Parliament set to turn over a new leaf, go green

When Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan braved the Capital’s scorching heat on Tuesday to ride an e-rickshaw, she was only reflecting the changes sweeping through the Parliament.

The 95-year-old functioning monument, fondly described by its members as the temple of democracy, is undergoing a rapid transformation into a greener avatar of itself. The two e-rickshaws, donated by the railway ministry, the first such vehicles inside the Parliament complex, will soon be matched with a number of bicycles, as MPs will be encouraged to shun their petrol or diesel vehicles for use within the Parliament complex, said officials familiar with the matter.

Mahajan has also been using a hybrid car. And the extension of the Parliament’s annexe building has solar panels to light up the some parts of the complex.

“Our annual demand for the entire complex is about 12 MW. We currently produce around 120 KW of solar power. This capacity will be increased in the coming years,” said AK Singh, additional secretary in the Lok Sabha.

Israel’s Knesset building is regarded as the greenest Parliament in the world. Three years ago, the building set up a 4,560-square-metre rooftop solar field to generate 450 KW of clean power. The German Bundestag, which has its seat in the historic Reichstag building in Berlin, comes a close second.

“This is a very good step. It sends a message to the entire community and also to the world that India is seriously thinking about bringing down its carbon footprint. We have also committed to the world through our Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC) to increase our renewable energy consumption. Secondly, this would also prove to be economical as the cost of solar energy is going down,” said Rajneesh Sareen, program director of Centre for Science and Environment’s sustainable building and habitat program

The Indian Parliament still uses a lot of paper, but not as much as it used to. “According to one estimate, the Parliament used to print as much paper annually as a thousand trees could produce. Now, Bulletin Part-II has been discontinued completely, replies to unstarred Questions or written replies to MPs are only uploaded on the website, reports, including those of CAG, in the House have been reduced by 60%,” said a senior official in the Speaker’s office.

Some efforts, however, didn’t fetch the desired results. When the Arvind Kejriwal government announced its second version of the odd-even road rationing scheme in 2016, a battery-operated bus was gifted to the Lok Sabha to ferry MPs from their houses. But the bus was not found fit to ply on narrow lanes and therefore, couldn’t pick up a large number of MPs.

The House wants to increase its solar capacity but the entire plan hinges on clearance from security forces and heritage-maintenance authorities. “In the Parliament building, there is a blanket ban on new constructions and alterations. We have to find space to install those solar panels,” said another senior official in the Lok Sabha.

The Parliament complex has also switched to CNG from LPG cylinders. Two rainwater harvesting facilities were installed last year, a first for heritage building in Delhi, added the Lok Sabha official.