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How Indian innovations are showing the sustainable way forward


Innovative solutions that work towards a sustainable world do not always hit the headlines. Probably because these are small, and therefore insignificant, drops in a big ocean.

But what if one is told that there are far more such drops now, than there were a few yearsago? And that many of these drops result from Indian endeavours? In fact, a number of Indian sustainable solutions find mention in the 2015 edition of Sustainia 100, an annual sustainability study by the UN Global Compact, which identifies the top 100 eco-innovations of the year.

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  • An energy-efficient air-conditioner meant for humid climates has been manufactured by Toro Cooling Systems, located in Talegaon Dabhade, Maharashtra. Toro’s product is an air-to-air heat exchanger which cuts CO2 emissions to half as compared to conventional ACs and the cooling system reduces use of refrigerants by 50%.
  • The Corporation of Chennai finds mention for the Chennai Street Design Project which aims to prioritise walking and cycling, and discourage the use of motorised vehicles. The initiative will limit the cost of road accidents in Chennai (which ranks high in the country in terms of road deaths in the country). By 2018, the corporation, along with the Institute for Transportation & Development Policy, and Chennai City Connect Foundation, aims to build safe and continuous footpaths on at least 80% of all streets.
  • Dharma Life, a social enterprise which operates out of New Delhi, creates sustainablelivelihoods by training entrepreneurs to provide rural customers with life-improving products. It claims to have sold more than 4,000 clean cooking products and more than 76,000 solar lamps directly to rural consumers.
  • The ARUN solar concentrator from Clique Solar, headquartered in Mumbai, harnesses solar power to heat water and air to high temperatures for industrial purposes. The ARUN solar dish occupies just 9 sq m and has an efficiency-rate of 60-65%, which is better than most rival technologies.
  • Noora Health, with offices both in India and the US, trains families with low-risk and high-impact skills in order to reduce the rate of preventable re-admission, length of hospital stay, and improve the quality of care. It claims to have achieved a 22% reduction in re-admissions for open-heart surgery patients.
  • Waste Ventures India, based out of New Delhi, provides integrated and sustainable solid waste management services to Tier-2 and Tier-3 cities. It processes municipal garbageinto nutrient-rich compost that is in turn sold to farmers for augmenting their soil.

There are other innovations, not developed in the country but are being tried out in India:

  • The Pre Organic Cotton programme by two Japanese companies supports transition from conventional cotton to organic cotton farming. They work with Indian farmers since the transition to organic production involves a 2-3 year certification period. This is a hindrance since yields decline by 20-30% during the period. The POC initiative purchases the not-yet-certified cotton at a higher price than farmers could obtain on the free market for conventional, uncertified cotton. This gives farmer a much-needed breathing space.
  • Swedish brand Nudie Jeans, which offers customers a global and free repair service for their torn jeans in order to extend the life of every pair, pays wages to all workers involved in the production of Nudie Jeans’ T-shirts at their supplier in Madhya Pradesh.
  • The School Enterprise Challenge, a student-led business start-up competition for schools around the world, runs an inter-schools newspaper in India.
  • Algenol, which has facilities in India and Florida, US, produces low-carbon and price-competitive fuels from algae, sunlight, saltwater, and waste CO2. Its technology offers clean domestic fuel production and freshwater as a by-product.
  • Embrace Innovations, which has developed an innovative infant warmer that regulates the temperature of vulnerable low-birth-weight and premature infants, operates in 14 countries including India.

This year’s Sustainia100 identified five trends. First, an increasing number of companies and social enterprises are focusing on developing market-based approaches to meet the needs of the poor. The study also noticed that businesses are responding to the economic logic of going circular, and attracting more customers by sharing the financial rewards that result. There is considerable community action, with people around the world working together to build sustainable communities. Besides, there are a number of initiatives that are exploring new ways to protect communities from the impacts of climate change, with ‘climate resilience’ being the watchword. Innovators have also realised that making use of local resources can boost economies and reduce environmental footprint of production and waste disposal.

The study can be downloaded free of charge at www.Sustainia.me/solutions.

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About the author

Subir Ghosh (www.subirghosh.in ) is a Bangalore-based senior journalist and author.

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