Archive for the ‘India’ Category

Business Line : Opinion : Biodiversity not adequately understood   Leave a comment

It is the lesser known of the two framework conventions that emerged at the Rio Earth Summit of 1992; it also deals with a concept more difficult to comprehend. But the Convention on Biological Diversity is the international agreement that protects life on earth, and thereby, should be the base for all environmental discussions.

In 2012, India will host the most important meeting relating to the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) — the 11th Conference of Parties (COP-11) — at Hyderabad, from October 8-19. This fact is hardly known outside environment circles.

This is the first COP of the CBD process, after the United Nations declared 2011 to 2020 as the ‘Decade for Biodiversity’. Judging by past records, COP-11 and its preceding meetings can attract as many as 5,000 participants, including around 100 environment ministers. In addition to chairing the current COP, India will retain the presidency of the CBD process till the next COP in 2014.

Unlike the build-up to the COPs of the United Nations’ Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), there is less media and public attention for COPs related to CBD. Each of the COPs related to the Climate Change Convention gets significant media and public attention. The Climate Change COPs in the recent years — held in Bali in 2007, Copenhagen in 2009, Cancun in 2010, and Durban in 2011 — got universal attention.

PUBLIC PERCEPTION

Though scientific opinion is still shying away from making conclusive connections between extreme weather events (which have been increasing in frequency in the recent years) and climate change, public opinion across countries has started making this connection. For instance, in August 2010, there were two major events happening simultaneously — floods in Pakistan and fires in Russia. The events were heavily reported, and there were references to climate change in the public discussions.

Public perception on biodiversity is much less clear. Though there is a vague understanding of the multiplicity of species on planet earth, there is no clarity on how this diversity gives stability to life, and also provides ecosystem services to villagers and city-dwellers. In India, this situation is ironic, since the country was the first to have a Biodiversity Act in 2002.

Starting almost immediately after the Rio Summit of 1992, the process of developing India’s Biodiversity Act went through much public discussion. It legislatively reaffirmed that the biological diversity in the country was its sovereign property. It was built on the three goals of the CBD — conservation of biodiversity, encouraging its sustainable use, and making sure that the benefits arising from its use are equitably shared with those who helped in conserving the biological wealth in the first place.

The Biodiversity Act also put in place a three-tier structure to manage the biological diversity. The National Biodiversity Authority was established in Chennai in 2003. There are 26 state biodiversity boards, and biodiversity management committees in many local bodies.

In comparison, the institutions on climate change are more recent in India. The National Action Plan on Climate Change was released in June 2008 by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to work on eight national missions.

GOVERNMENT INITIATIVES

Only in January 2010 did the Government of India constitute an expert panel to develop low-carbon strategies for inclusive growth. The panel, headed by Planning Commission Member Kirit Parikh, was supposed to submit its interim report by April 2010, and the final report by September in that year. However, its interim report was made public only in May 2011, and the final report is still awaited.

Perhaps, the reason why biodiversity isn’t so well-discussed as climate change is because the economic linkages of the biological wealth aren’t so well articulated in the public domain. The economic costs of a flood or drought are visible, measurable. Deforestation in the Western Ghats, leading to the loss of a few species that are seen only in that location, isn’t so tangible.

There have been international attempts at measuring the economic benefits from biodiversity. The report of The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB) review process estimates benefits of US$ 3.7 trillion from avoiding greenhouse gas emissions through the conservation of forests. And this is just one ecosystem service function from biodiversity.

Even without complicated economic analysis, it is possible to feel the ecological and economic services from biodiversity in our day-to-day lives, wherever we are….

Please read the full article….

via Business Line : Opinion : Biodiversity not adequately understood.

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India plans ‘safer’ nuclear plant powered by thorium | Environment | guardian.co.uk   Leave a comment

 

 

Producing a workable thorium reactor would be a massive breakthrough in energy generation. Using thorium – a naturally occurring moderately radioactive element named after the Norse god of thunder – as a source of atomic power is not new technology. Promising early research was carried out in the US in the 1950s and 60s and then abandoned in favour of using uranium.

The pro-thorium lobby maintains this was at least partly because national nuclear power programmes in the US and elsewhere were developed with a military purpose in mind: namely access to a source of plutonium for nuclear weapons. Unlike uranium, thorium-fuelled reactors do not result in a proliferation of weapons-grade plutonium. Also, under certain circumstances, the waste from thorium reactors is less dangerous and remains radioactive for hundreds rather than thousands of years.

That is a considerable plus for governments now worried about how to deal with nuclear waste and concerned about the possibility of rogue governments or terrorists getting their hands on plutonium. Also, with the world’s supply of uranium rapidly depleting, attention has refocused on thorium, which is three to four times more abundant and 200 times more energy dense..

“Given India’s abundant supply of thorium it makes sense for her to develop thorium reactors,” said Labour peer Baroness Worthington who is patron of the Weinberg Foundation, which promotes thorium-fuelled nuclear power.

She added: “However, many of the advantages of thorium fuel are best realised with totally new reactor designs such as the molten salt reactor developed Alvin Weinberg in the 60s. I hope India will also commit to exploring this option.”

India has the world’s largest thorium deposits and with a world hungry for low-carbon energy, it has its eyes on a potentially lucrative export market for the technology. For more than three decades, India’s nuclear research programme had been subject to international sanctions since its controversial 1974 nuclear tests. But after losing its pariah status three years ago as a result of the Indo-US nuclear deal, India is keen to export indigenous nuclear technology developed in research centres such as the BARC.”

via India plans ‘safer’ nuclear plant powered by thorium | Environment | guardian.co.uk.

Posted November 1, 2011 by arnoneumann in Energy, India, Nuclear

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India Primes Itself for Smart Grid Innovation – Forbes   Leave a comment

“Today the Asian Development Bank announced that it will lend India $750 million for its national grid improvement project, including smart grid innovations.In a country like India, where draping rats’ nests of wires and blackouts are common and 404 million people still lack electricity, the idea of a smart grid might seem a bit counter-intuitive.But the electricity sector worldwide is undergoing massive technological and policy changes, and electricity upgrades today inherently include smart grid, including smart meters, software and hardware for demand and supply management, sensors, wireless infrastructure, and transmission distribution equipment.In some cases India will have the opportunity to leapfrog to new technologies. In fact, India is third worldwide for smart-grid investment, behind the United States and China, with its smart grid spending projected to increase from $1.1 billion in 2011 to $1.9 billion in 2015, according to a new report, India: Smart Grid Legacy, by Zpryme, a research consultancy based in Austin, Texas.India’s booming economy is threatened by a lack of reliable electricity. So the government has laid out an ambitious effort to upgrade its electricity sector, including a $26 billion commitment over the next five years, separate from the funds allocated for smart grid improvements.India’s Ministry of Power MoP is the central government agency that is working most closely on electricity development, and it set up the India Smart Grid Forum, a public-private partnership uniting utilities, industry, and academia. The government has also created an inter-departmental task force called the Smart Grid Task Force SGTF. “Other important changes in energy laws including the Electricity Act of 2003 and the important National Electricity Policy of 2005,” writes the IEEE, an international nonprofit professional association for the advancement of technology.Aside from one-third of the population having no electricity at all, India faces other significant hurdles in modernizing its electricity sector. Demand already outstrips supply, leading to frequent brownouts in many areas. “At peak usage, demand exceeds supply by 7 to 11 percent,” according to the Zpryme report. Also, line losses — the amount of electricity lost in transmission — are epic, averaging 50 percent, according to Zpryme. That’s due to outdated or shoddy equipment and one of the highest rates of theft in the world. The infrastructure countrywide is also inconsistent. “Four of the regional grids operate as one synchronous grid and the southern region utilizes a high voltage direct current HVDC link,” said the report.Stopping theft is a major issue, said Mark Ishac, managing director of the Smart Grid Insights practice at Zpryme. India’s 2008’s Re-Structured Accelerated Power Development and Reforms Program R-APDRP is focused on innovation in information and communications technology that first measures, then mitigates line losses. The Indian government is spending an additional $10.86 billion to reduce line losses to less than 15 percent in five years in urban and high-density areas. One-fifth of those funds will be dedicated to using IT at state-run distribution companies, said Ishac.India will also need to ramp up its energy generation. The country already suffers frequent brownouts, and it’s going to bringing another 404 million people online. In addition, as the middle class grows, so will its per-capita consumption of electricity, said Ishac. Overall population numbers are still rising as well. The Zpryme report projects that demand will grow 6.0 percent annually from 2010 to 2015.The government is actively soliciting foreign investment, and has already secured deals with China’s ZTE Corporation and IBM. Ishac expects that India will be a proving ground for new technology. “It will be a smart grid pilot incubator. There’s a lot of technological advancement, a lot of R&D going on in India. That’s where they’ll excel and be able to compete with the U.S. and China.”Micro-grid experiments such as that on The Energy Research Institute’s Gurgaon campus, aren’t getting all that much attention said Ishac. But microgrids could be a good solution for remote communities that are currently unserved.”

 

via India Primes Itself for Smart Grid Innovation – Forbes.

Posted October 1, 2011 by arnoneumann in India, Smart Grid

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Massive Biometric Project Gives Millions of Indians an ID | Magazine   Leave a comment

 

 

“A neatly dressed middle-aged man leads the children to a nearby table, and a brisk young woman in a green skirt sits Kiran down at another. The young woman takes her own seat in front of a Samsung laptop, picks up a slim gray plastic box from the cluttered tabletop, and shows Kiran how to look into the opening at one end. Kiran puts it up to her face and for a moment sees nothing but blackness. Then suddenly two bright circles of light flare out. Kiran’s eyes, blinking and uncertain, appear on the laptop screen, magnified tenfold. Click. The oversize eyes freeze on the screen. Kiran’s irises have just been captured.

Kiran has never touched or even seen a real computer, let alone an iris scanner. She thinks she’s 32, but she’s not sure exactly when she was born. Kiran has no birth certificate, or ID of any kind for that matter—no driver’s license, no voting card, nothing at all to document her existence. Eight years ago, she left her home in a destitute farming village and wound up here in Mongolpuri, a teeming warren of shabby apartment blocks and tarp-roofed shanties where grimy barefoot children, cargo bicycles, haggard dogs, goats, and cows jostle through narrow, trash-filled streets. Kiran earns about $1.50 a day sorting cast-off clothing for recycling. In short, she’s just another of India’s vast legions of anonymous poor.

Now, for the first time, her government is taking note of her. Kiran and her children are having their personal information recorded in an official database—not just any official database, but one of the biggest the world has ever seen. They are the latest among millions of enrollees in India’s Unique Identification project, also known as Aadhaar, which means “the foundation” in several Indian languages. Its goal is to issue identification numbers linked to the fingerprints and iris scans of every single person in India.

That’s more than 1.2 billion people—everyone from Himalayan mountain villagers to Bangalorean call-center workers, from Rajasthani desert nomads to Mumbai street beggars—speaking more than 300 languages and dialects. The biometrics and the Aadhaar identification number will serve as a verifiable, portable, all but unfakable national ID. It is by far the biggest and most technologically complicated biometrics program ever attempted.

Aadhaar faces titanic physical and technical challenges: reaching millions of illiterate Indians who have never seen a computer, persuading them to have their irises scanned, ensuring that their information is accurate, and safeguarding the resulting ocean of data. This is India, after all—a country notorious for corruption and for failing to complete major public projects. And the whole idea horrifies civil libertarians. But if Aadhaar’s organizers pull it off, the initiative could boost the fortunes of India’s poorest citizens and turbocharge the already booming national economy.”

via Massive Biometric Project Gives Millions of Indians an ID | Magazine.

Posted September 10, 2011 by arnoneumann in Biometrics, India

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India’s Parliament Agrees to Anna Hazare’s Demands – NYTimes.com   1 comment

The peaceful , public fast of  politician Hazare has resulted in a definitive committment to put legislation in place to fight corruption in India. This is significant on several fronts : the success of the method to achieve this ie peaceful means of public fasting along the  historic lines of the iconic Ghandi , the importance of public support in the creation of significant public policy and thirdly , the sinal to the external business and investment community that it  working and investing in India has a hope of transparency . Watch for a significant boost in economic activity in India if there is genuine enforcement to the policy.

“Mr. Hazare, 74, has been waging a hunger strike for 12 days, refusing to call it off unless Parliament adopted his proposed legislation to fight graft rather than a bill put forward by the government. Huge crowds of supporters have participated in peaceful protests and rallies across India in what became an outpouring of public disgust over corruption.

Mr. Hazare’s aides told the Indian news media that he would now probably end his fast on Sunday morning at Ramlila Maidan, the public grounds in New Delhi where thousands of supporters had already started rejoicing on Saturday night, even as lawmakers were finishing their speeches in Parliament.

“There is a need of a change in the system,” said Pranab Mukherjee, the powerful minister who introduced the resolution into the Lok Sabha, the lower house. “And we are doing so.”

Parliament must still take several steps before final passage of a law to create the anticorruption agency, known as the Lokpal, before the end of the session. Saturday’s resolution also was marked by a touch of legislative sleight-of-hand. Mr. Hazare’s team had wanted a public vote in order to identify lawmakers who opposed the measure. Instead, the measure was read aloud in both houses and given approval without a vote.

“It was unanimous,” said R. P. N. Singh, a lawmaker and government minister, when asked on NDTV, a news channel, about the lack of a vote. “Both the houses have stepped up their resolve to fight corruption.”

Mr. Hazare’s hunger strike dominated public life in India and exposed a visceral public revulsion at the depth of corruption here, large and small. Hundreds of thousands of people had poured into the streets across the country to support his campaign for a tough anticorruption agency. Movie stars, gurus, politicians, singers and others flocked to his side at Ramlila Maidan, which served as his fasting site. Crowds filled the grounds despite heat and rain.

In recent days, the impasse has been centered on three demands by Mr. Hazare: that Parliament pass a Lokpal law during its current session; that similar agencies to fight corruption be established at the state level; and that a transparent process be established for public grievances. Those demands were endorsed in Saturday’s resolution, though the final details will be codified when the legislation moves to a special parliamentary committee.”

via India’s Parliament Agrees to Anna Hazare’s Demands – NYTimes.com.

Posted August 27, 2011 by arnoneumann in Corruption, India

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Billionaires’ Rise Aids India, and Vice Versa – NYTimes.com   Leave a comment

A facinating back stage view of India through the  profile of Gautam Adani.

“This nexus between tycoons and powerful politicians courses through the public-private relationship in India and forms the crux of a continuing debate on whether the rise of India’s billionaires is a sign of dynamism or cronyism.

India’s billionaires control a considerably larger share of the national wealth than do the superrich in bigger economies like those of Germany, Britain and Japan. Among the Indian billionaires included on the most recent Forbes rich list, a majority have derived their wealth from land, natural resources or government contracts and licenses, all areas that require support from politicians.”

via Billionaires’ Rise Aids India, and Vice Versa – NYTimes.com.

Posted July 26, 2011 by arnoneumann in India

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India Winemakers Tap Growth as Duties Boost Import Prices – Bloomberg   Leave a comment

Some interesting statistics on the growth and palate of the wine and spirits market in India and its relative development to China.

““An increasing number of young people like to have wine, because wine is seen as up-market, sophisticated,” said Alok Chandra, a wine consultant with Gryphon Brands Inc. in Bangalore. “There are two or three levels of consumers. One is the 50- year-old guy who says ‘wine is good for health, let me change to wine.’

“The second is women. Spirits are something they don’t want.”

Mumbai-based Sula’s 1,500 acres of vineyards are in Nashik, the country’s largest wine-producing region. India, which produces as much as 11 million liters of wine yearly, grows wine grapes on about 6,000 acres, according to estimates by Indian Wine Academy, a New Delhi-based consulting company.

Faster Than China

Overseas companies including Pernod Ricard SA, maker of Chivas Regal whiskey and Absolut vodka, have a combined share of India’s alcoholic-beverage market of less than 23 percent, Euromonitor data show.

The top-selling imported wine in India is Pernod’s Jacob’s Creek, with a 1.5 percent market share, according to the data. Pernod CEO Pierre Pringuet in February forecast India will be among its top three markets in five years.

While the South Asian nation outpaces the expansion in Chinese wine consumption, the size of India’s wine market by volume is less than 1 percent that of China, which had 13 percent growth last year to 3.48 billion liters, according to data from Euromonitor. Wine consumption in Japan may fall 2 percent to 885 million liters in 2012, from 903 million liters in 2010, the data show.

Indian wine consumption will probably grow between 15 to 20 percent every year for the next decade, and Sula may outpace the industry, Samant said.

28 Different Countries

“We really dominate, at this point, India people’s preference for good Indian wine,” Samant said. “For every one bottle all the other wineries sell, we sell two.”

Yet even Sula’s cheapest wine is out of reach for most people in India, where 828 million live on less than $2 a day, according to World Bank estimates.”

via India Winemakers Tap Growth as Duties Boost Import Prices – Bloomberg.

Posted July 26, 2011 by arnoneumann in India, wine

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