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How green is my campus?

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How green is my campus?

An institution has a duty towards its students and society to evolve and contribute towards a greener and cleaner future. Case in point is Janki Devi Memorial College, which has moved from text to praxis in its environment-friendly practices

Educational institutions have a vital role to play in societal and environmental reform. Janki Devi Memorial College, University of Delhi, has earned a reputation for providing quality education and leading the way for future generations by implementing environmentally friendly initiatives. The physical layout of the college campus encourages positive thinking. Green spaces develop a surrounding which nurtures connection with nature, and is often the only connection to greenery for students coming from densely populated parts of the city.

Surrounded by fragments of the Central Ridge and the bustling market of Karol Bagh, the college overlaps between the natural and man-made ecosystems. Of the total plot area of 43,108 square metre, the main college building is 9,007 square metre (21 per cent). Roughly 66 per cent of the campus consists of green spaces and sports ground.

In terms of the bio-geographical, Delhi is a semi-arid zone, which means availability of fresh water is a concern. The water profile of an institute is a vital cog in its environmentally friendly design. The primary use of water in campus is for drinking and sanitation. The college has taken significant steps towards utilising harvested rainwater.

The initiative for the Rain Water Harvesting Programme in the college was taken by Aruna Ludra from the English department, who donated Rs 30,000 to the college on her retirement. The project was implemented with the help of the Centre for Science and Environment in June 2001. As a pioneer in establishing the project, the college was awarded the Chief Minister’s Institutional Rain Water Harvesting Award.

The total rooftop and surface area for rain water collection is 32,170 square metre. With the average annual rainfall in Delhi being 611 mm, the campus has the potential to harvest 19,000,000 litres of water annually. The current volume of rainwater harvested is 68,80,000 litres. This represents about 35 per cent of the total rainwater harvesting potential of the campus. The water level in the college premises was 35.8 m below ground level in May 2002. After implementing the RWH system, water levels rose remarkably.

Several environmental problems can be traced to non-renewable energy resources including air, water and soil pollution. It is thus imperative that consumption and conservation of energy should be at the heart of every institution’s design and functioning.

The energy profile for Janki Devi Memorial College took into consideration two factors: The electricity consumption of the campus, and the different modes of transportation used by the students in commuting to and from college.

The college has taken steps to reduce its electricity consumption and shift towards renewable energy sources. Solar energy is the most abundant, easy, and cost effective. Last May, the college signed a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) with Azure Solar Solutions Pvt Limited for 25 years under the Renewable Energy Service Company Model of the Ministry of Renewable Energy. Under the PPA, Azure Power installed the solar plant at the college free of cost. The solar power plant came into operation in December 2016. It produced in the first two months a total of 8332 kW, which was approximately 20 per cent of the energy demand in that period. The installation of solar panel has led to reduction in electricity bills. The college can look forward to having the solar power plant generating at full capacity before the monsoon. The solar plant, coupled with power-saving installations, will aim to fulfill the complete energy demand for the college in the coming years.

Transport is a big contributor towards greenhouse gases and public transport helps in reduction of greenhouse emissions.  An online questionnaire was prepared to prevent wastage of paper and to make the data analysis more streamlined. Two hundred and thirty five unique responses were recorded and the data was analysed to determine the impact of transportation on the college.

The data highlights the fact that majority of the students (72.8 per cent) depended on the Delhi Metro as their primary mode of transport. Bus services (13.6 per cent) were the second most popular mode of transport. The above data goes to show that public transport systems provide tremendous support to educational institutions by increasing accessibility to the students while reducing the impact on the environment. Another important point to note is that ‘walking or bicycle’ was the third most popular reply. 

Garbage is the end point for most natural resources in the urban environment. Thus, it is imperative to understand how much waste material Janki Devi Memorial College produces and how it is disposed of. Garbage from the campus is collected on a daily basis in a rickshaw cart. The average waste collected per day was 1.67 carts or 1.03 m3. Leftover food material and plastic was the main component of this waste. The waste analysis has helped the college to take steps to reduce the production of solid waste and develop its compost recycling system.

Green spaces are rare in Delhi, and for young minds, a college campus can often be an oasis. The lush green cover attracts students to the college campus. The department of Environmental Studies and AVANI (the environmental club) initiated the tree census to understand and quantify the floral diversity of the campus. A total of 300 trees were identified in the college campus, which included 45 unique species.

When electronic waste or e-waste end up in landfills, toxics like lead, mercury, and cadmium leach into the soil and water, thus leading to several forms of pollution. On January 19, the Department of Environmental Studies launched the e-waste collection drive in collaboration with Chintan Environmental Research and Action Group. The students and faculty were sensitised to the impact of electronic waste through the screening of the documentary Citizens at Risk, following which e-waste collection bins were placed in several locations. The department aims to carry forward this programme by establishing Janki Devi Memorial College as an e-waste collection centre for the region.

AVANI, in 2005-06, drew up an MoU with the NGO Scope Plus to engage in a waste exchange programme. This was an initiative for recycling waste material at the institutional level. In exchange for the waste, Scope Plus provided the college with recycled stationary items, jute bags, writing paper etc. Over 10 years, approximately 5,000 kg waste paper has been exchanged.

The idea to encourage students to recognise the importance of waste and minimal garbage footprint led to the event ‘Create from Waste’. Starting in 2006, this turned into a hugely popular competitive event in the college festival, Symphony. Participants compete to create objects and ideas from waste material given to them. In March 2016, Advaita Parasher of Sociology Honours, led a ‘Say No to Plastics’ campaign as a part of an inter-college competition organised by the Earth Day Network at Delhi University. This project involved promoting the use of paper bags and AVANI pledged that it would make and distribute over 500 paper bags in college and the neighbouring areas.

In 2016, AVANI initiated the forum Green Matters. Under its auspices, an intercollege bilingual debate on environmental issues entitled ‘Economic development and environmental degradation are inseparable’ was held with an enthusiastic participation from over 15 colleges.

In March 2017, AVANI began a collaboration with the organisation ‘Give me trees’. Under the agreement, a section of the campus has been earmarked for the creation of an ecozone, which will house the following:

  • A nursery
  • A seed bank
  • A composting unit
  • Organic farming
  • Bio-enzyme production for safe agriculture

The Department of Environmental Studies takes extra effort to provide a wholesome educational experience for the students. The Ability Enhancement Compulsory Course (AECC) in Environmental Studies was initiated in 2014. As part of the AECC Environmental Studies curriculum, field visits to the Aravalli and Yamuna Biodiversity Park have been incorporated since 2016.

An institution has a duty not only towards itself but also to the students and society to evolve and contribute towards a greener and cleaner future. To assess the impact of one’s activity on the environment, a green audit is indispensable. For its effort and initiatives over the years, in March 2017, the college was given the Green Campus Award by WAGE.

This article is an edited version of a report prepared by Akash Verma, Assistant Professor at Janki Devi Memorial College, with inputs from members of Avani, and faculty from the Dept of EVS. Edited by Dr Swati Pal, principal (officiating) of the college

 
 
 

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