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Green Infrastructure: Unlocking The Potential For A Sustainable Future

By Saravanan Panneer Selvam, General Manager, INDO Region, Grundfos India

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Saravanan Panneer Selvam, General Manager, INDO Region, Grundfos India

Saravanan has more than 20 years of experience in the pump industry. Currently, Saravanan is serving as the General Manager in INDO Region of Grounfos, a company present in 56 countries through 83 companies pump solutions, controls and sensors and water technology.

In 2019, the World Economic Forum identified five top climate risks - failure of climate change mitigation and adaptation, extreme weather events, water crisis and natural disasters, as weapons of mass destruction. As per the Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations (UN), more and more countries are likely to adopt the Paris Agreement laid out in 2015 with a vision to build a roadmap for climate actions that will reduce emissions and build climate resilience. While the world slowly progresses into the Unlock phase of the COVID-19 pandemic, worst is surely not behind us. There is a need for governments and policymakers to address the ever-changing climate emergency which are unprecedented and the fact that the crippled global environment needs serious retrospection now more than ever. Moving towards sustainable solutions in order to conserve precious resources will be the path that the current world has to embrace.

Need for climate-resilient infrastructure

Sustainable and resilient infrastructure has become a critical requirement to minimize the negative impact of climate change. The main issues such as rising temperatures, changing patterns in rainfall, extreme weather changes and rising sea levels play a crucial role in developing adequate infrastructure that can protect us. An ideal design for climate resilient infrastructure needs to make sure that it anticipates, prepares for and adapts to all sorts of possible changing climate conditions.

These extreme climatic conditions that disrupt the weather patterns are leading to unpredictable water shortage. This eventually leads to rise in demand for green infrastructure that has the capacity to increase the quality and quantity of local water supplies and provide innumerable other environmental, economic, and health benefits-often in nature-deprived urban areas. Also, with growing power sector in India, there is a dire need for energy efficient thermal plants that are designed to consume lesser water as compared to the current situation. Given that water stress is a serious global concern, it is critical to keep in mind- the choice of cooling technology, location of thermal power plants and plant operation.

Sustainability is a priority

The next decade is a critical time to act and implement robust and futuristic reforms on sustainability towards addressing water crisis, energy resources, and constructing sustainable cities. While the world is moving towards environment friendly solutions and green ecosystem, we need to increase the pace of this adoption to help mitigate the growing impact of climate change. Hence, the need of the hour is to focus on sustainable solutions.

• Sustainable solutions to manage water: Climate change will have a long-term effect on our resources and according to the UN data, clean water and sanitation and water management is the second biggest challenge at hand after zero hunger. By a proven increase in average temperatures and inadequate rainfall, optimising water resource management, introducing intelligent and smart technology solutions in water management and water reuse needs to be a big agenda for the government, policy makers and businesses.

Advanced technology solutions will contribute majorly in curbing the water-related issues. An example of intelligent technology is the iSOLUTIONS from the Grundfos’s digital range enables real-time monitoring, remote control, system optimization, fault prediction and preventive maintenance to achieve highest level of performance and savings both in cost and energy.

• Renewable and sustainable energy: According to NITI Aayog’s report on Energy policy, the energy and emission intensities of India’s GDP have decreased by more than 20percentage over the past decade. This represents commendable progress even as total energy related carbon dioxide emissions continue to rise. India’s per capita emissions today are 1.6 tonnes of CO2, well below the global average of 4. The need is also to ensure that energy planning considers the water-energy nexus, as well as space cooling (using solar energy to cool) needs in future.

While on a behavioural level, many small alterations in lifestyle can make a big difference in making energy solutions sustainable, there is a bigger need to institutionalise sustainable energy solutions to address the larger gap. It is also important to create a shift in the mindset of the consumer to understand ‘Lifecycle cost’. It is critical to make consumers understand the significance of focusing on the energy efficiency and reliability of the product over the duration of its life rather than just on the initial cost. For example, approximately 10 percent of the world’s electricity is consumed by pumps. If we move to more energy efficient pumps we could bring this consumption down by 5percentage globally.

• Making smart cities sustainable: According to data from the UN, more than half the world already lives in urban areas and by 2050, it is expected that more than two thirds of the global population of nine billion will be living in cities. While cities are vulnerable to climate change, they are responsible for 75 percent of global carbon dioxide emissions. As urban areas across the globe draw more people towards them, the challenge at hand is to manage pollution and waste, manage basic services such as water, sanitation, and energy. We need to invest in sustainable infrastructure to provide comfortable amenities while reducing the environmental carbon footprint. The smart cities mission by the Indian government is one such initiative to revolutionize urban planning across 100 Indian cities. However, the current challenge is that the ‘one-size-fits-all’ strategy may not work - we will need to reinvent and use innovative methods to embrace a wholistic sustainable approach and solutions.

For example, in India, around 30 - 70 percent of piped water is wasted through leakages as non-revenue water during the distribution stage in most of the cities. These leakages can be primarily attributed to pressure built up in the pipes. Intelligent water management solutions like Demand Driven Distribution (DDD) by Grundfos use sensors to analyse water demand for different areas in a smart city and allocate resources accordingly. DDD has been successful in reducing water leakage by almost 20percentage as it adjusts surplus water pressure and minimizes the possibility of ‘water hammer’. Since the water pressure is maintained only at the optimum level and not at the maximum level most of the time, the life of the pipes is also enhanced. This positively impacts the overall lifecycle of the system and decreases the need for human intervention to monitor the pressure and minimize the necessity to carry out the maintenance works.

Creating a solution-based mindset for sustainability

Green infrastructure is an amalgamation of the various initiatives towards creating a sustainable infrastructure. In recent years, leading companies and organizations have shifted their buildings to green infrastructure by improving water and energy savings. For example, the housing industry is responsible for mass depletion of resources and pollution, hence it becomes inevitable for them to adopt sustainable green infrastructure which would include natural ventilation, energy-efficient lighting solutions, installation of water-efficient equipment and green fixtures. The adoption of smart technology is also critical for the implementation of green infrastructure.

The evolution of consumerism and growing urbanization has emphasized the role of creating a sustainable mindset from the grass root level. This means that not only world leaders Nation and builders, but every individual and organization needs to weave it intensely into the way they live and operate. According to a Nelson report, a whopping 81percentage of global respondents feel strongly that companies should help improve the environment and adopt sustainable measures. Hence, people not only want buy the change, but also want to be the change.

The government is currently examining private-public partnerships that could bridge some of the existing gaps in the infrastructure. Partnerships with technology driven companies could establish efficient sustainable water and wastewater processes in the country while simultaneously improving current infrastructure with the help of the right technology. The new push towards private partnerships along with a fresh burst of investments has urged more participation from companies and individual citizens.

The rising number of extreme events due to climate change could bring bigger challenges in the coming years. Therefore, it is critical for us to make a shift towards greener and sustainable path which will help us to create long-term economic value and build resilient and robust response system towards emergency situations.

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