With the World Environment Day on June 5, Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) and Gurgaon First, a resident group, under the aegis of the Municipal Corporation of Gurugram (MCG), organised the Gurgaon Environment Conclave to discuss a framework of action for raising awareness about the environment.
The chief guest at the event was Rao Inderjit Singh, minister for state, ministry of urban development. Eminent speakers shared their views on subjects such as air quality, water, waste and forest.
Dr Srikant Panigrahi, director general, Indian Institute of Sustainable Development, said, “Stringent action is needed for our environment. With species becoming extinct and 2,45,000 sqkm of ocean and land becoming dead zones, the future is bleak. As per environment indicators, we need more open spaces, green belts and parks.”
He added how cities are considered to be parasites in the ecological world. Emphasizing on the issue, he said how at individual and community level, actionable steps were the key to protecting the environment.
During a session on air quality analysis in various parts of the city, Gurgaon was referred to as the Asthma capital and the morning air was categorized as the worst.
It was said that vehicular pollution has been the most complicated issue. With vehicles being a consistent source, air was hugely polluted by cars. For promoting NMT (Non motorized transport), roads need to be safer for cycles and pedestrians. Easy access to Metro stations is the need of the hour.
Dr Himanshu Garg from Artemis Hospital said, “I see growing incidents of respiratory ailments in young children and even though we have everything in health care, there is no bypass for lungs. Biggest surgeries sometimes suffer as lungs fail to provide support.”
The next issue that was highlighted was water. With the city growing rapidly, the demand and supply gap is almost around 42 per cent.
Chetan Agarwal, an environmentalist, said that Gurgaon has to take both supply and demand side measures to tackle its water scarcity. “On the supply side, an extensive water recharge programme that identifies and protects natural recharge areas like the Aravallis, low lying areas and water channels should be started. These groundwater recharge areas need to be identified as part of a Natural Conservation Zone (NCZ) as directed by the Regional Plan 2021,” he said.
Traditionally, Gurgaon district had over 350 small and large water bodies that served the purpose of natural water storage. Today, most of these have dried up or become waste dumps. “These areas should also be identified as part of the NCZ and an action plan drawn up to revive these water bodies,” he added.
One of the immediate action plans for water that came up was its conservation. With depletion in ground water from 19 metres in 2005 to 33 metres in 2014 and the number further increasing, the need to save ground water from depleting is all the more important. The key will be in protecting Aravallis, water bodies and even colony level recharge.
Pankaj Tiwari, an employee at Kohler, said, “We must look at toilets powered by solar energy, recycle toilet water and use touch censor and LED products too. With 25 per cent water used in toilets, this can make a decent difference.”
With the Bandhwari plant shut, waste segregation and recycling has been an issue.
Shubhra Puri, founder, Gurgaon First, said, "So far, Gurgaon has had a centralised management to deal with waste, with 90 per cent of the city's mixed waste going to Bandhwari. We will have to move from centralised to decentralised waste solutions with composing and recycling units at local level."
Use of recycled products and simple steps such as reusing old textbooks were some of the measures highlighted. It was also mentioned that tiles made from recycled waste was 10 per cent cheaper than regular ones.
The recent felling of trees was another area of concern at the conclave. The city has recently witnessed huge trees being cut but there are no guidelines or auditing to inspect the reason for felling. Hence, an active afforestation policy for environmental stability and restoration of ecological balance is needed.
With Gurgaon having only 8.28 per cent of the total geographical area as a forest, it is under constant threat due to road widening and infrastructure development.
One of the major highlights of the conclave was the release of the book Roadmap and Framework for Sustainable Development of Gurugram by Singh.
Dr Anumita Roychowdhary, executive director, CSE, said, “The sustainability framework for Gurgaon is an opportunity to set the terms of action at the early stages of growth to reduce environmental impact, public health risk and ensure well-being of all. We hope that our high level task force is created by the local administration to ensure sustainability goals along with infrastructure development.”