“The earth, the air, the land, and the water are not an inheritance from our forefathers but on loan from our children. So we have to hand over to them at least as it was handed over to us.”
Taking inspiration from these words of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, and Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s consistent advocacy towards stronger action to protect the environment, Union Railway Minister, Piyush Goyal shared that the Railway Ministry has been taking initiatives, time and again, to save the planet and go eco-friendly.
In a blog for the MyGov website, the Union Minister wrote, “Under his(PM Modi’s) leadership, India has played a pivotal role in the success of the COP-21 Paris Climate Conference held in November 2015. He also introduced the concept of ‘Climate Justice & Sustainable Lifestyle’, which is now a cornerstone in the global effort to mitigate climate risks.”
He also shared a number of initiatives and changes incorporated by the Ministry of Railways in their fight against climate change which includes electrification of tracks, replacing traditional toilet systems with bio-toilets, and more.
Climate change and its risk?
NASA has defined climate change as a change in the usual weather found in a place. This could be a change in how much rain a place usually gets in a year, or it could be a change in a place’s usual temperature for a month or season.
Climate change is also a change in Earth’s climate. This could be a change in Earth’s usual temperature.
Earth’s temperature has gone up about one degree Fahrenheit in the last 100 years. The risk associated with such climate change has resulted in the melting of snow, rise in sea level, extinction of certain plant and animal species, and more.
How is India combating climate change?
To combat the effects of climate change, the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) constituted a high-level inter-ministerial Apex Committee for Implementation of Paris Agreement (AIPA). The committee looks into matters that ensure India is on track towards meeting its obligations under the Paris Agreement.
In addition to this, several schemes for transformation and rejuvenation of urban areas have been launched including Smart Cities Mission, Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation, Swachh Bharat Mission, which have integrated appropriate adaptation and mitigation measures to protect, clean and keep the environment litter-free.
The Government has also revised the waste management rules to make them more effective by including rules on solid waste, plastic waste, e-waste, bio-medical and hazardous and construction and demolition waste.
Indian Railway’s environmental conservation efforts
The Indian Railways has undertaken several transformative initiatives to adopt the principles of environmental conservation, sustainability, and cost-effectiveness in its day-to-day operations. The initiatives taken by the Ministry of Railways in this direction include the following:
The Indian railway has been implementing measures to achieve 100% electrification of railways under its National Rail Plans. From 2014 onwards, the pace of railway electrification has increased by nearly 10 times. As a result, as of May 1, 2021, 71% of the Broad-Gauge network has already been electrified. Further, according to the Union Minister, by December 2023, the Indian railways will achieve 100% electrification.
The electrification of railway tracks helps reduce pollution, save costs, and increase speed. This is also a step towards building an ‘Aatmanirbhar Bharat’ as it would reduce the dependence on imported oil.
Reduction in plastic use
The Ministry of Railways has been committed to the environment. It directed all its railway units to enforce a ban on single-use plastic material, with less than 50 microns thickness from October 2, 2019.
Further, the Ministry has also installed plastic bottle crushing machines to recycle plastic waste generated at stations. Other initiatives include replacing paper timetables, reservation charts, and paper tickets with mobile apps and e-tickets.
Switching to Bio-toilets
Through the installation of bio-toilets in the entire fleet of coaches, the Indian railway has eliminated nearly 4,000 tonnes of excreta dropping on the tracks daily. This has led to saving on maintenance costs and reduced 54 lakh litres of water consumption every day.
Moreover, it has addressed the issue of foul smell from the rail tracks and restored dignity to manual scavengers.
Net Zero Railway
Indian Railways has been working to achieve the target of the largest green railways in the world and is moving towards becoming a “net zero carbon emitter” before 2030.
To do so, it has switched to renewable sources of energy and installed solar rooftops. It has established solar rooftop plants at over 1,000 stations and 400 service buildings. Further, 100% LED replacement has been done at all stations, offices and residences of the Railways.
In addition to this, 39 workshops, 7 production units, 8 loco sheds, and 1 store depot have been certified ‘GreenCo’.
Mission save water
To save water, the Indian railway is installing ‘Automatic Coach Washing Plants’ at major depots. With this, the exterior of coaches is cleaned much more efficiently and it has helped in reducing water consumption by 96% leading to an annual saving of 1.28 crore kilolitres of water.
Animal’s safety measures
The Indian railway has been trying to reduce animal-related accidents on tracks. One such innovative measure taken in this direction is ‘Plan Bee’.
“Plan Bee” was initiated to use honey bee sound to divert the elephants away from the tracks. Due to this plan, elephant accidents have been reduced significantly and from 2017 until May 2021, more than 950 elephants have been saved.
The ministry has been engaging in various activities to protect and mitigate the effects of climate change in ways possible.