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UNION BUDGET 2014-2015: GREEN SHOOTS

Arun-Jaitley

– Will leave no stone unturned to create a vibrant India.

– We wish to provide an investment friendly taxation system: Arun Jaitley

– We are targetting 7-8% growth rate: Jaitley

– The steps I will announce are beginning of journey we wish to take for macro economic stabilisation: Jaitley

– There are green shoots of recovery in global economy, says Jaitley.

– People have voted for a change; India desires to grow says (FM) ArunJaitley.

– Solar Power equipment manufactured in India to become cheaper.

– Clean Energy cess increased from Rs 50/ tonne to Rs 100/tonne.

– Basic custom duty on LED panel below 19 inches made nil.

– Organic farming will be promoted in North East.

– NRI fund for conservation of river Ganga to be set up.

– Biotech clusters to be set up in Bengaluru, Faridabad to take science and technology to new heights.

– Rs 100 crore for cleaner thermal power technology.

– Ultra modern power projects to be taken up in Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Ladakh with Rs 500 crore.

– FM proposes to set up `hastkala academy` for revival of handicraft, Rs 30 crore set aside.

– Govt will initiate scheme to provide a soil health card; Rs 100 crore set aside.

– Rs 15,000 crore allocated for urban renewal, which will address drinking water, use of recycled water.

– MNREGA will be made more productive. It will be linked to agriculture-related activities.

– Rs 3,600 crore set aside for National Rural Drinking Water.

– FM proposes to launch “Swach Bharat Abhiyaan”.

– `Pradhanmantri krishi sichayin yojana` to be started for irrigation.

– A national multiscale programme called Skill India to be introduced to provide training and support for employment.

INDIA: The only country with Legislated (CSR) Corporate Social Responsibility

lion-symbole-national-Inde

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is seen as a smart way to conduct business, making corporate entities into socially responsible citizens, visibly contributing to the social good. Socially responsible companies do not limit themselves to using their resources to engage in activities that increase only profits. They use CSR to integrate economic, environmental and social objectives into the company’s operations and growth. The concept of CSR has evolved over the years, especially in India—now the only country with legislated CSR!

With this new Companies Bill in India, it will hopefully motivate organisations to undertake CSR proactively. Organisations realise that the government here cannot alone uplift society and needs help from businesses. Under this Act, most firms with sizeable business are required to shell out at least two per cent of their three year annual average net profit towards CSR works. According to industry estimates, around 8,000 companies will fall into the remit of the CSR provisions; this would translate into an estimated CSR spend of $1.95 billion to $2.44 billion. Plus, with higher economic growth and increase in company’s profits, this mandatory spending will go up. While many big companies have been actively engaged in CSR activities, the number is low, and this new law will lead to a significant increase in the numbers.

Moreover, the Indian government has made it clear whether promoting healthcare can be considered as a social welfare spending activity by companies. And CSR activities would have to be within India. Livelihood enhancement and rural development projects, working towards protection of national heritage, art and culture, including restoration of buildings and sites of historical importance and works of art, setting up public libraries, promotion and development of traditional arts and handicrafts—all come under CSR.

Various activities aimed at reducing inequalities faced by socially and economically backward groups have been included. Measures for the benefit of armed forces veterans, war widows and their dependents, setting up homes and hostels for women and orphans, setting up of old age homes, day care centres and such other facilities for senior citizens would be considered as CSR work. Other CSR activities include ensuring ecological balance, protection of flora and fauna, animal welfare, agro-forestry, conservation of natural resources and maintaining quality of soil, air and water.

By providing more clarity on standardising the meaning of CSR in the Indian context and providing a favourable policy environment, the initiatives can be strengthened. These definitive steps undertaken by the Indian government imply that if companies employ CSR strategically, it can lead to achieving more sustainable businesses. By creating a pool of resources, whether financial or technical, a win-win situation is within reach of all the stakeholders involved. The mandatory reporting standards introduced in this Companies Bill will strengthen and create uniformity, accountability of actions and will measure the impact of these activities.

SOLAR ATMs – Transforming Rural Banking

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In India, semi-urban and rural areas that contribute to a majority of the landscape, are often impacted by the lack of power and non-availability of ATM fit notes. Since normal ATMs consume high power, require air-conditioners and ATM fit currencies, banks find it difficult to deploy ATMs in such places.

In order to address this problem, Vortex developed a solar ATM that not only consumes less power, but is also operational without air-conditioners. Moreover, it takes care of soiled teller grade notes as well.

According to the CEO of Vortex, Vijay Babu, more and more banks are now coming forward to deploy these ATMs. In the initial stage, at least 400 solar ATMs called gramatellers, were installed in 17 states of the country. The State Bank of India, owing to its exemplary performance and substantial energy savings, played a pioneering role in promoting it.

IndusInd Bank was the first private bank in India to launch the solar-powered ATM at their Opera House branch in Mumbai. While the Catholic Syrian Bank has placed an order for 50 gramatellers, Bank of Maharashtra and City Union Bank are adopting solar ATMs too. From 2010 to 2013, the number of such ATMs has increased to 100 and now, they are present in different parts of the country.

Vortex, which is looking to venture into Asia, is likely to install 5,000 solar ATMs in India by 2015. Elaborating on the measures that need to be taken to reduce the cost of deploying ATM machines, Babu adds that there is a need for technological advancements to address such issues.

Solar ATM

In order to function smoothly, all that the gramateller requires is merely five hours of good sunshine per day, as it uses solar panels to convert sun rays into electrical energy. During the day, the facility uses solar power and in the same time, spare batteries are also charged. These batteries provide power to the ATM in the absence of sunlight, while the extra power generated during the day is exported to an internal grid for other uses. It is the solar inverter and charge controller which manages the switch between solar, battery and grid power. The complete functioning of the system is monitored from a distant area. A single gramateller unit saves over ninety per cent of the annual expenditure of maintaining a traditional ATM, half of whose annual bill of ` 1,44,000 (US$2,530) goes in air-conditioning, electricity and generator running prices.

The ATMs survive power fluctuations too since there is a built-in battery back-up for four hours. They can also function in temperatures ranging from 0 to 50 degree centigrade and without air-conditioning.

According to reports, the government is now planning to start a mini-banking facility in each of India’s 600,000 villages, with an aim of opening about 25 million savings accounts in villages.

Meanwhile, Washington-based World Bank’s International Finance Corporation (IFC) has predicted that by 2015, the ATM market in India is expected to grow three-fold.

Solar-powered plane to make round-the-world trip next year

Come 2015, India and rest of the world can see the first aircraft that is powered by solar energy and can fly non-stop.

The aircraft, to be unveiled in a few months from now, will make a round-the-globe trip next year, showcasing the latest technology in various countries where it will have stopovers, according to Switzerland-based company Solar Impulse, which is manufacturing it.

The plane, weighing around 2,740 kg, will be powered by 12,000 solar cells and can fly at the speed of 70 kms per hour.

It can fly day and night continuously, collecting energy from the Sun, the company’s CEO Andre Borshberg told PTI here.

Maintaining that the plane will have only one pilot as of now, he said that while the aircraft can fly continuously day and night, “the limiting factor is the pilot. He cannot sustain endlessly and has to take rest.”

The around-the-world sojourn will be for three months, with the total flight time being 20-25 days and nights.

The journey will begin somewhere in the Middle East and the flight’s first destination will be India.

“We hope to make two stops in India – one on west coast and another in the east – before the aircraft goes to Myanmar,” said the CEO, who is here in connection with preparations for making the India-part of the sojourn a high-profile event.

Solar_Impulse_flight

The longest non-stop flight of five days and five nights will be across the Pacific Ocean, he said.

“The goal is to make an aircraft which has unlimited endurance. It is a human challenge also….besides making the aircraft which is very efficient in energy and energy savings,” he said, adding it should “become an ambassador of what we can do with this technology.”
Explaining the motive behind the initiative which is being supported by the Swiss government, the CEO of Solar Impulse said, “The goal is to inspire people, the young generation about what is possible, about the potential of technology.”

Borschberg said the experiment is to show how renewable energy can be used and energy consumption reduced.

“If we can use renewable energy on an airplane, we can certainly use it on the ground, where it is much more simple,” he said.

He said the aircraft has such technology which makes it efficient with reduced energy consumption that enables it to fly day and night continuously. The same technology can be used on buildings and cars, he said.

“We hope to showcase the technology in India to attract young generation which could help young generation to realise their own dreams,” he said.

Borschberg said the company would gauge the interest of the Government of India and is looking for big industrial houses to host it.

“We hope to do communication in India. We want students to see the pioneering technology,” he added. Pitching for greater use of solar energy, which is clean and renewable form of energy, Borschberg said it can be more useful in remote and hot areas.

It can be used in providing electricity to buildings and power to cars. Solar panels used on this plane can also be used on satellites, he said. “The potential of this technology is immense,” he added.

On why the usage of solar energy is not spreading, the company’s chief said cost of power could be factor. At the same time, he said the high cost of power could be during the initial period and in the long run, it will be worth investing.

He said some Chinese companies have already started pulling down the prices by producing energy at low cost.

“Solar Power” to take-over Coal this decade in India

Coal contributes 60 percent to India’s power mix today; solar is less than 1 percent. But what was a factor-of-seven difference between the cost of coal and solar two years ago shrank this summer to just a 1.8 x gap. Can solar catch up within the next ten years?

The answer to this lies in domestic solar power, both centralized and distributed, built relatively fast at any size and requiring less than 1 percent of the nation’s land. Four factors have to come into play, though, for solar to truly supplant coal in India in the next decade.

– Looking at longer-term costs: Getting solar costs down to INR 5/kWh in the next couple of years, and lower beyond that, will require improved materials, production, and efficiencies, but long-term solar costs are heading downward. Costs of non-replenishing fossil fuels including coal, meanwhile, will increasingly depend on foreign supply and demand markets.

– Costs of infrastructure and grid management: As an infirm power source, solar’s higher incorporation will require extra investments in a number of areas from storage to demand response. On the other hand, adding more coal plants and imports will mean more infrastructures in mining and a supply chain for imports. It’s still unclear how those all will compare.

– Measuring externalities: Beyond simple end market pricing, coal has several arguable cost-adders that should be factored in, most notably pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, water usage, soil degradation, etc. Factoring in all costs will increasingly be important.

Sambhar Ultra Mega Green Solar Power Project

Sambhar Ultra Mega Green Solar Power Project

India’s government has unveiled plans to build an “ultra mega” 4 GW solar power plant in the northwestern state of Rajasthan.

According to the government, the plant will be built on a 23,000-acre (9308 ha) site close to Sambhar Lake, about 75 km from Jaipur, the state capitol.

“Being the first project of this scale anywhere in the world this project is expected to set a trend for large scale solar power development in the world,” the government said in a statement. The plant’s proposed capacity is around three times India’s current total solar power production.

The project, called the Sambhar Ultra Mega Green Solar Power Project, is the brainchild of the Ministry of Heavy Industry, which said it expects to complete the 1-GW first phase – 10 times larger than the largest operational Indian solar power plant – by the end of 2016.

“The first phase of the project is expected to be implemented through a joint venture company to be formed with equity from BHEL, Solar Energy Corporation of India, Power Grid Corporation, Satluj Jal Vidyut Nigam and Rajasthan Electronics and Instruments Ltd,” the ministry said. The five companies are state-owned.

“Based on the experience gained during implementation of the first phase of project, the remaining capacity would be implemented through a variety of models,” the ministry continued.

The majority of solar projects in India, developed under the auspices of the Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission, are located in Rajasthan. The state is India’s largest, with high insolation, a strong grid and state-owned land banks for grid-connected solar projects.

India aims to install around 20 GW of grid-connected solar power by 2022. According to reports, theMinistry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) has outlined a plan to produce large amounts of solar power in the desert regions of Rajasthan and Gujarat in the next 10 years.

The Prime Minister’s office has reportedly authorised an investigation into areas of desert “wasteland” suitable for building 1-GW solar projects. According to MNRE, India’s entire electricity demand for 2012 could be met if “mega” solar projects were built on just 5 percent of the nation’s unused desert land.

India is expected to add 2.8 GW of solar capacity in 2014, the result of solar power auctions in 2012 and early 2013. Rajasthan has auctioned 75 MW of PV capacity this year, with projects to be commissioned by 2015.

The nation currently has a total of 1761 MW of grid-connected solar capacity.

Feel Proud to be an INDIAN..!!

Entire village in India relocates so Nature can move in.

tiger_village

Up until recently, the village of Ramdegi was a bustling farming community in central India’s Tadoba-Andhari Tiger Reserve. Today, the village’s human population stands at exactly zero, though its streets and fields are now teeming with a different kind of life.

As part of an ongoing effort to reduce human conflict with wildlife, the Indian government has been encouraging communities living in and around nature reserves to relocate for the sake of peaceful coexistence — and last month, everyone in Ramdegi did just that. Around 200 families agreed to accept incentive packages to move beyond the reserve’s borders, freeing the land to be reclaimed by the surrounding biodiversity.

It didn’t take long before the village, now completely void of people, to be filled anew. A little over four weeks after the last human departed, Ramdegi is now home to herds of bisons, deer, antelope, and boars — grazing on the budding meadows that were once cropland and cattle farms.

Predators too, once reviled by villagers for killing their livestock, are returning to Ramdegi. According to the Times of India, even a tiger has been spotted prowling the grounds of the empty village, free from dangerous and often deadly conflicts with humans that have driven the species to ‘endangered’ status.

This is not the first time an entire village has moved out so nature could move in. Across India, nearly a hundred communities have already voluntarily relocated to widen tiger reserves, and dozens more are expected to follow suit in the years to come.

Human ingenuity may be unmatched in its ability to tame wild landscapes for our own ends — but as Earth’s other inhabitants struggle in the resulting wake, human capacity for compassion in making room for nature just might prove to be the greatest quality of all. Source: Treehugger
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(nearly) Waste-Free city of INDIA: PUNE

Gangotree

Unlike many western countries, Indian consumers waste remarkably little food, as a use is found for nearly all left-overs and food scraps. However, this doesn’t mean that there’s no waste, and Pune, a four million person city three hours southeast of Mumbai, is implementing an innovative initiative to change that.

Meet Mr. Santosh Gondhalekar, an engineer, energy expert, and founder of a bio-energy start-up company, Gangotree Eco Technologies. Pune is on its way to being India’s first waste-free city.

Each day, Pune generates about 1,400 tons of waste – 800 tons of organic waste and 600 tons of dry waste (e.g., paper, plastic, glass, and metals). In addition to the city’s municipal waste collection agency, Pune also has a sizable waste-picking community, with over 2,000 individuals who work full time as part of a cooperative to collect and sort the city’s waste. Nearly all of the dry waste has value so it gets sorted out by the waste pickers before being sold to recycling companies. The organic waste remains, and historically has been placed in a municipal dump.

Just a few years ago, the Pune Municipal Corporation engaged in a number of public-private partnerships to extract value from this organic waste. Here’s how it works: the city puts up the required capital to build bio-digestion facilities that can convert organic waste to electricity. Private companies then operate the facilities, selling the electricity back to the city to be used to power street lights. Excluding the upfront capital costs, the operation is profitable for the private firms. And for the time being, the city is willing to invest the capital, essentially subsidizing the projects, as they reduce the city’s waste burden, lowering the cost of maintaining municipal dump sites.

Currently 10 of these bio-digestion plants are operational, each converting five tons of organic waste to electricity every day.

How it works ? The Process:

Each morning, city trucks pick up organic waste, primarily from the city’s hotels, and deliver it to the bio-digestion facilities. The hotels are required by law to pay a fee for this service, which generally covers the transportation costs. Once the waste arrives on site, waste pickers sort it to ensure that it’s 100% organic as other inputs could disrupt the bio-digestion process. The waste, or feed stock, is then chopped up and put into the bio-digester, where bacteria converts it to methane and compost. At the end of the day, the gas is scrubbed to convert it to 99% methane, and then burned in a generator that creates electricity. The compost is given to local farmers.

So far the initiative has been very successful, and there are plans to have 20 additional plants operational by the end of 2012. Pune has 144 city wards, and if each ward had its own bio-digester, the city would be able to extract electricity from all of its organic waste.

Mr. Gondhalekar has been involved with the planning and execution of these projects, and showed his enthusiasm for the initiative’s success. However, his company, Gangotree Eco Technologies, is working a new project he finds even more promising. His plan is to convert municipal organic waste to what he calls green coal.

Too Late to Save South Asia’s Vultures From Extinction?

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A program to save South Asia’s wild vultures from extinction by breeding captive populations may be an exercise in futility, according to research released today.

Vultures once numbered tens of millions in India, Nepal, and Pakistan, where they provided valuable health services by consuming the remains of animal carcasses quickly. The birds also disposed of human remains set out for them on sacrificial “towers of silence” by adherents of the ancient Parsi religion.

When numbers of the bird crashed to a few thousand across the entire subcontinent the impact was dramatic. Rotting carcasses stunk up the countryside, incubating disease. Populations of feral dogs scavenging on the meat bonanza exploded, and the dogs also spread diseases, including rabies.

Parsis, whose religion prohibits burying or burning their dead, had to resort to technology such as solar reflectors to hasten decomposition of corpses.

The fate of South Asia’s vultures is a tragic story. When their numbers began to plummet in the mid-1990s researchers were mystified. By the time the cause was identified–widespread use of diclofenac, a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug that had become a popular treatment for ailing livestock–several vulture species were on the brink of extirpation.

 

Read Article: http://newswatch.nationalgeographic.com/2008/09/05/vultures/

What Has Nature Ever Done for Us? The Financial Value of ‘Ecosystem Services’

money-tree

The near extinction of vultures in India has hardly been reported in the West, and yet their disappearance has had huge implications for the subcontinent, causing major social and economic impacts—and affecting the lives of hundreds of millions of people.

The reason for this is that vultures have always performed an essential cleaning function, eating the flesh from the man dead animals that litter the countryside.  A hungry flock was once able to remove the carcass of a dead cow in a matter of minutes.  But now they are gone, and the fly-ridden corpses rot in the hot sun.

The vultures were accidentally killed off because anti-inflammatory drugs given to cattle proved lethal to the birds that ate the dead animals.  And with no vultures to clean up, the surplus carcasses facilitated an explosion in the population of wild dogs.  These dogs spread rabies, a disease that has killed tens of thousands of people, and cost the Indian economy a figure estimated in excess of $30 billion.

This is but one of thousands of examples of natural services that are (or were) provided free by nature, but which cost massive amounts of money to compensate for when the ecology is disrupted.  That cost is now the subject of a new branch of economics concerned with so-called ecosystem services.

Experts are beginning to put a price on nature—and it is huge.

For example, Hurricane Katrina cost the U.S. $81 billion and the damage still remains.  New Orleans became much more vulnerable to big storms as the mangrove forests in the Mississippi River delta were stripped away to make space for shipping lanes and aquatic farms.

The economic value of some intact mangrove forests is calculated at many times more than the value derived from their clearance to make way for intensive shrimp farms.  The benefits that mangroves provide in flood protection and as a nursery for oceanic fish is difficult to calculate compared to the profits of a shrimp farm, but the value is there nonetheless.

Even those living in cities far from the world of nature will be able to relate to nature supporting our civilization—from water flowing through the faucet, a bowl of fruit on the kitchen table, and the ice cream in the freezer—because author Tony Juniper reveals these nature tales with compelling relevance and immediacy.

For more information about the book, please go to Synergetic Press at www.synergeticpress.com