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Environmental concerns

Right from its inception, Naval laid down for the Construction Department an "Environmental Policy" committed to a gradual development and continuous improvement in their environmental performance pertaining to civil construction, property projects, wetland waste management and landscaping. In the attention they gave to environmental concerns, Godrej were well in advance of most industries. It is only in the last decade that the construction industry worldwide, in strengthening its commitment to environmental issues, has formed study groups with a view to investigating how industry should modify its behaviour in order to reduce its load on the environment. These groups laid down certain guidelines through a construction industry environment plan. Using this as a base, the industry wanted to strengthen awareness of the concept of Environmental Construction and to involve all industries in making a concerted effort.

In Godrej, however, the Construction Department made it a point from the very beginning to adopt practices which prevent pollution, and that is why Vikhroli, unlike the city which it adjoins, remains clean and green. The Construction Department had to conserve water and other resources, use raw materials that had a less adverse environmental impact, conserve and enhance green cover, and strive to create environmental awareness among their employees, sub-contractors, vendors and the community, in pursuance of the Environmental Policy laid down by the management: "We at Godrej are committed to profitable growth in our business through sustainable development and continual improvement in our environmental performance."

The steps Godrej took towards control of pollution make their name synonymous with clean and sound environmental practices. The late Nozer A. Lentin, who was a Member Secretary (Retd.) to the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board, was appointed in 1980 to conduct a survey of legal and technical problems likely to be faced in the treatment and disposal of effluents. In 1982, a Manager (Environment and Pollution Control) was appointed to attend to the day-to-day work related to environment and pollution control. Data of effluents from the industrial plants was analysed and a feasibility report was prepared. Later, in 1983, an Effluent Treatment Plant (ETP) was established with M/s. Associated Industrial Consultants (AIC) as consultants. An ETP with a capacity of 1,200 cubic metres was commissioned in 1986. In 1987, electroplating effluents were segregated and treated separately in a plant having the capacity of 200 cubic metres per day.

The first Tertiary Sewage Treatment and Recycling Plant was commissioned in 1989 and the second as recently as 1996. At present, 100 cubic metres per day of sewage waste are being treated for re-use in industrial plants and gardens.

A conveyor line in the Godrej Appliances factory, Plant-5, manufacturing Pentacool refrigerators in two different colours simultaneously. Seen in the background are the packing line and the overhead transfer conveyor for Plastic Door Panels.
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In 1995 M/s. AIC Watson were appointed to carry out a detailed study of all aspects of solid waste management in the Godrej industrial premises. Suggestions in a comprehensive report submitted in January 1997 started being implemented. Paint waste, which has been a major source of hazardous wastes, was sent for test incineration to M/s. Bayers India Limited. A procedure was put in place to incinerate the paint sludge and to dispose of the ash generated. A secured landfill for hazardous wastes was constructed.

In 1995 the management decided to apprise all the Divisional Heads and Managers about the Environmental Management System and Environment Audit. K.P. Nyati, Head of the Environment Management Division, Confederation of Indian Industry, was invited to give a presentation to them. Further follow-up was done to initiate action on the Environment Management System and adoption of ISO-14001 standards throughout the Company.

Naval’s emphasis for the Department was on quality, whereby each of the structures would be built to last. He realised that an initial fault in the design or workmanship would involve heavy costs at a later date, which had to be avoided. Thus, by having in-house facilities and capabilities, the Construction Department not only achieved economy, but also quality and reliability. Naval had envisaged from the beginning that the Construction Department would not only undertake new construction projects at Vikhroli, but would also be responsible for their maintenance.

Baria’s appointment in 1948 was followed by H.N. Engineer’s in 1949. The foundation work of Plant-1 was then in progress and work on the construction of Plant-2 had also started. Engineer became the departmental head in 1966 and continued in that capacity until 1971. He was ably assisted by Edul Postwalla. Engineer was followed by Bomi Sethna, who with his 20 years? experience, having joined Godrej in 1951, took over as departmental head in 1971 and continued till 1986. It was then Engineer’s son Maneck’s turn to take over, and deservedly too, for he had been in the service of the Company for 22 years since 1964 and continues to head the Department in the capacity of Vice President to this day.

A system for everything

Progress in construction was slow, but steady. Naval’s habit of adopting a system for everything he did and expecting his workers to follow, was very much in evidence in the construction of manufacturing plants, housing and the Udayachal Schools. After the construction of Plants 1 and 2, construction of other plants was taken up every second year. By 1990, when Naval passed away, 18 factory sheds had been constructed and the last, the 19th, was completed in 1992.

The first housing project for workers was taken in hand in 1951. The project known as Betthi Chawl initiated a brisk programme of housing for workers. There was a break in the speed of construction between 1975 and 1985, when the Urban Land (Ceiling & Regulation) Act 1976 came into force. Otherwise, the going was smooth throughout. As of today, about 4,200 tenements stand erected in different sizes of one/two/three/four-room flats with kitchen, along with a few bungalows for top management executives on the hillside. There are three Godrej housing colonies in Vikhroli, located at the Creekside, Hillside and Station Road, where the employees live comfortably in spacious rooms ?quite unheard of in Mumbai.

Naval had clearly chalked out his construction plans. The land in Vikhroli, measuring over 3,000 acres ?of which approximately 1,800 acres were in the green non-development zone ?were demarcated as under:

  • Factory (Plants): Industrial area approximately 280 acres.
  • Housing in the three colonies at Vikhroli: Area approximately 450 acres.
  • The Udayachal Schools.
  • No-development zone: 58 acres.
  • Lands gifted to Soonabai Pirojsha Godrej Foundation, Gamadia Trust and Ratan Tata Trust: 2,400 acres.
  • Land leased to Godrej Soaps for industrial purposes: 84 acres.
  • Land leased to Godrej Soaps for residential purposes: four acres.

By handling the building of the township themselves, Pirojsha and Naval showed extraordinary foresight. As the area is within Greater Mumbai, it comes under the purview of the development plan, which is revised every 20 years. This revision causes constant headaches, which would have been difficult, almost impossible to remedy, but for the fact that Godrej already had the in-house infrastructure for making representations, sending reminders and subsequently following up. Pirojsha’s and Naval’s foresight brought about rich rewards to their way of planning and thinking, which emphasizes comfortable living for thousands of workers.

Stand while working, sit during the breaks. Godrej workers seen relaxing over lunch in the
newly installed “Green Corners?within the Godrej Appliances factory.
Click here for a larger view

Besides the routine problems the Construction Department faces from day to day, such as procurement of material, labour problems, contractual disputes, delivery delays, etc., the activity of construction itself is of an exceedingly complex nature with costs mounting almost every day. A recurring problem in construction over such a vast area is bringing men and machinery to a particular site and, after completion of the work, shifting them to another site. Mobility of labour and adherence to rigid quality standards complicate the task of quality management (TQM). The task becomes even more complex when contractual arrangements regarding nominations of persons, allocation of duties and responsibilities lead to change in results. The Construction Department has not only to be custom-oriented and cost-competitive, but has to ensure that any kind of finished structure commands a premium with customers accepting it only on the basis of quality.