Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Green Questions & Our Grey Future!

"We are living on this planet as if we had another one to go to…Terri Sweringen

Terri Swearingen is a nurse from the state of Ohio. She was awarded the Goldman Environmental Prize in 1997, for organizing the protests against Waste Technologies Industries' toxic waste incinerator in the Appalachian town of East Liverpool, Ohio. No wonder she could narrate the present scene of Environment in so simple words! And it seems our Govt is hell bent to prove her right! Many will wonder for my words that too coming from a builder, which indeed is my profession but what triggered me off is the recent incidence. Our association's media manager sent me three questions to reply, which were asked by a magazine on construction indistry. They were regarding use of Green Materials so as a Chairman of Power-Environment Committee; the mail has been forwarded to me to reply.  When I had a look at the question I realized the depth of the same, as on face they looked very plain & they were plain yet the expand of their would be answers made be dig deep in my mind & in the process I stumbled upon this wonderful quote by Miss Terri!

Being Green is somehow has become a fashion statement in present era & more & more people calling themselves green thinkers, may not be even knowing what it means but it sounds good to be called like that. This is what more alarming as since now it’s more than a decade & yet in our country the Green moment seems to have got stagnant only at awareness level, especially in real estate. There are builders who are trying to build Greener buildings & so are the architects who try to plan the project around the term Green & then we have Govt making norms like obtaining environment Clearance for projects with built up areas more than 2.0 lac sq ft. Also most of the local bodies now ask for various NOC’s such as rain water harvesting, vermicopmosting, garden department for plantation etc, before applying for occupation certificate. Yet some where something is missing seriously as if all are so keen on saving environment then why the effect isn’t being seen? One may say that so much damage has been done in past many years that the effect to wipe out the damage will be slow & that’s why the output of the Green measures isn’t being seen yet! Well, I differ because as except for few sincere efforts what we are doing is just a show of being Green!

The Govt by making compulsion of series of so called environmental noc’s wants to show that how keen it is for protection of Greens & at the same time don’t care to what happens on all these fronts after obtaining all such noc’s.  And on other hand for their own projects such as road widening, drainage line laying etc don’t bother to follow any Green norms, for e.g. those who remembers Pune in early 90’, there were huge banyan trees all along Sinhagad road as well Paud road; during the road widening of these roads all those beautiful big trees were cut down but what about the new plantation & their survival? The result is today these roads have to face immense pollution due to emmition of gasses from millions of vehicles & we can feel the heat as well air pollution all around the day on these roads. Same is the situation on most major roads of the city. At the same time surprisingly all the new development which has come along these roads mostly commercial to encash the frontage of the widened roads, don’t have any plantation of big trees on the road side. Reason is it obstructs commercial value of the shops as well offices in the front side of the building, so the local bodies has also conveniently turned a blind eye & the entire stretch right in the heart of the city along these roads have become concrete jungle & corridors of pollution! And the scene doesn't just stop over here but continues to worsen with poor public transport & not promoting use of non polluting means like cycles!

Same is about issues like rain water harvesting as on one side local bodies like PMC/PCMC are making RWH compulsory but on other side rampant concreting & tarring of the roads is on, leaving no space for water to seep in the ground. At many places even the trees stems which are along the road are totally surrounded by the concerting or hard paving with no exposure of soil to poor tree.

Garbage issue is facing same ignorant treatment, as there is provision of vericomposting NOC for obtaining occupation certificate but no one care for actually confirming how much wet garbage is being treated within the buildings which have given occupation certificate with such noc! And PMC continues to collect wet garbage from these building without bothering that these residents are supposed to treat their wet garbage.
Then the biodiversity in & around the city; we keep on reading the news of most common bird like sparrows getting pushed away from the city & we do nothing. News of dears getting killed by stray dogs from surroundings whatever little forest areas left like NDA hills make headlines & vanish. We have Salim Ali’s named bird park right in the heart of the city which is fast turning up in garbage dump yards & tree cover being lost & no one comes forward to take responsibility of maintaining the same.

And on all this back ground I was supposed to answer the questions about Green things in real estate in the city! Well a job is a job after all s0 to start with first question..

1) Currently, how do you see the demand and market of green products and technologies evolving in India and their availability and cost-competitiveness?

Demand is there & more than that its necessity of the times, right from for the base materials like fly ash bricks to LED lights to solar/wind energy units, green materials are needed. But main thing is pricing, it’s what keeping developer away from such products; as well availability & then the infrastructure for rightly using such materials. For e.g. LED lights, they need a stable electric supply at particular frequency but unfortunately its not being supplied & then it damages these units making the end user pay heavy maintainenece costs. I myself in one of my recent project has tried it & after replacing the LED lights thrice in a year finally switched over to conventional light fittings. Plumbing fittings like controlled flow taps has to be made mandatory as well their availability in the market should be assured which isn’t presently.

2) What has been the role of government in shaping green building environment?

Govt is doing zero on this front. Just giving advertise in news papers on public money or making some NOS’s compulsory isn’t going to solve the problem. Not talking to actual field workers, neither promoting these products properly, no subsidies’ or any such policies are being adopted to make more & more people use it. Also they should be coming without any tax like VAT or LBT making them available at cheapest as well in bulk in open market. But even things like solar panels also have not been subsidized properly; first you have to spent then ask for the money to be refunded. And we all know what it takes to get any kind of refund from the Govt!

3) What are the future plans for Greening Indian Industry?

Future of Green Indian Industry has to be bright or else our entire future will be in dark! More & more people should demand green products in as many ways we can make. And for the R & D is very much imp so we can understand actually need as well hurdles in finding out the needs of the real estate industry on this front! Unfortunately there seem no concrete future plans for Greening Indian Industry as it’s not clear that whose job it is to make such plan? Lots of bosses can only mess up the system & that’s what is happening with Greening. We should have one single department which will be at apex & this department should govern all policies related to Greens. Right now there is Environment Ministry at center & at State & then we have pollution control boards & then all the laws related to housing are being made my Urban Development or Housing department. We have MSEDCL as our power provider agency & we have a Power Ministry  at the same time we have Ministry of Unconventional Sources of energy as well agencies like MEDA i.e. Maharashtra Energy Development Authority, which is supposed to promote energy saving products i.e. Green Products. And there no co-ordination between any of these departments of ministries is a fact. And on top of it none of these officials ever talk to the ground workers in the field & take their suggestions in consideration while making any Green policy & result is every such policy has been failed or else we would not have been asking these questions!

On the Industrial front also the associations of real estate developers as well production industries should come forward join hands & put pressure on Govt for coming up with a future plan for the Greening. Role of the end user is equally important as they should also demand more use of Green products instead going for just costly & fancy amenities/ specifications. As just crying that no one cares is not going to solve the problem & it’s to be done real fast or else there will be left nothing to care for!

Sanjay Deshpande

Sanjeevani Dev.

MSEDCL (Power) Committee, Credai, Pune

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