Green Campus

Green campus done right: This Assam university sets an example

How Assam Don Bosco University weaves climate action, preservation of flora and fauna, management of water resources in its green initiatives     

 
By Sugeet Grover
Published: Thursday 27 August 2020

Campuses hold a special significance in our educational fabric. But that was not always the case: Earlier, one could sit under a tree and learn about the world. Today, however, the infrastructure reflects the complexity of our lives.

A campus is not only about classrooms or space, but several processes that are invisible to the eye. How does the water move and reach every tap, where does the water come from and where does it go after use on the campus? It is, after all, among the many resources that have a story to tell.

The Centre for Science and Environment’s (CSE) Green Campus Initiative has been trying to capture the story of these resources to transform our campuses into tools of sustainable education. One such campus is the Assam Don Bosco University.

Assam Don Bosco University is located in a sparsely populated area and allows space and opportunity for green initiatives. It does so by balancing infrastructure changes with policy-related initiatives.

The university has an ‘eco-friendly campus policy’ with clear-cut goals related to

  • Climate action
  • Management of water resources
  • Management of energy resources
  • Preservation of flora and fauna
  • Conservation of ecosystem and wildlife
  • Productive use of land

Land as a resource

The most prominent feature one witnesses is the extensive use of agroforestry. The campus is 274 acres in size, out of which over 200 acres is dedicated to agroforestry. This includes plantations of cocoa, rubber, coconut, cashews, neem, turmeric, ginger and lemon. The biggest plantation is dedicated to tea and is spread over 122 acres.

The campus demonstrates plantation practices to promote scientific research in crop development. The university plans to promote such plantations in nearby villages adopted by it. The practice is also ingrained into the campus culture: Over 20,000 trees have been planted in the last 10 years alone.

Students participate in kitchen gardening and mushroom cultivation

The campus has also undertaken kitchen-gardening; students cultivate mango, lychee, jackfruit, jujube, orange and pomelo trees. It has been divided into five kitchen gardens around the residential areas.

Mushroom cultivation is also practiced; in 2019, 45 students were trained in ‘Mushroom for the people: Issues and opportunities’.

Managing energy sensibly

The university has not air-conditioned its classrooms. It, insteads, relies on an optimised window-to-wall ratio, good shading devices and builds features that enhance natural ventilation. These passive design strategies are the first line of defense against consuming relatively high energy.

The university, after conducting an energy audit of its campus, switched to energy-efficient LED fixtures to meet its artificial lighting requirements. 

The initiatives for energy conservation are complemented by actual energy generation on the campus to the tune of 320 kilowatt power. This is sufficient to meet a whopping 52 per cent of campus energy demand on peak performance.

The campus is in the process of understanding the feasibility of a micro-hydel plant by tapping a small stream passing through it, which will add 10 kilowatt to the energy generation.

Managing water and waste

Another feature of the campus is its water bodies that help harvest rainwater and manage storm-water. It has a big freshwater lake spanning 10 acres, and which carries 360,000 cubic metre of water. Four minor reservoirs help replenish the ground water table.

The campus has also got the first step of waste management right — by having segregation at the source.

The campus is 274 acres in size, out of which over 200 acres is dedicated to agroforestry

It has also expanded its waste management initiatives to go beyond the campus to the villages nearby by holding awareness campaigns and street plays to promote the idea of ‘plastic free village’. The university held a swachhta hi sewa campaign in 2019, which included a cloth-making workshop with local villages.

Air quality improvement

The campus has a restricted vehicle policy, wherein only motor vehicles can be used inside the campus by those having a pass. Hostel students are not permitted to keep motor vehicles, while day scholars use the common transport facilities provided by the university.

The trees, water bodies and clean air have contributed to the richness of flora and fauna. Spiders, birds, snakes and insects — there is plenty of biodiversity to experience on the campus.

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