Much of the corporate talk about saving the climate doesn't translate into concrete action. Debasish Sen, chairman, New Town Kolkata Development Authority (NKDA), and managing director of West Bengal Housing Infrastructure Development Corporation (HIDCO), has rued that HIDCO has failed to get adequate support from the Sector V-based companies sector despite formal requests.
“As far as conserving the environment is concerned, everyone points a finger at the government. While the government is doing its bit, the non-state stakeholders also need to support the cause as there is already a huge demand on the tax budget of any government of the world. At Nabadiganta, we requested the corporates to help us in managing the local environment but there were hardly any takers,” Sen said while speaking at a session on resilience of delta cities during the International Delta Summit organised by non-profit SAIRD.
“We took a board resolution and even prepared a detailed project report for recycling sewage water and waste water generated from food stalls and other sources for non-drinking purposes like road washing, watering plants etc. The cost involved was around Rs 13 crore. Following this, I wrote to all corporate groups based in Sector V in reference to the board’s decision to set up a tertiary water treatment plant by collecting contributions from them,” he said.
“Only two units responded. And guess what they asked? Kyun karna hai (Why do we need to do this), aap hi kariye, hum kya karenge (you do it… what can we do). A few even asked why they should pay for water conservation when they did not use much water. I even requested them to allot 20 per cent of their corporate social responsibility (CSR) budget for the purpose, but none came forward,” added Sen.
Though not all, a sizeable number of corporates use a portion of their so-called CSR funds in paying some of their manpower and not for the cause the funds are meant for.
The few, who actually spend on social issues, are more keen on fund events which give them visibility rather than issues such as environment and climate change; which have a long-term bearing,” explained a senior corporate official in the know of CSR spending.
Sector V has around 1350 large, moderate and small companies. A few years back, a corporate group expressed its willingness to support the Sunderbans. We requested them to fund the disaster risk reduction; but they wanted high visibility events and backed out,” said a senior official with an NGO.
Sen also claimed that often issues like tree planting are seen as a one-off event preaching environment and climate change; and there has hardly been any follow up thereafter.With the onset of monsoon, it’s time to plant trees and so every year during June and July, we get number of requests for planting trees in New Town as most of core Kolkata is concretised; and there’s hardly space for such an endeavour; but most often, they are eager to have a selfie moment during the project launch and then turn a blind eye to the scheme,” explained the New Town head.
The official claimed that HIDCO has made urban farming, basically rooftop farming, mandatory for new projects beyond an acre.