Mahatma Gandhi said the soul of India lives in her villages. With 6,40,000 villages and more than 83 crore people in villages accounting for almost 65% of India’s rural population, India truly lives in her villages. Villages form an important part of India’s sustainable development agenda. For India to grow, its villages need to prosper and have the same basic amenities, education and healthcare which are available in urban areas.
There are multiple challenges in villages related to open defecation, drinking water scarcity, lack of adequate health care, basic amenities and power shortage. To address these issues, it is essential to convert existing villages to green and self- sustainable ones.
To promote a sustainable built environment, CII established the Indian Green Building Council (IGBC) in 2001. The IGBC offers an array of services including ratings and certifications to encourage a sustainable built environment. It has been working dedicatedly towards converting existing villages into green and self-sustainable villages, and established the IGBC Green Village Rating System which also helps identify green features that can be implemented to make a village green.
This rating system is designed to address many of the challenges. The green concepts and techniques help address national priorities such as availability of water and energy, reduction in fossil fuel use, handling of wastewater and conservation of natural resources, cleanliness in the village, improved drinking water and sanitation facilities, digital village initiatives, effective solid waste management, assured power supply, local development and holistic well-being of the villagers.
A green village is defined as one with access to clean energy, adequate water, basic education, good healthcare and hygienic sanitation, all of which lead to economic prosperity and an enhanced quality of life in a sustainable manner.
The conversion of existing villages to green ones results in multiple benefits including a reduction in demand for water (20-30% saving), reduction in demand for power (30-40% energy saving), better managed solid waste, access to basic healthcare, education, transport and recreational facilities, and access to safe drinking water and hygienic sanitation.
For the rating, the sustainable aspects of a green village are viewed under these categories: health & hygiene, village infrastructure, water conservation, energy availability, materials and resources, social and community actions and green innovation.
The health & hygiene module covers cleanliness in the village, drinking water availability, sewage handling practices and healthcare facilities, amongst others. Under village infrastructure, basic amenities such as a post office, education infrastructure, commuting facilities between villages and towns, water supply and sewage network and green cover are observed. Water conservation is a critical issue all around the globe. Even in villages, rainwater harvesting, and wastewater treatment is encouraged to reduce the dependence on potable water. One critical piece of the entire green village ecosystem is its continuous power supply. The use of renewable energy will reduce the dependence on fossil fuels, thereby mitigating environmental hazards. Solar water heating systems can be used to reduce the use of fuelwood, which in turn reduces deforestation.
Each green village should promote use of locally available material such as bamboo and coir. This encourages and augments the growth of the local economy.
Social and community action could include green committees which would encourage green measures adopted by village and encourage innovation to reduce environmental impact.
So far, under the aegis of CII-IGBC, 23 villages in 9 states have been certified green. They include villages like Mawlynnong in Meghalaya, Punsari in Gujarat and Bhond in Haryana. These villages are excellent examples of the efficacy of a focused go-green plan and the benefits that accrue, and the recognition encourages more villages to go green.
The IGBC Green Village Rating System is helping India’s sustainable development.