Friday, 30 March 2012

Hybrid Power Plants

Anyone who has visited Tamil Nadu in the past several months would have understood what kind of living hell it is to be without power.

Most of the places in Tamil Nadu, for the past several months, go without power for as long as ten hours each day.

The TN government is aggressively going in for more Thermal Plants and Nuclear Power Plants. Hardly the sustainable answer to our problems.

The sustainable answers such as Wind, Solar have limitations and we are constantly challenging ourselves to overcome these limitations.

The hybrid power plant is one more step towards this. Will this gain wide acceptance?

Thursday, 29 March 2012

Organic Farming & Sustainable Future

I recently read a very interesting article on “Organic Farming in India: Relevance, Problems and Constraints”. This is fairly dated and old about 7 years old yet most of the points mentioned in this paper are still valid and pertinent.

The document is about 95 pages long, but every bit of it is eminently readable.

Most of the “Certified” organic produce from India is exported at a very attractive price for the farmer. But a sad reflection of our Farming industry in India is that due to high input cost of Conventional farming (with Chemical fertilizer / pesticide), majority of our farmers are “By-default Organic”. However, for the only reason that they are not able to afford the certification fees, they are missing out on the bonanza they may get on the price front.  

There are various solutions to this problem and one of the solutions is a community based certification. However, since there is a big price advantage, very soon compulsions of politics, bribery and favouritism can kill the credibility of the initiative. Therefore this may be at best a limited time solution and the long term solution would be a less painful and more robust certification mechanism that is affordable / reachable by all farmers.

On a positive note, we are awakening to the fact that India was the pioneer in Sustainable farming practices. It is just a matter of time before India gets back her past pride.

Using bamboo for carpentry work.

This is a great article I came across a couple of years back, but which I think is still very relevant for India.  Bamboo grows all over India, but is a difficult wood to work with as its shape and structure limits its usability.  Here is a machine invented by a Imli Toshi north eastern India that prepares Bamboo logs for carpentry work.  The machine removes the knots, does the planning and polishing of the surface of the Bamboo so as to prepare it for usage.  This is a great innovation for a country that has plenty of Bamboo but little timber resources.

Sustainable construction

Here is an article on sustainable construction and how to ensure longevity in our buildings.  The articles highlights the need to choose good materials when contructing the building, but more importantly, proper maintenance of the building is ensured.  This is one area where a lot of improvement can be made in India, as most buildings are left with little or no care pas the first few years.  The article points out that diligent maintenance can double the life time of a building. 

Friday, 23 March 2012

Destroying the entrepreneur in you - a.k.a. killing the golden goose

In my earlier post, I had mentioned how removed we are from the original thought line the father of our nation had. Sarvodaya as the true Sustainable movement and how our economic policies have taken us in a totally diametric way.

The only way to go is to have Sustainability as a Mantra in Budget

For several years of our country’s economic was labelled as progressive and liberal. Now we seem to have hit the speed breaker suddenly. And that too while travelling at full speed.

There is a growing concern that our country’s administration has come to a standstill; economy is seeing a negative growth; people are artificially propped above poverty line by adjusting the poverty line. 

Just when you think that things cannot go any further wrong, comes this year’s budget. The Finance minister does fancy accounting. With the burgeoning expenses and keeping the Direct taxes constant, where do we go for the extra cash. Indirect taxes is the answer. 

Now the FM has gone one step ahead in his creative accounting and logic. They have started taxing on the investments. A classic case of killing the golden goose!!! 

It is a reminder to us that our fight for sustainable future is not such an easy one.

Thursday, 15 March 2012

Changes in Indian Law

A Few rulings over the last few months have given every Indian citizen something to cheer about and bring some hope that we can move towards a future where bureaucratic impunity can be eradicated and politicians held accountable for their actions. 

Of course, the cancellation of the 2G licences last month is one such ruling that has taken India by storm.  What a slap in the face of the govt. and loss of international credibility... but aside from this, 2 more rulings are brought to light in the article below.  The first pertains to a previous law that said that any court case filed against an active public official would require the approval of their political masters.  This was primarily used by politicians to protect their corrupt cronies.  The recent ruling passed says that should not approval be given within 4 months of the initial request, it will be deemed to have been approved.

The other verdict passed states that every citizen of has the right to petition for actions against public servants suspected of corrupt practices.

Could these two ruling be yet another Tsunami onto the political shores of India such as what the RTI Act has created?

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Sarvodya - The Gandhian way of Sustainability

The word sustainability has gained currency in the past few years and is as fashionable as “Paradigm Shift” was in the last decade. We certainly need to worry that the concept of Sustainability will not share the same fate of ridicule that “Paradigm shift” suffered.

But let us not fear too much. The concept of sustainability is as old as Bharata Varsh and the vedas. It is just that we Indians have forgotten it. 

The concept of “Lokah Samastha Sukhino Bhavanthu” encapsulates definition and meaning of Sustainability in four concise words. Lokah – World; Samastha – Community; Sukhino – Happiness; Bhavanthu – May there be. 

The dream of Sustainability somehow got lost in the myriad of Socialism that Independent India pursued much against the wishes and dreams of Gandhiji and other Gandhians.

Sarvodya, the Gandhian concept of sustainability, literally meant “Rising of all”. To me, Sarvodya meant providing “Dignity of living to all human beings”.

In the sixty seven years of independence, India has not been able to provide even one of the fundamental needs:
  • Food
  • Healthcare
  • Education

No wonder Vinobha Bhave spewed scorn at the Planning Commission and their numerous five-yearplans. A dozen such plans later we are still struggling.

World across we have seen uprising against disparate growth. Sustainable growth has to be the answer. 

Independent India has followed Socialism in the beginning and Capitalism towards the end and both times with disastrous effect. Possibly it is time that we looked inwards for the solution. Can Sarvodya be the answer? Here is an article that does a deep-dive into the subject of Sarvodya.

On the eve of this year's Budget presentation, it is apt to publish this article. A look at what real sustainability is and what we have been missing all these years.

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Tata Megapixel delivers 900km on a full tank

Wow, what a cool car Tata Motors unveiled on the geneva motor show.  The Megapixel sits 4, and is all electric drive vehicle, 1 motor in each wheel.  It has a petrol engine (325cc) to keep the battery charged.  The result in 900km between refills or recharge.  The other very cool thing is that the wheels drive in opposite direction (like a battle tank) when turning so you can do U turns within 2.8m.

Boats on air!

A nice innovation from Europe could soon see boats ride on a cushion of air, reducing the friction of the hull in the water, saving energy and allowing for faster travel.... way to go!

On the surface the boat has a strange flat hull... and cool name! :)

 ...but below the surface it's a totally different story.

Monday, 5 March 2012

Farming fish in paddy fields!

I found this article some time back about intercropping in an original way.  Apparently there is a tradition in some Chinese rice growing regions to farm fish in flooded paddy fields.  The interesting part about this article is the report on the scientific research that was done to study the advantages to both rice and fish farming when compared to monoculture.  The results are stupendous.  It is one thing to have some cool innovation, but when the innovation renders such incredible results, the world ought to sit up and pay attention.

If you think fish in a pond you think insects being gobbled up from the water surface and you think lots of pooh-pooh at the bottom of the pond.  Well in the case of rice paddy this is good news.  The fish swim and bump into the rice stems which causes insect to drop in the water... insects that would otherwise eat the rice.  The fish waste product fertilises the rice.  the research showed that when compared to commercial rice cultivation, the intercrop rice needed a whopping 70% less pesticides and 30% less fertiliser to produce the same yield.  In case of organic rice, yield in intercrop paddy where higher than the monoculture equivalent.  As for the fish, the extra shade provided by all the rice stalks made for a cooler environment which was beneficial  to the growth of the fish during the hot season.   For more info on the scientific report, read here.

What an Idea I say!!