Green efforts

As green as Kochi can well be said of the city. It has always had its eco-warriors, the well wishers - individuals, groups and the Corporation — who have kept it green and clean. But as the city grows and deals with development, its pristine natural environs come under a fallout cloud. Pollution has grown; air and water have dropped in quality. But alongside has cropped up awareness and initiatives that strive to keep the city and its eco-system healthy. Here are some projects — Green building, River Keepers, plastic road, E-waste management and go for glass — that make a difference.

June 04, 2015 09:10 pm | Updated 09:19 pm IST

Green building

The 13-storey corporate office of V-Guard at Vennala is a green wonder. Every floor has a balcony with flowering plants surrounding it, which prevents the building from heating up. Kochouseph Chittilappilly, founder chairman and M.D. of the company says it has been over seven years since the office was built and it has remained a truly sustainable model. “It is a model that works in a place such as Kerala where the temperature does not cross 35 degree Celsius. With the plants that line the balconies, direct sunlight does not fall on the building. Hence, 90 per cent of the building is not air-conditioned,” he says.

The overall cost of maintenance is low, too. The building does not have a Corporation water connection. The needs of the entire office complex are met by rain water harvesting and two open wells. Solar panels take care of a regular hot water supply. A rooftop garden with lawns and a wealth of plants add to the greenery the structure supports.

“This is a model that any other multistorey building can follow,” he says. Apart from contributing to the green cover of the city, citizens should also take steps towards treating biodegradable waste at source. Even offices could follow the method.

“Instead of burdening the Corporation with biodegradable waste, each one has to start treating it at his or her own home. Dealing with waste is one of our biggest problems now,” he says.

Environment Stewards

The Social Forestry wing of Kerala Forest and Wildlife Department aims for a transformational change, where citizens will transform into environmental stewards. “This is a responsibility shared by all those whose actions affect the environment. We will encourage every citizen to question how one lives and their actions impact the environment,” says K.J. Martin Lowell, ACF.

The department will initiate nearly 10 schemes that will tally with the UN Environment Program theme for this year, Sustainable Lifestyles. Apart from the regular planting of saplings the focus will be on theme planting. Plans are ready for 1,000 Nakshatravanams in the State with 70 of them in Ernakulam district; Kuttivanam or small forests will come up in nearly 100 schools in the district; nearly 700 herbal gardens are envisaged for the State out of which the district will have around 50 and Nature Appreciation Centres will be established where 50 trees of different varieties will be planted in one place properly labelled and there will be four in Ernakulam.

Three other important initiatives that will be launched are Green Card under which citizens, especially school children will maintain a Green Card that will help them encourage adopting sustainable lifestyles. “This will cover primary environment care such as recycling waste, water harvesting, reducing power consumption, and responsible behaviour in public places,” says Lowell. “Citizen groups, colleges, schools will be appointed as River Keepers. They will alert the department in case of pollution and will create awareness among citizens residing along the riverside.

Vehicle owners will be encouraged to plant at least one tree. They will be sensitised on using low decibel horns. Plant saplings will be distributed on June 5 from IOC and BPCL petrol pumps. And oil companies will be requested to plant at least 10,000 trees.

Bin E- Waste

Among all the other challenges the environment faces, one of the newest threats comes from our obsession with technology. Used smartphones, computer components and electrical appliances fill up the land, sometimes polluting it with harmful metals. But there are solutions for this problem with a few organisations having taken up the cause of safe collection and disposal of e-waste.

“In Kerala, we only get the licence to collect e-waste from the Pollution Control Board (PCB), processing licences are not offered,” says Ansarmon T.K. of Aspire-Greens, a Perumbavoor-based organisation that collects electronic waste and sends it to processing centres in Bangalore and Hyderabad.

“The challenge we face is that we cannot collect the materials from households at the same rates local scrap dealers can, so people should be more aware of disposing through proper channels.”

Jose Joseph Moonjely, executive director of the Clean City Movement, an initiative by CREDAI Kochi, says that the organisation has tried to reduce wastes at source by providing separate channels for biodegradable and nonbiodegradable waste. The NGO has plans to set up a recycling park where plastics and metals from electronic components can be recycled and used in activities like road building.

Message in a bottle

The hospitality industry in the city has responded with alacrity to challenging environmental issues and taken some on the ground real measures aimed toward recycle, reuse and upcycle.

From planting trees on the property and farming vegetables for requirement, to using recycled paper bags the one obvious change that hotels have made is in the introduction of glass bottles to serve mineral water instead of the commonly used plastic bottle. It is an initiative that goes a long way in reducing the proliferation of plastic bottles and its subsequent recycling.

The hotels purchase mineral bottle in bulk packages and then bottle the water into pretty glass bottles for use in rooms and the restaurant.

This initiative began roughly five years ago and has caught on, the glass bottles creating an awareness among hotel guests and spreading the message of being environmentally friendly.

Road from plastic

Sustainable energy consumption, conservation of resources, scientific waste management — terms such as these have come to being used lavishly but seldom practised. For, it requires long-term, sustained effort. The Rajagiri campus at Kalamaserry is an example of how sustained effort can indeed make a difference, however small it is. The campus which, among others, houses the schools and the Rajagiri College of Social Sciences is a plastic-free zone. Students are discouraged from getting plastic (in any form) into the premises. Around six years back, 100 metres of road outside the College was tarred incorporating plastic waste collected from the campus.

“The plastic that we were able to collect from the campus was sufficient only for this much area,” says Fr. Saju M.D., Assistant Professor, Rajagiri College of Social Sciences. The road has survived the elements, the school buses and vehicles that use it.

The plastic used met the specifications required. “The use of tar reduced by around 20 to 30 per cent and the road has lasted; it is said that these kinds of roads tend to last longer.”

The practical hassle of getting rid of the plastic waste aside, Fr. Saju says, the college wanted it to be an example for students, “we wanted the students to think of constructive means of managing waste. We are looking at a holistic system.” And the campus has evolved an ecologically sustainable system with vermi-composting, solar energy, biogas plants and other means featuring on the list.

Top News Today


Comments have to be in English, and in full sentences. They cannot be abusive or personal. Please abide by our community guidelines for posting your comments.

We have migrated to a new commenting platform. If you are already a registered user of The Hindu and logged in, you may continue to engage with our articles. If you do not have an account please register and login to post comments. Users can access their older comments by logging into their accounts on Vuukle.