Tuesday, December 1, 2015

India And Climate Change- Productivity Challenge

This is a serious essay. But this passage made me laugh out loud-

Because any imaginable path of development involves making massive amounts of steel, ramping up production at Jharia is a top national priority. Achieving Modi’s billion-ton target, company officials tell me, will require the colliery to increase its output by about 15 percent a year.

The men and women who must accomplish this huge task work in a landscaped headquarters that during my visits is full of people standing around in hallways and lobbies without obvious purpose. One morning I interview an able young engineer. Jammed into the other half of his office are a half dozen older men, one of them his supervisor, drinking tea and telling stories. The interview lasts nearly two hours. During that time the other men do not move. Phones do not ring. Email alerts do not ping. Keyboards lie untouched. The office door opens only to admit flunkies with tea on a tray. Leaving the engineer’s office, I wonder if the activists who protest India’s coal expansion plans would be comforted by this scene. Increasing productivity is going to be no easy task.

Charles Mann writes about the two paths- one solar and the other coal- that India seeks to take to develop and at the same time manage its carbon emissions. The preferred pathway according to Charles Mann's assessment is tilting towards coal.

I  kinda agree. The current government is coming up with innovative ways to speedily access India's coal deposits. One aspect of the damage by the increasing reliance on coal that he did not bring up (besides air pollution) is the destruction of some of India's best forest land in the eastern part of the country. Environmental parameters that are used  to define inviolate forest areas are being  diluted to ease the handover of forest land to mining. That means destroying biodiversity and also means a threat to water security and water quality. Even if the next generation of coal power plants are cleaner, India will pay dearly in environmental costs of lost forest cover and degraded water supply.

I am not  trying  to make light of the challenges that India faces, but with nuclear energy taking a backseat because of large capital costs and a whole different set of environmental fears and no prospect of  a quick ramping up of natural gas from conventional and shale gas reservoirs (reserves may not be enough anyway),  I don't see how reliance on coal can be reduced in the near future.

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