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Visit to TERI

On our last day in India, we visited TERI(Tata Energy Research Institute) university, located in the south of New Delhi. TERI, is a research institute established in 1974, and its focus fields are energy, environment and sustainable development. The Institute’s Director General is Dr. R.K. Pachauri, who is also the chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007.

Before we head to TERI University, we had chance to visit TERI RETREAT and take a walk around beautiful trail and garden. I really enjoyed relaxing time of being out of honking while being around green that I had not had during the trip. After 30 minutes of introduction of TERI and its green buildings, we explored different parts of the site in order to study how TERI facilities are designed to be self-sufficient in terms of power supply and also to study the technologies that the institution develops. The facilities in TERI RETREAT use process that is environmentally friendly and resource-efficient throughout the life-cycle of the facilities. TERI RETREAT consists of a residential training facility for executives and research laboratories of various fields regarding environment and sustainability.

Our tour started with the residential complex. The building uses bio mass gasifier as the power source. The building faces south to maximize sun light gain and has solar panels on the roof, the energy from which is used to heat up water. The building maintains its room temperature at 20 °C in winter, 28 °C in summer through circulating underground air from 4 meters below as the temperature of underground air is around 26 °C all year around. The facility can save around 40% of energy with this air conditioning system compared to conventional way. The waste water management system cleans waste water from toilets and kitchens by using reed plants. The way that the complex utilizes plants and air conditioning system to minimize energy consumption was very impressive, and I was surprised by that fact that India ranked second globally for green building in terms of square feet after U.S because my first impression of India was far from ‘green’ after seeing loads of trash and untreated sewage every corner and breathing in polluted air in Chennai and New Delhi.

(Check out the news from The Hindu Business Line if you are interested in.

Although it will be challenging to adopt the technologies used in the TERI complex in urban areas with limited space and dense population, I became more optimistic about environment in India after this tour.

After exploring residential complex, we moved to bio mass gasifier site as well as laboratories of oil zapper. Oil Zapper is basically bacterial strains that suck up oils and convert them into water and CO2. The product can be widely applied for oil refinery sites and oil splits caused by accidents. The product interested me because Korea had a massive oil spilt in Taean County in 2007. At that time, more than 1.8 million volunteer workers cleaned every stone in the beach by hands. Although effective microorganism products were used after much of work had been done by hands, it might have taken shorter time to revitalize the area if products like Oil Zapper had been applied in the earlier point.

TERI showed me whole different story of India, green technology. We traveled to TERI university campus and wrapped up our visit by attending lectures given by Dr. R.K. Pachauri, Dr. Srivastava of TERI and Professor Sundaram regarding climate change and business.

Categories: Delhi | Tags: , | 1 Comment

Rural India: Barara Village

After exploring Taj Mahal and Agra Fort, we headed to Barara village to get a glimpse of rural lives in India. The administrative hierarchy of India is composed of from the small subdivisions of villages and blocks to the higher level of districts, states, and federal government. There are 640,000 rural villages in India, and two thirds of Indians live in rural areas. Average size of villages is about 12,000 residents. Each village is governed by its own authority, Panchyat which is election base in modern days while as certain families ran the organization in the past.

As our team sat under the banyan tree of the village community center to meet with locals and learn about the village, Barara residents welcomed us by gathering around us with curiosity. Barara is one of the villages in Agra district, and it is thirty minutes away from the district’s main city, Agra. There are 17,000 people living in the village and most of them live on agriculture as our learning expedition team could notice by stacked up cow pat beside the roads.

We learned how things are different in rural areas and what has been changing as well. Gender inequality has been a big part of culture in rural areas, especially in Northern part of India; however, the gap has been filling and reservation for female officials in local authorities supports gender equality in India. Speaking to Puja, who is leading Self-help Group in Barara, we learned that SHG has empowered under-privileged rural women, and acted as a way of alleviating poverty. The SHG is a model for micro-finance. Eight to ten women can form a group and get a small loan as a group from the government. There are no constraints of what types of business they plan to do, but they are supposed to meet a certain profit target. According to Puja, Barara women have lower participation in SHG compared to Southern part of India, but she plans to have 65% of Barara women in SHG in next five years, which I found very hopeful as welfare of rural lives are expected to be improved.
As supposed to urban areas where most of the families are nuclear families, rural families are extended families, also called Joint Hindu Families, and the average size of a family is 50 members. Like most of rural villages, Caste, which consists of four categories, Brahmin (priests), Kshatriyas (warriors), Vaishyas (traders), Shudras (workmen)is still dominant social class system in Barara. We have noticed that women from lower caste hiding their faces with scarfs when passing by upper caste men.
Our team had chance to visit rural households, and we split into three groups to visit families from different Caste, Brahmin, Kshatriyas, and Shudras families. My group visited Shudras household. The head of the household is a potter, Gangarem and his family has made potteries for seven generations. Our group was warmly welcomed by the family and neighbors, and we got small potteries as gifts from the family. He has one son and seven grandsons, and the house was quite small and humble with two rooms. His son is a tenant farmer, and he went to school until fifth grade because there was no further education provided within the village at that time. Although 50% of the village kids finishes high school and among them 80% goes to colleges, people like Gangarem’s family do not access to higher education because they have to make a living and sometimes village cannot provide certain level of education. As Gangarem did not have formal education in his life, he does not seem to be literate. He mentioned that when he votes for Panchayat, he completely follows opinions of the well-respected man of the village. When one of us asked him what he wishes to happen, he said his son’s marriage. He seems to very much conform to the Caste system and rural environment, where most important issues of life are marriage and offspring. I found it very interesting that what people pursue in their lives are quite different in rural and urban.

When we first arrived Delhi airport, we were surprised by how infrastructure in Delhi is different from that in Chennai. When we visited Barara village, we were surprised again by how lives in rural are different from those in urban. Throughout our trip, we experienced India, where history and contemporary coexist, where 180 languages and 500+ dialects exist, and where 40% of population lives with less than $1 per day while there are fifty billionaires as well: and all of that make India more unique and interesting.


Categories: Taj Mahal | Tags: , | 2 Comments

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