Travel Log by Bryn: Global Solutions for Local Problems (Part III)

Travel Log by Bryn: Part III

5: Mumbai Temple Site Visit—Cool Pavement to Keep Bare Feet from Burning

The next stop on our Far East trip was Mumbai, the commercial capital of India. I found it to be a beautiful seaside city with a vibrant street life and the most friendly people. There’s a fair amount of contrast in Mumbai, though, and a turbulent history to go along with it.

With its large natural port, Mumbai (then called Bombay) was a stronghold for the East Indian Trading Company. A well-developed rail system, intricate gothic revival architecture, and the Gateway of India arch-monument are remnants from the British colonial rule past. Mumbai is home to the most millionaires and billionaires of anywhere in India. Meanwhile, over half of Mumbai’s population resides in slums (defined as informal, unpermitted housing, most of which have water, sewage and electricity access).

We learned that India has a Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) mandate for all large companies doing business in India, they must devote 2% of their profit towards CSR work. We met with two green businesses, UNpa Engineering and Ino-Solar Energy, which develop and execute a multitude of such CSR-funded projects. They have been installing different forms of cool roofs—a coating on the metal roofs of slum houses, cool roofs on school buildings to help kids have a better learning environment, cool roofs on data server buildings (the cooling of which is a large source of energy demand), and even a cool roof on India’s first LEED platinum temple building. 

Before heading to check out the cool temple, the CEOs of those two companies, Ashwini and Unmesh Jagtap, met Jennifer and I for lunch. As we enjoyed the deliciousness that was served up at the Leopold Cafe, one of our hosts casually pointed out some bullet holes in the wall. Those were left over from the Nov. 26, 2008 Mumbai terrorist attacks, which collectively killed nearly 200 people and wounded 300 more. Mostly everywhere we went in Mumbai (and earlier in Hyderabad, too), we were made to go through a metal detector before being able to enter the premises. If we were getting a ride there, the security guard would check the trunk of the car, too, screening for a potential bomb. It added some tension to what was otherwise a very warm and welcoming society.

At the Siddhivinayak Gonapati Temple site visit—a temple dedicated to the elephant god of intelligence, which is very popular with the locals and visited by thousands of people every day—the security was commensurately high. Photos weren’t really allowed, so you’ll have to forgive the quality of the shot-at-the-hip photos that follow.

Upon entering the temple site, even before the security screening, everyone must remove their shoes, as is customary at all Hindu temples. Then, some of the waiting-in-line area that visitors stand in next is covered by a shade canopy, but the overflow waiting area is exposed to direct sunlight. A few years ago, UNpa Engineering applied a cool paint coating to this overflow area so that the temple-goers bare feet wouldn’t get burned by the hot paved ground surface. It’s in need of a reapplication, but the idea is a great one. We also got a look at the cool roof and solar panels atop the temple, which keep the kitchen below cooler, where offerings of flowers and coconut are turned into sweet treats.

6: Other Mumbai Street Observations

Before leaving India, I thought I’d share a few other fun tidbits from Mumbai.

1. The buses are all-door boarding. They don’t necessarily come to a complete stop, but they slow down enough for people to safely hop on and off them as they roll past the bus stops. Once on board, there’s a roaming fare collector person who collects your 5 rupees (about 7 cents) fare, and can help you figure out when to hop off. Note: there are several languages native to India, but pretty much everyone also speaks English (a leftover from their British colonial rule past) — it makes being a foreign visitor relatively easy.

2. The streets are filled with life. From people getting a shave to people printing out a quick print file, stopping in to a sidewalk temple, or grabbing a bite at any number of street food establishments — the streets are abuzz at all hours of the day.

3. Sidewalk beverages are drank from glass. Fresh fruit juices, chai tea, sugar cane juice — it’s all getting doled out to pedestrians throughout the day, and rather than creating waste with takeaway cups, they’re served in glasses and washed clean for the next customers on the spot.

4. Green infrastructure abounds. High humidity levels help keep greenery green, and the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai comes by with a water tanker once a week to water street plants. Large canopy trees shade buildings and upper level patios, while a net above the sidewalk catches stray leaves to keep sidewalks clean.

5. Saris are beautiful and they are everywhere. When it’s hot out, cotton saris are the sari of choice.

Over and out. Next stop: Tokyo, Japan.

Climate Resolve