Tag Archives: Wastewater

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?

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Green Tech and Sustainable methods

11Your tap water is cleaner than you think

Cities waste water for luxury! Most institutions and households in the cities are supplied with soft water. They blindly install Reverse Osmosis (RO) systems, which waste more water than they purify- almost in the ration of 60:40.

All housing and office buildings have single pipe connections,which supply drinking water even for flushing toilets. Not every one uses the modern commode which has dual mode of flushing. At one flush, more than 10 liters of precious drinking water is lost! At ZED we use Low-flow fixtures that curtail the net water demand by as much as 30,000 liters a year of fresh water saved. Grey and black water segregation at source and treatment is also done separately.

1Standby mode is like a leaky tap

2700 million units of electricity is lost annually through appliances in standby mode. Put off your TV sets,set-top boxes,and personal computers. Rural poor has very small standby consumption,followed by urban slums. Urban middle class has the highest standby consumption.

IMG_0319Recycling wasted electricity from lifts

Just like metals and plastics,energy can also be recycled. Elevators and escalators fitted with regenerative drive technology allow the recovery of the energy used to move them up and down. This energy is then converted for use elsewhere in the building;in elevators,as much as 50% of the total energy used can be recovered this way.

Tagged , , , , , , ,
%d bloggers like this: