Green Building is the need of the hour!

Buildings are being constructed expeditiously in India and with the passage of Bills such as Karnataka Urban Development (Amendment) Bill that cuts down the lung space even more, it is important for us to undertake sustainable measures in order to use renewable energy, reduce emission of gas and for overall sustainable development.

Karnataka Urban Development (Amendment) Bill, 2016

According to a study conducted by United Nations Environment Programme, building sector contributes 30% of the annual green house gas emissions and consumes up to 40% of all energy. In one of the most regressive steps, the government passed the Karnataka Urban Development (Amendment) Bill, 2016 without any discussion whatsoever.

The realization seems to have dawned very slowly on the  Urban Development Minister, Roshan Baig as he decided to conduct a meeting yesterday, 22/07/2016 to discuss the pros and cons of the Bill. He said that contrary to media reports, his ministry had not received any complaints against the Bill. However, the discussion is being held as certain contentions were brought up.

Objective of the Bill:

The bill seeks to reduce spaces reserved for parks and playgrounds from 15%-10% and spaces reserved for civic amenities from 10% to 5% in a layout developed by Urban Development Authority. (UDA). A statement given by Infrastructure Development Department says that the Bill was necessary in order to strike a balance between private builders and government layouts.

Earlier, a layout developed by UDA had to leave 25% for parks, playgrounds and civic amenities while the rule was much lenient in case of layouts developed by private builders as they had to only set aside 15%.

This amendment is not applicable to Bangalore as Bangalore is governed by Bangalore Development Authority Act, Karnataka Municipal Corporation Act, Bangalore Metropolitan Region Development Authority Act, the Bangalore International Airport Planning Authority Act and the Bangalore-Mysore Infrastructure Corridor Planning Authority Act.

Additional Chief Secretary of the Urban Development Department has also clarified that the Bill is not applicable to Bangalore as it only governs the cities that come under Urban Development Authority Act.

At this point, it is necessary to know what cities come under this Act. The Act covers all the cities in the State of Karnataka except Bangalore, which means that the citizens have to gear up to lose even more green cover every time there is a real estate development in any part of Karnataka except Bangalore.

Criticisms against the Bill:

The bill has received reservation from members of B.Pac, a citizen group, Dr T V Ramachandra of Centre for Ecological Sciences, Indian Institute of Science who called it a regressive and opportunistic move, Namma Bengaluru Foundation and Bengaluru  Residents Association Confederation and Ensemble  (BRACE) who have written a letter to Governor, Vajubhai Vala to deny his assent to the bill.

Even though the Bill does not affect Bangalore as of now, there is no guarantee that the Bangalore Development Authority Act, Karnataka Municipal Corporation Act etc., would not be amended reducing the already depleting lung space in Bangalore.

Also, these sort of amendments are a clear indication of how dangerously heedless the government is towards saving the environment. The swift manner in which the Bill was passed in favour of development without any discussion on the affect it would have on environment in all the cities in Karnataka, is treacherous to say the least.

Corruption in all developmental projects is a known evil. The Akrama Sakrama scheme that was on till March 23, 2016 is a specimen reflecting government’s willingness to regularize unauthorized layouts or buildings.

Moreover, the Bill is passed at a time when the citizens have constantly questioned the Government’s commitment towards environment protection in Karnataka.

Steps taken by other countries in the Building Sector to save environment: 

Several countries have paid heed to the caution of swift environment degradation and taken steps to save the environment in various ways including the building sector.

1) For example, in China, construction of individual polluting projects, including plants in Xiamen and Dalian, a trash incinerator, etc have been stalled.

3) Singapore is one of the first countries in Asia to take up green building. The Government also provides funding and incentives to projects that accelerate energy efficiency, clean energy, green buildings, water and environmental technologies, waste minimisation, etc.  The green buildings in Singapore use sun-shading exteriors, water-efficient fittings, computer modelling of energy flows and carbon emissions, and efficient systems of air conditioning and ventilation.

3) A little ray of hope that the UNEP report shows is that the same building sector that contributes to 30% of the overall green house gas emission also has the largest potential for significantly reducing the emission. This is if both developed and developing countries use proven and commercially available technologies that can cut energy consumption from 30-80%. Therefore, several countries are using sustainable construction and design.

For instance, in UK there is a code for sustainable homes that lays down measures to be taken to reduce emission of gas and promote higher standards of sustainable design.

For non-residential purposes, people use BREEAM, which provides sustainability assessment for building and infrastructure projects. It assists in using the resources most efficiently.

Sustainable construction materials are used and the Government also provides Construction Carbon Calculator to help identify carbon savings during construction and design.

Therefore, unless we employ such strategem in our building sector, the liveable condition of the States in India are going to deteriorate at an alarming rate given the number of buildings and infrastructure projects that are liberally undertaken by both the Government and the private builders.

Picture Courtesy: Wikimedia

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