Tuesday, November 25, 2014

PwC Report: India to be $10 trillion economy in 20 years; Too rosy picture?

Cover page of PwC report: Source: PwC site
A report published by PwC says India has the potential to achieve 9% growth rate and become a $10 trillion economy by 2034 (i.e., 5 times of $1.9 trillion in 2014) on the back of concerted efforts by the corporate sector and a constructive role played by the government. (http://www.pwc.in/en_in/in/assets/pdfs/future-of-india/future-of-india-the-winning-leap.pdf)


Here are the major expectations of the report:

  • Average life expectancy to increase to 80 years (from 66 years)
  • Manufacturing to be 25% of GDP (from 12%)
  • Agricultural output to rise to 7.4 tons/hectare (from 4 tons/hectare)

Overall, the report paints an optimistic picture though it considers several scenarios. It took a gap of few years for these optimistic reports to make come back. It is a feel good factor for all Indians and we can cheer at this renewed faith.




But one must not ignore the roadblocks and consider following factors to keep expectations more realistic.
  • In the next 20 years, there will be at least 3 elections. If the ruling party does not come back to power, replacing political party/parties have the habit of undoing some of the works done by the previous Govt. So forecasting the policies which will come into force in next two decades is grossly inaccurate task.
  • As the economy base increases, growth rates reduce. Many econometric models have shown this and one can look at the data of developed countries for the sake of proof. This would mean 9% growth would be achievable when India is a $2 trillion economy. By the time India becomes $5 trillion economy or so, growth rates will slow and even a 6-7% growth would look fantastic.
  •  In a period of 20 years, there would be couple of down years due to economic cycle taking a turn. Nobody has perfected the art or science of forecasting the downturns, the timing or impact of it. Central banks all over the world are still struggling to erase the impact 2008 financial crisis.
  • India has tough neighbors and had fought with two of them since independence. As growth kicks in, competition for natural resources and trade will intensify.
  • India is a low wage country at present. If wages rise quicker than broader economic growth, it would hurt exports and some of the competitive advantages. Though higher wages boost domestic consumption in the beginning, inflation will also go up limiting further growth in consumption.
  • Most of the investments are going into infrastructure space now but the productivity benefits derived out of better public infra is high in the beginning and tapers out over time. Further investments in infra after a decade or so may not produce the same financial returns like those earlier projects. So the investment opportunities in Infra will likely reduce over time as it is happening in Japan and Europe. Also think of ghost towns of China which has also built roads to nowhere.
Considering these speed-breakers in place, one can expect Indian economy to reach $7-8 trillion in next 20 years, if not $10 trillion and an average growth rate of around 7% (instead of 9%). Even if this is achieved, millions of people would move above the poverty line and India would be a front-runner in many fields.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Book Review: Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson

I finished reading (rather lately though it was in my list for long) the biography of Steve Jobs. And what an experience it was to know the life of innovative and equally crazy person. An adopted child grows to mesmerize the world and brings change to the way people live in his own way. He was always honest and brutal many a times so most people found it difficult to work with him though they admired his thinking. When he was at school he was busy with pranks involving electronic gadgets than making friends. One of his childhood friends, Steve Wozniak, one more person obsessive with electronics, made a good friend of Steve Jobs and both went on to found the business of designing, making and selling computers which is called Apple.

Being abandoned by his biological parents hurt Steve Jobs a lot though the parents who adopted him poured all their love and care and spent their life savings to send him to college. Steve later in his life tracks his biological mother and learns that he has a sister, Monica Simpson, who becomes a confidant of Steve for the rest of his life. When Monica traces their biological father, Steve refuses to meet him.

While he mastered the subject of electronics, his personal life was not a conventional one. He goes to India to learn spirituality. He takes up arts as his subject of study for graduation and does not complete it as he thought it is a financial drain of his parent’s earnings. But incomplete academics were not a drag on his future and the artistic bent of mind of he developed had put him at the junction of technology and art and the products he designed and developed were on the hands of millions of people all over the world.

His personal life was erratic many a times. He makes his girlfriend pregnant and refuses to acknowledge that he is the father of the child for many years after the birth of child, only to take responsibility of her later in life. His attitude towards co-workers earns him a bad name and he is thrown out from running operations of Apple, the company he founded. He starts another company, brings out many creative products but none of them see big commercial success but establish him as an innovator in the industry and that experience also teaches him how to manage a company and not just design products. Apple, in Steve’s absence looses market share as it fails to bring out exciting products after the initial Macintosh product line. Steve is called back and the successful products begin to roll out again putting back both Apple and Steve at the helm. When the products of Apple were a competition to their own products, Steve had said “We need to cannibalize our own products, else someone will”.



This book was the #1 best-seller on Amazon in 2011. When you read this book, you will know why a perfectionist like Steve Jobs was insisting Walter Isaacson to write this biography. It is based on multiple interviews of the author with Steve Jobs and discussions with numerous other people. This book provides multiple perspectives about Steve Jobs, his life as seen by himself and others.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Jatropha: Will low crude kill the interest?

Background

While India and all other oil importing countries are celebrating the drop in crude oil prices, there is one industry in the early phase will see a set-back. That is bio-fuels. All the interest in bio-fuels was due to consistent rise in crude oil prices. There was search for alternate fuels. And bio-fuels seemed to be the answer. Ethanol blending began couple of years ago. Since most of Ethanol is made out of Sugar crop, there was fear that it will lead to shortage of sugar and drive the food prices high. Then the interest turned towards Jatropha, which is a non-food crop and can be grown in semi and non-arable farmlands. It seemed perfect to make bio-diesel out of Jatrpoha seeds. It will reduce oil imports, saves foreign exchange, create jobs in the homeland where there is so much of unemployment and non-arable land. Govt. announced subsidies, organizations began spreading the knowledge, pilot projects kick-started and there were research projects taken up to improve yield of Jatropha crop.

Jatropha farm and its seeds

Bio-fuel economics under threat

Most of the bio-fuel business models assumed crude oil prices remaining high or going up further. Now that crude prices are down (30% approx.), and there seems to be no hurry in getting back to earlier prices as the crude oil capacity is on the rise and demand is not catching up at the same pace.
To keep up with the fall in crude and to make economic sense, yields from Jatropha crop has to go up by at least 30% or so. When the pilot projects are not yet proven for their feasibility, this additional expectation is a burden on the economics of Jatropha crop.

In another development, natural gas (CNG, LNG, LPG) vehicles are becoming popular. An increasing number of vehicles worldwide are being manufactured to run on natural gas. The trend is likely to catch up further as many countries would like make use the new gas discoveries and the biggest of them is USA with their shale gas exploration. As more and more natural gas run cars hit the roads, demand for bio-fuel fades away.


Conclusion

As bio-diesel loses its price competency against the conventional crude oil, Jatropha farmers (there are not many) will find fewer and fewer takers for their crop. An industry in its infancy will face a survival threat. Jatropha seemed to be a solution to isolate from geo-politics for India but when oil producing countries are offering a discount for their natural resource, geo-politics lost its power to influence crude pricing.


 For now it appears that Jatropha has hit a road block. Unless the crude prices come back or Govt. offers further incentives or any improvement in the yield in Jatropha is seen, Jatropha farmers need to stay cautious.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

ಪುಸ್ತಕ ಪರಿಚಯ: ಹುಚ್ಚು ಮನಸಿನ ಹತ್ತು ಮುಖಗಳು (ಶಿವರಾಮ ಕಾರಂತ)

ಇದು 'ಕಡಲ ತಡಿಯ ಭಾರ್ಗವ' ಎನಿಸಿಕೊಂಡಿರುವ ಶಿವರಾಮ ಕಾರಂತರ ಆತ್ಮ ಚರಿತ್ರೆ. ಈ ಪುಸ್ತಕದಲ್ಲಿ ಅವರು ತಮ್ಮ ಜೀವನದ ಬಹು ಮುಖ್ಯ ಘಟ್ಟಗಳನ್ನು ಮೆಲುಕು ಹಾಕಿ, ತಾವು ಸಾಗಿ ಬಂದ ಹಾದಿಯನ್ನು ವಿಶ್ಲೇಸಿಸುತ್ತ, ತಮ್ಮ ಬದುಕು ಹಾಗೂ ವ್ಯಕ್ತಿತ್ವ ರೂಪುಗೊಂಡ ಬಗೆಯನ್ನು ಅನಾವರಣಗೊಳಿಸುತ್ತ ಹೊಗುತ್ತಾರೆ.

ಅಪರಿಮಿತ ಕುತೂಹಲ ತುಂಬಿದ, ಜೀವನ್ಮುಖಿಯಾದ ಒಬ್ಬ ವ್ಯಕ್ತಿ ಜಗತ್ತಿನ ಅನ್ವೇಷಣೆಗೆ ತೊಡಗಿದಾಗ, ಆತ ಹಲವಾರು ವಿಷಯಗಳಲ್ಲಿ ಸುಲಭದಲ್ಲಿ ಹಿಡಿತ ಸಾಧಿಸುತ್ತ, ಸಾಹಿತ್ಯ, ಸಂಗೀತ, ನೃತ್ಯಗಳನ್ನು ಒಲಿಸಿಕೊಂಡು, ಇತಿಹಾಸ, ರಾಜಕೀಯ, ತತ್ವಶಾಸ್ತ್ರಗಳಲ್ಲಿ ಪ್ರೌಢಿಮೆ ತನ್ನದಾಗಿಸಿಕೊಂಡು, ಜಗತ್ತಿನ ಉದ್ದಗಲಕ್ಕೂ ಅಲೆಯುತ್ತಾ, ನಾನಾ ಸಂಸ್ಕೃತಿಗಳ, ವಿವಿಧ ವ್ಯಕ್ತಿತ್ವಗಳ ಪರಿಚಯ ಮಾಡಿಕೊಳ್ಳುತ್ತ, ಅದುವರೆಗೂ ಜನ ಗಮನಿಸದಂತ ವಿಷಯಗಳನ್ನು ಗ್ರಹಿಸುತ್ತಾ ಸಾಗುತ್ತಾನೆ. ಅವನ ಜ್ಞಾನದ ಪರಿಮಿತಿ ವಿಸ್ತಾರಗೊಳ್ಳುತ್ತ, ಅವನು 'ನಡೆದಾಡುವ ಜ್ಞಾನಕೋಶ' ಎನಿಸಿಕೊಳ್ಳುತ್ತಾನೆ.

ಒಬ್ಬ ಬರಹಗಾರ ತನ್ನ ಜೀವನ ಅನುಭವದ ತಳಹದಿಯ ಮೇಲೆ, ತನ್ನ ಕಥೆ, ಕಾದಂಬರಿಯ ಪಾತ್ರಗಳನ್ನು ಸೃಷ್ಟಿಸುತ್ತಾನೆ. ಬರಹಗಾರನ ಬದುಕು ಎಷ್ಟು ವಿಸ್ತಾರವಾಗಿರುತ್ತದೋ ಅಷ್ಟು ಅವನ ಕೃತಿಗಳು ಸಂಪತ್ದ್ಭರಿತ ವಾಗಿರುತ್ತವೆ. 'ಚೋಮನ ದುಡಿ' ಯಿಂದ 'ಮೂಕಜ್ಜಿಯ ಕನಸು'  ವರೆಗಿನ ಕಾದಂಬರಿಗಳಲ್ಲಿ ಕಾಣ ಬರುವ ಪಾತ್ರಗಳ ವೈವಿಧ್ಯತೆಗಳು, ಕಥೆಯ ಸಾರ, ಅವುಗಳ ಕರ್ತೃವಿನ ಜೀವನಾನುಭವ ಸೂಚಿಸುತ್ತವೆ. ಬಹು ಮುಖ ಪ್ರತಿಭೆಯ, ಪ್ರತಿಯೊಂದನ್ನು ಪ್ರತಿಶೋಧನಗೆ, ತುಲನೆಗೆ ಒಳ ಪಡಿಸುವ ವ್ಯಕ್ತಿಗೆ, ಬರೆಯುವ ಕಲೆ ಸಹಜವಾಗಿ ಸಿದ್ದಿಸಿ ಬಂದಿತ್ತು. ಕಲೆಯ ಇತರೇ ಪ್ರಾಕಾರಗಳು ಈ ಸರಸ್ವತಿ ಪುತ್ರನಲ್ಲಿ ಮಿಳಿತಗೊಂಡಿದ್ದವು. ಶಿವರಾಮ ಕಾರಂತರು ಕಾಲೇಜು ಪದವಿ ಪಡೆಯದಿದ್ದರೂ, ಎಂಟು ವಿಶ್ವ ವಿದ್ಯಾನಿಲಯಗಳಿಂದ ಗೌರವ ಪೂರ್ವಕ ಪ್ರಧಾನ ಮಾಡಿದಂತ ಡಾಕ್ಟರೇಟ್ ಪದವಿಗಳು, ಅವರ ಬೌದ್ಧಿಕ ಆಳ ಮತ್ತು ಸಾಹಿತ್ಯ ಸಾಧನೆಗಳನ್ನು ಎತ್ತಿ ಹಿಡಿಯುತ್ತವೆ.

ಶಿವರಾಮ ಕಾರಂತರ ಜೀವನ ಚರಿತ್ರೆ ತಿಳಿದುಕೊಳ್ಳಲು ಆಸಕ್ತಿ ಇರುವವರಿಗೆ ಅವರದೇ ಬರವಣಿಗೆ ಇರುವ ಈ ಪುಸ್ತಕ ಉತ್ತಮ ಆಯ್ಕೆ. ಅವರ ಕಾದಂಬರಿಗಳಲ್ಲಿ ಕಂಡು ಬರುವ ಜೀವನ ಸ್ಪೂರ್ತಿ, ಈ ಪುಸ್ತಕದ ಉದ್ದಕ್ಕೂ ಕಾಣಬಹುದು. ಕಾರಂತರು ಈ ಪುಸ್ತಕಕ್ಕೆ 'ಹುಚ್ಚು ಮನಸಿನ ಹತ್ತು ಮುಖಗಳು' ಎಂದು ಹೆಸರಿಟ್ಟರೂ, ನನ್ನ ಪ್ರಕಾರ ಕನ್ನಡ ನಾಡು ಕಂಡ ಹತ್ತು ಪ್ರತಿಭಾನ್ವತರಲ್ಲಿ ಅವರು ಒಬ್ಬರು.

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This is the autobiographical work of veteran writer Shivaram Karanth. In this book he revisits the major milestones of his long and fulfilling life.

When a curious person begins exploring the life, he quickly learns the subject of his interest and moves to another (Literature, Music, Dance, History, Politics, Philosophy and so on), travels from one place to another (all over the world), meets variety of people, witnesses strange incidents and observes what many others overlooked. As the repository of knowledge gets bigger and bigger, he becomes a ‘Walking Encyclopedia’.


A writer, a novelist in particular, creates characters for his fictional work from his own life experiences. Wider the experience of the writer, richer is the novel. From ‘Chomana Dudi’ to award winning ‘Mookajjiya Kanasugalu’ characters and plot of the novels show the breadth and depth of life experiences of their creator. For the multi-talented, well-traveled, exploratory nature person, writing came naturally as a form of creative expression but he was equally successful in other forms of arts as well. Shivaram Karnath did not have a college degree, but the honorary Ph. D’s from at least 8 universities were more of a tribute to his intellectual depth and literary achievements.


For those who are interested in knowing the making and personal life of Shivaram Karanth, this book serves best in his own words. Like in his fictional works, one can observe presence of the life force throughout the length of this autobiography. Though this book is named ‘Ten Faces of a Crazy Mind’, I think Shivaram Karnath is one of the ten wisest men Karnataka has seen.

Book Review: Tabbaliyu Neenade Magane (A Kannada novel) by S L Bhyrappa

The story of this Kannada novel is set in the 1960s’ in a typical village of India. Tabbaliyu Neenade Magane can be roughly translated to “You've become an orphan, Son”.

The family of Kalinge Gowda belongs to the tribes who rear the cattle. Kalinge Gowda and his family believe that cows are no ordinary animals but representation of Gods. They get no less care than his family members. His affection towards cows is appreciated ad reciprocated by the whole village at large. His son died a brave death fighting a wolf trying to kill his cow. His grandson, also named Kalinga (as per family tradition of passing the name of grandfather to grandson across generations), was fed by a cow during his infancy when the child’s mother did not produce sufficient breast milk. These experiences had made his life more interwoven with that of cows and he goes on to build a temple at the place memorized as the meeting place of a cow ‘Punyakoti’ belonging to his ancestors with a tiger and it was believed that tiger gave up its life as it was moved by truthfulness of the cow for keeping the promise it made to the tiger for coming back to it to become food for it. In this background, grandson Kalinga grows up, completes his schooling and heads to USA for higher studies in Agriculture and related sciences.



The final days turn tragic for the contented old man Kalinge Gowda. Govt. begins to construct a road across his farm dividing the land he owns and also running over the burial place of his son. Moved by this Kalinge Gowda’s wife dies and Kalinge Gowda too departs soon. Grandson Kalinga returns to homeland to find that both of his grandparents are dead. He cannot communicate effectively with his mother as she is mute, cannot talk.

Kalinga approaches the Govt. officials for compensation for the land lost towards road construction and the land where his grandfather had built the temple in return. As a well-educated and foreign returned individual he commands respect among the Govt. officials with ease. He puts efforts in bringing the modern methods of farming to his village, buys a tractor and makes use of a water-pump to lift water. He meets up with his childhood friend Venkataramana who is also a priest performing Pooja at the temple built by his grandfather. He informs him that he is already married to an American and has a son and talks of his arrangements to bring them to the village. They too arrive soon. 

All the villagers are partially scared with the developments in the family of the offspring of their beloved Kalinge Gowda. Kalinga after his return is a changed person and has very different perspectives than those of his grandfather. He now thinks that the cows which are old of no use and sells them to butchers. This angers the villagers and they begin to develop hatred towards Kalinga. Kalinga’s wife Lydia thinks that animals are a means to human welfare and they should be put to productive use else should be killed. She is a regular meat eater like many of her country people. She one day kills a cow and cooks the meat for her family. Once the news of this spreads in the village, furious villagers attack Kalinga’s farm, destroy his crops and put him to a village court which fines him and bars him from killing any more cows. And the decision was supported by Kalinga’s mother and Venkataramana.


Kalinga’s mother saddened by the behavior of her son dies but the villagers perform the last rites keeping Kalinga out of the scene. Kalinga learns about all this. Though he was pained by his mother’s death, he is afraid of villagers insulting him if he went any near to them. He develops a dilemma and starts thinking what steps of his went wrong. In a few days after his mother’s death, Kalinga’s second child, a daughter is born and soon after the delivery due to medical complications his wife is unable to feed breast milk to the new born. The baby is starved as it refused to accept bottled milk and reaches the verge of life and death and that is when Kalinga goes to Venkataramana and begs him to lend him a cow to feed his baby and thus saves his child. That incident brings clarity to the thoughts Kalinga had and he decides to save the old cows his wife had sold to a butcher few days ago. Tracing them he reaches Mumbai but fails identify his cows among thousands of cows in the butcher house. All begin to appear like his cows but with the money he has he cannot save all of them. Again he begins to retrospect his life.


 This is a masterpiece and a critical work by S L Bhyrappa. This was first published in 1968. It was made into a movie in Kannada and Hindi languages. Though it was written four decades ago, readers of the present times can read it for the clarity of thought and to get the perspectives of moral rightness. Having read most of Bhyrappa’s work, I rate this book and his other novel ‘Parva’ the best among all of his works.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Book Review: Hullabaloo in the Guava Orchard by Kiran Desai

Sampath Chawla is unusual, different from others. On the day he was born, it rained after a long dry spell and missed monsoon causing drought. He always looked slow and rather dull while growing up making his father lose all hopes on him. But his grandmother was optimistic and used to say “Though it appears he is going downhill, he will come up out on the other side on top of the world. He is just taking the longer route”. But Sampath induced confidence in no one else. He loses the job he had as a post-office clerk. He does not seem to get the ways of this world.

One day he disappears from his house and reaches a guava orchard and settles himself in a guava tree. The family learns this later and makes all attempts to get him down but unsuccessfully. One doctor examines Sampath on the tree and gives up; another suggests arranging a marriage would help solve the issue. Sampath’s family finds a match for him, bring the bride to the tree but the girl falls off from the tree. When multiple attempts to bring Sampath down from the tree fail, his family begins to live in the orchard and make arraignments to supply food to Sampath using a rope and pulley.


A band of monkeys arrives at the tree Sampath is housed and they too approve his stay on tree top. They begin to protect Sampath from those trying to trouble him. The news spreads and attracts people from surrounding places. People begin to identify Samptah as ‘Baba’, and few start calling him ‘Moneky Baba’ too. Monkeys on the tree develop a taste for the alcohol which the visitors had left behind. They became a menace and to put an end to it, District Collector orders to catch all of the monkeys to leave them in a distant forest. When the staff arrives along with nets to catch monkeys and surround the tree, Sampath is to be seen nowhere. At the place he was sitting a guava with a mark resembling a birthmark of Sampath is found. Leader of the monkeys picks it up and the whole gang of monkeys moves away from the tree towards the hill top.

This was the first book of Kiran Desai. She surely has inherited writing talents of her mother, a well known author Anita Desai. One can see the making of a Booker winning author in her first work itself.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Book Review: The Famished Road by Ben Okri

Azoro, a young protagonist of this novel, was happy being a spirit. Though he is born several times, he quickly left the bodies he was trapped into, to return to the happy world of spirits causing pain to many mothers in the process. But now he is born again and wants to live longer as a human being but he is not cut-off from his connections to the world of spirits. He sees the spirits all over the place, every day. He does not reveal this to his parents and buries it within him as he is not interested in isolating from spirits either. He is a child who did not want to be born and does not to die soon.

Azoro is the only child to his poor parents living in Africa. His father looks for work on daily basis as a load carrier and his mother sells grocery in the local market to earn their living. There is a bar in the neighborhood run by Madame Koto. The entire neighborhood, except Azoro’s parents is scared of Madame Koto as they believe she is a witch. Madame Koto is kind towards Azoro and she thinks he brings good luck to her if he sits in her bar and can attract customers. While sitting in her bar, Azoro learns that majority of the customers visiting the bar are not human beings but the spirits and demons in their borrowed human bodies in the ugliest forms. All of those spirits are interested in taking Azoro back to their world and make many attempts to pack him up and carry. But the determined boy, escapes every time and finds way to back to his home.


Other characters, incidents and narrations like the rage of Azoro’s father, helplessness of his mother, the photographer, the elections, the creditors of his father fill up the pages to bring African life into this book but the main theme remains the young boy’s encounters with the spirits. The story does not conclude in this book as it continues in two more books making it a trilogy.

This is one of the unusual themes I have come across. It is creative and imagination running wild. The first five pages of this book convinced me that the life of spirits would be more joyous than life as human beings. But the later pages are filled with horror and descriptions of spirits and demon in their ugliest forms which are capable enough to give nightmares to the readers. I see that in India as well, there are many famished roads, thirsty for blood. But the difference is I do not get to see the spirits and demons. I am happy I am not Azoro.


This book won The Booker prize for its author Ben Okri in 1991. This book has all the ingredients to become a good graphical novel if no one has thought about it. And that way it can reach a different genre of readers who prefer it read it graphically than immerse into a 500+ page novel like this.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Wind is set to blow stronger in 2015

ET reports that “Wind energy sector in India expected to attract Rs 20,000 crore of investments” (Link: http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/industry/energy/power/wind-energy-sector-in-india-expected-to-attract-rs-20000-crore-of-investments/articleshow/45030063.cms). What makes the wind to blow stronger in the coming year?

Accelerated Depreciation:

One of the reasons for the revived interest is reintroduction of accelerated depreciation (AD), which was withdrawn in 2012. This makes the wind energy attractive for captive use for many industries as the investment gets tax benefits and the wind power costs becomes viable. Those who were exiting from this business in 2013 are coming back with a pent-up demand. 2013 was a slow growth year for the wind sector but that loss is set to make 2015 a stronger year.


Finance availability:

More than the tax breaks, it is the health of the economy which is a big driver for this industry since majority (~70%) of the wind power installers borrow to install the capacity. When the interest rates are low and big ticket loans are available to this sector, it sees a boost. Demand for power is always there but at what cost energy is produced depends on the finance costs of the energy producer. With the new initiatives  of the Govt. towards the infrastructure growth and interest rates coming down is a matter of few months’ time, wind energy sector is set to see strong winds in 2015 and it is expected to add incremental 3000 MW capacity to already installed base of 20,000+ MW.

Chart generated from Wikipedia data

Global Ranking:

By the end of 2015 or early 2106, India would replace Spain to become 4th largest wind power producer. When compared to China and USA (the #1 & #2), India seems to be far beyond but for those top wind power producers, it is the offshore capacity which gives the edge as off-shore wind turbines are 3 to 4 times bigger in capacity than those installed on the land. India is beginning its offshore activities with the first planned demonstration along the Gujarat coast. (Link: http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/industry/energy/power/government-signs-pact-for-offshore-wind-power-project/articleshow/43980551.cms). With 7,600 km of coastline, India has better potential to add to off-shore wind capacity that would help India to reduce its carbon foot-print and reduce dependency on coal generated power. What some of those retired coal miners will have to do then? Well, they can try poetry.

“Let the wind blow in all directions,
and free us from fission's and emissions;
Oil and coal are unkind,
Wind is the embrace for the mankind;
Black flower is no beautiful,
Earth no green is not wishful;
End the yell, be grateful, sing joyful,
Let the wind blow …


Sunday, November 2, 2014

Living Planet Index and why it is necessary to save Tigers?

The Living Planet Index (LPI) is an indicator of the state of global biological diversity, based on trends in vertebrate populations of species from around the world. Recent report shows that more than half of the world's vertebrates have disappeared between 1970 and 2010. In the same period, the human population nearly doubled. Bloomberg writes that “If animals were stocks, the market would be crashing”. (http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-09-30/depressed-market-half-of-world-s-wildlife-disappears-in-40-years.html). The report also points out that humans are currently drawing more from natural resources than the Earth is able to provide.

Source: Bloomberg

If we had cared for Tigers we would have reduced some of the damage done to the biological diversity. One may wonder how Tigers matter. Why the mankind should bother about the Tiger? After all, it is a ferocious animal which can never be domesticated and can turn into a man-eater when not able to hunt. But Tiger is at the top of food chain. For its population to increase, the prey base has to increase at some proportion.  For the prey base to thrive, the feed stock for those animals should be sufficiently available. That would demand for the forest to expand to provide for these animals. A home for tiger is a home for other animals too. The forest that houses Tigers and the diverse wildlife also serves many other functions that of a rain catchment area, of slowly releasing ground water to regulate floods, and as a natural factory to convert carbon into oxygen bringing an ecological balance. Now you see that Tiger count is a very good indicator of the health of the ecosystem as the Tigers as the highest predators shape the ecosystems in which they live.

Source: National Tiger Conservation Authority(NTCA)
If Tiger’s population is decreasing naturally over decades, it does mean that the whole pyramid of animal diversity is shrinking. When we disturb the ecological balance, the nature takes its toll in one way (global warming) or another (floods, river siltation etc.). For human development to continue, we need to take better account of our resources. Right now except for human beings, life on Earth is not a bull market. If other animals count is reduced to half now, what will the man kill when the remaining animals become a minority? Ghost of Malthus will rise if we do not respect the forest boundaries and force the remaining animals to extinct.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

New ways to construct a house (in less time and money)

New materials and methods are giving multiple options to build a house quickly and with less money in comparison to RCC structures. Let us look at some of the developments.

Glass Fiber Reinforced gypsum (GFRC)

GFRC panels are used extensively to build walls, floors and staircase. Traditional brick walls consume materials - bricks, sand and cement. And significant labor and many months timeline is needed to build a house. All that is cut short by using the GFRC panels. Doors and windows can be cut-out precisely in these panels. Concrete is poured in the pockets of GFRC panels to make it strong. Use of steel reduces as the weight of the total structure is grossly reduced, so steel is mostly needed as reinforcement to carry gravity loads. Since no plastering is needed, cement’s use drastically reduced. The house will be ready in a matter of 3-4 weeks. Watch the video in which civil engineers from IIT Madras demonstrate the making of a GFRC panel built house. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UUQEUcB7cMM)



Pre-fabs:

This is more of assembly at site since most of the construction is done at the factory. If you need to build a kiosk or a bunk house, you don’t have to construct it, rather you buy and get it installed in a weekend. You can get it moved to another location if the situation demands it. Sintex on the sellers of these pre-fabs.
Source: http://www.sintex-plastics.com/prefab/prefab_usp.htm


Bamboo house:

This is innovative thinking in making use of the bamboo to build structure of the house. If bamboo can be used in making a ladder which easily holds loads of a person or two, why not extend the use of it and build column structure to carry gravity loads? Yes, sure. There are many houses built that way to prove the reliability of this method. For your next farm house or sun-shades on your roof, you can try this by calling companies like Wonder grass (http://www.wondergrass.in/).

Source: http://www.wondergrass.in/

As the cost of housing is ever increasing, search for alternative methods for low cost housing will also increase and one can expect lot more new things happening in this segment.