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About one million green jobs will open up in India over next two years

When he was little, Jai Kumar Gaurav wanted to be a superhero, an imaginary Captain Planet who fights pollution and greens the Earth. Unlike most other little boys, Jai, 24, actually lives his dream. He joined Sindicatum Capital Management as an associate in 2008, and works as a clean development mechanism (CDM) management officer to help firms reduce their Carbon footprint. “I could have chosen to do an MBA, but a clean environment is my priority,” says Jai, about graduating in environmental studies from Delhi University, and later completing his masters in environmental science from the university run by The Energy Resources Institute (TERI).

Like Jai, there are many youngsters today who are drawn to — and engaged in — what are known as ‘green jobs’.

By 2025, a United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Report from 2008 estimates that India will see the creation of nine lakh green jobs in the area of biogas alone. (The global market for environmental products and services is projected to go up to $2.74 trillion).

In India alone, headhunters estimate about one million green jobs will open up over the next two years alone. “Earlier, the manufacturing sector used to hire health, safety and environment officers to ensure adequate protection. Now such positions are opening up across sectors, and some companies are even hiring chief sustainability officers,” says E Balaji, director and president, Ma Foi Randstad.

Green jobs, as defined by UNEP, refers to work in agricultural, manufacturing, research and development or administrative activities that contribute to preserving environmental quality, and help in protecting the ecosystem and biodiversity. They may include architects designing energy-efficient buildings, organic farmers in villages, environmental engineers or even plumbers installing water-recycle systems. While green architecture, mechanical and chemical engineering, biotechnology and environmental management are the most lucrative and sought-after professions in the new, green sector, policy-making for renewable energy and natural resources management is not far behind.

There are enough enablers as well. The Suzlon group, a pioneer in exploring renewable energy sources, signed an MoU with TERI University in March 2009, to institute an MTech in Renewable Energy Engineering and Management. Rajeev Seth, its Registrar, says the need for sustainable development has sensitised a corpus of scientists, managers and leaders to the importance of environmental protection.

From just 48 students in 2006, the university now has 260, with the promise of an average pay packet of Rs4.5-5 lakh per annum up from Rs2.5 lakh in 2006. “Almost all our students have been placed in companies like TCS, Reliance Infrastructure and IL&FS, and are involved in green activities,” adds Seth.

One of the biggest future recruiters in green jobs is likely to be real estate, with green buildings coming up fast. A recent study by Jones Lang LaSalle (JLL) estimates that 45 million square feet of additional green building-space in India will be ready by 2012. Companies like Wipro, Microsoft, Cognizant, TCS, Infosys and Oracle are either operating — or planning to — from green offices, says the study. “There will be a huge demand for people who can certify green buildings, and architects and project planners who are adept in green building norms,” says JLL head (research & intelligence service) Abhishek Kiran Gupta