Category Archives: Reuse recycle reduce

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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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)

Citizen Journalist ‘Govt must make Housing Affordable’ by Chandrashekar Hariharan

Citizen Journalist ‘Govt must make Housing Affordable’ by Chandrashekar Hariharan

Bengaluru has the dubious distinction of being a city with a very high slum density. We have had this tag for the last 12 years as over four million people live in semipermanent homes in the city.

Over the last five years, things have gone from bad to worse. It is time the government came up with a viable solution. What we need to do is make homes more affordable for people. But how can we do that when the land prices are soaring and nobody wants to make a bad investment?

The solution could be letting private builders own the buildings rather than selling them the land and then allowing them to lease or sell the houses at affordable EMIs or rates that would encourage the real buyers.

Now what the government is doing -the job of the realtor builder without addressing the issue of providing affordable houses. If we had controlled private players instead, we could make houses available for all.

The problem that Bengaluru is facing is not unique. Ahmedabad too has a similar problem, but we can learn from the way it is addressing it. If we are ready to learn and adapt, there are several lessons to take from Japan, Singapore and other countries as well.  But to start with we must be willing to learn.

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City water stats

Water supply board finally has the courage to say, “ No water supply to your house if you are not Rain-water Harvesting compliant.”. Will this work? If it did, it’ll reduce fresh water demand for every house by 10,000 litres. At 1 million houses today in Bangalore, it means 10 billion litres of water saved. At Rs.45/ 1000 litres, it means Rs. 45,00,00,000 saved per annum. Do we want to do it?

Post-Kumbh Mela, the Sangam presents an unholy sight….

28TH_SANGAM_DIRT_1441979fAlmost two months have passed since the largest human gathering, the Maha Kumbh Mela, concluded here, registering a mammoth 100 million devotees over 55 days. Huge banners and hoardings welcomed visitors to an eco-friendly, ‘Green Kumbh,’ spread this time over an extensive 4,000 acres.

While the Uttar Pradesh government receives accolades for its management of the mega event — most recently through a presentation invite by Harvard University — the Mela has left behind a trail of dirt and debris along the Ganga.

The banks of the Sangam are strewn with filth, flowers, pieces of earthen pots, leaf plates, polythene bags, excreta, shoes, clothes, plastic bottles, and other objects abandoned by the visitors. The retreating rivers have also left potholes on the banks, which are now breeding ground for flies and mosquitoes. “They [the administration] have deserted us,” says Brij Mohan Mishra, a priest, who like many others makes his living performing rituals at the Sangam. “With this mess around, how will things work? We have to clean the place ourselves. Where is the management now?” he asks.

Around 8,000 Safai Karmacharis or manual cleaning personnel, belonging to the Bhangi Scheduled Caste, were employed to keep the Kumbh area clean. During the main bathing days, especially the Shahi Snans or royal baths, they could be seen chasing down every piece of plastic bag carried by the wind anywhere close to the bathing ghats. However, since they left for their native villages in neighbouring Chitrakoot, Fatehpur, Banda, Mirzapur and Kaushambhi districts, the cleanliness drive seems to have deserted the Sangam.

Mela Khatam, Safai Khatam [With the conclusion of the Mela, the cleanliness drive is also over],” says Ganesh Nishad.

For Chaundhihars or scavengers like him belonging to the Nishad caste, the waste left behind is a site for an unlikely treasure hunt. He paddles in the dirty water in search of coins or other valuables left behind by the devotees. At dry spots, the other Nishads are seen digging endlessly into the sandy banks with spades. “I’m not much concerned about the coins. If I get a gold necklace or ring, my labour will get saved for days,” says Ganesh.

At Daraganj, a locality on the banks of the Ganga and which formed the extreme end of the Mela, residents can only wait for the Monsoons to wash away the waste. Maujiram Bhind, 65, a veteran of many Kumbhs, says the amount of solid waste left behind this time was unprecedented. “The mela was larger, so the range of dirt has increased. From the Hanuman temple at the Sangam till the Nagavasuki Temple, there is polythene and excreta everywhere. And yet, no [mosquito] fogging has been done till today,” he says.

Further, during the Kumbh, all the city sewers were directed downstream of the Sangam to keep the bathing ghats free of filth. However, these sewer lines have once again been diverted into the river. With pipelines running alongside the accumulated dirt in the by-lanes, the residents are concerned with a major health scare.

“How do we know that these taps are not infected with dirty water? Every other day somebody is falling sick or complaining of stomach ache or vomiting. We fear we might have to face cholera or malaria,” says Guddu Nishad.

The vast amount of debris and dirt has also restricted the farming of the Nishads, who during summer cultivate cucumbers, cantaloupes and water-melons on the exposed sandbank. They are traditionally engaged in boating, fishing and sandmining.

Conceding the threats posed by the waste, Mayor Abhilasha Gupta said the administration would initiate a cleaning and fogging programme to prevent any health epidemics, with the support of NGOs, the Allahabad Municipality, the Health Department and the Army Cantonment, under whose immediate jurisdiction the Sangam area falls.

“Work could not start earlier due to cancellation of programmes. Those living close to the banks are the worst sufferers and by the first week of May, we shall start picking the polythene and move on to removing the dirt,” she said.

The Ganga Action Parivar, the force behind the Clean Ganga drive and the organizer of the ‘Green-Kumbh’ initiative, will also send a delegation to Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav on May 10 for the initiation of a cleaning drive, said Ram Mahesh Mishra, Director of Parmarth Niketan of Rishikesh.

“The administration and various organizations can initiate drives, but the ultimate responsibility to keep the area clean lies with the devotees who came there,” he said.

Making Fuel From Filth…

IMG_1195An undulation of hills rise along the eastern fringe of Delhi, towering above the surrounding flat land, and giving a cluster of apartment buildings in the distance a run for their height. They’re easily mistaken for an extension of the Aravalli range that skirts the city — until a putrefying stench hits your nostrils.

As you move closer the mirage vanishes rapidly. In the mid-day glare of the summer sun the hills pixelate into the mounds of garbage of the Ghazipur landfill. Layer upon layer of plastic and refuse reveal themselves compacted into layers so dense that roads have been built on them. Up these, edge massive dump trucks carrying more of the city’s waste.

With more than 14 million tonnes of waste, this is one of the largest landfills in the country. If all the waste here was packed into neat cubes with sides of 1 metre each and lined up, it would stretch 4,500 km, far exceeding India’s northsouth extent. By the Delhi government’s own admission, this landfill has far exceeded its capacity, but for the lack of other landfills, it continues to be used.

In this bleakness, however, hope is emerging in the form of an incipient carpet of grass that covers one of the mounds. Atop this mound, the stench is miraculously absent. If it weren’t for the garbage in the backdrop and the kites circling overhead, it’d be easy to imagine this a green hill.

This is the result of a unique experiment being conducted by the East Delhi Municipal Corporation in collaboration with Gas Authority of India Limited (GAIL), which aims to scientifically close landfills and capture the methane that they release into the atmosphere. This greenhouse gas will then be converted into compressed natural gas (CNG). If successful, it will be a template for other landfills in the country.

Once closed, the landfill will not discharge toxins like lead and mercury into groundwater, or particulate matter into the air.

Of Ghazipur’s 70 acres, 10 were set aside for the project. The topmost layer of garbage in this section was, according to Pradeep Khandelwal, the chief engineer of the municipal corporation, about three years old. The lowest layers which lay more than 25 metres below, dated back 10 years.

“Garbage starts generating methane (natural gas) after three to four years,” says Khandelwal, “and production peaks at 10 years.” After 20 years, methane production drops drastically. This site would, in effect, produce significant quantities of methane for the next 10-12 years.

Landfills, After coal mining, are the biggest source of methane in India. The gas constitutes nearly 30 percent of total greenhouse gas emissions in India; and Indian waste with its high organic content (over 50 percent) produces twice the global average for methane produced by waste.

To start with, the steep slopes of the largest mound on the site were contoured into gentle inclines, after which a 20cm thick layer of soil was put on them. The entire hill was then shrouded in a high strength, impermeable plastic sheet that would trap the gases, and also prevent rainwater from mixing with the garbage.

infoOn top of this went ribbed, wavy plastic netting, designed to hold a 45cm thick layer of soil on which the grass was planted.

It sounds straightforward enough, but on a mound with an area of many hundreds of square metres, it was a mammoth task.

Twenty boreholes extending to depths of between 15m and 25m were then drilled across the mound, in which 15cm wide pipes were placed. These pipes, with slits running along their length, would collect the landfill gases.

To prevent garbage from choking these slits, a layer of gravel was placed around the pipes. The top of each pipe was then sealed shut.

The gas wells were then connected to each other. A slight vacuum created by a fan connected to this network is enough to draw the gases out, says T Nandakumar of GAIL’s research department.

High moisture content is essential for the production of the methane, and to achieve this the thick contaminated sludge that leaches down to the base of the landfill is pumped back to the top. It is released under the impermeable plastic casing to percolate down again.

Currently, the gases are fed into a ‘flaring tower’, a 30-foot-high metal pipe surrounded by gauges and machinery, in a small lot adjoining the mound. Here they are burnt, converting methane (which is 21 times more damaging a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide) into carbon dioxide. This, however, is just an interim measure.

In a few months time, the gases will be sent to a purification system where methane will be separated from other gases like hydrogen sulfide and carbon dioxide. It will then be concentrated into compressed natural gas (CNG) for use as fuel.

The only precedent to this project in India is a project at the Gorai landfill on the outskirts of Mumbai. There, however, the landfill was closed entirely; and the captured gases were flared to produce electricity. But, Nandkumar says, “variations in gas output made electricity generation erratic. As a result, electricity could not be fed into the grid.”

In a little over a month that the gas wells at Ghazipur have been operational, production has been ramping up steadily — starting from 100 cubic metres an hour, now up to 300 cubic metres an hour. Nandakumar expects this to reach 500 cubic metres by the end of April. Half of this will be natural gas. That, compressed, will yield over 2,000 litres of CNG per hour.

However, landfill gas production is temperature sensitive, and there are likely to be large seasonal variations in output. Here, unlike in the case of the Gorai landfill, that won’t be a problem since the gases will be stored.

Once complete, the project will be eligible for carbon credits under the UN’s Clean Development Mechanism (CDM). In a document submitted to the UN GAIL claims that it will, till 2022, lead to a greenhouse gas reduction equivalent to 22,306 tonnes of carbon dioxide annually.

“Not only will we earn credits for converting methane to less damaging carbon dioxide,” says Nandakumar, “we will also get credits for replacing petrol and diesel with the CNG produced.”

These credits will offset part of the 33 crore cost of the project, but for Nandakumar, it’s the environmental benefits that are more important.

Dr Mohammad Emran Khan of Jamia Millia Islamia University, an expert on energy recovery from waste, also believes that the most important aspect of this project is to test “technical viability under Indian conditions rather than economic viability”. According to him, the technologies for purification of landfill gases are commercially established in other parts of the world, but have not yet been tried in India (where waste is not segregated).

Atop the experimental mound, the fresh grass is being watered. A couple of rag picker girls have wandered across from an adjacent smoldering mountain of garbage. Where will they go if all of Ghazipur is reclaimed? “We’ll have to move somewhere else I guess,” says one pausing. They don’t seem to have given this eventuality much thought.

For now, however, this green hill, the first of the nascent Ghazipur range, is a miraculous respite. Up here, the bustle of Delhi seems far away. The girls settle down on the grass and start splashing each other with water.

If everything you buy becomes waste,where will we put it all?

dustbinThrowing something away means losing the chance to reuse materials and can contribute to methane(the most potent greenhouse gas)emissions from landfills. Electronics are only recycled at a rate of 15% globally. Recycling appropriate materials and composting food waste reduces the impact of landfills as well as the demand on our natural resources to produce materials. Learn about recycling opportunities in your community and support a more resource-efficient Green Economy. Green Up!
At ZED Habitat there is Zero export of waste : Effluent waste management with in-house tertiary waste water system;grey and black water segregation at source and treatment also done separately; vermi composting for organic manure generation;responsible disposal of clinical and electronic waste;localised scientific landfill for clinical waste.

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