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World Water Day – Do you know how much water a light bulb consumes?


By 2030, researchers estimate that the disparity between national water demand and reliable water supply will be nearly 50%. Currently, India has a total water demand of around 700 billion cubic metres, of which almost 85% is used for producing food. In another 17 years, India will have only half the water it needs, thanks to global warming and population explosion. On the World Water Day on March 22, the need to focus attention on the importance of freshwater and advocating sustainable management of freshwater resources will be of pivotal importance. If we consider even the most cost-effective solution to reduce water scarcity, it will require an annual spend of nearly Rs35,000 crore by 2030, according to ‘Charting our water future: Economic frameworks to inform decision-making’, a report by global management consulting firm McKinsey & Company.The report stated that India would require investments to the tune of Rs8 lakh crore over the next 20 years to provide basic infrastructure services like water, waste water and solid waste management. In India, just about 64% of urban population is covered by individual water connections compared to 91% in China, 86% in South Africa and 80% in Brazil. Allocation of Rs15,260 crore has been made in the Budget towards clean drinking water and sanitation as against revised estimates of Rs13,000 crore. A DNA News report by Dilnaz Boga.

While reading this under my study light, I looked up and started thinking – how much water does my light drink? I found some interesting answer under Saving Electricity, on water consumption to produce electricity (more information can be found in EIA page ). While I would not be able to verify the facts noted as under, even believing them to be accurate to some extent, presents a very sombre scenario.

Water Consumption by different types of Power Stations to produce electricity

  • Solar plant with dry cooling:  80 gallons per  megawatt-hour
  • Nuclear plants (with closed-loop cooling):  700-1100 gallons per megawatt-hour
  • Nuclear plants (with open-loop cooling):  25,000-60,000 gallons per megawatt-hour
  • Coal-fired plants (closed-loop):  500-600 gallons per megawatt-hour
  • Coal-fired plants (open-loop):  20,000-50,000 gallons per megawatt-hour
  • Biomass (crops grown for the purpose of fuel):  40,000 to 100,000 gallons per megawatt-hour
  • Natural gas fracking:  2-10 million gallons per well

This information required some chilled soft-drink and potato chips and lowering the temperature of the A/c. After all I have attended so many conferences on climate change, I have by now got used to the habit of consuming good food & drinks in luxury. How else can one solve the pressing issues of water scarcity and its related fall-outs like war and riots? Hunger and malnutrition caused due to drought and famine too requires a chilled pineapple juice in a PET bottle to be addressed properly.

Now let’s do some simple maths – 1 gallon = 3.78 litres (US- liter). As on July 31, 2010, and as per the Central Electricity Authority the total installed capacity of Coal or Lignite based power plants in India are 87093.38 MW.

So the water required to produce this electricity  87093.38 x 2268 liters = 19,75,27,786 litres.(assuming all are closed loop consuming  600 gallons/MW) Presently we have around 111 Thermal power plants which are coal/lignite based.

While it can be argued that water is recycled most of the time. That the coal, nuclear, Bio-mass, Natural gas fracking power plants  require water can not be denied. And it is impossible to stop the leakages. Some of it will have to escape, thus requiring continuous replenishment. Even Solar thermal requires water, though it can be called a saint in comparison to the others.

Thus a huge amount of water is not reaching the fields of a drought hit farm, or recharging the wells to quench the thirst. So with every drop of electricity produced we are removing vast amounts of water from the natural water cycle. This must be clearly understood.

India has an installed power generation capacity of 2,10,950 megawatts of electricity, according to government figures. And as per various estimates, India’s power generation meets only 90% of total demand.

TableAs the demand for electricity for a resurgent India is bound to increase, the thermal power plants have to increase their capacity or new plants would be needed to be set up. Same would be the case for Nuclear, Natural Gas, Bio-mass and Natural Gas Fracking.

With the table given, it is easy to the calculate how much water is required to produce electricity, which most of us waste. The common person needs to understand that Energy & Water are interlinked. Just as it is inside the body of a human. Without water, one has to die. Similarly without water we shall have no electricity. Until Renewable Energy, especially Solar PV and Wind mature to cover the demand supply gap. But this is not happening any time soon.

It is a choice in front of the intelligent animal named “human” to decide which is more important. To quench its thirst or thirst for more power to light up the ugly, unsustainable city which it habitats. The situation soon would be a choice of one or the other, unless we change the way we live. Sustainable design and living is no more an option but a necessity.

In my opinion, to celebrate World Water Day, municipalities all over the World  should announce 1 day of no water supply. This would make each and every citizen sit up and take notice of the school children walking down the streets holding placards on how to conserve water. The Police should arrest water thieves, a common thing in India & many other Asian countries and parade them in front of the media before putting them in jail. It is only then the seriousness of the problem be understood by the people. If at all.

For as long as city dwellers get their share of fresh-food and water supply, they care a damn from whose mouth it has been snatched. Thus, we will find people continue to throng so-called Holy men doing the unholy act of wasting water in cities of states which are in grip of severe drought.It is the mindset of the people which needs to be changed with sustained practical approach towards sustainable practice.

And one such idea could be by educating the people in a more grass-roots approach. We all need a home to live. And most in India aspire to own a home.

This could start with the building industry. The building industry consumes 40% of the world’s energy needs and 60% of all waste stems from it.

The Indian Builders Association has been seeking the Infrastructure status from the Government for a very long time. The Government could moot a law that in exchange of giving into that demand, the top management of all big and small builder and related stake-holder companies must go for certified & comprehensive Green Building training.

India practices two wonderful Energy Efficient Building design certification program through IGBC & GRIHA. Since its inception in 2001 IGBC, which practices the Indian version of LEED has 1,972 registered buildings and 149 projects are with GRIHA which opened in 2007. (source: Click here).

It is too small a number to effect a reverse change in the Global Warming and Water & Energy conservation. But if developers are made to attend Orientation Workshops as is organised by Centre for Science and Environment along with those by TERI -GRIHA and CII-IGBC. And without whose valid certificate one would not be given the licence to build, we may still be able to make the desired change we want in our effort to conserve Water and Energy.

This would automatically percolate to the public, the home/office buyers who would be bombarded by the green information in every brochure the developers distribute. And when the public starts to use the facilities and notice the difference it makes to their lives, the mission would have achieved its target.

And for once I believe this not to be a wishful thinking but a doable project. All that is needed is support from those who can influence the decisions of Governments.

 

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Green Climate Fund – Why it would not come for free.


Kyoto Protocol

As the Climate talks progress in Durban, South Africa under the COP17/ CMP7 of the UNFCCC, the most resonant sound emitting is the setting up of the Green Climate Fund ( GCF ) and along with it, is the impetus by most signatories to give a new life to KP2 or the Kyoto Protocol.

Although all the Countries including the USA & European Union are trying to make the right noises, there seems to be a feeling that the LDC and the other most vulnerable  Countries would be handed a plate more empty than full.

When one hears the developed countries speak, they seem rational in their thinking, when they endorse that Climate change is a clear & present danger. They all agree that abatement and adaptation are the only way forward for a low-carbon economy. Yet there dose not seem to be an agreement for the KP2 or the GEF. Why is this so ?

Form a layman perspective, what comes to mind is that it has more to do with business compulsions & economic compulsions, rather than political compulsion. Although all the positioning the political masters of various nations take, claiming the will of the people; rare would be one who actually does.

This is being proved again and again in each CAN conference. But one then has to accept the reality.Although generalization would be incorrect, I would still hazard that many other Citizens of different Nations would find resonance with the  perspective , I’m about to present.

In many countries, some politicians are either themselves successful businessmen who have then entered politics or politicians who put their relatives as proxies to their further their business aspirations. In both cases, being the law-makers they understand what policy would suit them best. This may be the case in other developing or developed countries. In fact, it is understood  that the Kennedy family were rich businessmen before JFK ran for Presidency.

Now, let us take the initiative of UNEP for energy efficient lighting. By dateline 2016 the world should be able to leave behind the in-efficient lighting methods which are in use today to go into LED and similar lighting solutions. It is important both to the developed countries which need to reduce their energy consumption and also for those who would be able to provide more lighting even with less energy generation, as in the least developed countries.

How do you get to do achieve this goal ? As per the UN officials in Durban – by legislation. So assuming each country gets a legislation in place, it would still require a marketing instrument to sell these LED. We all know that the initial cost is high. Why? Because of the high-end technology involved. We also understand that hi-tech requires a lot of expensive R&D too.

Now we have a mix of Businessmen-Politicians in one end and on the other an expensive hi-tech solution which can reduce Global warming. Add to this nearly 180 of 194 countries which are not the Developed countries. Now, to expect businessmen – politicians to give away hi-tech solutions which only they possess for free is asking too much from them!

So when you see well meaning Green technologies business houses conducting seminars in the sidelines of the Durban Conference,one feels tempted to know what would be the cost of the product & consultancy charges.

What will happen between 2012 to 2020 is that the USA, Canada, Japan, EU & Russia will sell the technology they possess. And they are eying the BASIC countries for that. As emerging and responsible countries who have initiated unilateral Climate abatement actions at home and will want to get the hi-tech technologies to be at par with the developed nations. This the once rich & developed nations are banking on.

Therefore a new treaty post 2020 which is inclusive, else not much GHG will be abated blah! blah! is doing the rounds. Historical responsibility be damned!

 

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