Leader of India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and New Delhi MP Meenakshi Lekhi, in an interview to OneWorld South Asia, said that urban areas need to learn the art and science of converting waste into a valuable resource. Excerpts from the interview.
OneWorld South Asia: How in your opinion recycling urban waste can lead us to energy sufficiency?
Meenakshi Lekhi: With the limited resources for energy, the greatest potential is that the wastage in urban areas has to be minimised and the cost of energy generation has to be brought down. We need to try and work at these solutions. A waste is a waste because we don’t know how to use it.
Once you know how to use it (the waste), and convert it into full energy potential, it becomes a valuable resource.
OWSA: What is your idea of smart cities which the present government is trying to develop across the country?
Lekhi: When we say green smart city, I will say only when you are green, can you be smart. A city cannot be smart without being green.
So, smart is not being away from green, but it is about efficiency of energy system which ensures that you don’t waste, you convert waste into energy, and you generate low cost energy.
If we pull local resources in order, we have a huge potential for generating energy as even the existing landfill sites can become gas filled sites.
OWSA: Madhya Pradesh government launched a website for public participation on climate change in September this year. Do you think that more such portals are required?
Lekhi: What the government of Madhya Pradesh is doing is fantastic. But, similarly there is a huge initiative taken by Gujarat too. I think our Prime Minister Narendra Modi, when he was the Chief Minister of Gujarat also wrote a book on climate change.
I think this is the intellectual input which will open up the brains and the minds of the people which have been clogged due to a long term slavery of ideas. The moment we unclog, energy potential of each Indian will come out and we will be able to achieve our real potentials.
OWSA: How can Indians as a community move towards sustainable development?
Lekhi: We are basically very hygienic people. We are huge and because we are huge, there has been a systemic failure which has led to so much of garbage generation and hence, the idea of recycling.
Earlier, we were wasting less. For example, a piece of cloth was used for a longer period of time by using it in as many ways as possible. When I look back, say 20-30 years ago, I think a piece of cloth in house used to be reused many times over. A father’s shirt will be converted into child’s shirt or the next generation will use it, and the next to next generation will use it for making quilts and other possible items out of it.
At the national level, we must understand our age old values. It’s not enough just the UN declaring the Minimum Development Goals, even the UN is now moving away from Minimum Development Goals to Sustainable Development Goals. Our entire civilization is based on sustainable development and sustainable growth, but unfortunately, we dumped it to become a society driven by consumerism.
There has to be an overhaul of the thought process.
OWSA: Do you think ideas from Gujarat’s Sabarmati river rejuvenation plan can help Delhi government to revive river Yamuna?
Lekhi: Good ideas can be taken from anywhere including the Sabarmati river rejuvenation plan. Whatever the idea, it has to be supplemented by a comprehensive plan for affluent treatment plants all over the city.
The water treatment plants need to be of the smaller quantity equally distributed across the city because the transport cost itself to carry waste to a particular plant gets very high. Therefore, we need to urgently decentralise the system and treat waste water locally.