Monday, 5 August 2013

Sustainability in Religion

On a recent trip to Shirdi, it was interesting to realise how a small town has been built around this particular temple of worship. Tourism in the area is booming with many 3 star and 4 star Meditation and Spa hotels as well as restaurants. Even the popular Italian restaurant “Little Italy” too has found its way to Shirdi! Not to mention the number of shops selling souvenirs such as idols, beads etc. 

For, me, this raises the question as to how a small town such as this, can accommodate these many tourists during the peak season or even throughout the year?  What impact could it have on the natural resources of the area – the electricity load, water taken up and the waste disposed in the area? How does it affect the local people? 

The same queries apply to all the areas where billions of tourists visit every year leading to the need for more accommodations, restaurants and toilets – all of which need plenty of resources (primarily energy and water) and leads to even larger amounts of waste (solid waste and waste water). So are the religious leaders and house of worship itself trying to ensure the eco-balance in these areas and how are they influencing the local public to do the same?

A few months ago, a Ganesha Temple in the city of Coimbatore, decided to set up its own solar panels and became one of the first ever temples to run on solar energy. The electricity generated may be used for all the lighting appliances, cooking food, as well as fans for all the devotees. This act in turn encouraged the rest of the society to explore using solar energy for their own needs. For a state like Tamil Nadu which often suffers from regular power cuts, (up to 16 hours a day!)  and has abundant sunlight (we know that!), this form of energy would help industries function more efficiently. 

In Malayasia, the temple committee sought help from NGOs and ministry to help them set up a solar generator and panels at the Sri Maha Mariamman temple in Sungai Salak in Lukat, Negri Sembilan  which is now the first solar-powered religious edifice in the country.

The growing Muslim community in England decided to set up a Mosque in the city of Cambridge using environmentally sustainable principles. The chairman of the Trust Abdul Hakim Murad stated that the Mosque will be using the latest conservation technology and green roofs so as to ensure that it has a minimal carbon footprint. This project was intended to be Europe’s first ecologically responsible mosque which hopefully would encourage Muslims all over the world to become more environmentally responsible.

In Scotland, Bridge of Allan Church is among 180 eco-congregations  which have made commitments to help the country tackle climate change by encouraging churches to adopt environmentally friendly ways of functioning while engaging the local communities. 

Even the Sikh community in India and abroad have moved towards sustainable practices being encouraged by their Gurudwaras. Dr. Singh ( Eco-Sikh , Convener) stated that “this way of thinking is core to Sikh Theology and now its time to practice the love of air, water and the mother earth as described in the Guru Granth Sahib” and what better way than to practice it in a house of worship.

These are but few of the many examples as to how faith and religion can impact a society and its people and direct them towards a more responsible path. I look forward to many more examples of the same.

It is encouraging to know that Religion is also becoming aware of the need for sustainability and imparting it to the people it influences.

1 comment:

  1. Sustainability IS Religion?
    i remember listening to a radio programme on the wonderful American Public Radio NPR a few years ago that likened the rising environmental consciousness to the rise of a new religion - characterized by a high level of zeal and conviction amongst followers. i am already converted and praying that it doesn't get afflicted with the bigotry and intolerence of the established religions.