em-Power-ment

‘Power’ means so many things. Its meaning varies as vastly as the rate of doing work, physical strength, influence or control and, across the Indian subcontinent – electrical energy. While we dream of making the nation the next super-power, it is that last definition of power, where we certainly lag. It is a misfortune that almost two decades into the new millennium; we in India are still struggling to provide the basic ingredient required for what we call the digital age, i.e. electricity.

India is home to the largest un-electrified population in the world, according to a World Bank survey done in 2014. Keeping this in mind, the current union government led by Hon. PM. Shri Narendra Modi has set an onerous deadline of hundred percent rural electrification across the length and breadth of the country by May 2018. While a host of schemes like ‘Deendayal Upadhyaya Gram Jyoti Yojana’, URJA, UJALA and UDAY are being undertaken on a war footing, there still remains a substantial gap between the electrification of villages and that of households at the village level. In India, a village is considered electrified if at least 10% of the households and public buildings like schools have been provided electricity. Even if connected to the grid, frequent outages are neither unheard of nor a rarity. In fact, judging by the widespread use of the term ‘load shedding’ used to describe the deliberate shutdown of electric power in a part of a power-distribution system, just goes to show how outages are the norm rather than an exception. This, therefore, leaves a lot to be desired before we can truly call ourselves completely electrified.

While India sure has come a long way from 32227 un-electrified villages at the end of August 2013 (CEA, 2013), one aspect completely overlooked in this entire hullabaloo over complete electrification is the use of renewable sources of technology in achieving this goal. The current dispensation has set an ambitious target of generating 100 GW of electricity under the National Solar Mission. Despite the fact that the scheme employs innovative solutions like, rooftop solar electricity generation and bundling of solar power with cheaper conventional power in order to reduce tariffs, the mission focuses largely on capacity building for grid-connected projects rather than providing power to those households that are yet to get access to electricity.  Various estimates peg this number to be as high as 300 million persons (Kumarankandath, 2015).

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Lately, there have been some unique initiatives in tapping the variety of options that technology associated solar power brings with it. Ease of transport, installation and decentralised power generation has made solar lamps a viable option. It is an attractive stop-gap solution, especially for remote villages, where laying of infrastructure and grid connections has proven to be a challenge so far. Even in areas affected with Left Wing Extremism (LWE), this is a quick and implementable proposition, one that is cleaner, greener and doesn’t involve any intense investment – financial or manpower. The lamp is, effectively, a small photovoltaic panel connected to a battery that can power a light for about five to six hours. Although not sufficient to provide for all their needs, it produces enough light to allow – the kids to study for a few more hours, the shop to remain open for some more time, the dinner to be consumed in light.

Agreed that it is a short-term solution that can only last till a more sustainable long term arrangement is put in place, and that it comes with its own associated list of problems of durability and being prone to theft; but it also presents a golden opportunity to showcase the intention and benefits of development to those, whose populace have either resisted it for decades or have been left bereft of it. Granted that it may still be awhile before we can claim to have taken the digital revolution to their doorstep, but it does offer the proverbial glimmer of hope and, to put it simply a preview of sorts for the larger transition to follow. A first of many steps, bringing the benefits of power to those deprived of it- an empowerment in its true sense. Access to power (electrical energy) gives you true power (influence or control).

U.Plus Collective, in collaboration with weRsolar, has been spearheading a campaign under the name of ‘Sungram’ whereby it has undertaken the solar electrification of a remote village in Kasara, Maharashtra; electrifying about 150 households through the means of solar lamps. This entire initiative was funded by a unique crowd-sourcing mechanism through both online and offline campaigns to raise funds and awareness for such social infrastructure causes.
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Tap The Tap

“By 2050, India may have to import its drinking water” read the headlines of most major national newspapers around mid-April. Such news, in the time of an extreme drought is especially disturbing. A conclusion like this must make us recoil in horror and make us question where we as a country are going wrong. For a nation of people that worships our rivers as goddesses, and take pride in deriving our identity from the land of the Sapta-Sindhu, it seems modern India has scant regard for water.

rklaxman - rwhFor a country that is largely dependent on the rains, where even the stock market rallies upwards on a mere prediction of a good monsoon, there are very few local level initiatives undertaken to conserve water. While it has used huge dam projects to project an image of modernity, our ingenious ways of conserving water seem to be lost in our walk towards development.

Irrigation projects are often opportunities for corruption, while water from mega dams travel hundreds of kilometres away to quench the thirst of cities, it is increasingly clear that the solution to deal with water is not in centralising and bureaucratizing it. It needs to be understood that mega-dams or river linking projects have resulted in only two things – providing a profit making opportunity to the people involved, and in creating political fissures around water. There are ample examples for both – ranging from the 70,000crore Maharashtra irrigation scam or the politicisation of the Sutlej-Yamuna Link or the Narmada Bachao Andolan. Although unintended, mega projects have produced more headaches than they might have solved.

The time now is to flip this approach. In keeping with the PM’s vision of maximum governance-minimum government, we believe that it is essential to let water conservation project be at the local scale. Instead of pushing 3-4 mega project that are promised to be the messiahs in solving our water crisis, it is essential we push for hundreds of local water conservation projects throughout the country that can be undertaken by the local government directly.

Considering the diversity in the physical and socio-economic landscape throughout the country, let the local gram panchayat- at the rural level and the area sabha or mohalla committee at the urban level take the lead in conserving water. This can be aided by the central and state governments in terms of financial and technical assistance, but it is essential that the conceptualisation of the project be done at the local level, by the local residents and for the locals. Just the way net metering as a concept is applied for to promote generation of electricity, a similar mechanism can be devised to audit the sharing of water. Self-sufficiency of water being the aim, the modalities can be worked out such that only the deficit is supplied by the government. In case of excess, they can be shared into a larger water network grid.

This would have multiple impacts – the onus of water conservation falls on the people themselves, the responsibility of providing the infrastructure lies with the local body, and a reduction in demand for transporting water over long distances, thus reducing leakages and wastage. The result of this would be emergence of more such water-men of India like Rajendra Singh of Rajasthan, diversity of water harvesting-storing-conserving and recycling initiatives suiting the modern times, much like our indigenous baoris, stepwells and jhalras.

Impact Of Our Act.

This is an article from http://www.exposingtruth.com/20-images-that-show-the-human-impact-on-the-planet/

We could not do a better job of pressing on the urgency of our actions to change this scenario. One step at a time, and in no time we will make a huge impact.

Let us do ourselves a favour, and lead a sustainable life, and help others with theirs as well. We urge you to invest your CSR wisely, and make a difference to our surrounding.

20 images that show the human impact on the planet

The human impact on this planet has been huge in a relatively short period of time. These pictures are not about data, but about better picturing this impact through visual examples. While viewing these, keep in mind that our current extinction rate is 1000x the background level and that wild animal populations have shrunk an average of 52% in 40 years.

1. A surfer riding through debris

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Plastic has permeated our oceans, with over 270 million metric tons of in the ocean there is potentially more plastic than fish in the oceans right now. This becomes even more believable when we consider that up to 85% of fisheries are being overexploited.

2. Deforestation in British Columbia, Canada

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Deforestation is a major problem, and we now have only half as many forests as we did in 1950. We are simultaneously putting out vastly more carbon into the atmosphere while depleting the planet’s capacity to absorb it.

3. Animal agriculture

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Animal agriculture, as a whole, requires tremendous amounts of resources and is a leader in environmental degradation, responsible for 18 percent of greenhouse gas emissions (more than all transportation combined). Clearing land for animal agriculture, and the food it requires, accounts for 91% of amazon deforestation.

4.  Kowloon City in Hong Kong

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Hong Kong is still one of the most densely populated cities on Earth with 6,650 people per square kilometer. When Kowloon City still stood, it housed 33,000 people in a single city block.

5. Mexico City, urban sprawl

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Mexico City is also one of the most populated cities in the world, and its expansion has wiped out natural ecosystems for many kilometers. Together, this has led to very bad air quality, a continuing concern for Mexican health authorities.

6.  Port au Prince, Haiti

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7. Crop “desert” in China, no room for nature

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Huge swaths of China, and indeed many developed and developing countries, is covered in fields containing only one kind of plant. Where fields and forests once stood, now stands neat rows of single species, far more sensitive to environmental fluctuations than a diverse ecosystem.

8. Deforestation in Brazil

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9. Plastic moves up the food chain

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In both aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems: plastic moves up. The tiny and not so tiny pieces are eaten by animals which are themselves then eaten: it moves up the food chain. With all themicroplastics in our oceans and water: do we really think this isn’t reaching us?

10. Cheap fossil energy won’t last forever, and it certainly wasn’t free

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11. The Yangtze River turning red

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Whether due to microorganisms or industrial pollution: this is certainly a bad sign for the ecosystem. There is reason to believe that when enough small ecosystems collapse, the global biosphere will become destabilized and mass extinction will intensify.

12. Alberta Tar Sands, where there was once a boreal forest

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The tar sands are one of the most dirty sources of oil, and the extraction of this oil has polluted both the water and the land locally in Alberta. The fact that this project was OK’d by any environmental regulator is shocking, but this becomes less shocking when you realize that Alberta literally sold their regulator posts to the oil industry.

13. The Deepwater Horizon crisis

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Approximately 5 million barrels of oil (almost a million cubic meters) spilled into the ocean. In response to this disaster, BP sprayed Corexit (which is so poisonous that the US government demanded they stop) onto the oil to get it to disappear from sight. Millions of barrels of oilstill lay on the bottom of the Gulf, rendering hundreds to thousands of square miles devoid of life. Meanwhile, BP got off with a slap on the wrist and a connected high-ranking Halliburton manager who destroyed evidence was fined only $1,000.

14.  What was once a forest in Oregon is now a wasteland

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See previous points about deforestation, also keep in mind that the prices demanded for exploitation of Federal/public lands is pennies on the dollar for the ecological costs and profit the companies make. They demand so little that the Navajo were able to sue them for exploiting their lands and not returning even close to market price.

15. Oil filters in Seattle, 2003

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16. Junkyard full of metal scraps

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17. Mountain of phone chargers

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18. Sea of cellphones

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Our lust and desire for smartphones, and next-generation technologies of all kinds, are fueling conflict and loss of life the Congo.

19. Clearcutting in Finland

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20. Fish die-off at Redondo Beach, California

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With our population already at 7 billion people and overconsumption rising at a terrifying rate, this is something serious that many people have a hard time picturing. The truth is shocking, and when I look at these photos I can only imagine all the heart-wrenching images of environmental destruction that go unseen by most humans, the scenes which lay unvisited in the mountains or in the hearts of what were once forests.