Rediscover the Wisdom and Traditions of the World!
An interview with a Green Thinking Team of India
Mr. Krish Murali Eswar and Anuradha Eswar have been associated with this non-profit organization, http://www.ecobcil.com/content/about-bcil-alt-tech-foundation for about 7 years and have served it as freelancers, consultants and in the past few years as trustees. Sreeparna Lahiri from Medhajournal interviewed the husband and
wife dynamic green thinking team.
1. What motivated your husband and wife team to work for a non-profit organization related to the eco-friendliness field in India? How do you increase the awareness in the people of India about green awareness and the dire threats the Ecology is facing?
To see India emerge as an innovation leader is our dream. It is our belief that India’s talent pool, can do more than just remain the outsourcing destination of the world. It can become the Idea Lab, not just any idea lab but the Green Idea Lab of the world. We have been motivated to see people, our countrymen, use the power of the minds to develop breakthrough ideas to achieve sustainability. With our rich culture and growing global exposure, we are in the right position to lead the world.
People are busy living their lives. Modern day life is already a challenge. We do not wish to pontificate, teach or train them. We believe that we must use our grandmother technique of passing on the bitter pill hidden inside honey or sugar. Entertraining and edutainment are options that we consider for sensitizing people. Using the right channel to communicate is essential for securing success.
2. Do you see any unique problem related to India that is different from the other nations, and what is your approach to attempt solving it? Every country is unique in its own way. Every region, every city, every neighborhood is also different in some ways. Energy poverty is a rampant problem in our country. Besides, lack of availability of good quality water, the need to manage our waste in a responsible manner, and poor outdoor and indoor air quality need to be tackled. We understand that over 100,000 people die in our country every year due to poor indoor air quality; chula smoke being a major cause.
3. Can you tell more about your foundation? And would you like to highlight some of your programs for readers? BCIL Alt Tech Foundation is focused on urban sustainability. Our aim is to discover technology solutions for sustainable built environment. Our main objective includes mainstreaming technologies relating to green buildings and green way of living. To achieve our goals, we have chosen six strands to design innovative programs: Air, Water, Waste, Energy, Land/Materials, and Biomass. BCIL, the parent company, is India’s largest Green Residential Builder Technology Enterprise after having built over 2 million square feet of green buildings over the past decade. We support in ideating for the parent company. Technology that we have innovated are available for transfer to anyone interested in buying them. We are in the process of publishing India’s mainstream green magazine, ‘Crossover’. By March 2009, we hope to reach over 10,000 subscribers base in India. Our afforestation program, ‘Million Seed Balls’ is highly popular among corporate in Bangalore. Urban Water Supply program aims to communitize water. We believe that water is a community resource and thus we must enable the less able to own it and use it responsibly. Our programs are not based on donor model. We add value to our beneficiaries and they in turn support us.
4. Is your foundation’s work mainly focused on the Urban areas or do you also work in the rural parts of India? Is the ‘lesser developed’ rural parts of India, i.e. the traditional economy, more green friendly compared to the developed Urban areas, or is it more challenging?
Our ‘urban environment’ is like a vehicle that is going down the hill without brakes. It is not an exaggeration to say so. Rural environment is reasonably stable and therefore sustainable. For instance, the concept of ‘waste’ is a very urban reality. Villagers know how to recycle and reuse everything. We knew it in urban fabric about fifty years. Somewhere in the race to consume we posses far too many things beyond our reasonable needs. For instance, have you ever asked a city dweller how many time telling devices he has in his house? How frequently he changes his mobile phone? We need to change this linear system of producing, consuming, and discarding. An average citizen of a city like Bangalore produces about 300 grams of waste a day, out of which 30% is food that someone else could have eaten. We had over 250 living lakes in the city of Bangalore. Less than 50 exist today, out of which less than 30 are alive. Water is a serious problem in our cities. We cannot continue to run a linear system on a finite planet. About 50% of people live in urban centers consuming over 75% of natural resources. This ought to change. We cannot sustain this. We have only one planet. If every member of the society lives like an urban man, we will need at least four planets to survive. While over consumption and greed must be removed in the urban sector, basic infrastructure must be made available in rural regions. As an institution we have chosen to work on urban issues. Both sets of problems have their set of challenges. We cannot say if one is more challenging than the other. In our opinion, it is far difficult to work in an urban sector. NGOs particularly love to work in rural areas because funding can be managed easily. It is, no doubt, noble to work for the lower strata of the society. We cannot compare the risks and challenges of these two streams of work.
5. I believe you both are architects by profession. How do you think architects, civil engineers and others can contribute by helping to create a sustainable living space in this planet? How can the largely urban (and rural) dwellings be converted to make a green impact and yet remain affordable for the major mass of India? Radha is an architect by profession and training. Murali is an engineer. A startling fact must be kept in mind. Only 5% of the total buildings (in numbers) are designed by architects. 95% are built by ‘barefoot’ architects; so called masons, civil engineers, diploma holders etc. They are not trained systematically to build better buildings. That is not to say that architects are superior when it comes to designing sustainable buildings. They are not. In fact, in our experience of working with architects many are egoistic people who love to compromise every earth-friendly aspect to achieve aesthetic appeal. Having said that, we need to enable all groups of people; buildings, architects, engineers, and masons to build energy efficient and resource sensitive buildings. Most have no knowledge of how to construct green buildings. What we have built over the past sixty years in terms of square feet of space we will be building in this country in just the next ten years. Most will come up as non-green, energy intensive, and resource rich buildings. We must go after large buildings. To promote steel people built Eiffel Towers. Like that, to promote green buildings, we must build landmark buildings. We must have demonstrated proof that green buildings are far more affordable and earth friendly.
6. Is building Cement & Concrete structures, as has been done over the past 200 years, beneficial or harmful to India? What should future building material trends be?
Cement and Concrete structures have high embodied energy; that is, it takes a lot of energy to produce cement and concrete. Besides, the carbon emissions from these products are high. Also, buildings constructing using these two products tend to be over engineered. For instance, a three storey building of 1500 sqft can easily built without any concrete columns and pillars in most parts of India. But, people still love to build concrete pillar structures even for a single storey home. Post occupancy energy usage is also high in such buildings. Therefore, alternative technologies must evolve. Rapid renewables such as bamboo have a great potential to replace cement and concrete. Bamboo is often termed as ‘Steel from nature’. After proper treatment, bamboo can be used directly to build strong buildings. Reducing our needs to live in simpler structure, we believe, is the only way to go forward. Recycled and reused materials could be another trend that will come up in the future partly because of lack of good quality resources. For instance, veneer wood is already scarce in the market. Honeycomb doors with packed cardboard inside are already a mainstream product.
7. Do you think a green revolution has started rolling in India? Can you provide us some simple tips that we all can implement at our homes towards this revolution.