Rice Husks + Innovation = Renewable Energy

India has been found to be particularly fertile ground for experimentation with renewable energy initiatives. The latest version of Ernst & Young’s “Renewable Energy Country Attractiveness Index” reaffirms this fact, ranking India as the third most attractive market for renewable energy investment:

India’s rise to third overall … has been precipitated by excellent national and regional government support for both foreign and local investment in renewable technologies. Consequently, rapid growth is expected to continue in this market.

The report goes on to note that “installed renewables capacity in India – currently standing at 8GW – is now expected to double every five years, and is forecast to reach 20GW by 2012, twice the government’s target.”

One new venture in this space is Husk Power Systems, which aims to “provide power to millions of rural Indians in a financially sustainable, scalable, environmentally friendly, and profitable manner.” Starting with villages in Bihar, HPS has developed a viable business model for generating power from agricultural residue, namely rice husks. How does the system work?

The organization has developed a distributed power supply and distribution system that uses 35-100kW “mini power- plants” in villages of 200-500 households within the Indian “Rice Belt” and offers electricity as a pay-for-use service.

In addition to power generation, rice husks have additional income-generation utility, as 1) the ash produced by burning the rice husks can be “converted into a valuable ingredient for cement production,” and 2) the rice husk generators can potentially be paid for reducing carbon emissions through a trading program established by the Kyoto Protocol. The result, then, according to innovators Ransler and Sinha, is the multi-fold:

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Midday Newsfeed

  • Agriculture: PM Singh to visit Bihar to begin implementation of statewide agricultural development plan.
  • Hogenakkal and Water: The decision of Tamil Nadu’s CM to delay decision on project has been questioned for having political motivations. The Times of India takes a look back on four decades of controversies surrounding water supply and transport. Looking forward now, the centre has suggested the creation of a radically new approach to regulating all ground water sources on a national level.
  • Health Quality Control: Former vaccine production centers will now operate as testing laboroatories for new medicines. Continuing on this theme of standards, the central government has begun to contemplate regulations for the wellness and spa industry in India.
  • Education: New postgraduate degree for gender, sexuality and human rights has been created.
  • Awful story: Two Dalit women were forced to eat human excrement as villagers blamed them for an outbreak of smallpox.

Midday Newsfeed

Some newsworthy headlines of interest:

  • Entrepreneurship: Himachal Pradesh to adopt an open door policy to encourage entrepreneurs to work within the state. In a similar effort to attract more high tech companies, the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) approved a plan to create Information Technology Investment Regions (ITIRs).
  • Women’s Rights and Security: The Indian Border Security Force will begin enlisting the help of women to patrol the country’s borders with Pakistan and Bangladesh — initial duties will include frisking and the monitoring of drug and human trafficking.
  • Water resources: Scientists have called for better monitoring of the Himalayan water sources — or natural water towers — that provide H2O to millions of people in Asia. Locally in Tamil Nadu, the controversy over the Hogenakkal project has heated up as celebrities have started a fast in protest. The local government continues to emphasize that this project is solely focused on the provision of drinking water. Protestors have also sought the help of PM Singh himself to intervene.
  • Agriculture: Haryana Agriculture Marketing Board will setup mandi level committees to help streamline procurement. However, at a national level, an ongoing tussle amongst ministries over fertilizer may substantially hamper the ability for India to increase output overall.
  • Telecom regulation and automation: A new allocation of a telecom spectrum has begun, with Shyam-Sistem the first awarded. In other news, the government of Bihar has chosen to embrace technology through the automation of their transportation department.
  • Government compensation: An effort to have a new panel for pay of MPs has been shot down.

The Polio Capital of the World: India

Last year alone, India spent Rs. 1,300 crore on the Polio Eradication Programme, with Rs. 1,042 crore more allocated for this year. Despite these efforts, however, the success of the past few years appears to have been reversed, as the Global Polio Eradication Initiative has placed India on top of the world polio map, with 106 cases diagnosed for this year. Compare that to other “endemic countries” such as Nigeria, Pakistan, and Afghanistan – all of which, together, have reported only 23 cases in the same time period.

With states such as Bihar and Uttar Pradesh leading the way in terms of polio infections, India’s projected year of eradication – 2000 – is well off track. Here are the statistics:

The number of polio cases jumped from 268 in 2001 to 1,600 in 2002. In February 2003, India launched the largest ever mass immunisation campaign against polio, targeting 165 million children.

But even in that year there were 225 cases, though in 2004 there was a significant drop to 136 cases. India recorded 864 polio cases in 2007, compared to 676 cases the previous year.

Of course, we must keep in mind that compared to 1995, when around 50,000 polio cases were diagnosed, the 106 cases diagnosed to date are a significant improvement. But the question remains – despite a concerted effort to eradicate the disease, why the repeated failure? WHO and UNICEF officials point to the fact that of the 106 polio cases diagnosed, only 1 was P1 (the most contagious and virulent strain), whereas the remainder were P3 (the least contagious and virulent strain). UNICEF has also found that community members still lack confidence in the vaccine, citing it as a ‘birth control’ device, or distrusting its effects altogether. In response, UNICEF has started recruiting community and religious leaders in addition to widespread “confidence building” campaigns.

The next step for India is to focus on the Type 3 strain, specifically in the regions of Bihar and UP. Currently, the government plans to “advance the pulse polio rounds in UP, Bihar, and parts of Haryana.”

Source: OneWorld South Asia

Sex Education in India Subpar

There are two aspects of sex education — one straightforward the other complex. On one hand we have the biological nature of sexuality and gender, which for the most part, can be effectively explained within schools objectively and without too much controversy. The other issue, the one dealing with the physical impulses and feelings associated with sex pose much greater problems especially in a still sexually restrictive culture. This conflict leads to a state where students become adequately educated to what hormones are and how they work without getting guidance on how to deal with them in everyday life.

A recent study has shown that less than one-tenth of young men and women in Bihar and Jharkhand have ever received any kind of sex education. The rest of the country isn’t far behind, either: only 12 percent of young men and 25 percent of young women in Maharashtra have any knowledge of family life and/or sex.

My India Report attempts unpackages this disconnect briefly

Despite the fact that the youth wants sex education, and wants it from their teachers, states like Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh have banned it from the curriculum. The problem isn’t that sex is considered dirty, it’s that only married people are allowed to get dirty. The study reveals that even people who are supposed to provide sex education prefer to talk to married couples and are uncomfortable dealing with queries from unmarried people. The socio-cultural taboos run deep.