Ecological Rejuvenation of Mowa Lake, Raipur

Madhukar SwayambhuThe author is R&D Head at Vedic Cownomics Pvt. Ltd., an Aquapreneur, Agripreneur, Sociopreneur, IT Professional, Columnist, Nationalist, Philanthropist, Ecologist & Environmentalist This article has been published in the print version of Enviro Annotations dated 11/03/2020

Sprawling over an area of two acres, Mowa Lake is a magnificent waterbody in Raipur, the capital city of Chhattisgarh. Its location near the civil lines, the Legislative Assembly and the posh residential area of the city – makes it more special. The city administration takes utmost care for maintenance of the waterbody. In 2017, the whole Lake was decanted, desludged and refilled. But it was back in a mess in just two years of time. And, the principal cause of the problem was sewage, which is linked to the human population. Burgeoning population in cities is well known. On a conservative estimation, human being generates a minimum of 33 litres of sewage every day. The two most prevalent chemicals in sewage are ammonia and phosphates. Ammonia has been used around the household for decades, despite it being also dangerous if not used properly. Ammonia can eliminate stains and tarnish and can also be used against hard-to-remove soap build up in tubs, sinks and bathroom tiles. It is mostly used as a cleaning agent. Naturally occurring inorganic phosphates are found in virtually every living thing which means it’s a key source is food and food waste, and synthetic phosphates are used in a wide variety of applications, including cleaning and baking products, as well as fertilizers. In addition to cleaning products, phosphates have a dizzying number of other uses. They may be found in water-based paints and coatings, metal polishes, flame retardants, processed foods, personal care products, pharmaceutical products, and more.

Thus, the key ingredients of our sewage are ammonia and phosphates, access of which causes a phenomena called “eutrophication” in Waterbodies. And due to eutrophication, the weeds develop, cover the surface, which in turn make an anaerobic environment in Water helping pathogenic microbes to grow and eventually the Waterbody dies with sludge in the bottom, water in between and weeds / algae covering the top surface.

Sustainable Solution: Cownomics© technology is one of the best and eco-friendly solutions for in-situ restoration of lakes and waterbodies. The Raipur Smart City Limited opted for this unconventional, holistic, and ecological solution of restoration instead of the conventional approach of physics, chemistry or bio-remediation. The restoration project officially started from 16th October 2019, with quite a fan following at the inauguration being participated by who’s who of the city from Mayor Mr. Pramod Dubey, Councilor Mr. Jasbir Singh Dhillon, Mr. Sanjay Sharma & Mr. Anshul Sharma from Raipur Smart City Limited, and Social activists like Dr. SN Madheria and Mr. Raj Kiran representing his NGO, apart from many other dignitaries. The event was widely covered by print and local TV media too.

Treatment Process: The process adopted was quite simple, designed for ease of executive by any urban local body. Administration was to arrange for two tankers of 5000 liters, each, with pumps and pipe to release the water in the waterbody after dilution of Cownomics© concentrate in the said tankers and the process was done. The Quantity, Frequency and Potency (QFP) of the concentrate was to be monitored, calibrated and decided by the technology owners – M/s. Vedic Cownomics Private Limited, Delhi. The after effects were highly encouraging.

17th October 2019 – within mere 24 hours of the treatment, the entire foul smell was gone from the whole vicinity & catchment area. A close observation of the water lilies as shown in the figure below that the leaves had started to decay. And the itching from the touch had also miraculously disappeared.

19th October 2019 – The viscosity had reduced and the color of Water had become much lighter than before. The observatory team even spotted some small fishes on the embankment area. Decay of the weed leaves continued and the surface could be spotted in between the dense weed infestations.

21st October 2019 – By now local residents had started using the lake for daily usage, from bathing to washing closes and utensils and so on. Three out of four key issues (foul smell, itching and mosquitoes) were already resolved in mere three days, as the weeds has covered major portion of the surface, the process was to take a longer period, but the action was on and decomposition of the weed leaves was observable with naked eyes.

The project went on for a month and the problems were resolved to a massive extent. But the real test of time with zero possibility of any loophole was about to come in form of a festival – The Chhath Festival. Chhath is an ancient Hindu Vedic festival historically native to the Indian subcontinent, more specifically, the Indian states of Bihar, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh, in India and the Madhesh region of Nepal. The festival is dedicated to worship the Chhathi Maiya (Shashthi Mata) and The Sun God Surya along with his consorts Usha and Pratyusha – the Vedic Goddess of Dawn and Dusk respectively. It is believed that the main sources of Sun's powers are his wife Usha and Pratyusha. In Chhath, there is a combined worship of both the powers along with the Sun. In the morning, worship of the first ray (Usha) of the Sun and the last ray (Pratyusha) of the Sun in the evening are offered to both of them. And the rituals are rigorous and are observed over a period of four days. They include holy bathing, fasting and abstaining from drinking water (Vratta), standing in water for long periods of time, and offering prasad (prayer offerings) and arghya to the setting and rising sun. Some devotees also perform a prostration march as they head for the river banks.

Environmentalists claim that Chhath is the most eco-friendly Hindu festival and the entire Puja is observed on the banks of a Waterbody. The devotees performing the Puja have to offer arghya while standing half submerged in the Water and the process starts way before dawn, somewhere around 3 AM, so they have to be in water for almost 6-7 hours. In case of any impurity in water, it could lead to chaos. The Puja was due on 2nd November 2019, and everyone from project team to the administration were waiting anxiously to give this test of time to this unconventional treatment process, newly adopted by them. Good part was, that the occurrence of the festival was within the period of the treatment. And then finally came the due date of Puja. The devotees were there on the banks of the Lake and the Puja went on pretty well. The devotees were there since dawn and were absolutely happy with the quality of water. It was a success story.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author.


Madhukar SwayambhuThe author is R&D Head at Vedic Cownomics Pvt. Ltd., an Aquapreneur, Agripreneur, Sociopreneur, IT Professional, Columnist, Nationalist, Philanthropist, Ecologist & Environmentalist This article has been published in the print version of Enviro Annotations dated 11/03/2020

Water crisis looming across the globe and it is worsening by the day. Though, everyone from United Nations to national governments to local bodies and corporations – have been working towards conservation and restoration of water bodies, the global situation in last fifty years has worsen. It is envisaged that in coming years, the situation will get even graver.

People, plants and animals in growing numbers are parched today. There’s rapid desertification, despite efforts to restore. The big question is – WHY? Whether, our efforts have failed? If no, why is the situation worsening? To ensure that in future, efforts on this front bear fruit, one has to look at both the approach and the process followed so far:

(a) Verify processes: To understand our processes and efforts that we are making to rectify mistakes in order to water make water sufficiently available across the globe.

(b) Verify approach: To understand the basic philosophy of the processes, because not one or two but all seem to be going wrong. Let’s begin with the processes first. By and large, across the globe people adopt four processes to conservation water, namely: i) Rainwater harvesting: Collecting, dumping and storing rainwater so that it gets soaked in the ground and helps enriching the underground aquifer. ii) Plantation drives: Planting more trees towards creating a greener planet. iii) Restoration of water bodies to make water available for potable and non-potable uses. iv) Setting up sewage or effluent treatment plants: Wastewater could be reused so that extraction of more groundwater is curbed.

Now let’s analyse each of the above.

1) Rainwater Harvesting: Before we attempt to understand the reasoning behind failure of this process, it is important to know the forces of nature that would make it happen. There are two key things to be clear about, in order to understand this phenomenon. One is the underground aquifer while other is the soil moisture. Both are water, but the former is below the soil, while the latter is within the soil. When we say harvesting, the basic idea is to be able to use it later. Now, both are used in different ways. The soil moisture is used by the plants to grow and the underground aquifer is the water that we take out for usage through borings and tube wells. The basic apparatus that we install for rainwater harvesting is pipelines from the rooftops of buildings to a pit installed with a tank with holes in the side walls. When the rainwater comes in to this tank through pipelines, it gets leaked and absorbed by the soil around the holes, and contributes to the soil moisture, but does not reach the aquifer below and does not raise the water table. Thus, the idea to recharge underground aquifer fails. But, it does help in increasing soil moisture. That is the reason why, all plantation drives succeed in the regions where rainwater harvesting is done successfully.

2) Plantation drives: The idea is indeed wonderful from the perspective of dealing with air pollution. But, plants have very limited role in water generation. Also, plants are water consumers. That is why, plantation drives fail when there is no provision of adequate watering. The quest for economic growth has led to spoiling of the ecology in soil, water and air that was sufficient for growing all the plants in any particular agro-climatic zone. With excessive chemicals in modern lifestyle and agriculture, ecology has been hit.

3) Restoration of water bodies: These surface water bodies have been the natural rainwater harvesting apparatuses for years, which ceased to be effective due to many factors originating from wrong developmental practices.

We did it with sludge. Today, water has become the de-facto waste transport medium. All the waste and dirt is washed away with water, be it on cars or clothes, dishes to dandruff. All sewage on the planet is basically 95% fresh water and just 5% solid waste, added through anthropogenic activities. Thus, the idea of separating sludge from sewage and making it fresh again. Appallingly, this is just a half cooked idea. What will we be doing with the sludge - making compost or putting it in a landfill? It is only man-made waste, as nature has nothing known as ‘waste’. Everything that comes out of nature goes back to nature.

In contemporary scenario, the methods adopted for restoration of water bodies could be categorized in three domains – namely, physics, chemistry and biology.

i) Physics: This is a three step process – decantation, de-sludging and refilling. Flaws in the process include – wastage of water, sludge management hassles, disturbing the biodiversity by mechanical dredging, and wastage of time, energy and money. And, despite all this the water body still remains where it was. Because, mechanical removal of sludge can’t differentiate between sludge and silt and without silt the aquifer recharge wouldn’t happen.

ii) Chemistry: Every chemical reaction has its own residue. In the quest of solving the sludge problem, we have ended up killing some of the microbes as a side effect of the chemical reaction, which again harms the ecology.

iii) Biology: This is primarily done by introducing an invasive species in the ecosystem, and not a sustainable practice. Also, be it the phosphates and nitrates consuming weeds on some floating islands or cyanobacteria treatment, both are foreign entities to the water body. Thus, they act as invasive species in ecological terms.

The only sustainable way of water body rejuvenation is an ecological restoration in, which sludge is consumed in the natural process, not removed physically; ensuring zero waste. If any residue of waste is left away in the process – that can’t be a called a natural process. And, no artificial process can be ecological. It could be good for a mid-gap arrangement, and not a long term sustainable solution.

4) The fourth activity that we do is practically a corollary of the third only. In sewage treatment the above mentioned three processes are predominant. The difference is just the natural water body and man-made physical structure of a treatment plant, be it STP or ETP. It’s high time for us to understand that water pollution is not a physical or chemical or biological problem, but rather an ecological problem.

There is ecology in water. Natural water bodies have life in it. It is an ecosystem in which millions of beings survive. How can it be sorted in to mere chemicals? Every human body is a chemical factory that secretes chemicals based on emotion and thoughts, which means every time a chemical analysis could bring different results, unless the body is a dead body. And the same holds good for water. Akin to a sick human or animal life, water needs to be cured, and not cleaned. The only possible way out is an ecological treatment. Just imagine this - with your thought and emotions, you can bring in chemical, physiological and biological changes in your body. With your thoughts and emotions, you can change the chemical secretion within the body. That means, your body chemistry can be corrected by yourself, if you have control over your mind.

The same is true of water.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author.

Sustainability Report of Havells India

Sanjaya Kumar MishraEditor, Enviro AnnotationsThis article has been published in the print version of Enviro Annotations dated 04/03/2020

Havells India Limited is a leading Fast Moving Electrical Goods (FMEG) company with a pan India presence and headquartered in Noida, India. It was incorporated in 1983. Havells enjoys an admirable presence in the domestic market with a wide range of electrical products. The company has published its 7th edition of Sustainability Report for the FY 2018-19.

The sustainability report cites Chairman message that reads, “For the last seven years, this report has traced the contours of Havells performance across all the dimensions of the Triple Bottom Line- People, Profit and Planet. As we continue to expand our way into new market segments and product categories this past year, our revenues grew by 24% and profit by 11% as compared to last year, vindicating our core philosophy.

Mr. Anil Rai Gupta, Chairman further deliberates “We are reducing our impact on climate change by using clean energy sources and driving energy efficiency in our operations. Over 6% of our energy across our plants is now coming from solar energy thus reducing our GHG emissions. Science Based Targets and are on the path to meet the requirement of reducing our absolute emissions and limit global warming to 1.5°C. In line with the target, we have planted 2 lakh trees in the reporting period sequestering close to 4,300 tonnes of carbon dioxide per year.”

Under the key highlights of the report it is mentioned that the net revenue in the financial year 2018-19 was at Rs. 10,058 Crore with a profit of Rs. 792 Crore. The company spent Rs. 17.4 Crore on Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) programs. The report depicts a reduction of 42% energy intensity as compared to 2015-16 level, 45% water recycled, and 4.5 GWh renewable energy generated.

According to the report, Havells has been focusing on tree plantation near its manufacturing plants. The company has planted over 10,000 trees in and around our plants in Alwar, Rajasthan and Baddi, Himachal Pradesh. It has reported about the signing of a MoU with the Madhya Pradesh government under which 1 lac trees shall be planted each for the next 5 years. The company reports to have tied up with 3 panchayats in Neemrana to plant another 1 lac trees in the current year. We are also building a “Kanya Upvan” in the Alwar district of Rajasthan by planting a tree on the birth of every girl child in the district.

The company has reported reduction of impact on climate change by using clean energy sources and driving energy efficiency in our operations. Over 6% of its energy across its plants is reported to be coming from solar energy thus reducing our GHG emissions. It states to be conscious of environment protection and encourage development of products which have low energy footprint for entire life-cycle (manufacturing to end of life use). It is reported that all manufacturing units of the company adhere to energy efficient practices. The company has also stated to have aligned many of its social and environmental goals to the SDGs, particularly in the field of sanitation and hunger, as well as climate change and clean energy. It states to believe our SDG mapping enables to give our internal and external stakeholders more faith in our reporting practices.

The report has calculated the emissions savings for switching from a 100 Watt GLS bulb to a 18W LED bulb and we observed that 0.062 ton of carbon dioxide emissions was saved per year. It has also avoided emissions for 80 lakh LED bulb produced per month that led to annual savings of 496800 ton of carbon dioxide. In case of solar it is reported emissions savings only from the institutional installations led to savings of 2157.42 ton of carbon dioxide per year.

The report depicts a reduction of 41% GHG emission, as compared to 2015-16 level. It has considered the Ozone depleting substances, emission of Sulphur dioxide and oxides of nitrogen gases, as well as employee commuting.

The report states that Havells see waste as an opportunity to improve our efficiency. Accordingly, the company is committed to reduce and reuse as much waste as possible during our operations. Further, it complies by all the central and state rule when it comes to disposal of waste. The non-hazardous wastes reported to have increased from 204 ton in 2015-16 to 231 ton in 2018-19. The total waste disposed has been reported to be 6651.9 ton in 2015-16 to 10405.6 ton in 2018-19. The company has a target of e-waste management extended producer’s responsibility (EPR) Collection 5100.1 MT (in weight) by FY 2023.

It is reported to become a carbon positive organization too, bettering our existing status of being the First ‘water positive’ company. It is also stated that since inception the company has been committed to conserve the use of water in day to day operations. Being the first fast moving electrical goods “Water Positive” company in the electrical industry in India is a testimony of its commitment. The company has reported to have undertaken several initiatives which have helped it in minimising water withdrawal and discharge impacts. It has further targeted a reduction of 5% in consumption per employee by FY 2020. A total of 28 rainwater harvesting pits across all plants, which helps in improving the water level of nearby communities. It is important to note that under the table heading Water Consumption - 2.3.4 in the report, the fresh ground water abstraction has increased from 977000 cubic meter in 2015-16 to 1402000 cubic meter in 2018-19. It also reveals that the industry depends mostly on groundwater resources, as the municipal supply is very little. Therefore, it is important to specify the status of compliance with the Central Ground Water Authority’s regulations. And also, whether the rainwater harvesting projects should be considered as a part of legal requirement or CSR activity.

The company claims to be a zero water discharge organization, while the water consumption has increased from 131200 cubic meter in 2015-16 to 158200 cubic meter in 2018-19. Further, it is also reported that all its plants are equipped with sewage and effluent treatment. The report also depicts that there is generation of effluent treatment plant (ETP) sludge of 20880 kg. When there is an ETP and sewage treatment plant it needs to be reconfirmed about this claim.

The sustainability report has been prepared by an acclaimed company KPMG. It is stated that the Havells India applies its sustainability performance reporting criteria, derived from the ‘In-accordance Comprehensive’ option as per Sustainability Reporting Standards of GRI as detailed in the ‘Report scope and boundary’. However, certain aspects are not very clear from the report, as for example, which the company claims to be a zero water discharge organization. Enclosure of the annual returns with regard to hazardous wastes, e-wastes and environmental statements, which are legal documents may bring higher degree of transparency of the report.

Scope of Vertical Farming in India

Henna GullM. Tech. (Environmental Science and Engineering) Department of Civil EngineeringJamia Millia Islamia University, New Delhi-110025

According to the UN report, the world’s population is expected to increase from 7.7 billion currently to 9.7 billion in 2050. It could be a challenge to feed such a huge population. In India, although there has been a huge increase in production of rice, wheat and other cereals, but their per capita net availability has not increased at the same level, due to population growth, food wastage and losses, and exports. India has made an improvement in rates of under nutrition and malnutrition children, as stunting in children from 2006 to 2016 had declined from 48% to 38%. Yet, India continues to have one of the world’s highest child undernutrition rates. With almost 195 million people, India shares a quarter of the global hunger burden, that means 4 out of 10 children in India are not meeting their full human potential because of chronic undernutrition or stunting. The government of India from time to time has provided large food security and anti-poverty programmes like the National Food Security Mission (NFSM), Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana (RKVY), the Integrated Schemes on Oilseeds, Pulses, Palm oil and Maize (ISOPOM), Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana, etc. The UN priority group partners like, Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), International Labour Organization (ILO), International Organization for Migration (IOM), United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and World Food Programme (WFP) also support government of India to strengthen agriculture and livelihood dimensions of anti-poverty programmes, particularly the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act and the National Rural Livelihoods Mission. Though many schemes and policies were there, but there have been always critical gaps in terms of inclusion and exclusion errors. Despite the achievement of many goals, new challenges are emerging. Due to urbanization and industrial development, large tracts of arable lands are getting lost. Diminishing water supply, climate change, land degradation and shrinking biodiversity are other challenges. Large stretches of farmlands have become barren due to imbalanced fertiliser use.

Increasing food demand due to a growing population along with ever decreasing arable lands poses one of the greatest challenges. One of the ways to overcome this situation is innovation in agriculture like vertical farming, which involves greater use of technology and automation for land use optimization. The notion of vertical farms is not new. It was first devised by an American geologist, Gilbert Ellis Bailey in 1915. He recognised decenniums before that the only way to stave off the inevitable future crisis of food scarcity was to create farming practices that went vertically up rather than out. According to Bailey, “vertical farming enables the farmer to farm deeper, to go down to increase area, and to secure larger crops. Instead of spreading out over more land he concentrates on less land and become an intensive rather than an extensive agriculturist, and so learns that it is more profitable to double the depth of his fertile land than to double the area”. Also according to Dr. Dickson D. Despommier, an emeritus professor of microbiology and Public Health at Columbia University, “harvest made in 30 acres of open farmland by traditional farming methods can be obtained from an indoor one-acre Vertical Cultivation method, by taking into consideration a number of crops produced in a season”.

The main aim of the “vertical farms” is to significantly increase productivity of healthy and sustainable food sources and reduce the human demands on Earth’s ecosystem within a framework of indoor, urban and climate-controlled high-rise buildings. The control of light, temperature, humidity, water and gases artificially with the help of Controlled Environment Agriculture (CEA) technology makes it possible. There are four critical areas in working of vertical farms: firstly, the crops are cultivated in a tower like structure in stacked layers. Secondly, with the help of rotating beds, combination of natural and artificial lights is used to improve lighting efficiency in the room. Thirdly, instead of soil, aeroponic, aquaponic or hydroponic growing mediums like peat moss or coconut husks are used. Finally, it uses various sustainability features to offset the energy cost of farming. In fact, about 90% water will be saved when using an aeroponics system and 65% – 75% water is saved through aquaponic system. The quality of yield is high as there are minimal attack of diseases and pests.

In India, other than problems like electricity supply, water scarcity, assurance of minimum support prices and acceptance by Indian farming community, vertical farming has to face challenges like public awareness, inclusiveness of farming community, technical knowledge, cost incurred in managing and mainlining the vertical farm systems, and also its economic viability.

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