Before we go green |Kashmir University needs to have a comprehensive policy to make a carbon-free, green campus

Before we go green |Kashmir University needs to have a comprehensive policy to make a carbon-free, green campus

At the onset of May University of Kashmir was all set toreceive the NAAC peer team for its reaccreditation after a period of almosteight years. Previous accreditation was undertaken in the year 2011. Few daysprior to the arrival of NAAC peer team administrative orders were issuedimposing restrictions on all sorts of vehicular traffic inside the campusbarring a few ones engaged with the NAAC visit. This was presumably tofacilitate hassle-free movement of the Peer Team within campus who had to visitalmost each and every department and research centre of the University for thesake of their performance assessment.

Once the orders were translated into action all of a sudden,teachers, employees, scholars and students of the university could feel a freshlease of life in the campus. Suddenly irritating honking of horns turnedsilent, zooming bikes disappeared, dust and noise got vanished and amidst allthis soothing silence, serenity, tranquility and pollution free ambience of thecampus that left an indelible impression upon one and all, people witnessed newbeauty of their campus which is flanked by the world-famous Dal Lake on oneside and towering Zabarwan mountain range on the other. Lush green Naseembaghreincarnated in its glory and the whole campus presented altogether a new lookin its landscape. These three days provided an all new experience to theresidents as well as non-residents of the campus.

However once the NAAC visit got over, majority of teachers,employees and students wanted to enjoy this newly found beauty and serenity ofthe campus for all times to come. They offered their full support to theadministration in continuing with the restrictions even though no alternativemeans of eco-friendly transport within campus were immediately available norother modalities required for regulation of parking slots and management ofexigencies were in place. Decision that was taken hastily was supposed to be atemporary and transitional one at the first place but all stakeholders pinnedtheir hopes upon the university administration to make it a long-lasting one intheir quest to see their campus getting gradually transformed into avehicle-free, plastic-free, carbon-free, eco-friendly, sustainable, greencampus in view of its sensitive and fragile ecology and surroundings. This wasjust a very humble and modest beginning towards that lofty goal and nobodywanted to lose it just like that.

Many teachers as well as other employees havinghealth-related and other genuine concerns faced many difficulties on thisaccount and therefore were not happy with this decision. In absence of adequatealternative arrangements they demanded removal of restrictions and were wellwithin their rights to do so. However this demand posed a big challenge to theadministration in balancing the move in a manner that simultaneously addressesthe aspirations of pro-ban people as well as the grievances of anti-banemployees. Though all the three associations of teachers, officers andnon-teaching staff offered full support to the administration in thisinitiative, they recommended issuance of vehicle entry passes on need-basis tothe desirous employees till adequate alternative arrangements are made, subjectto the condition that they will park their vehicles only at the parking slotsto be designated for this purpose. This very provision was supposed to berevisited and reviewed once all modalities for an effective and hassle-freeimplementation of the provision are kept in place by the administration. Thisrelaxation however was necessitated by the fact that all visitors to the campushave their inherent rights that cannot be violated or compromised for the sakeof others. Fundamental rights of proponents as well as opponents of therestrictions need to be respected and safeguarded for a successful andlong-lasting implementation of this initiative.

Sustainable green campus initiative is actually a long-termproject that in addition to vehicle-free campus includes many other componentslike paperless work culture; waste segregation, disposal and management;installation and use of solar energy and other renewable resources; water andelectricity conservation; non-use of plastics; organic floriculture practices;no use of coal bukharis and electric heaters during winters and its replacementwith central heating systems; no burning of chinar leaves during winters; nouse of diesel generators; rain-water harvesting etc. University needs to have acomprehensive green campus policy with crystal clear objectives, plans andprovisions besides an enforcement committee in place to work out all modalitiesfor their effective implementation. Services of some experienced environmentalconsultant could also be availed for this purpose or the Dept. of EarthSciences could provide the lead in collaboration with the Dept. ofEnvironmental Sciences of our University.

If the University starts working now on a vehicle-free,plastic free, carbon-free, green campus it is not impossible to achieve thatgoal before the next NAAC inspection which is scheduled after every five years.We can submit a prospective project to UGC or other national/internationalenvironmental agencies for funding on the basis of fragile ecology and lushgreen surroundings of our campus. Kashmir University campus best qualifies tobe among the first green campus of the country and there will be good number ofagencies ready to fund this initiative. We could be the role model for manyother universities and institutions of the state wherein our model could beemulated by them. We need not always look upon others to copy their bestpractices. We can provide lead in this respect to others. There are numeroussuch university campuses from which we can draw enough inspiration for such aninitiative like the Simon Fraser University of Canada, University of Alcala,Spain, Universities of Oxford, Nottingham and Sussex, UK, Universities ofConnecticut, California, USA, Brown University, Colorado State University,University of North Carolina, Stanford University, Georgetown University, CornellUniversity, USA etc. Even within India Symbiosis Institute, Lovely ProfessionalUniversity, Pondicherry University, Indian Institute of Science, PunjabUniversity and RNB University, Rajasthan have made considerable progress inthis direction so far. There are separate rankings under QS-World Ranking forGreen Universities.

Nowadays more and more educational institutions across theworld have started paying attention to the importance of incorporatingsustainability as a part of their organization, culture and even theirarchitecture, so that students, scholars and teachers live sustainable actionsas part of their daily practices. We have been teaching and preachingenvironmental sustainability and ecological conservation in our universitysince decades now. It is high time that we start practicing those valuesourselves. Some people argue that our university ecosystem is a minute onehaving little bearing upon the larger ecosystem outside the University. May bethis is true but somewhere we need to set an example by our actions that wecare for our ecology and environment and are ready to sacrifice our littlecomforts and convenience for the sake of this large public and environmentalgood.

In order to make this initiative a successful one, adequatemeasures need to be taken by the administration to ensure smooth and effectiveimplementation of this move that inter-alia include making eco-friendly transitfacilities available to the University staff within a lag time of maximum fiveminutes at any location within the campus; procuring adequate number of  battery-operated vehicles and bicycles forstaff and students within the shortest possible time frame; regulation ofexisting parking slots using token system; establishing a helpline and controlroom for making instant transit facility available to teachers particularly intimes of some emergency; constructing a multi-storey parking and issuingentry-passes to those having genuine health-related or other issues. Studentscan also be offered subsidies on loans for purchasing battery-driventwo-wheelers. J&K Bank has already donated three battery-driven vehiclesand some 100 bicycles under its CSR initiative to the University. They can alsobe approached for more such help now that the University has got more seriousabout it. In nutshell this initiative has its own starting trouble but can beturned into a reality by the constant support, cooperation and sustainedvoluntary efforts of all stakeholders including teachers, employees, scholarsand students. 

(The author is General Secretary, Kashmir UniversityTeachers Association)

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