Category Archives: sustainable communities

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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Green Tech and Sustainable methods

11Your tap water is cleaner than you think

Cities waste water for luxury! Most institutions and households in the cities are supplied with soft water. They blindly install Reverse Osmosis (RO) systems, which waste more water than they purify- almost in the ration of 60:40.

All housing and office buildings have single pipe connections,which supply drinking water even for flushing toilets. Not every one uses the modern commode which has dual mode of flushing. At one flush, more than 10 liters of precious drinking water is lost! At ZED we use Low-flow fixtures that curtail the net water demand by as much as 30,000 liters a year of fresh water saved. Grey and black water segregation at source and treatment is also done separately.

1Standby mode is like a leaky tap

2700 million units of electricity is lost annually through appliances in standby mode. Put off your TV sets,set-top boxes,and personal computers. Rural poor has very small standby consumption,followed by urban slums. Urban middle class has the highest standby consumption.

IMG_0319Recycling wasted electricity from lifts

Just like metals and plastics,energy can also be recycled. Elevators and escalators fitted with regenerative drive technology allow the recovery of the energy used to move them up and down. This energy is then converted for use elsewhere in the building;in elevators,as much as 50% of the total energy used can be recovered this way.

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19-Year-Old Develops Ocean Cleanup Array That Could Remove 7,250,000 Tons Of Plastic From the World’s Oceans

The Ocean Cleanup Foundation, Ocean Cleanup Array, Boyan Slat, pacific garbage patch, garbage patch, plastic fibres, plastic foodchain, plastic recycling, TED, gyres

19-year-old Boyan Slat has unveiled plans to create an Ocean Cleanup Array that could remove 7,250,000 tons of plastic waste from the world’s oceans. The device consists of an anchored network of floating booms and processing platforms that could be dispatched to garbage patches around the world. Instead of moving through the ocean, the array would span the radius of a garbage patch, acting as a giant funnel. The angle of the booms would force plastic in the direction of the platforms, where it would be separated from plankton, filtered and stored for recycling.

The Ocean Cleanup Foundation, Ocean Cleanup Array, Boyan Slat, pacific garbage patch, garbage patch, plastic fibres, plastic foodchain, plastic recycling, TED, gyres, At school, Boyan Slat launched a project that analyzed the size and amount of plastic particles in the ocean’s garbage patches. His final paper went on to win several prizes, including Best Technical Design 2012 at the Delft University of Technology. Boyan continued to develop his concept during the summer of 2012, and he revealed it several months later at TEDxDelft 2012.

Slat went on to found The Ocean Cleanup Foundation, a non-profit organization which is responsible for the development of his proposed technologies. His ingenious solution could potentially save hundreds of thousands of aquatic animals annually, and reduce pollutants (including PCB and DDT) from building up in the food chain. It could also save millions per year, both in clean-up costs, lost tourism and damage to marine vessels.

It is estimated that the clean-up process would take about five years, and it could greatly increase awareness about the world’s plastic garbage patches. On his site Slat says, “One of the problems with preventive work is that there isn’t any imagery of these ‘garbage patches’, because the debris is dispersed over millions of square kilometres. By placing our arrays however, it will accumulate along the booms, making it suddenly possible to actually visualize the oceanic garbage patches. We need to stress the importance of recycling, and reducing our consumption of plastic packaging.” To find out more about the project and to contribute, click here.

Read more: 19-Year-Old Student Develops Ocean Cleanup Array That Could Remove 7,250,000 Tons Of Plastic From the World’s Oceans | Inhabitat – Sustainable Design Innovation, Eco Architecture, Green Building

Will India go green on its buildings?

The Green Summit or the Annual Green Congress of the Indian Green Building Council was held in Hyderabad last week. It drew over 1000 professionals from the government, from among practising architects, engineers, service consultants, and students. There were a slew of talk sessions, all of them centering around how you can make buildings efficient, how you can reduce the consumption of energy in these buildings and how you can reduce the demand for freshwater with recycle, up-cycle, reuse, down-cycle, and reuse and recovery of materials. The objective was only one: can we build with less, with the need for more such buildings that we have before us?

 

In just the next 18 years, there will be about 2.5 times the number of buildings that have been built in India in the last 2000 years. By 2030, India will be the most populous nation in the world. Already, every sixth human being in the world in an Indian.

 

How do we return to that rich past that offered respect to water, and celebrated austerity? Can you expect your housemaid or driver or junior clerk at office to not aspire for a car or house? Their aspiration is as real as your own. So the need for more homes and cars and a variety of household conveniences is only going to rise relentlessly in a country which has 400 million people under 25. Such a young population of course offers a very high demographic dividend for a country in terms of economic activity for the entire nation.

The real challenge is to build systems and approaches that secure 50 per cent cut in the use of resources during construction and let people occupy such homes and offices with greater energy and water security, and far less use of these two precious resources.

That we must stretch every natural resource that extra mile, was clear to every participant at the national congress of green entrepreneurs and professionals. Can we achieve in the building industry whatever the car industry managed in the late Nineties? Catalytic converters were first embedded in cars then. This has ensured the level of pollution in the air has remained much the same after ten years and many thousands of new cars on the streets. What the cat converter did to the car industry is what we need to be doing in the building industry without much fuss and ado about it.

Someday soon, people won’t be talking of ‘green buildings’ because all buildings will be on a par with these energy-efficient buildings that are now in a minority.

No Role Models?

When did you last lament about no role models in India beyond those cardboard heroes from the film world? Here’s a story that you perhaps missed. Shyam Benegal was offered by the Vedanta group who have been behind the major mining disasters in central and eastern India. He said yes to making the Creating Happiness campaign. He then got an open letter from a vigilant activist who was prompted to write after reading of Benegal’s yes in print. Shyam took an instant call. He turned down the offer. What’s more, when he got to hearing of another counterculture organisation wanting to make a film on Faking Happiness, he volunteered to make it for them! That’s a role model — and from the film industry.

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