January 02, 2010 | The Economic Times
Championing the green alternative
NEW DELHI: It started with an idea that struck a veteran professional of 54, barely six years away from hanging up his boots. Darbari Seth had spent a lifetime in one of the most polluting industries — chemicals — and was concerned about the enormous amount of energy his factory spent on desalination and making caustic soda. The factory was located in Mithapur, a remote corner of Gujarat, and fresh potable water is scarce in those salty plains.
The chairman of Tata Chemicals decided to do something to address the problem of energy efficiency and discussed the idea with JRD Tata. What resulted was Teri, established as the Tata Energy Research Institute in Delhi in 1974.
In 35 years, Teri, ET Corporate Citizen of the Year, has established itself as a leading global think-tank on all issues related to sustainable development and acquired a new name — The Energy and Resources Institute (Teri). RK Pachauri, its director-general, is also the head of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which shared the 2007 Nobel Peace prize with former US vice-president Al Gore.
Teri was established with a mission to find solutions to serious environmental and developmental problems. The scope of its activities is vast and its innovate solutions cover, among others, rural energy, forest conservation, urban transportation, energy efficiency and global climate change. Founded as a not-for-profit, independent research organisation, its focus has widened, it has grown as an organisation and its activities have vastly expanded. “Teri should be described as an NGRI (Non-governmental research institute) and not an NGO,” says Mr Pachauri.
“Teri has evolved as a unique institution that incorporates the ability to provide policy analysis at the global level to multilateral organisations, governments in many countries of the world, the Government of India, as well as, to state governments in India.”
The institute today is involved in the development and large-scale dissemination of technologies which ensure the efficient use of natural resources.
Teri and Mr Pachauri have undertaken significant work sensitising people to not only the dangers posed by greenhouse gas emissions and global warming, but also to the economic opportunities that lie in energy efficiency and climate change prevention and mitigation. However, climate change is just one of the many societal challenges on which Teri carries out research.
At the grassroots level, Teri carries out activities which actually benefit the lives of some of the poorest people in India and elsewhere through the application of knowledge to help in poverty alleviation and efficient use of natural resources and their conservation.
“It is perhaps the only knowledge-based organisation in the world which has this vertical connection, ensuring globally-relevant policy research, which is not purely ivory tower, but takes into account ground realities,” a Teri veteran says.
Among its key achievements are an initiative to substitute kerosene lamps with solar lanterns, technology to clean up oil slicks, a technique to enhance crude oil recovery and bio-fertilisers that enhance yield by about 50%.
Teri functions out of several centres in India and around the world. It runs a deemed university conducting doctoral and master’s programmes in niche areas, including regulatory studies. Teri has a distinguished governing council and some 800 multi-disciplinary research professionals — economists; biotechnologists; scientists in the fields of biology, physics and chemistry; environmentalists; glaciologists; social scientists; and educationists — along with people with considerable experience in state and central administration and in the corporate sector.
Every year, Teri hosts the Delhi Sustainable Development Summit, a forum for the best minds to debate the challenges of sustainable development. It encourages Indian industry to embrace sustainability as a sound business rather than merely as a task involving good citizenship. The institute has built a green building for itself in Gurgaon that uses natural lighting and intelligent insulation to sharply reduce energy consumption. Teri is an excellent example of organised not-for-profit activity that steadily advances the collective good.