Renewable Sector Inching Towards the Milestone

The renewable energy sector in India made a sharp increase at the end of the last decade. But the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020 became a big stumbling block in its progress to reach the 175 GW goal by 2022. With the increase in prices of fuels and abundant availability of natural resources, the scope of renewable energy in India is vast. The only thing required at this hour is a push from the Government that may eventually start the process of replacing non-renewable resources with renewable resources.

Recently on August 12, 2021, the Government of India announced that it has installed 100 GW of renewable energy without large hydro. This good piece of news came way too late as the last 2 years of renewable energy addition was sluggish. Presently too, it is not showing any encouraging trend in the near future despite the pandemic situation waning in the country.

Solar Panels In India

The target falls way behind the 175 GW target that was set back in 2015. At that time, large hydro was not a part of renewable resources in India. By large hydro, we mean the hydro-electric plants having generating capacity of greater than 25MW. Until mid-2019, large hydro was not a part of the Ministry of New and Renewable but was administered separately as a part of the Ministry of Power. Now, the Indian Government has merged large and small hydro-electric power plants under renewable resources, taking the tally to 146 GW as of August 12, 2021.

Wind Turbines in India

As of October, 2021 according to the Ministry, the renewable energy tally stood at 103.05 GW. The 103.05 GW capacity included 47.66 GW of solar, 39.99 GW of wind, 10.58 GW of biopower and 4.82 GW of small hydro capacity. The rest of nearly 150 GW milestone was covered by large hydro. The Ministry also said that projects of 50.98 GW capacity were at various stages of completion, while projects of 32.06 GW capacity were under various stages of bidding.

Hydro Electric Power Generation Dam in India

As of 30th November 2021, the renewable energy capacity including large hydro reached the milestone of 150 GW, an addition of 4 GW since August. Hence, though it seems that 175 GW is not at all far away, reaching there will take a considerable amount of time unless some drastic measures are taken by the government. However, 2022 has a long way to go, and many sites of hydel, solar, wind and biomass energy have been allocated or auctioned. In a nutshell, despite India being very close to meeting its target of renewable energy, the last lap is still a long way to go.

Written by – Himadri Paul

Electric Vehicles in India

Electric vehicles are automobiles that run on electricity instead of conventional petrol or diesel. While electricity is also produced only after burning fossil fuels, its carbon footprint is much lower, and the air pollution occurs far away from big cities or crowded towns. Electric cars and buses use rechargeable batteries for storing electricity, while trams and trolley buses use overhead wire for the same purpose. With rising prices for petrol and diesel, the Indian Government as well the state governments are looking to switch over to electric vehicles to not only reduce transportation but also reduce the mineral oil import to India. The Government at the same time is looking towards new greener sources of electric power like solar, wind, and hydro which will further reduce India’s dependency on mineral oil.

E-Rickshaw in Streets Carrying Passengers

One of the first revolutions in electric transportation is the e-rickshaw, also called toto. E-rickshaw has cheaper operation costs, thus have attracted the attention of auto-drivers. E-rickshaws have replaced conventional auto-rickshaws in most villages and some cities. However, they are functioning poorly in the cities due to pressure created by auto unions and some bad politics. E-rickshaws are increasingly becoming more popular among the passengers due to less jerk and comfort and hence have a bright future ahead.

Two-wheelers were the next target for a massive e-vehicle move. E-bikes are becoming increasingly popular as well as affordable to not only the rich but also the middle class. Electric vehicles have a very high initial cost which keeps away most riders preferring a cheaper vehicle. Moreover, low top speed and unavailability of charging places are some of the main reasons why e-bikes are still unpopular among the masses.

Charging Station in Mumbai

Electric cars are the future of our cars. But they are not going to replace motor cars in the streets of India anytime soon. Electric cars are worth several times that of motor cars, hence are unaffordable for most people. But with increased production, the cost can get lowered to a margin slightly above motor cars having similar features. Charging is a major problem for electric cars as charging a car takes a considerable amount of time, and are unreliable for long-distance travelling. The best option available outside India is battery swapping, which is widely gaining popularity. Similar to re-fueling, used car batteries are swapped with charged ones. This saves up a lot of time, saves employment of charging stations, and is also more convenient to use. Improving the top speed remains a priority for the engineers as electric cars have much lower top speed and hence will be unable to compete with highway vehicles. Electric cars are best used within towns and cities where huge traffic slows down vehicular speed.

Electric Bus in Kolkata

Electric buses are a new addition to the fleet of public transportation in India. Electric buses ply largely along the streets of satellite towns and modern developed areas. Electric buses with AC do not charge greater than the AC motor buses, hence can be afforded by all. However, there is a clear difference in operational cost between non-AC electric and motor buses, hence non-AC electric buses are almost absent. Many State Governments are looking to switch their IC engine bus fleet to electrical by 2030 in large polluted cities.

Trams are operational in Kolkata though it a much smaller network. With constant apathy from the West Bengal Government, Kolkata tram is not looking at a bright future as a mode of urban transportation. More likely it will keep operating trams in some heritage routes as a tourist attraction. Mumbai monorail, after a poor start, is performing well as the corridors have reached crowded and busy junctions of the city. Light railway do not have an operational status in India though is at a planning stage in Delhi. Ropeway is hardly used anywhere in India as a public transportation despite having great potential. It is, and will still continue to be used only as a tourist attraction.

Mumbai Monorail

In conclusion, it can be drawn that except for e-rickshaw, most other vehicles will not go a transformation from IC engines to electric anytime soon. But the change will occur gradually in the long term. The Government needs to contribute a lot to bring about this change, like installing charging or battery swapping stations, reducing initial costs through subsidiaries, finding new forms of vehicles like e-buses, trolley buses, trams, and light railways. Only after switching a considerable fleet of public transportation to electric, we can expect a similar gradual switching in the private transportation sector.

Written by – Himadri Paul

The Not-So-Dying Art of Carpet Weaving

Carpet weaving or rug weaving is an ancient art of making beautiful carpets which originated in the ancient world. The carpet was and is still considered an important asset of a household, thus its weaving is a prime source of people for a chunk of the population across the world, and creates substantial employment for women in some backward countries.

Carpet knitting may have started either in Armenia or Iran in the 7th millennium BC, and flourished later in the Mesopotamian, Egyptian, Indus Valley, and Chinese Civilizations. One of the richest economical asset during the ancient and middle ages in terms of trade, the advent of the Industrial Revolution and the evolution of modern synthetic fibers and materials meant that this rich weaving art is at a dying stage. In cold areas, having a designed carpet is a necessity for homes and commercial centres.

In the negative side, carpet weaving is increasingly becoming unpopular due to cheap industrial mage rugs. Also, modern styles like digital styles have taken over the traditional motifs in carpet weaving. Presence of cheap heaters meant that floor insulation during cold season is not a necessity. All these are leading to decline in carpet weaving across the world, especially the western-influenced world. On the other hand, carpet weaving is still doing good business in areas traditionally famous for it, partly through tourism. In this article, let us look into the art of carpet making in different countries from the past to the present.

1)Armenia :

Armenian carpet is generally considered to be the origin of carpet weaving. The Pazyryk Carpet, the oldest surviving carpet dating to the 5th century BC, is considered to be of Armenian origin. Today, carpets are used almost everywhere in the interior – to cover floors, walls, sofas, chairs, tables and even beds. Carpet weaving is an important women’s occupation in Armenia, where hand knitting is preferred over machine weaving in the modern world. Armenian carpet designs spread quickly to Azerbaijan, northern Iran and Iraq, where the art flourished and is still flourishing even today.

2)Iran :

Ancient Persia was a pioneer in the production and export of carpet weaving since at least the Bronze Age. However, the earliest surviving carpets have dated back only to the Safavid dynasty in the 16th century AD. Due to religious restrictions, the drawing of animals and humans are banned. Carpets are mostly woollen, though some silk carpets do exist. Today, Iran is the largest producer as well as exporter of handmade carpets in the world.

3)Turkey :

Turkish carpets are known more by the name Anatolian carpets, from the ancient Anatolian region where this rug originated. It has influences of Armenian, Byzantine, as well as Persian, though Anatolian carpets are believed to have originated independently in the 7th millennium BC. The invention of artificial dyes did hamper the handloom art of carpet weaving, but since then it has been revived as hand-woven carpets are considered superior and an asset in a household.

4)India :

Indus Valley Civilization may have witnessed the use of rugs, though they haven’t survived the test of time. The use decreased in ancient India, but it revived again during the Muslim conquest of Delhi. Emperor Akbar patronized the art of carpet weaving greatly, thus bringing Persian craftsmen to make exquisite carpets for their royal courts and palaces. Persian style of knitting blended with traditional Indian art of weaving to help the art diversify across the Indian subcontinent. As carpets are mainly used to protect our feet from the cold floor, the spread was limited only to the northern colder regions of Kashmir, Jaipur, Agra, Delhi, and Sitapur. In undivided India during British rule, carpet weaving also flourished across Lahore, Karachi and Faisalabad.

5)Morocco :

Carpet weaving is as old in Morocco as in Armenia or Iran, may be older. Paleolithic indegenous people of north Africa used to weave rugs for their utility rather than for decorative purposes. Even today they use carpets mainly for bed coverings, sleeping mats and blankets. Native Moroccan tribes are ingenious at making sophisticated carpets for sale in Morocco as well as export. Despite the Islamic influence, the designs are more traditional and ancient, passed generation to generation. Off late, Moroccan carpets are flourishing in the west due to their vintage and antique designs.

6)Uzbekistan :

Central Asia is widely famous for carpet weaving. The best weaving schools lie along the ancient silk route from China to Europe. Historic cities like Samarkhand, Bukhara, Khiva and modern cities like Tashkent, Almaty, Asghabat are famous for their carpet weaving art and sale of carpets. Central Asian carpets have a lot of influence on Indian, Turkik and Egyptian carpets. Today, the historic centres attract tourists from all over the world and hence carpet markets are a massive boom during the tourist seasons.

Let us know in the comments if there is a carpet weaving centre in your town.

Written by – Himadri Paul

Some Solutions to Combat Delhi Smog

Since the past decade, Delhi has been witnessing one of the world’s worst smog ever in October and November. Diwali and farmers are blamed every year for causing such a hazardous situation for the national capital. However, Delhi shies away from changing itself to solve the problem once and for all. It is easy to put the blame game on others, and do nothing. The Delhi Government has taken some steps to minimize air pollution, but it is usually too little too late.

More than the Delhi Government, the current infrastructure and apathy of the citizens towards the environment of Delhi are more responsible for the Great Smog. Many of Delhi’s power plants are located in the suburbs, which are completely closed during the smog period. Construction work that generates too much fly ash is also halted all across Delhi. Usually, the order from the Government comes after Delhi gets completely engulfed in smog. On the other hand, little changes in lifestyle and infrastructure could have worked better for Delhi, which exists in a place in other parts of the country. Some of them are listed below.

1)Use Delhi Metro :
Delhi metro is one of the quickest, cleanest, and easiest modes of transportation in Delhi. The carbon footprints of Delhi Metro is significantly lower than that of all other transportation. Delhi metro has expanded to connect every nook and corner of the national capital. Delhi metro over the years is increasingly becoming more and more eco-friendly by installing solar panels, providing buses and e-rickshaw, and even taxis for last-mile connectivity. Despite all the good efforts, Delhi metro is yet to attract every commuter across the city owing to its expensive ticketing costs. Kolkata metro may be an example of a cheap metro which attracted commuters from all classes due to its cheap rates.

2)Expand Delhi Suburban Railway :
Similar to the Delhi Metro, Delhi has a good network of railway lines towards the suburban cities of Ghaziabad, Gurgaon, Faridabad, Sonipat, and Meerut. However, most of the tracks are used for long-distance trains and freight trains. Delhi has a ring railway which remains completely disused today. Suburban services are unattractive to the citizens, having little or no interchange with major bus or metro stops. Delhi does not have a monorail, tram, or any other form of transit other than the metro. Thus reliant on the usage of roads is heavy, causing huge traffic jams. Local trains of Mumbai are a good example of how suburban railways are used by a large chunk of the city population.

3)Lack of Greenery :
Delhi never used to lack greenery despite being the capital of various dynasties and empires. The Mughals and even the British were fond of gardens and open spaces which serves not only as a place for recreation but also as a source of fresh air and oxygen. Delhi today has grown beyond its borders and has eaten down even the small pockets of greenery that remained. Today only the southern parts of Delhi have some open space, where big, old trees are being felled for fields, locally called maidans, for sports and yoga. Nearby cities like Chandigarh, Jaipur and Agra have significantly less pollution due to large areas of natural vegetation within the city boundaries.

4)Unreliable Bus Service :
Bus service across the city is not that reliable either, prompting most people to use either private cars or bikes for transportation. Private cars and bikes are the biggest sources of air pollution in the city. Chennai has an excellent network of bus service catering 80% of the local transportation. Buses in Delhi are usually off-route, unfriendly, infrequent, and irregular, apart from being expensive, causing most of the population to stay away from using them.

5)Promotion of Green Fireworks :
No steps have been taken by the Government to stop the sale of banned fireworks, which cause too much pollution. Green fireworks, on the other hand, release significantly lower amounts of pollutants, thus can curb the sudden spike in pollution levels just after Diwali. As green fireworks are a bit on the pricier side, most sellers do not sell them to attract more customers. The Government, instead of promoting green fireworks and banning the illegal, is confused about what rules to apply. Banning illegal fireworks and promoting green fireworks comes way too late when most crackers are sold, and the crackers are unclassified whether illegal or not. Assam and the north-eastern states are doing well in this regard strictly allowing only green fireworks to be sold.

We all need to join hands and save our environment. Can you suggest some measures to do so? Tell us in the comment section below.

Written by – Himadri Paul

Chhat Puja’s Environmental Connection

Chhat Puja, the festival honouring worshipping the Sun, and Chhati Maiya, is one of the biggest festivals of Bihar, Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh, Nepal and Chhattisgarh. Chhat Puja involves offering flowers, whole fruits, incense, and ghee to Lord Surya. The offerings are usually, and traditionally left untouched in water bodies until they rot and decompose. Many environmentalists have claimed that such rituals do more good for maintaining the ecosystem in rivers, lakes and ponds than harm. However, some environmentalists do contradict this view as well.

Other than the states where Chhat puja is widely celebrated, Chhat puja is discouraged by local authorities, citing environmental issues. Kolkata, which has sizable Bihari and UP communities, see conflicts related to rituals involving water bodies. Some alleged that the rituals hamper water quality in the short term for bathing, washing, drinking and other purposes. But the biggest obstruction is made by several environmentalist groups, which sprang up with or without authorization, who are not opposed to idol immersion but raise serious concern over Chhat rituals.

Chhat Puja at Hooghly River in Kolkata

Let us for the time being focus on Kolkata, where Chhat is widely celebrated by a sizeable minority. For a long time, only the river Hooghly was used for Chhat rituals, while local ponds, lakes and other places were avoided. But as the Bihari and UP communities grew with time, there was the need of using ponds and lakes for Chhat puja in places far away from the river. That only caused minor local conflicts, most of which got resolved as soon as they started. However, as the State Government intervened, and provided the worshippers with additional ghats along the river, as well as designated ponds and lakes, the celebrations not only became peaceful but also spread among the locals, creating a sense of unity. This is when some environmentalists crept in and cited environmental issues to stop the festival and hence the unity in diversity.

Let us now look into why many environmentalists claim Chhat Puja is eco-friendly. Chhat puja is performed mostly on the banks of rivers and other water bodies, involving peace, tranquillity, and nature. Chhat puja rituals do not require temple or enclosed space, overcrowding, harmful colours, paints and water-soluble materials. Flowers, fruits, ghee decompose in water, providing nutrition for aquatic life. All the products used in this puja are biodegradable, thus making this puja so eco-friendly.

Rabindra Sarovar, Kolkata, where Chhat Puja is banned since 2018

However, several small factors concern environmentalists. Firstly, though the festival is supposed to be peaceful and quiet, many non-ritual elements have been added to it in recent times. Beating drums and bursting loud crackers are increasingly becoming popular among worshippers. Some protected areas surrounding water bodies, like Rabindra Sarovar Lake and Subhash Lake in Kolkata are home to a large number of migratory birds that arrive from Siberia during the onset of winter. Loud noise hampers their movement and even local birds have started avoiding their habitat in Rabindra Sarovar and Subhash Sarovar. Also, since the Bihari community has grown considerably in recent years, too many flowers, fruits, and ghee will block the sunlight and destroy the rich aquatic plants in these two places. The stagnant nature of such large lakes means that the products thrown into the lakes are likely to persist for a very long time. All these forced the National Green Tribunal to ban the Chhat puja celebration in these two lakes in Kolkata. To compensate for the above two places, worshippers have been allocated more ghats for performing the puja. Still, some miscreants try to create shortcuts and enter the lakes for rituals even though there are many other nearby places.

All these caused a section of the Bengali society to turn against Chhat puja. There are some genuine issues, which most worshippers can bring a change to celebrate the festival together. Voices must be raised against those who are not following law and order in environmental protection. Also, we need to raise our awareness against false allegations and petitions given by some environmentalists, without any justification for their cause. Social media is their best platform for spreading hatred. The number of hate posts, claiming rampant environmental pollution should be cross-checked and verified with reason before any action is taken. Otherwise, the peace and bond that this festival brings will remain a distant reality.

Written by – Himadri Paul