Ms. Sheela Thomas
Chairperson, Rubber Board on the Nature Impact of the Board’s functioning
Voice Green: Kindly explain the Nature conservation activities extended by Rubber board in its day to day functioning.
Sheela Thomas: Rubber Board was set up by the Government of India for promoting cultivation of natural rubber. So by its very Nature the Board has to work in alignment with Nature. We always say with conviction that a rubber plantation is next best to natural forest. So we try to ensure that our activities do not go against the environment. I am sure you may be aware that Rubber is not affected by major diseases and use of insecticides and pesticides is very minimal. So, the natural functioning of the environment is not affected much by rubber cultivation.
VG: How do you address the issue of carbon footprint?
ST: We try to minimise our carbon foot print. Rubber sheet Smoke houses normally use either firewood or diesel and diesel is highly carbon-intensive and expensive and a drain on the economy. We have in its place advocated the use of gasifiers, by which the use of firewood/diesel comes down drastically. And we have now taken efforts to see whether we can use solar power for these smoke houses.
VG: How has the awareness about Nature impact been conveyed to your employees and how did they respond?
ST: As a government organisation we are committed to the government policies of reducing the use of energy wherever possible. All employees are bound to follow, wherever any lapse has been noticed we inform them orally and through written memos. In meetings these messages are generally conveyed. Besides, observation of days like the World Environment Day is regular. By switching off the energy source when we don’t need it, our electricity bills can be reduced considerably, if we use energy efficiently. Water conservation is another area. Our people have been more responsive to use of water by closing the taps and faulty pipes are attended to immediately by our resident plumber in RRI and Head office We run a bus that plies between the head office and the research institute, where we have the quarters. So the employees don’t have to use their vehicle to commute between these two places. We also pick up persons from the bus station, instead of them having to hire a three-wheeler.
VG: What are the Environmental Social Responsibilities of this organization? Can you specify any initiatives?
ST: Our entire activity is in alignment with Nature. We promote cultivation of rubber and insist on the quality of the primary processed product. Quality, involves a whole lot of things including a very efficient effluent treatment system that is friendly to the environment. Our entire activities are geared towards what is beneficial for society. We have special projects that have definitely helped in changing the livelihood and socio-economic structure of society in a positive way. In the North-East, the environment of the state has improved a lot, the living conditions of the people have improved, their economic outlook and the returns they get from the land they own have all gone up. In turn, both health and education have shown an upward positive trend. And I feel that this is our Environmental Social Responsibility.
VG: Can you kindly explain the Nature preservation policy of this organization?
ST: Our policy is minimum impact on the environment with maximum contribution to the environment. In our factories, you can see that we confirm to all the stipulations of the Pollution Control Board and other environmental laws. We have a metro wood factory in an area which is still pristine. Despite the rubber plantation, Nature can be seen in all its glory all around. Right from the beginning we installed machines which ensure that there is no pollution. The chemicals with which we treat the wood do not go out of the factory premises and the only pollutant is the dust that is created when we saw the wood. Despite being a concern which is not making profits, we have invested heavily on a dust extractor machine which runs on the latest technology and is very efficient. In India wood the dust extracted is used to make briquettes, which means almost with zero pollution we are reusing the waste materials and producing a product, which earns some money for the organization and ensures that the waste is not dumped anywhere. So that shows that we are very keen on preservation of the environment and on ensuring that it does not deteriorate further.