Talking about Environmental  Footprint catches a lot of attention these days. But the ones who talk about the Environment really dont see the challenges at ground level. Those who actually work on the challenges dont talk much.

Kartikeya, our next pathbreaker is one of those Environmental Engineers who deals with Environmental challenges on a daily basis . His job is to make sure that every manufacturing plant meets Environmental and Safety compliance standards set forth by regulatory bodies. He talks to us about his passion for the Environment and his job that involves a lot of travel to different manufacturing sites

Shyam Krishnamurthy from The Interview Portal talks to  Kartikeya about his passion for the Environment that trickles into his work everyday.

Kartikeya, tell us about yourself

I grew up in Gadag dist. (Northern Karnataka) where I completed my schooling. My father was a Doctor. So initially I had pretty much made up my mind to follow my dad and become a doctor. Moreover, my elder sister was also studying to become a doctor. But I also had a lot of interest in Aerospace, astrophysics and used to read related books, magazines, newspaper articles, etc.

How did you end up in such an offbeat, unconventional and fascinating career?

I had a habit of going to several libraries during my pre-university college days. During one of those visits, I came across a research paper on the notice board that published an article regarding a specific type of bacteria that absorbs CO2 thereby helping in carbon sequestration. This article raised my curiosity about the environment, and I started doing my research on environmental issues and career opportunities thereafter.

Slowly my interest in environmental issues turned into curiosity. I started searching for “green jobs” and “environmental jobs” to find out the demand for environmental careers. Though I was interested in Aerospace Engineering I was told by a neighbor who worked at HAL that I had to get admission into a reputed institute to get a good job in Aerospace. The other branches of engineering such as Electronics and Mechanical didn’t appeal to me much because everyone else was taking these branches and I wanted to do something different.

What did you study?

So, I decided to take up Environmental Engineering at Adichunchanagiri Institute of Technology, Chikmagalur Dist. affiliated to Visvesvaraya Technological University (VTU), Belgaum. I think what helped me during my college was the innate curiosity that I had for environmental issues. I spent a lot of time following Greenpeace movements, reading magazines and doing online research. I also got involved in signing petitions for Environmental initiatives. I was also a keen follower of Environmental disasters like the Chernobyl and Fukushima nuclear disasters. I used to read a lot of Environmental news about the Koodankulam Nuclear plant. 

I would like to relate to a very interesting experience that I had at my college. During my online research on the Fukushima disaster, I came across an article on how Marijuana could clean water contaminated by radiation. I approached my Physics professor to request him to allow us to try an experiment under a controlled environment to test the effect of Marijuana on controlled doses of radiation. He referred us to a few other institutes specialized in pure sciences. When we approached them, they didn’t entertain our request saying it was a very costly and risky experiment. But we were happy that we tried, and this was our first exposure to water contamination and possible remedies.

During the last year of college, I got an internship at Mysore Paper Mills where we had to treat wastewater contaminated in paper and pulp processes. We did our project on the Electrochemical treatment of the same wastewater to treat it to KSPCB water quality discharge standards. We got a water sample from the industry and we were able to achieve more than 90% effectiveness through Electrochemical treatment. That was a great learning experience for me.

Tell us about your career path

After college, I shifted to Bangalore and started looking for jobs. I also registered at Around this time I got a call for an interview at a company that was in the business of converting waste into energy. Tonnes of waste in Bangalore is converted to compost every day. The company had a huge landfill on the outskirts where they had a plant to generate several 10 megawatts of power from gas produced from wet waste. I was so curious about this company that I visited their site which was 2 km on the outskirts of a village. Due to the nature of their work I could smell an unbearable stench more than a km from the landfill. 

I received 2 offers at that time. One from the Waste Treatment Plant and other from an Integrated Steel plant with 230 MW of thermal power plant in Bellari district. I took the 2nd offer. I joined as a Graduate Engineering Trainee in their Health, Safety & Environment department. Steel plants are one of the biggest polluters of the environment with their massive furnaces and kilns. My first job was to do environmental monitoring and send bi-weekly reports to the regional pollution control board. Environmental monitoring was conducted as detailed below.

1. Air quality monitoring for KSPCB standards:

· Stack emission monitoring (Manual and equipment based/CEMS) 

· Work zone air quality monitoring.

· Ambient air quality monitoring (Manual and equipment based/CEMS)

CEMS (Continuous Emission Monitoring System) – which monitors the emission data 24×7 and access for which has to be given on the company website & shall be connected to the KSPCB’s server @ head office.

2. Water quality monitoring:

· STP (Sewage Treatment Plant – 90 KLD) water quality monitoring for KSPCB discharge standards.

3. Noise level monitoring for different locations as said by KSPCB.

The second job was to look after legal compliances for the environmental aspects of the company.

The treated water from Sewage Treatment Plant was used for gardening, flushing and cooling the kilns, ash handling and suppression of dust on the roads & other dust-generating areas. 

Legal compliance was also involved licensing with KSPCB, Ecology & Environment, Forest Dept. etc.,

We also worked on achieving ISO 140001 certification for the plant. The company hires external consultants for the same. While working from day 01, I was supposed to audit all units concerning their operations to ensure ISO 140001 compliance and present it in the meeting headed by VP – Operations. This was a very important learning experience for me. I worked at the steel plant for about 1.3 years.

I joined XINDIA Steels Pvt. Ltd. My roles and responsibilities here were pretty much the same as in the previous company except for the fact that this was a smaller company and I was in charge of the Environment dept. and had a lot of independence and flexibility in this company. I felt such a change would be beneficial to my career progression.

I worked here for about 1 year until the company shut down. At XINDIA I had exposure to safety compliance (in addition to Environment) as well and this area seemed to complement my expertise in environmental compliance. Typically, large companies would have a separate environment and safety departments while smaller companies would combine the two departments. So I felt I should have exposure to safety as well to broaden my skill set.

This is when I came back to Bangalore and enrolled in an International Safety course (NEBOSH – UK based). After completing the course I joined AVI Solar Energy Pvt. Ltd. as Senior Eng. – EHS which was into EPC & Operation and Maintenance of Solar Power plants in 7 states of India. So this was a great opportunity for me to get into the safety side of things in a company. I was the safety officer and had to a setup safety system from scratch. This too was a great learning experience for me. I left the solar plant in 2017.

I joined AO Smith India Water Products Pvt. Ltd. in Feb.-2017 which was into the manufacturing of Water Purifiers and Water Heaters. My job was to look after all the environmental legal compliances, environmental monitoring, licensing with govt. bodies (KSPCB). My interesting area was to look after WTP (Water Treatment Plant-12KLD) and WWTP (Wastewater Treatment Plants / CETP – Combined Effluent treatment Plant – 85 KLD) and to ensure the treated water meet PCB norms. And our Bengaluru plant won Environment Initiatives Projects for the year 2017 among all 18 plants around the world.

What do you love about your job? What skills should students have for this job?

I would rather use say satisfied when I witnessed the change made by me to the environment which I quite dreamt of. 

Skills required: Basic Science with a good interest in chemistry.

What is a typical day like at AO Smith?

Inspecting WTP & CETP to ensure operational parameters, checking on water quality, waste management, a look on legal compliance tracker/compliance matrix. Updating and follow up routine activities. 

What is your advice to students?

It may not be necessary to study or become Environmental Eng. to make the change and protect the environment but rather working towards sustainable development even by studying mechanical(working on pollution-free transportation technologies), electrical(renewable energy), chemical(eco-friendly chemicals, fuels etc.,), civil(eco-friendly buildings etc.,), polymer(eco-friendly polymers) engineering etc.,. 

If one is pure environmental engineer, then it is better to keep in mind that they have to deal with all kinds of pollution, waste (related legal aspects) of what our civilization has to offer.

You can also google these for more related info.:

Carbon Capture and Sequestration Technologies

Renewable energy, Biofuels 

Global Warming & Climate Change

Sustainability etc.,

Every activity of human beings has an impact on the environment, just think over it!