I had the wonderful opportunity to take an interview with Dr Joshy V Cherian who has been in the sustainable industry for more than 30 years. I learnt a lot from him, I have shared them so that everyone can learn and try to implement them for the betterment of everyone.
Q1.Being a harbinger for sustainable workplaces, what would you say are some of your top philosophies related to it?
I have been working for almost 30 to 40 years on sustainability, and the environment. So, what I believe is that all the natural resources should be managed sustainably.
If we don’t do that, we are heading for major trouble. Even from our regular natural resource situation, sustainability is very important, because if the population is increasing, the need for resources is increasing. So, unless we learn to use the resources sustainably, we will lose the availability of resources.
So, that is one aspect, there is another aspect to sustainability in the current context, because of climate change, the monsoon is becoming unpredictable, for natural resources, especially the rainfall. Especially a country like India, where we had periodic rainfall, because of Global warming. Global warming devastated the periodicity of rain. In every aspect of the rain, there is a change today, we don’t get regular rain like what we had 20 or 30 years back every June 1st week, we used to get the southwest monsoon rain it used to start in Kerala then it is to advance and in a very definite timeframe across the country. Today, we don’t have any regular such periodicity.
That is a big change as far as the regularity of the rain is concerned. Another major change is that earlier we used to have regular drizzling for weeks. So the water that comes down very slowly and it penetrates in the soil and the runoff was very limited. The water got stored even for weeks and months after the rain.
But today it is all flash rain there’s a heavy downpour, and in a few minutes The rain is over and there’s so much water running away. It also takes the organic content along with it, if the flows through the soil down it dissolve out all the soluble nutrients. So, we have to be very much prepared, because climate change is something which we cannot close our eyes to and say is not happening. We must improve our management techniques to such levels so that we will be able to face this type of crisis.
If you look at water as a resource, there has been a high rise in consumption due to our life lifestyle changes. 50 years back, we used to draw the water from a well, using a bucket. The water that we draw was limited, the purposes limited, but today, we have a model that pumps out the water from the well with the power. So there is no limitation on water being pumped out. It is stored in our tanks and comes out through the tap and we are using it generously.
Q.2 What are some of the things that you have implemented in the organization which have been of benefit to the company?
I am, basically from a farming background and my work has been mostly related to soil.
So, when I was trying to develop a farm, especially an organic farm, the biggest challenge that we are coming across is the soil carbon.
When we are not having adequate carbon in the soil, our first focus is to find ways to bring that required carbon to the soil. So, how can we do that with minimum expense or with a very effective commercially viable method? So, that it can be implemented for a long time. So, in this context, the best solution for this is to use waste.
Because in a place like India, most of the municipal solid waste that is generated is 60% organic. Earlier, the method was to incinerate burning most of the waste, then there was a realization that it is generating a lot of emissions, which is not good for the environment. This was not only happening in India but across the world, initially, a lot of burning was done. Then they shifted to landfill, and some others some countries they have a more scientific landfill. It has become a huge Hill of waste and later on the realisation that in most of the places it has become a very big threat to the environment.
So the major threats these things are posing is one is this mountain shall become a place for the foul smell. The people living near are in a difficult situation, especially when it rains and becomes windy Also these landfills have become breeding grounds for a lot of insects, rodents, even dogs which is causing a lot of disturbance to the people living near the dumpsite.
Groundwater pollution is another major because there’s a lot of leachate coming from this dumpsite and they’re contaminating the underground water source.
So, what is the next best solution for managing organic waste? So, people are talking about composting and when we can do the composting, there’s one other major opportunity the compost becomes wonderful feed for the soil.
So, this is what we have been promoting for the last 30 years that is organic waste, instead of landfill and burning you can compost.
So, the compost eliminates all the harmful problems of burning and landfill and it also helps to build soil health. So, once the soil is healthy, the plant is healthy and the soil can retain moisture.
Q3. What is the two key learning which you would like to share with others who want to turn their offices/organisations into sustainable workplaces?
Immediate sustainable activity which can be done is. One is in terms of the waste, organic waste of the entire waste they’re generating. So they can segregate and recycle all the different wastes responsibly. So if you can recycle all the plastic on such kind of material, you’re reducing the need for fresh extraction because you’re recycling the plastic so, you are removing the waste from the soil.
Another major burden as already discussed, the organic waste can be composted. The compost can be used in the campus area, for gardening. We had made a similar proposal and d a trial with Bangalore airport, the airport produces around four to five tonnes of garden waste every year. They also have about one or two tons of STP sludge. So, we compost both the garden waste and sludge together and generate a beautiful compost out of that. Since the airport has around 800 to 900 acres of garden space they need compost and this is used as manure once a year.
Another major reason for us to do this is India is a tropical and subtropical country. So, we have a year-round growing climatic situation. So This means there is a continuous loss of oxygen from carbon from the soil by utilisation. So, we are in such kind of geographical location, we have to take an extra effort to feed the soil with more carbon because we are losing carbon unlike other climatic condition where you have the seasonal variation you have the carbon being fixed during summer and after autumn Where leaf falls from the tree to compensate the carbon there is hardly any window for activity.
So, for any corporate or institution the first step in sustainable big would be in waste management. Another major resource sustainable resource management is in water in water management in water recycling. So, if they can first of all harvest the entire rainwater without losing to drains and into the river. Now, we have a technology by which we can identify subsurface fractures in the hall and take the water rainwater and store it
which can be taken out during summer when we need water and we also can recycle all the water that we are using for different purposes. So the water is used three or four times before finally it is not our walkway route or whatever it is, okay. So by this process, we can reduce the use of water that we draw from the underground source or from the river or whatever it is.
So these are two immediate areas where the corporates or institutions can immediately start on their campus. Along with those windows, we can also work on more environmentally friendly buildings.
Interviewed and Edited by
Mr Arun Karunakaran
Editor in chief | www. sustainableworkplaces.in