Interviews

Dr. Savita Nagpal, MD, Vice President of the Association of Practising Pathologists, and Founder ‘Slim Homes’ an Environmentally Conscious Organisation talks to Sanjaya K. Mishra.

The name Slim Homes brings an immediate thought relating to minimalist group. Can you please enlighten our readers about Slim Homes?

On 1st September 2017, a large portion of the oldest landfill in Delhi, the Ghazipur landfill collapsed killing two people and washing away four vehicles. Somehow each one of us had a hand in that senseless tragedy. Thus was born the idea of “Slim Homes”, whereby, each individual could take credit for and have a hand in healing our environment. The recent fire at the Bandhwari landfill on 11th July 2021 is another case in point. The cornerstone of slim homes rests on (1) Residents are encouraged to de clutter their homes which are bulging with unwanted unused items. Hence the name “Slim Homes”. (2) Collection Drives are held whereby the Residents drop off their “Extras” at designated drop off locations. (3) Sales of the pre-owned items are held in Delhi and Gurgaon, where these items are sold at throwaway prices thus giving a new home to long forgotten belongings as well as immense joy to new owners. (4) Ideas of reaching out, reusing, recycling and re-inventing and re purposing, are propagated through Awareness Programs thus reducing our carbon footprints.


What are the Awareness programmes and Campaigns initiated by Slim Homes?

Slim Homes focusses on 2 main items as of now. Awareness programmes are held to sensitise people to the sorry state of the environment and to outline small and doable steps that can be taken within the constraints of their everyday life. People are made aware of “on site processing of waste” rather than sending it to centralized processing plants and thereby promoting decentralized processing of waste at a community level.


Bettering the environment by means of Waste Segregation and Composting; Diversion of Plastic waste away from landfills, towards road construction; Promoting the use of steel tiffins in place of disposable containers, by food delivery services; Making & Distribution of cloth bags to discourage use of Single Use Plastic; Promoting the use of Water Aerators in an attempt to save water.


With such busy and hectic lifestyles, do you expect people to get involved with Slim Homes?

The idea behind Slim Homes is to net in as many people as we can because we want that Slim Homes should provide a way of life, wherein we live in harmony with our Environment. The beauty is that just by de cluttering your own home, you become a part of Slim Homes.

When it comes to plastic waste management, what are the major challenges you find in society, and how do you address those?

Apathy, indifference, and a lack of awareness are the major challenges. We hold Awareness talks, mostly online now, and involve people in drives against the use of SUP (our cloth bags and Tiffins Projects)

Which SUPs must be targeted for immediate elimination in your view?

The most commonly used SUPs are the plastic bags. These should be eliminated at both the User as well as the Manufacturer level. Reusable Cloth bags are a cheap and easy alternative.

Secondly, the disposable containers used in food delivery outlets, should be replaced by steel tiffins/containers. Slim Homes is underway with this project.

Plastic bottles, cups, straws, cutlery and crockery, all, have easily available alternatives.

What’s your take on India’s data adequacy to work upon?

As far as numbers are concerned, they are out there for anyone to see. However, I feel we should address the problem of Waste Management, at source, which happens to be our home. For that we don’t have to delve into statistics, unless it is to frighten ourselves to take action.

Do you think people are aware of the fact that over 3 million plastic microbeads could be there in 1 bottle facial scrubs, which when washed down the drain and then potentially into the ocean and water bodies? What kind of reaction do you find from people who are aware of this?

No. Most people are unaware of these hidden microbeads and the inherent danger lurking in their toiletries.

Those that are aware have switched to using gram flour (besan) as a face scrub. Fortunately P&G is using crushed seeds etc. in place of microbeads.

Is awareness on Plastic Pollution Being Raised in Schools?

Slim Homes has conducted Awareness programs in the many Schools: Vasant Valley School, New Delhi – Sept 2019 & Feb 2020; Pallavanjali School, Gurgaon- January 2020; Sugam School – Feb 2021. A few other Schools in Delhi and Gurgaon have also been sensitised to Plastic waste by other organizations such as GFI (Garbage Free India). However, Covid has put a dampener on all these children oriented activities. Of late SDMC is on a massive drive to discourage the use of SUP and they are involving children as well.

Do you think that India is on the right track to achieve phasing out SUPs by 2022?

It has been a slow start but it is gathering momentum with the SDMC tackling it aggressively through continued Drives since around early July 2021.

At another level Slim Homes and Garbage Free India partnered in Jan 2020 and so far we have several Condominiums and Residential Complexes across Gurgaon, from where plastic waste is collected and diverted towards road construction. So yes, we are on our way, albeit slowly. So far we have diverted 29,458kg of plastic waste away from the landfill.

Being a Medical Practitioner, a Doctor, what inspired you to get into this?

Having been in Practice since about 35 years, I saw the spiralling increase in diseases such as Asthma, Diabetes, Cardiac, Neurological, & Endocrinological diseases as well as the rising incidence of Cancers and Infertility. What’s more, I saw more and more younger people being afflicted. Reading through the Literature as well as clinical experience helped us Doctors, to connect the dots, and we realised that toxins from contaminated air, water and soil had found their way into our bodies and were wreaking havoc with our internal milieu. Autopsies have revealed the presence of micro plastics in almost every human organ.


As we are taught in Medical School, prevention is better than cure, so I thought it was time I did something to arrest the devastation of our external and internal milieu. Since an individual effort is very miniscule, I founded Slim Homes, which provides a platform for all of us to restore our harmonious relationship with Nature.

Shri Surender from Beri District, Haryana, awarded with Best Fish Farmer award (Inland State Category) by the Govt of India, on the World Fisheries Day 2020 spoke to Sanjaya K. Mishra

Provoked by devastating 1999 Super Cyclone Retired Indian Army man has planted saplings on Odisha Coastline

50000 trees and plants must have survived, Krushna Chandra Biswal talks to Sanjaya K. Mishra.

What motivated you to start plantation in such a huge scale?

Actually, I was not here in the village (Gundalaba, in Astaranga block of Puri district in Odisha) during the 1999 Super Cyclone. When I visited after the incidence, I was taken back by the scale of devastation. Human life was pitiful, properties were damaged, animals were scanty, trees were uprooted, and the whole village was looking so barren. I thought to regain the lost greenery and glory.

So, when and how did you start?

After my 22 long years of service to the nation in Indian Army, I came back in 2004. Since, then I started planting trees on the seashore, which is government forest land. The beautiful Casuarina trees on the coastline are mostly cut in 10 years. It takes 5-7 years to grow them. But that also involves a lot challenges to protect from man and also from natural calamity. So, I chose Palm trees, which is local specie, stands tall, doesn’t die and also rarely cut. Another thorny shrub is also planted that helps to stop seashore sand blown by wind and enter to the village. Thus soil erosion is prevented, and also food and shelter for birds are created.

How many tree you have planted by now and what are their varieties?

I have never counted as such. It has been a long time. In these 15 years, there must be more than 50,000 trees of different species alive along the seashore, starting from Casuarina, Jamun, Mango and other fruit saplings. Now-a-days, youth is also participating. So, the plantation work is becoming faster and increasing.

What are the challenges you have faced?

When I ardently started planting trees, officials from the forest department had some doubts that I was occupying government land. As I had no malicious intentions, the matter was sorted out very soon.

Do you get any technical and financial support?

No. In fact, I have never asked for, nor I have thought of any such.

Would you accept support if any individual or organization willingly extend technical and financial support?

After some explanation, Yes, I would welcome anyone and everyone, who can guide me in selection of plant species and how to cover more area.

How do you feel as the Chief Minister of Odisha has acknowledged your work?

I am deeply touched and feel honoured by Hon’ble Chief Minister’s message. It is greatness that he acknowledged my work. This inspires me and also many people, especially the youth that supports my work.

China has attained remarkable success in Air Pollution: Dr. Ravi Kant Pathak

Dr. Ravikant Pathak, Associate Professor, and Atmospheric Scientist in the Department of Chemistry & Molecular Biology, University of Gothenburg, Sweden, an alumnus of Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Bombay, and Post Doc from Carnegie Mellon University in USA spoke to Sanjaya K. Mishra (Published in Enviro Annotations dated 22nd January 2020)

Mr. K. P. Singh, Director (Construction & Operations), M/s Global Realty Venture Limited, New Delhi talks to Sanjaya K. Mishra. Mr. Singh has enormous experience of over 3 decades in several iconic national and international construction projects.

You must be aware of two notifications the MoEF&CC introduced in November 2018, in which the construction projects are mostly made out of the purview of EIA Notification. What is your view as a domain expert?

It is unfortunate. On the one hand we are talking about decentralization of power, and when a government act on it, some people are too scared to bear that change. At the same time, as democracy prevails in our country, the government should also have consulted with experts before taking such important decisions. The basic objective should remain sustainable and progressive investments. I believe that the new government will address all concerns and objections and also take everyone into the same page.

Do you think that it was a concerted plan or a hurried action or an act of some other reason not shared with the public?

I would like to reiterate, in a democratic country like India, the Government should have consulted all stakeholders before taking a decision.

Do you think Indian Municipal Corporations and Panchayats can take up such responsibilities?

Decentralization of power and Capacity building is a continuous process of development. There were similar concerns when SEIAAs were formed. So far, there is no such legal complication found in the cases of projects cleared by the SEIAAs. Therefore, I am optimistic that an institution, once empowered, delivers. We have many experts available at different levels, who could participate in decision-making processes. Moreover, the power decentralization could have reduced post-project legal hassles with effective use of single-window clearance policies.

In the post-Katowice scenario, we are expecting much funds to flow into the green building sector. What are the challenges we have?

Green Building is a sustainable construction concept, which meets the needs of the present with good consideration of future demands and requirements. Sustainability in the construction industry is brought basically by good technical use of sustainable materials and energy etc. with simultaneous minimization in wastage and pollution. The number of green buildings in the country is rapidly growing. The biggest challenge for the green building sector is lack of awareness and demand among end users. Another challenge is the availability of viable cost-effective technologies. The concept of green building has got a substantial boost, since the last couple of years. Still, there are many stones remaining unturned. We have to imbibe technology and restructure the same to fit into our cases.

How to overcome those challenges?

By exploring cost-effective technologies. For example, the adoption of solar energy was a good measure. But, it was high on capital investment. As, lately, the CAPEX in solar energy utilization has come down, it has become popular. Also, there is a need for open communications between corporates, research institutions, government and society (activists and buyers). Projects should not take too much of a long time for completion. Infrastructure must be created by the government at the same time when it brings in new policy or amendments.

What are the parameters primarily considered in a green building project?

The term Green Building refers to a structure and using processes that are environmentally responsible and resource-efficient throughout a building's life-cycle. The Green Building project differs from conventional building projects by assigning equal priorities to economic, social, and environmental goals. It has now been universally accepted that it is critical to the design of environmentally responsible buildings for sustainable development. Research shows that Green Building improves tenants‘ satisfaction and health, enabling higher individual productivity in respective areas of expertise. As a result of the increased interest in Green Building concepts and practices, a number of organizations have developed standards, codes and rating systems conservation of water, energy, and building materials, and occupant comfort and health.

How is the construction industry responding to the Construction & Demolition Waste Rules?

The major source of Construction and Demolition waste is from the demolition of existing structures. Eliminating wastes, minimizing wastes and reusing imminent wastes need to be practiced. Recycling of demolition waste is not new. It was first carried out after the Second World War in Germany to tackle the problem of disposing of large amounts of demolition waste caused by the war and simultaneously generate raw material for reconstruction. Having said that, again state-of-art proven technologies should be adopted and the final disposal should be carried out as per the legal provisions.