Solar Grill to cook outdoor

Wilson Solar Cooker

Solar Grill to cook outdoorHere is a solar grill that uses a special lens and solar energy to melt down a container of Lithium Nitrate, which is like a battery storing thermal energy for 25 hours. The heat is created at temperatures above 450 degrees.

Womencooking with firewood have respiratory problems from inhaling smoke daily while cooking at the fires, is known. That 55 per cent of sub-Saharan African households depend on firewood and there were 2 million deaths from using firewood  in 2004 alone, is not so well-known. There is then higher incidence of rape of women while seeking firewood, apart from the threat of increased deforestation.

This first appeared on the Internet in 2011.The grill is not available to the consumer for sale. The hybrid version is expected to offer propane flame in addition to the solar thermal convection cooking method. The flame cooking would be appropriate for those who cook meat and want that seared smoked flavor.

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Making electricity uses up the most water!

The power sector has a large impact on the amount of water consumed.

ElectricityCertain processes in coal power plants require large amounts of water. In India, most of these power plants are installed in coastal areas. These plants draw ocean water, desalinate it and bring it to the required quality of water for the turbines and then re-use it.  The wastewater that exits the plant is supposed to be taken far into the ocean, (around 2km from the edge and very deep), so that the water can mix in easily over a period of time. Unless we manage the exit water very carefully, it can result in extensive pollution and have a detrimental impact on marine life.

When a large coal power plant or a nuclear power plant is set up, a prerequisite is providing a large amount of water round the clock, year after year. This lessens the availability of natural water resources to those who are dependent on it. Governments and engineers don’t warn us that if human beings start using large quantities of water, the other species of the animal kingdom that are dependent on water will be deprived of it. There is a slew of both nuclear and coal power plants coming up, with no protest on this threat that is real.

Current scenario in the Power sector

About 700,000 MW of new power project proposals are in various stages of application at the Ministry of Environment.  Prayas, an organization working on initiatives in Energy, has calculated that the total amount of additional water required for these new projects, if they are created, can provide fresh water for around 150 million Indians and can meet 9-10% of agricultural requirements or about 25 million tonnes of food grains annually in India. India is already water stressed. So the question is:Should we continue building these large power plants?Or should we look for alternatives to meet these energy needs?

The InstalledHow do we first understand the ‘demand for electricity’ that is projected by the Government?These are based on date from the past, estimates of the deficits of the present and extrapolations into the future.How legitimate are these projections? Can decisions involving money at a million dollars to a mere MW and with incalculable damage that each such MW wreaks as havoc ecologically, be permitted to be made without public consultation? Can the brutality of closed-door decision-making inside government corridors be continued any more?  The needs for a common man are basically for lighting or probably charging his cell phone, or for a mixer/ grinder in the kitchen. There is no legislation to stop homes in Gurgaon that are now centrally air-conditioned. Night-time sports, 24-hour shopping malls … can we continue the insanity?

The GovernmentIndia’s efficiency is one of the worst in the power sector with respect to international practices. Power Ministry and Planning Commission data show that if India’s efficiency was maintained at the power sector’s international best practice level, it can give virtually about 35-40% more power within the existing infrastructure.

There is really no shortage of power at the moment. By taking the efficiency to the international best practice level, you will indirectly reduce the additional demand for electricity and in turn reduce the number of power plants required.

What are the alternatives currently available?

Sunlight is one of the best sources of renewable energy available. If sunlight is tapped in the most effective way, it will not require any water. The water footprint of technologies such as biomass and wind energy is minimal. And India being a tropical country, there is a huge potential.

What is the solution?

First, we need the right to information on how we can manage our requirement of energy without having an impact on these natural resources. We urgently need to transform our thinking. Efficiency improvement, energy conservation and demand-side management are the three major areas that need focus.

More professional groups should be involved in the energy movement.Authorities and government officials and policy makers usually detest any such public engagement and discussion. And individuals would not have the perseverance without the support of groups aligned and committed. How can organizations rally behind such a struggle to keep the balance between natural resources and energy footprint?

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Drop Dead, Mumbai!

Mumbai Dead Drop‘Drop Dead’, a foundation started by AabidSurti offers free plumbing services to residents of Mumbai, saves water one drop at a time.

AabidSurti who lives in Mira Road, a Mumbai suburb, was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award by the Hindi Sahitya Sanstha of the Uttar Pradesh Government in 2007. He is a painter, cartoonist, author, playwright and water warrior.

In 2007, AabidSurti read an article that talked of how much water was lost for every drop wasted. “One drop wasted in every second implies a 1000 litres of water being wasted in 24 hours. That’s quite a count! I grew up in shanties in Mumbai when I came from Gujarat and I know the value of water. That led me to set up Drop Dead Foundation,” he says. The aim of the Foundation is to fix leaky taps and help save water. Every Sunday, Surti goes door to door doing just this.

Tejal Shah, the chief co-ordinator of the Foundation, joined Surti five years ago. She goes door-to-door to various apartment complexes to get permission to enter their premises come Sunday. Many apartments have already called them. “We don’t enter the premises without permission. We understand that people are hesitant to open their doors.” But getting prior permission doesn’t imply that everybody allows them to fix their leaky taps.

The most common problem is that the washer has gone bad. She says, “It costs me Rs.20-35 to just buy the spare part. The expensive component of the repair is the plumber’s labor cost and we provide that. But even then, we find people who don’t want to fix it.” Rather than get bogged down by such responses, they just go and save the next drop. Once they’re done with the apartment, they make arrangements for their next visit and also drop off a poster the following Monday.

Plumber Riyaz Ahmad checks the reason for the leak.

PlumberPlumber Riyaz Ahmed also joined Surti three years ago. He found the painter’s work and perspective of saving water drop by drop very interesting. So he offered his services for free. But over time, people have come forward to fund the foundation, so he takes away Rs. 500 every Sunday for his services. These funds come from philanthropists and people who see Surti at various conferences and want to support this simple but effective task.

Together, the trio manage to spread awareness on saving water. Once the leaky pipes are fixed, they stick a small poster right next to the wash basin.

Let’s save every drop!

Let's save every dropThe poster reads: ‘Save every drop or drop dead’, a message AabidSurti has carried on. After this poster is stuck, they take the name and address of the person whose pipe they have fixed. Till date, the trio has visited more than 6000 homes in Mira Road area. Surti says, “What I am doing is not unachievable. It is simple. You can take up this cause too.”

He has inspired a few people. They write to the painter, who promptly sends off his material–the poster–via mail. He says, “One only needs to be determined to continue this. You can join the team on any Sunday. Just call us at 09820184964 and save every drop or drop dead.”They are funded by various agencies and authority holders of housing societies. The only money required is for the spare parts and plumber’s fee. The plumber fee is very nominal–just Rs500 each Sunday, regardless of the number of the visits.

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Plant them quick and soon

Plant them quick and soonIt was a rare outing for students of Government Higher Primary School at Kanminike to the south of Bangalore. Accompanied by five teachers, over 100 students walked into the Global Eco Club (GEC) farm on Mysore Road. They went around in a line, enjoying the fresh air on a sunny day. Some of them chased butterflies, while others curiously watched honeybees at work.

Finally, they assembled at a place where they were told that each of them could pick up a plant of their choice. Their faces lit up, as their eyes reached for their favourite ones. As they walked away with their favourite pick, after a refreshment of biscuits and water, Arun Kumar, who runs GEC, broke into a broad grin.

Nurturing love for the environment in young ones is one of the many activities of GEC, which is striving for a greener Bangalore. Arun gave up his eight-year franchise of Reliance Infocomm to pursue his passion. “I felt I should do something on the green front,” says Arun, who came up with the idea of Project Gandhadagudi to plant sandalwood saplings in educational institutions. He first approached the management of the National Law School of India University (NLSIU) and planted medicinal and sandalwood saplings on its sprawling campus.

“In one year, I planted over 2,000 saplings across Bangalore. PES University gave me a 20-acre land where I grew saplings of medicinal, fruit and flowering plants, besides vegetables,” says Arun. He was inspired by Salumarada Thimmakka [Thimmakka of the saal trees], the environmentalist who planted and tended to nearly 300 trees along a 4-km road in Magadi taluk of Ramanagaram district. “If you have the passion and idea to do some service, support will come your way,” he feels. “My policy is to sell and serve. Initially, I executed all works of GEC with my personal savings. Now I sell saplings to corporates, estates and other individuals to raise funds for initiatives like planting saplings in educational institutions and giving saplings for free to school students. My aim is a garden in every house of the city. I want to build a strong community to protect the environment,” he adds.

The farm is also a model of how rainwater can be properly utilized. It is sustained by just one borewell, which is recharged with rainwater collected in pits dug at four different spots. The farm, with around 20 fruit and several medicinal trees, has a separate section for indoor plants apart from special species to attract butterflies and bees. “I’m aiming to make Karnataka the fruit capital of India,” adds Arun, who helps out farmers in association with the Indian Institute of Horticulture Research (IIHR). “GEC exists because this fragile earth deserves a voice. It needs action and support,” he signs off.

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This is how we do it!

This is how we do it!

Half the world’s population simply wants what the other half takes for granted.

At the turn of the new Millennium, the World Bank carried out a massive effort designed to understand poverty from the perspective of the poor, interviewing more than 60,000 underprivileged women and men from 60 countries for its landmark Voices of the Poorproject. What was most important to them?  Providing for their families good food, healthcare, education for their children, safety and dignity. In other words, half the world’s population – the 2.5 billion women, men and children living at the base of the pyramid — simply wants what the other half takes for granted.

There is a deal of talk on Social Innovation and solutions that can provide succour to underprivileged people, particularly in rural areas, education, access to healthcare, good jobs, higher incomes and better social status.

Fostering equity, sustainability and enterprise require reforms at every level, from government to business, community and the economy. But such change doesn’t happen organically; it is brought in by social entrepreneurs who catalyze the need in every individual to move towards freedom, self-sustenance and opportunity into a vital force to help people help themselves.

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CII initiative to help renewable energy producers find consumers

CII initiative to help renewable energy producers find consumersAn initiative of CII (Confederation of Indian Industry)-Sohrabji Godrej Green Business Centre to serve as a forum connecting renewable energy producers and large power consumers has been rolled out across the country in view of the good response to the pilot project launched a year ago in Bangalore.

The decision to expand the activities of the Green Power Market Development Group of the centre is significant, both from a perspective of pushing for more use of renewable energy as well as emerging as a voice echoing issues of concern to both the customers and producers.

One of the tasks before the group, by showcasing the benefits of its efforts in rest of the country, is to impress upon the Tamil Nadu government the importance of encouraging third party sale of power by abolishing cross subsidy and transmission charges. Moreover, with the integration of the southern power grid to the national grid such measures would go a long way.

Noting that sale of power to third party was permitted across the country, except by Tamil Nadu, Chairman, Renewable Energy Council, CII-Sohrabji Godrej Green Business Centre, Ramesh Kymal said renewable energy producers should be offered the benefit of open access as prevalent in other States.

Following the launch in Bangalore, the initiative facilitated renewable power agreements for around 100 MW between producers and several companies, including ACC, Coca Cola, and Infosys. With the programme extended across the country two weeks ago, the Green Business Centre was looking at a target of 500 MW.

Moving forward, the centre would like to offer a range of services, including templates of power purchase agreement, something that many consumers in Karnataka suggested, Mr.Kymal said in an interaction here on Thursday. CII’s Indian Green Building Council Executive Director S. Raghupathy added economies of scale were good when buyers approach the producers as a group.

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Know the past … to build the future

Know the past … to build the futureLandscape architecture has to take into account the local, the historic, the organic…

Most people think landscape architecture is about creating pretty lawns and gardens, but there is much more to it than that. The way cities design their outdoor public areas can have a huge impact on the way citizens interact with each other—how they gather and order their social lives, says Swiss landscape historian Michael Jakob, who curated the recent exhibition, ‘The Swiss touch in landscape architecture’.

“A key feature of good landscape architecture is the respect for the spirit and the history of the place, the ‘genius loci’. Landscape architecture as practisedshould always be a dialogue; a way to discuss and redefine traditions. It is never self-referential, but open to people, to discussion, to the future,” says Jakob. “Only if you understand the past can you build the future.” Landscaping, he thinks, has to be dictated not only by beautiful design, but by local topography, geology and social conditions. “Ours is a country without resources, except rocks and water. Having learned to survive gave birth to a culture of respect, of not wasting things, of looking for the best possible way to design. The presence of the mountains, of formerly wild nature, is a central element,” explains Jakob. “The mountains remind us of famine, of the cold; and at the same time of fresh air, liberty, and the sublime.”

Experts agree that the best landscape architecture is not just pleasing to the eye; it is rooted in local scenery, and is evocative of emotions such as pride, joy, freedom, the search for proportion and symmetry, and love of nature. This is why public spaces such as Bangalore’s Cubbon Park or New York’s Central Park are inviting spaces – because they incorporate elements of nature into their structure.

While more formalized parks and gardens in India are thought to have been influenced by a European colonial heritage, Jakob clarifies that there is no such thing as a ‘European style’. “Rather, there are different schools, tendencies and traditions that intermingle. However, by comparison, one could say that Swiss landscape is more subjective (French landscape architecture is more self-referential; elegant for the sake of elegance); more formally beautiful (compared to a certain heaviness of the Germans) and more contemporary (compared to the British, who are still in the 18th century),” he says, while maintaining that good landscape architecture is both local and universal. “Take the fact that the landscaping in front of the British House of Parliament in London was designed by a Swiss studio (Vogt).”
At the same time, a universal homogeneity of design is a real danger. “The world becomes more and more the same and loses its individuality. Landscape architecture has to take into account the local, the historic, the organic. But local traditions can be wrong too, and landscape architecture can correct things,” he says.

The Himalaya is mightier

While Bollywood has shaped much of Indians’ idea of the Swiss landscape, Jakob says it comes as a surprise to him that we have “such an interest in the Swiss Alps given [your] wonderful and incredible mountains”. “The image of the Alps (think of Heidi, Toblerone) has been fabricated. It’s a myth, but a very powerful one. The ‘ideal landscape’ is a man-made and European category as well. Indian culture has other ways to explain nature, but the European reading became dominant over time,” he explains.

What are the evolving trends in landscaping around the world? “Today we don’t simply want to create beautiful projects; we think of their existence in the long run. The older tradition of landscape architecture was to build something that immediately looked finished, like a postcard,” he says. “Good landscape architecture today is not a decoration; it is open to future change; it is open for different uses; it is not standardized. It is reflective, not commemorative.”

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Plant them quick and soon

Plant them quick and soonIt was a rare outing for students of Government Higher Primary School at Kanminike to the south of Bangalore. Accompanied by five teachers, over 100 students walked into the Global Eco Club (GEC) farm on Mysore Road. They went around in a line, enjoying the fresh air on a sunny day. Some of them chased butterflies, while others curiously watched honeybees at work.

Finally, they assembled at a place where they were told that each of them could pick up a plant of their choice. Their faces lit up, as their eyes reached for their favourite ones. As they walked away with their favourite pick, after a refreshment of biscuits and water, Arun Kumar, who runs GEC, broke into a broad grin.

Nurturing love for the environment in young ones is one of the many activities of GEC, which is striving for a greener Bangalore. Arun gave up his eight-year franchise of Reliance Infocomm to pursue his passion. “I felt I should do something on the green front,” says Arun, who came up with the idea of Project Gandhadagudi to plant sandalwood saplings in educational institutions. He first approached the management of the National Law School of India University (NLSIU) and planted medicinal and sandalwood saplings on its sprawling campus.

“In one year, I planted over 2,000 saplings across Bangalore. PES University gave me a 20-acre land where I grew saplings of medicinal, fruit and flowering plants, besides vegetables,” says Arun.Arun says he was inspired by SalumaradaThimmakka [Thimmakka of the saal trees], the environmentalist who planted and tended to nearly 300 trees along a 4-km road in Magadi taluk of Ramanagaram district. “If you have the passion and idea to do some service, support will come your way,” he feels. “My policy is to sell and serve. Initially, I executed all works of GEC with my personal savings. Now I sell saplings to corporates, estates and other individuals to raise funds for initiatives like planting saplings in educational institutions and giving saplings for free to school students. My aim is a garden in every house of the city. I want to build a strong community to protect the environment,” he adds.

The farm is also a model of how rainwater can be properly utilized. It is sustained by just one borewell, which is recharged with rainwater collected in pits dug at four different spots. The farm, with around 20 fruit and several medicinal trees, has a separate section for indoor plants apart from special species to attract butterflies and bees. “I’m aiming to make Karnataka the fruit capital of India,” adds Arun, who helps out farmers in association with the Indian Institute of Horticulture Research (IIHR). “GEC exists because this fragile earth deserves a voice. It needs action and support,” he signs off.

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Ganga stinks to high heavens

INDIA-ENVIRONMENT-POLUTIONEvery km of the way, she’s dirty

Ganga is not any more the river of purity that we knew it to be. Faecal coliform – read shit – levels in the mainstream of the river—some 2,500 km from Gangotri in the hills to Diamond Harbour in Kolkata—remain above acceptable levels in every stretch. Even in the highly oxygenated upper stretches, faecal coliform levels, though within acceptable levels, are increasing in places like Rudraprayag and Devprayag, suggesting inadequate flow for dilution. So there is need for a new thing called ‘ecological flow of water’.

More dirt water than fresh

Pollution hot spots, the mega and fast-growing cities along the Ganga, present a grimmer picture. BOD levels are high downstream of Hardwar, Kannauj and Kanpur, and peak at Varanasi. But what is worrying is that in all the stretches pollution is getting worse. This is mainly because on this heavily populated stretch fresh water drawn from the river is increasing. Water is drawn for agriculture, industry and cities but only waste is returned to the river.

Most cities do not have the infrastructure to convey the sewage to the treatment plant; and most cities certainly do not have the money to run the plant. Worse still, the quantum of sewage that is estimated for treatment is wide of the mark. A recent estimate shows the difference between the official estimate of sewage and the measured discharge of wastewater into the Ganga is as much 3,364 million litres per day. This is 123  per cent higher than what was planned for.

3 tricks to fix the Ganga

A comprehensive solution to the Ganga pollution lies in dealing with three problem areas: one, finding water to dilute and assimilate waste; two, finding innovative ways to check the growing quantum of untreated sewage discharged into the river; and three, fixing the enforcement to stop industries from discharging waste into the river.

If rivers have water for dilution, cities can save money on expensive treatment systems. Instead, water inflow would enhance the assimilative capacity of the river for self-cleansing the waste.

But where will this additional water for ecological flow come from? Releasing more water upstream of the pollution hot spots will deprive farmers, cities and industries there and, therefore, will be contested. For instance, Haryana flatly refuses to give more water to Delhi for ecological flow in the Yamuna. So, instead of asking upstream users to release water, it must be mandated that ecological flow comes from the city or the state government’s own allocation of riparian water. The government then has a choice to either build storage to collect monsoon water for dilution within its territory, or release river water and make other arrangements for the requirements of agriculture, drinking and industry. In other words, all users must be forced to plan for water needs based on what the rivers can spare, not what they can take.

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ZED Transcends the Commercial

krishnakumar“If you have to be a leader company, it has to have leaders belonging to it”, said Sumantra Ghosal, the management Guru. In our effort at ZED to make leaders not just managers, the company has launched a soft initiative to secure such mentorship for its core leaders. Coach Krishna Kumar, who is a pioneer in executive coaching, an IIT-Chennai & IIM-A alumnus. He is always taken ‘the other road’ in his work. He began with sports coaching, and is now a globally recognized Master Coach. He is now working this year with three management members at ZED to support them on their leadership journey. Excerpts from an interview with the Coach.

 What do you hope to bring as change for the Zed leaders?

Working in an organization that focuses on creating sustainable living, leadership at Zed requires developing suitable behavioral and strategic mindset to meet this vision. My aim is to groom future leadership at Zed by inculcating this mindset in them. It is such tactical thinking and building of inner confidence that I hope to build in ZED leaders.

What do you see the company representing?

I believe that the founders started with some powerful core values and created a vision for Zed that transcends the commercial, and works towards building a better and safer world for present and future generations. The Company’s ability to deliver with managers making effective decisions is part of the challenge.

Who are the kind of the managers and professionals we need to be recruiting? And, what are the soft skills they need to possess for being part of ZED?

It is imperative that every member on the Zed team should be selected based on commitment and complete belief in the organization’s values and vision. Based on the nature of the business environment that Zed operates in, leaders should have the ability and skills to deal with situations that are Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous (it is a VUCA world!).

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