Hardlook: Gujarat’s first University to complete green audit—MSU Barodahttps://indianexpress.com/article/cities/ahmedabad/msu-baroda-university-green-audit-report-5977943/

Hardlook: Gujarat’s first University to complete green audit—MSU Baroda

Apart from individual measures that students and teachers take to reduce the carbon footprint of the MS University campus, the varsity has taken several green initiatives such as using solar power and reducing discharge, and has become the first university to bring out a Green Audit Report.

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The university, established by Maharaja Sayajirao Gaekwad, after whom the university is named, has heritage buildings of over 100 years old, which constitute about 25 per cent of the structures on campus. (Express photo: Bhupendra Rana)

With its ‘Green Audit Report’ the Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda, the only state University with a residential unitary character having English as sole medium of instruction, has become the first University in Gujarat to complete the green audit. The audit carried out by the Green Audit Assessment Team of ten members headed by N K Ojha, Engineer and incharge Registrar, MSU and the author of the report compiled, has focused majorly on the carbon footprint reduction measures being implemented by the University management. The auditing was done for the period extending from April 2018.

Many students and faculty members cycle to university

For the past 13 years, Professor at the Department of English, Faculty of Arts, Rajan Barrett has been cycling to the university everyday from his residence at the professors’ quarters to the main building in Sayajigunj area of the city. During these 13 years, he says, he has seen cycle stands disappearing and getting converted to motor vehicle parking areas but the trend of students in the university cycling instead of riding two-wheelers has again picked up in the past few months. “Earlier we had specific cycle stands at the departments which were converted into fenced areas,” Barrett says. “We then started parking it close to the canteen. In the past couple of months however I have seen more students cycle to the university than in all these years.”

He says the university should be converted into a cycling university. “Vehicles should not be allowed inside the campus and the students should be provided with cycles to ride,” Barrett says. A proposal in this regard is in the pipeline and awaits grants. To push green transportation within the campus, the university is considering introducing a cycle-sharing initiative. Irrespective of whether the students drive to the campus on private vehicles or use public transportation, they will be given cycles to go around the campus under this initiative. A roadmap is being prepared to implement it.

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Tsering Dawa, a Masters student of the Faculty of Arts, cycles every day from his hostel to the department. (Express photo: Bhupendra Rana)

Nobel laureate Venkatraman Ramakrishnan, an alumni of MSU, had suggested using cycles as the mode of transportation within the campus. During his visit in December 2010 soon after he won the Nobel in 2009, he said as a student he would easily walk or cycle to the university and that the campus should have only cycle lanes, to encourage more students to cycle to the university.

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Venki, as he is popularly known, was speaking to the students of the Department of Physics, Faculty of Science when he spoke of his fondness for riding bicycles as well as walking.

Many students on the campus too have opted for bicycles or have started sharing cycles with each other. Tsering Dawa, a first-year Masters student of the Faculty of Arts, cycles every day from his hostel to the Faculty of Arts which is a four-kilometre ride to and fro. “This is not only an affordable way but also eco-friendly,” Dawa says. “Many students cycle to university and this way we contribute to the green campus. It also helps reduce the congestion in the parking lot.”

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According to the Green Audit report, the university has installed a total of 741.5 kilowatt solar panels at various Faculties on the campus.

Another student, Ngawang Tashi, a third-year student of the Faculty of Arts shares a friend’s cycle and rides to the university two days a week. “I used to come walking or with a friend on his bike or take an auto to the university for the past two years,” Tashi says. “My friend and I together bought a cycle this year and we share it. We live together in a rented apartment in Fatehgunj and we alternate between riding the cycle to university. We have cut our cost of using public transport this way. On other days I prefer to walk to the varsity.”

Programme officer at the Women’s Studies Research Centre, Subair Kanthil, cycles five kilometres everyday to the university from his office. “I used to ride a motorbike earlier but now have started riding a cycle since May. It is a good practice in terms of health, economy and the environment,” he says. “However, it is not a very feasible option for everyone. Road safety will always be a concern for riders from far-off distances and also its not the most viable option when we have to reach real quick from one point to another. So we do not see many bicycles on campus.” Another student, Resha Diwan, a third-year student of the Faculty of Science and a local student uses public transport to college. “We used to come to college on our two-wheelers but in the third year it is more about coming to college and going back home directly. A group of my friends decided that we should instead take the city bus which drops us close to the university.”

Diwan said lectures that they attended on how to contribute to a greener earth influenced their decision to switch to public transport. “This is just us doing our bit,” she said.

As per the green audit report, there are 28,145 two-wheelers and 562 four-wheelers in the university campus on an average on a single day. A calculation of how many students or faculty members cycle to the university is still awaited. Based on an average calculation of a 10-km ride for each vehicle every day, the carbon emission into the atmosphere is 8,200 tonnes because of vehicles on campus. The university has over 40,000 students and around 1,500 staff members with an equal footfall on the campus every day.

Noble initiatives

The university, established by Maharaja Sayajirao Gaekwad, after whom the university is named, has heritage buildings of over 100 years old, which constitute about 25 per cent of the structures on campus. The majestic E-shape Indo-Saracenic style Arts Faculty dome, which is the second largest in Asia, is an important landmark of the city.

With a capacity of over 50 students in each class, the classrooms are well-ventilated and cool even during summers. The thick walls of the building act as a thermal mask and the provision of ventilation at a height of 40 feet keeps the building cool without air conditioning.

For the newer buildings in the university, where the rooftop absorbs the sun’s heat, china mosaic tiles are laid down on the roof top with silver colour reflective paint with a high solar reflective index to reduce heat ingress into the building. Another major reason behind maintaining the university being able to maintain a microclimate is that only 20% of the open space is built up, leaving a large area undisturbed with thick vegetation and more than 3,500 fully-grown trees, bushes, creepers and other plants.

There are various buildings on the campus but they have always constructed keeping in mind that the ratio of openable area to the carpet area is at least 6% in each regularly occupied zone. It is observed that the window-to-wall ratio is more than 30% and one side of the passage is entirely open. The classrooms are designed to have adequate ventilation and cross ventilation and even enhanced ventilation. In addition, for the new buildings, many initiatives have been taken up to reduce the carbon footprint on campus and eventually switch to renewable energy.

According to the Green Audit report, the university has installed a total of 741.5 kilowatt solar panels at various Faculties on the campus. These solar panels installed in the university campus function effectively for about 5 hours a day, ideally generating 3707.50 kw of solar energy per day, which sums up to 1,35,32,375 kw solar energy per year. The coal equivalent of this yearly solar power generation is 72,80,417.75 kg while the CO2 equivalent is 1,45,60,835.50 kg. Hence the university has effectively reduced its CO2 emissions by 14,560.84 tonnes. The solar panel project was commissioned by the Gujarat Energy Development Authority.

To curb energy consumption, the university has also designed its guest house as a Net Zero building and this has become a model case study for energy efficient buildings and zero discharge campuses.

The Net Zero building does not use any energy from the grid and is self-sufficient in terms of energy consumption for the building. With solar panels, better ventilation, plantation and aerobic digesters for biodegradable waste, the building alone has managed to reduce 30-50% of its energy consumption. After the 2001 earthquake, the building was severely damaged and had remained unused for nearly a decade after that. The building was restored again in 2012, without cutting down any trees in and around the area.

The adjoining area to the Family & Community Sciences campus has also been developed as zero-discharge campus. As per initial calculations, there used to be a total discharge of 1000.75 cu mt of water from the 74,175 sq mt campus area. Under the zero-discharge campus project, a part of the discharge was diverted to an existing groundwater recharge bore. Another part of the discharge was diverted to under-utilised open spaces to act as a percolation tank as well as a water body, which would cool the campus

The road level was raised to match the level of the adjoining road-level of city and a network of open storm water drains was created all along. Around 70% of the total discharge created, which comes to 7,00,000 litres at 20 mm of rainfall, which was still remaining was diverted to this open channel. The channel crossed the road and entered the adjoining University plot and terminated in an open well, which had been lying abandoned for more than 25 years. A total of Rs 35 lakh was spent to set up the zero-discharge campus.

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To enhance water use efficiency and minimise the use of potable water on campus, the university’s engineering team has introduced water-efficient plumbing fixtures whose flow rates meet the baseline criteria, individually or in aggregate. The university has taken steps to enhance the groundwater table and reduce the municipal water demand through effective rainwater management, and designed a rainwater harvesting system to capture at least ‘one-day rainfall’ runoff volume from the roof and other areas.