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Eco-friendly Construction Practices: Myth and Reality

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By Sakshi Abrol:

Ask anybody what picture comes to their mind when mentioning an eco-friendly resort, and they shall reply, “Any lodging edifice carved out of wood preferably cottages (with thatched roofs) set up in a background of a lush-green arena facing sea or mountains providing spine-tingling activities for adventure-seekers and a relaxing, soothing and rejuvenating environment for peace-seekers is an eco-friendly resort.” Ideologically correct or seemingly so, the above mentioned definition for an eco-friendly resort is not only technically absurd and incongruous but a complete reliance on it as parameters for an eco-friendly resort has dangerous implications clinged to it vis-à-vis the natural environment under consideration. There is no denying the fact that the term eco-friendly was coined to help protect nature but it will not be an exaggeration if I say that the phenomenon has been used by some self-seeking rational individuals to further their interests.

Construct a sea-facing thatched roof cottages out of wood amidst an area full of trees, with varieties of flora and fauna buzzing with life in the backdrop and it is approved as an eco-friendly resort with the least consideration to the fact that the cottages have air-conditioners, bathrooms have electric geysers and the kitchen designed by a tech-savvy person and all other sophisticated appliances which of course work on electricity. It is obvious to the point of banality as to what extent we have been fooled by the resort owners who boast of being concerned for the nature. The irony however is that even the intellectual white-collared elite is also completely misguided by the false impression or the illusion so formed. It is sometimes overlooked that eco-tourism is a highly consumer-centered activity, and that so called environment conservation is a means to further economic growth. In a nutshell, eco-friendly construction practices going by the status quo of it are a myth, mere eyewash.

To demystify the concept of ecotourism, one has to open up to a wider and logical purview of thought processes and subsequent opinion-formation. According to a definition by Northshorepaving.com.au, ecotourism is “the practice of low-impact, educational, ecologically and culturally sensitive, environmentally sustainable travel that benefits local communities and host countries.” And eco-friendly resorts are the means to an end i.e. to facilitate eco-tourism. The quintessential requirement of an eco-friendly resort as advocated by LEED India is that it should strive to lower operating costs and increase asset value, reduce waste sent to landfills, conserve energy and water, be healthier and safer for occupants, reduce harmful greenhouse emissions and most important of all, the structure and its working should be an articulation of the owner’s commitment to environmental stewardship and social responsibility.

An introspective outlook brings to the fore the fact that even to build a hut, ecology is disturbed in the sense that first trees are cut down and it is only then that wood is used for construction purpose. Annual maintenance calls for more deforestation as wood is vulnerable to the changing seasons and gets spoiled due to moisture. It does not end here but has more to it. Building of individual cottages not only requires a greater plinth area but also adds to the quantum of trees cut down to make way for construction. Also the mandatory pre-requisite condition for any construction to be branded environmentally friendly is not fulfilled due to individual construction of huts. Water cannot be conserved, to be precise. A deeper probe into the matter reveals that any cottage made up of wood will inevitably have a high ceiling and will also have holes however well it has been constructed. Thus the chloro-fluoro carbons and other poisonous gases emitted by the refrigerator and the air-conditioners will leak to the surroundings thereby lowering its efficiency and consuming greater power.

Now anybody who is critical of my writing will definitely pose a question – What is the use of an empirical assessment of a predicament if it gives no solution to the problem? In other words, what is the way out? So, the first thing that I should bring to your notice right at the outset is that nothing can be done until and unless we shun away our ulterior motives and genuinely think about Mother Earth. We should always remember the fact that we are not the ultimate masters, we have inherited this earth from our ancestors and we owe it to our successors. Let’s stop playing this murky and dirty game with nature which will in turn boomerang heavily upon mankind one day.

The use of energy-efficient appliances, recycling bins in all rooms and public-areas, 100 percent recycled paper products, energy efficient lighting, the use of non-toxic cleaning products are simple yet effective methods to get going. Even an RCC building can be eco-friendly if it uses renewable sources like sunlight through passive solar, active solar, and photovoltaic techniques and also ensures growth of plants through green roofs, rain gardens etc. Many other techniques, such as using packed gravel or permeable concrete instead of conventional concrete or asphalt facilitate the replenishment of ground water.

The question that is being contested upon is… by using all the up to the minute gadgets and technology that pose a great threat to the earth’s reserve of non-renewable resources have they not made a mockery of the whole concept of eco-friendly resorts.

Image courtesy: http://webecoist.com/2010/01/03/get-outta-town-10-super-helpful-eco-travel-links/

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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