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View from India: Let’s convert waste to wealth

Come 2022, India will celebrate its 75th year of Independence. The country houses at least 30 of the 100 Fortune companies, accounts for 10 per cent of global trade and is home to 500 Smart Cities being developed through planned urbanisation. What next?

India has made strides in many sectors, but there’s a lot more to be achieved especially when we look at creating large-scale employment and building the economy sustainably. We also need a heterogeneous atmosphere in our places of work. “Diversity is linked to sustainability and requires a comprehensive approach in the workplace,” said Srini Srinivasan, managing director of Hospira Healthcare India (a Pfizer company), sharing his views at the CII Industry Next Summit titled the Emerging New Growth Paradigm.

“We need to bring in gender diversity. The challenge lies in encouraging women to continue working after marriage,” he added. “Annually 48 per cent of women graduate and 50 per cent of the women enter the workforce. Many of them quit their jobs either after motherhood or when family responsibilities increase. What’s required is to create opportunities for women (mothers) to work at home. It’s also important to offer facilities for the elders at home so that women can continue working. These are some of the cultural expectations which are associated with the Indian households.”

Other areas that call for attention are upgrades in technology and skill, which are imperative for innovation to sustain. It’s essential to build a skilled workforce that is ready to take on the requirements of Industry 4.0, also known as the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Automation and data exchange in manufacturing technologies, along with cyber-physical systems, the Internet of Things, cloud computing and cognitive computing sum up Industry 4.0.

Besides the professional front, the country needs to focus on other dimensions like carbon footprint that require attention. India should take a leadership position when it comes to low-carbon economies on a global level. This can happen when we tweak our outlook, look at our backyard and make use of our natural resources, beginning with alternative forms of energy. 

In 2017, Goldstone Infratech, a Hyderabad based company that manufactures electric vehicles, announced that its Goldstone eBuzz K7 electric bus will be ready to be commercially launched for public transport. The eBuzz K7 promises a range of 200km and can be fully charged in four hours. Twenty-five such electric buses will be supplied to the Himachal Pradesh Road Transport Corporation. Himachal Pradesh, a snow-capped state in the western Himalayas, has rough terrains, and the bus is equipped with front and rear air suspension to offer commuters comfortable travel.

2017 also marks the fifth anniversary of Daimler in India, with the BharatBenz brand. The commercial vehicle maker has also expanded its portfolio with the country’s first-ever Euro-V compliant special edition truck.

Clearly the accent is on environmental consciousness and many companies are going that extra mile to reduce water consumption, greenhouse gas emission and electricity consumption as well.

The vision of a pollution-free environment can also be fulfilled by converting waste to wealth. Going by that thought, plastic used for agricultural purposes is called plasticulture (plastic and agriculture) and this can get scientifically converted into plastofuel in a mechanised manner. “India generates 5.6 million metric tonnes of plastic waste annually.  Around 70 per cent of India’s electricity comes from coal-fuel plants,” explained Debarati Sen, managing director of 3M India.

Given these statistics, it’s time to look at cost-effective, pollution-free alternative forms of fuel. Take for instance, a renewable fuel like ethanol made from various plant materials collectively known as biomass. Ethanol burns with clean and non-smoky flame and reduces oil dependence and greenhouse gases. Likewise methanol can be an alternative to conventional transportation fuels. It has a lower risk of flammability compared to gasoline, which is why it is used in racing cars.

Even the spare or scrap parts of vehicles can be put to use. The need of the hour is to create dedicated auto clusters in various parts of the country to facilitate the sale of these spare parts. Otherwise parts are traded in a fragmented manner or are discarded as junk. While a tertiary market comprising small vendors as well as hobbyists is expected to thrive from these spare parts, public transport is also another cause of concern. Public transport that runs on electricity may seem a challenge, but this needs to be considered. Electric vehicles should be the future of India’s transport system.

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