Ms. Sameera Satija, The Woman Behind ‘The Crockery Banks’, a Plastic-Free-India Crusader talks to Sanjaya K. Mishra on significant environmental issues prevailing in the society & our environment.

What motivated to start a Crockery Bank?

Well, India is a religious country. We offer foods to poor, or people on various occasions. So kind of Bhandaras or Langars are happening on every day, which generate a huge quantity of Single-Used-Plastics (SUPs). The SUPs are rather flying there. Consequently, rainwater drains, the manholes leading to the drains, etc. are choked. One can see such wastes floating on the waterbodies. So all these things collectively used to annoy me. And, often I have seen cows, dogs die after eating these toxic things. And lastly, it is very harmful for our own health. Because, it is made of styrene, which is said to be a carcinogenic chemical. Once, you serve hot food or hot liquid on it, it immediately releases styrene chemicals, which enter into our body with the food, which is very dangerous. So, it is harmful for the environment, your own health, the waterbodies, for the animals. Then what’s the use of such items? Only comfort, easy to use and throw? So, collectively, the basic idea was I don’t want to see this happening around me. Then I tried to survey in the market to find an alternative. But there was no sustainable option nor any eco-friendly alternative found in the market. When my childhood, there were Pattals to eat, which is no more available. When there is no alternative solutions available, people get forced to use the plastic or styrene materials, which is easily available. So, I thought to start an initiative to offer a sustainable solution. And therefore crockery bank.

How is the response you are getting from the society?

Tremendous, Trust me, it’s very much welcome, very overwhelming. Tremendous response. 

What is the model you are following? 

It’s free. It’s Free, Free, and Free. It is free of toxins, it is free of garbage, and it is free of cost. One can take any time. It is simple; use it, wash it and drop it back.

Is there any kind of complaints or suggestions you receive? 

Actually, there were no such complaints or suggestions. Just that a couple of people were saying that water is already so scarce, and you are asking us to wash. But for that I have my own logics. Firstly, the volume water used by the industries to manufacture these plastic and styrene based materials is very high. These are very highly water intensive process based product. Therefore, the water consumption in case of SUP and styrene materials are extremely high as compared to the water consumed in washing of steel utensils. And, also the SUP and styrene materials manufacturing process generate high level of pollution. Secondly, if someone goes to eat in a Bhandara, he/she does not eat at home again. So, the washing of utensil is done only once, either at home or at Bhandara. Thirdly, at homes, we clean utensils under the running tap water; while the crockery bank utensils are washed in containers. So, actually, there is no waste of water, rather there is a conservation of water in this process.

Water consumption in industry is not visible to people, so probably, they are not able to visualize. Do you think there is a need to create awareness? 

Exactly. You know what? To produce 1 liter bottle of water for you, there is a consumption of 2.5 liters of water. So, they are not providing you water. Rather, they are consuming your water.

What kind of support you are getting from the Govt., NGOs or Corporates?

It is a free social initiative. So, Govt. has nothing to support as such. But, we need support from Govt. in the form of proper enforcement of regulations. There are still people who are serving foods in styrene and SUP based materials and there is no challan or penalty. We just need appropriate enforcement from the government. 

Do you think that there should be a policy be prepared?

There are several policies and regulations brought by the Govt. It is just the need to strongly enforce those. Most of the people are still not aware of the regulations. And unless they are penalized, the road side nuisance won’t come to a halt.

When did you start this initiative? 

Exactly on 22ndJune 2018. It was Chabeel Day, when people offer sweet and cold water to the passersby. And, I started with glasses only. At the end of the first day, the collective data was approximately 10000 SUP saved, just by using 100 steel glasses. The glasses were washed and reused for the whole day. And, that was the time, I realized that it is very impactful. And that was the day, I got motivated to move further and do more. 

So, how many SUP or styrenes you must have saved by now?

A very conservative figure could be around 3,20,000.

That’s substantial. And how many such crockery banks are there in India?

There are around 26 teams all over India. Because, from the very beginning my idea was not to run a solitary bank. I have to make it an idea. I have to make it a movement. You, know, I just want to spread an idea that this is an idea, please go and replicate this. The details are there. You can call me. You can ask any thing you want to know about the idea. And just go about this thing. It is very simple. Even then, I am available for any kind of help. And people call me to know how can they contribute? I have always said that if you want to contribute, please create your own crockery bank. Please do. I don’t need any more crockery. I need more crockery banks.

Collectively, you must have created a huge positive impact. How do you see that?

Absolutely, it has been very highly encouraging. You see, any form of plastic is very harmful. Take an example, we use 10 polyethylene on daily basis. And that finally go to either landfill or lay on the soil. And, the impact is that the whole earth is being covered by plastic. We use an umbrella to prevent rain. Similarly, we have used plastics to cover the earth. Consequently, the natural flow of rainwater is blocked. This has further aggravated the already depleting groundwater environment. We must realize the dangerous consequences of using plastic. Please avoid SUP, polyethylene. 

Does plastic affect groundwater in terms of quantity only or it has impacts on quality of groundwater as well?

There are impacts on quality as well. The micro plastics!! The commonly called jute bags are actually Non-Woven Poly propylene (NWPP) bags. These bags don’t look like plastics but worse than plastics. They disintegrate and gets mixed with water and pollute water. Marine life is affected. It enters our food chain. The micro-plastic mixed water is used for farming. And consequently, one day we will land up eating a plastic apple or a plastic vegetable. 

Do you think that India can become Plastic-Free by 2022?

It can be a reality. It is not a big deal. Many states, like Himachal and Sikkim have started plastic-free lifestyle. Earlier, we used to be plastic-free. So, now, also we can. We can carry our own water bottle, our cloth bags and steel straws. So, it is doable. I don’t use plastic in my life. So, if I can survive, any one can.

Couple of month back you were on air with Richa Aniruddh’s Big Heroes. Recently, your initiative has been recognized by the Indian Stainless Steel Development Association(ISSDA) and you have been felicitated by the Minister of State for the Ministry of Steel Shri Faggan S. Kulaste. We congratulate you and wish you keep doing these great works and many more awards come your way.

Thank You. Thanks for covering my initiative. 


Interview with Dr. Paritosh Tyagi, Former  Chairman, CPCB - on air pollution

Shri Ravinder K. Tyagi, Country Head, Environment, Health & Safety (EHS), Marathon Electric, India

Shri Ravinder K. Tyagi, Country Head, EHS, Marathon Electric, who has enormous experience of more than 4 decades and a very passionate environmental professional talks to Sanjaya K. Mishra on various environmental issues relevant to Corporates and industries.

From your vast experience, what are the challenges in Environment, Health & Safety (EHS) areas?

I have been fortunate to work with many high quality professionals in the field of EHS in various Indian and Multi-National Corporations. If we talk about environment, industrial safety and occupational health in global scenario, India is lagging far behind. The problem is not in the part of industries. Rather, the overall infrastructure of India is responsible for such a situation.

What is your opinion on the compliance level that we have attained in India?

Environmental compliance level is not that encouraging in India. In industrial scenario, environmental compliance starts with Consent such as Air Consent, Water Consent or related Authorizations; which is not even mandatory for all industrial activities. Wherever it is applicable, the terms and conditions of such consents and authorizations, are not complied with in a true letter of spirit. This is primarily due to poor infrastructure in the country. For example, let us keep aside European nations and US, and talk about Asian countries like Thailand, Singapore, where they have environmental professionals in industries. On the contrary, in India, we have the requirement of a safety officer for a certain number of employees, but there is no such requirement prevailing for an environmental professional. In most of the industries, either the Safety Officials or the Administrative department or Human Resources Department looks after the environmental issues. As they do not possess requisite level of knowledge, the entire objective gets defeated. 

Public Liability Insurance Act, 1991 - compliance is still not fully attained. Can you throw some light on this? 

Industries are entirely ignorant. This could be better implemented by linking it with the consent at granting stage for all those units, which require. This Act does not apply to the industries, which do not deal with hazardous substances. 

How do you think about adoption of Recycling habits by the Industrial units? 

Recycling will lead to huge energy conservation opportunities. It could also result in water saving, waste reduction and thereby, build a better environment with low degree of nuisances. However, these programmes need widespread promotion. The primary custodian of such activities in India is State Pollution Control Board (SPCB). The infrastructure of SPCBs are not adequately strengthened since their constitution. SPCBs are struggling with paucity of manpower and their officials are overloaded with work. Further, there is a need to infuse knowledge enhancement programs of the officials. This could further boost the good habits such as recycling, in industries.

With technology advancement, do you think IoT (Internet of Things) will help better compliance? 

Consent management in most of the Indian states is now online. At the same time, it is appalling that people have to go for submission of hard copies. This has increased working of every one. When our government approach is not so clear, adoption IoT is could be an interesting thing to watch with time.

As an industry representative, what’s your view on Polluter Pay Principle (PPP), in India?

PPP is a kind theory that we have adopted from USA and Europe, where the conditions are completely different. In the developing nations, the authorities and industries, both have a high degree of knowledge level; as compared to India. Therefore, I have an apprehension that it may not yield better result in India, but may be misused in arm twisting. 

Do you think India has enough able manpower in the field of environment – be it corporate, industry, government, judiciary, activists and NGOs?

We don’t have any environmental professionals practically. There are very limited courses available and primarily it is in Post Graduate level. 

Do you think that environmental institutions should offer executive training programs, like the IIMs' doing? 

Yes, India needs to design more capsule courses in the field of environment. Moreover, it is important that there should be a compulsion that an industry has to depute their professionals for participation in knowledge enhancement programmes. Such programmes should be carried out at regular intervals, for example 4 times in a year. Nevertheless, the programme details should be linked it the mandatory annual returns filed as per requirements of the Ministry of Corporate Affairs.

What are the things now R K Tyagi is going to do for the society?

Yes, this is a very important question. Whatever I have learnt from the colossal knowledge banks of MNCs like General Electric, Marathon Electric and so on; I wish to work with various links to impart some knowledge and also keep on working to increase my knowledge bank. Somehow, I have missed to reach to that link and I am looking forward to it. 


Mr. K. P. Singh, Director (Construction & Operations), M/s Global Realty Venture Limited, New Delhi


Mr. K. P. Singh, Director (Construction & Operations), M/s Global Realty Venture Limited, New Delhi talks to Sanjaya K. Mishra. Mr. Singh has enormous experience of over 3 decades in several iconic national and international construction projects.

You must be aware of two notifications the MoEF&CC introduced in November 2018, in which the construction projects are mostly made out of the purview of EIA Notification. What is your view as a domain expert? 

It is unfortunate. On the one hand we are talking about decentralization of power, and when a government act on it, some people are too scared to bear that change. At the same time, as democracy prevails in our country, the government should also have consulted with experts before taking such important decisions. The basic objective should remain sustainable and progressive investments. I believe that the new government will address all concerns and objections and also take everyone into the same page.

Do you think that it was a concerted plan or a hurried action or an act of some other reason not shared with the public? 

I would like to reiterate, in a democratic country like India, the Government should have consulted all stakeholders before taking a decision.

Do you think Indian Municipal Corporations and Panchayats can take up such responsibilities? 

Decentralization of power and Capacity building is a continuous process of development. There were similar concerns when SEIAAs were formed. So far, there is no such legal complication found in the cases of projects cleared by the SEIAAs. Therefore, I am optimistic that an institution, once empowered, delivers. We have many experts available at different levels, who could participate in decision-making processes. Moreover, the power decentralization could have reduced post-project legal hassles with effective use of single-window clearance policies.

In the post-Katowice scenario, we are expecting much funds to flow into the green building sector. What are the challenges we have?

Green Building is a sustainable construction concept, which meets the needs of the present with good consideration of future demands and requirements. Sustainability in the construction industry is brought basically by good technical use of sustainable materials and energy etc. with simultaneous minimization in wastage and pollution. The number of green buildings in the country is rapidly growing. The biggest challenge for the green building sector is lack of awareness and demand among end users. Another challenge is the availability of viable cost-effective technologies. The concept of green building has got a substantial boost, since the last couple of years. Still, there are many stones remaining unturned. We have to imbibe technology and restructure the same to fit into our cases.

How to overcome those challenges?

By exploring cost-effective technologies. For example, the adoption of solar energy was a good measure. But, it was high on capital investment. As, lately, the CAPEX in solar energy utilization has come down, it has become popular. Also, there is a need for open communications between corporates, research institutions, government and society (activists and buyers). Projects should not take too much of a long time for completion. Infrastructure must be created by the government at the same time when it brings in new policy or amendments.

What are the parameters primarily considered in a green building project?

The term Green Building refers to a structure and using processes that are environmentally responsible and resource-efficient throughout a building's life-cycle. The Green Building project differs from conventional building projects by assigning equal priorities to economic, social, and environmental goals. It has now been universally accepted that it is critical to the design of environmentally responsible buildings for sustainable development. Research shows that Green Building improves tenants‘ satisfaction and health, enabling higher individual productivity in respective areas of expertise. As a result of the increased interest in Green Building concepts and practices, a number of organizations have developed standards, codes and rating systems conservation of water, energy, and building materials, and occupant comfort and health.

How is the construction industry responding to the Construction & Demolition Waste Rules?

The major source of Construction and Demolition waste is from the demolition of existing structures.  Eliminating wastes, minimizing wastes and reusing imminent wastes need to be practiced. Recycling of demolition waste is not new. It was first carried out after the Second World War in Germany to tackle the problem of disposing of large amounts of demolition waste caused by the war and simultaneously generate raw material for reconstruction. Having said that, again state-of-art proven technologies should be adopted and the final disposal should be carried out as per the legal provisions.