Indian Railways observes World Environment Day 2016

The Union Minister for Railways, Shri Suresh Prabhakar Prabhu addressing the valedictory session of the Seminar on “Environmental Challenges before Indian Railways”, on the occasion of “World Environment Day”, in New Delhi on June 05, 2015. The Chairman, Railway Board, Shri A.K. Mital and other dignitaries are also seen

Indian Railways, like every year, organized an event on the occasion of World Environment Day, 2016. This year the event was organised by Ministry in association with its PSU RITES. Main function was held in Vigyan Bhawan, New Delhi wherein A.K.Mital, Chairman Railway Board was the Chief Guest at the valedictory session. The event began with a Seminar on ‘Waste Management in Indian Railways.’ An exhibition on various technologies available for water & solid Waste Management was also organized wherein a number of technology providers participated.  Sh. Hemant Kumar, Member Mechanical, Railway Board inaugurated the Exhibition and the Seminar in the morning inaugural session.

The first technical Session of the Seminar dealt with the potential and the opportunities available through technology interventions for a comprehensive policy on Solid Waste Management.  Various speakers and experts from technical bodies and departments gave overview and suggested roadmap for Indian Railways.The Second technical Session deliberated upon the possible interventions through Waste Water Management over Indian Railways.  Expert speakers suggested various technologies which can be adopted for Railway establishments so that the recycling of waste water can be done for non-potable use. Both the sessions were attended by Senior Officers from Railway Ministry, Zonal Railways and Production Units. The delegates from technical institutes like NEERI, TERI, BARC as well as the MoUD, MCD presented technical papers. A few case studies from North-West Railway, Southern Railway and Diesel Locomotives Works, Varanasi were also discussed.

Energy Conservation and Environment Protection has become one of the agenda of the Indian Railways in the last six months. Addressing a Seminar on World Environment, Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu informed everybody that the Railways will not spend a penny more on the energy bill of ₹30,000 crores incurred during the last financial year, despite increasing freight and passenger traffic. He was speaking at the “Environmental challenges before Indian Railways” Seminar.

All Zonal Railways have been asked to conduct Energy and Water Audit in efforts to minimize the environmental impact of the Indian Railways. The Indian Railways is the third largest consumer of water after Agriculture and Power sectors and thus needs to give due attention for optimizing and protecting water resources.

As part of the afforestation campaign, the Ministry of Railways is working out an Action Plan in collaboration with the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) to grow indigenous species of plants on Railway lands with an aim to increase the green cover and address environmental problems like soil erosion. This, according to the Railway Minister, will also create additional employment opportunities.

Railway Minister also noted that the aim behind all this is to reduce the carbon footprint of the Indian Railways by promoting alternative and renewable energy sources in a big way. He said that the Railways has set a target of generating 1,000 MW of Solar Energy and 200 MW of Wind Energy to substitute part of its own energy needs in the next five years.

The Chairman Railway Board Shri A.K Mital  further informed that the Indian Railways is also promoting biodiesel fuel and LED lighting at Railway Stations and railway coaches. 17,000 coaches of the Indian Railways have been retro-fitted with biodegradable toilets and that another 17,000 coaches will be added to this list in the coming year.

The above mentioned Seminar, which was organised to commemorate the Environment Day,  also saw the launching of an eBook entitled, “Indian Railways – Marching Towards Better Environment”. A Report of the Council on Energy, Environment and Water (CEEW) on “Solar Energy Potential of Indian Railways” from Dr. Arunabha Ghosh, CEO, CEEW was also received on the day.

In his address at the valedictory session, the Chief Guest A.K.Mital, Chairman/Railway Board emphasised the multi-fold strategy for making Indian Railways an efficient and environment friendly organisation. He endorsed that Railways being an efficient transport system, modal share on the movement of passenger and freight traffic should be increased by Rail Mode to reduce emission of Green House Gases for the country. He complemented organisers for organising the seminar on Waste Management, the subject which has assumed very high importance currently on Indian Railways.

Hemant Kumar, Member Mechanical/Railway Board spoke about the Road map and action plan for Indian Railways to proceed aggressively on a greener path. Hemant Kumar emphasised the need for a comprehensive strategy for proliferation of decentralised Solid Waste Management over major waste arising centres in the Indian Railways.  He urged the entire field Units of Indian Railways to absorb the emerging technologies as Environment friendly disposal of solid waste and water waste arising in the stations, trains and colonies.

During the valedictory session, K. Swaminathan, Advisor/Railway Board gave opening address and highlighted the various achievements of Indian Railways during the last year on Environment Management. Sh. Rajeev Mehrotra, CMD/RITES in his address described various projects on environment being implemented on Railways under the CSR initiatives.

 On this occasion “Annual Report, 2015-16 on Environment Sustainability” was also released.A policy on CSR and the commitments made by Railway PSUs under CSR for Environment Sustainability works on Indian Railways in 2015-16 was shared with the audience by Desh Ratan Gupta, Executive Director, Railway Board.

During the event a feasibility report on “Decentralised Waste Management Potential in Indian Railways” was presented by Dr. Arunabha Ghosh, CEO, Council for Environment, Energy and Water (CEEW) to the Ministry of Railways.

As part of the event, 21 officials of Indian Railways were given awards by the Railway Minister for their outstanding contribution on Environment and sustainability over Indian Railway.

Full Text of the speech of Chairman Railway Board, A.K. Mital

“in the past two centuries, we have seen unprecedented growth of human population along with steady rise in the living standards.   It was barely noticed that the economic development was using up and depleting the resources of the earth at an irreparable rate. Today, it is universally recognised that development and rising living standard for the world are possible only if humanity acts in an environmentally responsible way. In other words, we have to be conscious of the fact that we cannot go on making a draft on the finite and non-renewable resources of the world without risking catastrophic consequences for the environment and for the life on the planet itself. Economic development is generating a huge amount of waste of all varieties – biodegradable, non-biodegradable and increasingly electronic waste i.e. waste generated out of old electronic devices. Waste management has emerged as a serious subject in itself.  He further said that recycling of materials is fortunately one of the strengths of the Indian economy. This has been traditionally done by a large number of rag-pickers and the unorganized industries. This needs to be systemized and organised.   Water conservation has been adopted as a basic principle on Railways.  Water recycling plants have already been set up across 30 locations yielding a saving of 12 million litres of water per day.  We are planning to set up recycling plants at another 32 locations.  Water audit is being carried out at major water consumption centres like stations and coaching depots.  Rain water harvesting systems have been provided at about 1900 locations and further extended to other locations. He further said that under the Swachh Bharat Mission, management of solid waste has been taken up as a critical component.  Fitment of bio-toilets in coaches has been taken as a mission which would be completed in a couple of years. Waste-to-Energy plants are being set up as pilot projects. This is a task which needs very close coordination with civic bodies and the zonal railways must work closely with civic bodies to have a sustainable method of collection of wastes, their segregation into biodegradable and non-biodegradable parts and their final disposal to the cities’ land-fills or waste disposal facilities.  Air quality also deserves similar attention.  In India, 18% of the energy is used by transport sector, second only to industry. Studies have shown that transport activities account for around 20% of the Greenhouse gas emission in the world. Among various modes of transports, railway is comparatively ecologically friendly and consumes substantially, less energy to the tune of 75-90% to carry freight traffic. However, transport infrastructure and transport operations also account for considerable carbon footprint.  Therefore, as we expand our network and our volumes, we must be mindful of these impacts and try our best to minimize the adverse consequences. Railways are quite alive to these concerns and have been adopting a range of strategies to minimise and mitigate such impacts.  These include adoption of modern technologies in infrastructure, construction, operation and maintenance and embracing green energy initiatives like solar energy, wind energy and CNG/bio-fuels. Environmental Impact Assessment has become an integral part of project planning and execution.  Energy-efficient appliances are replacing those with older technologies to reduce energy consumption.  Energy-efficient 3-phase locomotives with regenerative brakes are being inducted.  Trials are in progress for use of alternative fuels in diesel locomotives. Tree plantation along the boundaries, Environment Accreditation to Loco Sheds and Depots, Renewable energy projects, etc are being taken up.  The biggest contribution that Railways can make towards a better environment is by simply carrying more traffic.  In large countries like Russia, China and USA, railways carry more than 50% of the freight traffic. Compared to that, in our country railway’s share is around 30%.  Therefore, there is a lot of ground to cover, if we have to achieve the target of 45% share in next 15 years, as part of our country’ Intended Nationally Determined Commitment (INDC) to UNFCC. This can be done by building capacity and by being more efficient.  We are working on both these areas.  Capital expenditure for 2015-16 and the budgetary outlay for 2016-17 have been raised to over 93600 crore and 1.21 lakh crore respectively.  The pace of commissioning of new line, doubling, gauge conversion and electrification has accelerated. If we continue on this path, I am sure that Railways would be able to catch up and attain 45% share in the freight transport as intended.  To bring all the environmental activities together and provide a sharp focus on the environmental issues, a new Environment and House Keeping Directorate was set up in the Railway Board. I am happy that in a short period the Directorate has been able to raise awareness on this issue. I hope that today’s seminar has been able to generate adequate awareness on the issue and come up with workable solutions to the challenge. My congratulations to the award-winners who have done outstanding work in the area of protection of environment. We have inherited from our ancestors a habitable Planet which may be alone in the universe to give birth to and sustain life in the form as we know.  However, the Planet has finite resources and it is our collective responsibility to ensure that the resources are not depleted at a rate faster than these can be replenished and the Earth that is left behind for future generation is in every way better than the one we have inherited. Fortunately, development models of a few modern economies (Japan and Nordic countries) have shown that this is possible, if pursued with single-minded zeal.  Railways has always been environmentally responsible. We can still do more and let’s resolve to do that”.


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