Monday, 9 February 2015

Near sustainability at Jhenidah Cadet College

Jhenidah Cadet College (JCC) was established in 1963, and that is what makes it the second oldest cadet colleges in Bangladesh. It is located on 103 acres of land in the outskirts of a town called 'Jhenidah' in the South West of the country. Bangladesh was still a part of West Pakistan (modern-day Pakistan) when the college was established. The main goal was to build a school and college, which equivalent to the English version private boarding institutions. This will be where students would physically and mentally be prepared to join the country's Military Academy after completing their high school graduation. This provided, at very best, the equal opportunity for the local students and maintained the diversity and social cohesion, which in effect, promoted a social and economic enrichment. This has been a potent symbol of social responsibility of the JCC so far. I will touch upon some social responsibility initiatives by the Alumni organisation (i.e. Jhenidah Ex-Cadet Association - in short JEXCA), reserved for later discussion.

The highs and lows of being a cadet are still vivid in my mind after so many years. I have been one of the lucky ones who attended JCC, in fact, it engulfed almost my entire teenage years. Since my father worked there as a physics’ teacher, I lived in the campus for more than eleven years of my childhood before joining the college at age 12. One of my favourite memories from childhood in the campus is discovering the stunning natural surroundings. Also be drawn to the allure of the rare sense of serenity where I could often get away from the reality. I still marvel over how I spent countless hours wandering through the bushes, fearlessly running around barefoot on the ground infested with weeds, shrubs and prickly plants, and recklessly jumped into the canal water without thinking of the consequences. It’s hard to forget - I still cherish those wonderful days.

It was almost unthinkable to me then as a young boy but now it makes perfect sense that the gorgeous natural surroundings of the college campus has actually made JCC a perfect example of a natural carbon sink. It absorbs the traffic pollution that is created by the nearest busy motorway from Jessore to Kushtia district. Inside the campus boundary, all the residents live within the walking or cycling distance from their workplace hence the usage of vehicles (e.g. cars, vans, buses etc.) is minimal.Therefore the amount of usual traffic exhaust pollutants (e.g. NO2, SO2, carbon monoxide, Pb& heavy metals etc.) are negligible, as a result, it poses no real health risks for the local residents. The level of air pollution in the campus had (probably) never been tested, but, if it had been tested then the results would have showed far better outcomes than any European cities.

At JCC, the basic elements of sustainability have always existed between and within.The contexts of 'Think globally, act locally' (perhaps it has never been thought through the lenses of environmental perceptions), are to be seen in many aspects including the electricity and water supply, which are produced locally, in effect, it encourages in creating more local employments. There is a real potential to save money, be environmental friendly and self-sufficient in electricity if JCC start using the renewable energy technologies like solar panels & wind turbines and earn its place as the local and regional leader of renewables. Initially the electricity generated from the renewables could be used to light up some small places like the toilets, front and the back of the cadet dining hall, some of the rooms in the main offices where the bright lights are not always required. From the larger scale renewable installation, the surplus energy could potentially be supplied to the main grids or possibly lighting up some homes outside of the boundary walls. It would make a real difference on the lives of disadvantaged people.

Other areas, from supply chain and logistics to food production and the procurement are generally done with the local vendors and many of them practically depend on doing businesses with the JCC authority. In this aspect, JCC should encourage and promote in creating a socially and environmentally responsible supply chains, which eventually would help to create a sustainable society, however small-scale that might be. Also, need to encourage primarily the residents and other stakeholders to live low carbon lifestyle and purchasing local goods and services. 

The proper management of waste and recycling are the key components of environmental sustainability. Systematic collection, recycling and disposalof waste are still premature and sporadic at JCC and that is why I believe that there are immense opportunities to improve in the waste management areas within its boundaries. From the kerbside collectionto different types of recycling bins (e.g. plastics, papers, glass bottles, used clothes & shoes etc.) could be placed in some of the main points in the campus areas. The reusable clothes and shoes could be distributed among the poorest communities in the villages outside of the college boundaries and rest of the other reusable and recyclable materials could be sold to the local traders for low or no-cost basis.

Composting is a simple and an inexpensive way to transform the kitchen and garden waste into a nutrient rich fertiliser. Even the cadets could get their hands dirty making compost from the dining hall food waste when they carry out their gardening sessions. Moreover, awareness raising campaign focusing on one member of each household in the campus, men and women alike, should be educated how to make compost from the food waste, which eventually would help to increase in soil productivity and plant growth in their own gardens. Also, encourage people to harvest rainwater off roofs to minimise fresh water wastage for gardening.

As has been touched upon earlier, the obvious social role remains quite evident from the Alumni organisation. JEXCA Bangladesh medical doctors run two free clinics in two major cities for people who cannot afford to pay for their health care. JEXCA Bangladesh is also providing, among others, child sponsorship for some orphan children from the recent disaster of Rana Plaza garment factory collapse, provide humanitarian help for the flood (e.g. flood in 2007), cyclone (e.g. cyclone SIDR in 2007 & cyclone AILA in 2009) victims and financial support to the former JCC members (e.g. ex-teachers, ex-students and ex-member of staffs) who suffer from difficult illnesses. These are some of the outstanding works that have been carried out by JEXCA Bangladesh over the years. JEXCA UK and North America are also contributing to many aspects of social responsibilities by providing direct supports to JEXCA Bangladesh in order to act for the benefit of society at large. I look forward to more promising tale to tell – hopefully a lasting legacy to leave for the future generations in the social responsibility areas.

Finally, sustainability needs to be the top management agenda. JCC has the opportunities working towards a more sustainable future. Sustainability is here to stay, embrace it and let’s make it more visible.

1 comment:

  1. Very well done, brother. You should take the lead to convert JCC into a model for sustainable micro-community. I will support you in getting JEXCA to invest in such effort.