#Personal Stories

Why We Need Sustainable Infrastructure Investment?

Sustainable infrastructure
Sustainable Infrastructure Investment: Construction is the second largest industry in India and contributes significantly to the economy. As a labour intensive sector, it provides employment to both skilled and unskilled workers. An estimated 35 milling Indians are involved in construction related jobs, out of which only 30% are women. Out of this, a larger proportion constitutes of site workers and laborers – indicating an evident dearth of women taking up leadership and managerial roles.

The reason for the disparity stems from the bias that women are unfit for such on-site jobs due to harsh weather, harassment, stereotyping, etc. As a woman working in this domain for 3+ years, initially I was completely unaware of these biases and made the decision to work in this sector after an impactful incident.

I had just completed my board examinations, when the Rana Plaza incident occurred. On 24th April 2013, an eight-story garment factory building called Rana Plaza collapsed in Dhaka Bangladesh, killing 1132 people and injuring another 2500. It is infamously known as the worst industrial accident in human history. The collapse was attributed to poor construction, substandard building materials and disregard to construction codes. This incident was entirely preventable, had there been a conscious decision making and designing of the structure. I became an Architect to practice this consciousness. I wanted to make better, sustainable and beautiful buildings while ensuring safety of people and the environment.

In 2019, my life came full circle. I was at Dhaka, facilitating green building certifications for garment factories. As an Architect and sustainability consultant, I got the opportunity to look at the design of the buildings, approve construction materials and convey strategies to maintain good working conditions for the workers. Of the several projects that I have been a part of, this project has given me the maximum sense of accomplishment.

Medha Priya

Medha Priya

The road to Dhaka was a rocky one, and it did not get easy once I got there. As a non-native speaker, it was impossible to communicate to constructions workers and factory workers. During which I could not understand a word and had to rely on minutes from my colleagues. Calling an Uber was difficult, because number plates were also in Bangla. I would practice reading and speaking using menu cards at restaurants. It was never easy, but giving up the was never the option. And when final certifications came through, the joy was immeasurable.

Working in this project, helped me realise the key factors that enable the easy incorporation of sustainability measures. The first and most important, is push from the government. This can be in the form of policy, bylaws, guidelines, incentives or rebates. The second is class consciousness. Education and awareness play a key role. And the third is cost effectiveness, in the long as well as short run. When businesses are convinced in these three domains, positive change quickly follows.

As a person who believes change begins small and young, I have started a workshop called ABC of SDGs. It is a platform which talks about all things related sustainability and sustainable development goals. The goal is to guide young minds to value sustainability, and use it as a lens to view world issues. These children are the future leaders of tomorrow. And as leaders, will be taking decisions that drive the world forward. The lack of awareness among youth regarding ways to contribute to climate action stems from the fact that there is limited access and awareness of government initiatives, resources and inspiring stories to push people to make climate-conscious decisions. ABC of SDG aims to bridge that gap.

Medha Priya is an Architect and Green Buildings Analyst who works through sustainable infrastructure development to optimise the relationship between people, buildings and the environment. She is a youth climate leader for We The Change which aims to showcase climate solutions pioneered by 17 young Indians. The views expressed are the author’s own.