While infrastructure expansion is critical for the development of any country, one also needs to look at the adverse impact that it has on the environment and find out ways to overcome the same. On Earth Day, 99acres.com looks at various eco-friendly measures taken by the Government of India, and how they will make a difference to the environment in the long run.

The real estate and construction industries are two of the biggest consumers of energy and resources. The two sectors together consume approximately 40 percent of the Earth’s resources and 30 percent of its energy. The industries are also the second-largest producers of demolition waste and account for 35-40 percent of the total greenhouse gases emitted in the country. Rapid urbanisation along with the need for advanced infrastructure often leave nations with conflicting objectives to choose from.

To enhance the quality of life of citizens, countries need to augment infrastructure and incorporate usage of inexpensive energy. While the growth of infrastructure is often accompanied by the financial development of a country, it also triggers environmental damage and deterioration. Noticeably, environmental issues such as global warming, and air and water pollution have reached an alarming stage, and every industry, including the real estate sector, is equally responsible for it.

Amid such challenges towards the overall economic growth of a country, sustainable architecture has become the need of the hour and several measures are being taken to adopt the same. According to Ramesh Sanghvi, CMD, Sanghvi Parrsssva Group of Companies, “The philosophy of sustainable design demands the use of eco-friendly, natural, recyclable, non-toxic and chemical odour free materials that have the least impact on the planet. Consumption of materials should also be minimised by adopting modern design technology. This will lead in producing sustainable, peaceful and healthy habitats and structures around us.”

India has been one of the fastest-growing economies in the world. As demonstrated, the country, too, has undergone immense infrastructure development in the last decade. While the decision-makers and town planners have done a commendable job at augmenting the country’s physical infrastructure, the Government, too, has played its role well in introducing policies to keep a check at the pollution caused alongside growth. Let us have a look at various measures and initiatives taken by the government and the builders to promote green living in India:

Nashik Municipal Corporation makes rainwater harvesting mandatory for buildings

To tackle the issue of the water crisis in Maharashtra, the Nashik Municipal Corporation has made it compulsory for all residential and commercial buildings to install the rainwater harvesting facility. The decision was taken following a directive by the National Green Tribunal (NGT) after environmentalists raised concern over depleting groundwater level in the State. Data revealed by the Groundwater Survey and Development Agency (GSDA) has shown that the groundwater level in 178 talukas (of the total 353 tracked by the agency) in the State has plunged below the average level during January 2019 for the past five years.

Keeping this in mind, the civic body decided to make rainwater harvesting facility compulsory in all big residential and commercial complexes, industries, hospitals and educational institutes, failing which, the Completion Certificate (CC) would be withheld, and violators would be fined up to Rs 5 lakh. If implemented properly, the move would help restore groundwater and prevent water scarcity in future.

Chennai to install solar panels in corporation-owned buildings

To harness clean energy and reduce energy costs, the Greater Chennai Corporation (GCC) will install solar panels, inverters and bi-directional meters across 662 corporation-owned buildings. Earlier, the State government could achieve its target of generating 3,000 MW of solar energy under the Solar Energy Policy. However, after several delays, the initiative is finally being executed under the Smart City Mission and is likely to cut down the energy costs by Rs 22 lakh per month.

Likewise, a Bhandup (West) based co-operative housing society in Mumbai has decided to generate 700-KW of solar energy from its solar plant, which will cut down energy costs by 70 percent. The project will be implemented over the next three years at the cost of Rs 4 crore and will help residents save approximately Rs 450 per month.

Builders resort to environment-friendly materials

Green LivingBesides, the environmental, economic and social benefits of green buildings have encouraged developers to use eco-friendly construction materials as a substitute for traditional materials. For instance, Fly Ash bricks are being used as an alternative to red clay bricks, rice husk ash concrete as an admixture for producing concrete due to its durability, plastic bricks for infrastructure project due to their load-bearing capacity and bamboo for flooring because of its sturdiness and fire-resistant properties.

Efforts towards cleaning the lakes

Bangalore is known to have some of the most populated lakes in the country. Any effort to clean these lakes also hints at the direct intention to save the environment from human-made pollution. Recently, the NGT directed the government of Karnataka to earmark about Rs 50 crore towards the cleaning of the two biggest lakes in Bangalore – Bellandur and Varthur. The move would not only reduce air and water pollution in the city but also augment the supply of usable water.

Kochi Metro’s newly constructed stations get awarded the green certificate: Kochi Metro’s Operations Command Center and the six newly built metro stations were granted the platinum green certification on April 8, 2020, by the Indian Green Building Council (IGBC). IGBC had also awarded the metro project’s previously built stations for their pro-environment features.

This award was conferred according to the IGBC Green Mass Rapid Transit System (MRTS) rating, which was created by IGBC to promote green concepts within design, development and operation of all new metro projects in India. Kochi Metro’s efforts towards water and energy efficiency, adoption of renewable energy, management of natural resources and reduction of waste materials, were verified by IGBC as according to its rating system.

Kochi Metro Rail Limited (KMRL), which owns and operates Kochi Metro, is a joint venture company with equal equity contributions by the State government of Kerala and the Government of India. This metro project being awarded for its eco-friendly initiatives show the intention of both the Central Government and the State government in promoting green building practices in India and sets a clear precedent for all other metro projects to follow.

Using plastic waste for constructing roads: In 2015, the Central Government made it mandatory for road developers to use waste plastics along with hot mixes to build bitumen roads within 50 km of the periphery of any city with a population of over five lakh. In case of waste plastics' non-availability, a road developer can seek the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways's permission for building only bitumen roads. This policy decision was taken to resolve the steadily growing problem of plastic waste disposal in the country's urban centres.

To illustrate, India generates over 56 lakh tonne of plastic waste each year. According to a Central Pollution Control Board study, 60 major cities in the country generate around 15,000 tonnes of waste plastic daily. Another advantage of this policy is that plastic can add to a road's longevity by making them water-resistant and improving its resistance to weather changes.

In a nutshell

At present, merely five percent (or 6.33 billion sq ft) of the total residential properties in India are green, of which, around 155 crore sq ft are under the Indian Green Building Council (IGBC) Green Homes. The country has set an ambitious target of having 10 billion sq ft of total green building footprint by 2022, which will also make it the country with maximum green building coverage area. While policy initiatives to promote the adoption of green practices and sustainable development are essential, the government and the developer fraternity also need to ensure that these initiatives are implemented properly.