In the framework of the Education for Sustainability project, Nektarina Non Profit and its Indian partner Zest Youth Movement attended the 15th Delhi Sustainable Development Summit that took place in New Delhi, India in February 2015.
In the margins of this major conference we learnt that The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI, also organizer of DSDS) had established a sustainable campus on the outskirts of Delhi, as a best example for people of how natural resources should efficiently be used.
Thus we took the opportunity of our presence in Delhi and the possibility offered by TERI to visit the RETREAT (Resource efficient TERI retreat for environment awareness and training).
“ Renewable energy is seen as an effective option for ensuring access to modern energy services in our vast country. Local and regional environmental problems associated with the generation of conventional energy have provided a strong argument for enhancing the role of renewable energy within the broad energy development plans of the country.
With this in mind TERI developed this complex at Gual Pahari, Gurgaon, as an example of sustainable habitat.
The Gual Pahari campus is situated 35 km south of Delhi, at Gurgaon, Haryana, covering an area of 36.5 hectares of beautifully landscaped surroundings. When TERI bought the land, it was totally rocky and devoid of any vegetation. Intense plantation activities were undertaken by scientists and researchers for improving the fertility of the land and today it is covered with lush green forests and gardens full of beautiful flowers. Amidst this greenery and beauty lies the RETREAT, a model of sustainable habitat.”
After driving almost an hour from the center of Delhi, we entered the campus at the gate and left our car there. Vehicles are indeed strictly forbidden to enter the campus. We continued our journey with a battery run vehicle. Only those vehicles are allowed, to avoid pollution, keep air clean and keep human beings healthier and provide more oxygen. Actually, at many places in India, the government has asked to use battery run vehicles like on the world famous Taj Mahal site. The acid rains induced because of air pollution have already affected the monument. Even in many universities and companies campus, battery run vehicles or other wise vehicles are used, like at the University of Pune for example. Actually this is very good option that should mandatorily be used in all industrial, educational, historical places.
A representative of TERI welcomed us at the main office building and then brought us through the campus and show us the main departments and projects developed there.
The campus was inaugurated in 2000 by the former Prime Minister of India, Mr Atal Bihari Vajpayee. It is mainly known as the Teri Green Campus.
First went to the Micro propagation technology park and saw how the team develops and produces microbe-free plants of various species. Millions of plants are thus supplied to the industries and farmers.
Then we went to see the TEAM process installation witch permits generation of biogas and manure from biogas generation from various sources of organic waste.
The rainwater purification basin is established as an integral part of the campus. Rainwater is stored in one tank where mud and other material settled at the bottom of the tank, coupled with oxygen, kills unwanted small microorganisms. The water is then used for the campus’ irrigation needs.
The main building complex is build in a way to benefit the most from natural resources and to operate in the most autonomous and sustainable way.
“This climate-responsive building is intended to serve as a model sustainable habitat, based on new and clean technologies.”
No electricity from outside is used. The building was constructed in a way to naturally keep the temperature temperate in all seasons thanks to a smart use of sunrays orientations and tree planting which gives more shadow in summer and allows the sun to enter the rooms once their lost their leaves in winter.
Also, to maintain the temperature in the rooms an underground tunnel has been build. The tunnel out let is open at one end. The air then goes through a motor that ventilates it and push it towards the different levels and rooms of the building among a chimney mechanism. There are two out lets in each room. The other one exhausts out the hot/cold air to that the temperature is maintained.
“The temperature in the living area is maintained at a comfortable 20° C to 30° C throughout the year, without the use of an air conditioner. The concept is based on the observation that underground cellars are naturally cooler in summers and warmer in winters. In ancient and medieval India, a similar concept was applied in the construction of buildings such as that seen in the Red Fort at Delhi. To circulate the air in the living area, each room has been fitted with a ‘solar chimney’ and the warm air rises and escapes through this chimney creating an air current. Cool air from the underground tunnels, helped by two blowers fitted in the tunnels, rush in to replace the warm air. In winter, the cold air in the rooms is replaced by warm air from the tunnels.”
On the top of the buildings solar power plants are fixed and provide all necessary energy (light, hot water, etc.). The inner parts are constructed in such way that there is more air ventilation and circulation.
“The RETREAT takes full advantage of the abundant solar energy and has used innovative ways to tap this energy by installing 24 solar water heaters to provide 2000 liters of hot water to the living quarters. Photovoltaic panels help capture solar energy and store it in a bank of batteries, which is the main source of power at night. Individual panels, power lights outside the building. Even the water pump is powered by solar panels.”
The building is used as a research and learning center, has accommodation and catering capacities and is used as a venue for hosting groups and conferences.
Afterwards we visited the biomass gasifier based power generation site. All food waste and other waste material are used to produce energy through a process of decomposition with help of water. Gas comes out of it and is used for cooking and other purposes. The gas is supplied through pipes to different parts where needed.
“During the day, the building is powered by a biomass gasifier, which is fed by firewood, twigs, branches, and crop stubble from the campus itself. In conventional devices that burn firewood directly, a large part of the energy is lost. In a biomass gasifier this wood is burnt twice as efficiently. Any surplus energy that is generated is used to recharge the battery bank. This battery bank is thus served by two sources of power, namely the photovoltaic panels and the gasifier.”
We saw then the wasted water management system where all the wasted water from the campus is collected and organically treated. Around lakhs of liters the water is then used to tree plantation watering all over the campus.
“At this complex, a novel method to recycle waste water for irrigation has been introduced. Sewage is collected in a settling tank and the sludge settles at the bottom and a part of the waste is decomposed at this stage by microbes. Next, the water passes through a bed of soil that also has some reeds, that adapt well to water logged conditions. The roots of these plants act as a filter, removing and absorbing many of the toxic substances from the waste water. The water that comes out at this stage is of irrigation quality or even for bathing purposes.”
What a great breathe of fresh air visiting this campus after several days spent in the highly polluted city of Delhi!
Such initiatives offer a great overview on the different options that organizations could use to contribute in a more sustainable way of life in India. Practically, it is still very challenging to spread those approaches towards the whole society, but we deeply believe that thanks to those projects and best practices, and through a quality education on sustainable development from the youngest age, future generations would progressively adopt and generalize those methods. Such training institutes should be set up all across India so to allow the sharing of knowledge all across the country.
Source of the quotations