Tag Archives: engineers

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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Jagriti Yatra: Pilgrimage sans religion.


It’s a yatra, alright. It is a journey that covers 8000 km over 15 days. It’s a travel that takes 450 of India’s young and thinking students, engineers, doctors, computer science workers and a host of other people, on a guided tour of places and purposes.

Their only qualification to be part of the yatra is that they are between 20 and 27 years and they want to learn and do something about India’s future.

So the yatra is not merely to physical places as much as it is a journey within to delve into their own minds and those of other yatriks who choose to travel ‘the other road’ with a purpose and vision larger than themselves.

The jagriti yatra (http://www.jagritiyatra.com/) has been done every year since 2008. This time, as in previous years, the 450 yatriks culminated their 15-day journey at the Gandhi Ashram on Sabarmati’s banks just outside of Amdavad. It was symbolic but was poignant. It was a congregation of energetic young minds seeking to understand the relevance of Gandhi to the future of India.

Some of them were bewildered at the possible connect that could exist between Gandhian times and now (How can Gandhi be relevant to us now?!).  Some of them were hopeful of what could be achieved in a new India  as the yatra took them to islands of excellence over the 8000 km ride in a train with 18 railway coaches that was home for all of them for as long. There were some others who despaired at how India’s polity was so diseased that we can’t bring change at all.

One thing was common, though. They all were vibrant, seeking, enquiring in nature and wanted to make a difference.

Rajni Bakshi (who wrote Bapu Kutir in the 1990’s), Sudheendra Kulkarni (a biographer of Gandhi and advisor to Vajpayee when he was PM) and Bcil’s  Hariharan were panelists with the theme being Gandhi and his relevance to today’s India.

Shashank Mani Tripathi drives the spirit at Jagriti Yatra with a formidable team of mainstream professionals who volunteer time and passion for the yatra.

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