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EMS - A Complementary Tool For Local Agenda 21 Implementation


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                    Dr. K. Vijaya Lakshmi, Manager, Development Alternatives

The 1992 Rio Declaration clearly placed human beings at the centre of Sustainable Development.
There has been a greater recognition that human beings are entitled to a healthy and productive life in
harmony with nature. Although major efforts have been made along this line, today, achieving this
entitlement still remains a serious challenge. Nearly 38 percent of households in India do not have
access to safe drinking water while nearly 70 percent have no access to adequate sanitation. With the
rapid increase in urban populations over the last 20 years, the number of people not served by safe
water supplies and adequate sanitation has increased, not declined.
The historical significance of cities as the driving force of social and economic development seems to
be no more valid as the rapid urbanisation is expected to continue. As per a recent study, by the year
2020, about 50% of the total Indian population will live in urban areas. This hyper-urbanisation trend
and the concentration of population in the big towns and cities bring the problem of resource
limitations to the fore. Besides, the traditional environmental risks such as high poverty incidence,
malnutrition, dysentery and other water and sanitation related diseases, the cities and towns are also
suffering from the evils of unplanned modernisation such as exposure to hazardous and toxic
substances, polluted waste water and air from industries and vehicles etc.
Increasingly, local governments are responsible for constructing, operating and maintaining
economic, social and environmental infrastructure, oversee land use and development planning
processes, establish local environmental policies and regulations, and assist in implementing national
and sub national environmental policies. As they deal with tens of billions of dollars worth of goods,
they can influence markets in a positive way and are well placed to educate and mobilise
communities to promote sustainable development.
The national governments as well as the United Nations system have envisaged this growing role of
local governments in the implementation of Agenda 21. In order to tap the potential of municipalities in
catalysing sustainable development strategies at the local level there is need for inter- sectoral
integration. Greater co-ordination and synergies are called for among the planning bodies, economic,
environmental and socio-cultural departments along with adequate financial resources and capacity
building strategies. adequate powers should be rested with the local bodies to minimise cross
purpose functions and adequate decision making powers. Mechanisms should be put in place for
greater transparency and mutual accountability at the local level.

Systems Approach for Environmental Management
The management of the urban environment is a complex and difficult task. The increasing
momentum of urbanisation has both direct and indirect impacts on a variety of concerns and sectors.
There is a distinct need to take a good look to resolve urban environmental problems. One of the
ways of resolving the environmental problems in these urban local bodies is by adopting the
Environmental Management Systems (EMS).
An EMS is a systems approach with a set of management processes and procedures that allows an
organisation to analyse, control and reduce the environmental impact of its activities, products and
services and operate with greater efficiency and control. The cyclic system of "plan, do, check, and
act" phases offers the institutions a systematic approach and can be implemented by organisations
of any size and type depending on its need and is completely voluntary. Benefits from EMS include
improved overall environmental performance (including areas not currently regulated), expanded
pollution prevention opportunities, improved compliance and enhanced operational control and
There are several benefits which could be derived by implementation of EMS. Effective
implementation of EMS particularly in the urban local bodies including industrial townships will ensure:
(i)    to put in place a management systems with a focus on conservation and protection of natural
       resources (water, electricity etc)
(ii)setting up of a system for periodic monitoring and measurement to get early warning signals
(iii)preparedness for emergency situations (earthquake, fire etc)
(iv) spreading of information, advocacy, awareness and participation among the         different
     stakeholders and
(v) strengthening of management for decision making on resource allocation and management

Applicability of EMS to Urban Local Bodies - Case Examples
Many countries across the world are promoting the adoption of Environmental Management Systems
(EMS) to help public entities, particularly local governments, improve their environmental performance
beyond compliance, prevent pollution, promote greater environmental stewardship across the
workforce, and improve their overall efficiency.
The examples discussed below are based on the experiences of three industrial townships where,
EMS was successfully implemented and the townships are certified for ISO 14001. These townships
in terms of sustainable environmental management made a very good beginning, which could be
extendable to social and economic pillars of sustainability. Technical assistance for designing and
implementation of EMS was provided by Development Alternatives (DA), a not for profit, R&D and
Consultancy organisation in Delhi. This initiative was supported by USAID under the Clean
Technology Initiative (CTI) program to promote voluntary environmental management among various
sectors including the urban local bodies.
EMS Initiatives were facilitated by DA in the following Industrial Townships :
IFFCO - Kalol Township, Gujarat
Godrej & Boyce - Vikhroli Township, Mumbai
Tata Chemicals - Mithapur Township, Gujarat

Mithapur Township of Tata Chemcials

Brief Profile of the EMS Implementation

Mithapur is a industrial township of Tata Chemicals situated along the coast of the Arabian see in the
    Gujarat state. The chemicals manufacturing unit itself is an ISO 14001 certified company. The
    township hosts about 18000 residents, majority of them are employees of the chemical plant. The
    company has instituted an exemplary social responsibility program to facilitate community
    development in and around the production unit extending to hundreds of villages.

    Scope of EMS

    The systematic approach in implementation of EMS as per the ISO 14001 framework motivated
       the township administration to adapt the same for the township for achieving sustainable
       environmental management. The township is a well developed, green with all the essential
       municipal services such as electricity and water supply, garbage disposal, sanitation, medical
       services and family planning facilities, roads and parks maintenance etc. All these facilities
       and services were taken up in the scope of the EMS, since all these departments/ services/
       facilities directly come under the administrative power of the Town Administration.

    Multi-Sectoral Integration

    The fine part of the EMS implementation has been the participation of the multi- stakeholder
       representatives including the representatives of the residential colonies, hospitals, schools,
       sports complexes, cultural affairs etc., are part of the core group besides the more obvious
       service departments such as water and electricity supply. Staff members of each of the
       departments identified in the scope of the EMS have prepared an extensive database on the
       activities/products/services they deal with that have a possible impact on the environment.
       This exercise itself is an eye opener for the core group members and their respective wards
       who identified the need for a multi-sectoral co-operation in achieving sustainability goals.
As a result, the town administration prepared a Residents Guide for Conservation, which calls for
    the actions to begin at their homes. It has tips for saving water, fuel, electricity, paper, alternate
    pesticides, product purchase choices based on packaging material etc. The guide book also
    deals with detailed information on energy consumption figures of different appliances including
    dish washers, microwave ovens etc., and provides tips on efficiency improvement and
    conservation of energy. It has proposed to save 45000KWH of energy per annum. Twilight
    switches for street lights, gradual elimination of use of sea water for flushing and total
    replacement of inorganic fertilisers with organic compost etc., are some of the key targets
    setforth. The township could save on about 10% of total water required for household
    consumption and about 20% of it from the horticulture department.

One of the self proclamations of the guide reads as below:
"........its intended effect is to make all of us aware and conscious so that we will seek earnestly to
reduce our contributions to the environmental crisis before it overwhelms us. We, as individuals and
families, must help make this a decent, rather than a deadly, inheritance for our children and out
grandchildren. A truly sustainable world".

    The Environmental Policy

    The residents, administrators and other stakeholders of the township have collectively
       formulated the environmental policy and agreed to follow it as a way of life.
The environmental policy is based on the priority actions identified for improving the environmental
   quality on a continuous basis. These include meeting the regulatory compliance, conservation of
   resources like water and electricity, minimisation of waste and maximisation of recycle, promotion
   of eco-friendly material usage, protection and enhancement of green cover. The policy also
   reflects the operational principles such as public communication policy, awareness and training of
   residents and associates on environmental issues and continual improvement of EMS through an
   endeavour to achieve the environmental goals by setting, assessing and improving the objectives
   and targets.
While being part of the town administration, each of the departments such as the 150 bedded
   hospital, school, water supply and electricity department has developed a full pledged EMS
   implementation framework involving stakeholders outside their departments wherever necessary.
   For example, quality of the township solid waste management has greatly enhanced due to the
   co-operation of the hospital staff and the residents. Several preventive options and operational
   control procedures were collectively identified cutting across the departments for a single

    Challenges and Benefits

    The most crucial challenges in the entire exercise have been the team building, training and
       transfer of the knowledge to the lowest level of the hierarchy. However, these problems have
       been overcome through conscious efforts to involve every stakeholder and through innovative
       communication strategies, inter departmental audits etc.
The township realised several benefits including the compliance to bio-medical waste management
   rules, waste water discharge standards, municipal solid waste management rules besides
   preparing a detailed emergency preparedness and fire safety plans. The residents of the township
   are proud of their efforts and could clearly see their bit of contribution towards saving the beautiful
   planet - our earth.

Pirojsha Nagar Township of Godrej & Boyce

Brief Profile of EMS Implementation

Spread across three colonies the township has approximately 3300 flats. Besides the residential
   colonies, the primary and High school, the colony dispensary, consumer stores, the welfare
   centre, departments of security, garden, housekeeping and housing etc., are brought under the
   scope of EMS.
The Primary and High schools representatives being part of the core group, have played a key role
   in initiating several green programs across the township involving the residents, teachers and
   students and have undertaken several awareness programs including importance of wetland
    conservation program. In a drive to minimise quantity of disposable solid waste, have initiated
    programs for Biodegradable waste segregation from the canteen and Vermicomposting.

Kasturinagar, Township Of IFFCO-Kalol

Brief Profile of EMS implementation

Kasturinagar Township has the distinction of being the first ISO 14001 certified township in the
   country. The township has 315 residential quarters. The EMS scope covers the departments of
   water supply, electricity, sewage treatment and disposal, solid waste disposal, bank, post office,
   recreation club, horticulture and temple complex etc., which are directly under the township
After a detailed Initial Environmental Review (IER), identified the priority areas of intervention as - the
    conservation of resources with focus on electricity and water, solid and liquid waste management
    in an eco-friendly way. The core group consisted of housewives, all the representatives
    responsible for the services of the township, and the members representing co-operative store,
    recreation club, temple committee, senior citizen group etc. At each stage of the EMS
    implementation, Development Alternatives team trained the core group.
Several priority areas were identified and time bound action plans were drawn upon. Several
   initiatives such as the segregation of biodegradable waste for Vermicomposting, recycling of
   waste water up to 500 m3 for horticulture purposes, and rainwater recharging systems for
   capturing 700 m3 of water, conservation of treated drinking water, design and construction of
   rainwater harvesting structure for the entire township etc., have been taken up by the township.

Local Agenda 21 and the Role of Urban local bodies
These township examples show how cities/ towns/ urban local bodies can contribute to the
sustainable development goals of the country by adapting the ISO 14001 framework for
environmental management. The main impacts of EMS implementation in these townships has been
in the areas of resource conservation (energy, water, paper, chemicals and materials), improved
management in key areas such as solid waste management, water pollution control and finally
institutional development and public participation.
The Agenda 21 guiding principles emphasise on achieving sustainability on all fronts including socio-
economic and environmental. Though the ISO framework is about environment, similar logic can be
used to identify and prioritise the economic and social goals applicable to that local body. The
applicability of such a system can be achieved only if stakeholders at all levels cooperate with each
other to work towards fulfilling their responsibilities and for achieving sustainability goals on a
continuous basis.
Implementation of local agenda 21 requires capacity building of stakeholders, participatory planning,
leadership and commitment at the top management, sound knowledge of options and above all,
ability to choose right options. All this requires transparency, top quality information management
systems and communication strategies at all levels. All these requirements can be fully met by
designing high quality systems using the ISO 14001 framework.
The Environment systems Branch of Development Alternatives (DA) has played a catalytic role in
demonstrating through the Industrial Township case studies, the potential of EMS adaptation by
local governments. The DA team is continuing its efforts in facilitating EMS implementation, training
and awareness besides expanding the scope from environmental management to overall
sustainability through capacity building and by offering customised tools and techniques relevant to
the local conditions.

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