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Intervention and Compliance Will Make Cities Sustainable

GuruJal, an initiative by Abhipsa Foundation, operates as a Think-and-Do Tank with a steadfast commitment to preventing Day Zero scenarios in India. The organization’s primary focus lies in enhancing the adherence to schemes and policies that support water conservation. Moreover, it diligently follows up on the enforcement of rules and regulations to curb water exploitation. Through extensive campaigns aimed at raising awareness and sensitizing the public, GuruJal strives to address current water-related challenges.

Simultaneously, the organization actively engages in devising innovative design solutions to tackle existing issues. Additionally, GuruJal dedicatedly shapes a more robust policy framework for effective water management. Recognizing the urgency and existing gaps in addressing water-related challenges, the project GuruJal germinated. The overarching goal of this initiative is to combat issues such as groundwater depletion, water scarcity, and flooding by adopting a comprehensive water management approach. The emphasis is on avoiding duplicative efforts, fostering better collaboration, and adopting a holistic systems-thinking approach.

In an exclusive interview with The Interview World, Shubhi Kesarwani, Founder & CEO of GuruJal, emphasizes the imperative need for sustainable development and compliance. She underscores the role of these factors in making cities smarter and greener. The following excerpts provide insights from her interview.

Q: What are the primary focus areas of GuruJal that you could shed light on?

A: GuruJal embarked on the mission to ensure water security in the country, recognizing that 80 to 86 percent of the population relies on groundwater. While the government prioritizes the accessibility of free water supply, our focus lies on the availability of groundwater.

As we delved into the issue, we realized the significant role played by industries and the built environment, particularly in densely populated metropolitan areas facing equity challenges. Consequently, we directed our efforts towards auditing these sectors to help them reduce their water and carbon footprint.

The ultimate goal is to free up resources for the community, aligning with climate adaptation and mitigation concerns discussed on an international level. In essence, our initiative strives to create a sustainable balance between industry needs and environmental preservation.

Q: What research or data supports the assertion that cities are sinking, and could you elaborate on the factors contributing to this phenomenon based on your study or understanding?

A: We stand atop a groundwater aquifer, a natural reservoir created either by divine design or through natural processes. This underground water source serves as a crucial reservoir from which we draw our water.

Despite the illegality, bore wells and tube wells have become a necessity for many households in India as we heavily rely on them to meet our water needs. The overexploitation of groundwater has been a persistent issue, with inadequate efforts to replenish it.

In the case of Gurgaon, the extraction of groundwater is three times higher than the recharge rate, leading to a significant disparity. This imbalance creates a void in groundwater tables, resulting in the sinking of cities. This alarming situation is not merely a concern raised by GuruJal; it is supported by a study conducted collaboratively by Cambridge University and IIT Bombay.

This issue is not isolated to Gurgaon; other cities, including Goa and Jakarta, are experiencing similar problems. Coastal cities, traditionally prone to sinking, are not alone in this crisis—mainland cities are now also succumbing to the same fate. The implications of this phenomenon are far-reaching and necessitate urgent attention and corrective measures.

Q: What strategies or solutions do you recommend for effectively addressing the identified issues?

A: Adopting a multi-dimensional approach, our objective is to intervene comprehensively in the urban planning process. It is imperative to ensure that the built environment aligns seamlessly with the sustainability goals of our nation. To achieve this, strict adherence to various industry standards and green building certifications, including IGBC, LEED, GRIHA, GEM, WELL, EDGE, ECBC, and others, becomes essential.

The Smart City Mission places a strong emphasis on developing a city that not only leverages technology for efficiency but also prioritizes environmental sustainability. Therefore, it is crucial to integrate all the necessary norms of green building certifications before commencing any construction project. This proactive approach ensures that the project not only meets sustainability requirements but also contributes to providing a healthy living environment for the residents.

Q: What key parameters or criteria do you utilize to assess the sustainability of green buildings?

A: Evaluation of green buildings for sustainability comprises a mix of environmental, social, and economic factors. The objective is to construct buildings that excel in energy efficiency, environmental responsibility, and occupant well-being. Various parameters are employed to gauge sustainability in green buildings, encompassing energy efficiency, water conservation, use of sustainable materials, recycling practices, indoor and outdoor environmental quality, site sustainability, community engagement, economic feasibility, and adherence to industry standards. Additionally, we emphasize prioritizing the health and well-being of occupants through thoughtful ergonomic design, incorporation of green spaces, and provision of amenities that promote a healthy lifestyle.

GuruJal - Uniting for Water, Nurturing Sustainable Solutions
GuruJal – Uniting for Water, Nurturing Sustainable Solutions
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