Green Heroes: 86-year-old from Mumbai helps society save 40% on water and power bills
A decade-long struggle by 86-year-old Navin Chandra has paved way for homegrown answers to waste management, water and power problems through long-lasting, cost-effective and environment-friendly solutions.
The seven-storey Sea Line housing society at Union Park in Khar (West) is equipped with solar power and a windmill for its electricity requirements, a rainwater harvesting facility that saves 2 lakh litres of water every year and an organic waste recycling technique, which reduces the burden on overflowing landfills in the city. The society introduced these green measures in 2005-06 and recovered the costs by 2012.
“The idea was to make the best use of natural resources and safeguard city’s environment,” said Chandra. “When I moved to the apartment in 2000, the whole complex was in a mess, almost an environmental disaster. It took years to convince everyone. But once they reaped the benefits, there was no looking back.”
The couple’s efforts were recognised last month after chief minister Devendra Fadnavis awarded the duo as the ‘best small society’ and ‘clean crusader’ award, one among 7,000 buildings in Mumbai, at an award function organised by a private bank.
With 10 flats, the building has a rooftop solar system consisting of fifty panels and a windmill that powers electricity requirements for all common areas of the building, including an office with six computers. Additionally, a solar water heating system supplies hot water to 40 bathrooms in the building at an average temperature of 60 degrees Celsius.
The renewable energy helps save 60% of the society’s monthly electricity bill. “Prior to the installation of the wind and solar setup, we were spending Rs 18,000 per month, now our monthly bill is not more than Rs 7,000,” said Chandra. “As per our assessment, the renewable energy model has helped us avoid the emission of over 3000kg of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere every year.”
The complex does not depend upon the civic body for its non-potable water consumption at all. The quarter-of-an-acre rooftop and common areas, act as catchment for rainwater. The water collected is channeled to a borewell with a capacity of 10,000 litres and excess water is used to recharge groundwater.
“In a crisis situation, where we are unable to procure drinking water for the society, we have made alternate arrangements where the stored rainwater is purified with the help of two machines. The cleansed water is directly transported to our drinking water tanks,” said Chandra.
Meanwhile, the society’s complete wet waste is segregated at source, collected from a door-to-door method and recycled into manure at a 3X3 feet vermicomposting pit. Every month, 100kg organic waste is converted into 10kg compost through the use of worms to degenerate the waste.
“In a city where air pollution is a prime concern, treating your own waste not only helps reduce the quantum at dumping grounds but also saves the tax payers’ money by reducing transportation cost of sending daily garbage,” said Chandra.
While the cost of setting up the solar, wind systems was Rs13 lakh, the society spent Rs7 lakh in installing the rainwater harvesting facility and about a lakh for the vermiculture pit. All expenditures were recovered by 2012 and the reduced utility expenses of the society by 40%.
Soon, wastewater recycling initiative at Union Park
Navin Chandra, 86, has developed a blue print to recycle wastewater from an apartment complex for one of the largest public parks at Union Park, Khar (West), which is currently being considered by the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation
Wastewater from an eight-storey apartment will be channelled to the park where the park’s bed will be dug up and natural filtration systems such as rocks, stones and red soil will be used to treat the water. An outlet on another end will provide the treated water which can be used for plants and trees.
“After the successful implementation of Chandra’s projects over the last 10 years, several neighbouring apartment complexes got the confidence to follow at least one of the three initiatives. His efforts are an inspiration for residents across all apartments at Union Park as he is consciously working towards reducing a large portion of the city’s carbon footprint,” said Bharati Kakkad, secretary, Union Park Residents Association.
“The municipal corporation and citizens should take note of Chandra’s efforts and push for a decentralised system not only for treating waste but power generation and water supply. In turn, the civic body should respond by providing tax rebates for all those houses that are becoming self-sufficient and safeguarding environment through their efforts,” said V Ranganathan, former municipal commissioner of the BMC.