as a ‘green home’ is what you ‘architect’ and ‘engineer’ in terms of solutions for a regular urban home, taking into account use of building materials for floors, walls, roofs and windows, the use of systems and technologies that reduce consumption of water and energy without compromising comfort or convenience the way you define them as a dweller. If you are willing to spend a little more as capital cost at the start, you can secure savings into the future that can help you recoup your additional capital cost over five to seven or 10 years, depending on what the feature is that you are adding to your ‘green home’.

Green homes can help you save as much 30 to 50 per cent in your energy bills. With the right elements in place, you can rely less on fresh water and therefore increase water security. Beyond such savings, green homes can help you generate some wealth from waste, by managing its conversion into either manure or compost, or even energy for your kitchen. The important thing is that a ‘green home’ in the urban context will help and enable you to reduce your dependence on government infrastructure for water, energy and waste.

The current green market for buildings is focusing on rainwater harvesting for every building, waste water treatment plants that offer 100 per cent recycled water for use, and introducing energy efficiency in the use of pumps and heavy-duty electrical equipment in buildings.

Builders should take practical positions. They should not adopt a textbook approach to sustainability. It has to be replicable, and sometimes scalable. We address the low-hanging fruits that are easier to pick both on demand-side and supply-side management of aspects of water, energy, waste: rainwater harvesting, solar water heating, ‘Grow Our Own Water’ plans that ensure independence from municipal water supply, use deep aquifer water, natural air-conditioning systems are a few examples of such strategic approaches.

We should look for upstream carbon-effectiveness — use of non-river sand based concrete, triple blend concrete, lighter building blocks, debris used for road subgrades, optimising structural inputs for framed structures, establishing micro-climate right at the stage of design and not as an afterthought…. the list is truly long.

The vision is simple: every building must drop demand for freshwater by 40 per cent by voluntary compliance, or by law. The same holds good for power. We should have a drop in demand by at least 40 per cent, with investments made by the building industry for energy generation on their own without dependence on the grid for such local power. All industries should reduce their demand by a minimum 40 per cent for power from governments and local bodies. And they should voluntarily install recharge wells for every borewell that draws from deep aquifers.

Governments don’t offer solutions that are creative. They destroy resources that have been built by earth over many thousand millennia — indiscriminate extraction is only one example of such acts. Governments, as they are structured in India, are simply not equipped to offer solutions into this future before us for these resources and their sensitive management.

At the core, there is only one challenge: consumer behaviour and human behaviour. Can this change? We must not just buy what we need, we have to “buy into” what we need. This means that we as citizens who can afford a certain lifestyle, must bring unto ourselves the joy of responsible buying, and consuming. We have to realise that less than 10 per cent of India’s and the world’s population actually consumes 80 per cent of the world’s natural resources. The poor do not have the money to fulfill their want to consume — not that their aspirations are any different from those of the urban rich. So the single challenge is in bringing about this joy of responsible buying and knowing the significance of what we are buying into.

However, there’s a silver lining. Over just the last four years, the 12-year-old CII Indian Green Building Council alone has managed to certify over 500 million sq ft of commercial spaces. This figure is set to touch the one billion mark (for commercial buildings alone) by 2015. This is because of the clear advantage that commercial builders see in sharp reduction [over 30 per cent] in post-occupancy costs of such green buildings. This is a major draw among B2B tenants that such buildings attract as clients.

The performance has been even more encouraging on the residential sector front, with over 800 million sq ft of IGBC-green-rated buildings coming up across India. Between the GOI’s GRIHA certification and the Pune-based EcoHousing Rating System, there is another 100 million sq ft of such residential and commercial buildings that have been certified over the same period of four years. The downside is that this accounts for less than two per cent of the entire building/construction industry total footprint of buildings in India. There is a very long way to go.

The green market for home appliances and consumer durables is going to see a major and dramatic shift in the near future. All air-conditioners in the Indian and the world market will shift to inverter-based ACs, which will drop energy consumption by 30 to 70 per cent! The current market for ACs is at about 3-3.5 million per annum. This is set to rise to 6.5 million by 2015. The drop in energy demand therefore will be significant in the decade ahead. Wireless energy — like wireless telephony that came in the mid-90s — is the next big game-changer in green development.
If you step back to discern the longer-term trend, you will see green and energy-efficient buildings are here to stay. zz

(The writer is executive chairman and co-founder of BCIL Zed Homes)

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