Usually, my day starts very early, most of the times I am nearly up before the sun! That’s right. I use the first few minutes of the day for myself with a hot cup of chai; then I rush to prepare breakfast for my kid. And then begins the tussle of waking up my little one ensuring that she is happy, hearty and well fed, by the time we are at the bus stand. Now I dash out for my work assignments. In between all these extremely hurried, yet meticulous jobs, on a hot summer day, I take a moment or two and switch on the air conditioner to cool down.
While I have the luxury to do it, many across the country battle the sweltering heat in both urban and rural areas. It makes me wonder – could there be a possible solution to ensure cooling for all? Our dear and only ‘one’ earth is growing hotter rapidly, and each one of us is contributing in our small ways to heat it up. Hence temperatures are rising; creating health hazards for all, especially those without access to cooling methods and equipment. It is our collective responsibility not just to take steps to thwart the ‘heating phenomena’, but also to provide sustainable solutions and access to cooling solutions to all.
While ACs and refrigerators widely use hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), a potent greenhouse gas, there should be alternative technologies and innovations to limit the use of HFCs in equipment which we use in our everyday lives.
In our day-to-day affairs, not just the electronic equipment but life-saving vaccines and medicines, fresh food, safe work and educational environments are all crucial. And, all this requires an amalgamation of clean energy and cooling techniques. For ASHA and ANM workers, the cool boxes carrying medicines, vaccines for life-threatening diseases in the remotest parts of the country is a priority. The cool boxes are a lifeline which saves multiple lives, restricts deadly diseases and spreads cheer to millions of people; but we are still unable to provide these basic facilities to the remote areas of the country due to the lack of technologies and innovations.
The fresh food we consume, the dairy and poultry requirements too produce a huge carbon footprint, and hence, there is an immediate need to look into ways to efficiently manage the storage methods – without compromising on either quality or environment. Improvising cold chains for better delivery of produce, vaccines and medicines are required to reduce global warming.
The Government of India has introduced various schemes to pave the way towards clean energy in the recent past. While, there is an immediate need to push schemes such as housing for all, power for all, there is a need to ensure that all this is achieved in a cleaner and smarter way. Clean energy solutions should be introduced in building smarter cities, energy efficient houses and housing complexes, educational and healthcare institutions and workplaces.
To assess the requirement and plan ahead to meet the cooling requirement, the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change have released a draft India Cooling Action Plan (ICAP). The draft by the Ministry of Environment and Forest, Ozone Cell, provides a 20-year perspective, with projections for cooling needs up to the year 2037-38. It aims to provide sustainable cooling while keeping in mind, at the same time, the need to protect the ozone layer from substances that can deplete it.
As a way forward the draft suggests a ‘holistic and balanced approach’ by combining active and passive cooling strategies. As per the draft, MoEF is considering designing buildings with natural and mechanical ventilation, promoting the use of energy-efficient refrigerant, adopting thermal comfort standards to specify pre-setting of temperatures of ACs, especially in commercial buildings. It is heartening to note that renewable-energy based cold chains for perishable foods will be developed. Building resilient and sustainable buildings, spaces and cold chains will hold the key to a better future. Looking at the transport sector, and the growing demand for refrigerant cooling in cars – will also be a game changer.
Without ‘cooling for all’, food and medicine loss in the supply chain will be high; food poisoning from lack of domestic temperature management will be significant; farmers will lack market connectivity, hundreds of millions of people will not have safe, let alone comfortable, living or working environments; medical centres will not have temperature-controlled services for post-natal care and the like.
There is a need for proper budget allocation, integrating system-level strategies to mitigate and meet the cooling requirements without putting further pressure on the fragile eco-system. Asking the right questions, devising the best solutions in the least damaging way is possibly the only way to meet the cooling requirements locally, regionally and globally.