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Kerala – Gods own Country ?

23 Feb

The 11th Kerala Environment Congress (KEC 2015) will be held at Kottayam, from 6th to 8th May, 2015.

The focal theme of this year’s Congress is “Climate Change and Sustainable Development

Climate change has now emerged as the biggest developmental challenge for the planet. The IPCC 5th Assessment Report, has clearly mentioned that the warming trends and increasing temperature extremes have been observed across most of the world over the past century. The report has provided compelling evidence that climate change is advancing rapidly as a global risk with impacts far beyond just the environment. Even though the climate change is affecting various development sectors, there is also scope for reducing emissions and deliver jobs and economic opportunity through wise use of resources. The KEC 2015 will be a thought provoking process in this direction, with the participation of people from all walks of life like scientists, researchers, policy makers, development managers, NGOs, media etc. The Congress will also identify the research and policy needs for developing viable programs to address climate change issues in the ongoing development process in India with particular reference to the State of Kerala.

  • Climate Smart Agriculture and Food Security
  • Climate Change and Water Security
  • Climate Change and Energy
  • Climate Change, Ecosystems and Biodiversity
  • Climate Change, Habitat and Urbanization
  • Climate Change and Health
  • Climate Change and Coastal and Marine Resources
  • Climate Change and Transport
  • Climate Change and Disaster Management
  • Climate Change and Buildings
  • Climate Change and Tourism
  • Climate Change and Plantations
  • Climate Change and Industries
  • Climate Change and Weather extremes
  • Climate Change Education and Communication
  • Climate Change, Legal and Policy Aspects

Among the various topics on which Scientist would be presenting their papers the following above topics would be covered.

It’s estimated that in Kerala, forest is cleared at a rate of 60 to 100 sq km per year.  Several hundred species of trees, herbs and climbers are either endangered or vulnerable to extinction. 

Deforestation inevitably leads to loss in rainfall and attempts at reforestation have largely been ineffective due to the introduction of inappropriate species such as eucalyptus and acacia, which hinder rather than restore ecological balance. The famous backwaters are not immune to environmental damage.  The degradation in the mountains has resulted in rivers polluted by silt and industrial effluent also takes its toll; killing fish and presenting significant health risks.  Many wells have become waste tips, causing serious ground water pollution and leading to an inadequate supply of clean drinking water. The assessment of river such as Chalakudy, Periyar, Muvattupuzha, Meenachil, Pamba and Achenkovil indicates that the major quality problem is due to bacteriological pollution. The ground water quality problems in the coastal areas are mainly because of the presence of excess chloride.The chloride concentration >250mb/l was detected in the well water samples of Azhicode, Kakkathuruthy, Edathinjil, Kadalundi, Chellanum, Nallalam, Mankombu and Haripad. in Alappuzha district, flouride concentration in the pumbing wells was observed to be high.Open well of Kerala are under threat of bacteriological contamination.In Kerala about 60% of the population relies on ground water for drinking.At the same time studies have shown that faecal contamination is present in 90% of drinking water wells.

Coastal erosion is altering the seashore landscape and putting populations at risk. Over fishing, with the introduction of trawler fishing in the 1950s, is affecting the economy and health of the local fishing community. Kerala is one among the most thickly populated region in the world and the population is increasing at a rate of 14% per decade.As a result of the measures to satisfy the needs of the huge population,the rivers of Kerala have been increasingly polluted from the industrial and domestic waste and from the pesticides and fertilizer in agriculture.Industries discharge hazardous pollutants like phosphates, sulphides, ammonia, fluorides, heavy metals and insecticides into the downstream reaches of the river.The river periyar and chaliyar are very good examples for the pollution due to industrial effluents. it is estimated that nearly 260 million litres of trade effluents reach the Periyar estuary daily from the Kochi industrial belt

[Courtesy: Centre for Environment & Development; ENVIS-Kerala;Viswadarsanam;]

As one can read on the start of the article. We are having the 11th Kerala Environment Congress. That means the problems and issues which have been raise in the above paragraphs have been flagged as many as 11 times over!

How many chances would a boss give to his employee. A Father to his Son, to correct an error? Yet we keep mum on the abuses we have been meting to our Mother Earth.

The many of the problems and issues which Kerala is facing today would perhaps be very soon taking away the title of – God’s Own Country and make it..

God’s Forsaken Country ! Unless we make the changes Now !

And the changes must reflect in the life-style of the people of Kerala. Unless the Civic changes happen in the physiological level of the populace mere reports and laws would just not be adequate to improve the disasters which are soon to manifest in a much larger scale than presently perceived.

Water, Energy, Ecosystems and Biodiversity are affected directly by the way we create our Habitat.

Haphazard Urbanization of sleepy villages, with copy-cat Buildings as designed in the West and Middle East which are not Climate Responsive in the vernacular context, compounded by setting up of Industries; in hereto Agricultural and Forest lands makes Disaster Management during Weather Extremes a severe challenge. Due to weak implementation of Education & Communication skills there lack of understanding of Legal and Policy Aspects. The continued failings of which would impact the Tourism Industry, Marine and Coastal Ecosystem and most importantly on Agriculture and Food Production!

Food is the primary source of Energy for Human. Without Energy life can’t exist. So let us probe into the ways we can tap into creating of Energy – Electrical & Mechanical; which is the primary driver of  civil development while maintaining the ecological balance to have the perennial source of food with is a life source !

Kerala is blessed with a few unique backwater system, which makes it a prime area to use the latent energy this has. That is micro-hydle systems. But we shall come to this later as there would be challenges to this. Moreover we need to stitch together a basket of solution to arrive at an optimum solution by inclusion of Wind and Solar!

Let us therefore explore through data that is available from various sources and start with the least used one –Geothermal

Estimation of geothermal gradients and heat flow from Bottom Simulating Reflector along the Kerala–Konkan basin of Western Continental Margin of India ( by Uma Shankar, N. K. Thakur* and S. I. Reddi of National Geophysical Research Institute, can be read here).

Geothermal power plants operated in at least 24 countries in 2010, and geothermal energy was used directly for heat in at least 78 countries. These countries currently have geothermal power plants with a total capacity of 10.7 GW, but 88% of it is generated in just seven countries: the United States, the Philippines, Indonesia, Mexico, Italy, New Zealand, and Iceland. The most significant capacity increases since 2004 were seen in Iceland and Turkey. Both countries doubled their capacity. Iceland has the largest share of geothermal power contributing to electricity supply (25%), followed by the Philippines (18%).  ….

India has reasonably good potential for geothermal; the potential geothermal provinces can produce 10,600 MW of power (but experts are confident only to the extent of 100 MW). But yet geothermal power projects has not been exploited at all, owing to a variety of reasons, the chief being the availability of plentiful coal at cheap costs. However, with increasing environmental problems with coal based projects, India will need to start depending on clean and eco-friendly energy sources in future; one of which could be geothermal. – (See more at: http://www.eai.in/ref/ae/geo/geo.html#sthash.8nD3nsKp.dpuf )

The Costs of a geothermal plant are heavily weighted toward early expenses, rather than fuel to keep them running. Well drilling and pipeline construction occur first, followed by resource analysis of the drilling information. Next is design of the actual plant. Power plant construction is usually completed concurrent with final field development. The initial cost for the field and power plant is around $2500 per installed kW in the U.S., probably $3000 to $5000/kWe for a small (<1Mwe) power plant. Operating and maintenance costs range from $0.01 to $0.03 per kWh. Most geothermal power plants can run at greater than 90% availability (i.e., producing more than 90% of the time), but running at 97% or 98% can increase maintenance costs. Higher-priced electricity justifies running the plant 98% of the time because the resulting higher maintenance costs are recovered. – (See more at: http://www.eai.in/club/users/shankar/blogs/649#sthash.D6y8VkTr.dpuf)

Next, let’s look at Micro-Hydle-

A study sponsored by the Science, Technology and Environment Department (STED) and conducted by the Centre for Rural Management (CRM) has found that a whopping 870 households in the district are served by micro-hydel projects. The study also brings out some interesting features of this unique initiative as also underscores the need to develop a support base to improve the efficiency and efficacy of these units. A typical micro-hydel project consists of a source of water, often a stream, or a storage tank or a check-dam made of either jungle stone or concrete, a plastic or PVC flexible hosepipe and a rewound bike or cycle dynamo which acts as the generating system. The average installed capacity of the large majority of them remains below 150 Watts an hour. This is enough to meet the lighting needs and also for operating a radio, tape recorder or television set. Nearly half of these units provide power to the consumers for 12 hours a day and one-fourth of them ensure round-the-clock power supply. Moreover, 52 per cent of these units provide round-the-year power supply. (read more)

While Solar and Wind have already stabilized in the state, what is required is that the Building industry adopts Renewable Energy in toto. The method should governed by sound scientific advice which should be the guiding principle of framing the Development Control Rules of each zone in the Urban planning.

What is true for the Goose may not be for the Gander. Thus when market forces especially the copy cats with baser understanding solicit business within the RE basket; in their enthusiasm, they spoil the market for serious players either by under delivery or corruption in methods. The problem is further compounded when “hobby builders” {a one-time player, usually with lot of disposable money and zero discipline; usually plays a spoiler for developers} with zero scientific understanding opt for L1 (lowest one) all products. As the specifications of such products do not and can’t match the originals; they fail.

This not only leaves Kerala with badly designed buildings, with ugly façade completely in contrast to its serene backwater surrounding; but also energy intensive with falling products over-time. The common man, un-schooled in the methods and confused with the constant pull of identifying more to an imported Western Culture than the sound vernacular life-style are ending up as the final looser in the game.

And the biggest loss is to Sustainable Energy methods. Which could be very well possible if laws are legislated to utilize hybrid RE solutions with sound building materials and design.

 

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