We are focused on long-term solutions,not short-term profitMahendra Man Shakya is the managing director at Sustainable Eco Engineering (SEE) Pvt Ltd, an engineering company dedicated to providing sustainable, green solutions.
Mahendra Man Shakya is the managing director at Sustainable Eco Engineering (SEE) Pvt Ltd, an engineering company dedicated to providing sustainable, green solutions. Founded in 2009, SEE has been delivering innovative, eco-friendly alternatives—such as solar energy-powered water pumps for irrigation, affordable rainwater harvesting systems, early flood warning systems, among others—not just to villages in Nepal, but also in India, Pakistan and Afghanistan. In 2014, the company was presented with the Momentum for Change Award by the UN Framework Convention for Climate Change for its Community Based Flood Early Warning System (CBFEWS). The Post’s Marissa Taylor spoke with Shakya about SEE’s award-winning flood warning system, the government’s role in encouraging ventures like SEE, and the role of SEE in disaster risk reduction. Excerpts:
Can you tell us a little bit about SEE? How did it come to be?
SEE is a socially responsible organisation that provides sustainable solutions in the energy sector.
It was developed by a board of like-minded individuals who wanted to deliver technologies for community development and disaster prevention support. SEE was established with the vision to design and develop sustainable systems engineered for perpetuating social and environmental welfare and progress.
What kind of services does SEE provide?
We provide primary engineering solutions to different social organisations, such as ICIMOD, Oxfam GB, UN Habitat, Environmental Camps for Conservation Awareness, Rotary Nepal, Nick Simon’s Institute, etc. Our services include providing consultation for engineering solutions; providing research, design and development of solutions; and providing alternative energy and energy management systems. We provide various green energy solutions, energy monitoring systems, hydrology and meteorology monitoring systems, safe drinking water systems, rain water harvesting systems, automated technology, etc.
Can you tell us a bit about your award-winning Community Based Flood Early Warning System (CBFEWS)? How does it work?
CBFEWS is an integrated system that detects the possibilities of flood in the upstream of rivers, generates flood signals and immediately transmits signals to the cloud and warns people living in the downstream of the impending emergency. It is a low-cost technology that gives people close to real-time information about upcoming floods and provides guidance on how to respond to the warning. The concept was founded by ICIMOD back in 2010. We collaborated with them to develop and materialise the idea. The pilot was successfully implemented in Assam, in 2010, along the Jiadhal and Singora rivers, which successfully and timely warned many of the upcoming floods.
Where else have you implemented the CBFEWS?
CBFEWS started as a national-level programme, but today it has gone regional. In Nepal, the system is deployed along different rivers in places like Bardibas, Sarpallo and Khokana. Outside of Nepal, the system is placed in the rivers of India (in Assam), Afghanistan (in Baglang), and Pakistan (Gilgit).
How important a role do you think companies such as yours plays in disaster risk reduction in a country like Nepal, which is geographically prone to natural disasters and to the impacts of climate change?
We provide solutions that are low-cost. We look at providing immediate action and avoid any form of harm. Companies such as ours play a very important role in lessening disaster risk, especially in poor countries like Nepal, because we provide information beforehand to locals, which helps avert the consequences of major disasters. For a country like Nepal, which does not have the means necessary to aptly deal with disasters after they have unfolded, systems such as ours become crucial to saving lives and livelihoods. Whether it be in the form of providing early monitoring systems or providing other forms of sustainable solutions, our focus is always on finding lasting, environmental-friendly solutions.
Businesses are all about making profit. How do you balance profit-making with providing sustainable, affordable solutions for people?
We are focused on providing sustainable services to our society, and run on a very low-profit making scheme. We work for the benefit of society and in turn, get paid a certain sum, which is a win-win for all parties involved. We are more focused on providing long-term solutions, not short-term profit.
How can local and other government agencies work with companies like yours to create safer communities?
Local-level governments should adapt disaster risk reduction measures and work with private companies like ours to mitigate environmental problems that have already started taking place around us. If the government could come up with provisions that would help all parties then we could provide viable, sustainable solutions to a lot of pressing issues, such as clean drinking water solutions, irrigation, etc.
What are the current technological bottlenecks that you currently face?
There are quite a few problems that we, as a small company, have to face on a day-to-day basis. We develop and manufacture all our products, and so, it is very difficult for us to import new material. There is also a lack of clear and proper policies, a lack of infrastructure, a lack of proper transportation, and inadequate and ambiguous import/export policies. If the government could subsidise certain products for us that we have to import paying extremely high taxes, it would not only be a great help for companies like ours but also to the environment. Local authorities have to own such problems as their own, and then only will we be able to make a difference.
What is SEE’s long-term vision?
SEE’s long-term vision is to see energy and the environment being used sustainably. As for our short-term goals, we hope to develop water-level monitoring systems, implement sustainable urban water planning systems and provide city designs for clean water solutions for everyone. We also hope to work in building smart cities and smart villages soon.