Pakistani innovators win $10000 UN Environment grant

BANGKOK: Two young Pakistani innovators have excelled in becoming the recipients of a UN Environment grant worth US$10,000 to support their efforts to make lifestyles more sustainable.

As winners of the Asia Pacific Low Carbon Lifestyles Challenge in the Energy Efficiency and Low Carbon Mobility categories, respectively, Mohammed Saquib and Hassam Ud-din will also receive business and marketing training from global experts, and pitch to win an additional US$10,000 prize to further augment their ideas.

In this regard, the UN Environment’s Director for the Asia-Pacific region, Dechen Tsering, said, “Young innovators like Mohammed and Hassam are examples of the ingenuity we need to tackle some of the world’s biggest problems”. He added, I’m particularly excited to see that both of their solutions are geared toward helping some of the poorest among us.

Applauding the performance of the due, he maintained that improving lifestyles across Asia and the Pacific must be an inclusive endeavour, and Mohammed and Hassam are demonstrating how we can get it done.

Saquib’s business, Modulus Tech, produces energy efficient, low-cost modular flat-pack housing built from recycled materials.

Pakistan’s housing shortage is up to 10 million units, and there is a large market for low-cost housing, including in refugee and displaced persons camps.

Saquib’s houses come with all electrical and plumbing utilities built-in and are meant to be assembled in as little as 3 hours. Built from recyclable materials such as fibre cement composites and wood plastic composites, components have a 30-year lifespan and a carbon footprint up to 52 times lower than traditional concrete homes. The insulative material also makes the houses energy efficient. Saquib estimates they are 3 times more energy efficient than alternatives on the market.

Saquib said, “We saw one of the worst refugee crises in the world hits its peak in 2016. Millions were displaced, and many were left homeless and exposed to extreme climate and social problems in makeshift camps and shelters. My team and I felt we could use our engineering knowledge to help. We realized an affordable, quick-to-assemble flat-pack shelter could greatly improve the lot of those displaced. I’m happy to use this UN Environment grant to bring our technology to more people who need it.”

Hassam Ud-din is aiming to fix a different scarcity: affordable, efficient transport infrastructure. Despite only 17% car ownership, Pakistan’s cities often face acute traffic jams and congestion, generating enormous amounts of pollution. While higher vehicle ownership is not sustainable, many areas without a high volume of passengers and goods are bypassed altogether by transit lines. At the same time, most cars and trucks on the road operate at 30% capacity, leaving 70% capacity up for grabs. Ud-din’s solution comes in the form of an app called RASAI, which allows for peer-to-peer sharing of a vehicle’s extra space and seats, offering inter-city ridesharing and freight-shipping capabilities.

Hassam Ud-din said, “It is often said that mobility is the single most important factor for an individual to escape poverty. I’ve seen people’s opportunities limited by the availability of transit routes that they can use. On the other hand, road congestion is horrendous. Millions of hours and billions of rupees worth of fuel are wasted sitting in traffic, while most vehicles only use 30% of their space capacity. If these inefficiencies can be removed, we could see unprecedented economic benefit for the developing world.” 

The Asia-Pacific Low-Carbon Lifestyles Challenge aims to mobilize and support young people with business ideas on how to foster energy-efficient, low-waste and low-carbon lifestyles.


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