Dr R K Pachauri in conversation with L'Avenir Green Digest

Q. TERI has started its journey way back in 1974 before the word "Green" in the eco sense got coined. Could you recall this journey since then to present?
Well, you know I must commend the vision of Mr. Darbari Seth, who's the In the charter that he drew up for Teri, the emphasis was on creating solutions that are green, that are environmentally sound, so while the focus was on energy and on protecting the environment, even though the details were not spelt out, the philosophy of the organization was very clearly defined, so we are only trying to translate that philosophy that overall objectives in research, practices and therefore, yes, I mean this was something that the world did not really articulate effectively in 1974. The founder of Teri certainly had the vision that this will be an important issue; therefore the institute must address some of these subjects.

Q. Having been constantly in touch and part of countless international forums on climate change, please throw some light on the way the western world perceive India's view and steps taken towards saving the planet?
To be quiet honest India is not doing enough and you know for anyone to say that we are doing enough is only misleading. We in several respects are following exactly what the western world has done, and that to my mind would be detriment to our own interests. We cannot possibly pursue a resource intensive pattern of development, or lifestyles that are dependent on that without creating some major problems for us, not only in the future but I would say even in the present. So I think the western world, of course is watching India very carefully because we are a large country. If we register high rates of economic growth and they don't change the way we grow and develop and clearly, we would be major consumers of energy of other natural resources and the world of course is watching us from that point of view. But the one good thing that has happened is the Prime Minister's national action plan on climate change which is a very forward looking plan of action and I hope we can implement it with adequate urgency and I hope this national action plan brings about somewhat different philosophy of development than we have pursued in the past.

Q. Please elaborate on "Griha rating" for green buildings and how it is gaining popularity?
Well, you know I was very concerned about 10 or 12 years ago that everybody in this country was persuing, getting platinum rated according to a certain system that is completely alien to us. We, firstly have a very different climatic situation in this country, but quite apart from that the resource in government that we have is very different from what the western countries and the developed nations have grown on, and therefore I said acutely that we need to come up with our own system of rating which is rooted in the realities of India and its for this reason that I asked my colleague, lets start working on this and I must say they have responded splendidly, and they have worked with Architects, with builders, with the government because quite apart from coming up with an approach which has sound theoretical ways, we also need to make sure to get the wisdom and knowledge of stakeholders involved in this. So this has been a very interesting and a very intensive journey where I think we have the buy in of the community that has involved in building activities and now of course the government of India has adopted it, CPWD has accepted this as a system by which all their buildings will be rated according to GRIHA. Several state governments and local governments have also adopted GRIHA as means to pursue sustainability in buildings and the Chief Secretary of Karnataka during TERI conference has announced that Karnataka will adopt this. We are delighted at that. So I think this is something for which the time had come, In fact the time is probably overdue and we are going to do everything possible by which the building sector in this country moves towards sustainability and that can only happen if you have a measuring system and based on that a set of incentives and disincentives by which we can move in the right direction. GRIHA rating is a process, and it's not something we just stop, by rating the building. We also follow up in terms of how the owners or occupiers of buildings actually comply with the requirements of GRIHA over a period of time. So that, rating is not something you take for granted for all periods of time. Its comprehensive. It really is a process that respects the conservation of natural resources, the efficient use of natural resources, so it sort of enshrines the philosophy which is much larger than just a system which you measure, the sustainability.

Q. How crucial are the various research activities of TERI which are under way for our environment and energy efficiency. Would you want to highlight a few?
Well, all our research activities fit into our overall approach of promoting sustainability. We are working on a range of subject's right from cutting edge science, nano biotechnology to name a few. In nano bio technology, microbial organisms are useful as an applicability in form of bio fertilizers and also path breaking technologies to clean up oil spills. The TERI research is also aimed at making a difference to society in improving standards and also focused on teaching young minds to look at new opportunities and have strong desire towards applications relevant to society in the future.

Q. What are the prime challenges you foresee in taking Green movement forward in India?
The main challenge is the spread of information. I would like to say that there are three sets of issues to be addressed. Firstly conducting business as usual tendency could prove harmful to the society. Secondly information about techniques you use going about constructing green buildings and the know-how of the same being understood by architects and builders community. They should be aware of what to demand. Lastly, economically, it should be viewed as a win win opportunity with emphasis on cost savings.

Q. Lastly, what would be your message to the cross section of industry, which is "yet to go green"?
Well I can say we are losing time. However, to bring about change is not instantaneous. There should be a greater market created for green building products to ensure the society and public demand the same. Industry in its own interest should strive to ensure going green. Only way to see that, is to understand that we stand to lose, if we do not take right set of actions at the right time.

Tags: climate change, Green building, GRIHA, National Action Plan on Climate Change, sustainable development, TERI