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GNDEC student has carbon neutral plan

Gurmehar Singh, 3rd year Civil Engineering student was interviewed by Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. The article Indian student has carbon neutral plan was published by Karin Rives, Staff Editor at

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Indian Student Has Carbon Neutral Plan
By Karin Rives
Staff Writer

Washington — Growing up in northern India, Gurmehar Singh learned at an early age to turn off lights when leaving a room and to close the water tap when brushing his teeth. Caring about the environment, he says, “is in my blood.”

Now a 19-year-old student at Guru Nanak Dev Engineering College in Ludhiana, a city of 4.5 million in the state of Punjab, Singh is a tireless advocate for all things green. His biggest undertaking yet: A campaign to make his campus into India’s first carbon-neutral school.

After managing to get plastic bags and motorbikes banned from campus, Singh designed an electricity savings plan for his school. By switching out all incandescent light bulbs to compact fluorescent and light-emitting diode bulbs (LEDs), the campus could reduce power consumption and costs by half or more, he calculated.

“I carried out an energy audit by myself, made a proposal and gave it to the college, but it was too much of a cost,” he said. “I kept asking for partnerships or sponsorships, but nobody was too interested in that. Even the electricity companies, they said they would reduce [the cost of] LEDs, but not provide them for free.”

But an alumni group of former students, which met on campus early this year, was impressed when Singh showed up to make a presentation and plead for help. The group decided to fully fund the carbon-neutrality project, which also includes installing solar-heated common kitchens in dormitories and exploring the use of small wind-energy generating stations on campus.

The college’s electricity costs have already dropped by 40 percent, Singh says, “and the project isn’t yet completed.”

His petition to force auto rickshaws in the city to switch from diesel to natural gas fuel was not as successful. In 2009, the Punjab and Haryana High Court ordered all rickshaws in Ludhiana to switch fuels to improve city air quality, but the court’s order never was enforced.

“You can’t arrest 40,000 rickshaw pullers. If you stop them, people in the city can’t transport,” Singh says. “And even if you replace the 40,000 rickshaws, we need filling stations [for natural gas] and land for filling stations. The industrial area needs to be re-modified, and the town plan does, too. No government official is ready to face such issues.”

(This is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: