Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Living Sustainable in India

Recently I have moved back to my hometown in India from Dubai for few months. Every morning chirping birds living on tree outside my window wake me up and when I take walk around our place every afternoon, I savoir Nature's bounty in the form of greenery, birds, flowers and perfect winter!

Scene from my lovely New Year morning
It been more than 5 years that I never stayed more than 15 days in India and I almost forgotten how sustainable one can live in this land. There are many problems in system, infrastructure and government but apart from that people still live sustainable almost without knowing.

Generally you don't have to use electricity in your home during the day. Though it's apartment or villa, generally every building is built with lot of strategic windows so that day light can pass in abundantly. Thanks to fertile land, landscaping around the buildings and setting up new habitat in case of habitat loss happens almost on it's own. Many people have habit of turning of lights when not in use, in attempt of saving electricity bill, if not for the love of mother nature. So occupancy sensors are not needed at all in at least these homes. There are not recycling stations or no easily available charity pick up points. But anything you don't need doesn't get wasted, you can always pass on these unwanted items including food, clothing, home items etc to less fortunate people you come across every day in the form of domestic help, watchman, cleaners etc. One man's junk is other man's treasure! You can always sell the unwanted papers including newspapers or other paper scrap. The metal scrap pays you more than plastic scrap. But still there is always somebody who buys any form of scrap material from your home and take it to the ultimate recycling point in industries (paper/plastic/metal production etc) to earn their bread and butter.

These very basics of Sustainable living or even Green Buildings are followed by people in India since years and that is the secret of India's very less carbon footprint per capita.
On personal level my carbon footprint has reduced to record figure. I have started to walk more and use transport only when I have to travel far. Very interestingly here in India, once the residential buildings are built, many basic as well as other services start in that area. There is no aid from government in this, the community and the services are set up by people themselves. Where there are new residential areas, people start their small businesses in and around that new area so the walk able community services are formed automatically.
So for me most of my needs are fulfilled in my community and I can walk up to all those necessary services. We save electricity in many ways without taking any extra efforts. You can depend on natural ventilation throughout the year except couple of harsh summer months in Most of India. We don't need clothes dryer during winter or summer, but you can't skip it in rainy season :). When you can get domestic help abundantly here in India, this way you not just save electricity in washing machine, dishwasher or vacuum cleaners but you provide employment too.

Solar hot water system is widely popular and you get to see these units everywhere. Also portable compost units are gaining popularity, where you can deposit bio-waste from home and compost is made in few days, which can be used in you garden. Reduce, Reuse and Recycle is well penetrated in Indian culture since years. You get to see many example of reusing items in every household and in every community.

There isn't much pollution around my place, but this is not valid in any crowded road junction in any city of India and metro cities in India are highly polluted. There is a big trouble of noise pollution along with air pollution. I don't understand why people blow horns on any road though it's main roads in city or any small colony road, but it is definitely related to lack of road discipline.

One very serious problem I could see in my Sustainable India is water. Godavari river flows through my city and one of the serene part of river is walk-able from my home. But when you actually start admiring the beauty of river and floating lotuses in it, your attention is attracted by floating garbage near the banks of river.  Here in India there are many natural sweet water sources, I don't think there must be any other country blessed with so many rivers, lakes and ground water table other than India. So one expects that there won't be any problem for drinking water. But because of all sort of waste water including industrial waste and drainage black water is drained to these natural water sources without much process, all natural water available is polluted. Not just that but even after lot of dams are built on many rivers, the fresh water availability is still dependent on yearly rainfall. There isn't anything done much on large scale to harvest rain water. All of the rain falling in city and in the country flows back to these rivers and lakes or on a good note forms ground water table.
In cities you can have 24 hours flowing water taps only if there is ground water table in your building premises. The bore-well to this ground water is the only solution. Otherwise building management or watchman has to do water management by cutting water supply to all apartments during specific times. The local authority supplies drinking water only two times a day, morning and evening. The same water is stored in water tanks in every residential building for all sort of water uses. There is no supply of gray water by local government for flushing toilets or watering plants. The plumbing systems in buildings also do not account for these kind of facilities. Onsite water recycling is also not as popular.

The step for water conservation need to be taken on local level in every town, city and village in India. All I can do at my home is reduce flow rates of taps and reduce flush tank capacity to save water apart from teasing my younger brother first thing in morning if he keeps water tap open while brushing his teeth! :)

Wish you all a Happy and prosperously Green New Year 2013!

Flower from my window garden