Aboard the Stewardship

“Business and Environment Sustainability” was the topic of discussion at the Rotary meeting last week. So terms such as “energy efficiency,” “water conservation,” and “green footprint,” to name a few, were sounded from time to time. But, for a change, these terms weren’t used to frame accusations: The speaker, Mr. Jamshyd Naoroji Godrej, used them to inform us about India’s achievements instead.

052“India is the second largest country in the world for its green footprint by way of green buildings,” he said. The credit for such an achievement goes to the team at the CII Sohrabji Godrej Green Business Centre, which, incidentally, is a venture chaired by the speaker.

In the words of the chairman, “the CII promotes green buildings, energy efficiency, renewable energy, and water policy, in response to the type of demand that industrialisation has put on us.” Thus, when he went on to claim the possibility of India replacing the Americas as the highest ranked country for its green footprint by way of green buildings by 2050, it was hard not to believe him. However, to make it happen would require a planned approach because “India is yet to build 80% of the buildings that it would require by 2050.”

072The advantages of ensuring that the entire 80% of new structures are green buildings are a dime a dozen. Improving indoor air quality is one of the more subtle ways in which sustainable architecture is changing the manmade environment; Studies have even shown that productivity in a
building is directly proportional to the amount of oxygen present in it. However, the basic point is that “a green building saves approximately 40% of artificial energy during its lifespan, which is anywhere between 50 to a 100 years.” So while listening to these claims made in the artificially lit Kamalnayan Bajaj Hall, it wasn’t hard to imagine what it would be like if the noon time sun were to throw light on the matter.

117Another important factor when constructing a building is cement. “India has a large and vibrant cement industry,” and the production of this raw material requires large quantities of energy, which means a fair share of harmful byproducts pollute our atmospheres. But thanks to the CII Green Business Centre, the Cement Manufacturers Association, and the Carbon Trade initiative, we have “the most efficient cement industry in the world.”

156While India’s cement story was one that took fifteen years to write, a more recent topic is the government’s aim to introduce the “electric vehicle” on a larger scale. Mr. Godrej fears that to see this dream through, “we will end up importing batteries and electronic systems, without thinking about the consequences that it will have on the environment.” And what’s worse? In trying to save some Foreign Exchange on the cost of diesel and petrol, we will end up facing “a problem of high import,” similar to what India experienced “back in the day.”

In all certainty, the electric vehicle would reduce pollution, but not without a consequence. It is matters like this that make environmental sustainability a hard nut to crack. To highlight this, Mr. Godrej made example of the project to clean up the river Ganga, bringing to our attention an underlying fact that applies to any effort towards environmental stewardship.“You cannot clean a river, you can only prevent it from getting polluted.”