An RWA that is used to flying colours

Hyderabad’s Vayupuri Colony adds yet another feather to its cap with ISO 14001-2015 Certification for environmental management

"Old soldiers never die, they simply fade away," goes an old English catchphrase. But here is a case of old solders who not only refuse to fade away but are also making life bright and resplendent for the denizens of their residential colony.

The Air Force Officers’ Cooperative Housing Society, in Hyderabad, more popularly known as Vayupuri, has been in the news for reasons more than one, serving as a model RWA and winning several national and international accolades over the years.

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Vayupuri boasts of wide appraoch roads and greenery
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Wing Commander T J Reddy receiving the ISO Certification Award
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Clear road signs dot the colony

By virtue of being the first residential colony for retired Air Force officers in the country, Vayupuri has served as the template for several other such settlements for retired armed forces personnel across the county. And with membership being thrown open to non-forces members also, over the years it has strengthened its character as an ideal living space for all, civilians included.

But resting on their laurels is not a habit for these retired soldiers and their neighbours. The latest feather in their cap is an ISO 14001:2015 Certification by the Geneva-based International Organization for Standardization, making Vayupuri the first residential colony in the Telangana to achieve such recognition for its environmental management systems.

But in the first place why was it necessary to get such a certification that too in environmental management, and what impact has the process to get it made on the colony? 

Ageing and Aged

“The society had all the essentials of a good colony. It only needed some impetus for growth of facilities and further development apart from institutionalizing the process for sustaining the good work,” Wing Commander T J Reddy, (retd) President Vayupuri told Tarnaka Times.

More importantly, it is to be recognized that Vayupuri is both an “ageing and aged” colony, he said explaining that 82% of the residents were senior citizens of whom 25% were super senior citizens. This apart, given its age, the infrastructure and facilities in the 57 year old colony too need constant attention for which setting up processes and documenting them is essential. The ISO Certification helps with that task.

The colony was audited for adherence to environmental quality standards by the Academy for Skills Development and Consultation which assessed it for almost a year before awarding the certification.

But clearly it is not a one-time effort and the management will be scrutinized every year and the certification comes up for re-audit once every three years. This ensures that we are on top of the processes, explained Wing Commander Reddy.

Community Engagement

Spread over 50 acres Vajypuri comprises some 210 dwelling plots of various sizes. In early 2015 the seven member management committee set out to revitalize the colony. One of the first projects it took up was to spruce up the recreation centre by adding a kitchen and dining hall in a bid to increase resident engagement. “As expected life became slowly vibrant and there was more resident participation in activities,” he explained.

Subsequently, the colony got involved in the Swachh Bharat initiative ensuring that all aspects of hygiene and cleanliness were taken care of. The effort did not go unnoticed. It stood the first among the RWAs awarded Best Colony Award by the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC), in recognition of the rainwater harvesting structures put up by the management. 

So there was enough motivation to take forward the good work. Continuing the initiative they also put in place measures to ensure a plastic free environment, compost pits for recycling wet and green waste. This was followed by a good club house, a swimming pool and an indoor badminton court, all funded from donations from a few members apart from a colony-wide security system that is perhaps the best in the city. 

One of the major projects taken up by the Colony in continuation of its environmental initiatives is the installation of a solar energy system for the offices (3KW), the club house and swimming pool (24 KW), that has not only reduced its carbon footprint but also effectively brought down electricity costs over the months since it was set up.

Seeing is Believing

Impressive by any standards the moot question however is how does one inspire the community not just to accept but also to participate in developmental activities of an RWA?

Wing Commander Reddy has a simple answer.  Seeing is believing, he stressed. When you are able to demonstrate that you are doing better than what already exists, support for your efforts is always forthcoming from stakeholders. “Once the members saw the beautiful environs that came up, the beautiful roads, the greenery and the facilities, there was no way they could say no to our initiatives”, he added.

Moreover, as long as you do not burden members with demands for money they are happy with the work done. To this effect the Vayupuri management ensured enough revenues were generated by leasing out space for three nurseries in the colony and advertising boards. This apart, donations from a few generous members sustained some big ticket projects. The entire maintenance and improvement of the colony is funded through this alternative revenue generation model. So not surprisingly, cooperation and appreciation for the work done is quite natural.

But having set up the process and getting certified by ISO, how does the Society plan to ensure it is able to sustain the standards? Getting the ISO certification is the easier part of the process than ensuring you sustain it, cautions Wing Commander Reddy. So to that extent it helps that the certificate is re-validated every year to ensure that we are following the processes, and after three years there will be a re-audit for a fresh certificate, he explains.

So clearly, Vayupuri is set for a great innings going ahead having established a model for sustaining an environment friendly colony.

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